The Shoe Project


Shoe Story 127: Back-up Slippers

by Kiden Jonathan

Story 127: Back-up Slippers 
by Kiden Jonathan

Peace or no peace!!!!  Which one is it?

After 23 years of civil war my country of South Sudan finally became independent. I visited in February of 2013 when the country was celebrating its newfound peace.

 A lot of things had changed since I’d fled to a refugee camp, and then to Canada. For instance, the Government had taken our plot of land, on which we grew food. And we never got it back.
Some of the government survey workers would sell a plot to three different people. People fight over land.

Also, we had to buy Groceries every day because there was no electricity.

Suk Libya, the market, was a 5-minute walk from our house in the town. I went there with my Sister. It was noisy, but lively. Welders were melting metals; butcher men were chopping and weighing meat. Mobile sellers walked around with jewelery on their shoulders and arms. Others were standing and cutting cabbage and pineapple. The fruits and vegetables were fresh, all organic, grown by the river. The women were selling pastries, and beans. They were all good at Customer service.

Suddenly, I saw a pile of slippers, all black with different colored straps, made in Thailand. I picked a pair. 

They were just right for me that day, perfect for social strolls and housework. As soon as I put them on, I felt at home. I was dressed like everybody else. I saw old friends and spoke and laughed with them. In fact, I felt like a social butterfly.

Life in Juba was slow and simple. Everything was within reach. Despite the stress of inflation and uncertainty, my Mom was very calm. One evening, I asked her what we would have for breakfast. She said," Go to bed. We will figure that out in the morning.”

Of course there were many struggles. Every morning, the middle-aged men woke up to drink alcohol. It was an all-day habit. They hoped for a white-collar job, but there weren't any. There was so much corruption, division over ethnicity, and nepotism. They wanted their country to flourish again. But there were no resources. How could one get ahead in life? The spirit of hopelessness runs deep.

Like most families, women ran my family.  They were very creative and emotionally resilient. In that so-called window of peace I loved my Country, and my big loving family. I had missed them so much.

Sadly, six months after I returned to Canada, the strife and loss of lives began again in Juba. "It was Madness" My Mother and her six grandchildren had to move to Kampala, Uganda. My Mother put it very well, ”my dear daughter, the wounds are still raw.”

When I heard those words, I felt tense. I don’t understand this part – is Mother defending the new skirmishes? My spine was hot. We are into 3rd decade of War. When is it going to STOP? Where is peace? When is peace?

After being in Canada for 20 years, I still miss home just as much as when I first left. I spent my first 20 years in Juba, and then I spent 7 years in exile. Canada is now home, but it's not the same. Sometimes it feels familiar; other days it doesn't.

Last year, I attended an engagement party. The whole Ontario Community of South-Sudanese danced together. We have 64 ethnic groups. In Sudan they fight, but here they are friends. Each Ethnic group chose songs.  We were dancing together in one hall, singing each other's songs. That day, I did not see ethnicity. Instead I saw unity. I was filled with joy.  We are still one people, one country, but we must see that in ourselves to achieve a sustainable peace.

I danced in high heels but after two hours my feet got tired and I switched to the black slippers I bought in the market.  These black back-up slippers remind me of the good moments I had in Juba. But for now, in Canada they are… my back-up shoes.


KIDEN JONATHAN is from South Sudan and is an advocate for minorities.  She loves to write and tell stories.


Other Shoe Stories from Session 13, Toronto:

116: Teeny Toes

117: My Colourful Boots

118: Ballerina Shoes for Canada

119: To Abbu

120: My Leopard Shoes

121: Mismatched Shoes

122: My First Prayer

123: Ice Tracks

124: How Comfortable Are They?

125: Happy Campers

126: Submerged

127: Back-up Slippers

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