May 29, 2007

This one passed through our bar yesterday.

So I’m holding a little training class this afternoon.

US $100 bill and counterfeit side by side

The front on the fake is a little off center and the ink is either too green or not green enough.

Bad watermark

I think the water mark could use a little work.

My staff is convinced it came from Somalia.

I blurred out the serials, but please tell me if I’m breaking some kind of law by posting this.



May 27, 2007

I never liked airport goodbyes.

Or airports in general, for that matter.

Airports themselves are unexceptionally unexacting, unhappy, unsanitary, unpleasant places of waiting. That’s all travel is, really: waiting. You wait for the ride, you wait in line, you wait to get frisked, and wait for the plane. Then wait to sit down, wait to take off, wait for the cocktail, and wait for the family-friendly-but-still-censored-B-movie-romantic-comedy to start so you can forget about waiting to land so you can wait to dispatch the plane and wait for your luggage.

Many goodbyes are said at airports, but airports by design are not conducive to farewells. It’s on the curb amongst security, parcels, baggage, no parking, no unattended vehicles, abhorrent architecture, and the white zone is for immediate loading and unloading of passengers only. There is no stopping in a red zone.

As much as I like traveling, the airport is worst part.


So my parents planned a safari.

I had thought all along that it was a, “let’s do a safari and maybe see our second born,” sorta thing.

But it was really the other way around.

While I hadn’t been outta Sudan in nearly 4 months, in one day my mom managed to arrange it (mother to mother, I think) with our travel agent. I told my employees I had some important business to which I had to attend. My credibility woulda been totally shot if I said I had to go see my mommy.

So there I am, flying back to Nairobi and meeting up with the folks. It just so happened that Beard, a client of mine, was flying the same day. He’s American, got a distinctive laugh, and a fantastic client to work with: he actually seemed understand how much I worked. He’d always buy me a beer before I could offer one myself. On the turbulent prop plane flight we talked a little about his family Florida, and then I must’ve passed out. I apologized, but he shrugged it off. We said so long and caught our respective cabs.

It was a fantastic 27 hours or so. My parents had been waiting at the airport despite my explicit instructions that they meet me at the bar at the hotel. They showed up and we had a beer by the pool at the Fairview and I heard all about their trip. I didn’t do that much talking, and was happy to listen. I’d made reservations at The Norfolk, but I was sure to make some time for my first hot shower. I got a little side tracked since I stopped off in the bar at my hotel and ran into Speedo and Tin-pusher, two airline guys from Rumbek. After volleying no-what-are-you-doing-here’s, we had a beer, exchanged cell info and said we’d party later.

I met the folks in the lobby and we headed to the Lord Delamere Terrace at the Norfolk. We had a bottle of a deliciously punned Goats do Roam chardonnay (Normally I wouldn’t drink chard with anything, but my mom likes it) and the cab blend to follow.

The food is pretty good in all our camps. I’m convinced we provide the best western meals in the whole of South Sudan. But tearing into a tandori chicken caesar—I had no idea how much I missed lettuce—and looking down at a steaming plate piled high with four massive grilled Indian Ocean prawns and extra pili pili sauce might as well have been a bastion of hope for mankind and civilization; a salvation of all in the flesh of a crustacean. Topping it off with a fresh lemon sorbet followed by an irish coffee, everything seemed right.

Everything was right.

I am indeed my father’s son.When it comes to dinners, Pops is an ace at picking up tabs. Everyone else reaches for their wallets but a check is never produced; the little embossed booklet is nowhere to be seen. He actually has the uncanny ability to transport platinum cards from his wallet into the hands of waitresses meters away using the power of his mind.

It’s quite impressive to experience.

But this time, I was able to blindside him with funny stories and ‘what’s gonna happen to in the near future’ discussions and surreptitiously pay the bill.

The old man never saw it coming: the young cho dan bo sparring and defeating the sa bum nim. The hostess wasn’t exactly smooth about it, as I had asked her to swipe the card while I went to the bathroom she was no where to be seen upon return, only to re-appear and hover around me just as I sat down.

“Uh. I have to go to the bathroom. Uh, again.”

I think it took a moment for geriatrics to realize what I had done.  Though both parents were equally displeased and vocal in their distaste for my underhanded settlement of a bill, a handshake agreement for the old guy to get the next one and it was all good. We jetted off in a cab to Club Havana for a Stella, but just as we ordered our first round, PonyTail walks in the door with a dreadlocked pal.

PonyTail is a walking dichotomy. He’s a pseudo-hippie from New Hampshire providing technology solutions to Rumbek and happens too look fantastic in little black dresses. His business card should say:

Resident Bad Ass

I had no idea he’d be there and he had no idea I would. So him and his buddy Z, who professionally provides ambiance, sit down for a drink and we shoot the shit. We talk about the infamous Monsoon party in Rumbek, and PonyTail says something like, “weren’t you supposed to meet up with with your parents?”

Not 10 years ago, being seen by a friend at an establishment with my parents would be the equivalent of being seen at the mall wearing headgear and a cat sweatshirt, but I was also impressed that the AARP card-holders were up to the challenge of changing to scotch and still partying at 2:00 AM.

I couldn’t sleep past 8:30 the next day, since I’d been up early everyday for the past four months. So we met up early, had some tea, reviewed my folks’ safari pics, and went out to the Village Market so my mom could do some shopping. There was one store in particular my girlfriend really liked, and I knew my my would love it. We must’ve spent an hour there and many thousands of shillings. I apologized to my dad. I stopped in the Nakumatt and got a new phone (thanks for that Raleigh. . .I’ll just add it to the life bill) and a new sim card since I had no idea where my old one went (new phone number up on Facebook)

We returned to the hotel for more tea and took a walk around downtown, shopped some more, and I fended off offers from my mom to buy me new shoes. “I like my Pumas. Besides, It’s nothing duct tape can’t fix, mom.” They bought an sweet carved elephant for the new mansion and I got my brothers some souvenirs: a painting for Matt so he has something besides illuminated Star Wars posters to decorate the new place, and a hand carved knife to satiate Steve‘s unhealthy obsession with sharp objects.

Mr. President and the First Lady in Nairobi

We packed up their luggage and new purchases and went off to Carnivore to get the whole tourist experience. We had a dark and stormy for an apertif, and strategically avoided the salad, bread, and soup like champs. For a few hours, we gnashed on beef, turkey, chicken, pork, ostrich, and crocodile, and washed away the impending departure with a bottle or two of pinotage.

It was a fine meal.

Since we had only had a few hours, I went with them to the airport directly after Carnivore. We talked a little international politics, and but I ended that topic. I get enough crap for being American from all the Eurotrash out here. And Canadians. We rounded the corner into Jomo Kenyatta

And the Airport goodbye. 

A little help with the luggage out of the Land Cruiser. A nod of my head upon completion. Hugs and smiles were all around and they waved at me as the car drove off.

I waved back, looking forward once they were out of sight.

The time we had couldn’t’ve been better. My parents and I actually did very little during our few hours together. We mostly told stories, argued, postulated, laughed, drank, and ate; all things that keeps our family as close as it is despite the sizable geographic disparity.


On the ride back I got a call from Ponytail about Z’s ambiance party and agreed to go along. I knew it would be a good time. On the way back to the hotel, I made some small talk with the driver and coerced my tired brain to get ready to get obliterated at Mi-Loan with some local expats.

All I really had to do was wait to get back to Sudan.

A Perfect Circle

May 26, 2007

Rainbow around the Sun in Sudan

I think it had something to do with stratus clouds the heat of midday Sudan sun. My little olympus didn’t have the aperture to capture the whole thing and I assure you, the over exposure does little justice to the colors this round rainbow cast across the sky.

Blue Bulls vs Sharks

May 20, 2007

Durban SharksI enjoy rugby.

Not as much as football, or NFL as they call it here, but I do enjoy it.

Thing is, most games I’ve watched have been been a lot of pile ups, running in a line, and dancing. So yesterday, we took a little time in the afternoon to watch the game with the pilots. Half of them were from Pretoria rooting for the Blue Bulls, half of them from Durban rooting for the Sharks. It’s apparently the first time two SA teams had ever been in the Super 14 finals.

Pretoria Blue BullsHoly living crap it was awesome. Right in the beginning, just as I was getting over the name, “Blue Bulls,” a Shark jumped to catch a kick, a Bull comes along and takes out his legs, knocking the Shark player head over heels. A fine tackle in football, but illegal in rugby. The tackler, Bryan Habana, was hit with a penalty but not tossed out. The rest of the game had its fair share of pile ups and lines, but there were break aways just like in football: One player would get the ball, shuffle his feet and break past the defensive line to gain a few yards.

The game even went down to the wire and was all but tied up by Habana with a last minute try between the posts, fully redeeming himself. A successful kick through and the Bulls clinched it with seconds to spare.

It was really something. Given my football watching this past season consisted of the 10-minute-weekly-Eagles-game-redux from iTunes and about 4 minutes of the Superbowl in Juba, it was fun as hell to have this. Brandy and Coke flowed like wine and the pilots even broke out some smoked mussels and crackers they’d been saving for a special occasion. This game was like the Superbowl to these guys, and I was invited. But that two SA teams were matched made it special, like if the Eagles played the Steelers next January. The only bigger game than this was the Tri-Nations, but that seems more like the Pro Bowl. The Finals here was the local teams. The Super 14 includes teams from Australia and New Zealand, which are notoriously strong in the sport.

It made for a good Saturday afternoon.


May 6, 2007

It rained last night.


So much so that the thatched roof on the bar began to leak. Enough droplets dripped right onto the wires that powered the amplifier, shorting out the music. I had just changed the playlist of shitty R&B to a mix of classic rock, some Ramones and Sex Pistols for good measure, and new stuff like The Kooks, The Fratellis, G Love, Dispatch, and The Avalanches.

Right in the middle of Boston’s Peace of Mind, the tunes cut out. By the time I rounded into the bar, the wires were in a puddle. I picked them up to try and shake them off, but mid shake, the InMo shows up, drunk off his ass.

“Dude. Wires and water = not cool! By the way, have you seen my buddy? His name is Jack Daniels. I haven’t seen him in a while. Oh!”

What could I do to keep the evening going for my clients? I decided to get the guitars. Coveralls, a South African Pilot also plays and has a beautiful full bodied Yamaha with a clean tone and great action. Thunder clapped and lighting silhouetted palm trees black against the sky painted purple. The hard alluvial clay resisted the water pounding against it, leaving most of the compound flooded. We jammed out, enjoyed our cold pilsners, our brandy and cokes. Coveralls would just play some chords and I’d noodle a solo over it.

It was a great a night.

This morning I had planned to lock myself in the office and tear through some paper work that had been piling up. However, a documentary crew trying to make a chartered flight was being hassled by local police (and some of my security staff) for their photography permits. Oh, and I had to host the Acting Deputy Governor and Police Commissioner for breakfast with Ambassadors from England and Australia to try and save a local expat friend. That and my driver was in Wau so we couldn’t drive to the trash dump to preempt tomorrow’s inspection.

So much for breakfast.

I rocked the office for the next few hours, lamenting silently my last day off back in January, but only until the AC fan whirred to silence and the lights flickered off. The power indicator at the top right hand corner of my screen flashed black and began its slow countdown. I sighed audibly.

As I walked to find the source of the power outage, the termites were out. A few weeks ago in Juba, about a day after a big rain, termites flew all over the place. Big ass termitesThey were inescapable as they cavorted about candles and lights. Late in the night, they had commandeered an ablution block, their wings stuck thick to the floor, and hundreds of them crowded in the sinks.

It was revolting.

Tonight, however, the termites were little. The setting sun cast a flaxen refulgence across the thirsty land that had already consumed the previous evening’s deluge. The ephemeral fluttering wings of the insects flushed with a brilliant luminescence, quite reminiscent of the fireflies of the hot Pennsylvania summers I used to know. Walking past the bar, cheers and applause erupted as locals and expats alike congregated for the preeminent religion of the area: Premier League Football.

The serenity of the sunset didn’t change the fact that the 200 KVA FG Wilson generator’s fan block double bearing had ground to a halt. With no one in Nairobi on a Sunday, the order won’t be received until Monday morning, and I’ll renounce any disbelief in an omnipotent deity if it arrives by Wednesday. So for the foreseeable future, we’ll be running one generator for 24 hours with no back up.

So, if anyone can send the part pictured below to me in Rumbek, Sudan by the afternoon of Monday, May the seventh, 2007, I’ll buy you a beer.

Fan block double bearing

Actually forget the beer.

I’ll buy you a Ferrari.

People Search for the Strangest Things on Teh Intarwebs:

May 5, 2007

Cat vomiting blood?



Fifth comment down.

Joost: Who wants an invite?

May 1, 2007

So, I’ve got three invites. Joost is picky: you need an intel mac. And frankly, I don’t think these invites will go out to my windoze using friends.

Cause I’m picky, too.

And a pretentious arse, to boot.

Lemme know if you want one.