Monday, June 9, 2008

Eating Beans with my Fingers

At the midway point of the 8 hour drive from Juba to Mvolo yesterday, we stopped to switch vehicles and to have something to eat. Two bowls were set in front of me, one with ugali (a lot like white polenta) and one bowl of soupy beans. I'm used to Ethiopian food where you have injera to help you pick up the different dishes, but eating beans with just my fingers was much more difficult. As I got started I looked around and tried to mimic everyone's method of scooping the gooey food, then sliding it into your mouth and licking your fingers. The whole experience mirrored my impression of Sudan thus far, a little more difficult than usual, slightly nonsensical and new to me, but generally fun if nothing else!

I am now in Mvolo and will be here through August, except for a possible side trip to Ethiopia for a bit of training. Our compound is about 9 miles outside Mvolo town, and so I haven't been there yet, but apparently there isn't much to see, much less buy. The compound is huge compared to the Juba compound, with two guest houses and several tents to stay in, a big office building and chickens running everywhere. My room is home to lizards and moths and apparently the occasional scorpion and mouse. The generator runs in 4 hour spurts throughout the day which makes an early morning bucket bath that much more difficult because it's in the dark, but also makes sure you never show up to work early!

When the full staff is here (including drivers, cooks and cleaners) I think there are probably about 12 people, but much of the program staff is always on the road, so it's down to about 6 of us at the moment. I am working on the School Health and Nutrition program, and am trying to get a huge baseline survey going, which is pretty difficult since the program manager is in Yambio at a donor meeting. Tomorrow I will be going into town to meet with the local officials as well as to see the schools and meet the teachers and the health center I will be working with.

I am one of two Americans here, and most of the staff speaks basic English, but I speak almost no Juba Arabic, which means the conversation is halting and slow so far. That being said emails from home are definitely appreciated and I will do my best to keep this blog updated in case anyone is interested in what I'm up to! Pictures will be coming along shortly, but after a bit of a snag in Juba, I'll only be able to post pictures of Nairobi and of Mvolo. Happy Summer!


  1. Hi Katie,
    Sounds like a good start to your summer. Why is it so expensive in Juba? You'll have to teach me some new words in new languages.
    be well

  2. Why is it so expensive in Juba... I guess the answer would be that there are so many NGOs here, who have money, so prices have gone through the roof. Plus almost nothing is grown or made in Sudan, it all comes from Kenya or Uganda or Ethiopia, so the cost of getting it into South Sudan, etc etc leaves everything very expensive!