Thursday, May 30, 2013

Seeing Eye to Eye

In a bush just outside my hut in Narus, South Sudan, I spotted this long slim brown snake. I grabbed my camera and crouched down so that we were eye to eye. I have no fear of snakes; they do not have 8 legs.

Only later, when showing the photo to a Sudanese man who froze at the sight, did I learn that this was a dreaded BOOMSLANG (tree snake), one of the more venomous reptiles in all of Africa. I liked the name.

Back home, I researched it on Wikipedia: Male boomslangs are light green with black or blue scale edges, but adult females may be brown. Averaging 3 to 6 feet in length, boomslangs have excellent eyesight and will often move their head from side to side to get a better view of objects directly in front of them. (That object would be ME holding the camera a few inches from its large beady eyes. Now I know why she was swaying.) The boomslang's fangs inject a highly potent venom which prevents clotting. Victims bleed to death. I was lucky; we parted friends. I still like its name, which carries a decidedly inner city hip-hop feel, or maybe even a winning high school cheer: "Gimme a Boom, Gimme a Boom, Gimme a BOOOOOM-Slang!"

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Scoop on Poop

We humans may believe we rule the world. We're at the top of the food chain. We build skyscrapers. We fly to the moon and back. We have iPhones.

But for an unsettling indication of what lies literally beneath our feet, go to South Sudan. Check out the towering termite mounds (obelisks, actually) that rise from the sun-baked earth, taller than most trees and solid as concrete. Think about how these monuments were created: millions of tiny termites munching their unseen way through life, generation after generation depositing their poop into communal skyscrapers of their own making.  We're definitely outnumbered. You've got to admit, it's a bit sobering.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Business not as usual

MBB supports S.Sudanese women's micro-enterprise groups in 4 locales. Pictured here with Sr Marilyn are some of the women entrepreneurs of Narus.  Their small businesses continue though some are struggling due to external changes: the population of Narus has plummeted over the past year due to inter-tribal fighting and also the natural migration of residents to the bigger towns where more opportunities exist for commerce. The main reason that people stay in dusty Narus, it seems, is because the St Bakhita schools there have such a good reputation.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Poko fini, deja tonbe.

 Poko fini, deja tonbe.  That's Haitian Creole for "Not yet finished, already collapsed."  Haitian proverbs communicate a certain wry humor amid the suffering that has so often been their lot in life.

I’m currently reading Amy Wilentz’s latest book on Haiti, intriguingly titled FAREWELL, FRED VOODOO. It’s a post-quake meandering through complex realities: the tortured history of foreign interventions on the island, the resume-building do-gooders flooding Port-au-Prince now alongside the seasoned development experts, the resilience of ordinary Haitians, the humor and the horror of reconstruction gone wrong.  Some are questioning where all the money has gone, 3 years after the quake, when so many remain homeless and jobless.

MBB believes its decision NOT to work in Port-au-Prince, but rather in the rural mountains half-a-day’s drive to the north of the capital, allows us to have greater impact. Ask the 53 girls currently on MBB scholarships there: they will tell you that MBB is the best thing ever to come into their lives.

I'll be returning to Haiti  for the week of May 20th to meet with staff and Scholars and to make certain that your donations are being well-spent! 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Night of the Jackal?

David, an extremely tall and very regal Dinka who lives in Mapuordit, South Sudan, can tell you a lot about the danger of guarding cattle and goats. As a young teen he was keeping watch over his family's cows when he was attacked from behind in the darkness by a wild animal that gouged out both his eyes.  He does not know the English word for the attacker: perhaps a jackal, perhaps a hyena, or a rabid wild dog. For sure, something vicious.

David has not let his total blindness--in a country where there are no services for the blind--prevent him from living a full life. He is the de facto leader of a simple compound for disabled persons. He is strong and upright and deeply gentle; his smile creases his whole face.  He walks with great dignity, even when being led by a small child.

Once you meet David you never forget him.