Tidbits of Toposa life - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Toposa women


Life is never dull in Kuron Peace Village. There are so many little events throughout each and every day, which I ponder in my heart. God is good to me to grant such small graces — good and bad. A sampling of these follow:

I carry a little “cheat sheet” of Toposa language with me. People get a kick out of me trying to speak Ngatoposa. I asked one old guy if he knew who I was? “You are the one who learns Toposa,” he said.

Common lizards can grow over a foot long. Some are very colorful. Most typically they don’t bother you unless you trap a little one in your boot as you put it on. Then they fight like hell!

I share a latrine with six other people. I frequently find leaves on the floor. Toposa don’t usually use paper.

A 1-inch thorn went right through the sole of my new sandals and stuck me good. Luckily, no infection. Toposa walk barefoot, and I have no idea how they do it.

After my mishap, a one-legged, disabled Toposa boy made me a pair of sandals out of the old tire tread from our UNIMOG van. The soles are 8-ply nylon thread and about 0.6 inches thick! I don’t think these sandals will ever wear out! And no more worries about thorns.

I walked into the dining room at lunch. It was beans and ugali (a stiff maize flour porridge) for the umpteenth time! I lost my appetite. I was cursing under my breath when our finance assistant walked in and said, “Oh, I just love these beans and ugali. They are my favorites!” I decided I was lucky to have anything to eat at all.

One of the teachers bakes bread and sells it for a little extra income. I buy every time! I think I am paying for her kids to go to school!

A year ago, the under-5-year-olds in this village were terrified of me. Now, when I go for a walk, I am swamped with little, dirty hands reaching out to greet the Kwacha (“foreigner”). Little ones come running from over a 100 meters away just to shake my hand and use their English. “Kwacha, how are you?” … giggle, giggle … “What is your name?” … giggle, giggle … I enjoy their names: Lokii, Nadapal, Awar, Nakolong, Lopoek, Nancy …. Huh, Nancy? “You are the first Nancy Toposa I have met.” I smile at her. “Thank you” she replies … giggle, giggle…

A walk through the Napil market

I walk 15 minutes to the Napil market once a week to buy some items to support the local markets. The kids know me well. I give each of them a piece of candy if they are around. These days I never walk alone when I am in the market! Even old men follow me around to get a sweet!

Sometimes when I shop in these tin shack stores, there are only children tending the place. Last week I wanted to buy some pasta, and a boy no more than 6 years old waited on me. “How much?” I ask. “Five hundred,” he says in English. “A soda?” I ask. “One thousand,” he confidently says. “Sandals?” I continue. “Two thousand five hundred,” he rattles off. “T-shirt?” I am on a roll now. “Three thousand seven hundred,” snaps off. Here we have a 6-year old Toposa boy who has not gone to school but has memorized the price of every single item in the store! I stand quite impressed.

I like to visit the nearby villages. The people are always curious about the “white guy.” I let them touch my head. Dozens of eager hands pat my “silky smooth” hair. Even the adults love to do this as they have never experienced such hair. “Kwacha, your hair is like a cat!” …giggle, giggle…

At the Juba airport, passengers were on the runway next to the small Cessna plane, waiting to board. (South Sudan is a strange place). Everyone was standing under the wing to escape the searing heat from the sun. At that moment, the fuel truck pulls up and the guy starts fueling the plane on that very wing right above the crowd. I was the only one to move away (far away). Safety is not a priority for most people, it seems. He finished, we boarded, and off we flew. What’s the problem?

The local Toposa people in Kuron Peace Village are really impressed now. Some months ago, a person was arrested for stabbing one of the Peace Village staff and has been in prison since September. This never happened before. Now two more thieves were caught stealing wood, fuel and other supplies. Police in Kapoeta were contacted, who then arrived to take these two into custody. These two have also been taken to Kapoeta Prison. As there is no permanent police presence in Kuron, some people think they can do what they want. That attitude is changing as the local community realize Peace Village is serious about keeping the peace. It was actually the community’s suggestion to put them in prison. They, too, are fed up with their youth causing so many problems.

A poor, old lady, Abuba, gave me two eggs. This is an extreme luxury out here in the bush. Usually, all chicken eggs are allowed to hatch because there is much more food in a chicken than in an egg. I was so touched by her generosity.

I hope your life is full of little surprises too. It is a blessing to live among the Toposa people of South Sudan.

Gabe Hurrish
Gabe Hurrish works in parish ministry at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Riwoto in the South Sudanese state of Eastern Equatoria. He has served as a Maryknoll lay missioner in South Sudan since 2018.