Keeping Cool

Monday 19th to 30th 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 highlight of the early part of this week was getting a fridge freezer for our house. We haven’t got much in the way of furniture – just a few of the ubiquitous garden chairs, a table to match and a few cooking utensils.  But the means of keeping food (and drinks) fresh is a real treat. We had been out looking for a good deal and then we went by car to get it. However having bought it the problem was how to get it home. It had to be upright and would not go in the 4×4 from VSO. So we hailed one of the motorbike tricycle pick-ups and negotiated a price to take it. They lifted it in and with 2 people in the back holding it we set off. It was OK at first on a tarmac road but I was struggling to know the best way home. The most direct  route off the main road is not too bad but to get on it off the main road there is a huge dip. 2 blocks up you can get off the main road and it’s then OK for a bit. We did that until the corner by the local shop – there was no way they could drive down the last part,it’s one of the worst roads around. So they stopped, thought about it – and carried it! 2 men got it from underneath and carried it – at least 100 yards down the roughest road I know. I stood and watched, convinced they would drop it – but they didn’t and we have a fridge – we don’t have electricity all the time but we have enough at times to keep food and drinks cold at home – luxury.

At work it was anything but – the air-conditioning has been broken for weeks and this week there was no power for 4 days as well. Which meant it was very uncomfortable – by the afternoon it was so hot I just sat there soaked in sweat – and it was impossible to work. And with no power you could only work until the laptop battery ran out. So I would search out other offices, or go elsewhere to work.

One Saturday I went exploring as usual with my other volunteer friend– this time we went on 2 buses (a 2 pound and then a 3 pound journey – that means a very long way) and we were right on the far edge of Juba – it felt very rural. It also felt quite isolated, I don’t think they have many visitors but we started talking to a man who turned out to be a  teacher at the local primary school. He showed us the school, very basic but it had been donated by a benefactor and was now run by the local community. We spent a couple of hours talking with him.

The following Saturday we went even further – in the other direction. We got a bus across the River Nile for a few miles, then got another one (which cost 5 pounds – so it was a really long way!!) It stopped where one of the main – but dirt – roads branched off the tarmac roads. There were just a few houses – but a few people were sitting under a tree and they made us welcome, getting us a chair while someone produced a cup of tea. We weren’t quite sure what would happen but after an hour or so a bus came along and we got brought back to Juba.

In between these excursions we had a real treat. There isn’t much to do in Juba but this week there was a European Film Festival, 1 and sometimes 2 films from different countries each evening for 9 days, shown in the open air at the University.

Overall it was really good and a lovely change. But it seems that it was mainly geared to the European/US contingent with cars, with very little recognition that some people (like us volunteers) don’t have cars and have to either walk or use public transport. Similarly there was little regard to the South Sudanese who would not go out later at night. They – and we – would not stay out long enough to watch the second film. However it was still a pleasure to see some good films.

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