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Photo : Video : Storytelling

A blog by Paul Bettings

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  • Writer's pictureAlana

The Resonance of a Pandemic

Updated: Jun 11, 2021

Alana currently lives in South Sudan and is running a development project across the world newest country. Alana will be regularly contributing to the Photo Road to speak of her experiences and her travel in the Global South.


A graphical image of Alana working at a desk in her home in South Sudan.

Part 1

In the madness created by COVID-19 in the last year, I have been able to still move around in ways that many haven’t. While most people have been locked in their homes in isolation, either on their own or finding ways to navigate a home full of people stuck together, I jumped on a plane. In fact, I jumped on a few. Work and family obligations took me to beautiful Caribbean beaches, African cities and to the shores of The Nile. Before you judge, I have been safe and responsible with my travel. Travelling when essential – including my most recent travel to live and work here in South Sudan these days.

It’s not my first time here, but it’s my first time being in South Sudan during a pandemic. In the past, I’ve been able to take photos or videos to try to share my experiences with my friends and family back at home, but even though I have been able to leave my home country, I still haven’t been able to leave my room most days. Unable to easily capture images of the incredible sights in Juba, I’ve had to consider alternatives.

Sounds that remind us of our history

Sound is powerful. Much like the taste of clove can instantaneously take you to your grandmother’s kitchen, the right melody can rewind you back to a triumphant moment in your adolescence. Is there a song that reminds you of your first love? Is there another song that takes you back to some heartbreak? Personally, I have staunchly refused to throw away some of my cassette tapes simply because I fear I won’t be able to retrieve the memories that accompany Janet Jackson’s Rhythmnation. Sounds are powerful – and complicated.

Many places sound as they look – bright and loud. Taiwanese night markets are bustling. I recall the distinctive clanging of large metal spoons in woks that accompanied savoury treats, like duck and shrimp. In Chennai, I was awakened by street vendors yelling the price of their red onions and tomatoes at the break of dawn. The heavy rains on tin roofs in Uganda sounded like hundreds of deafening drummers. In Haiti, even the sounds are mysterious as hundreds of people parade the streets with trumpets in the middle of the night celebrating high holidays that do not appear in my calendar.

As a little kid, my house had a sound. Some people claim the house was actually quiet until I arrived, but in fact, most of the noise came from the basement. My brother is a drummer and even when he wasn’t on his drum kit, he found some way to make everyday household items percussion instruments. I can recall the whistling and knocking of the pressure cooker on Sundays when we cooked oxtail. My father seemed to prefer listening to baseball games, so the voices of Tom Cheek and Jerry Howarth were commonplace in our house.

The pandemic changed everything

I keep thinking that the pandemic is accelerating the changing sounds of homes. Everyone has their own screen and their own earbuds to go along with it. Dings and buzzes have become commonplace in our lexicon. I’ve seen my friends send text messages to call their kids for dinner. No dinner bell and no yelling from the kitchen summoning kids from their bedrooms.

Of course, I am being overly nostalgic. I enjoy going on walks with my own soundtrack and I like the laziness of an audiobook. Somehow, we are now creating individualized experiences and ambiance, unless of course, you are that annoying person who somehow thinks that having a telephone conversation at full volume in public is civil. If that is you, please let me do you a service and let you know that you are an ogre. Stop it.


The Resonance of a Pandemic, Part 2, will be posted in two weeks. Are you travelling, do you have experiences you would like to share about your experiences overseas either about the pandemic, or not of course. Please contact me here.


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