Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Saying Good-bye

“Be wala, be wala, be wala nuru ta Yesu, be wala”
“Shine, shine, shine the light of Jesus, shine”

That is what we sang as the four of us walked down the sandy road towards the airstrip. Arm-in-arm, Madeline, me, Amuna, and Lydia—-Black, white, black, white was the pattern on the outside, but on the inside was a uniform feeling of love for one another and sadness in departure. We were walking Lydia to the airstrip, as she was the first to leave last Thursday. We had our friend C.W., from one of the NGOs, drive Lydia’s luggage to the airstrip as we walked there for the last time. Us girls sang choruses from the youth choir as we walked to ease the tension and to bring joy in our hearts.

Lydia’s plane was late, so we told C.W. to just drop us so that he could resume his work. We sat under a tree waiting for the plane for an hour and a half. It wasn’t so bad though, because it gave us more time to laugh and talk and sing once more. My plane was to come at 1:00 and Lydia’s 10:30, but as Lydia’s plane delayed in coming, the tension rose a bit because I still had some last minute things to do at the house. At 12, I decided that I’d better go, and to leave Amuna and Madeline to say good-bye to Lydia. Just as we were saying our good-byes, we could hear the sound of the plane. After getting Lydia on the plane, Amuna, Madeline, and I waited awhile to see her off the ground, but the plane took long in taking off, so we had to go. Madeline, Amuna, and my little pre-school friend Ingerim ran to the house to do some sweeping and to dry the dishes to be put away, while I ran to the market to collect a balance I had with the bread lady and give it to a shopkeeper of whom I owed money. The bread lady had no change as usual so she gave me a bun instead. Then, I ran back home to help in the preparation to leave—it was 12:40. C.W. was expected to come at this time, but I was not ready. I had no time to think about feeling sad as I handed C.W. my bags and locked all the doors. I gave Amuna and Madeline most of my dishes and other things like spices that they threw into boxes to take home. They gave the boxes to Ingerim, and another pre-school orphan named Lat├ębus to take them to the house. It was then that I realized that I may never see Ingerim again, so I said good-bye to her and told her that I won’t forget her.
It was just that morning that the two of us walked hand-in-hand as we moved towards the river to take pictures. She had seen me walking back from the airstrip after sunrise and ran towards me so that I would not overlook her. She is so cute and small, and as we walked I wondered who would watch over her to make sure that she eats everyday, and that she goes through school, and that she grows to be a leader like I see her now.

Instead of singing and walking, this time we hopped in the car and drove off to the airstrip. Madeline, Amuna, and I could not sing this time, for we couldn’t even talk. All of us were too sad at the thought of leaving each other. Madeline put her head in my lap and Amuna turned her head towards the window to hide her face. We got to the airstrip and unloaded my luggage although the plane had not yet arrived. C.W. had to check on someone at the clinic so he left us for a bit and then returned. The plane was two hours late, which was okay with us because it gave us more time to talk. Although we didn’t talk much, we sat together quietly with intermitted speech. C.W. helped ease the tension by talking to Amuna and Madeline about the importance of staying in school. I was appreciative of C.W. because I could barely speak—-my time here in Ikotos had really come to an end already and I was about to leave my new friends behind.

The plane finally came and we put my luggage into the holds. I hugged C.W. and said good-bye and then walked over to Madeline and Amuna. Madeline lunged at me and then did Amuna. We held a tight, group hug for some minutes before pulling myself away towards the waiting pilot and passengers. With tears in my eyes I walked up the stairs to the plane and out of my Ikotos life. Leaving those girls was so hard. They have been my closest friends in Ikotos and, like Ingerim, who was going to watch out for them. Those two are older yes, and have a strong head on their shoulders, but I want to make sure they finish primary school and complete secondary. I don’t want anything to stand in the way of their dreams.

The plane started up as I looked out the window onto my waiving friends. They had their arms around each other. I waived back profusely with both hands, and then the plane took off down the dirt runway and I watched Ikotos disappear.

As I write, I am in Nairobi safe and sound. I had a great time in Loki with the Carpenter and Hildebrandt families as we celebrated Memorial Day on Sunday. We had a picnic, including “Jell-o,” water balloons, and baseball. I left Loki at 6:30a.m. yesterday and arrived to the frigid 70 degree Nairobi at 9a.m.. Even though I’m freezing here, I do enjoy doing things like grocery shopping.

I will keep you updated on my schedule in Kenya. The nearest thing on the calendar is my sister coming on the second of June and staying until the ninth. I'm greatly looking forward to her coming and want to hear all about her trip around Europe. Then, on the 16th, I head to Nukuru for a week-long conference on AIDS and Children. Thank you all for your love in support. (pre-school children in Ikotos)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Bricks, Hot Dogs, and RPGs

This week I am preparing to leave Ikotos and fly to Kenya. Last weekend Lydia and I held a good-bye fellowship at our house for the church and had a chance to let everyone know how much we love them even though we're leaving. Before I fly off to Kenya though, I want to give you a few stories from the week.

Last week Saturday the church youth group spent all day making bricks out of mud to build an office for themselves on the compound. They used our rain-water tank to make the mud and a wooden form to make the shape of the bricks.
They started early in the morning, up until the late afternoon. Now, I don't know how long you have been reading this blog, but back when I was still raising funds to come to Sudan, I wrote an entry called "bricks in the wall" talking about how in the book of Nehemiah all of God's people worked in unison to build the wall. I was reminded of that on Monday, when it began to rain and all of their hard work was about to be ruined. Everyone on the compound-- including myself and Lydia-- in unison ran to save the bricks. Though it was pouring down rain and we were soaked to the bone, we continued on, running back and forth to the empty hut so the bricks would dry. It was dark, and slippery, and one could only take one brick at a time because otherwise the bricks would break. However, we laughed and knew that we were doing this together. When I wrote that blog a year ago, who would have known that I would really be assisting with brick production, eh? Both Saturday and Monday were beautiful examples of oneness in spiritThe following friday, was the 16th May, the commemoration day of the SPLA. Here in Ikotos, beginning at 6:00 a.m. the SPLA fired off RPGs to kick off the celebration. Fortunately I remembered Jordan telling me a story about it from last year, so I wasn't scared. After my special alarm for the day, I got up and went running. While on my run I could swear I smelled hot dogs on the grill, but what it probably was, was lovely goat meat with the hair still attached. I don't eat meat anyway, yet it was still fun to think of hot dogs on Independence day!

Later in the morning, someone on a loud speaker announced through town to come to the celebration and listen to the speakers. Lydia and I went around noon to check things out. When we arrived, the AIC choir was singing for some people under a tent and then the SPLA had a small marching display. The sun was way too hot to stand out in the middle of town for long, so along with some of our friends, we sat under the awning of a shop and watched from afar. The celebration wasn't ultra eventful, however I enjoyed celebrating with my fellow townsmen.

That evening was mine and Lydia's farewell fellowship for the church. Every weeks someone from church volunteers to hold fellowship at their house and so this was ours. Before fellowship, Lydia and I popped a ton of popcorn and wrapped each portion in a curled piece of paper like at a county fair. After singing and a brief message we handed it out and everyone was excited to try this new, fun food. Some people, who have been in Kampala or even Torit, know about popcorn, but for those who never leave home, this was new.

Not as many people showed up as I had hoped though. It seems that the celebration took the spotlight, as well as other domestic obligations. Some visitors from afar had come, therefore requiring the attention of the women for cooking.
At least we all had fun and there was enough people to take a group photo for the Bowie Blade, my local newspaper, with me holding the front cover of the Valentine's Day edition(our newspaper then will put the picture in the travel section).

At church the following Sunday, I was able to see those who did not attend Friday's fellowship. It was nice to have a chance to say good-bye properly.

For the past 3 weeks Lydia and I have been singing in the youth choir. We sing in the youth choir because the choices are: Children's Sunday School Choir, Youth Choir, and the Women of Good News; and since I do not yet have a child, I am not considered a woman, therefore placing me in the category of youth. Its ok though, because all the women my age are married with children and so I have connected more with the 16 and 17 year olds.

This past Sunday was extra fun because while the Children's choir sang, I did the traditional applause of a Sudanese woman and ran up to the children with flowers howeling and yelling "hallelujah, hallelujah, Sunday School!" as I threw flowers on their heads. I had been planning to do this for forever, but was always too timid to do it. With nothing to lose, I let loose. Then, after singing with the youth, the Women of Good News were only 2 this Sunday, so after throwing flowers on them as well, I joined them up front singing. Everyone laughed and we had a good time.
I will really miss singing and dancing with my church friends.

I'd like to note that I'm adding a photo from Saturday's choir practice, of a .
beautiful double rainbow, which was a symbol of peace and comfort during this time of leaving

Church in Ikotos is lively and long. We officially start at 9:30, but actually begin at 10:00, when people arrive. The men and some women sit in chairs on the left side of the building, while the children and some of the youth and mothers sit on a tarp on the right.
We sing several lively choruses while clapping and dancing. Then, each one of the choirs has a chance to present a few songs. After the choir is a time for visitors to introduce themselves and for those leaving or coming back from a trip to speak. At around 11:00 the sermon begins, and after offering and some more singing, we end the service at around 12:00 or 12:30. One thing I really enjoy about the end of the service is that, as we exit the church, we are singing and forming a circle outside. As we pass each person in the circle, you greet each other. Once the song is finished, we all disperse for the day.

Lately, during the week I have been spending the morning with my pre-school friends and then doing some typing for the church and for that workshop I had previously mentioned in an entry. Of course, there are also the everyday tasks to be done here, that never need to be done in the U.S. For Example, going to the borehole to retrieve water.I've incorporated this into my workout routine. I have found that if I get down low and spread my arms out, the exercise resembles a push-up or a bench-press. The women all love to laugh at me as I pump at rapid speed in my work-out stance.

The other tasks are doing laundry, heating water on the kerosene stove, and refilling the kerosene stove (which is not clean or easy), along with constantly sweeping out the tuukel, the kitchen, the bath house, and the bakana (latrine).
Oh, but how I will miss doing all these things once I'm in Kenya...possibly.

So, to everyone in Ikotos (although you may never read this), I will miss you all and have enjoyed being part of your life and part of your family. I will never forget you. Thank you.

Next time you hear from me I will be in Kenya. Pray that Lydia and I have a safe flight.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Calling all school administrators and teachers...

The following is a memo that I'm sending to whom it may concern at A.I.M., and I want you guys to consider it and let me know if you know anyone or you, yourself want to be a part of this:

An Intervention Workshop for the Teachers of A.I.C. S.S.S.

Needed: A team of school administrators from the A.I.M. sending countries for a two week short-term mission

Purpose: The team would facilitate the teachers in a two week workshop to organize the school for proper functioning.
The Facilitators would cover the following topics:

-vision for the school
-school rules
-rules for teachers
-board of governors
-roles of the HM, DHM, DOS, Bursar, Store Keeper, CMs, etc.
-punishment policy for students
-structure of the school day
-school schedule
-character building
-work ethics

Structure of the workshop: Each day the facilitators will lead the teachers in a discussion on one of the topics mentioned above. Each teacher will be expected to first write out their own idea for the topic (ex: School Vision—what is your vision for the school?). Then the facilitators and the faculty will discuss each person’s idea and then collectively come to a final decision. Because of each topic being done collectively, it will take an entire day to discuss each topic.
When the workshop is completed, at least two of the facilitators should plan to return in six months for an evaluation of the workshop’s results.

Thank you for your time in contemplating this idea for the workshop. Personally, I believe that this is the only way to establish structure for the school. It is also my recommendation that only certified, veteran teachers and administrators from the sending countries be sent.

** By the way, I forgot to mention in yesterday's entry that I added the link of my friend Rachel's blog to the list of "People in the Field." She will be with Peace Corps in Lesotho for 2 years beginning in June.
*** Also, an addition to the top ten list that I did not mention is when you start going to other people's houses for dinner because you don't like your own cooking! That is a trait of the Sudanese men here, but I have started doing the same thing.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Top Ten reasons you've been in Sudan a long time...

1. You say "sorry, sorry" when someone trips or you hear of a mutual friend being ill.

2. You get excited over canned fruit or canned cheese, and popcorn becomes a vegetable or even a replacement for a meal.

3. When shooing the flies away after you flip up the toilet seat becomes normal.

4. Everyday conversation is about food back home and you begin to salivate over the thought of lettuce, broccoli, or anything green.

5. When 77 degrees Fahrenheit is unbearably cold.

6. You pray for rain so that you can bathe and do laundry without having to take several trips to the borehole.

7. You pray that it doesn't rain so that your clothes will dry, and so that your home-made yogurt doesn't get spoiled while your in town.

8. Walking 200 yards in the middle of the night to the latrine (sometimes several times), while winding a flashlight, is normal and part of your workout routine.

9. You can remember how to say a word in Juba Arabic and even French (from College), but not English.

10. When you see an airplane and you stop mid-sentence to see what kind it is, and if it lands you run to the airstrip with all the rest of your Sudanese friends just to see modern technology at its best.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

In Town

This is a child I saw in town today while walking back from the market. I quickly grabbed my camera from the house and gave him/her candy in return for the great costume/snow suit in 85 degree weather. Hopefully I didn't make the child feel self-conscious. I thought I'd share it with you.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Mong, Mong

Well the Scotlands and the Lobwaya Canadians have gone, along with Chris "black bull" Machar, who has been visiting us for a few months. Now it is Lydia and I as the reprentative kewajas in town. In 3 weeks we too will be leaving-- Lydia to the U.S., and me to Kenya.
I have started running again, although I am nursing that stress-fracture. It seems that it is hard to shake it with all the walking that I have to do around here. At home, I'd be dong a lot more driving and would probably wear some kind of boot, but here you walk or die (that sounds dramatic, but in the end, that’s true). I am only running 6k every other day so that my foot can still heal, but I can start my training for the half marathon I will be doing in October. I used to only run to the air strip and run the air strip and run home, but Lydia has introduced me to the idea of trying new things. So, lately I have been running down to a seasonal river and then running to the Catholic compound, and then back home. I hope that the fact that I am running in sand will mean that I'm way faster when I return to asphalt and sub-80 degree weather.
On my runs, I have learned the secret to greeting people along the way. Before I was gasping out the very breathy "Salem!", but recently have discovered the use of the local language greeting "Mong, mong!"
"Mong" is a lotuho (lotookoh) or lokwah greeting that is usually followed by 5 more "mongs" and then "Nguy" or "Ngola" or "detally". Nguy means "how are you?" in which you respond, "Ngiita" or "ngiita be be," which means "good" or "very good." So a typical conversation would involve an old lady or old man (because the younger generation speaks more in Arabic or English) holding your hand with 2 hands and saying "Mong, mong, mong,mong mong, nguy?"-- me: "ngiita."-- them: "aywah!" (meaning oh, that's good-- pronounced "eye-wha." When I'm running I usually forget the whole handshaking part and just throw both hands in the air like "don't shoot!" as a sign of respect as I gasp out "mong, mong!"

(road I run on towards the river)
The older people that are out walking in the morning seem to enjoy that I can speak the local greeting and I am also happy because it is easier to say. Even Callum, who is just about 2, can say the local greeting when someone enters the compound.
Since I have returned from Kenya, it has been hard to find anyone to help me with getting water from the borehole, so for the past two months I braved putting a jerry can on the back of Jordan's bicycle and ride to get water. Last Christmas when I tried it with a different, more large, bicylce, a six year old had to come to my aid! On Friday I attempted 2 jerry cans on the bicycle, which resulted in the reinactment of the Wright Bros. first take off. However, I didn't fall despite the rocky (literally) beginning and made it all the way to the church compound where I slowed down to get into to the gates and the jerry cans fell off right outside my compound. I was pretty proud of myself for making it that far. So, these days there are no 6 year olds in need to save me.
At the borehole there is usually a congregation of women and children no matter what time of day. This is usually a good time to practice juba Arabic and socialize with the other ladies. Sometimes they call me "Uma Lumuuno" who is Andrea, in which I have to clarify that I have no children and then that brings on more conversation. Why don't I have any children? Am I married? Why not? Those are very important questions that have to be asked every time (and you thought it was bad in the U.S.).
Usually when I arrive at the borehole the women tell me to bring my jerry can and cut in line, so to be fair (and to sleep at night)I offer to pump, or as they say, "doogoo", one of theirs-- sometimes 2. This is also an alternative form of exercise. If you put your arms out like to do a push up, and then bring one leg back and pump as fast as you can until each 20L jerry can is full, then you have done the equivalent to a bench press for the day. I feel like I'm at a church picinic some days, playing that game where you place your head on the handle of a baseball bat and then spin around until your dizzy and then run around the baseball diamond. That's what it feels like to pump 3 jerry cans quickly and then jump on the bike and ride off. :)

(Callum eating lunch with his friend Ingeriim and me leading some dance moves with children at the Scotland's going-away fellowship)