Monthly Archives: September 2013

On shelter and fish.

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My youngest daughter enjoying the thrills of being in my jungle hammock.

Yesterday I set up my hammock and mosquito net out in the yard. On our next trip we’ll be staying out in the bush, and I wanted to make sure the rain fly I’d bought would fit over the mosquito net and keep me dry should it rain.  You might be thinking, “You stay in a hammock? Are you nuts?” Well there’s a couple of practical reasons for this, and I would much rather stay in a hammock than any other way when in South Sudan. Even when I stay in a “hotel”, I string up my hammock between the door and the bars on the window.  Cleanliness is one reason. A lot of the beds, when there is one, I’d rather not touch much less sleep in.  The other reason is the heat.  Last time I went it was February, the hottest month of the year, and the temperatures would climb to 42 centigrade during the day. The building bake in the heat all day and continue to release that heat throughout most of the night. Sleeping in a hammock is so much more bearable than sleeping on a mattress. Even a tent seems hot.

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This was the shower and toilet at a hotel in Torit. Note the lack of a seat. It didn’t matter anyway, since there wasn’t any water.

I don’t really like staying in hotels anyway, because if I’m going to interact with people, I’d really rather be staying with the locals than locked away in a hotel. Yes, there are nicer hotels sometimes, but if I am going half way around the world bringing a message of good news, the last thing I want to do is live better than the people I’m going to bring that message to. Too many people have gotten the wrong message that following Christ is about gaining prosperity, when if you’re doing it right, it often means exactly the opposite message. It’s about self-sacrifice and putting your needs second to others and your wants last. There is nothing uglier than a Christian who thinks they’re entitled to anything the world has to offer simply because they’re a Christian.

Which brings me to fish. When we go to South Sudan, the people we stay with are generous even within their poverty and give us their best. This includes fish as they prepare it.

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A woman prepares fish for our meal in the village of Bor, South Sudan.

 

They have really great fish, as they come straight out of the Nile just a mile away. The problem is in the preparation. In the worst case scenario, the fish is left in a pile in the sun for a day or two before it’s eaten, and in the best case scenario it’s simply boiled. The conversation has come up on a few occasions that we need to show them how to take a little flour and some oil and fry up some of those great fish.

My pastor talked yesterday about when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. Even though Jesus was in authority over them, he showed that being a leader means being a servant. That people don’t follow you because you lord your authority over them, but because you will not ask them to do something you yourself are not willing to do.

A problem in South Sudan is in many men’s attitude toward their wives. Regular beatings are a common thing. While I am not by any stretch of the imagination of the though that there are no gender roles as western society is trying to tell us, beatings are not one of these roles.  What I would like to do is have our team cook fish the way we want to do it. This will cause at least some laughter, as men DO NOT cook in South Sudanese society. But then I’d like to go one step further and serve the women first, to show by example that just as we are serving those seen as second class in society, so God sent his son to die for those not worthy to receive that life.  Along the way I’m sure I will learn things about myself and my own society that I overlook, but that God doesn’t want me to overlook anymore.

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A woman grinds grain into flour on a stone.

 

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Introduction to my South Sudan Blog.

The purpose of this particular blog is threefold.  The first reason is out of pragmatism, (facebook is a lousy interface for uploading pictures from an ipad when you’re overseas, as it always seems to crash before a picture can be uploaded.) Secondly,  to keep me on track and keep my mind focused before, during, and after my next trip into South Sudan. Finally this blog is to keep people up to date on my trips and the events that have happened and are happening. I have tried in the past to post some of this information on my photography blog, but I’m afraid the subject matter was becoming too disparate and had too much of a life of it’s own to continue putting it on that blog.

I will try to be as honest as possible with these blogs, except when honesty might endanger someone. In this case I will simply say nothing online rather than tell something untruthful.  For those who don’t understand the previous statement, I would honestly and strongly recommend a trip sometime to the non-western world, where a lot of the assumptions we have about “the way things are” will almost certainly be severely challenged. Furthermore, unless you stick to western hotels and manage to somehow insulate yourself from the state of the people, you will almost certainly learn a lot about yourself.

For those who don’t know me. I am a professional photographer. I deal mainly with wedding photography as a profession, but I also do some journalism, and have had some success at it. I’ve had images in numerous newspapers and national publications, and have even had an image on the cover of the Washington Post. I also regularly have content in a few local publications; Beaufort Lifestyles Magazine, Hilton Head Monthly, and the Beaufort Gazette. Needless to say, I will be putting photography into this blog as much as possible, because that is where my passion lies.

I am not going to rattle on all night about this, and I’ll keep this first blog short and introductory. Tomorrow I’ll talk a little bit about the preparation to go to South Sudan, and also a little bit about what we hope to accomplish there.  For now though, I’ll finish with a few pictures from previous trips.

A boy looks in the window of a polling place.
A boy looks in the window of a polling place shortly before the referendum for independence from North Sudan in December 2010.
An old Dinka woman in the village of Liliir, South Sudan.
An old Dinka woman in the village of Liliir, South Sudan.
A woman carries water in the village of Panwel South Sudan.
A woman carries water in the village of Panwel South Sudan. The people in this village had complained about needing a clinic because they were sick, while the whole time there was foot traffic hauling drinking water from the Nile. A well has since been put in, and I hope to see a decrease in waterborne disease on my next trip.