A Square Rectangle

Published February 5, 2012

The meeting with the elders to finalize the school placement wasn’t quite what I expected. A village elder approached Denis shaking his head. We had just begun measuring our baseline. He told Denis that a new road was planned and that the school needed to be moved some distance. This news was followed by uproarious laughter by all around. A very funny joke, it turns out, was good news for us. The school is now laid out. A bright red string marks the square and level rectangle that will hopefully soon become a foundation, columns and a roof.

We were not able to set a pier, however. The installation tool and a few test piers were brought to the site. We only have the SUV since the truck is on its way back from Juba with more supplies. The driver overloaded the vehicle and the fuel tank was ruptured during one of the runs to the site. This pretty much shut us down for the rest of the day. It’s not a big leak, but it’s going to cause additional hassle and more delays.

In other news, a new cell phone tower is going up in Jalle. This is big, big deal once it is on-line. Never before in the history of the world has this area had instant communication with the outside world. I dare say in the short term this is likely to have a much larger impact on the community than our school will. It certainly makes Rebuild Sudan’s mission easier. I can’t even imagine being able to call up the contractor and ask, “How’s it going?”

Mariann (aka Mary): Our site attracts a steady stream of visitors from the village across road, so we have shaken many, many hands. I’ve been advised to introduce myself as Mary because Marianne is too complicated. My lapses are rewarded with confused faces, but thanks to a lot of repetition, I’m pretty sure I’ve at least got the standard greeting down (kudwahl). But today I learned that there is a particular motion that can go along with it – a secret handshake if you will. The emphatic form of kudwahl is ‘kudwahl arate’. At ‘kudwahl’, you shake hands at a normal height, at ‘arate’ you shake hands as high as you possibly can. My instructor in this particular tradition drew immense amusement from the up-down-up-down and made sure that we photographed the passing-on of his expertise. Beyond that initial greeting all I can really do is smile and make apologetic faces for having no idea to say next. The Dinka also find this highly amusing. I like to tell myself they are complimenting my fluid grace of motion and fashionable attire. Though tripping over the flat ground doesn’t do much for my case.

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