I attended a meeting with the county Health Officer, the chief of the town, and one of Medair’s Community Liaison Officers (CLOs), Oyay. The purpose of the meeting was to plan for a Hygiene Promoter Training. We asked them to mobilize the community, inviting all town residents to attend the community meeting the next evening. I asked if different community meetings needed to be held for the different people groups residing there: black Christians, black Muslims, and Arab Muslims. The chief responded that the people in this town live harmoniously, sharing all experiences. If an Arab Muslim dies, everyone attends the funeral. If a black Christian dies, everyone attends the funeral. Everyone will come to the community meetings, he assured me. The Health Officer also added that they need more time to mobilize the community because, though the men are easy to find out in town at the bar or tea shops just sitting around, the woman are much harder to mobilize. This is because the women take more time to find, as they are always working in their houses, and because they are always working, it is just so hard to bring them away from their work and the children. The women make community mobilization very difficult; it is a problem. I laughed at this, but didn’t share my views about this “problem”.
I mentioned to Oyay, that on the way back to the Medair house, I would like to stop at someone’s house. The previous day, I had spent some time by the river where a kind mother invited me to her home, where I met her family and some friends. The majority of our communication failed and ended in a lot of laughing. She walked me half way home and made sure that I wrote down her name, Suzanne Daniel. One thing that was communicated to me very clearly was that I was invited to return to her home the next day, which is why I told Oyay that he was free to return to the Medair house but I was on a mission to honor my invitation. Oyay graciously decided to help me find the house and translate for us. I thought I knew the way back to the house, but it took about 20 minutes of walking, looking, and asking, until finally I saw Suzanne waving at me from a few “blocks” away, elated to see me searching for her.
In her house, she served us both a cup of local coffee, brewed dark, sweet, and simmered with ginger and cardamom. I love this stuff! It has the same qualities as my favourite chocolate, which is the Lindt excellence cherry chilli dark chocolate bar. Both have the sweetness of sugar and cardamom, the spicy taste of ginger and chilli, and the bitter, deep taste of the chocolate and coffee. As we sat in the house, Suzanne’s friends came to greet us. Since we had an audience of about 8 women, all no doubt with children at home, I suggested that Oyay share a message on nutrition, we he did happily. When it was time to leave, through Oyay, I was able to tell Suzanne that I would be leaving the next day, but I would definitely come to visit her when I returned to Geigar.
I returned to Juba and then went to Pibor for a week. When I returned from Pibor, I was given an anklet that Suzanne made for me and brought to the Medair house the day I left. I was already gone when she came, so a Medair team member transported it to Juba for me. Isn’t that such a sweet gift?! It makes me so happy!
In the bush.
Right now, I am sitting on a plastic chair in front of my canvas hut in Pibor overlooking a small river. On the other side, there are 7 Maribou Storks standing very still. They are HUGE! Every time I see one, I am baffled! There are also some white Ibis. Last night, I heard a lot of grunting and pig-like noises, which indicates that there’s a hippo nearby. The town is down river a bit from here and I can see it along the bend. The other side of the river where the storks are standing, isn’t developed, so it feels like I am looking out over a nature preserve. The other day, a colleague bought the legs and hind quarters of a freshly caught gazelle. She cooked it up and it was actually really delicious! Of course, it is illegal for the gazelle to be hunted, but she didn’t care about that when she bought it – it was already dead after all. There are lots of lizards around. And this place has the most flies I have ever seen. They are attracted to any moisture since it is very dry here, which means they like skin. They are soooo annoying! But not as annoying as the mosquitoes in Awerial. At least the mosquitos only came out for a few evening hours, though, whereas the flies are annoying all day long. Tonight, we will go into town for an Ethiopian dinner. Most of the shops are owned by Ethiopians. We are pretty close to Ethiopia here, actually. All the ladies wear beaded necklaces, bracelets, and headpieces. The headpieces are like an engagement ring, worn by the young girls who are promised to a man who is paying the dowry price, usually in cows. The colors of the beads are chosen based on the girl’s birth year, the birth year of her female ancentors, and the birth year of her fiancé. My birth year colors are blue and green, so I’m having a necklace and bracelet made in these colors to be transported back to Juba for me by a Medair team member. Yay!