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Memories of my travels between 1972 and 1982

Thursday, 16 December 2010

December 16th: Yambio in Southern Sudan

On December 16th 1980 I was in Yambio in Southern Sudan. 

This holiday journey:       Rumbek to Tambura        Tambura to Yambio       Yambio to Rumbek 

My Christmas holiday was now more than half way through and I was leaving the land of the Azande.  Yambio was a larger town with a mixed population.  I stayed in a bare, waterless room in an official teachers' house and had bedding on the floor supplied.  That afternoon I managed a walk out of town to a low rise tothe south, mainly in teak-forest where I saw black and white colobus monkeys, but I was tired and wanted to be on my own and there were always people aroiund

The teachers' house was near the market where I spent much of my time and once I recorded what I saw in my notebook:
Yambio Market:  My picture
Sitting outside the shade of a mango tree which serves as an outside cafe in the market area.  Several stalls sell chai laban (tea with milk) or coffee and little boys sit with tins of buns.  The clientele, mainly Dinka or Azande, sit in groups around a table or chairs or on the traditional wooden benches.  Dinka and Azande do not mix of course, there is mutual dislike and their styles of life are totally opposed; yet the Azande are a very tolerant people.  The Dinkas themselves are very mixed; a study of the way the clans mix together outside their areas would be interesting, or of what goes on in the cattle-camps in Zandeland.  Yet they are instantly recognisable, by their looks, their clothes, their bearing, their albeit mixed scars. 

Yambio Market:  My picture
The market is busy and bustling, the most active I've seen, with a distinct charm and character.  Yet it's far from picturesque with its shabby tin shacks, some painted corrugated iron, others concocted out of oil-cans, all stretching in haphazard lines.  There's a little brick vegetable stand in the middle with women clustered in groups around on the ground.  There are some Arab shops in brick around the outside with tin verandas and wooden doors.  The larger Arab merchant shops in red brick are on the main street.  Arab music plays from a radio at a tea-stand behind me.
After Tambura I had found an arabiya (truck) to take me to the Zande town of Ezo where I was stuck for a couple of nights as nothing was leaving.  The first night I was cold sleeping outside the police station, but as the second night approached I realised I was in an attractive place.  As I sat on the edge of town I wrote this in my notebook.
Another equatorial sunset; they are so long here with the haze, the sun gets red and it starts to get cool an hour before it dips below the horizon; only you don't see it dip - it's beginning to fade even now and probably I won't be able to see the moon again this evening.  The sun goes down away from the line of shops which constitutes the souk, where there is an open stretch of green with a few elm-shaped trees in a line.  Beyond there is thicker bush and a layer of mist which rises in a straight line.  I've never seen such sunsets before.

It's an idyllic sort of place, as it ought to be in such a spot, right on the border of the three remote countries of Central Africa, Zaire, The Central African Republic and Southern Sudan; to the right where the sun goes down is the Central African Republic, straight along the road is Zaire.

I took a lovely little stroll behind earlier to the spring at the water source, which is built like the one at Tambura only steeper, and then to the outskirts of town through the back lanes, there being a romantic  feeling of African perfection I haven't seen before; this is I suppose the most tropical I've seen it in Sudan, different trees and palms, even epiphytes, big blue butterflies and violets, the birds too have a different feel.  There is the prettiness of the Zande houses and huts around, and the greenness of it all.

And later:
Back in town it seemed the remotest place in the world, but then I met a student from the third year called Philip: before I'd only seen those I recognised from the truck I arrived on, mainly Arabs and the Kakwa game scout from Yambio.  It's getting darker, the swifts are flying, the midges coming, later maybe there will be bats and mosquitoes.  Three trucks are pulled up and there are quite a lot of people around, the clack of dominoes on the table behind, the players Dinka I think and one English speaking Shilluk.  Radio aloud with French and strange music by the couple of tea shops.  "Karkadeh" coos a dove, and a cock crows, and a cow moos.  Evening sounds, it could be an interesting night.

I stayed the night at Philip's house.  He was a mature 22 year old with a wife and 2 children.  He put me up in his guest house within the beaten earth compound.  Zande compounds are compact and Philip's felt more like a conservatory with plants all around and the separate "houses" more like rooms - guest house, kitchen house, latrine house and so on.  We sat and drank a Zairean beer and his wife served us a meal of meat and cassava leaves.  I managed a bath of sorts but got stung on the shoulder by a giant centipede while using the latrine and this hurt for days.  Earlier Philip had walked me around the town and the agricultural project area.  We drank a cassava and honey suku suku (spirit) and a honey beer which were much better than their Rumbek equivalents.

From Ezo I got a lift with Austrian Klaus, in the front of his Steyr truck, to Nzara where he was putting a generator into the agriculture produce factory which dates back to the British period.  I found Nzara a hole, more or less an industrial town, with people from all over mixed together; it seemed to mark the end of the pristine area from Wau to Ezo.  I had to wait overnight for a ride, but a student from Rumbek put me up in his parents' house, basically a hostel room related to the factory.  We ate cassava and pineapple and when I went to bed I heard on the radio, Voice of America, through the thin walls that John Lennon had died - killed I thought they said, but I couldn't be sure.

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