So I tried to reserve online so I could pay at the office. But the website was having issues. So I went the next day with quite a bit of money (since, also, you can’t really pay with a credit card anywhere in South Sudan.) In 24 hours the ticket had gone up $300! This was most disappointing.
But then I remembered to ask the price in South Sudanese pounds. They told me the price. I did a little math on my phone and was happy to see that if I paid in SSP instead of dollars, I’d save…about $300! So I called my boda (motorbike) guy. He exchanges my money for me.
He came to the office and I handed over the dollars and off he went to get the money exchanged. When I first got to South Sudan, a friend referred me to him. I don’t use him exclusively, but it’s good to have a boda guy I trust if I’m going somewhere new or, as I have found to be extremely convenient, to exchange money for me.
After about 10 minutes I started getting a little nervous. Usually I have him change $200-$300 at a time. I realized without a whole lot of thought I had just given him significantly more than that. He is a trustworthy fellow…but, also, I tend to believe the best about people and their intentions and some could argue that I too often trust that people tend to do the right thing.
I told myself I’d give him a reasonable 25 minutes and then I’d call. See if his phone was shut off, which would be a good sign that either he’d been robbed or was ducking and running with my money. I tapped my foot and watched each boda that passed impatiently. At 25 minutes I called. It said the line was busy. Immediately my mind started to racing. Did I just do something really stupid? What if he takes it? What if he gets robbed? How many more dollars did I have tucked away in my room? Enough to last me until I go out of South Sudan? (Because there is no way to withdraw money here, I have to bring in or have people bring in all of my money.) How would I explain to people that I’d stupidly handed over over $1,000 to my boda guy? A fellow that, really, I barely know.
Thankfully, I only had about 3 minutes of crazy-mind-racing and dread and he called me back. Said that there was traffic, and he had to go somewhere else other than the normal place he goes to change. BIG sigh of relief. If he was going to take all my money, he probably wouldn’t call to reassure me. I impatiently waited another 35 minutes, praying that he’d make it back fine and silently berating myself a little, thinking I should have stopped being selfish and should have just paid the full amount in dollars.
FINALLY he pulled up in his shiny aviators and blue flip flops and I’m pretty sure I jumped up from the plastic chair I was sitting in, so very relieved. We stepped inside the building and he starts pulling wads of colorful notes from each of his pockets. I went back into the air-conditioned airline office, waited behind a group of loud, chatty ladies who were trying to book a flight but didn’t know when they were supposed to come back. They got sorted, and with the feeling of accomplishment that comes with something actually working out right here, I paid for my ticket and strut out of the office.
2.5 hours later, ticket in hand, flight booked, mission accomplished.