Saturday, May 5, 2007

Standards of living

My friend recently called me “about the bravest girl on the planet”, (Thanks Christian!) because I’m living in a place which has one of the lowest standards of living in Sudan, (and Sudan standards are pretty low to begin with). It got me thinking that many people at home may be wondering what my standard of living is like working for an NGO in Sudan.

The place I live is beside a river (which is usually dry, until it rains) so it’s really green and full of trees. It’s actually quite beautiful and peaceful here. The stars at night are incredible! You can never imagine the sky could look like that until you are out in the middle of nowhere with no electricity for miles. (This is something that everyone should experience sometime in their lives.)

The best thing in our compound is our puppy!! It took a while for some Sudanese to get used to having a dog as a pet, but after a while he’s become like part of the family. Aside from our puppy and the goats and chickens that run around before they become dinner, there are birds, frogs, snakes, and sometimes monkeys on our compound. There are also bugs everywhere! Sometimes termite swarms will come through after the rains, we have a huge termite mound on our compound which we are trying to get rid of. There are lots of mosquitoes now since the rains began and there are always huge spiders, crickets and beetles. I’m slowly getting over my unreasonable fear of crickets- mostly because I have no choice but to live with them. (It’s been kind of like shock therapy)

When I took leave in Nairobi I was told that the only important questions about my life in Sudan were: 1. where do you sleep? 2. Where do you go to the bathroom? 3. And what do you eat? :) So on to the important things...

- Where do I sleep?
Living in the compound is sort of like camping all the time. There are a mixture of tents and permanent huts. (I live in one of the permanent huts/ Tukuls). The place is as basic as you can imagine- a bed, desk, and bookshelf and not much else. We have a staff of about 20 people that cook for us, clean for us, do our laundry, and fill our showers with water. We also have guards 24 hours. I go to bed and it’s about 92 degrees, and I get up in the morning to high eighties on a good day. No air conditioning, no fan.

- Where do I go to the bathroom?

The toilet is basically a hole in the ground. Those of you who have never tried it all it takes is good aim and some getting used to... There is no running water. Our water is collected from the borehole every morning by our water staff and put on top of our shower area so that we can have running showers, which are always cold. (which is really all you ever need in this heat)

- What do I eat?
The meals are boiled goat, fried goat, goat stew, goat with potatoes, goat with rice, goat with pasta, goat with Ugali (tasteless cornflour paste), and then every once in a while some beef. Not exactly the place for someone who is a vegetarian and someone who lives for good food … Although, don’t expect me to come home looking emaciated. If anything I think I will get fatter (I know those who know me don’t think this is possible, but I may yet prove you wrong…) All I can eat as a vegetarian is carbohydrates and lots of them. And the Sudanese love their oil on food which doesn’t help.

NGO compounds like ours are usually the nicest places in town, (so you can imagine how local people live.) But living in these basic surroundings makes you realize how little you actually need to survive and be relatively comfortable. It makes the excesses of the West seem so much greater when having so much stuff would really just be a burden here. I’m learning to really appreciate this simple life. I’m already realizing that going home will be such a culture shock!


elisa (Italy) said...
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Ishtar said...

Lol, I see that "Elisa" has visited you as well! It took me two visits before I realised that she was spamming!

Anyway, I can certainly relate to people wondering how one lives - when you say you live in Africa, they can never quite figure out whether it's in a mansion or a little hut somewhere in the sand dunes...

Cute dog!