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),