Sunday, 4 December 2011

Thoughts today and a walk to town.

I've spent a bit of a quiet day so far, hardly speaking, lots of reading or thinking time.  We all need quiet days at times.  But it's interesting where those thoughts can take you.  I've realized that while I'm very, very content here, I also miss elements of home. 
I miss the changing of the seasons.  Seasons here go from no rain, to torrential rains, to hardly any rain (where we're at right now.) and heat pretty consistently, but more heat goes with less rain.  At home, it's likely a winter wonderland already.  Here the Christmas decorations went up on Friday... and they seem really out of place.  Something about the lack of winter, and the lack of advertisements or christmas music all around, and the neverending summer... all make the idea of Christmas coming seem wrong. 
Yup, I said it, lack of advertisements.  Other than what we see on the internet, or the rare tv program I watch with people (maybe once a month I'll actually sit in front of a tv program for half an hour?)  there is no external advertising.  I don't miss advertising.  Here the only influence is social.  Which means you still want things you don't have, but you're not having it all thrown at you non-stop and so it's generally a non-issue. 
Back to what I've been thinking on though, I miss my job in Iqaluit.  Yup, I'm officially crazy.  I miss the labor and delivery portion of it most.  Miss the people there.  Miss the crisp cool air on a long walk.  (Did I mention that you step of the ship and instantly start sweating?  It's seriously hot here.)  Miss having my own space.  (Though I will admit, I'm now down to one roomate in my 6-berth cabin, so we've been enjoying the quiet and the space... and it's almost lonely.)  Miss cooking my own meals.  (and the vegetables I miss... about the only things we get are overcooked carrots, broccoli, peas and corn... plus bleachy lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes.  I crave squash of all kinds, green peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, cauliflower, spinach... you get the idea!)
Don't get me wrong, there are many, many things I love here, and I wouldn't trade this time in this place for anything.  I'm just being honest here.
Yesterday, I walked to the craft market with friends.   It takes about an hour to get there on foot.  Every time you walk into town, the experience is mildly overwhelming.  You step out of the ship and the heat hits you.  Sweat blisters your forehead and rivulets down your front and back.  As one person put it, by the time you get back you need to wring out your underwear!  The next thing to hit you is the smells.  They change depending on what your walking past.  When you're near the ocean water, or walking past piles of garbage, or walking near the black water sewer ditches on the street, you often get strong smells of sewage/rotting things.  The smells come in random waves that it's hard to get used to.  Sometimes you walk past people selling oranges, which they always peel for you, and the lovely citrus smell washes over you like a refreshing breeze.  Often the cars and trucks belch out thick blue-black smoke that makes you want to cough and choke. 
The sounds of a walk to town... you start out in the dock area as you leave the constant engine rumble of the ship.  The sound of heavy machinary is the strongest, but there's also the water lapping the dock, and a few voices.  As you walk up the road, there's a side path we take sometimes, through protected grounds where the quiet hits you and the smell of growing things surrounds you, and you almost, almost feel as though you've left the city and found the peace of the country.  As you get to the main roads, the rumble of traffic takes over.  And the voices of a crowded street.  Calls come at you from all sides, some directed at you saying things like: apoto, apoto (foreigner!) tsssssssss! (a loud noise made to get your attention... many people on ship have adopted it too.), *loud drawn out squeaky kissing noise* (also made to get your attention, also adopted by those of us on ship), and many, many random yells as people here seem to prefer animated discussions even when they're not mad at each other, "hey, hey, hey, hey, hey!" as someone pushing/pulling/carrying a heavy load/cart/broken vehicle comes towards you and tries to pass you, random honks of vehicles as they draw near to warn you that they are coming and don't intend to stop.  The noises are many and endless. 
And the crowds... vary from something that reminds me of India, with carts/bikes/people/animals and every form of motorvehicle all vying for the same space, no lights or stop signs, random police in intersections to direct things.  To the extreme that is a combination of the mall on Boxing day and the busiest day at a local fairgrounds.  The streets are mainly paved, with concrete ditches for the flow of sewage water.  Sometimes the ditches are covered by 3foot x 1 1/2foot slabs of concrete that randomly end, have gaps or are cracked/tilted.  Sometimes they're wide open.  These are the sidewalks.  As you enter the center of town/ market area the sidewalks are often half-covered by booths selling wares of all kinds.  The street sides are littered with small tarps covered in goods for sale.  There is room for one-way traffic between everything, but that space is covered by so many people walking that you are constantly jostled and bumped into.  People also walk around with goods for sale on their heads, in bowls or baskets, yelling out what they're selling, wandering past vehicles to try and make a sale.  And the traffic attempts to slip through all of this.  And when the big trucks come through, they blast their horns and just keep moving.  People move to the side, tarps are slid out of the way or picked up.  I'm not quite sure how more people are not crushed.  Days when you walk into town and are not almost hit, grabbed by a friend and yanked out of the way of... something... are few and far between.  The buildings are a random combination of fairly well maintained and falling apart and abandoned.  There is one old church with no inner walls or roof, all stone outer shell, covered in climbing vines that have bloomed.  Gorgeous, yet sad.  Crumbling buildings that still have people living in them.  Most buildings are cement or stone.  All different styles and makes.  All appear old, thanks to the damages of war and poverty.  I cannot begin to describe the all the sights.  I've taken videos and pictures I will try to post another time. 
On our way back from the craft market, I saw a sight that turned my stomach a little, and saddened me.  Two men came racing through the crowds, yelling and making a path for those behind them.  People parted a let them through.  Three men held a man between them, lying slightly sideways, no stretcher.  Open wounds to his arm leg and face, obviously in a lot of pain but awake.  The men trotted along, rushing him to the nearest hospital.  This is the ambulance of the poor.  I could watch them go by, but there was nothing I could do to help.  Nothing but pray. 
It's odd, much as I've seen of poverty, people scraping by, children on the streets trying to make money etc.  This is what hits me to the core.  This desperate run to the hospital.  And the helpless feeling as I watch them go by.

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