27 December, 2007

26 December, 2007

Building Process

Ok. So I think it's probably about time I explain a bit of what is happening over here and what I've been involved in over the past year. I had some pictures before of building in process, but I want to show and explain a bit of the most important part of the project. The people of the churches are involved in the beginning stages of the project through gathering materials and making the cement blocks used in the new church building. Depending on the church, this can either be the easiest part of the job or the most difficult as some churches are very agreeable to work with while others are very demanding. It is important for the community to be interested and involved in the project, or else as we continue to partner alongside the problems are only compounded and many of the simple things become the opposite.

Last month I had an encounter with some of the management of another NGO (non-governmental organization) involved in some development projects. This organization is working on building schools and they have had some contact with some of the communities we have already assisted with churches. They came by the office and were asking lots of questions about how we make our blocks, how it works with coordinating the work that the communities do, and other aspects of our project. You see, they also know that unless the community is involved, the end result often is taken for granted and not used nearly as much as if the community has a vested interest. They are planning to have the communities be responsible for the same locally available resources that we do. It is encouraging to know that others have seen how we are doing things and consider that it is a worthwhile idea to imitate with other projects. The other good thing about this is knowing that some of the communities we have partnered with will also be getting schools built for the children to receive an education.

We continue to press on with our tasks, and as the dry season is now upon us again, we look forward to getting a lot done in the upcoming months.

05 December, 2007

Miles and More Miles

651.3 Miles. That’s what the tripometer (or whatever it’s called) reads right now on the bright yellow four wheeler I’ve gotten close to over the past week. While that might not seem like much in a little under a week, the top speed on this vehicle is 40 miles per hour (or a little more), but there are few times on these roads that you actually reach that speed. The rapid survey we are currently conducting is just that, and there were a few teams of us who went out with a translator to some of the far corners of Southern Sudan. I must admit that I feel like a bit of a Nancy. Yes, I may have won Beardapalooza 2007. But, I had a couple months head start on Travis Yates . . . and he still almost caught up with me. I think the mullet helped me convince him to throw in the towel before the end of the year. You may be more of a man than me, Travis, but I’ve got a few years experience on you that gives me the edge in knowing how to prepare for competition.

So, the reason I feel like a bit of a Nancy (yes, that is a derogatory use of a generic female name to signify a condition of weakness. I’ve still got a ways to go to stop generalizing about women in a mostly negative way, but I do recognize that nagging and being physically weaker in general does not equate into being a disadvantage or negative thing in many aspects of life. Nonetheless, being a Nancy is not a good thing.) is because I was supposed to have acquired about another 150 miles or so onto that total. The route I was scheduled for also covered some worse roads and went into some areas that are pretty well cut off from much of anything. I, however, ended up with malaria when the survey was to start and got a less strenuous route to complete once my body recovered. My mileage total also doesn’t include the 125 miles I drove (while sick with malaria but not yet knowing it) on the 4-wheeler back to Yei for the training on how to do the survey. But, that was a couple days before leaving on Wednesday last week instead of Tuesday because of needing the extra day to recover, so it doesn’t make sense to add the mileage total along with the couple days because it will take down my daily average quite a bit. I guess I’ll just need to find another reason why I have to make it to the place where the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, and Sudan all intersect. Anybody got some good excuses for me to justify having to make the couple hundred mile trek?

I’m sorry I don’t have any pictures of the journey. As I’m typing this I’m realizing that to really help you understand what traveling during dry season in Sudan is like I need photographic evidence. It has not rained in several weeks now, and so the dust just collects in open windows on everything inside and outside of vehicles, houses, and otherwise. When on a 4-wheeler, this means that your whole body gets a reddish brown tint to it, especially when you have hair covering your face and sticking out of your helmet. I know I’m not known for being clean in general, but a day of travel on an open vehicle right now is like not showering for a month. So, imagine if I hadn’t showered in 4 or 5 months (because I did at least try to rinse out the dirt everyday, but it wasn’t worth really scrubbing and all every evening). Yeah, I was dirty, but it is a pretty sweet way to see quite a bit of Sudan (when not looking straight ahead to determine how to avoid the potholes that cover the roadway).

So, Mom, please don’t worry. Yes I had malaria, but it is not that bad. I am fine. It did cause me to miss out on my chance to have a 2005 Road trip USA style with Phil, Mike, and David (which will never be topped) and instead settle for the equivalent of a trip just to Colorado and back from the East Coast.