Tuesday, 24 December 2013

I'm The Mosquito Slayer

Day One I went out as soon as I arrived. I slathered my skin with repellent over my sunscreen.

During the day there aren't many if any mosquitoes, so on Day Two I literally just applied sunscreen and went out.

When I got back at night I had to clear my room from mosquitoes.

I took my shoes and pretty much swatted them when I could. I inspected my bed like a madwoman several times and took down the mosquito net and inspected my bed and net one more time before I decided to call it a day.

I did put some repellent on my skin again (feet, arms, neck, face and forehead). Hey it doesn't smell nice and my eyes feel slightly irritated, but it does work.

I'm not on holiday to get sick. At all. Daily I've been taking supplements and my malaria prophylaxis.

This one night I woke up to buzzing at about 5am-ish. I was annoyed. I knew the mosquito was fighting to suck my blood. So after some major erratic movements with my blanket I was desperate for it to go. So I put on my artificial flashlight (my iPhone 'flashlight') and quickly got up out of bed to grab my repellent and slather it where required.

While scanning my room for the repellent, I found a cockroach, almost the size of the inside of my hand excluding the fingers, on the dresser.

My heart sank.

I didn't have many crazy encounters with bugs in Africa so far but this was something else. I found my repellant and with quickness I got back into bed. I could not believe what I had seen.

The buzzing of the mosquito calmed down and it became the least of my worries. The loud, big cockroach became the centre of my concern. The way it was loud!

I covered myself in my bathrobe and blanket and wrote this post, desperate for it to be sunrise.

In the morning I was tired as hell. I didn't sleep for about three hours in the morning because of the loud mosquito buzzing. My cousin was asking me why I was still asleep and I told him about the mosquito buzzing.

Later on my other cousin arrived and sorted my room out. I haven't been (pun alert) bugged by mosquitoes since.

However, I missed a dose on Wednesday so thought on Thursday morning, 'let me just take the medication'. Mind you, I hadn't eaten and I only took it with a few sips of bottled water.

I was already feeling a little sick to my stomach. However, a good ten minutes later the medication made me feel worse so I decided to lie down. Another ten minutes later I had to rush to the bathroom. I was violently sick.

I refreshed myself and decided to just eat a few biscuits and wash it down with water. I sat up in bed for a while but had to rush to the bathroom again because I was getting ill yet again.

I ended up cancelling my day, spending most of my time napping in bed trying to get well.

I learned my lesson.

Saturday I went to spend the night away from home and took some of my anti-malaria medication with me. I had about two tablets with me.

Sunday I became trapped because of the unrest in Juba; I was first stuck in a hotel and then the place I was only meant to be staying at for two nights.

I missed my malaria prophylaxis for about two to three nights. I was getting concerned. I couldn't get the rest of the prophylaxis and my stuff because parts of the city was unsafe. I tried to survive on my repellent as much as possible as well as inspecting the inside of my net and slaying any mosquitoes I would see.

Now I have definitely become accustomed to living life in a malaria zone. Before I go to bed I always put on repellant and I take my prophylaxis right after I eat. I even take it about six hours apart from my supplements as some minerals such as iron found in supplements can inhibit absorption.

The sound of mosquitoes is still incredibly annoying and the only two remedies that works for me is either,

1) kill them,
2) get so tired and pass out.

The buzzing is still an issue, for the most part, but I will survive. Let's hope tonight is a great one.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

From Cairo to Juba.

At Cairo I encountered familiar faces; that of South Sudanese. We can spot each other miles away and notice such similarities that one uncle even mistook one guy for someone he knew.

I had a wonderful time with them talking about Juba etc, even being pushed out of my comfort zone by being spoken to in Thuongmuonyjang. It was great practice. I started responding to some questions in the language and also attempted to formulate other possible responses I may use later on during my trip.

So we queued for boarding and I was so certain this one woman queued right on top of me. I didn't feel at ease; I love my personal space. Even moving slightly forward didn't send this lady a message. I just had a preview of what I will encounter in Juba.

Overhead luggage space is abused and misused. People putting plastic bags there, handbags and single briefcases.

I had a small carry-on suitcase which clearly couldn't go under the seat in front or behind me. A wonderful gentleman, a South Sudanese from America, took the initiative to rearrange the luggage so that my little suitcase could fit in the overhead space. I was highly thankful. He was next to me throughout the journey and we just spoke and discussed.

The flight was (naturally) full with South Sudanese but there were also foreigners on the flight. I'm assuming some were NGOs or business people.

The flight also felt like eternity but I had a great chat with the South Sudanese American who told me about Juba International Airport. Funnily enough, a friend asked me before I boarded the flight to write an article on the airport. The fellow passenger ruined the surprise and told me all about it. I mentally prepared myself for what I would possibly experience next.

Anyhow, when we were beginning to land I was perhaps on cloud nine (literally and figuratively) because the flight finally ended. I was coming home.

Friday, 20 December 2013

A Bad Case Of Traveler's Fear (Fear of the Unknown)

(Originally started 12th December 2013).

Days before I came to Juba, I was under a whole lot of fear.

I was having a bad case of 'fear of the unknown'. I did not know what to expect on my first trip to my own country. I did not know how I would be treated, if I would fit in, if I would feel comfortable with the languages, the local behaviour and customs etc.

The fear was there and it even came with a little bit of sadness. I was terrified out of my mind and expressed this to a few loved ones; some really tried to comfort me.
Other loved ones/friends gave me some tips and advice. For months I've been told by anyone who has been to Juba that,

1) it is a wonderful, great city, etc.2) keep an open mind if you go. Your experience will be different to the next person's.
I'm glad I have come here and actually made my own judgments and decisions so far; something that would have been fair for me to do any way.

My fear came out of a place of wanting to belong. For so long I have expressed much love for Africa, some kind of knowledge on the continent's rich history and the continuing neo-colonial presence. But there's a big difference between reading and educating on Africa and actually coming here to see everything for yourself; reality sets in and pretty much all your ideals of what can become of the continent takes a back seat.

My fear was elevated when I arrived. I stood out like a sore thumb (it could have been because I was wearing a hoodie in 40 degrees Celsius weather when I first arrived...).

The airport was just chaotic but luckily I was too tired to be expressively fearful.

From the airport to my cousin's house on the outskirts of the city, the fear came out little by little in the form of awkward laughs and consistent staring from the car windows.

I just couldn't believe I was here and I was seeing/experiencing the things I did.
On day one I even asked myself, 'why am I here?'.

I've always lead a very comfortable existence. Every place I've been have always been somewhat relatable to the UK or Netherlands. But this was so new for me. The air I was breathing, the languages I was hearing, the things I was seeing. Day One was overwhelming for someone like me to the point where I just went out with my cousin immediately because I was too shocked to sleep and recover from my long-haul flight.

I had to get used to the constant stares. I felt like people were peering into my soul from the moment they began to set eyes on me.

My cousin funnily told me that, 'if a guy likes you, he just stares'. And her dad told her that.
Funnily enough I just think people stare because people appear to be pretty brazen about things. Which is ok and quite funny.

It's now Day Four and I'm still a little fearful of walking down the streets of Juba because of the stares. The 'fear' I had was not the same kind of fear I had before I came home, it was rather mild and more superficial.

I've been told that I will grow accustomed to the stares so the fear of stepping outside on my own or even with someone else will slightly go away. Looking like fresh meat is not the way to go if you want to blend in amongst your people.

It is Day Ten and I have to say I have grown accustomed to my concerns. My fear of not being able to fit in has pretty much dissipated. I have familiarised myself with the unknown. Most importantly, I have decided/concluded that,

1) fitting in should never be the sole aim of any one person in any area of life,2) I pride myself on being unique and that is what I need to carry with me wherever I go,3) people in Juba aren't that different from myself!

To conclude, feel fear, analyse it, try and rationalise it. But don't let it consume you or stop you having a good time.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

The Woes of International Travel: Egyptair 'Food'.

My experience from London Heathrow to Cairo has been a mildly adventurous one, with intermittent laugh-inducing events.

Egypt Air's plane interior and logo etc are incredibly modest and basic; they are definitely no Emirates. If anything they're like a stale version Emirates; stale, covered with emerging mold. The only thing they have in common with Emirates is the Arabic, other than that...

On the first flight we were served with a square cake, basic salad which consisted mostly of the inner parts of lettuce resembling the colour of a cabbage. They tried with half sliced black olives, which were white from within, which concerned me.

The hot meal was rice, chicken in a sort of broth/sauce and tinned peas and carrots on the side.

Upon first bite I feared the worst. The chicken looked unappetising, the vegetables were clearly microwaved and the rice was the only winner here.

Bite by bite I felt my cholesterol raising, hence my blood pressure, something I didn't need. The food was that salty.

I managed to muster up the strength to finish this 'meal' and proceeded to just drink juice. I didn't touch the bread and complimentary butter or the cake. All I could envision was the same stale flavour and texture I had encountered earlier.  I didn't want to put myself off my favourite; cake.

On flight two to Juba, the attendant asked; chicken or beef. I was overcome with slight terror as flashbacks from last night's dinner took over all my other previous thoughts. I thought 'not fucking again'.

The salad which had a red pepper slice which was satisfactory. I left the purple olive out. The 'hot meal' consisted of what I had last night except the broth or sauce was a little different.

With each bite I envisioned myself going to the toilet more than I am used to. I even envisioned myself probably throwing my head over the toilet as my body spasms to get out the foreign object that was this dinner out of my body.

I fought when I ate. I fought hard. I felt forced because people around me chowed down and I didn't want to feel like I was being disrespectful. However, at some point I glanced at the food of the gentleman on my left and he sort of stopped eating which was my cue to save the rest of my taste buds and digestive system.

I did not continue eating. I just drank orange juice in a desperate attempt to cleanse my taste buds after this 'dinner'.

Afterwards I felt slightly relieved but still horrified that this 'food' is being served. I've flown before and the food then was what I thought abysmal but this meal by Egyptair has ripped off the title from the original owner.

It is fair to say that Egyptair's plane interior design and cabin crew, is truly a reflection of the food they serve. However, nothing beats flying about five hours from London to Cairo and about four from Cairo to Juba. I suppose the fact that this trip is shorter than other available options, will make me keep coming to Egyptair. I'm pretty sure with time, my body will adapt to their cuisine.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Does Liking Rock Music Make You 'Less Black'?

Rock music has always been one of my favourite genres. Particularly in my teens, I used to obsess over My Chemical Romance (do not judge), I loved Green Day and I rocked out to Aerosmith. I simply love rock music.

Whenever I would mention this to other black people, the responses would go either way:

1) 'REALLY?! ME TOO!!! Wow finally another black person who listens to rock music!!!'.
2 ) 'LOL. You're such a white girl/Oreo. Black people don't listen to rock music'.

Not even exaggerating.

There are just two type of black people when it comes to rock music; those who are finally happy to hear another black person openly expressing their love for rock music and those who are definitely not into rock music and feel that only white people can listen to rock music.

So I got into an interesting conversation on Twitter where I literally just expressed other black people's disdain when I told them I listened to rock music. Aaron Lee of Aaron Lee, who I met at the Media Diversity UK launch party, saw the conversation and felt compelled to write this piece; Does liking rock music make you 'less black'?.

Aaron Lee's article summarised for simplicity:

  • Musical prejudice is alive and well here in 2013
  • Jimi Hendrix was considered a freak by his black peers for his love of guitar and rock music
  • The genre we call 'rock music' can be considered of black origin
  • Rock emerged out of blues, jazz and folk; fragmenting its origins as well as claims it was created by one nation or people
  • White people have had a hand in progressing and evolving black music as musicians, composers, DJs, label founders and more
  • Rock music has borrowed from 'black music' many times and vice versa
  • Ultimately, black people who look down on their peers for enjoying rock music or music of any kind that they do not consider 'black enough' are guilty of the same ignorance that certain white people hold about hip hop. 
Everyone responds to music regardless of ethnic, racial and cultural differences. 

Music transcends between genres and transcends between cultures. If it's good, you will respond to it and the language of the lyrics does not even matter.

To summarise, music is for all to enjoy, all to relish, all to dance to, all to sing to, all to tap your feet to... music is not exclusive to a group of people, it can and should be experienced by anyone

Sunday, 1 December 2013

I Graduated!

I have officially reached 'graduate status', which means, I got the cap and gown pic and my graduation certificate.

It's been a journey to remember; three years of rigorous studying; late nights, all-nighters, coffee in the morning, the afternoon and the night time, junk food 24-7, late evenings in the lab, the dreaded group work... I lived through it all, every year. 

I have to admit though that third year was particularly unique because I once stayed up 24 hours and that was to get my dreaded thesis done.

University has been an amazing journey. I stayed local so I lived at home. My options of fun was quite limited but I sort of lived like a hermit anyway so it didn't matter that much... plus I was saving quite a bit of money over the years.

Would I do it again? 

I am itching to go back to school again. I want to do a masters, preferably something with relation to my degree. I wanted to do a Journalism MA but I figured that I don't need to study journalism in order to do journalism. Plus I don't really know what I want to do with my life... so I figured I should study more (especially since pretty much everyone has a bachelor's these days) and hopefully I'll figure out what I really want to do.

Honestly, I don't think that I'm the type of person to stick to just one thing, I'm definitely a jane-of-all-trades so I will continue in the publishing/writing/journalism world while doing something else besides it (like live out my passion and love for science).

What was my graduation day like? 

Let's just say that graduation day (particularly for women) is kind of like a preview of how you would be on your wedding day... it was stressful. I snapped at pretty much everyone around me. I thought I was going to be too late to pick up the gown.

Once I got to the university, I rushed out my cousin's car to get to the building where they had the gowns etc.

Putting on the gown was incredibly emotional but I didn't cry (imagine that I did not cry the entire day? I'm also surprised).

Fast forward to the hall; I was wearing high heels that weren't too comfortable, so a friend who was on the same course as me had her handbag and spare flats which I asked I could wear. The walk to the stage seemed like eternity so I was really thankful I chose comfort over style.

The graduants' names were called in threes, my name was obviously butchered -_____-''

I shook the hand, accepted my degree and walked back. The walk back felt like an eternity too.

Fast forward to outside; had a photo-op with friends and family. It was a wonderful and a beautiful day. Everyone was happy for me. I was overwhelmed with the amount of congratulatory messages I got, the gifts I got, the love I was showered with... it was a day to remember.

Afterwards we had dinner with invited friends and family which was also very enjoyable. I felt so much love... it was unreal.

I did everyone around me proud and most importantly I proved myself wrong. I struggled throughout third year and I genuinely believed I was not going to make it. But I made it. I made it... and I believe I can overcome some of the toughest challenges.

Here's to the future.