A Long Walk to Water

by Linda Sue Park

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 428

The sun was relentless and eternal: there was neither wisp of cloud nor whiff of breeze for relief. Each minute of walking in that arid heat felt like an hour. . . .
The next day was a precise copy of the one before: the sun and the heat, and worst of all to Salva's mind, a landscape that was utterly unchanged.

In the above quotes, Salva and a group led by his Uncle Jewiir are crossing the Akobo desert. It is the only way to get to the Itang refugee camp in Ethiopia. The description of the unforgiving terrain, however, highlights the challenges of the journey. Salva is traumatized when he sees the dead bodies of those who did not make it out of the desert. Park clearly describes Salva's terror and his desperation when he discovers that Uncle Jewiir will not stay on at the camp.

Instead, the older man will go back to fight in the Sudanese civil war. The author's description of the treacherous desert crossing reinforces the suffering and trials of Sudanese children during the war.

Unlike southern Sudan, it seemed that here in America every road was paved. At times, the cars whizzed by so fast, he was amazed that anyone on foot could cross safely. His new father, Chris, told him that dirt roads could exist out in the countryside, but there were none in Salva's new neighborhood.

In the above quote, Salva's amazement is clear: the difference between his Sudanese homeland and America could not be more stark. To him, America is a land of new experiences and wonders. He discovers email and how it lends immediacy to his communication with a newfound cousin in Zimbabwe. In all, Salva's life in America gives him the resources he needs to reunite with his father at a UN hospital in Sudan. Upon returning to the United States, Salva receives help to establish a non-profit organization, one focused on building new wells in Sudan.

With the well here, no one will have to go to the pond anymore. So all the children will be able to go to school.

In the above quote, Nya's father tells her that the new well will bring important changes. Essentially, Salva's organization makes it possible for Sudanese girls to attend school. Prior to the building of the new wells, many Sudanese girls have to transport water from ponds back to their village homes each day. Transporting the water is hot, tiring work. This important quote connects Salva's non-profit work with the debut of new advantages for marginalized girls in Sudan.

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