Archive for the month “November, 2012”

Is it just me?

I would like to wish my millions of readers all over the world a very peaceful World AIDS Awareness Day for tomorrow. Don’t tell me you’d forgotten!

Imagine our surprise at the Ministry today when we received a circular informing us that the Government has declared Monday as a public holiday to celebrate World AIDS Day.

Am I the only one to see a certain irony in the decision to grant everyone a day off work to promote AIDS awareness?

It’ll be interesting to see what form these ‘celebrations’ take on Monday.


Sometimes you just want to chew the table!

When I was a teacher at Brooke Weston, my students used to tease me unmercifully about my fairly under-developed computer skills.  It was probably my own fault for revealing, in an unguarded moment, that my daughter had, in fact, designed some of my flashier PowerPoint presentations on the finer points of German grammar.

And now I’m in South Sudan, at the limit of my computer ability, trying to keep this blog going and WordPress, my blog-host, or service provider or whatever they call themselves, seem to be doing their utmost to frustrate my every move. 

For the past week I haven’t been able to log-in at all.  They kept asking me to fill in my WordPress email address, which I don’t have and then they kept telling me that my password was wrong, which is wasn’t, so I tried to re-register, which they wouldn’t let me, because I am an existing blogger.  And could I contact them for help? What do you think!

I was getting more and more blogging frustrated with the whole blogging business, and had almost come to the blogging conclusion that my blogging days were over.

So I sat here, getting more and more fed-up, and just filling in random email addresses and usernames, dredged up from memory from the past year, and guess what?  It worked!  I am back ‘on-line’, as we computer experts say.

Can I now remember what combination of passwords and usernames got be back into the system?  Can I BLOG!

Life is so much better with a nice cup of tea.

Life is so much better with a nice cup of tea.

We finally got WordPress to work again.

So the want to see the Minister, do you?

So the want to see the Minister, do you?

Well, you’ll have to get past these two first. They are two of the messengers who sit outside Linda’s office and run errands for the Ministry. Delightful people, but a bit scary- looking, when they don’t smile.

Meet Esther.

Meet Esther.

A market trader from Uganda.

Every Job has its Perks

… and one of the perks of living in Rumbek is that every Saturday morning I get the chance to wander into town to buy fruit from Esther.

It is an indication of how much the decades of war have held up the development of this country that despite having abundant fertile land, unlimited sunshine and, crucially, plenty of water, South Sudan still has no significant fruit growing industry. Every apple, every mango, even every banana is imported from Uganda, and all of the people selling the produce in the market are Ugandans, including Esther.

When we first met her a couple of months ago, we complimented her on the quality of the fruit on her stall by saying that it all looked very good. Her reply was “I’m good every day.”

To my credit, (or maybe out of a sense of self-preservation,) I made no comment at all.

I told you it’d come to South Sudan

I told you it'd come to South Sudan

For all those colleagues at Brooke Weston, who doubted that my wonderful bow-tie would ever see the light of day in Africa. Esther was dead impressed!

Cheap, Cheerful and Chinese

Many of the roads that have been built in South Sudan, (and there are not very many of them), have been constructed by the Chinese as part of their aid programme. 

In Rumbek, there is a large hospital under construction, financed by Chinese aid.  The trouble is that when the Chinese build anything in Africa, it is not just the engineers and skilled workers who come from China, but also most of the labourers, so there is hardly any skills transfer to the host country.

Recently is was announced that China had agreed an aid deal with South Sudan under which China would give a huge loan for South Sudan to build two University campuses.  The load will be repaid once the oil starts flowing again.  Surprise, surprise, all the contracts for the construction of the campuses were awarded to Chinese companies.

And the advantage that the Chinese derive from the aid that they give, is easy to see.  If you go into Rumbek market, you can see Chinese goods everywhere. 

If you want a motorbike or a radio or a generator or a pair of nail clippers, they’ll be Chinese. 

The bicycles that Linda and I bought are both Chinese. 

The soap powder we use to wash our clothes is Chinese.

The plastic chairs we sit on are Chinese.

Even our toilet rolls come off the slow boat from China.

China is achieving a level of dominance over Africa that the British and French tried, (and failed), to achieve by military means in the nineteenth century.  The only difference is that they are doing it by means of the cheque book and the bank loan rather than the barrel of a gun.

The Chinese built the oil pipeline from the Southern Sudanese oil fields, through Khartoum and out to the Red Sea. 

Three guesses where most of the oil ends up!

Mobility for all.

Mobility for all.

Anyone who can afford it, has a motorbike to get around on. They all come from China.

Chinese engineering.

Chinese engineering.

My bike.

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