Photo courtesy of Martin Hay

Monday, 23 January 2012


This is my friend, Mike. He took residence in my room about a week ago:

Mike, the selenopid crab spider
Mike and I have an agreement. Normally, Mike stays under the wardrobe during the day, but has free reign of the floor of the room at night, after I've gone to bed. I normally bump into him when I need a wee at 2am. Today he seemed to have over-stepped the boundaries of this agreement and perhaps is trying to negotiate some more floor time.

Mike doesn't seem to have a web, so I don't know how he manages to hunt. I saw a fly scoot past him just now and he didn't even flinch. I'm concerned he's depressed or lonely. I'd be quite please if he did decide to eat some of these annoying flies.

The good thing about having Mike around is that I'm not scared to leave my door open to let air in during the evenings any more. I mean, what could come in that is uglier than Mike! He's good at helping me put the world into perspective.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Jonglei - out of control?

A Jonglei governor stated that:

“after cattle raids in August 2011 left 600 people dead, the Nuer had agreed to halt retaliation if abducted women and children were returned. ‘This attack was supposed to take place in September but the government intervened.’

But after a three-month deadline passed and church-led peace talks collapsed in December, the rampaging youths unleashed their wrath.

Now authorities are struggling to stop a bitter enmity spiralling out of control.” (BBC News)

In the latter half of December, reportedly 6000 Lou Nuer advanced on Pibor in the Murle region of Jonglei State and burnt villages, killed villagers, abducted women and children, raided a charity-run health-care clinic and stole cattle in retaliation to the attacks carried out by the Murle in August. 

Aerial photo of Fertait village which was burnt by the Lou Nuer during December (taken from BBC)
Accurate figures of deaths, displacements and abductions have not been confirmed, but government representatives in Pibor claim that 3000 were killed, others suggest 2000-plus.

Map of Jonglei State showing the path of the Lou Nuer during their attack on the Murle over the New Year period.
Since January, there have been around 5 attacks surrounding the town of Akobo, in the Lou Nuer region, allegedly carried out by Murle, killing about 10 people and raiding cattle. Another attack was reported in Uror County, 15km from Yuai, also carried out by the Murle.   

Two days ago members of the Murle ethnic group killed up to 50 people in Duk County where another ethnic group, Dinka Bor, reside. The South Sudanese government have declared Jonglei a “disaster area”

It is widely understood that due to the civil war, which ended in 2005, there are many small arms amongst civilians and communities within South Sudan, although disarmaments in Jonglei seem to be carried out every few years or so – not always very peacefully.

Despite my limited knowledge of the region, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to suggest that the violence seen in Jonglei in 2011 has been particularly nasty, allegedly escalated by the greater presence of small and large arms spotted amongst the youth in the county, their direct source is somewhat unknown.

Local governments say that the State needs more roads so it can develop, as has become apparent when reading about aid agencies' struggles to reach affected communities by land. Other locals say that Jonglei needs more jobs and activities for young people, especially males, who are the ones that normally carry out the attacks. Some South Sudanese staff here say that the government need to ban, or cap, the ‘bride price’, or dowry, in which hundreds of cows can be demanded in return for the marriage of a particularly beautiful South Sudanese daughter. Incidentally, some areas consider beauty in a woman to be found in a tall frame, long neck and gaps in the teeth – the taller you are the more cows your parents get! It is suggested that men are spurred on by the women to carry out cattle raids and acquire cows so that they can be married to a man of choice rather than the old bloke down the way, who already has a few wives, but can pay more cows.

Or, perhaps ending the cycle of revenge and retaliation isn’t that easy? Perhaps there are people within the region encouraging the violence? Perhaps communities cannot forgive the deaths or abduction of their wives and children, or their cows which they hold in such high esteem?

I have no idea what the answer to the violence is. But, I suspect that if the young men who put effort into raiding their neighbour’s cattle and burning their neighbour’s villages took their finger off the ‘self-destruct’ button and instead put as much effort into rebuilding their communities and working together, then Jonglei might look very different. Now, how can that be achieved?!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Keren in Juba!

My very good friend, Keren, was placed in Yida (the 'transitional'/refugee camp in Unity State, northern South Sudan) very unexpectedly and at the last minute - she was meant to be going to Uganda. Go figure?

For one night only, and for a few hours, we were able to go to the pub and catch up. It was exciting and surreal to be hanging out with someone I know so well in such a foreign environment. It made me feel closer to home and made the world seem like a much smaller place. I'm very thankful for the treat of seeing her.

We attempted to take a nice picture of ourselves to mark the occasion. We took about 6. They were all terrible. Below is the best shot from my camera. My face says, "come on, this one has to look ok"?! Thinking those sorts of things doesn't really bring on the 'natural look'. Hey-ho. Keren in South Sudan!!

Keren, me, my room.
This is the last time we saw each other. Photo taken on the day I left for South Sudan back in September.  I  believe we both are wearing the same tops.

Monday, 9 January 2012

iPod and lists

I'm back in Juba and it's hot hot hot! The BBC says between 22-35 degrees. Toasty.

Things feel a little different being back this time. Before I left in December I was feeling fairly run-down and very ready for a break - it was a long 13 week slog of adjustment to a new home, a new job and a knew way of living. I've come back positive and with some tricks up my sleeve to keep me preoccupied in my spare time at the weekends. The new developments are two-fold:

Firstly, I have an iPod Nano which I do believe has changed my life - is that a little too dramatic? Let me explain. I can now listen to music; every day! I had no idea how much I took that for granted when I was in the UK. I've also discovered the world of Podcasts - I could listen to Radio 4 programmes all day without getting bored, and it helps me feel like I'm keeping a-breast with the outside world. And whatsmore, the new iPod Nano has an app which gives you information on your "work-out sessions" - I tap in 30 minutes run, it counts me down to the end, measures my time, pace, distance and calories. It even logs my work outs and lists my 'personal bests'. I can now indulge my quantitative statistical obsession as well as listen to some banging tunes to keep me moving. Winner!

The Mighty Nano, yes!
Secondly; lists. I've discovered that I like structure - a list of things to occupy me at the weekends, to tick off one by one and help prevent me from feeling "stranded" in the absence of a workday to be getting on with. Even if the list is: "1) finish book, 2) wash underwear", it makes a big difference to me psychologically when I wake-up and I know what I can be getting on with.  I've found that this has encouraged me to take control of my surroundings a bit more - make my bed when I get up rather than leaving it messy, sweep my floor even though the cleaners will be in on Monday to do it, water the garden, even though we have a gardener. It gives me a great deal of comfort to have a bit of control over my surroundings. It seems in our culture it's become 'cool' to be 'spontaneous' and 'take each day as it comes', but I'm lobbying for the re-emergence of the noble beautiful 'structure' and 'planning' as a way of life - anyone with me?!

This is my list. It's the wrong way up. Don't scrutinise it too closely, that would be embarrassing.
(In case any of you are getting worried, I went out on Saturday and Sunday with friends and went to the pub last Thursday evening, also with other people... although have no photographic evidence!)

This blog is really only to let you know that I'm back, and that I'm doing well. I've been asked to write a blog about "what I actually do out here", as it seems this is a little bit of a mystery to many people. That will be my next blog. Also, there's been quite a lot happening in Jonglei State recently, which you may have noticed in the news, I feel I should write something about it - that'll be in 2 blogs time. I'll put all this on my list. Until then.

This is a picture of me looking happy because I had a swept floor and  just completed some wedding admin. Just for the record, the dress is two sizes too big for me, but I don't care because I got it in the sale!