Solo in South Sudan

Disclaimer: this is likely to be another sentimental post so turn away now if you’re not if a soppy disposition!

I have been thinking in the last few days about my time here and in that reflection I have come to realise that nothing was as I expected. I’m not sure I knew what to expect but I remember before the trip being very nervous about the fact that I was making a pretty large step into the unknown on my own. A long term relationship which gad seemed so full of hope had ended in a pretty messy fashion and I think I focused on the fact that I was alone and about to embark on this trip without company.

It is no secret that I hate being alone. I look for company and I’m always surrounded by friends or family. I don’t like my own company and the very thought of spending an evening or weekend on my own depresses me completely.

I was so wrong about this trip. Since the very minute I stepped out of the airport in Nairobi, I have been among friends. John Marren collected me from the airport when I arrived and we very quickly became life long friends. He has been a marvellous support and the very dearest friend and I am so thankful that my trip started with his company. 

Fr. Tim has been like a big brother to me, supporting me when I needed it and teasing me when that was required too. I have learned much from him. He cares for the people here so deeply and is so committed to education and to the futures of the young people. The people of Narus and indeed much further afield respect him greatly. He is calm and sincere and wise. He always seems to know what the right course of action is and is motivated by the needs of others always before his own. Most of all, I have learned that small kindnesses that seem trivial to us mean the world to other people. I’m really glad that I will have a few days in Nairobi with him. I think saying goodbye to him today too would just be too much!

And John Joe – what have I learned from him! Well, the art of turning reheated beans and rice into a Michelin star serving is not to be scoffed at. I tease Fr. John Joe all the time that he always sees the better in people. I tease him but I deeply respect him for it. He looks at the world through a different lens than me. When people do something I do not agree with or think is right, I get angry about it. I focus on the outcome of that action. Fr. John Joe has a unique way of seeing why a person might act the way they do. I get angry about the corruption that is rife here, he feels for the circumstances that drive people to behave that way.

So you see, with company as I have had, with the friends I have made not just among the Kiltegan priests but the people of Narus I have not once been alone. I have not felt lonely or isolated. On the contrary, I have been amongst the very best of friends and I will always be very thankful for that.

Maybe I should change the name of this blog to “Happy in South Sudan” or “The best version of myself in South Sudan”

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6 Comments on “Solo in South Sudan

  1. They are good reflective names, just as long as you don’t pick “South Sudan my new home!”

  2. Well done Helena – nothing can ever be quite the same again after what you have recently experienced ! It has been most interesting reading your messages. From my experience through friends who did the same as you years ago – I think you will return to Africa once more.

    Love and a safe journey home – Sue Dowd (Matthew’s Mum) xxx

    • Oh Sue, how wonderful to hear from you. I’m so pleased you shared in my adventure. I’m sad to return but you are right. I hope that this will be the start of a life long love affair with South Sudan. Hxxx

  3. This is a nice sharing Helena, you remind me of my visit to Naarus from Kenya ( Lodwar) early this month it was nice meeting you in Naarus. I admired the way you were adjusting to the new reality

  4. What a surprisingly wonderful adventure you embarked on when you left us. I look forward to lunch on Wednesday to hear so much more about it. I have only just found out how to access your blog! Welcome back. Nicky

    • Well done Nicky! And so very lovely to hear from you. I can’t wait to see you and Caroline on Wednesday. I’ve missed you both terribly! I think it’s safe to say that South Sudan is in my blood now and it won’t be easily recovered from. I’m already planning my return trip!

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