Sunday, December 13, 2009

"Earth to Schrocks...Earth to Schrocks..."

Sorry it has taken so long for us to update our blog. I’m sure going this long is the best way to lose blog readers! We’ve had a rather tumultuous three weeks since leaving Kaabong, so in the midst of all the changes, the blog suffered. Let me just recount a short narrative of the last three weeks.

Our last week in Kaabong was a little crazy as we tried to tie up loose ends before our return to the States. I (Terrill) spent 8-10 hours a day typing up the Ik words we had collected during the previous couple of months. In the end, I typed just under 12,000 words and their English definitions. My preoccupation with that job left Amber with seeing last-minute visitors and seeing that various logistical issues were sorted out. God gave us both patience and endurance to finish out the week without any major breakdowns.

On the 21st of November we piled into our truck with Ron & Beth and Kristin (our Karamojong friend and employee) and headed south. We took a longer way down, lengthwise through much of Karamoja, admiring the beautiful scenery. That night, we and the Moes stayed at the Kingfisher resort along the Nile River, to celebrate our hard work and thank the Moes for their contributions.

The following week in Kampala and Entebbe was taken up by running errands, spending time with friends, and trying to rest a bit. I would say we got most the items on our checklist taken care of, and we certainly had a wonderful time with our expatriate and Ugandan friends. Unfortunately, we had trouble getting good sleep, so we didn’t get as much rest as we would have liked. On Thursday, all the American staff at our SIL office in Entebbe cooked up a magnificent feast for our American holiday of Thanksgiving. We invited all our staff (besides American, they would have been mostly British and Ugandan) to join in the festivities and share with the group one person or group of people they are thankful for. Amber and I agreed beforehand that we wouldn’t choose each other as the person we’re thankful for, because that goes without saying! We chose to express thanks for a couple of Karamojong friends. For me, it was Luka Onek, the pastor in Kaabong who has faithfully been our friend and advisor in the work among the Ik. For Amber, it was Sister Mary, her dear Christian shop-keeper friend from Kaabong who gives friendship without asking anything in return.

Friday night at 12:35 we took off from Entebbe. We had an eight hour layover in London and then reached Jacksonville, Florida, late Saturday evening. Both flights were long but comfortable. No screaming babies. No hijacking. Only good food, lots of movie choices, more leg room than I remembered ever having, and the excitement of going home. During our layover in Heathrow airport, I entered the first phase of cultural readjustment. I was just in awe of the architecture of the terminals and wondered how humankind managed to make something so impressive, when I had just spent six months struggling to bring a couple of huts into existence. I was also in awe of the food and drink choices, and how wonderful everything tasted. And I just sat there transfixed by all the white people! I hadn’t seen that many of my ‘tribe’ for two years! These were all good feelings. I realized how deprived we had been, sensorially and culturally for two years.

Amber’s mother, sister, and grandmother kindly picked us up from the airport and drove us to Tallahassee Saturday night. We slept till almost noon the next day and were then awakened by Josh (Amber’s brother) and his wife Amanda, who had waited long enough for Amber to see her nephew Christian for the first time! That day was a blur. We were still exhausted and culturally disoriented and were planning to drive to Orlando early Monday morning. I drove a bit that evening but was very disoriented. Doug, Amber’s dad, said I was driving like a grandma (all you grandmas out there, what do you have to say about that?!)

Monday morning we drove to Cape Canaveral, Florida to board our cruise to the Bahamas. Someone had graciously paid for us to go on this cruise with Amber’s family, and we had looked forward to it for a couple of months. It was supposed to be a sacred time of resting before trying to reenter American life. As it turned out, Amber was prevented from boarding because she had answered honestly on the health questionnaire that she had had diarrhea in the last 36 hours. When the nurse told us that, we were just shocked. It was so unreal that my first reaction was to just laugh. I think I thought that somehow it was going to be okay. But, they really didn’t let us on. On top of that, we had to wait two hours for them to find our luggage which had already been loaded on the ship. Mildly traumatized, we watched the rest of the family disappear down the gangway. That evening we tried very hard not to ask the ‘why’ questions and instead ask the ‘what now’ questions. We decided to just get a hotel and spend a couple of days sleeping, eating, walking on the beach, reading, and passing time. That was relaxing. After two days, we drove down to Sarasota and spent three days with Amber’s paternal grandparents, Vernon and Donna. That was also relaxing, and we had wanted to visit them anyway. In the end, a cruise to the Bahamas, with all the decadence and frivolity, probably wouldn’t have been the best way to deal with culture shock.

Two weeks ago, my uncle Gary Troyer was diagnosed with liver cancer. He passed away this past Tuesday morning. The suddenness of his sickness and death have cast a strange mood on our first couple of weeks here. We are all reminded of our physical mortality and the preciousness of time. I have many fond memories of uncle Gary. He was a joyful, passionate, and caring man, a great pastor and missionary. The time of his passing required us to reorganize our schedule for December, as we planned to attend his funeral in South Carolina today. However, also on Tuesday, I started to come down with a nasty sore throat that worsened throughout the week. Yesterday, despite not feeling well, we decided to go to the funeral anyway. We really wanted to be there and see family. Three hours into our trip, I lost my voice (due to the flu) and we turned around. After a lunch of good ol’ southern barbecue, shopping for shoes, and one flat tire, we made it back to Tallahassee. By then my illness had developed into a full-blown case of the flu.

So that’s where we’re at. I’m recovering from the flu. Amber basically has it too, but she’s managed to suppress it up to now. So far, our time in the US has been…weird. We’ve felt, and been told, that we need to rest a lot, but getting sleep and rest has been difficult. Both Amber and I have been more sick in the last three weeks than in our entire two years abroad. We are very much enjoying the food here; I’ve gained ten pounds in two weeks! It’s also been wonderful to see family and friends, to be with people who actually like us for who we are, not just for what we can give them. Speaking engagements and visits with people are lining up for the end of December, January, and February. For the next two weeks, we want to just spend time with our immediate families while celebrating Christmas. Thanks for reading, praying, and keeping up with our story.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Recap of Ik Dictionary Project


After working four weeks with Philip Nayaon, and six weeks working with a team of eleven Ik men, I am happy to report that the dictionary word-collecting workshop is successfully over! The gross word count by the end was 11,707 words. The net amount, after cleaning up duplicates, will probably be between 6,000-8,000. Considering that some English dictionaries have up to 300,000 entries, you may wonder why we collected so few words for Ik. Is Ik an inferior language? A primitive language? The fact is, in natural situations, languages are as big as they need to be. English, and other languages with very long histories of literature, have layer upon layer of words built up over the centuries. In an oral culture like Ik, the number of words existing at any point in history is just the sum total of words in the heads of two, maybe three, generations of people. People can't keep 300,000 words in their heads, but they may be able to manage 50,000. I still don't know why we couldn't get more words for Ik, but maybe they just haven't needed more to handle their relationships with each other and the environment. Whatever the case, we are happy to have collected what we did, and we're very grateful to Ron & Beth Moe for giving three months of their lives to help us do so.

Not only is dictionary making an important part of language development in its own right, but the words we collected will also serve as a foundation for translating Scripture. Normally, putting a dictionary together takes many years. But thanks to Ron Moe's Dictionary Development Process (DDP), the initial word gathering time is shortened to weeks instead of years. Of course, it will take a lot more work to clean up the data and write good definitions, so it will be a while before a dictionary can really be published. Until then, we can use the version on our computer.

The Ik men and women who got involved in this project benefitted by having jobs for a few weeks, by having others interested in their language and culture, and by receiving a few perks, like cheap healthcare from Amber! We benefitted by getting to know many new friends in the community, adjusting to living in Timu, making progress toward our work goals, and learning LOTS about the Ik language and culture. It was a grueling 10 weeks, no doubt, and we are ready for a break. When we come back in March of next year, we'll be exited to move back into the community and pick up where we left off. Until then, ngo ebaikw, zek'oyu marangitik (our friends, stay well)!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Another weekly recap

I couldn't help but start this update with some pretty pictures. The above picture is at sunset. We've had small amounts of rain lately and these are always followed by small flowers popping up all over.






A couple of Ik women were hired for three days to put mud walls around the poles in our storage room. These same mud walls are what they put in their own houses. They actually pour water into dirt to make mud and then plaster it to the walls...no other steps. And the best part about this work is that you can rock your baby to sleep at the same time.
The mud seeps through the gaps between the poles and stays there. We'll probably have to 'remud' every so often.
After the storage room was finished last Thursday, we used it as a cooking hut immediately. We had a celebration last Friday to reward the men for the work that's been done so far. They'd reached 10,000 words, although many of those words were duplicates. We won't have a final word count until Terrill cleans up the list and only counts every word once. But, we still celebrated. We bought three roosters, let the Ik prepare them and made them into stew. It was quite tasty. People can do a lot with oil and salt. We also added rice and lentils to the mix. In the above picture, Pastors Jacob & Vincent are cutting the chickens for the stew. Esther (the wife of another Ik helper) then put the chickens into the pot and fried them up. We served over 20 people, mostly those who work for us but also some stragglers who smelled the food.
Lojore's village is coming along and will soon be ready for inhabitants. yesterday he was working on the grass roof of his house. He wanted to make it look nice to prove to us that the Ik know how to install quality grass roofs and that they'd like to repair ours in the future. They haven't forgotten that we hired men from another town to come and put our grass roof in place. I presented Lojore with a housewarming gift of an orange tree and a lemon tree. Actually, they're still small plants right now, but they have potential to bare fruit if not trampled or eaten by animals. I've been attempting to germinate fruit trees from seeds that I'd saved and it's been a slow process. So far, we've gotten papaya, avocado, lemon & orange trees started. I'm still an amateur at this but I figure that I can't go wrong by introducing more fruits and vegetables into the Ik/Karimojong diets. Below Lojore is planting his orange tree. He says to cover the dirt around the tree with dried grasses in order to keep the dirt moist and protected from the sun. He also planted the lemon tree right away. As far as I know, these are new trees for the Lokinene community. I'm sure they've heard of them but not sure they've ever had them growing in their midst.

It was chilly one day while Terrill & his group of Ik collected words, so they went to sit on the rocks in the sun. We tried to provide chai and a snack for the men. Terrill prefers this type of work environment instead of an office setting. I think he's in the right job.
On that same day, I was sitting right outside our house and seeing sick people. I agreed to let three people come in at one time to hurry the process along. As you can see, they didn't abide by my rules. I'm still working on maintaining rules. The health problems that plague the Ik are mostly respiratory infections, different types of diarrhea & generalized pains.
Philip, who is our main language informant, was working with a group of men in the tent. Hillary, Daniel & Sire are now good friends of ours.
Another group of Ik was working under the carport with Ron. Simon Peter is writing while Gabriel, Fideli, Francis & Joseph shout out words.
After work, Terrill & Ron like to do 'fix-it' projects. Here they are laying some cement near the walkway to our house.
We're not the only ones to appreciate the Timu sunsets. Our dogs are quite content to live here. They get to roam across the mountainside and then come home to be fed.
Before logging off, I must write of one more experience. Today I had two women visit from a distant village (45 min. away). They told me that their sister was pregnant and had been bleeding for three days. I just happened to have been hosting the local midwife this morning and she immediately hurried off to check on the woman. I followed behind soon after to find out what was happening. The walk down the mountain into the valley where the Ik woman lived was the easy part. When I arrived, I found the midwife and her assistant preparing the woman for delivery. She had been having contractions for three days and had not called anyone until today. The women of the compound pushed me into the little hut where six other women were crouching. I crouched down beside them for the next hour and a half. The midwife felt the mother's belly and showed me where the shoulders and knees were located. Then she showed me where the head was descending down the birth canal...only there was a problem. She could feel the umbilical cord wrapped around the baby's neck. For the next hour, the midwife massaged the woman's abdomen and eventually got the cord unwrapped. During that time, people came and went from the little hut...and they began to do the most interesting ritual. They would hold half of a gourd in their hands. The gourd was filled with water. The person would drink some of the water, swish it around their mouth, wash their face and then spit the water back into the gourd. Then, they flung the water in the direction of the pregnant woman, usually splashing it directly on her body. She was having contractions during this time and bracing herself for the pain, but would still jump when hit with water. It happened at least ten times during that hour. The women tried to make me splash water on the pregnant woman and I did a little but I mostly said prayers for her. The midwife saw me doing this and said a prayer of her own, while crossing herself like a good Catholic. Also during that hour, a man came into the hut with a gourd of colored water (from clay?) and smeared it over the women's head, neck, back & stomach. I never did find out what this ritual meant. Another woman walked into the hut, pulled off her sandal and wiped the dusty sandal down the side of the pregnant woman's face and abdomen. During this whole time, the women chattered away to me in Icetod and I just smiled that smile which says I don't understand anything. Something else I noted was that six women were supporting the pregnant woman while she had her contractions in preparation for delivery. Three sat behind her and supported her at a 45 degree angle. Two other women pulled her arms from the front. The midwife sat facing the woman with her feet in the creases of the woman's thighs. It was like an interesting acrobatic act. I eventually had to leave and had been spit on enough. They were aiming at the pregnant woman, but somehow everyone in the house got wet. When I got outside the house, I found that they were splashing water on the outside of the house as well. I later learned that this woman had been causing some trouble in the community. By splashing her with water, the community members were saying that all was forgiven and that they wished her well. I'm not sure if the water had a spiritual meaning as well. The walk back to our compound nearly killed me. This time I was going up the moutain and the altitude suddenly hit me. My walking partner was gracious enough to wait as I caught my breath and glimpsed the beautiful mountainous landscape before me. When closer to the compound, an oribi crossed our path. A small Ik boy who was with us described the animal as an eagle soaring through the grass. It was a hot day and I made it back to our compound a little after noon. By 4:30 pm, the midwife and her assistant were at the gate again. By the way, did I mention that the midwife is an animated 70 year old woman? They reported that a healthy baby boy was born at 2pm. I praise God for his mercy in saving this child as the mother had lost three babies previous to this one. At the end of the day, I'm feeling privileged to having been able to peer into the lives of the Ik women.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Lokinene 'Development' Infrastructure

The word 'development' is in quotation marks because it's not always clear whether what's called 'development' really is or not. This past week I took a walk down in the valley southwest of our ridgetop home in Lokinene, Timu. What you can see pictured below are those 'developmental' advances that have come to Timu. Apart from these, everything else is made of sticks, grass, and mud. What do you think 'development' is in a third-world society? Is it a tin roof instead of grass? Is it schooling instead of ignorance? Is schooling good if the knowledge children gain is imported from the West, often irrelevant to the place and the way they grew up? Is healthcare development when it weans people off several centuries' accumulated knowledge of herbal remedies? Is a modern borehole-type well development? What about when it breaks and no one can fix it and people don't want to search for old, natural sources of water? There are no easy answers to these kinds of questions, but we need to consider them just the same.

This is the two-room school built in Lokinene in May of this year. It's a great building, designed to hold grades 1 and 2. The problem is: there are no teachers. How long will this structure sit unused because of no teachers? No one wants to come out here and teach kids of another tribe, in an area frequented by armed bandits? Another problem: this school was built in the valley, against the wishes of the local residents. The valley is forested, making it difficult to spot enemies until they are close.

This is the Lokinene health clinic built several years ago. It too is a great building with much potential. The problem is: no health care workers. Not now, never has been. Another problem: it was also built in the valley against the wishes of the residents. It lies in the heart of the valley where enemies roam unchallenged during certain times of the year. Sadly, the building is falling into a state of disrepair.

This is the Lokinene well, or borehole (pronounced as bah-ole in local Ugandan English). It too was dug in the valley (duh! You can't drill a well on top of a ridge made of sold rock! :)). It provides wonderful clean water for people in a 1-2 hour walk radius.
In the center of this picture, between the trees, up on top of the ridge, you may be able to see the pointed grass roofs of our two huts. I suppose they represent 'development', maybe of a different kind. We built on the ridge for the obvious reasons of safety and a gorgeous view, but also to be where the Ik people actually are. Oh how they pressured me to put a tin roof on my little round huts, because a tin roof somehow epitomizes 'development' in this area at this time. I resisted because I wanted a grass roof and because I want them to eventually know that the kind of development we are about is not 'tin-roof development' but 'whole-person development'. God knows we are all still needing that kind of development.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Another week in review...

After four long & restful days in Kaabong, we returned to Timu on Wednesday evening. The first thing that greeted us (besides Lorjore who watches the compound while we're gone) was a new carport and storage area. Two Ik men went out into the bush and cut several trees down to serve as the walls of our shed. The next step will be to have women make and 'throw' mud onto the polls to make airtight walls. We also hired someone to put a tin roof over the carport. Hopefully in the near future, we'll rig up a system of catching water on the tin roof and helping it drain into our water tank.
The Patrol almost fits. We'll have to measure next time. The carport is mainly to protect the Patrol from too much sun exposure.
Terrill & Lojore often chat around sunset. Lojore either comes to return tools to our house or we go and visit his building site. He's relocating his village to a place on the escarpment near our compound. He'll be our closest neighbor...probably with benefits.
Lojore's daughters, Rosemary & Jennifer like to hunt me out and try to teach me Icetod. We always end up giggling at my mistakes. I mostly giggle because I tell them I don't understand...and they just repeat themselves louder. We were huddling because it gets cold in the evening.
These two huts are the beginning of Lojore's village. They look much like the storage unit on our compound currently. His wife will make the walls out of mud soon.

One chilly night, Terrill put up our Wycliffe sign to officially mark the site and declare who we are.
Did I mention it was chilly? Come on...I'm in Uganda and it's 50 degrees outside.
A friend of mine, Nangoli Esther, wanted to pose with her son, Godwill.
Yesterday we had the great privilege of a visit from our MedAir friends. MedAir is a Christian NGO who specializes in water & sanitation projects. They came up to see the place and make us lunch. No complaints from me. Sarah has been around since early this year and we've had many good times in Kaabong. Sadly, she is leaving Uganda in December. This is one of those hard things about being a missionary and having a transient lifestyle.

MedAir's team leader, Phil, has been around since last October. He's a great volleyball expert in these parts.

Right before the MedAir visit, a friend of mine asked me to go visit his wife with him. She had just given birth to a baby girl the night before. He wanted to take her some pain pills. My friend, Francis, hadn't seen the baby yet and wasn't allowed to until a week later. I packed up some Ibuprofen, soap, sugar & tea bags and we headed down the escarpment about 1/2 an hour walk. Beth came with us and we were trailed by Ik children who had nothing better to do.
I found the baby and mother in excellent health, for the most part. An auntie is holding the baby here. The mother appeared much too tired. When I ducked into the small mud hut, the room was filled with older women and children...all admiring the baby. The air smelled of wood smoke and dust. I gave the mother some pills to swallow right away but was told that there was no water in the village. The older children had not returned from the borehole (well) yet. It was 11am. When I asked what the child's name was, they told me she hadn't been named but that they might call her 'Nakuwam'. Just in case you don't know, the people call me 'Nakuwam'. Naming the child this would probably secure them some gifts from me...so they might be hoping. After we left and started the journey home, Francis proceeded to ask me what my other names were since he'd have to give the baby a Christian name also. One day far off, someone is going to ask the Ik how they ever got the names Terrill & Amber. Our parents probably never knew how influential they were being when naming us.

On the way back, we met up with these older children coming from the borehole. They carry the gift of life (water) to their village. It probably takes them an hour and a half for one trip to the borehole. They live on top of the escarpment and the borehole is located in the valley.
Our first Sunday morning in Timu has just passed. At 9:30am, we trekked up to the small mud church and participated in the worship service with Pastor Jacob & his congregation. The winds blew strong outside, but the people sang and clapped, undaunted by the elements. Jacob read from Ephesians about the armor of God. He read from his English Bible, and then translated into Icetod for his people. Terrill was pleasantly surprised to realize that he could understand a lot of what Pastor Jacob preached. Working on the dictionary is really helping him to memorize Ik vocabulary. I picked out a few words here and there but am still relying on Terrill for translations. After the church service, which lasted two hours, we held a community meeting. Pastor Jacob said that many more men came to church today so they could participate in the meeting. We started the meeting by explaining who we are and what we're doing in Timu. We also talked of some problems we're facing, such as people coming to our fence at all hours of the day and begging for medicine. We've decided that I'll see people and distribute medicines on Tuesdays only, unless an emergency arises. We also talked of issues concerning our vehicle, the transportation of goods and people to Kaabong, problems with children hanging on our fence, and the possibility of having a house warming party next March when we return.
The only comments that the group made were that they're happy we're here, they want a grinding mill in Timu, and would we PLEASE talk to MedAir for them and bring a better road to Timu. MedAir sometimes helps communities to build roads. Unfortunately, MedAir isn't allowed to build a road up here at this time.
This is our main language helper, Philip, who translated for us most of the time.

Pastor Jacob and his associate Pastor Vincent are posing by the church.

They wanted a close-up while reading the Word of God.

These two are random acquaintances who wanted to pose together just to be in a picture. You can't see it very well, but this woman has bigger muscles than most of the men in Timu.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Wind, Water & the Pursuit of getting established

We've completed our second week in Timu. Right now, we're staying up there during the week and spending the weekend in Kaabong. It's nice to retreat and get away from the wind, smiling faces around our fence at 7:30 am, and cold bucket baths. We really don't mind the children, in fact, we think they're adorable. The problem with 30 children standing around our fence is that they're all yelling out our names and begging us for 'things' at the same time.
Just a glance into our living/dining room...
This is half of my kitchen. We cook on a two-burner propane stovetop. It's worked brilliantly except for the drafts of wind that escape under the door and mess with the flame. My countertop is made of cement at the moment. We wash dishes in a basin that empties into a bucket under the sink. Eventually, we'll dump the 'gray' water on a garden. Talk about going 'green'....
The day before it rained, Terrill & Ron managed to set up the 'work' tent. It protects from rain, stays warm inside and the Ik men working on the project really enjoy having a space of their own. Sadly, it only rained one day for a few hours. The next problem we encountered was the wind.
This is the tent after a particularly windy night. We can't be certain, but from the sound of the wind, we guessed it to have been around 50 mph at some points. Being on top of the escarpment doesn't help. On a brigher note, the wind keeps us cool and we rarely get overheated.
The men were really disappointed by their deflated tent and vowed to have it up the next day.

Within an hour, the six Ik men and Ron were back to collecting words and putting them into domains. Please pray that these men understand what Ron is trying to teach them.
22 women walked up and down the hill between the borehole (well) and our house with jerry cans on their heads. Their duty for the day was to fill our 2000 liter tank. They were more than grateful for the work as it adds income to the family. It's backbreaking work but they've grown up doing it and have adapted to the requirements of living in Timu. Women & children must carry water at least twice a day to meet their basic needs for living.
Terrill & Ron are cutting cedar posts that will eventually hold up a carport. We need a carport to protect the Patrol from the sun (being at a higher elevation) and to serve as a storage area for tools and such.
The next step in the process of putting up a carport was cementing the posts into the ground and drilling holes for nails. For the final work, we'll hire a carpenter to come up and finish the project.
We took our two African dogs up to Timu in order to get them used to riding in a vehicle. We also wanted to expose them to the place. They love it there and refuse to ride back to Kaabong with us. We leave them in our compound under the watchful eye of our friend, Lojore. Fujo (above picture) has already been hunting with some Ik teenagers. Their favorite activities are teasing the children and roaming across mountain paths.
This is Fujo's brother, Boots. He's the shy one. They were born ten months ago in an army barracks. A friend brought the dogs to us at one month old and we've been fattening them up ever since. They are meant to be our guard dogs at the Timu compound. The only problem is: they don't bark yet and they're way too friendly with strangers. They'll go to anyone with food.

Just another week in our lives...