- If you had been cut off from news about outbreaks of violence or talks about peace deals, you might well not have known it was a time of troubles. Pagak was so relaxed. In the late afternoon we begged a ride on a quad-bike down the runway and into the township.
- Back in the NGO compound the girls, tall and lithe, were serving rice or ugali with chicken and beans. Two men of the staff were bottle-feeding a young bushbuck that had been rescued somewhere out in the bush
It’s a troubled country, South Sudan. The newest country in Africa, a very fertile country, it shouldn’t be so troubled. But it is. I’m back here for a couple of weeks. First, there was a flight from Nairobi to Juba – and then on to Pagak in Upper Nile. I found South Sudan like a country holding its breath.
South Sudan’s life force is the Nile. And the rains also have come to Juba. On the KQ flight out, as we dipped below the clouds, all was green down there. I was not looking forward to the press of the crowd in the cramped terminal. But there was no stress to the checking through. And, after the early morning shower, the air was cool.
It was a Sunday, so the traffic along the city’s roads was light. I was soon unpacking my bags in the container in the NGO compound that was going to be my refuge for two nights. It was a smart and cleverly-fitted container: a bed, a desk, a wardrobe, a shower, a toilet, electricity, and an air-conditioner.
The only down-turn of that first day was the lunch at a restaurant across the road from the compound. It was boiled chicken and glutinous rice. I had tried to steel myself for this. But I could only scoop with a spoon some of the greasy juice with the rice; the hacked pieces of chicken with pimpled skin I gave away to one of the NGO colleagues.
“What do you call this restaurant?” I asked him.
“Across the Road,” he said.
Two days later, we flew north to Pagak.