Life in South Sudan

A blog about working and living in South Sudan.

Month: June, 2012

It feels like I left Oslo yesterday

It has already been two months and tomorrow I’m going home on my first rest & recreation. For days I have been thinking about a good way to summarize my first period here, but I still don’t know how. There are too many impressions and experiences to fit in one blog post. So I’ve put together some pictures instead. I’ve made them small to be able to upload them with my slow internet connection, but I hope you’ll enjoy them anyway.

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At the next tire turn left

”That roundabout has been placed wrong. It should be in the middle of the road. It is too much to the right.”

I was in a taxi on a dirt road going to my Arabic lesson when my taxi driver complained about this. I looked up but couldn’t see the roundabout he was talking about. However, there was a car tire lying in the road.

”Do you mean the tire?”

Yes, he did. I would never have guessed a car tire to be a roundabout. I’m glad I don’t drive in Juba.

Another heartwarming moment

Today I went with my colleague Sam to a center for girls called Confident Children out of Conflict. Meeting the CCC girls goes right to the top of the list of heartwarming moments I have experienced in Juba. I was afraid that I would scare these girls with my white skin like I have done with other kids before, but these girls were used to white people and greeted us with hugs. Some of them wanted to hold my hands while others grabbed my arms and started touching my birthmarks with their little fingers.

Sam had brought papers and pencils and after tea time and some ball games the drawing began. It was so fun to draw again. It’s been a while since I’ve done it. The girls requested “a princess”, “a girl walking to school with a schoolbag”, “a tree”, “a house”, “a watermelon”. To activate them I asked for a drawing in return. “I paint one and you paint one!” And of course, their drawings were fantastic. Like this one here, which I even got to bring home with me as a gift.

I went to CCC to give, but ended up receiving instead. I left the girls with a warm heart from all the hugs and with a piece of art that’s going to hang on my wall. Maybe receiving is inevitable when you open up to give. If that’s the case I probably left something behind for them to keep, or to give away to someone else. At least I hope so.

Happy Independence Day of Sweden!

There are few Swedes in Juba. So far I have met three and only gotten to know one, and that person is out of town this week. I was feeling a bit down this morning, being the only Swede around to celebrate the National Day of Sweden, when a colleague called me and asked me to come to his office. It turned out he had bought me two candles “for you to light and celebrate your country’s Independence Day”. I was so touched my eyes almost teared up. I thanked him and told him I had felt a bit sad about celebrating all alone and he replied: “You’re not alone. Now we are two people celebrating Sweden.”.

It was probably the nicest thing anyone could have done for me today. The beauty of it is that if you put aside your nationality and start to consider yourself a citizen of the world you are never alone and you are always home. What a wonderful lesson to learn on my country’s National Day.

From us two celebrators in South Sudan to all Swedish people around the world: “Happy Independence Day!”

Women first!

Men here usually let women go before them when standing in line, or when walking through a doorway. I find it kind of nice, but that is because I’ve lived in Norway for four years and have gotten used to getting doors slammed in my face all the time. But this gentleman’s gesture is not appreciated by everyone.

I was at a seminar when I heard a man offering a South Sudanese woman to enter a building before him, by smiling and using the well known words: ”Women first!”. The woman looked at him and answered: ”That’s what men do in South Sudan. They let women go first to take the first bullets in war or to clear an area from landmines!” Then she smiled back at him and walked through the door before him.

She was harsh and strong, and truly made an impact on me.

I don’t know if what she said was true or if she was exaggerating, but she made an important point. The situation illustrated so well the double  moral in treating women ”well” or as “more important” by letting us go first in line but at the same time refusing us our rights. It also reflected a part of the struggle that South Sudanese women are facing, a subject I’ll definitely get back to.