Saturday, February 16, 2013

Nimule Road

   Not long after I arrived in South Sudan in May 2010 I had the opportunity to visit the ECS farm in Panyikwara in Eastern Equitoria.  I went with a fellow American missonary named Robin whose assignment was helping the ECS to develop an agriculture program.  The farm in Panyikwara had been given by the community to serve as place where people could be educated in farming techniques.
   The drive to Panyikwara was miserable.  This was my first long distance trip in Sudan and I could not believe how bad the roads were.  It took us about four to five hours to drive a little more than 100-kilometers, barely an hour's drive in the US.  And like all drives here your body feels beaten by the time you reach your destination.  Last week we drove to Lainya and back in the same day, three hours each way of spine cracking, bone crushing, kidney bruising travel.  When you reach home you feel like you have been beaten by baseball bats.
    To reach Panyikwara we drove south on the main road towards Uganda.  This is the major means by which people and goods reach Sudan from Kenya and Uganda.  Because of its importance to transport USAID invested around $250-million dollars to upgrade the road all the way from Juba to the border with Uganda, about 185-kilometers.  For any American reading this, please know that these were tax-dollars extremely well spent!  Improving this road was a wonderful investment.
    I took a lot of pictures on that trip in 2010, when everything was still so new to me.  Even goats lounging in the road seemed at the time fascinating, whereas now I barely give them a second glance.  Last week I again traveled to Eastern Equitoria.  I went to Magwi which is near Panyikwara to attend the Synod of Torit Diocese.  I was there to conduct a financial management training such as I have done all over Sudan.  This time we drove down the now improved road and what an wonderful sensation it was!!  From the time we left Juba to the time we arrived in Magwi was barely two-hours, and I was not really pushing the drive - we could have made it more quickly.  Instead, I was luxuriating in the smoothness and comfort of the drive down a road anyone in a developed country would appreciate.  What a great improvement!!

A view of the old Nimule Road, travel was so slow goats could use it as a resting spot without worry.

Old Nimule Road.  Rain-water would collect and make travel a muddy mess.
New Nimule Road!!  As good a road as anywhere.  Speed limit 80-Kph!!

New Nimule Road.  Now you can appreciate the views of mountains, etc., because you don't have to be so incredibly focused looking for potholes and ditches to avoid.

New Nimule Road.  Money well spent.

Water Woes

     For most of the time I have been here the water we received in our house came from a well located on an adjacent property.  There really is not a central water system in Juba - and certainly not any kind of sewer system - people have big black plastic water storage tanks elevated on platforms or roofs, the water coming either from bore wells or delivered by tanker truck.  There are seemingly hundreds of tanker trucks operating in Juba, and like so many of the services offered in Juba, water delivery is the purvue of mainly Ethiopian or Eritrean drivers.  It is interesting how certain nationalities specialize in particular businesses.  All of the petrol stations in town are operated by Somalis, who also operate many of the money exchange bureaus.  Arabs operate so many of the general shops, several of the bigger hardware stores in town are run by Indians.  And it's also interesting how similar shops tend to congregate together; you will have in one block a half-dozen building supply traders or plumbing and electrical shops all huddled together.  There is a certain logic to this.  It makes comparison shopping easier, you can quickly go from shop to shop to compare wares and prices.  And also, since there is a certain comraderie amongst the traders, if one is out of stock of something they will obtain it from a competitor.  The other day I was doing my general household shopping and wanted a couple of packages of spaghetti.  My regular shopkeeper was out but he ran around the market until he found some for me.  Did it cost me an extra pound per package? yeah, but it spared me having to search around and ensured my continued patronage, so that quarter a package was worth it.
    The well which supplied our house was on the adjacent compound of an NGO.  This NGO used to rent some space from our Guest House where they housed their staff which is why they provided the water.  Our house and one other - where their staff lived - were both supplied by this particular well.  The other two houses in the Guest House compound are supplied by a different well.  The NGO moved their staff out of our compound in December 2010 and I have always been amazed - and thankful - that they continued to provide our houses with water.
     Evidently the NGO either was unaware they were still supplying us water or finally decided to end it because starting in January I noticed our household water was being supplied by tanker trucks.  The tanker trucks in Juba derive their water from one of two sources: one are USAID operated water treatment plants which draw water from the Nile River, treat it and filter it, and then sell it cheaply to tanker truck operators who then sell it to households and businesses.  The other source is when the tanker trucks just go to the banks of the murky Nile and pump water directly into their holds.  In theory these operators are supposed to throw some chemicals into the trucks to treat the water, but everyone in town suspects they do not.  This water is priced somewhat lower and appeals to those householders or businesses wishing to save a few pounds.  The Guest House operators are decidedly in the latter category since I have noticed since January how dirty and nasty our water has become.  I had also noticed how starting in January my stomach suddenly became distressed like I was suffering from some kind of internal bug.  At first this didn't make sense since I am generally careful but once I saw the poor quality of our water the source of my distress became obvious.
    We're still suffering from the crummy water.  It's just such a shame after two-and-a-half years of decent water to now suddenly being afflicted this way and having to waste money buying bottled water all the time for everything.  Below is a picture of the water that was delivered to our tank this morning.  Yum.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Manna from Nebraska

Recently some people came over to South Sudan from Nebraska.  They asked if they could bring something for me from there.  I think I made excellent choices.

Killing time in line

     I had to make two deposits at the bank this morning.  One deposit for our WFP account, which allows us to use UNHAS flight services, was at KCB Bank, while the other was depositing employee payrolls into an account at Equity Bank. 
     I dread going to the bank here, the lines are always awful, even early in the morning, the only time they are bearable.  No one appreciates the concept of customer service.
     I only had to wait an hour at KCB, pretty amazing.  I arrived just after 8:30am and was out around 9:30am.  I used local transport to the bank and had to walk a kilometer to another major road to take another matatu to the other bank.  I suppose I reached Equity around 9:45am.  The line was lengthy.  I finally got to the window around 11:30am and made the deposit.  Fortunately, I had one of my Adrian Mole books with me ("The Wilderness Years") which I actually finished not long before it was my turn.  If you are not familiar with the Mole, you are missing out.
     Three hours thrown away standing in line at the bank on a Saturday morning.  Ugh!  People back home don't appreciate how lucky they have it.