This story might be short, as I only have a handful of days in this next country to write about. Actually, I spent longer waiting for the entrance visa approval than I was actually on location, but somehow this makes it even more thrilling for me that I’m able to drop in on a whim like this.
The relatively new nation of South Sudan is not a place many travellers get to explore. Formed in 2011 when the mostly-christian South split from the Islamic-majority of the rest of Sudan after long civil war, and subject of significant fighting still; conflict has scarred the area. As is often the case in such locations, the United Nations has several disciplines deployed, and most “outsiders” who come to the country have some connection to this work or military. Myself included.
I came with a few preconceived ideas of what I’d expect when I arrived. My company has had staff there since last June, and I saw photos and heard stories, but that does nothing to dampen my subtle excitement when my flight finally touched down in the country’s Capital. I love arriving at airports like this, where I walk off the aircraft outside and immediately feel the atmosphere of the place, then cross the hot tarmac to a crowded concrete room and wait for my luggage, exactly the same as the vastly different people around me. It just feels like the start of adventure to me!
One of the things I knew about the country before I arrived was the red dirt and desert-like conditions. But as it turns out, South Sudan is much more diverse than I’d originally thought. I only spent my short time in 2 cities, but I was told that “next time” I come back I must go see the national parks and wildlife migrations and the river deltas and mountains. So hopefully one day I can!
In the midst of this city is a gorgeous oasis, The Acacia Village Hotel in Juba. I had two nights here and would have happily stayed way longer if the choice were up to me! I spent my free time birdwatching in the courtyard and consuming my body weight in tropical fruit. But this wasn’t a vacation I could extend, and early Monday morning the base manager took me to get my access ID and off to the next location for work.
My company has an aircraft and crew here, and my job was to ensure we were operating properly and as safely as possible, and to also check in with and encourage the crew who have been working here. It’s one thing for me to pop in to places like this for a few days; easy for me to romanticize and enjoy, but I have no doubt it would be significantly different to regularly spend 6 week rotations working in conflict conditions. I give them credit.
There’s not much I can actually write publicly about work details or the area we were at, but I do want to take you on a quick tour of “home base”. Here’s a snapshot of life as I saw it.
At the camp we’d often see these birds – which were equally fascinating and frightening. I’m not sure it’s clear from my photos, but picture a vulture about 4 feet tall. Eek!
I have so much more that I wish I could write about my four and a half days here, it was an absolute whirlwind and I feel like I was there for double that time. If you see me in person feel free to ask me to share more stories.
Until next time,