Southern Sudan is hard.
The soil is hard to plant, water is hard to get, and food is hard to find. Birth is hard, and living is harder. The air is hard to breathe, and the weather is either hot as hell or wetter than the river to it. Southern Sudan is hard.
From 1955 through 2005 the people of southern Sudan knew roughly 11 years of respite from civil war. By some counts, nearly two million civilians were killed during that time and approximately twice that number were displaced. Children were taken from Pieri and villages just like it all over southern Sudan and turned into soldiers, a story I’ve heard first hand from a few of our staff. People were murdered, and villages were massacred; so southern Sudan is hard and it can’t help but harden a mans soul.
My girlfriend works for MSF as well. She supports an HIV project in Bukavu in eastern DRC on the Rwandan border. We try to speak every Sunday by sat phone, and every week I look forward to it more than anything else. But as the days turned into weeks and weeks into my first few months in Sudan, I could feel myself distancing from one of the few people that offered a lifeline to love and a sense of home.
Being surrounded by the ugliness of an unfamiliar and unrelenting hardship led me to start resenting the beautiful things in my own life and to feel a sense of weakness for missing my friends and family when I awoke to famine and the pockmarked face of a cruel world. What have I done other than be born into a plush country with the luxury of land and laws? My ability to help in Sudan is based on nothing more than winning a geo-genetic lottery in Canada 35 years ago. The only thing I really know is that I know nothing, and even with the knowledge of nothing I sense that the sum of my own steps has afflicted more harm than good. Why them and not me? And on and on and on and on it goes. At least that’s how my mind sometimes sounds as I lie and stare through the darkness of my mud hut.
Thankfully the darkest of nights happens but once in a month and even then the sun rises to burn away the bleakness and brings with it a new day, a new month and a new reminder that it is not hardship that bonds the souls of people but rather the humanity of simply caring for another that unites us in something more important than ourselves.
Excuse me – I’ve got to go call my girl.
Salutations from the south,