Monday, April 1, 2019

Daily Challenges in Juba

There are not many ‘big’ events going on right now, so we are plugging away at the every-day tasks. Bob is teaching and staying busy at NTC, and I am meeting with people and trying to make progress related to Community Health Evangelism and some future healing and reconciliation workshops. So we thought we would share a few of the things that make life in Juba interesting, and remind us we are ‘not in Kansas’ anymore.

1. Sleeping under a mosquito net – after tucking in the mosquito net around our bed at night, it can be a challenge to get out for a mid-night bathroom run, or the net gets twisted and you feel like you can’t get away from it. We discovered that in the dry season there are fewer mosquitos, so we can sleep without the net. One night while brushing his teeth, Bob commented that sleeping without the net was “better than he had ever imagined.” The little joys in life!

Putting up our mosquito net

2. Immigration – We have to have a visa to be in South Sudan, and a work permit, and also have to register with the police every 6 months. Every time we have to visit immigration I find myself frustrated – by the unexpected fees, by the complicated process, by what feels like unreasonable requests. Recently they came out with a new registration requirement for foreigners, so I went down to the police station to register us. All the way there I prayed and tried to mentally prepare myself not to get frustrated but to accept the way things are done here. But then an officer asked for a $7 ‘tip’ for filling out a form, and in another office the worker was rude to some applicants. A Kenyan man I was standing in line with said “it is experiences like this that make me hate all of Africa!” I tried to encourage him, and found myself encouraged by remembering that this is just a small piece frustration in the larger scope of a country with many vibrant and beautiful people.

3. Shopping – I enjoy my regular walks down to the produce market, and there is a good variety of fruits and vegetables available. But availability is somewhat unpredictable, and sometimes I find myself looking for a specific thing (lemons, or bell peppers, for example) that has just gone out of season or is not available that day. At the shops, something simple like a can of kidney beans that seems to be ubiquitous will suddenly become hard to find. So for any given meal, usually food from the produce market and at least 3 different shops are the source. This week I am wondering how I am going to get to the five different stores where the things on my list can be found. So we get to practice being flexible, planning ahead, and trying to stock up when possible on things we might not find later.

One of the neighborhood stores we frequent

4. Calling people on the phone – the telephone networks here are terrible. Last night I tried calling someone, and a message said they were ‘out of the coverage area’. I tried again – ‘network busy’. I tried again – he answered, but I could not hear him. Try the fourth time – and we finally were able to talk. Most of the phone call ends up being “can you hear me? Say that again…” and shouting to try to be heard. It is really frustrating when most people don’t have ready access to e-mail that phone is also so hard. Text messages do work sometimes, but we find that with most people face-to-face interactions are the best way to make sure that we’ve connected with someone.

5. Planning – As you might know, this is an event-oriented culture, not a time-oriented culture. I still struggle sometimes with that difference, especially in trying to plan or anticipate how my day will go. A few weeks ago I came home from a women’s prayer meeting at around 3pm and said to Bob “How am I still so naive to think that a prayer meeting could just last 2 hours??" If someone says they are coming at 4pm, we know that just means the approximate time of day. “I’m coming now” can mean “I’m intending to come when I finish the current event” (which could be an hour or more from now)…so the phrase “now now” evolved to mean ‘at the present moment’. As in, “are you coming now now?”

We thank God for these little challenges that help us to adjust, to be humble, and to appreciate the differences in our cultures. You can pray for us to continue to learn, appreciate, and connect with our adopted culture in South Sudan.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17

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