In the company of rats and snakes

A classroom in South Sudan state of Upper Nile. PHOTO | JOHN FOX

What you need to know:

  • A goat is a browser and a sheep is grazer. Would one of them force his tastes on the other, or would they take turns at their different pastures? It was the goat, it seemed, which dragged the sheep after him as he fed on the shrubs in the compound.
  • The value of the South Sudanese Pound has spiraled down, and communities living near the Ethiopian border use the Birr instead. I noticed when the staff went shopping for supplies they crossed to the town of Gambela. They came back with fruits and vegetables they can’t get on the South Sudan side of the border.
  • When we flew back to Juba we found it a city of rumours. There were rumours that the president was sick and was about to leave the country for treatment. There were rumours that he was dead. But the president scotched some of the rumours by having himself driven along city streets.

Every night, I had heard the rats scuttling above the ceiling boards. There were cracks in the boarding, and I knew they could squeeze through if they decided to come down to explore. But I felt protected by the mosquito net.


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