Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Missing Asphalt

We, or rather I, take a lot for granted in life. I like going to the grocery store on a hot summer day, knowing when the door opens there will be air conditioning that is almost too cold as I wander the aisles looking for the perfect snack. I enjoy being exhausted and flopping on my bed not worrying if my mosquito net is tucked in. After being in Southern Sudan for almost two months what I’ve come to appreciate most of all are the roads in our great nation. Thank you, thank you taxpayers.

Ok I’ve traveled down some less than perfect roads in the backwoods of Maine, and even Costa Rica but nothing, absolutely nothing compares to the roads in Southern Sudan.

Yesterday I was invited to take a ride to Kaya to take pictures an visit some primary schools that my friend Sashi has opened here in Southern Sudan. I was very excited since recently my days have been spent walking the dusty roads of Yei Town. I welcomed the 46 mile ride to Kaya. Now 46 miles that’s what? Burlington to Montpelier? Portland to Wells? You do the estimation. In terms of time 46 miles takes no more than an hour.

At 10:05 I jumped into a land cruiser with Sashi, two engineers, a field worker, a woman about to give birth and her sister. The beginning of any journey is filled with gusto and optimism. I sat welcoming the thoughts of stopping to buy bananas, avocado, roasted corn and g-nuts from the local villagers. I was also excited because the road to Kaya takes you along the border of Congo and eventually to Uganda. It was a rough start but Sashi and I talked about his favorite thing, his home country of Zambia and the turmoil going on with Mugabe and Zimbabwe. He gave me a history lesson on Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Malawi. I was glad to be getting more educated on the Africa’s history. After two hours we made it half way!!! We reached Jumbo, the site of a primary school that opened in February. The place was empty and as we got out of the vehicle we were approached by an old man who said, “the man who owns this land died this morning.” In the distance you could hear wailing and chanting for the dead man’s soul. Somberly he should me the school site and then we continued on our way. Hour three brought us to the bananas and avocados. We bought our lunch of bananas and continued by two o’clock we were descending down a road, I am reluctant to even call it a road, with holes the size of swimming pools. Elias, our driver, was controlled as we pounded over the dry dirt as red dust blinded us. What I saw before us was nothing short of a nightmare. There had to have been 15 -18 wheelers trying to make their way up this road. As a border town, it’s one of the main ways Southern Sudan receives imports from Uganda, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia etc. Haven’t got a clue where their reasoning or strategic calculations were drawn from but did they actually think moving this way was a safe idea? For many, the choice was catastrophic. Trucks were tipped over on their sides, tires popped off the rims, the place was a zoo. The roads were congested and people just sat, resting there head in hand wondering what to do next.
We zig zagged our way through the labryinth and made it to the border where we ushered the pregnant woman on to the next leg of her journey and then we turned around to do it all over again.
I was glad to see the landscape. A more mountainous terrain than what I've been used to in Yei. The lush hillside was breathtaking even though my butt was enduring a numbness I prayed wasn't permanent. Our way home was much less energetic as we stopped by the funeral to pay our respects and then continued on moving in and out of sleep while our heads bounced like weeble wobbles. As Sashi pulled up to let me out I thought of 89 and how smooth the road is. How we cover distance so easily complaining when we hit rush hour traffic. I will be pressed to bark at road travel in the U.S. for sometime to come. I wonder how it will feel to ride on asphalt again.


Laurie said...

I know! We all get upset with construction... But someone always has it worse...

I'm sure this whole experience will change how you feel about a lot of things.

Take Care OX Laurie

Jena Strong said...

Annie -

I keep checking in here. Love picturing where you are and so grateful that you're sharing some of it so vividly. Sending a hug your way.

xo Jena

Holly Wilkinson-Ray said...

Africa-Annie, You go girl! Great imagery! I imagined a hippo floating towards you in one of those pool-puddles along your pathway.
Thank you for bringing the journey alive for us back here at L/L.
Savor the rest of your journey. Asphalt awaits to smooth your re-entry. BUT NOT YET!!!
Soak it all in.
with warm wishes and gratitude, Holly

maegen said...

i find that whenever i read your posts i don't really know what to say except wow! just wow! thanks for sharing with such incredible detail. can't wait to see your smiling face.

From Me to You Video & Photography said...

Holes the size of swimming pools?! Yikes!! I don't know if I could handle that. *hahaa*

I think I would miss the asphalt too. =0)