THE LONG PASSAGE FROM ASIA THROUGH THE MIDDLE EAST TO INTO AFRICA AS WE LAUNCH THE SERIES OF SOUTH SUDAN MISSIONS INTO JONGLEI PROVINCE FROM NAIROBI/LOKI AND BOR/WERKOK, ORGANIZING OUR MED/SURG MISSION WITH OUR NAIROBI JOINERS TO START OUR HEALTH EDUCATION PROGRAM AMONG THE DINKA AND AWAIT THE ARRIVAL OF OUR CONTAINER OF MED/SURG SUPPLIES FOR THE FULFILLMENT OF OUR PROMISE TO THE COMPETING TRIBAL CONTENDERS IN WESTERN JONGLEI
February 5-6, 2011
I am aboard the Emirates new 777 which we boarded at midnight for our eight and a half hour flight over Southeast Asia, the subcontinent, then on into the Middle East to land in the biggest of the Middle Eastern freeports-Dubai. Once the wunderkind of the developing world in which one could go to a Freeport in the desert Emirati and buy a lower cost item such as a full length mink coat as the desert sands outside the airport shimmered in the heat waves of fifty degrees centigrade. It has just opened the “pentominium” a high rise (highest on earth) as I was last here on my way to and from the Kabul of my Afghanistan missions. It had a thousand penthouses each with its own heliport if needed. Now, not even their “guest workers” are needed, since at my last visit, one third o the high rise construction cranes in human history were in Dubai. They are now standing idle as the worldwide recession has bottomed out the real estate of even the Dubai desert kingdom. It could not have happened to a more frivolous and showy conspicuous consumption. And, now, it is my half way stop on my way to Africa after concluding our successful inaugural mission in the mountain province of North Luzon after the usual stirring performance of our Tiboli-land send off in the love bombing of their “Culmination Program.”
We had a nearly endless drive today as we were cramped in eh van that brought us out of the mile high city of Baguio at the John Hay Management Corporation and its Manor House which afforded us an elegant brunch in the setting for our “wrap up session” as the elegant brunch of the Manor House was all decorated for the Chinese New Year inaugural of the Year of the Rabbit—one of the twelve animals marking the calendar. All the good Chinese famines are hoping for a Dragon baby, and so every twelve years the schools are filled with “dragon babies”. But if one misses the chance to have eh auspicious dragon fortuitous birth sing, the following one is a year of the snake child—a 180* turn of fortune. SO we saw all the decoration for the year of the rabbit—including trees full of cherry blossoms, even if though blossoms were silk. The setting was elegant in the leftover luxury of the US Army’s R & R spot (it has the requisite Golf Course) and an elegant hotel ((the Manor House) which was a site for R & R for the warriors of the Subic Bay naval Station and the Clark Air Base of the Vietnam era of US warfare, until that peace has closed up the need for (and legality of) US troops o Philippine soil. The “icing” ns this whole unfolding was a natural disaster—the explosion of Mount Pinatubo which closed Clark Air base, the onetime busiest air field outside the USA. We passed under the blown off top of Mount Pinatubo on the SCTex—the Subic Clark Tendra Expressway, once thee rice bowl of the Philippines until the ash of the Pinatubo eruption covered all the area and caused the citizens to be evacuated and the Clark Air base to close.
Our near-endless drive concluded in the combat feinting of Manila traffic where our exert experienced drives delivered us t Jun and Chona Garcia’s for dinner before we returned to the Shalom Center and had our last shower and further fueling up and r-packing and final round of farewells as we left by taxi to the Nino Aquino International Airport.
When I went through the first of several X-ray screenings, the guard asked me if I had any harmonicas in my bag. Yes, as a matter of fact—the pipe organ for the church of Assa in Exile in Zemio. How many? He asked. I replied “Seven in a matched set!” OK, he added—proud of himself for having identified the x0ray image. As I went through the second of three check points however, they wanted to strip my backpack of a precious item that they said was not allowed—my tiny iris scissors in the dopp kit—a hazardous weapon since it has a tiny point. I have carried that through a hundred airports, and here they delighted in tossing the $125 surgical instrument in the trash sink it represented hazard to personnel. It is from a cataractectomy kit for iridectomy—which is why it is called an iris scissor.
We were eager to get to the free WiFI that is supposed to be in the NAIA and I was ready to go, but John Sutter was feeling so good about the fact that I made a flimflam appearance at the first class check in line of only two persons (after the five coach class were told to go to the back of the coach class line where John awaited) and I gave them my Mabuhay number since PAL shares codes with the Emirates. We got our choice of exit row seats with unlimited leg room and also had no trouble getting through the queue, so we bought an entrance into the Emirates Lunge so that we could use the wireless. I was able to read the press releases made up by Janet Shapiro of Smith Publicity and also the Calvin Spark article written by Mike Vandenend about the new book. So I could approve those and also see a number of last minute messages from a number of my fellow travelers who still think the world is wired everywhere, asking for Skype calls in a given evening in the bush. I told them one and all that I was now taking leave of the Cordillera Mountain Province of North Luzon and disappearing into the still more remote African Sud so that it is not likely they will be hearing form me or following me on Facebook as was the obsessing of our HDDA Asperger’s fourteen year old who was somehow a member of this MMI team—there is always one weird add on into the mix who has had a directed vision of participation usually for some ecstatic religious motivating and a deductible visit to homeland of ancestral origin. So, I am somewhere over the Burma which I will likely be visiting again later this summer, I seem to be over this piece of geography even though it is not exactly “next door.” As each of the team was asked to pledge their return trip visits, including those who may not have contributed much of vital importance to the trip, I thought of the repeat visits that may be a mark of failure rather than success if they mean that there is a colony being established rather than an independent group taking over to make such experiences permanent and sustainable. So, we have come and conquered but not to take ownership since there were many more Philippine volunteers than Americana to keep it going.
WHAT HAS GONE RIGHT/ WHAT IS TOAST—AS I CLOSE OUT THE PHILIPPINE MISSIONS AND START UP THE AFRICAN SERIES
For one thing, I am here, on time and checked in, without injury or anything missing now! I had left my shaver in Tiboli land along with the fleece which I would surely have needed in the Mounting Province above a mile high. The latter reappeared when I re-packed in the Shalom Center after a brief stop to take a quick shower and to sort through the check in bag and load up my carryon backpack. In stopping at Jun Garcia’s home for dinner and farewell, he produced a DHL package air freighted from RECH—my shaver. So, I did not have the use of either my shaver or fleece when I needed them but I have been reunited with the on departure.
I got an early ride to the NAIA and went directly to the first class check in as John stood in the queen about an hour and a half deep. I waved my passport and Mabuhay card since Emirates and PAL code-share on this flight and explained I was a gold level member of the PAL and was invited to check in my bags (two—one of them was Jon’s so I summoned him out of the long queue and we got the premier exit row seats for extra leg room. That saved us a couple of hours. I then went through another security check where they objected to the number of rechargeable batteries in my carry on and were about to confiscate them when they discovered the iris scissors which I had used for cataracts in my Dopp Kit. They had more fun throwing away that $159 instrument than the batteries so my two inch weapon was discarded after faithful service. Almost immediately, I half broke through a nail which might have used it.
We went in search of the free WiFi which is present in terminal two but not here. With four hours until flight time it was worth our while to check in to the Emirates Lounge and use the code to access the wireless there. I got busy trying to find my emails which I have ignored without access. I found I could NOT reply to them without having the cursor jump around in prior sentences and create a word salad since the oversensitive keyboard does whatever it wants even untouched. So, I tried to use three word sentences approving itineraries for AIM Air of trying to open and then proof the several articles about me that had been sent. One was by Mike Vandenend who wrote an article for the Spark which he wanted checked. He reported that the Calvin College had closed down on a school day on account of snow for the first time since 1978
Smith Publicity had typed in some press releases as Janet Shapiro reports that as an unusual exception to the rule she had read the whole of my book at a single sitting. She wrote some flattering press releases which she had already checked against a phone call with Patty Edmonds since she knew I would be hard to reach. I could not really type a longer response to her since the cursor ump made it a scramble so I just approved them. John Sutter had written a TR blog about our experiences in Philippines, which I could read but not copy so I simply forwarded his notes as an outside observer for another perspective.
Even in typing this note in Windows Seven, I have had to go back and retrieve the pieces of text that went randomly around inserted in prior pauses. So, when I try to open a saved text, the frequent finding is that nothing was saved, and even when the file name is there it will not open. So, I then tried to upload my photos off the SD card into the file folders for which I have them all laid out for the whole of the circumnavigation. The process starts smoothly; after all, it is a simple copy and paste. But, the program then says it can no longer find the images on the cards and incompletely saves the photos so that all the effort I have made to orangeade the photos is for naught since the message is that either the image already exists in the file (even thigh I have never copied it before_ or it cannot be found. So I cannot upload these to Flickr or York as I had planned from the organized external hard drive. That means I must save the cards so that I have a complete, even if unedited photos after turning them right side up.
I had a major tune-up before departing with a brand new laptop with a long life battery and lots of capacity. It had all the bugs cleared, and before I left Dulles airport it was as if an eggbeater were inserted through the USB port and as thorough a sabotage occurred so that it takes me about ten minutes just to find and open a file I had previously save since it cannot be recalled by any technique I had used before like double clicking on it. So. Once again I am serving the technology rather than vice versa. I have windows seven which is not Office, so I get a flash offer to buy the Office program popping up continuously so as to reduce the size of my screen so that I cannot read from left to right in an intact sentence. It is brand new, and already needs a major overhaul and the warranty was never even sent in. So, with many files of text only appearing by title only, I have to start filing them in on a recalcitrant machine. It is likely that I will be busy and have to go through the other details of my leading these missions and not just serving this machine so I may have to shorten down the observations recorded. I have been using the ballpoint pen rather than the more fallible computer chips.
At least I have sent you the outlines of the chapters if it came through and I will try to work out the glitches with one of the more tech savvy folk who are sending me messages asking me to plan a Skype call as if I were living in a well wired world.
NOW FOR SOMETHING WORSE THAN MACHINE VAGARIES
After being annoyed and frustrated by technoglitches that has just made me back up four times to pull errant text out of the middle of this sentence when the laptop decided to send it there, I am now very mad. The current problem is NOT one of a failure of a mechanical system but of arrogance and ignorance. I am now in the spectacular new Dubai terminal along with the workforce of the world—twenty something year old men from all over the desperate world who are coming here far from family and friends to seek a chance to support the home front despite a shrinking job market in a global recession. I am simply transferring between flights on all the huge new Emirates aircraft on display in this sprawling complex. I have been screened four times already and now I have to do it again. And they find plenty to screen in my backpack, which they have emptied and put through X-Ray six times already. They are looking for the scissors, which they have already confiscated and destroyed in Manila. But, they want to toss out all my Dopp kit since it has a miniature toothpaste tube sealed up in it.
But, they have emptied a lot of hardware into a full plastic bin to confiscate ad discard. They have found my expensive and highly useful rechargeable batteries and have emptied the cameras and then taken out every one they can find. “It is NOT allowed!” the arrogant black shrouded woman yelled back to Muhammad, the one who is demanding that the backpack be put through X-Ray for the seventh time. They have now piled up ALL my batteries (about $300 worth) and are adding my SD photo cards (about $350 worth). All of these innocuous items are said to be contraband and the stock of what I have gathered specifically for this trip is piling up to enrich some Emirati –who are looking upon me as one of their “disposable guest workers” to harass, even as a multiply screened passer-through who would really rather not have anything to do with the Dubai airport or Emirati except get through them.
I must get forward to Africa where the graft is far more straightforward and innocent!