Our planes’ wheels touch down onto Sudan’s sand and our little pod of people spills out into 100 degree air. The sunhats come out, the extra dose of sunscreen gets slapped on. Terra firma! How nice to be here!
It’s like we’re at the beach and there’s no ocean.
We climb into two (or was it three?) Land Rovers and start out on what is to be a week of bumpy roads. We’re kicking up clouds of dust. There is a half mile stretch of pavement somewhere there, and we went down it once. There is also a short stretch of electric line poles. Where the electricity comes from or is going, I don’t know.
The scene is straight out of a National Geographic magazine. We’ve stepped back into Year One. I am overcome with a feeling of the honor of being here, given a glimpse of a real life, breathing diorama like I’ve seen behind glass at the Museum of Natural History. Grass thatched roofed circular mud huts, woven grass fences, goats, chickens, children running and mothers moving slowly down well worn paths. How do the women stand that straight? How do they balance those containers of water on their gorgeous heads? How do they wrap those brightly colored cloths around themselves? The women carry most of the color here. They mix these colors up in ways only Mother Nature can do in lush places planets away like in Tahiti. And then there is the occasional dash of sparkle.
Our first stop, within twenty minutes or so, is the camp where the folks Ellen calls her ‘Polio People’ live and work. They are waiting for us, and it’s our first chance to immerse ourselves into the gracious, smiling joy of these people who have so little stuff and so much love. The kids gather around and, if smiled at, will return the love with 1000 watt smiles that are disarming and delightful. You immediately feel the trusting nature and the purity of these people. Dinka!
Ellen and co have started a program for the folks with polio. These people are turning bicycles that have been brought in for this purpose into wheelchairs. Here’s a picture of the operation. This woman can’t walk. Her wheelchair has changed her life. She and Ellen have a song they sing about woman power.
It’s hard to tear away, but we’re off to what is to be our home base for the next 6 days. If they tell you it will take 45 minutes to get somewhere in Sudan, double that time and you’ll be right. Off we go down that bumpy beautiful road, and one and a half hours later we’re pulling into Dr Luka’s compound. Dr Luka is a western educated man who returned home to be with his extended family and his community and to start a clinic. The folks at Christian Solidarity International are working with him. The nurse who is with us is on this team. In her other life, she owns an NBA basketball team. Here, she tends to the sick with a quiet and steady grace.
I really should only speak for myself, but I don’t think any of us would argue that we are whupped! It’s dark, and we have 14 tents to set up. We heave to. There are a couple of tables in the yard, decked with a lovely cloth. As we’re buzzing around getting our gear stowed and our tents up, out glide a couple of gals with bowls of food. Steamed rice, steamed potatoes, fried noodles, stewed goat and some other bowl of some thing. And bottles of wine and a tray of wine glasses. All of it a welcome sight! Here’s a morning after first night picture of our dining area.
How good it feels to get horizontal in the tent on the desert floor! Out like a light. That first night’s sleep only disturbed by a few dogs’ communications across the community. Maybe one of us is gently snoring. There’s some laughter somewhere. And way off in the distance, a group of drummers from one direction, and then from another.
Next thing I know it’s our trusty alarm clock “Coq au Vin”, king of kings, strutting his stuff from 5:30 am till we all get up. Cock a Doodle Do! OK, Coq, honey, we get it!
I had no idea how moving this next day would be. How could I anticipate this? I’ll be posting about it soon.
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