By Katya Cengel
(Excerpted from the Green Eyeshade Award winning series printed in
The Courier-Journal on Nov. 14, 2005.
© The Courier-Journal)
It's spring in Louisville, and visitors crowd the city. But Peter Kuol is leaving. There are three black suitcases in his room, one for each month he plans to spend in Africa.
Lying nearby waiting to be packed are a blue-and-yellow mesh sports jersey from the local Dollar Store and a small video camera he borrowed from his roommate's friend.
Kuol, one of Louisville's Lost Boys, is following a path now familiar to many of them—back to his homeland. Like most of the 200 Lost Boys who settled in Louisville, he comes from the Dinka, a tribe of people with strong traditions of family and responsibility.
He already has sold his 1993 Saturn to pay for his trip and has taken a leave of absence from his cleaning job at Norton Hospital.
He knows that he will see his parents for the first time since the Sudanese civil war separated them in 1987 , when he was about 9 years old. Now he is 27, or thereabouts—like most Lost Boys, he isn't sure of his exact age. It is one of the things he would like to ask his mother.
His memories of Sudan are faded. There is the cow urine used to kill germs on a childhood injury, the government army that came in the night, and the country he thought was the world and now is only a spot on a map that is rolled up behind his roommate's bed.
"We try to hang it, and it come off the wall," says Kuol, as he wrestles with the map. "This is my country. This Sudan." He knows he must respond to the pull of his homeland, but he doesn't know everything that is waiting for him there. Tradition is about to play a large role in his life: he is leaving Louisville a single man, but that's not how he will return.
Photo: Pam Spaulding
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