Where did I get to before I was distracted by the hippo? Church service… one of the lads took us to his family compound afterwards and to his tukel. We sat in there making polite conversation, the only light being that which threw in from the door. As you might expect in this part of the world hospitality is paramount but it can create challenges too. Soon the tinkle of glasses can be heard and a small boy ducks into the tukel with a tray with half a dozen glasses.
He places the tray on a stool, says nothing and backs out. An older girl follows him shortly thereafter with a large jug of what looks like very refreshing orange juice. After drinking Nile water you start to look for something more tasty than …mud. It might be filtered but by the time our filtration system is done the water is warm to hot and it has no capacity to fix the taste. Not that it’s bad. But that orange juice looks very tasty by comparison. Here’s the rub though – that cool looking orange juice has been made up on an unfiltered Nile base. Do you drink it? Your hosts are watching to see. I do and it tasted great. But who knows what the consequences are going to be? By midnight all I had suffered was some worrying grumbling which went away after five minutes. But is that the tremor before the quake? Who knows? If I erupt I erupt.
A bowl of something is presented in place of the glasses. There is a spoon for everyone and we all tuck in – but not too heavily, we have a lunch invitation up the river at Melut. The dish is decidedly fishy and in the half light it is difficult to work out exactly what is in the mix. Mainly uncooked fish and sorghum it turns out, with a dish of chili on the side. The boys tuck in as if it is chocolate pudding and so our leisurely pace is not minded at all. We excuse ourselves , visit the compounds of a few other folk we have met and then head towards our own compound. On the way two boys join me. About ten years old.
For such a sparsely covered, flat country I am constantly amazed at how people seem to appear out of nowhere. Out of the ground methinks. They teach me the names of two of the most common trees in the area – one is a thorn bush /tree which is seemingly used for fencing, firewood, construction, while the other is a smooth barked acacia with a rich red hue. Helpfully, in the local lingo the first is called “thor” and the second is called ”red”. Then one of the boys pipes up and insisted that I write the words down for “it helps stay in the mind”. He is very insistent and tells me three or four times to “Write it down, it helps to stay in the mind.” It sure does kiddo, it sure does, but I reckon even this dullard will be able to remember those two words. (But I write them down anyway, to his immense satisfaction). We can all be coached by anyone if we allow ourselves. I love his courage and his self assuredness. He will go far – I hope he is given the chance.