Chapter 1, Nya: Southern Sudan, 2008

Eleven-year-old Nya sets out carrying a large plastic container filled with air. Noon is hours away, yet the air already bakes from the hot sun. If she walks without stopping, it will take half the morning. Getting there is easy.

Chapter 1, Salva: Southern Sudan, 1985

Eleven-year-old Salva sits in the classroom, stealing glances through the window at the road home. The teacher continues the Arabic lesson. Arabic is the official language of Sudan, but at home, Salva’s family speaks the language of their tribe, the Dinka. Salva’s two older brothers, Ariik and Ring also go to school. Akit and Agnath, his sisters, stay home. Kuol, his younger brother, is not yet old enough for school. When the dry season comes, school will end and Salva’s family will leave the village. 

Today Salva daydreams. He knows how lucky he is to be in school, yet he would rather be with his brothers, herding their father’s cattle to graze near the water holes. They would play along the way, making cows out of clay, or practicing with their bows and arrows. Perhaps they would kill a small animal, roast it over a fire, and savor the few bits. He thinks about how when he gets home, his mother will be waiting for him, wearing her bright orange headscarf, holding a bowl of fresh milk for him. 

Suddenly, Salva hears gunshots. The two-year long religious war between rebels from the south and the government has reached Salva’s village. Outside, men, women, and children are running. Salva’s teacher yells for the students to run, and to not go back to their village. Salva tries to scream that he wants to go home, but no words come. He runs into the bush, leaving home behind.

Chapter 2, Nya: Southern Sudan, 2008

Nya sits down on the ground with the container beside her. Thorns from plants that line the path cover the ground. She examines her heel. Half of a large thorn has embedded itself there. She tries to remove it with her fingers, and then finds another thorn that she uses as a tool to dig out the one lodged in her foot. Nya grimaces at the pain. 

Chapter 2, Salva: Southern Sudan, 1985

Salva hears a loud boom and sees flames and smoke behind him. He runs for hours, not knowing where he is going, where his family is, and if they will see him again. He slows to walk alongside others who are fleeing.  

At nightfall, the people stop and separate into groups by village. Salva joins people from Loun-Ariik, his village. A few faces look familiar, but his family is not there. 

The next day, the walking continues. Gun-toting rebels surround the villagers. Salva wonders what will happen to them, and where his family is. 

As evening approaches, they arrive at the rebel camp. The soldiers separate the villagers into two groups—one of men, the other of women, children, and the elderly. Salva is unsure of which group to join. He is Salva Mawien Dut Ariik, of an important family. Surely he can act like a man, and set a good example for Kuol. He moves to join the men, but a soldier stops him, and points him to the women and children. Salva thinks of seeing his family again and swallows his terror. The soldier laughs and tells Salva not to be in such a hurry to grow up. 
In the morning, not everyone wants to go with the rebels, but no one dares protest after a soldier beats a man for resisting. 

At nightfall, Salva’s group finds a barn to sleep in. He sleeps restlessly with the uncertainty of where he is going and whether he will see his family again. When he awakens in the morning, everyone is gone. Salva is alone. 

Chapter 3, Nya: Southern Sudan, 2008

Closer to the pond, the grey horizon turns olive green. Women and children, and boys who have brought cattle to graze are there. Birds fly about. As Nya walks, dirt becomes mud, then sludge, then water that reaches her ankles. Nya unties her gourd that is tied to the plastic container, fills it with muddy water, and drinks. She then fills the large container and reties the gourd. She arranges a cloth doughnut on her head, then places the full container on it. She balances the container with one hand and walks, foot aching from the thorn. The walk back will take longer, but she might be home by noon.

Chapter 3, Salva: Southern Sudan, 1985

Salva’s eyes well with tears. Surely they’ve left him there because he is a child who will be too much of a bother. On the horizon, he sees smoke from the bombings. Closer to him is a pond, with a woman sitting beside it. He is relieved to see, on her forehead, the ritual scar patterns of the Dinka tribe, the same tribe as Salva. The Dinkas have been fighting against the rival Nuer tribe for hundreds of years. They fight over the land with the most water. 

The woman looks up. He greets her, calling her “Auntie.” She goes into her house and returns with peanuts which she gives to Salva. He thanks her. After he has eaten, the woman asks Salva where his people are. On the verge of tears, he is unable to answer. She asks if he is an orphan, and he shakes his head no. He tells her what happened that day at school. 

The woman allows Salva to stay in her barn. He makes plans to return home when the fighting stops. Salva helps the woman gather firewood and brings her water from the pond, which grows drier each day. Four days pass and the woman tells Salva she must leave. The dry season is here and fighting continues. She will not allow him to travel with her, fearing he will draw the attention of the soldiers. 

Back in the barn, Salva wonders what he will do, where he will go. He hears voices outside. Men approach. They have the Dinka pattern on their foreheads. Would Salva’s family be among them?

Chapter 4, Nya: Southern Sudan, 2008

At home, Nya’s mother empties the water into three jars. Nya sits in the shade and eats a bowl of boiled sorghum and milk. Inside, her mother nurses her brother. She tells Nya to take her younger sister, Akeer, back to the pond. Nya thinks five-year-old Akeer is too young, but their mother insists that Akeer needs to learn. 

Nya holds Akeer’s hand in one hand, and the empty plastic container in the other. She walks to the pond for the second time that day. Seven months out of the year, Nya walks all day, every day. 

Chapter 4, Salva: Southern Sudan, 1985

The strangers approach, none are family. The old woman asks if they will take Salva with them. The men are hesitant. He will slow them down. He will eat their food. A woman silently communicates with the man next to her. Salva is Dinka, and he will travel with them. Other men complain, but it is settled. The old woman gives Salva peanuts and an empty gourd, and he runs to catch up to the group. He does not ask where they are going, away from the war is enough. 

Salva suffers mind-numbing hunger on this walk to nowhere. He falls behind and finds himself walking with Buksa, from the Jur-chol tribe. The two walk slowly. Buksa stops suddenly. Jur-chols know that the sound of a honey-bird will lead them to a beehive. Buksa walks quickly toward the sound and spots the hive. Salva runs to tell the others.

Chapter 5, Nya: Southern Sudan, 2008

Every year when the pond goes dry, Nya’s family moves to the big lake, a three-day’s journey. It would be too dangerous to live near the lake year-round. Nya’s tribe, the Nuer, fight with the rival Dinka tribe over the land near the lake. But during the five-months of the dry season, the tribes fight less as they struggle to survive. 

Though dry like the pond, the lake is much larger and still holds water in its clay. As at home, Nya’s job is to fetch water. She digs into the clay until muddy water rises and she can fill her gourd. Every day Nya waits and fills, waits and fills, until it begins to rain again, and the family can return home.

Chapter 5, Salva: Southern Sudan, 1985

The Jur-chol men build a fire to smoke the hive and make the bees sleepy. But bees, angered by the intrusion, swarm and sting Salva, and his eyes swell shut. With a stomach full of honey and beeswax, the pain is worth it. But not for the man who is stung on his tongue and can’t eat. 

The walking is easier now that Salva isn’t so hungry. More people join the group every day and Salva searches their faces for his family. 

One day, Salva meets a boy named Marial who speaks Dinka. Marial, like Salva, has not found his family. The boys discuss their situation. Marial convinces Salva that they are headed east, toward Ethiopia. Salva worries that his family will never find him in another country. The boys share a laugh when Marial reassures him that they will walk around the world and arrive back in Sudan, where they will find their families. 

Salva has been walking for a month, and now they travel through the land of the Aruot, the “people of the lion.” In this region, lions prey on game such as antelope and wildebeest. Salva has heard stories that when an Aruot dies, he comes back as a lion. Now the sounds of roaring and death fill the night. 
One day, weary with sleeplessness, Salva is walking behind Marial. He hears a voice call his name. He turns to look, dumbfounded by who he sees. 

Chapter 6, Nya: Southern Sudan, 2008

Nya has been coming to the lake camp for as long as she can remember. She likes not having to walk to the pond twice a day, even though she has to dig and wait for water. Nya’s mother hates the camp. Mostly, she is terrified when her husband and Nya’s older brother, Dep, hunt. They might encounter men from the Dinka tribe, and fight, be injured, or killed. So far, the family has been lucky. 

Chapter 6, Salva: Southern Sudan, 1985

Salva stands frozen in place. He speaks, but no sound comes out. A man running toward him is calling his name. Salva finds his voice and his feet. He runs into the arms of his Uncle Jewiir, his father’s youngest brother. Uncle asks Salva where his family is, dashing Salva’s hope that Uncle knows where they are. Salva recounts his story, and Uncle promises to take care of Salva. 

Uncle joins the group and the others look up to him as a leader of sorts. He has a gun and shoots a young antelope, which the group roasts. Salva eats and is violently ill, his stomach unable to digest the rich food. 

Salva and Marial stay close to Uncle as the group walks through Aruot territory. One night after walking endlessly in search of water, Salva passes out. His uncle shakes him awake to tell him that Marial has disappeared in the night.

Chapter 7, Nya: Southern Sudan, 2008

For several days, Nya’s sister Akeer has been complaining about a stomachache. Now Akeer is too weak to even moan. The sickness is not uncommon. It begins with cramps, stomachache, diarrhea, and sometimes a fever. Akeer is at risk of dying from starvation and dehydration. The nearest medical clinic with the medicine Akeer needs is several day’s walk away. She may not be strong enough for the journey. 

Chapter 7, Salva: Southern Sudan, 1985

Terrified, Salva stays within an arm’s length of his uncle as they continue walking. A hungry lion had dragged Marial away while sleeping. Uncle reassures Salva that he has a gun and will shoot any lion who dares come near. Uncle says that everything will be alright, but Salva wonders how this could possibly be true. He has lost his family, and now his friend. 

As they walk, the land around the group grows greener. Salva can smell water in the air. They reach the Nile River, which they will cross. Beyond it is desert and Ethiopia. 

Some in the group know how to build boats out of reeds. They work quickly to gather the reeds, hoping to avoid the fighting nearby or bombs from above. Salva feels useful doing something rather than nothing so he helps. Two days later the boats are finished, tested, repaired where needed, and ready. They push away from the shore into the river.

Chapter 8, Nya: Southern Sudan, 2008

Nya and her mother take Akeer to the clinic, a big white tent bustling with doctors and nurses. After just two doses of medicine, Akeer is much better. She is thin and weak but back to her happy, laughing self. A nurse explains that Akeer’s sickness came from the water. From now on, she needs to drink only clean, clear water. If clean water is not available, they must boil the water to destroy the germs. 

Mother’s face betrays her worry. As it is, Nya is only able to retrieve a small amount of water from the lake. If they are to boil it, it will evaporate before they are able to count to two hundred as the nurse instructed. They would return home soon, where they could boil the water carried from the pond, but not the water they drink at the pond. They wonder what they will do next year, at the lake.

Chapter 8, Salva: Southern Sudan, 1985

As Salva’s boat skims across the water, he stays awake by counting the strokes of his uncle’s oar. They reach an island in the middle of the river. 

The group disembarks and goes into the village where they beg for food from the fishermen. Uncle, however, doesn’t have to beg. The fishermen give him food, which he shares with Salva. Salva sucks on a piece of sugar cane. Back home, hunger had never been an issue. The sugar cane reminds Salva of the mangoes his father sometimes bought. He wonders if he will ever again see his father riding home, mangoes stuck between the spokes of his bicycle.  

At dusk, the fishermen retreat to their tents and pull netting over themselves just as a dense cloud of hungry mosquitos appears. The mosquitos feast on Salva and his group who are unprotected. After a sleepless night, bites cover Salva. The bites that he can reach bleed as he scratches. 

In preparation for the journey across the desert, the group fills their containers with water. They climb back into the boat to finish the journey across the Nile. The Akobo desert awaits them on the other side.

Chapter 9, Nya: Southern Sudan, 2008

Nya and her family return to their village. Several months pass. 
One day, not long before the family must leave again for the camp, a Jeep drives into the village. Two men climb out. Dep, Nya’s brother, takes them to their uncle, who is the chief of the village. The strangers, Nya’s uncle, and other men from the village drink tea and talk. When Nya asks, Dep tells her that they are talking about water.

Chapter 9, Salva: Southern Sudan, 1985

Salva, his uncle, and the rest of their group reach the desert. On the first day of the three-day journey, Salva’s shoes disintegrate. The minutes seem like hours. He walks barefoot under the blazing sun, every breath sapping his energy, thorns tearing at his feet, his lips cracked. He takes only the tiniest of sips of the water from his gourd. 

As dusk approaches, Salva stubs his toe on a rock and loses his whole toenail. In unbearable pain, he begins to cry so hard he can barely breathe. He falls behind the group. Uncle appears at Salva’s side, calling out his full name. “Salva Mawien Dut Arrik” he says loudly. Uncle points to a group of bushes and prompts Salva to reach it. Then, always calling Salva by his full name, Uncle continues urging him forward toward other landmarks, one step at a time. With nightfall comes rest.

The next day, the travelers come upon nine men lying in the sand. Some make weak gestures for help, others are motionless. One of the women, tears in her eyes, approaches the men. She wets a cloth and places it on the dry lips of one man. A man from Salva’s group warns her that helping them is useless. She will not have enough water for herself.

Chapter 10, Nya: Southern Sudan, 2008

The meeting ends. Nya and the other children follow the men as they walk past her house to a tree. Another tree stands in the distance, some fifty feet away. Nya’s uncle and one of the strangers walk to the halfway point between the trees. The other man from the Jeep walks to the second tree and examines it. The strangers speak to each other in a language Nya does not know. One of the men translates for Nya’s uncle. The man tells her uncle that here, at this place between the trees, they will find the water. Nya wonders how they will find water where there is none.

Chapter 10, Salva: Southern Sudan, 1985

Salva reaches for his gourd, but Uncle tells him that he will need his water. Three women give water to the men, who, now revived, stand up and join the group. Salva walks past the five dead men. He wonders if he would share his water if he were older and stronger.

As they walk through the desert, Salva talks with Uncle about his family, and his fear that he will never find them once they reach Ethiopia. Uncle tells Salva that his village had been attacked and burned, and survivors are unlikely. Salva learns that Uncle will not be staying with him but will be returning to Sudan to fight. Salva must be brave. Uncle will look for his family.

After two days without food, the travelers reach trees and a muddy pond. The water is not safe to drink, but they build a fire to roast a dead stork. Armed men approach. One of the men, with scars of the Nuer tribe on his face, approaches Uncle. The man takes Uncle’s gun and ties him to a tree. After looting everything the group has, the men pick up Uncle’s gun and return to the tree. Silva watches. A man aims his gun at Uncle, and fires three times. Then the men run away.

Chapter 11 Nya: Southern Sudan, 2008

The two men leave the village. The villagers begin the task of clearing the land between the two trees. Nya continues to travel to the pond, twice each day. As the clearing grows larger, Nya asks Dep how there could be water where the earth is dry and hard as rock. He shakes his head, sharing her doubt. 

Chapter 11 Salva: Southern Sudan and Ethiopia, 1985

The group buries Uncle and mourns his death. That night, they resume walking. Salva is numb with grief at the loss of Marial and Uncle, but he feels their strength. 

With Uncle gone, the group complains about Salva. He is too young. He slows them down. Uncle had shared everything with everyone. Now they share nothing with Salva, yet he feels stronger for it, and will prove that he is not weak and useless.

Salva finally reaches the refugee camp, which, to his amazement, is filled with thousands of people, mostly men and boys, who have run to escape war. They have fled, like Salva, so as not to be forced into fighting. 

Salva joins other children in the camp who are without their families. He wanders through the camp, determined to find his family if they are there. After so many days of walking, it is an odd feeling to not be on the move. He eats that first evening and again the next morning. That next afternoon, he sees a bright orange headscarf in the distance, worn by a woman, tall like his mother. He runs to catch up to her.

Chapter 12, Nya: Southern Sudan, 2009

Ten men and two trucks have arrived at the village, along with a drill that looks like an iron giraffe. They have brought other equipment, including plastic pipes. Men continue to clear the land. 

Nya’s mother, baby on her back, walks with other women to a place where they collect rocks and stones into bundles. They balance these bundles, wrapped in cloth, on their heads and carry them back, emptying them onto the ground at the drilling site. Others break the rocks into gravel-sized pieces. 

Every day when Nya returns with water from the pond, she hears the sound of machinery and the sounds of people working together. She does not hear the sound of water.

Chapter 12, Salva: Itang refugee camp, Ethiopia, 1985; Six years later: July 1991

The woman Salva calls after is not his mother. At that moment, Salva realizes that his family is gone. He wonders how he can go on without them. Then, Salva remembers how his uncle had coaxed him onward in the desert, by setting small goals for him to reach when he felt like he couldn’t go on. He decides to get through this day, just this day.

Six years later, Salva is almost seventeen. Rumors spread that the Ethiopian government is collapsing and that the camp will no longer be open. One day, trucks filled with soldiers arrive. Chaos ensues as the soldiers order everyone to leave Ethiopia. Caught up in the crowd, Salva hears that the refugees are being herded toward the Gilo River, which borders Ethiopia and Sudan. It is the rainy season, and the river is swollen and fast. It is also filled with crocodiles.

Chapter 13, Nya: Southern Sudan, 2009

Every day, the workers drive back and forth to the pond and pipe water needed to operate the drill into a bag as large as the truck’s bed. Sometimes the bag springs a leak, the drilling stops, the workers repair the leak, the drilling restarts, and then the bag springs another leak. On it goes, and the workers want to stop the project. Their boss, though, encourages them to keep going. He banters with them, he persuades them, and when all else fails, he gets angry at them, but not often. They patch the bag again, and everyone, including the boss, keeps working. The drilling continues.

Chapter 13, Salva: Ethiopia-Sudan-Kenya, 1991–92

Salva watches from the riverbank as soldiers fire their guns into the air. They use their rifle butts to force people into the water. A young man being swept downstream disappears into the water, the victim of a crocodile attack. The soldiers begin shooting at the people in the water. Salva jumps into the water, and a boy grabs him around the neck, dragging him under. The boy’s grip loosens, and Salva rises to the surface and gasps for air. The boy has a bullet hole in his neck. A thousand people died that day trying to cross the river, but Salva is not one of them. He reaches the other side.

Salva cannot go home. War rages in Sudan. Certain death awaits him back in Ethiopia. He will walk to the refugee camps he hears are in Kenya. Others follow, and soon Salva is the leader of over a thousand boys. The five-year-olds remind him of his brother, Kuol, who, Salva realizes, is no longer five. The group travels by night to avoid the fighting and bombing. Other boys join them and share tales of hardship and danger. 

Salva organizes the group and gives everyone jobs to do. Some look for food, some gather firewood, some help carry the younger boys when they are too tired. Salva urges them on when they are discouraged. He scolds or shouts, but only rarely. He feels the presence of his family helping him. One step at a time, a year and a half later, and the group makes it to Kenya.   

Chapter 14, Nya: Southern Sudan, 2009

The sound of the drill fills the air. On the afternoon of the third day of drilling, people gather at the drill site as the leader calls out instructions. Suddenly, there is a new sound. A whoosh! Water shoots into the sky from the hole. The people cheer and laugh at the workers who are now thoroughly wet. Nya claps her hands to the rhythm of the song of celebration that has broken out as she watches the water spray out. Nya’s smile disappears. The water gushes forth, a muddy brown.

Chapter 14, Salva: Ifo refugee camp, Kenya, 1991–96

Salva, now twenty-two years old, has lived in two refugee camps in Kenya for the past five years. Kakuma, the first camp, felt like a prison. After two years, Salva left Kakuma and walked with a group of men for months to camp Ifo. Here, they found the conditions much the same as at Kakuma. 

Strong and healthy, Salva wants to work and save money. But with no work available, all he can do is wait. And hope.

Michael, an aid worker from Ireland, takes an interest in Salva and begins to teach him English. Salva works hard, eager to learn to read and write before Michael leaves the camp. Michael also introduces Salva to the game of volleyball. 

Excitement spreads through the camp with the rumor that 3,000 men will be chosen to go to the United States. If your name appears on the list posted at the camp administration tent, you can go for an interview and then, if chosen, to America. Salva’s name does not appear on the list, nor on those posted in the days and weeks that follow. He lives in a cycle of hope and hopelessness Then, one day Michael rushes to him with the news. Salva hurries to the tent to confirm that his name is on the list, Salva Dut—Rochester, New York. He is going to the United States.

Chapter 15, Nya: Southern Sudan, 2009

Mothers warn their children not to drink the muddy water as the men continue working with the drill. Their leader and Nya’s father talk. Dep later tells Nya that the water is muddy because it is still mixed with the pond water they had been pouring into the hole. Once they drill deeper, the water will be clear and fresh. They will install pipe, build a foundation, and pour cement around it. When the cement is dry, they can drink the water. It will take several days. Resigned to yet another walk to the pond, Nya picks up the plastic container and sets out.

Chapter 15, Salva: Nairobi, Kenya—Rochester, New York, 1996

Salva learns that he is one of the Lost Boys, those who have lost their families and homes in the war. He and eight others travel to Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. They fill out paperwork, have their photos taken, undergo medical exams, and receive new clothes, which Salva will wear all at the same time because it is winter in America. 

Salva travels on three different planes to arrive in Rochester, where his new family waits for him. On the first leg of his trip, Salva asks for a Coca Cola. He remembers the bottles his father had brought home long ago, what a treat it was, and how his family shared and laughed as they drank. As he travels, he thinks about his family while he watches the families on the planes.

Salva’s new family greets him upon his arrival in Rochester. He meets Chris and Louise, the father and mother, and their four children. Many hellos and thank you’s later, he dons yet more clothes, a jacket, gloves, scarf, and hat. As Salva leaves the airport, his eyes fill with tears. He senses the finality of leaving his country, village, and family. He steps through the doors, to where his new family and new life waits.

Chapter 16, Nya: Southern Sudan, 2009

The excitement dies down. The villagers return to work, but some men converge in front of Nya’s house. They carry tools. Nya’s father walks with them to an area near the second big tree. They begin clearing the land using their hoes, spades, and scythes. Nya’s father sees her watching and waves her over. He tells her that they are preparing the land to build. Nya asks what for. Her father smiles.

Chapter 16, Salva: Rochester, New York, 1996–2003

Rochester is different than any place Salva has ever been. This new life leaves Salva dazed. He retreats into his study of English, as hard and confusing as that is. He joins a volleyball team, a sport where language barriers disappear.

Salva has been in Rochester for six years now, going to college, studying business. He toys with the idea of returning to Sudan, to help the people there. He wonders what he can do to help. 

One evening, Salva opens an email from his cousin. He discovers that his father is alive, in a United Nations clinic in Southern Sudan recovering from stomach surgery. His cousin works for an aid agency and had discovered Salva’s father’s name on a list. 

Months later, plans are in place for Salva to travel to Sudan to find his father. After several plane flights and delays, he lands in Juba, in southern Sudan, and rides a Jeep into the bush. Everything is familiar yet unfamiliar. Memories are far away yet very close. Salva finally arrives, exhausted, at the hospital. He tells the woman who greets him that he is looking for Mawien Dut Ariik.

Chapter 17, Nya: Southern Sudan, 2009

Nya guesses that they are building a house, or a barn. A school, her father tells her. The nearest school is half a day’s walk away. But now that the village has water, Nya and the other children will no longer have to spend their days fetching it. Nya is nearly speechless as her father tells her that all of the children, girls included, will be able to go to school. But, he tells her before returning to work, now she must go fetch water. Nya picks up the plastic container. I am going to learn to read and write, she thinks. 

Chapter 17, Salva: Sudan and Rochester, New York, 2003–2007

Salva and his father reunite at the clinic. It has been nineteen years. Salva’s father blesses his son the Dinka way by sprinkling his head with water. He tells Salva that he never gave up hope that Salva was alive and shares news of the family. Mother is alive and well in the village. Salva wants to visit her, but war ravages the area. If Salva returned, he surely would be forced to fight. Salva’s sisters are with their mother. Ring is alive, but Ariik and Kuol are both dead. 

Salva’s father recounts how he walked three hundred miles to the clinic. He arrived barely alive, his stomach filled with worms from years of drinking contaminated water. He has recovered well and will soon be strong enough for the walk home. Salva promises to return as the two bid a tearful goodbye. 

On the trip home, Salva decides what he can do. Chris and Louise pitch in to help, and he spends hours planning with Scott, a friend who coordinates projects like Salva’s. To raise the amount of money they need, Salva must talk to groups about his project. He remembers the twice-daily planning meetings he held with the boys on the way to Kenya and summons up the courage. 

Three years pass. Salva holds on to hope, remembering his uncle’s urging. One step at a time. His goal is near.

Chapter 18, Nya: Southern Sudan, 2009

The villagers gather around the finished well. The leader of the workers hands one end of a blue canvas to Nya’s uncle while he holds the other end. The sign is in English. Uncle translates. It says Elm Street School. Everyone stands around the sign while someone takes a picture that will be sent back to America. The students from the Elm Street School in the United States, who raised the money for the well, will see the people for whom they raised the money. 

At the well, Nya reaches the front of the line and watches as her uncle pumps water into her bottle. She drinks the clean and cool water. It has come out of the same spot where the villagers had once gathered for fire, song, and celebration. Soon Nya, Dep, and Akeer will attend school. Other good things will happen because of the well. Next year, a marketplace then perhaps a medical clinic.

Nya’s village will share the well with many others, some who will walk long distances. No one will be refused, and villagers will cooperate to maintain the well. Nya’s uncle will be among those who solve conflicts, should they arise. As for Nya, she will no longer walk for water. 

The crew leader stands apart, watching. Nya watches him. Dep tells her that he is Dinka, which amazes Nya. The assistant and most of the crew were Nuer, like Nya. She had assumed the leader was as well. Dinka and Nuer are enemies. She wonders why he has drilled a well for the Nuer. She approaches the man. He greets her. She thanks him for bringing water. He asks her name. She tells him. The man then introduces himself. His name is Salva.

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