Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventure

Laboured through my jog, the various parts of my body not working together. Think I left some of them sleeping. 

Outside the studio, life on the estuary, constantly changing. A yacht poorly positioned is careened as the tide goes out. Frantic activity to move it before it’s damaged. Firefly spots of brilliant colour from kite surfer sails in the afternoon sunlight. A visiting yacht escorted by the pilot boat to its berthing in the harbour. The launch of a new Knysna 500 catamaran, ‘Second Chance’. 

‘Erica’s Dance’, a painting of iIndigenous Erica’s growing at J9, with a touch of artistic license.

The painting has a strong masculine left, with a gentler feminine right has side. The red flowers, smaller to balance the dominant colour, especially with the orange gold underpainting. Pink Erica flowers gentler against the softer pastel like green and blues. I used stronger pink sections to link with the red flowers. 

To move away from the botanical feeling of the flowers, I used slashes of background colours to break through the flowers.

Trying to sort the struggling herbs on the patio. Managed to knock a full pot of potting soil off the edge. No blood!!

A bunch of interesting people through the studio talking about painting, art, life and experiences. A challenge to get my Afghanistan diaries onto my web page. They can be found at

http://janraats.com/afghanistan-adventure/

Came across an amazing painting by Monet of Argenteuil. ‘Flowers on a Riverbank’, that I used as the inspiration for a painting of the gardens and views out across the Dry Mill on Harbour Town.

New stock of paint arrived. Charvin from France, with interesting versions of the traditional pallet I use. French yellow, rather than the Cadmium Yellows and blues and greens that give new options for water. We were able to visit their beautiful shop in Paris a few years ago, which was impossibly imposing. 

‘Hobie 16’, a commissioned piece for a chap who comes past the studio every morning with his dogs. Probably will never get paid for it, but enjoyed the challenge as I struggle giving life to commissions. Used the vibrant colours of the Hobie sails to depict the waves.

Diary of an Adventure

An aid official’s New Year’s resolution in South Sudan

Jan Raats, country director of the United Nations Office for Project Services’s South Sudan Operations Center shares what it’s like working in South Sudan.

South Sudan isn’t just the youngest nation on the planet, it also remains plagued by conflict and a lack of infrastructure and basic resources. Aid organizations have been rushing in over the past year to fill the void, only to find harsh working conditions and, often, bleak prospects for success.

The country “remains a complex place to work,” Jan Raats told Devex this week, just days after leaders from Juba and Khartoum reaffirmed their – some would say questionable – committment to a demilitarized zone near the border of South Sudan with Sudan. Raats serves as country director of the United Nations Office for Project Services’s South Sudan Operations Center.

The international community has a lot to learn about South Sudan, Raats acknowledged, especially if it is to push for sustainable development.

The biggest impediments to aid delivery relate to logistics, he suggested – perhaps not surprising since that is UNOPS’s focus.

“There are health risks as well as a population that is still heavily armed in an economic climate where pay to security forces is poor,” he added. “There are internal and external political issues that will continue to be risk factors.”

Here’s an email Raats shared with Devex, republished with his permission:

South Sudan remains a complex place to work. We have the expected post-conflict, limited resource environment that has minimal capacity and is beset by natural, and man-made, disasters. Within this context, and given that the country is one of the most underdeveloped in the world, I expected that upholding our core U.N. value of “do no harm,” would be the easiest aspect in sustainable development within both the humanitarian and nation-building space.

It was during a conversation with a Cabinet minister of the South Sudan government, about the years of war, adjusting to a post-conflict environment, and governing, as well as meeting the never-ending priority list of nation building that I came across a key element of sustainable development. We don’t know the country — particularly when it comes to sustainable infrastructure.

In building a road, an environmental impact assessment may tell us where we cross the migratory route for elephants. Or in setting up a refugee camp, where the winter floodwaters need to be directed so as not to flood the local market. Or where material for construction activities can be excavated in a way that creates a water hafir to mitigate against intertribal conflict. All of which are activities that increase sustainable development and “do no harm.”

A factor I have not integrated into my thinking, and planning, is the huge resource of knowledge many of those in government have, after spending two decades walking across the country during the years of conflict.

In opening a road, to increase food security through market access, enhancing peace building by allowing security forces to rapidly respond to cattle raiding, reducing child mortality by enabling women to easily access clinical services, and positively impacting on the lives of girls by creating safe routes free from violence, are we creating long-term problems by not knowing that this same road is now opening areas for loggers to exploit a previously inaccessible resource? Or that the road will link two communities, rekindling a decades old conflict?

My task for the New Year is to access this pool of knowledge and as such achieve sustainable development that also does no harm.

Source: An aid official’s Newyear’s resolution in South Sudan

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

Anticipated craziness as South Sudan moves towards the first year anniversary of its crisis forcing travel changes. Fortunately I could get flights!

On the Way Home, a painting from a photo by Elke taken on the sand road that leads to UN House. Taxi, at speed, against an orange, dust filled sky. The multistory building, incomplete and open to the sky, a glimmer of what might be in this new nation.

Coughing and spluttering easing, allowing me to get out onto the road again. If only for a walk.

The Juba fashion police have decreed that I need to ditch the blue and wear wine red colour shirts, based on a shirt I have from World AiDS day. Red wine is never a bad option!

Fuel queues, blocking the roads with the black market price now 15 times the normal price. Increasingly agitated drivers a new security hazard, compounding the increased presence of soldiers in speeding vehicles. A worry.

A Study in Purple. Painting of a women in the market that has sprung up next to the road we have built. The access provided by the road allowing women to run market stalls for travelers heading between South Sudan and the DRC. Tangible results of our food security program.

Maasai objects of prestige given to me by the staff of our Kenyans catering company. The cowhide cowboy hat and beautifully crafted walking stick aging me a gazillion years.

Christmas party at the office, with dancing and year end festive relief after a traumatic year.

Paints sorted. Draws cleaned. Clothing tossed. Last week in Juba Town.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

The sounds of the call to prayer floating on the breeze.

A bunch of missions from HQ in Juba Town, and my house looks like a refugee camp again, with the washing machine and bathroom coordination the biggest challenge. Good to have their energy and expertise available at this time of change.

My body is shedding water as it tries to cool down after my jog. First time in ages I have managed the long route. My ribs only a twinge. They have cut back the summer growth alongside the road, so the sweltering canyons through which I had to jog are gone. However, it’s overcast and muggy, even if the temperatures aren’t crazy yet, and my body is radiating heat.

Lots of singing from the PoC. Managed to get the answers out to the Auditors queries after hours of deliberation.

Cold pizza slices for dinner, a spot of wine, and lots of talk. Made me realize how special the hours we spend with each other talking, joking and working as a collective group are. Rather than being alone with thoughts, ideas and worries. We share all of that, every minute, all the time and, more importantly with honesty.

Riots at UN House. Friday mischief.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

Evening, still hot in Juba Town, after a sweltering day. Generators, gasping for breath in the heat, buckling under the additional aircon demands. And, summer isn’t even here yet!

The full moon, ducking out from behind clouds forming into thunderheads. Before they loose interest and whither into puffs of candy floss. The hill behind UN House, wreathed in smoke from a dozen fires, and dust – suffocating – hangs in the air.

Wind stirring mischief.

A commissioned painting of Frangipani flowers. There is a tree outside the house I pass each morning when I go out for my jog, and after the rain has cleaned the dust from the air, it gives off a slight perfume. The Impala lilies are also flowering again, which I included in the composition to locate the painting in South Sudan.

Overcast and quiet, on a ridiculously early morning. A few noisy crows, the odd vehicle and the distant sound of singing. Drums vibrating the air.

On the drive through Juba Town, traffic lights were working, and people were actually stopping at the red lights! Traffic flow, thrown into chaos, worse than before.

Fireflies dancing at the window screen.

A bunch at the house to sort outstanding issues, fueled by a range of cheese Eddie had brought from the UK. Stilton with apricot, Shropshire blue and Sage Derby. Bougette and laughter, washed down with too much wine.

Paintings packed, the coffee machine and linen cleaned. Time to head back to the vineyards and the studio for a week.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

Sky growling. Lightning in joyful abandon. Rain on the iron roof. Air flavored with freshness.

Sheets in the wash as I managed to catch my finger on a staple that was sticking out of the mattress somewhere. The amount of blood disproportionate to the cut.

Somehow, I need to settle my restless mind and sleep before another demanding day, where I have staff who are fearful as war rages in areas where we are trying to keep access open for humanitarian operations.

Chinese evening at the house. The food good, with a variety of dishes from the impossibly hot to prawns, lamb and chicken. Surprisingly for me, was that one of the best dishes was a mushroom and chicken soup with lemon grass and ginger. Definitely not boring and my sinuses, fabulously clean!

A gentle afternoon at the river. It’s been ages since I was there, and as always the flow of the river is mesmerizing. The best part was I met Echo. A small, whippet like, white and brown dog.

Long queues at the petrol stations creating havoc with the traffic. A new industry has been created with people looking after, and moving, cars in the queue. You drive to the end of the queue, leave your car with the keys in it and then catch a boda-boda, or walk to work. Guys run up and down the queue moving the vehicles and phone you when your car is near the front. Police are monitoring the refueling to make sure that no one fills containers for resale, clamping down on a new addition to the black market.

Walk at first light, with the odd jog to the edge of painful ribs. My planned painting discarded in the beauty of the sunrise, chasing the lingering storm clouds. Turning the wet cast iron roofs into mirrors of magic.

It’s far too late for me. Necessary discussions on security issues, how to save the world and the relevance of Micky Mouse in the context of South Sudan?

I did get to spend an hour at the River Nile sorting out another multi-million dollar contract against the backdrop of war and uncertainty.

The wall outside the prison has been painted a pale yellow, with grey for the pillars. A colour scheme taken from the South Sudan coat of arms, and being used for the walls of all the ministry offices in Juba Town. The wall around our office looked terrible in comparison and is now being transformed into a brilliant white space. At least, until the first dust storm.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

Head full of cold, my cough not the best remedy for painful ribs.

I used Sariana’s photo of a field of daisies for my painting, Garden Pixie. I noticed a shadow in the one part of the picture that reminded me of a pixie. All the meds?

Solar powered traffic lights are being placed at the major intersections around Juba Town. Many of them are flashing yellow, while the few that are working are generally ignored by drivers, who are watched by the passive police standing at the side of the road. Their focus still on revenue generating truck drivers and the occasional minibus taxi.

Whilst news of a breakthrough in the peace talks are being reported and the fourth Governors Forum is underway, the first battles of the upcoming dry season are taking place for control of the oil fields.

The radio quiet, as was the PoC, after a tense night anticipating increased violence. Beaut sunrise with happy birds the only sound this early. Juba Town holding its breath???

I’m sure my email has developed its own form of virus. Every time I answer and email, it generates another multitude!

A tad surprised to receive a Liebster Award nomination from D Bandalan http://mydecadelongtravels.wordpress.com/ for my muttering and mumblings.

The Liebster Award has German origins. The word “liebster” has several definitions: dearest, sweetest, kindest, nicest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant…It aims to discover new bloggers and welcome them to the blogosphere. Bloggers award other bloggers.

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Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

My ribs still a tad painful from where my elbow went into them on my fall, so no jogging Also too lazy! I do have Japanese magic pads to ease the discomfort. My running magazine has suggested a core-muscle workout as an alternative to shaking the ground.

Sunday Papers, my painting of a man sitting in a sack of sorghum reading a news paper. There’s something timeless about reading a news paper, and it’s probably disappearing from our futures. The bag of sorghum is from the supplies handed out to the displaced people in the PoC sites, and that it’s in the market highlights how badly handouts distort local markets.

Weary after fighting with my painting. Not sure if it’s because I didn’t have a clear idea of where the painting was heading, or tried to do to many things with it. Perhaps it’s simply an indication of too little sleep with my painful ribs, or the coming to the end of my time in South Sudan, and my mind distracted by the unknown next steps??

Wine time.

A temper tantrum type storm. Night sky full of lightning. Wind, gathering its strength. Thundering, bellowing.

Craziness outside the PoC that has reviewing our security plans and contingencies in case things get out of control. Volatile it certainly is, despite the progress being made in Arusha.

VIP conveys turning the drive to the airport into a lottery. The checkin, a seething mass of people and luggage piled in any vacant spot to keep it dry with a storm breaking over Juba Town.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

After a fiery sunset, a beautiful evening in Juba Town with a huge moon and a tower of clouds flickering with lightning. Magical.

Lots of noise from the PoC, with generators thumping the still air.

On arrival in Juba, I went through the Ebola screening area, with the stamps in my passport checked and my temperature taken. Did wonder how the heat of Juba Town would affect it! The stop for screening has served to make the immigration process much less frenetic.

The house at Juba 3 after a crazy ride through from the airport. Military vehicles hurtling down the middle of the road, soldiers somehow staying in the back, bristling with weapons. Along one section of the road, power lines poles have fallen into the street with their cable forming a fence through which people scramble. Fortunately there is minimum chance of the cables being live. Towards National Intelligence they have put up street lights in the poles. Ambitious!

The alarm was strident, my legs complained bitterly and my short jogging route impossibly far on my post holiday jog. They have cut back a lot of the summer bush growth next to the road so it doesn’t quite feel like you are jogging through jungle.

Fighting down South near one of our project sites. As its an isolated community related fight there is little risk of it escalating, however, as a precaution Force Protection have deployed to check on my staff.

I was asleep long before me body reached my bed and woke a bit after five. Far too lazy to head out for my jog and rather sat watching the sunrise with a Nespresso.

Driving through Juba Town, one of my new staff remarked that the South Sudanese drive like they walk.

Notification that my post in South Sudan will be merged with the one in Nairobi. No surprise and my last day in Juba now defined. No idea what lies ahead.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

An evening sky full of lightning. The air vibrating in anticipation. Water, an unrelenting torrent. Roads, a lottery of mud. Misery in the PoC’s.

Muddy jog after a night of storms. The rain has again highlighted water born diseases from inadequate sewerage collection and disposal, primarily in the PoC areas. As a precaution, I avoided the areas on my route that are traditionally flooded.

Everyone has gone, the kitchen is sorted and there are a bunch of bits left in the fridge. Farewell for a couple of my senior staff moving onto gentler parts of the world. Sher’s Kofta and chicken kebabs, tasty. The fire perfect to ensure rapid cooking within the minimal time we had before everyone needed to get back before the curfew.

The conflict in South Sudan has been particularly harsh on women and children. Yet, they need to go on with the everyday requirements of cooking, cleaning, shopping and caring. My painting ‘Forgotten’, a women in the Konya-Konya market of Juba balancing impossibly heavy loads, doing all she can not to draw any attention to herself. Fading into the background.

First payment received through PayPal for a painting shipped to the States. Still need to check on the downside of using e-commerce platforms and regulatory hurdles. More importantly, a new home for one of my paintings.

Flooded camps in Bentiu, surrounded by nervous soldiers on both sides of the conflict. Access complicated by airfields that are waterlogged and no material available to sort them for hundreds of kilometers. Coffee discussion solutions of boulders, trees, mud and steel matting. The enormity of the task highlighted by the crashing of a UN helicopter.

The coffee machine is clean. Laundry sorted and paintings packed. Time to head to the vineyards