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.