Saturday, May 29, 2010

Mosquito Wars

This is the rainy season in Sudan. The term "Rainy Season," is relative though. It's not like India where is rains, from what I gather, for months on end. Here, from roughly April to October, there is an increased likelihood of rain, versus the rest of the year when there is normally no rain whatsoever. The only drawback to receiving the life-giving rains is that it increases the incidence of mosquitoes. This is problematical because without any program of eradication and with mounds of garbage everywhere serving as collection points for rain, the number of mosquitoes is very great. And, as luck would have it, Sub-Sahara Africa is one of the worst places on earth for mosquito born and transmitted diseases. In addition to the usual suspects of Yellow and Dengue fevers, and the much more rare Elephantasis or Sleeping Sickness (though, in fairness, the latter is transmitted by the dreaded Tsetse flies and not mosquitoes), the worst of the lot is Malaria, which still kills millions every year in spite of its being a completely preventable disease. All of this makes anyone living in the Sudan very aware of the existence and behavior of the pesky bugs, even to the point of becoming famiiar with the different types. The common mosuito, Culex, rests parallel to any wall its upon and mostly just causes inconvenience. Aedes, another parallel rester with swept-back wings like an F-14, spreads Dengue and Yellow Fever. Finally, Anapheles, a rather humpbacked looking beast, rests with its head towards the wall and its hind end sticking out. Culex and Anapheles are morning and evening feeders, while Aedes feeds during the day,meaning that at almost no point is one safe from annoyance and risk. You take the usual precautions of wearing long pants, long sleeved shirts, hats and bug repellent while at home (sans hat) and out and about. This is somewhat trying given that the average daytime temperatures here hover around 90-degrees making Sudan feel all the time very much like Virginia in July and August. You also become obsessed with trying to keep the bugs out of your quarters. Virtually all windows here are covered with fine screening, though somehow mosquitoes still manage to get through. You also try and swat them when you can knowing fully well that you're not accomplishing much but it just feels so darned good to do! In my lodgings there were five vents-ways left near the ceiling between my rooms and the adjacent hallway and bedroom. These were unscreened and, especially the vent that was open to the common hallway which opened directly to the outside, permitted large numbers of mosquitoes to enter my rooms. I have tried, with only marginal success, to get the other people living in my building to keep the door to the outside closed to keep the bugs at bay. But last friday evening, I took about an hour and using some extra netting and a roll of duck tape that I'd brought with me (Because you never go anywhere without duck-tape) and standing upon a plastic table and chairs I'd crafted into a ladder so I could reach, was able to cover over the vent-ways, giving me a small feeling of victory in the never ending mosquito wars. This has helped to eliminate about ninety-percent of the mosquitoes getting into my room, but vigilence is always required.

Friday, May 21, 2010

In the Sudan

It's taken over a week, but I've finally been able to get myself on-line and reasonably up and running. You learn quickly here the difference between western time and "Sudan time." In the Sudan, the pace of life is slower, but deliberately so. Likely owing to the warmth - even now, in what is the "cool season," days typically peak-out somewhere around 80-odd degrees - there is a steady rhythm to life, a measured pace that is rather slower than our pace in the west. I would describe it as a steady lope, and as you move around the city or out in the countryside everyone is moving to the same steady lope. The only people I see running are small children or westerners that have not yet adapted themselves to the local pace. It is funny to be walking, or even more noticibly to be driving around, and see hundreds of people walking around all at the same languid pace. It is all the more impressive given the character of their appearance. True to what I had been informed, most of the locals are rather tall and slender. And neatness of appearance is of critical importance to the Sudanese, and at almost all times while they are out in public you will see men and women dressed very finely, in what we might call our "Sunday best," slowly loping about the city. Tall, lanky men dressed often monochromatically in matching blouses and long slacks, and the women dressed in beautiful tunics with very bright, patterned wraps covering their bodies and carried up over their heads, all of them loping about town. The image I had beforehand of tuniced men with turbans and women in bhurkas does not exist here in the southern part of the country and I've seen very few people dressed in the Muslim style, though there are a number of mosques in town, including one of the largest not far from the office. The oft-heard call of the muzzein calling the faithful to prayer becomes part of the background noise of the city, though because I haven't been here that long I am still enchanted by the novelty of it and find myself listening hard to make out the familiar phrase, "Allah akhbar." Overall, the people are remarkably kind, polite, intelligent and thoughtful. They place primary importance on personal relationships, and devote a large portion of the day to warmly greeting one another and sharing news of how everyone is doing. It would be unthinkable to a Sudanese to enter a room and begin straight away talking business without first greeting everyone in the room, shaking hands and such, even if the same person had been in the room only a few minutes before. This behavior accounts for much of the difference in the pace at which progress is made, but it also encourages consensus and congeniality which has a value of its own.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Laptop Woes

The laptop which I ordered two weeks ago finally arrived today. I just wanted to buy an inexpensive computer off ebay so if it was lost or stolen (likely both) it wouldn't be that big a deal. I am also glad I went that route since after talking with some of the missionary people it was explained to me that it was normally expected that missionaries LEAVE their computer equipment behind...along with any unused toiletries...and office supplies...andbasically anything except what you're wearing and one pair of skivvies. When the laptop arrived I couldn't even figure how to turn it on (needed to mash the ON button a lot harder) but Miss Pam Bullock was my saving angel and spent about seven hours with me today getting the laptop all set-up! I'm working from it right now! Had a great dinner out again - haven't bought my own dinner in about two weeks! Now to relax and get myself prepared for tomorrow.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Packing Woes

Finding it very hard to get going packing. I think it's the fear of leaving something behind that is keeping me from being willing to actually put anything into one of my bags. If it's out of site maybe I'll forget it? I keep thinking, "If I could get mostly done packing then I could just relax the last day or so," but it isn't working out that way. I'm also a bit vexed because the cheap laptop I ordered to take to Africa won't arrive until Monday. I had planned on packing this in my main suitcase so that was holding me up from packing that bag, but I've been given the advice that placing a delicate electronic device into a checked piece of luggage makes as much sense as letting a Lab guard the cookies. I also found it necessary to purchase one more piece of luggage because of all the crap I'm planning on taking. I am such a bitch! I'm actually filling one 30-inch dufflebag mostly with toiletries and the like! The poor Africans on the last little plane taking us from Kenya to Sudan will hardly be able to get off the ground.