In 2008, Nya and her family are living a three days’- walk from a big lake. Most of the year, Nya’s family lives far from the lake, near a smaller pond. In this way, they avoid the fighting between their own tribe, the Nuer, and the rival Dinka tribe, most of which concerns the land by the lake. But for some of the year, Nya and her family move closer to the lake to access water. The water in the lake is muddy and unclean, but Nya’s family has no choice but to drink it.
The family’s existence is structured around the availability of water. Often, the fighting between the different South Sudanese tribes arises from the scarcity of resources—in the absence of enough water for all, the tribes fight for as much as they can get.
In 1985, Salva, Buksa, and the other wanderers have just been stung by bees. They tried to clear the bees away from the beehive by lighting a fire underneath it, but the fire angered the bees. Still, they manage to get the honey, and even though Salva has a nasty sting on his eye, he thinks the pain is worth it for a taste of honey.
Salva endures a lot of pain following the outbreak of civil war in his country. Perhaps surprisingly, though, he seems to maintain a stoic attitude, calmly weighing the pros against the cons in every decision and concluding that his behavior has been worth the negative repercussions.
Every day, Salva’s group gets bigger. One evening, Salva accidentally steps on another boy’s hand. The boy is Dinka, but hails from a different village than Salva’s. The boy is angry, but quickly softens. He asks Salva, “Your family?” Salva shakes his head, and the boy says, “Me, too.” The boy introduces himself as Marial, and they become friends.
Under different circumstances, Salva and Marial might have ended up fighting. But because they’re both living in desperate times, and because they’re both cut off from their families, they befriend one another.
Marial tells Salva that the group is headed into Ethiopia. Salva finds this unlikely, since Ethiopia is far away. Marial jokes, “If we keep walking east, we’ll go all the way around the world and come right back!” The two friends laugh.
Even in the depths of their despair, Marial and Salva find ways to be happy, laughing and joking with each other.
It’s been more than a month since Salva fled his village. The group passes through the Atuot region of Sudan. The people in this tribe are said to be fierce and powerful, like lions.
The refugees must pass through unfamiliar, potentially dangerous territory in order to avoid the civil war.
One morning, Salva wakes up to hear his name being spoken. He turns, and his mouth “fell open in amazement.”
The chapter ends with a cliffhanger—Salva seems to have made contact with somebody who knows him.