The Republic of South Sudan is officially an independent nation

Saturday, July 9

Gunshots rang through the night air, causing many of the foreign workers to fear for their lives, even getting out of bed to lay on the floor—particularly when two shots rang out on the compound. Apparently, since fireworks aren’t available, the locals use what they have—rifles and AK-47s—to celebrate the birth of their nation. Unbelievably, I slept through the shooting, though I was conscious of my daughter getting up and moving around. I have some great earplugs, which are a necessity in this place where there is no silence at any time of day. Roosters crowing, hens cackling, goats bleating, cows mooing, dogs barking, frogs croaking, cicadas buzzing, birds tweeting, and insects of all kind whizzing and ???

As I was waking, earplugs out, the town crier was making his rounds, as he had the night before, calling out plans for the day. As I headed out for a run, the chanting and drumming and droves of people heading toward the village center, caused me to go back to the tent for my still and my video camera, and follow the crowd, sloshing through the water that is beginning to accumulate in low areas, water that will be here for months.

When I arrived, I was enlisted by Paul, one of the clinic nurses, who is also a village elder, to videotape the speeches of the dignitaries and esteemed elders present, including the Paramount Chief. I felt a little embarrassed—dressed in gym shorts and shirt, and unshowered, but apologized, and shot the 30 minutes of tape I had available. Unfortunately, when I got back to check the tape, there was no sound. I tested the mic and found it works only on “zoom” and the “gun” setting recorded no sound at all. Such a shame as I had hoped to deliver them a DVD copy on my next trip. And I had also recorded the women church leaders dancing and singing.

They asked me to return at 1:30, which I did, but the men had retreated due to impending rain. Instead I photographed the women cooking a freshly-slaughtered bull or two or three. Back at the clinic, our cooks were doing the same thing, the bull slaughtered onsite. I walked to IRD where a crowd had gathered to watch the news coverage of the celebrations in Juba. As the rain seemed eminent, they brought the flat screen back indoors, and I jogged back to the clinic with the other staff who had wandered that way. We caught a few sprinkles, but I got inside before it began to pour. Gina had battened up the hatches before my return.

It was a gentler rain and lasted only an hour or so. The rest of the day was cool and comfortable. We enjoyed fresh beef and liver: I avoided the cooked blood. And after dinner, we enjoyed cool (not cold) bottles of Coca Cola, a luxury around here.

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