Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Where is Lokoja, Nigeria?

Today the church celebrates the Birth of John the Baptist, whom the Moslems call Yahyah, and who has a much-visited tomb in the Ummayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria. The church also prays today for the diocese of Lokoja, Nigeria, which is just south of Abuja, from where 300 girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram, people who believe girls should not be educated. Most of those girls are still missing. Three hundred girls . . . Lokoja . . . John the Baptist . . . Syria . . . so much need for prayer. . . The reading is from Forward Day by Day.

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TUESDAY, June 24 The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Isaiah 40:11. He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.

So much of our scripture is violent and distressing, yet there are many passages like this, full of comfort and assurance that the trouble is over. Others might look at it and say, “Your God is violent and terrible, and the reassurances are flat and silly.”

Maybe that’s true. I tend to look at them more as descriptions of how we experience our lives rather than declarations of God’s nature. Our lives are difficult and often catastrophic—earthquakes, malaria, civil wars, and dangerous militias, to name only a few issues—and our lack of control means we blame God for it. But I don’t think God acts that way. And in the face of catastrophe, we say meaningless things: “Everything happens for a reason.” That’s no comfort at all.

Isaiah speaks peace to his people, trying his hardest to take their pain seriously and to offer the truth that everything will be okay in the end. When it’s not okay, it’s not yet the end. That “okayness” might be justice here or it might be eternal life, but this present trouble is not the end of the story.

PRAY for the Diocese of Doko (Lokoja, Nigeria)

Today the Church remembers The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist.

Ps 85 or 85:7-13; Isaiah 40:1-11; Acts 13:14b-26; Luke 1:57-80

June 24, 2014 Posted by | Africa, Cultural, Faith, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Lectionary Readings, Nigeria, Spiritual, Survival, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

Return to Islam, or You’re Dead, Sudanese Woman Told

From the Kuwait Times:

Sudanese woman may face death for choosing Christianity over Islam

KHARTOUM: A Sudanese court gave a 27- year-old woman until today to abandon her newly adopted Christian faith and return to Islam or face a death sentence, judicial sources said on Monday. Mariam Yahya Ibrahim was charged with apostasy as well as adultery for marrying a Christian man, something prohibited for Muslim women to do and which makes the marriage void. The final ruling will be announced today.

Ibrahim’s case was the first of its kind to be heard in Sudan. Young Sudanese university students have mounted a series of protests near Khartoum University in recent weeks asking for an end to human rights abuses, more freedoms and better social and economic conditions.

The authorities decided on Sunday to close the university indefinitely. Western embassies and Sudanese activists sharply condemned the accusations and called on the Sudanese Islamist-led government to respect freedom of faith. “The details of this case expose the regime’s blatant interference in the personal life of Sudanese citizens,” Sudan Change Now Movement, a youth group, said in a statement.

President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir’s government is facing a huge economic and political challenge after the 2011 secession of South Sudan, which was Sudan’s main source of oil. A decision by Bashir last year to cut subsidies and impose austerity measures prompted violent protests in which dozens were killed and hundreds were injured. — Reuters

May 14, 2014 Posted by | Africa, Community, Faith, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Marriage, Political Issues, Sudan, Values, Women's Issues | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Heroes At The Dinner Table

“That’s Jollaf rice!” the Nigerian journalist  said, a note of delight in her voice. She is famous for her passion and persistence drawing attention to the environmental issues in the Niger delta related to oil extraction and production. I told her that here in the Gulf, it’s called Jambalaya, but we all agreed that it very likely had African roots. She delighted my heart; she had three helpings.

When we have visitors from foreign countries, I try to serve foods they can identify – grilled vegetables, a chicken dish, several salads, a dessert. This time, because we had no Moslems, we used a real Cajun sausage in the jambalaya (pork), and jumbo shrimp.

The award-winning Finnish environmentalist has his own online website and a goal of planting 100 million trees by 1017. He is well on his way, visiting and planting trees in new countries every week. He also has his own band and has a CD out with Finnish music.

 

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Our South African guest manages a large rhino reserve, protecting the rhinos from those who would kill them for their horns, thinking it renews sexual energy. Poor rhinos! He was quiet, but an acute observer, and the highlight of the evening was as he sang the haunting South African national anthem, Nkosi Sikelel’, with the Finnish guest. They did not sing all 11 verses (!) in all the different languages; just one verse, it was very moving:

 

Our own sweet environmentalist was with us. We think our son and his wife are super heroes; they fight for justice and a clean environment. This evening, our son stayed at home with the grandchildren and his wife, who works with clean water, was able to join and talk shop over dinner with her counterparts from other parts of the world.

 

It isn’t so easy anymore to get these dinners on the table, off the table, dessert served, etc. I used to be able to do these easily, for more than 20 people, but I also had help, LOL! But these dinners give us so much joy that I can’t imagine giving them up any time soon.

April 29, 2014 Posted by | Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Character, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Entertainment, Environment, ExPat Life, Food, Friends & Friendship, Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, Nigeria, Pensacola, Social Issues, Values, Work Related Issues | , | Leave a comment

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Americanah

americanah

 

“Ouch! Ouch, Chimanda! Stop!”

(Oh wait.)

Don’t stop.

 

It’s me who can’t stop. I read everything Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes. I only started reading her by accident, when I was facilitating the Kuwait Book Club I never intended to belong to, and found myself reading so many books by authors I had never heard of. We were reading Half Of a Yellow Sun  and all of a sudden, I WAS Nigerian. She can do that. She uses the senses, she uses the thoughts in our head. We are really not so alien, us and the Nigerians I start to think. I have Nigerian friends, from the church. We all get along. We have a good time together.

“Not so fast!” Chimamanda tells me in Americanah, her newest book, which I put off buying until I could find it in paperback. “You are very different! You think differently! And growing up in a country where there are black and white, race becomes an issue that it is not when you are black, and everyone is black, and you are growing up in Nigeria.”

Hmmm. OK. That makes sense. I mean, I thought I was Nigerian because in Half of a Yellow Sun, I was Igbo, living in an academic community in Nigeria, and hmmmm. You’re right, Chimamanda, there were no white people around. Just us Nigerians.

Chimamanda, with her sharp, all-seeing eyes, her sharp ears and her sharp tongue make me cringe as she comes to the USA and comes up against assumptions many have about Africa. Do you even know where, exactly, Nigeria is? Do you know where Ghana is? Most Americans can find Egypt on a map of Africa, and MAYBE South Africa, but the rest is  . . . mostly guesswork. Because we send clothing and food aid to African countries, we have the idea that all Africans are poor, but that is not so, and is insulting to the middle-class and upper class Africans who travel elsewhere for leisure – and education.

I don’t know how much of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book is autobiographical and how much is fiction. I know that her observations are acute, she nails expat friendships, she spotlights our blind spots and hypocricies, and she holds you in her grip because she is no less harsh with herself – if, indeed, her Ifemelu, the main character in Americanah, is reflecting Chimamanda’s own experience. The experiences, coming here, the overwhelming differences in manners and customs, even volume of voice and width of hand expression, are so immediate, so compelling, so well described that they have to have been experiences she herself had, and had the eyes to see. She must have taken notes, because she totally nails the expat experience.

Book ads and book reviews focus on Americanah as a book about being black in America, and it truly is that – as seen from the eyes of a non-American black, as she often reminds us.

She is hard on herself, returning to Nigeria, and quick to note that much of the change is in herself and her changed perspective. While I love the romantic storyline, I was disappointed by the fantasy ending, given how self-disciplined Adichie is at keeping it real in every other facet of the novel. On the other hand, I am still trying to think of an ending that would work for me, and I can’t. While her ending wraps it all up neatly, it’s the one part of the book where her sharpness dulls.

One of the things I liked best about the book was going behind the scenes, being Nigerian, going to school, having coffee, working, going to parties with other Nigerians, chatting with my girlfriends. We’ve done things with nationals of different countries before, but you know as soon as you walk in that your presence changes things. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie takes me with her and no one knows I am there, observing, learning, figuring out how things are done when it’s “just us” Nigerians.

Here’s why I am a Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie addict. She keeps it real. She has eyes that see, and ears that hear, and a gift for capturing what she sees and hears and a gift for writing it down. She has insight, into herself, into others, into character and motivations. She is sophisticated and unpretentious, she admires and she mocks, but when she mocks, it is as likely to be self-mockery as mockery of another person, class, ethnicity or nation. Reading Adichie, I understand our similarities – and our differences. I believe she would be a prickly friend to have, but I would chose her as a friend.

Awards

● Winner of the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction
● One of The New York Times’s Ten Best Books of the Year
● Winner of the The Chicago Tribune 2013 Heartland Prize for Fiction
● An NPR “Great Reads” Book, a Washington Post Notable Book, a Seattle
Times Best Book, an Entertainment Weekly Top Fiction Book, a Newsday Top 10 Book, and a Goodreads Best of the Year pick.

 

 

April 17, 2014 Posted by | Africa, Beauty, Books, Character, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Fiction, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Nigeria, Political Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | , , | 4 Comments

Where is Rwanda and How Do They Celebrate a Genocide Anniversary?

Today the church prays for the diocese of Byumba, in Rwanda. There is Rwanda, below, right in the heart of Africa, nestled between the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi.

 

 

Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 8.09.26 AMRwanda was in the news this last week for something very special. Most of our western news stations gave it zero coverage, but you could catch a glimpse online. This, from the Christian Science Monitor: on an amazing event just twenty years after one of the worst genocides in my memory. To me, it is wonderful and inspiring that they forgive one another and love one another to live in peace with one another. It gives me hope for our world.

The Monitor’s View

What to celebrate in Rwanda’s genocide anniversary

The 20th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide should focus as much on how the African nation worked toward reconciliation through forgiveness as on the mass slaughter itself.

 

This month, Rwanda marks the 20th anniversary of an event that its name is most associated with – the 1994 mass slaughter of the Tutsi minority and many in the majority Hutu. Over 100 days starting April 7, more than 800,000 people were killed, many by neighbors incited to ethnic hatred by a political elite. It is a genocide often cited since then to justify military intervention in similar ongoing atrocities.

This type of reparative justice in an intimate setting could prove useful in countries that will need post-conflict healing, such as Syria, Colombia, andMyanmar (Burma). It might also help prevent a cycle of revenge and retribution in those countries, as it has in Rwanda.

Most of Rwanda’s main perpetrators in the genocide have been tried in regular courts, either in Rwanda, Europe,, or the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, set up by the United Nations. But for hundreds of thousands of others who were charged with killing, the Rwandan criminal-justice system was too weak and its jails too full. Legal trials would have taken decades. The country had to fall back on a form of community-based traditional justice known asgacaca.

Other post-conflict countries in transition, notably South Africa, have relied on a similar process with their truth-and-reconciliation commissions. But the bodies have usually been more formal and national in scope. Rwanda’s gacaca are far more personal, designed to achieve the end result of allowing people who knew each other to resume living in the same community. They also bring together an entire village to witness a confession, attest to its sincerity, encourage forgiveness by the victim, and agree on some reparation, such as helping till a victim’s fields for a time.

It hasn’t worked in every case. Many Tutsis who killed Hutus have not been tried. Many victims could not bear the trauma of hearing how their loved ones had died. And many Hutus disappeared or were able to hide from the truth.

The government under President Paul Kagame, despite its drift toward authoritarian rule, has encouraged the process by outlawing formal use of ethnic identities. “The divisionism of before is gone. All of us now have equal access to opportunities,” a young Rwandan told The Christian Science Monitor.

The gacaca rely on the guilty to listen to the stories of their victims with empathy, admit their acts with repentance, and rethink their self-identity within the community. For the victims who forgive, the process can lift feelings of rage and bitterness. Much of the justice lies in the restoration of relationships as much as in material reparations.

Rwanda is not yet a “post-ethnic” African nation. But the possibility of a future political class inciting Hutus and Tutsis to take up violence now seems slim. More Rwandans have a higher sense of identity.

As the world helps Rwanda mark the 1994 genocide, it should also spread the lessons of this post-genocide reconciliation. Dispute resolution is a common technique in every society, whether in families or courts. But when almost every village in an entire nation goes through it, the lesson is worth repeating elsewhere.

 

April 11, 2014 Posted by | Africa, Charity, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Cultural, Events, Faith, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Values | , | Leave a comment

Ladysmith Black Mombazo Live in Niceville

My co-Mother-in-Law leaned over and said “I don’t think they could have done this twenty-five years ago.”

I think she’s right. Northwest Florida is still one of the most conservative societies in America, and yet, in spite of all probabilities, we are in the Mattie Kelly Cultural Center, in Niceville, Florida, surrounded by a HUGE and enthusiastic audience, all of whom have shelled out big bucks to hear this talented group out of South Africa.

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As soon as we saw the initial ads, AdventureMan marked his calendar, so we could call the very first day tickets were available. I don’t really believe in bucket lists, but I do believe in grabbing an opportunity when it presents itself; we have loved the sounds of Ladysmith Black Mombazo forever.

Last night was a thrill. I was astonished at how wildly enthusiastic the audience was; it was a mix of all walks of the population, academics, retired folk, groups of school children, and . . . fans. Wildly enthusiastic fans. A group knows when it is treasured, and it feeds on the positive response. Ladysmith Black Mombazo thrilled our hearts.

Here is one of my favorites, expecially the introduction:

March 22, 2014 Posted by | Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Music | , | Leave a comment

MERS Virus Found to be Widespread

Thank you, John Mueller, for this fascinating article from Science NOW:

Middle Eastern Virus More Widespread Than Thought

28 February 2014 12:45 pm

 

Trail of infection. Scientists have found MERS virus in camels from Sudan and Ethiopia, suggesting the virus is more widespread than previously thought.Bernard Gagnon/Wikimedia CommonsTrail of infection. Scientists have found MERS virus in camels from Sudan and Ethiopia, suggesting the virus is more widespread than previously thought.

It’s called Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, after the region where almost all the patients have been reported. But the name may turn out to be a misnomer. A new study has found the virus in camels from Sudan and Ethiopia, suggesting that Africa, too, harbors the pathogen. That means MERS may sicken more humans than previously thought—and perhaps be more likely to trigger a pandemic.

MERS has sickened 183 people and killed 80, most of them in Saudi Arabia. A couple of cases have occurred in countries outside the region, such as France and the United Kingdom, but those clusters all started with a patient who had traveled to the Middle East before falling ill.

Scientists have uncovered more and more evidence implicating camels in the spread of the disease. They found that a large percentage of camels in the Middle East have antibodies against MERS in their blood, while other animals, such as goats and sheep, do not. Researchers have also isolated MERS virus RNA from nose swabs of camels in Qatar, and earlier this week, they showed that the virus has circulated in Saudi Arabian camels for at least 2 decades.

Malik Peiris, an infectious disease researcher at the University of Hong Kong, and colleagues expanded the search to Africa. In a paper published last year, they showed that camels in Egypt carried antibodies against MERS. For the new study, they took samples from four abattoirs around Egypt; again they found antibodies against MERS in the blood of 48 out of 52 camels they tested. But the most interesting results came from taking nose swabs from 110 camels: They found MERS RNA in four animals that had been shipped in from Sudan and Ethiopia.

Peiris cautions that it is unclear whether the infected camels picked up the virus in Sudan and Ethiopia or on their final journey in Egypt. Abattoirs could help spread MERS just like live poultry markets do for influenza, he says. “You cannot point the finger exactly at where those viruses came from,” he says. “But I would be very surprised if you do not find the virus in large parts of Africa.”

If so, that changes the picture of MERS considerably. No human MERS cases have been reported from Egypt or anywhere else in Africa, but if camels are infected, they may well occur, says Marion Koopmans, an infectious disease researcher at Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. “It would be important to look systematically into that,” she writes in an e-mail. “Health authorities really need to test patients with severe pneumonia all across Africa for MERS,” Peiris says.

The researchers were able to sequence the virus of one of the camels almost completely, and it is more than 99% identical with viruses found in people. “I would be very surprised if this virus cannot infect humans,” says Christian Drosten, a virologist at the University of Bonn in Germany. But the virus also shows a few intriguing differences from known camel samples, he says. “We have to analyze this carefully in the next few days, but it looks like this sequence broadens the viral repertoire found in camels,” he says. If the viruses found in camels show more genetic variation than those isolated from humans, that is further strong evidence that camels are infecting humans and not the other way around.

Anthony Mounts, the point person for MERS at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, says that it is very likely that human MERS cases occur in Africa. “Wherever we find [infected] camels, there is a good chance we’ll find [human] cases if we look closely,” he says. And humans may be exposed to camels in Africa much more often than in the Middle East: There were about 260,000 camels in Saudi Arabia in 2012, but almost a million in Ethiopia and 4.8 million in Sudan, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. The more human cases there are, the higher the risk that the virus will one day learn how to become easily transmissible between people, which could set off a pandemic.

The researchers also looked at the blood of 179 people working at the camel abattoirs for antibodies against MERS virus, but found none. That shows that the virus is only rarely successful in infecting human beings, Peiris says. “What we need to find out now is the reason for these rare transmissions.”

March 1, 2014 Posted by | Africa, ExPat Life, Health Issues, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, News, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan | , , , , | Leave a comment

LOL Nigerian Scam

(Reminder, I print these as a warning to others. If you want to mess with these scammers, you do so at your own risk :-) )

From: jn48@gmail.com

Attn: Beneficiary,
Re:Your ATM Card US$10.5M is Ready

You Are Hereby Notified That Your Inheritance/Contract Payment Of 10.5m Dollars United States Has Been Approved To Be Made To You Through our ATM Visa Debit Card Unit. You Are Advised To Re-Confirm To Us The Below Information Or Call Me Immediately For More Details: +22961027320

FULL NAME:
DELIVERY ADDRESS:
PHONE NUMBER:
COUNTRY:
OCCUPATION:
SEX:
AGE:
Regards,

Dr Fred Ibe,
Director,ATM Payment
+22961027320

February 13, 2014 Posted by | Africa, Financial Issues, Lies, Nigeria, Scams | 3 Comments

Giving Birth to Gun in the South Sudan

This is the newest blog entry from my friend Manyang David Mayar in the South Sudan He visited Pensacola as part of an IVLP program with our Gulf Coast Citizens Diplomacy Council:

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Pregnant women fleeing the fighting in Jonglei state, South Sudan.
I was in the town of Bor when fighting broke out last month in South Sudan. I managed to escape the town despite being shot in the arm. But many other people had a far tougher time – people like Nyiel Magot, nine months pregnant and faced with the awful choice of staying in Bor’s hospital or fleeing into the bush.

Against her doctors’ advice, Nyiel decided to escape the immediate danger, and with her five children, took a narrow path out of town which was packed with people also heading to safety.

But, she told me, with every step she took, she grew weaker and more and more people overtook her.

“I was really tired and the pain became really unbearable,” Nyiel said. “I knew the time had come for me to give birth and I had to get out of Bor immediately to escape the attackers.”

Giving birth in the bush

Later that evening, the pain finally forced Nyiel to stop. Instead of a hospital ward, she found an abandoned grass-thatched house.

Luckily, there was a traditional birth attendant nearby who used her bare hands to help Nyiel deliver a healthy baby boy.

But the cold nights and hot days of December in South Sudan soon started to take their toll on the new born and reports of an imminent rebel attack forced Nyiel and her family to leave their hideout.

They walked for days until they crossed the River Nile and came to a large camp for displaced people in Awerial. And then her baby caught diarrhoea and started to vomit.

He was rushed to a hospital in Juba where, after days of treatment, he recovered.

A child of conflict

It was in the hospital in Juba that I met Nyiel and heard her story – and also learned the name of her little baby.

Nyiel had called him Matuor, the Dinka word for ‘gun’, because he was born amid gunfire.

As the conflict continues in South Sudan, I fear he won’t be the last baby born in the bush with such a name.

January 28, 2014 Posted by | Africa, Blogging, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Local Lore, South Sudan, Survival | Leave a comment

Where is Amichi, Nigeria?

Today the church prays for the diocese of Amichi, in Nigeria:

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And we raise our prayers with many for our friend in Texas, hospitalized with a severe bacterial infection.

January 27, 2014 Posted by | Africa, ExPat Life, Faith, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings | Leave a comment

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