A Visit


I recently received an invitation from one of our truss welders to visit his home. In Moro, this often means spending the night. Yusef had asked me twice to come, but I had not had a chance. So when the weekend was approaching, and a truck was free, I readily agreed.

I had visited Yusef’s house once before when trying to recruit him for a position as an assistant to one of our truss welding teams. Yusef’s home has a setting and view that would be the envy of most millionaires in my home country. The home compound is composed of three traditional Moro structures in a loose circular fence. The houses are made of mortared mud brick with a conical roof made of dry grasses. The floors are made of small gravel and sand. The compound rests on the point of a low ridge overlooking a stunning pocket valley behind the Ilri church site. Even in the middle of the dry season, the valley was cool, green, and inviting. Now in the beginning of the rains it is breathtaking. Baobab and Nheem trees sprouting from the tops of great boulders offer up leaves and pink blossoms. Cattle and goats browse lazily on abundant new growth. A cool breeze flows calmly down the hillside. Children bounce up and down on the handle of a borehole pump, filling jerry cans with crystal clear water.

I share just a bit less Arabic with Yusef than he shares English with me. However, as usual, I do not find this experience straining with African people. Yusef introduced me to his lively wife, Migdah, and his lovely children Lili, Hana, and…wait for it…Rafael. Of course a host of neighbors came by and offered greetings. One of the other welders showed up unexpectedly, and decided to stay the night as well.

Migdah roasted “ground nuts” (peanuts). We enjoyed them with the overpoweringly sweet Sudanese tea. Dinner was served very late, as usual. Somehow the Moro decided to push their entire meal schedule about 6 hours behind much of the rest of the world. “Breakfast” is usually served around 1 pm.

As the darkness grew, most of the adults fell quiet watching the three children play. They had some kind of wrestling game going on either side of a bed. Yusef explained to me that the game was called “Catch the Turtle.” I could tell by watching that this game had the same ruleless, shapeless nature as many of the games I played as a small boy. And as is normal, it gave rise to the ruleless, shapeless joy that only children can take in things.

I think the night I spent at Yusef’s house above Ilri was a turning point for me. I think my time here just expanded from “my job in Moro” to “my life in Moro.”


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3 Responses to “A Visit”

  1. hannah Says:

    job and life are two things that are hard for people to get right in this world. sounds like you know what you are doing toby. i just wish there were pictures. :)

  2. maureen Says:

    So do they eat their late-night snack first thing in the morning?

  3. Sage Says:

    I don’t know if I told you, but I read recently that the Masai, according to some global study, are among the happiest people in the world. We think of Africa and we think of the misery. I think about how close you are to some of the very real misery in Darfur, which, according to recent studies, is actually disintegrating. How ironic this seems. You found an oasis, a little piece of paradise, in a larger scene of desolation and evil.

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