At times it is inconceivable to be sitting in a remote village in this part of the world, watching their world pass you by: children playing, women carrying water, mothers shuffling their kids to the clinic, men herding their cows, donkeys eating goats; and while at times this seems like a peaceful, idyllic life, under the surface you realize that these people lack the one thing the rest of us in the world take completely for granted. What is even more inconceivable is that the people in Southern Sudan are sitting right on top of a limitless water supply, as 50% of Nile water coming out of Lake Victoria gets caught up in this sud, this great southern swamp.
And they simply don't have the means to get to it. Even for us, Westerners with a fancy drill rig (by their standards) and "expertise," the challenges remain pretty abundant.
We knew our last shot at a producing borehole was somewhat of a Hail Mary, but we gave it our all in that final week, which on the last day got us down to 105 feet- at water level- before our water pump broke, again. Having used all our last seals and gaskets, we knew we had to strike immediately, so we started the laborious process of pulling out the drilling rod to put down the casing.
We worked with our headlamps into the wee hours of the night, and when we finally got the casing down, it got perilously stuck at 90 feet. An apparent partial well collapse. This seems to be a common problem, as it has troubled other well attempts in the area in the past.
There was nothing we could do but hope that 90 feet will produce enough water, walk away... and pray. We had one more day to clean and condition the well but it would be a couple days before we knew. Meanwhile, it was time for the volunteers to go. ASMP had decided to get us with plenty of leeway for the January 9th referendum.
The referendum is the other huge cloud hanging over the heads of the Southern Sudanese people. After decades of civil war and bloodshed, a truce was struck in 2005 to give the Southern Sudanese a chance to vote for independence on January 9th, 2011. It is certain that they will vote for independence, the fallout, however, is far from certain.
To put it in a nutshell, the bulk of the oil is sitting in the South, so it would seem dubious that the North would want to relinquish this resource. Add to that that the North is governed by president Al-Bashir, the same man wanted by the ICC for crimes of genocide against the people of Darfur (north and west of where we are at, by the way). Despite this, the consensus seems to be that he will reluctantly work out an agreement to give the South their autonomy. The bombs, however, could still fall at any moment.
I am out of Sudan now, having successfully completed the boat rides and flights to Nairobi. I already miss Sudan. It was extraordinary to work with such a great team of volunteers and an honor to meet the women he has been the inspiration for the whole project, Dr. Jill Seaman. Dr. Jill would stroll into camp late at night while we sat around the campfire, enjoying the relative cool of the late evening hours. She would always be smiling and concerned for us, even though she works 16 hour days every single day. In the morning she had usually already crawled out of her tent by the time I woke up for the 6:30 am sunrise.
I'll miss the kids who constantly shook hands and ran up asking for "turgas." Women would often do the same, and all they wanted was a chance to look at the photo. You could have a line of 100 people long if you wanted, all wanting to see their photo. It dawned on me that for many this was the first time in their life they have ever seen an image of themselves, in a mirror or otherwise.
So what of the well? Well, I just received an e-mail for our "main man" on the ground, David Kapla, who is staying a few days longer:
"ladies and gentlemen.....we have a well.
pumped with the grundfos for 30 min last night, after 2 days of
flushing/baling......clean, albeit still slightly sandy, water flowed
freely.... Jill, myself, etc all drank/tasted it, and it was
good....and a huge weight was lifted...
so....will be doing more pumping/cleaning this morning, hope
to be putting the pump/rod, etc down this afternoon; concrete and such
Thai and I had a little moment as we stood watching the water flow
from the hose....the only words he could say were, 'I am so grateful,
David, so very, very grateful....'
as we all are...."
Coincidentally, the pump handle is known as a "donkey" by the locals, and Dr. Jill always reminds them to drink "donkey water," not river water. It looks like Old Fangak has a new donkey.