I met a man at my overnight hotel in Addis. He looked sad, sighed deeply and said, “I miss home.” I asked him how long he had been in Juba and he answered, “Five days.”
“Five years?”, I corrected.
“No, five days”.
The man was from Zambia. He had been on a short mission in Juba. He explained that he had traveled before, to other African cities, and before it just felt like changing cities. “But Juba… Juba is different. It’s harsh. Life is difficult.” He asked me if I like Juba.
I do like Juba. But I don’t realize how stressful it can be to live there until I leave. This is the second time I leave South Sudan and just like the first time I got overwhelmed by my experiences during the last month.
It’s difficult to explain but I guess that “scary fun” describes part of it. You go to a party and get stopped by armed policemen.
It’s a world full if opposites. Not “poor and rich”, as there’s hardly no luxury. Juba is better described as “war and peace” or “laughter and tears”. One example is the children living in a mud hut outside my house. I’ve seen them play with toy cars made out of old juice packages and bottle caps. It is sad to see the poverty but at the same time beautiful to see the creativity and to watch them play happily.
In Juba you should also expect the unexpected. Like getting proposed to at work or getting stuck in traffic and suddenly and see a monkey in the middle of the street carrying its baby.
Even though it makes me tired and scatter-minded I’m enjoying the unexpected, exhausting and scary fun moments in Juba. I guess that as time goes by they will get less exhausting and scary. However, I’ve heard from colleagues who have been in Juba for many years that I should still expect the unexpected. It can happen very unexpectedly and that seems to be the only thing I can be sure of.