Monday, January 13, 2020

Return home to Juba

We arrived in Juba on Tuesday, exhausted after nearly 24 hours of travel but excited to be back to our adopted home. The heat hit us as soon as we stepped off the plane, and we smiled at the stark contrast from the Illinois winter weather we had left the day before. It felt so familiar, and yet so different and strange!

On the ride home from the airport, Bob chatted in Arabic with our taxi driver. Our Arabic is rather rusty after not using it much for six months, so it feels like digging at the bottom of the closet for the word we are looking for. As I greeted some familiar women this week on the street and wished them ‘Happy New Year’, I said “Ndi mortaah kukumona”, which means “I’m happy to see you”, as long as you are understand my hodgepodge of Tshiluba and Arabic. The woman smiled at my gibberish and returned my greeting.

This week we have been busy trying to get settled again. The day after we arrived we spent the morning at the police station renewing our visas and doing the new alien registration. Another day we filled out forms and compiled documents for our work permits – the paperwork and fees required to live in South Sudan might rival that of our own country. We also have been clearing away the dust in our apartment, shopping for food, trying to get organized, and coping with our bodies that want to sleep at the wrong times. Our allergies immediately responded to the dust, and we have been sneezing and blowing our nose as we get our bodies and habits acclimated again.
Bob organizing our bookshelf to fit on new books

One sign of dry season in Juba is that there are ants everywhere – they are in search of water, so they will instantly materialize on any scrap of food or water available. One morning I opened a new bag of cereal and poured some in bowls. I could see the cereal moving, and realized that it was teeming with ants. I picked out several as they crawled around the bowl, and then asked Bob whether he thought we should eat the cereal with ants, or find something else for breakfast. “Oh, Juba!” was his immediate reply. Despite all the insects that we DID eat in Congo, we had not seen people eat common ants. “Well,” he said pragmatically “They will drown in the milk, right?” I googled “Can you eat ants?”, and the answer came back “Yes, they can be eaten raw or cooked, covered in chocolate or honey, or tossed in a green salad…” So, we plunged in and ate our cereal with ants that morning, trying not to look too closely.

Pastor Angelo was one of our visitors this week

A highlight this week has been reconnecting with colleagues, friends, and shopkeepers. Bob went to buy a few things at one of our neighborhood stores one afternoon, and was quizzed on everyone’s name, offered multiple cups of tea, and of course had sit and catch up on the news with owners. Some friends have spontaneously stopped by, giving us a break from the cleaning and helping us practice the flexibility and hospitality that the South Sudanese excel at. We are excited to re-engage with our work after long conversations with colleagues, catching up on all that has happened while we were gone. And so much has happened! We look forward to sharing more updates soon here on the blog or in newsletters.

1 comment:

Len Williams said...

So glad you both made it back to Juba safely and seem to be enjoying settling back in to your life in South Sudan. Enjoy a little sunshine and warm temperatures for all of us back in the freezing cold.
Blessings and Peace