Saturday, March 29, 2008


Kopango? Kope! (how are you? fine! in Acholi). I am now back from Gulu and feeling refreshed. My friends Kennedy and Andrew, who are from Gulu, had told me that it was a big town, but I had never guessed that it was so big! It was like being in the big city-- not as big as Nairobi, but lets just say that they have air-conditioned banks!

We arrived there on Good Friday and stayed at a guest house that belonged to Kennedy's neighbor. The place doesn't seem to be used much and is definitely a family opperation. The bathroom is set up for running water, but just like out of an Ali Mzuri film (you know what I'm talking about IS grads), the water didn't work! So, we had to pour water into the toilet for it to "flush" and had to take a splash bath in the bath tub. Here in Ikotos I have to take a splash bath everyday, but we have the bath house set up for slash bathing, however when you splash bathe in a bath tub it is much more difficult. Although, we can't really complain because it roughly cost us about $2.50 a night--each and they provided us with an electric kettle for tea/coffee and with clean sheets.

We stayed there for 2 nights only before moving over to a more equipped guest house. At the new place, the Franklin Guest House, I had a single-- non-self-contained-- room and Kelly and Lydia shared a double-- non-SC-- room (non-SC means that the toilets and showers are shared by other guests). This place did have running water and the rooms were very nice and I had a great full-size bed. We stayed here for 2 nights at about $10 a night. whew, breaking the bank!

While there, we visited Kennedy's and Andrew's families. The first night we had tea with Kennedy and his wife Rose and met one of his daughters and his baby son. Later that night we had dinner with Andrew and his wife Dorene and their little daughter, Gifty (pictured above). Dorene is the best cook ever and we wished that they didn't have to go to Kampala to see their son, just so we could have dinner their every night. Dorene prepared for us: greens with peanut sauce, spicy lentils, Ungali, millet bread (like ungali), spiced rice, chicken (for those who eat meat), and fresh passion fruit juice. Later in the weekend, she showed us how to prepare greens (Bor) with egg,onions and tomato. Both nights at Andrew's house were warm and full of laughter.

Our Second favorite place to go while in Gulu was the Kope Cafe. It is a Mzuungu (white person) friendly place that serves great coffee and cafe-style food. 100% of the profits go towards the HEALS organization that supports healthy childhoods for the children of Gulu. One of their projects is implementing art into their life.

We went to Kope everyday for breakfast because they had the most amazing muesli (yogurt, mango, banana, honey, and corn flakes) and great coffee. Sometimes we went there for lunch or dinner too because we couldn't pass up the chance to try out there afternoon menu as well-- which was equally as good as breakfast.

The people who work at the cafe are just as great as the food we serve. Pictured at the top are two of our waitresses in their uniforms, who served us everyday, and the picture above is of Agnes and I. On the back of her shirt it reads: "as a child, I have the right to play."

One of my main goals of going to Gulu was to see the Invisible Children office. After watching the docuementary, "Invisible Children: the Rough Cut," I have volunteered a lot of time to publicizing the issue of war, night commuting, child soldiers, health conditions in IDP camps, and other issues in Northern Uganda; and lobbying congress and promoting letter writing to our congressmen. So, I wanted to see the field office and talk to someone about what they are doing in Gulu. We went there on Tuesday, the same day we left Gulu, and met with the PR officer. She showed us around the office and introduced us to some of the staff. I found out that they have Ugandan mentors who help former child soldiers with anything from pschyological issues to homework. The mentors go to the child's school, and the children will also come to the office when needed. They do many other things that are listed on their website, but this is one of the things I didn't know about.
At the end of the tour, we received a free copy of the film, which is great because just the night before, Andrew was saying that he had wanted to see the film. Sometime when school lets out, we will have a movie night at the LWF compound, where their is power and a projector.
To find out more about Invisible Children, click on their link in the list to the right of this page.

On Easter Sunday we went to prayers at a place called "Christ Church." Its an Anglican church that Andrew had recommended. We didn't know any other place to go, and we definitely wanted to go to a church that celebrated Easter (some African churches don't celebrate Easter-- we discovered when we returned to Ikotos that our home church didn't). The service was the MOST different Easter service sermon that I have ever heard. The Bishop of the area, who was on his way to Juba for a peace and reconciliation meeting, gave the sermon. He used the regular old verses from the gospels about Jesus' death, but when he spoke of Judas, he went off on an hour and a half tangent on how we betray the ones we love, just as Judas betrayed Jesus. He went on about Wives betraying their sons, children betraying parents, friends betraying friends, etc. It was looong. Lets just say that. Then, at the end of the sermon, he told all the IDPs to go home-- "the war is over! Go HOME!"-- that was his closing. ha, I was inspired-- to go home.

One other aspect of Gulu that I would like to mention is the market. I have to say that the open, produce market is so organized. Ikotos could take a lesson in their organization. It was nice to walk to one area and see all the bananas, and another area: the rest of the fruit, and another area: all the beans and legumes, etc. Because outside of Sudan is where we have to buy all of our fresh produce and almost everything else besides onions and flip flops, the market was at the top of the list last weekend.

We returned to Ikotos on Wednesday, spending one night in Kitgum (the closest big town to Ikotos). The trip from Gulu to Ikotos is only a 6 hour drive, but unfortumately we got a late start from Gulu, so we had an extra night in Uganda. The roads in Sudan are so bad that a trip that would take about 3 hours in the US takes us 6. Plus, all the rocking and rolling down the road makes one tired at the end of the trip. I think all of us were ready to crash on the bed to and from Gulu. Otherwise, it was a great trip and I recommend Gulu to anyone!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Coconut Offerings, Sins of the Father, and Easter

HAPPY ST.PATRICK’S DAY!! I hope you all are wearing GREEN! Me, I’m sitting in my GREEN hammock as I type.

Since the last entry, Lydia, the new short-termer, has arrived and is learning the culture of the school, as well as that of the town. She has a blog that I will add to the list on the right so that you can read her perception of Ikotos. The second day she was here, we drove off to Torit to get her traveling pass and spent some time at Mahaal Saalem (the AIM Torit house) with the Bylers, the Nobles, and Kelly and Matt. As always it was fun and relaxing to spend time with them. Lydia is a cross-country runner, so she has been whipping me back into shape. Veronica (my sister) has registered me for a ½ marathon in Baltimore that will take place in October. So, I really need to start training. On Saturday and Sunday, I ran about 6 miles, on Monday, about 4 or 5, and then on Tuesday about 2 or 3 miles! Unfortunately, I have been having some pain in my foot after I run since August, before I left for Sudan, and on Sunday the pain returned. The pain is around my arch, which is swollen and it hurts when I walk, run or bike. Today I had Dr. Phil (Byler) look at it, since he came into town today to lead a workshop in Lobwaya (the village close-by). He says that I have a stress-fracture and that I should lay off running for at least a month. I thought that could be the case, but I was surprised that it hadn’t healed while I was in Kenya and only ran twice there in the span of 2 months. Dr. Phil says that it just hasn’t had time to heal properly with all my moving around. So, fat camp is off and I’m going to stick to leg lifts and a core work-out for the next month so that I will be healed in enough time to train for the race. I plan to still ride Jordan’s bike a bit though—Phil says that as long as I ride with my heels (a biker’s faux pas) than, it should be ok.

Life here is pretty much the same, except that the town is growing because the refugees from Kenya and Uganda are moving home in preparation for the national census. In order to have the big vote for/against separation, the country needs an account of its residents. Because of all this, the school term is being shortened to April 11th, instead of the 19th. The South Sudan Unit retreat in Torit is the 19th and 20th, so I will be going out there a little bit early to help with anything they need. Afterwards, Lydia and I will figure out something else to do around Ikotos for the month of May. Some ideas about tutoring or literacy have been bounced around. I might even take this opportunity to build my Juba Arabic vocabulary.

I should mention that, after a lot of thought and talking with the Central Region coordinators, the Scotlands are returning to Canada again, the first week of May to have their second baby and to encourage some interested couples to come back out here with them permanently. It is true that living here without interaction with other westerners is difficult and lonely. I used to be judgmental of people who felt that way until I lived here alone for only a month last year. So, for me, when Lydia leaves at the end of May for Kampala, I will fly out with her to do my exit interview with the Central Region and then fly to Nairobi. Veronica will meet me in Nairobi on 2 June and we will spend a week there together. After she leaves, I will explore some ministry opportunities for 3 weeks in Nairobi and then help with the Africa-Based Orientation (ABO) again, for the month of July. ABO is from 1 July to the 22nd and I hope to fly out sometime around the 24th. In all, I will not be coming home early however; my ministry in Ikotos will be cut short. My friends here have already told me how sad they are that I am leaving so soon. I told them that we shouldn’t think about it now because we still have 2 more months to enjoy each others’ presence.

That is all for now, except I want to tell you a brief story about the fellowship the Church held at the home of my neighbors. Usually our Friday night fellowship is lively, with lots of singing and the neighbors tend to show up to join along. Last Friday an older woman came out from her compound to sing with us and then went back home (just on the other side of the bamboo fence) for the sermon. When it was time to take up a collection for the people who hosted us with their food, the woman came back out with a coconut and kneeled before the table with the offering plate to give her thanks to God. I felt touched that, although she probably has little to no money, she brought her offering with such love for the Lord. I think about us on Sundays, giving our tithes, and the grumblings about giving “too much” to the church. Her display of admiration and generosity was beautiful and I hope to always remember it.

One more story that I want to tell you is that of a fellow teacher at the school. He was recently thrown into jail because of something his father did when he was alive. His father is now deceased, and so the son has to pay for his father’s crimes. That is the customary (traditional) law here. I don’t know about you, but I would hate to have to pay for my father’s sins. Which reminds me (with Good Friday approaching) of how Christ had to pay for the sins of his brothers, and it brings that concept to life, of that system of law in which a family member must stand in where the perpetrator cannot.

Have a Happy Easter and enjoy the holiday weekend! I will be traveling to Gulu for an extended weekend so that I can finally see the IDP camps there. Kelly, possibly Lydia, and I will be accommodated by a Ugandan friend, Kennedy, who works here in Ikotos. He is looking forward to introducing us to his wife and kids and showing us around his home town. Gulu is now the home of 210 NGOs, as the hub of humanitarian aid for northern Uganda. It was the site for the film “Invisible Children,” which was filmed in 2003 about the “night commuters,” children who have to travel from their village, into town to escape being conscripted into the LRA. Currently Northern Uganda is safe for travel and is working on reconstruction, rehabilitation, and reconciliation.

**note: the pictures are as follows, but not in order: the “six legged elephant” at ABO (Me, Kelly, and Rachel) “relieving” himself over the lead instructor; Calum having a bunch of fun with his favorite treat; my friend Amuna and I in my tuukel; a close-up snapshot of my tan/sunburn; and the group and I at the STAR Peace and Reconciliation workshop back in November.

**Also, right now I am reading "Emma's War" by Deborrah Scroggins. I recommend it for a background history of South Sudan and an interesting true story of an aid worker. Just don't think of me when you read it-- Emma was quite the loose woman.