Last night a special Ik friend of ours, Lochiyo Gabriel (pictured on the right), died in the hospital from complications linked to HIV-AIDS. He left behind his Karamojong wife, Alice, and two young children.
Lochiyo was the second Ik person we ever met (the first for Amber) and the first we met in Karamoja (March 2008). While staying with our friends, Jacob & Georgia Reed, for five weeks in Kaabong, I linked up with Lochiyo to start researching the Ik language. Sometimes I met with Lochiyo at the Reeds' house, sometimes in town.
I particularly remember two occasions with him. The first was when we met in a dusty school classroom full of broken desks and pored over Ik words scrawled in rough linguistic notation. A couple of Karamojong boys stared through the open door at what must have been an odd sight: a white man and a Teuso (Ik) uttering unrecognizable syllables and writing them down. The second occasion I clearly remember was when we were doing our work on the back porch of the Reeds' house. Amber had picked up Lochiyo from town, bought three chapattis (like tortillas) at a local restaurant, and handed them to Lochiyo to carry on the way home. When I sat down with Lochiyo at the table, he pulled out the three chapattis, rolled them up together in a great wad, and took a big bite out of them. A bit shocked, I asked him if he knew those chapattis were for all three of us. He just shrugged his shoulders, gave a sly smile, and said---the now infamous line---"bad luck for you". That simple phrase was seared into our psyche and was a more than adequate introduction to the different social norms we were to encounter.
With Lochiyo's help, I collected 1700 Ik words which formed the basis for the Ik writing system. That system is now, after three years, nearing completion. I'm going to dedicate the alphabet to him.
After those early days working with Lochiyo, we rarely saw him except in passing. But when we did, he was always kind and gentle with us. We very much appreciated the way he related to us; his demeanor was not something we could take for granted. We will certainly miss seeing him from time to time in town, when he used to stop us for a quick greeting.
When Lochiyo was hired as the Chief for the Ik parishes within Kalapata Sub-County, he became the first Ik ever in history (to our knowledge) to hold a government post. As the Ik people's newly-formed sub-county takes shape over the next year or two, we should not forget the quiet but foundational contributions made by Lochiyo.
With his family we mourn the passing of Lochiyo. May he rest in peace in the Everlasting Arms.