Morobo Trip - Day 1

Background: The project I am working on has two components, one I am implementing directly and the other we have outsourced to another NGO to implement because they have a bigger presence in the area. For the second component, I just supervise to make sure they are doing everything that they say they are doing. My trip to Morobo was to monitor their activities.

My trip to Morobo, began on Friday afternoon and in typical Sudanese fashion, was anything but smooth. My flight to Yei was fine until I arrived in Yambio. I turned on my satellite phone hoping to call the individual who would pick me up to confirm that my arrival time was going to be a little delayed. I had emailed him the night before and but when I arrived in Yambio and turned on my phone, I received several messages from him asking about the arrival time and whether or not I was still coming. Clearly alarm bells starting ringing as I was about 45 minutes from landing in Yei. I tried every phone number I had for him and none of the calls would go through. So I boarded the flight for the final leg of the trip with nothing but hope and a pray that he would be on the other side.

When I arrived in Yei, my general luck with hoping and praying were right on target because he was not at the airstrip. I tried calling again and still couldn’t get through. But there was a vehicle and a Latin American guy looking friendly enough who quickly noticed that I was stranded and offered me a lift into town. I called a colleague who is from Yei and who was also in town and told him I was here and basically stranded. The Guatemalan dropped me off at the only place in Yei I had ever heard of and not even by name – it had been simply referred to as the Ethiopian place that makes cappuccino. So I went there, got served a very nice cup of cappuccino while I called everyone and their mother. A colleague in Juba went to the office of the organization that was suppose to pick me up and got me their number of their boss (because the other 20 numbers I had clearly weren’t working). In the main time, the colleague who was in town grabbed a driver from the organization that is next to ours in Kapoeta and who also happened to be in Yei and they came and picked me up and dropped me off at a relatively good hotel in town.

As it happened, Friday was SPLA (Sudan People's Liberation Army) Day (the day they started fighting against the main government in Khartoum. Like other city in Sudan, Yei was full to the brim of people out and about in full celebratory mood – read as very drunk. My colleague and the driver took me to a bar called Green Mango where a Uganda artist – Major D – had been hired to perform. There was music playing, people arriving and settling in for the show. I had a simple dinner and was just checked out the scenery, enjoyed the cool breeze and the fact that all-in-all I was having a pretty darn good day. I was out of Juba so my mood was already lifted; while there had been miscommunication regarding my connection with the grantee, I was still safely tucked away in a hotel, with a nice cappuccino in my belly and about to listen to live music in a beautiful part of Sudan that I had never been to! AND to put an icing on the cake, I was finally able to get in touch with the grantee and arrange for a car to pick me up the following morning. While the actual concert was nothing to blog about, it was still fun to watch various Sudanese fight with each other over people stealing chairs, yelling at those trying to dance in front who were blocking those sitting in the back, and the singer trying to perform using a microphone that wouldn’t work while the girl dancers tried to appease a crowding of drunk young guys!

More about my trip later.....

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