Wednesday, December 29, 2010

In the main towns of S.Sudan (which are few and far between) it is possible to purchase fruit and vegetables and basic supplies—soap and salt, batteries and brooms, cooking oil and toilet paper, and the ever present Coca Cola.  But once you travel out into the rural areas, one’s choices become much more limited. For the most part, people eat ugali (maize which has been ground to a polenta-like substance akin to mashed potatoes), augmented at times by beans and okra and milk from goats or cattle.  No See’s candy, that’s for sure!  The food is, however, satisfying and healthy except when the rains fail and the cattle die and the crops do not grow.  Shown here is the market in S. Sudan's 2nd largest city, Rumbek, where Mercy Beyond Borders supports women's literacy classes.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Chickens?

The 30 chickens at the medical clinic compound in the remote Kuron Peace Village in Southern Sudan had grown fat and healthy.  One night all 30 mysteriously disappeared. The Sisters presumed, rightly so, that they had been “lifted” by someone from the local Toposa people.  

The next morning they visited the chief. Sure enough: 30 plump chickens were strutting around his hut. 

“Ah,” said Sr Angela, after greeting the chief politely and inquiring after his health and his several wives. “It seems that you have our chickens.”  

The chief feigned surprise and countered with the argument that these were undeniably HIS chickens: “Look, these are Toposa chickens! See for yourself!”  

And as Angela looked more closely, she noticed that each chicken now sported a tiny and quite colorful beaded anklet, Toposa-style, above its right foot!  She had a good laugh about that, and then convinced the chief to return all 30, complete with decorative anklets.  They are now the best-dressed chickens in Kuron!

Transporting the sick

It would be hard to find a place more remote than Kuron.  (It isn’t even on any Google maps!) But there is a Peace Village there, founded in the hope that someday all tribes and ethnic groups may learn to live cooperatively.  That day has not yet come.  Cattle-raiding remains a time-honored tradition whereby the men prove their worth as warriors.  Now that AK-47s have replaced spears these skirmishes are often deadly.  While in Kuron in mid-November, we saw this man whose pelvis was shattered by a bullet.  Since the medical clinic has no surgery, he was stabilized and then carried on a makeshift stretcher (poles and a blanket) to the back of a pickup truck for a 5-hour grueling ride on a rough dirt track to Boma, the nearest hospital.  Along with him went 3 other patients, including an infant with a huge abdominal tumor. 2 days later, we learned that the truck never made it to Boma; it was stuck on the road.  The rains that had cooled our evening in Kuron had made the road impassable to the east.  So on the 3rd day the clinic at Kuron sent another vehicle off to rescue the stranded patients, who had been without food or shelter all that while.  Nothing is easy in Sudan.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Everyone Lost Something

While meeting with the women in the village of Nacipo, I noticed one person who had only one arm. She was painstakingly sewing beads onto a goatskin skirt, using her one arm and her teeth to thread the needle and pull it through the tough skin.  I asked the project leader, Anna Mijji, about this woman's story and was told that during the civil war, soldiers had come and shot her husband dead. She grabbed the gun and killed six of the men before being shot herself. That is how she lost her arm.  “War,” she shrugged.  “Everyone lost something.”

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Visiting Nacipo Village in S. Sudan

On Monday morning we clambored into the back of a pickup truck with Anna Mijji, the Sudanese woman trained by Sr Kathleen Connolly earlier this year to carry on the Womens’ Health Promotion Workshops in the villages surrounding Narus. After a bouncy 15 minute drive that produced billows of red dust behind us, we pulled up to the first cluster of thatched huts. 
As we arrived, so did a group of young women walking on foot. Some were carrying jerry cans of water, and two had metal pans on their heads.  Sticking up garishly from both pans were half a dozen legs of goats—no doubt destined for sale at the local market.  Anna showed the women a photo sent by Sr Kathleen that had been taken at one of the earlier workshops. They passed the photo from one to another, examining it with great seriousness, fascinated at seeing themselves in the picture.  Then the women resumed their long walk to register for the upcoming Referendum in January that will determine the fate of S.Sudan.