December 18, 1999
Kenyan Khronicle Third Edition: The View From Home
Hello my family and friends!
I have come out of Africa, and all in one piece, but with some of me missing.† I havenít weighed myself, but I must have lost 10 or more pounds due to the diarrhea that I had for 2 weeks, in the form of amoebatosis.† Those are little critters that invaded my intestines through either the food or water.† But undoubtedly, I will soon gain back what I have lost.† I also took up daily jogging while I was there, with a group of mostly Kenyans, who like to rise at 5:45 each morning to start the day with sweat and hard breathing.† We ran through the refugee camp, which made it interesting.† I donít really like jogging, but this was fun to do it together with a group.† There usually were about 6 of us.† Getting up was never difficult for me, because I was always awake by about 4 or 4:30 anyways.† I donít think my body ever really adjusted to the time difference, because I never sleep a full night.†
Before I go on, I must explain about the email system I had to deal with, because some of you thought I was ignoring you the whole time, and I was, but for good reason.† I drastically shortened my email list to just a fraction of the Albanian list for the following reasons.† 1)† Our only telephone connection was by satellite phone.† These phones cost $5 per minute.† Plus this phone was the only phone for the entire compound of about 150 people, so its use was restricted.† 2)†† I attempted to set up an email list, but after three times typing in all the names and addresses and it still not working, I gave up and asked the secretary to type just a few of the addresses by hand each time.† She was always extremely busy, so I did not feel comfortable asking her to do this more than twice. 3)†† Unlike Albania, I did not have my own personal access to email, and there was no internet at all.† 4)†† I had to type the letter, save it to a floppy, and give it to the secretary so she could attach it to the emails.† I never knew when it went out or if it went out.† 5)†† I also was not certain about the confidentiality of my letters.† When I received an email, it was printed out and delivered to my office, so it could easily have been read on the way.† 6)†† I was also very, very busy.† I set high goals for what I wanted to accomplish, which meant working all day, seven days a week.† I figured, for six weeks, I can work that hard without any ill effects.†† All of these reasons made it quite frustrating for me though, until I let go of what I wanted to happen and accepted what the reality was.† Well, not totally without ill effects.† I think I am suffering now for my over extension.† As soon as I returned to Nairobi (last Tuesday), on my way back here, I got a cold and diarrhea (again).† I think I let down my defenses a bit after the work was done.† Now I am feeling the cold, both temperature and infection types, and the time change jet lag factor.† There is a 9 hour time difference between Minneapolis and Nairobi so even though its only 4:45 PM here, now, to me its 1:45 AM.† But I am trying to stay up as long as possible to get back on the right schedule.
There is so much to tell about, that I donít really know where to start.† I will attach the two khronicle entries that I sent to a very limited number of people, to this email, so that everyone can read them if desired.†
I am very tired, so I will sleep and begin again in the AM.
Hello, Iím back and its early AM (4:30) but I canít sleep anymore, because its really 1:30 PM for me. †
The Sudanese Wedding March
One morning, at about this time, I was awoken by the sound of singing coming from the direction of the camp.† It was beautiful, so I didnít mind being woken up by it.† I just laid in bed and listened to it and pinched myself to make sure I was really here in Africa listening to African singing in its natural setting.† I felt so much gratitude for being able to experience this.† There was drumming also, and both were getting louder and louder as time passed.† It sounded like a very large group of people, and at its peak, it sounded like it was right out side my door, I could hear it so clearly.† I let the voices and the drums wash through me as I laid there, now wide awake and absorbing every note.† The thought passed through that maybe this was a protest march for better living conditions or more food rations in the camp, but I quickly dismissed it.† There was no anger in their voices, only joy and celebration.† Then I listened to it become more distant, as it had begun.† I asked Valentino about it the next day.† Valentino is a Sudanese young man, one of the older ďLost Boys,Ē who lives in the camp and works as a youth leader with LWF (Lutheran World Federation) in the Youth and Culture program.† He said that it was a Sudanese wedding march.† The final celebratory act of a marriage party that began the previous evening.† I told him how much I enjoyed it, and he smiled a big wide smile.†
He then told me that he is painting a picture for me to take back home to the U.S.† He asked me exactly when I was leaving to be sure he would have it finished in time.† And sure enough, the day before I left, he arrived with a painting, all wrapped and ready to travel.† Of course, I had to unwrap it to look at it, while he was there, to share with him my reaction to his work.† It took me aback.† Iím not one who enjoys looking at bloody things, but I instantly understood, after hearing 99 stories of killing and bloodshed, why there had to be bright red blood dripping out of a pitch black shadow figure of the country of Sudan, which was floating in the sky, above the Nile River, which flows through Sudan.† The blood was dripping into the river, discoloring the water, just as Moses did thousands of years ago to win freedom for the Israelites from the Pharaoh.† Valentinoís purpose was the same.† He carefully explained each element in the painting and what each symbolized, to make sure that I could do the same when I showed it to my American friends.† He hopes that me and my American friends will have compassion for the many years of suffering of the Sudanese people and urge the U.S.† government to do something to stop the killing that continues to this day.† An average of 300 Sudanese refugees per week, cross the border into Kenya and are registered at Kakuma Camp,† to escape the bombing and intertribal fighting.† Valentino failed to mention the rainbow that he painted arched over the entire top of the painting.† I asked him about it.† Thatís our hope for a better future, and an end to the fighting, he said.† God gave Noah a rainbow after the flood, as a promise that such destruction of life would not occur again.† There doesnít seem to be such a strong correlation here.† The colors of the rainbow in the painting are dimmed, perhaps by the brooding dark sky around it; perhaps by the lack of action in the past about a civil war thatís so far away and has no strategic interest for the United States, that the lives lost there have less value, than lives lost elsewhere in places of more interest.† Valentino lost his mother and his father and his siblings and his relatives, in this ďinsignificantĒ war.† He has no future that he can envision back in Sudan while the war rages.† He has no future in a refugee camp where it is subsistence living at best.† His hope lies in faraway places like the United States, Canada and Australia, where the rainbowsí true colors are allowed to shine without shame.†††††††††††