Dr. Henry Reitzug of Puyallup, a member of the board of directors of Lakewood’s Northwest Commercial Bank, is on a mission to Darfur, Sudan, as part of Tearfund, a leading relief and development charity, working in partnership with Christian agencies and churches worldwide. Dr. Reitzug has been sending his observations of the country and people and we are reprinting them (in a series) with his permission. Read the other installments (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen)
Ed Daein, South Darfur, Sudan, late Friday 6/6/08
The Sabbath is celebrated in Sudan on Friday so no work is scheduled, even most humanitarian efforts cease. So all seven of us living in the compound leisurely started our day today, and hung out in the compound. What else is there to do?
In the living portion of the compound there is one main building with a living room area, two dilapidated sofas, 2 easy chairs, 3 coffee tables, and a cart with a perma-dust-encoated TV and a DVD player. There is an adjoining eating area, and off the eating area is George’s and my bedroom. There is a back door from the eating area to a small concrete patio leading to a very compact, ancient kitchen. The front door from the living area exits onto another patio which extends to a large sandy space with a shade tree (that probably dates back to the colonial British empire) and two rows of younger trees, carefully watered daily. Beyond the trees and yellow sand expanse, a high wall, with an equally high barbed wire fence on top of it, borders to the northwest. Around to the northeast is the shower room and the toilet, and next to that the door to the program offices and the motor pool compound. To the south of the patio are three small buildings each with two rooms. All this, along with the main building forms an enclosure around the living compound ‚Äì a friendly world within a much scarier, more hostile one outside.
The main building has numerous windows all enclosed with ancient decorative wrought-iron as well as screens. All the windows and doors also have metal shutters which can be closed from the inside, or a thick linen material (with more than a few grasshoppers of various sizes parked on it usually) tightly spanned across the opening, permitting air flow to go through but preventing direct sunlight. Today we found out we have the metal shutters.
After days of relentlessly clear skies and bone-cooking heat, clouds came up this morning and by lunchtime ominous dark clouds roiled up from the northeast with billowing tops, like a rapidly advancing forest fire. We had just five minutes to close all the windows and doors, put our electronic stuff into suitcases and zip them shut (the fine sand penetrates everything) before “it” arrived. “It” was a haboob, a sandstorm of frightening force, with ferocious winds, turning the air an eerie dark orange, bending trees, blowing chairs across the yard, and making a huge noise. After 20 minutes of this relentless din it got even louder as the rains came with violent force against the roof and the northeast side of the building, which fortunately has no windows. Within minutes the sandy courtyard was a lake and the patio was starting to get covered with water. In spite of the metal front door being closed, some water was leaking into the living room.
The violent rain lasted about an hour and then slowed to a heavy downpour for three more hours. When it was done, our building was surrounded by water. The security guards informed us that the roads were in similar shape. Nonetheless, the rhythmic beat of the wedding celebration down the street resumed when the rain stopped. The noise from the party went well into the night. Haboobs and typhoons are a reality of life here apparently; celebrations, few as they are, must go on.
Confined to the compound we watched movies, ate and laughed together, and became more of a team. We also had a two-hour worship service that 5 of us attended.
Early Saturday 6/7/08
With the rains came the mosquitoes, so I rigged up my mosquito tent for my bed and remembered to take my weekly malaria prophylaxis. I do not want a repeat of my experience in Uganda where I was a few days late with the pill and got florid malaria. Unfortunately, the steady diet of beans has unglued my stomach ‚Äì I hope it is nothing more than the beans ‚Äì I am a bit miserable today. I have resisted all the meats ‚Äì boiled mutton and cooked free-range chicken. Neither is very appetizing to smell or to look at, so it has been mostly rice, beans, oranges and the sweet, short African bananas for me.
The food is fixed with great love, however, and the cooks are a very happy, hard-working group. They usually prepare about 5 or 6 covered dishes ‚Äì besides the meat, the rice, and several kinds of beans, there is often a gravy with fat floating on it, some other lumpy stuff I have yet to identify (or try), and sometimes there is a very tasty diced tomato and onion salad. (It is reminiscent of a church pot-luck, third world style) It is all set on the serving table, both at lunch and at dinner and after we finish we leave it there. In the evening the security guards eat leftovers around 11 pm and sometimes forget to cover the dishes. Two mornings ago when I got up all the bones of the previous evening’s meat were completely cleaned off – and lying on the floor. Rats had gotten to the meat ‚Äì I know, because they left their business cards in the area. Please pray for my safety, including food safety!
The clouds are building again; it looks like the rainy season has started. I will need to send this quickly. Since I have to use the BGAN satellite technology outside, I have to do this when it is not raining.