Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dateline: Juba, South Sudan

Vicki here on Sunday to report that, I’m going to be a rebel today and break with the question of the week to tell you where I am right now.

Juba, South Sudan.

South Sudan is the world’s newest country. It separated (after a thirty-year civil war) from Sudan in July. As you can imagine, after a long bitter war the country has a tough road ahead to pull itself out of poverty and unrest.

My daughter is working here in Juba, the capital city of the new county. I will be visiting her for three weeks. Juba is a city that is really more like a large village. There are no buildings here taller than about three stories. As a friend of my daughter said yesterday, you have to go a long way back in European history to find a time when the church steeple was the tallest thing around.

High-walled and barb-wire protected houses are side-by-side on rough unpaved streets with mud huts and tin shacks. And when I say, unpaved, I really mean unpaved. As in dusty and potholed, full of rubbish and more than the odd wandering goat and chicken and small child. I’ve attached a couple of pictures of street scenes.

It’s odd living in a cash economy again. Kinda like going back twenty or thirty years. I have to think – how much money will I need for the forthcoming week? There are no ATMs, no visa machines, no debit cards. Everything is paid in cash.

There are no recognizable Western brands in evidence here. Imagine, a place without McDonalds, Comfort Inn, Burger King, Walmart.

Meal planning is a challenge. My daughter lives in a comfortable but plain two bedroom townhouse with all the amenities, except she only has a two-burner stove top and no oven. Fresh greens (as we known them) are difficult to come by (lot of fresh fruit though) as are many of the Western things we use to add variety and interest to our diet such as marinades and sauces. The restaurants here are very good though. I’ve been for Indian a couple of times, for Thai, once for Ethiopian. And feasted on a wonderful grilled Nile perch at a restaurant on the banks of the While Nile.

Yesterday, a colleague of my daughter took me kayaking on the Nile. What a fabulous experience. The vegetation is neither as dry as you might expect being in Sudan or as lush being in tropical Africa. It is the dry season now and the plants are all lying low. It’s mango season though and you have to be careful walking under the big mango trees not to get a falling fruit on your head.

The streets are generally considered safe, and the crime rate is low. I go walking most days though the city while my daughter is at work. I am probably the only white person I see but no one bothers me or asks me for money and the vendors don’t try to hassle me to buy. I mean safe in terms of crime, that is. Not necessary traffic safety. Chaos is pretty much the word as scooters (what they call boda bodas), cars, trucks, 4*4s, pedestrians, and a good number of chickens, dogs, and goats, compete for road space. There are no traffic lights and few signs and it’s pretty much a free for all on the road.

I feel incredibly lucky to have had the chance to see this wonderful place when it’s fresh and enthusiastic and passionate about its future.

I checked with my housesitter yesterday. She tells me it’s turned quite cold in Ontario. Nice to be basking in the heat here in South Sudan.

I'll be blogging daily (most days anyway) about my adventures in South Sudan at my personal blog: One Woman Crime Wave


Gary Phillips said...

Wow, absolutely incredible, Vicki. The Sudan has been through so much God-awful strife, I sure hope this new state can see some peace and prosperity for its people. What an experience you're having.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

What a wonderful experience, Vicki! Thank you for sharing your experiences! I can't wait to hear more.

Meredith Cole said...

Glad you're having a great visit, Vicki! Lovely to hear about your experiences. So interesting to hear a different perspective on a place that's been in the news so much.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

What a wonderful and interesting post, Vicki. Enjoy your visit with your daughter. I'll have to pop over to your personal blog to read more.