Thursday, November 17, 2011

Out for a Walk

I’ve ventured out on the city streets for a walk. This doesn’t sound like anything terribly exciting, but it’s rather daunting. First, there are no street signs. If I get lost, I might well never get back. Fortunately downtown Juba is a grid pattern. So if I walk as long as I want, turn left, go one block, turn left, I will get back to Caroline’s street which is conveniently at the bottom of the grid.

I don’t have many pictures to show you, although I’ll try to get some. The big issue about taking pictures is the security forces. DO NOT, I have been told, take your camera out if any police or soldiers are around. You cannot take pictures of infrastructure or strategic places and they will decide what counts as strategic. Definitely do not take pictures of cattle pens! I won’t take my camera with me when I’m walking alone. If I get into trouble, I want someone to be with me.

When I go for a walk, I quite likely do not see a single other white person. Yet no one bothers me: no one stares at me, little kids do not ask for money (although they might well say Hello), street vendors don’t even beg me to sample their wares. Everyone just goes about their business regardless of this rather clueless blond woman in their midst.
The streets are absolutely packed. There are a few dirt patches that might count as a sidewalk but in most cases you walk in the road, trying very hard to stick to the side without stepping into the open ditch. Trucks, 4*4s , cars, scooters they call boda bodas, motorbikes. No street signs, no traffic lights, just a mad scramble as everyone hits the intersection (including the aforementioned white pedestrian) at the same time. The odd goat, chicken or dog as well.

There are tons of NGO and foreign government aid organizations here. Plenty of
mud-spattered white 4*4s on the street with UN stamped on the side. Many aid-organization trucks have signs in the window with a machine gun and a red line through it. No arms. I’ll try to get a picture. My daughter’s primary focus is health – a major challenge in a county with no hospitals. Her colleague works in food security, which I find really interesting.
Went to the market with Caroline after work. It’s just a short walk from her house. As you might expect, the market is mostly women with goods (mainly fruit and vegetables) laid out on a blanket in front of them. We bought tomatoes, avocados, cucumber, tiny bananas, and a papaya.

I don’t think there is anything better in this world than a big African avocado, unless it’s a personally picked cherry tomato. The Mexican avocados you get in Canada? Don’t even begin to compare.

I am told that almost all of the food for sale is trucked in from Kenya or Uganda. After twenty years of war, the infrastructure of South Sudan is just about non-existent and there is nothing in the way of commercial agriculture.

A county with a lot of challenges., But from what little bit I’ve seen, they have the people to match.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, about the cameras. I had mine confiscated by the army while in the disputed territory between Morocco and Mauritania. You bring back African memories, Vicki.