Toby Update / An Africa I Didn’t Know

by

I’ve been in the Nuba Mountain region of Sudan for some time now, and I
have given few indicators to few people about what it’s like. This is
unacceptable.

Part of my slowness in sharing about this place is the familiarity of it
to my past experiences in Kenya. There certainly are many factors of
life here that hearken strongly to the blessed days I spent in the
Northern deserts of Kenya with AIM-Tech. Probably the single biggest
difference is the fact that I am no longer going to many distinct
locations and people groups. I lay down to sleep in the same place every
night. I am part of a community and economy in a way I never experienced
in Kenya, or anywhere else, for that matter.

The primary people group where I find myself is called the Moro. Their
lifestyles and appearance are very different from the Dinka tribe in the
South that forms the basis of so much of the world’s picture of Sudanese
Africans. While they are somewhat taller and more massively built than
the average Kenyan person, they are nowhere near the towering heights of
the familiar Dinka. Most people carry in their hearts their mother
tongue, and a form of Arabic only slightly departed from its origin.
Lifestyle, mores, and mode of dress exhibit a similar blending of
African and Arabic traditions. The Moro herd cattle, raise sorghum, and
harvest Mango with equal vigor.

Being more than 10 degrees North of the equator, this part of the world
has genuine seasons, and this is another marked difference from the
Africa I have known. Moro has a long dry season with gradually inclining
heat. This siege is finally broken sometime between late April and early
June when powerful rainstorms appear with daily regularity. The crop
cycles follow with a burst of fruit bearing during the rains.

Our particular area is continuously between 400 and 600 meters above sea
level. Numerous hills and mountains interrupt the flatness by rising to
1500 meters or more. At present the landscape is somewhat forbidding
with massive boulders, sand, and thorned palm trees being the main
features. But here and there shaded areas already hold the promise of
the rainy season. Valleys and horseshoes formed by the mountains shelter
lush trees and green places even in the present dryness.

I look to the rains with both anticipation and dread. I can’t wait to
see this place in its abundance and joy. But I also know that our work
will become much, much harder as roads turn to endless swamps, and
insects breed rapidly.

By and large, I am most interested in the feeling of genuine culture
that exists here. In our area there is an economy that has few outside
influences. It is small in comparison to any I have known, but it is
appropriate to the area. Western clothing has completed its
infiltration. Hip Hop and Reggae music are inevitably following. But
traditions still live on as well. Local wrestling matches and dances
abound. I have seen an entire choir singing Moro songs while dressed in
matching Fubu T-shirts.

I have previously known East Africa as an itinerant worker based near
its greatest metropolis. Now I am settled in one corner of a somewhat
isolated region. I am enjoying learning this place at length. I can only
hope these people can say the same about me.

Toby  ::  3.29.08

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2 Responses to “Toby Update / An Africa I Didn’t Know”

  1. gail Says:

    hmmm…my guess is that they can say the same. i am also enjoying learning about africa vicariously through you, since my experience of that continent is limited to the “human geography of africa” class we took at ku. well, that and some hollywood films. toby, the people-group tour guide, makes it much more real, and therefore, fascinating.

  2. Lou Ann Says:

    Here! Here! I could not have said it better. Thank you Toby for this message. Hope you have some wellies for April is upon us.

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