One of the joys of working in Africa is interacting with the local communities in rural villages. In South Sudan, local people, old and young, greet each other by shaking hands. They are always curious as to the purpose of my visit. Some would even stop by to chat with me asking about my country or other personal stuff like are you married, why you don’t have children etc. Often I am mistaken as Chinese. They greet me with Ni Hao (Hello in Chinese) or call me simply as China.
But what I like the most is when children excitedly shout Khawaja everytime they see me driving or strolling around the village. Khawaja is the term that South Sudanese use to refer to foreigners particularly white people. It is always a joy to hear children shouting Khawaja while waving at me with a big smile. I am the only expatriate in my team, hence, I get all the attention.
One time, we passed by a primary school and students aged 4-7 were all waving at me shouting Khawaja. On the way back, we decided to visit the school to conduct a mine risk education. As soon as the car stopped, about a hundred children rushed towards the car all eager to see me. I was mobbed by children all wanting to have a glimpse of the Khawaja! Some even wanted to touch me and shake my hand. Luckily the teachers came on time and asked them to go back to their classrooms. Before I left, I taught them how to do the flying kiss gesture. Since then, everytime I pass by that village, children would greet me with a flying kiss.
However, in far flung areas, this is not the case. Since white people are rarely seen in the area, young children are scared of me. One time, we were mobilizing the community members for another mine risk education, when about 4 young children passed by. I called them to join us. As I approached the children, they were so scared that they started crying (shrieking actually) and ran away as if they have just seen a zombie walking. The adults were laughing at me.
There was also one time where I heard one boy asking my colleague whether I am a man or a woman because I was in jeans and wearing a cap. South Sudanese women always wear dresses, sarongs or skirts, rarely you will see them wearing trousers.
Children in the main town are more welcoming. They are always excited to greet me usually asking me to take a photo of them.
So for these week’s photo challenge, I am going to feature photos that show JOY. Here are some of the children I have befriended during my field work. They were the ones who requested me to take photos of them and film them while they sing a song for me. It was a joy to watch as they show off and pose for the camera. They were so happy when they saw their photos and videos.
Here is the video I took of my little friends as they embodied life’s simple joys.