The Juba airport has undergone a transformation since I was last here. A modern terminal replaced a ramshackle building, and tile floors where once were boards over holes. It's much more organized, but there was still a frantic atmosphere as a crowd of passengers outside converged on an airport employee, all talking loudly at once and waving tickets. Angelo's presence parts waters, but the path can quickly close behind him. I was gripping his hand as passengers and bags came between us. I was afraid I would be pulled down, but wasn't letting go for anything - shouting "I can't go through! I can't go through!" Angelo and the employee extricated me, but - Whew!
Angelo had warned me that I would have to pay extra, because my bags were over the weight limit. I don't know how much it took, but it took all my SSP - South Sudan pounds. I gladly handed over an inch thick bundle of bills to Chan to handle, while I sat to one side observing the proceedings. I didn't get anything back - I didn't expect to. I'm just thankful this gets done for me.
After about an hour, the flight to Rumbek was called. There weren't many of us. Instead of being escorted to a nice van for the ride to the plane, as had been the case with passengers before us, we were led to a pick-up truck and instructed to get in the back. The agent in charge indicated that I should get in the cab, but there were a couple of physically challenged passengers. I didn't hesitate - put my bags in the back and climbed over the tailgate. The other passengers were smiling in my direction - either amused or appreciative that the Kawaja didn't ask for special treatment. I couldn't have done this last year with my old knee!
Instead of the usual large aircraft, we were driven to a 19-seater with a bench in the back, and 23 of us managed to board. Thank goodness for my noise masking ear covers. It was noisy even with them. Several passengers pulled jackets over their heads. I don't know if they were cold or if it was because of the noise.
Pan Dor, the Catholic compound where I usually stay, is full, so I am at Hill View for a few days. A step up from Pan Dor due to air conditioning, pool, and other amenities, the price is also a step up. I'll enjoy the perks while I'm here, then enjoy the lower room rate when I get to Pan Dor.
I ran into a few Abukloi students on the way from the airport. That photo is posted below. Also one of three children on the side of the road, and cows headed home at the end of the day.
Justin, the Abukloi Director, and I
have planned the schedule for the time I will be here. Busy days ahead!