Saturday, July 26, 2008

A new day has come!

Things are looking up! It had been a long few days. Every night, I'd think 'It will be better in the morning', but I would wake up unmotivated and the day would go by frustratingly. It felt like I was in a slump I just couldn't get out of - I wasnt writing. I wasn't doing anything really. The day before I left for southern Sudan, something changed. I woke up happy and actually accomplished a most impossible mission. I had bought a phone to replace my dysfunctional one, from a random stall at the market. I got no receipt for it, went home and found out it doesn't charge. So I figured I'd go back and get it repalced. I took the bus to the "stade" as I had time before, but it dropped me off at a different end. If you can imagine, hundreds of busses parked in every which direction and a huge market. I had no idea where to go. So the fact that somehow, I was able to find my way back to the store was, in and of itself, remarkable. That I was able to find the same guy and that he gave me a new phone was even more so - and a sign for me that things were about to change for the better. Then I went home and wrote two articles.

I am writing this first part of this posting in my notebook on board the plane to Juba, capital of southern Sudan, and it feels so good to be out of Khartoum. Not that I don't like it there, but I needed a change and I wanted to do more reporting on the ground. Plus, southern Sudan is considered much more "African" than the Arab north, so it should be a different experience. Some people have express concern about me going - as an Arab - to a place that was at war with the Arab government for two decades. Southerners were taken as slaves, their villages burned, their women raped and men killed. A peace deal was signed in 2005, but tension remains between the north and the south, especially along the border. But if I get into any trouble, I'll just pretend I'm a Latina! Besides, I met the ambassador to the Arab League in the waiting room at the airport and he's Egyptian too! So I've got someone in power on my side!

So here is Juba! It's VERY different than Khartoum. Much greener, cooler, much less developed of course, although it is a booming economy with construction of new homes, hotels, buildings at every corner. Since the end of the war, people have been returning at an incredible pace. People here all have their own local dialects (Dinka, Nuer, etc), but Arabic is the common language between them, although it is native to none of them. They also speak English, although Arabic is more common.

I am staying at the UN base here. And is has been quite the experience. These are the "containers" that people work and live in. Rows and rows of them. Two days later, I still get lost everytime I have to go from one to another. Wayne has been an INCREDIBLE host, and there is such a nice group of guys here that I feel right at home. It's quite different than Khartoum, where the international community is quite clicky. It feels like being at camp actually - showering in common outdoor bathrooms, eating at the cafeteria, having a group of buddies that you hang out with regularly. Everyone complains about the social scene in khartoum, but here it definately isn't lacking and there are plenty of nice restaurants to go to at night. In fact, as I'm typing this, the UN compound's disco is blaring through the walls.

I think that's all for now. Just be re-assured that the bad days are over (for now!)


Salooly said...

you're my hero! do you have air conditioning in your container?

Kamal Shaath said...

I love your positive attitude... it always shines :-)