Sunday, August 31, 2008

Do you have a pill for this?

Most every day, I see people at our compound with first aid needs. They come with headaches, coughs, scratches, and fungal infections....but sometimes they also show up with other interesting maladies. This poor lady said the mass grew on her neck overnight. She said she's had it before and 'squeezed the juices out' to make it go away. I don't even want to know. I told her to go to the hospital because this was way beyond a first aid need, but I think she decided to go home and squeeze some more. Our neighbors don't like walking the three miles into town to wait hours to be seen at the hospital. In the end, most are given malaria medicine whether they have malaria or not. I've done a lot of education with our neighbors about what is and what isn't malaria. Many of them truly believe that a simple headache means they've gotten malaria. Sometimes they just have a cold or the flu. Unfortunately, cold/sinus medicines are not popular in a place like this and people take malaria medicine instead. I'm glad to have the opportunity to explain things to people when they come to visit me. In Kaabong, we have nothing but time and talking is encouraged.

More Than Just a Language Lesson...

[Amber] Part of Terrill's language lessons have included hiking with his language helper, Loido John Bosco, to different places around Kaabong. At this particular spot, Loido caught Terrill having a moment with God. Being a naturalist, Terrill is in the right place to worship God outdoors. After living in a remote place like this, I think we would find it difficult to adjust to city life again. We really love the rustic side of life.

Brunch Buddies

If anyone wondered how we spend our Sundays, it's usually this way. Simon, Jennie, and Jakob have been great brunch partners. We eat 'western' foods and speak only in English. It's a nice break from the week of Karamojong activities. Today we had coffee cake and an egg dish like a skillet (with veggies, bacon, cheese). This afternoon we'll play volleyball with the MedAir and MSF folks. I can't emphasize enough how good it is to have friends in a place like Kaabong. I thank God for this provision every day.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Ents' Lament

Trees don’t fare too well in Karamoja. The reason being, people need wood for many basic aspects of their daily life: firewood for cooking, materials for building their homes, and branches of all sizes to construct fences and corrals. This substantial need for wood has lead to severe deforestation around inhabited areas. What has exacerbated the deforestation is the simple fact that beyond a certain distance from any given village (maybe a couple of kilometers), the ‘bush’ begins. The bush is the more densely vegetated wilderness that houses dangers of many kinds, but especially of ‘enemies’, the almost mythical warriors of neighboring tribes who harass and kill on a regular basis. Thus within maybe a 20-30 kilometer circumference around Kaabong, trees get hacked and disfigured without much thought toward replenishing them. There is a desperate need for tree planting programs and sensitizing people about the long-term consequences of deforestation. The problem is not that the people use wood; the problem is that the wood may simply run out.


Personally I (Terrill) have struggled in relating to our neighbors. Our home compound is big and equipped enough that I could easily spend all my time within our fences. Even when I spend only most of my time inside, the majority of people I see have come to get some thing or some favor from us. Dredging up some old feelings from my years in Tanzania, this situation of being sought in order to be exploited gives me a bad attitude at times. (Amber does a much better job at graciously dealing with our frequent guests.) Recently I decided that as a part of my language-learning efforts, I would try to get out more, get out in the nitty-gritty, dirty, sweaty, raw, and real world of the Karamojong. Not only to be in the environment that gave rise to their language originally, but to meet the people on their turf, to come to them in need of something (i.e. patience, instruction, hospitality). This has been eye-opening on a number of levels, but most importantly, God is giving me new eyes to see our neighbors, not as unwanted callers at our home, but as fellow humans struggling to find health and happiness in an often cruel world. And they in turn have revealed to me a side I don’t often see at our homestead, a side that acknowledges my profound neediness, which in so doing, returns to me my humanity.

The Greening of Kaabong

We continue to hear complaints about the inadequate rainfall and the impending crop failures in Kaabong District. These complaints have perplexed us because since we’ve been here this summer, we’ve had more rain than you can shake a stick at. For several weeks it was raining almost every day. The place greened up so nicely you’d think we were on the shores of Lake Victoria (in fact, before the era of white men and the gun, this area contained large herds of elephants and buffalo that browsed in the forests). So for a while I’ve had the attitude that people here were just making excuses for not getting out in the fields and working. It’s true that some of the complaints are excuses, but I’ve learned something through reading and observation: the primary problem with rainfall in Karamoja is not its quantity, but its inconsistency. For now, the place is lush and green, but it doesn’t take more than about a week or two of rainlessness for the Karamoja sun to begin scorching the earth, slowly turning the grass white and the soil to baked brick. I think, given the opportunity, the people should try to work the ground as an alternative food supply to cattle-herding, but they are the ones who know the fickleness of the Rain-Maker and have had to plant up to five times in one year to get a harvest. It’s another lesson about how premature judgment is na├»ve and misguided.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Just over the hill

One thing I had taken for granted in the U.S. was the opportunity to travel and how easy it’s become. When talking to folks in Kaabong, we’ve learned that many of them haven’t left the area their whole life. Lately, we’ve started taking our employees and friends with us when visiting the Ik about 20 miles away. They are shocked and amazed to see how different the landscape and people are just 20 miles north of them. Our friends, Loido John Bosco and Adupa Kristin, had never been this far north. They visited a place called Kamion with us and were eager to see the escarpment that separates Uganda from Kenya. Please pray for the people of Kamion, as they’ve just been attacked this week and two Ik men were shot. We hurt for the vulnerability of these people.

Free Advertising

Yesterday we had an old man, a village elder, come for a visit (as he is prone to do on a daily basis). He was wearing a water/sanitation shirt representing a local NGO in the area (MedAir). He told us to give him an SIL shirt so he could represent us as well. We didn’t have any formal SIL shirts to give him, but Terrill found something else in the closet. This shirt was from a summer session at an SIL school in Oregon. The man walked away proudly.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Anniversary in Kaabong

Who says you can’t have a candlelit steak dinner in the middle of a remote part of Uganda? This is how we celebrated our third anniversary on July 30th. The day brought many surprises as it rained so long that it flooded parts of our yard and driveway again. It was like watching a circus act when the goats and cattle tried to cross the rushing water. Our driveway doubles as the cattle path back to their coral. We also had a girl come to us who had been bitten by a snake three days earlier. She wasn’t dead, so I guessed that the snake wasn’t too poisonous. She did have an infected chest wound though from the bite. I asked her why she hadn’t been to the hospital to have the bite looked at and she responded that her family didn’t think the wound was serious enough yet. She also didn’t want to walk the three kilometers to the hospital. This is a typical response of those who live near us.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Flease fut the pood on the table...

The Karamojong language, which is spoken by the people among whom we are living, does not employ the 'f' sound, what in linguistics we call the 'labio-dental voiceless fricative'. As a result, many English-speaking Karamojong people pronounce English 'f's as 'p's. The funny thing is, many of them also pronounce English ‘p’s as ‘f’s! This makes for some comical conversations:

A woman came to our place this week with some skin condition on her neck. One of our friends told us it was ‘the pung’. The pung? Amber said she’d never heard of that illness. Upon further inquiry, he explained that the ‘pung’ was like ‘the mushrooms’. Oh…that clears things up: the lady has mushrooms growing on her neck. Yikes! Turns out, the poor lady had a ‘fungal’ infection on her skin.

Also this week, one of our night-guards told me he had used a lot of the minutes up on his ‘pone’ because he’d been ‘beefing and beefing’ a friend [in Uganda, ‘beeping’ is when you call someone’s cell-phone, let it ring once, and then hang up; ‘beeping’ is an invitation for the other person to call you so the cost of the call is on them…not always a welcomed practice…]. So he was ‘beefing’ the friend, and the friend was ‘beefing’ back. I was so confused until I remembered to cross my ‘i’s and dot my ‘t’s…or was it cross my ‘f’s and my ‘p’s?

Laugh now, right? It’s unfair of me to poke fun at such mispronunciations when these people are engaging me on my linguistic turf. The truth is, I can barely say anything to them in their language. If they had a blog, laughs about our language blunders would be endless, I’m sure. J
Last weekend was really quiet because the people didn't know we were back yet. Then Monday morning arrived, and we had visitors lining up to talk with us and beg for 'things' (clothes, food, medicines). Now normally, we don't just give 'things' out for free (besides medicine) but I made an exception this week for a couple of children. I only had a couple pairs of kids shoes to give out and they all went to the children with chiggers. Don't proceed with this blog if you're the queasy type. Chiggers start out as sand fleas that dig into the skin of hands and feet (sometimes under nails); to get them out, one has to dig with a needle under an egg sack and carefully pull them out, leaving a gaping hole in the foot. The chigger looks like a baby tooth and is actually about that size. The children must wear shoes in order to prevent getting chiggers, but most Karamojong children have never owned a pair of shoes.

It was also interesting to note the kids' taste in shoes. Most of the boys went straight for the sneakers, but one brave boy chose a pair of sparkly pink gummy shoes with heels. He was also proud to show them off on his feet. He's on the right.