I’m very pleased to say we have received Dr Clare Attwood’s second blog post. Happy reading:
We’ve now been here 2 weeks and I’m still finding it a fascinating experience. Dave wrote about the meeting that I was supposed to write about, so I thought I would just write down a few of the random memories that we have collected so far:
1) Attending a church service, in a huge church, where there was outside space only. Being the only (very conspicuous but very welcome) white faces in the congregation. Thinking that 800 people in and around a church for 500 people was just because church-going is very popular in this very Christian area……. until realising 2 hours into a 4 hour service that this was in fact the annual confirmation of 120 children……. and they were going to be individually blessed and prayed for! Getting ready to leave 2 hours later and a HUGE thunderstorm starting. Realising that the outside shelter’s roof was bowing with the water and the electric speakers were making scary noises in the deluge……. Running into the church for cover and trying to fit 800 people in a space for 500, as well as worrying that you look as if you could be a contestant in a wet T-shirt contest. Feeling part of a huge, welcoming and equally soggy family…….. Priceless!
2) Making friends from around the world, undertaking different work and having very different views has proven to be a great eye-opener. We have made friends with people from South Africa, Spain, US, UK, Mexico, Italy, France and Canada and have heard stories from people who fly aid to remote areas with dubious runways (and who also helped me to deal with my fear of flying!), people teaching English as a foreign language, people working out statistics for the healthcare of South Sudan and others making plans to improve it. Getting a more rounded view of the issues that this country has to face, as well as learning about other areas of remarkable progress has been very interesting. Some of these people also seem to bring a bottle of wine with them to dinner. This is one of the many reasons that we have spent most time with them!
3) Laughing with a friend who bought “the best conditioner” that the local “supermarket” had to offer was an unexpected highlight. The conditioner was not for Caucasian hair and it was a deeply oily conditioner that took 5 washes with washing-up liquid to stop her looking like she had stuck her head in a bucket of oil!
4) Konyo Konyo market is our local market and the place is buzzing, 7 days a week. It is where we bartered (rather successfully) for our new (to us) mobile phone. Konyo Konyo is so noisy and incredibly dirty and is full of smells that I have never smelled before – some good, some very very bad! It is a fun place to meander, as long as you don’t mind being stared at, or stroked by children, or laughed at, or asked how you are 100 times (everyone likes to try out their one sentence of “how are you?” in English – although I know little Arabic and even less Bari (local dialect), so I can’t complain). It is enormous and is absolutely packed with cars, 10 seater mini-buses with 20 people in them, motorbikes with 3 people on them, people and animals. Everything and everyone just kind of mix in together and it is a very hot, dusty and ultimately exhilarating experience.
5) The Comboni brothers are a fabulous group of gentlemen who have been living and working in South Sudan since the late 1940s. Dave stayed with them in 2008, so you may remember them from his blog at the time. They are catholic priests, who do amazing work in Juba, such a teaching school children and providing public health services and advice. They have other groups based all over the world in other developing countries. We arrived late, after the marathon church service, having walked 30 minutes in summer clothing, with orange clay-mud-puddle-goo up to our ankles, to go for Sunday lunch at their home. We were due at 1pm and arrived at 3pm. We were still welcomed in our soggy state and were fed some delicious home cooking, whist hearing stories of their experiences. One of the brothers, Brother Valentino had just turned 90 and was fixing the engine to their truck when we arrived. He sat down and told us (in heavily accented English – he is Italian and has poorly fitting dentures) about his inspiring adventures in South Sudan since 1949. He stayed here throughout the civil war, but was offered extra military protection. However, he rejected that protection, saying “you protect everyone or you protect no one, but you do not just protect me”. He speaks Italian, English, Arabic and Bari and was able to give us all sort of cultural insights, such as what the different tribal facial scarring means. All of the brothers have their stories to tell (and that’s not to mention the sisters!) and I suspect that we will be paying them a good few visits. We’ll just try not to leave trails of orange goo behind us next time!
Right, enough wittering on from me! We’ve had loads of interesting medicine, even more hospital related frustrations and I have just dipped my toe into the water that is developing world anaesthesia. I could probably write another few thousand words right now, but instead will save your eyesight and say “goodbye” and “thank you for reading”.