Friday, July 25, 2014

Can we safely recycle human feces in a developing country SD

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Mark: A Novel of Dinka in the Time of War. Available for a short time free in Kindle format

For four days starting July 12, the Kindle edition of The Mark: A Novel of Dinka in the Time of War will be offered by Amazon for free. Please share and forward this link.


Jeff Deal

The Mark: A Novel of Dinka in the Time of War. Available on Amazon.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Where are good places to donate money?

I am often asked about nonprofits that we can trust to manage donations well. I have attached links to three that deserve support.
Palmetto Medical Initiative. Providing quality medical care at facilities in Uganda, Nicaragua, and starting one in Burundi.
Living Water Community Transformation. Working in Akot Sudan and likely to assume control of the abandoned Akot Medical Mission. They primarily manage a local school and an agricultural project and I know could use some help as they take on the medical needs of this very marginalized group.
Water Missions International. Their international headquarters is here in Charleston and they have ten country programs providing water treatment and sanitation to developing regions.
I know enough about all three of these organizations to recommend support.
Of course, I love Samaritan's Purse and some other larger organizations. But these tend to be very well funded and already well known. The three above are relatively hidden jewels.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Notes on life and death in the Meningitis Belt of Africa. We will always remember Kuot.

Paul and Rose Kuot are amazing Sudanese Christians that love the people of Akot-- often taking in the destitute and abandoned. Their oldest son is named Kuot, which means, Sour Pumkin. There is nothing sour about them. The photo below is their home.
Hart gave Kuot a copy of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe once. He lit up and asked "Is this a book about God?" Hart explained that this was a book about how God might have been in a world like the one the author imagined. He read the book many times, often out loud to nearby children. Soon they all knew the story.

This area is in a region sometimes called "the Meningitis Belt of Africa," because of the cyclic epidemics that sweep through the area. I was in one and it was bad. When Kuot died suddenly of meningitis, we were devastated. I wrote a single email to around a dozen people describing the need for $35,000 in order to vaccinate the village and surrounding areas. Within weeks, we had exactly that much. When my two daughters came with me with a group of medical students we vaccinated around 9,000 people-- all in the midst of another regional war with soldiers and fighting all around. I have never been more proud of a group of young people in my life. The next time the epidemic swept the area there was a blank spot on the epidemiology maps around our village-- an amazing thing. One epidemiologist estimated that 127 children survived the next epidemic because of their work.
While there doing the vaccines, we held a memorial service for Kuot, hoping to encourage his parents that he did not die in vain and that neither we nor God had forgotten him. It was the hardest thing I ever did.
Rose wrote me the letter below.
 It is now one of most cherished possessions.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Unedited description from a Dinka about Dinka beliefs regarding life after death.

 Dead are not Dead :

According to the Dinka culture especially Agaar Dead people are considered alive after death.The spirit
of deceased person of the remained family is said to live after he or she had died.

They believe that there is world of the dead and the ghost will still visit the remain alive  family.
At night the ghost may visit with the other group who died long ago.
If the deceased was unmarried young man or young lady.
He | she can get married to his | her wife .This can be done by one of the relative who is alive.

The father ,uncles and the rest of the relatives proposed a girl to be married to the ghost.
When they have all agreed for the girl,the whole clan visit the girl family and declared to  the girl and
the parents that they come to marriage their girl for the ghost.

After the negotiation, the clan came back for collecting cows for marriage.
The girl will know very well that when she get married to that man who is a kinsman ,she will stay with
him like a widow.The children born to her are call for the dead person.

Even the children will call the man who born them their uncle or any kind of the  relation he has with
the ghost.

The man  can marriage his own wife again.The children which can be produce by the second lady will
be for the man because she is his wife.

According to the Dinka belief to the ghost, is that if the younger person to the ghost marriage his own
wife forgetting the ghost ,the ghost will kill the children.
The ghost will start attacking the family saying that the line of family order is cut.

Let,s  me say if someone elder brother died and the younger brother ignored the deceased
person,the ghost will kill the children or cause some of the children to be  abnormal.
According to their beliefs,a man can marriage for his dead brother, father,s uncle, father,s aunt ,
father,s sister, father,s   brother  ,mother,s  brother.
A man can,t marriage  for  his sister,s son.
This is because they don,t want another clan to marriage for another clan.
But for the case of mother,s brother,they valued the son of  a sister to the dead person to marry for
the uncle.

If you marry for the mother,s brother the children are belong to the clan of your
Mother,s brother.Even if the girls you have produced got married ,you will be given small portion just
like two or three cows.
And the whole dowry belong to the clan of your mother.

After the children grown up they joint their clan most especially boys.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Interview with the man who cut off the ears of some Atuot girls in order to start a war. He has now repented of this action and works as a police office. Interesting story in my original notes form.

Interview with Akec Bilal (Gabrial)
Akec was born in Akot. He is not certain of his age. When we asked when he got the marks (scars of manhood ritual), he replied that it was in 1973. In the area of Akot, most youth get their marks at age 15. We believe, therefore, that he was 20 years old when the incident described here occurred. He said that for as long as he can recall, there has been tensions between the Atuot and Agar. He and several other interviewees, however, recall only 4 incidences between 1975 and the present (2005).
In 1975 "a man went to fish at the lake where the Atuot also fish. The Atuot beat the man, but did not kill him.
Why did they beat him?
“The Atuot were fishermen and the Agaar man went to fish.”
The man was Akec's brother. It “annoyed” him. He looked for some Atuot on which he could take revenge, the the Atuot would not come out of their territories where they could be attacked. Three years after the events that took place on the lake, Akec found 5 girls in the forest. He caught one of them and cut off her ear. He denies doing anything else to this girl or to the others.
 When the girl returned home, the Atuot “were annoyed and blew the whistle and beat the drums to call the people to war.” They organized themselves to attack the Agaar with spears, sheilds, clubs, and bows and arrows. The Agaar were similarly armed except that the Agaar had no bows and arrows. Neither side possessed firearms. The Atuot came to the Agaar town of Akot with their warriors. Many people were displaced at that time from their ancestral lands near the border, including the translator (Mayam- Gordon). His family has never returned to their lands and now live nearer Akot.
The Agaar knew the Atuot were coming and prepared for them.
How did you know they were coming?
“Because I cut off the girl's ear.”
Did you know cutting off the girl's ear would start a war?
“Yes, but my brother was beaten. That is why I did it. I wanted to generate a war.”
According to Akec, 32 Agaar and 32 Atuot were killed in the war of 1978. Another 12 on each side were wounded. The exact equal distribution of the casualties raised unanswerable questions regarding the accuracy of the data.
The war stopped when the government troops and police intervened. They arrested all the people who had killed anyone (34 total) and put them in prison. Akec was among those imprisoned. They all spent 5  years in prison (1978-1983). Alec was released when he was taken before a court and made to pay a fine of 9 cows. His uncle paid the fine. Normally, the fine for murder is 31 cows, but that only applies to Atuot-on Atuot killing or Agaar on Agaar killing. Akec says that “prison was bad. Bad food. That is why I am still so skinny.”
Akec knew of another incident in 2003 where Majur Mayam (Atuot) was killed by an unkown person. The Atuot blamed the Agar and took revenge.
Presently, Akec works as a police officer in Akot. He has a wife and 5 children. He converted to Christianity in 1991 after encountering a Kawaja[1] missionary from the ECS (Episocopalian Church of Sudan). He now attends a small Baptist congregation in Akot. He says what he did was very wrong. He would not do it now because he is now a policeman.
Also, the Atuat “are our brothers as there is no river between us.”
The phrase “there is no river between us” was also used by Martin Majok in during his interview. It appears the phrase has both a geographic usage (there literally is no river or natural boundary between the Agaar and the Atuot territory) and a metaphorical meaning. In using it, the speaker appears to mean that there exists no tangible reason that the Agaar and the Atuot cannot consider themselves one people. In fact, there was a referendum in 2004 on just such a move. The referendum was to politically consolidate the Atuot and Agaar as one county. The referendum failed by a large margin.

[1] Traditionally a term for Europeans, the label Kawaja is often used for any non-Dinka and non-Arab. Most often, it is translated “White Man,” but the author has seen the term used of other black Africans (Kenyans and Ugandans) who are usually of lighter skin color.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Day I Touched Jesus. Notes on South Sudan

The Day I Touched Jesus

Jeffery L. Deal, MD, FACS, MA, DTMH

From Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics, Volume 2, Number 2, Fall 2012, pp. 81-84.10.1353/nib.2012.0051

She deserved better. They all do.
I met her early on a morning that promised to be hot and wet, as Sudan tended to be at that time of year. Hot all the time. Hot and wet in the summers. I touched her for the briefest of moments, felt her leg move against my hand and caught a fleeting glimpse of a foot that was barely the size of my fingertip.
Her twin brother was born eight hours earlier, somewhere around midnight. The birth attendants managed the delivery as well as could anyone in the same situation. The last time I had attempted to manage such a problem delivery was almost twenty years earlier when I had been a Navy Lieutenant fresh out of my surgical internship on temporary assignment to a Marine Corp battle group in the Philippines. On that deployment, a corpsman brought me to a grass hut where a woman who looked barely more than a child herself labored against a breach delivery. I spent the day examining her while her family brought me things to eat that I do not believe should be eaten. After six hours of no progress, I radioed for a helicopter to take her to Clark Air Force base where they had operating rooms and obstetricians. In South Sudan, we had no such resources.
My oldest daughter, a premed student at the time who had worked with me in Sudan on other occasions, sat in the corner with her classmates and watched as I put my hand inside the Dinka mother. She was a large, robust woman who sweated profusely and occasionally caught her breath, but otherwise seemed unmoved by the pain of delivery. Fluids gushed over my gloved hand and the students gasped. I felt the baby’s leg retract slightly as if she resented my intrusion. I could not get past her hip and she was wedged tightly in the uterus. I had some medicines that were used to hasten delivery and, not really knowing if it was the right thing to do, I gave the mother some through her IV. Still I could not dislodge the child. I told the students and birth attendants that we would give her one hour while I rounded on the other patients in our remote and poorly equipped clinic. If she did not deliver by that time we would take her to a facility run by a Catholic relief agency several hours drive from us-- a drive that due to war, weather, or mechanical problems we could not always complete.
I saw the rest of the patients in a hurry while browsing through all of the medical texts and the few books we kept at the clinic. This child’s only hope of surviving was for her mother to have a cesarean section, and as quickly as possible. After determining that none of our other patients were in imminent danger, we loaded the mother, the first born twin, and the grandmother into our vehicle for the long ride. One of the medical students who at the time of this writing was completing her residency in obstetrics and gynecology asked me if I shouldn’t pray for the woman while we drove. I felt guilty for not praying out loud without being prompted, so I reached back and placed my hand on the mother’s abdomen and prayed while I drove. I felt a slight movement that I could not be sure was not the mother or the road, but I believe to this day was the child again. I would not feel her again. I drove as fast as the rough, bomb-cratered dirt road allowed.
Mother and unborn child were doing well when we finally arrived three hours later. I knew the facility and many of the workers so I drove past the guard and directly to the obstetrics ward. Two nurses rushed out to meet us with a gurney and whisked the patient into a delivery room, a dusty place of peeling paint and old, powerless lights. They told us the surgeon was nearby and that they would take care of her. The rest of us left to find something to eat and to purchase supplies. We were gone for a couple of hours. When we returned, we found the head nurse.
“The baby has died,” she told me with a professional mask of seriousness. “We felt the baby’s leg and thought we could make the delivery. The child died while we were working.”
We asked to see the mother and were taken to the ward next door. The mother we had worked with so hard sat upright in the bed with a sheet over her lower body. Amazingly, she still did not look tired. Her Dinka name, my wife reminds me, was Adut which means “Replacement.” It is a name given to the next child born after the firstborn dies. Adut cradled the twin brother in one arm and stroked his cheek. The mother nursed the child and gazed at him with the look that only a mother can have—one of love, adoration, and hope. My daughter stood beside me while we spoke briefly to the nurse and to the mother. Adut did not seem troubled that we did not save her other baby and was content with the life she held to her breast. I had feared she would hold our failure, my failure, against us. When my daughter and her friends had left, I asked the nurse a question to which she responded, “It was a girl.”
I kept my face turned from the others as I got into the truck.
The ride back was mostly silent and seemed to take forever. Darkness had fallen over the flat land by the time we made it back to our tent camp. We all drank our filtered water, spoke encouraging words to one another, and went to rest for the coming day.
I have worked through epidemics of cholera, malaria, and meningitis where we lost scores of people each week and those hard days remain a distant and yet troubling memory. Something about the one, tiny being I encountered that day haunts me in ways that I cannot easily explain.
How low can a person be when she can die having never been held? Never been stroked or fed by someone who loves you? How low must a person be to die without a name in a place that will keep no record that you ever lived and where your own mother does not mourn your passing? It is hard for me to imagine anyone of lower standing than the girl who I touched ever so briefly that hot morning in Sudan.
Jesus spoke passionately of His desire for us to care for the poor and downtrodden in His stead, none more poignant that when He said “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” The partially born girl that I touched that day had to be the least of the least. In retrospect, I could have administered enough local anesthetic to have surgically removed the child through a few incisions, but it had been years since I had done or even assisted in such an operation. We had no lights, no cautery, limited instruments, and no sterile rooms. Even had we had gotten the child out, we had no way to manage the bleeding and would have had to pack the wound open and rush her to the same hospital. It would have been like performing a cesarean section in your garage without electricity. Perhaps I should have tried. Perhaps I could have made the decision to drive her to the hospital earlier and she would have lived. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…, but I am not sure of any of that. Of one thing only I am certain.
She deserved better. They all do.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Videos of the celebration of opening the Akot Medical Mission. The facility was recently closed by Bill Deans. Very sad ending to a great effort by so many.


Abraham on Prostitution and AIDS

(JLD) Does the word prostitutes mean something to you?
(AM) Yes. A prostitute is a lady who divorce with her husband. Prostitute also is very bad among the Dinkas. When a lady makes herself to be a prostitute it is not good. No one can marry her.
(JLD) Is she always a divorced person?
(AM) Yes. And when she made a prostitute way, no one can marry her. If she go and stay at the house quietly someone will come and marry. If the wife maker herself a prostitute lady, no one marry her. She just goes and makes tea for sell in the market and sleeping under her tukel (Swahili word for hut or house) and doing something what she like.
(JLD) Are there prostitutes in Akot?
(AM) Maybe. [1] (with a laugh). All the villages, all the towns there are prostitutes. I don’t know the number of them. I hope the town have no prostitutes. If it is a very small town, prostitute may not stay there. Many of the prostitutes make some of them, the tea, the beer, or alcohol, the tea… making food in the kitchen or in the hotel[2], that is their work.
(JLD) There are people who come to our clinic with diseases that are transmitted by sex. How do you think they get it?
(AM) Some people  they get it from the wife. Many others they go and have sex with others. Many people they go in the town and leave their homes they can mate with others. If another women comes to the village and mix with the others, that is another way to get diseases.

(JLD) Have your heard of HIV/AIDS?
(AM)I heard about that and I don’t know way of it. I don’t know the sign and symptom of it.[3] When you marry and the wife have no children, you have the permission to marry.
You keep the first wife and home and you agree with her to have marriage another wife. You do not send her back. You can treat her like the way you treat the wife who having children. You give them two houses to let that wife have her own children and the other her own children. If they (the wives) have a good relationship, they can help each other. It is the way of the relationship.
(JLD) Once I met a woman whose child was dying of malaria. She said she was so upset for fear that if another child died the husband’s family would not let her back because .
(AM)It is difficult with another people. If you know God is the one, the only (one to) have the power you can stay with your wife until God bless you to have your own children.

[1] The entire market place in Akot is situated along a single dirt road and is less than 100 meters long. Abraham was also born, raised, and still lives in Akot. He spends a great deal of time in the market socializing and drumming up membership in the local Baptist church. It seems, therefore, highly unlikely that Abraham is actually unaware of who the prostitutes are in such a small place.
[2] Hotels in this area simply mean a stopping place where travelers, almost all men, are allowed to put up their nets, sleep the night, and purchase food. They are not in this area structures as one might think of in
Western cultures.
[3] Abraham has worked as a translator at many of our remote clinic sites. He almost assuredly picked up this terminology during this work. He has no medical training of his own and makes his living as an evangelist paid by US Southern Baptists. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Review of the novel, The Mark: A Novel of Dinka in the Time of War.

"The Mark is a harrowing and beautiful story of a young man in the Sudan, a Dinka tribesman set in the midst of unimaginable turmoil; it is genuinely frightening and genuinely revelatory. Jeffery Deal has caught a true voice here, and the book's tone and texture make his hero, and the whole of his culture, matter to us immensely. I recommend everyone read this book."

Bret Lott. bestselling author of fourteen books, most recently the nonfiction collection Letters and Life: On Being a Writer, On Being a Christian (Crossway 2013) and the novel Dead Low Tide (Random House 2012)

Available on in paperback or Kindle format from Amazon US at the link below.

Available on Amazon UK at the link below.

Friday, April 11, 2014

"If a bomb drops in Sudan and no one hears, did it make a sound?" A newspaper oped I wrote several years ago. I think it applies to today's situation as well.

If a bomb drops in Sudan and no one hears, did it make a sound?
On November 15th, a friend of mine in South Sudan sent me a message that on the previous day, bombs had been dropped on several sites near him, one wounding a United Nations observer. I searched the US news websites and none of them mentioned the bombing. Three days later, another acquaintance told me that bombs were dropped near their orphanage resulting in unknown casualties. The orphanage was undamaged and the children were safe. Several African papers ran the story which was picked up even by Aljazeera, but as I searched for any US or western reports of the bombing again I found nothing In a country where the temporarily suppressed civil war has lasted longer than the average life expectancy of its inhabitants, where upwards of two and a half million people have been killed and millions more displaced into abject poverty, and where life in the best of times hangs by the slimmest of threads, war seems to be so much a part of normal life that it is no longer newsworthy.
On January 9, 2010 the most important event in Sudan’s history is scheduled to take place. On that day, in keeping with the Comprehensive Peace Accord forced upon the central government by the previous US president, the people of South Sudan will vote on whether they stay a part of a greater Sudan or they will secede from the union. By all accounts, the South will vote to secede. By the majority of accounts, the mostly Muslim central government will then resume its war upon the largely defenseless people of South Sudan. Last week’s bombings appear to be a prelude to this war.
Before its partition, the modern borders of Sudan make it, by area, the largest country in Africa. Northern Sudan, which includes the states of Darfur, has come under increasing Muslim influence while states in the southern regions have resisted such changes. The regime in Khartoum is recognized by the United Nations, the African Union, and the United States as the only legitimate government. It is also led by the only sitting head of state to be indicted by the World Court for crimes against humanity and to have an outstanding arrest warrant still in effect. Since obtaining independence in 1956 the northern central government and rebel forces in the South have maintained separate legislative bodies, armed forces, cultural identities, and economies. Sudan, therefore, has functioned in effect as two separate nation-states whose interactions have been characterized primarily by conflict and not cooperation for the good of its citizens. The result is the longest running civil war in modern times.
South Sudan experiences crippling conflicts that overlap and perpetuate one another. Family feuds erupt into violence often years after the initiating events. Clan wars expand to involve tribes. Tribal wars expand to involve government forces. Multiple rebellions trigger disproportionate retaliation from the central government that escalates to genocidal levels. International intervention is hampered by complex loyalties and agendas that treat human life as a commodity to be bartered. The discovery of oil in South Sudan may not be the blessing that many hope as it raises the stakes in a global economy where human life, especially life so different from our own, appears cheap and expendable. China already develops, exports, and protects the oil interest while providing weapons to the central government which are in turn used exclusively against its own people.
Brutality, mass rape, slavery, and genocide fill the history of this region where traditional African societies interface across a harsh landscape with Muslim/Arab societies. The region also lacks a history of successful peacemaking devoid of external involvement. Often the struggle for survival has forced ethnicity onto people who are not well served by modern political or cultural boundaries. Theses identities can turn with disturbing rapidity to a type of ethnic-bound loyalty which expresses itself in the recurrent retaliatory massacres, Darfur’s ongoing genocide, and the wholesale rape and enslavement of women and children—often with senseless violence and disregard for human life so horrible that the senses numb. Sudan is truly a country of extremes within extremes, but inhabiting these extremes are a highly marginalized people who deserve recognition and a voice. They are not, as I have heard them described, a “primitive people”, in any way except that they lack most modern technologies. They possess intricate relationships, a rich and complex culture, history, and sophisticated philosophies—in many ways more so than those found in Western urban cultures. In a word, they are humans whose similarities with the rest of us far outweigh their differences and whose worth is equal to our own. I am blessed to have known them during my time with them as both a physician and an anthropologist. I would plead with Western powers, including our president, to commit whatever resources are required to make known to Khartoum that we will not sit idly by as another generation of Sudanese are again ravaged by their own government and by neglect, by ours as well. If AP, Reuters News, CNN, and all of the major US papers and networks did not hear the sounds of bombs dropping it was only because they (we) did not listen.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Interview with Abraham Maper about when I was doing research for my books about Dinka life and culture. He is a great friend. My questions are transcribed within parentheses.

I am Abraham Maper from Akot District. I am with my father and brother, Jeff Deal, my Dr. Jeff Deal. I am telling you that this land is our land. We welcome you. Since the year 2003 you came in and you did a lot among our community. You support other students the orphans who have not able to get the money for school. That is something interesting in my life alone. Even if other people are not understanding what you are doing here, I myself, I Abraham I appreciate that. And you came with a medical clinic. We went in the bush and we spent a night outside in other areas. We faced difficulties as a day. Also, I feel very good because you brought the foundation of our development. We remember that you are the one who commit yourself to come to start something that is difficult. That is something difficult for us to do it by ourselves. Only God will send us to do it.
(Asks permission)
Yes, it is good for you to write down, that is something that is very important. That is the foundation for next generation. And we still remember you, that time you are the one who lead the team to come to let God have the Christians that are there in America to contribute the money to that something that is very important for the nation not ours.
(Asked permission for previous stories to be printed)
Yes, it is ok. That is good to write down all the Dinka background and cultures to know more about Dinkas. And we like you to tell more time to tell a lot Dinka culture to take them to share them with other brothers and sisters there in America.
(What is this post ?)
This traditional Dinka belief. This is for the section called Panyar. They brought this wood and they said it is the sign of the traditional belief. They say that the nation is of he buffalo. That is why they put the head of the buffalo as a picture on this tree to show them that this is the section Panyar. And what the meaning that they make this, they say that this Buma, that this road start out from Akot to Paloic to let everybody know that this road is going up to to Paloic. That is why they take this wood and they set it down. It is a traditional belief. This the head of cow. It meaning that the Dinka they trust the cow is their resources to keep their children. And this the head of buffalo, the meaning of this head, they say they are related. They said that they related to Panyar and Paynar is the name of buffalo. The name Panyar came out of Anyar.
(Your clan has a tree as the symbol).
Yes, that is a tree called Raol is related to another clan called Aneet.
(This girl is carrying leaves)
That little girl they went to collect that green leaf for making broth or stew for Dinka. They use vegetable to make it for food.
The land around Akot is belong to our section, Nyeii. This area of Akot is a very lush area. Yes, very lush area. Even other place say no man land. This a very good land to welcome you without fear. If you come we will give you land and do whatever you like.
(Do you have fields )
The fields. Yes. I have it. My field is outside in another place called Tina Machock. That is a place of my father. The land of my father. My father is buried there. You know that place. That is my home. (Laughing). You know my home. That is the place where my father home is there. I like that place also when God bless me I am supposed to help somebody building in a permanent place.
(Who takes care of the fields?)
No one planting for me. We grow food for ourselves. Even me I cultivate. I, myself and my brothers. Yes my younger brother and I work together on the land. We have our own house in another place Mai Coldit.
No planting yet. This is not the season for cultivating. Is too dry. That land is too big and I am bordering with other people there is a demarcation of that house and that house. You have something like a spear and we don’t know how much of the land because we don’t have a measure, we don’t measure the land.
Another field is going like that (gesturing) those tukels. (250 meters). Is going like that house of Sawat and other side this like that tree on the ground. Yes. That is one plot and around my home area.
(How many families are using food from that land?)
My wife and three kids. My younger brother. My mother. And my sister living together with me with her three daughters, Martha as you know. She is a hard worker like your family.
Yes, he (younger brother) is in the process of getting married. We didn’t have many cattle. Last year many of my cattle died and we still don’t have the number. They died because of a cow sickness. I don’t know what it was.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Letter from an experienced relief worker about The Mark: A Novel of Dinka In the Time of War. "Carol and Mom" are friends of mine.

Hey Carroll, Hey Mom,

Well, I only read The Mark because you asked me to -- I actually try not to read too much fiction that is so close to the bone...I never even read Dave Eggers What is the What because it was just too relevant...too close.

But I read The Mark...and I have to say I was really blown away.  I thought it was just beautifully written.  It was an extremely respectful and honest portrayal of South Sudan, of the Dinka, of that place and that time.  I didn't actually overlap with Jeff, but in 1991, when I was on my Watson Fellowship, Jason and I were there during the great Dinka Famine -- in Bor, then Torit, Kapoeta and finally with Riek Machar over in Nassir.  I found the descriptions- the smell of the early morning fires, the ash, the flies of the mosquito camps, the muddy waters of the Nile -- all so familiar.  But then Jeff offered something more than I ever had -- which was this internal monologue which helped so much to make sense of what I experienced as an outsider.

I am not sure if you both realize -- but I became a nutritionist because of that time in South Sudan in 1991.  Up to that point I was interested, as an anthropologist is interested, in food systems, and famine and the political use of food as a weapon of war...but I had no real science/health leaning or background.  For no apparent reason, and in a move that could never be justified, UNICEF in Nairobi agreed to send Jason and me into South Sudan as part of Operation Lifeline Sudan.  Armed with passes issued by the SPLA and the confidence of knowing that John Garang had years earlier been a Watson Fellow himself, we flew up on a UN plane to Lokichogio. After two nights in the UN Green Tent Camp, we headed by road into South Sudan.  Our first inkling that something was amiss was when we met two Filipino aid workers who had their own vehicle loaded to the top with supplies -- they nodded to our backpacks and asked what we taking...really nothing -- a packet of biscuits for the road and a bottle of water.  They told us to go to the little shop and buy what we could find...perplexed but compliant, we went and bought 5 bags of ugali, five cans of beans, and a flat of water.  As we drove into South Sudan for the first time, we passed vehicle after vehicle, most of them UN, racing out of South Sudan.  Then, after about 3 hours of potholed roads, we started seeing the carcasses.  During the Dinka/Nuer battle, over 150,000 heads of Dinka cattle were slaughtered by AK-47.  The 1991 famine was the closest the Dinka have ever come to full annihilation -- no one knows the figures, but tens and tens of thousands of people died.  Without their cattle, sent from their grazing lands, the Dinka were starving.  We arrived in Bor just as the UNICEF guy was locking his front door -- he tossed us the keys to the house and the keys to the warehouse, gave me a book on emergency nutrition, leapt into his car and drove away.  For the next month, Jason and I lived in a famine was intense beyond intense.  We opened the warehouse and started an emergency feeding program (by the book).  We helped with food distributions.  We were basically saved by WFP (UN World Food Programme) who had stayed and took us under their wing...our ugali and beans did not last long, though living in a famine really takes your appetite away.  But the WFP team fed us, and in exchange we drove around with them and worked with them...the feeding program was painfully successful -- we had 20 people the first day, 100 the second and over 500 every day after that.  People died in front of us.  Even now when I go to sleep I can see the faces of small children -- then I had no idea, but now of course I would recognize kwashiorkor, severe marasmus, vitamin A deficiency, rickets, all of the nutritional diseases...then I had the book and not much else.  One day we met an old blind man who had lost his wife and all his children except Maleesha.  They had walked one week because they heard there was a white woman almost killed me when I realized that was me -- this stupid Peace Studies major from Swarthmore who was about as equipped to save a life as a gas station attendant in Isle of Palms.  He had walked and walked on a promise of relief -- and there was so little I could pitifully little except to feed his last small child.  The work was heartbreaking, so much pain and death, but the resilience of the people was awe inspiring.  At one point the elders in the village gave us an ostrich egg as a gift for our work -- we made 6 five-egg omelets from that egg and I still have the empty shell today.  We were also given a goat, but at that point were confirmed vegetarians -- luckily we were able to "re-gift" it to our feeding centre team who had a small feast in the middle of nothing -- inviting Maleesha and his dad at our request.  It was a truly life changing experience.  I found the DInka to be some of the kindest, wisest and most gracious people I have ever worked with -- you could sit at dusk, as the old men and women sucked on their long-stem pipes, and feel a peace that did not deserve to exist in the chaos that were the Dinka ancestral lands at that point.  We communicated through a patchwork of English, Arabic and local language...but somehow it seemed enough -- I can never recall not being understood or not understanding what we were told.  The Dinka are amazing story tellers- it is an art -- and in the evenings different people would begin a tale -- to shouts of laughter, mixed with songs and verse, one person began where another left off -- it was as though each evening they were recreating what the day had taken.  They were tethering themselves to the Earth again in preparation of the next day.  What you felt was the continuity of history, a longevity that has always been difficult to understand, much less feel, for an American where things were measured in hours and days, not living memory and ancestor stories.  It is not possible to describe in words how painful it was for the Dinka to lose their herds -- raiding between the Dinka and Nuer has been happening since the beginning of time (not to mention women and children), but then the next raid would return the herd.  This was the first time that the cattle were simply slaughtered and left to rot. It was incomprehensible. The Nuer didn't want the cattle -- they wanted to cut out the heart of the Dinka.  The waste -- the unimaginable waste of killing a beloved cow that should by rights have been stolen and paraded was absolutely incomprehensible.  The famine that followed was the outcome of the blow -- but it was the trauma of the cattle loss that almost did the Dinka in.  So many Dinka died, but those who survived had to move to find humanitarian support -- I saw many children who moved in bands together without adults, and many men who brought their children, having lost everything else.  It was profoundly hard.   I loved my time there -- there was a gentleness, a completeness I have not felt again, as though each individual was born with a task and they knew what it was and what they needed to do...the death and destruction around them, the dislocation from losing their prized beloved cattle was somehow being overcome. After we finally were evacuated from South Sudan, and after the completion of the Watson year, I knew that I had to learn a trade.  I was determined that no one would ever walk 100 kilometres for my help unless I had something to actually offer.  So that is why I got my Public Health degree in International Nutrition and I have never regretted it.

So reading this book was amazing -- it reminded me of my time there but also gave me subtitles to the film that I never had.  Please thank Jeff for writing such a beautiful and thoughtful book and thanks to you for pushing me to read it.

It is hard to imagine that now we are in 2014, and again the Dinka and Nuer are killing each other -- this time the subtext is political power and oil, but the outcome is similar.  Over 750,000 people have been displaced and almost 200,000 have fled as refugees to neighboring countries.  Livelihoods are disrupted, lands have not been planted and over 8 million cattle are stranded without access to water or pasture. Over 3.7 million people are food insecure.  If the fighting continues, then there is a prediction that South Sudan could enter a famine in a few months.  It has been my full time preoccupation since the crisis began on the 15 December...and the world is watching as we spiral into a crisis that worsens on a daily basis.  It is heartbreaking, especially for those of us who have worked there and had hopes for the new nation.  The people are resilient, but there has to be a point where you just want your piece of land, your cattle camp, and your healthy herd and children and nothing more...except to be left alone to live your life without war and guns. 


March 11, 2014

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Beer Maker. This is one of the stories I collected while working in South Sudan. Very moving.

A Beer Maker

Ajak Waal is a daughter of late former Anyanya One Commander Waal Marial. She was born in 1960s, and learned a lot from her mother.
“The soldiers of Anyanya One were as poor as church mouse,” she said.
Most of their families were catered by their wives and Adak’s mother was very instrumental woman in their polygamous family of Waal Marial and could support the whole family by brewing of beer . Adak’s mother was the third wife of Waal. In their struggle, the soldiers moved as far South as the neighboring Country of Congo which their base and training centre was situated and they left their wives in Sudan. The women decided how they can manage their families for instance, how they would get food, clothes, and again to new cloth was another trap of death. This was because new clothes were only got in towns which were all occupied by Arabs soldiers.
If Anyanya One soldiers got you with new cloth or salt, they expected you have been in the Town with Arabs and you might have betrayed them. Therefore, they dealt away with you by beheading the one caught in the action of trading with Arabs. Some people dealt in these forbidden commodities and customers dealt with care. For instance someone who bought salt which was on high demand could hide it where Anyanya One soldiers could not get it and it was only eaten at night around eleven when people were dumbfounded.
For the people who have taken long without the taste of salt, it can swollen their eye-brow, hands and even the whole body and jeopardized them to Anyanya One soldiers  because swollen  parts were sign and symptom of salt eaten. The Anyanya One soldiers could investigate till you revealed the truth.
“Here mother had already learned how to make the local brew and also had learned local alcohol, “she said. “Anyanya One leaders had permitted the soldiers to use some drugs like alcohol, marijuana because these drugs made guerrillas fought the enemy without fear,” she added. “My mother got this chance to make beer for the soldiers and they bought it from her and she could have huge turn over from her trade. My mother had one advantage of being the wife of the Commander and even though we were alone in the absence of my father, the soldiers could not rob her of whatever she possessed, alcohol was included. But our neighbors had terribly experienced this robbery from guerrilla soldiers. When I was the age of sixteen, my mother taught me how to make beer. I remembered , she told me “Ajak, my daughter , you need to learn how to make  beer. The Country can be in war for eight times and be in peace for eight times, it can be bad in eight times and be good in eight times.”  This was a common saying in war time or peace time. This means that youth and old need to be organized at all the times with their developed talents which can back them in any situation.
“I paid much attention to learn how to make beer and eventually I made it perfect and I could help my mother in making beer. Three years later the peace was signed and all the soldiers moved to Malou military barrack near Rumbek and my father was reorganized and deployed beyond Wau province. I remained with my mother and after a while she was frail and she could not continue making beer. By this time I was married and I had three kids. My husband was also still a student in Rumbek senior secondary school and I continued to support my husband to buy for a white short and a white shirt, black shoes which they called uniform. Alcohol was really on high demand during the cold weather and I could make it double times such that I can get high profit. My mother was with me. She sometimes did simple work like putting the fire wood under the pot when I had gone to fetch water. By that time we were not developed like the presence situation. In our time, we used clay pot for making beer and if you have fermented a drum of crude beer, it could take you two or three days to brew it. These red eyes you are seeing were not the original ones but it was caused by the smoke of making beer. But due to my situation at the time made me to be contended with it. My husband later graduated and got employed in Nuer as a water project coordinator and he was well paid and as a result he bought several cows without again realized how I had suffered during his studies. He bought fifty cows and he married a daughter of Marial Deng. After his marriage ceremony, he moved with his wife to the place of his work leaving me alone in the derelict place where the Atuot tribe always disturbed at night robbed me with things like groundnuts, grains and cows.
There I felt frustrated and committed adultery with a driver who later brought me problems of being dumped with four kids and the driver dumped me also like a thing on fire and I was confused what to do.
I later recovered my memory and I told myself, this was not the end of the world and I had to continue with my business. God was at my side and my beer was on market and earned me enough money to buy clothes for my children , gave them good feeding and  with little associates of beer ,there were  bad debtors who did not pay me at all but I did not give up. I also trained my daughters and now they make beer and in this time the utensils for beer has improved. They are making good money now and they support their families though they do not make as every time. The young ladies of this present time do not valued their contribution much to their families like our time. Now I always gave them an advice that the individual need to contribute to the family. For example, your husband whom you had put all responsibilities can one day die and if you had not accumulated enough wealth, you can be in depressions.
But the young ladies now has a very common saying that they still have red hands, which means when a husband dies when she is still young, she can marry another man. For us, we are now soil and grass ,” Ajak concluded.

This conclusion is always made by old people waiting their death but Ajak is still not very old.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Torture by Cieng: Ethical Theory Meets Social Practice among the Dinka Agaar of South Sudan

Below is the abstract from the best work of my academic career.

AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST, Vol. 112, Issue 4, pp. 563–575, ISSN 0002-7294 online ISSN 1548-1433. c 2010 by the American Anthropological
Association. All rights reserved. DOI: 10.1111/j.1548-1433.2010.01276.x

Here I detail violence in South Sudan by first discussing a specific Dinka Agaar practice alongside existing discourses on the social aspects of violence and universal human rights, then I show how these acts had meaning and purpose using data from personal accounts of violence. I posit that the violence described was
consistent with Dinka Agaar concepts of justice and basic human rights and that it cannot be judged against any universal human rights standard, devoid of local context or of an overarching metanarrative. These events highlight conflicting subjectivities, ethical norms, and the painful difficulties inherent to advocacy in areas of conflict. Viewed from the perspective of the larger social unit, it is easy to see how violence was required to end violence. However, witnessing punitive violence purposefully enacted on innocent individuals to achieve peace has the potential to create conflicting positions that modern anthropological discourse.

A pastor's home in Akot Sudan.

Images of Sudan

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


The Dinka Agar also believed that the mishandle of the placenta. This is how they prepare the placenta after the birth of the child. The placenta is put in the local bowl ( calabash ) the new one which has never been use. The bowl is filled with water. The old women are  always the traditional birth attendants. These old women have to remove the anthill and bring it to  edge of the garden  near to the court yard. They also bring the thorns of the local tree called Thou. These  thorns were put for the reason that they can protect the vultures not to eat the placenta. When the vultures eat the placenta the child will shead tears unknowingly like the vultures.
The placenta was  washed, spread on the anthill, pinned on the anthill with the thorns then smeared with the oil. The smearing is because the placenta cannot become dry and remove itself from the anthill.
They believed that if it dries then the woman also becomes dry and will never produce a child again.
After the placenta is washed clean, no remain of the blood and well put on the anthill, fenced with thorns then a white grains are scattered around and on the placenta.
This means that the woman will produce more children like the grains.


An interview with a local Dinka man about some magic items.

Abraham on Court Coin

*Jeff and Abraham finish laughing about something*

(Abraham) When there is something not ok I’m suppose to tell you.

(Jeff) That’s right, your suppose to tell me. Umm tell me about the magic powers, like you said the spear or the coin can do those things, but their magic powers not of God.

(Abraham) Yeah…

(Jeff) What are they from then? What powers are they from?

(Abraham) That power they use is the power from Satan.

(Jeff) Satan.

(Abraham) Yeah, Satan gave them all these powers to do. All the Chief, many of them, they use to go to other witchdoctors to give them the powers. Even (Chief Edon?) there are other people like that one who met with (Madeen?) 

(Jeff) Madeen, he’s (Trigeeth?)

(Abraham) Yeah (Bartellbeeth’s?)…   

(Jeff) yeah

(Abraham) When is night time is right time for them to start going to –

(Jeff) yeah yes its early evening.

(Abraham) -those people. While it is dark, the person when you enter this house there is a special house, they use their magic they put something like (hide them?), hide of dung. They put it in a small gall like this… and they make something. When you go into the house they (saknife?) that hide them on your left,  they then on this side put it there

(Jeff) on your throat, right.

(Abraham) yeah.  They say that when you say something or even your word is not true they’ll… the judge will listen very careful and they will obey what you say. If you say something that is not true they will obey what you say.

(Jeff) They’ll still believe it.
(Abraham) Yeah they’ll still believe you. That time, also, the chief who went to those people, nighttime, when they need a force of being a chief they go and looking for magic by themselves. They are not the right people they have a lot of magic, they went to the witchdoctors and bring these to give them, idol worshipers, to give them powers to protect themselves from their enemy.

(Jeff) And do they get the power?

(Abraham) According what they said they believe they get the power from other people.

(Jeff) I’m asking what, if you think they get the power?

(Abraham) I, myself?

(Jeff) yeah.

(Abraham) I… If I believe… I believe that power is not God powers, Satan.

(Jeff) So they get power, but its from Satan. 

(Abraham) From Satan not God.

(Jeff) I understand.


Saturday, February 15, 2014

videoMy Dear Wife's Mom giving tribute to her during her birthday party. Love this!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Collected water samples from village in Loganove, treated a few micrfilaria, lots of aches and pains. Very little malaria, but I will restrain my disappointment. Fluorescent photos of some skin scrapings attached. I thought cool.