after ten hours on a chattering road, i arrived into abyei as planned, two days ago. the first thing i did after setting my bags down was to fell headfirst into a fever. i spent my first morning back shivering in bed from my hot welcome.
so, especially to my family, sorry for the delay in news. i thought about writing... well, that is not really true. i thought about thinking about writing, but decided that thinking was entirely out of the question. i was flat, inside and out. 2D. a paper man. i just wanted to close my eyes and hang out in the black thoughtlessness behind them.
today, i am better. at first i was worried i had disco fever, which in abyei, because of its lack of discos, is incurable. i considered lotto fever, spring fever, saturday night fever, johnny fever... pretty much all the fevers, but couldn't confirm any of them. we simply don't have the necessary tests, ones that would be readily available in canada. there, let's say someone has, i don't know, johnny fever. we just get the johnny fever guy on call, he rolls with that episode of WKRP where mr. carlson decides to rain down frozen turkeys on the thanksgiving parade, and the patient is cured. in abyei, it is much more difficult. the best we could do, if we even made the diagnosis of johnny fever, is to try to explain the episode from memory. it is poor treatment, and very rarely works.
on a hunch, and because of significant previous personal experience, i started taking antibiotics for food borne illness, and today i feel better. i guess i'll never truly know which of the fevers it was. i'm just grateful it wasn't disco because there would have been very little chance of staying alive. one spends his last hours in the frustrated contortions of a dance that time, embarassed, has forgotten.
the long ride from kadugli was exhausting, though the chance to see a landscape i had only flown over, was welcome. during the ten hours of driving over rocky red roads, we passed only a handful of towns. it is in one of them, the one where i ate lunch in a mud market, that i likely picked up one of the fevers. another one we passed was home to a hundred people or so. they shared their village with birds, large ones, three feet tall at the shoulder. they landed, evolutionarily, between a crane and a pelican and walked stooped, their heads hanging between their bony shoulders. most of them lingered in the groundwater near the side of the road, trying to siphon frogs. a few of them, however, padded back and forth between houses like hunched old men, as if they were returning to the market to pick up something they missed the first time.
the rest of the journey, except for these few small blinks of people, was through acres of uninterrupted wilderness. the landscape reminded me of that in northern alberta, in the jackpine and the tamaracks. some of my favorite. wide spaces between narrow trees sitting on sand or marsh. occasionally we would pass someone walking with a hoe dangling over his back. from where? to where? we had passed no homes. he was walking for miles, forever.
i thought, was this what the fighting was about? these spaces where noone wants to live, and those that do, have to struggle and struggle just to get a stalk of corn to poke out of the ground? the blaze of the bombs at night, a second before the sound. the bullets splintering the tamarack trees, whining away, frustrated at not finding a human. people running ahead, just ahead of the fighting to where, anywhere, just not here. these marshes? that's what it was about? here?
sure. part of it. and because of resources. history. politics. because we are war-like. all of these, and for other reasons i will never know. but also over those empty stretches. while there are things in the world worth fighting for, it’s tough to convince myself that there are many worth warring over.
so i was thinking these thoughts as i pulled into abyei, my torn temporary home, still struggling from all of the struggling, and they gave me a fever. them, and that piece of goat from the market.