Getting to work

At home I knew that if I left the house at 7.48am I would face a particular scenario that was different than that at 7.58 or that at 8.08am. Usually I could accurately predict traffic flow and had carefully refined my route. Between you and I, I even knew which junctions would permit me time to apply mascara and maybe even a little blusher if I was feeling particularly daring.

Here I travel to work in little combi buses. These usually have cracked windows, are totally battered, and carry at least 12 people plus a driver. At about 7.50am I frogmarch up the hill, listening to boda drivers beeping, water trucks zooming past, and usually saying ‘hello, how are yoooouuuu?’ to the children who grin and yell ‘Khwagha, khwagha! Fine! Fine!’ At the top of the road, with boda drivers calling for my attention I join the crowd standing waiting for combi buses.

You use your hands to indicate which direction of bus you want or call out which direction you’re going- either Konyo konyo (towards the big market), which sounds like a bird call when repeated fast or Juba town- which is where I’m heading. Usually a fleet of landcruisers with NGO logos hurtle past and I look longingly at their airconditioned beauty. There are few buses going the direction I want, and lots of people waiting, so when one arrives, it’s every person for herself as we cram on, trying to get a space on a ripped or broken chair, leaning towards the window for air. My route takes me past the kids hospital, the teaching hospital and then up to the Juba town market. If you want off the bus, then rather than saying ‘Driver, be a dear and kindly stop at the next point of your convenience,’ the method is to hiss ‘Ssss, ssss, sssssssssss.’ Payment is collected by a young boy who clicks his fingers for everyone to contribute a filthy green 1 SSP note. When I jump out at Juba town I power-walk a couple of blocks (already sweating at 8.20am) past money changers, past boys washing cars, market sellers setting up, and past a group of people living under sheets, making fires, feeding children and calling out ‘hello, how are youuuuuuuu?’ I might stop and buy some water or a bag of bread and then I make the turn left into my work compound, greeted by greenery. And then the work day begins…

4 thoughts on “Getting to work

  1. Absolutely Wonderful. I can’t wait to hear what happens once you turn left into that work compound. You are making my day here!

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