Did I Mention the Butterflies?

June 16, 2012

It’s easy to concentrate on the nasty biters and disregard the butterflies. But they share the airspace here. Those I’ve seen are small and yellow or white. I’ll pay attention and see what else I can see. They’re dwarfed the moths, of course, Oh, there I go again. Some of the moths are exquisite.

There’s been no rain since my arrival and the paths are beginning to dry. That’s not to say they’re dry. It is still necessary to roll your pant legs or life your skirts, to pull on the awkward gum boots, which aren’t always as tall as the water is deep, or to remove your shoes or sandals and walk barefoot through murky water that conceals the bottom which may be sandy and firm, or marshy swampy gooey silty mud. Sometimes the grasses under the water give firmer footing. Sometimes the ruts dug by desperately stuck vehicles can twist an ankle. A road grater and fill would be a blessing.

I prefer walking Sudanese style barefoot through the water with a long slow gait. In reality, my gait is slowed in the heat in South Sudan,  but my steps through the water are methodical, careful, anything but the easy stride of the people around me.

The water ranges from warm to very warm, depending on its depth. As a child, I rarely wore shoes at the lakes, no matter the path, though my routes were never flooded. My grandmother was horrified that my feet and those of my sisters would S-P-R-E-A-D without the confines of a sole and uppers. I never saw her bare feet, but my toes are as wide and spread apart as she had feared. 

I like the contact with the earth. The mud squeezing between my toes, my step cautious, feeling for the occasional large snail resting at the bottom of the flooded paths. The first few days when the water was deeper and clearer, I waded through schools of tadpoles. If they didn’t swim far enough, they may already have dried up and died in these receding streams. In a day or two, the puddles may have evaporated. If it doesn’t rain tomorrow, I will wear the dreaded gumboots as the receding water is not very fresh anymore. We share the paths with cattle and goats.

In November of 2010, I arrived in Duk at the end of a bad rainy season to find the paths and many huts flooded. Just like Fargo, some had been diked. Some dikes failed, or the water came too fast. There are no sandbags here. But this year’s flooding is months earlier than usual. It’s too early to say how the season will go, but some have already lost crops planted a month ago.

Our own garden plot fed okra and kale and spinach and other good things to our girls for two months until it flooded. And now we have a new, higher garden where the maize is nearly two feet tall, groundnuts have sprouted, and the seeds I brought last week are being planted. The old garden will be planted again in the dry season. It’s close to our water source, so we can pamper it, a luxury most in this village do not have.

A note for those who know about our badly leaking water tank. Repairs have been completed. Now the leak is a small trickle instead of a gusher. We’ll keep repairing it until we receive the anticipated “loaner” tank. After the rainy season, we’ll have to get a new one, if anyone is interested in helping us acquire one. The tanks are expensive and so is the transport.

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