Home Sweet Home

Standard

Christmas

On Christmas Eve we always go to church – it’s the best day of the year to go to church because of the stories, the songs and the Christmas spirit… This year I never really got in the mood for Christmas. This year I cried in church for all my friends and all the other people of South Sudan. This year’s Christmas has been characterized by helplessness and ineptitude. This coming New Years eve I might be crying again as the sound of rockets reminds me of the small war that was going on outside my windows just one and a half week ago! But now I’m home, where my family and friends want me – in safety. Feeling useless. And a little bit fat because I ate too much candy 😉

Here’s a short movie about the Christmas for some people in South Sudan: An unforgettable Christmas

House Arrest

This blog is not about what happened/happens in South Sudan. Google the news and there’s plenty of that already. Google ‘DR Nyhedstimen’ from December 20th if you’re Danish and you’ll find me halfway in! Use Ecosia as a search engine and plant some trees.

Monday morning my boss called me and told me to stay home from work. Grounded! Few minutes after the shooting outside went berserk and throughout the morning heavier artillery was added. I gave tea to the guards at our compound, who couldn’t be relieved by new guards even if they’d been there all night – they weren’t until Wednesday noon and practically didn’t get any sleep! Anyways, we filled up the water tank, locked the doors and stayed inside. Tried to work. Did not succeed. Moved to my boss’ house where the house arrest continued. At least he had beers and some more food than we had in our house. But all our evacuation kits, which are supposed to contain food for emergencies, had been eaten up by what I guess to be previous staff, who were just hungry. Tsk. Not very smart, when an emergency actually occurs.

My local colleague and his family moved into our staff house because their own home was in the middle of the crossfire. The mom told me that the kids were finally playing again. After two days where they had just been sitting scared on the floor of their home listening to the bullets they were able to play and smile again. That made me happy!

Twitter, beer, baking bread. Joking about not making it home for Christmas. That was more or less my 2,5 days in house arrest. Very boring moments in a very exciting place.

Evacuation

Wednesday the airport opened up again after it had been closed since Sunday. See, closing the airport is a problem, when they also choose to close the only road out of Juba. That means you’re completely stuck in the city. Where soldiers are shooting and killing each other and seemingly quite a lot of civilians as well. So when the airport opened everyone wanted to get out. The road to the airport was alive with people after all life in the city had stopped Monday and Tuesday. Unfortunately we also saw a dead man just lying in the street trash with 20 people just standing and staring at the body. We also heard rumours of truckloads of dead bodies being dumped in mass graves. At this point I was quite happy to almost be out of the city.

Flying Cargo

Flying Cargo

We chartered a flight to take me and my colleagues out, which ended up as quite an adventure I must say, as we could only get hold of a cargo flight. We rang and ran around trying to get 30 other people with us, since the flight was massive and very expensive, but we really wanted to get home. So did a lot of other people so we managed to fill up the cargo – with people of course! After standing as sardines in a tin for hours in the airport security check (Juba is already one of the worst airports in the world!), sweating with fear and frustration that we might not make the flight in time (and because it was probably like 40 degrees), we finally got the whole group through. Then climbed a step ladder into the apparently ancient cargo flight and sat down 30 something people on the floor.

Flying normal

Flying normal

One woman cried as we took off. Out of relief I guess. Though fear would have been justified too… Flying as cargo is one of the weirder experiences in my life. Being evacuated was unexpected. My friend picked me up in Copenhagen airport the day after with a pair of socks and a good cup of coffee. Good friend. Survival.

Feeling weird!

Feeling weird!

 

Love, Peace & Harmony! 
HAPPY NEW YEAR

XoXo MajaSkyPapaya 

Advertisements

A picture of my everyday life…

Standard

Rainy Nights

3 am: I have to pee but don’t want to leave my mosquito-net-covered bed. I have to. It’s raining outside again. For once there’s light in the toilet because logically we mainly have power in the middle of the night and not so much at day – some people sleep with aircon on, for me this time at night means I cuddle up under a blanket and sheet. Benny (the dog) thinks it’s morning when I walk out and jumps around. I pat him on the head. Pee. On the way in I bang my forehead against the doorframe because I’m kinda stupid and save the light in spite of the generator not using more or less fuel depending on the number of lights on. Aw. I have some trouble falling asleep again because I’m thinking of bugs. I often have nightmares about bugs. Here it’s the fear of killing a nairobi fly in my sleep and waking up with 3rd degree burns on my skin or the occasional nightmares about cockroaches or crickets invading my room. I sleep.

Slow Mornings

7 am: I wake up. Partly from my alarm, partly from the construction workers starting work outside my window and all over Juba. Sometimes they play Christmas songs on Sundays, where they start equally early. That pisses me off. I’m used to the normal noise of construction and generators now and don’t notice until I leave Juba, how noisy this city actually is. It is! Very noisy!

8.15: We leave the house in our white Toyota Landcruiser. That’s the most common cars here I think. Toyota definitely has a good business in South Sudan. I call the small cars babycars and don’t understand why someone wants to drive a babycar in Juba, where half the roads are still dirt roads. Bumping up the long dirt road from our house we pass construction, hotels, NGO-compounds, nice houses, small shops, piles of trash; some of it burning, local eating places (sheds with plastic chairs) and a lot of tukuls – small mud houses. Juba kinda hides many of the people who live like this, which is probably still most of the population in the city. Most of them risk to be evicted because of the rapid growth of the city. Someone with more money wants to build a hotel for business. They are usually Lebanese, Eritreans or Ethiopians. Some South Sudanese call Juba for Djubai referring to Dubai of course – that is a very distant and unrealistic utopia I think… But it’s difficult to tell them!

At the roads there are dogs, goats and people everywhere. And boda boda’s (motorcycles) and bad drivers in general. If you run over even the most surreal looking, almost-starved-to-death street dog, someone will for sure come and claim it and ask you for a lot of money. Same for goats. If you have an accident you’ll probably be blamed. You can recognise the cars on their plates – government, police, army etc. – that’s nice, then you know when to respect the others more. But only then. If you generally respect other people in traffic too much you’ll never get anywhere. There’s no traffic lights (there’s no electricity except for generators), just chaotic roundabouts and traffic police who gesticulate madly with no one understanding what it means. Sometimes we pass ‘random-naked guy’. Homeless people who’s gone a bit mad and don’t wear any clothes. Ever.  They were in Ghana too I remember. There’s surprisingly few of them here.

9.30: At the office. It’s in a nice hotel. Some of their staffs are a little bit in love with me. Aircondition. Work. Colleagues. Coffee. Snack.

Local Lunch

13.00-14.00: Lunch. Most days in the local place at the street. I eat Kizra and Addis – that’s like a huge white pancake, kinda spongy, non-explainable, with lentils cooked in a delicious way. Because I don’t eat meat (or goat or chicken or fish I have to remember to say here as meat only = beef). I’m quite happy I don’t! Sometimes I bring lunch. My colleagues laugh at me and my carrots. Sometimes I spend my lunchbreak at the market buying overpriced vegetables/fruit and getting muddy, disgusting feet that I then have to wash with the ass-washer at the hotel toilet when I get back (like a small shower in the toilet instead of using paper?). You never know when they try to trick you in the market just because you’re Kawacha (white). I make sure people remember me. I hope that’s a good trick!

Wonderful nights

18.00: We go home from the office. Project who’s going where-when-how starts as we’re 4 people sharing one car.  Maybe I go to do yoga on a rooftop. Maybe I just chill at home; currently watching The Wire. Maybe I cook. Maybe we go out for dinner. Sometimes dinner becomes drinks.

23.00: Curfew if you’re out by yourself.

1:00am: Curfew if we’re more people in the car.

Sleep. Cycle.

The rest

Weekends are different. Days off. Swimmingpools. Friends. Parties. Another story, another time.

In a week all the above will change. A lot. Off to the field. Can’t wait!

XoXo

MajaSkyPapaya

Die, move or find a way to survive?

Standard

A small blogpost (or just watch the videos) about things happening North from where I currently am (that is Juba, South Sudan)…

Blue Nile and South Kordofan in pictures and sound

Here’s a few documentaries, which tells the stories of Blue Nile and South Kordofan in an understandable, horrific and somehow beautiful way:

The Bombing Campaign; about Nuba Mountains (also South Kordofan) – ONLY 5 min’s and worth it: http://nubareports.org/sudans-bombing-campaign/

Blue Denial; about Blue Nile (15 min’s): https://vimeo.com/75141981

Eyes and Ears of God; about South Kordofan (95 min’s): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ds8wlgwsmhM&list=PL61773FC2FF46F738
(I watched this one before travelling to South Sudan and actually had to turn it off a couple of times, because it is relatively tough to watch! Puts life in perspective I guess…)

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 08.54.32

The hidden genocides of Sudan…

I won’t write much in this post as someone else in many ways have found better ways to tell the stories of the insecurities causing deaths and displacements over vast areas along the border between Sudan and South Sudan… (also refer to my own blogpost: It’s a hard knock life…)

The border areas of Blue Nile, South Kordofan, Abyei and South Darfur are all areas of conflict, aerial bombardments and starvation – did you know? ‘Cause not a lot of people do!
Especially Blue Nile and South Kordofan are passed over for other conflicts in the media, while people suffering through their second hidden war jostle to understand where the international community are…

Those who live as refugees here in South Sudan likewise struggle to survive as their status as refugees doesn’t allow them to work and many people live in camps with very few opportunities to live a dignified life…
The people from within the areas are all looking for peace, but I’m not sure if I believe it to happen in any near future – I hope and will keep up hope just like they do!

XoXo

(a concerned)
MajaSkyPapaya

Yei Yay Yeah

Standard

Ongo-Bongo Land and people in Africa live in mudhuts!

In 2009 I spent 3 months living in a mudhut, taking cold bucket showers, squatting when using the toilet (or the big hole in the ground that is), eating only carbs and oil (aka gaining a lot of weight), having my bananas stolen by screaming, horny goats, waiting hours for meetings to happen and speaking two new languages.

Kids playing

Kids playing

Beautiful scenery on the way to Rubeke

Beautiful scenery on the way to Rubeke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This weekend it was time to go back to all that, so I went to Yei to see my old friends and visit my family in the village of Rubeke.

The road to Yei from Juba was actually okay – a dirt road still, but in many places “straightened”, so our driver could drive up to 80-100 km/h – which feels extremely fast on a dirt road no matter how smooth it is. In many other places he could only drive 10-20 km/h, so it still takes 4-5 hours (+ the time you wait for the public landcruiser to be full) to drive the mere 150 km between Juba and Yei!

Yei is absolutely wonderful – it’s cooler, it’s quiet – because of an actual public power system you don’t hear the constant noise from thousands of generators as in Juba, it’s cheaper – way cheaper!, it’s safer, it’s pretty and very idyllic. The city has grown extensively since I was there and now there are people from all tribes of South Sudan (and some from Sudan) living peacefully in the area. The city has attracted many people because of it’s schools, which are said to be some of the best in the country. Shops are blooming. Roads have been straightened.

But all in all, Yei is basically just a ginormous village still made up of mudhuts and dirt roads and millions of kids screaming KAWAAACHAAA (white person) everywhere you go. It made me feel famous for 4 days, except that most of them of course don’t know me!

Pretty girl!

Pretty girl!

Kids playing

Kids playing

Reunion

I got to see my old friends and colleagues, who were most welcoming and made me feel at home again.

The road to Rubeke !!!

The road to Rubeke !!!

Look at these two bad boys! Noel and Kevin (barely 2 years and drives around like this - with me on the back of course!)

Look at these two bad boys! Noel and Kevin (barely 2 years and drives around like this – with me on the back of course!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not least I went to Rubeke – a mere 20 km from Yei = 1 hour on a boda boda/motorbike – to see my family and all the other people in the village. I went to church – well a grown mud hut with thatched roof that is – where I got to sit 3 hours at the front for everyone to stare at me, while I didn’t understand a word. But it was just as I remembered with the singing, jumping and dancing. Also there were dogs walking in and out during the priests prayers, then the dogs started fighting and were kicked out and one of them peed on a drum. Made me laugh, inside of course. Then came a chicken along and stayed around for a while.

Shook hands, greeted many, discovered my old “room” had been knocked down and that they now had an actual bathroom – squatting still but no longer open air or high risks of falling into the “toilet”. Hugged my African mom. Waved and smiled 🙂 Except from that nothing seemed to have changed in the village for the past almost 5 years. That’s somehow sad…

The mobile phone companies are advertising in even the most remote areas...

The mobile phone companies are advertising in even the most remote areas…

My South Sudanese mom - she looked the same, I look a bit silly! :)

My South Sudanese mom – she looked the same, I look a bit silly! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well lovely days, lovely time!
Bucket showers are still nice and the local diet of carbs and some veggies soaked in oil is still very tasty, though after being fed full by my colleagues wife Grace for 4 days, I already feel I’ve gained a couple of kg’s. You just can never eat enough here and the African mamas will make sure that you NEVER go to bed hungry!

KAWAAACHAAA

KAWAAACHAAA

XoXo

Maja Sky Papaya
(now looking more “healthy” in the eyes of most South Sudanese who like women with more meat on them)

It’s a hard knock life… (for them!)

Standard

Storytelling, story story, just a story
from #blondieinafrica

Some weeks ago I met with Amma (not her real name of course) – a Sudanese lady who told me her story; one of many horrible and sad stories around here, though hers is not the worst or toughest of the stories I’ve heard…

The proud, fertile, bombed and starved Nuba Mountains

Amma used to live in the Nuba Mountains just North of the border between Sudan and South Sudan; a very fertile and reportedly very beautiful area. The story of the area is long and absolutely gruesome as it has been a place of a war tending to genocide for decades now, and yet unknown to the wider international community. For years the Government of Sudan has supported militias to kill, rape, burn and bomb people, who during the war of the 80s and 90s were regarded as primitive, uneducated, second-class citizens.

The proud Nubans are a mix of Muslim, Christian and traditional believers, but not even the Muslim Nubans were seen to fit into the Islamist Northern regime that attempted to assimilate the people of the mountains and eradicate their identity. Furthermore most Nubans were at default thought to support the rebel forces (supposedly still supported by the South Sudanese government although they of course refuse this) and thus all licit targets for execution.

Today, the militias mostly consisting of Arab-pastoralist groups, have realised that they were just being used by the Sudanese government and that they have seen about as little development as the people, who used to be a target of their violence. But then the government just put in their own soldiers to fight the battle…

There’s a long long story to be told, but a lot of people told this before me – so this was just a brief background to the story of Amma!

The so-called second war, 2011-now:

After a short period of relative peace in the mountains a new war broke out in Nuba in June 2011. On the day where this hell broke loose Amma and her family fled their home never to return just like many of their fellow tribesmen and ladies. As the military swarmed the streets they took only the basics from the house – a couple of blankets and their registration cards (ID) as the most important, then fled through the bush for 5 hours to reach their safe place. However, a lot of people had arrived before them and thus they were rejected at the door and told to stay in the camp outside. Meanwhile the military killed many a young man for – well basically for being a young man who could potentially be recruited by the rebel forces! When Amma saw her husbands best friend killed in the camp right in front of their eyes, she decided to “smuggle” her husband and brothers into the ‘safe place’, so she went in and borrowed ID cards from some young men she knew and who worked there and by that saved her family. Herself, her sisters and mother remained outside the camp for 3 days before they found means of fleeing the area.

Since that day the family of Amma have been split; her husband went to Juba and she and her sisters + mother followed after 7 months. Her brothers live respectively in Khartoum and the Nuba Mountains. Amma struggles everyday to find a way to gather the family again, but coming from Nuba this is not an easy task, since the government of Sudan believes that all Nubans travelling to South Sudan are gathering to come back as a rebel group. So if you come from Nuba and try to fly to Juba from Khartoum … well you don’t because you won’t be allowed to…! Of all places in the world Amma is dreaming of bringing her whole family together in Cairo – which is kind of ironic as the day of my interview reported several deaths from the unrest in Egypt. Since fleeing her home Amma has never been back, but she’s been told that a soldier from the government army lives in her house and holds the deed to her land. Like many other Nubans, who have fled and left everything behind she wants to go back – but not until peace comes, because now at least “we are living and our lives are more important”, said with a smile on her lips 🙂 !

Well apparently not everyone thinks lives are important, as bombing continues in the Nuba mountains – with civilians, fields, houses and markets as the particular popular targets. The story of the people, who are still in Nuba (and Blue Nile, Abyei and Darfur) I will safe for another day, another time. While Amma’s whole family survived (so far) many more people have lost their lives to bombs, hunger and diseases and continue to do so. Not only in the Nuba mountains, but in many areas of both Sudan and South Sudan conflict continues to rage and kill for various reasons. Imagine that you lived in a place where wars and conflict had been raging for more than half a Century and continues to do so, and that your greatest effort in life will always be ‘just to be alive’… I can’t even imagine how that feels in spite of living in the midst of it!

A bit about me

I’m fine, thank you, how are you?! I say that a lot, because that’s usually the reply when people say ‘hello’ and they often do! And I mean to know – how are you? Please bring me news dear readers!
Not many news from here – office life, doing many interviews, bored in the office, busy in the office. Had someone declare his love for me yesterday; apparently love never dies (5 years without seeing me, then one hour of dinner, and bam! (sorry if you’re reading this)) – naaah not then not now!
Are now driving by myself in this crazy traffic and all the mudholes of the rainy season. Have met old friends from Yei (where I volunteered in 2009) – and am going to Yei this weekend – YAY – to visit more old friends and not least my family. I eat well, do my yoga, showers are still cold, power and internet unreliable. Happy days 🙂

XoXo – stay blessed – peace out! (inappropriate as that is)
MajaSkyPapaya

(remember you can sign up for more blablabla from my blog on the top right 😉 )

Free milk is running like water in Denmark! (and a link to some secret pictures, shh)…

Standard

Sounds weird and unrealistic? Well some days ago I had this really strange and long discussion with my colleagues about our perceptions of people from other nationalities. Among them were that the majority of the American population are stupid (sorry, no names will be mentioned here; also there might have been some misunderstandings); that someone working with mentally ill people will eventually become mentally ill him-/herself and not least these guys had been taught in school that we Danes had an abundance of milk that we would drink just as water and not least for free 🙂 Maybe we have a few (failed) agricultural projects and Danish dairy (or diarrhea if you have South Sudanese humour) cooperatives from the 60s to blame for this myth. But a funny one it is. And of course all Scandinavians are always very friendly – except from the mentally ill Swedish lady-psychologist!

Generally it was really weird having this discussion because I as an anthropologist or at least as someone with a great love of most of the African continent, and thus the people who inhabit it, have often found myself in situations where I felt like I had to defend the people of less developed countries (not to generalise but I have to be broad as I’ve been in quite a few countries around the world by now) ways of doing things as rational in terms of for instance the specific cultural traditions and livelihood circumstances, compared to the ‘Western’ ways of thinking and doing things. But of course I see irrational and ignorant people all over the world including where I come from, and indeed my South Sudanese colleague had met a few of these in the US!

Anyways this was just a small chatter from me and mainly to tell you that I finally managed to upload a few photos, YAY – they are of a really low quality, but perhaps they can give you an idea of where I am! Check them out here 🙂

 

Today’s Fun Fact:

– 3/4 of the South Sudanese population have their birthday on January 1st.

 

Also if you have ten minutes to spare check out this YouTube clip showing the (utopian?) dream of building a free and fair democracy in the World’s Newest nation – it is somewhat ironic and far far far far far away from people’s current realities.

 

One love!
Maja Sky Papaya

Bored, shot, xenophobic, fine!

Standard

Heya dear readers!

I have a lot on my mind, but not much is an actual result of any exciting experiences I’ve had while living here in South Sudan. I’ll ty to make up some news 🙂 I was told to say a bit about my work, so here comes: Currently, my life is basically Monday to Friday office from 8.30-18.00 (or later) still doing some random, rather boring things. Of course all background on South Sudan, Sudan, conflicts, state building etc. are always interesting and important to work with, but currently I’m into analyzing a lot of (not very good) quantitative data – which definitely assures me that my anthropology and with that qualitative methodology is my thang. But at least I’ll learn something about quantitative methods and analysis to come in handy for any future reference, and then it’s for sure more groovy to do it in South Sudan than Denmark… I will luckily also get to do my qualitative data collection on the very secret project I’m to work on. It is indeed a confidential project, so it will also be limited what I can write about it here, but some experiences I’ll try to share perhaps in an encoded language, so you’ll just get the basic idea. We’ll see when the time comes for me to run around in ‘the field’… On weekends I relax, watch series, read books, go to the market (last time however we were drowned in heavy rains), plunder the supermarkets, go to pools, go out for drinks and mingling and dancing – with a curfew at 1am and a usually sweaty night hangovers is almost impossible, which is nice.

Random street picture

Random street picture

People seeking refuge from very heavy rains

People seeking refuge from very heavy rains

Benny - didn't want to stay in the back, so he just jumped over the seats

Benny – didn’t want to stay in the back, so he just jumped over the seats

And in spite of being semi-bored with the work for the moment I feel fine – tamam! Exceeding all expectations I get great food to eat, I can buy real coffee, they even have HARIBO candy incl. liquorice with Danish slogans on, and not least I’ve find bacon spice in the supermarket! – this is a result of mainly Eritrean, Ethiopian and Indian peoples making business in Juba, where expats and corrupt officials make up much of the economy. At least I won’t miss home too much (just feta cheese), also the prices are pretty much the same as home… I even went to a swimming pool on Sunday! But I do miss my family and friends. And some silence once in awhile… Here you either have construction workers starting at 7 every morning (incl. Sundays damnit) all over the city, which is basically just one huge construction site, or you have noisy generators powering  up the city – at least for those who don’t live in the mudhuts scattered all over.

Norwegian ambassador's swimmingpool - open for Scandinavians on Sundays

Norwegian ambassador’s swimmingpool – open for Scandinavians on Sundays

HARIBO

Imitation Bacon SpiceImitation Bacon Spice

The place is (obviously perhaps?) not the most secure place in the world. For instance we were woken up by shots at three in the morning the other day that literally sounded as if they were just outside the window. Apparently some burglar had tried to break into a compound with an armed guard that then fired his arms a lot of time. We don’t know if they catched the guy, but it was definitely a reminder of where we are and a bit difficult to fall asleep afterwards. This was a guard, but more often people hear shots at night from locals who still have their AK-47’s from the time of ongoing civil war. That’s a bit scary, but somehow you understand why they don’t want to let go – not because of some wonderful memories, but because of the gloomy peace in the country…

Another issue in the city – actually the whole country – is a growing xenophobia (intense and somehow irrational dislike (also known as racism or whatever’s worse (indeed!) than Pia Kjærsgaard)) against people from Uganda, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other surrounding countries, who come to work and live in South Sudan. There is a new ban on people riding boda boda’s (motorcycle taxis) for commercial use – only non-nationals of course, which has resulted in Ugandan boda drivers being killed on the streets by angry South Sudanese boda drivers; or they are being targeted by police and military, who do not exactly use gentle methods either. This is just one business gone wrong and there are many more areas where foreigners from these countries are targeted. The irony in all of this is that the foreigners often take jobs that South Sudanese do not want or they bring business, which is not in place within the country. For instance a recent flooding on the border point where all trade from Uganda comes into South Sudan caused an extreme surge in the price of vegetables and fruits because there wasn’t anything coming from within the country. So however big the xenophobia they are still dependent on all these people coming from outside to ‘steal their jobs and money’!

Now don’t misunderstand me, the South Sudanese are also very gentle and sweet people – I still enjoy walking in the streets, being screamed ‘Kawacha’ (white person) at by all the kids – you have to wave and say ‘good morning’ to ALL of them and they don’t stop until you’re out of sight, I love driving through and watching people where they live and work and wander, and we have some great colleges that are very good at complimenting our looks and matching clothes 🙂

Sunset by the River NileSunset by the River Nile

Sorry for the very serious and perhaps long and boring blog (you could just have stopped reading)… I’ve thought about writing some more about the South Sudanese independence and the state of things in general – but is this something you really want to read?

You get a stamp inside the hand here - guess you can't see it on these very black people otherwise :)

You get a stamp inside the hand here – guess you can’t see it on these very black people otherwise 🙂

Xoxo and a lot of looove

MajaSkyPapaya