Thursday, April 10, 2008

On the road again

I am in a small town on the Ugandan border called Nimule for the next four days. Getting down here was freakin awesome. I flew on the WFP to another field site of mine, Kajo Keji, which I loved immediately. It is in the hills and quiet and green and lovely. To get to the office, you drive through a “neighborhood” of tukuls, the round, mud houses with thatch roofs, arranged in blocks, which I assume are family units. All the houses in each block would have a different design, one block would all be blue with white zig zags, one black with orange swirls, etc. They were quite fetching, I have to say.

When I was sitting in the office, meeting my staff who are based down there for the first time, I heard my name called out in a VERY familiar voice. I turn around and start screaming bloody murder, it was a friend of mine from Liberia that I thought was in graduate school in Maryland but it turns out he has been living in this TINY TINY town that nobody ever goes to and then here I am, showing up there. I can’t believe it. There were, like, 10 of us in Voinjama that were close. Kajo Keji is the back end of nowhere and I was only there to transit through. And we randomly ran in to each other. It would be like running in to your second grade teacher in a butcher’s shop in Turkmenistan. And you were both wearing polkadotted culottes.

After making an absolute spectacle of myself with AB and making lots of promises of catching up soon, I was bundled in to the truck and set off on the second leg of my journey, a long ride over bad dusty roads through stunning countryside. To get from Kajo Keji (which is in South Sudan) to Nimule (which is ALSO in South Sudan), I had to go via Uganda. Which meant four border crossing (go across one border, go through no man’s land, go across the other border, repeat). I am completely exhausted with having to be charming and playing dumb when the nice customs man is hinting around for a bribe, a job or a smoke. I do so love these overland checkpoints. But I made it through without any issues, without any bribes and, I think, with the affection of one heavily armed border guard somewhere near Moyo.

But, see, THIS is where the trip gets interesting. There is no reasonable road between Kajo Keji and Nimule that takes a reasonable amount of time. So you know what I did? I took a BOAT. Not even a boat, a CANOE. I am the happiest girl on the planet, I tell you. I got to ride down some very pretty river (could’ve been the Nile, couldn’t really say), through an elephant reserve (not that I saw any) in a leaky blue wooden canoe with two boys in bare feet and sack trousers and one guy with the fiercest head wound I’ve ever seen.


I’m now in Nimule which is, well, pretty yicky, actually. I’m staying in a tukul, which is hot (no windows). The Sudanese staff, who are all men, live with us, the latrines are very VERY whiffy long drops and the shower is a half a plastic can of water left outside my tukul.

This should be fun.

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