26, 27 July 2008.
Whereas my journey towards Southern Sudan went so far smoothly, things get more complicated once I land at Juba International Airport. There is nobody to collect me. I am the only passenger left at the customs, waiting for my original travel permit that is supposed to be brought by my driver. I have got no local contact details with me, except the telephone number of the Paris switchboard. I am about to call the headquarters, when Lola who stayed at the airport looking after me, asks her driver to call the French section. Robert, my driver, is actually late, he is busy filling the car with petrol.
Once cleared by the Customs, and onboard the 4×4 Toyota, I am finally discovering the capital city of Southern Sudan. When I start to shoot along the road, Robert advises me to be particularly cautious and not to take individuals as they tend to get very angry. Landscapes, yes. Buildings, yes but not the military ones. People, to avoid. Soldiers, no way. The fact that he reminds every expatriate who comes, the local customs is absolutely priceless.
When I finally reach the office of MSFF, I am quickly introduced to the coordination team. I know I am working for the French section, but the proportion of French people in this mission is alaaarming. 5 out 8 people I meet, are French. When you know what it actually feels like to have only one in your team, just imagine the cocktail of 5 cheeky ones, and I am not even mentioning the ones I haven’t met on the field.
I don’t have much time for reverie though, my briefings start straight ahead. I am first welcomed by Morpheus (yes, Morpheus), our Medical Coordinator. He is a doctor from the Philippines. He is smiling and very relaxed and so is his medical briefing. I manage to have a short and intense briefing with Alice, the flying Administrator – We call flying staff, the ones who are highly mobile and serve the field as temporary support. She was working over the past 2 months in the Administration of Aweil. She is about to fly to Nairobi and was not expecting to see me before her departure. Pantaleey, the Deputy Head of Mission is going to inform me about the geopolitical context of Southern Sudan and the general view of ongoing operations. Then, V. my Finance coordinator, will instruct me the ultimate guide to Administration in Aweil within 2 days. Anyway, I am going nowhere before Monday, as WFP flights to Aweil only operate on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. So, let’s get started!