South Sudan Diary May 23-25: On the Ground

Left Nairobi early Wednesday morning, after a day touring parts of the city. Went to an elephant orphanage, enjoyed a fabulous lunch on a former coffee plantation. Reminded me of a outdoor garden restaurant like you would find in the Caribbean.

Leaving Kenya wasn’t as difficult as I feared. While there was plenty of “hurry up and wait,” we made a successful passage. Arriving in Rumbek, South Sudan, after a refueling stop in Lokichoggio, we were hustled by local gendarmes. They attempted to extort another 160 pounds each for our visas, despite the fact that all fees were paid in DC.

We were greeted with wonderful warm welcome when we arrived at the Hope & Resurrection School in Atiaba. Took video of song-filled ceremony.

Thursday was a long day. After breakfast of oatmeal and powdered milk, we went to the school for chapel. Everywhere we go we get seats up front and are treated like special guests. Lots of video shot at the school. We had a late morning tea in the teacher’s lounge. After lunch, school was dismissed to attend funeral for local soldier in Sudan Civil War.

Once again we got the best seats in the house, before a crowd of 2000+. We were allowed to see and photograph the casket. Then we sat through a dozen or more speakers, who used mostly Dinka to communicate to their brothers and sisters. Only when a plate offering was collected from us were we able to buy our way back to the school.

It was warmer today, and I jumped rope when we got back to school. Rope is about finished as I untangled it constantly, sweating profusely. Recharged batteries before and after dinner. Shared meal with Baptist group serving at another school. Combined our evening worship with song and reflection.

Woke up to damp bedding. Very humid overnight and this morning. Perspired greatly but had plenty of electrolyte drink and felt good throughout. Another long day at the school. We had tire trouble early and arrived at the school late so we missed morning devotion.

Shot one interview with Abraham using the iPhone. Turned out well, I think. Got lots of video from the classroom, with the Ugandan staff teachers and Tom Valiquett from our team.

Thunder was in the distance in the morning. After lunch, lightning, thunder and downpours interrupted afternoon classes. Allowed for restful moments. Worked with Darryl to resolve power generator issue, at least temporarily.

Learned today that when Darryl leaves with first group next week, I, as the remaining male, will be responsible for driving to and from school. It may be challenging, with right-hand drive and very difficult roads.

Today is son Dan’s 21st birthday. Called his cell to sing “Happy Birthday,” joined by enthusiastic Ugandan teachers…

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