Sunday, December 30, 2007

Kenyan Elections and Riots

So I am in Nairobi now and what a good time to be here...not!
Kelly and I were in Loki, Kenya just yesterday, which is on the border of Sudan. We spent Christmas there, and a total of 9 days. It was very nice in Loki because we had our own house with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms and a kitchen. We were able to cook and even bake! It was extra nice there because Loki has a restaurant called 748 that has wireless Internet, coffee, and ice cream! So, we went there a lot. On Christmas we were able to go there and skype home which was great. On Christmas Eve we went to another missionary's house and had dinner, and then came home and watched the ole classic "An Affair to Remember," and afterwards sung Christmas carols, ending with "Silent Night" in the candle light. We even made a make-shift tree out of some baskets and put our few presents around it. The presents we had were from two of the missionaries: a Turkish coin purse, and Chinese Green Tea. In the morning we made pancakes while listening to more Christmas carols. Then, that night we went out to 748.
So, yesterday, when we thought it was safe because elections were over and Loki was perfectly safe, we flew to Nairobi, just to find out that no stores were open because its too dangerous for the workers to leave their houses. Most of the workers live in the Kebira district, where all the looting and rioting is going on. For more information, please click on the link to the right for BBC NEWS.
So, yesterday nobody knew who was president yet, but it became evident that some fishy business was going on, because the votes just didn't add up correctly. Today, Kibaki was announced president by his appointed election commissioner (hmmm..sound fishy anyone?). And again, there is nothing open. Today we spent 600 Kenyan Shillings in Taxi service to go to the mall. There, we were able to go to the supermarket just before they closed and it was a MOB! It was like going to Wal-Mart on a Sunday or the night before a snow storm!
Then we went to a coffee shop that stayed open for about 2 hours before closing, and people there were getting all hyper about buying Baguettes b/c there was a scarcity of Baguettes. After waiting an hour for our plain coffee, we wandered up to the hair salon and got our hair cut and pedicures. Yes, pedicures-- but if you saw my feet in a before picture you would understand why it is a necessity, not a luxury! The lady who worked on me said "you brought sand from Sudan." I laughed really loudly in agreeance.
So, just so everyone knows, we are perfectly safe at the guest house in which we are staying. The pictures are compliments of BBC and not from my camera. Kelly and I have been staying FAR from downtown where all the uproar is going on. Today (which is now the 31st), we stayed on the guest house grounds, with the exception of a short walk. Fortunately for us, the guest house is quite large, including a courtyard and playground area. As grocery stores are being looted and people being killed from violent riots, Kelly and I spent our evening playing on a see-saw (teeter-totter). We are happy, but a little bored...but at least boredom never killed anyone. AIM has issued an email that all of us in Nairobi are to stay in our houses and lie low for awhile. So, our plans are changed and we are not leaving Nairobi until the 7th (my Mom's Birthday and Orthodox Christmas). Our free ride to Entebbe was canceled because they were advised not to travel. On the 7th, instead, we will fly out to Entebbe for our regional conference.
Please pray for a PEACEFUL resolution in Kenya. Thanks.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas Thoughts

“In the Beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. ….The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. …Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” ~John 1:1-13
That passage has stuck with me this Christmas season. It has made me think about a couple different things since I’ve been in Sudan. First, the beauty of the poetic writings of John about Jesus’ coming—he doesn’t explain it dry, like a history textbook nor lofty like an analyst, but illustrative and beautiful. It is written clearly, and yet I am interested to read more. Each sentence builds on the other. Word--> Him--> life--> light--> darkness misunderstands light --> those who receive light, receive adoption.
John could have just as easily typed out a flow chart to be presented at the members’ meeting using Excel and Power Point to illustrate the processes of Jesus’ birth and the reason for Jesus’ birth and the whole Christmas story, but instead he used the power of language…a love note to the world, from God. When one wants to express something beautiful they don’t write it in a memo and spreadsheets and flow charts are not used. They instead write out poetry, so that the reader can understand the emotions in the words written. John was trying to make an appeal to the world—God was trying to make an appeal to the world—to make it clear that something great has been overlooked and this is the invitation to look again.
Christmas time, as we have come to know it, is the example of the greatest thing overlooked. We spend so much time in a buying frenzy, family frenzy, party frenzy, that we overlook what happened—the light came into the world and we, the darkness, have misunderstood it. We have completely misunderstood it. We dropped the ball, fumbled, did not collect the money after passing GO, missed the beat—misunderstood it.
The main event that hit me this year was not Black Friday, or crowded malls, but it was a girl named Lilly. Lilly is about 12 years old and comes from a poor family here in Ikotos (that is saying something because everyone is poor, but she is poorer). One morning I woke up, walked outside, and there was Lilly sitting on my porch. I said “Good Morning” and asked her if she was getting ready for Christmas. People here in Ikotos also have their way of getting ready for Christmas: re-mudding their huts, making alcohol, buying a goat, and buying new dresses, shirts, trousers, and shoes. So, I was really just making small talk with her, and not really expecting much of a response; but she replied “no, I don’t have any dress for Christmas.” Then, I asked her why that meant she could not celebrate Christmas. See, in Ikotos everyone goes to their church for an all-night celebration of singing and dancing and eating, wearing their new Christmas clothes. Those who cannot afford new Christmas clothes are too embarrassed to attend the church celebration so they just sit at home and maybe drink a soda or homebrew.
I felt prompted to talk to Lilly about the meaning of Christmas and how it really doesn’t matter what you’re wearing on Christmas, but it’s about what you are understanding at Christmas. After we spoke for a bit, Lilly left the compound, and I was left in my thoughts. I don’t actually know why she had come in the first place, but I do know that her response to Christmas sunk me. Later, I was listening to music and the song of “The Little Drummer Boy” caused me to tear. I know its just a song, but I really listened to the lyrics and thought about what the drummer boy might have been thinking on that day to see the baby Jesus. He sings of having no gift to give the baby Jesus, his new savior, the light of the world, but all he does have is his drum and his ability to play something beautiful for the new king. He probably was wearing rags like the children wear here in Sudan and he probably made his drum out of found materials (if it was in Sudan, it would have been made out of a NescafĂ© tin). The drummer boy probably heard of the new Messiah’s coming and probably was extremely excited from the news; but then he probably looked down at his clothes and remembered he was poor. I’m sure that he ran the scenario through his head several times before going to the manger, imagining what people would say and if the new king would even accept him. He had nothing to bring to the occasion, he smelled like the outdoors, and he looked poor. But finally it clicked and he understood. He realized that he did not need a thing… not one thing but the belief and understanding that the light had just come into the darkness. That thought overpowered him and he started running towards the manger—running and smiling, and deciding which song to play on his drum. He got there, and with adrenaline pumping, he didn’t care what other people thought, he just played for the one who mattered and played his heart out—he played a love song with passion.
That is what I want this Christmas. That is also what I want others to realize this Christmas. Whether you are in the United States, or Sudan, or any other place in the world, it is so simple: Light came -->darkness misunderstood -->those who understood are children of God—no matter what you are wearing or how many presents you have bought for others.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

March Against Gender-Based Violence in Ikotos

This is a press release I wrote for CRS after marching through Ikotos against gender-based violence:

Ikotos Advocates Against Gender-based Violence March, 8 December, 2007

"To whom does it belong?! To whom does it belong?!" Shouts the Ikotos Advocates Against Gender-based Violence, on the marking day of "16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence", in solidarity with others around the world marching to create a voice for human rights. The Ikotos-based group has been facilitated by the Catholic Relief Service-- Ikotos, Peacebuilding Intervention, in partnership with the Catholic Diosis of Torit, Lutheran World Federation, Norwegian Peoples Aid, Norwegian Church Aid, Sudanese Women's Voice for Peace, and the local authorities. The Ikotos-based group's mission statement is to celebrate and protect the integrity of all creation, and are committed to promote and practice peace, justice, and reconciliation.

Today, the group began the march at Commisioner's office, and after a speech by the commissioner, they marched through the market, into the compounds of NGOs such as LWF, NCA, and CRS, ending at the compound of CDOT. They carried signs that stated root problems of gender-based violence. Statements such as "Women Can Do It! Leadership, Empowerment, and Decision Making."

After the today's rally the group had a round table discussion on ways and means to generate economic empowerment, as one way of preventing violence in the community. One income generating activity the group decided on was uniform production. Currently, the uniforms for the local area schools are made in nearby Uganda. Traditionaly, tailoring is a man's job because it is not becomming of a woman to straddle the sewing machine. Today, that is not so much a problem, but rather only the lacking of the skills to do it. The group is currently looking for financial backing to begin this project.

Harmful Traditional Practices:
~Compensation: compensating death by killing, with young girls. For example, yesterday in the office of the courts, a 10 year old girl was to be given to the family of the victims of a killing, by the family of the murderer to avoid legal punishment. In this community, it is customary law to give a young girl in replacement of the murderer going to jail.

~"A baby girl to become a wife." Early and forced marriages are highly practiced in this community. Girls are given to marriage at puberty in the exchange of cattle and goats. Most of time, the girls are not mature enough for marriage. The girl can be as young as twelve years old and be given to a man in his late forties. These girls are then expected to bare children within the first six months, before their body is capable of delivery.

~Inheritance. When a man dies, his wife is given to his brother or male-relative in marriage, without the woman's permission or without her or the relative being tested for HIV.

Women Can Do it! Empowerment, Leadership, and Decision Making:
The Ikotos advocate group is encouraging women to be educated, leaders, and to make their own decisions on issues related their own welfare. Currently, women are still property in South Sudan.

Say 'No' to Domestic Violence:
In Ikotos, the traditional practice of husbands is to discipline their wives with abuse in the name of love. The men believe that this is the only way to teach a woman right from wrong. It is customary law in South Sudan that a woman who is beaten by her husband is not allowed to flee the home. As a result of fleeing, the woman can be arrested by the police.

The Use of Guns in Public Places:
Because of armed conflict, small weapons are readily available and mis-used in public places such as bars, schools, marketplaces, and church. In this community there is no gun control or legal action in place for gun violence.

Support Equal Opportunity of All Children:
Education for all children is important to stop violence in the community and in the home. When the men are educated, they do not raid cattle and they are less likely to abuse their wives; and when women are educated they are more likely get a job and support their families on their own and are less likely to have a husband who abuses them.

Say 'No' to School Drop-outs:
In Ikotos this year, one school alone reported 59 girls and 37 boys dropped out in the first term for various reasons. Some of the girls (even in primary) drop out due to pregnancy. In one instance, a girl as young as primary three dropped out of school this year because she was pregnant. Many of the students are forced to drop out of school because of lack of money for school fees. Several of the students are orphaned by the 21-year conflict in Southern Sudan. As of print, there are no official statistics in South Sudan for the reasons of drop-out.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Sudanese-American Thanksgiving

I am sorry that it has taken this long for me to update you on what is up here in Ikotos. The past month has been VERY busy. Between setting mid-terms, to then setting and typing final exams, and even typing exams for the other teachers, attending a Peace Workshop, and then traveling to Torit for Thanksgiving, I have not had a lot of time on the computer.
First, school is just about over for the 3rd term and the students will be traveling home for their long break (like our summer break). After Wednesday, I will not see many of them until February 1st. They finished taking their exams last week, while I was in Torit. I will miss the students, however, I am also glad for the rest. During the next two weeks I plan to paint the inside of my tuukel, varnish my kitchen table, re-boot my computer after first organizing all the pictures on it and transferring them to my flash disk, and then finally going to Gulu to see the IDP camps. I will be travelling with LWF by rode, 7 hours, to see the place that I have been campaigning for the past 2 years. Although, you should know that the LRA has affected this part of Sudan just as much as it did Uganda.
In Gulu, I will spend only about 3 days before heading back to Ikotos and then heading to Lokichoggio,Kenya; Nairobi,Kenya; and catching a ride with some missionaries (The Carpenters)to Kampala,Uganda. I will be spending Christmas in Loki with the Hildebrandts: Jon and Ginny. Jon is a pilot for AIM Air and Ginny is an excellent cook. Another short-term missionary, Kelly Miller, will also be joining me on this tri-country excursion over the holiday season. Kelly works in Torit with the HIV ward of the hospital and at the AIC pre-school. She lives with the Bylers and Matthew Lovelace, a full-term missionary teacher, along with another couple, Russ and Lyn Noble.
In Nairobi, we will not only enjoy being there on election day, but also have fun in the big city for a week. Personally, I am looking forward to some good coffee, pizza, and ice cream-- like any modern American.
In Kampala we might try to visit a wildlife preserve or game park. There is one that has some fabulous waterfalls, which I will look forward to seeing. That will all be done during our week to kill, before the Central Regional conference. The conference will also be for about a week.

So, Thanksgiving... I flew to Torit (a 15 minute flight) to spend the holiday with some other Americans (those mentioned above). I arrived there on Wednesday the 21st and stayed until Friday the 30th-- so a week and a half, I was there. You all were celebrating on Thursday, but because of tired travelers, we decided to celebrate on Saturday, which gave us the energy to cook and have fun. We had some Sudanese guests that happen to be in town, who had come from Juba, and then many Sudanese from right there in Torit. All together making up more Sudanese than Americans, thus calling it a Sudanese-American Thanksgiving.
Our traditional Thanksgiving is a celebration of the harvest and thanking God for good food, but also a celebration of the first pilgrims with the American-Indians, and thanking them for teaching us about new crops and sharing time together. Well, I thought about that with our Thanksgiving celebration because here we are, both Sudanese and American, sharing ideas together, teaching, learning, and enjoying each others' presence. Everyone had a good time laughing, eating, singing, and drawing. As you can see be one of the pictures, Linda had the idea of doing a collaborative drawing in which everyone drew a picture of what they were thankful for this year. For me, I drew a picture of Africa and a heart on Sudan, with people holding hands, because I am thankful to have made it here. For my blind friend Willie, I drew his picture for him as well. He is thankful for friendship, so I drew a picture of him and I.
After drawing, we all explained what we drew, translating in both Arabic and English. Then, we ate a dinner of: pumpkin soup, cooked pumpkin leaves with peanut sauce, rice, corn bread, meat, and bread. For dessert, we had pumpkin bread, chocolate cake (icing and sprinkles compliments of Trinity care package), and papaya. Everyone was well-fed and happy with the menu. I was surprised, but even our Sudanese guests enjoyed the chocolate cake-- most of the time my friends here do not enjoy sweet foods, only sweet tea.
Finishing up the night, we sang songs and chatted until it was time to disperse at dark. The moon was a beautiful orange pumpkin that night, as seen above.
While in Torit, during the next week, I was able to sit in on HIV counseling and even watch a HIV test be given, and learned about the different kinds and how to do them. I was surprised at how easy it was to do. Just one drop of blood from the finger, onto the tester, wait 15 minutes and the results are in. But of course, it is good for them to come back within 6 months because there is a window period whereby the test shows negative and maybe later will show positive.
I also followed Kelly to the Pre-school, where she teaches primary 1 (1st grade). Those kids are cute, but boy, I don't think I could handle that everyday, or even every other day! They sure do have a lot of energy-- that is an understatement.
It was cool because there, I was able to help by putting my small juba arabic into practice. In Ikotos, Linda and Kelly assisted me with my school stuff, and in Torit, I was able to be a translator and an extra hand for discipline. Both mornings, I also slipped away to be with the little little ones, to teach them some songs like "This is the day that the Lord has made," "skimmer-a-rinky-dink," and "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes." Those kids were great and hilarious!
So, that was my time in Torit, in a nut shell. In the next entry I would like to show you pictures from the STAR Peace Workshop and let you in on the peace building training that is going on here in Ikotos, for people from all over South Sudan. This particular session was on "restorative justice." I'll let you know more about it later. Thanks for letting me fill you in on this past month. I hope that all of you also had a great Thanksgiving. Feel free to comment and let me know!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Pictures of My House

So here is my Tuukel (hut). The outside is made of mud, but the inside is lined with concrete on the walls and floor. The roof, as you can see, is made of grass and bamboo. However, on the inside it is lined with plastic so that the light (yes, light!) shines brighter, like a giant lamp shade and also, it keeps the bats and other gross things from falling on my head. In the pictures, I had not yet added my kitchen counter, but on the side with the Katadyn gravity bag, I now have a table for cooking and doing dishes. As some of you know, I received a Steripen for filtering water. I use the Steripen at school and when I go on road trips. For example, about a month ago we drove out to Lobwaya, a village in the mountains. We did some long hiking and ran out of water, so at a river I was able to just bust out the Steripen and provide fresh water for everyone. But, at home I use the 10 Litre Katadyn Gravity filter bag that hangs from a carabiner hung from a bamboo (my dad had bought the filter, which turned out to be very handy). on both sides of the room, there are twin beds. This is leftover from some guests that came during my time at Agnes' house, but the second bed works out great for keeping my bags termite free. Also, another girl, Lydia, will be staying with us and teaching for 5 months, so she will probably use it then. On the back wall of the room, I keep my desk, which is great to have for marking papers. On the right wall is my bed, all of my skirts/dresses which hang from a clothesline and a shelf for keeping my food and toiletry stuff. As you can see in the pictures, the walls don't go up very high-- probably about 5 feet. On the contrary, the ceiling is very tall for great ventilation. Jordan created a design of mosquito mesh around the edge of the walls, in the gap between the wall and the roof. This design keeps all the creepy crawlers outside, unless they walk through the front door. In the pictures you can see things hanging from clothesline on all sides. So far, this seems to be the best method for keeping things handy, dry, termite free, and off the ground. Even my mirror is a hand mirror which hangs from a zip tie, from th clothesline. I'm thinking about how I can incorporate all that into installation art. "suspended" maybe would be the title. orrr...something, heh.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

My House and Daily life

Somebody recently emailed me to suggest that I describe my daily life. Here, I get so used to it that I forget that the readers back home are interested...

Just recently, I have been waking up at 6 a.m. to go running with Andrea. We run to the air strip (1KM), run the length of the air strip (1km), and then run back. Then we stretch and prepare for the day. For me, that means putting on a pot of water for coffee and a bath. This usually takes 2 kettles' worth. So, I drink my coffee, eat some granola and then do a splash bath, which involves a basin and that's about it.

After all that, I walk a km to school through some twisting paths in the bush.
Reaching school is no simple task you see. As one of the few Kewajas (white folk) in Ikotos, walking down the street is like being a rock star. From the moment I leave the compound, I am waving to children and greeting old grandmothers. From a distant compound, through the maize fields I hear "Kewaja! Kewaja! Bye, bye!" I don't know how the children see me from so far or why the only English they know is "bye,bye," but I never fail to greet them because, as a kewaja, I'm representing all kewajas. I am reminded of the movie "101 Dalmatians." If you recall the film, at one point they must send out a distress signal throughout the town, using dog barks. It starts with one dog, and then with a chain of dog barks, every dog is aware that the puppies are in danger. It is the same here. One kid will spot me, and then, the cry goes out to all that I am here. Many kids will drop what they are doing and run towards the edge of their compounds to wave. Can you imagine being late for work and having to greet every person you meet on the street? In Washington, it would be quite a sight! So, as I said, its not just the children, but also the people in the market, men repairing bikes, old people, etc. I have to budget them into my walking time.
Once at school, I am safe from rock starism, and can feel at ease with my students. Although, I am called "Madam" here at AIC Luther Secondary School. I have also told them it is ok to call me Meghan. Even in WV, I don't care for being called Ms.Baird-- that's for people who aren't young and have fun, right? When I worked at Potomack Intermediate School, after school, at the gym, I'd see my students in the bathroom and they say "Hi, Ms.Baird!" and there goes my youth. Anyway, Madam isn't so bad really. So, I usually have about 3 classes a day and some of those 3 might be a double period (80min). Actually, most days there are 2 double periods at least and then a single period as well. School begins at 8:20am and goes until 4:40pm (geesh!). However, on the days when I don't have morning class, you won't reach me there-- I'm at home taking a slow coffee break and/or sweeping my porch, doing dishes, etc.. At 10:20, we have a break in which the teachers have hot, sweet tea and mandazees (a fried, bread/doughnut thing--not sweet). Then, at 1:00, we have lunch break. The students eat something called "beleyla," which is lentils and sorghum mashed into a paste like stew. Its actually quite good, I think, but the teachers refuse to eat it, so the cooks make us Asita (mashed corn or sorghum paste) and then either janjaro (beans), greens, or meat (blacchh!). The students all eat outside on the grass or sitting on logs. The girls, no matter the grade, usually all sit together; and the boys do the same. With the exception of me, the teachers sit in the staff room. I prefer to sit with the girls so that I can get to know them and offer advice every now and then. I'd like to think of myself as a guide to them. So, later, anywhere between 4:00 and 4:40, or sometimes at 5:00 or 6:00, I walk home, back through the maize fields and the market, to fi bet tie (my home)-- greeting people again. In the New Sudan, some important phrases you need to know in Juba Arabic are: "Inta ghi rwa when?" (You are going where?); Ana ghi rwa fi bet (I am going home); or "Ana ghi rwa fi medresa (I am going to school); "Ana ghi rwa fi suuk (" "to the market), but if you say this one, you better be prepared to tell them what you are planning to buy, because any old stranger will ask; and you need to know this phrase, "Inta Jammin when?" (You are coming from where?). I don't know why everyone is so nosy, but they are, so I tell them and then I ask them the same. But when you are running late, most importantly you need to know how to say "ana ghi rwa gwam gwam!" (I am going quickly quickly!) and usually people will just smile and say "kwes, kwes, salem taake!" (good, good, peace be yours).
When I reach home, most of the time there are some small girls at the house with whom I laugh with a bit and then attempt to help Andrea cook dinner. I eat dinner with Andrea, Jordan, and Calum because it is just easier than cooking on my own. A lot of the time, I get home so late, that the food is already cooked and I just plop down and chow down. Most days I offer to do the dishes...sometimes that doesn't actually happen because of time. Then, in the evening, if there is not a snake bite or a scorpion bite victim that comes to the compound, the 3 of us (Calum is sleeping) talk a bit before bed. "Snake bite!?" you ask, yeah, so the Scotlands have this contraption made of basically a car battery and some electrical wire and a probe, that sends electrical currents through the body from the bite, and brings the venom back down. Experts say that its impossible for it to work, however, every time the person walks away better--most of the time. Our nights are lame in that we go to bed sooo early. All that socializing all day really tires a person out. I learned at the South Sudan conference in Torit that missionaries have their own midnight...9p.m.! I don't know about the NGO people though, they seem to never leave their compound unless in a vehicle, so they can probably boogie on down later than us (sorry NGO people, but its true). One other thing that is tiring, is speaking in a Sudanese accent all day. Its like being an actor for 15 hours straight, everyday. For me it reminds me of having to talk to southerners in the U.S., except worse. Well, actually, in some ways its better because at least the Sudanese don't drag out their sentences while their talking. :)
Welp guys, that is a typical some point I'll let you in on the weekends, which is a bit different, but no less busy! Here are a few pictures to help you visualize.
Also, before I forget, I want to tell you guys about a great experience the other day. I was walking home from school through the market (fi suuk) like I always do, and some old men, who were sitting on the veranda of a shop asked me to come have a soda with them. After sitting, I was told that those are all the chiefs of Ikotos County. The head Parliament chief was there, along with others who are the heads of their village and the court judges here in Ikotos, the town. They thanked me profusely for teaching their young ones. The head chief said that he knows its no simple task to leave my family and volunteer in a foreign place. He told me to feel free to roam anywhere I'd like in this area and gave me a list of all the Chiefs' names and titles. He said that if I want to go footing through the mountains, then to go and feel safe and nobody will bother me. He also said that he will repay me with soda whenever I'd like. That day I had 2 500ml cokes! The next day I sat with them and had one there and they gave me one to go. Then, yesterday, I told them that I was feeling sick to my stomach all day, the head chief sent someone with me to a shop to get 2 sodas and told me to go home and rest! So, as you can see I'm spoiled here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

AIC Luther Secondary School

Here is the outside of Luther Secondary School. At one end there is a teacher's lounge, then Senior 1,2, and 3's classrooms. Then, where senior 4 is supposed to be, is the faculty eating place. Currently, all of the s-4s are in Uganda preparing for their UNAB Exam.
2.) The Kitchen
3.) Senior 3 students (6)
4.) Senior 2 Students (about 10)
5.) Senior 1 students (about 20)
I want to add a picture of the cooks cooking outside the kitchen, but when I was taking the pictures, the cooks had already gone home.

So, What's it like at school? Well, I'll tell you. First, I have been given S 1-3 History of Africa (S1&2 East A. and S3 S.A.); and I teach English S1-3. Recently, because the Headmaster did not return to Ikotos after break, we had to appoint a new headmaster. The teachers and the regional director wanted me to be the H.M., but after much convincing, I got them to appoint someone else. So, Job, who is from Kenya and felt a call from God to teach here after teaching many refugees who are from here, is now the H.M.. Me? I'm now the treasurer of sorts. Those who know me will laugh at this, but I'm basically the school's accountant. Since none of the other teachers (except Job) can be trusted with the school's money, I have to hold onto it with dear life and fight back those who want to use it for wasteful things.
The best thing about being the treasurer is that I get to have a stamp. In the New Sudan, having a stamp is VERY important-- and easy to get. Any person here in the market can make you your own special stamp, and if you have a stamp on any docuement, its as good as if it came from the late John Guarang himself. And having a stamp to call your own makes you to be a big person in society. :)

The students, after a slow trickle over the past month, I believe have all come. Students come from all over the surrounding area from off the mountains. When you see the pictures of the mountains, you would not believe that there are several villages sprawling across the mountain ranges. Here, in Ikotos, we are in the valley and are considered to be a major town. Having a main road and even a market. Ikotos also has a lot of NGO bases, so it is considered to be rich because of all the relief given here (LWF,CRS,NCA,UNHCR,etc.). So, the students have to wait for an NGO or some other type of vehicle, maybe even SPLA, to give them a ride into town from their village. The roads here are also really bad, so a 20k trip could take several hours or up to 2 days if the vehicle gets stuck in a mud hole. Currently, we are awaiting the CRS food bags for the students' lunches, which is on a vehicle stuck about 100ks up the road, coming from Kenya. As of now, we have run out of food and so the students have to either go home for lunch, or in some cases, there is no food at home, so they hunger until dinner when they are able to go to somebody's house, or the woman who they are staying with comes in from the fields and cooks for them.
The problem I have in the classroom here is that the students are used to the teacher copying straight from the book onto the chalkboard. Most of the teachers don't even know the subject in which they are teaching and for sure all of them are not qualified (except Job). So, If I am to first lecture and then copy key facts onto the board, they accuse me of witholding information from them. For my senior 3 class, one student was becomming cross with me and so I wrote a word on the board "plagarism." I said "Do you know what that means?" It means to copy words from a text illegally. Here it reads on the first page 'copyright' that means it is illegal to copy the exact words from the book. Now if you want to actually learn the subject, let me continue." He hasn't bothered me since then-- I think I made my point clear. I told the students that I have noticed the blank looks on their faces when I ask them a question. I told them that is what happens when you copy notes and don't understand what you're writing (You see, I did review with them of what they learned last term and nobody knew anything unless they read from their notes).
After that hurdle, now things are moving along better. My S-3s are doing essay drills in English and learning about the Bantu migration in Southern Africa for History (thank you Dr.Maxon from WVU). For English, I have one book for all of S 1-4. It is to prepare them for the exam they will take in Uganda at the end of S-4. So, of course then the S-1s are at the very beginning of the book, learning how to construct a sentence, the S-2s are learning puncuation, and the S-3s are towards the end of the book learning how to construct a sentence (oh, I mean, write essays) ;).
All in all, I love laughing with the students, getting to know their stories, and watching them learn and ask questions. They also enjoy teaching me Juba Arabic and laugh at me as I go back and forth between English and Arabic. The students are great and really want to learn-- its just unfortunate that they are not able to receive a better education.
The ages in the classroom vary, because of the war, there are some S-3 students who are as old as me and have a wife/husband and a kid at home. So, in one class you can have a 14yr old and a 26yr old together. Some of the primary students are as old as the secondary students. That is one of the casualties of war-- education.