fish, chips, whiplash, new friends and air conditioning!!

First off- scope out the video above. This is a taste of what the last week has been like for us. Some of it is really cool (motorcycle taxis) and some not so cool (whiplash- details below).

Tombe, Randy, Mori Luka, Jason

Awhilo and Mori Luka examine Randy's ink

Jason, Mori Luka and Tombe reunited!

We had such a blast last night with the kids. My back is out because I was busy wrestling three or four of them at a time. They were so awesome! This was extra special for the kids as Jason is the one who helped to rescue most of them from the peril of being an orphan in Nimule at the time. We bought several crates of sodas to help the kids bring in the New Year. Everyone over here loves to share a soda!

We boarded our bus right outside our hotel this morning and headed for Juba, the capital city of South Sudan (sometimes known as 'the largest village in the world'). It reminds me of Phoenix. The weather here is brutally hot, but we lucked out and got some rooms with air conditioning! We have been traveling solid for one week now, and it is getting pretty intense. Tomorrow will be our last bus ride to Rumbek, where we will stay until Monday morning, procure our "rental vehicle," and pick up the rest of the guys (Tim, Charlie, Awan, Mike and Aim); then we'll head to Cueibet and the ministry will be ON.

For those of you who haven't been to Africa, there's a certain way things are here that flies in the face of conventional American "wisdom" and punctuality. Sometimes, stuff just takes time- a LONG time, and sometimes you aren't quite sure exactly HOW things are going to work out, so you just have to trust that they will.

Today was another one of those times. We boarded our bus right outside our hotel, which is situated at the end of Nimule on the way to Juba, so that was convenient. However, that also means we were the LAST to board the bus, and we set at the very BACK of the bus.

Now to those of you who get freaked out about the occasional pothole in America- you probably shouldn't venture to Africa. Ever since we have been in Kenya, we were told that the road from Nimule to Juba is "very good." I envisioned a nice, smooth ride. Maybe a washboard here or there.

However, apparently "very good" just means that you can drive a bus down it- PERIOD. There's a reason people don't like sitting at the back of the bus in Africa; the same reason that they don't like sitting on the back of the roller coaster. You get your butt kicked. BAD.

As Jason and I made our way back to the back, we were asked by Onek and several people sitting solo if we were sure that we wanted to sit there. "The mzungus can handle this," we assured them. The bus started driving. Five, ten minutes pass with no problems. Then things started getting silly.

The first set of washboards that we went over felt maybe a little rough- no big deal. But right when I was in the middle of answering a question to Jason, we all dropped about 6 inches and with the upward velocity of a trampoline, we were flung about a foot up into the air from our seats. We landed half-on, half-off our seats as another upward volley from another pothole slammed us in the opposite direction. We'll probably need to see a chiropractor.

The rest of the bus looked back at as as we had apparently screamed like little girls. We laughed it off, but after another volley or so, Onek had enough pity on us and came back to sit with us. We began to figure out that if we flexed our entire lower body, it enabled us to neutralize some of the upward force and not constantly get flung around.

However, the bus ride is almost 4 hours, and you can't remain alert and flex your butt the whole time. So inevitably, we  would space out and get flung up again. The bus got hotter. Some lady broke out half her window when she was launched upward, leaving a razor-sharp edge just inches from her carotid. I couldn't watch. The dust from the road began filing in until every time you touch your teeth together there's a nice crunch. You chew your cheeks in anticipation of the next bounce until you realize you might bite your tongue off. You feel like you're in a clothes dryer, but somehow you are at peace despite all of this and can't help but laugh it off.

That being said, we were very grateful to get off the bus, get our stuff, get in a cab and get to some ultra-nice place called the "Jebel Club" to eat some fish and chips. We felt very out of place amongst the fat white guys in speedos and obviously-rich NGO types sipping on their 10 dollar beers. In spite of that, we were very thankful to enjoy another nice meal, because we're about to start roughing it.

We met a new friend today- Johnson Malek Wantok who lives in Juba, but is from Cueibet. We were in a pinch as none of our listed contacts' numbers were working, so we called Adhel in Nairobi (board member of HSCO) and she called her nephew to come pick us up and take us to our hotel. We had a soda with Wantok and he then joined us a little later for dinner and conversation about all things Gok. We learned much about his life and the things he's been involved with regard to joining the SPLA when he was 12 to his schooling and his involvement now with the upcoming referendum for independence. Every new person we meet has unbelievable history to share with us. We are happy to have him as a new friend.

Speaking of referendums- the reality of what is about to happen here in South Sudan has really taken shape and registered with us in a new way. Everyone we know, everyone we have come into contact with is migrating to their place of registry in eager anticipation of placing their vote. As we rode into the capital today, we heard lots of talk about the referendum as well as tons of signs and ads for the upcoming vote. To be here in this time is really cool. Many are speculating about whether there will be problems but most people agree that there will not be big problems other than minor clashes in some of the border areas, but we will still be praying against that.

So again- we're leaving Juba tomorrow morning for Rumbek- about an 8 hour ride. We'll update if possible in Rumbek and on Monday we will pick up the rest of the guys from KC and begin the wild ministry for a couple of weeks.

At that point, Jason and I will fly to Mombasa to get the LAND ROVER! Please be praying that it arrives a little early because then it's a mad dash back into Sudan before flying home!


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