National Geographic : 2007 Jan
VoI ES JOHN DAU I on reconnaissance before we moved on. We lost one adult that way, and a boy also disappeared. We thought maybe a leopard got him. We were in the territory of a hostile tribe called the Murle, most of whom were cooperating with the Arabs. As the season grew hotter and c drier, food became harder and harder to find. We were getting very weak, but we kept going, toward a river called Kangen. When we got there, the riverbed was dry. No water, and hot, hot sun. We were so f thirsty, and we were starving. At one point, Murle hunters killed the wod tt second man from our new group, leaving Abraham as the only adult. We moved on, looking for water. We were crying, because we were so thirsty, but no tears came. We wanted to stop, give up, but Abra ham kept pushing us to move on, saying we would find water soon. When we did not, some of the boys refused to go on. At last, we found a muddy pool, threw ourselves into it, and ate the mud, just for mois ture. It had been days since we had water to drink. Our tongues were swollen, our skins gray, we couldn't talk. Abraham urinated into a little container and gave it to me to drink. Now only four of us boys were left with Abraham. Along the path, we saw dead bodies, some times vultures eating them. I prayed, I sang Christian songs in my mind to ask for water. Then on the second day, we came to a swampy area and ran into it and drank and drank. Once we had water, we focused on our hunger. We found tor toises and roasted them. That was the first time I had eaten protein since I left my village. We also collected grasshoppers and threw them into the open fire to cook. We spent three weeks there in those Kan gen marshes, trying to regain our strength. Then we continued on, finally crossing the border into western Ethiopia. This was the home of the Anyuak people, and most were pro-SPLA, so they helped us, giving us maize to take with us. When the SPLA had come to our village, they had mentioned a camp near the Sudan-Ethiopia border called Pinyudu. That was where we had been heading all along. Finally, in late November we made it there. We had spent four months trying to reach it. But Pinyudu was not good. Refugees were pouring in, and local Ethiopians were trying to help them; the UN did not arrive till sev eral weeks later. I was selected leader of a group of 200 boys, and we had to take care of ourselves. We had almost nothing to eat-just a small amount of fortified cereal-and no shelter. It was so hot, as high as 116°F. The ground burned our feet as we ran from tree to tree for shade. Soon, cholera hit the camp, and life became very bad. My boys were dying all around me. I was trying to help them, but I could not. If they became sick in the morning, they could be dead by afternoon. We dug shallow graves in the dirt with sticks and our hands, just a few inches deep, to bury them. But their limbs became stiff after a few hours and poked up out of the ground. At night hye nas would come and eat the bodies. Some of the boys began to act crazy. They could not take the horrors. It was a terrible time. After the cholera epidemic, other diseases attacked-measles, chicken pox, whooping cough. They killed a lot more boys. I don't know why I survived, maybe it was something that God planned.