09 May 2013

What I see in Juba: An attempt to describe a complex city

As I was driving home yesterday evening, Juba became new to me again.  

I looked around and realized why I've been struggling to describe it.  There is a lot going on here, and I'm concerned with painting an accurate picture.  And because I've also struggled with taking and posting photographs, I haven't shared it that way much either.  But on the drive home, I decided it was time.  

When I don't have my head in the sky - because as cliche as it is to behold an African sky, I've seen some of the most beautiful skies since being in Juba - I see such a slew of interesting things. 

I see colors. 

I see neighborhoods with modern homes or offices situated next to villages with mud huts.  I see functioning solar panels and non-functioning electrical wires.  I see women in skirt suits, slacks, skinny jeans and various African fabric skirts and head wraps.  I see babies on mothers' backs and people carrying things on their heads, sometimes.  Sometimes I see people carrying things in their hands or in a bag that's slung over their shoulder. 

I see accidents and arguments.  

I see dancing and celebrating.  

I see people selling things and cooking things and washing things and sitting on things. Imagine that.  I see fourteen hands tearing and dipping bread into one large silver bowl while sitting outside in the moonlight.  I see goats, sheep, cows, chickens, dogs, cats, lizards and birds sporadically placed throughout the city.  

I see people walking and riding bicycles and driving vehicles.  I see traffic working itself out organically, most of the time, sometimes traffic police help.  I have only seen one stop sign in Juba.  I see people crossing the street with an impressive trust.  I see toddlers riding in the forward position on boda bodas. I see people riding in the beds of trucks, sometimes sitting and sometimes standing.  I see soldiers riding in the beds of trucks, sometimes sitting around a machine gun.  

I see red berets.  

I see signs that read "Thank you people of South Sudan for choosing freedom".  I see corner markets and supermarkets.  I see a football (/soccer) stadium and a university.  

I see Juba's portion of the River Nile - the White Nile - and various boats passing by.  I see two lone mountains off in the distance, one of which I've seen much closer while visiting a friend in a place called Rock City.  The mountains are made of rock.  I see trees and flowers and grass, although naturally, I see much more green during the rainy seasons.  I see a lot of earth.  Earth roads are still the majority.  I see asphalt roads, too, and some sidewalks. 

I see anger and I see joy.  I see despair and I see hope.  I see death and I see life.  

I see the fruit of hard-working, faithful people.  I see people shaking hands every day, and sometimes, when it's been a long time, I see people put their right hand on each others' left shoulder before they shake hands.  

I see faces from a vast array of backgrounds.  I see some faces that have been permanently scarred so there is no confusion about where they come from and who they are.  I see endless possibilities in the striking eyes of children.

I see people loving God.  

I see people loving each other.  

I see people creating an undeniably good current with their lives and their dreams and their love.


Jaime said...

You're a fortunate woman!! I wish I could see you!!

Caye VanWagenen said...

Some sounds familiar ... some sounds so different. I think so much is in the eyes of the beholder .... and you have some lovely eyes to see. Thanks for writing it down!

Second Sister said...

Thanks for writing this.Your description is simple, yet captures the complexity and incongruences. I am slowly starting to try to write some things about my life in Kenya. I find trying to describe things simply without losing people with all the explaining I get bogged down.

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