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

Monday, February 13, 2012

Second South Sudan Entry

Time just seems to fly. Its been like 2 weeks now since I updated my blog. Crazy. Ok so here goes, last time it took me like 2 hours to write everything so I think its just gonna be a melting pot from here on out as doing a run down of every day is tedious.

Ok so wow back to the 1st of Feb until the 13th (today)
Around the first of Feb I had a bit of an issue with the Malaria preventative mum and I take called Doxycycline. I took it before bed without water and it got stuck in my throat. It basically burned into the wall of my throat and made eating and drinking a bit of a mission for the next few days after, that was not pleasant. Learnt my lesson and now Im always taking it with water, my throat is good now thankfully. The heat has been really high over the past couple of weeks, mum and I both reckon it has risen significantly since we first arrived. Every day it is at least 36 degrees celcius in the shade up to as high as 40, it is signficantly hotter in the sun. Overnight it is usually around 28-31 degrees so not too cool either. Sheets basically get relegated to the end of the bed or floor. Mangoes have also finally become available which is great because I love them and they are cheap. In the rainy season there are too many to eat apparently so I think I might make mango juice as you can buy blenders here. On the 2nd mum and I went to the Lasu refugee camp which is South of Yei and very close to the border with one of the Congos, I think the one that used to be Zaire. So the camp is full of refugees from the nearby Congo who have fled the brutal LRA (Lord's Resistance Army). There are a several thousand people living here with limited medical resources and two schools (at least). We visited both these schools and in one joined in on a mathematics lesson, fortunately I could remember a bit of french I learned when I was younger, as the schools teach in French. We were the subject of much interest among the kids. As we were waiting to leave it started bucketing down with rain and also hail, the ground became white very quickly, something I never expected to see in Africa. Some of you mayh have read about this in our newsletter if you get it but rain is seen as a blessing and because we were there it was taken as we are a blessing which is quite cool. After leaving Lasu about 10 minutes down the road the ground was dusty and dry as ever.

Something else that has started up since I last did a blog entry is the football tournament I set up for the local kids. So far we have had many games and goals with much talent on display. My team won their first game by default but lost a friendly they played as a replacement. The tournament is entering the second round of matches and is running in a champions league format with only 16 teams rather than 32 and is scheduled to finish on the 3rd of March. On the subject of football I am playing today for the Across staff who are playing against the students from the Yei Teacher Training College at the nearby pitch (by nearby I mean literally outside the compound). This pitch is technically the best in the whole county and the national team have even trained there. However just about any pitch in the Wellington region is better. So that may tell you something about the grounds here. Slide tackles are almost non-existant unless you want to leave your skin on the ground, as I found out haha. I selected my team not long before our first match and have been running trainings for them early in the mornings before it is too hot.

Both this saturday just passed and the one previous to that I ran a bible study for the "youth" at the Moru church that Emmanuel goes to and preaches at. Turns out these youth are on average twice my age and one lady there on the saturday just passed was 62! I was encouraged by their response to what I taught as they were all older than me bar one. Teaching usually runs for 1-2 hours as what I speak is translated into Arabic....very slowly. Last week mum and I went to the early service at the local cathedral which started at about 7 am. Lots of singing etc. not too different from Anglican churches back home I believe. On Sundays mum and I also go to a bible study with a lot of other ex-pats which is really nice. I led the worship this weekend as I had some songsheets I brought with me from NZ which many of them knew.

The first game of the pre-season tournament started on the 7th and we had the kids from my team mark the field with ashes as paint does not last on the very dusty ground. However neither do ashes as they have almost completely gone by now. The FA was being a bit problematic about the tournament as they were wanting one of their refs to be paid to ref the tournament however we have no funds and eventually they agreed to simply open on the day after we wanted to begin. So because they wanted to delay the tournament two teams did not show up on the first day so that match has had to be rescheduled. However the 4:30 game went ahead which was good. Every day bar sunday we have had two games, except for this week where there is one game each day except for Wednesday with two because of the Across vs YTTC students tournament running in the early evening. The FLY Sports team which I coach has been improving vastly since their first game and Im hoping they can score several goals in their next game, should they do so though it is likely the opposing team will complain. This team we are scheduled to face played on Friday and lost 1-0. Upon losing their coach proceded to complain about the fact that Moses (my co-coach) and I referee and coach at the same time and that it is not fair, etc. so I told him that if he wants to pay the FA to referee the games then he is more than welcome to. It is frustrating that he can't just accept this tournament is for the kids and not for his pride. Another thing that really makes me angry is that fact that almost every single person in the area that watches the game laughs at one of the players in my team. He is very skinny and tall and not the most co-ordinated however he could be a very good player because of his character. His confidence has been shot to pieces for a very long time by everyone in the crowds' laughter and mocking. It really riles me because it doesn't matter how good you are, if you have that sort of treatment day in day out for who knows how long it gets to you. So I have been doing my best to encourage him and help him improve so that he can bury the ball in the net and shut up the people who have been laughing at him for so long. In fact I want it more than anything. If we lose I do not care so long as he scores a goal and gets a break from the tireless mocking. Some of my team were also laughing at him so I told them to quit it as they are betraying their team by doing so. I really admire his courage and determination to still keep playing despite the hardship. He has the character of a truly great individual. I have found that he is improving a lot and I think by the time I leave in December he will be able to have freedom.

Saturday just passed saw the arrival of a small fridge in my house (yippee!) which I bought locally, along with that I bought some milk and weetabix (yes they have a Kenyan made version of the Kiwi weetbix) which I was stoked about. I also set up my gas cooker along with the pipe, regulator and bottle so that I can now cook in my own house for the first time. Last night I cooked my first meal which turned out pretty good. Last night I also watched the Final of the African Cup of Nations between Zambia and Cote Divoire which Zambia emotionally won on penalties. The power here turns off at midnight so I only got to see until the 73rd minute of normal time, meaning I only found out the result this morning.

I think this leaves me pretty much up to date, it is nearly midday now lunch isnt until 1pm usually so I have some time to fill in. Some more general information...

Washing here builds up very fast because your clothes get very dusty plus I play football which means I go through about two sets of clothes everyday. I have to handwash this as well so its not like you just throw it in the washing machine.

Everything here takes time, walking to the long drop, collecting water from the borehole which is several hundred meters from my house for washing, getting drinking water from town, boiling water in the kettle to wash clothes and dishes, washing youself in a bathing room with a bucket and soap, etc. All this is pretty draining in itself plus adding the heat throughout the day and drastic change in food. Meat is not commonly eaten here as it is expensive and doesn't look particularly appetising to a Westerner at the very least in the state it is sold in with swarms of flies buzzing around the horse snouts, legs and who knows what else. I must say I miss chicken quite a lot here.

Thats all for now, if you want to ask questions about my day or about life here in Yei please do in the comments section or on Facebook :) Salaam.