Friday, March 24, 2006

Saturday (25 Feb.) Walk-About in Lui

Saturday afternoon, our whole group had some leisure time -- probably for the first time since we left St. Louis. Some of us enjoyed visiting and getting acquainted. [At left are Lisa, Sandy, and Deborah.] Then we all took the opportunity to explore Lui.

First we came upon a large group of children playing soccer. We stood awhile, just enjoying them.

Then Sandy and I found ourselves at the famed (in Lui, at least) Loru tree. (Or is it Laru?) Previous travelers to Lui had told us about this famous tree. And during our stay in Lui, we heard many references to it. In the 19th century, when the slave trade was at its height, people from other parts of Africa had come to southern Sudan and captured people to sell them into slavery. The slave auctions were held under this tree named Loru. When Fraser came to Lui in the 1920s, he was appalled by these stories and – desiring to create schools – he established one of the first schools in Lui in benches positioned under this tree. So he transformed this tree, which had once been a symbol of slavery, into a symbol of freedom. It appears that the tree still has great mythopoeic power to the people of Lui.

As we walked about the village, taking in the sights, we were struck by how many children were out and about enjoying this pleasant afternoon. But we did not anticipate this: Archdeacon Robert had brought his digital camera on the trip, and was merrily clicking away. He soon began letting the children see the display of the photos he had taken. Before long, he had a mob of kids around him, all wanting to see these photos!

One thing that shocked me was seeing a little boy playing this ancient game.

Throughout Lui, there are two types of “livestock”: chickens and goats. Both are (I suppose) maintained for their food products of one sort or another. When we were there, the goats had just recently had lambs, which seemed quite dear to us. But this image caught my attention – the goats and lambs frolicking upon the graves in the Lui cemetery. Something weird about that! [EDIT: OK, more than one of you has told me that the "something weird" about that whole thing is that goats do not have lambs; they have "kids." I'm glad to know you folks are reading carefully!]

At the end of the day, we returned to the guest compound, where we were treated to another good meal (thanks to our Lui hosts!). Here, Rick, Sandy, and Father Bob are relaxing as evening comes on.

One of the things I enjoyed about our trip was the companionship. In our “normal” lives in the U.S., we would have retreated to our hotel rooms, watching some sort of mindless television. But Lui has no electricity – much less television. So the way we entertained ourselves after dark set in at 6:30-7:00 p.m. was by visiting, talking, sharing stories. Every night, we had at least three hours of conversation before turning into bed around 10:00. It was a healthy way to wind up the day.

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