Tuesday was a very exciting day. After surviving my first month in South Sudan, I got a very special package. The items that I shipped from the United States arrived to my delight and excitement. While most of the items are nothing to “write home about”, I am happy to have hangers to store my recently pressed shirts, my toiletries (shampoo, mouth wash, and soap) and books that I haven’t gotten around to reading…and most importantly, gummy worms, peanut butter and Special K red berries. Breakfast here in South Sudan just got more exciting. I had the same feelings that I had on Christmas morning when I was a child!
The most difficult part of living in South Sudan is the outrageous cost of living in this city. There is a large NGO population stationed in Juba and so the prices are geared to the excessive amounts of money that follows NGOs. The United Nations has several compounds scattered around Juba and the camp where I lived has three NGOs working from this location, that’s excluding the temporary workers that come in for six month stints. Hotel rooms in Juba run between $150-$300. However, do not let the price fool you; these are not Hilton quality hotels. While some hotels provide a nice rest spot, it is important to do a little background research on Juba’s hotel industry.
Juba is changing at such a fast pace that if you were here a year ago, you probably would not recognize this city. In addition, the government has been building a new terminal for the airport. I hear they have been working on this terminal for over a year but when it opens, it will provide needed relief to the current cramped arrival and departure terminal. The question is when will it open? I guess I will have to wait and see. I hope that it is during my time in Juba. The lack of transportation infrastructure is also apparent each and every time I leave the compound. The pot holes and crevasses that have been created because of the rain are large enough at times to swallow an entire vehicle. And the roads are made worst this time of year as we are in the rainy season. While it doesn’t rain every day, each storm that passes has the ability to bring this country to a complete stop. Just think Washington, D.C. and the threat of a few inches of snow and that’s Juba in the rain. But when the storm arrives, it arrives with the force of a category 1 hurricane. On Sunday, I found myself (along with 25 others) trapped in the mess hall (which is actually a permanent tent) for over an hour as we waited for the storm to pass. Finally, I decided to make a run for it because I wasn’t sure about the safety of the tent. In the short run to my bungalow, I was completely soaked.