11 July 2013

A typical day in Juba

Someone recently asked me what a typical day is like in Juba. 

She wanted details. I'm not usually good on the spot so I tried to escape the question by suggesting my days are not much different than anyone else's.  And they're not.  You'll see.  But her question has stuck with me and I've taken it as a kind of challenge.  

Approximately 6:30am: I wake up just after the generator is turned off. I live in a compound, in one of four houses on the compound, three of which are occupied by expat workers, and our compound is powered by a generator from about 7pm to about 6:30am. Our compound is also protected by security guards and there are two who work overnight, every night, one of whom turns the generator off every morning.  See, when the generator turns off, my fan turns off, but that's not always why I wake up. During the rainy season, which is the cool season, I think I wake up because of the silence.  

6:30am-7:00am is the only silent time in Juba.

Approximately 7:00am: The construction guys across the street start working on a huge building they've been building since before I even moved in, over nine months ago. So, even if I'm still trying to go back to sleep, it's not going to happen. Unless it starts raining. 

(I forgot to mention, this is a typical weekday.)

So I get up. I decide what I'm going to wear for the day. I think to myself, how smart will I look today? In Juba, and I think all of East Africa and maybe all of Africa, and places in Europe and possibly even Asia and maybe everywhere besides the United States, looking smart means you look good and what I mean by good is professional, sophisticated. I am always slightly disappointed when I leave the house after deciding I can wear jeans for the day. That's not very smart. 

I decide what I'm going to wear, then I shower. Maybe. If I remembered to turn the hot water heater on the night before and it's the cool season, I shower. If I have enough energy and it's the hot season, I shower. I've never been a daily showerer, so even if I don't feel like it I won't. But I do always brush my teeth and try to do something presentable with my hair and my face. And I always put earrings in. And I put on my smart clothes or my dumb ones, depending on what I decided. 

Sometimes I drink chocolate milk. There are supermarkets in Juba that sell Nesquick, you know, the powdered stuff. It's always been my favorite, so you can imagine my delight when I discovered they have it here. Sometimes I have a bit of breakfast: cereal, toast, hard-boiled eggs, whatever. Then I pack my backpack, lock up the house and get in my Toyota Land Cruiser Trooper.  

Anywhere from 8:00am-9:30am-ish, I start up the hefty Trooper engine and commence the drive to work. It's a stick shift. I like driving stick shift. I wait for the security guard to open the gate, wave goodbye as I pass through and travel a bumpy dirt road for about five minutes until I reach the tarmac. On the way, on the bumpy road, I usually see a few familiar people, neighbors, who have taken to waving at me on a regular basis. Or maybe we have taken to waving at each other. I like that. One of them used to holler kawaje (kuh-wah-juh) at me when I drove by. Kawaje means white person. But I decided pretty early on to stop and tell him my name. Now he hollers Lindsay at me.

I get to the Tarmac road and find traffic in full swing. I get stuck in traffic jams and see accidents fairly often. Traffic police help direct traffic at certain points along the road every morning. I usually listen to Radio Miraya (a UN program), Capital FM (a local program) or Voice of America. But sometimes I just listen to the engine and the cars and people around me. After about 15-30 minutes of driving, I reach the short dirt road leading to my office compound. Then I reach the gate to my office compound, wait for the guard to open it and find a parking spot.

8:30am-10:00am-ish: I walk up the stairs to my office. There are only two floors in the office compound and thank goodness we're on the second floor, otherwise I might not get any exercise. (I play volleyball sometimes on Saturday's so there's that.) I walk into my office, greet anyone who arrived before me and plug in my computer. I work in an office most of the time. For the next few hours, I check and respond to emails, make phone calls to set up meetings, discuss upcoming field visits with my program officer partner and my boss, work on reports, chat with my coworkers, and plan for whatever else might be coming up.

Approximately 1:00pm: The generator at the office compound is turned off. Everything is run by a generator in Juba. There is no electricity. When the generator goes off, the internet goes off, and that is the universal sign at the compound to eat lunch. Most days, I walk downstairs and buy lunch from Mama Pia. She and a few other ladies cook for everyone on the compound every day. I choose from beans, rice, chips (french fries), matooke (boiled and seasoned plantains), beef, chicken, nyete (greens made from bean leaves), cooked cabbage and salad (carrots, tomatoes, red onions, green bell peppers). Sometimes I drink 7UP and sometimes just water. During the hot season, I've been known to drink three 7UP's in a day.

I also drink sweet, hot tea at the office some days.

Approximately 2:00pm: The generator is turned back on. I spend the next few hours like I spent the first few. Sometimes I have meetings with partners at the office and sometimes I go to the office of a partner for a meeting. 

We had a meeting here at the office just this morning. We're planning a trip to Western Equatoria next week and we talked about budget and logistics and discussion topics for when we meet the participants. These particular participants are part of our agriculture program. We're partnering with an organization called Sudan Development and Relief Agency (SUDRA) to work with people of two villages who were previously displaced by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and have since returned to their homes and rebuilt their lives and started farming again. I mostly included the acronyms for people who like to figure out what the acronym would be.

6:00pm-6:30pm-ish: I pack my things back into my backpack, walk down the stairs and start up the Trooper. Sometimes I drive straight home (through the thick traffic), sometimes I go grocery shopping, sometimes I go out to eat and sometimes I meet a friend to play pool. 

Supermarkets in Juba, between all of them, have a very good selection of foods: fruits and vegetables, spices, meats, cheeses, processed foods, etc. There are local markets which I have mostly been too lazy to go to. It's too convenient having supermarkets closer to home. When I shop, I find what I need and want. Eating out in Juba is not a bad experience either. There are several restaurants: Ethiopian, Indian, Chinese, American, Continental, whatever. There's this one place that serves delicious barbeque chicken pizza. 

Anywhere from 6:30pm-10pm-ish: I arrive back at home. As long as everything is working (lights, water, generator), I settle in for the night. Sometimes I settle in anyway. I cook if I haven't eaten. I listen to music or watch a TED Talk, or chat with a neighbor or read a book or that article I opened earlier or write or watch a movie or tidy up the house or take a picture of the sky. Sometimes on Thursday nights I go dancing.

9:00pm-11:00pm-ish: I make sure the mosquito net is tucked in just the way I like it. I brush my teeth. I make sure my favorite piece of fabric is on my bed in case I get chilly in the middle of the night. It's a tie dye piece I got in Rwanda. It's navy blue and white with splashes of aqua. And it's soft. I climb into bed and fall asleep to the sound of my fan and the generator.

Of course, this isn't an exhaustive account of activities. Sometimes other things happen. But this is a good picture of my typical day in Juba. 

1 comment:

Second Sister said...

I like this. I've never been quite sure how to write my typical day. I'm afraid I'd have way too many variables for people to follow... What kind of dancing is it? I've not gotten to see much Maasai dancing except at church and that is a strange bird-like rocking, jutting the neck out awkwardly succession to jutting out the backside.

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