Week 1

Sunday 7th October

I have now completed my first week in South Sudan!

I arrived at Juba Airport on Monday afternoon, having flown via Addis Ababa. This was my first impression of the country – the airport was quite basic and not many flights – and here I was aware of the heat for the first time. The arrivals room was congested and we had to queue for passport checks and then to have our bags checked in the one small area. I was met by VSO staff and taken to my accommodation which is a guest house similar I think to many others. 12 rooms are arranged either side of a courtyard, each one with bed, garden chair and small plastic table – and a hat stand and with an en-suite wet-room, shower, WC and basin. From the road (a very rough back street) access is through a pedestrian door within a bigger door which slides back to allow vehicles to come in and park. It feels secure – the staff/owners are always here. Electricity is via a generator which is usually running between 7.00pm and about 2.00am each day. At the moment I am not sure how long I will stay here as many volunteers move into shared house but this may be fine for me.

There is lots of activity locally – small shops and street stalls everywhere, including a tea place, internet café and hairdresser just yards from the Guest House and restaurants, food stalls and shops just a little further.

There is a real energy about the country and people are open and friendly. There is fantastic potential here but a lot to do. The country is huge and sparsely populated; the infrastructure is almost non-existent in rural areas and communications very difficult.

Juba is growing fast, and one has to accept that is not yet organised like the cities we are used to, only the main streets have names and there are no proper addresses, or post service. The main roads are tarmac but as soon as you turn off those the others are very rough indeed. The traffic is very busy and confusing. There are thousands of motorbikes, many private and also the motorbike taxis – boda bodas – which are the main form of transport along with minibuses which run along a few set routes.

It is striking how many international agencies and NGOs are working here to help establish the country. You see their vehicles everywhere and I’ve already met a number of their staff. The number of volunteers here with VSO is due to increase a lot over the next year as the country is seen as very high priority.

The weather is very hot although occasionally cloudy. It feels quite uncomfortable even when sitting quietly but apparently this is not the hottest time of the year!

Most of last week was spent with the VSO staff on in-country training but on Friday I met my partner, i.e. my boss at the Ministry of Health, and I started work there yesterday and this is where my main time here has started.

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