Sacrificial goats

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Manyok and Dau bought a goat to celebrate our arrival. The plan was to slaughter it Sunday and invite the girls for a feast. Alas, the clinic has no firewood. Shortly after we received this gift, before we left for church, Moses’ uncle Kon stopped by with a goat for us as well. The he-goat and the she-goat are tethered, bleating pitifully, knowing something is up. They have a short respite as we won’t be able to slaughter and cook them today.

Daniel and I walked to church before the two-hour service finished. Two hours is a bit long for me since all the preaching and prayers and announcements are in Dinka. The singing and drumming is quite enjoyable, as is watching and listening to the movement of people and children inside the church.

As in any church, when it’s over, everyone gathers outside to greet friends. Many people know me now, and their greetings are warm. People call me Deborah Dit, though I didn’t t know why. The addition of “Dit” to the name is a sign of respect for elders and for people in responsible positions.

After lunch we started our long walk through the outskirts of the village on our way to Daniel’s home to meet his mother. She’s in her 50s, but looks older. His father is nearly 70, blind, living in Juba. As often happens when you meet parents of kids that you are helping, I was designated his second mother. From there, we tried to meet Moses’ brother, Akol, at his uncle Kon’s, but when we arrived we learned Akol had gone to the central town, so we will meet him another day.

Continuing our trek we headed to the site. Walking cross-country through knee-high grass is uncomfortable now that things are drying out. Prickly grasses scratch my legs and tiny thorns end up in my sandals. Daniel, Moses, and Manyok are all wearing trousers and shoes. I’m wearing cargo shorts—not the traditional dress for women, but no one seems to mind. I wear dresses or skirts for church and when meeting with elders. It’s too hot for pants.

Juma, the head medical officer at the clinic, came to me in the afternoon pleading on behalf of eight tuberculosis patients—seven women and a little girl, and one man who has lost his fingers to leprosy. They have no food. Their bodies can’t utilize the medications if they’re starving. He asked if I could help. ASAH has precious food supplies stored here. We had expected our compound to open last summer, but the onset of heavy rains delayed materials and the crew until this trip.

Since our facility doesn’t open until January, when it will be possible to travel the roads again, Manyok feels we can part with some beans and rice and powdered milk. We organized a plan with Victor, the clinic pharmacist who oversees supplies at the clinic. It isn’t certain that we will be repaid, but the Lost Boys Clinic has applied for renewal of a World Food Programme grant for just this situation, and they expect it to be renewed by year-end. They will repay the beans and rice with WPF lentils and sorghum—not as desirable, but we might be able to trade the sorghum for rice. This is a life and death situation for these patients, and right now, we’re the only option.

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