A Simple Game #1 – Permission to Travel??
Or, getting permission to travel is anything but simple…You cannot just hop in a car or on a bus and go whenever you get good and ready. No, you must have permission to travel. It is a lengthy process that requires permission from many sources. All I wanted to do was to go to Renk, to help Elizabeth with the women’s program….
The first step in the process was I had to go to the church office and request a letter from Rev. Gideon, giving me permission to leave Malakal. No problem. I have his permission. Come back tomorrow. He will make the letter “tonight” and it will be typed tomorrow so come in the afternoon. So in the afternoon I go to collect my letter. There was no electric so I will have to wait. I came back the next day picked up my letter and went to the SSRRC office – South Sudan Relief annnd Rehabilitation Commission – to ask their permission to travel.
Permission granted. Delayed - Elizabeth's granddaughter is in the hospital. We wll go tomorrow. Tomorrow came and off we went...all the way to the bus station where we were delayed for a day because there wasn't a car to take us! Come back tomorrow! Tomorrow came and off we went. Another day another car we were on our way (and that is another story all in itself!)
Lesson learned – make sure your permission extends a day or two beyond what you think you need…Remember this is Africa and nothing goes as planned. It is a simple game. Before you travel you to a government office and ask for permission. The next day you go back and pick up a letter that says how long you can be gone. Then when you arrive where you are going, you go to the security office and report you are there. They write your name and passport information in a ledger book. Then you ask for permission to leave the area. They tell you to come back tomorrow and that is where my simple game became complicated.
Plan A: The man who speaks English, that took me on Monday can not go. They were going to send me with Stephen.
Plan B: Stephen speak Arabic but no English. He could communicate with the security office, but not with me to tell me what they need.
Plan C: Send me with one of the women. She didn’t speak enough English to help me We wait.
Plan D: Mark will come. We waited. He came. He speaks English! He speaks Arabic! We can communicate!
We go now and off we went in a taxi, back to yesterday’s office. Again, they pull out the big blue ledger, again they write my name and passport information, again we wait. Mark told our story to a very serious looking man who came in a greeted us and sat looking very stern. A few minutes later a third man came. He passed his greetings and sat looking more stern than the last with his chin propped on his hand, squinted eyes and seriously contemplating the situation. Suddenly, all three men left the room. Two more men came to sit with us, not saying a word but looking very “official” in spite of their plain clothes.
In a few minutes one of the first three men came and asked for my passport. I asked if I could go with it. “No”. I said I was told to never leave my passport and documents. Mark assured me they would bring it back. And so, I sat waiting, wondering what would happen if they didn’t bring it back. Holding my breath; a few minutes later he appeared; travel permit waiving from my passport.
Whew! I could breathe! It is a simple game that requires the patience of Job as each step in the bureaucracy plays its role.
Simple Game #2 – Tales from the Market As we exited the taxi Mark said “I heard about you in the market yesterday”. Puzzled I asked why. “The boy told me he saw an English lady wearing a luwalla. The people were talking”. I couldn’t help but laugh, a big, belly deep laugh. Who would have thought that wearing something as simple as a “tablecloth”, I would have people in a small village in Africa talking about me all over the market!
A Simple Game #3 – A Rock, Some Dirt and a Few Lines on the Ground…
Who would have dreamed they could lead to so much fun, love and laugher as thirty plus women of all ages lined up to try their luck at hopscotch. I was a little surprised at first, then it made sense. They have never been taught how to play. Their lives have been spent in hard work and struggle for survival. There hasn’t been time for games when family survival depends on the hard work of fetching wood and water, cooking and foraging for food. Years of struggling during times of war…
Oh, how much fun it was to watch and listen to their puzzlement as I took a rock and started drawing lines in the dirt. And then, to see their wide eyed wonder as I picked up my skirts and started hopping – one, two, one, one, two feet on the ground – and they lined up waiting to try; young and old alike, laughing, jumping, stumbling and falling only to get up and try again.
A simple game that we play from the time we are little girls, big enough to jump, brought so much joy and laughter to women half a world away.