Thursday, February 28, 2008

My Tuukel Remodeled

Just so everyone knows, it was 48 degrees Celsius the other day, which is 120 degrees Fahrenheit! I was wondering why I felt like I was going to pass out while walking to school, but then I found out the temperature.
No worries, there has been other ways that I try to keep cool. For example, two days agon, I set up my hammock finally and that allows for a nice cross-breeze. And Phil installed my car fan onto the head board of my bed. It sounds like an airplane taking off, but it keeps me cool at night so that I can sleep.
Everything else is still the same. The numbers at school are going up and we have mostly girls this term. We still don't have proper books, but in time maybe.
The school and our compound are awaiting Lydia's arrival. I have cleaned up her side of the tuukel and prepared a proper "kitchen" complete with hand washing station.
She will be coming on Tuesday.
The pictures above are of my new and improved tuukel since the last time you saw it. Days before Christmas, Kelly and I painted the walls a nice, creamy yellow. Then, I fixed up the rest when I returned from Kenya. Its pretty swank now except for the termites and rats that like to make their residence inside, and the occasional cat who tries to steal my bread and power bars!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Back in Ikotos again

I came back from Torit yesterday with Phil and Linda Byler, who helped me to bring back some mattresses for my tuukel to share with Lydia, who will be here for 3 months, and they helped me to bring a lot of fresh food. Torit gets shipments of fresh produce and other supplies from Kenya and Uganda that we don't get in Ikotos, although we are right over the Ugandan border. So, it was great to have a means to bring all that stuff, plus, to be able to talk to my unit leaders for a few hours undivided.
On Monday, I will begin teaching and have heard that more students have been coming for class. Tomorrow I need to be diligent in completing my scheme for History for this term. I was putting that one off in case the Sudan curriculum changed anything, because once the South Sudan curriculum really begins, then the students will be learning more specifically about the history of South Sudan and less of East African history. However, that is not an option at the moment, so I will be looking through my half torn book to figure out some lesson plans for the Senior 1 and 2 classes. The book belongs to another teacher who had bought it from Uganda and now it is completely falling apart and missing some pages. Last week, I was borrowing a bicycle from someone and had the book tied to the back, as I rode to the air strip to meet a plane. As I rode, I hit a bump, coming out of a ditch and the book went flying off with all of the unglued pages flying up into the air and scattering themselves along the dirt road. I felt like an adjunct, absent-minded professor as I quickly jumped off the bike and collected the pages. A few children watched me and one small girl said "mylesh (sorry)." Hoping not to miss the plane before it took off again, I gathered the pages under my arm and rode on to the air strip to collect a parcel for the Scotlands. When I reached the airstrip (which was in view of the incident), there happened to be some kewajas there from an NGO, so I explained that my book had fallen apart and one of the ladies looked at my ragamuffin-self and replied, "clearly." My face might have turned red had it not already been red from the late morning jaunt in getting there. So, the pages were already disjointed, but now they are even crazier than before.
*Added in this entry is a picture of the AIM house in Torit and most of my students from last term.

Friday, February 15, 2008

In Torit

On Monday I went to school to begin classes, however, the students have not yet come. A few faithful students trickled in throughout the week to register and pay their school fees—most of them girls. So, we decided to declare this week opening and registration week and next will we will resume teaching. For the term, we will only have 7 actual weeks of teaching (out of 11) because of this delay, along with midterms, and finals, and closing (which takes a whole week). Job, the Kenyan headmaster, has asked all of the teachers to make a scheme of teaching for the term. I am hoping that this makes the teachers feel a sense of importance to teach at their scheduled time. For me, I typed out my scheme for English, which makes me feel more prepared to teach this term. I am still waiting to plan out the history lesson because we are in the process of phasing out the Ugandan curriculum and moving on to the one of South Sudan.

Currently, I am in Torit because someone from the school had to pick up the South Sudan curriculum from the Ministry of Education (don’t worry about me and the traveling. I volunteered to be the one to go. In Torit, I’m able to buy fresh fruit and vegetables to bring back to Ikotos, and hang out with friends. To get here, I just jump on board-- for free-- with a NGO vehicle that is already going this way). The South Sudan school calendar officially starts today as a new school year, but for some reason they made it impossible to retrieve the curriculum until the first day. All of you teachers out there, I’m sure would feel unprepared and anxious if you were unable to know what you had to teach until the first day of school. It is a bit annoying here, but at the same time, in this African context, I’ve learned to go with the flow. The main thing that bothers me is that the students are the ones who suffer when the teachers don’t know what they are doing themselves.

Today, I went into the ministry of education to talk to the head guy for the curriculum and he handed me what looked more like a book of rules than a curriculum (I know that some of you public school teachers are laughing right now b/c you feel the same way sometimes). Seriously though, neither mentions what we are supposed to actually teach nor a list of the textbooks. I asked the guy if I can obtain a list of the textbooks from somewhere, but he said that the list is in Juba and that I would have to wait until NEXT month to receive the list and possibly some textbooks. Hmmm….my thought is that if the list of textbooks is not there, then maybe, just maybe, we should hold off on requiring the new curriculum.

So, because the textbooks will not be ready until next month, we will continue with the Ugandan curriculum at least until next month, but hopefully we will not start it until next term for the student’s sake. However, knowing how things work around here, teachers may decide that it’s best to switch even as late as midterms. In late March I will come back to Torit to get the list of textbooks, and hopefully the actual textbooks so that we can sort through them and try to decipher what the curriculum for a South Sudan school year will look like.

My plan for now is that I will be leaving Torit (possibly) tomorrow with a NGO vehicle going back to Ikotos from Juba, and will begin instruction on Monday. Tomorrow is Andrea’s birthday, so I hope to celebrate that with her there. In Ikotos right now we have, and are expecting, a lot of guests for the next 3 months. There is a South African TIMO missionary staying with us for 1 month, along with a veteran AIM couple from Canada and their whole team of college students here for 3 months, and an individual American short-termer staying with us for 3 months (beginning late Feb). My understanding is that when I return from Torit, the Canadian team will be there beginning their home-stays and language lessons. The South African is spending her time observing the Scotland’s mission, the Canadian team will be learning the culture out at Lobwaya (in the village), and the American will be living with me and working with me at the secondary school. The school term ends 20 April, just in time for the South Sudan Team retreat in Torit. Then, in June, which will be the beginning of 2nd term, possibly a team out of Liberty College will be coming to assist with the various programs in Ikotos for 5 or 6 weeks.

That is the scoop and the outline for Ikotos as of late. I will try to keep everyone informed with the goings on of our little super centre. **note: the pictures are of my trip to Lobwaya last fall. Make sure to take note of the use of the USA cooking oil cans on the door of the tuukel (written on the cans, “A gift from the people of the USA. Not for resale” Do you know what the can of oil that I buy in the market says?).

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Home Sweet Ikotos

Yesterday, I returned safely to Ikotos from my two-month, tri-country excursion. After being in Kenya for so long with modern conveniences like running water and flush toilets, along with fresh vegetables and fruit, it will be some getting used to the rustic living once again.
The last time I blogged, I told you all that I was sick. Well, I am much better now and I thank you all for praying and thinking about me. I’m not sure what all I had, but the symptoms seemed like malaria at first and then after going through a round of malaria treatment and not getting better, I was tested for an infection or an ameba. It turned out that I did have a bacterial infection for sure, but we don’t know if I also had malaria. Anyway, that is in the past and I’m moving forward with a clean bill of health. It was just in time too, that I got better, for I was only well for about 5 days before I re-entered Sudan.
The Africa-Based Orientation (ABO) that I was attending for the children’s ministry went well. There were 14 children, not including the babies which made Kelly, Carolyn, and I have our hands full. The children were great, but rambunctious. Most of them had never been to Africa before and were leaving their friends and family behind, and were definitely not used to having to walk everywhere. We took them on walks to the shops, the pre-school, around the campus, and to swim in a pool at a near-by boarding school. Inside, we taught them about Africa: the people, the cultures, religions, animals, and Kiswahili.
On our day off, a few of us went to a game ranch to see some wildlife. I was still sick when we went but I managed to stick out the ride on the first evening. Overnight I became violently ill and slept the entire next day. Fortunately, the rest of the group took some amazing pictures, which I hope to upload here for you.
So, the 3 weeks in Machakos went by very quickly. We lived in a dorm with 2 sets of bunk-beds, 2 closets, 2 desks, and horrible cafeteria food. Not to discredit the hardworking cooks at Scott Theological College, but I think most people were tired of cabbage, rice, Ungali (corn-maze mush), and beans by the first week. Those were our options for lunch and dinner everyday. Because I was sick, eventually I went into town and bought pasta, cheese, crackers, bread, tuna, mayo, and yogurt. Kelly and I started making tuna sandwiches everyday for lunch and pasta or grilled cheese for dinner (well, actually I made tuna and Kelly ate PB&J).
On the 5th of February, we left Machakos and drove to Nairobi, staying with Carolyn, for 3 days. The first thing we did there was get pizza! Fortunately for us the Pizza Inn has a 2-for-1 deal on Tuesday, which helped me to devour most of a veggie pizza—I had to make up for lost time of eating ;). Then, we drove to a mall and looked around a real book store for a couple hours and then went to a coffee house called Java House, which we had wanted to go to since we first arrived in Nairobi. At Java House, there is wireless internet and American-style food. Because we were still so full from lunch, we just ate salads, which was actually pretty great since we don’t get salads in Sudan. The next day, we went to Java House again for breakfast, and then to the movies to see Atonement. The movie was great cinematography-wise, and intense.
After doing some mega grocery shopping for the next leg of Sudanese living, we prepared to organize everything for the plane ride to Loki. We are only allowed 20 kilos of luggage and I had a total of 47ks! Fortunately, I was able to pay a little extra and get on the plane. Any one of you would have laughed to see my duffle bag, along with 4 gigantic grocery bags—tied off at the top— a huge pillow, and my extremely full backpack. I don’t think that any regular airline would have ever allowed such an arrangement. So, we made it safely to loki, spent the night at the Carpenter’s house, who then flew us out to Sudan the next morning (If you follow along in the last couple emails, you might see that we stayed with the Carpenters in Uganda, but recently they moved to Loki last week). Now, I am back and will start teaching again on Monday. Apparently, last week the teachers went on strike for money, but this week they will be back. We will see.
A verse that I enjoyed last night was 2 Corinthians 8:13-15: “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, and so that in their turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: ‘He who gathered much did not have too much and he who gathered little did not have too little.’” I think that we could all apply that to our lives in some way. For me, it is all about being generous with my Sudanese friends—not just with money, but with my time.
**p.s.- the pictures of the town, the landscape, and the children are from my hike in Machakos the first week. The animal pictures are from the safari. Doesn't the landscape picture look like Napa Valley CA? Click on the images to enlarge them.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Flying to Loki and then Sudan

Just to let everyone know, I am flying to Loki tomorrow morning and will be there until I figure out a flight into Sudan. Everything is still going well with me here in Nairobi. Things seem back to normal except they are out of raisins-- guess I'll have raisonless granola! I'll update you when I get to Loki and have longer time to internet. Peace.