Just arrived at the office in Juba, South Sudan, after what has been more or less nonstop travel for the past six days.
It's hot. Not as hot as I expected, but still, a big change from the icy streets of New York and London over the past few days.
On the plane from Nairobi to Juba, as I passed by what I'm pretty sure was Mt. Kenya, I couldn't help but laugh to myself a little when I thought about how long this journey has been, but in a way, how very fast this has all happened. In the past month, I've gone from Denver to San Francisco to Arcata to San Francisco to Chicago to Baltimore to Washington to Chicago to San Francisco to Arcata to San Francisco to New York to London to Nairobi and Juba. 11 flights and 29 days later, stop and take a breath.
It was great to be in London for a little while, the first time I'd been in Europe in a couple years. Although this might sound crazy to any Londoners seeing this, I was shocked by how clean the entire Tube system seemed- maybe it was coming from New York though, where the subway seems permanently gross. Had a chance to see my cousin, as well as a friend, both of whom are living there at the moment. Granted, it was only a long layover, but still.
I had just over 24 hours to spend in Nairobi, and although I basically only saw the airport, guesthouse, and two malls. Even in that limited time though, it was pretty clear that Nairobi is on an entirely different level, development-wise, from what I've seen in my previous travels in Africa. I went for lunch with another staff member to a mall that looked as though it could've been dropped down in the middle of suburban Americana, complete with electronics shops selling iPod accessories, green tea smoothies at a coffee shop, and a bungee-jump trampoline in the parking lot, which, naturally, was filled with SUVs. The difference of course, being that this is hardly typical- I was in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods of the city, and the SUVs were primarily Land Cruisers, many of which had enormous antennas for the VHF radio connections.
I'd heard stories about Nairobi's legendarily terrible traffic, but honestly, I had no problem. My taxi driver/Formula One wannabe seemed to know every back alley, and I arrived at the airport three hours early. One thing I've noticed in the past couple days of traveling is the utter sameness of every duty free shop. Apparently all a person needs to survive when traveling internationally is: a passport, enormous cartons of Marlboros, multi-liter bottles of Jack Daniels and Johnnie Walker, bricks of Toblerone (white, dark, and milk), chocolate, M&Ms, perfume, and the occasional digital camera.
After a one-and-a-quarter hour East African Express flight (complete with lunch and drinks; cheap Americans...) I arrived at Juba's run-down (is there anything else in this part of the world?) airport. After an enormous line, and a verification of my travel permit (like a visa, but not quite, since South Sudan isn't officially an independent country), I met Rodrigo, the Communications and Information Manager for the organization; we're waiting for the driver, and will be heading off to the hotel shortly. From what I understand, we'll only be here tonight, and then I'm off to the town of Yei for a week or so to have some sort of orientation...
I should have a phone soon, and once I do, I'll post the number. Until then, look forward to hearing from you...