Wednesday, February 22, 2012


In case you haven't heard, at the end of this year (2012), the world is supposed to end. Don't worry though. Book a room at Noah's Ark Hotel, and everything will be okay:

If you feel you need some chemical aid to help confess something in your life, head on down to the Honesty Inn and Pub. Before you know it, you'll be spilling all your beans. And while you're at it, go ahead and register yourself at the Good Daddy Parents School. Every kid deserves a Good Daddy:

Some like it hot, some like it cold, but at least you know how what temperature your lunch is going to be at the Pizza Hot:

Tourists who fail to heed the warning on this sign---Dancer Clief---may end up falling several hundred feet into a valley carved out by Sipi Falls.

[Danger: Cliff!]

Sunday, February 19, 2012

An Ik wedding: mixing modern with traditional

A few weeks ago, our friends Lopeyok Simon and Nakwang Rose got married in a church. They are the first in Timu to be married in a church building. We went to the wedding hoping to learn a little more about Ik tradition and culture. What we really saw was how the Ik believers are now mixing old traditions with new western ones. This sign welcomed us at the door. We were two out of few people who could actually read this message. Before the couple appeared, we gathered in the church to have a time of singing and dancing. Below is Rose's mom, Regina, dressed up with beads and a covered head.
After a few songs, we went to collect the couple from a house next door where they were waiting to be called. They don't follow the tradition where the groom can't see the bride before the wedding. The actually sit together and walk out in a crowd together when called out. A few people will hold a 'canopy' (sheet) over the couple's heads as they walk to the church. We sang as we went..."We are marching in the light of God"...Pastor Luka (in the blue shirt on the right) got the crowd excited and danced the whole way. The couple are joined by two attendants (Lopeyok's brother and his wife) who stand on each side of them.
All four of them looked solemn as they walked. They did not display joyful smiles. They are supposed to be in mourning for leaving their parents' households. In fact, we didn't see them crack a smile until after the ceremony.
They walked into the church and up to their seats under the canopy with much dancing and singing around them.
Rose stood on one side with her family and Lopeyok on the other with his family. They walked forward slowly and became disconnected from their family units. It was symbolic of a man & woman leaving the family and being joined together to form a new family unit. These are new rituals for the Ik that have not been performed in wedding ceremonies traditionally. It was interesting to see their response to these new rituals. They giggled a lot at being asked to do things they weren't used to.
Pastor Luka gave the couple this battery-powered light to hold up as a sign of their new life together. Don't ask me why he chose this symbol.
Then they put rings on each other's fingers. This is also a new ritual for the Ik. They haven't used rings before to symbolize marriage and commitment.
A prayer is said over the new couple. Pastor Luka is on the right and Pastor Jacob (the Ik pastor) on the left.
I made a small cake for the occasion and it was also used symbolically in the service. They took turns feeding each other to signify how they will care for each other. The Ik congregation laughed hysterically over this. It was obviously awkward and intimate.
Then the couple took two platters of cake and started serving family members. This signified how they would continue to serve their families in the future despite having broken away from the family unit.
Then they went into the congregation and started serving their tribe.
Next was a time of gift-giving and donation towards the new couple. People marched up to the front and placed their gifts at the altar. Gifts included hoe heads, money, beans and dried maize.
This precious child is named Lolem Mary. She is sister to the bride. It took two hours for me to get her to smile. Her mother had told her to be solemn about her sister leaving the household. But finally, I prevailed with some tickling.
When the wedding ceremony was finished, the couple trooped outside for some landscape pictures. In the first few pictures, they were standing two feet apart and looking is tradition dictates. But then I asked them to move a little closer and that is when Lopeyok grabbed Rose's hand. It was the first physical sign of affection I've seen among married couples in Timu.
The next day after church, we had one more ritual to attend to. The believers followed Lopeyok & Rose to their new home where Pastor Luka prayed over the couple and blessed the home. I especially liked this part of the wedding ceremonies and found it very appropriate. Maybe we could learn something from these gestures.
And that...was a modern Ik wedding.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Not as Ruth-less as they used to be

As part of the translator training course mentioned a couple blog-posts ago, I’m having the trainees translate the book of Ruth. Over the last few years, various portions of scripture have been translated, but it has always been for practice. I told the guys today that this translation of Ruth is ‘for real’. Yes, it’s still for practice, but we’re going to take it through the whole process from start to finish. This morning we made a first draft of Ruth 1:1-5. I hereby present to you the first ‘official’ translated verses of the Bible into Ik!

RUS 1:1-5

Noo kwake nok, odoiciko nuu ŋurutiesiicea menee ipukeesatee Isiraeli-kiʝoo, atsuo ɲorona kiʝee ntanee Yuɗea. Iya noo taa kona amee Yuɗeak, kutanee Elimelek, noo asakee Efurasi, noo zeƙwa awoo Ɓetelemue kiʝoo Yuɗeae. Ƙaini nda ntsi-ceki Naomi nda sorewice ntie leɓets, Malona nda Kilion, zeƙwaa kiʝoo ntanee Moaɓ. Naa koto saratie zeƙwa kiʝoo dee, baduƙotuo ʝa Elimeleka, ogoese Naomia nda sorewice ntsie leɓetse eɗa. Atsuo sorewika dii iyumetini Moaɓu-ɲeraa leɓets, Orupa nda Rus. Na kainikaa mita toomini iluɲuƙotatie, tsʼeiƙotuo Malonina ʝii nda liati Kilion, ogoese Naomi konik, biraye eakwaa nda wice.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

More destruction

One night last week, Terrill & I heard a horrible scraping sound for several hours. Every time we went to check on things in the kitchen, the noise disappeared. The next morning, this is what we found:For those of you who don't recognize this image, it's the top of my pressure cooker. A mouse was actually eating the plastic off the top of my pressure cooker. It's just sick and wrong. Thankfully, he didn't do enough damage to make my pressure cooker not function properly and I can still use it. But, this was war! For those of you who don't know me does not mess with my pressure cooker. A trap was set and the next night, the mouse was dead before he could think about my pressure cooker again. One point for mankind.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Fence-post Fiasco

Suppose you want to build a fence. In my home country, the US, you might just drive down to the local Lowe’s, Home Depot, or some other lumber yard. You go in, select the size and style of fence posts you want, hand over some cash, or sign a credit card receipt. And it’s done. Either the employees load the poles in your vehicle or you pay to have the poles delivered where you want them. It’s just about that easy.

Well, we want to build a fence around the health center we’re renovating. Since we don’t have a Lowe’s or Home Depot, we’ve had to look into other options. One option is getting metal fence posts. But they are too expensive, and we’d have to haul them at least eight hours to get them here. A second option is getting the Ik to cut poles from the forest, poles like the African Pencil Cedar that are impervious to weather and termites. But that would encourage the already rampant deforestation, and more importantly, it’s illegal to harvest trees from the national forest. That leaves a third option: get poles from eucalyptus trees that were grown for timber. But that requires hiring an expensive truck to haul them from hours away, and moreover, termites love to munch on eucalyptus.

We went with the third option, and so began the infamous fence-post fiasco of 2012.

I called a local dump-truck owner and asked him how much he’d charge to haul poles from Karenga, a town sixty miles away that has some eucalyptus poles for sale. He said $420. Ouch. So I gave our South African friend Patrick a call. He’s got an old but powerful ex-military 4x4 beast of a truck. He was kind enough to agree to let us use it for free; we only had to pay for fuel, which ended up being $170. Not a bad deal.

Last Monday we drove to Karenga. It was too late to go get the poles, so we decided to wait until the morning. We stayed at Patrick’s lovely ‘Ngamoru’ safari camp. The next morning we drove into town to the local government office (the local government owns the trees we wanted to buy from). We found the office all locked up. On a Tuesday. Morning. At 10 am. Not a holiday. Go figure. After a few minutes of scratching our proverbial heads, an official walked up. We told him what we were looking for, and he agreed to take us to the grove. He jumped in, and we headed off.

At this point I still held the naive belief that we could roll into the ‘lumber yard’, select the size and length of poles we wanted, and load them up. As it turned out, plenty of poles were there...but they were still, um, alive and growing. So we come up to this forest of living eucalyptus trees, and then the government official tells me to select the size of trees I wanted. Done. Then I’m informed that we have to drive all the way back into town to pay for the trees, get a receipt, and bring the receipt back to the cutters who would begin cutting. Couldn’t he have just told me the sizes in the first place?

Now back at the office in town, we are told that the cost of ‘grade 3’ trees is ‘no longer 3,000 shillings but is now 5,000’. Hmmm. Funny how those prices increase. We are also told that they don’t charge ‘per tree’ as we were led to believe but ‘per 8 meter pole’. Each tree contains on average 16 meters. So by now the price has nearly doubled per unit of wood, and the unit of wood has been cut down by half. I found myself in a situation that is by now all too familiar: I know I’m being scammed, and I know there is nothing I can do about it. Prices are not written anywhere. Oh, and in the midst of my being scammed, the official tried to capitalize on my confusion by trying to sell me 70 poles instead of the 35 poles (8 meters longs) that I had requested. If you follow: the cost per unit has doubled; the size of the unit has been halved... which means I need twice the number of units I originally asked for, but not really, because I originally thought the trees were 8 meters long. Don’t even try to figure that out.

I paid the 5,000 shillings per pole, which times 35, comes to 175,000, or $75. Not bad for thirty-five trees eight inches in diameter. But then I’m told we must wait for ‘half an hour’ while they look for guys to cut the trees. Oh, and I have to pay them too, which means another round of negotiations where I have no idea how much I should pay. Oh, and then I have to pay for loaders, which means yet another round of negotiations where I have no idea how much I should pay. After, yeah, about half an hour, a motley crew of men young and old, show up and we agree to pay them each 5,000 to cut the trees, plus 4,000 (total) to buy 20 liters (yes, five gallons for seven men) of the local brew, a necessary prerequisite for most manual labor jobs here. They tell us to come back in about five hours to load the felled trees. So we go back to Patrick’s camp and wait.

When the hour rolled around, I gave some money to Patrick’s truck driver to pay the loaders, knowing he could get a better price than I could. He leaves and is gone for more than two hours. When he comes back, he reports that he found those men getting drunk in town. They hadn’t even started cutting our order. Apparently, they worked on the order of another customer who actually stayed around to make sure it happened.

We resigned to stay another night at the camp and send the truck in again in the morning. That morning, it took them five hours to fell, section, and load our order. We had to leave early and take some visitors to our home in Timu, so the truck came later. After nearly three days of hassle, the fence-posts rolled slowly into Timu just after sunset. It was too late to unload, so the driver and a couple of other guys overnighted it at our place. The next morning we hired a bunch of Ik to unload. And now the money continues to flow as we need people to remove the bark and cut the poles into fence-posts. Then will come varnishing and dousing with used motor oil as a termite deterrent.

What does all this have to do with translation and language development? Sometimes I ask myself the same question. But it’s part of life on the frontier where convenient goods and services have yet to reach. It’s why things we take for granted in the West take so long to get done here. But what could we do? We needed fence-posts.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Face the Ik

I just wanted to share with you some of the beautiful (particularly the children) people I get to interact with in Timu. Whether they're getting carried around......or they're the ones doing the carrying...
...they come with pierced ears...
...walking their mountain paths by day...
...laughing at our mzungu (white people) ways...
...showing us their toothy smiles and new gaps...
...enjoying life and finding a reason to smile...
...decorating themselves from what the earth provides...
...gathering together in community......they come with beauty marks and beads...
...with wisdom, experience and a bag of maize...
...they are hard-working some days and laid back other days....
...they surprise you with their stories and the drool that sometimes drips from their lip plugs...
...they are the Ik...

...and this is what they look like.