Life in South Sudan

A blog about working and living in South Sudan.

Category: Rest and recreation

Into the wild

My friend Maria and I are city girls. We are not really the outdoor type. We’ve been living in Oslo for four years, but haven’t really been out enjoying the beautiful nature of Norway. We have done some exploring, like all the coffee shops in the part of town called Grünerløkka and Oslo nightlife.

When I moved to South Sudan (which is not a very city girl thing to do by the way) Maria immediately said she wanted to come and visit. It had been her dream for many years to see wild gorillas. I’m of the opinion that dreams are meant to come true, so we booked a trip – a 14 days camping tour to Kenya and Uganda. Maria had only slept in a tent once before and my camping experience was limited to school trips, the latest one in ninth grade. African wildlife is very far from Oslo nightlife, but in order to see gorillas and other animals at a reasonable price we were willing to go through some discomfort and inconvenience.

It started well. We had the right equipment. We had hand sanitizer, sun lotion and head lights. Besides, the tour guides took extra care of the hopeless Swedish girls, who also complicated things by being vegetarians. Despite all this, for some reason nature had decided to work against us.

A baboon stole Maria’s snack pack. We got bat droppings all over our tent and ourselves. Heavy rain leaked in to our tent from underneath (the other tents were dry). When we put up our tent in Uganda a big frog scared Maria by jumping out of the tent when she unfolded it. The poor frog must have traveled with us all the way from Kenya. A dog peed on our tent door. That same dog nearly scared me to death when I woke up the next morning. He had fallen asleep right outside our tent door, which he might have considered his territory after peeing on it, and he refused to move even though I poked him angrily through the tent canvas. In Kampala we managed to put up our tent on an ant trail and the ants continued their trail on the wall inside our tent.

In the end it was all worth it. We had a wonderful trip. We got to see the mountain gorillas. We also earned some camping experience that might be useful the next time we go traveling in beautiful Africa. Next time we just have to look out for bats, ants, frogs, dogs and especially baboons and all will be fine.


Introduction to Ghana

I’m not sure how I’m going to summarize our amazing trip to Ghana. While I’m thinking about it I’d thought I’d share some pictures. Stories will follow.

Traffic confusion in Accra

Conversation in the car on the road in Accra:

“Look at that one! He’s going in the wrong direction.”
“And he had no lights on!”
“That person is also driving in the wrong direction!”

Tarmac road turns into dirt road.

“Where did the road go?”
“This looks like a parking lot…”
“Is it a roundabout?”
“Now WE are going in the wrong direction!”

We realize a new road is under construction but it’s very unclear where the cars should drive before the new road is finished.

In all the confusion a decision has to be made quickly and Ohene concludes with, “Some drives there, others drive there. I don’t know this road but let’s go here!”. Good conclusion, right decision and we all made it home safely.

Time to rest and recreate

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.

Rest and recreation in Norway

Because of the difficult circumstances in South Sudan many foreigners working here get paid rest and recreation leave. I spent my first R&R in Norway with friends and family. It wasn’t much of a rest as I had plans to do things every day, but one thing I noticed was how easy everything felt  in a familiar environment like Oslo. It was so relaxing to be able to walk around outside without registering all impressions, not worrying about how to get from one place to another, speaking my mother tongue and to enjoying all the food I’ve been missing. Even though I kept myself busy my head got some rest and recreation. Now I’m back in Juba again and after a week in S. Sudan I have already so many stories to tell I don’t know where to start.