Last year in December, when I was evacuated from Juba, you know - I didn't want to leave. On the way to the airport, a young SPLA soldier waved our car off the road at a makeshift checkpoint. Dressed in a beige military uniform and a pair of broken Ray Ban sunglasses, upright in what seemed like a mixture of alcohol and relief that the fighting in Juba had subsided. 'Come back! Why do you always having to leave?' he said, and stuck his whole head in through the open window, so it hung on a par with ours, the departing expats and our piles of luggage. He turned from one to the other, his eyes asking for reciprocated contact. He found my eyes, and completed his inspection with a: 'I love you. Just go!'
I accepted the love declaration, as if it was designed for me exactly. It put all my previous break-ups in perspective. We looked at each other in silence, and I could feel how each of us searched for suitable words to break the silence that followed. I was embarrassed to leave South Sudan this way, and I thought that the break-up cliché: 'It's not you, but me, there is something wrong with!' never fitted better.
South Sudan, I don't know what it is, but you're highly addictive. Freedom of expression has suffered, but I keep finding people who defy it and who offer anarchistic thinking in abundance, conversations about love, life and death. Of coming back and of going. Loud talks about killer diplomacy, kitchen cabinets, oxtail soups, chili and life.
Life. Juba, I'm in love with your spacious ways.