27 June 2012

27,000 words

 They say a picture is worth a thousand words...and these are a lot of pictures...27 to be exact...you do the math.

Rainy season is upon us, and there have been big pushes to dig and plant in gardens ALL over the place.  Everybody's got a garden or several...every church has a garden or several...and so I went with Larissa to a Saturday digging party that our church had in their garden.  Of course there was food...

 and kabbittzing - complete with hooting and hollering and outbursts into song as motivation...here's some of the crew before we wrapped up for the day.

like gold, these seeds are, especially as food prices are sky rocketing ... kept from last year's harvests for this year's planting... 

now, before you think I've gone all farmer on you, which wouldn't be bad, it just would be shocking and a far cry from the truth, you need to remember that I've been struggling big time with language learning and I will jump at pretty much any reason to spend my time doing something else :)  So, when Larissa said she could use some help getting some of her veggies in the ground, I jumped at the chance.  So, there I am, without a clue what I'm doing, but I follow directions well so she put me to work.

under that dried grass there in front of Caleb and I is sweet corn...YUM! Pray for rain!

Tifo.  Cuteness.  Need I say more?!  We've been to greet Margaret and her family a few times, one of the families Larissa did a home stay with.  They've taken several of us in as part of the family :)  Tifo and her brothers Edward and Caleb (our Caleb's namesake) live with their mom, Nadi, and their grandmother on this compound.

Larissa and Awani - he may or may not be her favorite child on the face of the earth :) I'm kinda surprised his smile was caught on film (nice job Mel) - he usually plays the shy card

Melissa getting her baby fix...it's like therapy actually, just a lot cheaper and WAY more accessible here in Africa :)

So, after the road trip with Melissa and Bethany to Juba for the race that I wrote about before, Larissa and Caleb and I went on to Kampala - Caleb then flew back to the US, but only after seeing the big city with us for a day - here we are at the taxi park - organized chaos really...

After partying it up with Caleb a bit, and LOTS of errand running, we got our party on with a couple of the WHM Bundibugyo girls, Pamela (blue sombrero) and Chrissy (red sombrero on the right) at a new Mexican place someone recommended to us called The Little Donkey.  Good, but not quite our Lotus Mexicana.

Larissa and I flew back to Juba after our week in Kampala was up and from Juba we boarded the illustrious Mundri Express, pictured here.  Note that this photo was taken before we boarded in Juba, before the jarring road experience began, thus a smile still graces my face. 

Here's a shot from the inside...Not sure if you can tell from these shots, but this "bus" is in fact a truck, carrying a bus carriage - which you may be able to tell was pretty much hand welded together from old scrap metal I'm pretty sure, and then loaded with seats, which it turned out, were not actually attached to the frame of the "bus" very well...sometimes tied into place...often moving as we bumped and jumped for 7 hours along the road that took us 4 hours in our own vehicle...I should have also taken a photo of Larissa at the end - there was some sort of exhaust issue which meant the exhaust poured into the open windows (which she was sitting next to) and left her COVERED in black soot...she looked like she had rad goth eye make up for the next 3 days at least.  I had a splitting headache for a WEEK following our journey, that may or may not have been concussive, and which sent sharp pains down the front and back of my head into my neck with every step I took...it was quite the ride...but we arrived each in one piece (more or less) in the cold rain of course, but so glad to be home!

we had two days to settle in post travel and then thursday June 7th our team welcomed 4 visitors to Mundri each with varied durations of stay.  Justin came for a 5 day "vision trip" to attempt to decipher whether this is a place he would like to pursue coming long term, Grace is a PA and friend of Scott's who was here for about a month to work in the health center and experience life in Africa (she unfortunately left Mundri this morning already!), Kanesa is a Counseling student in the US and is here to do a counseling internship for 2 months working mostly with Bethany, and Andrew is a writer and handyman and a 6 month "Michael's Deputy" intern here until about Christmas time I suppose.  It's fascinating to see the variety of people God brings to this little place in the middle of South Sudan...and we're honored to be a part of it :)

sometime in their first week here, Bethany had a sick friend go to Lui Hospital (a 30 - 45 minute drive away or so) so several of us went along for the ride and to see what the Hospital is like.  Above we are gathered in the middle of the compound, the building closest to us houses the inpatient wards (male/female/pediatrics) and the while buildings behind us house things like the Ultrasound and Xray machines and Operating Theatres and so forth.  Scott and Grace and I got an unofficial tour of the place from a former co-worker of Scott's from Mundri.  I was quite impressed.

The X-Ray "suite"...aka metal shipping container housing the xray machine (left) and a bed.

 The Ultrasound machine, complete with squirty Ultrasound gel and everything.  Scott and Grace looking happy to see it :)

 Melissa and I also took Kanesa to visit Mary (left) who laughs at and with us, graciously serves us tea and kindly speaks elementary Moru and Arabic with us.  She was leading prayers the next day at church and got out her Bible so she could read the portions of scripture to us...so cute with her spiffy glasses and all (even though the lens proceeded to pop out a few minutes later - they get the job done I guess :)  Martin and Foto and Cecilia (? maybe?) were very curious to see what I had in my bag (otherwise known as my "suitcase" by teammates who will go unnamed...ahem Anna and Scott....) and when I pulled out my camera they obliged me with a few great smiles and grins.  Precious, eh?!

 With Grace in town, Scott and I decided to do a few health outreaches in the community...my first foray into healthcare here thus far, and I had no idea pulling out a stethescope and putting it to use could make me that happy!  Nurse through and through I suppose.  It meant getting my hands on some super cute kids and weighing and measuring them to check for growth issues and just in general smiling at them and letting them know they matter and doing a bit of teaching about growth and good nutrition with their parents while also checking their parents' weight and blood pressure and general health.  The first outreach was at my church and we saw about 175 patients in about 4 hours (we finally had to shut the doors in order to get away for something to eat at 2pm!)

The second outreach was a blood pressure screening in the Mundri market and again, putting the stethescope to use did my heart a world of good!  Again, about 175 patients, this time in about 2 hours or so and got to use my simple Arabic and look a lot of people in the eye, smile, and let them know they matter...it's the little things in life, you know?  I loved every minute.

Then there was mudding.  Homes here are mostly made of wood and mud.  Larissa had a couple of these huts built to house her Agriculture supplies and eventually a flock of ducks.  But the mudding was left to her.  We had extra hands available with these visitors around and all, so she decided to put us all to work and we were happy to help.  Now, my dad always taught me that with a wheelbarrow, it's best to make good use of the right tool by taking the barrow all the way to the site of your work..."right tool for the right job" he always said.  But, what do you do when the right tool doesn't fit inside the house where you need to drop the dirt?  You dump it out outside and shovel the dirt in :)  TIA, you know?

 Abao, the masterful mud mixer, was our instructor for the day.  The woman can WORK.

My daddy taught me a little somethin' somethin' about workin' too :)

Abao's beautiful grin :)

We don't give visitors much time before we put them to work :)

This whole blog formatting thing is gonna drive me to drink, so I best go ahead and just post this before I totally lose it.  Makes me remember why I struggle to post pictures...Enjoy :)

14 June 2012

"it is me, myself"

Larissa (my housemate) herself, and me myself
One of the S. Sudanese English idioms I have taken a liking to.  Even better when followed by, "I am the one!"  Significant for the following reasons.

I think maybe you're tired of me posting about my own self reflections and less about S. Sudan, but you'll need to stick with me through this, unfortunately.

I'm just gonna go right ahead and put it all out there on the table.

Missionaries have expectations.  Whether we like to admit it or not, they are there.  There is an ideal (which, I think, is usually also shared by the general missionary support community) of what a good missionary's life should look like, and it is as follows: Language proficiency or even fluency, widely known and well received by the community, loving mostly everything about your host culture....and the list goes on.  The more people that greet you in the market, at church, the higher you climb in the eyes of your teammates and visitors, the more easily you understand and are understood in language - still higher you climb. The more hours you spend with people of your host culture, the more home stays you do, the longer you do them for - all of these things prop you higher and higher on the totem pole of success in this missionary life.

And, the thing is, these are good things.  Really good things.  It shows the utmost respect for people that you are able to speak to them in their language, to spend time with them in their homes, to love and live their approach to life.  I hold these same things in extremely high regard.  I, too, share these expectations, these values.

The thing is, I realized on my bike on the way home from the market today, that I will never be that person.  I'm not that person in the US and never have been in any other context I've spent time in and I will never be that person here in South Sudan.

Hm.  So.  Does that mean I will never make a good missionary?  My first inclination is yes, that's exactly what that means.  However, my growing awareness of shame in my life makes me think twice about that inclination.  Maybe, in fact,  just like everything else in life, it takes all kinds.  What about those tasks that are necessary to our ability to stay here in a relatively remote, newly independent country that require some attention to detail and mindless paperwork and waiting in lines?  What about roles that involve working with your hands more than speaking?  What about those africans who don't fit the typical african mold - they need a friend and need to experience the love of Jesus just as much as the rest of the continent.  Just the same,  just because I don't fit the typical mold doesn't mean that there is no place for me...

So, if it in fact does not mean that, then, pray tell, what does it mean?

It means that my life will look different from the lives of my teammates.  Maybe really different.  It means that's ok.  It means that God made me the way He did, for a reason.  It means that reason has purpose and place and significance here in South Sudan.  It means it's okay to love being a nurse.   It means it's okay to be quiet, and shy.  It means it's okay to take my time, and work at my own speed. It means I may struggle more to remember the validity of my role here.  It means I am called to be a part of things that are not so easy for me, and they will be stretching and difficult for me, but that I don't have to spend all of everyday in that category.  It means diversity is, in fact, the spice of life and I wouldn't want it any other way.

So, Mundri, for better or worse, the one you will meet on the road, the one you who will weigh and stick needles in and smile at and cuddle and coo at your children in the health center, the one who will struggle to come up with the right words, or even words at all, the one who will sit and really enjoy being with you but maybe not know the culturally appropriate way to express it, it is me, myself.   I am the one.

13 June 2012


the air was cool, the sun was setting, I felt the muscles all over my body relax.  Uganda.  We walked down the metal deplaning stairs to the tarmac of the Entebbe airport and across to the terminal.  I know how this works, how to fill out the Immigration form, I know which line to stand in, where to find the luggage carts and what to expect when I exit the baggage claim area.

We got in the Masso's Hilux, the driver's seat is on the right, the stick shift on the left and the driving happens on the left side of the road.  One hour ago we had left a country where I'd been sitting on the left, shifting on the right and driving on the right.  Confusing.  I told Larissa and Caleb to remind me which side of the road to drive on - worried I was going to inadvertently drive into oncoming traffic.  We all agreed that would not be a good idea.

How do YOU spell R&R? Krest Bitter Lemon at nearly every eatery.  Hot showers.  Nacho's from Lotus Mexicana, Pad Siew from Oriental Thai at the Metropol, chicken in cream and spices   Gin & Tonics, the privacy and the sinking comfort of the living rooms and apartments at BMU, the quiet calm of the porches at the ARA in the mornings (see photo above) complete with fresh fruit, toast and tea, laughs with good company over food that makes your mouth happy, and drinks consumed a bit too fast after long days of business and travel... Somehow R&R days in Kampala tend to get eaten by errands...every time.  It's a problem.  But Larissa and I still managed to salvage some significant chunks of down time which was sorely needed...when Larissa is passed out on the couches in the executive branch of Stanbic Bank, and I was mistaken for her MOTHER by another customer, it's time for a break.

Being out of South Sudan for the first time since I went in 3 months prior, the week before last was a time of consideration and reflection.  Not that everyday isn't that already that way for me, but it was even more so.  Watch out world.

On my first boda ride in a while the driver was particularly chatty and my interactions with my new friend Benard, the MAF logistician, all of it made me smile.  I've missed the cadence of Ugandan English.  I've missed the patterns of speech that I'd become so accustomed to hearing - the retorical "what?" at the ends of questions - "We are going to do what? Make dinner."  The "thank you's" for everything.  The "mmm"s and the "ehhh"s - the jolly sense of humor and creative ways of interpreting things that Ugandans tend to have.  I don't know how to put words to it, but it made me smile inside and out.

And realizing how these things put me so at ease, I was reminded of my relative newness in life in Mundri.  It took 3 years for me to be so at ease in Uganda, how in the world do I think for some reason things are just going to fall into a place of such ease in a short 3 months?  even subconsciously misplaced expectations are brutal.

My enjoyment of these typical Ugandan facets of life has also made me consider my enjoyment of things South Sudanese....the beautiful contrast of their dark skin with the whites of their teeth in huge smiles, the sweet smell of the hookah, the accessibility of amazing ethiopian food, the beauty of the red earth against the green foliage of rainy season and the brightness of the blue skies and white clouds, the ready and gracious hospitality of the Moru people, the combination of gnut paste and local honey eaten by the spoon or finger full, hibiscus tea chock full 'o sugar with a fresh mandazi to accompany it, the setting sun out the kitchen windows over the counter as I finish working on getting dinner on the table, and the list goes on.

I am reminded to have patience.  I am reminded of the pay offs of such patience.  I am reminded of the time nuances take.  I am reminded of the joy they have the potential to yield.  I am reminded with perspective.