Body Language: #12

Published June 2, 2011

Tonight is James’s last night in Sudan. Not his last night in Africa, though, he has one more to go at the Cairo airport. Let’s hope he has a smoother trip than Sarah!

Today James got a good lesson in local body language. We hadn’t driven too far out of Bor this morning when we were stopped by the police. Not long after that we had a dozen or so men in rag-tag uniforms surrounding our Landcruiser. No one was speaking English. Sound intimidating? James certainly thought so – what the hell is going on? It didn’t help that James was the one driving! Well, things like this aren’t so easy to interpret here. For one thing, no one looked tense, angry, or even annoyed. They looked, well, friendly and curious. The man doing most of the speaking (to Daniel) was also listening. Angry and intimidating people don’t often listen. As it turns out we were the victims only of a very different sense of personal space. The police wanted nothing more than to warn us of insecurity on the road to Juba after an incident the night before. And one of the young officers needed a ride to Juba. A quick call to a General (Michael’s uncle) and all concluded that as long
as we made Juba by nightfall we would be safe. Other than a bumpy road threatening to spin us out, we experienced nothing out of the ordinary.

An interesting article in the Juba Post today about education in Jonglei state. The article emphasized the lack of adequate school buildings and the effect this was having on teacher morale. Teachers here are practically volunteers and having a floor made of something other than dirt and a chalkboard something other than black paint would go a long way. It is not boastful or exaggerating to think that Rebuild Sudan’s school could be a flagship and model for future schools in this region. One troubling bit of news in the article was that the UNICEF student feeding program had ceased in 2010. (Similar program to “Free Lunches” in the United States.) This has led to a decline in student enrollment. Rebuild Sudan learned of this program during our trip in 2009 and even designated a special storage room for UNICEF within the school’s design. We will try to provide a link to the complete article as soon as we can.

Michael has been putting a lot of pressure on the shipping agent in Kampala to get the foundation up here. We’ve been told so many stories at this point we don’t know what to believe. At the moment, we’re being told that the foundation has cleared customs but that tomorrow is a national holiday and nothing can happen until Saturday. We’ll see. I’ve never heard Michael use the words “pissed off”, but I just got off the phone with him….


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