Sunday, July 27, 2008

On the Road Again

As much as Mvolo has embodied slow summer days and lazy afternoons, it's now all coming to an end relatively abruptly. I got an email on Saturday from our Country Director asking me to present the research methods and findings from our survey at the upcoming Juba Health Forum. The Forum is on the 31st of July. This means that I have to fly out of Rumbek on the 29th because the 30th is a national holiday (the 3rd Anniversary of John Garang's death). We currently have an electrician from Rumbek visiting who needs to return on Monday, which means I'm leaving tomorrow! After spending time counting down to countdowns and doing some waffling in my love/hate relationship with Mvolo, now I won't even have time to say good bye to many of the people I've gotten to know here, which feels like such a shame.

Given that I have about 2.5 weeks left in South Sudan total, I wonder where I would prefer to spend them, in Mvolo or Juba. It seems like every upside of one place is a downside of the other. For instance:

Plumbing - Mvolo doesn't have any.
Juba has indoor plumbing, but the water that pours over you in the shower is straight out of the Nile (into which our indoor plumbing empties itself).
Winner? While I'm not a fan of latrines I think I'll take a bucketbath with clean water over a shower with who knows what in it any day.

Food - Mvolo's food is basic, beans, greens and rice for lunch and dinner every day. Very little variety and if I eat out it just means a different kind of beans. But breakfast is usually yummy with something fresh baked. Plus there's oatmeal!
Juba - Much more variety, equally greasy but yummy food at the guest house. There are places to go out and get other food which is exciting. But it also means I'd be spending money which I never do in Mvolo.
Winner? I think it's a toss up. If it were forever I'd vote for the food in Juba, but I've been eating rice, beans and greens twice a day for two months, two more weeks wouldn't kill me.

Living - Mvolo is serene, it's cooler and it's quiet and it's beautiful. I love the birds and the lizards and being able to run or walk in a straight line for as far as I want. The sunsets are amazing and the air is so much cleaner than my ny apartment right near the George Washington Bridge. I am, however, covered in bug bites. I don't know if I've ever had this many. It's also very isolated here, even with all the internet chatting and my colleagues around, I still feel it. And the mouse that keeps me up at night is getting on my last nerve. There is nothing he won't chew and nothing that makes noise and rustles that he won't sift through at night. grrr.
Juba is hot. Really hot. And dusty and dirty. Instead of chickens and goats you have sick dogs and burning trash. But then again there are people, lots of people. And there aren't bugs in the bedrooms. Running is more of a challenge but still doable.
Winner? I think it's going to be Juba. I think long term I would pick Juba. But in the interests of not having culture shock when I meet Doug in Dubai or when I make it home to Washington Heights, I figure spending the next 10 days getting my sanity back and seeing friends in Juba sounds like a pretty good plan. Because after all, although I've been working 50 hour weeks for nothing, I'm technically on vacation :)

I think I could play this game with just about anywhere. There are always benefits and drawbacks of everywhere and I think these past couple months in incredibly rural Mvolo will help me make it through another year in New York City. More updates to come from Rumbek and beyond.

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