23 November 2009

these are the days of miracle & wonder....

……….this is the long distance call…..
so…..I am in deepest, darkest Africa.

as I write this, I am in Malakal, Sudan.

Malakal is a city along the Nile River, just about in the middle of Sudan – consider it the Chicago of the country….

….if the South side of Chicago, or Pittsburgh, or the Italian Market in Philly had been bombed out for 10 years and people had decided F**k it, we’re going to have a city anyway.

add in that three blocks from DeVito’s, let's have mud huts and thatched roofs for 10 miles to form the suburbia and that’s about the scene I’m in…..

…yesterday, I was in a village called Pom.

I spent that morning in Old Fangak, the village I’m working in, rehabilitating the carburetor of a 75 hp boat motor to get us (myself and Bret, technically my boss, though he would hate the term), up the river ( the Zeraf, which then flows into the Nile) to accomplish this weekend’s journey – first, to Pom, where we spent the night, then on to Malakal.

about an hour before we started tearing the boat’s carburetor apart, we were cutting and welding together a makeshift auger to drill out a half-finished well in Fangak.

we handed the rest of that job off to a couple of other cats from the AK, Rob & Mike (a geologist and dentist, respectively), as time was of the essence….

….apparently, you don’t want to make the river journey at night, as you may run into “Apocalapyse Now”….people shooting at you situations…..so it behooves one to make good use of the sunlight.

we were traveling to Pom to meet the new commissioner of Jonglie state, an area in Sudan that includes Pom and Old Fangak, to discuss putting in wells, water filtration, and sanitation systems.....Sudan, like most of Africa, has been racked by corruption over the decades, but this Commish seems to be a good man, educated in Nebraska, of all places, and pretty intent on helping the people...

as we pulled up to the river bank in Pom, in a shitty little boat, with a re-habbed motor, two cowboys from Alaska (along with a local man, Stephen Gatkose, my guide, my right hand man, who I cannot say enough good things about – except to maybe say that in my best hours I would hope to show Stephen the same brotherhood and assistance if we dropped him at 15th and Broad that he has shown me) there were about a couple hundred people there - flags waving, drums beating, the entire National Geographic scene.

we proceeded on to the village centre, a marble and stone building from the British Empire days , where the festivities continued – an additional thousand people….school children singing welcome, followed by male warriors dancing, followed by a female contingent performing a dance that can only be described as “shake your tail feather”………..it’s a scene, man…..

what the hell?

this ain’t me….I signed on to throw up a very simple building to be used for a medical center, drill a few wells…….

Pom is a village of at least 25k people (census numbers in Sudan are dicey, go figure)……and they have no clean water source.

the people have a choice between the river water, which they may have to walk a mile (or two, or three) to get, or bottled water brought in by boat from Malakal (no real roads, only dirt paths)…..which costs money….which most don’t have…..thus, the need for a well or twenty.

and you’ve got the only drilling rig within a couple hundred miles…..and it’s not much to write home about. ...

no pressure, DK…..

…and you may ask yourself…..well……how did I get here?

….and that’s a loooooong story, better saved for next time.

some other quick notes….

….the stars….they sure are beautiful, and quite different configurations & angles than I’m used to, constellations I’ve never seen….my current favorite is Scorpio….it pops out and you think….yep, cavemen 10,000 years ago looked up at that and said “nasty insect that stings you”….I’ve seen a few of the real deal scurrying about as well….

….the moon…..the phases are at almost a right angle compared to the AK, so that a crescent is bottom to top, not left to right….either that, or there was a lunar eclipse last night…..

….my health….all good so far, not a whiff of dysentery or other assorted maladies….taking my meds religiously, and trying real hard not to cut myself….if you know me, you know the concentration that task requires…..

…the bugs….not nearly what I expected, maybe 1/20th of what I’m used to dealing with in a typical AK summer…..an awesomely pleasant surprise….

….tunez….quite a bit of local music in the air, both live (drumming, singing every night), as well as issuing forth from boom-boxes in the popular cassette format, digital technology not having reached most of Sudan thus far…..

…..Sudanese Fish Stew…..take any & all steps necessary to avoid it…….


  1. Nebraska, Omaha especially, has a huge sort of sister city relationship with Sudan. There are TONS of Sudanese in my city.

    You are definitely not in the AK anymore, DK.

    - Dylan

  2. Nicole noticed the rhino first, my first thought was - why does he have that look on his face? She said "oh my God, is that a rhinoceros behind him?!?! I thought - oh, that's why he has that look on his face. ;) J