I wonder where you are? What you’re doing? How you are and what the past couple of months have held for you? I wonder how your family are? And little Nyasabit? She was sick last time I saw you.. I hope she’s better. I hope she’s thriving.
Nyalang, I want to write to say goodbye. I’m so sad I’m not able to come and say it to you face to face. I want you to know I haven’t forgotten you. I’m sad that last time I saw you, we hugged and said goodbye for the Christmas period but with promises that I’d return in the new year. Little did we know what lay ahead. I got out when the fighting started. I escaped. You remained, you remain. I heard Motot has been calm throughout, despite now being in rebel hands. I hope that’s the case. I hope it stays that way. I pray nothing will come to harm you, your little girl Nyasabit, or your family. I pray with all my heart that you’re safe, wherever you are.
I remember when we very first met. I interviewed you for the position of TFcook and you were so nervous! You barely spoke and during the practical part, your hands shook so much I worried you may chop your fingers off. But we gave you the job – you didn’t have to be nervous. You did just fine.
When I returned to Motot a couple of weeks later, you’d already started. You greeted me with such a big smile, I knew right away that we’d made the right decision in hiring you, regardless of how good or bad your cooking skills might be. Because I knew from that moment I had a friend in you, and that’s what mattered to me most at that point in time when everything was so new.
And I was right. Every time I was in or around the kitchen, you’d smile and call my name. We’d try to communicate through actions and your little English. You’d ask me ‘How are you?’ or ‘male?’ and clap your hands when I was able to reply ‘male mugwa’. You did your best to teach me Nuer. I wasn’t a very good student but you were patient and encouraging, and if we’d had longer, I would’ve learned. I would’ve learned.
Do you remember when we made popcorn together? I’d brought some from Nairobi. You’d never seen it before and were quite shocked to watch it explode. I laughed. We both laughed a lot. We cooked it over the fire. I’ve never made popcorn over a fire before. And I burned my fingers trying to shake the pan. But I didn’t care. It cheered me up. And it cheered the team up too. Some had been due to leave Motot for Christmas holiday that day, but the plane hadn’t come. People were disappointed. But we cheered them up, you and me, with popcorn and laughter. We had fun and we made fun.
You were the first person to invite me into their home. I was walking through the village back to the TF compound and passed you on the way. You insisted I came and met your little girl. I didn’t need much persuading. You kept your place so nicely and neatly. I remember looking around and thinking how different our lives were. How very different our up-bringings had been. But that it didn’t matter. It really didn’t.
You promised to invite me back again. That you wanted to cook for me. I knew you had so little, and was touched by your offer. That was just before Christmas. Just before I was evacuated.
I know I made promises too. I promised to teach you how to use a computer. You were so keen to learn and so excited when I showed you how to type your name on microsoft word. And I remember Alex saying you wanted to learn to drive too. He was impressed with your ambition. He was keen to teach you too. And now… Now what?
Life’s unfair, Nyalang. It’s cruel. I long to be back in Motot. We’ve both lost our jobs due to men with guns. I wonder what lies ahead. For me, but also for you..? I wonder what chances there are for a 20 year old girl like you in a rebel-held area of South Sudan. What opportunities will there be for you now? Girl, you can go far…I don’t care what the circumstances around you may dictate. There has to be opportunity. There has to be hope. You’ve got the ambition. Don’t loose it. Dream big, and dream big for your beautiful baby girl too. Continue to look for the smallest of opportunity and grasp it with all your might. Nyalang, we have to hold on to the hope that this won’t be forever.
So my friend, I write to say goodbye. I write to say I miss you and I’m praying for you. And I write to say you are not forgotten. South Sudan may have dropped out of international news, people may not realise the horrendous atrocities that are happening in your beautiful country. But I have not forgotten you and I know, deep down, that God hasn’t either.
Be well. Stay safe. With much love,