After covering the neighbourhoods of Khor William and Lologo, we carry on to St. Augustine and Block 4. Of course we can drive to the sites, which now feels a bit like cheating, but allows us to accomplish a lot with a smaller crew. We hire men and women from the communities. Local community leaders, the drivers, and John and Philip from ICRC’s Juba Water Rehabilitation team also jump in to guide us through the neighbourhoods and lend a hand. We complete all the geophysical survey lines on our checklist in a week.
In the neighbourhood of St. Augustine, the children are out of school as it is exam week. I scramble a bit of Arabic and English with my dozen Acholi words and an even smaller vocabulary of Nuer to chat with the kids while the automated data acquisition does its thing. There is a fierce frenzy of jump rope happening on the acquisition line. I am grateful that we are not doing any seismic surveys and I don’t have to recruit a local bully to shout “quiet on the line” in multiple languages and shut down all the fun.
It is startling how well the children in these multi-ethnic neighbourhoods seem to play together, cooperate, interact with adults, and carry on with their chores. Somehow I doubt that Salva Kiir or his Cabinet have taken a stroll through any of these neighbourhoods, for they certainly could learn a thing or two. In fact, it is unlikely that the children of any senior members of the government are even to be found in South Sudan…try London, the United States, or perhaps Kampala.
I have heard all the snappy clichés from foreigners. “It’s not a country with an army…it’s an army with a country..”…”it’s not a failed State, as it never became a real State…”…etc. Personally, I am getting to like South Sudan and its people. The conclusions of our report will be limited to siting water wells; but from my limited experience here, there is no doubt in my mind that this is a country very much worth saving.