We are now for almost three weeks in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. The time goes fast. It is hard to imagine that a month ago, we were packing our belongings. We had discussions on which things we wanted to keep and store somewhere in the Netherlands, which things we wanted to give away, which things we could try to sell, which things we should bring to South Sudan for the coming two years… Those were our dilemma’s then, it almost feels meaningless now. Yet we are pleased that we were very conscious on saying goodbye to our stuff, to our house, to our work, to our living environment, to our church but most importantly to our family and friends. It is warming to know that we are not alone in this world even though we moved to the other side of the world!
South Sudan is in many ways different then each other country we visited. It starts with the entrance. The international airport’s terminal is a bunch of party tents and the immigration office a container with a window. Although many of the official offices haven’t much of an appearance, the people are generally very friendly and the officials welcoming. The streets are relatively calm and filled with landcruisers, jeeps and generally pedestrians, goats and potholes. Along the roads you can see many high and thick walls with a lot of barbwire, whether it is an embassy, organization, hotel, hospital or a prison. The last two years, buildings higher than two stories began to appear and many carcasses of construction projects are visible on the skyline. It is clearly a country trying to develop and go forward but something is holding them back.
The last weeks we spent 99% of our time at our compound in Juba. It is the place with a residence building where we have our sleeping room, another building for the offices and a meeting room. Also the warehouse, with large tents and containers to store goods, is at the compound. There is some space left where we can play volleyball in the hot sun in the dust in the late afternoon! We have a room together, with air-conditioning (very pleasant during the night), a bathroom with running (salt) water (not very pleasant), some drawers and a tiny balcony (with a view on a high wall with razor wire).
Normally there are around 25 people living here, all international staff coming from everywhere. Although there is always the competition whether there are the most Dutch people or British people around. At the moment the British people are one ahead. During working days our national staff arrives to the compound as well. Then it is really a busy place with 80 people running around (including cooks, cleaners and drivers).
We can’t say yet that this feels like our new home, since the majority of things are different. Sometimes it feels like you are disconnected and losing your own identity. It is like a new language that you are trying to learn and understand and be part of. A new living environment, other working methods, abbreviations you never heard of, place names you can’t point on the map, procedures you don’t understand, regulations you need to follow, expectations you need to keep and being in the midst of a culturally complex situation. And since everything is new we are not able yet to filter the information we really need, so everything what’s coming in sounds as important. Which makes it like a mess in your head and your mixing up things. We are all the time working and talking about internally displaced people and refugees, sometimes we feel displaced as well. Although the huge difference is of course that we choose to be here!
Our days begin with devotions and end with volleyball (occasionally). Sundays are special, it’s the only day we don’t work (except for some small things) and we use it to relax at a swimming pool, a gym (to do some running without making distance, very weird) or a restaurant. Some well-deserved rest before the next week kicks off again. It’s quite a switch from our 32 hour working weeks in the Netherlands. But well, we can’t cycle, geocache, hike or visit family anyway so free time is overrated 😝.
Next blog we will try to post more about what we are actually doing here. We need to find it out ourselves first, since at the moment we are still finding our feet.
Disclaimer: The views expressed on this blog are solely ours and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any organisation.