Iowa Writes

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


Vivian, tenth grade, from Sudan

I stepped through the green door as chickens flocked to eat corn, tickling my palms. Morning sunlight mixed purple in the African sky. I picked pears for breakfast and then sat in my favorite spot beneath the trees, waiting....Right on time the sound of hoofbeats lifted up over the hill. Beban the donkey plodded toward me, loaded down with barrels of milk. I petted him while his master filled the glass bottles. Back inside, my mom pressed my uniform and braided my hair before school. All the kids in our neighborhood went to the same one-room school, divided by grade. I was in kindergarten, and we sat together up front. We learned Arabic, which was different from our African language at home. For lunch we had the same thing every day—bean sandwiches. Yuck! I couldn't stand the bean paste spread on bread, but I loved the mango juice.

After school my friends came over to play. Our house was made of cement. Inside, the bedrooms and bath had tile floors, but the front was open, like a courtyard. During the dry season the adults sat out front while we played marbles. We used rocks for jacks and laundry lines for jump ropes. We drew hopscotch squares in the dirt. Sometimes we walked to the store. Every once in a while we'd see a car.

Vivian, tenth grade, from Sudan

I stepped through the green door as chickens flocked to eat corn, tickling my palms. Morning sunlight mixed purple in the African sky. I picked pears for breakfast and then sat in my favorite spot beneath the trees, waiting....Right on time the sound of hoofbeats lifted up over the hill. Beban the donkey plodded toward me, loaded down with barrels of milk. I petted him while his master filled the glass bottles. Back inside, my mom pressed my uniform and braided my hair before school. All the kids in our neighborhood went to the same one-room school, divided by grade. I was in kindergarten, and we sat together up front. We learned Arabic, which was different from our African language at home. For lunch we had the same thing every day—bean sandwiches. Yuck! I couldn't stand the bean paste spread on bread, but I loved the mango juice.

After school my friends came over to play. Our house was made of cement. Inside, the bedrooms and bath had tile floors, but the front was open, like a courtyard. During the dry season the adults sat out front while we played marbles. We used rocks for jacks and laundry lines for jump ropes. We drew hopscotch squares in the dirt. Sometimes we walked to the store. Every once in a while we'd see a car.

During the rainy season the dirt floor turned to mud. My cousins and I loved running in the rain, getting all dirty. Then my grandma would tell us to come in. We'd have to take showers and go to bed. When it was really hot we slept outside in Grandma's rakuba [rah-KUH-bah]. Like a tent, but much bigger, made of bamboo sticks tightly pulled together. We threw nets into the river near her house and caught fish. I loved fishing and swimming there, but one day I reached into the water and felt a needle sticking into my hand—something with a long stinger. It really hurt. I never wanted to go back there. After a while I went along with Grandma and sat on the riverbank, afraid to touch the water. Little by little I went back in, never knowing what had stung me.

When I think back to Sudan I see courtyards lined with trees. I remember picking mangoes from the farm across the street. To me everything was great. I didn't know people in the south were fighting. Where we lived it was peaceful. We all wore the same uniforms to school, and I never thought about kids being from different tribes or different religions. It's only now I realize there's been a civil war in Sudan for so long....But for a little girl in our neighborhood, Madni was a wonderful place. I was in fifth grade when we found out we were coming to Iowa. When we heard the name United States, it was like a dream.

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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.

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on June 07, 2007

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