Employees Wanted

Job Posting: Veterinary Assistant

Job Qualifications: Likes animals, knows how to muzzle dogs, knows how to give shots, knows how to talk dog to sleep, knows how to drain blood from ear, knows how to minister to VET.

Today marked the second time that I have had to step into the role of Veterinary Assistant.

Rascal needed to see the Vet again. Not to have her stiches removed, but to remove additional blood from her ear.

Of course, not having a car and having a dog with a split personality makes it difficult to get to the clinic. So, the VET comes to the house.

Welcome to Sudan. Take note America.

Rascal has taken to sleeping under my bed during the day. So when Dr. Khalid arrived, she did not automaticlaly run out barking and growling.

This is not to say she did not make an appearance barking and growling. However,she stopped after one growl to sniff his pants.

Wow, that was easy.

Entertaining your VET in your bedroom is a complicated task. First, you have to run ahead and remove from the bed all the clothes that you have taken down from the clothes line.

Then pick up all the incidental items laying on the table. Rascal cooperates by keeping the Dr. busy.

Of course a sedative is in order. No problem, I distract Rascal and the shot is given. It should take affect in 10-15 minutes, possibly longer.

So, while this is working we chat about my markings, why I am here, the evening plans with his wife, the first visit to the clinic. How they train police dogs in Sudan was interesting, but made me a little uneasy.

We talked about food, VET schools, religion but no politics all the time watching Rascal to see how she was progressing.

She kept moving through the stages of staggering, lying down, getting up and finally seemed to find a place to let go. That accomplished, we decided to move her into the shade so that she would be more comfortable.

Ms. Hyde rears her head.

Rascal attacks the doctor, by pinning him against the wall. He is covering his hands behind his back. What seems like hours passes and Rascal lies back down.

Dr. Khalid has been bitten four times, one serious, two moderately and one superfically. All on his hands.

I am given instructions to open bottles of sterilizing liquid. I apply to the cuts. He keeps saying no problem, a familiar Sudanese saying. He is lying.

I help him clean out the wounds, and apply some Johnson and Johnson Bandaids with Antibiotic ointment in them, once the bleeding has subsided.

I feel the need to do more and make him drink water. Then we wait.

Rascal is taking a long time to fall asleep. Every once in a while, I think she is down for the count but she moves again.

He has decided that I must tie her muzzle shut with the same fabric that I used with Dr. Fares. I am so thrilled to have this on the job training.

And, I am really scared. I have already been bitten by this dog and do not want a repeat. And today, I have seen it again.

But, the ear cannot be treated without this being done.

So, praying and sweating profusely, I proceed to try and bring this piece of fabric around her muzzle. She does not react, but I am still afraid. A couple of more tries and the Dr. assures me she is asleep.

Muzzle is tied and Dr. leaves the safety of my bedroom. (There is no punchline coming.)

Without moving her from the courtyard, he gives her another shot of something, and then proceeds to drain her ear with a needle. I must hold her head gently but firmly in place so that the needle will not move.

Rascal stirs once and we both jump back. Now I know, we are both afraid. I like having company.

We discover that he has left some cotton in her ear from the first visit and I learn that this is a Sudanese tradtion. Every doctor leaves something inside every patient. Ha Ha.

He cleans off her ear and Rascal is up again. Staggering. My job is to talk to her and hold her in place. No rambling around. Where is the Dr? In my bedroom sitting down.

Two more tasks. An antibiotic shot and some local sterilaztion applied in a spray.

The shot makes her crazy and the spray is purple. I now have a crazy purple dog.

Dr. Khalid leaves, I take a shower. Rascal sleeps.

Welcome to Sudan.

Editors Note: I love Rascal. I will miss Rascal. Rascal is fine now, sleeping again after eating dinner. All is well.


Traditions Worth Forgetting

This past week has been filled with so much activity and so much to write about.

I have taken lots of pictures that need to be uploaded from the camera.

I have been to a house blessing, some great church services,had another great haircut before I leave for Juba, this time in a parlor with lots of African and Arab women.

The problem with Rascal's ear still torments the dog and myself. The vet is due to visit tomorrow morning.

Ah, tomorrow morning. June 30th. A special day here in Khartoum, especially for the government. It was on June 30th, some years ago that the government of Khartoum took control of the whole country. Until last year, this was a national holiday.

But in light of the peace agreement signed in 2005, this seems kind of awkward, so there are some Sudanese that expect everything to be closed and some who do not.

I have been hearing about lots of traditions in Africa. This afternoon, I received hand markings, similar to henna, from my hosts in Omdurman. Pictures will follow, but it is hard to take pictures while typing.

If you are married, you may apply the color to the soles of your feet and up your ankles. Single women may only decorate their hands.

If you are widowed, traditions vary from wearing white and not leaving your house for four months and 10 days, to three days of prayer and get on with your life.

Of course, traditional dress in Khartoum is everywhere. Men in long white robes and white turbans. However, under alot of the robes are western dress. There are times I wonder what city I am in. Women sytles range from complete covering of the entire body in black to western clothes, such as jeans, and wearing head dresses.

It is only foreign western women that do not cover their heads.

There is the tradition of an Arab or African man taking more than one wife, the norm is around 4.

There are repercussions to living this tradition if you are an Episcopalian in Sudan. You may not take communion.

As I attended a service today, I realized that there were many more women at the communion rail than men. However, when I was standing on the receiving line at the end of the service, there were a lot of men that I had not seen come forward.

The reason, multiple wives. Of course, what is good for the goose should be good for the gander. I could write a whole column about this.

This is a tradition worth forgetting.

I have seen a skit, written and performed by young AFrican Episcopalians, that was about apousal abuse.

The skit started out with the wife holding the job, brow beating the husband. The wife leaves for work, the huband for the market. He encounters a friend. This friend tells him that he should not take this. He should return home, throw his shopping at his wife, strike her a few times and take the position of authority.

The entire audience started to laugh when the tables were turned.

I was the only person that did not understand laughing at violence. It was explained as part of the culture.

The past two days, I and others have been working with a young women who was attacked in her fathers home by a young student boarder. This woman's father is an Episcopalian that I have come to know.

This father did nothing. It is the Sudanese culture. It is different. I do not understand.

I understand spousal abuse very well. I understand aggravated assault very well. I understand violence very well.

So, this woman spent the day with us out of her father's house. Alternative shelter is available to her. Financial assistance is available to her. She has individuals to call tonight if something else happens. She has been told, it is not your fault. She has been reminded that she is not chattle but a child of God.

This is a tradition worth forgetting.


Restless in Khartoum

Well, the electricity has gone off again, here in Diem, in the middle of the night.

I am used to sleeping now without the AC, provided the windows are wide open and the fan is running.

It is disturbing to wake up and not know why.

Then, I realize, I am Hot. What has happened to the fan?

I lie there and listen. All is silent. The AC unit from next door is not running. This is not a good sign.

There is no moon tonight. It is really dark. You forget what pitch black really looks like until you are in it.

The sky is overcast, no stars to be seen. There is no breeze.

The dog is not moving, and I am afraid to see if she has died after the operation.

Bits of plaster fall from the walls onto the floor and my imagination kicks into overdrive. What exactly is moving on the floor?

Some sort of bug is now jumping at the computer screen, white and hot in the night.

(The dog has moved, thanks be to God)

In my neighborhood back home, we all would have opened the doors and gone outside. Others would have been there and we would have determined what had happened.

Someone would have called Delmarva Power, Customer Service. Or called a friend, or used the internet.

Here, everyone stays where they are. It is useless to call the power company, they are usually at fault. The internet will not be of use.

Dogs are now fighting outside and Rascal is up and growling along with them. Such comforting sounds, not.

So, I am up writing on my blog, a connection to others, those unseen, but felt.

I visualize you still outside, it is only 8:30 PM in Delaware. Mosquitos are appearing. Maybe you are still in your pools, and I am envious.

Or maybe, the kids are finishing up soccer or baseball. Or the Blue Rocks are playing and the lights make the nighttime look like day. Cars are zooming past on I-95.

So much light and sounds.

So different from Sudan when the electricity stops in the middle of the night.


Countdown to Lambeth

Being in Africa prior to the Lambeth Conference is alot different than being in Delaware, USA.

The Episcopal Church in Sudan is trying to navigate their way to Lambeth surrounded by Anglican's in neighboring countries that are not attending Lambeth. These Anglicans come from Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and Rhowanda. And they are very specific in the reaaon why...the issue of homosexuality and the consecration of a openly gay bishop in a committed relationship, Bishop Gene Robinson.

As I sit in the pew each Sunday leading up to the departure of Archbishp Daniel Deng and the other bishop's, I am the lone representative of The Episcopal Church, USA in the congregation. And each Sunday, I am glad there is an Episcopal Church of the Sudan.

Each Sunday, at least at the English speaking 6 PM service, there is the call to continue holding the Lambeth Conference in prayer. To remember those that are planning this extraorindary event, those that will be traveling towards it, and those that are not. In addition, there has not been one sermon on this issue the months that I have been in Sudan.

Sudan, a country plagued by civil wars, is trying to find ways to rebuild Southern Sudan, work with the government of Northern Sudan (based in Khartoum), resettle refugees and those returning from living abroad. Sudan is trying to work through the many political conflicts by listening and acknowledging the humanity of every Sudanese person, attempting to reconcile one person to another.

And, they are doing it through its churches.

The churches are teaching that tribal allegiances must be way down on the list of the work that God wants them to do. Put aside horrific past hurts, and work towards bettering the lives of all Sudanese people.

Listen to each others stories, acknowledge your differences, but then pick up hammers, plows, school books, stethescopes and work towards a better future for all.

So the Episcopal Church of the Sudan has sent two priests as representatives to the Global Anglican Future Conference, that began in Amman Jordan and continues in Jerusalem.

We have been told that their purpose is to listen to the "others" stories, to call for restraint, and to remember the important work the God wants us all to be about.

AT the last Executive Council meeting of the Episcopal church, a Lambeth resolution,Resolution NAC033, was passed that says Executive Council members "rejoice in the fact that Lambeth 2008 is designed to equip the bishops for leadership in God’s mission and strengthening the Anglican Communion through discussion and conversation grounded in the reading and study of Holy Scripture, invoking the presence of the Holy Spirit in all that they undertake, and respecting the Biblical admonition that we are all one in Christ Jesus (neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free)."

So, as we countdown to the July 16-August3 Lambeth conference remember that it "represents one important way of building connections and relationships between churches in vastly different contexts, and reminding us of the varied nature of the Body of Christ." So said Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori in a June 4 letter addressed to the people of the Episcopal Church. "I would bid your prayers for openness of spirit, vulnerability of heart, and eagerness of mind, that we might all learn to see the Spirit at work in the other. I bid your prayers for a peaceful spirit, a lessening of tension, and a real willingness to work together for the good of God’s whole creation."

Drama in the Old West

Two Friday’s ago, I traveled to the Old West and it is called Omdurman.

Khartoum, the capital city of northern Sudan, reminds me of the city of Atlanta, Ga. Atlanta, during the late 1970’s and into the 1990’s, kept annexing outlying cities and making them part of the city itself. Well, Khartoum does the same thing.

The trail ride took around and hour and half, moving through Khartoum, into Omdurman and parts north.

Omdurman is very old, it is the place of the Mahdi's Romb.
However, it has grown outward as the refugees from Nuba Mountain, Ethiopia, Darfur, Juba, and other parts south and west traveled to Khartoum in the hopes of finding shelter, food, water, and safety from Sudan’s internal war and it‘s war with Ethiopia.

Here is a link to paste to see spectacular pictures of the Tomb www.pbase.com/tiggy67/image

I rode the trail not part of a wagon train pulled by horses, but in a caravan of vans.

The vans did not carry household goods and memories from home, but young adults from All Saints Cathedral Khartoum traveling to Emmanuel Church’s Youth Drama Day.

Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Tito’s church, is set in the middle of one of the “villages” that have transitioned from makeshift plastic hut housing to mud-brick homes, then to clay brick homes, in some cases. Most of the homes are one story and are surrounded by some sort of enclosure, whether it be mud or brick wall, or fence or trees.

The road to Omdurman, not anything like the Hope/Crosby movies, started as clean asphalt, to asphalt and dirt, to dirt. Lots of dirt, blowing everywhere. And, with the recent rain, some passageways were blocked by temporary lakes when we exited the main roadway.

Our group was the first to arrive and I sought out Tito. I was given a tour of the church which, upon entering, I thought I was back in the southwestern part of the United States.

The ceiling is low and there are very few windows. The church is always filled and seating, except for the Bishop’s and priests chairs, are made of dried mud and clay. Easily rebuilt when it starts to crumble. In the heat of the afternoon, I took solace in this quiet place. The paintings at the front of the nave were beautiful. In addition, it seems to be the practice here in northern Sudan to light up the cross at the front of the church with some sort of lights, twinkling or otherwise.

I do not get a chance to exit the church, since dinner is now being served. The group devours the chicken, gizzards, gravy and I eat bread, tomatoes and cucumbers and the most wonderful type of pudding. But, the room is very hot, everyone sweats and there is no escaping until the last person to sit down stands up.

People are now moving into seats and the sun is making its descent to the left of us. The stage is surround by huge rugs, like Persian, though a much lighter weight. This is the practice that I have seen all over Khartoum. They are royal red and gold colored.
I move around to take pictures of the participants, the children waiting in anticipation,
the donkeys, the man selling coal for cooking, the woman selling grasses, the watering hole, everything that will help me remember the day.

Tito does not like me sitting in the back and keeps moving me forward. He also finds one of the teacher trainees from the Episcopal Church program to translate for me. I am lucky. He normally would have been singing with the choir, but he is just back from training in Nuba Mountain. His wife is in the choir.

The choir of Emmanuel Church is beyond words. How to describe a sound that motivated individuals to move the front to dance, including a Bishop, showing their devotion to Christ. How to describe a sound so wonderful that I did not need to understand the words. A member of All Saints was recording the event, but I know it could not have done them justice.

In the book What is the What by Dave Eggers, Valentino states the “If you have not heard a Sudanese speech, I must explain that when we stand to speak, our comments are rarely brief.” That was true today.

Each priest that took the podium to introduce his group took way too long. So long, that the sun had set before the first group took the stage.

In spite of that, they were wonderful. Skits on using cell phones to fool family members, friends etc. as to where you really are, or during shopping in the markets people try to take advantage of you with high prices and inferior products. There was even a skit about Bollywood. Imagine, an African take off on a Bollywood movie.

Teach a Child Right Way
To Live While is Young
Then When He Grows Older He Will
Continue Living That Way

Welcome to Sudan.


Myself, the Stranger

I googled Keaton Meditation and I found John Keaton an artist and designer in Philadelphia. What amazing work he creates. So wonderful, that I am posting the link to his collection on CafePress.

The website address is www.cafepress.com.

I like his work, but am unable to buy anything from Sudan using a credit card. Bummer. Please visit his work. I promise you I do not know the man.

Of course, the name that I was looking for was Keating, Thomas. I was wondering if he worte anything to deal with "the stranger," though I was thinking more of meeting a stranger rather than looking inward.

I had once tried Centering Prayer, but I found that my mind wandered too much. That was before being diagnosed as bi-polar, a condition that is hereditary and passed to me by my father.

(Those of us that deal with this know that diet (here is my plug for Macrobiotics), exercise (of which I do not enough), sleep, less stress, and medication can do wonders.)

Now, though my mind streams long, I am able to quiet it down to meditate. I learned even more about meditation from The Rev.Canon Lloyd Casson, my former priest and my mentor.

So, it is no coincidence that I arrived at Thomas.

I have been wondering about how to address the spiritual part of this journey, being currently surrounded by Arabic. At All Saints Cathedral in Khartoum, there are no English Books of Common Prayer. They use leaflets for the service.

When Amy died, I wanted to say the burial prayers for her, but I could not.
Therefore, when I return to the States, I will see about contributing at least five for the use by the English speaking congregation, letting Church Publishing deal with how to get them to Khartoum.

Creating a spritual journey that involves more than traveling around and experiencing differnt forms of worship has been difficult.

So, is it possible that Thomas is my key to integrating my experiences outwardly with God inwardly? Is this my sign from God? Do I really have to be hit over the head?

Back to the stranger that started all of this.

Over the past weeks, I have been told stories about myself from individuals that I have just met and then see sometimes everyday or not.

They tell me that I am not a stranger to them. I am part of them, one of them. One told me that I was a white African.

They tell me that I understand the Sudanese people, their way of life, their struggles, their dreams and their absolute faith that God is in charge of their lives and their future.

God has humbled me.

I can only manage to keep holding their hands,listening to their stories, sometimes with my eyes welling up.

I have no mirrors in Khartoum. I cannot see myself on a daily basis.

Is God then providing me with a different mirror? A mirror that allows me to see myself in the eyes of others?

Why do I fight this reflection?

Is this the work that Thomas and I must do together in partnership with God?


In Praise of the United States

This morning, I want to sing the praises of the US Government at work.

Last night, in a last ditch effort to find a Vet for Rascal, I emailed the address for the US Embassy here in Khartoum.

Imagine, getting a reply under 10 hours from a real person with a solution.
Mr. Mohammad Masud, who works at the Embassy, had contacted a Dr. Ferris Hammam, who agreed to come to the house this morning to look at Rascal.

I phoned Dr. Hammas. four people who spoke Arabic told him how to get here and he has just left.

He will return with medicine and a muzzle in order to inject an anti-inflamatory shot. This I have got to see.

The inspection of Rascal's ear was done through a window, with Rascal and I on the other side.

Life here is surreal.

But, I also have a dinner date.

I love surprises.

Hurray for the Red, White and Blue!


An AFrican Heart - Part Two

Pleasing. A great word defined as welcome or satisfying.

My experiences in Sudan have taught me that an African heart is motivated to please.

Everyone wants to please me with drink, food, transport,conversation. This is more than being hospitable.

They want to please someone, even when they do not understand what is being said.

And, as I have learned, more than once, hearing "aye" or yes, does not mean yes.

Yesterday, I decided that my hair had gotten too long for this climate. Those of you who saw me right before I left, are thinking, probably not. But, this sun, climate, good healthy food, lots of water and rest, means otherwise.

So, I have been asking around trying to determine where I can get my hair cut in a part of the world that is not used to curly caucasian hair.

Everyone told me to go to Omdurman, but after driving there and back twice, their traffic I want to stay away from. It makes I-95 at rush hour look tame. At least with an interstate, there are lines and rules for driving. And, when you leave the interstate, there are traffic lights or stop signs at intersections, that usually work.

Galilla, one of the women that assist the staff at the Provincial office, told me that she had her "boy" that would cut my hair. Boy does not mean her son. So, Sapanna said that he had found the person who could help me.

Lo and behold, it is the young man that lives on the Cathedral property in one of the Guesthouses. I have seen him cutting all the men's hair, African mens hair. There is only one style here for men. Short. I thought, no way.

But, he told me to follow him. I did not, until I asked if he had cut my "type" of hair before. Oh, yes. Are you sure? Oh Yes. Really? Oh, yes. His smile reassured me.

So, I said OK.

Picture this, since no photographs were taken.

Judi, sitting in the shade of a tree, on a metal school house chair. My bag is on the ground next to me. A sheet, I am sure from someone's bed, is wrapped over my shoulders and around my neck.

He arrives with scissors and a comb. He has three assistants. Sapanna (who is afraid to let my head out of his sight), Jo-Jo (a three year-old little girl) and her older, but not by much, brother.

So, I review how to cut my hair. Hold the strands between your fingers and cut what remains above your fingers, about 1/2 in off.

This is where I get worried.

Sapanna is translating for him. He has not understood a word that I have said, however, he wants to help me.

The first cut, directly in front, leaves a small section, very small, 1/2 long.

Sapanna has translated incorrectly, and luckily I stopped him before too many more sections were cut 1/2 long.

Through trial and error, me cutting out the hair over one ear, he doing the other. My feeling in the back for the correct length, he doing the rest. Me cutting a small piece on top, sides etc, he the rest, we complete the haircut.

I reassure him, that with short curly hair, there is no bad haircut, though the people in my office remember the time I showed up to work in a wig, after a disaster of a haircut. This cut was OK, in fact pretty good, considering it was the first time for all four of them. Jo-Jo ended up trying to hold the mirror in place, her brother kept adjusting the sheet, and Sapanna just had to keep cutting, just for the experience of it.

In case you have forgotten, it was very hot, even in the shade, and my newly shorn hair is sticking to me everyhwere.

So, along comes water. I bend over, they pour water over my head, on my neck and down my back, my arms, they wash my face and dry me off. Actually, it felt really good.

Jo-Jo, not in an effort of pleasing, but in an attempt to feel the rexture of my hair wet, makes me sit on the ground while she plays with it. It had me remembering the times that Kathryn did the same thing when she was little.

In pleasing me, I wanted to please them.

So,I stayed on the ground and played with Jo-Jo longer than I intended and, if needed, I will get my hair cut by him again before coming home.


Who Will Buy

I have been reminded of the novel Oliver Twist, each morning from the time I awake to the time I leave for work. More specifically, of the movie musical Oliver.

The scene that comes to mind is when we hear the song Who Will Buy?

Remember, all the merchants that come out at daybreak to bring bread, flowers, coal, vegetables, anything a household would need to run properly.

And the scene, all the houses are the same, white and tall, situated around the common green. The differences are the cooks and maids that come through the bottom doors to purchase what they need.

Well, Khartoum is the same, or I should say Diem is, the name of the area that I am living. Each morning, around the square merchants arrive with carts pulled by donkeys or horses, or by Toyota pickup trucks, their flat beds open to house their products.

The announcement of what they are selling comes from bull-horns, not quite as lovely as Who Will Buy‘s melody. They announce fish, water, bread, junk they will buy, vegetables, fruit, flip flops, glassware, dishes.

The vegetable truck always parks in the center, and women in their bright colors alight from their doors and purchase what they need. I always think of a sunflower when this happens. The dark truck center and the bright colored petals.

Even the garbage men have a signal. A man with a very loud whistle, precedes the garbage truck, by about two Khartoum blocks, announcing their arrival. There is no set delivery day or time. If you are not around, you miss it. One does not set out garbage to wait for the truck. The dogs or goats will have at it and make one huge mess.

I am the only house with a garbage can. All others put it out in plastic bags. So now, even the garbage men know who I am.

That strange American woman with the barking, growling dog.


Finally, Downtown Khartoum

The other morning, rather than sit in the office and wait for Tito to come back with Nicholas, I decided to ride along. This meant getting on the major highway that goes past the airport,
continuing out towards the new International Football Stadium, new housing construction, over the railroad tracks and into what in America, we would call a modest sub-division.

This is where Nicholas lives with his 25 year-old daughter, Diana, who just arrived from Uganda to look for work. When we arrive, Nicholas is finishing his tea, so I alight with my camera.

People are people the world over. I took pictures of men sitting under trees with their coffee, boys and young men walking to school at their local mosque, the owners of the corner grocery store.
Also, the goats as well as the landscape in front of Nicholas’ house.

Later that morning, I went with Tito and Sapanna to old Khartoum. Finally, a chance to see the city and to take pictures.


The government is not too fond of tourists taking pictures of anything. Sapanna is very anxious. However, I am quick and snap pictures when traffic stops.

But, not quick enough in some cases. The presidential palace and museum that is built on land originally owned by The Episcopal Church of the Sudan, is magnificent. There is a court case pending, but seeing the property, not much chance of recovery.

The Post Office is not to be believed. It is a huge building, but you enter by a side door and stop. You must make a sharp right, crossing underneath an iron staircase, but only after you obtain permission from the guard. The pathway is about two feet wide and on the left are different sized green boxes with numbers printed in white but only in Arabic.

I get some pictures of more trees in a public park. Then on our way again, onto a major road in downtown Khartoum.

Lots of big banks and corporate offices. I see SHELL. Tito heads to the Bank of Khartoum and Sapanna and I head to buy fish. Apparently, not just any fish, but only fish cooked at this little restaurant. This is where I enter another world.

Here are the bazaars of old. Lots of small streets, lined with merchants that sell everything. Smells of hot oils, barbecued chicken, very deep fried Nile Fish, like a very thin flat flounder. Turkish, Egyptian, English coffee smells, all roasted. Everyone takes lots of sugar. The streets are sand and old red bricks. Something old has come down to build something new.

I stop to admire a beautiful old gold historic building in the middle of all these stalls. It is surrounded by a green iron fence and gates. Standing in the middle of the street, I take a picture. Sapanna tells me I will get arrested. I think not, but I cannot prove otherwise.

We leave the main walking path and make our way down an alley, right out of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves. Sapanna stops at windows, inquiring about the fish. We enter through a very short doorway and make our way through a black and white tiled hallway and floor, that has seen much better days. Small alluminum tables are placed here and there and men, only men, are eating this fish. It is served on paper, with lemon and paprika, I think. Below the tables are the cats that are eating what has been dropped from above.

Sapanna disappears and returns with three pieces of fish, a piece of round thick pocket bread, lemons, chopped onions. He wraps it up, puts it in the bag and away we go. But, not very far.

Taking a different route, I enter into another century. At least it looks that way. Smaller and darker booths, lots of food being cooked, but the merchandise is cells phones, sunglasses, etc. Sapanna stops to buy a new case for his phone and I go looking for water.

I enter one store, and a boy is arguing with an adult in front of a freezer. I look for water, seeing none, leave. But, we are all thirsty and I return. Everyone stares. I say Mouya (water) and the boy finds a bottle. I need another. The boy can say Very Good., but not much else. I leave also with a box of Kleenex, which I catch as it is thrown to me from the back of the store. Claps all around. Is my reputation preceding me?

Finally, we continue walking, and after one misstep, I now hold my skirt in up in front of me. Sapanna and I head to the Sudanese French Bank to exchange money. Yesterday, my one month renewal Visa cost me 180 pounds and that wipes out $100.

Moving through traffic toward the bank reminds me of NYC. Cars and people want the same spaces. However, here everyone jaywalks and the cars pay no attention to the limited number of stop signs or the traffic lights. If there is not a traffic cop directing traffic, it is everyone for themselves. I have decided to return one day in a Hummer.

The bank is air-conditioned. I want to stay forever, and we do sit a while downstairs waiting for Tito. Then off again returning to Arafat and the Cathedral.

As we drive back, I have my camera out taking pictures of buildings. But then, people in cars along side us see the camera and want their pictures taken.
They are all smiles. It confuses me, because they will never see the pictures.

We return and find reticent Nicholas on the computer. He has opened Quick Books and looked at the Balance Sheet and then has opened Excel. I take his picture.

They eat the fish, breakfast in Sudan.

Rain - Part Two

As I was sitting in the rain and writing about Rain, less than three miles from me a Sudan Airbus crashed at the airport killing a great number of people.

Reports conflict about whether it was due to the dust storm we were experiencing or an engine bursting into flames after safely landing. The cause will eventually be determined, but either way so many families have been affected.

Then as the rain continued, I opened my email to discover the message that my friend Amy Warder, had died after a long bout with cancer.

Yesterday the rain, thunder, and lightening masked a number of things.

The thunder and lightening masked the sounds of the plane crash.

The rain mixed in with my tears and sobs.

I remember a trip to Seattle with Amy, Oran and Jeff. We were sightseeing and Amy and Jeff had earmarked some places that we were going to visit. We saw the hotel where Twin Peaks Lodge was filmed. We saw the town where Northern Exposure was taped. And then Amy wanted to see this really old big tree deep in a forest.

In usual fashion, Amy had dressed for the occasion, wearing low heeled shoes, that matched her outfit perfectly. We had on sandals or sneakers.

We had to park the rental car at the beginning of the path to the tree and as we alighted, it started to drizzle. Three of us thought of turning back, not Amy. We were going to see this tree, what could a little rain do?

Well, we made it to the tree with Amy shoeless. Those pumps ruined.
And I have the pictures to remember the event.

The families of those that died in yesterday’s crash, they probably all thought that they would grow old together.

I thought Amy and I would be laughing ourselves silly in some nursing home, doing our best to thwart the staff, both of us hearing in the background ,Oran saying…

“Now Amy”.

Note: This writing has more to do with my journey on the river than of Sudan. But in Khartoum I am surrounded by caring new friends who keep repeating to me the Resurrection message as they pray with me and let me remember Amy, and pray also for Oran, Zach, Griffin and Wesley. But, especially Amy, who, they assure me, I will see again.



The sound of rain.

I have turned off the AC unit and the fan and am parked at the entrance of the house, sitting at the dining table listening to the rain hit the sun shielding tarp, the bricks in the courtyard, the tin roofs.

I love this sound.

I loved this sound when we were tied up at the boat dock, sleeping in the forward berth, the wind gently rocking the boat, the sound of rain. It made this same sound.

The smell of rain.

The initial smell of rain in Khartoum is sand and dirt. The huge sand storms that precede it. Sand and dirt enter every crevice it can find. In the house, the car,
you. The winds whip it around. Driving is hazardous.

In Khartoum, you do not end up with the smell of dark, deep earth. You end up with the beach, but no water.

We had stopped at a vegetable stand and it was insane, doing business with sand entering your mouth when you spoke, your eyes, your nose, and, I later discovered, my ears.

They dropped me off as the rain was beginning to fall. Rascal was glad to see me. Dropping the vegetables on the counter, I realized it was covered in sand. It was everywhere. In the bathroom, on every surface. The only places spared was where a door was shut. Lesson learned?

The look of rain as it approaches.

In Khartoum, you can tell the approach of the ran by the sand in front of the rain. It looks like yellow rain, moving across the horizon. In just two rain storms, I have recognized the advance.

I remember the first time that I saw rain advance across the plains and in Florida. I loved to sit and watch it then, and I still do now. I had never seen that in Westchester, NY.

The thunder and lightning have passed, the wind dies down and raises up, lifting the tarp and spilling the accumulated water. What is left is a steady rain, not a shower.

Why did I not pack an umbrella?

Rascal alternates between standing guard at the door entrance or lying at my feet.

I have decided that I will buy the bread in the morning.


Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori Appeal

I have just wrapped up another work day in Sudan. Under the gun, I asked the finance department to work on their off day, substituting it for Monday. They agreed.

It must be hard for you to imagine why the Presiding Bishop speaks so urgently.

I have to be honest, in Khartoum, there is never an outward sign of this urgency.

The urgency is apparent though in all conversations within the Episcopal Church in Sudan. Abyei was the major topic for these two past Sunday's services, coupled with the need to forgive and the need for donations, financial and material.

Sudan needs prayer and action, Episcopal, Lutheran presiding bishops urge in joint statement -->June 05, 2008 [Episcopal News Service]

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson have issued a joint statement calling for prayer and action for the people of Sudan following a new wave of violence in Abyei that "has threatened the resumption of widespread conflict in a nation just three years removed from decades of civil war."
Acknowledging an urgent need for humanitarian assistance "in order to assist those newly displaced from their homes who now suffer without food, clean water, or shelter," the presiding bishops are asking that donations be made to Episcopal Relief and Development or ELCA International Disaster Response (details below).

The full text of the statement follows.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts SchoriPresiding Bishop and PrimateThe Episcopal Church
The Rev. Mark S. HansonPresiding Bishop Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Over the past several weeks, we have watched with great sorrow as the new outbreak of violence in the Sudan has threatened the resumption of widespread conflict in a nation just three years removed from decades of civil war. Our sense of foreboding is heightened because the violence has come in and around Abyei, a town whose history, resources, and proximity to the border between northern and southern Sudan make it a proving-ground for the success or failure of the nation's still-young peace agreement.

At the present moment, untold numbers of people have been killed, much of Abyei has been burned to the ground, and as many as 120,000 people have been displaced from their homes. Urgent action from the international community is necessary to address the present suffering and safeguard against the resumption of widespread and de-centralized fighting across a country already destabilized by the unchecked and catastrophic war in its western Darfur region.

In the coming days, we urge all Americans to pray for peace in the Sudan and to call for strong action from the international community to restore stability in a land whose people have been entangled far too long in violence.

First, there is an urgent need for humanitarian assistance -- both through government agencies like USAID and through private giving -- in order to assist those newly displaced from their homes who now suffer without food, clean water, or shelter. (Please visit Episcopal Relief and Development or ELCA International Disaster Response linked below, to learn how you can give.)

Second, increased diplomatic pressure from the international community, including neighbor states and allies of the Sudanese government, is necessary to demand that northern Sudanese military units withdraw from Abyei immediately and allow a comprehensive international assessment of the cause and effects of the conflict.

Third, the United States and other parties to Sudan's 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement should insist on full and immediate implementation of the CPA and subsequent agreements, especially as they relate to Abyei. This includes provisions respecting clear borders, fair sharing of resources, and autonomous local governance in the South.

These steps are necessary for the remainder of the peace process to unfold as envisioned by its drafters and to avoid the pitfalls we have seen in other areas of implementation such as the current census.

Recently, each of us has had the opportunity to hear firsthand reports of the situation from Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul, the leader of Sudan's four million Episcopalians, as well as from members of a joint Episcopal-Lutheran delegation that traveled to southern Sudan last month.

We have heard stories of great hope and courage, but also of the fragility of peace and the dire humanitarian consequences a resumption of war would bring. We hope this joint statement may raise awareness of the crisis, and urge Episcopalians and Lutherans to send a copy of it to their elected officials.

In these difficult days, we pray that God, whose blessed Son "came to preach peace to those who are far off and those who are near," would grant wisdom and strength to our brothers and sisters in Sudan, as well as inspiration and purpose to all who watch from a distance and wish to help by heart, hand, or voice.

To make a donation to Episcopal Relief and Development's "Sudan Fund," visit us online at www.er-d.org, or call 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to: Episcopal Relief and Development "Sudan Fund" P.O. Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058.
Gifts to ELCA International Disaster Response, designated for "Sudan Crisis" will be used in full -- 100% -- for this ongoing disaster response. Gifts may be directed through ELCA congregations, on-line at www.elca.org/giving or mailed to ELCA Disaster Response, PO Box 71764, Chicago IL 60694-1764.


Dust and Rain in the Park

Take a moment to visualize your Monopoly game board, then completely fill the center with dirt.

Loose dirt.

Around the outside of the center, you can add all the short green, or are they red, one story houses you want, but make them the color of dirt.

Pale, loose dirt.

Take away the electric and water companies. They do no work and their owners have now been imprisioned.

You can keep one railroad.

I would imagine there are lots of jails, without the benefit of Get Out of Jail Free cards.

Last night, I concocted a sort of lazyboy chair in the front courtyard to watch the closest soccer game and to stay out in the cooler air.

Quite a breeze was blowing, a very dry breeze.

All of a sudden, the breeze picked up all the loose dirt on the fields and blew it in every which way. I could not see the players in the center of the field. Plastic bags were flying everywhere and you could hear children yelling.

Just as soon as it came it left, but the air had changed. Less dry, but definitely not humid.

I am assisting my neighbors in attaining information about their request for permission to live in Australia. In completing the form, they had electricity, I heard rain.

When you have not heard rain in a very ong time, you can recognize the sound of one drop.

Into their open space I went to await more drops.

I learned that when the rains come in July, it is not always welcomed.

After two or three days, the water is stagnant and cannot move off of low places, like the soccer fields. The air begins to smell. No drainage. This happens all over Khartoum.

I will be in Juba.

Returning to the chair, the game now over, no electricity, I can hear children playing in the dark. Similar, I would suppose to Hide n Seek. Lots of squeeling.

Conversations in the dark, moving as the speakers walk through the fields. Little fires appear, even though it is hot. A source of light. Dogs barking.

The cats come out at night in Khartoum. And Rascal can see or smell them all. They stand next to the fence and taunt her. She barks and growls, disturbing the silence.

As I look out over the square, there are florescent green lights that appear above the darken houses.

Mosques. Lots of them. On this board, they have replaced the high spired churches, their crosses illumined by night lighting.

Then, it rains, or showers.

I sit, my body relaxing, and my face smiling. In the dark.

God is Good.




A word that means Empty or Vacant.

Something that once occupied space no longer does.

A Vacuum

The earth does not like empty places. Water or air rushes in to fill up empty places.

People build houses on empty lots. The homeless move into vacant buildings.

A relationship ends, look for one to replace it. The feeling of emptiness should not last too long.

This past week, I have witnessed the passing of two individuals, strangers.

The first was a Muslim woman who lived across the soccer field from me.

One morning, I came into the front courtyard and off to the left were two three-sided tents filled with chairs.

Of course, I knocked on the neighbor’s door to ask who was having a party.

This was not a party, but two prayer tents, used to pay respect to the person that passed and to their family.

One for men, one for women. The prayer tents remain for up to three days.

In Sudan regardless of your religion, all bodies are removed from the house immediately and buried. There is no cremation. The heat does not allow for traditions found in the US.

Cars, trucks, taxies, rickshaws came and went at all hours.

Then, just as quickly as the tents appeared, they were gone.

Tito‘s great-aunt passed away last week as well. In her sleep during the night.

In this case, the prayer service was Episcopal and presided over by the Bishop of Khartoum. The service was held on the third day after her passing.

I had wanted to attend, but Tito is my driver and obviously was previously engaged.
I have been wondering how each family deals with the fact that their world now contains a void

What or who will rush in to fill the space?

What if we do not want the space filled? Can we somehow keep it empty?

What if we had never imagined that there might be a void? An empty space? A world without him ……. or her?

What if we knew the void was coming? How do you prepare?

I have made the acquaintance of a teacher here in Sudan, who is heading home to see to her mother, who is in her 90’s.

I remarked that I wanted to stick around that long as well, given that my mother had died at 65.
She, on the other hand, wanted to go at 65. She knew a better life was waiting for her after death, so why wait?

I have to admit, that took me back a little.

Why wait?

Kathryn, my sister and brother and their families, my friends, possible weddings and
grandchildren and great nieces or nephews.

Travel, reading, writing, gardening, chocolate.

The Rev. Jim Lewis once told me that the sign of a person who thought they would live forever, is the reader who keeps picking up new books to read, never quite finishing the last one, knowing they would have the time to come back and do so.

As I looked at his den, I realized that it looked like mine.

Of course, I think gardeners are the same. Always planning for new gardens each spring, in the
middle of winter.

Or a traveler, that plans for the next big cruise or trip, a year out.

Why wait?

Why not?


Haunted House

Last night, my electricity went off around midnight.

That meant, the fans and the AC and the water were now gone. I had just had water return to the house after three days of using what I had accumulated.

I was not happy. Remember, it is hot in Sudan.

So, I opened the doors and the windows, hoping for a little relief. There was very little relief.

This morning, I commented to Samy that all the food in the refrigerator needed to be eaten by the three of them, while I was at work. He asked why?

It then hit me, I was the only one without electricity.

Once again, my workday starts with a utility crisis. Welcome to Sudan.

Actually, it is a little stranger.

It seems, that when I leave the house, the problems are repaired or fix themselves and when I return, they reappear.

That happened tonight.

During the day, Samy called to tell me that he had found the problem with the electricity and that Arreyha was going to change the water pump switch. The electric company had said that the problem was not caused by them, it was inside the house.

Great cheers all around. The housekeeper cleaned, the cook cooked. Water a plenty and AC as well.

Then, I walked through the gate, and headed to take a shower. Electricity went off.

I headed to Samy and he came back over. The landlord called. Samy told him what happened.

The landlord and a friend and Rasheed arrived.

I then witnessed the Sudan version of watching a group of men stand around a problem, discuss it, try something else, discuss it. This went on for hours.

I kept interrupting to ask what was being said. My explaination, in pantomime, that the cutoff value for the full tank was not working by acting out a waterfall, ranked up there with explaining that the lightbulb on the post was "dead".

By the end of the evening, the fuse switch had been replaced, paid by landlord, the light blub at the front of the house, replaced and the water tank had been fully drained, paid by me.

This is the watertank. Rasheed, the electrician, climbed to the top, unscrewed the top and checked the water level.

Notice that I said electrician. This was not in his job description. But up he went.

What he found was about three inches of brown silt in the bottom of the tank. This was causing major problems in bringing water into the house. In addition, he repaired the overflow device.

When he was done, I had electicity, but no water. The whole "Bem" area was without water.

So, still no shower. Welcome to Sudan. It is what it is.

I have discovered that the Sudanese people are some of the friendliest on the planet. And, if you are not afraid to laugh at your own limitations, they will take you into their hearts.

Tonight, I thank God for Samy and Rasheed. True angels.

Wait, I hear the water runny. Excuse me for heading to the shower.