30 November 2007

day 30 :: the last of the [retroactive] posts

I intended to keep adding to this list and then… didn’t. Regardless, it’s the end of the (postable) Sudan writings.

Things Sudan taught me:

  1. In a Cessna Caravan, sit as far forward as possible. Preferably the seat right behind the pilots and directly under the wing. It’s better, but even there, it will feel like the plane is being torn apart every time turbulence bumps you around.
  2. Bloglines takes less internet bandwidth than any other website. You can read blogs on it when the rest of the internet isn’t strong enough to work.
  3. It’s an amoeba, idiot.
  4. The difference between a cake and a coffeecake is the oil and the margarine. One you can get in Sudan. One you can’t. Get used to it. The difference between bread and cake is the yeast and the baking powder. One you can get in Sudan. One you can’t. Get used to it. In other words, you can only bake bread, and not if it requires butter.
  5. Fans use a lot of electricity. So does the V-Sat. A television uses less, and lights use the least. You will still have light after you’ve exhausted the power needed to watch television or cool yourself with a fan.
  6. One gunshot – or even two, or three, or four – is nothing. Carry on. As long as there is not an exchange of gunfire, it’s probably just someone drunk and shooting into the air, which happens ‘most every night. (If the fire is returned, turn off the lights and get down.)

29 November 2007

day 29 :: regarding the law

My sister is working every day, so I’ve been spending a lot of time on the list of Things That Must Be Completed in Order to Take the Bar Exam. It’s going well. Unfortunately, all this sitting around and completing tasks has coincided with some of the shortest days of the year. I hate short days.

So I was getting a little crazy, cooped up inside while the weather outside is Low of Negative 15 (120 degree Fahrenheit difference from current temperatures in Sudan), and I decided I had to DO SOMETHING. I thought about working, but that would require references, and I don’t want to waste my professional references, which I shall need come, oh, March, when I look for a real job, so I came up with a new idea.

This afternoon, after completing some of the items on the list of Things That Must Be Completed in Order to Take the Bar Exam, I drove to the county seat and found the courthouse. It was conveniently located on the main road.

I was the only spectator in the little district courtroom with church pews and brown checked tile floors.

In fact, it is apparently so uncommon to have spectators for a normal day of non-jury hearings that the clerk and the judge and three different lawyers started conversations with me. It was my first taste of what the name of my law school can do among lawyers outside of New York.

“Where did you go to law school?” the judge asked.

“[School That Sucked My Will To Live]” I said.

“Oh,” she said, “I applied and didn’t get in there.”

“Oh,” said one of the lawyers, “that’s a really good school.”

Until now, I’ve always interacted with people in New York, to whom the school is not surprising because it is, you know, in New York, or non-lawyers outside of New York, who stare cluelessly.

I went looking for a particular lawyer’s office (suggested by the court clerks) after I got tired of the divorce case whose rebuttal I was watching, and ended up driving on a desolate, hairpin turn mountain road. It went on so long without any sign of a turnaround or a bit of civilization that I got a bit worried.

Then I finally made it back to town, overshot the office again in the other direction, stopped at a gas station and finally found it. Now I have plans for next week to tag along with an actual lawyer and learn some actual law-like things. Or something.

28 November 2007

day 28 :: supplies [retroactive]

I have some suggestions about what to bring to Africa. Maybe you are wondering about this; maybe you aren’t. Regardless, I suggest the following vital items (with some advice thrown in):

  1. A lightweight raincoat. I bought the lightest possible weight Marmot jacket before I left for Rwanda and it has been one of the best $40 (or whatever it cost) that I have ever spent. I wore it all the time while hiking through mountains to visit goats in Rwanda. I lived in it for the first month I was in South Sudan. I even used it in New York. Works for rain, works for wind. Not too hot to wear in warm temperatures unless the weather goes over 90 F. Then any clothes are too hot.
  1. A good flashlight. You can buy flashlights almost anywhere in Africa, so I’m not talking about any old flashlight. I’m talking about either a light that will stand on its own (like a maglight) or a headlamp. I scorned the headlamps when I was in Rwanda, but I have been converted. A colleague lent me hers here in Sudan and it might well be the only thing that kept me here, knowing that I had reliable light that wouldn’t fall into the latrine because it was firmly attached to my head. Obviously you won’t need this if you live in a place 1. with constant power, 2. with an indoor bathroom, 3. with a low risk of snakes, but I strongly advise it for anyone else. You will 100% certainly look like an idiot, but you will be a hands-free, LED-lit idiot. That’s worth the $100 or so for a good one, no?
  1. Snacks enough to last until you find treats that you like in the new place. If you are going for a short while to the middle of nowhere, like this trip, you might want to go as high as one per day. I brought 75 granola bars to Sudan for a 93 day trip. I didn’t eat them all, and I’ve shared quite a few of them, which was always fun. There’s nothing like sitting in a Land Cruiser saying, “Now, who wants a peanut butter granola bar? What about cinnamon?” This doesn’t work very well when one of the parties doesn’t speak English, but unless you happen to prefer snacks like pork rinds that might offend people of certain religions, it’s probably safe to give someone a maple and brown sugar flavored Nature Valley granola bar.

You can live on three halves of a Nature Valley granola bar for an entire day, until dinner. I discovered this during the interminable delay getting to Tilt when I first arrived in the country.

If you are going to live in Africa, only bring enough snacks for the first few weeks or months. After that, you’ll find things you like in the new place. Also, things don’t stay good for that long with all the humidity. I brought some powdered, flavored coffee creamer to Rwanda and then didn’t use it fast enough. Like. A. Rock.

  1. A piece of cloth, along the lines of a sarong/kikoi/lapa/kitenge. I have a great one that I bought in Tanzania that is a little thicker than a classic sarong. I use it for everything: towel, cover-up on the way to the shower, coat, mosquito-repellant, skirt. It is surprisingly warm when you wrap yourself in it around the shoulders and tuck your hands underneath it.
  1. Travel towel. I have a Towl, and between that and the kikoi, I don’t even need a regular towel. The Towl dries quickly and soaks up a lot of water.
  1. Shoes: a good pair of sandals, a good pair of dress shoes, and a good pair of walking/hiking shoes. I really don’t suggest combining these. I know people who live in their Tevas or Chacos, but let’s just recall that Tevas and Chacos start to smell like foot with constant wear. Buy some sandals that are a little dressier, that you won’t mind wearing to meetings with important people, important people who will judge you by your shoes. Because they will judge you by your shoes.

Please do not wear flipflops outside the house unless you are a child or you genuinely cannot afford anything else. Flipflops are for the bathroom. They are called shower slippers here.

Most parts of Africa put some to a lot of stock in the type of shoes people wear. You may not notice, but you will get disapproving stares if you wear Tevas in Nairobi. You will look like a Peace Corps volunteer. And hey! Maybe you are a Peace Corps volunteer. But it’s still sort of disrespectful to all the people in Nairobi who are wearing the nicest shoes they can afford. I was very proud when I was in Nairobi in August wearing my favorite, new, green-and-pink Pumas, because I got admiring stares at my feet. I felt like I had arrived.

  1. This is a corollary of the previous one. Or not a corollary, but related. Please, please, I beg you by whatever begging standard I can possibly beg, do not dress like you are on safari. Even if you ARE on safari, do not dress as if you are. No khaki vests. No floppy khaki hats. No khaki zip-off trousers. In fact, no zip-off trousers at all. Okay, you can bring one pair for hiking, on the occasions when you would wear the same ones in your home country. But if I see you wearing them to a meeting, I will disown you.

Dress up for work and meetings. Dress like you would dress for meetings in your own country, unless you are in a place where, for example, trousers are not okay for women. Wear button-down shirts, or an otherwise nice shirt, and a nice skirt or trousers. Do not assume that Africa = dressing like a bum. In an African capital, dress as you would in a big city in your own country. Unless you ARE a bum, in which case, don’t dress like yourself. No holes. No stains. Dress like someone who has respect for those around them.

Do, though, bring one nice pair of jeans. No matter how hot it is, you’ll want to feel comfortable sometimes, plus you can wear them to go out at night in the city.

  1. I don’t know, some clothes and toiletries and stuff. Things for which you have specific brand preferences. Antibacterial ointment can be hard to find.

In case you can’t tell, I have a small issue with the grunge look when people wear it in Africa. Mostly this is because Westerners, particularly young Westerners, who come to Africa tend to want to look like they just rolled out of bed and it just… doesn’t fit. It’s a huge respect thing, I think. Holes and tatters are things you wear in university, with your friends. They are not things you wear to meet with people you think are important. So dressing down tells the people you meet that you don’t think they are worth your effort to dress nicely. Dressing up tells the people you meet that you respect them. It’s important.

Ergh. I’m getting strident again. Must stop. This is not a classroom.

27 November 2007

day 27 :: I don't know this person

I’m finding it hard to remember which side of the road I’m supposed to be on. This is a bit odd, because do you know how much time I’ve spent in my entire life in countries that drive on that other (wrong, non-right) side of the road? Three months in Tanzania plus something like 2.5 months total in Kenya and Uganda. Five point five months. Only seven days of which occurred in the last two years. Only two days of which occurred during the last three months. So it’s a little bit strange that last night, when my sister and I emerged from the Thai restaurant, satiated by lovely rice noodles, I thought to myself, “A. is driving, so let me get in the car over here… oh, wait. That’s the driver’s seat. Why is that the driver’s seat? Why is the driver’s seat over there?”

Today I was turning into a parking lot and a truck was coming from the other direction and I panicked. I could not remember which direction I was supposed to go. Right? Left? How do we drive here, again? Fortunately, my limbic system remembered, although my brain did not, and we (the car and I) went to the right, neatly avoiding any crashing into trucks much larger than us.

The other reason I do not recognize myself is that I’ve gotten so much DONE today. I initially started out at a café without free internet so that I would be forced to update my resume. So then I did that and then I drafted some emails (offline) and then I went to a café with free internet to send the emails and then I just kept, I don’t know, plugging on through my list of Things That Must Be Completed in Order to Take the Bar Exam. I mean, I’ve made progress on almost half of them. I have made progress on almost half of them despite the fact that I have many blogs and a good book to read.

This is officially getting weird.

The other night, my sister and her friend and I went to some hot springs. It was 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and the pools were outside, and needless to say, we did not feel like getting out, especially since our flipflops froze themselves to the icy pavement and our towels froze into funny shapes. We spent almost three hours in 105-107 degree water. (“Just like the air in South Sudan!” I kept saying. Has anyone but me noticed that I’ve lost EIGHTY FIVE degrees Fahrenheit in two weeks? It hurts, really.) We also forgot to bring water – well, A. brought water and left it in the car; I brought water and left it at some pool, I forget which. And then we were in the water for three hours. It might have been a mistake. I felt sort of dizzy and headachy and nauseous for the rest of the night. Which wasn’t long, since we left at 10 p.m. and I turned off the light to go to sleep at 11:09.

26 November 2007

day 26 :: repetition of topic [retroactive]

The sad truth is that the color of my skin gives me great privilege. (Oh wait! I’ve mentioned this a few hundred times before! It keeps happening, though, you see. It doesn’t just up and go away.)

My colleague’s little son is sick. My colleague paid for a boat to go up the river and bring him here, and he asked my other colleague to drive over to the river to pick him up this morning. I told him I’d be happy to do the training he had scheduled today so that he could go to the hospital with his son and he said, “Actually, I want you to come to the hospital with me. The line is too long and they will help us faster if you are there. They don’t have a system for urgent cases.”

I cringed. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to use my nationality and the color of my skin to cut ahead of the huge crowd of worried mothers cradling their sick children. They don’t all have a kawadja who knows the doctors who they can bring with them to get prompt attention. At the same time, I was worried about his son. Every day for the last three or four days, we have heard reports of him curled up crying in pain, and we saw his father’s worry. They were worried about his appendix. I was worried about his appendix. And I didn’t know how to say no, or if I should say no.

I really didn’t know what was the right thing to do. I still don’t.

In the end, I went. I went, and I went over to the office of the doctors and I said, “I’m here with my colleague and his son. His son is sick and the clinic where they went said it might be his appendix. I don’t know what the system is, and I don’t want to cut in line, but I’m worried about him.”

The first question they asked was, “Is your colleague an expat or a national staff?”

Does that make it better that I went, because they obviously wouldn’t prioritize this little boy who might need emergency surgery if I wasn’t there? Does it make it worse, because all these very sick children should get equal attention, or better yet, attention based on the severity of their illness?

“National.” I said, and I stared them down, and dared them to tell me that this made his son less important.

They told me to find the nice US American doctor who has been helping me with my (apparently unsolvable) stomach problem. He was out front and could prioritize people if they needed immediate attention. I found him and explained, “I don’t want to misuse the fact that I’m an expat, but I’m worried about my colleague’s son.” He came and looked at the little boy, and he poked around on his tummy and then he sent us to Room 4, to Doctor Somebody.

My colleague went to get his son weighed and registered, and I went to Room 4. I stood outside the door, awkwardly, in front of the huge crowd of worried mothers cradling their sick children. I tried to stand to the side, inconspicuously, but Doctor Somebody called out “Kawadja! Kawadja!” and I peeked in. “It’s just a greeting,” he said, a kawadja himself. I explained myself again. After the two patients waiting in his room, he took my colleague’s son and set him up on a table. He talked to the father and poked at the little stomach.

Nothing was enlarged: not liver, not spleen, not appendix. He ordered the basic tests (malaria and a stool sample) and gave him Panadol and oral rehydration salts. Hopefully, it is nothing serious.

Which only makes me feel more guilty for cutting to the front of the line while sicker children with no advocate wait at the back of the line, getting sicker.

You want to know the truth? When I go to that hospital, I go straight to the nice US American doctor. I do not pass go, and I do not collect $200. I go at the end of the day, when the line has died down, but I still go straight in. So does my Sudanese colleague from near Elsewhere. Part of this is based on acquaintance – I know the American doctors because they are the only other Americans in town, he knows the Kenyans and Ugandans because he grew up in Uganda.

Part of it, though, is based on the privilege of my white skin. I stand out, and I look like the surgeon and the OB-GYN and the medical director, and that gets attention. I know from experience that even if I tried to sit in the line, I would be noticed and rushed to the front. I am obviously too rich and important to sit in line, “obviously” because of my skin color.

In fact, I do have things I should be doing. But so does a mother whose children depend on her to feed them. Neither of us is paying for this service, and I shouldn’t get better service because of who I am and her child worse service because of who she is.

There are a thousand convoluted issues here: there is race, and nationality, and power, and money, and education, and culture. I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t even know how to start. Sometimes it seems that trying to not stand out – to wait in line, to follow the system – only makes things worse, as attention is drawn to me, as I’m summoned to the front, as I protest.

But something is wrong. Maybe everything.

25 November 2007

day 25 :: itchy scratchy

The real and pressing question is: why didn’t I drop out of the rat race six years ago (when I graduated from college) and move to a place like this and become a snowboarder? I could be working for a coffee shop and snowboarding in my free time.

I don’t know how to snowboard.

But that’s not really an obstacle. I could learn. I’m not very coordinated, but I could learn. Maybe. After years of practice, I might make it down a hill without a catastrophic tumble.

I’m not really doing much here, people. I’ve been sitting around in coffee shops, drinking tea and fat-free steamers instead of hefty mochas with whipped cream. This is because my sister and I are on a health(ish) kick (if we were on a true health kick, obviously I wouldn’t be drinking these sugary steamers, but we are doing what we can – baby steps). As I like to say, we have to save up the space for lots of Christmas cookies. We have two super-good Christmas cookie recipes running around my extended family, and I eat at least 15 of them at each of the two family parties, plus the ones I eat when I’m baking them. So that’s a lot of cookies for which to save space.

Unfortunately, I’m already watching jet trails with longing. When I left Sudan, I was convinced that I was ready to live in one place for a while, and it was okay if that one place was the US. Now I’m not so sure anymore. The white tails behind the planes cutting across the brilliant blue sky over snow-capped mountains make me long for something, and it isn’t this.

I’m all itchy again.

24 November 2007

day 24 :: the crazy

Somehow, between Honduras (2000) and Rwanda (2002-2004), I developed a fear of cars. I’m totally a-feared of them. When I’m in Michigan, I write little notes to my parents sometimes to tell them to Be! Careful! The other drivers are Maniacs!

I think this all started when my professors’ dog got hit by a car right in front of us in Honduras. I still have not gotten the sound of flesh against bumper out of my head. Then there were a bunch of horrific accidents in Rwanda, including one in which the entire top half of a minibus was shorn off by a bigger bus. I would go into detail, but people might be traumatized. One time, I was driving a whole bunch of people from Kigali to Kibuye, where we all lived. Most of them were volunteers of one sort or another, and they were all crammed into the back of my mini-Land Cruiser. We passed an accident and there was uproar in the vehicle, uproar of horror, at the bodies lying strewn about. “They are dead!” people said. I didn’t stop, because the situation was under control. Some people were there who clearly were handling things.

But my Rwandese friend S., sitting in the front passenger seat, said, “C’est presque normale ici.” – it’s almost normal here. (Sorry for any horrible spelling errors. I’ve never actually learned how to write in French. I can talk, sometimes, but I can’t write.)

Anyway, the result of all this depressing death by vehicle was that I developed a fear of cars. They are big, you see, and they are made of metal and we, we humans, are not. We are made of fragile flesh and fragile bone, and we break so so easily.

I don’t think it helped that I just spent three years in New York not driving.

All of this meant that the 24-hour drive to Colorado to see my sister, overnight on Thanksgiving Eve, was a bit miserable. I was okay as long as I was awake, as long as I could watch the road and, by sheer mental focus, keep our car on it and other cars away from ours. But then the following things happened: 1. it got dark, 2. it started snowing and the road was covered in ice, and 3. I got sleepy.

Needless to say, what little sleep I got was not very deep, because I kept startling awake every time I heard a sound or felt the car swerve a little, because if I’m about to die, I want to know it. I don’t want to just wake up dead. (I do the same thing in planes, except related to the sound of the engines, startling every time they shift up or down, which is why I can’t sleep in planes, which is why it is a particularly cruel joke that I love living in Africa, which involves lots of overnight flights, often two in a row, and overnight flights in the ever-shrinking amount of space the airlines give you when you can’t sleep, and the resulting jetlag, are a torture I would not wish even on people I cannot stand and on whom I am tempted to wish bad things.)

But we made it to Colorado, and to my sister’s place up on the continental divide, despite slippery, curvy mountain roads, despite snowstorms in Iowa, and despite our many stops for coffee. Our last stop, on Thanksgiving morning, was in an Evil Chain Coffee Shop half an hour up into the mountains, where my mom and dad got the largest size drinks available (I have never actually ordered that size), and I, at last, got a gingerbread latte in a Christmas cup. (I have not been able to enjoy coffee in the last year. The amoeba didn’t approve of coffee and acted up when I drank it. Papaya seeds, however, turn out to be GENIUS. I haven’t even taken the actual prescribed medicine for the amoeba yet because I’m giving my poor body a break from serious medications and I have a cold, but I feel SO. MUCH. BETTER.)

This place is lovely. It is barren and stark in a way that I have never seen the Rocky Mountains, having always traveled here in the summer.

And now twice in two days (Thursday and Friday), I have eaten until I couldn’t breathe.

23 November 2007

day 23 :: toilets/choos [retroactive]

This is our latrine. This is the pit into which Wallace fell. This is the source of much angst since I arrived. This is the reason I sat crying under a porch on the first day I was here. No one had mentioned the pit latrine.

In defense of the pit latrine, I have to say that I’m pretty much used to it. I hardly mind it anymore, except in the heat of the middle of the day, but that’s due to the fact that the shed is made out of metal. Even a shiny clean toilet seat wouldn’t make it less hot in there in the middle of the day. And it’s less gross than a sit down toilet that is too dirty to sit on. Since the ladies we hired to clean feel that cleaning is beneath them, there is very little cleaning that occurs around here. I think a pit latrine is the best possible option, given all these circumstances. Also, a stripey lizard and a big spider have moved in there and they keep the flies down.

In defense of Africa, I have to say that this is the first time I’ve ever had to use a pit latrine on a regular basis. Many people in Africa do use pit latrines or the great outdoors and I’ve had to use them while traveling, but I have always had a real toilet in my hotels and my houses (minus those weeks in a village when I was a baby, but at that point I was using diapers, so no problem). In fact, Rwanda made me a bit of a toilet snob. I used to stop at the Intercontinental Hotel just to use the clean toilets and the good-smelling soap.

Don’t not visit Africa because of this latrine.

By way of contrast, this is my toilet once I moved into a self-contained room in Elsewhere:

Isn’t that pretty? Pretty, pretty, pretty?

22 November 2007

day 22 :: photographering [retroactive]

I find it very difficult to take pictures here. I thought it was all me and I SUCK at taking pictures and then I watched my screensaver for a while, all these lovely pictures with lovely colors in Rwanda and Uganda and Kenya and Tanzania and Liberia and I realized that it’s not me, it’s the light. The light, it is harsh. The light, it is strong. It just wrecks the photos.

My photos in Elsewhere were nice.

My colleague concurred and said he used to think there was something wrong with his camera because his photos always turned out washed out and then he went to Nairobi where the air is clear and cool and they started turning out all pretty. So, hmph.

But I keep trying. It’s best in the evening, when I can take photos in the golden light of the declining sun.

I took this one on the airstrip just before sunset, and turned the camera around to show the ladies.

Digital cameras are the best invention ever. Before, it was all take-take-take when it came to photos, but now when I take a picture, I have something to give back. People can see themselves in the camera who might never have seen a photo of themselves. Sometimes, people are shocked. “Is that me? Is that what I really look like?” they ask their friends. Smaller children sometimes can’t find themselves in the photo until someone else points them out. “That’s me? That’s what I look like?

21 November 2007

day 21 :: small

I realize that the most boring possible things one can write about are: 1. food, 2. illnesses, and 3. tiredness. I’m pretty much writing about those three all the time lately. I have excuses, of course. Re. 1., I’m newly experiencing tasty food again. Re. 2., I have INTERESTING diseases. Re. 3., jet lag, full stop.

I do have other stories, though. Here’s a random one: when I was in Juba last week, I invited myself out to dinner with some people. It went approximately like this:

Colleague 1 (to me and Colleague 2): You two will have to share a car, but you are staying in opposite directions.
Colleague 2 (with friend standing right there): No, I’m going out to eat, so it will be fine.
Me: Where are you going?
C2: To eat pizza.
Me: Can I come?

This is not something I do. It is completely out of character for me. In one of my favorite books, the narrator says something along the lines of, “It was so far out of character for me that it’s possible that it circled right back around to being in character.” This was like that. It takes me a long time to invite people to do things even when we are clearly friends, let along inviting myself along with two people who I do not know and who have not so much as hinted that company would be welcome. It was in East Africa, though, and if there is one thing I’ve learned, it is that when my friends in East Africa mention that they are doing something that night, they are inherently inviting me along. If I later try to say, “But I wasn’t invited!” they just look at me blankly and say, “You knew we were going.” So I will excuse my own rudeness in inviting myself along by pretending that I was just fitting in culturally. Even though neither of them were East African.

So we went to eat pizza. And here’s the weird part: in the course of the conversation, Non-Colleague (aka Colleague 2’s friend) and I discovered that we grew up in the same town in Liberia. AT THE SAME TIME. Literally. We were both born the same year. We both moved to Liberia the next year. We both left in 1990. We never knew each other. (This is not only possible but likely, because her family lived on the base of a big international company that was pretty self-contained, while my parents were hardcore missionary types who were avoiding such luxuries. She attended school on the base; I went to a little house school. But both of our mothers played tennis at the same tennis courts. We might have been ball-chasing for our moms at the same time. And we both shopped at the grocery store on the base.) Weird, weird, weird. We proceeded to have one of those conversations that totally isolates the other person at the table. It included things like this:

“Do you remember that little ice cream place on the road to Monrovia?”

“Yes! They had the BEST ice cream!”

“It’s still there! Well, the cement tables and stools are there. It’s not open, obviously.”

“I used to feel guilty every time I stopped there, because I knew the people who owned the ice cream shop in Monrovia, but that one was so much better!”

You sort of had to be there. In the 1980s. In Liberia.

Even weirder: there was also a Liberian woman, from the town where I grew up in Liberia, in the Tiny Little Town where I was working.

As one of my favorite colleagues from this Sudan gig said in her farewell email, “The world is small and round and people always meet.” I’ve been quoting that line ever since, every time someone asked me if I was coming back. Every time someone asks if I am going back.

“The world is small and round and people always meet.”

20 November 2007

day 20 :: least/most

What I miss least about South Sudan is not the snakes, the monotonous food, or the heat. What I miss least is the need to shake out my shoes before I put them on, just in case there is a spider or scorpion inside. I smile a little, inside and out, every time I put on my shoes here without checking inside first.

What I miss most about South Sudan, other than people, is the outdoor shower. Only once was the air too cold to take an outdoor shower comfortably. (I only took a shower that night because my hair-washing schedule depended on it, and I very deeply regretted not putting it off. My teeth were chattering.) Every other time, the water was refreshingly cool in the morning or comfortingly warm in the evening, after the sun had warmed it in its barrel on a platform. I loved showering looking up at the blue sky, looking up at the stars. You can’t bottle or buy that kind of joy.

The outside of the shower (water is stored in that reddish barrel until it comes cascading on my head):

The inside of the shower. It's not much to look at, but it's delightful. Except for the time when one of its iron sheets cut my hand viciously. That wasn't delightful, but I had antibacterial ointment, so it turned out okay in the end.

day 20 :: wide awake

It’s 7:25 a.m. I’ve already baked a double batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Now I’m sitting around wishing there was someone I could call and annoy, but, well, it’s 7:25 a.m. Yesterday I had to wait until NINE to call for a haircut appointment. NINE! Why don’t they open at a reasonable time? Like seven?

Clearly the jet lag is doing something awful to me. I don’t even recognize this person who wakes up so early. It might have something to do with the fact that I fall asleep ridiculously early. Two of the last four nights, I’ve fallen asleep on the couch. Last night I bribed myself with House at 8 p.m. I told myself that going to sleep at 9, after House, would be just fine.

Except I fell asleep on the couch at 7:30.

The day is mad long when, like today, I can’t go back to sleep after 5 a.m.

The good news is that the days are so short that if I slept in until my (normally) preferred ten or so, I would have only six hours of light in my day. Seasonal affective disorder, anyone?

The other good news is that there are still some pretty leaves on the trees. I was so happy, flying over Michigan on Friday, to see colors still lingering on the trees below. Yesterday, after a scrumptious lunch with my Aunt Lisa, I walked around the neighborhood taking pictures of the flashes of bright orange and yellow among the mostly skeletal trees. The trees are almost ready for snow.

19 November 2007

day 19 :: family

We had a little quasi-Thanksgiving yesterday. My mom baked a turkey and potatoes and made that hideous sweet potato dish with the marshmallows on top (some people love this stuff; I cannot understand why – sweet, mushy, and orange? And supposedly a vegetable? All wrong.). She cut up salad fixings. I made gingerbread cupcakes, because Friday was my Oma’s birthday, and a sour cream coffeecake, for my little unborn niece or nephew via my sister-in-law’s mouth, and stuffing from a box.

It was unexpectedly sweet to sit around a table with these people I love, stuffing our faces too full of too much food. I was too full when we finished, but I still managed a gingerbread cupcake and a little piece of coffeecake. And then I couldn’t eat again all day, although I had to force down some Cheerios in order to take the Biltricide that’s (hopefully) killing off my schistosomiasis.

I remember, when I went to Rwanda, thinking that it wasn’t that hard to be away from family. You just do it. Except that it’s gotten harder.

I might be getting old.

In my parents’ neighborhood, there are a few splatters of pumpkin intestines on the road, perhaps left over from Halloween.

When I was very small, approximately three years old, just before my brother was born, we lived in a little house on a small hill in a city about 40 miles north of here. We carved pumpkins for Halloween, but some older boys came and smashed them onto the road. For a long time, I didn’t want to walk past the dead pumpkins on the road.

A month later, on the night my brother was born, I remember the feeling of horror to be walking past the scene of the pumpkin murders, walking through the dark to our neighbors’ house so my dad could drive my mom to the hospital.

The dad of that neighbor family was one of my professors in college.

18 November 2007

day 18 :: all over tingly

I may not make sense right now. I’m writing under the side effects of Biltricide, which is the anti-bilharzias medication. It sounds like I’m deliberately taking a pesticide, though. In fact, it is a trematodicide. It kills trematodes. The doctor in Nairobi told me that it might have strange side effects, and it does. Side effects like I can feel my skin, all of it, and all of it tingling. It’s not really a sensation that I ever expected to feel.

I’ve been strangely excited ever since I got this medication, though. I’ve been looking forward to taking it. Not for the side effects, obviously, although they might be sought by those who like the slightly drunken feeling (I’m not supposed to drive on this stuff), but because I’m so very eager to be rid of a life-shortening disease. I may, in fact, be expecting too much out of it. I’m expecting a lot. I’m expecting to feel great by tomorrow morning. That might not quite be realistic. Maybe, though? Maybe? Just a little more energy? I generally have none, none at all. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve made the doctor test my thyroid, because it just doesn’t seem possible to be this tired all the time, including on the days when I’ve slept until I could sleep no longer. (Yes, stress and law school might have impacted this. Still.)

The other excitement of the day is as follows:

This is Wilbur. He came to me via an unexpected bonus from a company I did some work for in New York. I didn’t think I could afford a replacement for Wallace, but this check came and rather than save it for something important like, oh, an apartment in my new city, I went directly to a box store in a strip mall and came home with Wilbur. Priorities, people. Really, nothing can replace Wallace. I still miss him for all his loveliness. But I’m sure I will come to love Wilbur in his own right.

Dizzy. Very dizzy. Going off to lie down and be dizzy in peace.

17 November 2007

day 17 :: over a few days

So when I said that not having malaria was the only good news, I was frighteningly accurate. Well, there’s a little bit more good news, which is that I maybe didn’t have typhoid but the test just found my body’s reaction to the live vaccine I took before I left for Sudan. So that’s good news, because it means that I didn’t eat poo, probably. Although I still might have to be treated, depending on symptoms and/or a follow-up test in a month.

The other bad news is that I also have bilharzias.

My blood is like a swimming pool for tropical diseases. Over here they are doing the backstroke, and on the other side some of them are practicing the front crawl. I prefer the ones right up close here, learning that butterfly one.

The waiter at (yes, again) Java House just brought me a pineapple juice instead of a passion fruit juice and then, when I asked about it, said, “Maybe you can just drink this.” I didn’t QUITE say, “I didn’t come all the way over to Java House just to miss out on my passion fruit juice,” but I kind of felt that way. I have no idea when I will get to drink the stuff again.


Schistosomiasis/bilharzias, for the non-Africa travelers, are little parasites that divide their lives between the inside of a snail and the inside of a person. You can’t pass them on unless the snails are around, but the snails inhabit fresh water throughout much of Africa and Asia and maybe Latin America (I can’t remember). They emerge from the snails as little worm-like things and dig into humans through the skin, whereupon they cause all sorts of problems like liver damage and, in serious cases, lung or brain damage. There are two kinds: intestinal (predominate in Africa) and urinary (predominate in Asia). The primary system is often tiredness.

I can only imagine how much less painful law school might have been if I hadn’t had a disease that causes tiredness. The levels in my blood indicate that I’ve had it for quite some time. Years, probably. Maybe many years. Let’s see, the possibilities are endless. Liberia, any time between twenty-eight and one year ago? Nicaragua, eight years ago? Honduras, seven years ago? Rwanda, any time between five and two years ago? Uganda, five years ago? I’ve never been one to stay out of an available stream or lake. I love swimming and splashing.

I’m still not staying out of available streams and lakes. But I will get tested for this regularly. And I’m about to start taking twelve pills, four per day, for three days, at a cost of $30 per day. (Funny, that sounds like a lot more when it is 2010/- (Kenya shillings)).

In other news, I’m back in the US. Stories abound about the traveling, including the conspiracy theorist I sat next to, who told me about how everything from J.F.K.’s assassination to the landing on the moon were orchestrated by a secret cabal. Then he asked me if I was going to research all of this when I got home. I said probably not. “Why not?” he asked.

“Well,” I said, “I’m more concerned about women dying in childbirth in Sudan. Knowing whether the moon landing was real or fake is probably not at all going to change the way I live my life.”

And that’s how I’ve pretty much always felt about it. It may be a generational thing, but I just can’t really bring myself to care that much if we came to be through creation or evolution, or if many of the things I’m told about the government are true. I really don’t see that I’m going to change what I want to do with my life, who I want to be, how I want to interact with the world, if I know that, I don’t know, TWA Flight 800 was downed deliberately. I mean, what can I do? I can’t not fly. I can’t pick my flights to avoid the planes that someone wants to shoot down. It won’t change anything.

I don’t think any of it is as simple as we want it to be. I don’t even think D.arf.ur is as simple as we are told by the US media on one hand and A.l-Jaz.ee.ra (the only news channel our TV got in Nairobi) on the other. This is why (I know, I know, this is an unpopular point of view), I’ve been reluctant to jump on a “Save D.ar.fu.r” bandwagon. And I’m sort of okay with the complexity. How post-modern of me.

16 November 2007

day 16 :: women [retroactive]

Sitting in a circle with Sudanese women. I’m asking questions about their lives. “What do you do if you really don’t like the man your parents have chosen for you to marry?” Ensues long, giggling story about pretending to like the man and then eloping with another man at the last minute, but how that can only be done if he’s willing to match the dowry offered by the first one.

Then they ask me questions, “Are there elopements in the US?”

“Are there blind people in the US? Lame people? Mad people?”

“Tell us the truth. Everyone says that things are wonderful between men and women in your country. How do men and women really interact?” I think, and then say that in some ways things are easier for women in North America, that it’s unlikely they will be beaten, that they can choose their husbands, but it is still not perfect.

Sometimes I feel sheepish and uncultured. “If people have so few children, who cares for the old people? Who cares for the blind people?” It’s embarrassing to admit to institutions that have replaced family.

“What kind of dowry do men pay for women?”

There is uproar when I say, “None. In fact, the only real expense is the party for the marriage and the woman’s family pays.”

Women younger than me have four children, or five. They want more. They want ten, or eleven. The older ones will care for the younger ones, and eventually the parents, and school is free now, if it’s close enough to walk.

Eventually they have to leave, because they are late to make supper and their husbands will beat them. “It is because of the dowry,” they tell me. “The men pay cows for us, so they own us. You are lucky to have no dowry.”

“If you pay your own way,” I say, “you own yourself.” They smile and cheer.

Another day in a group of women and men, a woman asks me what she should do when her husband beats her because she comes home late for the cooking because her literacy class runs long. “What would you advise?” I fumble and finally admit that I don’t know. It’s not an issue I ever expect to face, and I don’t know what to tell a woman about how to stand up to a man who has absolute power over her, legally, socially, and culturally.

Instead, I talk about education and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the female president of Liberia, a female president in a world where many “modern” “Western” societies, including my own, have never elected a female Head of State. I tell them about human rights, and that everyone, because everyone is a person, should have the right to make decisions, even as small as staying at her literacy class when it runs late. I say that every culture, every society, has things that are right and things that are wrong and deciding to change the bad things doesn’t mean undermining the culture. I tell them that change is slow, and men and women have to work together, have to change things together.

I feel inadequate. I don’t have a real answer.

There is nothing like Africa to make a feminist of a person, for women on this continent and my other one.

And to make me feel like my three years of law school taught me nothing practical whatsoever.

15 November 2007

day 15 :: beyond even implied swear words

Well, I’m out of words. Not permanently, obviously. I’ll find them again.

Probably after I type a few inane ones, about the malaria, typhoid, amoebas, and schistosomiasis.

Okay, about malaria. I don’t have it. (This is the only piece of good news.)

Okay, about typhoid. I don’t seem to HAVE it, but I probably did. At some point. Maybe all the barfing in Liberia. And I should be treated for the remaining vestiges of it in my body. And no, a positive result can’t come from the vaccine (which I had forgotten to have before I went to Liberia last year, leaving me susceptible).

Okay, about amoebas. I have them. Only not the one that they told me I had in South Sudan. I have a different one, which means:

  1. They misdiagnosed them at the free clinic in Tilt (very possible), or
  2. I always had more than one type of amoeba (very possible), or
  3. I got this amoeba in Sudan after being treated for the previous one (very possible).

This particular amoeba that I do have right now does not respond to the medications I took before, so I have a different medication now. The good news is that the symptoms of this amoeba more accurately fit the symptoms I’ve had over the last year, which makes me think this is the right diagnosis.

Okay, about schistosomiasis (bilharzia). I don’t know yet. The lab lady seems to think it’s possible that I have it and “that might change everything.” Meaning related to the typhoid, somehow. I don’t know.

Then she asked, “WHERE have you been?”

And what I want to ask is, “How is this possible? How did I have typhoid and not know it? How did I live a year with an amoeba?” (Actually, I sort of know the answer to question two, which is that I had decent nutrition in the US and decent nutrition staves off the effects of the amoeba, like, say, weakness and stomach pain.) But typhoid? TYPHOID? Typhoid Mary? Is that what I am?

Don’t freak out! I’m not freaking out! See? Calm! Totally calm! Other than how I feel all feverish now that I know that I HAD TYPHOID WITHOUT KNOWING IT.

I am being treated, yos. I will not give you typhoid. Aren’t you SO GLAD that I am one of those few people in the world who wash their hands obsessively after visiting a bathroom? I watch people walk out without washing and I frown at them. They are the disease-causers, not me. Except they probably don’t have any diseases to cause.

That ice cream in a cart from the street vendor at the Firestone plantation was totally a mistake. He probably used river water, contaminated by all the people upstream using the river as a toilet. Do you know what that means? Ew. Ew. That means that I inadvertently ate poo. Ew. Ew.

Excuse me while I go barf repeatedly.

day 15 :: city life

I love Nairobi. Love! Love! Love! I want to be a little bird so I can squawk out “Love!” every few minutes.

I have so far spent every taxi ride telling the driver over and over again how wonderful this city is. “And it’s so green! And I love the fruit! And there is Indian food! And it’s so nice and cool! And look at the pretty billboards! And oooooh! Flowers!” Like they don’t know their own city.

I found myself, flying in, wishing that this was home.

I don’t know if my body somehow, in twelve weeks, adjusted to the heat in South Sudan or what, but I feel like winter is upon us in Nairobi. I literally keep thinking it’s about to snow. I’m sure it’s more like 70 degrees, but I don’t understand the people wearing shorts and t-shirts. I’m on the verge of buying one of those Kenya fleeces they sell in the One Way store.

I’ve been eating and drinking as much as possible while I’m here. Okay, not on purpose. But yesterday I was just walking along looking for a forex and I was seduced by the smell of Indian food emanating from a restaurant and so I just sat down and ate. A lot. With fresh vegetables and garlic naan. Oh, and passion fruit juice. I’m drinking at least one large fresh passion fruit juice a day at Java House. It really is the best juice in existence. I’m not sure why people bother with orange juice.

Looking for a plug for my computer at Java House, I ended up sharing a table with an American woman who told me the secret to ridding oneself of amoebas. Considering that I’m sitting here at Java House waiting to go back and find out the results of all the tests they are running on my various bodily substances over at the Centre for Tropical and Travel Medicine, this was very timely information. And here it is: eat pawpaw (papaya) seeds. As many as possible. Don’t get me wrong; I’m going to buy the metro and the other drug that are supposed to kill them off, just in case. But I’m trying this papaya thing first. If I can cure the amoebas without carcinogenic drugs, why would I take the carcinogenic ones? It’s a plan.

I’m also going to find out if I have malaria, typhoid, or schistosomiasis. Excellent.

14 November 2007

day 14 :: another airport

It is remarkably easy to get checked in for a flight when you have someone with you who knows exactly what to do. He dropped me off at check-in and dragged the bags over to the scale while the woman wrote my boarding pass. Then suddenly I and my bags were at customs, my bags were gone, and he had cut to the front of the immigration line with my passport. It took five minutes, max.

And now I’m waiting for my flight to Nairobi.

I find it sort of depressing – and yet somehow so reassuring – that a trip to a new country almost inevitably begins and ends in these little details. It seems more fitting to meet and leave a country in a grandiose way, with trumpets or music or scenery. But it’s always standing in lines and dragging too much luggage and waiting in an anonymous room. It’s not momentous enough, but it’s real, and that makes me feel better.

When I was younger, I used to feel sick with excitement before trips, and I used to imagine that I would be a different person on the other end of the flight. I am a different person in Africa, truthfully, more confident and more certain of my place in the world. I feel prettier in a place where six 0 is not the ideal and where girls much larger than me are the pretty ones dancing in music videos. I love living in Africa. I love the smell of the air in the morning, the friendships I’ve made, the chaos that every day can bring.

But these procedures as I come and I go, all the stamping and ticketing and weighing, remind me that life is universal. They are ignominious to the whole concept of a voyage, which should have more nobility to it, but so often things are less than majestic. They just are, and they will be, even in a new country.

When they called the flight, we lined up in two lines. Two men searched the men’s bags, and a woman, businesslike and kind, called me into the black curtained women’s booth (there are far fewer women than men boarding in the Juba airport). She glanced in all the pockets of my bags and patted me down, stopping to double-check the lump in my back pocket where I’d placed my passport (I’ll have none of that “secure inside pouch” nonsense).

(Side note: how, how, how do women manage to keep headscarves on while doing things like frisking? I can’t keep anything on my head to save my life, and her headscarf stays perfectly in place. I feel like a dolt.)

And, after all the mundane details of airports and airplanes, we got on a plane and left another country.

12 November 2007

day 13 :: the animals are coming [retroactive]

This is a baby goat.

This is a baby goat peeking around the corner of my tukul.

This is a baby goat peeking around the corner of my tukul approximately 18 inches from where I was sitting.

These are cows.

These are cows grazing in our compound.

These are cows grazing in out compound so close to the latrine that I have to displace them if I need to get in there.


The invasion is complete.

I rest my case.

day 13 :: error alert

I might accidentally have posted the day 13 thing a little early. Like on the 12th. Because I hit "Post" instead of "Save Draft." I'm going to call it not cheating to just change the date. Because I can.

day 13 :: present tense

We’re sitting in the waiting room for the UN Humanitarian Air Service flight. It’s less of a waiting room than a cage, really, a tin roof with sides open to the air save for the wire mesh that makes up the walls. The normal crowd is represented: an American with his huge backpack and guitar, a few Nepalis from the UN mission, a scruffy white South African with a beard and aviator sunglasses, Sudanese wearing light blue lanyards of all the UN agencies and sometimes a logo-ed khaki vest, an older white man of indeterminate origin who looks like one of those type-cast actors who play the bad guy in every movie, Kenyans greeting each other warmly, two nuns all in white with royal blue along the edges of their robes, and me, a white American girl breaking the NGO-woman norm by wearing a skirt instead of the khakis or the flowing linen trousers.

The South African goes out to smoke. Someone has a yellow oil jug tagged with a checked baggage tag that reads “Juba.” Nearly everyone has a brown envelope or two, A4-sized, carrying papers or broken bits of electronic equipment for replacement, because sending with a person is the most reliable form of mail. I have five envelopes for Juba alone, four more for Nairobi, and two to mail in the US. The most precious one contains the power cord for the wireless router. I am to give it to someone in Nairobi who will buy another, or two, or have this one fixed.

People fidget, but they don’t complain about waiting. Only a few people talk. Our luggage goes off in a pickup, unweighed. The passengers are few for the size of the plane, so they allow my overweight bags and the three that my colleague brought.

A tiny cream-colored flower blows onto the keyboard of my laptop. They smell good, these flowers. There were carpets of them fallen under the trees at my tented camp.

All the white guys wear hiking boots, and a few of the African men. Most of them wear dress shoes. Everyone is in a button-down shirt except the nuns and the Nepalis in their striped polos and the man with the Lion King t-shirt under his IOM vest. I’m in the coolest clothing I own, thin cotton skirt and shirt, for my last full day in Sudan. Tomorrow I’ll wear the heaviest clothing I own, hoping to keep my bags under the baggage allowance for the flight to Nairobi. It won’t work. They will be overweight whatever I do.

I could be wrong about the Nepalis. They could be from Bangladesh, or Pakistan. I don’t know what it is that makes my instinct think they are Nepali.

The plane is waiting. Our luggage is lined up next to it, ready to be thrown in as soon as we identify our ownership of the bags. We’re still sitting in our waiting cage.

I have a Pack Lunch from the hotel. It is a cardboard box and it says right on it, very clearly, “Pack Lunch.” It contains (I checked) a roll with some sort of meat paste, a slice of pound cake, two green apples, a bottle of water, and two boiled eggs, one of which broke and we had to throw it away. There’s also something foil-wrapped, but I haven’t investigated that yet.

On the plane, I sit next to the young bearded South African, who turns out to be Italian. Whatever. Something white. He was sitting on the aisle because he wanted some space, next to the only empty window seat in the plane. Bet he regrets that now, doesn’t he? He has to share his space with me, the window hog. Oddly, I notice when he signs the register, we have almost identical first names, if you remove my last vowel and replace it with a different vowel and the letter S.

We are early into Juba and no one is there to pick us up. We sit in the puffy chairs in the arrival lounge, fake leather sticking to our sweat, and munch on the Pack Lunch. I take the pound cake. My colleague takes the sandwich and later, in the car, the foil-wrapped chicken.

On the way to the office, we drive over a little stretch of pavement. It’s so quiet, driving on smooth pavement instead of bumpy dirt. Nothing clatters around.

I have a feeling the reverse culture shock is going to be severe.

day 12 :: random points not long enough for individual posts

… I used to struggle with the desire to flush the toilet when I left the latrine. Now I can’t remember to flush the real toilet.

… I finally got to fly in a Twin Otter. Every time a Cessna Caravan refused to land on our muddy airstrip, someone would mutter, “If that had been a Twin Otter, it would have landed. They can land anywhere.” And I finally flew in one, coming here to Central Location. It’s pretty much like a Caravan, except with two propellers on the wings instead of one on the nose. The two make it more stable. Also, the wheels are bigger and fatter – mud tires.

… My eyes are hungry to see permanent buildings. Everything is tukuls (mud with thatched roofs) or tents. I want to see something that I can count on to be there tomorrow.

… I don’t know what this antibiotic is doing, but I’m not taking it anymore. It makes it hard to breathe. That’s not okay.

… T minus one day.

I left the land of grasshoppers and entered the land of… crickets. My tent is full of them. I woke up in the night, turned on the light, and found bouncing crickets all about: ceiling, floor, wall, floor, ceiling. Fortunately they mostly stop when you turn off the light.

11 November 2007

day 11 :: review

A few days ago, I heard an inordinate amount of squawking. There really shouldn’t need to be that much squawking involved in the killing of one chicken, which is all we need(ed) to feed ourselves at the compound in Tilt. Then I saw a pile of chicken feathers far too big to be one chicken.

“Exactly how many chickens are they killing?” I asked my colleague.

“Ten.” He answered.


As it turns out, for me. Not for me to eat, but for a party in honor of me. They were trying to keep the existence of an actual party something of a surprise, but the squawking gave things away.

Someone rode a bike into town and borrowed a big stereo, which arrived tied to the back rack of the bicycle, and four tapes of African dance music. Someone else made a long trail of power strips from my tukul to the table set in the middle of the compound. The cooks made ten chickens, two Nile perch, and a pan of rice so large that they had to empty some of it into another container in order to carry it.

It was a full-on African party. I always feel a need to bring something when I’m invited to parties, but that doesn’t happen in Africa. In Africa, the host provides everything and you come empty-handed. And you expect to eat a lot and drink a lot. (I had a friend who threw a party in Rwanda once and realized afterwards that she had gone through eight (HUGE) beers per person. And she caught some people bringing in empty bottles so that they could take full ones home with them. Hilarious.)

We danced around in the middle of the compound, all of us, including the cooks and the guards. The very old guard held his stick in his hands as he danced. We ate and drank. There were speeches and jokes, and even the weather cooperated – cool, without rain.

The only slight little flaw in all the perfection was knowing that it marked the end. In the morning, nearly packed, I was loaded down with envelopes to bring to Juba, to Nairobi, to the US. I gave away one pair of shoes and my gumboots and a few of my shirts, although not enough to make the cooks happy. And I rode away from a place I thought I would never love but somehow, I did, in the end.

day 11 :: disregarding all advice

I always thought people were, if not lying, at least slightly exaggerating about losing their voices. Turns out, not.

Ish. I have had a sore throat for over two weeks – maybe even three or four weeks – and now my neck also hurts on the outside, on the left, where I assume my larynx is located (although googled diagrams are not conclusive). And I can’t talk. I mean, I can. I refuse to whisper, as that’s supposed to be bad for your larynx. But you have to stand about two feet away from me, leaning in, in order to hear what I’m saying.

In direct violation of every edict ever made by doctors, I intend to take some antibiotics. I know that this is probably viral. I know that. But I’m still going to take antibiotics and do you want to know why? Because I am in a (still quite) remote part of Sudan, and I’m paranoid about strep throat that turns into rheumatic fever. And there is nowhere to have a strep test done. And it’s been weeks, and it’s still getting worse. So there.

Last night, I went on a veritable liquid-drinking bonanza, in celebration of the concept of an en-suite toilet. I drank tea, and water, and two huge glasses of juice, and cappuccino, and a bitter lemon with a shot of gin. It was nice. And then I made good use of the en-suite toilet and then! Somehow it was cold last night, bizarre, bizarre, bizarre, and I got to snuggle under a blanket to sleep. In a tent. Life is good.

I would have more to say but my throat hurts like I cannot even tell you, and I’m off to hijack some antibiotics.