In 2008, Nya has returned to her mother, carrying water from the tiny pond. Her mother gives her food—“a bowl of boiled sorghum meal”—and then returns to nursing Nya’s baby brother. Nya’s mother tells Nya to take her little sister, Akeer, back to the pond to gather more water. Akeer is only five years old, but she needs to learn to gather water, Nya’s mother insists. Every day, Nya exhausts herself walking to and from the pond.
At an age when many children don’t even understand the concept of work, Nya and her sister are made to work hard gathering water. The work is exhausting, but Nya’s parents are busy with their own daily tasks, which are no less essential to the family’s survival.
In 1985, Salva scans the faces in the group of Dinka villagers approaching the barn. To his dismay, none of them belongs to his family. The elderly woman, who hasn’t left the barn yet, greets the group and asks that they take care of Salva. Some people grumble that Salva is too young to do work, or that he’ll slow down the group. However, one of the men agrees to take him, explaining, “He is Dinka.” The elderly woman gives Salva water and peanuts and says goodbye.
Even though the refugees recognize that Salva will slow them down, they also recognize that he’s “one of us”—another member of the Dinka tribe. This is an important reminder of how cultural and communal ties can convince people to sacrifice their own self-interest for the sake of the group, in this case the Dinka tribe.
In the coming days, Salva walks farther than he’s ever walked in his life. He’s tired and frightened. Soon enough, Salva has no more food to eat. He has no idea where the group is headed. But as the days go on, more people join the group, including members of a neighboring tribe called the Jur-chol. One member of this tribe is a young man named Buksa.
As time goes on, the seriousness of the Dinka refugees’ predicament leads them to join up with other tribes. Even if these tribes have many cultural differences, they’re united in this crisis.
One day, the group is walking when suddenly, Buksa stops. In the distance, Salva can hear a loud, rumbling sound. Buksa begins to smile—he tells Salva to gather his Dinka peers quickly. Buksa can hear the sound of a beehive in the distance: tonight, the group will feast on honey.
The refugees experience some good luck in the midst of crisis: after weeks of eating little or nothing, the prospect of fresh honeycomb must sound delicious.