Sunday, September 18, 2005

Cracks

I am definitely beginning to settle in here......noticing the many cracks in the façade of this place which make it as irritating as it is interesting to live here. As some of you well know, the irritations can grow enormously large in our minds. Recently, they loom large for me. The power outages, for example. Long periods without city power. Fortunately we have these large generators that we start up in the case of an outage but, still, it's a nuisance: noisy, gas-guzzling, etc. Or the phone system: last week, our mobile phones were off for over 48 hours, our internet connections were out for another 48 hours. Or the workmanship: so much that is so poorly constructed, even the newest things are broken within very little time. Or the roads/streets: most are dirt and ALL of them are full of holes and bumps that make driving treacherous sometimes -- especially at night. I remember back to Moscow and remember similar frustrations although at least in Moscow they had the electricity working.

On top of all that, there's the HEAT! It is unremitting. It is typically 90-105 degrees during the day. Even at night, it's 80-85 degrees. While I'm getting used to the heat, it's still intense and I sweat profusely when I'm out in it. It's hard to move quickly in heat like this and any who know me know that it's hard for me to NOT move quickly, especially when I'm on a mission!

I can see that one of the biggest tasks I'll have is to keep up morale, both my own and that of my staff. Not an easy task, at all. Personally, I'm getting tired of existing in an empty apartment. That's another "crack," I guess. The bureaucracy here has my shipment in a bit of a bottle-neck. It has been in the country since August 12th and here it is over a month later and it still hasn't been delivered. "Insha'allah" it will be only another 7-10 days. Still, walking into an empty house is no fun.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Bar-b-que

Last weekend, I hosted a bar-b-que for the workers at the school. These fellows are the ones who do all the maintenance: the gardeners, the cleaners, the guards, the welders and the painters. They have done some great work to get the school in shape for opening and I wanted them to know how much we appreciated their efforts.

The most festive bar-b-que for them is with lamb. So, I authorized our Maintenance Director to go out and purchase two good sheep for the slaughter. The next day, two sheep were grazing on our soccer field, totally unaware that this was their last meal.

I was not present for the actual slaughter…..not because I didn’t want to be but because I had two overlapping appointments to attend to. I did arrive very soon after the dastardly deed had been done. There these two sheep were: blood spilled all over the ground, already being dressed for the grill. Over the next hour, four or five of the workers labored to skin, cut, and dissect the sheep until there was a large heap of meat on one side and organs of every description on the other.

It took another hour for the meat to be cooked. The ribs were done on the grill over a hot charcoal fire. Other parts of the sheep were cooked almost like a stew. This stew mixture had a spicy, tomato-based sauce that really tasted great. The cooks also made a peanut-based sauce for the ribs and other grilled pieces to be dipped into at the table.

And what a table it was! The fellows spread it all out on this long table, improvised with plywood over cinder-blocks under the shade. They dove into the big platters of meat and gulped it down along with rounds of flat bread and sprigs of greens. Tomatoes were cut up with cucumbers and served alongside. They ate like they hadn’t eaten in days!

I was asking our Maintenance Director if meat were a part of the diet these fellows had. And, as I suspected, the answer was “no.” Because of the expense of meat and fish, most of these fellows will rarely have access to either. For them, this bar-b-que was a FEAST! They insisted that I eat with them and I didn’t have to be coaxed very much. It was tasty and filling, to be sure.

What a great time we had! I’ll try my hand at posting some pictures later but for now I’ll leave it to your imaginations.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Friday thoughts

The end of a long week and the quietness of a Friday morning in this Muslim country is something that I have come to relish in my short time here. Catching up on correspondence, doing some leisure reading, surfing the net, enjoying watching the Today Show on cable TV here. Simple pleasures of an expatriate in Khartoum.

Watching the horrible images of the situation in New Orleans brings to the fore the vulnerability of a place like the USA in the face of natural disasters. The picture of “the world’s only superpower” unable to respond quickly to its neediest raises questions about our country. Worse still, is how it takes something like this disaster to bring to light the many, many people who live in poverty or so close to the margin. There are people in this part of the world that live with the fear, the violence, the poverty and the homelessness on a daily basis. Perhaps by seeing the same kind of desperation in the USA, Americans will continue to appreciate the fact that this kind of despair is, for all too many around the world, the only way of life they have ever known.

Tomorrow (Saturday), I’m hosting a bar-b-que for the workers at the school, the guards, grounds crew, and maintenance guys. In preparation for the bar-b-que, we purchased two cut sheep who are happily munching on our lawn at the school, oblivious to the fact that they have only hours to live. I’m told that the workers at school will slaughter the sheep tomorrow morning and get them ready for the bar-b-que pit by mid-morning. I’ll let you know what the party’s like!

Moving Day for me will be sometime this coming week as I get into my new apartment. There are workers still putting the finishing touches on the place and the school workers have already started to take over some of the things that I have here in the old place. Fortunately, there’s not too much to haul over there. I dread the thought of another move!!!