Arriving and Preparing in Juba
Marianne and I arrived in Juba yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon. Both of us started our journey on Sunday. The new terminal at the Juba airport is still under construction which appears to have come to a complete stop. So, Marianne got the full experience of flying into Juba’s old terminal building. After you deplane you walk across the tarmac, through the terminal doors and into purgatory. I won’t go so far as to say it’s hell (though it is really hot) because if I remember my theology, there’s no way out of hell. There is, however, a way out of immigration and customs at the Juba airport after you’ve paid your penance… er – $100 entry fee and pushed your way through to the front of the line. If you don’t push your way through to the front of the line you don’t seem to make any forward progress because everyone else is pushing their way to the front of the line. After about an hour you get your entry stamp and then wade through the giant pile of bags to find your checked baggage.
The highlight of our evening was meeting Michael’s fiancé, Deborah. We didn’t have much time together but I’ve gotta say, “Way to go Michael!” Hopefully we’ll get a chance to meet again before we leave.
This morning we met Mel who lives in Calgary and is one of the primary stakeholders in the South Sudan Hotel chain. I tried to ask him about the business climate in South Sudan and strategies for attracting investors into the building sector. However, he seemed more interested in telling us his ideas for attracting young people to private industry rather than government jobs. This essentially amounted to telling us that more people need to take initiative to improve things. A noble statement, but a little too broad to be of much use. Clearly Mel must be thinking about running for office 🙂
Now, on to the task at hand, groundbreaking and construction. We met with our contractor, Denis, this morning. I remember being totally impressed with Denis when I met him last year. I still am. Talking with him for five minutes lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. His abilities continue to amaze me. We’re in a bit of a holding pattern for the next couple of days while he arranges logistics and services all the equipment. We’ll be on the road Friday and will head straight to Jalle. We’ll lay out the foundation grid on Saturday as well as install some test piers to hone our technique. If we work Sunday (I’m assuming we will) we should be installing the first row of piers. Over the next few days we should start to see the building take shape which is good, because Marianne and I only have about 6 full days on site before we have to head home. If things go smoothly, we should see quite a lot of forward progress in 6 days. If we run into problems, hopefully 6 days will be sufficient to work through them so that construction can begin in ernest after we leave.
Denis had just returned from the site, actually, and his report is that security does not seem to be a concern for the moment. Everyone in Jalle was very excited to know that construction was finally going to start.
-Blake, executive director