Children or beggars? Or both? - In Europe, we teach our children not to accept sweets or anything else from strangers. Not healthy, not hygienic, not safe. Why does that change when people visit a developing country? There, the poor and pitiful children with their beautiful brown eyes must be craving for our sweets, pens or old toys. In general, the … Continue reading Children or beggars? Or both?
Tweets - Donald Trump made some outrageous statements during the American presidential campaign. In the western world, they’re seen, depending on political preferences, as stupid, great or completely disgusting. Africans made a game out of it, using it to both mock the American feeling of superiority in democracy as to criticise their own electoral system. Using the … Continue reading Tweets
What I’m proud of - I’m proud of this: The surprised understanding in her eyes when slowly she starts to grasp that you really don’t beat up a thief, but hand him over to the authorities unharmed The young lady who, after a lot of hesitation, seizes the microphone and gives her presentation to the dignitaries herself instead of leaving … Continue reading What I’m proud of
Across the continents - Asia and Africa, two completely different continents. Different cultures, different habits, different people. Concerning Cambodia and South Sudan, there’s also a different level of development. Still, there are things that are alike. Some problems are the same. In both countries, the national government wants to lay as many tasks as possible at the local level, … Continue reading Across the continents
Not an incubator - A female body is not an incubator where you can put things in and take things out at will. A woman in Ireland has been forced, after 25 weeks of pregnancy, to undergo a caesarean because an abortion was not allowed to her. Not allowed although Ireland since a while has a law that makes … Continue reading Not an incubator
Do what I believe in, part 2 - The first week of June I will leave Europe again, this time to go to Cambodia. Until that moment I’ll be busy with administrative and medical procedures and buying things I had to leave behind when leaving South Sudan. Most important, I’ll try to meet up with as many people as possible in this period.
Farewell to the women of South Sudan - The women of South Sudan are strong, they have to be. Once again the women and the children are the main victims of the fighting that’s going on in the country. At the same time, they hardly get a chance to be part of the peace negotiations. As in many other cases, they’re mostly ignored … Continue reading Farewell to the women of South Sudan
Children of South Sudan - December 20th, 2013 I had to leave South Sudan. I hated to leave then, and I still hate being away. I want to go back, would love to go back. A lot of people don’t understand that and ask me why I want to return to a country where fighting is still going on and … Continue reading Children of South Sudan
Self-service catering - Self-service in catering facilities, to get drinks or food, is a well-known phenomenon in many countries. The advantage for the customer is usually a lower price, the disadvantage most of the times a modest quality of the products (with exceptions of course). But the form in which it comes differs from country to country, depending … Continue reading Self-service catering
Bang - The banging continues. Ten, twenty, thirty times, one after the other. Several car alarms sound at the same time. I can smell the gunpowder in the air. The horses a bit further start to run, but they have nowhere to go, so they keep running in circles. A distant pounding makes the windows vibrate, black … Continue reading Bang
Evacuation from South Sudan - We’ve left Wau. A year ago I wrote exactly the same sentence (Dutch only), in the same situation. We have been evacuated again, had to leave because of the insecurity. Still, it’s very different now. Last year there was shooting around our house, people were fighting and dying in Wau. This year, all has been … Continue reading Evacuation from South Sudan
Training development - “So what happens to the thief of your medicines after you’ve caught him?” She looks surprised, shrugs and answers the question smiling. “We beat him”. I have to laugh and realise that it is the most probable scenario here, but it’s not the answer I would like. Back to the first session about human rights … Continue reading Training development
Social cohesion - I was raised in a small village, where everyone knew each other and looked after each other. The social cohesion was large. Most people look upon that as something positive, something to strive for and to encourage. I always hated it. The fact that everyone knew how good or bad you were at school or … Continue reading Social cohesion
Why don’t you just kill him? - “Why don’t you just kill him?” “Excuse me? I don’t think so!” The astonished expression on my face makes clear I don’t comprehend what my colleague just said, like he doesn’t understand my surprise. No, there’s no armed conflict going on, and I don’t have to defend myself against an attacker or dangerous animal either. … Continue reading Why don’t you just kill him?
New housemates - Since yesterday we have new housemates. Five of them were born in our charcoal container, see the photo below. Have a good look, some are as black as the charcoal they’re sleeping on. Very cute, don’t you think?
National Anthem - Yesterday the kids from the neighbours, between 5 and 12 years old, suddenly started to sing. Most of the times when they do that it will be gospels (they’re at a catholic school), but this time it was the national anthem of South Sudan. It’s not something I would expect to happen in the Netherlands. … Continue reading National Anthem
Patterns in the South Sudanese landscape - Weekly photo challenge From lines to patterns
Supermarket - What an extravagance. What a light. What a space. The first feelings I had when I entered a supermarket just being back in Europe were awe and wonder. The average size of a supermarket in the Netherlands is about 1.000 square metres. Five types of peanutbutter, thirty types of fruit juice, three varieties of melon, … Continue reading Supermarket
Living in the heart of the flower - During the rainy season South Sudan is green and full of flowers. Clearly, we are not the only ones enjoying this abundance. This is a reply to the weekly photo challenge.
Origin - “IDP” is humanitarian aid jargon. It means “Internally Displaced People”, or refugees in their own country. These are people that fled from one part of the country to another. The reason might be man-made such as a conflict or civil war, or it might be natural like flooding, drought causing famine or an earthquake (though … Continue reading Origin
Run for Light - Three VSO-volunteers joined the “Run for Light”, a duathlon organised by the UN. 5 kms running and 5 kms biking to raise money for a good cause; buying solarpanels for the children’s ward of the hospital. The hospital does have a generator for electric power, but that breaks down regularly or there is no money … Continue reading Run for Light
Planning - The planning horizon in South Sudan lasts for about five minutes. After that everything might have changed. “Inshallah”, if god wishes, is one of the most frequently used sentences here. It’s the answer to anything that is more than five minutes away from now. So it also is the reaction to wishes like “have a … Continue reading Planning
The face behind the statistics - I wrote about maltreatment, abuse and subordination of women before. An inevitable theme working in a women’s organisation in South Sudan. Based on a multitude of statistics it’s easy to figure out there are a lot of problems relating to a lack of women’s rights. But that’s statistics; numbers, equations, probabilities. Impersonal until the moment … Continue reading The face behind the statistics
Hippo in Wau - According to the stories there are hippos in Wau in the river Jur. A vague photograph on internet would be the proof. For a long time I thought it was an urban legend. No hippo to be seen. People said I had to wait until the dry season to see them because otherwise there would … Continue reading Hippo in Wau