By 11am on Saturday morning, I had already traveled 2 hours from Yei to Morobo and laughed with the consultant about all the confusion that had led to me being stranded in Yei. Not long after I arrive, we visited a fishpond, which at that stage of construction just looked like a huge mud pit. But I was assured that large catfish would soon be making a home there. We then hit the road again to see two other groups and I got to hear a bunch of interesting stories about the area. For example, we passed a random check-point and learn that it was there because the road is a major smuggling route of motorcycles coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) heading to Sudan and someone has been genius enough to try to get a cut out of the business. Another story that I heard was that when Idi Amin was ousted, his soldiers and their families fled into this part of Sudan for refuge. While they were here, they were being trained as guerilla group by the northerners (just in case you don’t know, the Muslim north and Christian south were fighting four about 20 years before they finally signed a peace agreement in 2005) to help fight the southerners. The SPLA eventually kicked them out but I always find it interesting when one group actually moves into a war zone rather than trying to stay the heck out…..but then again, these guys were soldiers.
The beekeeping project I saw is really interest because the bee consultant just couldn’t stop talking about the darn bees. More than that, this is a guy who loves his job (I always love meeting people who are passionate about their jobs) and I later on get to see him get super happy about suiting up to go get honey from the hives and acting like Winnie the Pooh with all the honey that he collected. I also got to taste some of the best honey I’ve ever had….too bad I can’t share with you all!
Congolese flags are posted along the road almost like a reminder that you are in a different country even though it looks JUST like Sudan.
After checking out the carpentry and beekeepers, we proceed to another town to check out the goat keepers and another fishpond group. The new road we are using is basically the border between Sudan and DRC so as we approach the town, we see the Congolese flag waving, and immigration check point only one of the roads that lead further into the Congo. After seeing the groups, we go to town and I ‘cross the border’ into the Congo to look at some fabric in one shop and the cross back into Sudan to buy some water. Can we say porous borders?!?
Member of the beekeeping group and her child. I couldn’t get over the child and his death grip on the mother’s breast and the mom couldn’t stop laughing at my shock.
When we get back to the compound where we are staying, we are chatting away, and I’m reading when two white ladies arrived. I had met the younger lady in Lainya the week before last. A few words later, turns out that older lady is the force behind Lulu Life (click here to see post about shea butter and Lulu Life) and the girl happens to be her daughter. I’m really really excited, because for an hour or so I basically got to sit there and ask all my questions away and she was so interesting! When it was over, all I wanted to do was ask her where to sign up to help out!
On the third day, we traveled to a town called Kaya to see another goat keeping group and carpenters. This town was really interesting because it was border town between Sudan, Uganda and Congo. I could actually see all three countries at once….it actually looks all the same and when you get onto the small roads, people are basically crossing borders all day long without even thinking about it! It is actually amazing when one thinks about the land borders between the U.S. and Mexico and Canadian.
Kaya was really amazing because you can see the influence of Congo and Uganda on the people here. For example, so many goods, especially fabrics, come from the Congo so women here are just wrapped in beautiful fabrics. After a while, my eye was actually craving a white room just to take a two-minute break from all the colors around me.
This trip has been so great for so many reasons. I’m basically just counting the days until I can go back to the U.S. for a break as I have a major need of seeing family and friends, etc. But trips like this are a perfect reminder for me of why I love being here. It is when I go to see projects and actually go into the bushes that I really appreciate where I am and the fact that besides dealing with all the paperwork and smooth talking needed to get a project done, I still get paid to travel to places I would never otherwise visit, and hearing stories and experiences that feel worlds away from my own life experiences. It is great to see projects that are making a difference and talking to people who are so motivated to improve their lives and just need a little help! I love getting to meet really interesting people, from the female group member who was basically the ‘get things done’ kind of woman who could basically whip anyone into shape to Kristina of Lulu life who has basically living in Sudan for years (and I’m talking about even when bullets were still flying around), and has spent so many years trying to make something small take off that supports Sudanese women. It is all very inspiring!