We had no idea how many people would actually turn up on Monday. The committee had invited about 60, so we expected about 40, which is the number we needed. Well, come Monday morning, Shilluks started coming as early as 8:00 and they kept coming. We averaged about 60 every day, and for the most part, it was the same 60. Of course, some of the people we had trained for various jobs were NOT the ones who turned up. The first day was vaguely controlled chaos. We spent much of the day of running from group to group to try to help them understand their task (what the Team Leaders SHOULD have known) and to get scribes who could actually write the language. One group had a “scribe” who wrote with a shaky hand, so he was telling someone else how to spell the words. We quickly assessed that method was NOT going to work. Fortunately, my brother Peter is an excellent speller, and so he could take on that role quite quickly. He also helped them understand what they were doing, and in fact, they collected more words than any other group!
The glossers, record-keeper and typists didn’t have much to do until the afternoon of that first day. When folders were finished and brought in, it wasn’t too much effort for the glossers to get the words put into English and handed on to the typists. However, once the groups got going, the glossers were struggling to keep up. On Day One, they groups identified 910 words. On Day Two, they had 1660 and by Day Three, they had over 2000 words in one day. The expected number is more like 1000 per day. Needless to say, the glossers were overwhelmed pretty quickly. They even offered to come in on Saturday to try to catch up! Six of them put in a good half day on Saturday and did make a dent in the stacks of folders. The typists never caught up.
One of the Team Leaders had missed the training, and as he led the team on the first day, he was headed off in a totally wrong direction. We tried to help him understand what he should do, but he was adamant. The group understood, but the leader didn’t, and in this society, what the leader wants is all that matters. So, on Day Two, we asked if he would do glossing and put someone else in as Team Leader. That was a very successful switch, and he has done a great job as a glosser.
One of the ladies was supposed to be my logistics coordinator to take care of the money, numbers coming for meals, transportation, etc. On Day Two, her daughter was ill and she had to stay home. We found a young man to do the logistics and when she returned, she took over as team leader for one of the groups.
Each morning, we met altogether to give feedback on what had been done the previous day. We praised them for what had gone well and gave them suggestions for how to do better. To document how many words had been collected, we had three fields drawn on paper. For every 100 words, we put up one cow. In fact, the person who drew the “cow” for me drew a bull. As the cows began to fill the field, the women were quick to point out that bulls do not reproduce! In spite of that, the “bulls” continued to increase each day.
In the afternoons at 5:00, the power went off and there was a mass exodus of people. So, about 4:30, we started doing send/receive with the keyboarders so that everyone had everyone else’s data for the next day. The last person would do a send/receive to the Language Depot website so that everything was stored in the “cloud”. The record keeper had to give us his final data before he left. Only one day did he go off with his computer without leaving us the data.
We would write down the words the record keeper had recorded during the day. Then we would add to that the number of words written down by groups who had not yet finished their folders. We kept track of those words as well as the domains they had covered. When we added all that together, we knew how many words had been collected that day.
However, they lost words each day as well. When the glossers or keyboarders found words that didn’t belong to the domain or which were repeated, they got crossed out. If the words were just in the wrong domain, they were supposed to add them to a “miscellaneous” list. Christine and I often went through these lists and found the correct domain and once they were added, the numbers started going back up again. In short, the numbers changed every day, so when people arrived in the morning, we tried to have the new numbers up on the board along with the fields of “cows” for them to see. By Tuesday of the second week, they had crossed the 10,000-word goal. Then they seriously started trying for 15,000.
Kevin left us on the Monday of the second week. The Cøllø had become quite fond of him by that time and showered him with praise and gifts. They gave him a white lawø with a green cloth belt and a walking stick. They also brought gifts for his wife and family. For men, the lawø is a traditional cloth tied on the left shoulder. The one for women is usually more colorful and is tied on the right shoulder.
Christine and I were the trainees, so once Kevin had gone, it was up to us to make sure the process continued to run smoothly. That, of course, was the day the record keeper didn’t leave the statistics. However, we managed to finish the second week successfully, though Christine left for Nairobi on Friday morning. That left me as the sole facilitator, but by then, everyone knew what they were doing.
During the last week particularly, we seemed to have a lot of visitors. Two members of Parliament came to visit, and one brought a television crew. They videoed people working and the coordinator and I both made explanations about what we were doing and why. Dr. Lam Akol, a big political leader, also turned up to see what was happening. I had met him many years before in Nairobi. He had challenged me then to pay people for their work. I responded, “You want ME, a woman, to pay for YOU, a man!??” His response to that was, “You people pick your times.”
Well, as he was getting in his car to leave, I said, “I’ve done my part, now it is your turn.” I’m sure the message was not lost on him.
Our last afternoon was taken up with the closing ceremonies. Once again, we had dignitaries, traditional music, speeches and even some dancing. I told people I didn’t want a gift, I wanted one story from each of them. I have 3 so far, 2 from the same person. I hope the others will come soon.
Even after you have done it, it is hard to imagine how a two-hour flight can take you to such a different universe. On Saturday before leaving for Juba, I had my hair cut – or at least that was the intention. I had been hacking around on it for a few months, so wanted to get it evened up. The hairdresser nearly scalped me, so I won’t be needing a trim for some time to come. It was cold and rainy in Nairobi. Apparently no one told the weather that rainy season ended in June! It was so cold, that even I was reduced to wearing socks and a sweater and jeans in the house. It felt wonderful to snuggle under my duvet.
Well, 7:15 a.m. Monday morning, I headed off to the airport. My suitcases were filled primarily with food, but I had managed to squeeze in a few clothes. Once the driver located where FLY540 leaves from, I was able to check in without any problem. I ate a bit of breakfast at the airport – NO coffee! The plane was on time, and the flight uneventful. Having taken off a little after 9:00, we landed in Juba at 11:00.
From the plane, we were directed to a tent where there were a large number of Mongolian UN peacekeepers. We were all waiting to have our temperatures taken. If you didn’t have a fever before you entered the tent, staying in there very long would have given you one. Thankfully, I was pushed to the front of the queue and was cleared. I then trundled into the terminal to see what was next.
Next turned out to be immigration. I was once again directed to a short queue, since I already had my visa. The officer saw on my entry card that I was a linguist, and he indicated an interest in studying linguistics. We had a nice chat, and I even ended up talking about my mother, which he enjoyed. (The story about her not having fingerprints anymore and wanting to become a cat burglar.) Having gotten the necessary stamp, I was directed around a table to identify my luggage. A helpful man put it on the customs desk and I dutifully unzipped it. The customs agent didn’t even look at it, he just said, “We like you. Welcome to South Sudan!”
I was out of the airport so quickly that I had to wait about 10-15 minutes before Richard turned up to meet me. The taxi drivers were eager for my business, but I knew someone would come, so kept putting them off. Indeed, Richard took care of me and in about 15 minutes, we were at the centre. (Yes, that is how they spell it here.)
The center has changed dramatically since I was here in 2013. Where the tukul used to be, there is now a 2-story language program office building with 5 meeting rooms. Perpendicular to that building is a large meeting room with big windows and cross-ventilation and lots of fans. The tukul has been moved down near the old houses, and serves as a great meeting place.
Friends began to emerge from various places: students who had just completed the i-DELTA course, friends I have known for 30 years. Even Tartisio, the guard from when I was looking for Haley’s Comet, remembered me. It was great to see all these friendly faces again and to begin to catch up with them.
I finally met Kevin, the specialist on the Rapid Words workshop. He had arrived on Thursday and found his way around. He had also collected all the papers, books, folders, etc. that I had sent up with others. Some of the things were not done quite right, so he had fixed them. As it was late in the day by the time I had greeted the world and his wife, (a British English expression) and got settled into my “home” for the next 3 weeks, it was about time to find supper.
Kevin, Eileen and I headed out the gate to do a bit of shopping and then go to the local eatery called the Junubu Restaurant. Just as we were walking out the gate, a car came in bringing my friend Clement Mur’ba who had just flown in from Wau to see me. He came along for dinner before settling into his lodgings.
From the main dirt road outside our gate, one can walk down about a block and turn left in order to arrive at the next dirt road. Turning right toward the main tarmac road, in short order you come to a bakery. Their bread is not that great, but as long as you put it in the freezer immediately, it is edible. If you leave it out overnight, it becomes a weapon. A bag of bread is 5 South Sudanese Pounds (SSP). We then found a lady selling bananas, 5 for 10 SSP. We turned back right along the tarmac road to get to “our” dirt road and there is the restaurant. There is also a fairly well-stocked shop on the corner where I found yogurt and some white cheese (the salty kind of feta).
The restaurant is one of the cleaner ones, and I have to say I have not gotten sick, even after eating there on several occasions. Kevin and Clement had the chicken (half a grilled chicken with lentils and bread) while Eileen and I shared an okra dish and a green leafy dish (with kisra). All was very tasty and the portions quite generous. There were no napkins (serviettes), but they had sinks along the side on the outside wall where you could wash your hands before and after you ate. It worked well.
By that time, I was pretty tired and glad to get to my bed. I was put in an apartment built by the Wycliffe Associates that is powered by batteries. Therefore, I have power all night so that I can use my CPAP machine without difficulty. The cold shower felt really good, after the first 90 seconds. It takes that long for your body to cool down enough not to be shocked!
All in all, it was an easy arrival and a good start to this adventure.