Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Census is Back and So am I

After torturing my coordinator last week, whose name is also Megan (hers is missing the "h"), we all flew to Torit and had a nice, refreshing weekend. I was able to see some people from the last retreat and new ones as well. At the retreat we broke down our vision statement for South Sudan and discussed how we can be living it and acting it out in our daily life. Might I add that the food, cooked by Ginny Hildebrandt from Loki, was excellent! My body went into shock by eating vegetables and fruit.
Once again, many of us slept out in tents. This time I set up a small mosquito mesh tent and staked a tarp over it to protect it from the rain. This set up was in hopes of getting lots of fresh air instead of the stifling air of a tent in the heat. I enjoy sleeping out under the stars in Torit and this was my last time to do so. Everyone is leaving one-by-one from Torit and then Ikotos-- not everybody, but many.
Kelly left for Kampala yesterday and flew of to the U.S. of A. this morning. I hope that she enjoys sharing all of her stories with family and friends. We will miss her here though. The Bylers are flying back to the U.S. for the marriage of their oldest daughter and for home assignment. The Scotlands leave April 30th, the day after the Canadian Culture Shock Team. So, who we have left are Matt and the Nobles in Torit, and Lydia and I in Ikotos, and 2 others in various parts of upper Southern Sudan. My main crew though is about to be gone. Lydia and I don't leave until May 22nd. She will fly to Entebbe and I, to Loki.
For the next month I will not sit on my thumbs, but rather try to organize that rape workshop I spoke of in the last entry. Last night was census night and therefore today I will be counted as a member of Ikotos. Weird. Well, West Virginia Univ. is giving me trouble with convincing them that I'm a resident, so why not be a member here right? heh.
Not much else to report here. I think that the next couple of weeks or so of blog entries will be devoted to explaining the culture and the layout of Ikotos. I realize that I have not yet explained much of that and you readers need to have the full flavor of my experience. I will talk about the people, the landscape, alcoholism and religion.
Here are some pictures from the Torit Retreat: My tarp tent; Kathrine & I; Kelly, Megan, Lydia, me, & Tara; me with the Bylers; the Congolese ladies in the market; and some South Sudaners relaxing after lunch.
Until then...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Census, School, and Life

Well, for the past 2 months all of Ikotos and the surrounding areas have been a bustle preparing for the national census. Some of the teachers at the school have not been teaching for the last 4 weeks because of census numerator training. School was abruptly cancelled last week without the students taking their final exams and they were sent home to their home villages and towns. The census was supposed to take place in the whole nation from 13 April, through the 30th, however, yesterday after church we got word that the census was cancelled and that the 40+ Land Cruisers that were bought for the mobilization were held up in Juba. So, even though the numerators, including the teachers, are happy because they were not only paid for the training, but paid in advance for their census services, we are left with nothing to count on. I asked a friend what he thought about the census being canceled and we feels that it was a good decision b/c many are still in exile and others in the villages do not know it was supposed to take place, and so it should wait, he says. However, much donor money has gone into repatriation from the refugee camps in Uganda and Kenya, even money that has brought in building supplies for repatriates to build houses.
In my western mindset, I cannot imagine putting all this time and money, and confusion into a project as big as this and then canceling it. It’s frustrating, but I guess the country is still building and we'll see what happens next--never a dull moment. Although my every day life can be just as mundane as in North America.
There has been talk of re-opening the school, however I am not in favor of that b/c the students have already left town for their own homes and personally I intend to get started on preparation for a rape workshop for men. Part of me thinks that this won't help anything, but then I also believe that "if you don't know it broke, you can't fix it." So, I will work with my friend, who is the HIV/AIDS coordinator for an NGO on getting this workshop off the ground for May.
Speaking of workshops, the final STAR workshop took place last week and I was able to attend it. My thoughts and prayers go out to all those new peace counselors all over South Sudan. Here are some pictures from week.

Tomorrow I look forward to my coordinator coming in from Uganda to spend a couple of days with us. I hope that I'm not too tough on her, but I do plan to show her how to light the charcoal oven, make coffee from a Nalgene, boil water from a horribly cheap kerosene stove, and walk to the school while shaking hands with all the children as you pass them. ;)
On Thursday, the entire kewaja crew flies out to Torit for our annual South Sudan Unit retreat. The last one was in September, when I first arrived. Now, I'm an old veteran and am excited to swap stories with my fellow unit members. Also last time, I was sleeping in a tent and it rained--hard; and my tent was soaked-- including my sleeping bag. But after getting over that just-wet-the-bed feeling, I slept fine thanks to my Lafuma sleeping bag from the Outfitters! Have a great week and weekend everyone!

Here are some pics that I took while walking up here this evening. The red building is the part of the Catholic church. The mountain with the fence is just up from my house. You can see that a thunderstorm was on its way. ;)