Thursday, July 31, 2008
1. I am a perfectionist
2. I take too much work on myself
3. I will work too many overtime hours
You are lying and I will not hire you.
I met a woman today who is currently living in Africa. However, in her youth she worked for nine years as an NGO worker in, wait for it, Barbados. Yes, that's right, Barbados. In the first part of her posting, she met a man, another American, they married, purchased a 300 year old planatation home with, I like to think, wide open views of the sea, huge, creaky verandas and a hammock on every corner. For NINE YEARS they had a boat they would sail around the smaller islands on the weekends and sundowners could be enjoyed, not with the roar of the generator, but the sound, again I like to think, of windchimes. And by day, she still fought poverty or injustice or ringworm or whatever the cause du'jour was then!
Why is she not still there, you ask, sitting in her reclining deck chair reading the lasted UNAIDS report on behavior change? Ahh, she made a fatal error, one I would NEVER be so silly as to make. She started worrying about her career. Thinking she would be pigeon-holed as the Barbados woman and never really reach the lofty heights of endless meetings and procurement bureaucracy that she could if she were out in the larger world.
So they left.
See, I would never do that. I say, right now, if I get posted to Barbados, get a husband, a 300 year old plantation home and a hammock with windchimes, you will have to cut my arms off to drag me away, so tightly will I be gripping the pillar outside my turqouise front door.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Had a bit of a drama, today. I went to go drop off one of my staff at the airport, and American girl, who is heading out to Uganda for some things. I was about halfway back to the office when I get a call from her "Uh, yeah, they say I'm here illegally, I don't have a permit, I'm not registered."
Huh. That can't be a good thing.
I told her I'd get back to the office and discuss with our admin guy, which I did. He got this slightly worried look in his eyes and asked me if she had come through Juba initially. No, she hadn't. Cue long conversation about not being registered and big fines and problems problems problems. I asked, jokingly, "Well, they're not going to arrest her, right?" Admin looks at me all serious and says, "Let's go and we'll see if we can discuss this with them."
Sooooooooo didn't want to deal with the paperwork of an arrested staff.
When we got there, she had more or less talked and flirted our way out of it and we just had to pay some money. Which was fine. But I love the fact that you can go from real and legitimate concern that someone is about to be arrested and spittle flying angry immigration officers to no worries and in flight peanuts all with the bat of a eyelash.
Monday, July 21, 2008
On Sunday, I was in the market, getting some supplies to make a dinner for the Area Coordinator out here who is having a rough time and, I thought, needed a pick me up (not that my cooking qualifies as a pick me up in any true sense of the word, but beggars can't be choosers).
I'm just walking away from the square, thrilled at having found a pineapple and singing Sweet Home Alabama in my head (it was a gorgeous day, the kind that makes me burst in to internal song) when I was suddenly tackled from behind. I kept my myself upright, more or less, but I was in a vice grip by the foulest smelling person I have ever smelled.
Now, most other places, I might assume it was a friend, someone I knew trying to startle me, but all my friends in KK are out of town for the moment so there was literally nobody who would do this to me. I elbowed hard back and twisted my body as sharply as I could, all while yelling firmly "Let go of me" and spin around to see the crazy guy from Kinyabi, the one with the cardboard clothes and the very fancy floral scarf around his neck.
As I turned, he grabbed on to my wrists, stopping me from being able to move my hands and started screaming at me. Most of it was incoherent, but, from what I could gather, he was angry that I hadn't given him money when he asked for it on Wednesday. I was firmly telling him to let go of me and trying to pull away, while he was screaming and pulling me in closer to him.
Now, you might ask, wasn't I in a public area when this was happening. Shouldn't some gallant, chivalrous person have come to my rescue, poor, delicate, feminine flower that I am? Yeah. You would think. And you would be wrong. Nobody helped me, just sat, drinking their local brewed alcohol and watched me engage in hand to hand combat on the street.
Eventually, I broke my arms free and I told him "Excuse me, I have to leave, you stay here" and turned and walked away. Part of my didn't want to turn my back to him again. But I refused to walk backward down the street. When a girl has just been grappling with the man made of dirt in full view of all of Kajo Keji, she needs to preserve dignity where she can.
Teach me for mocking the less fortunate!
Saturday, July 19, 2008
The one in Kinyabi was wearing the filthiest shirt and trousers I have ever (EVER) seen, they didn't bend as he moved, so it was sort of like he was wearing cardboard. He clearly didn't have a barber or anything, so his hair was this sort of spastic, electrocuted jagged 'fro and he had a strange fullish beard that only came in in patches on his face. Best, though, was the (oddly clean) jaunty floral scarf he wore tied around his neck, with a pink plastic cup tied off the end of it. God knows why.
The Jalimo guy was even odder. HE had packed all of his clothing full of trash, stomach, rear end, arms, legs, so that he looked like a department store Santa Clause who was down on his luck, trailing little bits of Glucose Biscuit wrapper and, I swear to god, broken automotive parts out of his shirt and the tear in the crotch of his trousers. He was mostly friendly, asking me to sign his name, though there was one point when he got quite vexed that I didn't write his name correctly in the made-up language he was forever scribbling in his notebook (kind of like Korean-meets-Kilngon).
The Kiri guy was boring, just crazy and drunk, getting up and bowing at regular intervals and once doing a very impressive curtsy. Otherwise he just sat there and drooled. I give him 4 out of 10 for creative insanity in what is, admittedly, a very crowded field.
The most frightening one, though, had to be the Limi guy. We were dancing and singing (well, the ladies were dancing and singing, I was cheering and clapping) and Limi crazy guy comes running up with a hoe. He starts slamming down in the dirt, sharp bit down, right next to my be-flip-flopped feet. All around my toes the earth was being chopped and I'm sitting there thinking "Man, HOW am I gonna get a toe reattached in bloody Kajo Keji?"
This, obviously, begs the question, why all the crazy middle aged dudes? Turns out, they're all soldiers who took too many drugs in the war and their minds cracked. So now they smoke opium and hash all day, get drunk, and shove broken pistons down their trousers.
If that isn't an anti-drugs message, I don't know what is,
Thursday, July 17, 2008
I'm doing focus group discussions in some of the smaller sites right now. Which meant this morning, I was sitting in the central square of Kinyiba, perched on a wooden bench, chatting with a bunch of elders who just rocked my world.
We were under the shade of the huge mango trees, there was a light breeze that cooled the air just enough as long as you weren't in the sun.
There was no ambient noise at all (none, these non-electrified, non-generator'd towns are startling, disturbingly quiet) except the sound of the little old man and little old lady sweeping the huge market square with branches tied together to make a broom.
Small children wearing no pants and tattered shirts would toddle up and jump in to the lap of whatever adult was nearest, usually offering up some slobbery bit of plastic as a gift in exchange.
I am totally aware that it is a constant struggle and very hot when its hot and very cold when it cold and miserably wet during the rains and backbreaking labor to get a cup of water and no indoor plumbing ever.
But MAN, when you're sitting in the shade, buffeted by the breeze and listening to the sounds of silence, it is a little bit like heaven.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
I'd go up to the guest house, but I have to negotiate the village paths and the river and I'm just not quite up for it yet.
All of which makes for bad stories for all y'all.
So, instead, how about some pictures of Kajo Keji, which is very very very pretty?
These are some of the lovely kids who greet me an enthusiastic "Good morning" on my way from the office.
And This, here, is the clearing near the County Health Office in downtown KK. You can really see how it is a thriving, writhing metropolis.
Water containers lined up to be pumped on the main drag in town. This is, somehow, the queue. Don't ask me how.
Last, but not least, the STUNNING vistas of Kajo Keji. Everyone who knows me knows I am a horrible, atrocious photographer, so this doesn't capture 1/10th of it. Believe me when I say, though, it is right pretty.
Monday, July 14, 2008
This is an excerpt from a BBC article about an accidental attack on an Afghan wedding party where, essentially, two families were anihlated, earlier this month. I'm not linking the whole article because, well, I think the reporter is in a bit of shock after being the first on the scene post-attack and still seeing the god awfulness of it and he is unrealistic about the US forces. Mistakes do happen and they are tragic but it is war and the Taliban don't seem so concerned about preserving human life.
From nowhere a fast jet flew low and dropped a bomb right on top of the pass near a group of children who had impatiently rushed ahead and were resting, waiting for the women to catch up.
Lal Zareen was waiting expectantly for the guests to arrive when he heard the explosion and began to climb up the steep mountain track to the pass.
Shah Zareen was part of the group up on the path - he had narrowly escaped being caught in the first bomb and told the women to stay where they were as he rushed to help the children.
Shah Zareen picked up one of the injured, ran down to the village and on his way was calling his local member of parliament on a mobile phone to say they had been attacked.
But then he heard the second blast - the bomb had been dropped on top of the women and almost all of them had been killed.
Three girls escaped, among them the bride, but as they ran down the hillside a third bomb landed on top of them.
I mean, seriously. As I said, I'm not blaming the forces, they apparently had footage from earlier showing insurgents moving and on and on and on. The larger politics of it aren't really relevant for the moment. What is is this one guy, who's entire family has been killed except his 13 year old son, who ran IN to bombs to try and save his children and his friends children and who failed to protect everything that mattered to him. It really does break my heart.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Anyway, another obsession used to be this site about feminist things, oddly, since I'm not very feminist-minded usually. Anyway, they had a brouhaha last week, which I won't get in to, but, in a effort to NOT be working on my quarterly reports which are all due, I started reading about it.
It was all so self-serving. Blogs started linking blogs and commenters started attacking other commenters. And I realized, we're all crazy. None of this really matters. Why do I write about the silly things in my life? Because they happen in Sudan? Does that make them any more interesting? And why do I read, for example, a friend of mine's blog about life in a normal, mid-sized American city? Believe me, it isn't that interesting. Yet I check it every day and get quite put out if there isn't something new about, say, shopping at Target and the great sale on tea towels.
I get lots of feedback about this site, most of it positive, which I am really grateful for. And, oddly, more people than actually know me appear to read it, which is... well... terrifying, but none the less gratifying. I guess it is just the old Franny and Zooey loving, ego hating side of me kicking in and realizing I don't WANT to be like those crazed bloggers and commenters I've been reading all evening. So wrapped up in their own impending brilliance (yes, I realize that doesn't strictly make sense, but I think you know what I mean).
I guess the moral of all this is that I've gotten some negative feedback lately, too, that the blog is going too far in to personal things and not enough in to Sudan things. Part of that is because the longer you are in a country, the less you see the things worth talking about. And part of that is because my personal life is more interesting to me right now than my professional life and, therefore, is at the top of my brain.
Either way, I think perhaps I'm not comfortable with that, and I think we will try to get back to more... generalized conversations. Honestly, I don't even know why I'm writing about this change, I should just do it. Dear god. I must be stopped.
I went to the pool today. It was SUCH a pretty day and I was tuckered out after writing a very long proposal yesterday and I was all, like, "I'm gonna treat myself. No work this Sunday! Pool only!"
And it was a really good time. The US government lets us use their pool from 2 pm to around 6 pm on approved Sundays, which is the best perk in all of Juba. So I'm sitting there, lounging by the water in my tankini, eating a burger, chatting with friends, napping, generally leading the decadent life I so richly feel I deserve.
All sounds good, right? Wait. Ask me how LONG I did this. Four freakin hours. And was I wearing sunscreen? Oh no I was not.
I am currently an interesting shade of fuschia and a source of great amusement to all and sundry.
And, lets be honest, rightfully so. Goober.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Also around this time, a group of UN peackeepers (UNAMID) were attacked near Shangil Tobayi in north Darfur, and, I believe, 6 were killed. Nobody has claimed responsibility for it and there is some pretty intense speculation that the government themselves orchestrated the attack as a warning to the UN in response to the ICC thing.
There also are threats that the government is preparing to kick out a number of high-profile NGOs for various and sundry charges which, since I used to work for one of the NGOs I can pretty safely say, are nonsense.
Due to all this, the security posture in the north has rapidly changed. Darfur is now a Level IV security situation, which is not good, and I really really wish my friends out there would all leave. Interestingly, though, Khartoum has also been raised to a Level III. Now, Khartoum, until now, was a family duty station, a calm city where you would go to get fresh scones from Ozone and mutter about the little tow headed children running around playing tag in the courtyard. It was not at all considered dangerous.
However, now, the US embassy is pulling out all dependents, I think the UN will be as well, and people are talking about restricted movement and the leaving of non-essential staff.
All this can't be blamed on the ICC alone, obviously there are underlying factors that were already there. But a lot of it WAS set off by the decision to present evidence at the ICC.
I am now sitting here thinking Really? Really are we doing this? I get that, however flawed it is, this is the justice available to us in the international community. But if this does escalate things then the aid groups and the UN will have to leave, exposing the people to even more suffering and, to be honest, there is VERY little chance of them ever actually getting Bashir to try him so it will have been an empty gesture.
I'm not sure, my gut tells me that this is a bad plan, that it is just the ICC trying to prove that they are relevant and useful and it will harm many more people than it will give satisfaction to. Or, maybe, I'm just playing right in to Bashir's hands, letting him get away without public retribution just so that we can continue our work.
Either way, it is a very very depressing time.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
I hate that.
I was recently given driving privileges and, due to a series of unfortunate decisions on my part, such as being an idiot, the car stayed out of the compound twice over night. Which was my fault. Entirely. So now everyone is, very rightly, angry with me and my driving privileges will no doubt be taken away as well as, possibly, other consequences.
In my defense, I'm just trying to have a normal life. However, there really isn't a defense and I deserve whatever I get.
I HATE that.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Well, about three or four minutes later, just as I'm turning through the huge lake that has formed on the road in Hai Malakal, I get a call. It's my friend, the one I just left. Conversation went something like:
"Are you ok?"
"Someone was just shot in a car, I thought it was you."
"Nope, I'm good."
"Do you want to come back, are you ok?"
"Hell no I'm not coming back, people get shot where you are. I'm going home."
"Well... good point... drive fast."
Which I did, obviously, and, obviously, I'm fine. Turns out an SPLA soldier asked for a ride home and, when the guy in the car said no, the soldier shot him. Which is, always, the perfect answer to a problem, right?
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
I have friends who will immediately drop whatever they are doing to tell me some piece of news in an effort to catch me out, to tell me something first. I think that has happened, maybe, twice.
This obsession with the romantic lives of colleagues whom we haven't seen in years, people we barely know and friends of friends is unhealthy and a bit mean-spirited, yes, but it is also understandable. What the heck else will we talk about? We have no lives. Unless I want to have conversations only about LRA movements and Global Fund indicator development, I am pretty much forced to talk about Yvette and her wanton ways.
I am, at the moment, finding myself, very lightly, caught in this web of rumor and giggles and slyly worded e-mails. Which, you wold think, would make me vow never to gossip ever again, now that I am on the sharp end of innuendo and conjecture. Instead, I find myself intrigued, it is like a sociology experiment, trying to figure out what the connections are that lead to the information traveling around the world at such a shocking rate of speed.
Plus, I'd be a hypocrite if I denied people their tittering.
Monday, July 7, 2008
Juba knows how to celebrate the 4th, let me tell you. I'm going to sleeping for a week.
On Friday there was a large party at a bar in town which, conservatively, everyone on the planet was at. It was loud and raucous and sweaty and there was lots of jumping up on the bar and dancing (not by me, obviously, but by others).
Surreally, there were also two small children running around. They are the son and daughter of a French man and his Sudanese wife and they come to all the social events in town. They are, maybe, like 8 and 5 and there they were, running around, dodging between the gyrating couples on the dance floor and suddenly popping up under your arm at the bar to ask for a water. Everyone kinda keeps an eye out for them and, as far as I can tell, they have a fabulous time.
I again, found myself swept in to the maelstrom that is my ex-mercenary gentlemen and never had to pay for a drink the whole night. Which is a dangerous dangerous thing. Which explains, I suppose, the 2.30 am moment when I found myself linked armed, standing next to the fetid wadi outside the bar, singing The Gambler with a terrifying SPLA secret police officer who was trying to seduce my, very unimpressed, friend.
Good times, good times.
Saturday was relatively uneventful, I left a party at very early o'clock in a rare bid for maturity.
But Sunday, sunday was a complicated mess of social events and beer. Beer by the Nile, watching men in canoes drift around in to rocks and arguing politics (which I have become very bad at, by the way, I need to learn more about this election). Beer in the USAID compound in a house that was air conditioned, had real floors, real carpets, real furniture, real flatscreen tvs and, oddly, real wall sconces and wainscoting. Beer at the River Camp with more political argument. Beer on the veranda of a UN house while I got my tail kicked at Gin Rummy.
Finally, and best, though, beer at the side of the pool which we sneaked in to at midnight, swimming around in the dark drinking Tusker and taking ridiculous pictures as revenge for the US Embassy not letting us in today.
When I say good times, I really do mean it. Good good times.
Friday, July 4, 2008
Now, she and a bunch of others are living in the courtyard of a house, afraid to go anywhere, her husband is underground and both she and her husband have decided he should keep fighting the good fight.
I swear, I get shivers and teary-eyed just thinking about it. Though, to be fair, I am a bit over-emotional these days.
Can everyone read what this says? It says "Anti-Abortion! But Pro-Date Rape"
This, I might add, is for sale on Amazon.com.
Now, I have always prided myself on being both a girl who's made a career out of fighting gender based violence and a girl who does not think the term "chairperson" needs to be used or that jokes where the punchline involves sexual innuendo are inherently bad. I hate it when humor gets limited by political correctness and trying to not to offend anyone, ever, in the history of the world.
But really, is this funny at ALL?
In Yei, right now, we are having this issue. The commissioner issued a decree that women can not dress "indecently" (whatever that means) and any man who is offended by what a woman is wearing can "take action."
What this means is we now have scores of women getting beaten, having their clothes actually ripped OFF them in public, reportedly one woman was made to sweep the central square in town in her knickers as punishment, all in order to preserve public dignity.
Because there isn't actually a law in place, or anything which defines what indecent is, we can't really fight against any of the cases. So women in Yei are left not knowing what will set off the hordes of drunk men and soldiers and men have carte blanche to assault whatever woman they think it would be fun to see half naked or it would be fun to beat.
So yeah, not so entertained by the shirt.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
I can categorically say that, right now, I am NOT down. I got my driver's license, I'm allowed to drive and I have a fun car. I just got one of my projects funded again for another year almost exclusively through flirting and begging (depending on who was on the other end). I'm getting to do a strategic plan, which I've wanted to do for ages and ages. The weather isn't too bad. Social life is looking up. I might be getting a cat to deal with the rat situation. And, to top it all off, I slept for almost 6 hours last night, the longest I've slept in about three or four weeks.
Seriously. This moment, I am the happiest girl in my immediate GPS coordinates. I promise.
Now let's think about this for a second. Sudan is stuffed to the GILLS with men and women who are unemployed, who know the materials, who will work for nothing and who don't need to be housed and fed.
And yet China is paying to ship all these guys over, provide some level of accommodation and, one would assume, food they find at least a bit palatable. Which, I would assume, ain't cheap.
Funniest thing, though? There aren't any guards. I mean, seriously, where are they gonna run to?
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
I'm 100% sure I have no earthly idea where this country is and I certainly had no idea how bad it was.
And I'm the one who is supposed to know these things.
Anyway, very good article about Obiang, the despotic ruler of Equatorial Guinea.
Swear to god, it is a real country.
has a pretty sad picture attached. It is about a white Zimbabwean farmer who was attacked and brutally beaten, along with his mother and father-in-law, for filing a complaint against seizure of their land and writing a letter to some news outlet about the intimidation of his black MDC supporting farm workers by ZANU-PF thugs. His wife managed to escape with their young children, one of whom had a broken leg from a previous attack on their home but the mother and father-in-law are not well after being beaten for hours and threatened with death.
And he's going to go back.
Nothing will happen to Mugabe. He's happily sitting in Cairo right now attending an AU summit. Sure, other African leaders didn't come to his inauguration, but South Africa won't step in and nobody else will really get involved. And, anyway, what would they do? Occupy?
We are watching the disintegration of once extremely successful nation in slow motion and not able to stop it. And, honestly, I am not blaming anyone, I don't have a solution, short of having someone plant explosives in his cigar.
On a related but different note, I have a friend who is part Zimbabwean and she and I once had a very interesting conversation where she supported the taking of the farms from the whites. She felt that it was the only way to right the wrongs of Rhodesia. Now, I argued that yes, there did need to be land redistribution, but this was insanity and party politics and, anyway, didn't those white Zimbabweans have any rights?
To which she said no. Whites in Africa don't have rights, they are all interlopers and should leave. Even South African whites, who have been in South Africa as long as white Americans have been in America are not truly African and do nothing but keep black Africans down.
I was totally shocked, but I wonder how prevalent a sentiment that is on the continent. And I can't decide who's racist, me for thinking she's wrong or her for painting all whites with the same brush. Probably both.