When I left for Kajo Keji I was not planning on proceeding to Juba. I did need to go but was planning to go in two weeks when Henry Rollins came. He has been a huge supporter and is coming to see some of our projects. We are planning on taking him to Terekeka, a very needy area outside of Juba for a scouting trip. But since I had not yet been to Terekeka, I decided I wanted to make a preliminary trip to the area to check on the security situation, line up escorts, if necessary, arrange for accommodations and figure out the food situation. That said, I had only packed a small bag for a few days in the field, not eight. By the time I got to Juba both my hair and clothes were pretty dirty… and it only got worse over the course of the next few days.
We got to Juba just at dark. It’s crazy because Juba is a city in the middle of the bush. It has wonderful paved streets and runs on two generators (one for day and the other for night). The only non-Sudanese that I really saw were UN aid workers. Juba is also very expensive. The hotel we stayed in cost 50 Sudanese Pounds ($100) per night but it was not fancy…no air, very hot, no water, jerry cans for the shower. Our guys in Juba took me to the place where the UN people hang out (I guess they thought it would make me feel more comfortable to be around some of “my people”). That hotel costs something like $350 per night. The common area was filled with westerners who were watching rugby, not really my game or my scene, so we didn’t stick around. After that the guys took me to an all-Dinka tribe event. It was sort of interesting seeing the cultural juxtaposition. The streets of Juba were filled with UN trucks – probably people getting ready for the referendum.
The next morning we were taken to the governor’s house. We did not physically meet the governor. Our contact in Juba, Dennis, took us there so we could inform him we were planning to scout Terekeka. The governor assigned one of his men to travel with us to Terekeka and introduce us to the county commissioner. He was from the Dinka tribe, I could tell by the shape of his deep and prominent facial markings. You can tell the different tribes in Sudan based on the style of their facial cuttings.
We got to Terekeka on Sunday afternoon. This is very dry and very needy area. Before going to the commissioner’s house we stopped by one of the two guesthouses in the area to inquire about accommodations. There was nobody in sight but we did walk up on someone’s pet….. some kind of wild cat (a lynx or something). It was still young and was on a leash. The beautiful animal was definitely not in its comfort zone and within the year will probably end up killing the guy who is trying to domesticate it.
Next we were taken to the Commissioners compound, which was basically several huts. Apparently the governor had informed him we were coming because he had assembled a number of community leaders and someone had prepared an incredible meal of fish and greens. The commissioner was wearing perfectly pressed pajamas for the meeting. Evidently, he had been in the state assembly in Juba before being appointed by the president to be commissioner of Terekeka. The county is very large and incredibly needy. This man has a big job. He could not have been more gracious. We ate and chatted for a while but luckily were able to escape just before the ladies brought out the crocodile. I was not in the mood to try any exotic foods.
The commissioner arranged for us to stay at the only NGO compound in the area. It was a USAID project for refugee repatriation. It was a small house with a generator and wireless Internet. Although the guys there were very nice, I don’t think we will be staying there when we come back because they have a pretty full house. The bugs were intense. After dark it was impossible to be outside. Even inside the house, I was constantly swatting mosquitoes. Despite large amounts of bug spray, I’m still covered with bites. Good thing for malaria medicine. The guys who live at the compound bathe in an outdoor bathing shelter. But the house did have a bathroom that they let women use when they are there. So I got to take a “bath” in the bathroom. There was no running water so the guys brought a jerry can of water to the bathroom. After seeing how dirty that water looked under the bright lights, I think I prefer bathing in the dimmer light of the bathing shelter. I asked the guys about a towel and they said, “no towel!” Somehow, I felt silly for asking.