At times compound life can seem suffocating. That is why we generally jump at any opportunity to exit the gate. Last week I was exhausted and feeling behind in my work but when I received an offer to leave the compound for the afternoon, I knew that I couldn’t let this offer go to waste. One of the nursing staff at the hospital was hosting a huge celebration at her home and wanted us all to share in her joy. Recently, two of her children were released after being abducted in a nearby state while traveling on the roads. Unfortunately these road ambushes and abductions are all too common here in South Sudan. A few of us piled into the back of a land rover and headed out of the compound. I felt an immediate lightness and sense of relief upon exiting the gates, traveling down the bumpy road, passing children directing donkey carts, women carrying bags of rice on their heads and cows and goats meandering across the road. When we arrived at the home of our host I was amazed to find quite a large compound of tukuls, spread out and divided by woven fences. Upon entering the common area, the first thing I noticed was a large grave. I found out later that this was the grave of her husband. We were ushered into the central area, which was bursting with life as colors, smells and sounds quickly enveloped us in a richness that is hard to describe. We were told to begin by greeting the ‘elders’. By the time we were done, I had shaken the hand of nearly everyone present. Once the greetings were finished, we were led into a separate area for eating and relaxing. Large, comfy sofa-like chairs had been placed against one of the woven walls and beds were constructed before our eyes on the freshly swept dirt floor in front of us. Tea, Coffee and trays carrying bottled water were served. The party was underway. If you can imagine sitting on a ‘living room’ chair on dirt floor, surrounded by tukuls and thatched walls, with a large solar panel on the ground in front of you and a satellite dish in the corner, it feels a bit out of place. But, as my colleagues like to say, TIA (This is Africa). Photos were taken, stories were shared and then the food was presented. Pumpkin and squash, greens, peanut-eggplant paste, rice and goat were all brought to us in large tin vats. Together we broke bread and rested in each others’ presence. When it came time to leave, we were asked to first take a photo in front of the grave of our host’s late husband. A strange tradition I would say, but we obliged nonetheless. As we left people kept calling out words of thanks. It felt strange and awkward. Why were these people thanking me?’, I asked one of my colleagues. ‘They are thanking you for coming, for your presence, for sharing this time with them. It is not often that Kawajas come to events like this’. ‘Oh’, I replied, it still felt strange. I was the one who should be thanking them. They welcomed me into their space, offered me water, tea and coffee and fed me until my stomach could hold no more. After shaking all of the hands of the children who were waiting to see us off, we were back in the vehicle and headed ‘home’. I returned to the compound feeling light, refreshed and with a heart full of thankfulness for this life I have been given, and for all those whom I have been blessed to share it with.