South Sudan: "Mountains do not meet but people do"

02 June 2017

When I left Stockholm on the first day of snow in November last year, six months felt like a long time. But before I know it, I see my name on the administrator's planning board in the office with ‘end of mission’ written next to it.
 
The journey home is no longer a far-away, abstract idea: it's really time to go home now.
 
The last week of the project is stressful, doing hand-overs and experiencing everything one last time. A final visit to the women who run the tea stand outside the hospital. Will definitely miss hibiscus tea and freshly baked Mandasas in the morning! The last Sunday pizza is eaten, which is cooked in our oil griddle outside the kitchen. I have worked up the last of the yarn and handed out hats in the maternity ward one last time - 85 little babies now wear one of my hats. I'm looking forward to sitting with the team for the last nights outside the kitchen container, drinking tea together and playing a few rounds of Uno one last time.
 

Johanna smiles in South Sudan's evening sun at the MSF project in Bentiu

Photo: MSF.
 
My colleagues in the different departments organize a farewell party for me. We drink tea and dance to drums and I get a chance to thank everyone properly for our six months together. Thank them for everything they have taught me, thanked them for inviting me into their daily lives during this half a year. Thanked them for practicing the Nuer language with me day in and day out, for teaching me their traditional folk dance and for all the laughter we shared when the cultural clashes hit us.
 
What do I take with me from my half-year in South Sudan? Where do I start? I've learned so incredibly much medically. All of the tropical diseases that I had not even heard the name of during my nursing education, I have now worked with on a daily basis. I have learned how to diagnose anemia when all medical devices are overheated and do not want to cooperate. My stethoscope and my clinical eye have really been my best friends here.
 
But above all, I take with me all the people I have met. Every moment with my South Sudanese colleagues when we sat down outside the department talking about our families and about our lives and our future dreams. I will think back with joy every time we danced together - and that was often! I remember all the balloon animals that were created, the movie nights we arranged for the kids, the first rain that finally made the air cool to breathe.
 

Johanna and her colleagues from the MSF team walk through the IDP camp at Bentiu
Photo: MSF.
 
But now it's time to go home. Cool dips in dark lakes, bright summer evenings that never end and unlimited yogurt in the grocery stores awaits. All that I dreamed of those sleepless nights in my tent, when the heat never really dissipated, and it was so bright, so you could not see a meter in front of you.
 
In South Sudan you say "Mountains do not meet but people do".
 
We will meet again!
 
 
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