Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Natural Wonders

Sometimes it seems to me that everything in Africa is a bit larger than life. The skies are more expansive; the sunsets more spectacular; the colors more vivid; the wildlife more, well, wild.  A recent National Geographic flyover of eastern Sudan revealed huge herds of wildebeest, elephants, giraffes, and antelope that survived the long civil war.  Sudan also hosts a tremendous variety of birds.  This large bird lives in the tree behind the outhouses of the compound where I stay in Narus when I visit St Bakhita School.  Not being a “birder,” I am ignorant about its species—maybe a toucan? or a spoonbill? – but it is beautiful to behold and captivating to listen to.  May it always soar free.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Street ART in HAITI

Though Port-au-Prince was leveled by the massive quake of 2010, the resilience of the human spirit is evident even amid the rubble that remains.  This outdoor wall of original Haitian art practically shimmers with colors that jump and dazzle.  Tourists to buy these paintings, however, have long disappeared—replaced by the UN and other nonprofit organizations working to repair the capital.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"What Lies Beneath"

A few years ago Hollywood released a scary movie entitled “What Lies Beneath.”  Though I didn’t see the film (ever since being traumatized by “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers” as a youngster, I don’t do scary), the reality of “what lies beneath” is never far from my awareness in South Sudan.  What do I mean?  Take a look at this termite mound outside St Bakhita School.  These tall pillars rise everywhere in South Sudan…. Built up over the years by layer upon layer of poop deposited by termite swarms [what should one call a termite population: a swarm? a pod? a herd? a tribe?], they give ominous testimony to the nonstop activity going on constantly and invisibly beneath our feet.  But not only below the ground! Termites also eat the thick wooden branches that shore up mud huts. They gnaw through the precious books in schools. They munch. They poop. They build their skyscrapers. What a life!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

From Ammunition to Art

If there's one thing that South Sudan has toooo much of, it's bullets.  In remote areas where money is not yet common, people use bullets as a form of payment.
At the medical clinic in Kuron, for example, patients will pay for services by handing over a handful of bullets. The clinic director, Sr Angela, is quite happy to accept them and lock them into a cabinet, taking them out of circulation.
Women have now begun to melt down bullet casings to make jewelry such as the anklets shown in this picture.  In a small but significant way, it's a swords-into-plowshares moment.