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A Bend in the Nile: My Life in Nubia and Other Places (Non-Fiction) [Paperback]

Chris McIvor
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Nov 2008 Non-Fiction
Nubia - a vast area located in Southern Egypt and Northern Sudan - goes back at least to 3100 BC.Troubled by poverty and the dislocation of its people after the construction of Africa's largest dam, its landscape is harsh and uncompromising. Most of it is desert negotiable only by the hardiest of nomads, but the thin strip of land beside the Nile provides living conditions for settlement and survival. Located at a bendin the Nile, Dongola is one such settlement. It was here the young Chris McIvor arrived to provide teaching services in the early 1980s.From Dongola he traveled along the Nile and across the desert, along the way exploring the broken remains of a civilization that long predates any European equivalent, discovering a deeply cultured, warm people whose first instinct was to open their hearts and homes to him. In Darfur, he also encountered the beginnings of the religious, political and ethnic struggles that would drive the worst genocide witnessed so far in the 21st century.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Sandstone Press Ltd (1 Nov 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1905207255
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905207251
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 13.3 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 491,673 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


This pithy question and answer article was published in the January 2009 issue of Save the Children s magazine World s Children Q. You were 23 when you first went to Sudan. What did you make of it? A. I didn t choose Sudan, the opportunity to teach there came my way and I had a sense of curiosity rather than a burning desire to go there. If you d told me then I d still be working in Africa 25 30 years later I d have called you crazy. In my book I ve tried to represent my naivety when I arrived. There are some fairly embarrassing moments. That naivety drives a lot of our attitudes to Africa. I wanted to track how my perceptions have changed. Making an effort to learn some words of the local language is very appreciated. It shows you re open to people and so they open up to you. The insight they then offer can change you. I encountered a kindness and hospitality I hadn t known before. Q. The news we hear from Africa tends to be bad famine, war, corruption. What s made you stay? A. We often talk about Africa as if it s one homogenous continent. But it s extremely diverse, complex and huge, with scores of languages spoken. We shouldn t generalise. Disasters, war, famine and corruption do happen in Africa, but it s also full with rich cultures and vibrant people. There are a lot of political problems, but you ve got to balance that with the positive people s resilience, courage and hope for the future. In Mozambique, where I live now, children s lives are hard. For example, it s really tough for migrant kids who have to leave their homes to look for work. But we must see them as participants in their own struggle, showing tremendous resilience, courage and ability to adapt as they struggle for a better future. We shouldn t see them as beneficiaries or people to pity. We need to work with them and be inspired by them. Q. What do you think are the challenges and opportunities facingAfrican countries in 2009? A. There are huge political, economic, environmental challenges, as with countries in other parts of the world. But Africa is vulnerable, because of where we re starting from. Children are at the forefront of potential solutions. As an organisation, we want to be redundant in 20 years, so we need to be empowering children now. Giving children the opportunity to participate in building their own future means, as adults, they and, in turn, their countries can stand on their own feet. --World's Children January 2009

WHEN Chris McIvor first started teaching English in a girls' school in Sudan, he encouraged topical discussion to improve their language skills. Enthused by the prospect, one girl asked: "The first thing we want to know is whether women drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes in Scotland. "And is it true they can choose their husbands for themselves, even without the agreement of their parents?" It was just one of the many cultural differences Chris would be confronted with as a 23-year-old from Wick, Caithness. Chris, 52, has now worked for nearly 30 years in emergency response and development in countries as diverse as Morocco, Algeria, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica and Zimbabwe. He is currently country director for Save the Children in Mozambique. It was his three-year stint as a teacher in Sudan that was to form the man he was to become - as he fell in love with a local girl, converted to Islam but, ultimately, decided not to marry. In a new book titled A Bend In The Nile, Chris is a naive, intelligent and curious young man who immerses himself in the local community. Chris said: "It is about tracing my internal journey as a Westerner, with a fair amount of misconceptions about the country, the people, the culture and religion. I grew to appreciate the people had culture and value systems as rich as my own, sometimes much richer." --Annie Brown in the Daily Record

Chris McIvor was originally commissioned in 2005 by Highland-based Sandstone Press to write a series of articles about his life in Africa but they evolved into the present book. McIvor now has plans to write a sequel which would concentrate on his experiences in Zimbabwe and how it changed from what he described as a positive and vibrant country in the 1980s to its sad plight today. McIvor, who has spent 28 years in emergency response and development in countries such as Sudan, Morocco, Algeria, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica and Zimbabwe, has penned a thought-provoking and well-written book and introduces us to a host of colourful characters. He transports us to many places we will only ever read about in the newspapers or see on the television. --Gordon Calder in the Caithness Courier

About the Author

Chris McIvor OBE has worked for nearly thirty years in emergency response and development in countries as diverse as Sudan, Morocco, Algeria, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. He is currently Advocacy and Programme Development Director for the charity Save the Children in Mozambique.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This book is a modest, insightful and human account of the author's first posting overseas as a teacher to Sudan. Chris McIvor goes further than most travelogues with his insight and enjoyment of living with communities in the Nile valley. This is balanced by some very funny accounts of various journeys in the region. The book leaves the reader challenged by his questions and feeling that they too have experienced some of his life in this inaccessible part of the world.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye-opening and engaging story! 26 Jan 2009
I was instantly drawn to Chris McIvor's story of wanderlust through Sudan. Knowing almost nothing about muslim Africa, I found his description of life in Sudan really fascinating and thankfully not at all cliche. If anything, his tales of teaching in an all-girls school shattered many of my stereotypes and preconceptions (it turns out, girls everywhere like to gossip, make mischief and dream about what they want to be when they grow up, even ones growing up in a traditional muslim society!) I found myself shaking my head in amazement as he described traveling through war-torn Chad. Foolish and naive? Perhaps. But it makes a great read. I recommend this book to anyone with even a passing interest in travels and explorations beyond your comfort zone. Looking forward to the sequel!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Fergie
I really enjoyed this book of Chris McIvor's years of teaching and travelling in Nubia. This real life account is not only an enjoyable read but also very thought provoking - his open-minded approach and respect for the traditions of the country helped him to get close to the people and achieve a deep understanding of the society over a number of years.
In describing his experiences in such an easy and at times humorous way, he is informative and entertaining while at the same time dispels many of the preconceptions/prejudices of life in that country.
An excellent travel book which shows aspects of Muslim Africa not usually represented.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Bend in the Nile -- Living in Sudan 25 July 2011
By Djouce
Chris McIvor gives an insightful account of his time teaching in Sudan, how he learnt the local language, discovered Islam and made friends with many local people while teaching English in a girls school in Muslim Sudan. 'The Importance of Being Earnest' was on the syllabus - to engage the students he got the class to spend half their time discussing and writing about their own interests. During a school strike he travels slowly by boat and in the back of a lorry, giving him the time to explore the country and its people. He plays chess with a colleague in his home and starts to develop a relationship with his lively, 20 year old daughter.

After a short visit home to Scotland, he decides to return and is posted to Darfur. Signs of famine are beginning to appear. The book ends with his risky trip across war-torn Chad to meet his sister in Nigeria.

Chris McIvor travels with open eyes and an open mind. He shows considerable empathy and insight into the lives of the people he meets.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Not To be Missed Book 11 May 2009
By Deep Reader VINE VOICE
This clear eyed look at Sudan, Darfur and Chad in the 1980s provides a deeper insight into the area than most of the current news coverage. It has a tremendous humanising effect when so much reportage is of numbers and horror. A warm and welcoming people, the Sudanese took Chris McIvor into their hearts as he took them into his. Highland based publisher Sandstone Press seem to be making a habit of this kind of thing. A BEND IN THE NILE could be well coupled with their SHADOW BEHIND THE SUN by Remzije Sherifi, and CAIRNGORM JOHN by John Allen. Fingers crossed there will be a successor book from Chris McIvor.

Similar books from the same publisher: [ASIN:1905207166 White River: A Journey up and down the River Findhorn]]Between Weathers: Travels in 21st Century Shetland (Non-Fiction) Shadow Behind the Sun: Flight from Kosovo: A Woman's Story (Non-Fiction) At The Edge: Walking the Atlantic Coast of Ireland and Scotland (Non-Fiction)
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