For those of you who don't know, I am Africa bound this year, headed to the Sudan to volunteer for an organization called the Alaska Sudan Medical Project. In short, we will be drilling water wells and constructing medical clinics, but more on that later. Right now I am in Nairobi, patiently waiting for a flight to Juba, Sudan and then to a village called Old Fangak in the South.
Why Sudan? About eight months ago I was introduced to the project by a fellow named Rob Crotty. After months of deliberation and meeting fellow volunteers, I decided that there was no way I could NOT go and help out on this project. And I'm always up for a good adventure, and what the hell, here I am.
I will be in southern Sudan for 2-3 weeks (leaving any day now) and might be able to go back in January if the country doesn't blow up. As for between and after those dates, well, as Lao Tzu said: "A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving."
The route here was a typical whirlwind, jet-lagged, disorienting experience. I landed in beautiful, sunny, shit-hole L.A. to visit my friends Brooks and Melissa for a few days. I took a side trip up to Las Vegas for a day as I figured Vegas to Sudan would be a good study in contrasts. While we were watching the impressive water show outside the Bellagio I remarked to Melissa about trying to build a Bellagio in Sudan. Maybe we could export some of this Vegas water, as apparently they have enough.
From L.A. it was to Frankfurt on an overnight where I wandered around chilly, gray Frankurt for 8 hours before catching another overnight to Dubai and wandering around that audacious airport for 6 hours and then it was one more overnight on to Nairobi, where I landed not knowing what time or year it was.
But "Night-robbery" is actually a pretty nice city. The people here are friendly, respectful, well-dressed, well-spoken in English, and busy. A smaller, blacker New York if you don't mind. Despite being one of only a handful of white people I see during the whole day I seem to garner little to none attention. I will mark that down as a positive. My wallet and especially surprising- my camera- have not been lost of my possession yet.
I've had a great contact through ASMP here, a young Kenyan named Joseph who picked me up at the airport and has shown me around the city and even brought me to the slum who grew up in; another unexpectedly friendly and safe experience. Joseph took me to a bar where he lives now on Friday night, a yuppie, 30-something crowd that could not get enough of Dr. Dre, Salt-n-Peppa, Public Enemy, Naughty by Nature, and Missy Elliot blasting at full volume. Apparently they are caught up to about 1995 music-wise.
Rob Crotty flew in from the village today and I met up with him and Joseph. Rob was in Old Fangak for three weeks, and despite being tattooed with bug-bites and sores, was not too sun-burned and looked pretty good for the wear. We went and looked at materials for a second clinic which we will load on a truck tomorrow and will be bound for Juba and then barged down the Upper Nile to Old Fangak. I am tempted to jump on the truck myself, as I'm a little stir-crazy in Nairobi, and after hearing the stories from Rob, I am more anxious than ever to get into Sudan and get started on a pretty damn cool project.
For more info on the Alaska Sudan Medical Project, please check out www.alaskasudan.org
. Feel free to donate generously. Your money will go directly to helping save a life.