Saturday, November 29, 2008

The blank stare always wins

Illegal checkpoints have become a bit of a problem here in Juba lately. They are run by a combination of army, police and random guys with sticks and are usually shakedown operations where they'll charge you indeterminate amounts of money for violating a non-existent curfew.

Last night I was chauffeuring, as per usual, and was heading back to my house at about midnight, a perfectly acceptable time to be on the road WELL before the UN-recommended bed time of 1.00 am. I'm cruisin' along the airport road, listening to my music, when I round the corner and see a wall of lights and men with guns and sticks.


Not being my first checkpoint, I immediately slowed down, dimmed my lights, turned on the inside dome light, turned off the music and put my hands on the steering wheel with my ID in one hand facing out at them. The come up, smacking the car with their canes and generally trying to be scary.

"Get out, get out." I get out. Proceed with waving the canes in my face. "Why are you out? It's past curfew." "There is no curfew" "Where do you live." "Hai Tomping" "Why are you out so late?" "I am going home." "Why are you violating the curfew, you must pay." "There is no curfew." etc etc etc.

This went on for a good bit, with me just holding my ID out in front of me and saying there is no curfew and him hollering and waving his stick around and getting more agitated that i wasn't going for my wallet.

See, what I knew was that, unlike the poor Sudanese guys standing over on the curb looking miserable, I am a well dressed, respectable, non-drunk white girl with all documentation in order and a blank stare. I might as well have been wearing kevlar for all they could do to me.

I finally was shoved in my car in disgust and they all started banging on my car with their canes as I drove away.

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