Friday, July 14, 2006

Lui to Loki (Thurs., 2 March 2006)

It’s not usual for me to awake early – but I did so on this last day in Lui. I came awake around 5:45 a.m., so I was up and about before anyone else in the compound. It was still very dark, since dawn doesn’t arrive until ca. 7:00 a.m. So I got to enjoy the beautiful, starry night sky one last time. The sky here is awesome – You can see the entire Milky Way stretching from the northern to southern extremes of the sky. The Southern Cross was no longer visible, but we have seen it low in the south sky every night.

I sat out on the grass in my shorts, just enjoying the quiet and having a smoke, for quite a while.

We just do not have that quality of quiet at home. There’s not a single mechanical noise (except for the occasional, rare vehicle) in Lui. And the sounds are natural – roosters, goats, chickens, pots and kettles beginning to clatter as women begin to heat water and cook, the wing rustling the palms.

Gradually, my companions began to awake early on Thursday, in order to be ready for our truck ride to Mundri airstrip. Poor stupid Americans! We had been told we would depart “first thing” Thursday, but some of us forgot we were operating on East Africa time! But Simon eventually showed up with the Land Rover to take us to the airstrip.

I don’t know about the other travelers on our trip, but somehow it had not really hit me with full force that we would be leaving Deborah behind, and how painful that would be. She had been our wonderful companion and “cultural translator” all through our time in Lui, and it pained me to realize what she was enduring there.

The parting from our Lui friends happened way too fast! – and especially my too-sudden and too-short hug with Deborah, who would be staying in Lui for about three more months.

In that moment, it was vividly clear to me that we were heading to the safety of the U.S., and we were leaving friends in Lui, who might or might not survive the drought and hunger that was raging in Lui.

We piled into the truck for the trip to the Mundri airstrip. As usual, the trip was miserable, with all the bouncing and heat of the trip. We arrived at the Mundri airstrip, and my thermometer topped-out at its maximum temperature of 120 degrees.

Upon our departure from the Mundri airstrip, I observed something that I had failed to note when we arrived there. The arriving NGO plane was laden-down with goods coming from the U.S. and elsewhere – boxes and boxes full of goods bound for Lui: food, clothing, supplies. Rick, Father Bob, and Archdeacon Robert almost immediately formed a "human chain" to help unload all these goods.

Among those items were 4 sewing machines that had been sent from Sandy’s parish in St. Louis; they had been shipped from St. Louis well before our group departed, but had not arrived by the time we did. Sandy had been quietly, intently worried about their whereabouts. It was joyful to see them arrive before we left. Here, Sandy points proudly to the boxes that were finally arriving in Lui from her home parish.
I'm not entirely sure of the timing, but I think Sandy's parish had sent those boxes via UPS something like 6 weeks before! It's hard for me to realize how long and arduous mail service can be.

And then I realized that the same thing had happened when we arrived in Lui. There had been a similar off-loading. I had just been too jet-lagged and culturally-bombarded to notice it. On this day, as on all the others when the little charter planes arrive in Lui, goods make their way into Lui. Not enough of them, for the needs are outstripping our knowledge and awareness. But they are an important signal of the folks in our diocese reaching out to the diocese of Lui.

We took off from Mundri ca. 2p, descending into Loki ca. 3:35p.

On the plane were the five members of our mission team, plus the Bishop and Rebekah, and one other person leaving from Lui: Darius, known as “Manyagugu.” He’s a young priest of the diocese, and was traveling with us to Nairobi to attend school to become a mechanic – a skill that is much needed in Lui. The poor man! None of us thought much of the plane trip, and he was calm and quiet. But he had a tough time with the flight, and we realized eventually that this was the first time he had ever been on an airplane. Mind you, a tiny jet like this one is not so calm as a big commercial airliner. He bore it with remarkable good grace. Here he is, after surviving that flight.

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