Monday, November 5, 2012

A long time coming, and a short way to go

I'm going to begin by saying sorry for my slackness in not updating my blog in goodness knows how long. But here it is, another long awaited blog post from me.

My last few months haven't been overly busy but I'll give you a bit of a brief rundown.

After returning back from Nairobi I began helping at the hospital at Harvesters in Yei, which some fellow Pioneers staff run with dedication. I was mainly just helping in the pharmacy with distributing the medicine, etc. This help to tide me over until the funds due to Fly Sports finally came through around late September. Although Manny's church had sent enough funds to cover our previous costs and also provide for equipment, etc. to run another kids' league, we didn't actually receive the money from Across until around late September. During this time I also continued with my Arabic lessons, which I have since stopped. However I really enjoyed learning another language and am actually planning on doing so again at university next year (partly because of a requirement for one of the BCOM majors I am planning on doing). Towards the end of September I went to Nairobi with mum to see her off from East Africa (to make sure she finally left! :P) back to NZ and ended up staying there for a few days after as basically my last break from South Sudan before I leave for good (or at least for a long time). I didn't stay longer because firstly I had a break in August (last blog) only a month or so previous, and I also wanted to get back to Yei so I could begin with organising the kids league.

I guess from here on I will mostly talk about the kids league as that is freshest in the memory (and probably the most interesting).

We started the kids league mid October, after I had been training a semi-new group of kids since the end of September. Many days I was working with up to 50 kids with little help from anyone else. I eventually narrowed down the mass of players into a team of about 25, including some of the players I worked with in February, in the tournament held earlier this year.
Most teams in Yei play the same formation of 4-4-2 so I decided I wanted to change that into a 4-2-3-1 where the wide defenders also attack to give some width, however it was a bit ambitious to try and teach them this in the space of a couple of weeks and it failed miserably. We lost our first game 3-0 and decided to make many changes. As a team we decided to switch back to the 4-4-2 system they are familiar with and we drafted in a few new players. We also agreed that we would decide as a team who would start each game, in each position (the word democracy really is flavour of the month). Fortunately this yielded immediate results and we won our second game 1-0. Followed with a bit more training we backed that up with a 3-0 win in our third game, meaning the team qualified for the quarterfinals as second in the group (4 teams per group, meaning 3 games for each team in the group stage, with 4 groups total). This meant we played a team coached by a player from the Fly Sports adult team. Unfortunately for him we won and qualified for the semifinals, but not without a bit of drama.

Our team scored an early goal and we held that lead until not long after half-time when the opposition equalised (something that has happened too many times to the kids team). The game was very even and ended up going to Extra-time which is basically two halves normally 15 minutes long, but were only 5 minutes long for the kids league. This due to both the age of the kids/fitness level and the dwindling light around 6:45pm (when most games are finishing). After an uneventful first half of extra time, the game looked destined for the cruel penalty shoot-out, and as I was organising who would be taking the penalties we won one. There was a lot of debate and arguing between the players about the decision but a huge roar from the crowd who rushed onto the field and surrounded the goal and penalty spot to see the outcome of the kick (the game wasn't even over but the refs had almost no control over the much larger crowd). One of the more senior players in the team took the penalty and kicked us into the semifinals (effectively) as the final whistle went straight afterwards, to much joy and jubilation sported by my players. The drama wasn't over there though as no sooner had the final whistle gone than the crowd surrounded the referees and linesman and proceded to beat the linesman. I didn't see what happened but was told by a friend that they tore his shirt off and beat him up. See our penalty decision came from a corner that had been argued between referee and linesman. The referee had signalled for a goal kick and the linesman had signalled for a corner. The linesman insisted that it was a corner and the referee eventually caved and gave the corner kick. Not only that but this linesman had previously helped me a couple of weeks before in one or two trainings with my goalkeeper and been very loosely affiliated with the team. Inevitably words like corruption and bias were bandied about and the linesman found himself on the wrong end of an upset crowd. I am told he is ok but was not happy that the incident occurred.

It seems that when Fly Sports is organising a league we can't escape some sort of accusations of favouritism or corruption no matter how hard we try, so it is probably a good thing that we won't be winning the final. Unfortunately for my team we lost our semifinal on the Saturday just passed to the despair of my team. After again leading 1-0 at half time we proceeded to throw away our lead, and eventually the game, when the other team took their few chances presented to them to score twice while we could not make the most of our glut of chances and lost 2-1. Ironically to the same team we knocked out of the semifinals in the tournament held earlier this year. My players were all absolutely gutted and many were either in or near tears. Fortunately we have another game remaining, depressingly labelled as the "losers' match" where we will be playing the team we beat 1-0 in the group stage. The game will be played tomorrow (Tuesday 6th Nov.) and my players are determined to win it. It really hit home after the game how little time I have left here. I have 4 weeks remaining and then I will be leaving South Sudan, it seems crazy how fast the year has actually gone, even though for large parts of the year I wasn't doing a whole lot. Despite this, I have experienced and learned a lot and am definitely still glad and appreciative of this year I have had.

This weekend I will be travelling to Mundri in Western Equatoria, the birthplace of Manny, about a full days drive from here due to the poor roads rather than distance. During my time there I will be involved with both coaching kids and playing some football with the adult Fly Sports team Manny has set up there. Life there is more primitive than Yei, with little access to electricity and with no long drops either.  

Hope that's been a good update for you to read. Im planning on doing another one after I get back from Mundri with a bit of a round up of my time there. Looking forward to arriving home in NZ and getting back to family and friends, however I will miss the people from my time here and am not looking forward to leaving. Like a wise person once said: "Arriving is great, Leaving is hard".

Ma Salaam,


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Yes I'm Still Alive!

I know its been a long time since my last entry but didn't realise it had been more than 2 months! Sorry about that I often don't have the motivation to sit down and do a blog entry since it takes so long to do.

So all the way back to the 29th of May, I think thats where I finished?

The week of 28th May was largely filled with football. I went for another run in the morning to continue from what I had been doing in Jinja and before I left for Jinja, while in Yei. On the 31st we had a football game in the competition I'm playing in. I was left quite frustrated as I was benched almost the entire game and came on right at the very end, into stoppage time. As soon as I arrived onto the pitch the ref blew the full time whistle, much to the amusement of the crowd.

The week after that I went to Harvesters to meet with Dr. Jeff Perry about the possibility of helping out at the hospital, I hoped to start helping there shortly after but as it turned out I didn't start until the 10th of July! This was because of a breakdown in communication between senior Across staff and Harvesters. The day after we were allowed to return to the Across football ground for our training which was hugely pleasing. The ground was a lot worse than when I first arrived in Yei and a bit like the awful pitch at Freedom Square (which wasn't a bad thing). The kids team which I had been training earlier in the year were still practicing there and I found that one of the kids who had earlier been excluded was starting to become more confident and included more which really felt amazing. After Wednesday's training we sat down and had a discussion about our previous match (adult team in which I am playing) because the day after we had our next match. In this discussion one of the senior players commended me for my attitude at being willing to come off the bench in the last minute of the game, when many would refuse to. I certainly wasn't expecting this and to say I was surprised was an understatement. The next day we took to the field with confidence and absolutely decimated the other team 7-0 which apparently is a record in Yei. I scored once and assisted twice and could have had more of both, but for being robbed by linesman, referee, pitch and the seldom poor finishing of a teammate. Our fourth game (I missed the first one while in Jinja) was sadly postponed early in July due to the inter-primary football competition taking precedence over ours. Unsurprisingly there was a lack of communication between sporting groups. Our team ended up training in Freedom Square and myself and another player took practice penalties while a large crowd watched on.

Many of the Across workers that live on the compound were interested in the Euro football tournament (mainly males) which Spain eventually won. We managed to watch much of it on the compound TV and there was a lot of banter going on between the workers and genders, especially at the semi finals and final level. Things like this make life in Yei a lot more bearable, although I know there are people out there living tougher than I am, I find I need some comforts.

Speaking of comforts, the following day some things our church sent us arrived, including jaffas, jet planes, etc. It was very exciting to get some kiwi lollies. Thanks guys! However mum's shampoo lid broke in the bag and wrecked about half the jaffas. Very disappointing.

A shortwhile later I began coaching the Fly Sports kids team again. Some have left and gone to other areas of the country, others have joined adult teams or other kids teams so there were some new faces. I have been making them work hard, forcing them to do push-ups if they are late, because fit teams are winning teams as far as I've seen in the football in Yei. We also received the exciting news around that time that Manny's church had sent some funding to us so we could continue and so that Manny could stay until the end of the year. We have broken down the funding into different areas of spending and are hoping to go to his hometown of Mundri in Eastern Equitoria (Yei is in Central Equitoria) to run some workshops and a kids league there. We are planning to do this not long after I return to South Sudan (in a couple of days).

Another thing to note is that I have started taking Arabic (Juba) lessons. I have had about 12 so far and have learnt an enormous amount of words. I can hold some reasonable but small conversations with people and have learnt a few words for use in the market, etc. All in all I have learnt several hundred words at least and am enjoying learning for 6 hours each week (2 hour lessons, 3 times a week). My language tutor seems to be both impressed and pleased at the rate in which I am picking up the language, the only thing is that by the time I leave I will have learnt a fairly sizable amount of the language which I may never use again, or will use seldom, regardless I still want to continue with it.

Now I mentioned a couple of blogs back about this boy Peter who I was planning to pay for schooling for and how he never showed up. Well towards the end of June Manny had some visitors after lunchtime who turned out to be Peter and his grandmother, we talked and decided we would immediately go to one of the primary schools and I would pay for his schooling until the end of the year, uniform and some of the stationary needed. I said to Peter that my condition of doing so was that he always goes to school and that he comes to the Fly Sports kids trainings as he enjoys football and I felt like it would be a good idea to get him to become a part of the team. I didn't see him for a few trainings until one day he turned up when it was hugely wet and the kids and I ended up just kicking the ball round and having a lot of fun actually. He turns out to be quite a good footballer but unfortunately I havent seen him since then because YTTC started grading the pitch again which meant I could no longer use it to train the kids. I am hoping that when I return I will be able to train them once or twice and organise for someone else to coach them while I am away (if I go to Mundri with Manny).

The 9th of July was the South Sudanese Independence Day celebrations and mum and I went into Freedom Square with the principal of YTTC to watch. We got seated in fairly well to do official area and were sitting close to some parliament members. The day was well organised with lots of marching from schools, groups and the YTTC band. In the afternoon they had lots of cultural dancing from many different tribes in the same ground. The day after was announced as a public holiday by the president also, although many people still worked. That afternoon I was a part of the UN volleyball team who had a game against the Yei Sports Commission, who basically just stacked their team with the best vollyballers they could find in Yei, two of which were from YTTC (Yei Teacher Training College which mum is working with). Understandably we got annihilated by a bunch of 6 foot 2 inch + guys who could jump what seemed like meters into the air.

The day after I started feeling unwell after my Arabic lesson and slept for two hours missing lunch to wake up with a fever. That night it developed into dizziness and diarrhea which, among a couple of other minor symptoms meant malaria.  The next morning I was taken to Harvesters hospital (ironically I was meant to be going there for work that day anyway) and had my temperature (39.1 degrees) and blood pressure (58 over 46) taken. As soon as I stood up to be weighed I basically fainted because of the lack of blood making its way to my head (low blood pressure). Immediately I was started on an IV drip and over the next 24 hours was fed about 4 Litres of fluid Intravenously, 1.5L of which were laced with quinine, a horribly strong drug used to cure malaria in bad cases. The next day I returned home and vomited up to of the quinine tabs they had given me as I had taken it without food which is a big no no when quinine is involved. That night I had almost no hunger and managed to struggle down a very small amount of food and my quinine tabs. The next day I started feeling a lot better and slowly I began to recover. However I lost a lot of fitness and haven't regained it back since. I also lost 3kgs in the 6 days I had malaria which dropped me to 68.5 kg, about the lightest Ive been in 2 years. The quinine also causes you to become very tired and weak muscularly so I didnt shake that off until about a week later. The quinine also gives you a ringing in your ears like you've been in a South Sudanese church for several hours (or a rock concert).

The Australasian crew in Yei is now picking up as Katherine arrived from NZ on the 20th/21st of July to help at Harvesters hospital (she's a nurse) which was hugely needed as Dr. Perry works extremely hard and long hours. Another family have also arrived to help at the hospital from Australia so there will be a bit of kiwi/Aussie banter at the next Pioneers member meeting in Yei, notably about the olympics.

On the 27th of July mum and I arrived in Nairobi to an awesome pizza dinner after a trip that was fairly less eventful than last time and with thankfully far fewer problems. The next day consisted of a trip to Nakumatt to buy also sorts of goodies like chips, rubbishy cereals and dairy products :D. Before mum and I went on safari on Thursday the 2nd of August we enjoyed a fairly lazy week and a trip into Nairobi central on the bus, past the Forest where the Kenyan Secretary of Finance? Defense? died in a helicopter incident (which is still under investigation) and also past a building in town which had a bomb go off in it not too many weeks ago. The city centre is a rather bustling and busy place and quite a contrast to typical Africa.

On Thursday the 2nd we were picked up by our safari tour guide from Stu and Maree's house in Karen, Nairobi which was nice, we then met up with the other 3 people who were to join us on the trip. This included a couple from Poland in their mid 20s and a 21 year old guy from London who shared similar musical and sporting interests to myself. Our talking took up a majority of the 4 and a half hour drive from Nairobi to the Maasai Mara while the others basically slept. That afternoon after a late lunch we did our first drive through a small section of the park, seeing zebra, wildebeest, jackals, buffalo, giraffes, elephants, many types of gazelle and deer and a bit of birdlife, among some other animals I've probably forgotten to mention. The next day we did a full days drive and saw (on top of yesterday) a family of lions including a male lion, 3 or 4 lionesses and at least 4 young cubs. We also sort warthogs, hippos, crocodiles, a serval cat (which are rare) and several vultures in different locations picking at the carcass of different wildebeests killed by lions. We were disappointed to not see any cheetahs, rhinos or leopards as we had been searching (mainly for cheetahs) for a good portion of the day. The next morning (our last day) we did a short morning drive where we excitingly found 2 cheetahs together. We took our fill of photos before calling in the find to the other safari tour guides as we made our get away before about 20 vans screamed up to the spot to get their paying customers a view of the cheetahs. This was about as amusing to us as the incredibly enormous camera and lens wielded by an asian man in the van next to us (photo above). We didn't manage to find any leopards or rhinos (particularly because they are rare) but left the Maasai Mara and returned back to Karen feeling very pleased. Mum and I have since had the house to ourselves as Stu and Maree have gone on leave (and return they day we go back to Yei) and have filled our time with movies, relaxing and a bit of adventuring into town, etc. and to the fruit and veg market in a Matatu (basically a run down van that people a crammed into as a means of cheap and short transport). Its now Thursday the 9th of August and mum and I are returning on Saturday the 11th. Our time has been hugely enjoyed here and it was a welcome break, especially since the olympics are free to watch live on youtube in Kenya!

Until the next time I muster the courage and energy to write a blog entry,

God Bless.

P.S I will be uploading a bunch of photos relevant to this entry (and maybe one or two previous) in a moment.

Monday, May 28, 2012

10 Days in Uganda

I must say, Uganda us a really nice country, lots of greenery, great roads (compared to the majority of South Sudan) affordable accommodation, great wildlife, awesome people and a hugely inflated currency which means you can be a millionaire for the small price of around 410 US Dollars. Also before I get started, on the subject of the arrest I mentioned in the last blog it is true. I know I did kind of cry wolf on April fool's day but I assure you this time it is true. Without further ado, the round up of our time in Uganda....

On Thursday the 17th of May we arrived in Entebbe, Uganda after a 2-3 hr flight from the tiny Yei airstrip via MAF, A missions-based flight agency. The plane was a little 12- seater and fortunately there nwas very little turbulence. On the way we stopped off in Nimule in South Sudan to drop off another passenger and got a view of a couple of Anti-Air guns and a machine gun, setup next to the runway. Immigration was super smooth and we found our driver who was to take us to the Kingfisher Resort in Jinja after only a few minutes wait. The drive was about 3 and a half hours, quite a bit longer than expected but short enough to be bearable. We arrived at the Kingfisher resort at about 6:30 pm and had an hour long wait for our food. The place was amazing. A large-sized simming pool, awesomely designed rooms with 6-8 layers of thatching for the roofs and great location on the shores of Lake Victoria (you don't swim in lakes in Africa unless you want bilhazia or to be a Hippo/Croc's dinner). The NZ director of Pioneers was there already with some lollies, etc. that people from our church in NZ sent us (Thanks guys!) mmmm pineapple lumps. The next day was super chill with only a few of us plus the enormous Perry family who have 10 kids (some of which are adopted, including their recently adopted twin boys from South Sudan). The kids practically attacked me in the pool and didn't stop asking me to throw them into the pool and the like for about an hour. 

Lunch Break, ugali and meat for lunch today. Seems there's been an explosion in Nairobi City with injuries and possibly dead. Hope our friends are ok there.

Anyway, on Saturday the rest of the kiwi contingent arrived from Nairobi. Not long after they arrived mum and I went with Lisa and Greg Bowman (who also work for Across, but in Nairobi) to a backpackers called Nile River Camp, we were expecting something pretty scungy but found that the place was beautiful, with awesome views, great pricing for both accommodation and food and also had flush toilets :). The reason we left the resort to go here was to cut costs for the white water rafting we did on the following day. That evening there was a large group of people watching the champions league final at the camp bar/restaurant, an epic game I might add. The day started fairly early with about a 7 o clock rise, with a short trip to the main base and rolex for breakfast, short for rolled eggs, you can buy it in South Sudan also. Its basically an omelette wrapped inside a chapati and is very good. We left to go out onto the water around 8:30am and after an hour so drive we arrived at the launch point where we learnt the calls, etc. necessary for the day. We started down the first rapid around 10 am which was a rather large one. Had we paddled harder we could have gone over a waterfall but our group was too weak. One thing that was awesome was that we had a kiwi instructor with us so we could have some good chats with him about all sorts to do with NZ. There were ten of us in the raft and effectively half of us were kiwi (Lisa is an American turned Kiwi because she married Greg haha). Before lunch we did 4 rapids and afterwards we did 3, finishing with a raft flip. Lunch was good and we all downed it pretty fast. The first rapid after lunch was basically the tail end of a grade 6, which means you basically dont raft it unless you are a legend. We finished the day around 3-4ish with an epic flip of the raft on the last rapid called the nile special (I will put some photos up later) and floated down stream sucking in a bit of the nile before climbing back in the rafting and making it to the end. Followed by some cold drinks and a long trip back to the main base in the pouring rain. We all played some cards in the evening along with a young instructor from England who is in Uganda working for a year, he made us a pretty cool video of the rafting, which he had filmed, and included for us a ton of photos.

On Monday we arrived back at the resort to a warm welcome from the kids, I met quite a few cool other missionaries and it was good to talk to a few that were close to my age and hear what they are doing in different countries in East Africa such as South Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and even from South Africa (not really East Africa). One girl (who was probably closest in age to me) is from Oz and is working in a pretty remote part of Uganda with veterinary stuff. For those who are interested her blog is here It's worth a look. Actually before I say more, the reason we were in Uganda in the first place was for this conference. It was a meet up that happens every 2 years for all the Pioneers workers in East Africa. Fortunately I timed it right to come this year and be a part of it. Throughout the weekend there was a bit of banter between the Kiwis, Australians, Americans and Brits which was actually refreshing. Every day started with worship and we had training on every day in the slot before lunch, often with free time in the afternoon. On Wednesday we had pizza for dinner which was so great we all probably ate too much. On Thursday we took a boat ride on Lake Victoria and down the source of the nile looking at wildlife, etc. which was super mellow. The last 3 nights (Wed. Thur, Fri) were full of games of mafia with some of the others which was great, despite a lack of success. On Friday we went into Jinja town and did a bit of touristy shopping, I was told by some shop owners I was very stubborn, that amused me.I bought a couple of shirts and some souvenirs for those of you funding me back home and for some mates.

On firday I also had a talk with some of the senior Pioneers staff and Across staff about the situation with funding and its consequences. The problem is that if we don't get funding then Fly Sports will be shut down which will actually mean that Manny has to return to England with his wife, Grace and daughter Naomi. for what will probably be year beginning around August. This will mean I will be without my one mentor for the last 3 or so months of my tenure. We discussed what I will do and it looks like I will get involved with teaching guitar at YTTC. I also might get involved with scripture union, but Im not the most excited about doing so. Finally I will probably get involved with helping the Perry family run the hospital up the road from Across and be involved with the business side of things which I would love to do and am really looking forward to discussing with Jeff. All in all it is going to mean a lot of self-motivation and imagination to decide for myself what will occupy my days (as I coach in the evenings). This topic is actually something I would appreciate prayer for as it is weighing on me a bit at the moment.

(Back to Uganda)
On Saturday there were many goodbyes as usual and was probably the least enjoyable day because we all have to go back to reality. Not only that but we travelled for 10 hours in the car from Jinja to the border town of Arua in the north. Here we stayed the night at the YWAM base and then left for Yei the following morning after a brief stop at the Arua supermarket where I bought the most enormous block of Gouda cheese to take back to Yei, seeing as you can't get cheese in Yei. After about 4-5 hours of driving we arrived back in Yei for a birthday barbecue dinner for one of the young kids on the compound, a nice way to end a day of travelling. Now we reach today. I've been meaning to go into town to buy a few essentials but have been bogged down so far by the need to blog out my life from the past month and the inability to have use of a car until only the last hour or so. Blog done, finally. I hope this makes for good reading and sorry if the grammar, etc. doesn't make sense, I'm too lazy to proofread and speaking African English kind of harms your English skills a bit.

Until the next time I can be bothered to put in the effort needed for blog.
Stay well and God Bless.

Snakes, Warheads and Secret Service

I have so much to write that Im gonna first off start by saying Im going to split it into two entries, I know the last entry was scary big so this time I promise to make it shorter by splitting it into two :).

Dates: April 26th - May 16th
So as I wrote in my last blog about this boy Peter I thought I would give an update. Nothing happened. I tried to call him and got some answer in Arabic then when Manny and \I tried to call again it said the phone  number didnt exist or something like that, we tried several times to no avail and have not heard from him or seen him. However since this boy is from Manny's tribe he is going to try to find out for me in the next week or so.

Manny left the following day (27th of April) to pick up his wife and daughter from Juba and on Saturday mum left for Midigo (if that's how you spell it) with the principal of the Yei Teacher Training College shes working for. As it is his home town and he wanted to show it to mum. That left me pretty much alone for the weekend including for the preaching I did in Manny's church which I thought went quite well despite some inadequate translation skills at times and required help from the congregation and visitors to get it right. They both arrived back safely that evening.

The following day (Monday) is also noteworthy as I splashed out and bought a blender. The mangoes here were so plentiful at the time and a lot of fruit so cheap that it made sense to me at least to use them for juice (I was sick of eating them by then). The instruction booklet was clearly confused as it told me to not use the machine for more than 4 minutes, but then on the next line down said, if you need to use it for more than 4 minutes then do so please. And yes it did even say please.

On wednesday that week we had a power outage which lasted about 48 hours after a tree fell onto the single power cable that brings power from the power pole into the Across compound. This meant most of the contents in my fridge were beyond saving by the time it came back on.

The next day was the beginning of training a new bunch of kids. You see since there are so many football teams in Yei, and so few grounds to train on, it's impossible to be exclusive and train only your team (especially when the Across field is out of action for almost the rest of the year while it's being graded). So unfortunately I am no longer able to train my team only. Since I came to Africa to use sport to help the kids, etc. It was definitely time to start coaching again. The first day drew 70 kids, mostly internally displaced kids from the area of Bentiu which has been attacked by the North (as it's on the border between Sudan and South Sudan). Training them was pretty difficult but Ruman and I managed, along with the help of a local guy. We did our second training on the following Monday with fewer participants fortunately, this time with more like 40 or so. I ran them hard and made them do a ton of pushups, etc. because they quite frankly suck at them. Another thing that surprised me was how poor their juggling skills were, many of them would be outshined even by my mum at the skill. Scary stuff.
Before I explain the title of this blog there is about one more thing worth mentioning and that is our umpteenth application for funding. However this time I feel more hopeful about its success as we did one jointly with YTTC to a donor called Comic Relief who give away a TON of money each year to organisations like us. South Sudan is high on their priority list as well and seeing as Across has been in South Sudan for 40 years and employs mainly South Sudanese, we feel we have a great chance of at least making the short list (which is drawn in about one or 2 weeks). YTTC have some massive development plans for the community and a lot of the goals, etc. fit perfectly with Fly Sport's.

Ok, so now to explain the title. Firstly its about the time of the year (the wet season) where you get snakes. South Sudan has many very friendly snakes such as Black Mambas and Cobras who really have that desire to get to know you, up close and personal. One such snake took such a liking to one of the workers here that it visited her twice, in the long drop. You see this lady who lives near me in the Across compound had been visiting the loo in the morning and opened the door to have a snake drop on her head. She wasn't sure whether it was a Mamba but she managed to avoid getting bitten. Only a few days later in the early morning (when there is little light) did she notice the snake yet again this time with his head raised ready to strike. Fortunately again she managed to avoid getting bitten and managed to get away without harm. Thanks be to God. So every time I visit the loo its a 20 second search up, down and around for another friendly fellow. Remember that the next time you visit the loo.

Now warheads. Around Across there has been a lot of construction and maintenance going on, a new classroom block 3 storeys high (the Yei equlivalent of the empire state building), the re-levelling of the football grounds and also the construction of a new dorm for the female students at the college. It was from the latter of these that an explosive present was found. I got a phone call from mum telling me to come have a look at the RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) they had dug up during construction of the dorms. It looked like a large metal corn cob and was live ammunition. Not sure how it was disposed of but the guy who found it just casually picked it up and walked off with it after we were down looking at it and taking photos, some of which I will upload to my blog next time I have use of our laptop.

Lastly..... Between the beginning date mentioned in this blog and now we have had a couple of public holidays meaning days off work. The first of which was great and the second of which was nuts. This is where the secret service comes in. The second holiday, and last day featured in this blog was SPLM day, celebrating the liberation of Yei in the years past from the Khartoum government (Sudan). Everyone goes dressed in their best and the college band perform in Freedom square, where the celebrations are, dressed in their bright regalia. I had gone for a 7 mile run (just to slip that in there :P) in the morning and couldn't be bothered going into town, I was very happy to just sit on the computer for the day. Mum had planned to go into town with a workmate/neighbour/friend to see the festivities but had forgotten she had a planned skype session. So they agreed she would meet up with her there. So after finishing the skype session mum went into town to watch the happenings and goings-on. It was all in Arabic and fortunately a lady was kind and translated for her, a lady who, as it turned out, was the sister of the cook for YTTC whom mum is friendly with. Before long mum receievd a tap on the shoulder, the sort of thing you learn to ignore as its usually someone wanting money. The hand tapped again. Mum turned around and asked what he wanted. He motioned for her to go over to him as he was standing out in the sun. Mum politely replied by asking whether they could just talked in the shade. The man looked irritated and started making a call on his phone. The lady who had been translating for mum and Mr. "X" started having a heated conversation and she started to looked very distressed as she began to hurry away. A few people in the crowd talked to her and she came back looking upset. Mum asked what the matter was and she replied that the man was going to arrest them (turns out he was secret service). Moments later some guys in army/police uniform came and told them to come with them. They were taken to a holding cell at one end of freedom square and were basically interrogated, being asked who they were, what they were doing here, who they were working for, etc. etc. During their arrest mum had managed to call someone from YTTC and tell them they were being arrested. Mum explained that she was working for YTTC at Across, during this point the expression on the guy who accosted mum changed as he realised he'd made a huge screw up. Meanwhile mum's phone had rung 4 times and they wouldn't answer it, despite mum explaining that it would be someone from YTTC calling. They eventually turned it off. Anyway, the reason mum was arrested was that apparently she was suspicious. And get this, they claimed she was calling England with information. As if even communicating PUBLIC information was ever a crime. And to England??? What interest would England have in the celebration of a comparatively miniscule town in South Sudan (and as if it was worth explaining we are from NZ which is literally the other side of the world from Enlgand). They told her she should have been seated in the guests area. Which mum explained she had not be invited to and as if she was going to push through a huge crowd saying, "Make way for the more important white person!", when she arrived late. They even later changed the story to say that she had been inside the guest area and gotten out to take photos, none of which happened as her phone is so basic it doesn't even have a camera. Fortunately the band leader arrived and sorted out the mess, but hilariously they arrested him also and accused him of being a spy despite having just led the YTTC band moments earlier! It truly was ludicrous and mum was shaken a bit by the whole thing. The other lady who had been translating for her was very shaken and if mum had not stuck up for her who knows what would have happened. It's unlikely the poor woman will ever want to help a Westerner again, and I wouldn't blame her. Apparently this sort of thing had been going on all day and people had been arrested for doing nothing really. One lady had urinated in the corner out of fright and another guy was made to go home naked after they took his clothes of him. It really is sick that they will do this to their own people. It just shows how high the tention is from the conflict with the north.
In Juba a week or so earlier a female teacher had been shot dead by a soldier as she got out of her car. The reason being? She had moved while the South Sudanese flag was being raised. It's desperately sad that customs cn take precedence over a human life. Some things have just REALLY got to change.

That's all for this blog entry, the next one which I will enter in a moment will be mainly about our time in Uganda.

Peace be with you and God Bless,

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Long Time Ago

Oh buddy. My posts are getting less and less regular. Dont worry a bomb hasn't landed on me although I can't say the same for township of Bentiu sadly. We had a short instruction this morning about the best way to avoid a bomb dropped from a plane. Although I don't think it will ever come to that and boy are we praying the war doesn\t flare up again. It's the last thing any citizen in South Sudan wants, but the North is desperate as oil makes up 98% of their Income and because 75% of it is now in South Sudanese land it means big problems for the North. Ok so flashback now to the 21st of March onwards.

Waaay back in some time a long time ago (21st March 2012)Manny arrived back from Mundri with Grace and Naomi safe and sound. Naomi had managed to get malaria again while in Mundri and Grace contracted in not long after her. Its absolutely horrible, Im thankful for the availability of malarial preventatives in Africa although they are not as cheap as they are in NZ. Thursday and Friday saw the measurement of height and weight for the kids of the 32 schools in Yei River County for the inter-primary athletics competition. We split them into 4 groups of 8 (Two groups to each Measurement station, one each day). As I was recording the weights and heights it meant I wrote around 720 kids' names and measurements down. Some that didn't qualify as they were either too tall or too heavy (over 50kg) even broke into tears. Something very unusual as kids don't cry here unless they are very young. One guy also told me he was 20 years old (as we had to record their ages) so we decided to agree he was 16 (provided they qualify with the measurement age is only a formality). This was a huge source of amusement for myself and the other guy I was working with as this 20 year old was probably one of the only honest "kids" we measured. And yes this was for a primary school competition. The war meant many kids did not get education and it is not uncommon to find young adults of around 16-18 in primary school. That Sunday I was supposed to preach and Emmanuel's church, but there was a mix up meaning it would have to wait (until this Sunday as a matter of fact). So that means I have not preached in a single church since I have been here. Maybe you might want to start redefining your view of what a missionary is and does?

Week beginning March 26thATHLETICS.
Monday and day one of the inter-primary athletics, thousands of kids crowded into the small Across football pitch and surrounding ground which has been turned into a very temporary athletics track and field. We didn't get started until around 11am as the other officials were slack with time. The event began with some speaking and speeches and ending with the National Anthem of South Sudan. I must say it was quite amazing hearing about 4000+ African kids (and a few adults) sing the national anthem. The events began with the always entertaining 100m heats, which could have been more or less than 100m depending how long the football pitch is. You see they used the edge of the lengths of the football pitch were the lengths of the "400m" running track, this was ok for the 100m but anything else became longer than it was actually supposed to be. Google how to measure a running track and you will see what I mean. The straights are only supposed to be about 84m long while ours were 100m+ most likely. The week was full of complaints and arguing, we had to redo a couple of races on different days because of the runners' placings decending into chaos. You see the way they did it was that you would have an certain number of receivers who receive a certain placer, i.e one takes first, another second, etc. When it came to long distance races when they ran about 120 or so boys or girls at once it decended into chaos at the finishing line. I mean you would have thought picking first was easy enough especially when the winner won by a mile, but no, you get all sorts of allegations and accusations flying everywhere and even directed at me and the poor lady working with me who were just the mere results recorders. The problem really stemmed from the fact that the officials were volunteers from the different schools and they were accused of picking their own runners ahead of the real place getters, etc. This happened so many times it got quite frustrating. One race on the final day (the 4x400m girls relay) was just outright cancelled because I was fed up with all the arguing, and even some of the placers claiming they were one position higher than they really were. In spite of the problems there were some real highlights. Firstly the fact we managed to complete it all in 4 days was a miracle. It was scheduled to be only 3 days long and I anticipated it would take about a week based on organisational skills here, although going until around 6:30pm every night did help. Albeit suck big time for the schools around 10 miles away who had to walk home in the quickly disappearing daylight. Also that we had a clear winner for the boys and also for girls, and that we could hand out those trophies and give recognition for the winners of each event. As for amusing or comedic highlights there were two that stoud out. First the high jump technique. Now if you have seen the olympics and if you are reading this then you most likely have you will note the technique and athleticism of high jumpers doing either the "Fosbury Flop" or the well known "scissor-kick". Well that wasn't happening here, partly because they haven't been taught it and also because they were landing on a 2 or 3 cm thick pile of sawdust, not a nice comfy crash pad. So their technique? Literally jump over the bar. I must say the results given the techn ique were impressive a few managed to jump 1.4 metres without an officially recognised technique. Girls included. There is definitely a lot of potential. The second amusing highlight comes from the one and only three-time-attempted-cheating school Yankonye, who had some super fast growing students, probably world record breakers. An official had brought these three kids to me to check they were registered and legit. I asked each of them their names with their sports teacher or head teacher anxiously following the process. The first one gave me a name that was on the list as registered, however with one slight difference. The registered kid under this name was only 145cm tall and the one in front of me was clearly tall. Out came the measuring tape to find little Emmanuel had grown a whopping 21cm in one week. His parents must have been feeding him well. The second one failed to recall the right name getting the second name wrong from what was on the list, nice try buddy and the last one must have also had some encouraging parents as he had grown 16cm in one week. A good laugh and a stern telling off for Yankonye, nice try sports master, especially when he tried to convince me they had in fact grown that much in one week.

Thursday evening after athletics we found out that our transport to Juba had been canned for Friday, which was also the day of our flight. Queue a desperate search for transport resulting in a ludicriously expensive ride to Juba with a hired car. Fortunately we made it to the airport in time to unfortunately find that the staff member of Across in Nairobi had forgotten to ticket our flight despite 3 emails from mum reminding her to do so. Queue more expenses as we have to take a taxi from the airport to the Across compound in Juba to spend the night there (also more expenses as we had to pay for accommodation). By this stage mum and I were pretty fed up and just wanted to be in the much cooler Nairobi. That night was anything but cool as it was 36-37 degrees almost the entire night with no fan from midnight onwards. Fortunately a flight was booked for us for saturday and we arrived in Nairobi that day.

Time in Nairobi beginning Sunday April 1st
No other word to describe how Nairobi felt compared to Yei, it was brilliant. Much larger variety of food, supermarkets that actually deserve to be called supermarkets and plenty of cheap pirated movies to browse....not that we bought any..... However for much of that first week mum was quite unwell and restricted a bed hugging zombie-like status for hours on end. A combination of the stress of her last week in Yei and also the travel debacle. However being april fools day I thought it might be amusing to play an april fools joke. Mum and I discussed it and in the end we decided to hide the TV and laptops and say to Stu and Maree when they got back from church (yes we were slack and didn't go) that someone had nicked them when we were out for a walk. They totally bought to my surprise (I'm normally not good at keeping a straight face), even saying about how they didn't really know the guard as he was new and could have let someone in. When we told them it was an April Fools' joke they were both relieved and a bit annoyed I think. Mum and I felt a bit bad since they have actually had theft problems with a previous housekeeper and apologised, however you have to give us credit Stu and Maree if you are reading this that we sold you on it. And we were and are sorry it was a bit insensative. Also if you are my friend on Facebook and saw my post about spending the night in prison that was an April Fools joke as well, I did write on that same post it was but I'm not sure if everyone saw it.

Mum's bday was the next day and unfortunately zombie-mum couldn't do more than sleep for it, however Maree and I did get her some flowers which were super cheap I might add. About $6 NZ (5ish $US) for 3 dozen roses, yes you did read that correct, and I know any females reading this will be very jealous. On Wednesday Maree and I visited the veg and fruit market which is a lot cheaper than Yei and NZ I might add where it poured with rain, in fact being the bearers of blessing the rain arrived when we arrived in Nairobi. Upon arriving home to Stu and Maree's we found a whole bunch of Vervet monkeys having a good snack time on the flying termites plucking them out of the air like berries off a bush. On the Thursday the hibernating bear exited her slumber and we went to Tokyo resaturant for a nice sushi meal for her belated birthday.

Friday we arrived at lake Naivasha, a very nice area 2 hours north of Nairobi with a lot of wildlife. More specifically we stayed about 200m from the shore of a little sub lake called Lake Onoidien, with literally thousands of flamingos on its shores, an incredible sight to see in real life. Also with its fair share of Vervets one of which made into into our cottage and took a swipe at the bread, we had been napping at the time and mum was out for a walk. I heard a noise in the kitchen and walked in to see a Vervet sitting on the table looking at me, he/she scampered out with the small victory. In our time around Naivasha we went to a couple of game parks/national parks and also went for a boat ride on Lake Naivasha spotting many hippos. It was an awesome easter trip filled with a canyon walk, views of giraffes, buffalo, warthogs, impala, gazelles, antelopes, eland, and some rock climbing even. We left on the Monday back to Nairobi and spent the rest of a fairly uneventful week there bar an evasive rodent visitor and a big shop at Nakumatt (a big general store like Walmart in the States) where we bought a whole bunch of things to take back to South Sudan (we had planned for this by taking very few clothes from South Sudan on our holiday).
Saturday we arrive back in Yei after an early morning start to catch our flight.

Week beginning April 16th
Manny along with his wife and daughter and also Ruman travelled to Juba on the monday to sort out some passports (Grace and Naomi are still there now in fact). While they were gone I decided to do something proactive meaning I created for myself a little garden which I was and am very proud of, despite the fact the recent heavy rains have flooded it a bit meaning its likely I will need to replant. While creating this garden I had many visitors through the fence asking what I was doing and how I was, etc. but one kid stuck out to me. He began by asking how I was as is the norm and where I was from, etc. Then asking how long I was here for and when I was going back to my country. When I told him he asked if he could come with me, I didn't really think about it at the time about how desperately sad that was, his life must be pretty tough to want to leave his country so badly that he would go on his own to another with a complete stranger. I just said something about how expensive it was and that I could not afford to do that (I can't its really quite expensive) not really taking him seriously. I mean how many of us could understand growing up in a war situation where it is a battle to survive. When we complain about having slow internet speeds or a power cut lasting only a few hours or having to make do with minimum wage job as a student at college or university that earns us about 5 times as much in an hour as many people around here earn in a day. I guess seeing the real world, as this is what Africa is, truly opens your eyes. You can't begin to understand until you start to see it and live around and in it. I also did a bit of reorganising my very messy house, which is an event worth writing about because that sort of inspiration and energy doesn't come along often. Manny and Ruman both arrived back that evening, while Grace and Naomi are staying with Grace's parents. I went out the next day with Manny into town and got some posters for my dull room, one of which is an "End of Ghadaffi" posters, quite brutal but with some hilarious sub-titles I have yet to post on Facebook. That day was also my first game in the adult football league. I didn't feel like it went well. I was quite sore in my muscles for some reason and the team didn't really gel with me well. Manny left the next day again to go to Mundri to sort out some urgent problems with Fly Sports there and didn't arrive back until Friday evening. Thursday we had training which again didn't go too well and left me feeling a bit discouraged. Saturday we had our usual Pioneers staff meet-up at the ever-growing Perry family home on the outskirts of Yei. They have now adopted a pair of South Sudanese twins as the mother died in child birth and the father decided they would look after them better. Both are boys, so the only other boy in the family is quite happy at the prospect of finally having a brother (or two) despite being about 8 years older. On sunday we bought a frozen chicken which is news worth sharing about, considering how rarely you have chicken here, due to its price.

Week beginning  23rd April up to the 25th (today)On monday we visited the YWAM base to see if there are any other Western missionaries I hang with in Yei, YWAM being the best bet as the "Y" stands for Youth. But unfortunately there isn't even a single Westerner there at the moment and looks set to continue this way until around June/July/August. Yesterday was my second game of adult football in Yei and it was one to remember. Rain. Rain. Rain. It started out pretty light at first but usually that means it is only going to get heavier. The pitch was pretty muddy being entirely dirt with not even a microscopic trace of grass at the beginning of the game, the temperature was as low as the mid 20s and I felt right at home in the wet, "cold" and windy conditions, being thankful we could play. The game went ahead for 70 minutes until it got ridiculous and we had to call it off. What few spectators had stayed to watch had pretty much left by that stage and we were all sopping wet and muddy. Because the game could not be completed it means when have to play the entire thing again, fortunately. Considering we were somehow losing 3-1 to a team with one less player than us due to the fact he was set off for a legitimate tackle on me (the ref couldn't really see anything other than me flying through the mud after his tackle). We scored the resulting penalty which I wasn't going to risk taking (anyone see Messi's miss last night?) and took the lead along with a freshly grazed knee for the umpteenth time. The poor guy whow as sent off was in fact the coach of the Pro-Inter kids team who my team beat in the Semi-Final of the kids tournament I organised. Joel 2, John the alledged ex-Ugandan Premier League player (according to himself) 0. The rain lasted about 8-9 hours flooding everything including my poor garden yet again. Going out onto the roads this morning though and it looks like there was only a little shower last night, stuff dries fast here. Today we had a meeting with the inter-primary school sports committee about forming some sort of constitution and memorandum of understanding. I didn't really have a clue what they were talking about and I don't think half of them did either. One of them asked me to clarify what a memorandum of understanding was as I sat there fiddling with my watch exceedingly bored out of my mind. I mean yeah I am from the West but that doesn't mean I know what the heck that is... Im 18. How many other 18 year olds could explain what a MoU is? Did they make the term up??? Fortunately I ditched that meeting after the lunch break and went back to the Across compound after a brief shop to do this blog. At the gate I met Emmanuel with an older lady and younger kid who turns out to be 16. They had come to Emmanuel looking to find out about the Fly Sports kids team and also to try to securing some funding in order for the kid to be able to go to school. The cost of an entire year's schooling? About $25 NZ. They had just been about to leave as I was out. Talk about God timing. We talked briefly and the kid seemed quite shy, probably with this obviously big and imposing white figure in front of him....not. I guess being a Westerner and not someone he can understand easily made it awkward for him? Doesn't seem to in any way affect the ton of kids that everyday stare at me and ask "khawaja how are you?" (it never ends). So tomorrow we are going to go to his school and Im going to pay for a year's schooling for him, I mean after all the job of a missionary is to benefit and serve those they are sent to help right? I've also invited him to join our football team and hopefully he can mix in well with the other kids in the team who seem to have formed friendships or at least now acknowledge each other at school and outside of school with a degree of friendliness. I'm hoping I can maybe benefit this kid, I get the feeling he hasn't had an easy life especially when the older woman he came with was clearly too old to be his mum. Hopefully in my next blog there will be some update on that.

OK up to date finally, just to show you all I am still alive and breathing in this different world I'm in. I'd be lying if I said I missed home or that this was easy. I do and it's not. I guess just be thankful for how much, much, much more you have than most of the world.
God Bless and until next time (which will hopefully be sooner than a month away),

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Where are the rains?

Hello there again, here goes another hour or two of writing pain. Im sorry it's been longer than I planned since my last update so theres a ton to report on. In fact it has been almost 3 weeks, anyway here is the run down from the last few weeks, melting pot style just as last time, daily rundowns are just too organised for me.

Week beginning Monday 27th, well as I wrote in the last post, our team made it through to the finals. The final was played on the Saturday with many issues which I will get to in a second. Training coming up to the final had been a bit disrupted with some locals purposely trying to be a nuisance or interrupt it for whatever reason. Friday the 2nd of March was the losers match (3rd and 4th place) the winner of which won a football which they tried to tell me was not ok. I was quite fed up with the ungrateful sods because we had told them we had no funding and could only offer paltry prizes, especially since it was only a pre-season tournament. I also visited the Yei Football Association with Emmanuel who were finally in their office after trying 3 or 4 times previous. Had an interesting discussion about the leagues, etc. Turns out they even have a transfer market for buying and selling players. However the record transfer is 300 SSP (about $110 NZ) which made me laugh. I came back on Saturday and registered as a player with my two passport photos. Turns out I will be one of the youngest playing in the adult league. The registration form asked me to give "four names" I told him I only had three but thought afterwards I should have added a funny one that they wouldnt have understood for a laugh. Just about everything that could possibly go wrong did go wrong for the final. The nets had been stolen in the morning for whatever reason which is only a shot in the foot of the community, there were also two adult teams trying to say they had permission to use the field at the same time, when they clearly didn't much to my frustration and their amusement as I was not only trying to organise my team with 30 mins to go until playing but also find someone in Across who could sort out the mess. Fortunately it got sorted and they moved off to another field. However that wasn't the end of it as the referee called in that he was at a funeral and couldn't referee so I got Emmanuel to referee. This could have caused real problems had we won with claims of bias however ludicrous would inevitably be heard. The final itself wasn't as much of an occassion as I thought it would be, my team went down 3-0 to the only team in the league to win every game. The score didn't really tell the story of the game as it was 0-0 at half time and they got the better of the luck to open the scoring. From there my team was pushing to score an equaliser and as a result conceded at the other end. By then the game should have been over and my team were demoralised finally conceding the third late into stoppage time, which didn't need to be played really. The other benefit of losing is that my team is now more determined to win the normal season after the heartbreak of losing a final.

The departure of the pre-season league saw the arrival of the Pioneers cross-cultural training just nearby in Yei (I'm working with Across, sent by Pioneers). There were many people from all over Africa, all of them Westerners like us. Over the course of the week we got to hear their stories about how they made it to Africa and decided upon what they are now doing just like mum and I (us). The training lasted from 8:30 until 5pm or later everyday from Sunday through until Friday so it was a busy week. We would have several breaks throughout the day the fortunately including the likes of liver for lunch, yuck. Although to make up for it we got the ever-rare chicken another day! It's amazing what becomes a talking point and luxury after a while. Speaking of time, as I am writing this I have realised it is 2 months exactly today since we arrived in Yei. Back to the training, we learned many things which explained some things we had noticed. One poinient example is where one of my players calmly told me he hadn't been at practise since his mother had died. I was quite shocked and didnt expect him to be at training the day after his mother had died even! Turns out kids will often call even the most distantly related aunty their mother. Tuesday the 6th of March I also had my first haircut, this was something that had been worrying me for a while as locals can't cut khawaja hair (khawaja means white person in Arabic and is not offensive) as they don't know how and it is so different in thickness to theirs. Thankfully an American family who are living and running a hospital in Yei (with 8 kids of their own) know how to cut/shave our hair. First I opted for going for just a trim with the scissors, but after turning out looking like a monk I decided to shave it. Not only would it mean less time until I needed to bother to have a haircut again but I gambled it would look better. Thankfully it turned out well, and when I say shaved it was using the longest attachment meaning it wasn't terribly short. Since I got the haircut many people have said they didn't recognise me and many have said I look younger, despite the fact the average age I'm guessed to be is around 25 hahahahaha. The next day after the training we went into town with the other Pioneers cross-cultural trainees. The locals must have thought it was either armageddon or more likely their lucky day with the 14 or so whities looking around. The problem is Yei isn't a very touristy place and its quite diffcult to get anything close to a souvenir, in fact the closest is probably to get some clothing made with some of the awesomely colourful fabric you can get here. Thursday arrived as the second to last day of training with Rhys and Rhonda (workers who have been at Across for 26 years!) sharing about the radio programme at Across and language learning respectively. Rhonda especially is more of a local than the locals themselves. That evening we all went to the Perrys' for dinner, fortunately they have a few large dining tables and a larger house (needed when you regularly have vistors and also have 8 kids of your own). The kids were all very cute and all wanting me to read them bedtime stories on the couch, about 4 or 5 of them crowded around me, I'll try and get a copy of the photos to put on here or FB. Friday was the end of training and the although it had been good I was glad kit was done, we also showed the others around the Across compound.

Saturday was a good day, for a couple of reasons. Firstly the ability to have a very lazy morning was welcome, but more importantly a thunderstorm, a great gift of thunder, lightning and much rain. In fact the temperature even dropped to the low 26 degrees celcius which forced me into wearing my polar fleece! I know you probably think I'm mad, but you acclimatise after a while! I also bought what I thought was called jackfruit, some oddly named fruit mum had eaten the day previous. However it turned out to be a custard apple which I managed to leave to ripen for too long and became rather foul. Sunday was a different church again which I wasn't too happy with, some of their foundational principles were beyond bizarre, for example the main one was "make heaven". I left feeling rather dizzy and sick. Fortunately the afternoon perked up and we had lunch with a couple of the remaining Pioneers. A buffet lunch to be more specific which was very satisfying.

This brings us to last week, heck its been a long blog and Im not nearly done, sorry! Monday the 12th of March Emmanuel left with his wife Grace and his daughter Naomi to go to Mundri for "the week", I was originally going to go with him but we will wait to do this later in the year probably around June. So for the week it was just Ruman and I. The first couple of days were filled with meetings and meetings that ended up being postponed. Wedenesday was the beginning of the inter-secondary school football competition wich kicked off at the pitch in town called "Freedom Square". It started about 2 to 2 and a half hours later than supposed, meaning it was played around the heat of the day. This meant I got pretty sun burned as the anti-malaria medication dries out your skin meaning you are more prone to sunburn. It left my forehead, nose and ears pretty burned while also the tops of my hands, with amusing tan-lines up to where my shirt sleevs reached and where my sunglasses had covered. I am only now recovered from the sunburn...and peeling.

Thursday was an unusual day from the outset. My alarm for the morning was not that of my little Torch-thermometer-clock but that of my next door neighbour. As I woke I was feeling quite irritated at my neighbour who was making some awful screechy sound. I thought it was some odd laugh (for whatever reason, I was tired) which I quickly realised was a loud piercing wail like an alarm. My next door neighbours went over to her room (there are four of us in this block of rooms side by side, with super thin walls) to see what the matter was. The poor lady had lost her sister either overnight or early in the morning to some serious heart problem, she was pretty devastated and many went to her house to comfort her. Not only that but my colleague Ruman didn't turn up and upon ringing him I found out his aunty had died. Terrible news for two that day. Death is an all too common criminal in missionary work I am starting to find out. So for Thursday and Friday I was left to my own devices and managed to skype dad finally and also organise the bible study for Saturday just passed.

The bible study went well and although it was only a small group they were thankful for my being there. I also finally saw this mythical jackfruit which turned out to be the biggest fruit I've seen in my life. It is about the size of a small barrel, literally, we didn't even bother asking how much it was it was too big to carry around Yei. Another large bonus arrived this past week in the form of a new community television and also DSTV. This means 11 sports channels (yeah better than NZ) of awesome. This gave me a massive boost after what had been a mediocre week and I joyously watched Liverpool's FA Cup Quarter-final triumph. Now we arrive at yesterday, a busy day with a 3 hour meeting but more importantly a visit to the Iris ministries base, this is where Michelle Perry works. Many of you reading this probably will know nothing about her, but in short she runs a large and loving orphanage in the outskirts of Yei with over 120 kids of mixed ages and gender. She was born with one leg and is from the States having arrived in Yei early 2006. I would encourage you to read her blog and book, both of which have names I have forgotten. So anyway after going up to the Iris-ministries base and playing football in the scorching heat with some of the kids I managed to meet Michelle Perry and we talked for about 40 or so minutes with many young kids clambering around us wanting attention and hugs. So today (20th March) I am going up there along with mum this time so she can meet Michelle and we can talk some more.

Done, finally, Khalas. Thats a long entry sorry, probably the longest yet, I always think detail is nice to read but heck it can be a pain to write out. Hope all is well in the world because at the moment I might as well be living in out of space, I'm so out of touch. Blessings to all who are reading this and to my awesome country of NZ. Next time I update the blog will be either in Nairobi when mum and I go for our first break or shortly after that. Anywho, until next time.

P.S We are supposed to have had the rains come by now, hence the blog entry title.

P.P.S Go the Phoenix and Canes!

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Wonderful World of Yei

So its been a while since I've posted. I just don't have the time or motivation to update this blog more than once a fortnight. I wonder sometimes how life is going back home, we have become so out of touch with the news that when I get home it will be like a caveman arriving in the 21st century. Anyway the round up of my last 2 weeks begins below continuing from Monday the 13th of Feb.

Monday. This was the last time I updated my blog, however I updated it early in the day meaning you have not read about the football tournament I was apart of. You see Across and the students at the Yei Teacher Training College (YTTC) have a football tournament which consists of 4 teams and 6 games every year I think although I imagine the number of games and teams change from year to year. Anyway they wanted me to play in the first game against the In-service students team whom we beat rather soundly 5-2. I had the fortune to score the goal that pulled us back into the lead and also the one after, ending as the top scorer for the game. Our second game in this tournament was a disappointing 3-3 draw in which I did not score and we all felt the referee was biased and made some very poor calls. Our third and final game was a final of sorts with the winner taking the trophy and goat, yes a goat, as the prize for winning. We were beaten 3-0. I hope the goat tasted nice, the students earned it. The day after this first game saw my team play their first proper game (Fly Sports kids). We went down gut-wrenchingly 3-2 to a team who didn't deserve to win and felt the referee (who works for FS) was biased against us so that the other team wouldn't complain about the referee. The kids looked like someone in their family had died they were so quiet and almost in tears (kids don't cry here unless they are still babies). Our final group stage game was Friday which was essentially a must win in order to be guaranteed qualification. We drew. A second game in a row my team had a 1-0 lead at half time and blew it away, ending 1-1. Fortunately for us other results went our way and we qualified second on goal difference, meaning a very tough quarter-final match against the highly fancied Yei Central who were viewed by many as one of the teams to take the competition. We beat them. A performance from my team worthy of a final. They worked extremely hard and exhausted themselves with all the running and hard work. For a third game straight we lead at halftime 1-0. For a third game straight the other team equalised, it was like a sucker punch late in the game. This meant extra-time which didn't provide any goals. Penalties followed. I know this kids league is not like the World Cup or anything but penalties are extremely nerve-racking for a coach. I sympathise for those that have been through it for World-cups, etc. At 3-3 after three penalties each I was fervently praying our goalkeeper would pull some magic out of the bag and make a save or that the opponent would fluff it. He fluffed it and hit the post. We knew this was our opportunity and with our fourth and their fifth player both scoring all that was required was for our fifth taker to slot it home, which he did calmly. Cue the massive celebrations from the team, hugging, shouting, joy. I was proud of the team because I knew we had passed a massive hurdle and technically recorded our first win. Not only that but had knocked out one of the favourites. Like Zambia beating Ghana in the AFCON Semi-finals I told my team. Yesterday (Monday 27th Feb) we played our semi-final match against Pro-Inter. A team run by an ex-player from the Ugandan Premier League as I later found out. A penalty and a goalkeeping howler were enough for my team to book a 2-0 win and place in the final this Saturday 3rd March to much jubilation. The other semi-final takes place tomorrow with a team who has won every game so far (the other favourite to take the tournament) playing a team who twice came from two goals down to win 7-6 on penalties, after full time and extra time saw the game finish 4-4. That's all from the football front for now.

Going back to the week beginning Monday 13th. This week Emmanuel and I visited Jigomoni primary school with the prospect of beginning the salt and light discipleship there. That day was also one of the hottest for a while and I felt quite dizzy and faint for most of the day despite drinking lots and keeping my salt and sugar levels up, apparently this means the rains are coming. Speaking of rains we had our first bit of rain in Yei on Saturday just passed and also on Sunday. Sunday not only had rain but much thunder and even lightning which arced horizontally across the sky. This made the temperature drop significantly and for the first time I even felt cold (it was probably in the high 20s-low 30s). Its funny how quick you adjust to the temperature here even though its so much hotter than NZ.On

On the 18th of Feb we had a get together of all Pioneers staff in Yei at the Perry's house at Harvesters not too far from where we are staying. They have 8 kids living with them (9 total I think) and the biggest dining room table you've ever seen. Not only this but they had running water and a flush toilet! This was so amazing it bordered on excitement for mum and I. How ludicrous does that seem to those of you living in the West? Maybe you should just be thankful for what you have. Even the "poor" in NZ are rich in comparison to many living here. We had an awesome lunch too, it was a pretty good day.

Week beginning Monday 20th. Monday began with an early visit to Kanjoro primary school with Emmanuel advertising our Salt and Light Discipleship programme to the assembly of kids. About 1300 or so of them. Now when you think of assembly you probably think of a big hall with seats in them or kids sitting on the floor with the principal standing on stage behind a lecturn. Wrong. They would all stand outside with the principal in the middle on a concrete block with steps. Pretty basic. I spoke and asked them to raise their hand if they knew where NZ was. Deadly silence and not a hand raised. Either they didn't understand me or just as likely none of them knew where it was. Most seem to think its in Europe somewhere. It seems funny that many people I talk to about my country seem to know where Australia is and never notice NZ sitting next to it. At least this makes it easy to explain where Im from. Another thing here that never ceases to amuse me is the locals' complete inability to accurately guess my age. I have had many guesses ranging from the youngest guess as 20 to the oldest guess being even 30! When I tell them I'm 18 they say that I'm lying and they don't believe me, its quite funny. I think its because we eat so well in the west that we grow a lot more than they do. Many nof them would only have 1 meal a day. Compared to our 3, or 5...

On Tuesday 21st mum and I had our first skype session with video even. I didn't think the internet would be quick enough to handle this but it managed. We skyped Joel Edwards and Janette McKevitt for the Sunday missions themed church service back home. It was really nice to talk to some familiar people and see some familiar faces. Also skyped Courteney and Jono that day/week. If my other mates are reading this get skype so we can chat! I feel so out of the loop with everything at the moment. Although this was a great encouragement and made my week, we (FS) found out we're on the chopping block so the need for funding is urgent. In response to this we have made many applications and got one positive response back from Samaritan's Purse, which we are pursuing, and praying over.

I have been a bit unwell recently catching a bit of a cold. I know, the irony. So if you could pray for me in that regard and also for Fly Sports to receive funding so that we can continue our work in Yei and also hopefully expand to Boma that would be awesome. Hope all of you reading this are well and that the weather has fined up a bit in Wellington. If I could share some of the heat and sunshine from here then I definitely would :)

God Bless, Joel