Turkey Goat Day.

November 24, 2006

Still trying to get a flight to Juba after I missed the one yesterday due, to an impromptu meeting with the Minister of Information.

More on that later.

I had turkey and gravy tonight—which was nice—but it wasn’t quite as nice as gnashing my five onion stuffing with butter, bacon, and sage. Or my fried garlic mashed potatoes with heavy cream and blanched rosemary. Or semillion velouté from home made stock. Plus I didn’t wear my elastic-waisted Puma pants. And I didn’t watch the Lions or the Cowboys lose whilst drinking lots of beer.

Though I didn’t celebrate as I normally would’ve, I can still be thankful. If I had been born here, in Rumbek, in 1982, it would be just before the beginning of Africa’s longest civil war. And I’d’ve had to live through a famine in 1988 in the middle of said war. But in The States, every year I’ve celebrated a holiday based upon the American ideology of gluttonous consumption.

I guess it’s tough to say, “finish your peas. There are starving children here.”

I am thankful I was able to snag the life I did; and that I’ve lived it as I have done thus far.

Dinka Girl Rumbek

Happy T-giving, everyone.


Coke, Cows, and Brew

November 12, 2006

Alas, this is not about an 80’s iBanker’s night out with corpulent ingénues.

Since the enactment of the curfew, the town has almost shut down.  I’ve had the unfortunate pleasure of working for the past two weeks.  I’ve met a couple UN guys that say its very quiet.  They’re both Canadian, but surprisingly cool. all thing considered.  The problem big problem with all of this is that we buy a few goods locally.  About once a week, we buy a cow to feed the staff.  It’s slaughtered here in the camp.

I hear it takes two people:

One guy to crack the beast on the head and slit its throat

The other guy to sweep all the viscous, treacly, sanguinely scarlet blood gurgling into a drain as the moribund creature writhes and flails; helpless against the onslaught of permanent darkness.

We’re gonna try and get a cow tomorrow, if possible since things are letting up.  If so, expect odious video evidence on YouTube.  Send all hate mail to the comments, please.

But aside from the cow, we get beer and soda.  The coke is all in glass bottles and somehow tastes better.  Actually incredible.  So delicious, in fact, I find myself drinking more and more coke, as if to spite my exceptional simper.  Ahh, but the beer.  The beer we buy is Bell Lager, a light and crisp Pilsner style brew with a delicate bead and crisp finish, completely devoid green-bottled European skunk.  Between it and Tusker, African beer is frickin’ awesome.

The bartenders know people, so we were able to score a couple cases of Bell yesterday.  But today the price of a bottle was more than we charge here at the bar.

We just ran out of Coke this afternoon.

Tonight we may have our own riots to deal with.


Civil Unrest

November 7, 2006

Yesterday, two local Dinkas were killed in a car accident.

Dinkas are the majority tribe here in southern Sudan. In all honesty, I kept thinking about Space Balls, so it took me a little while to be able to say it out loud without giggling.

The driver of the car was a Kenyan.

The thing is, Sudanese don’t really like Kenyans that much. Kind of how a lot Americans don’t like Mexicans. Except with more AK-47s.

The driver was apparently taken to jail. Or he was shot. We don’t really know. Some people heard gunshots. I was too busy working and listening to some Hard-Fi. I guess the tradition here is that the family has to seek revenge or something like that. Word around the Camp is that the police will let the offender out of jail so the victims’ brother can introduce a bullet to the back of his skull.

But to prevent violence from breaking out at night (or something), the police enacted a 6:00PM to 6:00AM curfew last night. I didn’t think anything of it. I had a few beers, some brick oven pizza, read my book, and passed out. But this morning, while I was awakening to light flooding my tent and the sound of birds in abundant broad-leafed trees, a few of our chefs and servers got beaten by the police on their way to work.

Amazingly these guys still showed up and worked their shift. Problem is, I guess, some more people died cause of the beatings, and that means more revenge. I don’t quite know how this all works, but it seems like it’s just gonna keep going. I’m sure there’s gotta be an end to this sort of thing, but for now, the town is just a mess. I haven’t seen any of it because I’ve been working all day. Not that I’d be allowed to go check it out.

So, then, what does all this mean for me? Not sure, just yet. If the riots make their way toward the camp, I might get evacuated, shot, or even worse: killed.

Kidding! Probably not gonna happen.

Though, I might have to cook tonight since today’s curfew was upped to 3:00 PM and had to send a bunch of people home. We’ve still got a 100 rooms, a restaurant, and a bar to run.

Whatever the case, I will certainly not be driving anywhere ever.

Even hitting a goat is like $300 US just to avoid an ass kicking.


Sudan: 28 down, 165 to go

November 6, 2006

A Russian cargo plane packed with dry goods, produce, frozen meat, diesel fuel, cyrillic characters, and a couple white boys arrived safely in Rumbek, Sudan this past Wednesday. As it did, I knocked another country off the list, but I after a discussion with my girlfriend realized it might not be 28 after all.

  1. I was too young to remember Fiji.
  2. I’m pretty sure I hit up New Zealand at somepoint, but once again, youth clouds the answer.
  3. Bermuda, is a territory or a commonwealth or something, so it’s not really country.
  4. Hong Kong is an SAR, also not really a country, but not really not a country.
  5. Same with with Macau.
  6. Taiwan was just a stop in the airport so it doesn’t count to begin with. I suppose that China and the US don’t even recognize its sovereignty to begin with.
  7. And Vatican City voluntarily abdicated UN membership. Can a country really be a country if it’s just a bunch of old queens? That’s right. Vatican city is just the Chelsea of Rome

All this was very troublesome until I realized it’s rather pointeless:

  1. I’m going to hell for that bit about vatican city.
  2. I’ve still been more places than you.

The Road to Lokichokio: Day Two

November 3, 2006

The Great Rift Valley

…iPod…Headphones…Passport one…Passport two…Laptop…

…Cellphone…Charger…Nikon…Olympus…Blue travel card…

Trudging down the open stairwell of the Bongo Hotel, I ran through a mental list of the important things (fully aware that iPod came to mind before passports) thus ensuring I had packed them all up. No one was at the front desk and the lights were off. I left my key on the desk, hoping the room had already been paid. Approaching the truck, a waning moon glared down from a clear sky. Sugge, the driver, was already preparing to depart.

We paired up with another company truck because, “the road [was] dangerous.” I asked why, and all he said was, “rivers.”

I was zonked out before we left Kitale.

Lush valley KenyaWhen I woke the first time around, I wiped out dusty eye-boogers to reveal surroundings that were downright lush. We were in a valley and though the soil remained a rusty hue as the day before, over all the rocky hills, vegetation grew steadily and profusely. A river the same color as the dirt flowed violently over massive boulders. We forded the river once and continued descending though the rocky emerald hills. As we turned a corner out of this rich valley, we approached a forest of spindly trees whose leaves seemed to float weightlessly about their branches. A fairly modern bridge appeared in the distance as we drilled through the canopy. Ever so slowly our distance increased from the river and vegetation became less and less. We forded another river past a young man with a gun and one stuck, and one toppled big rig. Beyond the driver’s side of the window a range of mountains cascaded in the distance forwards and backwards as far as could be seen; telegraphing our route, and telling the story of the way we’d just been. As we progressed, the mountains loomed larger since any trees previously blocking their entirety ceased to be. As well, countless giant anthills, like saguaro cacti, towered over the low lying shrubbery.

After experiencing nothing but the cool breeze of the hills of Kenya, the 8:00 sun was became suddenly and surprisingly hot.

This was the Great Rift Valley. I didn’t know it at the time, but we would be wandering trepidatiously through this ever increasing strip of land for the next 12 hours

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The Road to Lokichokio: Day One

November 1, 2006

The Bread Basket

Over the last two years, when ever I had an early flight, I found I usually missed it. Through empirical research I managed to discover the cause of the problem: oversleeping. But it took test tubes, bunsen burners, and schematics to solve this quandry. The best solution I found was partying all night if I had to wake up before 5. That’s the kind of sacrifice I was willing to make for my professional career. Only a few times would I be in a lounge with a bottle of bubbly or JW at 5:30 when a friend would say, “dude, don’t you have a flight in like an hour?” Even then I usually made it thanks to the availability of limos at casinos and a bottomless expense account

So in pure Vegas fashion, a few coworkers had asked that I join them at Carnivore for cultural night. This past friday was for members of the Luo tribe. Having been to Carnivore before, I was impressed with the food, but unimpressed with the club. It was packed on cultural night, two live bands playing, and I had a great time, despite getting made fun of for moving my feet when I danced.

the Driver and the TruckIt goes without saying, but I was all bleary-eyed when I climbed in the truck at a quarter to four on saturday morning. Having made it to the truck on time, I tried to curl up and pass out before we even left base camp. Sleeping in canvas covered the passenger seat, though, made coach seem like a king size bed at a Mandarin Oriental. It wouldn’t have been so bad if we weren’t moving, as the roads here would give the board of NJDOT reason to high five and shotgun some beers. As I slouched, resting my cheek against the shoulder strap of the seat belt, I began thinking in hyperbole that the roads hadn’t been touched since they were paved by colonials in the middle of the last century. The thought jostled me awake more than the bumps, as I realized my exaggeration may not have been too far off target.

As if the shaking weren’t enough, the driver would swerve all over the road, avoiding the large potholes which occurred in the most random locations. Speed bumps were also too frequent for no apparent reason. Whilst a Caddy might have been smooth as hell, every tiny bump made the ancient truck creak and squeak and rattle and clank.

All things considered, in my state of exhaustion, I managed to sleep fairly well for the first three hours. I woke as the sky was lavender with morning: low clouds shrouded the sunrise in a veil of milky translucency. Stopping for tea, I drank only water as the driver and the other rider sipped their tea and gnashed at their andazi.

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