As we flew over the area which was to be my home, it was like seeing a whole new world. The landscape was flat and the White Nile and Sobat rivers twisted and turned like snakes through the land. Huge marshes contained papyrus reeds growing along the sides of the river. Herons, egrets, and storks skimmed the water’s surface in search of fish. A description of this land is found in the Bible, in Isaiah 18:1-2 (NIV): “Woe to the land of whirring wings along the rivers of Cush, which sends envoys by sea in papyrus boats over the water. Go, swift messengers, to a people tall and smooth-skinned, to a people feared far and wide, an aggressive nation of strange speech, whose land is divided by rivers.” Not much seemed to have changed from the time that was written.
As I listened to the conversations between David and the Sudanese officials, I was quite interested in seeing which words were borrowed from English and which were Arabic. They assumed that I didn’t know any Arabic, and I didn’t enlighten them, so they spoke freely about buying fuel on the suuq aswad (black market). In 1983, trading on the black market was about the only way to get fuel. We also met other important people in the community.
At one point, the official we were visiting asked if we had arranged an appointment with a particular person. “No,” we answered. “Oh, let me do that for you!” and he reached behind his desk for a telephone. I looked at John H, and he looked at me.
“Do they have telephones here?”
I replied, “Well, they must have. He’s talking on one!”
After a year in Khartoum without a working phone and six weeks in Juba without even seeing a phone, it was quite novel to be reminded of how helpful this marvelous invention could be!
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