Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Travel Resources & Factoids

I suppose I am a bookish type. And that tendency was in overdrive when faced with the fact that I was traveling half a world away to a continent that truly is “dark” to our Western/American sensibility. Once I accepted the invitation to participate in this mission, I was eager to read/learn about some of the basics there. For those who will make this journey in the future, I share these resources I stumbled upon. Be forewarned: These are mundane tidbits which only folks going to Lui (and probably not even the majority of them!) will be interested in.

Sitting in the bleak, cold, midwinter of mid-Missouri, it was hard to envision what the temperature might be in Lui – and, thus, what kind of clothing to take. It took a lot of searching to find a weather site that provided temperature info for the southern Sudan, but I finally found it at Weather Underground. They do not give reports for Lui, but they do list Juba, Sudan – which is less than a hundred miles from Lui – so click on that to discover the daily highs and lows.

That site also includes a link to a star chart. Be sure to click on that, and maybe print it out, if you want to know what planets and constellations you might see in this equatorial setting that we do not see from the northern hemisphere.

It also tells you about sunrise and sunset. I read there that the day was roughly 12 hours long. But when I actually arrived in Lui, I had some “cognitive dissonance” on this topic. In the central and southern U.S. we are accustomed to correlating temperature to length-of-day. When it’s 100 degrees here, the day is much longer than 12 hours. But Lui is just 5 degrees north of the equator (as Bob+ has noted). So the day is always roughly 12 hours long. It seems weird that – on a day that is miserably hot – dusk still begins at about 6-6:30 p.m., and it’s pitch-dark by 7:30.

It also took me a while to find good information on the time zone in Lui. For us – in Central Standard Time – Lui is now 9 hours later. I expect it will be different for groups going when the U.S. is in Daylight Savings Time.

In all the traveling I have done, I have never worried about baggage limitations. But all of us were transporting not merely our clothing and personal effects, but also taking items to give to the Diocese and people of Lui. For the first time in my life, I needed to research the baggage size/weight limitations on the airlines. We flew American, and I found the information I needed at American Airlines' baggage information page. Or go to American Airlines, and click on “Travel Information,” then “Baggage Information,” and you’ll find the size/weight limits.

Even after reading, marking, and inwardly digesting all that information, I got caught. When I checked in at St. Louis, I was informed that one of my bags was over the weight limit. Not to worry, though! Just give them $25 for “excessive weight,” and you can still take all those additional goodies to Lui.

I intended to find books in the library that would give me some information and background on Sudan -- political, historical, cultural, etc. But I did not get around to that. I hope that, if other team members have found useful books, they will note them in the “comments” section below.

Late in our visit in Lui, Father Joseph Phillip (Dean of the Cathedral in Lui) presented each of us a copy of a book, The Doctor Comes to Lui: A Story of Beginnings in the Sudan, by Eileen Fraser. [Frontline Fellowship: Cape Town, South Africa, 2000 (revised and re-republished from the original 1938 publication by the Church Missionary Society); ISBN 0-9584255-1-5] Bob Towner has commented here on Dr. Fraser’s initial foray into Lui, and I think he’s the only one who may have read the whole book yet. This book would be a good read, but I bet even Amazon won’t have it. Future travelers might want to borrow a copy from one of this team’s members, for it will provide some useful background and history.

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