Over my left I see the sky greeting earth over the horizon. On my right an overweight man with a few remaining hairs draped across his otherwise bold pate. I am seated on a propeller plane flying me into a new world, a new start, into South Sudan.
Last year I decided to quit my job over a dream. That dream was to build up a coffee sector in South Sudan. I quit a job I actually loved, months before I was even invited for an interview. It was a leap of faith but I felt this ever re-assuring nudge from Above, the exact same I felt moving to Tanzania, Zambia, Rwanda or Ethiopia.
As I de-board the plane, I feel a thrilling sense of anticipation running through my veins. The airstrip is little more than an open space of red sand and palm trees dotted along and a small room which cleverly doubles as immigration, security, customs, and check-in and out counter. For lack of metal detectors, bags are checked by hand and your personal items overturned. As our car approaches Yei town, from behind the car’s dust appear decorated straw huts, small shops and friendly waving people. Walking down Broadway just weeks ago on a trip to New York on my way to Amsterdam, it will be hard to imagine the world I come from for people in Yei, and hard for me to understand theirs.
I have been living in Africa for a while so none of this should feel all too shocking nor new to me. Yet it does. While I have a bit of reference and can utter few words in some of the continent’s languages, it somehow feels much the same as my first arrival onto Africa’s scene. Tanzania, January 2007. I remember it like the day of yesterday; my first day setting foot on Africa’s soil, trotting Arusha’s palm fringed streets, exactly 8 years to the day I de-board this plane. I then felt a mistitled piece of me fell into place making me more complete. I have that same inexplicable sense arriving here in the most basic of places I have ever encountered so far.
Time will tell what this country brings me and what I will be able to add. As I spent new year’s eve with my parents at home, it felt like a symbolical closure of a chapter and turning the page to pencil in a new one I am excited to start…
As people have encouraged me to pick up my blog again and share my experiences in the world’s last frontier, I intend to at times sit down and reflect under a mango tree and starry sky I am writing you from now and give you a peek into life here.
Feel free to leave your comments below and keep in touch by email, Skype (jannovdl) or mobile (+211 923522242).
Here a link to the project I will be working on here
- One of the cooperative leaders goes by the self-styled name of “master plan”. Not the best of leaders I must say, but surely the one who provides me with the most laughter with his generous smile and impeccable shoes and dress code, well, you be the judge…
- As official docs have been burned during civil war, I am emailing British libraries in an attempt to piece together the history of coffee in South Sudan. One diligent library clerk walked through whole library and managed to dust off a ’50 brochure in half English/half Arabic showing where some of the first coffee was spotted. Don’t you just love those loyal British old-fashioned library clerks?
- The country the size of France has over the years only accumulated a scarce few hundred kilometres of paved road; probably less than the zone I grew up in caters for.
- I found a lovely little home at the river side part of a large compound with houses owned by the Presbyterian church whose Bishop welcomed me once I told him about our coffee work. A
funny detail, when I went looking for the house: Guess what was planted right in front of the doorstep??…a coffee tree! (the only one I saw on the compound, I knew right then that had to be my doorstep;)