Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Jesus loves the goldfish too...

So, don't tell him but we're killing them by the bucketload. Our logistician just walked through carrying the latest victim. I think the main problem is that we cleaned the fish pond (never clean ANYTHING is my general rule! Nothing good ever comes of it!) and refilled it with water from the well that was made brackish by the tsunami. Ooops! Oh, and there's also no aeration so the poor little things are up on the surface gulping oxygen like, well, like goldfish. This is all very interesting to me mostly because I have a head injury. This weekend a bunch of us went to Sabang (get a map and look it up) to snorkel and lay around on beautiful beaches. On Saturday we rented a boat to take us to a waterfall up in the dense jungle. It was pristine and beautiful and all the things that waterfalls hidden in the jungle are supposed to be but on the way back down I slipped and - to use the phrase of our Alabaman friend here - 'cacked' my head on a rock. Gash across my chin, concussion, lucky to be alive and all that. Everything would have been fine but it got all infected and with no hospital nearby I had to visit the International Red Cross with refugees. I'm telling you that you don't know how good you have it until you have to sit in a hot Red Cross trauma tent surrounded by all sorts of unmentionable injuries and Norwegian doctors trying to attend a screaming child who is dying of malaria. The child goes off to the ICU tent and the Norwegian doctors dope me up with all sorts of meds you can't get anywhere else in the world without a prescription (I knew I loved the Nords for some reason.) And I hope all of this explains why I'm sitting by the fish pond totally fascinated by the slow and untimely deaths of our little friends.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Pigeon English

Today, I’m standing in the Medan airport checking in for a flight to Banda Aceh. Of course, they don’t have my reservation so I explain in pigeon English to the clerk the reason God invented ticketing. It must have been the concept with which he was struggling because my pigeon English was perfect. The conversation went a little something like this:

Me: We pay you money so I fly.

Him: No reservation.

Me: Understand. We pay you money so I fly. We no pay you money so I sit in airport. No standby. Standby no good.

Him: You name no on list.

Me: I understand. Why we pay you money?

Him: You buy ticket?

Me: No, I no buy ticket. Administrator buy ticket.

Him: Name no on list.

Me: You fix.

Him: Wait 30 minutes before flight.

Me: We call that standby.

Him: Yes. Standby.

At which point - and the real point of this story: a guy walks up and tries to get onto our flight with—I’m not making this up—an AK47 and handgun that he sets on the counter when he hands his ticket over to the clerk. I dared to hope that this might pose a security problem but then remembered where I was. I don’t know the exact definition of “lax” but the security in Medan’s airport comes pretty close. Sure, they don’t check ID, sure you can carry knives on board, but we’re talking guns here. I mean, c’mon, we’re not in Iraq or Afghanistan, surely you can't just get on to flights with automatic weapons here - oh wait, yes apparently you can. The compromise that seemed to have been agreed upon was that he could carry the weapons but not the ammunition. (Yes, there were actually bullets IN the guns) and I watched the security guys take the bullets out of the gun and—wait for it—hand them back to him. Apparently, security here are of the “guns don’t kill people, bullets kill people” school of thought. More later—if I’m not gunned down mid-flight.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

What I did today

Good morning boys and girls. I’m writing in to say that I’ve already lived the day you’re just beginning and it’s not a good one so take my advice, and go back to bed.

Woke up this morning under my mosquito net with only the prospect of a dirty well shower. There was nothing edible for breakfast. USAID has pulled PACTEC’s funding which means we’re losing high-speed internet in Meulaboh (WAY TO GO US GOVT!!). Wrote a touching piece about a woman having a baby on a rooftop in the midst of the tsunami. Had some water buffalo for lunch. Had a brief walk between the house and office where I got yelled at by every passing vehicle “HEY MISTA!! WHAT YOUR NAME?” It’s worse than Italy here. Found out a crucial flight out of here tomorrow was canceled and spent the better half of the afternoon at the Red Cross, Samaritan’s Purse, misc. airline offices, trying to chase down/schmooze my way on to a flight. Chartered a plane in the end. Canceled the charter. Will spend all of tomorrow at the airport trying to get on a flight and am now sitting in about 110 degree heat being eaten by malaria-carrying mosquitos at 9 at night imploring you to just skip today and head straight into Wednesday.