Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

A sky of ultramarine blue, shot through with carmine and Indian yellow sunset clouds. The beauty of nature so at odds with the daily drama.

The influence for a small painting (40cmx30cm) ‘Sunrise over Jebel Hill’, a brooding, cloudy sky full of mystery. Probably a tad more of an Old Testament feel about it, than the light Impressionist style I’m comfortable with.

Renewed fighting in the North, and talks in Addis that don’t seem to be going anywhere. Frustrations seemingly mirrored by the bank of dark clouds, shot through with lightning, and earth shaking thunder. Amongst which, the nostalgic strains of a bugle with the Evening Assembly call.

The team here for dinner and laughs. Underscored by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa that has some of my staff captive in South Sudan, as they can’t return to the country if they leave.

The washing machine scheduling eased by the installation of two new machines at Container City. The drying, now the issue, with displaced South Sudanese still roaming around the UN facility stealing anything that is not protected.

A stunning sunset. One of those ‘show-off’ skies, highlighting how far away my painting is from the spectacular.

A slow, muddy jog in the rain. Very few people out. With the sun getting up later and a covering of heavy cloud, my route so dark in spots that I was almost on my hands and knees trying to find where the road went. I have my headlamp with me now, as the water has washed away parts of the road making footing a tad treacherous.

One of my staff lost a friend in the explosion in Gaza. He was an Italian reporter and was doing a story on a bomb disposal guy in Gaza, when the bomb he was working on exploded. So much sadness at the moment.

A painting for Anna of her daughter on the beach. In her hands, a rainbow, to heal the world.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

Soldiers on the streets of Juba Town on the way through to the office. All friendly, without drama.

Passed a child running down the street with a tireless bicycle wheel in front of him and a stick to guide and keep it going. A scene from Dickens, that has crossed continents, culture and time.

Birds chirping in the reeds, the bright red bishops preening their finery. Purple summer flowers next to the road on my sunrise jog. A gentle ‘draffie’ to test my Achilles, after not using the magic blue tape.

On the streets of Juba Town, the taxi’s are sporting numbers in round circles, a bit like brands on cattle. Its part of a registration and route control system that has been introduced with revenue collection the key reason.

Sorted the washing and then put my next painting together, of the roses at the entrance pillar to the wine estate in Turin.

‘No. 40’, a gentle painting, full of the heat of summer, a loose style to represent the languid life of Italy. Colours clean, the sharpness of the light.

Eddie did a good chili con carne for dinner as we planned the move of the main staff into the temporary accommodation at UN House. Water the issue with cholera still around and the filtration system not operating yet.

A parade of people through the office after the hard decision to reduce staff numbers as we continue to hemorrhage cash in the midst of the crisis. Behind each. A family. A dream. The real tragedy being that its unlikely they will find work again, unless we are able to bring them back once the country settles down. Numbers on paper, in reality.

The tension and volatility at odds with the midday call to prayer carried on a cooling breeze. Butterflies drifting gently past mango trees.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

Arrival in Juba Town a tad stressful as Immigration and Security officials did their best to make the entry into South Sudan as unpleasant as possible.

Early start made possible by sleeping at the office. The cold shower still not my best start, even if the outside temperatures are on the ‘warm oven’ side of the scale. I slept well, with the added advantage of having a core muscle workout and my skin exfoliated by the trampoline like spring and coir mattress.

Juba Town. The Internet tragic. The covered patio of the Juba 3 house flooded. An indication of the severity of the storm that swept over Juba Town? I haven’t seen what the impact the storm had on the temporary shelters in the IDP camp, but they may have been protected by the high earth walls that surround the camp to keep them safe from stray bullets. For now, the evening is still, with only the frogs tuning their vocals.

During the storm, a bolt of lightning struck the office building, and the sound of the rain was punctuated by falling mangoes that crashed onto the roof. Noisy it was. Amongst the rain and lightning, I had staff scurrying about in the mud collecting the fallen fruit.

Difficult week in South Sudan, with fighting in Unity and Upper Nile. Shooting at the PoC in Bor following demonstrations. Reports of fatalities has again escalated tension towards the UN, with possible spillover to the PoC areas in Juba. A tad unsettling.

The night sky, menacing. Heavy, dark clouds flicker with lightning. A beast growling.

Quite a number of people out jogging on the roads within the UN House base. I managed a short jog, with a spectacular sunrise, and noisy birds. My Achilles didn’t even scream. Must be the blue colour of the strapping.

The radio, phone and email is quiet which is an indication that yesterday’s chaos hasn’t spread. The PoC areas in UN house seem still and I haven’t noticed any troop movements.

The sky is blue with puffy white clouds. Exactly what you would expect on an Easter chocolate box!

‘Shasta Daisies’, a painting from the cottage garden in summer. A peaceful, undemanding work and I’m thinking of hiding an Easter Egg somewhere in it.

20140418-172400.jpg

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

Next lot of linen washed and sorted for the ever swopping of beds as we cycle people through Juba Town.

Our Innovation Dinner in the new Tukal had a different twist with Sher deciding that his innovation was to use the local chefs who provide the daily food for us to do the cooking and to teach them how to prepare and cook Afghan food. The capacity building that is at the heart of what we do.

A hazy morning, the sounds of drumming and singing from the IDP’s. After a night of gunfire it all seems a tad disjointed. Reflected in my portrait of an old women, ‘Gogo’. My energy not quite at the levels I would have liked. In harmony with her environment, the essence of life, yellow highlighting her vitality.

Meetings with government officials to look at priorities for the stabilization of Bor, the Ghost Town of Jongelei. Disposing of wreckage while respecting ownership and environmental considerations. Getting the market functioning. Providing access to safe water. Ensuring that women and other vulnerable groups are safe. While rapidly deciding on what a future city in South Sudan should look like, are some of the deliberations. This while further north Malakal is under attack, making one wonder as to the futility of struggling for funds for another project that may be swept aside by madness.

Went out for my jog under overcast skies the sun hiding under its blanket of cloud. Amazed to see a bokkie in the road! The first bit of Africa wildlife I have seen in South Sudan. They have closed off a new section of the loop around the PoC area, so I had to change my route again. Its now a figure of eight, of sorts, and I think its a tad shorter so will need to see how to get an extra section added.

Lots of soldiers around Juba Town on our way through to the office. Vehicles loaded with weapon toting soldiers. Some crazy with lights flashing emerging from the dust in the middle of the road, others on motorcycles, or walking.

Coffee with Rachael (our environmental, security, gender person) to see if we can do anything positive on the environmental side of the PoC. We have dirty great bulldozers clearing the ground, with scant regard for anything that’s in their way. Large trees are needed for shade, although with 30,000 people expected to be housed there, I’m not sure they will survive the charcoal making process and wood fires for long. Watching the latest pictures on the news, with child soldiers evident, we did wonder if we were creating recruitment camps rather than PoC sites??

Bistro humming with a new wave of young humanitarian workers. Hair still shiny, ears pink from the sun. A few of the older hands sprinkled amongst the crowd, looking slightly rundown. A bit like an old gardening hat that kind of blends into the hatrack.

A tad surprising to be signing a gazillion contract documents, which together with a slight upward tilt in the revenue column indicates that work is underway.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

Eddie’s Innovation Dinner Challenge was to use an induction pan that works, with a pot (that doesn’t work on the induction hob) inside it to cook the pasta sauce.

We are waiting for confirmation of the ceasefire between anti and pro government forces, while there are reports that the pro-government forces have retaken Bor, assisted by Ugandan forces. In Juba, shooting was reported from High Malakal, with everything calm.

A painting of huts in South Sudan taking shape on the easel that reminds me of Monet’s haystacks. It started out as huts against the skyline. Empty of life. The earth scorched by the sun. Echoing the hopeless consequence of war. Watching the sunrise, full of promise, drums and singing from where the IDP’s are corralled, the painting took on a different life.

Rachael did our Innovation Dinner Challenge, importing help, and changing location to UNMISS. They prepared a stir-fry, and casserole full of flavour, with the biggest salad I have seen in Juba.

For the first time in ages I’m aware of dogs barking and howling as day breaks over Juba Town. It’s still dark, but birds are waking and there are roosters screeching.

Juba remains calm, with Upper Nile tense as youth militia and anti-government forces reportedly move north from Malakal where fighting is taking place within Malakal town.
Renk and Malut remain in government hands.

Went for my jog on a warm evening. My Achilles very unhappy. Not impressed.

Heightened tension towards the UN following the news briefing by the President, repeated on national TV

Low level harassment continues on our way through to the office. No drama, but a tad uncomfortable. The violence of soldiers against male civilians continues, which is hard to understand, with sticks used to cane pedestrians. Others pulled into hollows next to the road for search and interrogation. Fear reaction to the presence of the suspected, but invisible, rebel forces??

Around the streets of Juba Town, prisoners in white overalls collect litter, while truck loads of new recruits head towards the main military camp.

A bunch of guys staying in the house as we are still short on accommodation options. We did find it amusing that the subject of scheduling the washing machine and the merits of not needing to iron clothing if put on the correct spin cycle, taking it out when its damp an hanging it correctly, was such a big part of our conversation.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

Things in Juba Town today are peaceful, if tense. Mostly because the information we are getting doesn’t tell us what is actually going on. We know that there are anti-gov forces to the south of Juba and we see more evidence of tanks moving in that direction, but the reports from people coming back to Juba from Uganda say the roads are quiet with only the occasional sighting of troop movements.

Our days are filled with doing everything possible to normalize the situation for the national staff and getting programs going again, with due consideration for the volatile security situation. We are using the time to improve our planning to ensure that we are able to achieve as much as possible in the shortest timeframe. Importantly, our donors have remained supportive, despite the chaos.

Small child herding cattle along the main road unconcerned about the resulting traffic snarl.

Was hoping to head out for a jog, but the heat is brutal.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

Tonight Juba is quiet, with kids swimming in the rivers and playing amongst the rubbish, and goats, that is piling up on the streets. Apparently, the shooting in Juba last night was due to soldiers being drunk on duty, and criminal elements in the early hours of this morning. There was a short burst of fire at around 8am.

Fierce fighting is going on in Malakal as Anti-Government forces try and take the town with the focus on disrupting oil supplies. The senseless death of over 200 people when their ferry capsized in trying to flee across the Nile, a barometer of how little the people of South Sudan are considered by the combatants.

South of Juba, an SPLA General was killed in an ambush, and there were further clashes north of Juba with casualties.

We are, in partnership with the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports and UNESCO, working on the design of the National Archive building in Juba, a project supported by the Embassy of Norway. This building is to be the first national level culture institution to be constructed. Despite the current situation, the design process is still ongoing, and all partners remain strongly committed to the project. The team recently submitted a 90% complete version of the detailed design drawings and is now working closely with the government on the final stages of the task. The archive building plays an important symbolic role in the establishment of the state and nation, which is one of the main reasons why everybody involved considers it so important to continue this project in light of the current crisis.

The link to the most recent pictures on Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.243688512467435.1073741831.186546301514990&type=1

Sher, Rachael and Simon have moved into the UNDP housing which means I have the house back to myself. The linen has been washed and dried, without too much of the dust that is driving me nuts, settling in stripes.

Eddie and I did an Innovation Dinner Challenge with bougette (yes Juba Town is improving) , pâté and an excellent pecorino from the Vineyards.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

We are doing our best to share the dinner duties around amongst the guys who are camping in the houses at Juba 3. Something that we may change in the next few days as we expect another three to be coming in which will make a cook necessary. However, for now, I think there is something of a Cooking Innovation War going on.

Without a stove, Eddie and Nick cooked the rice in a pot, supported by four tuna tins and heated by tea-light candles. They did cheat a tad by first boiling the water! Their curried lentils and kidney beans were done in the microwave, and to stop the bowls from burning their hands to pieces, they used a second bowl as an insulation shell.

My cheese, provita, pate and wine did not even get onto the innovation scale.

Sprinkled through the reporting on the current conflict in South Sudan, references are made to the role of prophecies. Much do this goes back to the predictions by Ngundeng Bong, born around the 1840’s from the Nuer tribe. He predicted, through song, the coming of the white man to Sudan and the separation of North and South with military success for the South.

The link between his predictions and the current crisis is partly due to his “dang”, a rod that symbolized his power that was returned to South Sudan in 2009 from London where it had been taken by British troops around 1929, and Machar (the leader of the current Rebel forces) who has claimed to be part of the prophecy.

More information on Ngundeng can be found at
http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?page=imprimable&id_article=32258

At the office, we have very few staff at work, with most still ensuring the safety of their families given the reports of soldiers moving on the outskirts of Juba Town. The tukal is being rebuilt with thatching guys performing their miracles with grass.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

The sun didn’t rise this morning over a cool Juba Town, hiding behind a veil of haze. The drive through to the office from Juba 3 a series of snapshots of how long the road back is for this troubled country.

Empty streets this early soon after the lifting of the curfew, as people move out of Juba at night to hide in the bush, or take refuge in the UN compounds. For those who do wonder onto the roads, the lottery of soldiers at checkpoints where men are dragged from the back of vehicles, kicked, beaten and possibly killed. For women, perhaps worse. From some a smile. A stretch of road, empty of armed men. The chance to ease the tension. Coiled in your gut. Wondering. The radio quiet.