South Sudan Diary May 31-June 5: The Last Days

THURSDAY

Drove to Abundant Life Primary School in the morning to meet with Abraham Maker, a former Hope & Resurrection student, now teaching young students. Received a warm welcome from headmaster and staff. Abraham presented me with with my Dinka name: Patrick Majok, named for a black and white steer or cow, a prized possession.

Shot video of Abraham in classroom with young students learning multiplication tables. Very eager students under his care.

Returned to clinic to pick up Elizabeth and head to Atiaba. She will stay the night at the school with Marcellina. Packed up my mosquito net, as I now have several beds with nets from which to choose for sleep.

Another rugged ride to school, in time to have interview with Marcellina and lunch with the chicken Jennifer we enjoyed the past few days. Broth and meat were nice additions to the rice. Vultures and a couple of brown eagles were aware of the food and were loitering in the area. With teacher Dennis’ help, we prepared a plate with a piece of chicken, placed it on the ground. Within seconds the vultures crept closer, but we shoo’ed then away. Then the eagle flew in and snatched the treat with ease. Got it on camera.

Think often of where I am–in the middle of Africa. Usually when I travel a long ways, there is opportunity for recreation. I’ve jumped rope with Dr. Clarke several days. But not much time is spent rejuvenating; no time is spent poolside. There are absolutely no creature comforts in South Sudan. It’s not like a getaway trip to do a little 9-5 church work. You are “all in” here, make or break, 24/7. There is no cooling off place in these parts. Jennifer comments constantly about her grumpiness or pressure she feels. Yet there is no intentional effort to diffuse it.

Recreation must be what you make of it: a nap, a book, a conversation. I remember the garden setting of Tamambo in Nairobi, a beautiful, oasis in the huge Kenyan city. It reminds me, again, of a previous Caribbean holiday with Dad and Tom.
I know my time is growing short here and that a reunion with Rob in London beckons. I know that I will miss this school and the clinic and the faraway place it has taken my heart. Life will again envelope me and my feelings will begin to fade for South Sudan and this  adventure.

SATURDAY

Said our goodbyes at Akot Medical Clinic and set out for the school at Atiaba. Taped a few standups with Jennifer. Drove off to Rumbek, which took barely an hour. First stop,was Governor’s House, where we met with governor of Lakes State. Jennifer led conversation and told him about the progress at the school, and made several requests, including access to top students in the region, a storage container and other items.

From there we went to Pan Door, a catholic Guest House run by Italian missionaries, one of which was from Lake Maggiore. Facility had restaurant, private rooms with flush toilets. Met Arnold of the staff, who engaged me by speaking in French.
Ran errands with Cleous, including trip for a battery in Rumbek’s market area. Stood at corner with Jen and EB for 15-20 minutes. Was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. We really stood out, but tried not to, as some amazing characters passed back and front before us. Reminded me of a Star Wars bar scene.

For dinner we went to Akot’s Tukul compound. He was joined by Ben G, another government associate. Had beverages and dinner (finger food) served to us. Akot’s father later showed up, who stayed with Jen in Virginia several years ago. I was anxious to leave when wind whipped up, threatening rain, some made hasty departure.
A cold Tusker beer was enjoyed before bed

SUNDAY

Arose for breakfast and worship with Loreto Catholic Secondary School for girls. Wonderful service, deacon from Cameroon was great homilist. Afterwards met with charming students.

Left Pan Door for African Expeditions, or Afex, and safari-like setting. Disappointed with trash on my porch, but otherwise OK. Received visit from Akot, Priscilla, Deborah and a former student named Daniel who arrived wearing a blue Oakridge shirt. Took picture and was really amazed.

Had nice buffet supper with pork chops, greens. Had a couple of fine Bells Ugandan beers with the ladies before bed.

MONDAY

Slept OK, but up early. Listened to music. Met for breakfast and were visited again by Akot and another friend/associate. Checked out of room and waited at ALS room for flight to arrive.

Walked 40 yards to airport to begin bag check, boarding process. Went smoothly for us. An inbound student from Virginia, Joel, who will join Clarke at Akot clinic, arrived from Nairobi. He was hung up with immigration officer attempting to extort another $100, just as we experienced. Jen tried to help but to no avail. He paid a “tax” of $50 and we said our farewells.

Flights on Beechcraft plane back to Nairobi were pleasant enough. Took photos of cumulonimbus and terrain. Met at airport by driver Patrick, Maker and Angelina at about 5:30. Decision made to go directly to Kenyatta Airport for supper and flight to London.

Checked my duffel bag with tripods, along with laptop and camera to Virginia with the ladies. Felt relieved and unencumbered. On escalator to departure level, I saw profile of man. I got off, walked around and asked, “Jock Boyer?” It was he! Had a great conversation and photos with he and his wife, Kimberly. It was an incredible moment for me, another example of God’s presence in my heart. I was truly excited. Later, when we went to coffee shop for dinner, took photos with several Team Rwanda cyclists.

Bought a few African souvenirs, put them in camera bag with Jen for safe keeping. Boarded 777 to London and set off on time. Impossible to sleep despite two Ambien. Maybe got 2 hrs.

TUESDAY

Took photos of France’s Mediterranean coastline under darkness, which was cool. Arrived early. Got to a fork in the road, where connecting flights went one direction and passport control, customs went another. More photos, prayers, hugs and kisses with Jennifer and Elizabeth and our final goodbyes.

Sailed through security and customs quite quickly. Got to airport waiting entrance, where Immediately spied Matt “Today Show” Lauer arriving. Intercepted him briefly for a photo. Great get!

I waited for a bit, then called Rob’s cell and left a message that I was ready for pickup. He arrived about 90 minutes later, saying my instructions said “5:55 p.m.” DOH!
Made some tourist rounds, saw refurbished Wembly Stadium, took photo crossing Abbey Road. Met Frances, daughters Emily, Anna and Isobel. Picked up a few things and visited nearby friend for some snacks, wine, pleasantries. It was fun. Watched French Open match between Tsonga-Djokovic. Back home, called Virginia et all for 20 minutes, declined dinner and went to bed. Asleep quickly.

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