A Long Walk to Water

Chapter 1

Southern Sudan, 2008


Going was easy. 

Going, the big plastic bottle did not hold anything so it was easy to carry.  Nya was tall for her age (11) and on the way there she could even swing the bottle from side to side.  Sometimes, she would drag it behind her when she was tired. 

There was little weight, going.  There was only heat, the sun already baking in the air, even though it was long before noon.  It would take her half the morning to walk all the way there.  Heat. Time. And thorns.  All of these were challenges she would face as she walked. 

Southern Sudan, 1985

Salva was sitting in class in a desk.  His head was facing forward and he looked like he was paying attention to the teacher.  However, Salva was daydreaming  of walking down the road back to his house.  

In school, Salva learned Arabic , but at home Salva spoke the language of his tribe , the Dinka .  Salva knew that he was very lucky to be able to go to school.  He did not go during the rainy season  because the roads were flooded, but when it was dry he could walk to school from his village.

Salva's father was very successful and respected in the village.  Salva had three brothers and two sisters. His other brothers went to school when they turned ten, but his sisters were not allowed to because they were women and had to stay home and take care of the house. 

Salva was usually happy to go to school, but today he would rather have been at home herding  cattle .  Salva and his brothers had different jobs at home depending on how old they were.  Salva's youngest brother, Kuol, took care of only one cow because he was so little but each year he would get more and more cows to take care of


Sometimes, Salva and the other boys in his village made cows out of clay  to sell.  Sometimes, they would have a competiton to see who could make and sell the most cows.

 Othertimes, they would practice using their bows and arrows  to shoot animals.  They weren't very good at shooting animals yet, but sometimes they killed a squirrel or a rabbit and would make a fire and roast the animal to eat. 

Finally, Salva seemed to wake up from his daydream and started paying attention again.  He wished he hadn't been thinking about home because now all he wanted to do was to go home and see his mom who would have prepared  his snack.

Then, all of a sudden......



Salva heard a noise from outside.  Was it a gunshot? Salva wondered. 

The teacher stopped talking for a moment.  Every head in the room was turned toward the window.

Nothing. Silence.

The teacher cleared his throat and continued teaching. But then,



It was the sound of gunfire!

"Everyone DOWN" The teacher yelled.  

The teacher then yelled that everyone should leave and run quickly.  He said, "Go quickly, all of you, into the bush . Do you hear me? Not home.  Don't run home.  They will be going into the villages. Stay away from the villages!" 

The gunshots were happening because of the war.  The war had started two years earlier,  Salva was young and didn't understand everything about it, but he knew that rebels  from the Southern part of Sudan, where his family lived, were fighting against the government , which was in the north.  So he knew that the war was between the South and the North.  Salva also knew that the North was Muslim  and they wanted everyone else to be Muslim (a place where the beliefs of Islam were followed) and this was why they were fighting. 

Salva and the other boys in class were ducking under the tables and trying to run.  Salva felt so scared that his heart was pounding in his throat and ears.  He wanted to yell "I need to go home! I must go home!" But the words were blocked in his throat.  

When Salva got to the door he looked out.  Everyone was running and the air was ful of dust from all of the running people.  Salva saw everything quickly because before he knew it he was running.  Running as hard and as fast as he could, into the bush .

Away from home.