Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

We are locked down in Juba Town as the military have sealed the town searching for weapons. Only a bother in that I have staff in hotels who may be vulnerable. It does mean that I’m forced to mess about with paint, which isn’t the worst thing to be doing on a Saturday.

My portrait, ‘Leader of the Pack’. Amongst the wheelbarrow boys who carry goods for those returning to the Protection of Civilian Camp at UN House, there is one who organizes them. Taller, older than the small kids who strain under their loads, he walks alongside the laden wheelbarrows and does the negotiation with the security guards to allow access.

Humid and sultry start in Juba Town. A short, slow jog on my bothersome Achilles. A bugle calling Reveille from the Bangladesh contingent a bit of a surprise. The smell of rain making the coucal’s happy.

At the airport, the chaos has been brought into a semblance of control. The scanner is working and the arriving luggage is screened and then put into rows, rather than the usual jumble. They have guys checking luggage tags and they even have protocol officers. Worked well on a slow Sunday morning, and we will see how it works when there are five plane loads arriving at the same time.

Braai time at ‘Juba Beach’, the name for the temporary housing we have established at the office. Sher did his secret Afghan chicken in yoghurt sauce on the fire, with parcels of ‘Koftas’, a minced meat dish that has equal amounts of garlic and meat.

A gazillion mozzies out after the short rainstorm. My bed the battlefield of dead, as Doom spray wrecks havoc with the ozone layer.

On our way through the afternoon traffic, turned chaotic by a blue light convoy and wild, sunglasses wearIng Presidential Guards, a woman driving a boda-boda scooter!

Marathon days at the moment, with a seemingly endless multitude of niggly issue to solve.

Some of the feedback from colleagues we have brought it to introduce improved, and best practice, in our work is quite sobering and I’ll need to see how to adjust my leadership in this crazy situation to overcome the gaps.

Lots of soldiers on the streets of Juba Town, stopping vehicles for weapon checks. Most polite, with the occasional one spaced out on some sort of substance.

My real concern is how to move my paintings home when they aren’t quite dry, knowing that everything could go nuts here while I’m away.

Dinner of cheese, pate and red wine with bunches of chat. Jim decided that I reminded him of the record cover from a small record label in Glasgow called Struggletown Records. He presented me with a t-shirt with the graphic of Everyday Struggle on it, which they have decided must become my brand.

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Messing About with Paint

Leader of the Pack

Oil on Canvas 60cmx30cm

Amongst the wheelbarrow boys who carry goods for those returning to the Protection of Civilian Camp at UN House, there is one who organizes them. Taller than the small kids who strain under their loads, he walks alongside the laden wheelbarrows and does the negotiation with the security guards to allow access.

As a companion painting to ‘Survival’, I kept the basic colours the same, increasing the size of the portrait on the canvas

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

A hot afternoon in Juba Town, with the sound of small arms fire a background to the music of Dr John. The house smells of linseed oil from my painting of a young boy with his wheelbarrow, carrying goods to the IDP camp from the taxi stop.

My painting, done with my mind conscious of the new direction our lives have taken as we have bought a property on Thyssen Island in Knysna. Up the East Coast of the Southern Cape, its on a lagoon bounded by mountains covered in indigenous forests that still contain forest elephants. Every bit as idyllic as it sounds. The property is currently used as offices and the idea is to convert the bottom story into an art studio-gallery, and the upper part into a loft apartment.

The market is busy, children are in school uniform, kids swim in the water holes following the rain, traffic police are back to create their special brand of chaos. Signs that Juba Town is returning to normal. Women sit on the edge of the road, dressed in bright kangas. Plates of stacked fruit for sale, their fingers crafting embroidered cloths.

Morning jog with the sunrise, an owl silhouetted against the moon. Kids story book stuff.

I took my phone with its movement app on my jog and was glad to find that my route is almost 5km and not the 4km I thought it was. Silly difference, but made my times a tad on the running side of a jog, rather than the walking side. Managed to trash my Achilles again which doesn’t impress me.

Demanding days navigating the continually shifting landscape while squeezing numbers into ever more improbable contortions, messing with my sleeping patterns. The new offensive launched in Upper Nile with tanks and heavy weapons isn’t making it any easier. At least the early hours gives me the chance to see the full moon.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

Dark skies, humid and hot. My body searching for breeze either from a fan, and air conditioner or the wind. The change from Copenhagen winter to the tropics, blown out of proportion by whatever bug is in my system.

Juba feels like its holding its breath as the treason trial gets underway, and there are few smiles. The centre of the town is blocked, creating crazy traffic flows through side streets, already rutted after the short rains. Soldiers seem to be all over the place, with the first signs of wounded soldiers on the streets. The corresponding increase in intimidation and harassment of UN staff remains a concern.

Said, here for the week from our Jerusalem office, took over cooking duties. Spaghetti bolognaise his culinary masterpiece, which I managed to eat without messing all over my shirt.

Huge storm over Juba Town. Rain thundering against the iron roof. Streets, rivers of mud and plastic bottles. The lot of people in the IDP camps, dire as they turn into swimming pools of filth. People stand with their few possessions and food on their heads, desperately holding onto plastic sheets, turned into sails by the wind. The real misery of war.

Inside my dry house, a gleaming new marvel of technology, runs ‘whisper quiet’ to clean my clothes. A convenience that within the context seems bizarre.

On the easel, a painting of boys at the taxi stop, with their wheelbarrows waiting to carry goods from women returning to the IDP camp.

Diary of an Adventure

Copenhagen Adventures

Pixie cafe, in Østerbro, a part of the city we had not visited before. With the weather still cold, but not freezing, we walked through the park accompanied by early dog walkers, before the city changed into residential mode. Baby strollers, joggers cyclists, competed for the section of pavement that the shipowners hadn’t commandeered for displays and special offers. The smell of coffee oozing from the walls, intoxicating.

Back into town to visit Georg Jensen, the charcoal illustrations unexpected and stunning. We found salmon for dinner at Magasin and browsed through the wine specials.

My chest and throat a bother, which doesn’t impress me.

Grey, damp and very chilly had us bundled up in a gazillion layers and heading out to the National Gallery. An excellent Matisse study the highlight, with the open walkway between the old a new buildings a bit much for my vertigo. The Rembrandt’s were amazing and being able to get so close to them, exceptional.

For my painting, I used the branches of Magnolia blossoms in the restaurant, that Terry noticed were slowly opening more each day. Around Copenhagen, many of the windows have large glass vases, with branches of opening blossoms. Spots of colour against the flat greyness.

With light rain falling across windows blazing with light, I stood outside on the pavement watching an art auction. Vibrant colours of the painting heightened by the dark and cold. No idea who the artist was, or why they demanded such staggering prices. I felt like a child looking at jars of sweets lined up on a counter.

The sun out over Copenhagen, a walk along the water to the office with a hint of a shadow. The bronze colours of the cherry tree bark in the morning light arresting.

Dinner at Toldboden (Customs House in Danish). We had no idea that the starter was actually raw scallop, as it didn’t have any flavour, the texture was strange and it had no smell. Took me awhile to understand that the asparagus and tempura fish platter wasn’t an exotic ‘toshar’ dish, but To-Share! The steak was excellent and the wines superb.

My walk was chillier than I expected. Not nearly as chilly as the group of guys in short sleeved white shirts, standing on their small yacht singing ‘Wonderful, Wonderful, Copenhagen’. The film crew on shore huddled in blankets. The light from the rising sun spectacular.

Messing About with Paint

Blossoms

Charcoal and Acrylic on Paper 25cmx35cm

Branches of Magnolia blossoms in the restaurant, that Terry noticed were slowly opening more each day. Around Copenhagen, many of the windows have large glass vases, with branches of opening blossoms. Spots of colour against the flat greyness.