Dr. Geelhoed journal entry 16 Feb 2011


Series: 11-FEB-B-16


February 16, 2011

My Room #23 in the brand new section of the Freedom Hotel has a door lock and a key, and that is all good. That is good for at least 20 minutes in either direction.  That is, if I am attempting to get in or to go and lock or unlock the door, it requires up to a half hour of manipulation, and the only active ingredient in the nearly random event that it opens or closes is the passage of a certain obligatory amount of time.  I always envision being pursued by a pack of hostiles and fumbling at the door to get entry, and turning to them and saying: “Now you all wait right here since it is going to take me at least a half hour to get into this room so you just cool your heels until this random access is allowed!”

The room also has a hot water tap—at least that is the helpful and hopeful red color indicator in the center of that faucet and hope springs eternal.  But this is Africa and reality sets in soon like a cold douche.  It may actually be hot at some time of the day, but that would not be early morning when I would want it, since the black plastic water tank on the roof would be gathering passive solar during the heat of the day.  Then, of course, I will be nowhere near to get the advantage of the uncontrollably hot water since both hot and cold water taps are equally the temperature of the solar heated water.

I have a quite basic room, and was advised that the electricity comes on with the generator at about 6:00 PM. That is good enough to light the lights and to give a cooling circulation form a fan and it would keep circulating through the night, of course, if the generator does not run out of fuel and it should not, since this is an upscale new hotel catering to the trade in NGO and other expatriates rushing in to take care of the money to be made in the “peace bonus” to be carried back to the nations of origin.  I described them last night as they gathered around the buffet that comes with the room which is a lot like the dinners we have at MCH of rice and beans with the addition of Ugali and greens—the standard fare over much of Africa called You di Mia in Africa or falafel or fufu depending on the language, meaning the flour and water paste made by pounding cassava and pouring over it some kind of sauce or gravy.  If you are way up market, it can contain some stringy meat, for which a roll of dental tape is the dessert course.

I had described the “Star Wars Bar Scene” cast of characters much like the mercenary band I had joined in Loki during the heyday of the OLS “Food bombing runs” of giant Hercules Airlifters roaring overhead of the tukuls every half minute during daylight flown by a ragtag UN Air Force of soldiers of misfortune, who gravitate to the earth’s trouble spots where US dollars are the currency of Aid Agencies to finance hopes and dreams—if not in the target nation, surely in Albania, Ukraine, Belarus or anywhere ex-military aeronautic training can be put on the block for US cash for hours in flying Jet A tankers with pallets of flour pulled by parachutes from out of the swinging back bomb bay doors, sometimes scoring direct hits on the waiting citizenry below.  Most are looking up occasionally as the single TV Set is showing al Jazeera, which is broadcasting street clashes all around the Arabic speaking world from Tunisia and Egypt to today’s hot buttons in Yemen and Bahrain with a few clips of Iran thrown in.  There is future speculation about the stability of solid US allies such as the Saudi hegemony.  The other news story is that of the birthday celebration for Kim Il Song, whose freaky photos are visible and his third generation successor is shown also in family portraiture, having re-arranged the birthday to coincide with the thirtieth anniversary of his father’s birth—no doubt the grandson’s birth date will be re-arranged for mythology purposes also should his father survive long enough to be revered as well as widely acknowledged as a Kook.

But, my basic bed in a simple hotel does not come cheap.  The accommodation here is One US One Hundred Dollar bill.  That occasioned a scramble for me and for Jacob who came early to pick me up.  The US one hundred dollar bill must be engraved since 2000 and not folded.  It cannot have any mark of a ball point pen upon it.  But it cannot be this year’s as 2011 bills are not legal tender.  My US $100.00 Benjamin Franklin is 1999, which is ancient history and the currency is suited only to lighting big black cigars.  That limits me “out of the money” since I have n made a practice of rejecting OLD hundred dollar bills.  Fortunately Jacob has five in his possession and one passes muster as valuable currency for this private transaction.


We are parked under a Neme tree and Jacob and I are, well not really, “cooling our heels” but waiting in the heat of the day.  We are doing what legal systems do world wide—waiting as nothing seems to be happening.  It has given Jacob and me a good period of quality time for many discussions.  I then pulled out the laptop under the neme tree to begin the typing process which should have taken them on notice to call us immediately since I was caught up in the throes of the usual computer glitches.  First, the Word Starter takes many different attempts before it actually opens.  Then it did and I typed in several paragraphs which were then frozen as “protected” and not subject to editing.  This meant I could not continue typing nor spell check nor SAVE!  Since Jacob has an IT degree (a BS from GVSU after a two year Associate Degree from GRCC so that his entire degree process was accomplished in the eight years of his being at Grand Rapids.  His first four years he got a job in grocery store so he never used his food stamps, for which he was allocated a three month supply.  His two years in junior college and his next two years at GCSU got him his BS degree and he and I have discussed his potential for return to get an MPH from MSU which at his current age 31 should have him with the degree at age 33.  He would then be in a position to have the experience of running a mission hospital and at age 33 he might return as a potential Minister of health of Jonglei Province and could take over the ruins of the BOR hospital and rebuild it as he already has the MCH.  All of this still strained his abilities to re-do the laptop so that the Word Starter program would open quickly and as the default word processor rather than bogging me down in the Open Office which locked up on “permissions” and also loses all spell checking when I try to get it saved as the Word Starter which I would prefer.

So, we used up the majority of the balance of the laptop’s battery life trying to get the machine to boot up and still lost all the text I had tried to save, so I started over.  Even that did not induce our 9:00 AM court appearance to get started at 1:00 PM in the afternoon four hours into our discussion under the neme tree.

I joke to Jacob that he is too much Michigan American since he was early since he likes to be on time.  No one else was in the corrugated pan roofing fence around the “supreme court, which has tukuls just like any other village center under a neme tree.  It is only marked by a number of people standing or sitting around in desultory waiting, not dissimilar to any other African pastime.  Occasionally, however, a few boys are led in procession through the middle of the group with a fellow in front and three behind each packing AK-47’s to discourage bolting for freedom.  We pulled out around the corrugated sheet steel fence to watch goats forage in the trash and talk of long and short range plans for the MCH, for Jungle State and for Jacob.  We taped a few passages since I found I have packed a spare tape.  I had given the marching orders to the team back at MCH who will likely not find any cases to operate on without me, but with a frittering away of most of today’s productive time, there is no way I can “continue” this Court appearance date through tomorrow, our remaining OR day—which is why I had declined to make a social call for political purposes upon the Governor, who came past us under the Neme tree as he was in his A/C SUV in convoy—akin to the daily appearances in Washington DC on Pennsylvania Avenue.

This road is the “main drag” and will be allegedly the first of the tarmac paved roads in Jonglei State—the very route we ran on Saturday down through the heart of Bor capital of Jonglei.  There has been talk of putting up an annex to the State capital functions in a capital centrally placed in the state, but nothing is likely to come of that since they would hardly have the capital to undertake the construction of a new capital, and still try to run it.  This is the mark of a tyrant state such as Papa Banda’s (our “Beloved Kamuzu”) in Malawi.  The steel “pan” roofing is the mark of the compound of the “palace of Justice” marked only by a balance scale in stylized chains on the gats.  It is a play act with serious dramas going on as we learned from the “preliminary matters” of which such “”due process” is always protracted.  I could consider that this is a wasted day, but the troops back at MCH should be going through the container load and apportioning the treasures to at least isolate out the stuff to be carried to the high hopes of PiBor and to pack forward our restocked kits after the plundering of our supplies at the Leper Colony—all in good cause. . .

At first, there were no appearances from the family of “Aweng Deng Chol”—the defendant ex-father-in-law which Ajak still refers to as the In Laws and I refer to as the Out Laws.  He has conceded the direct payments transferred to him in the bride wealth although he cannot seem to get his hands upon these assets.  He denies any of the “collateral payments” all those funds given to other family members such as his brothers and all the kin who materialized out of the bush when they learned that their “dearly beloved niece Tabitha” whom few of them had ever met (nor may even been unaware of her existence) was about to be married to a source of great wealth—a golden pipeline to North America ripe for the exploitation.  The totals in expenditures in the bridewealth are 103,895 SDG and the balance due is 83,907 SDG allowing for the “celebratory” expenses—e. g. my bull and other “tobacco” already consumed in the merry-making of the foiled marriage celebration.  If the opposition defaults in appearance here there would be a summary judgment for that amount.  Not until late did Jacob spot the “brother in law” to whom he had given the 500 SDG and had given the promises and delivery of the cattle.  So, this would mean “Game ON” since Jacob would be the counter testimony as a representative who personally delivered the goods—all of which are denied unless the go-betweens are present to attest.  My presence is a weighty one, even though I am only moral support, since I do not have a “dog in that fight” or more accurately  ”a bull in the pen” since my contributed bull had been consumed along with a designated quantity of cases of beer and cases of pop and money to put up the youth at all points along the way including Ajak’s new tukul in Bor and at MCH and if all the expended food and accommodation were actually to be repaid, there would be a windfall return of the ~ $35,000 +/- already expended in “good faith” turned bad.  There seems to be a high likelihood that there may be some fractional return from this charley foxtrot affair star-crossed from the start.


As for late word that has just broken, there are other star crossed conflicts that underscore the highly improbable Peace Initiative still holding here in the groups we have intervened between.  Two weeks ago as we arrived the alarums went out that we were entering a war zone with a fresh set of Murle raids at a town called Wuoro (Sp?) in which a civilian chief and his deputy were killed and thousands of cattle rustled from the Nuer.  Today, the classic revenge of the Nuer occurred in which fresh fighting and heavier loss of life have occurred near Akobo from which Michael Puit was trying to come to Werkok to join with us in the continuing medical education program and to go home with the portion of the container equipment we would be setting aside for him in preparation of a future visit of ours.  There would be no way he could either leave or return to Akobo now so it is good he is still there.  As it is, we may have troubles getting Juma or Mchol through the recent scorched earth after their stay at PiBor.  But the stringent control exercised by the Murle chiefs and especially Rev. Oruzu in anticipation of our visit has meant there is no “piling on” for this Headquarters of the Murle who like the Dinka had sworn off retaliation as part of our agreement and as we are about to appear, right now would be a highly sensitive time for them to settle any scores with the AK -47’s which are not in short supply anywhere between here and there.  Our highly improbable—possibly unique—Peace Initiative has held, for the moment, for the year, pending our arrival, and I hope to have it hold after our departure with a residual presence for several days thereafter so that the parties on all sides recognize that this is not the idea of a distant white man who popped off a plane with this idea but is the ardent wish of the loyal Dinka Bor and Murle together.

The young lady whose Hematocolpos we had treated has gone home already—merely an eight hours walk pre-op, who knows how long post-op—with her brother Paul.  Paul is a Lost Boy who was brought to Rochester, New York and knows the group of Lost Boys represented by John Dau at Skaneateles and Syracuse.  He came back for family issues not related to his sister but came the distance with her when he heard we were going to be here.  He expressed his gratitude for our treatment and heard about our initiative and said after I had introduced him all-around as a repatriated Lost Boy from Rochester NY, and described the 78 sub prefecture chiefs, 2 paramount chiefs and District Commissioner of the Murle all foreswearing violence in order to redevelop their health care on their own efforts if only they could be assisted by expertise and education as well as some specialized equipment help from abroad:  Paul said:  “That is good, but do you have the blessing s of Rev Oruzu, who is the real leader of the Murle?”

He is going to be our host and it is he who has invited us!

Our long delay had been further delayed.  Even as an anthropologist dropped down into the heart of the birthing pains of a new nation state and all its baby mis-steps, this wait would be tedious if it were not that at last I got the recalcitrant laptop to use its last battery life to get started on the record of the events of the day.  Periodic comings and goings came to a lunch break.  Jacob and I went to the Garden Resort Hotel, which was started up by an entrepreneur of the Lost Boys scooped up by John Garang form the camp in Ethiopia and brought to Cuba as guests of the Fidel Castro offer to take 800 of the Lost Boys.  As I settled in to eat the chicken and rice and greedily slurp the mango juice and the first bottle of water (Ruwenzori after the Mountains of the Moon as they are so called on the Ugandan side and Ruwengeri on the Rwandan side—the volcano that gave the magma for this whole African shield volcanic central plains.)  As I finished I got up to use the outdoor wash basin and immediately had visions of my youth conveyed by the smell and color of Lifebuoy soap.  As I left to do so, a kite circling overhead swooped down brushing Jacob’s face as it made precision hit on my plate to carry off the chicken leg bones from my finished plate!

We threaded our way out from the UN vehicles marked WFP (World Food Programme) and UNICEF and UN (not otherwise specified) and returned to the court.  As I cranked out the laptop to begin again, a motorbike drove up with a fellow dressed to the nines and swinging a swagger stick—it is my well-recognized affront-giving FOB Aweng Deng Chol the “Out Law ex In Law”.  At least the opposition is now here and it is getting to the fashionably late hour of 3:45 PM for our 9:00 AM court date and starting time.  It is already going to be dark at the time of our return to MCH when we can almost immediately start up the tutorials and show the movie that will be the foundation for Jacob’s MPH thesis using the health care bridge as a public service toward peace to reduce the violence in which his laboratory is the Murle of PiBor and the Dinka Bor in collaboration on this new health care initiative.  I am advising Jacob to take this ball and run with it as a thesis as well as the heart of his proposal for support to get sponsorship. It is beyond health care, but is a much needed “Make Peace” effort.  Blessed are the Peace Makers.


Have about given up on our being called to the bar today  I have logged off with only 17 minutes of battery life left, too little to attempt spell checking until I get back and hooked up to the generator to recharge the laptop for its extra efforts exhausting the life of the battery with both Feb-B- 15 & 16 completed on the charge within the battery—so it was energy well spent and I am glad that I was able to salvage some of this down time besides simply watching the peoples of the bush come and go as if they were in the Inns of Court.  It is an imitation of one culture inside another, with only the white wigs missing as I had seen them flaunted on black heads in Nigeria and the Cameroons.  So, this theater is definitely not a comedy, and we will hold off now until I have results to report.

We were still waiting when the five o’clock time came around that was the presumed time that the court would adjourn.  I was still waiting when we were called as a group to file in to what might be called with a few apologies for a prior claim “The Black Hole of Bor.”  A small room was filled with a lot of people who could be sensed but not seen, as they squatted in silence along the walls.  At a central desk a man sat in a suit and a broad yellow tie—as incongruous an outfit as any could be imagined for the hot and airless tight quarters.  He had a rolled over legal pad and was scribbling details on a new page for each witness.  At that point the only reasonable thing to be done was to evict all the current group of witnesses and recall them one at a time as all the witnesses of the defendant family remained in the room against the walls

Jacob was called in about 5:12 and was asked a few questions mainly about how much money he had given and to whom—the brother-in-law he had seen enter as we sat in the vehicle. That was all he needed to contribute to ice another “line item” of the many claimed in the list that Ajak had furnished the court.  I was then called in and asked to state my name and what nation I came from.  I stated my name and gave him my card which he copied down.  He then asked what was my business in the court and what evidence I could produce that would help move the case forward.  I said that I had been a friend to many different groups in south Sudan and that these included the families of the eastern Jonglei represented by the alleged bride’s family.  He said “What would you know about the events in this case, and how might you know anything at all about the customs of a bridal dowry and negotiations over it?”

I told him I had presented my card as a Professor of Surgery but was also an anthropologist and had made a study of the culture and kinship patterns of Africans in general but the Dinka Bor, and other South Sudanese cattle cultures in particular, and had been a party to the negotiations in other such arrangements in Duk Payuel and other parts of Jonglei.  So, I was interested in doing a film of the events here and was particularly concerned that they be done right and represented accurately.  So, I had attended all the festivities of the wedding celebration in Bor for four consecutive days and had brought with me a TV crew of two videographers and a sound man and we filmed the entire process.  He said he was interested in how much money had gone into this and I told him I had supplied the “tobacco” for the lubrication of the negotiations so that they might be concluded.  He said “That you gave money to Ajak is of no consequence since he could have done anything with it.”  I agreed, but added I had “contributed considerable detailed gifts directly to the wedding party including the bull that was killed for the wedding celebration that went directly to the wedding party without Ajak having any knowledge or possession of these other contributions which are NOT listed on the sheets he has presented to you.  They are impressed with the large outlay in the filming of the wedding events and are not even taking into consideration our interests in the successful conclusion of the bridal party and the arrangements which were told me directly by both the potential bride and groom to be their most ardent desires which appear to have been thwarted by other interests than theirs.”

The man in the suit paused and pondered.  “Have you anything else to contribute?” I added only that “I am an admirer of and show respect for the institution of marriage and the role it has among the Dinka Bor in securing the family and do not want any malfeasance to taint the institution for exploitation of love and family.”  It seemed that my brief testimony may have hit it out of the park since I added nothing personal and had no interest from my side in recovery of any assets, which have all been consumed.  I was here for the general support and encouragement of Ajak and that justice be seen to take the place of exploitation or vengeance.

I thanked them and checked out taking my leave.  We will hear of further progress when Ajak returns to Werkok and MCH tomorrow.  We will now turn our attention to the limited remaining time we have at MCH and get set for the great expectations at PiBor which has been an isolate island of calm hopefulness while the Murle have been involved in firefights on nearly all other fronts.

Jacob and I immediately got into the vehicle and started back toward Werkok as the dusty road was darkening.  On the way back a jackal darted across the road.  We arrived in time for the evening tutorials, with John Ajok leading off on “Antenatal Care” which got us in to the discussion of Misoprostyl and its lifesaving role in intrauterine fetal death and salvage of the mother.  I reminded John Ajok that it was sitting in that very chair in that very spot giving that very same tutorial that Deirdre Benzing last year was talking about the similar issues, when she returned to Washington with us, she was appointed the Executive Director of the William J Clinton and George W Bush Haiti initiative, for rehabilitation of the earthquake of which we received the news while here at MCH in Werkok just a year ago.  SO, there have been other epochal events that have surrounded us in the past as well as present, and things we are trying to do to prepare for such help and to make peace and progress are never wasted whatever the current wave of news events seems to indicate.  We are on our way in both the Micro (Bor Court Appearance to rectify a grievous wrong against an individual) and Macro (de-fusing the centuries of rivalry and violence against whole populations just because of which name inside the cattle cultures they happen to have been born into.)  Ours is just to work toward peace without distractions and not be weary of this well-doing!

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