Some Kind of Place: South Sudan/Congo Border
From above, this place is endlessly vast. We fly for hours and hours in planes and helicopters; then we walk by foot. From above, this place is smooth—a smooth, vast wilderness, beyond history, before people. But there are people here. Mothers and fathers, infants and babies, yearning youth, and ancient elders. They are connected by webs of motorcycle tracks held in place by mud huts and ancestor spirits. Yet one can still travel hundreds of miles through these jungles and not see a soul.
Here so many edges of Africa come together under impossibly thick, low-hanging canopy of brush and forest. The frontiers of South Sudan and Congo and Central African Republic. On these edges sits the center of Africa.
Such places are rare in the world. They exist at both the center and the end of things. Entire rebel groups can disappear in these lands. Massive cathedrals appear down tiny dusty tracks. Here, guns from nearby conflicts ebb and flow like tides until the neighboring conflicts become this place’s conflict.
It is a place where the notion of government is a faint one, a trickling stream that dries up in the dry season and sometimes doesn’t run all year long.
In the heat beneath the arc of the plane, the Earth sweats green. And the smoothness turns into reaching thorns and sharp grasses.
Then when I return months later, it has turned brown, and the crust of the Earth has cracked like soft-dried lava.
The sharp grasses have gone dull, and the thorns have grown smaller.
Trevor Snapp ’03 is a writer and photographer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, National Geographic Traveler, The Guardian (London), among other publications. He works globally, and for the past few years has been based out of Mexico and East Africa. His work can be found at www.trevorsnapp.com.