Thursday, December 14, 2006
In a security meeting a friend leaned over and whispered, 'so, were they [the hijackers] armed?' I was indignant. 'Yes! Of course they were armed! We might be losing a car a day but it's not yet to the point that we're giving them away to people who don't have guns!'
However, there's now talk that maybe the no-vehicle club should start hijacking our own vehicles to get them back. We're trying to think out of the box here.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
On behalf of the board of directors and members of the South Darfur Chapter of the No-Vehicles-Club we would like to extend a kind invitation to join! We are eager to get to know you and together forward the mission of delivering humanitarian relief without vehicles.
You might be asking yourself, what are the benefits and advantages of membership? Well, membership has it’s privileges. The first is our snazzy logo which can be made into shirts and worn by staff as they travel on donkey carts and hang off buses. It makes a statement and that statement is, ‘Vehicles, shmehicles! Vehicles are for wusses! We don’t need no stinkin’ vehicles to get to remote locations and dig boreholes; carry medicine and food!’ Second, at gunpoint, have you ever found yourself struggling to find the words for: ‘thanks for the kind offer to hijack our vehicles…but we already gave…’? Simply post our logo on a sign outside your compound and the roving militias will know that they’re wasting their time traumatizing your staff and promptly move on to another NGO. Third, you will save a lot of money not having to invest in those ‘no weapons’ stickers, drivers, spare tires, etc. Fourth, you’ll enjoy our mix and mingle activities with the West and
We hope you are able to join us, as we feel that you would make a meaningful contribution to our membership. Again, welcome to the South Darfur Chapter.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
I wish there was a school for humanitarian aid workers. In this school they would tell you all the things you’re supposed to know, and don’t, when you arrive in any given disaster or war. They would tell you that your job will not be even remotely exotic, adventurous or exciting. They would tell you that you will spend a great quantity of your time finding out if, and how, people are stealing, how to catch them and how to fire them. They would tell you that you are not going to save anyone’s life – that you are not helping the war you’re going to and, in fact, that you might be prolonging it. They would tell you that you will spend a lot of time with other people, exactly like yourself at coordination and security meetings. They would teach you important things that help you get by – like how to enjoy drinking lukewarm water, how to change a tire, stop a leak, tie a knot, what all those gadgets on your pocket knife are for, how to remove splinter without tweezers and how to smuggle more luggage than allowed through airline check-ins. There would be a language course in how to explain Avian Bird Flu to people whose language you don’t speak. There would be special classes on keeping your sanity in 42+ degrees Celsius, how to pretend you don’t have diarrhoea, how to enjoy drinking ORS and how to read by kerosene lamp without losing your eyesight. The cafeteria at this school would serve inedible – albeit authentic – ethnic foods that are unappetizing but the only food you’re going to get. The dorms would be outfitted with mosquito nets and the rooms filled with an amazing array of flying insects of every variety and size – just so you could become accustomed. The temperature of the classrooms would be kept at an unbearable temperature, either too hot or too cold and from time to time either sirens or prayer calls would go off over the loudspeakers. I’m pretty sure that this school would weed out about half of us. The other half should be taken away and immediately institutionalized.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
I have a chart on my wall of the militia groups, and rebel groups that have split and made up and split again and I have to update it on a near daily basis. The SLA, the SLA Wahid, the SLA Minawi, the SLA Free Will, the SLA Modern, the NRF, the JEM, the PDF (seriously) – we even now have a grouping called the ‘UAG’ – unidentified armed groups and ‘OAG’ – other armed groups. Kofi Annan described it best, ‘anarchy and chaos’ he said.
I suspect that the internet is out because there are troop movements and things are about to get ugly somewhere around here. So
And then there is the work itself. Because the conflict has been described – erroneously – as Arab vs. African, the aid agencies have favored the African tribes for distributions and support. However, a great number of non-combatant Arab tribes were completely overlooked which only increased the tension in an already explosive environment. And, how, exactly are we supposed to differentiate between combatant and non-combatants anyway. It’s someone else’s war, remember?
Add to this the demands of donors and agencies to abide by standards that are – I’m sorry to say – often Western contrived, completely out of place and contradictory in the field. Take the gender issue, for example. The Red Cross Code of Conduct states that we will not attempt to change people’s beliefs. However, standards dictate that special emphasis and influence be invested in vulnerable groups (read: women, children, elderly, etc.). So, attempting to give women a voice or to assign them to positions of decision and authority – or even gain their opinions – changes a society’s beliefs. ‘Yes, but,’ the open-minded Westerner will argue. ‘Surely it’s better that we change some beliefs.’ Is it? Which ones? Who decides? I’m fairly sure that same Westerner would argue that no culture is inherently better than any other. That no belief system is imperically more ‘fair.’ So, when something has to be sacrificed what will it be?
7:00am – The alarm goes off. I hit snooze
7:10am – Repeat the above.
7:30am – Repeat the above.
7:45am – Resign myself to the inevitable and crawl out from under two mosquito nets (one just wasn’t doing the job). Turn my VHF radio up to hear the goings on in the world that is Nyala, pull my hair back into a pony tail – the only hairstyle I now wear – look through my closet at the same six outfits I wear every week and pick something.
8:00am – Our administrator returns from taking someone to the airport, asks if I want some breakfast. I don’t and so we go to the office.
8:15am – There is no phone network meaning there is no way to do e-mails so try to get our RBGAN (satellite phone connection) working but to no avail.
8:25am – Give up in disgust and go make some coffee.
8:30am – Daily meeting with our Logistics Manager and Area Administrator to plan vehicle movements for the day.
9:00am – Make more coffee.
9:30am – Finish my ‘objectives’ for my ‘personal development plan’ that my boss is waiting for.
10:00am – Bring a cook into the office and tell her that she needs to stop making everyone’s life miserable and do her job or that I will fire her.
11:00am – Miss a watsan coordination meeting. Not really broken up about that. Work on updating the site security plan while listening to the cook rant and rave to anyone who will listen about the horrible woman she works for.
12:00pm – Update our site ‘threat matrix’ and write a visitor security update.
1:00pm – Go have lunch with all our staff. Our cook is noticeably absent being obviously still angry. Have a conversation with the staff about winter in the States and when our finance assistant is going to get married.
1:30pm – Back to my desk. Our administrator is cursing
2:10pm – Talk to
2:35pm – Find out that the price is $2,750 so call
3:00pm – Have an all-office staff meeting. Tell them not to use so much tape, turn off the fans and lights when they leave, submit their holiday plans for the Christmas holiday, and ask that the guards be instructed on how to turn on the generators.
4:00pm – Ask why there is a load of boxes sitting in the compound – they’re waiting to be shipped, I’m told. Go through a box of junk that’s been sitting in the warehouse for, literally, years. Instruct our guard to burn certain documents found in said box.
5:00pm – Go to security meeting and listen to all the horrible events of the past four days which include, but are not limited to: banditry, assaults, thefts of vehicles, burning of villages, shooting, murder, general intimidation, hijackings, and kidnappings.
6:00pm – Meet with OCHA to discuss Ed Daein and try to figure out who controls what areas.
6:35pm – Go back to the office, turn off all the lights and fans that have still been left on.
7:00pm – Go home, shower, make myself a tomato and basil salad and generally faff around for an hour and a half.
8:30pm – Go to a party at another INGO. Dance. Meet and greet. Mix and mingle. Refuse to learn anybody’s name. It’s lovely to have new people in town but refuse to learn anyone else’s name. I’ve got too many names and organizations stuck in my head already. I don’t have room for any more.
10:30pm – Curfew. We should be going home.
10:45pm – Start saying goodbye
11:00pm – Drive home trying to avoid checkpoints.
12:00am – Begin new British junk fiction about someone’s perfect life.
12:30am – Still not tired so take Tylenol PM. Make plans to redo our kitchen and make spaghetti sauce the next day.
1:00am – Check to see if the network is back on. It’s not. Go wander around the compound. There are times when I am struck by the beauty that is here. When we have no electricity and the generator doesn’t work and the compound is quiet and lit up by the moonlight. Maybe my sense of beauty has been dumbed down. Or maybe it is actually beautiful.
1:30am - Turn off the light and wait to fall asleep.
The interesting thing about
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Tonight we're hosting about 30 people for a Thanksgiving dinner. We also have intense fighting near one of our base locations. We are trying to follow which towns/villages have fallen and who controls which areas, how we would evacuate if it comes to that, and who has our vehicles. It's about as hard as trying to follow a soap opera that's updated by the minute. In one particularly amusing moment I'm up to my elbows in apple pie crust, phone tucked under my chin as I knead, and I explain to the head of OCHA how we had just been talking to one militia commander when he says to us, 'uh, can you wait a second?' Another guy takes the phone and identifies himself as being the head of another militia and declares, 'we're now in charge here and we have your vehicles.'
I relay the story and put down the phone and start making some stuffing. Another call comes in, rumours and innuendo are flying, different sides are being asked to surrender, our location is now crawling with military - it's a war. I guess this is what happens in a war. I've got a turkey to follow-up on.
I call USAID. They've got the turkey and it's dead. It's also 4pm. Dinner's at 7pm. I don't think they're going to make it but let them know that the extent of my ability to manage the world ends with simultaenous evacuation planning, vehicle negotiation, and apple pie and stuffing making. I simply cannot manage to get the turkey cooked as well. Multi-tasking, no matter your gender, only goes so far.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Spent most of the day running between OCHA, UNDSS, and the AU trying to get a secure way to get them out. Things are still unclear. Not shaping up to be a good weekend.
I need a normal job.
So, here they are:
1. Sunshine and plenty of it
2. Good coffee
3. That I am not hungry, don't live in poverty, am not chronically ill, don't live in an IDP camp
4. FG Wilson - our generator. With it we have light and have connectivity to the outside world. Without it we are in darkness and alone.
5. Word just in...USAID has found a turkey. I repeat, USAID has found a turkey!! (it's not quite dead yet...but locating a bird is half the battle!)
6. Clean water - enough to drink and to bathe in
7. Phone calls and e-mails at just the right time from just the right people who cheer me up, make me laugh and generally give me the will to go on.
8. All the things that could go very, very wrong on a daily basis and don't.
9. My mosquito net.
10. That every day is a new day. That the sun keeps coming up and that I'm guaranteed that it will not be boring, always be interesting, and will not be like the last.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Monday, November 06, 2006
When I think of the Nile I generally think of it as a river in Egypt. Flat, placid, calm. A meandering river that slowly winds its way to the Mediterranean. I have never thought of it as a wild river and I am glad for that. My friend wanted to go white water kayaking and, not knowing any better, I thought I would go along. I should have been scared, but didn’t know it at the time, as our guides showed us how to strap into the tandem kayaks, how to paddle, how to stay centered, and how to roll. It all seemed a bit mundane. Another experience that one should have because one could.
The rapids on the Nile varying from one to six. One being little more than a bump and jostle, six being rapids that will kill you within a minute. We never did anything more than a five and nothing really prepares you for it. Nothing can prepare you for being underwater, upside down, with water beating the air and life out of you, clinging to the kayak hoping that your guide will flip you back upright because you cannot breathe, you cannot think, you have no idea where you are, which way is up, and you are sure that you are not going to make it. You have no more air, the water has filled your sinuses, and there is absolutely nothing you can do but hold on. I’m sure there’s a metaphor for life somewhere in there if you’re dumb enough to want more metaphors for life.
In the nights afterward, just when I am falling asleep I will wake up startled remembering not being able to breathe. Remembering what it was like to be pummelled underwater, to know that you were completely out of control. I suppose some people like it. I did not, particularly. I like the deception of control in which most of us live our lives. I like thinking that, in the day to day humdrum of life, I am not particularly in any danger. And kayaking the Nile is not like that. A few days afterwards the friend and I meander down to one of the rapids rated five – and one at which I was underwater for a particularly long time. The water is pounding down the gorge a breakneck speed. It is almost impossible to hear each other talk over the sound. ‘Wow,’ she says. ‘That is something else!’ I shrug and nod and we walk away.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Now, I know what you’re thinking (‘where can I get a copy of this calendar?’) No, seriously, you’re wondering why they put that other guy in the shot. Good question and I intend to bring it up with the publishers and my agent. However, it might be because he’s a bloodsucking French lawyer who has far more fashion sense than I – so much so that he got his own page in the babe calendar.
Everything on the road to Jinja reminds me of something else. Kampala reminds me of Pristina. The Ugandan countryside reminds me of Thailand. The smell of the forests along the road reminds me of Indonesia. The rolling hills reminds me of driving in Missouri with my brother listening to Snow Patrol’s ‘Chasing Cars’.
‘Let’s waste time…I don’t quite know how to say how I feel…
I don’t know where, confused about how as well,
just know that these things will never change for us at all.
If I lay here. If I just lay here would you lie with me and just forget the world?’
Memories keep flooding in that I have no mental energy to sort or control. Eucalyptus trees remind me of the Californian Santa Ana winds, the roadside stalls of Zambia, the traffic of Calcutta, the smell of a hospital all the many, many institutions in Ukraine, and the wet, hot air of nights in Hong Kong, and the worn blue vinyl upholstery of driving from Chicago to Kalamazoo listening to Emmy Lou Harris,
‘Our path is worn our feet are poorly shod
We lift up our prayer against the odds
And fear the silence is the voice of God
And we cry Allelujah Allelujah
We cry Allelujah’
The strange thing is that I did not think of Darfur – not once. It was as if, in leaving it behind, memory – that eccentric librarian - tossed all these other memories out so it could lock Darfur tidily away. And I am glad for that because I don’t want to think about it. I am tired of thinking about the place. I want to think about something else and so I do with my eyes closed in the backseat of the two hour taxi ride with the wind brushing over me. I hope that sometime, maybe years from now, after it is over, I will be able to take out that file and sort through the experiences, sounds, and pictures and feel something other than hopelessness and sorrow.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
But sometimes citizenship doesn’t count for much either. Today they’re evacuating the south of the Darfur because of a major military offensive and the rumour is that thousands of IDPs are headed our way – not thousands, tens of thousands - and, as if being bombed and attacked weren’t enough they’re coming – on foot – with only what they can carry while being attacked and robbed on the way by bandits and Janjaweed. When they arrive here they’ll need food and protection and space in the camps because they’ll have nothing. Literally, nothing. I can’t even contemplate a trip without my coffee press, pillow, malaria meds, vitamins, books, clothes, ipod and friendly blue passport. Imagine possessing nothing.
Ok, so I’m a whiner. I’ll readily admit that. I like to be warm – but not too warm – and safe and dry and well-fed. I like my pillow and coffee press. But I think I spend far too much time forgetting that these things are gifts; that they are graces. I spend too much time thinking that I somehow deserve things like clean water and a bed and I’m being put upon when they’re not available to me. Well, I might not come right out and say I deserve them but I act like it. But, think how easily it could have all been different. How easily any of us could not have passports, or jobs, or countries or a language that other people strive to understand.
Saturday, October 07, 2006
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Friday, September 22, 2006
Thursday, September 14, 2006
I’m sitting at my desk this morning drinking coffee. I’ve just threatened to fire someone, yelled at WFP for not booking people on a flight, and am now sitting here looking at a ‘threat/action matrix’, ‘individual evacuation responsibilities’, ‘overall security plans’, and ‘sector contingency’ spreadsheets. And, all before my first cup of coffee. (For those of you who know me and how I function in the morning you’ll know what a feat this all is.)
It’s really a strange time here right now. The days seem to fluctuate between the normal and terribly tense. There might be two days where everything is fine and we’re driving around the streets, going about our business. People wave, we wave back. The next day we’re in lockdown behind reinforced gates and barbed wire. And I wonder if it’s those same happy people who were on the streets before now chucking bricks over the walls.
As I’m sure you’ve heard our fate is somewhat unclear at the moment. Aid workers continue being attacked, troops keep moving in, the AU will most likely leave, and the UN can’t get in – until January at the earliest, if they come at all. The security vacuum that everyone feared is nearly upon us. There are battles already waging to the North; there was a massive breach of the peace agreement in an attack in the South; bandits on the roads here; reports of attacks there. The best way to describe the feeling is like watching a weather report. We go to security meetings and the guy giving the briefing stands in front of a huge map like a weatherman and points out the trouble spots – and there are many. He finishes with the obvious that here it is relatively calm with the prospect of volatility. Sunshine with a chance of showers. But it cannot last forever. Weather moves; so does war.
One of my favourite lines from my favourite book, The Brothers Karamazov, is in a scene where a mother who is worried about her son who is off in the war comes to a priest with her concerns. He looks at her and says, ‘Don’t fear anything, ever.’
I like that. Even if it is easier said than done. There is simply no point in worrying about what might happen - because if it does we are prepared for it and if it does not then we have been needlessly fearful. To be honest, I am not really afraid for myself. I knew what I was getting into and in this type of work you accept the risks at the outset. Where the fear gets to me is in the responsibility. To accept that we are making decisions - or will need to make decisions - that will potentially mean life and death to others is a harder pill to swallow.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
We expected protests today against the deployment of UN troops in Darfur so we were under lockdown again. I have to admit that I’m becoming quite fond of the lockdown because it means that we can sleep in. I woke at about 8:30 to the sounds of trucks and people in the street chanting, ‘down, down USA.’ Ashley came in rather sleepily and said, ‘they’re calling for you. They’ve just announced that 2000 troops are moving into Nyala today.’ I rolled over and pulled the sheet over my head, ‘I assume that they’ll still be moving troops in at 10:00,’ I said. ‘I’m going back to sleep until then.’
But, of course, I couldn’t go back to sleep. It’s rather hard to sleep with the roar of mobs in the distance and the radio squawking with security information. So, I got up and then things began to go wrong.
Another NGO hit their emergency button which means that you can hear everything happening in their location. People running, yelling in Arabic – it was a good friend of ours and their compound was being attacked. Police were deployed. Our national staff called us to say that something was wrong at our office and to stay inside.
So we just sat outside in the sun and waited. Waiting is a horrible thing to do when things are going wrong. You want information. You want to know if people are ok. You want to know if trouble is headed your way or if you’re safe. People deal with insecurity in different ways. Some people become agitated, some shut-down; Ashley and I decided to have some coffee and paint our toe-nails. ‘If I’m going to be evacuated I’m at least going to have beautiful toes,’ I said. ‘That’s a nice shade of red,’ Ashley said. ‘It suits you.’ ‘Thanks,’ I said as the radio continued to beep it’s emergency signal. A black cat ran across the compound. ‘Bad luck,’ I said. ‘In my country black cats mean good luck,’ she said. ‘Let’s go with that,’ I decided.
Some of our national staff came to the house. The office had been broken into, the windshield of a vehicle smashed, the guard beaten up, our generator pulled-apart. Three of our national staff who were there escaped. Vehicles of other NGOs had been smashed and other compounds in that area overrun. ‘It is ok now,’ they said and smiled. ‘Tamam [good], we said. ‘Humdillalah [praise be to God]’, we said.
So, now we are waiting again. The protestors have gathered to listen and make speeches in the main square. The police are reporting that they expect more violence when they disperse. The UN is trying to get the AU to come into town to help but it’s unclear whether the can/will. I’m trying to think of something to do. I’ve brought the finance files home and should be sorting them but lack the will. I could paint or read but feel lack of enthusiasm for that as well. Maybe I’ll bake a cake. Cake makes everything better.
Monday, September 04, 2006
Saturday, September 02, 2006
That all changed yesterday because someone did ask. Paul, who asked the typical question and to whom I gave the practiced response said, ‘ok, then, marry me.’ Paul is southern Sudanese, amiable, kind, probably a decade younger than me, our mechanic, and perhaps one of the finest human beings I’ve ever met. It seemed a reasonable offer…but first we had to get a few things straight.
‘You’re not already married, are you?’ I asked because being a second (or third, or fourth wife), while perfectly acceptable here, is something I feel that I’d probably dislike.
‘How many cows would you give my family?’
‘200.’ (Not a number to be scoffed at!)
‘And?’ I asked trying to close out the deal.
‘A white Land Rover,’ he said. ‘And, I’d give your parents a house in Southern Sudan.’ (Something that I’m sure my parents would be delighted to learn.)
‘Not bad!’ I said.
‘Of course,’ he replied. ‘We’ll need to wait 10 years.’
I think I could’ve done worse. Might have to wait ten years but all in one go I could get married, have an SUV, property, and take up cattle-ranching. I have to say that I can think of plenty of married people who have ended up with worse deals than that!
And, with such a deal on the table, I’m going to need to think up another response to the concerned, ‘why aren’t you married?’ question. At least, I can get a good ten years out of the, ‘well, I’m engaged to a mechanic in Sudan,’ response.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Today there will be ‘demonstrations’ in Nyala, Khartoum, probably all over Darfur. Demonstrations are a nice way of saying, ‘riots’. Flag-burning, car-burning, rock-throwing, general anarchy in the streets. At least we knew about it in advance. It’s the spontaneous ‘demonstrations’ that are worrying. So, we’re under lock down. No one allowed out of their compounds from 7am until further notice. Flights are cancelled. Travel forbidden. Offices closed.
The thing that no one tells you is how much preparation and coordination a good lock down will take. What if we’re not stuck inside for four hours but for four days? How much food and water do we need for that sort of thing? And, even if it is for four hours what, exactly, are we going to eat for lunch? Not matters of life and death, per se, but important nonetheless.
Well, in case you ever find yourself in the same situation, let me tell you what I recommend purchasing: 10 snickers bars, 5 cans of Pringles, 10 cans of tuna fish, 10 instant noodle packs, 1 jar of mayonnaise, 1 jar of mustard, 2 jars of peanut butter, 1 jar of strawberry jam, 3 packs of happy-cow cheese, 5 packs of crackers, 2 packs of cookies, and 36 2-litre bottles of water.
Also, it’s good to have a play list. It’s always good to have a play list. Like, in case you’re evacuated you would, of course, want to listen to Pearl Jam’s ‘Evacuation’, or David Gray’s ‘Say hello, wave goodbye’, or Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born to run’. So in honour of our ‘demonstrations’ I’ve compiled a lock-down play list. Enjoy:
1. I predict a riot – Kaiser Chiefs
2. Where is the love – Black Eyed Peas
3. Don’t panic – ColdPlay
4. I want to be sedated – Social Distortion
5. It’s the end of the world as we know it – REM
6. Let your troubles roll by – Carbon Leaf
7. Bad day – Daniel Powter
8. Who will guard the door – Over the Rhine
9. Hold On – Sister Hazel
10. Be and be not afraid – Tracy Chapman
Monday, August 28, 2006
Meet Francois. In this picture, he’s being a little bit camera shy; hiding in the corner between the door and the wall. He moved in while I was gone and took up residence in the corner of my room between the mattress and the wall. He must have thought it was a rather nice place – quiet and dark with no one bothering him and asking all sorts of questions like, ‘who are you?’ and ‘what are you doing here?’. And then I come home and burst in. Seeing that my mosquito net is covered with dead bugs and my mattress soaked by the many recent rainstorms I go about making lots of noise, taking the net down, moving the mattress and, suddenly, there he is. Trying to hide; completely taken aback by all the light and noise. Although he gave me a start we became quick friends. He didn’t try to hide or run off - just kind of sleepily and warily eyed me as I stood there and eyed him. I’d like to say that we had a moment, Francois and I.
But then, I came back to my senses and took to eyeing all the hedgehog poo he’d messily left around the bed and said, as apologetically as possible, ‘one of us has to go.’ He didn’t budge. I tried to scoot him out the door with my shoe but it seemed so cruel to send him packing off in the broad daylight like that. So, he cuddled up between the door and the wall and I left him there.
I find that I’m becoming more sympathetic to living things after being in Darfur for five months now. I can’t stand to just wash bugs down the shower or crush ants on the pavement. I can’t stand for things to suffer and die – especially smaller, helpless things, even if they are a nuisance and poo around the bed. Maybe it’s misplaced sympathy.
Later that night some friends came over and we sat in the candlelight talking about our jobs and politics and books and other places in the world we’d like to be when out strolls Francois. He didn’t make a scene; didn’t pack a bag; didn’t tell me where he was going or when he’d be back. He just kind of trundled off and hasn’t been back since. I miss him already.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Monday, August 21, 2006
The point here is that I have, at some point on this blog, used the word 'drug' as the past tense of 'drag' which is, apparently, a serious offense to all British sensibilites of the language over which they - quaintly - feel ownership. Therefore, I would like to clarify the following...
The past tense of the verb 'to drag' is, in fact, 'dragged'. Unless, according to some very knowledgeable people on the internet, you are, "trying to render dialectical speech to convey a sense of down-home rusticity", or, according to Random House use the "nonstandard" past tense, or, according to Merriam-Webster, appear, "illiterate".
So, for the record, I would like to say that in my blogging I like to be rustic and nonstandard. It was, in no way, that I misused the past tense. At times, I just like to appear illiterate. And that is my perogative, as an American.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
2. Ample amounts of the four food groups: wine, cheese, bacon, chocolate.
3. After banging on for several hours about the evils of Darfur my friends who offer a cup of tea as the genuine remedy.
4. Transport that might not run on time but still gets you where you need to go.
5. Marks and Spencers.
6. The fact that it's August and it's grey and rainy.
7. Internet that works all the time...seriously...all the time. Can you imagine?
8. Tony Blair.
9. The telephone - which I hear the British think they invented - that also works...well, all the time!
10. The 16 hour, BBC version of Pride and Prejudice that I intend to spend 16 hours watching before going out to the pub for a beer and some greasy fish and chips, doused in vinegar and dipped in ketchup. Mmmm...
Monday, August 07, 2006
At 9am we are out of the compound and by 9:30 we are out of the town – driving through vigourously guarded SLA territory on a road that is little more than a sand track through ankle-deep shrub that stretches off the end of the earth in every direction as far as you can see. South Darfur is green, at the moment, golf-course green from all the pounding rain of the wet season. We drive through Dinka villages populated by those who fled one civil war right into the next one. We drive past farmers out planting their fields without any tools, past herds of goats being shephered by children, passed small groups of thatched tukels. The track becomes muddy and impassable in some places and the first in our convoy gets stuck in the deep tracks that has been carved by the few heavy lorries that passed this way earlier. Our driver stops a teenage boy who’s hoeing a field with a bamboo pole to ask for directions. The boy looks us over with large, brown eyes and beautiful, long eyelashes and points us across his field to another track that will hopefully take us where we want to go. The drivers squabble in Arabic over the radios and then head off in the direction the boy pointed.
Driving into El Fadous the first thing you notice is what is missing and that mainly is noise - the whir and buzzing to which we’ve become accustomed. There is no electricity, no phones ringing, no sound of aircraft overhead, no cars – except our own. Only the sounds of people in the market. It is remarkably peaceful.
When we arrive at the clinic there area already seven staff there weighing and measuring children who cry and wail as they are placed on the scales. This is the only time they make noise. There are about 50 children in the tent between the ages of six and 59 months being held quietly by their mothers - malnourished children are eerily subdued and inactive. Most are being fed plumpy nut to fend off starvation. The malnutrition rates here are not good. In fact, they are 10% past the threshold of what constitutes an ‘emergency.’ Some children are here because their families simply don’t have enough food; some are here because cholera and malaria have accentuated the problems – whatever the case they are all part of a suplemental feeding programme for all children under five in the region to hopefully keep the problem from worsening.
After the clinic finishes we have lunch in the center of town under a broken down looking stable where we watch police and GoS emerge periodically from the bush with AK47’s slung lazily over one shoulder. We eat beans and meat with our hands as water occassionally drips from the roof onto our chairs and table. The food is delicious but I know I will pay for it later in one form or another.
I spend most of my time with Joseph, one of our health promotion workers. A gregarious man from Southern Sudan with an irrepresible wide grin that lights up his face and more energy in his small finger than I think I’ve had in my entire life. His exuberance for the work is genuine – and exhausting.
We spend the afternoon visiting health clubs for women and children in IDP camps. In club after club I play the part of the ambassador’s wife introducing myself and telling them how wonderful it is that they are there and how delighted I am to get to meet them. Despite feeling completely useless, it is wonderful to be there and I am truly delighted to meet them. It is a glimpse of how the work we are doing is somehow contributing some goodness to a place desperately lacking in goodness.
After visiting dozens of these clubs we have to head home in order to make it back before dark and the curfew. We stop by the clinic to pick up one mother and child who is so malnourished that we have to take them to the closest hospital – over two hours away. Joseph happily chats away with the woman who is bewildered, has never been in a car, and is putting her child’s life in the hands of some foreigners who turn up every now again with food and medicine. I hold the baby, who is lethargic and literally skin and bone, in the front seat while he reassures the mother that now that a ‘khwaje’ is holding the baby surely everything will turn out right. I smile and wish I believed it. After a mile or two Joseph decides that my name is too hard too hard for the Sudanese to pronounce and need a new one. We bounce over the muddy road while he carries on a monologoue of Sudanese names before arriving on one. ‘I think Amani suits you,’ he finally decides and asks the mother if she agrees. ‘It means hope. From now on we will call you Amani.’ And from then on, he does.
There was a tribe that lived in this rural area – let’s call them the Red Sox. They are poor, Muslim, and farmers. Right next to them live a tribe – let’s call them the Yankees - that is also poor, Muslim, and farmers. They hate each other. From time immemorial they launch raids on each others small plots, villages and flocks. The children of both groups die from preventable diseases, don’t have enough food, inadequate health care, and little clean water. Simple enough so far?
Every winter a bunch of different nomadic tribes (say…the whole American League) show up on the scene, passing through with their herds, both trampling and eating crops but also bringing meat and milk.
Then, one day, another tribe – let’s call them the Padres – show up fleeing the war where they live. They’re Christians and they settle down on the edge of town and scratch out a living. Their kids die of preventable diseases, and there’s general malnourishment and not enough water but they’re there. The Red Sox and the Yankees go on hating each other but put up with the Padres as an unavoidable nuisance.
Someone very rich somewhere gets wind of the fact that the Padres are there and that they’re starving. So they send food, a lot of it, and keep sending it for 15 years. They send medicine too, and health information. It doesn’t make the Padres lot in life any better, necessarily, but at least they’re not dying in droves so the very rich person somewhere gets to sleep better at night.
So, one year, it gets bad. There’s a drought, the Red Sox and the Yankees are starting to vie for land to farm. They decide to arm themselves and so now whenever they duke it out it tends to be bloodier. Added to that, they’re pretty cranky about this entire American League just trampling on everything so turn on them as well. The American League, however, has big guns of its own and begin using them at will to take what they want.
Then, another tribe – the Dodgers – turn up. They’re fleeing another war in another part of the country and don’t like the Red Sox or the Yankees, but they REALLY don’t like the Padres. They just generally make like a bit less liveable for everyone around.
The Red Sox, already cranky, start to think to themselves, ‘hey, wait a minute! These Padres over here just sit around and get food and free health care and we’re no better off than they are!’ So, they send letters to the rich guy saying that if they don’t get some of the beneies then they’ll stop the Padres getting them too. The rich guy thinks, ‘hey, I’m rich! Why not?’
Meanwhile, the Padres’ war at home ends but it’s not so easy to just uproot 5,000 people who have lived somewhere for 15 years. It takes some time. (Not to mention that they’ve gone and imported their own little militia from the war back home and staying somewhere where you are fed and cared for looks mighty fine compared to going back to who-knows-what where they came from)
And that’s Darfur in a nutshell. The Red Sox, the Yankees, the Dodgers, the Padres, and the entire rest of the American League all armed and jealous of one another….and one rich guy who doesn’t quite know left from right just trying to keep everyone fed and happy and not quite understanding why everyone isn’t just a touch more grateful.
Monday, July 31, 2006
But it is impossible to forget. Like a helicopter ride on Saturday. It was me, a paramedic, the South African pilots, a man that had nearly been beaten to death the day before, and his mother. She was blind in one eye and stared out the window with tears dripping off her chin. I had my IPOD on under the headset. Berber’s Addagio for Strings was playing – over and over – and there is a point in the music where all that is heard is a single violin stretching a note out so perfect and beautiful that it alone could break your heart. And I looked out the window at the beautiful mountains and tried for the hundredth time that day not to cry.
Like tonight when I sat outside with all the men from the family of the driver that was beaten to death – their white robes reflecting the light of the silver crescent moon. The rain showered us with large, gloomy drops as we listened to our director convey condolences for another senseless, inhumane murder that, taken together with the thousands of others, make up this senseless, inhumane catastrophe we’re working in.
Like hearing the stories over the past few days of the rapes, the banditry, the assault, the honor killings, the shootings.
And I wonder sometimes if good is slipping out of the world. Like a glass tipped over on a table with goodness dribbling out onto the floor.
Friday, July 28, 2006
Thursday, July 13, 2006
A card from Fernandez...
I received a lovely Sudanese purse from Ashley...
Also a box made out of WFP food tins so my books don't get dusty...
My new laptop arrived from Khartoum...
Along with some cards from Khartoum and Ed Daein...
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
So, Italy won the World Cup. This made me very happy. It made me very happy because I was supporting them (at the time) and because they beat France. It takes very little to make me happy these days. Unfortunately, they won on penalties which means that the game drug on and on far past our organization’s curfew, the UN curfew, and even the town curfew. This was bad. However, the situation was compounded by the fact that we didn’t have a car and that it rained – and I’m talking bucket-drenching downpour, not your normal rain – for about two hours during the game. It didn’t bother me that the room we were sitting in was slowly flooding or that there was a constant drip on the television. What was slightly alarming, however, was hiking home that night, after curfew, through calf-deep sewage water that clogged the streets. Seriously, there are some things you can live your whole life without doing and walking through sewage at midnight in the middle of Africa hoping not to get shot is one of them.
Monday, July 10, 2006
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
“Good girls walk fast in groups of three
Fast girls walk slow on side streets
Sometimes the girls who walk alone
Aren’t found for days or weeks
On the busy boulevards
Bad boys call you names and cruise you hard
Bullies laugh and grin and beat
Your soft skin against the cold concrete
Knock you down, make you bleed
Make you cry and make you think
I’ll die here soon if I don’t leave
If I don’t leave, if I don’t leave
This patch of sky and native ground
Take turns to push and pull you down
Forget trying to live and be happy
I’ll take safe and terror free
Hit the floor shut off the lights
As the bullets fly
Terror rules the dark of night
bouncing from the trees
This training ground for punks and thieves
Our pools are full of razor blades
Fools and innocents believe
Love and faith and truth and beauty
Can make a garden of this human factory
Bad girls run fast leave home alone
No trace or clue of where they’ve gone
Sometimes these girls are never found
Never found, never found
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
1. Start early. Go to the market around noon where you will find hardly any food – there’s no refrigeration so dairy products are out and the nomads have taken the animals away for the rainy season so no meat either.
2. At the market you will find (in alphabetical order): limes, onions, oranges, peanuts, potatoes, and, literally, nothing else.
3. Buy onions.
4. Return home and raid the ‘emergency evacuation’ food in the storeroom. Take out cans of: pineapple, tomatoes, baked beans, mushrooms. Also take a jar of curry paste, some rice and a tin of ‘chicken luncheon meat.’
5. Read the directions on the curry paste that calls for yoghurt and chicken.
6. Vow revenge on the dolt who ordered the ‘emergency’ supplies.
7. Decide powdered milk will work in lieu of yoghurt.
8. Find a can opener. When you realize there isn’t one see step 6 and beg a logistician to open 9 cans with a swiss army knife.
9. Saute onions, adding pineapple, mushrooms and tomatoes, and curry paste.
10. Add ½ liter of powdered milk.
11. Watch milk curdle in sauce.
12. Cover, turn up heat and hope for the best.
13. Make rice.
14. Fry chicken-type-byproduct.
15. Decide ‘chicken luncheon meat’ is so vile that it should be disposed of quickly.
16. Serve sauce with baked beans and rice. Call it ‘curry.’
17. Watch appreciative colleagues wolf it down as if it’s edible.
18. Sit down, swat flies off your own place, and enjoy!
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
In the end, all we could do was shrug our shoulders and look up in the sky and talk about how you prepare communities for heavy artillery fire or air bombardment. And this is how you prepare them – you don’t. You can’t. People will die – and probably a lot of them.
I think that it is human nature to spend a considerable amount of our lives wishing we knew what was going to happen, making plans for a future that never turns out like we expect it, wishing we knew what tomorrow would hand us. But, I’ve decided, that I’d rather not know. There is some knowledge that no one is the better for knowing.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Sunday, June 18, 2006
Every now and again I’m stopped by a phrase that I can honestly say I never expected to hear in my lifetime. (Tops among them are, “I’m really crazing a non-alcholic beer” and “Don’t forget about the wildebeest migration.” This last one really cracked me up. ‘Don’t forget’ would imply that I knew anything about the migration in the first place and that I knew whether it was something to be seen? Avoided?) The most recent was at a UN coordination meeting where it was announced, “the acute watery diarrhoea meeting will be held directly after the camp coordination meeting.”
With a straight-face my base manager looked at me and said, “I don’t want to go to the watery diarrhoea meeting.”
“I’m not going,” I say. “You go.”
This exchange took place in unsmiling solemnity.
There is a cholera outbreak in Darfur. Only, we’re not allowed to call it ‘cholera’. We have to call it ‘acute watery diarrhoea’ for a whole number of political reasons that I won’t go into because they infuriate me. Cholera’s a water-borne disease that begins with watery diarrhoea, leads to severe dehydration and ends with death. It’s normally spread through groundwater – the one common element that links every human being in Darfur. Cholera is a poverty disease. People only die of cholera because they are too malnourished, too physically weak, or too poor to get medical attention. If I suffered from cholera someone would make sure I got antibiotics.
I’m often struck by how lucky I am but none more so than with cholera going around. We might have spent a large part of the past few weeks without electricity, without running water, without internet access or phone network, but we also don’t have cholera.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
9. Starbucks Coffee. You say evil, global capitalists I say, yummy mocha frappachino!
8. Food. Ok, granted there's better food in a lot of other places but there's quite a lot of decent food here.
7. Being able to accomplish more than one thing a day. Today I checked off about four things I had to do - and one of them even involved a govt. bureaucracy. It was beautiful.
6. Television. Say what you want about Hollywood but I'm finding 398 channels deeply entertaining at the moment.
5. Nice people. I'm not sure whether I find the general level of optimism, happiness and kindness comforting or disconcerting but in my less cynical moments I quite enjoy people being nice to me.
4. The USD. It's pretty.
3. Walmart. I won't go into my theory on how the American desire for cheap goods is complicit in the continuation of the war in Darfur but I will say that sometimes you need inexpensive shoes to wear once to a wedding and sometimes that place is Walmart.
2. Promotion of the 'general welfare.' In the course of a day it's possible to go to work, go on a walk, to the movies, shopping and it's unlikely that during that time we will have to consider harrassment, being murdered, starving, having our houses burned or consider ways to emigrate so our children will have a better future.
and the number one reason why I love America...drum roll, paaalease!...
Oh yeah. The ants of Darfur have met their match.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
It wasn’t the first time I had heard this. In Indonesia, after the tsumani, some of our staff lived in IDP camp and they told us stories - ‘incidents’, we called them - of people going crazy. We often chalked it up to living for nearly a year in inadequate housing, with inadequate food, trauma, stress, etc. But perhaps there is more to it than we can see.
I once read a book about a journalist travelling in Africa. It wasn’t a religious book and the author, by the rest of his writing, didn’t seem to be a particularly religious man. However, after visiting Rwanda, immediately following the genocide, he said that it didn’t matter whether you believed in the devil or not there was no question in his mind now that the devil existed and in 1994 he had been in Rwanda.
It’s interesting to me that in Africa people are more willing to talk about the presence of the supernatural – of God and angels and demons – as if they are commonplace. And perhaps they are. Perhaps we, in the rational, explained, detached, scientific West, are afraid to look too close, or to talk too much, about things that we cannot see or explain. Most of us live with an unspoken fear that the world is not entirely of our own making or under our control.
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
I’m alone at the moment. The rest of my team is in other locations, or on R&R, so there’s no way I could eat four packs of bacon on my own. I called up a friend at another organization and asked him if his team would like some. Of course they readily agreed to take them off my hands. And so, with appropriate solemnity and grief, I delivered the precious, albeit luke-warm packages to IRC. It was one of the darker moments I’ve had here when my friend greeted me at the door, grinned, and thanked me for ‘bringing home the bacon.’
Monday, May 29, 2006
I bring all this up because this evening I was sitting, typing away at my computer and this strange wind blew through. Seriously, it was like being in one of those creepy horror movies where the wind blows and shutters bang and you just know that everything is about to go terribly wrong. It wasn’t a dust storm. It was just a long, slow, strong gust. I got up to close the door that had blown open and went back to my typing. When I looked up again the ants on the floor were behaving strangely. And by strangely I mean there were thousands of them. Not the normal few hundred that wander around disoriented. Thousands – small ones, large ones, black ones, red ones. ‘Hmmm, strange!’ I thought and went back to my typing. A few minutes later something pops behind me. ‘Stupid popping bugs,’ I thought as we have these small black bugs that like to shoot themselves about a foot straight in the air and then land again with a ‘pop’ on the ground. Then I hear it again, behind me, and again. I turn slowly. Nothing there. I turn back around. The next thing you know I am being attacked by something. It’s in my face, gets in my hair – I swat, I bat and the dazed locust lies there on the table. ‘Right,’ I think. ‘That’s it!’
I normally have a live and let live agreement with the insects around here. If they don’t actually crawl on me I’m happy to let them live. Once they touch me I have a right to kill them. For instance, after my recent back trouble I’ve taken to sleeping on the floor. While one of the pluses of this new plan is not having back pain, having bugs crawl on your face in the middle of the night is definitely one of the cons.
I think I can safely say that the agreement has been breached by the locusts once and for all. I slapped the thing off the table and smacked it with my shoe – not even cringing at the awful crunch. Another one came through the window and met the same fate. A third flew by and while it came nowhere close to me I tracked it down and smashed it. No mercy. No more turning the other cheek. The insects must die. And when someone, 100 years from now, writes a history of this epic battle I would just like to point out that the locusts started it.
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Saturday, May 27, 2006
I’ve spent a lot of time watching the ants here because they’re so interesting. Ok, well, not really. I spend a lot of time watching the ants because I don’t have anything better to be doing. And I’ve begun to develop a sort of affinity toward them. They are like no other ants I’ve ever seen - they aren’t malicious, they aren’t goal-oriented, and they aren’t even particularly well regimented. I’m pretty sure that most of them have ADD. Take these red ones I’m watching now by way of example. They are charging all over the floor in different directions as if they’re searching furiously for something that they never find. Two seconds in one direction, four in the next, two back the way they came. One would think that they’re looking for food, or for water, or even for paper products – for which they seem to have a strange fondness – but when they find one of these things they investigate it for awhile and then take off again. The only thing that really holds their interest for any amount of time are other dead ants. If you squash one another will quickly run into it, try to pick it up and carry it away. Or, at least for a little while. I’ve just watched one pick up a body, carry it back and forth across the floor, try to carry it up a wall and then dump the thing and carry on as aimlessly as before. These ants might be among the more bizarre things I’ve come across in this world. Surely, there’s a PhD waiting to be written about them.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Yesterday, my friend Mike and I were sitting outside having dinner and he told me about his day. He had been working on a nutrition programme to which a Sudanese woman had been bringing in her baby. The baby had been doing well but that day the woman also brought in her seven year old – a girl so malnourished that the nutritionist immediately referred her to the clinic. The clinic was miles away so Mike drove them there, dropped them off and went back to the nutrition programme. Later that night Mike and the nutritionist went back to the clinic to check on things. The girl was dead - wrapped in a sheet - and the mother needed a ride back to the IDP camp with her healthy baby and her dead daughter. Mike drove them.
The story was appalling but it didn’t surprise me. In the short time I’ve been here two of our staff had children die and one had a brother killed in the fighting. People die – they die because of the war, or because of food – or the lack of it, or because the environment is harsh. Life here is full of the appalling but not surprising. And the knowledge of these things should make us lay down our forks and sit down in the dust and put ashes on our heads. But it doesn’t. We hear these things and in the midst of, and in spite of, this knowledge we go right on eating and drinking and living. Maybe because we don’t know what else to do. Or maybe because of the lack of alternatives.
However, I think that at times like this our bodies sometimes reject what our minds readily accept. I think mine couldn’t both digest three meals a day and the knowledge that a few miles away there are seven year olds dying of hunger. So it stopped. I can’t say that I blame it.
I wish I had a picture of all the things that I have seen that have made me stop and go, ‘What? Why?’ Usually, these things pop up when I am driving around Nyala. Take today, for instance. I was driving to the airport and I had to slow practically to a stop because there was a child of maybe four years old in the road, wandering like a drunkard, with a box on his head. Why? Further on, I again had to slow because there was a donkey pulling a full cart of water completely alone across the road. Why? Nearing the airport, I glanced to my left out over the sweeping, flat, empty African expanse and noticed that there is a street light – sitting about forty feet from the street, facing the wrong direction, disconnected from any sort of electricity. Why? These things – the lamppost especially – remind me of living in Narnia. They remind me that we haven’t a clue as to why things go on as they do here and that we are the outsiders, the interlopers, the aliens plopped down in some fantastic work of fiction where we’ll never fit in and we’ll never understand.
Saturday, May 20, 2006
I think of this because the inevitable tedium of office life has overshadowed my day. If a hot wind weren’t blowing through the window, covering my computer with a fine dust, and I couldn’t hear the children shouting in Arabic in the streets, I could be in an office anywhere - New York, London, Hong Kong. There is payroll to be counted and month end reconciliations to be done. A trip to the bank is inevitable. A UNICEF cheque needs to be cashed. All of the routine and trivial things that make any operation run. All things that are being done in offices all over town. Some by humanitarian organizations and some by the government. I don’t doubt that there is a rebel group’s accountant sitting somewhere doing the very same things we are.
And this is both a depressing and encouraging thought. Because without us – the bean counters – things wouldn’t happen. In my case, programmes wouldn’t run smoothly, and in the case of the government…well, I’ll leave you to conclude what might not happen. While I sit here counting grimy dinar several gunships have just roared by overhead. Off to bomb Girayda or Shearia, or some other unhappy spot. Someone signed off their orders. Someone authorized and filed the paperwork. My point is that there should be culpability and responsibility for all of us whether we pull the trigger or not. I’m not sure I’m a fan of collective guilt and there has been a lot of talk – given all the wars and genocides of the past decade - about collective guilt. I don’t think that is what I’m talking about here. Rather, I think we should be careful to develop a sense of personal responsibility for the final outcomes our jobs and actions produce - whether we are petty bureaucrats or not.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Saturday, May 13, 2006
I had a raging head and neck ache all day and by 1pm couldn’t take it any longer so went to the UNMIS clinic where the doctor told me that it’s either stress or driving on the roads and that a shot of muscle relaxant would do the trick. Unless, of course, it’s malaria, he says by way of parting and that I should come back if it doesn’t go away. Unconvinced, but happy to be feeling less pain, I go see some doctor friends at another NGO. ‘Hmmm,’ she says. ‘Could be spinal menegitis but we can’t tell because the symptoms will be disguised by the muscle relaxant. Come back if you’re not feeling better.
This is all bad news. Why can’t doctors say things like, ‘oh, you’ve got a headache, no worries. You’ll be fine. Here’s some drugs.’ Instead, they give you the worst case scenario in a chipper tone and send you on your way. And in Sudan you’ve got plenty of worst-cases to choose from. Whatever happened to bedside manner anyway?
P.S. Security meetings are a whole heck of a lot interesting when on muscle relaxants.
Friday, May 05, 2006
I’ve become a bit obsessed with donkeys of late. I don’t know what it is about them but I think they’re adorable and rather put-upon. A friend I work with from Kenya described the Sudanese donkeys as depressed and swears that they’re perkier in Kenya. I have to agree with him. While I can’t comment on Kenyan donkeys, the ones here do seem somewhat gloomy and, for lack of a better term, Eeyorish. They do have good reason to be so. They do all the grunt work while being whipped or beaten by drivers of the carts they’re pulling.
A guy I know is a IDP camp manager and he makes a practice of buying a donkey whenever he moves to a new location. He finds someone – usually an IDP - who will feed and care for the donkey during the week using it for small-business and then has him bring it around on the weekends so he can take it out for rides. (Mind you, this guy is Scottish and also brought his kilt with him so I’m not vouching for his sanity.) But I have a respect hare-brained donkey-owning scheme because I find them so interesting.
Now, what no one tells you about donkeys is this. Their bray sounds like something being wounded. Or, a giant whoopee cushion being landed on by a refrigerator. Or a broken truck horn. Proof that God ultimately has a sense of humor because this poor little creature simply does not sound right! Their braying makes me laugh every time I hear it...unless, of course it's the middle of the night and one is right outside the gate. Then, it's not quite as funny.
Of all the pets that you could acquire here the donkey is a good choice because they are non-political. I made the mistake of mentioning to my donkey-owning friend that I wouldn’t mind having a horse and taking that out for rides on the weekends. ‘Oh no,’ he was quick to answer. ‘Too political. Janjaweed means, evil horseman. You can’t do that.’ Camels and cows are apparently right out as well.
“Do you really think that I could be mistaken for the Janjaweed riding around Nyala on a horse?” I asked a colleague while driving home from work the other night and wistfully watching horse cart trotting along the road.
“Could do,” she said. “It’s the hair.”
“You mean they might think I was of the red-headed Janjaweed gang?”