Friday, October 28, 2011

A Day of Observations

Dear Friends,
Greetings from Malakal! The picture in this blog post is that of one of the choirs from the College Day at the end of August at the Nile Theological College. We had two choirs participate, one was a youth choir and both choirs had beautiful music and voices.

Yesterday I saw a dentist here in Malakal. Today I had a tooth x-ray taken and got my first prescription filled. Prescription medication is relatively inexpensive here. Everything else is dreadfully expensive.

When I was in China female students accompanied me shopping and to doctor and dentist appointments. Here in Malakal it is male students who accompany me. I so appreciate and value their willingness to take leave from classes and walk long distances in order to be with me in unfamiliar settings.

I observed today the poor donkeys in the town. The donkeys are forced to stand with no food or water and no place to lie down in the heat. One of them today looked so tired, its eyes were closed and some of them were shaking. I feel so so badly for them.

The water in the town is dirty. I think this is true in many places in the world, I just happened to observe it today as my students and I were passengers in a taxi taking us to and fro. One of the students took me shopping in the souq, the vegetable market. I was grateful for his help. I got tomatoes, potatoes and onions. The little bit that I got came to 22 South Sudan Pounds. On the black market the exchange rate today was $1. to 4 SSP. The bank rate is $1 to 3 SSP. Either way those were very expensive vegetables.

I used my solar stove for the first time today. I tried cooking lentils for lentil soup. I apparently did not keep them in the sun for long enough as they were still a little chewy, however I rectified this on the electric burner and added dried onion, garlic and olive oil. I had made white rice and added that to the soup along with almond butter and it was a fairly tasty dish.

I had help tonight getting my printer up and running. Making copies here in Malakal is very expensive. Most things are very expensive. I am hoping that it will be more economical to use my own printer in making copies for students. I have not figured out how to teach without using books. I have found that some of the students have difficulty when the lesson is solely my reading to them from a book. I think I would have difficulty with that as well as I am not an oral learner.

I continue to be a fascination to the people of Malakal as there are so few white people here. I had well meaning person lecture me in English today that I should be using an umbrella to protect my fair skin. This is probably true.

The roads here continue to scandalize me. The potholes are sometimes very deep and extremely difficult for the cars to navigate. They also make walking hazardous.

Many of the children of the town can be seen in school uniforms in the afternoon because school is out for the day. There continue however to be children that are not in school. There were two children who were collecting empty plastic bottles for use in selling oil to people outside of the town. It is likely that their parents cannot afford the school fees. I find it heartbreaking and again realize how much I value the American school system of free public education primary through secondary. We should not take this for granted in the United States. There are so many countries where education is simply not available to those without a means to pay a fee and buy uniforms and school supplies. There are not enough charities to fill the need.

I have now seen dentists in China, Sudan and South Sudan. I have had x-rays taken in China and South Sudan. Because in the United States lead aprons are used on patients to protect us from the radiation of the x-rays I am very aware of the fact that this is not done in other countries. Once again today I was exposed to radiation without protection. However I will say that the x-ray of the tooth in question was of a very good quality. The x-ray equipment was from Dubai and has been in service for seven years. The technician said it is very good equipment.

The office in which the x-ray department was located of course has a generator. I became very homesick for Khartoum when I realized that part of the reason the office was cool was due to a ceiling fan very much like the one in my home in Khartoum. I think many of us at the college are missing the luxuries of power during the day (and night) and plentiful and fairly cheap food and choices of food in Khartoum.

The small can of milk powder in a little store today was 35 SSP. I understood why a woman on the plane from Addis Ababa Ethiopia to Malakal had two large cans of milk powder as carry-ons. I will probably do the same myself on my return to Malakal when I go to Addis Ababa for Christmas. I want to use the milk powder with water to make a milk base for pasta. A simple and delicious meal.

Tomorrow I will probably cut up the potatoes and onions that I purchased today and put them in the enamelware pot in the solar cooker and see if I can then feast on solar food. I will let you know how it works out!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bumps in De Road

Dear Friends,
Greetings! One of the things that has become crystal clear in the short amount of time that I have been here in Malakal is that roads are an urgent infrastructure issue. My prayer is that the roads in this new country of South Sudan are a very high priority for the new government.

The worst of the mud is gone and yet mud remains. However now the biggest hazard are the incredible potholes. They are like giant pockmarks on someone with chicken pox. They are dreadful. I had to go to a dentist today and on the way there my student's and I took a taxi. He had to navigate very carefully around the holes. The church car has been in the shop for a week because parts to fix it have had to come from Juba and Khartoum. The church driver is much more aggressive with the potholes, he may be a more experienced driver. On the other hand, the taxi driver may rely on his car for his total income and if it has to go to the shop for repairs then he loses money as well as having to pay money out.

I believe that in the entire country of South Sudan there are only about 100 miles of paved road. It is not possible to drive from Juba to Malkal because of this. One must fly. I experienced some culture shock when I was in Rwanda recently because of all the paved roads. We took a road trip to a beautiful resort some three and a half hours out of Kigali and all of the roads were paved.

In order to move ahead with development in this new country the issue of the roads must be addressed. NGO's and the United Nations may be willing to come in to underdeveloped areas as their purpose is to give humanitarian aid. I don't think that companies who are needed to provide employment and other necessary services will be so willing.

Please pray for the priorities of the new government to include making life more livable for the people of South Sudan.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Dear Friends,
Greetings! I have some stories and other things I've been holding for the blog until I felt better, maybe now is the time.

I found out today that there are eight generators in Malakal. One of them is working. Presumably the technicians for the seven that are not were Northerners who returned to the North. The generator in my part of town just happens to be working and this is why we have power most nights. The cost of fuel may have to do with shorter hours of power.

I had previously blogged about a man who had shared that many men from the south of Sudan were able to make the trek to refugee camps elsewhere and earn an education by the sweat of their brows and their muscle power, doing work that most women are not able to do. I asked him if he had ever thought about taking his sister with her and supporting her so that we too could receive an education. He told me that the trek out of the south was trecherous and dangerous and girls were not allowed to go. I could read between the lines of what he was saying. Conditions were completely uncertain and girls/women would have been vulnerable to rape and kidnap and murder. I now understand, and told him so, why there were the Lost Boys of Sudan and NOT the Lost Girls and Boys of Sudan.

Another student shared with me that the relative with whom he is staying in order to attend the Nile Theological College is a man with two wives and many children. He said at one point the man had 40 children staying with him. I have heard of and read of situations like this before. This man has the advantage of living on a large plot of land in a town. There are schools available. Many many places in our world are so rural that there simply are not teachers to serve. Either there aren't enough students to make it feasible to pay a teacher, or, as with doctors and other professionals, the living conditions are simply too challenging and no teacher will go there. At any rate, this man invited his relatives to send their children to live with him so that they could attend school.

I had a picture in my mind of my two children and how every morning before school I put breakfast on the table for them and when they got home from school they had a snack and talked about how their days had gone. Clearly 40 children are not going to get that particular kind of love and attention. They ARE going to get something that chances are none of their parents got. A chance to learn to read and write, and something about the world beyond their little village. And maybe someday they can pay forward and do the same thing for other relatives.

It is heartbreaking sometimes how slow the progress and yet how deeply meaningful the progress.

The last story is one told me by the student who is living with so many other young people in order to make his way through college. He said, "maybe when you get home you will write a book." I told him I already am.

He said that there was a man who got a good theological education, perhaps at the Nile Theological College. The church wanted to appoint him to a post in a small and remote area who was in need of a good pastor. This man decided that he had a good education and he deserved more than to be in a little nothing place. So he joined the army and after a number of years had been promoted and had made a name for himself. No he was a big man around town. So he decided it was time to get married. I of course in the midst of my student telling the story am thinking, oh, so he found a woman to marry.....NO he married 40 women.

Why I thought he would have been happy with one I don't know......The end of the story (I won't go into my various emotional and other kind of reactions/responses to this) is that when he died "they" of course had a fancy schmancy funeral for him based on his hugeness in reputation, etc., And there were at least twenty little children there sobbing for their father.

The moral of the story, and the reason my student told it to me, was that this man was all about HIM. I pray that he thought about his wives and children and their fates after death but with his eyes on himself I am not believing that. My prayer is that God stepped in and provided for all of those widows and all of those children. I think that is not easy for a widow with a child/children to find another spouse. In this culture being without a spouse is no easy thing at all. It is a sentence to perpetual poverty.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Kin_dom of God Drawn Near.

Dear Friends,
Greetings! I am entering my third week of not feeling well in the mud capital of the world, Malakal, South Sudan.

This morning a little piece of the Kin-dom of God marched into my yard here at the SIM Compound and sang and prayed with me and then left.....leaving me feel renewed in my sense of call to each one of my students.

The Senior Class of the Nile Theological College should have received two lessons from me today, a total of three hours. Instead I am still not strong enough to get to them down the road a piece. The class (about 22 students) talked to the Principal of the College this morning and asked if they could take some of the class time that was not being used by me and come to the compound to pray for me. The Principal agreed to this.

I was thankful that I had been able at long last to accomplish getting my hair washed this morning. Yesterday I just didn't have the strength to wash it, this morning I began by washing the hair first and me second. Mission Accomplished!

I had put on one of the outfits that was new in Khartoum so at least I looked presentable. I got a cell phone call about a half hour before they appeared that they were all on the move up the road....and then there they were. They opened the gate between the school/church side of the compound and the side where the two houses are (instead of the front gate by the main road).

They streamed into the yard and I invited them on to the covered porch. I realized in retrospect that just as I had claimed my students by coming to Malakal, my students were claiming me by coming to me when I was ill.

They organized themselves so that different students had different parts in the short worship. We began with Kumbaya.

I was overwhelmed with thanksgiving. They did not stay long as I was still weak and they had work to do at the college. But later in the day I began to improve......