Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

The world is quiet on a late summer evening. Sky full of stars. Glass of excellent red (La Vierge ‘Nymphomane’). Hint of jazz. Lights along the lagoon. Owl hooting somewhere amongst the roof tops.

Legs weary after their cycle through the forest. The ride along the ‘Coffee Pot’ trail beautiful through the indigenous Forest, full of life after a couple of days of rain. Which made the ride, with the strong men, demanding. My bum a tad bruised. Glad for the extra control afforded by the wider handle bars and new grips that kept me from being thrown from my bucking bicycle. Nothing elegant about my wrestling over branches, stones and through the mud.

The trail follows the route of the old 2-Ft. narrow gauge railway line that transported timber (mostly Yellowwood) from Diepwalle to Knysna for milling and shipment. Affectionately known by the people of Knysna as the ‘Coffee-Pot’, for the engine that was fitted with bulbous spark suppressors to prevent forest fires from the steam engine.

Thrilled to see my art used to illustrate stories in the Kalahari Review. The studio quiet after the craziness of the past few months. My heads sorting the ‘monochromatic’ parameters on Fabriano paper.

Stunning crisped chicken skin, with cauliflower mash, chicken breast and a Venetian duck ragu at the J9 kitchen. Don’t think the Master Chef judges had anything that tasty, and the Graceland 3Graces was delectable.

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

Red skies at first light, with the call of a coucal on my jog. An extra loop tagged onto my long route, to take me back past the pond where water lilies are flowering.

Singing and drumming from the PoC. The background thump of a donkey generator. Very special. Even after another twenty hour day.

At the traffics lights, which continue to cause traffic mayhem, we now have street kids selling boxes of tissues and withered old crones clutching sticks for support, ruthlessly exploiting the vehicle jams. Petrol queues forming again, with some enterprising soul running a car wash service.

On the easel, a painting of rural South Sudan, Eastern Equitoria countryside, reminiscent of a Thomas Baines landscape.

Using the amazing skies over Juba to create the movement his paintings are known for, as well as colours that mimic his palette to communicate the harshness of the light over Africa. Prussian blue, Venetian red, crimson, emerald green and chrome yellow. “I only wish I could deem myself able to paint nature as bright as she is,” he wrote.

A touch of Cezanne in the sky and lightness of the trees.

‘Thought-storm’ mayhem getting me up in the early hours as I contemplate the next phase of adventures. The morning cool for my, almost, run. Troops from the contingent in a formation run at a pace that was manageable, enabling me to tag along. My legs hurting as they charged over the undulations. Drumming and singing from the PoC, an unrelenting cadence.

In Juba Town, police are removing the license plates from vehicles that are illegally parked. Not sure what the process is to get them back!

Woke to an emphysema type cough, without the TB style rattle that isn’t, thankfully, simultaneous with cracked ribs! My head a tad more vacant than it normally is, and my reaction times are almost at Knysna pace.

Tea, rather than wine. Tragic state.

Messing About with Paint


Oil on Canvas 60cmx50cm

A painting of rural South Sudan, Eastern Equitoria countryside, reminiscent of a Thomas Baines landscape.

Using the amazing skies over Juba to create the movement his paintings are known for, as well as colours that mimic his palette to communicate the harshness of the light over Africa. Prussian blue, Venetian red, crimson, emerald green and chrome yellow. “I only wish I could deem myself able to paint nature as bright as she is,” he wrote.

A touch of Cezanne in the sky and lightness of the trees.

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.

Messing About with Paint

Frangipani and Impala Lilies

Oil on Canvas 40cmx30cm

A commission piece 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.

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.