30 March 2012


I like nicknames. I think it’s a simple way to demonstrate affection or endearment for a person. It implies connection, shared experience or history, and most often a positive association. When I use them for other people I use them because I’m fond of them and it’s a simple way for me to tell them that. But they don’t usually stick to universal status, not everyone called my grade school friend Julie, Jules Verne...I did, but no one who ever heard me call her that decided, hey, that’s a great name for her, let me call her that too (much to her benefit in that particular case).

I’ve had a few nicknames in my life...most of them are plays on my first name - Heidikins, Heidmeister, Heids, Heidi-ho, Hiney, Heidela...you get the picture. I don’t think I’ve ever been given a qualitative nickname, one that describes a bit of who I am.

The Moru are serious about their nicknames. I didn’t realize exactly how serious until today. I was given my Moru nickname probably about 2 weeks after arriving here in Mundri. I was spending the night with Larissa at a compound where she has been doing a homestay for a while now. Larissa and Melissa and I were sitting in chairs that had been brought out for us to sit in, the women of the compound were bustling around doing I wasn’t sure what...I was kinda frustrated with not being able to say more than “hello, how are you” to anyone I met, then the grandmother Larissa has been sharing a tukul with, Christine, a spunky no-nonsense kind of a lady, was bustling by on her way somewhere and said something or other then marched around the circle of the three of us white girls, naming Larissa and Melissa’s nicknames (Konyuwa - like a sesame, and Ndingwa - firstborn twin, respectively) as she patted them on the arm, and then she got to me and said “kituwa.”

Larissa said to me, “well, now you have a Moru nickname, it means ‘like the sun’.” Hm. I was feeling particularly Eeyore-esque at the moment with language frustration and jealous of Larissa and Melissa apparent comfort and cultural maneuverability, then this no-nonsense woman gives me a nickname inferring that I’m like the sun - exuding warmth and light...ironic...I really think it’s because of the light color of my hair and not the supposed “warmth” of my personality, but man alive, does God have a sense of humor or what?

Anyways, there it was. No one else said anything about it for a couple weeks, but then a couple times, when I heard Melissa and Larissa introduce themselves, I heard them use their first names and nicknames. So, I thought I’d give that a whirl a few times. So earlier this week, I went by the health center to introduce myself. I wandered into the OPD (Out patient dept) and the first person I saw was a man who introduced himself to me as Lazarus. As I was leaving, he asked me my names again, and told me something about what his names are and what people call him. So I told him my name was “Heidi, or Aidah, sawa sawa” (which means something like ‘they are the same’) because Aidah is much easier for people to remember than Heidi since it’s familiar to them. Then I told him that I’d also been given a Moru nickname - Kituwa. His face kind of lit up and said “Ah! Kituwa! Ok. It’s good!” I told him goodbye and didn’t think much of it.

Today I went back to the health center with the group of visitors that are here with us right now - we call them “the directors.” Our WHM Executive director (Bob Osborne), the Director of Ministries and his wife (Josiah and Barbara Bancroft), and our Field Director and most of his family (also my former team leaders in Uganda) (Scott and Jennifer Myhre and Jack and Julia). Scott and I were in the pharmacy and the man who seemed in charge there (I can remember none of his 3 names at the moment) asked me my name again as I left and I told him it was ‘Heidi, or Aidah, sawa sawa.‘ He looked a bit perplexed and said, “Are you Kituwa?” I indicated that, indeed, I was the one. His face lit up and he shook my hand vigorously. Word had gotten around. There was a kawaja named Kituwa who was a nurse who would be coming to join them there. Not Heidi, not even Aidah, but it was Kituwa that stuck.

I was telling the visitors afterwards about the irony of them name, considering I was feeling particularly Eeyore-esque when it was given, and Jennifer, who knows my inner (and sometimes not so inner) Eeyore very well, said - “it’s a redemptive name.” And she’s right. It is. God can make even me, live up to a nickname like this one!

I like it. It gives me hope. Even if it really is just about my blond hair, It makes me want to be more “sunny.” Maybe this is the place. There is certainly no shortage of sunshine in Mundri, South Sudan. Who knew there’d be a lesson for me in it all!

09 March 2012

don't get too used to this...

So, most of these I cannot take any credit for, but I thought you'd appreciate a few more pictures of what life is like around here. There are 3 different events here and a few shots from each just to give you a little taste of the last week or so...

Prayers for Caleb Amen: Today Friday 9 March

Is this not the most precious smile ever?! We went to the prayers for a new baby this morning, produced, er, I mean, given birth, by a woman named Nadi who has become a friend, that lives at the compound where Larissa has been doing home stay...this is the new baby. born Monday morning.
Here's the baby with his namesake, Caleb the intern, who celebrated his 22nd birthday the day after this little bundle was born. This precious baby boy was named Caleb Amen (caleb chosen by the maternal grandmother and Amen chosen by the woman "in charge" of the compound where they live)
Larissa and mama Nadi (this is her third)
Lunch (top = egg, middle = linia, left = beans, right = fish)
another shot...the brown blob in the middle is the dreaded linia, which I would like to report is becoming less and less dreaded each time I eat it!

Caleb the intern's birthday. Theme: mud! Sunday 4 March
Team Spheres of Fury!!!!! (don't knock it, you know you like it :) (me, Gaby Masso, Caleb and Melissa)
above: Team lightning bolts looking ready to rumble (Larissa my housemate, Leanna, Karen and Michael Masso)

below: wheelbarrow races
mud pile #1

after mud pile #2:
muddy buddies
pure happiness!!!!
getting clean-ish...

Saturday 3 March: overnight at Margaret's (where Larissa is doing her homestay)

look at these precious faces: L-R: Tifo, Monika, Willie, and Edward
Vicki cooking
Willie: 6 month old par excellence
proof I really am here and happy :)

08 March 2012

being new

it’s exhausting. totally. completely. utterly. exhausting. I’d forgotten.

constant barrage of input. observations. observations. observations. evaluations. measurements. adjustments. comparisons. judgements. priorities. regulations. acculturations. assimilations? compromise? faithfulness. steadfastness.

you’d think that it would get easier as time goes by, and more and more opportunities present themselves...easier to be new. but that’s the thing about being new. It’s new. It’s not like what you’re familiar with, because otherwise, it’d be old I suppose, so every time is different, by definition.

the whole day is spent taking in and processing. always on. always asking questions (internally or externally). I enjoy a good part of the process. I enjoy being places that are different, situations and people that are different, colors and smells and tastes that are different. I love the things it makes you think about, the conundrums, the joys, the pondering of why and how and who and what and when and so forth...fascinating. I love that things and people and situations and climates and cultures are different. So thankful the world is not bland and dull and universally any certain way.

Then there’s the other part of the process that I’m not a huge fan of. The feeling outside of things. The not feeling at home. The insecurity of wondering how I am being perceived or received. The discord of not understanding and yet wanting so badly to. The battle of how much to fight to maintain who I understand myself to be, and how much to compromise in a new equation. There’s the times when you tell a funny story and not only does no one laugh but no one even understands what you’re talking about. There’s the times when you say totally awkward things and wish you had kept your mouth closed. There’s the times when you stop the dinner conversation with your topics of conversation that are evidently inappropriate for discussion over a meal...note to self: dolphin STD’s are over the line.

There’s the moments when I am surprised with the understanding and inclusion by those around me and their willingness to extend a hand across lines that are out of their own comfort zone. And then there are the moments when I am saddened by my inability to intersect my zone with someone else’s zone, to even know how to begin to try to access their zone.

Then there’s grace. I learned a new definition about a year ago... “unnecessary relationship.” That’s why I’m here. I’m here because more than I know has overrun my life and it’s impact is more than I know what to do with. My cup runneth over. God, give me what I need to live my newness in this grace - to accept and to redirect. It’s an honor but I need help.

so much to tell...

It feels good. Two weeks under my belt. There’s so much to tell...

  • how much my dukul feels like home from the moment I stepped foot inside
  • how the heat has not been quite as oppressive as I anticipated just yet (although I’m sure there is a cumulative effect to it’s toll)
  • how strange it is to not have “muzungu muzungu!” called after me every time I’m out and about (even though “kawacha” or “omoje” are there, they’re mostly not as common)
  • how much I dislike linia at first- the staple food here (a mound of a playdoh like starch) and how daunted I am by the thought of having to eat it gracefully whenever visiting friends and being graciously fed...45 minutes later I managed to finish the entire plate - quite a feat, let me tell you - Africans know how to pile a plate. Each time since it has gotten progressively easier, but let me tell you the key: communal eating. There’s no plate full over the brim that you yourself and you have to finish in order to be polite - you have a communal tray that everybody works on so there’s teamwork in the process. I knew I was a fan of team ministry :)
  • how encouraging it was to sit next door around Bishop’s fire under the stars on saturday night a week ago with the new deacons and priests and their wives and visitors in town for the ordination service at the Cathedral on Sunday morning...the introductions were lengthy but fascinating with the usual likening of the situation to various pictorial images from entirely unrelated facets of life in metaphors that work beautifully, the food was fabulous (although I just come from my gut filling linia experience - so every bite was effortful), and the strangest moment of the night was after all of the symbolic sharing under the stars when Bishop announced that the movie playing on the little tv screen during dinner was about the Taliban and their oppression of women under Sharia law...hm...ok. random.
  • how OUTSIDE of my comfort zone I spend most of my days. I wish I had a head-cam so that you could walk with me through my day. Pursuing absolute strangers - totally completely entirely OUTSIDE my comfort zone.
  • how God is teaching me in that feeling so totally completely and entirely helpless, that it’s really up to Him. This is His gig. I’m just along for the ride :)
  • how many flashcards I’ve made already in both Moru and Juba Arabic
  • how I prayed that God would make it clear to me in the first few weeks which language to pursue and how I’m wondering if I may have found an open door...wondering if it’s really an open door or just an easy door...wondering if that’s ok or if He’s calling me to find the heavy door that’s harder and takes longer to push open. In fact, a week or so before I left St. Louis, my dear cousin told me (in reference to this subject exactly) “don’t just pick the harder one because it’s harder. us Lutjens’, we do that, you know?” We most certainly do, and I had no idea this was an extended family trait... “the more obscure, the more difficult, the more underdog, the more we are drawn to it” she elaborated...oh so true. she so hit the nail on the head and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Good call, cuz
  • how interesting it is to me that when you ask a S. Sudanese person how far a new place is away from your current location, they answer in an estimated *distance* (in km of course) when all I really care about is an estimation of how much TIME it will take to reach there. Oh how differently we see the world.
  • how interesting it is that the Juba Arabic that I’ve been working on this week has random similarities to the Hebrew I studied 12 years ago, now...maybe a little gift from God?...part of that open door, perchance?
  • how much fun we had in the mud on Sunday celebrating Caleb (the 6 mo. intern hopefully extending now to 10 months?) in honor of his birthday on tuesday...a man made mud pit of course, but mud nonetheless. relay races, chicken wrestling, piles of people in the mud, however we could get as muddy as possible and laugh a lot in the process - this was the goal :)
  • how fascinating and heartbreaking the conversation we had with Larissa’s homestay family about epileptics and the community’s understanding of how best to handle them in community and family life and the totally unnecessary but totally culturally normative exclusion this leads to..tears literally running down my face as we talked...trying to play it off like they were watering from the smoke from the fire...wait, there was no fire...hm, well...maybe they didn’t notice?...
  • how wonderful it is to manage to get a few phrases of one of these two totally different languages out in a way that is understood and appreciated by the native speaker listening and how much joy, my little bit of progress seems to bring them...
  • how deflating it is to have people not make eye contact and seem totally disengaged or disappointed or disapproving of me or how little I know as I pursue conversation with them
  • how warm the water is coming out of the tap/shower due to the high temperatures day to day...yesterday I went to rinse off my flip flops and I could barely touch the water with my hands as it flowed from the tap...crazy. But it means less breath-taking showers at night (although it might be better if it were a little colder...who woulda thunk I'd ever say that...)
  • how refreshingly possible it is to sleep at night after a “room temp” shower...to nice to be clean.
  • how remarkably dirty my body is for most of every day...even when I get up in the morning the grit around/under my finger/toe nails, heels, etc that I managed to miss during my shower the night before...unbelievable.
  • how much I love mangoes...demonstrated in my perseverance in cutting them despite the nasty poison ivy like rashes I get on my hands and face as a result...
  • how tired I am of acne - in combination with my mango rash, I look like a freak show.
  • how much I need alone time, with lights low, maybe some music and maybe some writing...crucial to my survival and general sanity
the list could go on, but I'll stop there.

until next time....

01 March 2012

new digs...

So, finally some pictures - hopefully prove I am really here, and yes it really is dry season. I think Karen took some pictures of my arrival on the MAF flight, but I've gotta track those down sometime soon.

The residential side of the compound: dry season and post bush fires about 2 weeks ago. My dukul (tukul is the local word for house or hut or something of that sort - and since these are duplexes of sorts, the team dubbed the structures: "dukuls" :) - mine, shared with the lovely Larissa Wolowec) is the one in the foreground on the left with the stunning magenta Schwinn in front. also mine :) Jennifer D: your dukul is the one just past ours in the distance on the left. just to the right of the small tree in the middle: the latrine/bathing rooms (more detail to follow). John S: In the distance on the right is the dukul waiting for you to make it home. Note also the hammock on the right. Seems to be the place to be on hot nights under the stars. Me and hammocks don't really get along (imagine Heidi flipped upside down suspended prostrate from the hammock as she hangs on for dear life as her nose nearly brushes the ground...yep, pure grace, folks) but I perch myself in a bwamba chair and enjoy my own view.
"the shire" as it has been dubbed prior to my arrival - the dukul I share with Larissa
common space in our dukul looking at the front door. the doorway into my room is just past the shelves on the right, just to the right of the front door
I can take no credit for the loveliness of the common space - but I will enjoy it :)
my room (looking at the front door)
my room has never and will never be tidy enough to be a pottery barn catalog (or anything even remotely close - just ask my mom and my roommates!), but look how cozy it is :) has felt like home since day 1. so thankful. Designed by the lovely Christine Olmeda, the first inhabitant of the room. Note the blue cushion on the left which is a window seat :)
the latrine/bath house (which by the way, has two sides, each of which has a latrine and shower rooms)...the side shown is the "girls' side" closest to the girls' dukuls...
it's about enough of a mirror as I can handle in the morning, crazy hair and all :)
behind the door on the left: the squatty potty. remove the wooden cover with the handle, position your feet on the cement blocks, squat, and well, do your business. Note the TP. not to be taken for granted - not to be found in just any pit latrine.
behind the door on the right: I scintilating shot, I know, but gotta cover it all, you know :) The shower room, much bigger than shown - nice big rack for shampoo and razors and such behind where I'm standing.
the back side of the team house: facing the "residential" portion of the compound. complete with porch and bwamba chairs from Uganda - I imagine perfect for sitting and watching the rain I hope will come one day :) taken from the front door of my dukul.
team house kitchen: after eating/living all together for several years it was decided that both the Masso's and the singles' needed some space. Now the team eats together on wednesdays and sundays, and the rest of the week the singles use this kitchen and the Masso's have their own (much smaller scale) in their house. Note the deep freezer AND fridge on the left wall - both solar powered.
living/dining space in the team house. table built to seat 12.
the home of Michael and Karen Masso (our team leaders) and their kids (Acacia - 14 and away at RVA, Leana - 12, and Gaby - 9.5)

So, there you have it. The long distance, virtual tour of part of the WHM S. Sudan compound...

the physical space feels like home, the relational "home" will likely take a good deal longer. do pray that I would learn to demonstrate love to my teammates well, be bold in doing it, and that the Lord would knit us together in a way that ONLY He could manage - with much grace and mercy in abundance.