i am back in khartoum. how? i just finished
waiting for the plane in agok, then the storm, then the middle of the
night flight, then kenya, then back, and it seems like a minute, and
soon i will be back tucking the mosquito net under my flat foam
mattress, handset crackling beside me. time. it can't be trusted.
my first impression of kenya, when i arrived, was how rich the
people were, at least in the rural areas i passed through. if one
disembarked here directly from toronto, his first thought would be the
opposite: how abjectly poor. a long stopover in abyei changes one's
eyes. a verdant green compared to abyei's graying brown. the markets
had fruit in them. people had shirts and nearly all of them had shoes.
crowds of children in brightly coloured uniforms swarmed schoolyards.
infants looked fat, miles away from the fence that so many in abyei are
sitting on, swaying on. i saw mothers holding their child's hands as
they crossed the road; in abyei, children move alone, their parents far
too occupied with finding food or shelter to provide such attention. i
passed businesses. one made pallets, another sold wrecked cars. in
abyei, for most of the people, there is nothing. they live hand to
mouth in a hard landscape that bears little fruit, they struggle from
season to season, from war to peace. and, when they are sick, they go
to the hospital.
that is where i will be soon.
i spent six days doing very little, mostly thinking about things
other than sudan. i read, rested. one of the books i read was one by
ryszard kapucinski; one of poland's greatest writers and one of the
world's best african correspondents. in part of it, he describes
arriving to a town in ethiopia that is suffering from a severe drought.
people lie on the side of the road, their eyes half open, starving.
with that simple sentence, he made the last four months of abyei rush
back. it was the half open eyes of the starving. half open. half
closed. mostly closed. closed.
i sat there, holding the book, and realized that no matter how much
i try, i will never go back to being the person i exactly was before i
left. i can try not to think about it most of the time, and most of the
time, i will succeed. the memories will fade from video to short sepia
snapshots, but from nowhere, a simple sentence will throw all the
hardness forward and with it, that helpless, sleepless, lonely drowning
i started having dreams again this past week. some of them were
about abyei, and those that were are too difficult to transcribe; full
of war and sickness. but others too. one was entirely about muesli. row
upon row of it. it gave me hope. both for muesli, and for dreams.
i will send word from abyei. i think the airstrip in agok is washed
out, and i will have to be picked up in kadugli, a day away from abyei.
i am looking forward to the drive, to the movement.