05 October 2007

an issue, again

I’m filled with writer’s block. I have far too much to say, is the problem. Far too much has happened – and nothing has – since I came down with faux-malaria and drugged myself for days.

I have left Elsewhere for the bustling metropolis of Juba. Metropolis is a relative term. It actually seems that way to me, right now, given that there are buildings with more than one storey, and other such modern inventions. Also food worth eating, and pizza. (Which are not exactly the same thing, although pizza can be a subset of food worth eating.) Much as I love the exact same bland flavor in every single meal, it is nice to taste something different; also vegetarian (dal! aloo! vegetable paneer!). Nobody cares what I had for lunch, according to some blogging guidebook, but I do. And I have to say, it’s nice to have variety.

I traveled here in the vicodin-like haze of the anti-malarials, which was fun, especially in combination with the non-drowsy Dramamine that I took because of a very long bus ride on very bad roads to the airstrip. (Smell of idling bus is the worst everyday smell in the world, I think. Also, the constant, slight motion makes me barfy.) I was drowsy regardless of the non-drowsy label. I vaguely remember a really hot, really long wait next to a little building on an airstrip, and then a very turbulent flight through some storms. Cessnas feel like they are being torn apart by turbulence. The front half of the plane and the back half seem to jostle in different directions.

Conversation with Sudanese Female Colleague (I promise this is the end of the illness saga, unless the illnesses don’t go away. Then all promises about desisting are null and void):

SFC: If you take Coartem for malaria and still have symptoms two months later, you know it’s typhoid and you should take Cipro.
Me: I’m already taking Coartem and Cipro.
SFC: [not having heard first part of sentence, that I already am taking both] No, just see if your symptoms go away before you take Cipro.
Me: No, I’m taking both of them RIGHT NOW.
SFC: Then prepare to know what hell feels like.

But as you know already (WILL I NEVER SHUT UP ABOUT THIS?), I felt fine during the dual-drug days.

Juba is mad hot, and ventilation does not seem to have caught on. Ventilation does not seem to have caught on in Southern Sudan in general, really. It’s 100 plus degrees under a tin roof with no breeze most of the time. One could ask, in this context, why I’m wearing a long-sleeved shirt today. I don’t have an answer. Normally I roll up the sleeves of this shirt, but today I’m too lazy, and it actually seems better this way. No sweaty roll of sleeve above my elbow. (I suppose I should reveal that this very room I am in right now, which is not where I am all the time, is air-conditioned. Obviously that helps as well.)

One thing that I advise you not to do if you are a woman and/or care about things like women’s health, and that I advise you definitely to do if you are a woman and/or care about things like women’s health, is talk to Southern Sudanese women about reproductive health. It makes me irate, and it makes me sad, and it makes me determined to lead a session back in TLT to which women can come and ask whatever they need to know, and if I don’t know the answer, I will ask google.

We sat around, in the presence of a doctor. He was there to talk about the state of reproductive health in Southern Sudan (which is abysmal – more than 1 of every 50 live births results in the death of the mother, and 150 babies per 1000 die at birth). The women listened, for a while, but they already know that the state of reproductive health in Southern Sudan is abysmal: they are dying, and their children and friends and sisters. What they really wanted was to ask questions.

“Why can a nursing mother get pregnant with another baby when the last one is only six or seven months old?”

“When is it possible to get pregnant?”

“What can a woman do if her baby had to be taken by operation [c-section] and her husband refuses to wait the time they are supposed to wait before having another?”

“What kind of family planning can a woman use if her husband refuses to abstain when she can get pregnant?”

The women all know that such a thing as family planning exists, but there is nowhere to get it and their husbands, they say, don’t want it.

Every time the president changes in the US, depending on his party affiliation, he either withdraws or reinstates funding for international family planning organizations that, as I understand it, refuse to decry abortion (only some of which – again, this is my understanding – provide abortion services). It’s very easy, back in the US, to debate about abortion rights or wrongs. (And it is a debate that I do NOT want to get into right now. Too fraught.) Anyone who cares about life and about humanity, however, should be supporting as much funding as possible to reproductive health care in places like Southern Sudan. Far greater numbers of women and of children are dying for lack of care than could possibly die in the (almost certainly very few) abortions that such a program might provide.

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