We are finally in Doro and have been for about four weeks now! It was such a journey to get here, but we made it! I want to go ahead and apologize for the length of this post, but there's so much to say! Feel free to skim, completely skip, or to read this post in its entirety. So much has happened between leaving Juba and now so we took the time each day to record our experiences.
Getting to Doro:
We were supposed to fly out of Juba to Doro on Wednesday June 8th, but after getting a ride to the airport from personnel at Samaritan's Purse and checking in to our flight along with workers from various other organizations...our flight was canceled. We thought the cancellation was due to rain, but it was actually due to conflict in Maban County, where Doro Refugee Camp is located. This was a huge predicament for us because we had already checked out of our hotel, and our plane tickets through Samaritan's Purse were only good for that day. It had taken so much for us to acquire those tickets after corresponding with many different organizations over the past few months. Moreover, Liasor and Rumthus' family were expecting us that day and were preparing a huge meal for our arrival. They were very disappointed when we told them the news. To top it all off, Rumthus wasn't feeling well at all and hadn't been able to eat so far that day, so we were sufficiently stressed. Luckily, we had arranged for our big suitcases to arrive after us through a separate United Nations (UN) flight, so we only had our carry-on bags to lug around.
We found the same taxi driver who helped us when we first arrived in Juba and he drove us back to our hotel where we checked in for one more night, much to our budget's distress. Rumthus went straight to bed after taking some antibiotics and Liasor and I walked over to the Samaritan's Purse office where we were relieved to get new tickets for the next day and new letters of sponsorship from their staff so that we could board the plane, free of extra charge. (To get this letter, they listed us as missionaries.) We also were able to meet up with Liasor's uncle again and he took us to the bank to get more South Sudanese pounds to spend in Doro. It was excruciatingly hot in Juba that day, so after our errands I was ready to pass out from heat exhaustion and I slept the rest of that day until waking up to leave for Doro the next morning.
The flight to Doro the next day was an hour late, which made us nervous that it would be canceled again. We prayed super hard and finally boarded the small UNHAS plane that would take us to Doro. The whole ride was super turbulent which made me grip Liasor's hand for dear life. Rumthus was in much better health that morning, but she said that the flight caused her stomach to somersault again. Rumthus was so excited to see her family, and I still recall how she stared out the window with great anticipation. Once we landed in Maban County, we had one last hurdle we had forgotten to plan for. Everyone on our plane got off the flight and jumped into UN trucks that drove them off in separate directions, far into the distance. Everyone except us. That's when we looked at each other and said, "how are we getting from this runway to the camp?" Perhaps we should have arranged for a Samaritan's Purse truck to come for us. Either way, we stood there stumped, until a gentleman walked up and told us in Arabic that he had been sent to take us to Rumthus' family in Doro Camp. I was very thankful for Rumthus' Arabic speaking abilities and the bit that Liasor still has, as they determined that this man was telling the truth. The question still remained though, how were we getting to Doro? Walking? The gentleman motioned to a few of his friends with motorcycles, and we rode away to Doro on the backs of their bikes.
It was both exhilarating and terrifying, riding through the reddish dirt of Maban, taking in the sights and the greenery. The weather was so much cooler than in Juba, and a refreshing breeze followed us throughout our ride.
Doro At Last:
Finally, oh finally, after having set out from Toronto 5 days before, we arrived at Doro Refugee Camp. We first sat and had tea with a gentleman who is the leader of the Uduk people in Doro (the commissioner). He greeted us and discussed the current state of the camp and the Uduk people living there, speaking in T'wampa, Arabic, and English.
Then, like out of a dream, a couple of Rumthus' siblings walked up to see her. The reunion was very emotional. Her siblings led us to the part of the camp where the rest of her family was and the next hours were full of embracing and tears. I met so many people and tried my hardest to remember names but had to ask again and again over the next few days. I felt so humbled to be a part of this emotional reunion for Rumthus, but a part of me also felt that Liasor's siblings should be here instead of me; that they should also share in this moment with their mom.
It's been so great meeting so many people in Liasor's extended family and seeing how connected they are and how emotional Liasor and Rumthus have been for all relatives both close and distant. Being here has made me reflect on my own experiences and family and wonder why my heart isn't as pressed by not being closer to my extended family. I realized that my family (including those far removed) isn't any smaller than Liasor's, but perhaps I could do more work to be better connected to everyone. For some reason it seems so much more difficult in the States. But that's something for further reflection this summer.
Before coming to Doro, Liasor collected pictures from Uduk families living in the USA (in New York, Michigan, Utah, Nebraska, Arizona) and from families in Canada. Here in Doro, relatives of these families have traveled to where Rumthus' family stays to retrieve these pictures and gifts. Liasor also brought pictures of his siblings and dad, and I shared pictures of my family as well. Everyone has been so welcoming to me, and I feel at home with the family. Liasor warned me that I would be a celebrity for a few weeks, which I was nervous about because I don't like too much attention. And he was right. So many kids from around Doro have come to take a peek at this strange new person (me) who is staying with Rumthus' family. They've come and watched when I brush my teeth and when I head to the bathroom, which has been very uncomfortable for me, but I recognize I'm new in the camp. I wave and smile at all the interested children to show them that at least I'm a nice stranger.
Liasor's cousins and a few other family members came together a few months ago when they found out we were coming and built us a beautiful clay home similar to the others in the camp. They put so much work into our house, painting the outside and decorating the inside like a princess fairytale. There are cutout flowers adorning the ceiling and the mosquito net around my bed is a frilly, pink tented net. Rumthus and Liasor have nice white mosquito nets around their beds. The words "Welcome" are written in chalk on the wall, and the metal roof keeps the rain out. We also have a big front door with a lock and key that bolt shut when we leave out. I love our home!!!! It's so cute and comfortable. The only uncomfy part is that sometimes it gets really hot inside, which makes it hard to sleep at night. Our house is so secure, but has less ventilation than some of the other homes. It has finally started raining more (the rain came late this year) which has cooled down our abode.
During rainy season, it starts getting dark early on in Maban County, around 7:30pm. Every evening here, once dark, there's a bonfire and everyone living in our area (mostly family) comes and sits around talking, telling stories, laughing, and singing. It's my favorite time of day. I've seen more stars during this time than I've ever seen in my whole life. I must look like a child staring up at the sky for hours in awe. I wonder if this experience is similar to what my father and his brothers witnessed growing up in the countryside of Selma, Alabama in the USA. Every now and then I experience things that are reminiscent of what my father has described from his childhood.
On one of our first nights around the bonfire, a huge group of children gave me a hymn book with songs in T'wampa, and taught me a lot of them. Liasor also joined in and helped teach me. It was such a great, special moment. Liasor and I also taught the kids a worship song in English, because according to Liasor, at church the next day the pastor would ask us to say a few words and sing a song for everyone. So we chose the song "Amazing Love, How Can It Be". We taught it to the kids and recorded it for them on our iPad so they could practice. They were all excited to sing it with us at our first church service three Sunday's ago, but of course I got sick that morning and Rumthus stayed home to take care of me. So only Liasor went to church, and I was so disappointed. I could hear the Uduk choir singing from my house that morning. Many people here sing with beautiful multi-part harmonies so maybe by the end of this summer I'll be one step closer to being able to harmonize. Liasor has been trying to teach me to harmonize for the past 4 years and still I struggle.
Two Sundays ago I finally made it to church and we were called to sit up front in the pulpit to greet everyone and sing a song in English, like Liasor predicted. We decided to sing a different song than we had planned - we chose "How Great Is Our God" - so Rumthus could join with a song she knew. That Sunday was also Father's Day and there was a huge celebration after service. We celebrated all the special men in our lives and Liasor's cousins had taken me to buy a gift for him at the market. I bought matching necklaces for us and gave it to him in front of everyone in the church (we made a huge circle full of clapping, and one by one ladies, young and old, went in the middle to present gifts to their fathers, brothers, lovers, and sons). Later that day, I also got to call my dad which was special.
The next day, there was another big celebration for World Refugee Day. The festivities were held in the distribution area and many people came out from all over the camp.
My biggest struggle, as expected, is language. Quite a few people speak English especially leaders in the community, children who've learned it in school, and Liasor's cousins who are looking after us. But, of course, as should be the case, the family mainly uses T'wampa, the Uduk language. It has been a challenge missing out on funny jokes and on important discussions, but that has been more motivation for me to continue learning and to put to use the bit of T'wampa I already know from spending time with Liasor's family in Rochester, NY. Learning a language, especially through immersion, can be exhausting though, so as much as I hate naps I've become a regular napper here. My knowledge of Spanish has been helping me A LOT because both Spanish and T'wampa have a lot of Arabic in them! (A great portion of Spain was once under Islamic Caliphate rule and T'wampa has borrowed quite a few words from the Arabic in this region). So there are many similar words in Spanish and T'wampa by way of Arabic. It's the coolest thing and I've been having a lot of nerdy language moments while in Doro so far. Ahh, so much happiness.
Okay, humor me. Here are two examples:
The word "soap":
The word "sugar":
Both Spanish and T'wampa have directly borrowed vocabulary from Arabic!! Liasor, who also speaks Spanish, once mentioned that it was a lot easier for him to learn Spanish than English when he first moved to the USA, and not just because of similar vocabulary, but also because of similar grammatical structures. I've also noticed some aspects of the grammar that are very similar to French too! I'm smiling right now from sheer language nerd excitement. I told Liasor all this, and he was like, "yeah that's great, languages are connected". Haha. But it's so much deeper ahh!
But yeah I'm trying to learn T'wampa, and it can be easy to feel left out at times since I don't know a lot of the language at this point. But I know if I'm diligent, it'll come little by little. So while I sometimes miss out on conversations, Liasor and Rumthus have been absolutely amazing about translating for me when they can.
Background on the Situation in Doro:
The people here always mention that Doro is not their home, of course, since they were pushed out of their homes and have lived in and out of various refugee camps over the past few decades due to wars within Sudan, between the two nations of Sudan and South Sudan and then the civil war in South Sudan. The original home of the Uduk, the Blue Nile State, they can no longer live in because in 2011 when Sudan split into two counties (Sudan and South Sudan) the border was drawn without taking the Uduk people's home into account, maybe because they are a minority group and didn't have a voice in the border decision. So the Blue Nile region remained within Sudan (north) and not a part of the new nation of South Sudan. That's why the Uduk people are considered refugees in their own country of South Sudan, and not just "internally displaced people's" (IDPs), which is the title given to people displaced within their own country.
Thus, the Uduk homeland is now in a different country, although they identify as South Sudanese. There are Uduk people still living in various refugee camps in Ethiopia as well. The elders here told us that the homeland, the Blue Nile, is only about a three hour drive from Doro Camp. Some of the Uduk people have walked back to the Blue Nile to cultivate their fertile land in order to supplement the small rations given by organizations in Doro. But in Blue Nile they are apparently being bombed by people in Sudan (north) for "illegal immigration" to that area. (We actually heard the bombs in Blue Nile the other day.) So alternately, the Uduk people have tried to cultivate on the land in Maban County where Doro is located to supplement their food rations, but there is great tension between the Maban people and the Uduk, and apparently the Maban don't want the Uduk cultivating on their land, let alone living in Doro which is on their property. Many Uduk people said they have been attacked when they try to plant and collect wood outside of Doro in Maban County. There are small areas within Doro Camp where the Uduk can cultivate, but people have said that it's not enough, which has led to the current food crisis. The rations from the organizations are small and there's nowhere to plant and grow food to supplement. Of course, there are many sides to any story so we look forward to talking more to the many different stakeholders in this issue.
Life is difficult here in the refugee camp, especially because of the food crisis. Before coming, we read news articles and heard from family members that people are eating grass due to the food crisis. Now, we have experienced firsthand the stew that families make from the wild plants growing here that normally aren't used for eating. This stew supplements all our meals. Moreover, we've learned that it's difficult for people to buy food from the market because of a scarcity of jobs in the camp. We made sure to contribute our personal funds to help feed Rumthus' family and ourselves during the entirety of our stay, so that our visit doesn't drain any more resources.
Which leads me to updates on our exploratory project for Uduk Hope Inc.
Uduk Hope Inc. Updates
As you recall, Uduk Hope Inc. is an NGO started by Uduk members living in the United States interested in supporting their communities living in refugee camps. Within our first few days in Doro, we already held four focus groups!! For those who aren't familiar, focus groups are like guided conversations for research (like group interviews). One of Liasor's cousins has great connections in Doro, so we sat down with him to make an outreach plan for our Uduk Hope research, and within hours he told us he had three focus groups set up for us, and a fourth came a few days later. So far we held a focus group with church leaders and elders, another with young men, another with young women, and a fourth with elder women. About 20-30 people came for each one, and 60 women came to the last one! The church played a huge part in getting people to come out by disseminating information about the focus groups to everyone. The discussions have been incredibly powerful. We've only been able to talk to Uduk people so far, so hopefully we'll be able to talk to people from the seven other communities in the camp, as well as with Maban leaders who are part of the host community. Doro is divided into three sections (A, B, and C); the Uduk live in C and that's where we are staying, while the other seven communities are within A and B. As mentioned, the camp is nestled right within Maban county so the Maban people live all around Doro, outside the camp. Nevertheless, Maban people hold the majority of leadership positions within the organizations in the camp, which is also causing tension. Liasor and I have decided to write a joint report after our time here because we learned so much already in our focus group conversations. We'll share the findings from these conversations at the very end of our trip. The information we gathered from these discussions will definitely affect the conversations we hope to have with each of the organizations here in the camp.
Liasor attended a huge food distribution two weeks ago where he was able to connect with a few of the organizations that operate here. The next day, he took me to the food distribution area as well and it was a very impactful experience. There were so many people lined up who had been waiting for over 5 hours for the humanitarian organizations to pass out food and various other supplies. One of the supply trucks didn't arrive so after all those hours of waiting, quite a few people were turned away and told to come back the next day. We got to speak with many people waiting in line, and we also got to speak with officials from the UNHCR (the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), DRC (Danish Refugee Council), and Samaritan's Purse. Many people asked us which organization we were with and it still felt new to me to say Uduk Hope. One staff member of Samaritan's Purse mentioned that with the increased refugee crisis around the world, all organizations are feeling a pull on their resources, and food provisions in Doro have consequently decreased by 30%. It was hard walking through the distribution area seeing people who had been waiting for hours, knowing that we were just passing through. I'm still processing that experience and thinking over the challenges of living in a refugee context. We ran into a few of Liasor's family members there at the distribution, which was also tough but led to great conversations.
We got to meet with the commissioner again, who is the leader of the Uduk people in Doro, and told him more about Uduk Hope. He shared so much wisdom with us and we took copious notes. We talked a lot about education and teacher training, and we discussed many of the challenges including choosing a curriculum, deciding on the language of instruction, figuring out certification and teacher salary, and confronting the challenges of teacher retention, all while knowing that Doro is a refugee camp meaning that it is not permanent and at any point the people could move to another context in a different nation where all of the aforementioned decisions will have a huge impact. But we keep in mind that although refugee camps are not permanent, the current average life of a camp is around 17 years, which is a good portion of a child's schooling years. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation with the commissioner and he expressed great excitement to hear of Uduk Hope, especially since it was conceived and started by other Uduk communities.
We also met with the governor of Upper Nile State (the region that we're in), and we were so thankful to the commissioner who set up that meeting. Liasor spoke very eloquently about the work of Uduk Hope and his passion for supporting his people here. I also got to share a few words, which were translated into Arabic. The governor gave his approval for the work of Uduk Hope and expressed his happiness that Uduk families in the USA have come together in this way to offer support to people in Doro. To formally operate in Doro, Uduk Hope needs permission from the CRA (Commissioner for Refugee Affairs) and also the United Nations High Commisioner for Refugees (UNHCR). But for now, we are happy that the governor knows what we are trying to do and approves of it. We also had a similar meeting with the commissioner of Maban County.
In the past seven days, we've had two big breakthroughs. Our biggest breakthrough was a meeting with the director of CRA (Commissioner for Refugee Affairs), our first organization! The CRA is a part of the South Sudanese government and oversees all organizations in the refugee camps in South Sudan. This organization even oversees the UNHCR. The meeting went incredibly well and the director (who is one of Liasor's childhood friends) promised to set up more meetings for us with all of the organizations in the camp. This was huge! The director also described to us the process to have Uduk Hope operate in Doro, which may require an additional trip to Juba to complete the necessary organizational paperwork. We are still discussing how to get that paperwork done in Juba. Please pray for guidance as we move forward meeting with various organizations through the director of the CRA and as we decide whether one of us should fly back to Juba to complete legal documentation for Uduk Hope to operate in this country. There is a possibility that Liasor's contacts in Juba may be able to acquire the paperwork for us so I'm praying for that alternative.
The second breakthrough was a meeting we had with a grassroots organization called Youth Peace Initiative, formed by 7 people from the different groups present in Doro. The organization is focused on youth development and their projects are aimed at 4 refugee camps where people from the Blue Nile are living (Doro, Jindrasa, Batil, and Kaya camps). This meeting was very fruitful and allowed for a lot of idea sharing. We are looking into ways to potentially establish a partnership with this group.
Apart from our meetings, we are also preparing to use the funds we raised through GoFundMe to buy and provide food for as many families in Doro as we can. We are still determining the best, most fair, and most far-reaching way to do so. We'll keep everyone updated on how the funds will be used.
Besides starting our research, these four three weeks have been focused on connecting with family and getting to know people, which hasn't left us with much free or personal time, but for the best reasons possible. I'm so overjoyed that we get this time with family and that Rumthus has had the chance to catch up after so many years. She told me she's now emotionally exhausted from meeting with so many people, but she also seems content.
I've said a lot, so I've asked Liasor and Rumthus if they want to share anything here through the blog space. Liasor's thoughts are written below:
I hardly have time to make sense of all the different emotions that go on in my heart and mind. At all times there are a few thoughts that consistently dominate my mind. The primary ones are: our safety, drinking water, and location. These are important for their own reasons. On any given day we could go to someone's house, a different church, a community meeting or an NGO meeting. That is one part of my daily equation. I imagine Christine and my mother have their own equations. The other parts are my extended family asking me for what I don't have, which makes me very sad, learning new things that I should retain, my personal health and logistics for everything.
I'm continually amazed at how much people want to be part of this venture of Uduk Hope Inc. For example, in about an hour's time we were able to organize three full focus groups on our first week. Three full groups of 20-30 people from all the villages/groups of the Uduk people. And then a fourth focus group of 60 people the following week! The church leadership is prepared to help us in any way, and this is true of the commissioner who is in charge of the Uduk people here. We have met with the commissioner about four times already and plan on meeting with him many more times because we have better access when he is around and he is willing to do that with us. So far we have explained to people through the church and our commissioner the purpose of our visit and have begun meeting with groups in order to better understand needs and context. The remainder of the work will depend solely on us because we control our own schedule. Sometimes that is difficult because we don't know at all times who we should be meeting with. An example of this is our recent knowledge that other organizations exist that were not listed on the United Nations Doro Camp website. The most important of which is CRA, which is the Commission for Refugee Affairs. Without their permission, no organization would be active here, not even the UNHCR. It would have been really nice to know this information before coming here. Nevertheless, we work with what we have and it is not a detrimental condition. The Lord has been good to us. At this very moment, I am experiencing some sort of stomach ache. I thought after my mother and Christine had gone through their own individual stomach issues, I had gotten away without one of my own. I am pretty sure that I will get over it soon, Lord willing.
There are so many things happening here. We have learned some very important things in our focus groups that help explain the current food crisis. The food crisis would normally end at around the beginning of July when many people's personal crops produce fruit. But this year, with a couple of limitations, I fear that it will continue. On the part of the bigger organizations, funding continues to be a problem and affects the local community gravely. I got a chance to visit the distribution center the other day. Normally there are two locations but because of recent conflicts, all of the ethnicities excluding the Maban are being serviced in one place. This month, there was a week long delay in the distribution of oil and beans as part of their regular distribution package. Salt has not been distributed for many years. Distribution is for a month long basis, meaning that the food is expected to last for a full month, though depending on family size it usually lasts about two weeks. We will be getting the exact measurements later on. The general rule for distribution is, as I have heard, based on family size. If there is someone who lives by his/herself they get very small portions. According to the commissioner, these people most likely already borrowed what they need to survive during other months so that when they receive their portions, they have to return it to the person from whom they borrowed.
Rainy season is actually nicer than we thought. On the days when it does not rain, we pray hard for it. The level of hot that it gets here is too much. In Rochester, we would say, but it's dry heat right? No humidity? Then it's not that bad. This is a big lie people. Dry heat is not fun either especially when it is in the 100 degrees Fahrenheit and higher. But recently, within the last couple of days, it has been very cool. Our hot clay mud house, which looks very nice, has been perfect. We pray it continues to be like that in the coming weeks. I am foreseeing some difficulties in our last days here though with flying out if rain is at its highest point. All we would need to fly out is one dry day. Let us pray and hope that it is the 15th of August.
Let me mention a little more about our work.
When I started writing my portion of this post, it was on the first week, now on this part of the paragraphs, it is about the third week. We recently completed our meeting with CRA. A close friend of mines from childhood is one of the leaders of CRA. He briefly moved to the USA to complete his BA in Chicago. This meeting was very fruitful. We learned about the NGO registration process, options of partnering with an organization or starting our very own office, legal documentation and more. It turns out that we need a Certificate of Incorporation from the South Sudan government in order to operate within South Sudan as an entity. This certificate is to be applied for at the Ministry of the Interior in Juba and it takes about two to four days. Along with this, Uduk Hope Inc. would need to open two bank accounts in Juba. One with South Sudanese Pounds and the other with USD. When we have our certificate, we can choose to partner or do our own thing and choose whatever location we want to be in. Today is July 1st. When I began this paragraph it was the 30th of June. On this first day of July, we met and will have a second meeting with the commissioner of Maban County which is a big deal. Our UNHCR and CRA contact Yawusa Daud has made possible many connections for us along with the commissioner and is making his vehicle available to us as well for meeting with those contacts.
Now Christine says that she has never seen me laugh so much in my whole life. So it will be good to list a couple of things that make me happy here.
Despite an incredible amount of need both in my family and the community at large, there are things that make me very happy. I know that I will be missing some for sure, so don't forget to ask me again later when I get to the States.
Family: I am seeing a lot of the same faces that I saw in 2010 when I visited Blue Nile. All the little cousins are now teenagers and I am seeing people for the first time ever that are both young and older in my family. But a lot of the joy that I experience has to do with how my mother interacts with her older sister and many brothers and their kids. These are family members that she has not seen in 18 years, and others since 1985 when the Civil War started in Sudan. Words can't express how happy everyone is to see their older sister/aunty Rumthus. They ask her, you haven't changed your name have you? How did you get so thick? You still speak T'wampa right? At the same time, many kids call her and Christine Ethiopian. A second thing that makes me happy is seeing Christine's incredible effort to speak T'wampa. All the ladies in the family love hearing her speak it and learn it with them. Christine was so excited one day when she learned to say, " I am going to shower" that she ran to my mother to tell her and got caught by the hair on a thorny tree. I know I shouldn't have laughed but that was so funny to me and she was laughing too so I can say, I am laughing with you, not at you. Thirdly, I usually make it my business to play soccer wherever the Lord takes me on this earth. I have enjoyed learning new skills and playing with the Chali team here with a group of young men that are very good at playing team soccer. Though I feel beat up by the heat and new conditions, I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. Lastly, I can't help but plan potential projects for Uduk Hope Inc. for future references in light of everything that we are learning. We are blessed with good health, we are eating well, we are safe and just tomorrow July 2nd, our family will throw us a huge party. These are some things that constantly bring me joy as well as living the simple life without the complexity that development brings.
Christine and I transcribed my mom's perspectives below:
There are a lot of things...people are very hungry and people don't have anything to wear. There are a lot of things...it's not easy for me.
Favorite moments: Seeing my sister and brothers and all the family that I miss. That was my favorite time, but at the same time there were tears.
Hopes for the rest of the time here: I just hope they can get something, like they can have something to help them. I hope they can have something to eat, but it will not happen. I'm happy to see my sister and brothers and my brothers' wives and all of the family that I left for a long time. I'm happy to see them even though it's very hard for me to see them naked. I'm still happy because I'm seeing them.
I hope when we come back to the United States, there will be something greater than before to help the kids here. The kids are running around because they don't have anything to hold them together. I think it would be very helpful if we do something to give a little money for the teachers to keep them in school. Like a daycare. Because those are the things that I know. If kids have something to do, I don't think they would run around like this and do crazy things like this. I wish that I could help them right now, but I can't. It's just too much. Even my sister's kids, I can't help them the way I want. It's not enough for them.
Christine Speaking Again:
As Liasor mentioned, on June 2nd, which was this past Saturday, the family and community held a huge gathering for us to celebrate life, family, and joy even amidst hardship. Exactly 619 people came out to join in the celebration! We will be sure to provide pictures and videos either in the next post or at the culmination of our time here.
Before ending this post, I want to add that our experiences in Doro are only representative of our experiences in Doro and nothing more. Our experiences aren't representative of all of South Sudan or Sudan, and definitely not representative of every country in the African continent. I think it's important to highlight this point - that our experiences are not the "African experience" - because there is no single experience of such a diverse continent. There are places on the African continent that are much bigger with faster growing economies than my hometown, and there are places with completely different climates, cultures, pastimes, industries, histories, opportunities, challenges, stories than what we will see in Doro. Even what we experience in Doro isn't exactly representative of what we would see if the Uduk people were home in Blue Nile, not living as refugees. Our experiences are also not representative of every refugee situation, as each context will have differences, although some challenges may be salient. I just add this disclaimer, as we don't want to cast dangerous and reductive generalizations of anyone or anything.
I'm not sure when I'll post again because our internet situation is unpredictable at best, but I hope to write more soon. Thank you as always for the prayers and support.
Christine, Liasor, and Rumthus