The last few days I’ve spent in Melut, a large village along the Nile where there is a small theological college. I was looking at a project with orphans and a school there. I was also able to visit with some friends I knew in my desert home. They studied Arabic at the same school I did for almost a year. They are a lovely family and I thoroughly enjoyed visiting and catching up with them.
July 9 was South Sudan’s second independence day. There was a big celebration across the street with lots of speeches, singing, dancing and general celebrating. We were just there for a little while, It’s always nice to share in celebrations. The people up here are mostly Dinka, who are well known for being quite tall, so pretty much kids over the age of, um, 10, are taller than me. So I didn’t actually get to see a whole lot. J
There are a few khawaja (white foreigner) families here in Melut, but in outer areas there aren’t so many. For the celebrations big lorries of excited folks came in from surrounding villages and areas. We went back later in the afternoon to catch the dancing and drumming. Unfortunately, we got there just as it was ending. And I think all of the kids (and teenagers and some adults) thought that our little group was the next act! More than once we became surrounded with curious folks shaking our hands, petting our heads, and in some cases taking pictures with their phones. We made our way across the lot and the ladies I was with knew a family who lived nearby. We were able to duck in for a visit and escape the crowd.
We had a lovely time with their friends. We sat in a mud-walled tukul and had a nice visit with these ladies they know who work at the college compound. It felt familiar, shooting the breeze chatting away with a bunch of ladies in Arabic drinking hot tea spiced with cardamom and cinnamon, eating overly-sweet caramels that they reserve for holidays and special occasions. We talked about the festivities, sick friends, and somehow got on the subject of childbirth. One lady shared how she’d delivered two babies breech in her home. The first, a little boy, didn’t survive. The second, her youngest girl she delivered after two day so of labor in her home. When she finally came out she wasn’t breathing so they slapped her with cold water until the little one started gasping and crying. She shared this with such calm and ease it was as if she was talking about what she was making for dinner. These ladies possess an immeasurable amount of strength.
Later that day I was chatting to a few of the people on campus and made an exciting discovery. Stay tuned!