After receiving some interesting questions in response to the last post, I wanted to share the answers with you, as well as some additional notes.
Q: Are you really the first white person they have seen?
A: Probably not. Surely they have seen photos of white people on consumer packaging, as well as the other Medair team member here that is white. However, many of the kids may be young and isolated enough to have never seen a white person. I have also been informed that rumors that white people are evil in one way or another were spread by soldiers after stealing goods from NGOs. Yesterday, there was a crowd of children around me, along with an older woman. The woman was laughing at how the kids were scared of me, flinching every time I moved and maintaining a 3 foot safety zone away from me. She mocked them by stomping in front of them and chomping her teeth together. I gather that the kids thought I wanted to eat them. Which I certainly do not. All I want to do is hug them.
Q: Can you prepare your own food so that you can have fresh veggies without overcooking and a lot of oil?
A: Unfortunately, no. Where I am, there aren’t many veggies available in the markets. Just to get tomatoes, the team searching in 3 towns within 1.5 hrs from the base before finding them. They are cattle herders, not farmers. I haven’t seen any cultivated land, except for a few sorgum fields. Its dry season now, and all the plants seem dead and dry, except for the banks of the river. Yesterday morning, I did cook myself and the team a nice breakfast – fried eggs and tomatoes. Usually we have bread and jam, and tea for breakfast.
Q: Are there things that you could give to the children to help them with school or artwork?
A: One of the other Medair guys here carries candies in his pocket with which he can “bribe” the children to play with him, or to leave him alone, depending on the situation. I think this is a nice idea. School is on break right now and will start with the rains in March. I think its likely that many kids do not attend school for many reasons, including to tend the cattle, stay home to help with child care or house chores, or lack of school fees. I will be very interested to learn more about their art culture. I have seen great skills in construction, brick making, and weaving to make fences, but I haven’t seen decorative crafts yet. I have wondered to myself whether I should give something depletable, like soap, or if I should give a tool that will last. Even if you give an item to a child, it often happens that his community decides there is another class of individual who deserves the item more, and so it is taken away. Something else that must be taken into consideration is not only what to give, but how to give it and to whom. I can’t possibly provide gifts to all the children that I encounter. They seem to come in droves of 10-20 at any one time, several time throughout the day. Since I represent Medair while I am here, I cannot independently give out items because it will inevitably be associated with Medair. This can cause problems if the word gets out and then others ask Medair staff for the same items in their village. Medair does not want to have the reputation of providing a resource, but rather to partner with the community to “teach them to fish”. One last thing I’d like to mention is that everywhere I go outside of Juba, I can bring only 20kg (~44 lbs) of cargo. This fills up quickly with my personal belongings; however, I am sure I will become a lighter and lighter packer the more I travel.
The other day, I opened the door to my hut and saw a small grey snake slithering away to a dark corner. Of course, I ran away and announced it, and one of the guards came and killed it. One of the cooks, Rebekah, was so terrified of it and was making such a scene, that another Medair staff made fun by taunting her with it, running all around the base after Rebekah with the snake dangling off of a long stick. It was dead at that point, but Rebekah was screaming and running! So mean! Since then, I’ve been paranoid at every little sound.
At the moment, I can hear the joyful shrills of children splashing around in the river. It sounds like I’m in the water park at Six Flags! Its one of the most lovely sounds I’ve ever heard. I hope they don’t get bilharzia and the crocodiles stay away.
Yesterday, I got to drive the manual LandCruiser! I did okay, but I did hit several bumps pretty hard, and stalled it once. This truck was much easier to manage than a small manual – its much more forgiving. I really enjoyed it!
I walked to the town center the other afternoon to get a refreshing soda after a hot day. When I say “town center”, I simply mean the place where the huts are closer together and there are a few shops selling sundries, and I certainly do not mean a place where there are cement buildings or paved streets or cars or ATMs. The ground is all just dirt. No sidewalks, no distinct paths. Children, goats, sheep, cows, dogs, chickens, and ants roam around freely in their own patterns. Behind one hut, there was a dead cow, leaking poo. There’s been a febrile disease killing the cows in the area lately. In a clearing, trash is gathered and burns. A child of about 4 years picks something up, brings it to the fire and drops it in, unsupervised. There is a dead goat in the same clearing, but not near the fire. As I look down to my feet, I see plastic bottles, aluminum cans, plastic bags, syringes (needles are missing), razor blades (used for cutting anything from a rubber tire patch to fingernails), and various sizes of feces. Closer to the compound, a small girl started shouting to us, waving, and walking towards us from her home. Her grin was so big and showed the whitest little teeth! She expressed perfect joy and delight to see us, but she was still afraid to come closer than several feet from us. It was a beautiful, mysterious, little event, and the perfect accompaniment to the last swig of my Berry Splash soda.
I count it all joy to be here, to serve here, to love here.
Tomorrow, I will leave for a 2 night tent camp in Dor, a nearby village where we will give another Health and Hygiene Training. I keep going to less and less developed places, from the US and Switzerland, to Nairobi, Kenya, to Juba, SDS, to Mingkaman, SDS, to Dor, SDS. A full spectrum of development. I thank the Lord for easing me out of it in stages.