18.02.2014 30 °C
As I have said before, there is never a dull moment living in Africa, excitement seems to come at you from all angles to bite you in the bum. However, sometimes I miss the variety of entertainment available in somewhere like Edinburgh (especially during the fringe). So Amelie and I were excited when we had a mission to accomplish a couple of Saturdays ago involving us going to the 'International Airport', Arua.
The only downside was having an early start on a Saturday morning. We were helping to take Pioneers missionary colleagues or ours, a family of 10 to catch their Eagle Air flight to Yei. The Perrys live and work in Yei, South Sudan but had only recently decided it was calm enough to return following the rebel activity and fighting in certain parts of the country. Because of the size of their family and amount of associated luggage following time in the States, there was need of a convoy of 3 vehicles! Whenever Emma and I feel stressed and down about having to travel a lot with 2 small kids, we often think of the Perrys and can't imagine how they do it...
Arua airstrip feels cute and homely, where you invariably know most of the passengers or pilots. As well as the commercial Eagle Air flights (don't think of Boeing, think much smaller), mission airlines MAF and AIM also fly out of Arua using their teeny Cessna planes. The airstrip itself is red-dirt, but very smooth and flat.
At the airstrip, Amelie was enjoying playing with the Perry kids, 2 of whom are close in age to Amelie. I felt a little sad at the fun she was having since I knew she would soon have to say good-bye...again! This is one of the more difficult parts of being a missionary and having your own kids, seeing her miss her friends.
This specific time at the airstrip seemed more exciting than normal:
- Amelie and I watched a large helicopter landing containing some soldiers from the UPDF (Uganda) army having come from deployment in South Sudan. It is fascinating to be seeing soldiers who had been part of the action to deal with a civil war in the neighbouring country which we had been hearing about on the news.
- I spoke briefly to a missionary lady flying out with AIMAir to another war zone in close-by Central African Republic for 5 days to encourage the church there. I had heard on the BBC Worldservice that soldiers were cannibalising their enemies and shot up a quick prayer to God that the nice lady wouldn't become a victim. I think her name was Donna from the States, so I am hoping that she is still well and walking around somewhere. Her next stop after CAR was going to be South Sudan, and I felt that she and her husband were definitely not your typical tourists... Speaking to Donna also made me appreciate missionaries a bit more. Who else would go out to a dangerous situation for no reason other than to encourage people there?
- Incidentally, missionary pilots are the cool-cats of the missionary gang. Their lifestyle consists of flying off to far-flung destinations, evacuating people from war zones, being shot at, having bigger cars and nicer pads than the rest of us...They even get calendars and funky t-shirts publicising their work.
- While watching all the exciting goings-on around me, I noticed a change to a more party atmosphere as a dj in the back of a pick-up with huge speakers pumping out some tunes. A big crowd appeared from nowhere as local people came to catch a glimpse of a celebrity, an Arua radio presenter had returned back from a long absence of being ill.
- Despite being an international airport with flights leaving to go to CAR, South Sudan, Kenya and Democratic Republic of Congo, the airport has a sleepy and very informal feel. For example, sometimes, the luggage is lifted by hand to check the weight. Additionally, there is no bodyscanner. Flight tracking involves phoning the manager of the airstrip, Robert to see if a flight has left Entebbe. There is a new terminal being built which looks a lot bigger and more imposing than the current little building. It remains to be seen whether the cozy atmosphere at the Arua airstrip will also end up changing. I hope not, though...