A Travellerspoint blog

The bright side of life...

Courses of life

Sociology

One of the more surprising aspects of my ‘outreach’ schedule is tutoring a 16- year- old English missionary kid for his English and Sociology GCSEs. Today, in Sociology, we were talking about 'life courses' and significant events that impact and change someone’s life. As I looked at the list in the textbook, I realized how several of these key life events are happening in some way to our family…

tiny nephew Isaac

tiny nephew Isaac

Birth:

My little tiny beautiful 5lb nephew, Isaac, was born at the weekend, Amelie’s first cousin. We met him today via skype, (the first of many skype dates I hope..) There is something almost awe-inspiring and fragile about new life, and of course I am biased, but tiny delicate Isaac in a oversized stripey baby-grow was no exception!


Sickness

Then nearing the other end of the course of life, David’s sweet auntie Morag, an unassuming and easy-going lady in her 60s, was diagnosed with lung cancer a few weeks ago, and within weeks it has spread from the lungs to the liver and now to the throat. Unless a miracle happens, she is nearing her last days and we are very sad to say goodbye.
Auntie Mo second from left

Auntie Mo second from left


Auntie Mo's jewellery

Auntie Mo's jewellery

Wedding

...on a brighter note, David will be the best man tomorrow to his Ugandan friend, Martin’s, wedding. Martin is a unique guy, he has determination and drive and has really fought against the odds to seize opportunites, and make something of himself.
David and Martin (5 years ago)

David and Martin (5 years ago)


His manner is quite different from the Lugbura tribe around us in Arua- much more direct and blunt (sometime even a bit offensive..) Martin is marrying a girl from Jersey, UK, and they kindly enabled David to attend the wedding, which can also mean he can say goodbye to the aunt whilst in the UK for his whirlwind trip.

Needless- to- say, this has been one of the hardest weeks for me so far, feeling every one of the 8307 miles from some of the people we dearly love and are at different stages in their ‘courses of life.’

In Arua, we see and hear mainly about 2 life events: birth and death. Just the other day I was visiting the hospital with our friend Peter, and he pointed to a bed and said ‘that was where my sister died this year’ in a normal, unemotional voice. ‘what?!’ ‘when?!’ ‘how?!’ tumbled out my questions. But I suppose death is much more part of life here.

I guess when it boils down to it, that is what it is all about: life and death. I heard some good teaching recently about ‘perspective’ and having a positive and Godly perspective, and it has really challenged me on my own perspective towards life, my life, other people’s lives, how I see people and their situations… Much easier said than done, especially when it comes to praising not bad mouthing, noticing the beauty within the ugliness and letting the good thoughts go round and round my mind, rather than the worries, and so this is my ongoing daily challenge...

'Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me [Jesus], what you heard and saw and realized.'

Posted by africraigs 11:41 Archived in Uganda Comments (1)

The back of beyond

then further...

semi-overcast 27 °C

I have returned from the boondocks for a week now and my stomach seems to be settling after a month of eating food which I wasn’t used to eating so much and so often. It’s not that the food was bad, just that in Arua, we are able to supplement our African diet of heavy starchy foods with a bit more variety that is more palatable to me (like fruit or bread). The only really ‘bad’ meal was our last meal consisting of bushrat which stank badly because it was off – the evidence was the presence of little white grubs. Bushrat (which isn’t actually a rat) and antelope meat are the more common meats to be found in Lobone (pronounced Low-bo-neh), indicating how much forest and wilderness surrounds the place.
DSC_0509.jpg
I have no stamp in my passport to prove I have been to another country, the newest country in the world. The border post closest to Lobone is the most sketchy I have ever past through. Wooden poles across the road are the only evidence of crossing a border at all. At the South Sudanese border 'control', we found lovely healthy bushes of marijauna growing.
Old anti-aircraft gun at sketchy border post

Old anti-aircraft gun at sketchy border post

Rusted machine gun at border post

Rusted machine gun at border post

Travelling carefully

Travelling carefully

Not carefully enough...

Not carefully enough...


Lobone is a unique village. It nestles in a beautiful location surrounded by picturesque, forested mountains. Its remoteness and difficult access made it a refuge for many south Sudanese fleeing the war and there were many thousands of refugees at one time. The population of the area was 60,000 in its heyday. Now, there must be around 5,000 or so people.
Scenery around Lobone

Scenery around Lobone


It is really strange to be in a place that has had so much recent history of turbulence. The YWAM base is close to a concrete bunker built to escape the Arab army as well as abandoned metallic structures used as hospitals to treat refugees given by the Norwegian People’s Aid. I found bayonet knives in peoples’ homesteads used as tools. Hearing landmines being cleared in nearby northern Uganda increased my sense of excitement/thrill… As well as the Sudanese civil war, this area was a hideout and playground for Joseph Kony, the crazed leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army.
Abandoned War Hospitals

Abandoned War Hospitals


This small place in South Sudan is definitely the most remote and draining experience of my life so far despite growing up in one of the most isolated countries in the world in Congo DR as well as staying in Kenya and Malawi for significant periods. When Emma and I visited the town where I grew up in Congo in 2008, a place surrounded by rainforest, there was a huge mobile phone mast. In Lobone, a phone is virtually useless, apart from the presence of several bamboo sticks which act as telephone ‘boxes’. Only be placing your phone on top of such a stick allows you to use it.
Phone 'box'

Phone 'box'

Benjamin peruses Lobone town centre

Benjamin peruses Lobone town centre


I hope the few photographs will give a taste of the place, the views, typical housing and how tricky it is to travel in and out of.
Kids around and about

Kids around and about

Grinding maize

Grinding maize

Sunset after the rain

Sunset after the rain

Hoes outside a Lobone home

Hoes outside a Lobone home

Typical wee homestead

Typical wee homestead

Doors were made of old USA donated tin cans

Doors were made of old USA donated tin cans


More will follow…

Posted by africraigs 10:11 Comments (4)

1 minute of our Outreach

Whilst Bighair is eating bushrat and hiking mountains, here is what we have been up in the last few weeks

apologies for the badly made film, media communications is not my forte- I can't even figure out how to made this link come up automatically- (where are the Hawaii media team when we need them)

Anyway, it sums up in one minute some of the things we have been doing whilst remaining in Arua, and hope to work on together when Bigbeard returns. He is due back next week so we are really, really looking forward to that. A month seems a long time to be apart, especially with sketchy sporadic speakerphone anthill phonecalls.

Hope it works....

http://youtu.be/jt2muU8McxQ

Posted by africraigs 11:06 Comments (2)

things are getting better...

(Are they?)

One of the popular songs we hear often here is a chorus which says umpteen times ‘things are getting better’ which is of course accompanied by lively dancing and super enthusiastic singing and clapping. In some ways I admire the optimism and positivity, but this week we were visiting the TB ward (codename for HIV ward) in the local hospital, and we look at death and hopelessness in the face, I couldn’t help wondering how people can see such desperate and bleak situations so frequently in Africa and still maintain that things are getting better. These patients aren’t getting better, and even if they leave the hospital alive, their lives back home probably won’t get much better.

If I’m honest, it makes me wonder how our Christian message of hope, love, peace and joy can trump all of the sadness and desperation that we see around us. I ‘know’ it has to, otherwise it is the most depressing thing ever. I guess I am realising more and more that our faith has got to impact peoples’ physical situations as well as their spiritual needs.

Unfortunately for Bighair, his time in remote S Sudan is not ‘getting better’- his stash of toilet paper is running out, and there is none to be bought, there are rats in their bedroom, which nibbled his team mates foot in the night, and 2 of the team stumbled across snakes in the accommodation. So, I am thankful that me and Amelie are not there- (on a shallow note, potty training using local leaves would be messy and gross) but it does make me think about the people who live there and face these challenges every day of their life.
I hope that their lives here on earth will get a bit better, I don’t know what ‘better’ might look like for them- employment maybe? Or health? Or simply having enough?

On a brighter note, doing our local outreach here is going well (minus David's absence) and I am enjoying it much more than the lecture phase. It is refreshing to be out in the community and involved with the local kids...

IMG_1430.jpg

Posted by africraigs 07:39 Comments (1)

News!

Making a mountain out of an anthill

I remember when we were in Kisumu 2 years ago and were trying to learn Kiswahili and we were learning about how the greetings were literally translated were about 'the news'. The news from the family, the news from home, the news of the weather, the news of work, the animals, the children etc etc.
..In the last few days I have come to appreciate why the literal translation is so relevant in this culture...
Bighair and the team left at 4am on Monday morning, on a long and bumpy journey to an ungoogleable remote place in S Sudan somewhere in the mountains.

It turns out it is so remote that phone signal cannot be found, other than walking miles to an anthill and perching in a funny position and then picking up a bar of signal if you're lucky. Needless-to-say, I hadn't heard from Bighair for a day or 2 (although it felt longer than that!) and was quite simply, desperate for news. News on anything really, the weather, the location, their sleeping arrangements, whether anyone had been bitten by jiggers yet, the team dynamics, the community, their activities, and of course, to share me and Amelie's (less interesting) news (potty taining updates, new words, our local outreach schedule etc etc.)

But yesterday David managed to give the driver a letter packed with news which was great to read, and picture life there a bit- a super dodgy border crossing, a few near road accidents, a long hike, and a remote mountain tribe in desperate poverty drinking copious amounts of home brewed beer. It made me miss David and the team, and really hope that whilst they are there, they can be bringers of good news to the people there, whether through practical actions, or relationships, or dramas or whatever.

stock-vector-vector-illustration-of-ants-and-an-ant-hill-29086939

stock-vector-vector-illustration-of-ants-and-an-ant-hill-29086939

Posted by africraigs 11:40 Comments (2)

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