Latest News: Update #13
Well, it looks as if the foundation is on its way. Michael is meeting the truck at the Nimule border crossing today. If this had happened two weeks ago, we would be celebrating! As it is, we are in discussions with GDC about whether or not it is feasible to try to build this season. It comes down to risk management. Rebuild South Sudan cannot afford the cost overruns that are highly likely this late in the season. If afternoon rains restrict the work day to the morning hours the build could drag out twice as long. If the crane gets stuck in the mud – who’s going to pay to haul it out? Is it even possible to un-mire a crane? The growing consensus is that it is not worth the financial risk to attempt to build with the time remaining. This will mean postponing construction until November.
Another mounting concern is the availability of fuel. With instability in Abyei, the main trade route to the north has been effectively cut off. Even the large commercial company building the new Juba International Airport terminal has had to curtail activities due to fuel shortages. It is becoming so acute there is some doubt as to whether we can find enough fuel to deliver the foundation to the site, let alone fuel all the construction equipment.
On the other hand, the rain seems very slow to take hold here. There is even some rumor about drought. This changes the equation somewhat, but it’s a guessing game. At the very least, we hope to have all materials delivered and secured on site. We also hope that we can do some trial runs with the helical piers. They can be removed as easily as they are put in, so we can get some experience in how the soils will react. We shipped extra pieces we can mix and match to adapt to soil conditions.
I’ve been stuck in the South Sudan Hotel the last few days playing the waiting game. I’m certainly recognized by all the staff here. Last night at dinner, a staff person pulled me aside and asked to speak to me. She said that there was an American “freaking out” in the lobby. This guy was a student who had done a year abroad in Nairobi. He had been traveling around East Africa since his semester ended. In the true adventure style, he didn’t have much of a plan. He had been staying with friends of friends and people he met on couchsurfing.org. He had been holding his own, traveling in Rwanda and Tanzania with only a few minor incidents.
He had arrived in Juba late afternoon to discover his ATM card didn’t work. The fact that his American bank card works anywhere in East Africa came as a surprise to me though that fact that it doesn’t work here did not. Also – he had been unable to connect with his contacts. He had found a cheap hotel, but didn’t have enough cash to cover the night. I loaned him 80 pounds, about 30 bucks, to pay for his room and I bought him dinner. I also advised him to take the first bus back to Uganda! This is not the place to be without connections and money!