You arrive in Juba to be greeted by a freshly minted fleet of Chinese UN peacekeeping troops who are surrounding and lounging in the airport, which is nothing but several tents duct-taped to each other with cardboard signs stating things like, ‘immigration here’.
You leave the airport only to still be surrounded by men touting camo and weapons…this time it is thousands of SPLA troops who have been brought in to help keep peace around the holidays….or so you are told.
You climb to the rooftop of your aid worker guest house, are hit by 38-degree heat, then look as the aid worker sitting next to you on the couch lets out an aerosolized spray of fake snow into the muggy air. White drops liquefy in the heat before settling onto the concrete floor beneath you. In the distance you hear the drum of helicopters.
Someone brings out good wine, chocolate and cheese and you feel as if it’s the best thing that could possibly happen to you. In fact, such a rare moment that you feel an overwhelming need to eat everything in front of you; all at once and as fast as possible.
You find yourself fashioning a Christmas tree out of toilet paper rolls, used beer cans and bottles of liquor.
You can’t help but laugh and notice the irony of being in a war torn country and seeing cars driving down the streets that are wrapped like Christmas presents.
Corny Christmas music and airport Christmas carolers are actually a welcome reprieve from what otherwise feels nothing like Christmas.
The ‘Christmas’ movies chosen by your fellow aid workers include titles such as ‘Deepwater Horizon', the movie documenting the BP oil crisis.