How to Make Chapati and Other Things in South Sudan

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I took this strong woman’s photo a little over a week ago. As I peeked into the kitchen, dim and furnished in periwinkle and burgundy plastic chairs and tables, my grumbling tummy took a back seat as I saw the light fall upon her and her work. A faded dark light rested so comfortably on her ebony tinted skin. Somewhere north near the Sudanese border, I found myself transfixed with this scene.

IMG_7209I don’t even know her name, could only communicate a few words of my classical Arabic into her Khartoum Arabic, but she willingly let me capture her and her morning efforts of chapati making. You may be wondering what is chapati, or for that matter, what South Sudan has to do with anything? But this is the world I now find myself in, almost as if by accident, but still completely guided. Things move fast in the NGO world, even faster in South Sudan where 4.6 million people are facing emergency levels of food insecurity.

IMG_7214aOne of the hardest things I find to grasp here is the magnitude of continual misunderstanding between people: the acts of selfishness that have ruined generations and continue to do so. This article by the Human Rights Watch (“They Burned It All”) hit a bit closer to home, as several of our own staff, now my friends, had to leave behind the places they loved when the government moved in and deliberately attacked its own people.

IMG_7219My life in South Sudan is not like it was at home, but it’s not hard either. I have running water, air conditioning and a comfortable enough bed. The most difficult part is that I can’t walk wherever I want and practice my photography like I could in Niger; my camera will be confiscated in Juba.

IMG_7222aSo when I find peaceful moments like this one away from government central locations, with this woman and her simple beauty of rolling out dough to make into breakfast chapati, a fried, round flatbread, I need to capture them. Peace is a temporary notion in this place and the innocent are the one’s suffering the most.

IMG_7203But this moment, this still quiet light, reminds me of a peace that we are blessed to have if only choose to accept it. Here is my formal introduction, my welcome to you as I share what I can of my life in South Sudan over this next year. Wishing everybody at home and afar a blessed, peaceful Sunday!

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