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  Field Notes From
Survivors



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On Assignment
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From Photographer

Meredith Davenport



In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photograph by Brian Strauss


 

On Assignment On Assignment On Assignment
Survivors

Field Notes From Photographer
Meredith Davenport
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    I had spent a month walking in the Nuba Mountains, but it was so much fun to fly over them and see how all the pieces fit together. One of the Nuba rebel commanders was in the plane with me, and we had a Ukrainian pilot. As we flew around, the commander would suddenly say, "Turn around! Turn around!" Then we'd make a sharp turn. He was eyeballing the geography below to keep us out of government-controlled areas. I was shooting through a tiny window from the co-pilot seat of a small plane. The pilot made all kinds of twists and turns. He was very excited about working with National Geographic. It was like being a child again and thinking, Wow! This is cool!



    The walk between the clusters of mountains takes anywhere from five to seven hours. We managed to get a ride to the other side of the valley, so we hoped we would be as lucky on the return. We arrived in a small village about 7 p.m. and were told that the car would be returning that night. The car is one of only two around. It's a real production to get access to it, so we decided to go down the mountain and try to get a ride back from there.
    The trip down is rocky and steep. We didn't have moonlight, my flashlight had burned out, and there was nowhere to get more batteries. I fell, and the female porters slipped a couple of times in the dark. But when we finally got to the bottom, no one was there. We had been misinformed about the car. Climbing back up the mountain without light was too dangerous, so we decided to walk across the plains.
    We walked all night in the dark. We hadn't eaten since late afternoon, and we had no water. When we finally got to the other side, my tongue was so dry that it stuck to the roof of my mouth.



    I had visited the Nuba mountains on my own a couple of years ago. We met a doctor who had studied in Iraq. He was working in a small clinic, and was kind enough to show us the local market. He bought me a string of black and white glass beads that the Nuba wear. "This means you'll come back to Nuba," he told me.
    When I got off the plane in Nuba for this assignment, the same doctor was there on the airstrip. He just happened to be there to take the plane I came in on. I said, "Oh, Abdullah, it's really funny to see you!" I never thought I would go back to Nuba, but I reminded him of what he said to me when he gave me the beads. 
    On this trip, I received another string of beads in a ceremony. Hopefully, I'll go back to Nuba again.





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