Thursday, 26 June 2014

I was on Al Jazeera English!





It was the 15th December and I remember leaving dinner with my cousin to join a few of our friends. As we were leaving, we were warned that there were shootings in Juba.

Six months later and South Sudan's current conflict is still ongoing. The peace talks have been on and off. The fighting somewhat declined because of the rainy season. People are dying every day from simple, treatable diseases.

I've been actively following South Sudan's news, reporting on it on news sites and writing about it on social media.

It has taken a lot of my free time so I haven't really blogged as much as I used to.

Anyhow a little story explaining the image of this post.

In January I was in Nairobi with some of my cousins, 'hiding' from the situation in Juba. Me and my cousin were called into the living room by another cousin, to join him to watch Al Jazeera English. They were showing a mini-documentary on how to report South Sudan's conflict in the media. I appreciated this wholeheartedly because during that same month me and a few friends of mine had an issue with how South Sudan's conflict was being reported by the international media. We had small debates and call outs and then another scandal occurred and a petition was set up. This led to an AJE reporter writing an article in response. *

THEN came THIS segment.

Anyhow, I was really into this. I was tweeting away about the importance of reporting media in South Sudan.

I was super, super surprised to see my face! That's me? Really? I of course tweeted about that too and told a few of my friends about it. It was surprising!

A few hours later a friend in the UK was watching the same program, saw the screenshot of my tweet and paused to take a picture. Thankfully I didn't have to make all of that effort to try and get it myself because I only had 3G internet on my phone at the time and I didn't know where to find this.

Eventually I did find it when searching in April/May.

We have to defend our story. We have to defend our nation. Of course the truth is always the truth, but tell the whole truth, and not just one person's truth or half truth and half lies. It is important that people who know the history and context report the stories or set straight the media houses, who flock to place and want to sensationalise the terror. War truly is a moneymaker... but our stories have to be told with dignity and impartiality. 

* I promise to have a blog post with A, B and C and explanations. 

Friday, 2 May 2014

Roll With That Black Horse and Ride That Bitch Out!



A few months ago I spent Christmas and New Years alone. No family. No friends. No gifts. A little tree with some lights on it. A small Christmas dinner (in a can). Far from home but with a lot of good memories of it.

I didn't feel too sad because I knew things would change for the better because I knew I would change them for the better. It was all up to me, not fate, or luck (although understand that those are big players in this game too). If I didn't like where I was at that moment I couldn't feel sorry myself and blame someone else, play the victim. I was the one who put myself there and I knew I was the one that had to change. So I did.

See, misery is never very far away from us (it lurks around every dark corner) but neither is joy. You've got to roll with that black horse when it visits, ride that bitch out if you can but you've got to enjoy the hell out of the other too, when it chances to come your way. Above all, you've got to recognize joy when it shows up to dance with you and, sorry, that's not nearly as easy as it sounds.

You've got to fight tooth and nail in this life to try and be as happy as you can with the circumstances you've been given. You've got to fight with every inch of your being for that and grit your teeth and stick out your chin while you're doing it too because although without a doubt it's the right fight to be in, it's going to be hard sometimes. So hard that maybe you'll be blind to everything else. 

Along the way however, always remember one thing: even though there are people out there in the world who will take the heart right out of you...there are those who will put it right back in again (let them). Learn to recognize who they are because that's something really worth knowing. But it's up to you in the end. It's up to you to embrace the wonders in this life and to deny the darkness (and there are plenty of both). 

Be strong, be brave, be kind, be noble and above all, slay your dragons and keep on moving. Don't stop. And finally, even if happiness forgets you for a little while, never completely forget about it. It's there waiting for the other to pass. Even in your darkest hour don't ever doubt that for a second!!

In-Thought Revelations: Juba Conflict

DAY ONE

I experienced a serious case of culture shock. I even asked myself, ‘what am I actually doing here?’. I had just left a hall (with immigration, baggage arrivals, baggage search etc. all-in-one) designated as the arrivals hall of Juba International Airport. I was then met with stares, stares and more stares. Juba's bustling traffic and somewhat disorganised yet 'lively' community was the final thing that tipped me over the ‘culture shock’ edge.

DAY SEVEN

We had arrived home from hiding out at a hotel on the night of December 15th. Let's backtrack. On Day Six I was meant to go back to Jebel, but was given permission to stay another night in Thongpiny (I can only assume everything happened by sheer luck). On the afternoon of Day Seven it had just only sunk in that something serious was happening in Juba. The next three days we were indoors; we couldn't go out and get food and there were no water trucks making their usual rounds.

Thankfully before reaching Juba, I did stock up on a few food stuffs from the UK in case I would miss it. Little did I know, that this was going to be somewhat of a ‘lifeline’ while we were stuck inside our compound.

While sounds of gunfire and artillery was still persisting, social networking sites were run amok by (mostly) self-proclaimed political analysts, peace activists and eyewitness reporters (I am guilty as charged). It was forever interesting reading and hearing people's points of view on what was going on, ''was it a coup?'', ''disagreement between presidential guards?'', ''what's actually going on?''.
I shared my own experiences here on Facebook and on Twitter, some of which got me into the world media. However, not all of my postings were met with encouragement, praise and support, I did get a few messages and comments here and there that were pretty rude. One inbox simply said, 'shut up'. Some comments went beyond normality and I began to calm down on posting as requested by family and friends but still shared the usual things like gunfire sound reports, curfew, etc.

DAY TEN

We left the compound in search of food and water. By suggestion on Twitter we attempted an American/European supermarket on Kololo Road. However it was actually shut so we resorted to going to a shop owned by a Northern Sudanese. We grabbed water, fizzy drinks, cookies, croissants and walked back. It was hot, incredibly hot.
Juba was also dead. There were people around but also (and understandably) noticeably more SPLA and blue-coloured, camouflaged South Sudan Police.

Around this time I also read about the rebels approaching Bor Town and the amount of distress I witnessed on Facebook and Twitter was incredible. However, I was too much into where I was at and I had to process the fact that I myself was in a possible war zone.

People were panicking. Friends were panicking; leave, leave, leave. My passport and other items were in Jebel. I didn't have that many changes of clothes and I didn't have a lot of my things with me, but I made it work.

I guess on the Friday I managed to get to Jebel. I got into my cousin's house, grabbed all my stuff and said my goodbyes. I had my passport and this was a sigh of relief to many. But little did everyone know that I really had no intention of leaving Juba despite the conflict. I did register with the Dutch Embassy (I am a Dutch citizen). They were incredibly helpful and I could have left on the plane the very next day. But... I refused.

I had phone calls from friends and family asking me to leave. I was inundated with Facebook messages warning me; I was stressed out, very stressed out, but I knew they all meant well and it all came from a good place.

THE NIGHTS
The days were fine. We were on the compound, would drink tea, sit outside, gossip then get on social media. The night times were the scariest; almost every night I heard gunfire, sometimes accompanied with human voices and screams.

One night there was a lot of dog barking and human screams. That was the night I woke up my cousin who was sleeping next to me and I cried, a lot. I was scared. I feared for my life. I ended up cuddling up to her and then falling asleep.
Every day I did think, what would happen if they came door to door again? What would happen if Juba was taken over? Where would we hide? How could we hide? Some nights I would close the shutters of the window because I didn't want anyone to be able to look inside as we were sleeping; I was in a constant state of fear.

Approaching the second week there was a day we were meant to get a flight out of Juba to Nairobi but we weren’t able to secure the tickets. Stress was building up again.

DAY 14

Within that week we did start going back to normal life again; meeting with friends for lunch at places, going outside a little more. Life was going back to normal to some extent; there was little traffic and clearly anyone who could afford to leave did leave.
Curfew had already been imposed. Me and my cousin would also be out at Juba Central Hotel using the WIFI until 6pm (almost daily) and then rush home to avoid being inundated with phone calls from aunty and uncle. The evenings seemed long, the nights even longer. I was in fear despite staying and putting on a brave face and still being the keyboard warrior I had always been.

Not only were we plagued by fear and uncertainty, we suffered incredible boredom. Most of our nights consisted of sitting around a makeshift lamp (the flash of a smartphone with an empty bottle of Mountdew on top of it gave the room a nice green glow). We walked down memory lane and reminisced, discussed the Juba life that was before December 15th and we looked forward to the craziness in Nairobi.
In the last three days before our December 27th departure to Nairobi, we were incredibly anxious. I personally was, as mentioned before, in fear. There were many rumours and the situation didn’t appear to improve. Unrest striking Juba yet again to the point that the airport would be shut down, was a high possibility.
The day I left Juba, a major weight was lifted off of my shoulders; I went with my judgment and stayed. I left, unscathed, only to experience much more in Africa.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Game of Thrones; One Hell Of A Dream (King Joffrey) Part I

So King Joffrey's body was on display at the castle.
After his parents' unsolicited and unwarranted (on Cersei's part) tryst, the hall fell empty and it was just Joffrey.
The next minute Joffrey rises. My initial thoughts:
1) Yay he's alive!! I mean, no damn!!! He's alive!
2) I then wondered how they managed to miss his pulse and why they declared him dead,
3) I then wondered why Joffrey was faking his death,
4) I then wondered why he didn't vomit during his parents' action,
5) Lastly I wondered how in the world he managed to keep his mouth shut all this time, that (expletive) motormouth.
So Joffrey went up to the throne to proclaim to a (remember) empty hall that he's still king. So after his entire 'I am the King' speech he got off the throne and went to the platform where his display table was. The ground gave way and he fell into a cellar.
I was like 'okay damn'.
A confused Joffrey got up and wondered what just happened. He then stepped on what was clearly a trap. It was weak and it immediately gave way.
GRAPHIC WARNING:
Underneath the trap where he fell, were a series of sharp round blades. Joffrey fell right on top of it, with the blades cutting through his body. His panic was major. I was surprised he was still alive but then I wasn't because this boy loved being king more than anything.
The blades then rotated, Joffrey panicking. For some reason he was wearing an armour of some sort at that point but that did nothing to defend him against the blades. So the blades rotated and Joffrey died a horrible death.
All pieces of Joffrey fell through the gaps underneath these blades and him in many pieces fell on top of a pile of silver, in a completely blacked out space where I couldn't see the walls.
The silver was melted over and the output of it was dreadful. I guess as a result of what happened to his body during the process, it was all silver. He got cremated.
And so we were at the palace and like reciting a shopping list, one of the keepers said the silver piece was to be hung in the hall where late kings were commemorated.
His ultimate and untimely death was tragic. Whoever wanted him dead really pulled out all the stops. It was plan B after the choking pie plan. He truly died in a way he deserved to die.
RIP Joffrey.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Their Hearts' Truth.

What was, was real. At least to her unsuspecting mind, clouded by love, which rendered her dumb, deaf and blind.

And so it was invalidated, brushed-off as a Summer-break love (the one that ends as summer does), a tryst, a fling, a casual date, not a love rendering one dumb, deaf and blind.

It was real. All real. But just to her. And a few who only heard her heart's truth and not his.

Her truth, the one which her heart spoke of, was the sense that it was real, genuine, sincere. Her love, his love, was real, to her.

His truth, the one his mouth spoke of, was that it didn't feel right; his heart wasn't ready to love...

Now his heart did speak of love, but that love, was not for her... it was never meant for her. His heart was never hers.

Her heart felt his mouth was recounting a lie, disguising his heart's truth; his love was never given to her. It was never meant for her.

Her love for self was an overwhelming force, more powerful than her need for him and his comfort, his warmth...

With the strength of her heart, her heart acknowledged that the only one worthy of it, is one whose heart has the same truth as hers; her love, his love, is real, to her and to him.

Stolen plans.

Ever encountered an idea and you looked at it and you were like 'hey... that's mine?'... or maybe you just recognised that someone took that idea from someone else?

No big deal. 

It is not that of a big deal (unless it's really bordering copyright infringement etc. - something completely illegal).

Why did they take the idea?

People who often steal ideas are taking it, all for the wrong reasons. They want the recognition you get, the money you get and all the other perks that comes along with doing what you are doing.

Is inspiring the same thing as stealing?

Now there's nothing wrong with inspiring someone. It's beyond your control and it is bound to happen if you're accomplishing great things.

I often get approached and asked for advice regarding writing, i.e. how they can become better, how they can return to writing or how they can make a success out of it. I am more than happy to help and provide them with advice on how they can do that.

However, when people blatantly steal your style of writing or topic, I give a major side-eye. There is nothing dignified or sincere about that.

They won't be as successful because their voice is not authentic. It's not theirs. They have a facade that they have to keep up and besides the writing, the facade will become like a full-time job; it's impossible to keep up.

At some point their interest will start to fade, their work may be come sloppy and ultimately, they will fail.

I view taking a persona, a style, an idea, with little sincerity, as living a facade, keeping up appearances. It's unsustainable.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Coffee in Nairobi.

ArtCaffe's cappuccino.
Coffee lover. Coffee addict. Coffee connoisseur. Whichever noun pertaining to my love for coffee is an accurate description of my relationship with this bitter beverage.  

In South Sudan they don't really have any standalone coffee places but they do have a few nice places that serve good coffee. One such place is Le Bistro in New Sudan Palace Hotel in Juba. I was coffee-deprived and that cappuccino really hit the spot. 

In Nairobi they have a few nice places for coffee such as ArtcaffeDorman's and Nairobi Java House

On this day (pictured) the sun was setting and me and my cousin were at the Java House, verbally running through our trip thus far while enjoying our drinks and baked sweetness. 

Cappuccino.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

For The Girl Who Gave Her Heart But Was Given It Back Broken.

This post summarised.

You have given it your all; your time, your attention, your loyalty, your devotion, your energy... your love, sweet, sweet love.

The love you had was...

  • The kind of love that overlooked his flaws (flaws which could easily constitute as a turn-off when exhibited by others) 
  • The kind of love that enabled you to forgive him for carrying out every little thing written on your 'no way' list
  • The kind of love that had made you feel like you were in the honeymoon period in your very first month of being his
  • The very same love that made you think of him when you got up and went through your day, he was a thought at night and the final thought in your dreams...
... that kind of 'love'.

Whatever was felt, infatuation or love, in that short period of time, you were smitten. So, so, smitten.

Summer ends... and when it ends, all dies. The ending is crushing. The way it ended and the aftermath felt like salt added to the wound; it made it sting, worsening the pain, prolonging the pain and perhaps the healing process.

For the girl who gave her heart but was given it broken in return, it was a lesson.

As cliché as it sounds, a broken heart and an ended relationship are lessons.

It teaches you:
  • To regroup and refocus on self; build yourself, strengthen yourself, love yourself more than you could love anyone else, so that you are ready to be loved and love again, in a healthy, free and independent way
  • What is good for you and what is bad for you
  • What you like and don't like (often you think you know what you want until you actually try it)
  • To actually go with your gut instinct more and/or develop and trust it
  • How to deal with intense emotions such as anger and sadness, you learn how to deal with it all (you may even find that some coping mechanisms may be too destructive, leading you to choose a better coping mechanism which you can also apply to other situations)
  • What boundaries to set and perhaps when to set them
  • That relationships aren't all romantic, full of chocolate and roses but rather a mix of ups and downs (for the downs to change into ups a dedicated couple is needed)
You've given your heart, only for him to give it back broken and often, he didn't give you his to begin with.
 
The pain cannot be sugarcoated with any kind of sugar. But like most things that hurt or damage, it will cause some kind of wound that needs to heal. You need to heal first and foremost. 
 
When it's truly over, disconnect yourself from the situation and the person in question; then become selfish. Becoming selfish at this point is difficult because your thoughts are still occupied with someone who is not for you and who is not with you. You will miss him, the support, the love and the good times. 
When it can still be saved, decide if it is worth saving. Decide if the offence caused is worthy of more of your time and energy, decide if it is worthy of your happiness, decide if it is worthy of your future possibilities. 
If you've accepted or found the strength to decide that it's over, focus on healing. Focus on your emotions. Not his, not what he is thinking or feeling... not what will happen to him after the fact. He is not your responsibility anymore.
Letting go

You decide to hold on or let go after weighing up the possible results of holding on and letting go. Letting go there and then may hurt at the very beginning but in the long-run it may actually be better than holding onto something that is sinking and making you suffer all along the way. It's natural to feel unprepared to let go, but sooner is often better than later.

It hurts.
 
It's hurting. The tears will fall, or may not fall or may fall but not as often as it doesn't and that is ok. Your outlet, no matter what it is, as long as it is healthy, should be respected and accepted; let it out. All of it. To pretend you're not hurting is just burying the pain and anger deeper and deeper inside of you, only for it to haunt you later.
The end result of the healing process is to come to a point of acceptance that all that has happened, has happened and you are ready to move on from it. 

It is easy to feel vengeful and hoping that karma will knock on his door faster than it may do, but let it be. With forgiveness, a thank you for the experience and memories, you are gracefully bowing out to become a woman more focused and aware, a woman who will set her sights higher and follow her heart; you are preparing to be a wise woman who will find a wonderful man.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Juba: An Unforgettable Christmas.

I spend my very first Christmas in South Sudan and it wasn't what I had expected it to be... in fact it wasn't what pretty much everyone there was planning for it to be.

The conflict broke out on the 15th of December, ten days before Christmas Day. Lives transformed up and down the country. Lives transformed outside of the country too, as family members abroad had to worry about the safety of their relatives.

I remained in South Sudan; I didn't leave via evacuation by the Dutch embassy.

On Christmas Day, journalist and filmmaker Sam Lukudu of SK Productions South Sudan, interviewed me about my very first Christmas time in Juba, South Sudan.

This mini-documentary explores the different people who have been affected by the conflict in South Sudan and how that impacted their Christmas.



Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Back In Home Away From Home.

I'm back in the UK after a whirlwind two months abroad, two or so weeks in South Sudan and about six weeks in Nairobi.

It's been mind-blowing.

My trip was amazing; zero regrets.

Had ups and downs, but ups and downs that have transformed me and made me a new woman.

I really have to start blogging again. I haven't blogged in absolutely ages. Also no useful posts have gone out. So I best get to blogging on the regular again because... I have many stories to share!

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Meeting Mid-Flight: Jelani Girls.

On my flight from London to Cairo I sat to this wonderful woman from Georgia USA.

The five or so hours' flight flew by (pun?) because we talked, talked and talked and got to know each other.

She set up a non-profit around the Summer of 2013, known as Jelani Girls (Jelani means greatness in Swahili). With the non-profit, she uses a mentorship based program to enrich girls in different areas of their lives.

She shared her experiences with setting up the non-profit, the girls she has met, the opportunities she has offered and what is in store for Jelani Girls in 2014.

She was actually on her way from the US to Ghana, where she did a Jelani Girls Christmas mission.

I'm glad I met her and that I am remaining in touch with her. It's always nice to meet inspiring people doing extraordinary things.


Friday, 24 January 2014

Update: Where Am I?


Happy New Year (can I still say that? Side note: me and my cousin laugh a little when people still say Happy New Year. Yes. We think it's reserved for the first week of January).

I am now 22.

I am still in Africa, but I've been in Nairobi since the 27th of December.

Due to the conflict in South Sudan which began on the 15th of December, I had to sadly leave and head to Nairobi, where I will stay for a few more weeks. I will not be returning to Juba until later this year. 

So I didn't have much Internet in my two weeks and some days in Juba. If I did have it, I had just enough to tweet and Facebook. 

I would write blogposts on my phone and when I could find WIFI, I would post them. It's a way of blogging I didn't really like because I ended up writing some of my posts like diary entries. I also couldn't post my blog entries in the order I wanted to. Finally, I didn't write about or during the conflict; I was incredibly demotivated. 

But now I'm in my fourth week in Nairobi, I'm completely motivated again to write on a regular basis. Plus I can't really wait until February when I head home to start writing again. 

A lot of people felt sorry for me because I wasn't even in Juba for a week and things kicked off. Now I feel bad that I had to leave Juba earlier than intended and that I couldn't do the things I set out to do. However, I had an incredibly unique experience, was offered many wonderful opportunities and I met many new people. 

I'll be writing on my trip in Africa in a series of posts as they are all about different topics etc. Stay tuned!