Letters from the Field

Letter from Arua
When a South Sudanese chief died in Arua in 2017, the place for his burial became the source of discord—not between the host population and the refugees, but between the South Sudanese that... MORE >
Letter from Bentiu
Over the last hundred years, the most powerful authorities—along with formal government—amongst the western Nuer communities have been individuals known as prophets. In Nuer society, men,... MORE >
Letter from Pibor
The Chiefs’ High Court in Pibor town is located along the Pibor River, which—due to unusually high rains at levels not seen since 2012—had inundated the town, making the court an island... MORE >
Letter from Gogrial
Chief Morris Ngor of the Buoyar Chiefdom (Western Dinka in South Sudan) is the oldest chief in the Apuk Dinka. He ascended to his position of communal power in 1973, when his father, who... MORE >
Last month in Yirol I bought a heifer—a brindled two-year old, not yet in calf. In the Dinka cattle-naming system a cow like this is called nyang, the crocodile, a reference to the... MORE >
Letter from Isoke No 12: Church, government, school fees, rebels, full moon and stars
I’m back in Isoke, and writing in the dark. It’s been fifteen months since I was last here. I flew this time, from Juba, the capital of South Sudan, to Torit, in Eastern Equatoria. From... MORE >
Letter from Kapoeta: Fewer guns, more waterpoints
Last month I drove some 1,200km around the country of the Toposa and the Nyangatom, cattle pastoralists who live in the lands north and east of Kapoeta, in Eastern Equatoria, in one of the... MORE >
Letter from Isoke No 11: Ghost teachers, scorpions, broken chairs
The subject of the Comprehension test in the school certificate exam this year was cattle-raiding. Cattle-raiding is a specialty round here, so it was much easier for the students than last... MORE >
Letter from Isoke No 10: Pregnant students  and guava thieves
At the beginning of term two students turned out to be pregnant. One was a sponsored student of ours. She wouldn't tell me, though it was obvious. Later she wrote me a letter admitting it.... MORE >
Letter from Isoke No 9: Death and tractors
A man called Luka climbed a cassia tree in the parish grounds to cut branches to sell, having taken five of six sachets of the strong alcohol they sell here called ‘Empire’. Drunk, he fell... MORE >
Letter from Isoke No 8: The diary project
The mechanic, Michael, drove our newly repaired tractor from Narus to here, a distance of over 100 miles. The vast lands at Lolit 16 kilometers away, which are earmarked partly for the... MORE >
Letter from Isoke No 7: Violent incidents at Isoke school
Last term was the first time at Isoke School that we didn’t have to end early from lack of food, so perhaps we are getting on a firmer foundation. Sorghum from the school garden lasted a... MORE >