Jok Dau returned to South Sudan in 2013 and has not returned to the U.S. since. It was a great moment for Bol and Steve to see him in the airport. As they traveled in Juba almost everywhere they went they saw someone they had not seen since 2001 in Kakuma Refugee Camp. Memories were shared. At the airport on the way to Bor on Friday, Bol recognized the voice he recognized. He looked up and recognized a face he had seen on Facebook of the husband of his sister. Another wonderful greeting. Then in the Bor Market while they were shopping for supplies for the community celebration in the village, Bol and Jok spotted a group or young men they had known on their 1500 mile journey to Ethiopia and Kenya. They jumped out of the car and there was a lot of slapping on shoulders (a typical South Sudanese greeting) and shouting. Steve is still working on his Dinka language. Jok gave him a test on Friday night and he got a C+.
A Message from Steve:
Yesterday, after our long bumpy road we arrived at our hotel in Bor Town. We then went to the black market to change money again, always an interesting process in South Sudan. You first have to contact someone who has a contact in the market that is trusted. They then check the exchange rate to see if it is reasonable. Then we go to their shop. The shops are on dirt streets (there are no paved roads in Bor Town, the Capital of Jonglei State) with tent like structured or some with corrugated metal sides and roof. The one we went to yesterday was a shop that sold clothes, shoes, suitcases, toys, furniture and plastic containers, kind of like a small Wal-Mart… You make connection with the owner and then go to a secluded area of the shop. The owed takes out a bag from underneath some shelves. He counted the amount of money we wanted to change and the counted out the South Sudanese Pounds to give in exchange. Most times we receive bills in denominations of 10, 20, 25 or 50 SSP. Only once have we received 100 SSP bills. The day we exchanged 3,000 for our trip to Piol we received 675,000 SSP. It is hard to imagine how big a pile of money that is. The owner then lets you borrow a bag or suitcase big enough to fit all the money you have changed. We then take that money back to the hotel and put it in my back pack. Then at some point we take the borrowed bag back to the owner. Jok commented yesterday, “Steve can you imagine the size of the bag I need when I change the $9,500 USD you send when we do a food distribution?” I cannot. I REALLY understand now why he hires a car and a body guard with a gun to go with him when he changes money for the Buckeye Clinic.