William Wayne Bowles ’10 witnesses South Sudan gain independence
When South Sudan became a country on July 9, Centre alumnus William Wayne Bowles ’10 was there to watch its citizens celebrate.
Bowles is currently completing an internship with the Foundation for Sustainable Development in western rural Kenya. But Kenya is quite a distance from South Sudan, so when he decided to make the journey, he faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles in planning his trip.
Bowles, an experienced world-traveller, is no stranger to exciting experiences abroad. As an undergraduate, he took a CentreTerm trip to India and spent a semester in China at Shanghai University, and also interned with the U.S. Department of State at the U.S. Embassy in Riga, Latvia, in 2009. With this travel savvy, Bowles pursued the trip with dogged determination.
“The trip to South Sudan was a struggle for a number of reasons,” Bowles says. “There’s not a lot of information on the web about how exactly to get to Juba, or it is often outdated. Bus schedules and flight times are also outdated or unreliable and services are often not listed. I planned the whole trip based on hearsay and had to adjust.”
Although he did eventually find means of transportation, Bowles still ran into traveling issues.
“I had planned to fly, but Juba closed the airport. Then I was going to take a bus, but all the main roads into the country were closing,” Bowles says. “I got on one of the last few buses to enter the country.”
Bowles spent over 20 hours traveling by bus, stopping in Uganda to get a visa allowing him to enter what would become South Sudan.
“Getting the visa was nearly impossible. A couple of travel blogs informed me that I could get a visa at the South Sudan embassy in Kampala, Uganda, but when I arrived, the embassy was empty,” Bowles remembers. “I thought I would have to throw in the towel and go back to Kenya. I sat in the courtyard of the embassy for two hours until the only consultant worker still in Uganda came and processed my visa. That meant I was one of last people to receive visas into the country.”
Despite the many obstacles that stood in his way, Bowles finally arrived in Juba — now the capital of South Sudan — in time to witness the Sudanese celebrating the independence of their newly formed country.
“One of my favorite memories will be witnessing the raising of the South Sudan flag while the masses in attendance sang their national anthem for the first time as a free and independent country,” Bowles says. “Despite the struggles that South Sudan will likely face building a nation from the ground up, the people are incredibly optimistic.”
Bowles has since safely returned to Kenya, where he continues to live with a host family and work with a local microfinance institution called Rupia Ltd. for his internship with FSD.
Upon leaving Kenya in August, Bowles will return stateside and continue to teach seventh and eighth grade science and serve as a track coach at R.C. Hatch High School in Uniontown, Ala., through the Teach For America program.
Even though it was a difficult journey, Bowles highly values the memory of being in South Sudan upon its independence.
“Every day, there was a new obstacle, so I was so lucky to make it there,” he says.
Bowles updates his blog, www.williambowles.blogspot.com, weekly with news and anecdotes from his experiences in Africa.