Scootin' Round the World travel blog

Ride up the Nile to Old Fangak

Flying our flag into the military checkpoints

Denny and Mark discussing sports

Me don't know drilling but me lift heavy things

A villager showing the typical head scars of the Dinka

A usual crowd of onlookers


The number of transports in Old Fangak have doubled, from one bicycle to a bicycle and a donkey. The origins of the donkey, however, seem to be somewhat of a mystery. It's appears as if the donkey just strolled into town one day, and here he remains, usually roaming the streets and occasionally tied up by his elusive owner.

He apparently is not your typical ass however, as this donkey has a penchant for goat. For KILLING goats, that is. As the story goes, the donkey was once harassed and attacked by a pack of dogs, and as he got whipped up into a frenzy he took it out on a nearby goat, biting and killing the goat, and then snacking on him for dinner.

Now this did not go unnoticed by the owner of the goat, and he took the owner of the donkey to court. The local court convened to hear the case of Goat v. Donkey. The donkey owner claimed that his donkey was being harassed and only acted out in self-defense. The court decided, however, that since there was no other donkey around to hear what the killer donkey said before he attacked the goat, his state of mind could not be confirmed. Thereby, the judge ruled in favor of the goat owner, and he was compensated the price of the goat.

So goes life in Old Fangak. As they have been living on the banks of the Nile for centuries as traditional, simple-living cattle people, their life has been in constant upheaval for the last 20 years due to disease, wars with the north, tribal conflicts, and drought.

You would not necessarily know this as you interact daily with the villagers, most of whom are of the Dinka tribe. They are some of the gentlest, friendliest, and good-natured people that I have met. As we walk through the village the kids run constantly run up shouting "mal-lay!" (the local greeting), and jabbing out a hand for a handshake. It must be a stroke of luck to shake hands with a kawaja (white person), and I have undoubtedly shook hands with over 500 kids since being here.

The daily routine has been to get up at the crack of dawn, have our coffee and breakfast, and head to the worksite. I have been working exclusively with the water well drilling team, which consists of Denny from Alaska, David Kapla, and a local named Thai, a Dinka who has worked with ASMP for awhile, who speaks English well, and is learning the well drilling process quickly.

We arrived to find the current borehole that ASMP is drilling to be "having issues." All of the challenges in working in remote Sudan have come to fruition this season for ASMP: shipment delays, multiple pieces of equipment breaking down, flight delays and cancellations for volunteers, and a little bad luck. This borehole, which had been worked on by Rob Crotty and other volunteers for three weeks, was drilled down to 80 feet, where it struck water, before the team experienced a pump failure. Again. This well had chewed up three pumps, and with the nearest True Value thousands of miles away, the situation wasn't looking good.

The team decided to throw down a casing and see if the well would produce water anyway, which it did, but barely. Our job upon arrival was to try to condition the well into being a viable water source. We might as well have tried to turn the water into wine.

For three days we bailed and bailed the well, hoping to remove enough material from the bottom of the well so the water would flow more freely. I won't bore you with the details, but it was a laborous, time-consuming process.

Meanwhile, we watched the life of the village pass by. Every morning the kala-azar patients would start streaming into the village around 9 am and by 11 am there were several hundred people outside the clinic waiting to receive their daily treatment. Kala-azar, a parasite born of the sand fly that is 95% fatal if left untreated, mostly affects kids, but it is also 95% curable with treatment, which consists of a shot daily for 30 days.

Since our drill site was only about 30 yards from the clinic, villagers would often stop by to watch our progress. Often they would stay for hours, as apparently we were the most entertaining spectacle in Old Fangak. A fence needed to be errected around the drill sites, otherwise kids would be teeming all over the site, shaking hands and crawling over equipment. Outside the fence they sat glued to the perimeter, wondering what these kawaja and their big fancy red machine were up to.

We continued struggling to make our well produce and then reached a cross road. With the days being numbered for the volunteers we needed to decide if we should continue with the current well or make a mad dash to repair pumps and try to start and finish a new borehole.

We decided to give a new borehole a shot, and with not much more that a few extra gaskets, some duct tape, electrical tape and determination, we set about to produce the first successful water well of the year for Old Fangak.

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