“Be kind to all, at all times,” an adage my father says whenever he advises me on what brings blessings to one’s life. He also says that, regardless of how poor he may be and what little possessions he boasts of, what is priceless, is his good name. “They can call me anything, but they can never call me a thief, ” he would proudly add. I was brought up to be kind to all and never to take something that doesn’t belong to me. Virtues better suited for utopia, you’d think! Here, kindness is a weakness readily exploited by even the closest friends and allies. To not take what’s not yours is equal to stupidity. Taking what’s not yours is camouflaged so well that you’d think it’s an entitlement.
Sovereignty is a concept that is relevant to all tiers of existence and identity. I am a sovereign as an individual. My power is my ability to freely exert my will towards a specific desired action/goal and refuse to direct my intention towards an undesired/compelled goal through inaction. My sovereignty is inherently tied to my interests and, more importantly, to submitting my energies and resources towards their achievement without interference from others. This definition extends toward a group’s, a community’s, a nation’s sovereignty.
Duk Padiet – The Beacon of Peace
We arrive at Duk Padiet in the morning, after a short flight from Juba. It is the rainy season, and to the pilot’s delight, the dirt landing strip is dry and clear of cattle, although we land right by the market’s cattle byre. I notice as immediately as we dislodge the plane that Duk Padiet has black soil mixed with sand. So when it rains, the sand rises to the surface, preventing muddiness. Duk Padiet is part of the former Duk County of Jonglei State, but since 2016 it became a county, along with Duk Payuel and Panyang. Duk Padiet is breathtakingly beautiful; its population is noticeably young and industrious.
We have founded this nation upon great human sacrifices in the fight for justice and equality for all. We have a legacy of struggle centered on eliminating all the forms of marginalization suffered at the hands of successive regimes in Sudan, be they social, cultural, economic, political, religious, or racial. It is, therefore, incumbent upon a nation like ours to not allow the corruptive seed of marginalization to thrive in the form of marginalization based on gender.
On October 4th, I woke up to this beautiful photo on my facebook feed. It had this caption:
These 5th graders have surprised us with their reading abilities as they have accepted the challenge of reading poems aloud from a poetry collection authored by one of their own “a South Sudanese.” The program was meant for their seniors/secondary school students, but they were like “we can read and write poems too.” Which they have read perfectly.
My interview with Mading Ngor of Fixing South Sudan, on arts, culture, and nation-building. I share a bit from my poetry collections, which you can purchase through Amazon.
With gratitude, I embrace the fullness of this moment of solitude.
I drink deeply from the spring of solace,
Grasping the pure joy of forsaking all attachment.
Happiness dwells within me.
What an amazing revelation!
As the pendulum of circumstance swings,
I rise higher and behold everything in peace.
© Apuk Ayuel Mayen 2017. All rights reserved.
Juba is expanding exponentially. I regard the city as the plane takes off and prepares to land on my frequent flights, and I am always surprised by new developments. I see a new five-story building that seems a sudden apparition, a new informal settlement sprouting there, and a new hotel and a bar and restaurant everywhere. Juba is growing, and its echoes are deepening. For the most part, the latest development doesn’t interfere with my sense of direction, except for once.
It is strange! A stranger’s eyes are piercing right through her, as if she is hollow, a woman with no flesh or bones. He looks at her startlingly as if she is a hologram of someone very familiar, perhaps a lost lover. Even stranger is her impulse to reciprocate the stranger’s timid scrutiny of her features, as if in search of some plausible reason to explain the need for stealing glances and the need to propel her and him instantly into an impenetrable space. Strange still is the fluidity with which she moves around greeting everyone she knew in the bar as if deliberately availing him the chance to retrace the contours of her physique and juxtapose it to memory. Her natural bashfulness disappears. She moves gracefully, fully aware of his stare—a grand display. Every movement is a clue to the puzzle he is to her. She yearns to understand the extent of the force at play.
Being an avid procrastinator who hides within the convenient cloak of perfectionism is a double fault. One can always figure out a reason for a necessary action to wait, for another time, or until the conditions to attain perfectionism is met. To think of it, this springs from a deep-seated fear of inadequacy. To be placed on the scale and be found wanting is a usually immobilizing thought. One would instead fade in the background and be inconsequential than to risk success where there is even a faint possibility of failure.
I had decided with much zeal for the fifteenth time, two months ago, to start blogging. I even wrote the first three entries based on sightings around town. The blog, as I imagined it then, would be about my thoughts and reflections about life in Juba, South Sudan, the city of my birth, where I currently reside. I told a few friends about this plan, not the dream-killer types but the cheerleader types. Expectantly, they energized me further and convinced me that writing is what I should be doing. Not that I needed the validation, I said to my self, but it was a welcomed affirmation. But then there was one small complication. The name. The “perfect” name for the blog.
You’d think that would be simple, but the perfectionist in me seized the opportunity of delving into an endless whirlwind of mining her soul for the “perfect” name. Two months later, and after grueling and bruising mining, and the consequential abandonment of the mission, inspiration came as stealthily, as it always does, and as unimposing as a whisper.
Yesterday, I began reading a book of thoughts and reflections by a beloved author. His straightforward style and use of everyday experience to draw profound life lessons and to eloquently share them with his readers inspire me. Something I aspire to emulate in this humble blog.
One line resonated deeply within me: “[I] saw death as my daily companion, who is always by my side, saying: ‘I will touch you, but you don’t know when. Therefore, live life as intensely as you can.'” It was as if a personal admonishment leading me to only worry about this moment, for it is all I have. Never mind what others would think about my writings tomorrow, I ought to write, because it is the one thing that gratifies me. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, and what a pity it would be not to have done, what I am to do.
As I held that thought in my spirit, a whisper came through a text message, as if to consolidate the effect of those resonating words. A good friend who asked if my poetry book’s publishing date is a personal or business deadline, said, “Business is contractual, personal has room for an extension due to perfectionist tendencies.” A whisper of Providence. In that instant, I birthed this blog.
The name search became effortless. In keeping with the book I read, I searched for a simile in my poems. I found one that resonated in a poem, entitled Woman: “like a glowing moon, enticing yet refraining.” Like a Glowing Moon.
Since time immemorial people of all cultures marked the passing of time by observing the moon, even the English word for a month has its roots in the German word for moon. I would like to research the definition and epistemology of names for the moon in some of our Sudanese languages and have a blog entry about it soon. I am sure I’d discover something profound.
I am now embarking on a journey of writing thoughts and reflections under the guide of a glowing moon, and I invite you to, with this excerpt from one of my poems:
Take a walk with me, barefoot,
With no destination in mind.
We’ll fly upon the wings of a breeze,
And dive up into a cumulus cloud:
Be frozen, melted, and cleansed,
Over and over again.
The book I am reading is Like the Flowing River, by Paulo Coelho.
© 2015 Apuk Ayuel Mayen. All rights reserved.