Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mangos and Other Happy Thoughts

In these dark and difficult times in the world, finding joy in the simple things in life is particularly important. So I will share with you some random thoughts.

Mangos: Mango season has begun. For those of you who have never happened to visit the tropics during mango season, you might say, “so what”, but for those of you who have ever tasted a mushy stringy mango freshly fallen from the tree… well, you know! I keep being presented with bags of mangos, and I have decided that this is a sign of friendship. I live in a duplex with the Archbishop and his wife Mama Deborah, and several members of the provincial staff. The Archbishop and Mama Deborah, and several of my housemates are gone traveling this week, and so those remaining are particularly concerned with my wellbeing (which is good since I still haven’t learned how to light a cooking fire). Before the group left, I was presented with a bag of mangos, and though I am not quite halfway through, yesterday evening, another bag showed up in the living room! I have always been a hoarder, but this is a plethora of mangos, which I can eat with wild abandon.

One of my housemates, and I were discussing just last evening, whose teeth were better suited for mango eating. We disagreed. He said mine were closer together (I say crammed together) and therefore better for scraping the last bit of mango away from the seed. And I said his, because the mango strings didn’t get stuck in his teeth as much. As for me, my dentist has finally gotten his wish, I floss several times a day. But I still have bits of mango string stuck in there. It is worth it. The mango season is longer in Sudan, because the well-watered mangos along the Nile start producing early. So we have almost 4 months of sticky, slimy, sweet, delicious, jucy, messy, goopy, amazingness! With flossing afterward for some of us.

Water bottle woes: At home in the states, I am practically militant about drinking tap water, and not buying water bottles. In Sudan I buy an average of 4 per day. And here, coming face to face we have two environmental dilemmas: Do I use coal to boil my own water, or do I buy bottled water… Well I’ve already answered that for the time being, because I just can’t get the coal to light. But the silver lining is that I’m finding all kinds of uses for the water bottles. I am cutting the tops and bottoms to make pots for seedlings, and planting a whole bottle with a hole in the bottom next to a tree seedling for drip irrigation. A water bottle can also make a cup and funnel if you cut the top off, but there are only so many cups and funnels one needs. Any other ideas? Juba is nearly surrounded by a mile swath of water bottles, plastic bags, and soda cans. I dream of recycling plants!

Language learning: There are at least 300 languages spoken in Sudan. Arabic being the most universal, English being the semi-universal language of the well educated in the south, and then hundreds of tribal languages. Now for a girl who found Spanish to be ten times harder than Calculus, this is daunting. My Arabic is deplorable. It consists of only the most necessary words: a greeting, thank you, water, and mango. I am making an effort, and as of today, resolved to do better. I am furthest ahead in Dinka, because one of the bishops spent several hours tutoring me, and then quizzes me whenever he sees me. My goal is to learn the phrase “I greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” in as many languages as possible. This is the appropriate way to greet a group of Christians, and everywhere a visitor goes, they are expected to greet the people with a speech. So far I have mastered it in Dinka, Bari, and Acholi, which has made me very popular in certain places. The most necessary phrases after that are “thank you” a greeting, “my name is” and “I am not married”. I can also say “I teach the church people agriculture” in Dinka.

This is my job: So in the last month I attended the bishops and spouses retreat (though I am neither a bishop nor a spouse). I’ve been to England for a meeting at Lambeth palace. I’ve finished my diocesan agriculture profiles for all 25 dioceses, and the overall planning and visioning report for the ECS Agriculture Department. I’ve met with a chief, landlords, and a county commissioner, and I’ve started the budgeting process for the department. Wow, it has been a busy month! And only 5 days of it spent in an office. As Buck Blanchard would say “I love my job”. (sorry you have to be in-the-know for that one). But the point is, I love my job!

May you be overwhelmed by abundance in the world around you, may your mangos always be ripe, and may you bubble over with the joy of God!


Fritz said...

Salaam aleichem, shukran, moyer, ... but mango? I never learned the word for that. I wonder if you'll hear mumkin, in'sh Allah as often as I did living and working mostly in the North.

Breed a line of goats that eat plastic bottles and bags and you'll deserve a Nobel Prize.

You're a natural at what you're doing, Robin. Be well (i.e., stick to that bottled water until and unless you find a safe well. God bless you and your work. Fritz

Audrey said...

I can teach you more arabic when I get there. Don't even worry.