Christmas in Juba

Saturday 15th  to Friday 28th December

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

After the European film Festival, something different – the first ever South Sudanese Film festival. I went on the Saturday (it was also on on the Sunday) – there were a lot of speeches, some singing and two comedians but they also showed a few short films made locally. All credit to local people for making the effort to get this going.

It’s certainly been interesting being here in the build up to Christmas. It doesn’t have a long lead time (unlike at home where it seems to go on for months) but over the last few weeks there have been odd signs – a bit of Christmas music,  I’ve heard “Mary’s Boy Child” a few times and even “12 days of Christmas” coming from shops and out of car windows. And in recent days there have been a few Christmas trees and even the odd Father Christmas – for example as a full size blow up doll outside a shop. All rather incongruous – images from the northern hemisphere transplanted to a very different culture and hot climate.

In work terms the week before Christmas was dominated by a 3 day conference where all the Minister of Health and Directors General from the 10 states were in Juba and met with ministers and senior staff from the National Ministry. I was lucky enough to be able to go and found it very interesting, to see the differences between the states, to observe the relationships between the national and state ministries, and to make some very useful contacts for the future.

Christmas week has been quite quiet. The people I share a house with have gone to a town in the south west for Christmas to stay with some volunteers based there, along with some other volunteers from elsewhere in the country. I was going to go too but at short notice Barbara has said she will come to Africa so we are going to meet in Kenya on the weekend between Christmas and New Year. That is great but I couldn’t do it all and also I needed to do some work if I was then going to be on holiday.

Initially I thought I would be the only volunteer in Juba – the other 3 had also made plans to go away – but as it happened I was joined here by a group of volunteers from another town who had been evacuated because of some security problems.

So I spent time with them and got to know some new people. 3 of us went to church (the Episcopal Cathedral) on Christmas Day – it was OK but a bit dour really. As we came out (from the 8.00am service) there was a lot more going on outside with young people parading and chanting, with music (which we hadn’t had at all). And the church was filling up fats – the next service was going to be far more popular but maybe it wasn’t going to be in English.

The rest of Christmas Day – and Boxing Day were very quiet – but I did get a lot of work done!

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