Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

she's outta there!

I’m currently in Khartoum all alone at the agency flat, and it so great to have some solitude! It has been so long since I have been on my own, and while I was concerned at first when I found out I would be alone for a few days it’s fine now. I have satellite television, my own internet connection, a washer and air conditioning. It seems like the lap of luxury after Darfur!

Now, when I heard Tony was going to be gone, one of my first thoughts was that I could try out the Indian restaurant that is near our flat. Every time I suggested it before, I always got the cold shoulder from him because he doesn’t like Indian food.

So I took a little walk tonight to the Indian place on the corner, and it’s a really cute place. I got some veg korma as takeaway, and let me tell you, it was divine! I know that my food standards have changed since I have been to Darfur, but this food is really good.

It’s funny to me how Indian food always reminds me of the essence of my life there. The smells of the spices and the freshly baked naan always takes me back to all the weddings, restaurants and street stands where I enjoyed some of the best food of my life. It has also become a comfort food for me. And I have eaten said food all over the world, not just in numerous cities all over the U.S. but also in Ethiopia and Sudan. Let’s see how many more places I can add to that list.

I am meeting up with a few people for ice cream tonight at Ozone. There are quite a few Geneina peeps in Khartoum at the moment because of all the relocating a few weeks ago. Anyway, you can definitely say that I am enjoying being out of Darfur. And then tomorrow night I leave for Maputo!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I have wanted to blog for awhile now, but I wasn’t sure what I could share about last week’s events that wouldn’t raise any red flags or cause me to get kicked out of the country. I am also tired of thinking about last week. Last week was particularly cruel, a week where the reality of “Darfur” hit very close to home and caused me to experience some of the first real stress I have had since my post began. The odd thing is that nothing really happened to me. In the end, it was a relatively calm week (with one very serious incident involving a friend of mine near the border). Even so, I had my bags packed all week long ready to go at any moment. But the moment never came and in the end all of my possessions ended up back in their cupboard where they belong, at least for now.

All the insanity of last week left me craving for a few days of normalcy, a few days where I can crawl out of bed, shower, have my coffee and go to the office like a normal person. And luckily for me this is how this week seems to be going...two days of uneventful activity. Things seem to be running as usual, and I am so grateful for that.

In other news, I have developed a very weird and gross looking burn-like wound on my neck from just below my chin to my collarbone. It is so disgusting to look at, and I actually feel bad for those around me because while I get to walk around not looking at it, they have no choice but to try to ignore it and look in my eyes. We went to a party this evening at CRS (a going away for a few people including my co-worker Darren), and I took a scarf with me expecting to weave it around my neck to try to hide it (for everyone else’s benefit… and I was a little shy about showing it off). In the end, though, as people trickled in I ended up not reaching for the scarf and just talking about it instead. I suppose it served as a fair warning to people, watch out this could crawl into your bed and bite you too!

It just poured tonight while we were at CRS. It was the hardest rain we had had in quite a few days, and we were all seeking shelter and huddled together by the food trying not to get soaking wet. The evening rains here can be so refreshing, and even when it rains hard I still love it.

I had brought my iPod and after a little playlist surfing we landed on my “Chill” mix. So we listened to Ceu, and I thought of how I had heard this CD and thought it would be perfect background for a party. I never thought it would be used in Sudan….I was looking around the room and I thought about how lucky I was, to capture this moment in time. Last week taught me not to take any of this for granted and I tried not to. Who knows when or if we could have another crazy week and then we would all be gone again….

As the gathering wound down we heard that our Tico driver couldn’t make it back to pick us up. The heavy rains had filled the wadis in town and so they were now impassable by car. This left us a few options: we could stay at CRS, we could cross the wadi and stay at OCHA, or we could walk. The decision was to walk, so our little group of Kawadjas (there were 5 of us) set off with the CRS guard to cross the wadi. We weren’t sure how high the water would be, but it ended up not being so bad. I rolled up my pant legs and took off my flip flops (flip flops! Clearly I was not prepared to walk….) and stepped into the water in my bare feet. It actually wasn’t so bad, the current wasn’t too strong and the guard was guiding the best way across. I wasn’t paying attention, confident I would navigate the wadi fine, when an unexpected dip caused me to lose my balance and I found myself in water thigh deep. I let out several squeals as I found myself in deeper water, trying to just get to the other side already! Once I crawled out of the water, I heard Bill call from the other side of the wadi “Way to be graceful under pressure Leslie!” to which I of course laughed. Being graceful in opportune moments is something I frequently fail at, and God often uses moments like these to keep my pride in check.

We dropped off the OCHA folks and borrowed a torch from them for the rest of the walk. I really wasn’t too concerned about walking home. It was dark, the town was quiet and people were milling around. However, as we walked Darren said several things like, “If anything happens, just run for the mosque and cover your head” that concerned me. I was in no condition to run (flip flops, hello!), and am a slow runner anyway. So I said a couple quick prayers and we continued without a problem. It was nice to walk home at night in Geneina, though I know with Darren leaving I’m not likely to do it again. I don’t imagine a white female walking alone at night in sopping wet pants from the wadi would be a very good thing!

Monday, July 07, 2008

babur khalaas

Our generator died yesterday. It was a gradual, tortured painful death. We have been pouring money left and right into the thing trying to keep it running until our new generators arrived from Khartoum. It had gotten to the point that we only had enough power to run the ceiling fans and our computers. Even printing would cause the thing to overload.

So, this day was coming. Thankfully it didn’t happen right away in the morning. At about 11 the thing finally quit. Our logistics guy was at a meeting, so our mechanic took me out and showed me what the problem was. Now, I know nothing about engines and am pretty hopeless when it comes to troubleshooting. But I DO know that what looked (to me) like an unrepairable crack was not very good. I had enough battery power to work until lunch, and then I went to the guesthouse to work. We had power AND internet there, so it turned out to be a cushy deal.

All this brings me to this morning, rocking out to my ipod (Muse, Duffy) in my empty powerless office. My co-workers are at the house waiting for a rental generator to arrive before they return, so I came all alone to open the office. Hopefully we will have power before my battery runs out!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

i'm blogging

I have decided, after a 6 month hiatus, that I am going to blog about my experiences here. Part of this stems from the growing feeling that no one knows what is going on with me, and part of it stems from not being able to have someone to talk to about my feelings of being here. So, instead of keeping my observations to myself I am going to release them to all of the people who might stumble across my blog. I have come to think that in this environment keeping things to myself will become self-destructive. I am also tired of censoring myself, trying to hide the risky things I see from a daily basis from those that I love. So I will talk about the good things and the bad, as I experience them.

I have back dated several entries from this month here for you, and there will be more to come at a later date.

Friday, July 04, 2008

a chilled out 4th

This has to be the most low-key 4th of July I have ever had, even overseas. I slept in a bit this morning because a hedgehog in my room kept me up late last night. I laid in my bed in a state of semi-consciousness until I could no longer stand how sweaty I was and got up to shower. After a bit of coffee and doing my laundry, I spent the rest of the afternoon under the rakuba in our backyard reading a fairly boring book (but it’s better than staring into space). For the record, “Horn of Africa” by Phillip Caputo is not nearly as good as “Acts of Faith”.

I miss normal life, the normal things like going to the grocery store, shopping at Target, dinner with friends, wine. The blasé things that seem so mundane, but are actually normalcy. I know it seems crazy to miss since I am here in Darfur, which is perceived to be anything but mundane. But here, even the extreme, like car-jackings and office break-ins are normal. You just wait to see when it will be your turn……

People may think I seek a thrill, but I don’t really feel like this place is that thrilling (for me). Yes, you see AK’s and RPG’s everyday, and the rebels are all around. But it becomes a nuisance, another impediment to doing your work and less of a “thrill”. I have had two friends tell me this week alternatively that I am “tough” and “crazy”. I totally buy the “crazy” and may even add “foolish” to that list. But tough is not something that I feel I am. Brave is another thing people have said, but I don’t think that I am that either. The truth is I am the least tough or brave person around, I am just flexible and can adapt. The ability to adapt makes life here bearable. The ability to go without…

When I was in Ethiopia in May there was a woman I encountered from Australia who was talking about living in Addis and how she has learned what it means to “go without”. This made me laugh. Addis? Addis, where a good cup of coffee is like 50 cents and you can go to a nightclub or a movie? I chuckled because she had NO idea what it is really like to go without.

The truth is, I really don’t either. Yes I have learned what it is like to live with very few personal possessions or comfort items, but to really know what suffering is. To really know what “going without” is like…it is truly a foreign concept.

It’s funny, but here in Darfur I feel myself slowly coming back to life, very slowly. It’s amazing to me that last fall I told a friend that I would live in Bmore and just deal with it, no matter how much it broke me (and it was breaking me). And now I am here, and in this place of violence and impunity I am beginning to get healed. So strange.

I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising because ever since I moved to Baltimore I always saw the next step being the field. And I held it in and kept fighting to go to the field, pushing everything aside to accomplish that goal and not allowing myself to breathe until I was there. And now I am here, but I feel like I also lost out on the last two years of my life by ignoring all the growth opportunities that had presented themselves. Yes, I am here in the field doing what I want to do, but am I more stunted than I could have been? Could the road have been easier if I only submitted to God and what he wanted me to learn during my time in Baltimore?

I did learn, though. I did grow through personal experiences, no matter how painful they were. But I still struggle with things that should be behind me, and I wish I was better in that way.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

volleyball and monkeys

So, I played volleyball with a monkey yesterday. Apparently the people at WFP got a new pet monkey while I was gone.

This isn’t the first WFP monkey. The first monkey was eaten by a pack of wild dogs in Geneina. Apparently (I’m told) the monkey was a chain smoking alcoholic who thought it was a dog. One day it got out of the compound and tried to play with a group of stray dogs in the neighborhood, who realized that the monkey was not a dog and it was torn to pieces.

So now they have a new monkey, and apparently it likes to play games and does not like to be left out. I was tossing the volleyball around with a guy from Medair when suddenly the monkey started climbing up my leg trying to grab at the ball. Now, I am not a big fan of monkeys. Monkeys are dirty, unpredictable and can be fairly violent if provoked. I prefer to steer clear of them in general, and now one was crawling up my leg.

Of course, I was distracted and therefore let the ball drop to the ground. The monkey then jumped from my leg to the ground and ran off with the ball. It didn’t go far though and we were able to resume our game, but I will be sure to keep a watchful eye on the monkey the next time I seem him.

Coming home from volleyball in our little Tico I saw several trucks coming toward me with their hazard lights on. They were full of armed men, I would guess that in total there was at least 100 people. As we approached them, I just kept thinking “Stop, pull over” but I couldn’t express myself in Arabic (I must add this phrase to my study list!). A friend in a marked UN car stopped to watch them pass me by to make sure that I was ok, which made me feel better (though if they HAD chosen at any particular time to be aggressive, I don’t know what he would have done). Anyway, just the usual ride home, right?