It was strange being back after the way I left. There were soldiers everywhere. In all sorts of different uniforms. South Sudanese soldiers in every shade of camo (beige, blue, green) and Ugandan troops. I have never seen so much heavy artillery in my life. Juba was a city with a pretty heavy military presence before the December crisis, but not only are there now soldiers with AK-47s everywhere, on every major road are groups of soldiers set up with giant guns. I have no idea what they’re called, but the big ones that are mounted in the back of pick-ups. So many. Good grief.
I didn’t find it unsettling. Nor did I find it comforting. Just a reminder, really of the air of uncertainty that remains. Juba is still operating under an 8pm-6am curfew. And when I went for my morning jogs there are far less people out in the morning. Otherwise, Juba seems to be shuffling right along in the day to day. There is a calm in the city as people have gone back to routines, but it is an unsteady calm. A facade of normalcy. People know that the conflict continues. There are IDP camps. And people from certain tribes scared to even venture out of these camps, fearing for their lives if they do. Tragic.
I arrived Monday morning and happened to walk into the first staff meeting since the crisis. It was joyous to see all the staff again. Smiles and hugs abounded. As I was there a few days I learned that the brother of the boyfriend of one of our day staff was killed in the fighting in December. Staff haven’t been paid because some of CCC’s funding has been pulled to be used for emergency aid by the agencies instead.
The girls remain in Yei for now. It is safer for them there. Especially with so many soldiers in the city. Our girls are quite vulnerable and it’s not a good situation. I have a few friends who live there and agreed to deliver little typed notes that I wrote for each girl. It’s weird and hard having left the way I did and being at CCC without them there. They are dear to me.
It took me two days to track down where the girls money had ended up. I was very relieved when I finally had it in hand. Only to count what was there, and have my heart sink. About 2,700 ssp (About $650) had gone missing, even though it had been locked away. Hard to find out exactly what happened during those chaotic days. Likely some of the girls? But I really don’t know. Hugely disappointing, in any case. (Some of my clothes and shoes that I had packed away also somewhat mysteriously went missing.)
This was the girls money that they’d earned for their savings. I can’t very well divide up the loss and punish all of the girls. So I used my own money to make up the difference. It is now all tucked away in the safe. (When I was evacuated the person with the safe key wasn’t there and so I couldn’t have put it in there before I left.) There is a corresponding list of amounts and names. But I’m nervous. I’m nervous that the girls may not ever actually get the money that is theirs. I’ll be devastated. And really, really angry. But for many of them it’s a few years out, when they’d be able to access their savings. So it’s something I need to relinquish control of because I can’t control it. Ah, like so much else.
It’s a relief to be back in Nairobi and it feels strange. It is not at all the sort of place I expected to find myself settling for any length of time. But here I am. Life seems to be full of things we could never even try to plan. I am planning on returning to Juba sometime in the next several months. But I think I’ll save that for the next post.
“Vines must be pruned. This looks like a cruel business. Perfectly good branches have to be lopped off in order for better branches to develop. It is a necessary business, for only the well-pruned vine bears the best fruit. The life of the vine is strengthened in one part by another parts being cut away. The rank growth has to go and then the sun reaches places it could not reach before.” Elisabeth Elliot.