Sundays by the Pool in Juba*

I returned to Juba on Friday just in time for a nice calm weekend in Juba. Saturday involved a late start to the office, a very long lunch followed by the FREE 1 1⁄2 hour yoga class. The most interesting part of the weekend though was definitely the new Sunday pool time at the U.S. Consulate which opens its doors once a week for the wider public (Note: wider public seems to mean only other expats as there were DEFINITELY no Sudanese people chilling there. In fact, there were only 4 Black people (me included) and one Latina!).

After a Saturday of clouds and rain, Sunday arrived with beautiful, bright blue skies. I did a few errands, mainly running to 4 different shops and one big market in the hunt for food products for the rest of the week. Juba is CRAZY expensive in terms of food and I refused to be sucked in (this from the person who has already eaten out 3 times since she arrived)! I picked up my girl and enjoyed a lazy morning eating breakfast and sitting under the shade and chatting in the front area of my guesthouse. The weather had come to a nice roasting temperature by the time we left so I was very excited to jump into the pool.

The Consulate, as it seems any other US gov building around the world, is surrounded by a thick wall with barbed wired on top. You enter and have to sign in and get searched. There is even an escort to walk you directly to the pool area, just in case you had any frisky ideas about straying off the beaten path. You can already tell just by the little walk to the pool that you have officially left Sudan and traveled to another place. While everywhere else I’ve been in Sudan still has red-dust roads, the grounds here are completely paved, the building all have air-conditions sticking out the walls – as if we needed a reminder that employees here never suffer a hot day.

When we get to the pool, I’m already a little shocked by everything around me and it only gets more shocking. The pool area is small with a little bar area to the right when you walk in. There are chairs and tables in frond and to the left is the small pool with lounge chairs around it. The same people from the weekend parties are all there already, sitting in the pool with sunglasses on and beer cans in hand. Around the corner is a glass door that leads directly to a very nice gym and the bathrooms include two shower stalls that pump out hot, high-pressured water (major luxury in these parts which I made sure I partake in).

The menu is all Americana with burgers and salads and even nachos although I go for the fish’wich, which is also delicious. The only thing non-American on the menu is the mention of the word ‘chips’ instead of ‘French fries.’

The whole scene is pretty weird and it kept reminding me of images of college frat scenes. The floating beer thingy bopping in the water, everyone standing around (this time just in water rather than at a bar) rather than swimming, guys coming out of the gym as if it was something they did everyday rather than a once-a-week treat. The icing on the cake was when someone put on a very stupid movie on the flat screen TV and the people in the pool lined up against the edge to watch the movie! If there were a soundtrack playing in the background of the whole scene, Ruben Blades’ song ‘Plastico’ would be on repeat!

I’ll admit that it was very nice to swim and have a nice sandwich and take a hot shower and that I’ll definitely go again in the future, however, it was also somehow comforting to walk out of the whole area, get into the shitty vehicle that’s ours, get a little wet from the rain because the glass doesn’t roll up all the way and just be in Sudan again.

* There is actually a book called 'A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali' by Gil Courtemanche which addresses the Rwandan genocide. Very good, but extremely graphic. In fact, I read it 4 years ago and still have some of the images still stuck in my head!

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