A few days ago I returned to Cahuita. While in Monteverde I went to my favorite library in the world, the funky little one at the Friends School, and took out some books. One of these is a 2005 publication – “They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan” – a disturbing, raw account by three young men about their experiences starting life in southern Sudan where all hell was about to break out. As young boys, they survived the world’s longest war on foot, moving from place to place, trying to stay one step ahead of the fighting but suffering just about every other indignation to humanity. They finally ended up in a refugee camp in Kenya which kept them safe from the war but not famine and human desperation. Their stories began in the late 1980s and continue until these boys, now young men, safely arrived in the USA and were able to record them in this beautiful book.
Reading first hand accounts of lives lived is usually interesting, often thought-provoking and sometimes soul-shattering. Having just published a true-life book, Walking with Wolf, we have hoped that Wolf’s often humorous tales of a life lived in a mostly positive and productive way will bring joy and inspiration to people.
A book like They Pour Fired can’t possibly bring you joy although you certainly feel relief that these boys survived the horrors. There is a great warmth that fills me in knowing they are alive and working towards their dreams of being educated and sharing the truths with the world of what is going on back in their homeland, Sudan, by telling their incredible tales in such a direct and honest way. Just the phenomenal strength of the human spirit has to be celebrated. But the accounts of injustice, desperation, greed and the war that still rages on – that these children neither understood or caused or benefited from, only suffered through – that’s another thing. They fill my heart with disgust at the forces in this world that continue to insist that another war is going to bring better conditions to the masses when the majority of wars bring more of that thing now so casually referred to as “collateral damage”, with horrors so traumatizing that for many death is the easier way out.
And worse, there is inevitably a group of people making immense wealth off of all this and so war, under whatever excuse or guise, carries on. There are things on this planet that are hard to swallow, the bitter pills of life, but we can’t remain totally ignorant either.
Finishing this book the other morning struck me down from my pleasant perch, made me sad and that eventually moved into melancholy. Roberto began one day last week in that space as it was his 56th birthday and well, birthdays will do that to you. Although we had plans to go to town to celebrate, a steady rain started around 5 p.m., finally washing this dry earth, and it lingered through the evening until we decided to miss the wet walk and stay home. Instead I let him beat me at dominoes, it being his birthday and all.
As it goes with melancholy, his passed quickly enough, as has mine. A troop of howler monkeys moving into the trees directly above the hammock has helped. They inevitably make me joyful with their family-style living, raucous jumping and expressive voices. As I was watching them I realized that I was also looking up at a sloth. I’m guessing she’s a very pregnant female as she is quite big and round. I haven’t been able to see her feet to count her toes so don’t know what kind she is, but I’m filled with happiness knowing she is above me and will probably stay around for awhile. I love these neighbors we have.
Roberto had his big joy a couple days ago when Costa Rica whipped the tail of the US soccer team in an important game on the road to next year’s World Cup in South Africa. The US was in first place in the section but Costa Rica took over that spot with this game (and then reinforced it by winning against Trinidad/Tobago a couple days later.) You could feel the smile of this country spread across the radio waves as we were listening to the game.
A howler above me just let out a huge roar, making me jump, and reminding me to pay attention as he may be moving into peeing-down-from-the-sky range. Which brings me back to “They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky”, as I watch how nature has given traits to the sloths and monkeys so that they can co-exist in forests, sharing the food that is available, having their leaf preferences so there is plenty to go around. I can hear a male from a different troop chanting not far from us and another a little further away still. Of course if the trees were cut down, their habitats and food destroyed, theses creatures would have to compete and suffer and die over what little resources are left for them. As is what has happened to the innocent sons and daughters of Sudan.
I highly recommend that you find this book. It is beautiful to read though it is a retched story to consume but this never-ending war in Sudan needs to be understood by those of us living our sweet lives elsewhere.
As for co-existing with those monkeys, that male just about peed on me, but fortunately, his aim was poor! Maybe next time.
A few days after writing this, Roberto and I slashed our way through his plantain and banana plants, under the cool shadiness of the old cocoa bushes and to the base of a tree a little ways from where we had first seen the sloth. She was now moving quietly through the leafy branches, her newborn baby gripping her belly. The sweet side of life.