Iowa Writes

KAY FENTON SMITH AND CAROL SPAULDING-KRUSE
from Zakery's Bridge


Dao, eighth grade, from Sudan

My father grew rice, corn, wheat, tomatoes, peanuts, sorghum, and other crops. There were lots of poor people all around Mayenthon. They came to the village to help with the crops and my father fed and employed them. He would grow crops then sell them to people who needed them the most. They would buy a big bag of peanuts in exchange for a cow or a goat.

I was six years old. I remember, I was helping put peanuts in the ground and thinking about my dad's favorite goat, Dubu, a very big and spoiled goat that Dad treated almost like a person. He loved to fatten Dubu with peanuts. Dad was nearby with his bodyguards when his aunt came over. Her son was also a soldier, and she was crying and asking my dad to go help her son. My grandpa, Dad's dad, told him not to do it. But my dad went home, put on his military uniform, and left. He did not listen to my grandpa. He had gone to help his cousin at the watering hole when a fellow Sudanese who worked for the Arab government shot him from a hiding spot. My father died. My grandfather killed Dubu along with him because he thought that way my dad would have a buddy in heaven.

After that, a lot of people went away from us. We had to stop going to school. In Africa it's not money that makes you rich but what you have. My dad was one of the richest. He had support from all sides, and he could take care of anybody who needed him, relatives or friends. He could feed them and give them a place to live. But when he died, everything went to my uncle. My dad's bodyguards went away and everyone who had worked for him went away to earn a living somewhere else. My mom tried to continue with the cattle and farming on her own. My Grandpa Jok did everything he could to help us. But eventually, my mother decided she must find a better life for us.

Dao, eighth grade, from Sudan

My father grew rice, corn, wheat, tomatoes, peanuts, sorghum, and other crops. There were lots of poor people all around Mayenthon. They came to the village to help with the crops and my father fed and employed them. He would grow crops then sell them to people who needed them the most. They would buy a big bag of peanuts in exchange for a cow or a goat.

I was six years old. I remember, I was helping put peanuts in the ground and thinking about my dad's favorite goat, Dubu, a very big and spoiled goat that Dad treated almost like a person. He loved to fatten Dubu with peanuts. Dad was nearby with his bodyguards when his aunt came over. Her son was also a soldier, and she was crying and asking my dad to go help her son. My grandpa, Dad's dad, told him not to do it. But my dad went home, put on his military uniform, and left. He did not listen to my grandpa. He had gone to help his cousin at the watering hole when a fellow Sudanese who worked for the Arab government shot him from a hiding spot. My father died. My grandfather killed Dubu along with him because he thought that way my dad would have a buddy in heaven.

After that, a lot of people went away from us. We had to stop going to school. In Africa it's not money that makes you rich but what you have. My dad was one of the richest. He had support from all sides, and he could take care of anybody who needed him, relatives or friends. He could feed them and give them a place to live. But when he died, everything went to my uncle. My dad's bodyguards went away and everyone who had worked for him went away to earn a living somewhere else. My mom tried to continue with the cattle and farming on her own. My Grandpa Jok did everything he could to help us. But eventually, my mother decided she must find a better life for us.

When I was nine years old we went to Uganda and stayed there until we left to come to the United States. There was Kacuol who was six, Jok Jok who was only four and my baby sister Alek who hadn't been born yet. In Uganda we went back to Catholic school. We spoke Dinka at home and the language of Uganda at school.

It was about two years of waiting: it takes that long. We thought we would come faster but it's hard to get into the U.S. Finally, on the 5th of December we flew from Uganda to London to New York City to Chicago to Des Moines. I was eleven years old. When we got to Iowa I was so surprised. I saw lots of fields and rivers and trees—countryside like back home. I thought everything was going to look like New York City.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


KAY FENTON SMITH AND CAROL SPAULDING-KRUSE

Zakery's Bridge: Children's Journeys from Around the World to the Heartland is a collection of nonfiction stories based on conversations with refugee and immigrant children in Iowa. For more information about this forthcoming book, please contact Kay Fenton Smith (kayfentonsmith@msn.com).

A children's author based in Des Moines, Kay Fenton Smith is involved with youth literacy through volunteer reading and writing programs. In addition to Zakery's Bridge, she is working on a middle-grade novel.

Carol Spaulding-Kruse is associate professor of English at Drake University in Des Moines, where she teaches fiction writing and ethnic American literature. She is the author of Navelencia, a multi-generational story about a Korean-American family.

This page was first displayed
on June 14, 2007

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