July 14, 2015
My head is swirling with a number of issues I wish to share with you, my readers. I am going to begin to write and as I remember something, it will be added.
Yesterday I saw a puppy out by the bus stop, headed for the garbage pile. It was cute, and I am not a dog lover. However, for the millionth time it went through my head that the dogs in Juba, and in all of South Sudan, do not know what it is to be a beloved pet in a home. They do not know what it is to be fed, played with, groomed, given medical care, seen as “man’s best friend”…..instead, because veterinary services like sterilization are not available (there are no vets at all that I am aware of), the dogs continue to produce litters and they are neglected, beaten and chased. They are also public health nuisances. I keep in mind when I see a gang of dogs that were I to be bitten I would have to somehow get the last in the series of rabies shots that I began in Louisville, Kentucky. I don’t think that rabies shots are available in Juba.
The older I am the more difficult it is to use the buses here in Juba, or anywhere in South Sudan. Having to hoist myself up to a seat, having to get off and on the bus every time anyone else must exit, not always having a proper grip as the bus lurches forward or around corners, is physically challenging. In a land that currently has many people with a lack of access to water, hygiene is an issue as well. Washing hands after a toilet visit is a learned behaviour, as well as other hygienic habits.
I have come to understand why there is so many small “doo cons”, Arabic for little store. These little stores would be equivalent I believe to neighbourhood mom and pop stores in the U.S. except that they are usually even smaller than that. They may have pasta and yogurt, pop, bread, Nutella, a variety of canned goods, toilet paper, cookies, etc. They do not have vegetables or fruits, those are find in outdoor markets in various locations.
It is primarily the elite who have vehicles for driving from place to place. Most of the locals, and the PCUSA missionaries, do not have vehicles. For me to go even to a “foreign” store (and there are at least a couple of them here in Juba) would require a taxi ride. It is much easier, and more practical, to shop close to home on my way home from the college, or to venture out on a Saturday to do my shopping across the street from my apartment. Perhaps the original mom and pop stores in the United States succeeded for this very reason. They were close to home for many people who may not have transportation or rely on buses. It is also, of course, a good way to do business and earn wages. With the increasing cost of groceries and the lack of rises in wages here in South Sudan it is dubious how much those wages help. But the little stores do provide employment.
This morning I had access to an English language newspaper. I read an article on water availability in South Sudan that was devastating for me as I read it. Because the government is spending so much money on the civil war here attention is not being paid to access to clean, affordable water. The key word seems to be affordable. Clean water is not a priority, nor are medical services or education, and many people simply cannot afford it. People who cannot afford clean water either cut their consumption of water to a dangerously low level, or they get their water from the polluted Nile River. The Nile River water exposes them to dangerous diseases like cholera.
We take so much for granted in the United States. Even the water that we wash clothes in and flush toilets with is clean enough to safely drink. Here in South Sudan most people cannot afford and do not have access to clean water even for drinking.