I'm still at the training in Cape Town with colleagues all over Africa. I had lunch with a senior staff (about +55) from South Sudan the other day and it turned out to be quite interesting.
"We are the youngest nation in the world, only one year old, our country has no debt. A country without debt – hard to imagine these days!"
Then the conversation shifted when I asked him how many children he had. "I have 10 children."
10 children I thought to myself - WOW! I followed up with the "obvious" question in this part of the world: "how many wives then?"
"Well, one officially [there is a law against polygamy]," he said in a very calm voice while chewing his food, "and then three unofficially – so that is four in total." This, of course, tells you that this guy is well off. Let’s be honest here, who can afford four wives in today’s world?! I used to have the need to ask or hint towards this not being completely fair to the four wives, but I am way beyond that point now. I accept that it will take a few generations before this sort of thing is of the past.
Still asking him many questions; he continued: "The price [in cows of course] of the women in our culture is measured by many factors. Beauty is a factor, if she is educated – you have to settle on a higher price for her. If she is of good family that might influence the price, but the most important thing is the tallness. It is the most important factor."
No wonder Sudanese are so unbelievably tall, I thought to myself. "Now, we have many many tribes in South Sudan and in some tribes they demand a very high price for their women – up to 300 cows [I, Kristoffer, laughed – that is ridiculous!]. Some men from that tribe travel north and marry women from my tribe where the price is significantly lower – around 10 cows. But then the women from the “high price tribe” complained and sent their leaders to my tribe to agree that the price in my tribe should be around 50 cows or the woman from the other tribe wouldn’t stand a chance."
And some more: "The issue with working for an international organization is that you can only claim one wife/dependent who would when receive medical insurance etc. The rest are not recognized. When choosing your wife, the father often won’t let you take her right away – even if you have the cows. In some areas you traditionally had to catch a lion ALIVE! To show commitment and bravery [Crazy Sudanese! I thought.] I asked him, "Catch a lion alive? How do you do that?" He told me, "It doesn’t matter how it is done – you just need to get it."
I learned that in some places the man had to work without pay for two years at the father-in-law's farm to show that he could work hard and, again, his commitment. As the father of one daughter I personally appreciate the idea in this, but now am thinking – boy did I get off easy! [Thanks, Mike!]