Whereas in Khartoum, the airport was fairly normal and somewhat automated, on the ground in Juba it was all manual. We walked to the baggage claim and waited as a door opened and the baggage handlers started putting baggage on the floor. A driver was there to meet us at the airport and he took us directly to the office which was deserted due to the fact that it was lunchtime. Following the trend we, the Country Director, Chief of Party, one of the governance advisors and me went to lunch also at Paradiso. They had some Western food, but I order Zegni, an Eritrean/Ethopan dish that my friend Senait made in Kuwait. It is meat either beef or chicken in red sauce served with Angera, a flat pancake like bread that you use as an eating utensil. It was good.
Upon returning to the office, I met some of the staff and ended up working from the operations room with Josh, Molly and crew, it was air conditioned, which is one of the reasons I was glad to be in there. Some of the rooms in the Juba office are air-conditioned others are not, but it does get hot there. My entire goal for the trip was to meet with our donor USAID to clarfiy indicators; so what we were measuring our progress against, and to meet with our implementi partners to talk about monitoring and evalution processes and to get buy in for a roll out of new monitoring tools. For some reason that I will never fully comprehend I inherited 117 indicators, I have negotiated it down to 29, thank goodness. In addition the excel spreadsheet on which we were tracking them if printed out, would stretch at least two city blocks if not three.
At first I was worried that I wouldn’t accomplish anything, but then after Tuesday, I was constantly busy. I met with the democracy and governance team about monitoring, evalution (M & E) and indicators, met the education specialist who repoting to me and came up with a workplan for him. Set up meetings for me and the CoP with the four partners who are based in Juba. Met one of my other direct reports, the M & E oficer from Abyei. Met with Winrock anoher organization who is implementing a BRIDGE program with USAID and the most fun meetings, with the Winrock M & E people and the World Vision, M & E people. It was great I came out with a clear picture of what tools are needed, next steps and a clear plan.
The hotel I was staying at was right behind the Mercy Corps office, the rooms were small, but clean and the staff was very friendly. In addition, it had a pool, but I had gotten that information when it was too late to pack my suit. The pool was right next to a small outside dining area and it was the only dining area in the hotel. You could get to the office by either getting the hotel people to open their back gate and then getting the Mercy Corps guards to open the MC gate, that was about five feet away. Or you could walk out the front of the hotel, walk a block, take a sharp right, walk another block and be at the manned gate. The first morning I tried to get to the front gate the back way, but stopped, because I felt like I was walking through our neighbor’s yards, pictured above. The hotel and MC were surrounded by little huts some made from mud, others from sticks that look like bamboo, one looked like it was made from tar. The kids playing around them were dirty, which was great for them and they played with very basic toys. A carton with wheels on it and one girl had a hoop that she was rolling along with a coat hanger. Maybe next time I go down I will teach them hopstoch – after all, all you need is dirt and a rock.
The best thing about Juba was the rain. It was actually fairly cool the entire time I was there. Of course, it didn’t down pour and maybe I wouldn’t have been so enamoured with the rain if I would have had to deal with the mud, but it was nice and very cooling.
Monday was fairly laid back, Tuesday was slightly more busy, then starting on Wednesday it was running or rather limping, in my case from one meeting to another. On Thursday and Friday, I didn’t get around to eating lunch until around 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon. On Friday day night I roused myself to go to a colleague’s going away party, he was finance and leaving Juba, but maybe coming to Khartoum so I felt the need. We met up at a restaurant call Loglia, the bar was named after the owner’s dog George. They serve alcohol, pizza and burgers and then they have themed buffets. I had been there on Wednesday and taken part in the Moraccan buffet, on Friday’s it was South African BBQ, I opted for a burger. I was hoping to make it an early night instead I was out until midnight.
I woke up at 4:00 a.m. in the morning with stomach cramps, it was Saddam’s revenge; traveler’s diahhrea or here Bashir’s curse. I spent the next two hours, worshipping and descreating the porcelin God. I was feeling well enough by 6:30 to be able to get dressed and finish packing; my flight was leaving at 9:00 a.m. I opted out of breakfast.
At the airport and I use that term lightly it was chaos. When we arrived there the doors to the “terminal” weren’t’ even open. When they finally did open them they opened one and tried to make everyone go through single file. One of my colleagues remarked that the first thing people need to learn if they want to become democratic is how to stand in line. In Sudan, there is a ways to go. It was a mass of people funneling into this tiny door. Once inside it wasn’t much better. Still all manual; however the herds now had to move in different directions. There was about one maybe two people to check in each flight. So first you angle toward the wooden bar toward the person who you thought checking in your flight. Once you got there you had to hold out your hand with your ticket and ID and desperately hope that he would eventually take it. After he took if you were checking luggage you had fight your way around the wooden counter to pick up your paper and check your luggage.
Then you stood in another crowd waiting for them to go through your luggage. To the right of the luggage check was a sign that said, “Please do not leave baggage unattended,” underneath it was a pile of bags. After checking my baggage and abandoning my colleagues who were still in the mass trying to get checked in to go to Malakal in the Upper Nile State, I was headed back to Khartoum. I breathed a sigh of relief too soon when I realized I had to cue in another group of people (they don’t line up) to get through security. Fortunately for me the female group was 10 times smaller than the male group. Finally I made it into the waiting area where there were actually chairs lined up for people to sit in. Not perfectly lined up and mainly plastic chairs, but there some semblence of order.
“I was so relieved to get in here and see the chairs,” remarked the Chief of Party when he had finally made it through the herd of people.
When they called my flight I passed through another door and then waiting for a van to come pick me up to take me to the plane. The van had one door and you had to scoot into the seats to let more passengers in, it was basically a 15 passenger van. Then once we got out of the van at the airplane we had to line up again to identify our luggage. By the time we got to the plane we were mainly foreigners, because only UN staff and NGOs, fly on the UN flights so there were actually lines. One line for those going to Khartoum, we had to identify our luggage first because we were getting off last and they would put it in the back of the plane. I picked mine up and handed it to the baggage handler, boarded the plane and sat in the emergency exit row.
It was an hour to our first stop, Munrock, I think it was called there are two cities with “rock” as the last part and it wasn’t Wunrock. When we arrived everyone had to deplane and we recieved a strip of paper that said “Transit” on it. The transit waiting room was an area to the side of the airfield designated by a man in a yellow jacket pointing.
I think we had to get off the plane for refueling and we stood out in the sun for 20 minutes. I had been on a larger plane on the way down and they had even sold us snacks and water on the plane; not this time. It was a Dash with 35 seats and no snacks. As we were standing there waiting, a goat came running out of the bushes bleating for all it was worth. It looked like a La Mancha which is a breed of goat and now I’m just showing off from my 4-H days. While I was standing there I got into a conversation with a man who had been on the same flight as me from Khartoum. I heard him droning on and on to his seat partner about economics and what he would do as omnipotent dictator of the word. “I would tax everything that is bad, and subsidize everything that is good,” he proclaimed. I thought to myself food subsidies and rolled my eyes, knowing if I commented I would get a lecture on something. I was trying to avoid talking to him as he seemed like someone who was enamoured with the sound of his own voice and I’m pretty sure I addressed my question to his seat partner, but he responded.
“Can I take a picture?” I asked.
“It’s better to beg forgiveness than ask,” he said. And then I’m not sure how it happened but he started a conversation, he was an economist who had been working for USAID, “And not to pat myself on the back,” he said, “But they noticed my good work blah, blah, blah.” He then went on to say that it was funny that his specialty was economics, but he was here as a program manager and the thing that was wrong with USAID was that they didn’t play to people’s strengths. That led to a discussion about what was wrong with Western Aid in general. He talked and talked and talked, all the way into the plane, the flight attendent had to ask him to quit talking and pay attention when she went through the safety guidelines. I thought I was saved and I opened my book just in case, but no, when she was done he turned around and kept talking.
With the song “You talk too much, you never shut up,” running through my brain, I looked at him and smiled as sweetly as possible and said, “I’m sorry I really have to finish this book before the flight ends. In the meantime his seatmate had fallen asleep in self-defense. The flight was three hours long. Knowing my luck he’ll probably end up being one of the contacts I have to deal with.
I arrived Khartoum at 1:30 p.m. and went straight to bed to see if I could shake the curse, but I ended up being sick well into the evening.