"You Are Free" (5-28-09)

After arriving in Sudan, we were very anxious to get started on our project. We realized however that the city where we were staying (Bor Town) was not very close to the village for which we were designing the school (Jalle Payam). It would normally be necessary that we spend a good chunk of our time in country, on site (surveying, testing the soil and water actually on site, meeting with the community, etc.) however, due to the poor condition of the roads, we were only able to travel out to Jalle for one day- and were only actually on the site for about 2 hours because of the extensive amount of travel to get there and back! So, it was Wednesday, (Day 7 into the trip) before we were able to get to our site. A lot of preliminary work was able to be done before that point, but it was essential that we see the site before we could begin the actual design.

We packed into 2 land rovers and got a chance to see what those vehicles were actually made to travel on. The road was full of muddy pot holes, we were frequently splashed with mud through the windows and actually got stuck once or twice. It took us over 3 hrs to go 30 miles!

Upon arrival in Jalle, we had lunch in the city center area then drove with several community leaders out to the “site” which was a few miles away. The scene was completely flat African savanna as far as the eye could see in every direction. There were maybe 2 huts being built about a mile a way.

____________(Might as well have been a 360 degree view of the site)

We asked about site boundaries, and they told us “You are Free. Take whatever land you need” As engineers, and architects, we were unsure how to respond, but when we asked for a rough approximation of the land we could use, they again said with arms outstretched “You are Free.”

This paired with the fact that the terrain was completely flat in every direction made surveying unnecessary- we attempted a soil test, tested the water quality at the closest well, before driving back to the city center to meet with the community.

_________________________(Testing the Water)

_________________(John and Phil performing a "perc test")

The community joyfully welcomed us and gave us brief greeting (we had only a short time before having to leave). I was really happy to meet the people we were actually serving even if it was only for a short time. I did receive one marriage proposal and, one of my fellow team members was kind enough to offer my hand for 3 cows…thanks Aryn.

___________(A Few potential husbands and I after the community meeting)

Our time on site in Jalle was successful, and we were able to return with all the information that we needed to begin our design.

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