Thursday, July 03, 2008


Have you ever wondered how difficult it would be to simply disappear? Not very, let me tell you. Ok, so maybe in the states or Europe it wouldn’t be incredibly easy but if you are willing to live in Sudan you can be gone….easily…poof…just like that. I have this thought because I am in Rumbek which you have probably never heard of and neither had I until WFP unceremoniously dumped me, and the six or seven other passengers from my plane, here.

“You have missed the plane to Juba,” they announced.

“Could have been because you were 3 hours late in picking us up,” I said. I think I’m getting more acrimonious with the UN every day.

“We could not hold the plane for another hour for you,” they said.

“You could, though, tell us where your plane disappeared to for three hours while we were sitting on the landing strip in the scorching sun for that time,” I said. I do not say that an unexplainable, unaccountable three hour jaunt might be one of the reasons that they haven’t enough fuel to run their operation here but I refrain. I only allow myself to be mean for so many minutes a day.

“Your check-in time is 11.30 tomorrow morning,” the WFP man said. And that was that. No telephone call, no pointing to the taxi line, just a ‘don’t-let-the-door-hit-you-on-the-wait-out’ wave.

Never mind that I don’t speak the language, have any comms equipment, Sudanese money or even know where the heck Rumbek is. I now need to find a way into “town” and a place to stay. I have two things going for me….no, make that three.

I am white.

I have dollars.

I also have Julius, our mechanic from Kenya with me. He stops the first motorcycle that comes along and hops on the back. “Stay here. I used to know someone from CRS who worked here and maybe they will let us stay.” I like Julius. He tells me later how he manages: “Whenever I go someplace new I just pretend like I have been there before,” he said. Very sage advice if you ask me.

So, I stand there, in what is to me, the middle of nowhere. And I can’t help but think that I could just hop on the back of a motorcycle too and disappear. I could go off into the bush or hitchhike my way to another African country. Just like that. No prior notice. (For the record, in case I ever do disappear, and the police use this as some sort of evidence that I had obviously thought about disappearing before…please assure them that I would definitely like to be looked for and had no intention of disappearing on that occasion. These are musings….not plans!)

Julius turns back up in a white land rover with a driver. God bless mechanics. All of them, everywhere. CRS had left and turned their compound over to the diocese of Rumbek which now runs the place as a guest house. Julius had found this out by flagging down a car that had the Catholic Church’s logo on the side. And, for a mere $60 a night, each of us have a room with no electricity or running water but in a quiet and carefully manicured compound with thatched roof huts. Not too shabby!

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