26 November, 2008

Very Symbolic

Since this was the first dedication celebration within 20 miles of this church, many many people came from all over for the occasion and to celebrate. We arrived a little after 10am and left a little before 6pm (with a small meal provided before the ceremony and a big one after). It was a long, but pretty nice day. There was one thing that caught my attention and added to the fun of the day. Notice the cross in the pictures below. That's right, it's a Tasmanian Devil toy figure on top of it. Sweet! And there's sweets tied onto it as well. It was used for the procession of the surrounding areas local pastors and Women's Union members as well as by the first or second of six youth choirs that sang from the different surrounding communities. Not sure if the candy would be considered like holy water is or not, but hopefully the kids were able to enjoy the sweets afterwards. Also not really sure that I'll ever see a Devil on top of a cross at a church service again. But, I'm also confident that noone there new the name of this creature is a Tasmanian Devil.

Sunday Best

Thought I'd share some images from one of the first opening celebrations we had in Maridi a couple months ago. These are formal occasions, and there was a relatively new guy there who found these things unusual enough to take pictures of. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depends on how you look at it), things like this don't get a reaction from me and are normal, ordinary things that I wouldn't have thought to capture on camera.

This is a common hairstyle for ladies in this area (and apparently also just across the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo). Our cook also sports this look occasionally, and looks better in it. A smile may have helped this woman also, though. I actually really like it. I just may even give it a try myself. What do you think?

08 November, 2008

Road Work

The road connecting Maridi to the state and national capitals is being worked on. Hallelujah!!! It’s not done yet, nor will it be for many months still, but it will no doubt allow vehicles and goods to travel much more easily and open up the town to more development. Unfortunately for us, we’ve already finished all the major transportation we need to in and out of town, but may be able to take advantage of it more in the future as well.

The first task that was undertaken was to clear enough room to widen the road so that it can fit two lanes of traffic. The crew has begun at the town, and they were right outside our compound a couple weeks ago. It has transformed the area as trees, some of which were about 10 feet thick have been cleared and some of the landmarks that were used to give directions are now no longer there.

Did I mention yet that even when the road is done, it will still just be a dirt road??? When hardly any of the roads in South Sudan have been worked on in decades, and it will take thousands of miles of road just to connect all the state capitals, the task of road repair is a big one. And once the rainy season hits again in another half a year, the deterioration won’t take too long, but it will be better than it is now for at least several years. And maybe in a few years there will be the possibility of putting in paved roads. For now, I’ll just rejoice in the better dirt.

Just outside our compound

View when I held the camera overtop of our fence

Side Benefits

When the road crew took out all the trees, less people have been making charcoal. There have been people outside our compound chipping away at the big trees that were felled and pushed out of the way in order to get some firewood. Cooking is all done by open fire, and near to a town, all the trees that are able to be cut up for firewood have already been, so people are forced to search farther and farther away just to be able to get wood for cooking meals. It’s as if Christmas came a little early to a lot of households, and with the size and number of trees that were brought down, I think it just may even last until Christmas. Here are a couple pictures of whole families getting involved.

Revenge of the Bees

Do you remember the story I told about getting honey from bees about a year ago? We're even.

The time the heavy machinery was just outside our base for road work, I went out to watch them taking down the trees and clear the way. One of the trees ended up being the home to a huge swarm of bees. Everybody cleared out and watched from far away. I was about a quarter mile away, but a few hundred yards closer than most people to get to see the huge swarm still around the big track hoe that they were using to clear the trees. The machine had doors and windows that must have sealed well as there were thousands and thousands of bees swarming around the thing.

A motorcyclist decided he could ride through the swarm without any problems. He was way off! I was a couple hundred yards closer than everyone else, and then I see this motorcycle coming through. I stood in amazement at first, and then as I see a small swarm of bees leave the hoe and follow the rider, I realize he’s not going to be able to continue. The driver is completely encircled, and ends up crashing the bike, and gets up and runs in my direction. Seeing the bees all around him, I turn around and start running away too. I cut down a small path thinking I’ll escape, but the guy heads right for me still, and then a few bees leave him and come after me. So I begin running too and start stripping off my shirt as at least one got caught in it and swinging it at all the bees. Eventually the buzzing all but fades and I kill the final one I hear which is caught in my hair. I escaped with only two stings, but the motorcycle driver had over 50. The result of all that poison in his blood causes him to vomit violently and we ended up taking him to the hospital as he was totally weak and lost control of some of his bodily functions. Thankfully by late evening he was ok, and no one else made the mistake of trying to travel through the swarm until after they calmed down or just found somewhere else to go.


On October 7, 2008 my monkey, Zakayo died. I’m not sure what the direct cause was, but she wasn’t eating and went downhill for the entire week beforehand. Thinking maybe if she was free that she’d improve, I ended up untying her for the last 5 or 6 days, but there was no improvement. At least she was able to roam around a little bit for a few days I guess. I tried medicating it with some antibiotics I had a couple days before death, but I think it was too late to have much effect, and I don’t know if it really would’ve helped anyway. Zakayo was a point of interest for all the visitors we had to our base, so I’ll leave everyone with a few parting shots to remember her.

16 August, 2008

Olympic Fever

I made it into Nairobi on Thursday evening for a bit of time out of Sudan. It is always nice to get back to civilization after a couple months "in the bush" as we say. A nice bed and some nice meals can go a long way. I also have enjoyed getting to catch up on the Olympics and the news.

So I guess all the talk of boycotting the Olympics over China's role in Sudan was mostly all talk. I'm sure there are some who are, but I don't think there's any more information getting out to people about the things that have taken and are taking place currently in Darfur. At least a few months ago there was quite a bit in the news to bring awareness and attention to the situation. And I understand that the U.S. had a Sudanese carrying the flag at the opening ceremonies or something, but it didn't sound like any information was being spread as a result.

Being around a television and being able to watch the Olympics has been fun, though. There's just something about it being every 4 years and people representing their various countries that can really get people interested. Here in Kenya, the long distance races are always the most talked about events as they are the ones that the country has excelled at in the past. Yesterday evening the Women's 10,000 meter race (6.25 miles) was on television, and there was a group of a couple Kenyans, a few Sudanese, a few Americans, and an Uzbek from a Russian background watching. Even though it was a 30 minute race, we watched it straight through focused the whole time on the women running. Support for the Americans, Russians, Kenyans, and Ethiopians was mixed throughout our group. We were all trading comments about our country's representative and other country competitors and joking around. But for the last 5 laps (about 6 minutes), the volume kept increasing and increasing and the excitement level kept raising. Finally, over the entire last lap, almost all of us were yelling and standing and cheering. It was the most fun I may have ever had watching any Olympic event, and it was great to watch the Ethiopian woman pull away over the last 200m from the runner from Turkey and to see the look of joy and surprise on the American woman's face as she managed to win the bronze medal in third place. It was surprising to see the Kenyans not fair as well as normal, and unfortunately for our Uzbek friend, the top Russian athlete was uanble to keep up with the American. I guess we've now got to wait another four years until it will happen again. But there's still some more events that can hopefully provide as much excitement over the next few days...

23 July, 2008

Mills Family Hunters

My cousin Andy and his hunting exploits here in Maridi (apparently Andy and I are the same person... I can't count how many times we've been confused for one another). Bush rat makes some tasty stew. Honestly.

He couldn't match our gatekeeper's abilities at getting our own monitour lizard

I gave him a hand. Once he had finished the hard work, of course.
And yes, in case you're wondering, we did eat this guy too. It reminded me of salmon, and it was a really nice meat that they cooked up with a peanut sauce. Yum! Yum!

Home Sweet Home

Some recent pictures of our living area here. We brought in some stones as the rains make it very muddy. And the grass has popped up quickly and been spreading a lot better than it sounds like my parents yard has. Anyone want to come and visit?

A Nice Sunday Afternoon Picnic

Some pics from a picnic with a few of our staff we took about a month ago here near town. We tried a similar journey another time but got disrupted by rain. As you can see, though, this time of year the rain makes for a much nicer view as everything is green.

16 July, 2008

Dead Giveaway

Ok, so I thought I'd have been able to update sooner, and I have definitely lost interest in the song stuff, so I'm going to give one more, and sorry to those who might have liked a greater challenge, but here it is:
You can dance, you can jive
Having the time of your life
See that girl, watch that scene
Dig in the .............. .............
(I left two words blank because it gives away the song, and I imagine most of you will know the artist if you know this song).

Anyways, I hope to add some pictures real soon and give another update on some of the stuff that's going on. Short story - The monkey's teeth are getting sharper and her bite is stronger (apparently it's a girl, but she's going to keep the name Zakayo/ Zaccheus anyway, because he (I mean she) doesn't know that it's a boy's name anyway. That and Johnny Cash is one of my heroes... If you don't get that one, look at the title to his songs and you'll find out what I mean. And then listen to it).

27 June, 2008

Singing in the Rain

I’m not sure how old the idea of a music video is, but the other day I saw some that right away looked as if they were from the 70s. The kaleidoscopic effects, colors, and hair-dos together with the constant zooming in and out gave the impression of an LSD trip. And immediately I and another American working here thought that our Dads would enjoy watching this DVD/VCD that our cook had bought in the market here in town. DVDs/VCDs have newly come to town, just as last year shops starting showing up in Yei (which is the gateway for things coming in from Uganda) with them also. It’s not like in Nairobi, Kampala, or many various other cities throughout the world where there are shops on every corner selling pirated copies of various movies or collections of movies, but they are making their way into Sudan. As a side note, apparently Sudan has not signed any of the international copyright agreements or anything, so the copying and selling of pirated DVDs is actually legal I think.

As a result of these music videos that a couple of our staff wanted to show to us the other day over lunch (and see themselves), I’ve got this song lyric stuck in my head about “a bang, a boom, a boomerang of love.” And, I thought I’d see how long it would take for someone to recognize the singers of this song and the others that were on the DVD that I’m sure I’ll hear playing many times over the coming weeks until our staff find a new cassette or video to listen to or watch constantly. I’ve given you today’s hint, and I don't know if it will be enough, but if not, I’ll keep adding a hint each time I update until someone recognizes the artists. But, I don’t want anyone to go searching song lyrics online or anything, this is a recognition through previous knowledge, not through Google’s advanced search. NO CHEATING!!

So, for those of you who don’t know how to leave comments, please follow these directions:

Click on the green part that shows how many comments have been left on this post just below. Write what you want to say in the comment section. Then, choose your identity from the choices or choose anonymous if you don't have a google account or just wish to remain anonymous and fill in the letters or numbers you see that will be distorted a bit. Then just click to publish your comment. I’ll get a little idea of how musically cultured my readers are (or just what generation they're from) depending upon how long it takes for someone to recognize the group. Personally, I didn’t know until it got to a later song who the group was

20 June, 2008

How to Write About Africa

At Christmas, a friend of mine gave me this very short, small book called “How to Write About Africa.” It was quite an entertaining book that contained several short articles that had originated in a magazine called Kwani?. I recommend the magazine and book to anyone who has spent time in Africa. Kwani? (Swahili for Why?) is published and originated in Kenya, and includes many different writings from various African authors and short story writers. As I posted my last entry about the conditions of the roads, I got to thinking about the book and how I was pretty good at writing about the side of Africa that continues to perpetuate its stereotypes and give an impression to the whole continent that is not accurate. I try to provide interesting reading, and it is the type of thing that is part of the “adventure” that contributed to me coming over here, but it what I write is a part of my personal experiences and not a picture reflective of the whole.

The book talks about how people don't want to hear about the intellectuals of Africa or to know about the people who struggle everyday to provide for their families through hard work and ingenuity. I have not done a fair job in portraying this side of things. Most of my readers are from North America and I know we like to hear about what we are doing to help out those "less fortunate." Those working with wildlife are the next best heroes in our stories behind these humanitarian workers who do so much "because they care" as the little book said. While I and those I work with from North America are trying to do what we can to be of benefit, we are not the ones who really have a chance at bringing about true change and benefit to the people's lives ("the people" refer to black Africans while just "people" refer to you and me... also in the book). Please don't trump us up as those who are "sacrificing" and really giving so much. The experiences I'm having are far more valuable than anything I'm giving for "these people."

The book is comical to me, and I joke as I write the different things that were mentioned. It is funny how accurately it portrays the feelings of so many. It's not because those of us who are just visiting or hearing about things are terrible people (for the most part...), in some cases we just don't know how to write in a way that people will understand with other vocabulary and because the perspective and background from the person is always going to come out. If possible, reading things written by Africans from their perspective will always provide a different type of feel and a different understanding of things.

So, if you ever get a chance to read "Kwani" or anything like it, you may learn a lot more, and if you've spent time in Africa yourself as well, it will help in understanding more what people are saying.

10 June, 2008

Welcome Back!

My return to South Sudan has been quite abrupt.

In early/mid April I made the journey between the two towns that I've lived in while out here in around 7 hours. The end of last week, it took me 29 hours. 116 miles in 29 hours. Good times. And to think that a week before on U.S. roads, I watched 2 movies at the drive-in theatre (the new Indiana Jones wasn't quite as good as I had hoped, but at least it wasn't as bad as the new Rocky), ate a steak dinner, stopped to fill up on fuel and drove 116 miles in less than the 7 hours it took at the end of dry season back in April to cover that distance alone without any of the extras on South Sudan roads. Why didn't I travel to the States during rainy season instead of just at the beginning of it?

Actually, the condition of the road has gotten considerably worse already because of rain, but it was a bridge that had been broken by two separate transport trucks overloaded with goods that caused the problem. The latest truck had fallen in a day before I made the journey, and we hadn't received the information before leaving town. When the bridge had broken the earlier time, people began trailblazing through the swamp beside the road and forded the river at a rocky spot as the water level was fairly low and the rains hadn't picked up so much to make the swamp too wet. By the time I reached the location, many heavy trucks had already begun trying to get through the swamp again, but this time the rains had saturated the ground and many trucks were getting stuck, and those that weren't just created deeper and deeper ruts.

After walking through the area and doing a quick assessment of the conditions, I saw that one by one, trucks which made it to the new river crossing area were able to slowly be pulled up the hill on the opposite side of the river. Trusting in my tough 4-wheel drive LandCruiser and my superior off-road driving abilities, I determined a route that I thought would avoid the paths completely blocked by large stuck transport trucks and enable me to reach the river crossing and make it across the thigh-high river and continue my journey.

Either the truck or my driving skills let me down. I'm inclined to blame it on the tires as the truck I had did not have our heavy-duty mud tires that many of our LandCruisers do. The truck sank too much and I bottomed out and got stuck in the mud. It's a good thing the truck had a winch (which I knew would save me even if my driving didn't). So, as I go to use the winch, it releases only a little before it stops and will no longer go in or out. Apparently when it had been used last, it was wound in without being held taut, and the cable cinched on itself so tight that it was not free to be released or pulled in. Then, as we began to try to dig out and jack up the tires to put branches and logs under for raising the body and getting better traction, it began to rain heavily. After a while, it was still raining and it was too dark to even bother trying more.

So, we slept in the truck. During the night, the rain continued and the water in the swamp continued to increase as the ground got softer and softer. At dawn, there was still a small drizzle, and we got out to assess our current situation. Ahead, we found the river above waist level, and with the water flowing with more force, we determined that proceeding forward was a lost cause. The swampy area we were stuck in also had much more water in it, and the ground was softer, so we knew it would also not be as easy to head back the way we'd come. With all the stuck trucks, there were quite a few people around eager to make a few bucks assisting in cutting branches, helping dig, and assisting in trying to get trucks such as my own out of the mud. Quite a few bills and several hours later, we emerged from the swamp and got back on the road with no option of continuing forward. As we had some items urgently needed in the town we were headed to a couple hours beyond the river, a vehicle from there was headed to the bridge to meet us. When it arrived, I and the items were able to walk across the narrow section of the bridge still intact and complete the journey in another two hours while a different driver took the truck back to the town we had come from.

There is another route that we will now be taking between the towns, but it will now be over 200 miles and maybe 14 or 15 hours if not getting stuck on the road again. Of course, some local guys will again "fix" the bridge by cutting some more trees that they will tie in to the bridge for vehicles to pass on and thereby open up the shorter route again. But, with the size of loads that will be crossing the new makeshift bridge whenever it is completed, it will not take long before another large truck weighs too much and breaks through the bridge again resulting in continued problems traveling.

What a great thing to go through 2 days after returning to Sudan after 3 weeks in the States. Might as well dive in head first. No point in just dipping the toe in to test the water here. That's the only way to do it. But, it's also necessary to have a working winch. They really are life-savers.

28 May, 2008

Back to the States

Corn Dogs, steak, cushioned couches, the English language.
It's been good to be in the good old U.S.A. for a little bit, including a Memorial Day cookout and hike in the woods yesterday. I've been able to eat some good food and see some good friends over the last couple weeks.

One of the other changes over the past weeks is that I've gotten back to using deodorant on a somewhat regular basis. I still haven't finished the same stick of Degree that I brought with me to Sudan back in February 2007. Not sure how much longer it'll last at this point, but I guess I've saved a couple of bucks over the year plus to help out with buying gas for my really good trip I took out to Indiana and Ohio just after returning.

Of course, in the process of being back in the U.S., I've also watched far too much television considering I don't miss it when in Sudan, nor in the time I've lived in the States without one. Between NHL and NBA playoffs, and regular season baseball, though, I've definitely enjoyed getting to watch some TV. I've even gotten to practice a few of my sports skills and had it pointed out to me that I've lost quite a bit of speed during my time overseas. Looks like I've got to get back to doing some exercise to try to get back in shape. Or I can just keep eating a lot more steak, potatoes, breads, and desserts in order to see how much more out of shape I can get.

30 April, 2008

Some Zakayo Pics

We're teaching him how to drive... and he's making progress

Apparently he doesn't like the look of himself in the mirror


I now look like a young man of 28.

That’s what our head cook told me in his broken English (which is a lot better now than it was when I first came to Sudan in February of 2007) when I first donned the clean-shaven look. Apparently, with the beard and moustache, Levy thought I appeared to be 42 years old. Glad to know that I now only look 28. Wow. 42!

I hope that I haven’t aged that much in the last year. I used to always be told that I look younger than my actual age, but suddenly it’s a couple years older. I guess I’ve just gotten a lot of life experience in the last couple of years and am maturing. If I start acting 42 years old, someone please hit me really, really hard and tell me to stop it.

A Good Day

Monday was a really good day. It was just one of those days when things seemed to go really well, and it felt nice.

We were planning to send 300 bags of cement to a site first thing in the morning, and that usually doesn’t go all that smooth. But Monday morning was different. Right after devotions, I let everyone know we were going to be sending out the cement, and that everyone would get to help (“get to” is a bit of a misnomer). So, we took tea and then at 8:30 we started loading the trailers. One got loaded and off and then another. We had a bit of a break after the second load, and then got to the third one of 100 bags. It was incredible as we finished by 10am. I wouldn’t have been surprised had it taken until lunch (1pm). So, I ran to town and picked up a crate of Coke and Fanta and we had another bit of a break to share in some drinks.

I spent the rest of the morning getting some paperwork taken care of and email sent, and the rest of the staff got to their business also. We ended up getting having some productive meetings with leaders of a few different communities we’re working with, got transportation for resources at another site, and began transporting at a church site that is quite far away and we’ve had difficulty coordinating with up until now.

We needed some water on the compound around the end of the day as we’re making cement block here right now, and since our driver is at a training right now I took the LandCruiser to the dam to fill up a couple tanks of water. After loading, a couple of the guys wanted to bathe since the area doubles as a nice, big bath tub. So, while they were bathing, I decided to go for a swim in the big reservoir that results from the dam. It was just a nice end to a nice, productive day.
There wasn’t anything big, but a combination of a lot of productive things, a nice Coke, and a dip in the lake made Monday a really good day.

Hope you each have a good day however that might look where you are.

26 April, 2008

My new friend

I’ve gotten the first pet I’ve had since my family had goldfish when I was back in elementary school. I wasn’t even really a fan of the goldfish back then, but I won them at Meijer by throwing a ping pong ball into the little goldfish bowl, so they really meant something to me for those few weeks before they died. Of course, my body has been a host to many parasites over the past year, but I’m not sure that qualifies as animals and I definitely don’t count them as pets.

I must say that my new pet is much cooler than goldfish ever were or will be, and I don’t know that I will ever be able to top Zakayo (the local name for Zacheus). I bought the little monkey two weeks ago now, and although he stayed in my tent with me for the first couple nights, he’s since moved to be a completely outdoor pet. All of our staff love him as he likes to try to fight most of us and it’s always enjoyable to see when the hen that we have gets near him because he actually does fight with her since they’re around the same size.

I don’t know how big he grows to be, but it doesn’t seem like he’s gotten any bigger in the time he’s been with us. It’s not that he doesn’t eat. He loves mango, guava and palm nuts, and we have a tree of each of those on the compound he’s able to get food from. Plus, he enjoys eating ugali, rice, and biscuits which we do give him from our lunch every day. I’m not sure how long it will take to fatten him up to the point where we can eat him. People do eat monkey around here, but I told all our staff that he’s too small right now and that we have to wait until he’s big enough to feed at least 5 people before we can think about cooking him up.

09 April, 2008

April Fools

I've been on a bit of a hiatus from blogging. I've got a few experiences I should have updated about over the past month, but have not. Unfortunately, I've been hooked on Prison Break. When I lived in Anderson with my buddy Nick, he got me interested in the show and I saw several episodes from the first season. After that, though, I never really got a chance to watch more. Then, over Christmas when I was in Nairobi following the elections and limited in ability to move about, I saw the complete first season of the show. I got my hands on the second season a little over 2 weeks ago, and over the last 2 weeks I spent most of my free time watching the 22 episodes of season two (I have also played a good bit of volleyball at a local court with some of the free time also), and so I've allowed communication to slip quite a bit.

But, other than recommending the show Prison Break as an on the edge of your seat thriller (maybe it really is good, maybe I've just been in Sudan too long...), I thought I should inform everyone who's interested of my compliance with the wishes of the voters on the blog. Although I wanted to use the excuse of not having 20 votes as a reason why I didn't have to shave off my moustache, with 11 out of 13 votes being in favor of shaving completely, even had 7 more people voted, it would have been impossible for anything else to win in the voting. So, although I'm not posting any pictures of the new look, I have shaved all my facial hair. It has been a bit odd after having the moustache since December of 2006 to go clean, but I'm getting used to it again. I'm not sure how long I will last, though.

I don't know that I can even end with a nice Joe Dirt quote without any facial hair. Instead, I'll leave you with a word from Michael Scott: "Society teaches us that having feelings and crying is bad and wrong. Well, that's baloney, because grief isn't wrong. There's such a thing as good grief. Just ask Charlie Brown."

11 March, 2008

Pennsylvania Dutch

A few weeks ago I was in Nairobi for some meetings. In Sudan I don't come across many women from a similar cultural background. In Nairobi there are quite a few, and I met a lady who was working with a different organization in a different part of Sudan who happened to be in Nairobi along with a friend who was also living in Sudan. Since there was another guy I work with in for the same meetings as me, I decided to see if the girl and her friend wanted to go bowling with us (one of the nice things about Nairobi). The timing didn't work out for bowling, but we did manage to meet up for dinner instead.

You see, people who live in different environments become a bit socially awkward when they do come in contact with those of similar backgrounds. Since we all were in that category, it's no wonder what became of the evening. It started nice enough as we met them at the apartment and covered introductions a bit before heading to a place in town that has Mexican(ish) food. It had been a year since my last experience with Mexican food, and I imagine similar for the others, so we were all pretty excited about it. About 5 minutes in, Mormons or Mennonites came up and the one girl talked of how Mennonites aren't weird like Amish people. Being from Pennsylvania and near many Pennsylvania Dutch communities, I thought I'd probe a little deeper and ask why she said that. She went on to discuss how Amish can't wear buttons and were weird and backwards. And, although there are Pennsylvania Dutch near to where I'm from, the main reason I pushed the issue is that my buddy working with me is from an Amish background. (Ok, now I know you're wondering how it happened that I came across an Amish guy in Sudan, but we'll not get into that right now.)

While she's going into different things about the Amish that are weird, I start laughing quite a bit and my buddy is also, although not as hard as I am. The friend of this girl catches on and tries to interrupt her, but she keeps going on and on about how the Amish don't use electricity and the men have those weird beards (also funny considering the facial hair I have) and so on. When she caught on that there was something unusual, we told her that my friend was Amish. Of course she didn't believe it at first, and she says, "No way. Are you really Amish? If you are I'm going to feel really bad." And then she went on saying other things that she thought were weird about the Amish and reasons why my buddy couldn't be Amish. The driver's license that showed his last name as Yoder didn't even convince her. Because he was wearing blue jeans, not black, asking if he came by boat, things like that. She really still didn't believe us even as he was explaining about Amish life and how he is from a non-old Order (more progressive) Amish background. It took her calling a couple of our staff with my phone who knew this guy's background before she finally did consider it might be true. But, she still continued to bring it up many times and asked all kinds of questions about the Amish. It was an interesting evening of conversation and education for our new friends. I learned a few new things about the Amish too.

And, although it was an evening centered around the Amish, it was fun to be out of Sudan and practicing my social skills again. The food was good and the girls really were nice. We got to talk quite a bit about NCAA basketball and look ahead to March Madness as well, so that was also fun. As all of my MK friends in university attested to, it's a little tough fitting back in after spending time in other environments, so maybe if I can practice every now and then it won't be so bad when I go back to the States for home leave in a few months.

26 February, 2008

Random Photos

Here are some pictures of some things which are pretty common to come across.

This is the Sudanese version of a drive thru. Often times, there will be one goat on each side (The chickens he has riding above the tire taste better though)

That is really the body of the queen termite. At one of the building sites the termite mound had to be destroyed and they found the queen down in the middle. It really is amazing how much bigger she is than the others.

If only they had rodeos over here I'd be able to fulfill my dream of being a rodeo clown amongst some of the scariest looking bulls I've ever seen.

18 February, 2008

I Don't Know

There's so much I don't know. I'm sure most of you are much more aware of that than I am. But, maybe I'm getting better at not being a know-it-all and not trying so hard to have all the answers. That would be really nice anyway. I'm just too busy trying to have all the answers that I don't really look for questions (or maybe am just focused on the wrong questions).

My friend Josh wrote something the other day that has me thinking. I've always tried to have all the answers someone might ask and trying to be a step ahead. Nick, who I've been working with knows all too well how I try to answer questions before he's even asked if there is a slight pause while he thinks for a moment (I'm not sure if this is a new thing, but something I've recently noticed...those who've known me for a while will have to let me know). I like to be a teacher much more than being a student. I think I give the impression that it's better to have answers for people than questions. And I give the impression because it's how I feel most of the time.

I don't know why God has me here or why he's had me where I've been in the past. I don't know if it's to reach out to this person or that person or if it's because of this thing or that thing that I've done, but even those are the wrong questions. For a long time now I've looked to have answers to stuff like this so I know how to respond and can be prepared. But, God doesn't need me to be prepared for what he has in store. He wants me to be willing. While I might want to know everything, I don't look for what God is teaching me or seek things other than knowledge. I know that I should always be learning, and I know that God teaches us through all circumstances. And I base so much on what I know. It's about time I start asking God again. Not to have answers to tell this person or that person, but to really come to God honestly with questions that I don't understand. There's so much that doesn't make sense, so much that you really can't find an answer to, but have to have answered. Unless I ask, I just get indifferent and apathetic. I want to search after God again. I want to seek. And even though I may not get answers to speak of, I'm sure I'll find God in the search and He will answer. It's not about knowledge, but about a relationship. Who knows what I'll find out and experience in the process...probably a lot about God, about myself, and about living.

Well, I've been back at our main base for the last couple weeks now as three of our experienced staff are out at the time and there's a few gaps to fill. I'll be back out of touch with the internet soon enough I hope, but until then I'll try to keep things updated. I'm glad I could surprise you with all the recent posts and you'll have to keep looking for how I continue to mix things up.

16 February, 2008

The Office

Don't know if you've seen the show "The Office" or not. I'm not real sure if it's just because I'm in Sudan, but that show is the funniest show I've ever seen. The first Rush Hour movie used to be my favorite thing to watch, and I watched it over and over again, and this is the first time since that there's been something that I just keep watching. I've seen every episode at least two or three times and keep watching anytime anybody wants to. Please let me know if it's just me or if really is that funny. So far I've only seen the first 7 episodes of season 4 and hear that's all so far because of the writer's strike. Looking forward to the new ones when I get a chance. Here's a few pictures I doctored up quite a while ago that I thought you might enjoy. (The other guys are some of the studs I've been working with who also appreciate the office)

12 February, 2008


I came across this article on BBC today, and thought I'd share it with everyone. How dare someone's human rights be neglected simply because of his desire to have a big moustache? (Plus I learned that you don't "have" a moustache, you "wear" one. . . Also, can you believe this guy took 25 yrs. to grow that??? I'll have him way beat considering mine's only taken a year. But, then again, he has probably at least trimmed his, I've only chewed on mine every now and then)

India court in moustache notice
India's Supreme Court has issued a notice to a state-run airline asking it to explain why an air steward was sacked for wearing a big moustache.
Victor Joynath De was grounded by Indian - formerly called Indian Airlines- in 2001 for refusing to shave off his handlebar moustache.
He had earlier lost a case in a lower court which ruled that the airline was within its rights to sack him.
According to Indian rules, all crew members should be clean shaven.
A moustache, if worn, should not extend beyond the upper lip, says the rule book.
The guidelines do not apply to Sikh employees who are allowed to keep moustaches.
'Health risk'
"How can somebody be removed from a job because of the size of his moustache?" the Supreme Court bench comprising Justice HK Sema and Justice Markanday Katju asked on Monday.
The airline has been given four weeks to respond.
Mr De's brush with his employers began in 2001 when the airline argued that his prized asset was a health risk, especially with him frequently handling food.
A spokesman for the airline said at the time of Mr De's grounding its personal conduct code did not allow the display of moustaches which could be unhygienic.
The spokesman said that some passengers could be unnerved by such a striking facial feature.
At the time of his grounding, Mr De said he was proud of his moustache which had taken 25 years to grow and now stretches prominently across both cheekbones.
"I never dreamed of trimming it. All the time I worked for the airline, my moustache attracted many adoring eyes inside the plane and on the ground," he said.
Mr De has worked for the state-run airline for over 20 years.
He is a member of London's famous Handlebar Club, which has campaigned against his sacking.

10 February, 2008

Jeff is Where??

I have been in Sudan for nearly a year now, and had a decision to make about just where I would be blogging from. After quite a bit of contemplation and consideration, I've decided to sign on for another year here in South Sudan. My role will be changing somewhat, and we are looking to adjust our programming as well. Previously, all of my and the rest of our staff's attention was directed towards the church building project. We are now opening up and spreading our reach a bit. It has been exciting to see the church project grow in the way that it has and I am really looking forward to the opportunity of trying to develop some other projects to come in alongside and focus on meeting some of the other needs that the communities we've been working with have. It will be a new challenge and I look forward to the doors it may open into some of the communities and the ways in which we may broaden our impact.

I imagine most of you are a bit surprised about this 2nd year in Sudan considering that I like to change things up a lot. Don't worry, however, if you're concerned that my newfound experiment in consistency will result in the moustache from the pictures in my previous post remaining for the entire year. By the way, I guess I never did clarify, but yes, the moustache is still around in full force. Although I may have committed to another year in Sudan, the hair on my head and facial hair have never stayed the same for that long. Not that I have a plan for what will happen next, but I'll make sure and keep you guessing as to how I look. I know it always keeps even me on my toes to figure out what to do next with my hairs. So, I'll try to keep you all informed and updated throughout the next year, but still leave you wondering just what I look like as I'm typing away on the blog.

07 February, 2008

The Honey Hunt

As we were clearing land for our new compound back when we first arrived and were trying to get things set up, some of our workers were attacked by bees as they were clearing brush from an area by a tree. We got it cleared ok, but then when we went to start getting the storage and office built, the workers were attacked again. Don’t worry, no one even got stung then, but they were not willing to go back to work in that area because the bees starting coming out. So, our staff were talking about burning the bees out of the trees while some of them were also talking about there being honey in the bees hive. I became interested in this information and found out that a couple of our guys had harvested honey from bee hives before. After some convincing of the others, Elly and I talked the others into getting the honey that night before burning the bees out.

We went late in the evening, just before dark and built a fire under the hole the bees entered from. After smoking the tree for probably 15 or 20 minutes, we undertook the operation. The hole was not big enough to fit an adult hand, but rather than try to get a few six year olds to stick their hands in the bee hive, we took an axe to the tree. I was eager to do this, and took quite a few hacks before the bees started coming out. That was when we began really smoking them out. We lit some dry grass just outside the hole and blew the smoke in to keep the bees from coming out. Then, back at it with the axe. After a while, the hole was increasing, but a couple bees came out, and one was right by my ear. I dropped the axe and started waving all around at my head only to realize the bee had gotten stuck in my hair (Mullets are necessary when performing tasks like this). At this, I stopped franticly waving my arms about my head and simply squeezed the bee and my hair together in my hands to kill the bee before going back to hacking at the tree.

After a few minutes work, the hole was big enough to fit a hand in, so Elly took some grasses and applied the same smoking technique, blowing the smoke directly into the hole. Then, he just stuck his hand in the tree and started pulling out handfuls of honeycomb. It was awesome! Seeing that apparently the bees weren’t troubling him, I jumped at my chance to get some honey and did the same. It was an exciting feeling. You just blow in some smoke and pull out honeycomb. Sure, there were some bees still around, and many were on the honeycomb we pulled out, but I only got stung once. Several of the other guys also tried, including one of our Sudanese staff who is probably 6’3” and 220lbs. He is actually really gentle, sweet, humble, and an incredible guy, but he was initially afraid of the bees. He also got stung once, and our total was three stings for the night, but we all had a good time and talked about it for the next week (I am still talking about it several months later). The honey was so sweet, and it was made all the sweeter knowing that we had pulled it out of the tree ourselves. One of the more fun times I’ve had in my year here in Sudan.

Pictures from the Hunt

Chop, Chop
He's Loving It
Mullets are mandatory for hunting honey
Some of the Spoils
How Sweet It Is!!

03 January, 2008

Looking Great in 2008

Upon the suggestion of some of my fellow staff from Sudan, I thought I would decide upon a theme for the year instead of making some resolution. So, for the calender year 2008, I'm going to be trying to look great. Of course, I have quite a bit of work to do as my sister will no doubt attest to, but there was a natural first step in this process that can be done without much difficulty. And so most of my hair is gone. Now the challenge is going to be trying to get some new clothes that can give me some style to help look great and some tattoos and piercings that will really help me to look my best. The clothes, however, I may have to call in some outside assistance as it's not really something I am probably capable of on my own (especially considering the same awesome silk shirt I wore to church each week from 6th to 9th grades had apparently been out of style since 2 years before I had gotten it. Thanks, Becca, for helping me to see the light.) The looking great in '08 theme for the year barely beat out Try to get a date in '08 and True love waits 2008. Of course, I must admit that Troy inspired the idea's theme is way better than mine. Following themes like Keep it alive in '05, Get your kicks in '06, and It's going to be heaven in '07, this year he is going with 2008: It's going to be ok. Nice, Troy.

Anyways, here are some pictures of how I'm starting the year with this theme. Please let me know of any suggestions you have to help me make this theme for the year become reality.

With Shaps

What was I thinking?

Should I have stopped here? (Had to stick the 'stache in the nose to keep from accidently clipping it too)

Should have left it like this

That's right, I could clean my ears with those

The curls just wouldn't stay too well. (I think I need something stronger than earwax)