Day 12 in Duk Payuel

Sunday, November 21

Whirlwind. Though I’m not usually at a loss for words, I’ve been consumed with activity and had little time or energy to compose my thoughts. Thus, I’m scrutinizing scribbles of memories, some of which are no longer time-related, though that likely matters more to me than to you. So for these narratives, you’ll have to make due with memories recalled on December 4, the first day I’ve had time at a computer to sit and write coupled with intermittent Internet access. Also, I have an injury that’s interfered. Mid-way through my days in the village, two fingers on my right hand started to tingle and go numb when I sat at the computer. This situation grew continually worse with the long flight to Loki and Nairobi.

Sunday afternoon. Tom Dannon and I trekked through the water for the last hour of the church service on Sunday afternoon. Church goes on for hours, and the preaching is in Dinka, so it isn’t as though I know exactly what’s going on. Other than that, it’s not unlike any Christian church, preaching, read singing, drumming, and various speakers announcing one thing or another.

The church is an enormous mud and thatched hut, with very little light entering through the doors. The ceiling is high above and a miracle of construction to be built without any modern equipment. Seating is movable benches, plastic chairs and large tin cans. Tom and I took a seat in the back, but that didn’t last long. We were invited to traipse down the middle aisle and take a seat to the right of the pulpit, facing the church members. At least they didn’t ask me to speak to the huge crowd.

After church, we met with the women’s group in a good-sized tukul near the church, which I took to be some type of office or meeting room. I gave them the still-boxed sewing machine, the table and treadle stand. There are a couple of seamstresses in the group who know how to put together and maintain the machine. There were no sewing machines in the village when I arrived more than a week earlier—now there are three.

Later, Joh Deng and I met with the chiefs. After all the formal welcoming and exchanges of thanks, they chastised me and ASAH for the delay in following through with our plan for a boarding school. Joh translated this as, “They are complaining. . .” It’s easy to understand their frustration, partly because the culture takes the expression of a desire to help as a promise. And it’s probably impossible for them to understand the challenges in the US for a small organization like ours to raise funds, especially in our dismal economy. They have the example of the successful clinic built by JDF, with the help of John Dau’s celebrity, and to IRD, a large, well-funded NGO group. However, they once again offered us land to build on. This land is adjacent to the IRD compound. The proximity to another NGO would be nice for us, and the land has enormous trees—banyon, acacia, palm—which means shade. And though surrounded by water, it’s high and dry.

They’re anxious for project to succeed and give us their support and blessing. They would like us to serve a minimum of 40, preferably 50, girls from the two payems, Duk Payuel and Pateunoi, half the number from each. The ASAH board will visit after my return to determine the numbers and our final plan. The chiefs told me the payems are closely related and since Joseph Makeer’s father was from Duk and his mother from Pateunoi, it would be appropriate to serve both villages in their memory.

There’s never been a boarding school in Duk County, and currently there’s no secondary school, either. Our school will set an example for everyone in the village of the benefits of educating girls and helping orphans. To quote Joseph Makeer, “If we raise these kids up from the level they are, and give them what they need, they will be leaders in our country, and in the world.” They promised us their assistance in succeeding with our project.

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