David Morse, for the Pulitzer Center
Koor's reception at his family's compound in Kuajok was intense. His Dad kissed him repeatedly and hugged us all. They had sent a pickup truck to Akon to facilitate our travel north to Kuajok, and later they would facilitate our travel to Wau. Both parents expressed their gratitude upon seeing their son, and to us for having helped bring him "home." Later, a bull was slaughtered and we were feted with the best food I have tasted in Sudan. But nothing can compare with that first emotional encounter.
Later, both parents voiced their deep appreciation for Koor's adoptivse parents in the U.S., Mom Carol and Dad Bill Tierney, for taking their son into their hearts. We wish that Carol and Bill could somehow be here, but know they are in spirit.
The koor family compound consists of four tukuls surrounded by a woven mat fence. People come and go. We are plied with sodas and beer, provided with chairs wherever we congregate. Often, as the eldest male, I am spirited into a tukul where men only are drinking or eating.
The compound has a decidedly military presence, the family a long tradition of military service. Koor's father, Garang, fought in Anyanya I, the rebellion that later gave rise to the fight led by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement to free South Sudan from Khartoum's oppression. He had done his best to hide the three children from attacks by the Murahileen (counterpart to the Janjaweed in Darfur), by taking them from Wau to a more remote town (Mayen Pajok, I think, but I've just started a new journal, the old one having started to disintegrate in this deep moist heat) but when the home was attacked and burned in the middle of the night in the 1980s, Koor as a young boy had no recourse but to flee. What a long trip it has been!
Today Koor's father is a Lt. Colonel in the SPLM, assigned to training prison guards for the stockade. Koor's mother, who trainsed with her husband in Ethiopia, is a now a sargeant in the SPLM. She is also a midwife who has assisted in the delivery of some 1500 babies, and is working on AIDS/HIV awareness programs.
Kuajok, where the Koor family compound is located, is the capital of the newly formed state of Warrap, which was carved out out of Bhar-el-Gazel for efficiency in administration. Because it is new, however, it is almost totally lacking basic infrastructure, from roads to clinics, schools, and such amenities as hotels. (We stay at a miserable place called the Safari Lodge, where the rains flooded us out of our tukul the first night.) As the Secretary of Health told us, Kuajok is "starting with zero." We told him of our encounters with the snake-bitten girl and the woman with goiter, and asked about the possbilities for a mobile clinic that could visit the smaller villages during the dry season and give innoculations for measles and polio, and address other concerns. In response to the last query, he said this would be difficult, because the roads were so bad.
"Road" does not accurately describe the way from Kuajok. It is more nearly a track, surrounded on both sides by jungle, and laced with puddles, sprawling sometimes the width of a football field as succeeding drivers try to find purchase for their wheels. We are nineteen people squeezed into a thirteen-passenger van. As always, we are carrying others as a favor. We are packing heat: three bodyguards carrying Kalashnakovs. One is Koor's mother. Koor cradles a sleeping toddler in his arms much of the way. The "road" is fairly busy. We encounter trucks, cars, motorcycles and bicycles and people on foot. A flock of guinea fowl. Glimpses through the palmetto and ficus trees of velvety green dales studded with termite mounds.
Now we are in Wau. Pronounced "Wow." Gabriel Bol Deng and I have been walking around the surprisingly developed Catholic mission, apparently the largest anywhere in Sudan. The worn brick reminds me almost of colonial Williamsburg. Up to this point we have been traveling to progressively larger towns. Wau is a full-fledged city of some three million.
Signing off for lack of time,