Saturday, May 26, 2007

We Didn't Expect It, But We're Expecting!

Top ten reasons why I am looking forward to another kid,… for the 5th time. (Yes, that’s right gentle readers. I am preggo with number 5. Causes one to pause, does it not?)

10. Because There’s a Wocket In My Pocket balances out “The Economist” nicely

9. I really enjoy having a small department store in my closet with boutiques such as ‘Spring,’ ‘Summer,’ ‘Fall,’ ‘Winter,’ ‘Normal sized,’ ‘Just a little preggers,’ ‘Really preggers,’ ‘The baby’s out but my body doesn’t realize it yet,’ and ‘It’s just a little baby fat (when the baby is six months, 2 years, 5 years, and yes, soon to be 11 years old.)

8. Boobs

7. Because I am a highly competitive person and my friend Nora has seven.

6. Just to freak out Joel, John and Julio. And Gab and Nancy. And all my fellow college sorority bimbos.

5. Because living in a third world country with four kids, homeschooling three of them and working part time just doesn’t seem to be enough for this particular form of adult onset ADD I seem to be nursing.

4. Because I enjoy juggling football, basketball, baseball and guitar lessons and think what’s ballet and soccer when you’re already doing all that?

3. I’ve almost figured out how to use the baby sling – a couple more and I should be a real expert!

2. I haven’t had the pleasure of morning sickness in Asia until now. Let’s all just keep our fingers cross Rob doesn’t have to build anything in Antarctica, South America or Australia any time soon.

1. I can't imagine being by myself when sitting on a toilet, taking a shower, shaving my legs or any other time when I am naked or otherwise not expecting company like when the kids burst open the bedroom door while I'm getting dressed to see if their friends (who are accompanying them) can have a coke. Ever.

And of course, because kids totally rock!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Apa Kabar de Banda Aceh? What's happenin' in Banda Aceh?

First, news near and dear to my heart – more restless natives storming CRS because their houses are not yet finished. CRS agreed in February of last year to build 286 houses. Rob came in during July and now 165 houses have been built. What is so upsetting is that the problem isn’t with the NGOs, as many villagers feel it is. It is with these local contractors who are doing substandard work and running off with funding. Certainly, not all contractors here are bad, but there sure seem to be a bunch of bad apples spoiling the bushel. So, this story was reported in the local Bahasa Indonesia newspaper:

Banda Aceh - Dozenz of tsunami victims from Rukoh village, Syiah Kuala Sub-district, Banda Aceh, Mon (14/5), rallied at Catholic Relief Service (CRS) office demanding to finish the reconstruction of their houses based on the agreement made between both parties. According to them, based on an MoU signed on 23 Feb 2006, CRS is going to build 286 houses, but until yesterday, only 165 houses that have been done and have been occupied by beneficiaries. "They promised to build 286 houses, but they had only built 165 and we never been told by them when the rest of those houses are going to be built so that we could not receive the offers to build houses from other NGOs," said Zulbahar while showing a photocopy of MoU signed by Field Officer Director of CRS, Scoot Campbell. Meanwhile, as response, CRS's Communication Development Advisor, Davod Shield confirmed that MoU and adding that after been verified, only 165 houses that are in accordance with CRS criteria. Regarding the CRS's criteria, David explained that CRS only build houses that were destroyed by tsunami and those houses were the main houses. "We only build main houses and CRS will not build houses which were not the main houses, but we will help to find another donor," said David.

CRS is already retrofitting more than 200 houses that were of poor quality and built before Rob got to the country. CARE, a well known NGO also working here is going to have to rebuild or retrofit more than 700 houses. The extremely painful thing about this is that these houses are already inhabited. A good friend of ours has accepted the position as infrastructure manager since that position has been vacant for a while (Because of this? One can only speculate) and I fear for his personal safety when he starts moving people out of their new homes.

Muslim Aid and Asian Development Bank are facing this same situation with more than 1500 houses. Around 20,000 houses have been built in this area since the tsunami and that leaves a bit more than 10% of houses are of substandard quality.

A Fable of the Country Elephant and the City Water Buffalo

Banda Aceh - Residents of Banda Aceh, yesterday afternoon (15/5), were surprised by the presence of a buffalo in downtown and created panic among traffic users due to it suddenly running amok. Personnel of Public Order Police (Satpol PP) assisted by traffic police tried to catch that buffalo but it was very difficult as it keep on running and seized everybody this buffalo saw. A police officer who tried to catch it was also attacked by it and a man, Muzakir (40) was hospitalized due to his backbone was broken by it. The traffic at Jalan Tgk daud Beureueh was jammed for about an hour because of it. Finally that running amok buffalo succed to be caught after a Satpol PP car collide their car to it and then police tied it up.

Bad Tides

Indonesia in general has had horrible high tides and strong winds this past month. Everyone is cautioned against swimming – the last time we were at the beach they looked like 3 meter waves on average with really strong current.

Tragically, a local teenager was taking a photograph of the sea and got swept away by a 7 meter wave, drowning.

In Meulaboh, about a 10 hour drive down the coast (if the one road is not washed out or ridden with baksheesh bandits or angry villagers detaining NGO vehicles to get their demands met), the situation seems to be worse than here in Banda Aceh. Newly built houses and refugee camps are flooded (only 750 out of 4000 people were able to stay in one refugee camp.)

Beef. It's What's for Dinner.

There I am! Backlit in front of the window making an ominous, Darth Vader like presence. This is from the Bird Flu seminar. Which, if you read the newsfeeds to the right of this post any time soon, you will see in the past WEEK we have had one death from H5N1 down in Melaboh (on Sumatra) of a 26 year old pregnant lady (ate bad chickens) and a five year old on Java. Vietnam is reporting it's first case since 2005 and 10,000 chickens had to be culled in Pakistan because of infection.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Bird Flu,.. For Me Not You

Wow! What an exciting day I had this past Tuesday! I played hooky from my real life of sitting at home with my hair in a pony tail and no makeup, wearing work out gear in the hopes it will motivate me (usually nada) going slightly bonkers trying to teach three wily little boys readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic and wedging some actual work for a real, glorified company in the mix. (I’ll be fired now after that run on sentence.)

I got to attend a security briefing on Avian Bird Flu and then another internal meeting at CRS to identify security risks. Okay, so it wasn’t mani/pedis with the girls followed by a nice salad lunch, but this is Banda Aceh and I’ll take whatever I can get.

So, the Avian Bird Flu seminar came at just the right time because I’ve kind of run out of things to be freaked out about. And I was starting to feel kind of wistful that I’ll be leaving this delightful little swamp for vacation in two weeks.

The way I look at it, with my recent luck in the infectious tropical diseases department (one kid with malaria and two with dengue fever in the span of one month for those of you not keeping track of my bad parenting record), I figure not only will one of us be come down with H5N1 (the current Avian Flu virus), but we’ll be the darned vector that infects all of the Eastern Hemisphere. (But wait, we are boarding a plane soon! Hmmm,…)

Why worry about Bird Flu, you ask? Well, out of the 306 cases and 185 deaths spanning 12 countries, 93 of these were here in Indonesia with 76 deaths. 200 million birds around the world have either died or been culled because of the virus. And H5N1 is located all over Indonesia, with some cases and many of those dead birds coming from MY CITY.

No, we don’t cuddle ducks or hang out with any chickens, and although the powers that be do know that the virus can be transferred by undercooked eggs and meat, the only traceable instance of ingesting the virus came from someone who consumed raw duck’s blood. (Now, I come from hunting stock, so this isn’t so alien to me! The men on my father’s side usually did the old-drink-the-deer’s-blood when they killed their first.) And let’s not forget that they believe H5N1 traveled to Africa from a bunch of illegally transported Vietnamese eggs.

Here’s the part that has me agitated; our street is pretty densely populated with a nice mix of expat NGO workers, well –to-do Acehnese, middle class Achenese and then people like our next door neighbor who live in a corrugated wooden shack and have a swamp filled with a flock of ducks. Walking home you pass countless gaggles of chickens and ducks eating garbage in vacant lots (along with tied up cows and many goats romping around). Forget about the fact that this virus can live on porous surfaces for up to 12 hours, or hard surfaces for 48; it can live up to four days in warm water and,.. THREE MONTHS in bird poop!

So, I’m thinking all it takes is a boy to step in some infected bird poop, touch the bottom of his shoe when he’s removing it, not wash his hands (these are boys here, after all) and get infected! Or the big, stupid dog we have will run through bird poop and then come inside and spread it everywhere. Or roll in it even. Or actually catch a chicken and eat part of it. Then lick someone. Yuck.

Okay, it’s a long shot, I know. But with all these big organizations gearing up for that pandemic that we are supposedly due for, I wanna be ready. I’ve got my year’s supply of tamiflu. I know now not to crack the egg on the side that has the dried chicken poop with a feather stuck in it. (Fresh! Talk about eating locally!) I have the FAQ from SOS International on how to make my own cloth face mask (forget making homemade yogurt, Martha, we’re into homemade embroidered personal protection equipment!) I’ve installed sinks. Two of them. I’m ready for any epidemic!