He came up from the river, bottle in hand, taking swigs as he walked and swishing it in his mouth and spitting onto the dusty ground. Behind him a tuk-tuk driver was washing his vehicle on the banks of the White Nile. The eleven of us had come here by bus earlier that morning to take a boat ride to the confluence of the White Nile, which runs North from Lake Victoria in Uganda, and the Blue Nile which starts in Lake Tana in Ethiopia. Our host for the day were from the Khartoum YMCA, which works in partnership with the YMCA in Canada and Germany to provide English lessons and vocational training to the youth of Khartoum.
Werner Bitzer, one of our riders who is raising money for the YMCA as part of his trip had arranged for Wageeh, the president of the Khartoum YMCA, to take us to a Camp for internally displaced persons earlier that day. The camp, originally built for 70 people, now hosts about 300 orphans mostly from the south of Sudan. The camp amounted to not much more than as shanty town of loosely built mud brick buildings and shacks built from scrap wood and burlap sacks.
The YMCA plays a critical role in supplementing the diet of the residents and also provides qualified teachers to the population there. As many as 3 families share a area not much bigger than 8 meters square. While the conditions are squalid and difficult, there is a sense of community and hope. My emotions are so mixed they are difficult to understand. But I am glad to have had the opportunity to visit this place and learn more about the Sudan.
The young man approached us from river, drinking from the bottle he had filled in the Nile. The water was murky and didn't look safe to drink. He offered me a taste but I politely refused. He said something to Wageeh in Arabic that I didn't understand. "he says he want you to drink from the Nile, because is is said that once you drink from the Nile, you will always return to Sudan" The sentiment was so nice, I took the bottle and drank. "Inshallah" I said, if God wills.