I have started work. I’m based in a barn like building with no windows but, thanks to a local NGO, a fan that turns furiously, transforming the sauna into a fan oven. As I type there is a small river of sweat travelling down my back (not a pretty picture, but an accurate and frequent one). It’s going slowly… because of the heat… because of the postconflict status, because of many of the issues going on here to do with funding and because a large scale improvement project is about to begin. Many people have told me to be patient, and watch, and listen, and so that’s what I’m doing. I have visited one primary health care centre and also the sick kids hospital and it was very hard to see images that I’ve only ever seen on TV right there in reality. There is a huge externally funded capacity building programme commencing which I probably won’t write lots about, so I’m watching to see how that will unfold. Already it’s been interesting watching the dynamic of my work colleagues and some of those staff, especially as I try to work out how I fit in this organisation as it’s 12th member of staff.
At lunch some of my colleagues sit quietly because they can’t afford food. A colleague of mine has virtually no money but has been bringing me bread and bananas and I have been returning the favour. Humbling stuff indeed. I have so many questions, and people have been kind at answering them, however I think it will take me a lifetime to grasp the complexity of the history of this place, nevermind the pain and suffering experienced by so many. As I sat at a little tea shack run by a new friend on Saturday morning (having cycled to the market for a cabbage!) a local man offered to lend me a book on the history of Sudan. He wrapped it, drove over to the tea shack and left it for me. This is the type of kindness I have experienced over and over. The tea lady at work is delighted with my very slowly growing Juba Arabic vocabulary and insists on speaking to me at length and at speed, gesticulating wildly. She has invited me to come to her house for Kisra and beans.
It is good to be here. I am a youngster in this context, but absorbing it all like a sponge (which is a rather fitting description of my shirt and skirt right now).