One Night in Bor Town

Published February 3, 2012

(Blake Clark) We were supposed to leave at 8:00am this morning from Juba to Jalle with 5 people in the car. We instead left at 2:30 and made it to Bor with 7 people in the car. So we have a layover in Bor for the night with bonus internet, showers and beer for one more night. Oh, and dubbed Spanish soap operas. I’m not sure why one would go through the effort to dub a soap opera, but then I’m not sure why anyone goes through the trouble of making them in the first place.

I’ve completely given up on trying to predict logistics in Africa. This trip is no exception. All I know is that we have a welder (person) and a welder (machine) and plates to weld but lack any actual steel to join the two in a secure manner. These will be coming up with the crane on Sunday or Monday or at some other time. I’ve had enough experience at this point not to be too frustrated. It is was it is and I can’t do anything about it. Accepting reality is a lot less stressful than fighting it. So the next few days we will be (ha – yet another plan…) we will probably lay out the foundation grid and start installing piers. I have a feeling that the welding is going to be the thing that slows this waaaayyyy down. (I suppose I should explain that we need to weld the steel columns to the helical piers) The whole thing is supposed to work like an assembly line – but the line can only move as quickly as its slowest process and I’m afraid that is welding.

O.K. since I’ve been here a couple of times, the scenery around me is less exciting than for a first timer – so I’ll let Marianne speak for the journey from Juba to Bor…

Sunset in Juba (Marianne Nepsund)

(Marianne Nepsund) Today we left the South Sudan Hotel and I learned a very important lesson: The South Sudan Hotel is not South Sudan. There’s a certain romanticism you can’t help but indulge in as you look out from the hotel balcony at dusk. There’s a pick-up soccer game just beyond the hotel walls and music drifts upward from the courtyard. At the hotel, we were well-fed and frankly, a bit bored. Now, we are goat-dodging (and cow-dodging) in a Mitsubishi SUV.

On the red dirt road from Juba to Bor, driving on the right side of the road is more of a suggestion than a rule. Really you just drive on whatever part of the road is flattest. And flat is a relative term. The road better resembles an ATV course, and the experience is less like driving and more like slaloming in a car. I am crammed in the back with Dennis, Daniel and the cook for the construction crew. One of our welders is riding in the back with what luggage isn’t crammed between our legs, on our laps or next to our feet. My white Texas Tech t-shirt is striped with dirt from the seatbelt and I am holding on to the oh-sh** handle for dear life. South Sudanese music that reminds me of reggeton plays on the radio. I quickly realize this is a cd, and it’s on repeat. Man do they love auto-tune. My iPhone has proved an incredibly useful tool for writing. My sketchbook would look like a Richter scale output if I tried to put pencil to paper in this car. We passed an overturned canvas-topped supply truck, a testament to the road conditions. And these are relatively good road conditions, all things considered. Somehow, Dennis is actually asleep.

The landscape we’re bumping past is not unlike parts of Texas : sparse brown undergrowth and short scrubby trees. Except for the bottoms of some of the trees are engulfed by termite mounds. Further north the tree get bigger and are draped in dried-out vines. Palm trees appear. When the trees thin, I can see the Nile glinting beyond, the bright green of its west bank in stark contrast to the brown east. ‘That’s the Sudd’ Blake says. ‘Swampland as far as the eye can see.’ That’s where we’re headed in the morning.

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