Daily Archives: November 10, 2013

The First Day in Juba

Today’s blog is being posted out of order, since I couldn’t post it at the time the events were happening.  Tomorrows blog will be the one that was written immediately after it.

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Juba, South Sudan, seen from the air.

I’m writing this in advance, knowing I won’t have Internet for quite a while. I landed in Juba this afternoon, and immediately knew that taking pictures, while already becoming more difficult the last time I came, would be even more tenuous.
We had tried to make arrangements to have proper paperwork for taking pictures in the country, but were told that since I was going for missionary work and not as a journalist, I didn’t need papers so long as I didn’t take pictures of bridges, the military,etc. (see the post on staying out of trouble.) Well, evidently that info was not correct. I should have been told, “you might have a really hard time entering the country if you have a really big camera.”
Fortunately, someone was there from the aid organization we were with who was a South Sudanese citizen who could vouch for me that I was with a church group and not a news organization. I was able to bring my camera into the country, but I’m going to have to be very careful when I use it.  Consequently my small camera is getting a lot of use, and I’m glad I upgraded before I came on this trip. Nevertheless, I’m feeling a bit discouraged right now, but still glad I was able to get my camera into the country.  Not sure what I would have done otherwise. I’m also unsure as to whether the customs agent was looking for a bribe, but I’m frankly ignorant on this kind of thing.
We took a small plane into our base location today out of Juba. It was about a forty minute flight, and it was a first for me, as I’ve always gone by road before. This, I found out, was very fortunate. The wet season isn’t quite over, and what is normally four hours by road now takes two days. One thing I will tell you, is if you have the chance to fly somewhere as opposed to driving, take it. It’s far safer, and won’t leave you completely beat up afterward.

The Terrifying Sound of Silence

Just a short post as I sweat here in my hammock. As I lay here in complete darkness, but hearing music in the background, I’m reminded again of an observation made on my first visit and only confirmed since then. The South Sudanese hate silence. They listen to music all night. When they’re in a car they crank the stereo up until it distorts. You can be standing in a group of people having a conversation, and one of them will start blasting a song from their cell phone. It’s as if they think as long as there’s music or noise, things are ok. That bad things only happen during the night, when things are silent and dark, and terrible things come out of the darkness and silence. When it’s dark and silent, that’s when the attacks come, when children and cattle are stolen. It’s when the snakes crawl into your bed for warmth. It’s as if as long as there’s noise, things are alright. It’s like children who are afraid of monsters, only here the monsters are real. There’s been a lot of talk here about insecurity, about the attacks that come from cattle raiders, and the fact that they’re not far away.  70 people were killed here just last week in cattle raids, and people go to bed afraid. And so I think of that as I lay here in my hammock, wishing for silence.

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sitting at the table in the darkness in South Sudan. Click to see larger view