Today is a rarer day in Juba; today it rained. Although it is rainy season and the temperatures have consistently stayed in the mid-80s F, today it was different. Much welcomed and appreciated, the surrounding dried-out vegetation is having a happier day as am I. Wearing a long sleeved shirt, no matter how thin the weave, seems a little bit more appropriate for the month of October.
Today also marks slightly over 120 days since I’ve come to live in Juba. I write very little about this place because in all reality, it seems as if very little changes from day-to-day. I go into a ten-hour work day, some days demanding more time than others, and walk to my little home on the far end corner of our compound. From door-to-door the distance is one-minute, work and home in the same place.
My after hour activities sometimes consist of visiting other acquaintances in NGOs and UN organizations across this city via a driver; most of the time it is going back to my room for a bit to rest and then meeting up with fellow friends and employees in the common room sitting area. Other nights it involves just reading blogs and webzines online, catching up with personal life in the U.S. and in Europe, and Skyping with friends who live in different places. Sometimes it is swimming at a nearby hotel.
What makes South Sudan hard, Juba more specifically, isn’t the lack of access to everyday amenities. There is food made for me each day and night, Nutella and Pringles can be bought just down the road. Rooms are swept and cleaned daily, washing machines available, water, albeit cold if you don’t take a shower when the sun is up, and internet and electricity most of the time.
What makes Juba hard is the lack of a normal life, the little mundane things that take up time in life, but make it sweet all the same: stirring garlic in a hot oiled pan after work, taking brisk autumn walks along a wooded path, putting out a bowl of kitty chow each morning, meeting up with friends for coffee without giving a thought to security or finding a driver. Life’s little quirks and mundane twists and turns that come with living in a secure environment are what I miss. That and taking photos to document my experiences, which were very possible in Niger but not here.
So 120 days is an achievement of sorts, in a place where internationals mark their time spent here in months. What I have to share of my life here does not seem very significant to date, but maybe it doesn’t have to be significant to matter.