Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Return to Africa

It was my first time back in Africa since I left Equatorial Guinea in December 2008. This is the Africa I remember, this is the Africa that keeps drawing me back. Equatorial Guinea was not Africa, it was its own unique “dark” version of a dark continent a century ago. Being in Nairobi and Juba brings me back.. to other times, other memories, other lives, other reasons for being there. Surprisingly, even being at the UNDP office in Sudan brought back happier memories of Kigali and Kampala. UNDP Equatorial Guinea was not an office. It was an impound lot, a waste site, a decaying corner of a decaying street.

The air in Nairobi was cool but surprisingly refreshing, despite the exhaust fumes! I stayed with Sabine and her family (Jobo, Jimmy and Sophie). Westlands is so lush. I went to bed with birds singing and I woke up to birds singing! I had mangos fresh off the tree.

It was surreal seeing Sabine in Nairobi after all these years (2006). She was great letting me - and my back and forth itinerary – stay with her and her family.

My time in Nairobi was short-lived (and leisure time non-existent) because of a full-day meeting on my only full day there. I took the morning flight (jet link) to Juba, South Sudan. It wasn’t as bad as it was played out to be. The Quality Hotel wasn’t as bad as I was made to believe. Juba itself is like a town being built from scratch. It consists of roads, containers and Sudanese huts. At 35-38 degrees, the weather was not unbearably hot. However, I can’t imagine what it would feel like at 40 to 42 degrees in a container with no air-conditioning! It was even more surreal to see Sujitha (from UNDP Rwanda). It was great to have a quick catch-up over lunch.

In Khartoum, we stayed at the Al Salam Rotana. An oasis in the desert! The children wear military camouflages as their school uniforms! It was pretty… interesting to see.

The Sudanese are a mix of north Africa/Middle East and black Africa. The Dinkas are amazingly tall. I had no idea people could be so tall!

On my back and forth to and from Nairobi to Juba and Khartoum, I was able to squeeze in a dinner with Sabine at an Ethiopian restaurant, nyama choma just before another flight, and an overnight safari in Lake Nakuru.

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