Archive for November, 2012

Lots more volunteers

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Monday 12th November

I am a volunteer with VSO but all entries on this blog are my personal responsibility alone and do not represent the views of VSO.

Interesting work development this week. Overall it’s still very slow and a question of finding out as much as possible, meeting people who are going to be useful contacts, and taking satisfaction from very small achievements in trying to influence things.

However this week I got to meet the Health Minister. We had heard that he wanted to meet the various “Technical Advisers” working in the Ministry which includes the volunteers. The other Ministry based volunteer had met him a couple of weeks ago and this day I went to the Private Secretary’s office hoping to make an appointment. He went in to the Minister who said come in straightaway. During the conversation he invited me to come to future Senior Management Meetings, the weekly session of the Minister and all the senior officials. So that will be really useful  – up to now because my partner has been away, I have not been able to link in to any of the management structures.

More generally this has been the week when the new VSO volunteers arrived. There had been 26 volunteers in the country (8 working in the health programme of which 3 are in Juba). This week another 19 arrived of which 6 will be in health. Most of the new volunteers (16 out of the 19) will be going elsewhere in the country but it will feel different and it will help to develop a network of people working at different levels of the system (in Counties, States and 3 of us at the Ministry in Juba)

I knew 2 of the new volunteers from training course I had attended in the UK and it was good to see them and get to know the others at various events over the weekend.

Moving house (& still catching up)

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Monday 5th November

I am a volunteer with VSO but all entries on this blog are my personal responsibility alone and do not represent the views of VSO.


The big event this week has been moving house. Negotiations about the contracts were still going on but progress was being made – slowly – and it was agreed that we would move on Saturday.

So up early and packed (didn’t take long as I’ve only acquired a few extra things since arriving). Went to my language lesson which was to be the last with this teacher. We hope to arrange more with someone else.

We had help from the VSO office and (crucially) use of their vehicle. We moved everybody’s stuff in a couple of trips and then spent the rest of the day going around buying things for the house – some basic garden type tables and chairs, cooker (electric and gas rings) , various kitchen pots and pans etc, and some bed linen. We caused a stir at one point. As we were driving to the main store, the others spotted a street seller with a garden lounger that they really took a liking to. We stopped the car and ran after him. A policeman and several members of the public thought we were chasing a thief and tried to help. We had to explain that the poor chap had done nothing wrong.

Sunday was spent doing lots more shopping – food and things for the house and in the evening we had our first home cooked meal!

The house is similar in some ways to the guest house, with single rooms (each with bathroom) around a courtyard – all within a secure compound. But it’s smaller – there are seven rooms and because there are 4 of us we are the main occupiers and the kitchen area is just for our use. But of course we have to do things for ourselves here, cleaning, making and changing beds and so on.

The building is actually in 2 parts – on the other side is a family home with its own entrance where the landlord, his wife and children all live. They are from Eritrea as were the people who owned and ran the guesthouse, and a number of other businesses. Before leaving the guest house I was talking to the manager and thanking him for looking after us. He told me something of his story and about living in a number of countries since leaving Eritrea. He and the others there have become friends and we go back there quite often (it’s a 10-15 minute walk).

Out of the city!

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Monday 29th October

I am a volunteer with VSO but all entries on this blog are my personal responsibility alone and do not represent the views of VSO.

The big news is that I have been out of the city for the first time. Yesterday we went to Nimule, a national park beside the Nile, down near the Uganda border. There were 6 of us, 3 Brits, 1 Dutch, I Canadian and 1 Sri Lankan plus our guide, an enterprising South Sudanese man who, alongside his main job, is developing an embryonic tourism business. Not much activity now but there must be potential. It took over 3 hours to get there but a fairly good road – only completed early last year. It is the only tar road in the country outside the urban areas. Saw small monkeys in various places. Along the way we went through our guide’s home village. He left as a child in 1992 and spent the next 14 years in Uganda in a refugee camp. A typical story.

At the park we picked up a ranger (armed) and drove down to edge of the Nile, went on a boat for 20-30 minutes. Landed on bank and then walked for 1 to 1½ hours, very quietly through the bush. Saw antelopes – nothing else but it was still a great experience.

We got back in the boat and went further upstream. One bank was in Uganda but the border was pretty informal. In fact we got messages from the mobile phone company welcoming up to Uganda!

As we set off from the border town for Juba we were stopped by a police woman checking papers as the road from Uganda is used extensively by all the trucks coming through with all supplies, and some people.

First half of journey back was OK but then it got dark and that was no fun. Vehicles delayed putting lights on for ever and then later there would be vehicles parked on side of road with no lights at all. Very pleased to see the hustle and bustle of Juba again!

But it had been a good day – and good to see something of rural Africa – away from the city.

A few thoughts from the week (catching up)

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Saturday 27th October

I am a volunteer with VSO but all entries on this blog are my personal responsibility alone and do not represent the views of VSO.

 On our way to work one of the dirt roads goes past a school and if we hit it at the wrong (or right) time we arrive as they are singing the National Anthem. Children are posted outside and they make sure that everybody, cars, motorbikes, pedestrians and us all stop until it is finished. Great pride in a new nation!

Before I arrived and before they all went on holiday, the three girls (well women but they are all much younger than me) who also live at the guest house had arranged for a lady to cook and bring in their evening meal. This week we started the arrangement again – for 3 days of the week. It was very nice to have one’s dinner brought in, especially because the food is so good. The lady is Eritrean but apparently used to work for an Italian company so it is mixture of food traditions.

At work it is quite common for people to wander into the office. Most are looking for other people in the Ministry but two stood out. One was when a tall thin young man came in. He couldn’t speak any English, so he hung around for a bit then produced from his bag a letter which had a heading of the Ministry of Culture, introducing him as a musician and asking for people to support him with cash or in kind. The second time a man appeared with a letter from the hospital saying he was a poor farmer whose wife had just had triplets and they couldn’t afford milk.

There’s been a development on accommodation – the girls have been negotiating for months about moving to a different house and there has been a series of delays. Suddenly it’s coming together and they have asked me if I would like to move to it as well. I was quite flattered really and although I have enjoyed the guest house, it would be very different without the company in the evening.

This week the bike broke – the crank arm with the pedal fell off after a nut came loose. Friday was a Muslim holiday and we were off work; I managed to get one of the local places to repair the bike. Seems alright but it’s making some pretty awful noises