I’ve just moved back to Juba, after a few weeks’ break in the UK, and I’m realising I know very little about this town other than that I can get a $4 sticky toffee pudding for breakfast.
That’s maybe an exaggeration. But in the process of starting up interviews again with returned Khartoum residents around Juba, I’m finding whole new neighbourhoods (and local names) I’ve never heard of before. So now I’m working on building a map of Juba that’s becoming similar to my now-ragged map of Khartoum – complete with arrows, notes and scribbled lines.
I am not an anthropologist. I’m not “trained”, I have no critical understanding of the theories or methodologies, and I have a functional legal background in interviewing, not a research one. I am also rubbish at “living in the community” – I’m a skinny-jeans-wearing, foreign-food-eating, boozing-and-dancing inappropriate nightmare.
It’s been pretty wet here. Continue reading
- Carrying water from the borehole, putting it in the bucket in the sun to warm up, and then showering at sunset outside in the grass open-air cubicle.
- Managing to work out how to use the choke on my motorbike to make it start in the rain.
- Waking up to tea and bread being brought to me by the toddler in the compound. Make ’em work.
- The moments where someone starts discussing something in an interview that I’ve been desperate for more details on, and my interpreter and I share a look of “jackpot”.
- Roasting coffee beans in a skillet in a green, green village, on Sunday afternoons.
- Being given a chunky-assed baby to hold for a bit.
- Heavy rain on my tin roof.
- People being genuinely happy and surprised when I say, I’ve heard that you were an activist for community language classes in Khartoum, ten years ago. And then them looking mildly terrified about how I’ve tracked them down.
- People giving me their “spy names” from secret work they did in Khartoum.
- Finding Nutella in a local shop. Bought three jars immediately.
- Film nights in my compound, and the joy of small boys seeing orcs and hobbits. (Ayak said she had nightmares about dinosaurs after we watched Jurassic Park, though.)
Alternative title: I bought a melon for the house, and other research adventures.
Earl Grey tea, in Mile 14.
And on the road to Wanjok from Aweil town, these lovely local schools.
I licenced my bike! After making “friends” with a lot of traffic police. No fines, just lots of awkward chat. Which was almost as bad, sometimes, but many of them were pretty happy just to have a chat to a white woman clearly learning how to work gears with her foot.
A hat made of a plastic football, in Juba.
I’m re-starting my PhD properly on Thursday, after six months of working on my Arabic, which is still only shweya, and on the South Sudan National Archives, which is also shweya, although a little less of a mushkila than when I arrived. I’m leaving Juba for Aweil – after my previous trip, I think it’s a good enough place to start work – on Thursday, with no real fixed plan after that.
I watched three football matches in three days: the first games of the South Sudan national cup. That’s officially more football than I’ve seen in months.
Aweil is very beautiful, in a completely different way. I really like Central Equatoria, particularly now the rains have started in earnest and everything is bright, fluorescent green, but northern Bahr el Ghazal has something otherworldly about it.