Saturday, 27 March 2010

Gratitude Friday - Chances / Love

I am so grateful that my job gives me the options to work in different countries, which I guess partially makes up for the appalling salary.

I have been in Sudan only a week, but am in love with it. I woke on Thursday morning, and my first thought was 'oh no that's a week gone already'. What I have seen of the city, which is not much as my accommodation is in the south and I drove through downtown for the first time yesterday, is that it is not the prettiest city. It is dry and dusty, but it has something that makes me smile.

What has made me fall in love is the Sudanese people, who are lovely. They are friendly and helpful. Yesterday, I arranged for my work's driver (he picks me up and takes me home every weekday) to take me to the Sufi ceremony in the far north of the city. This was the equivalent of him working on a Sunday. I thought he would drop me off and then pick me up later, but no, Mohammed spent the whole time looking after me. I sat down to draw, and got surrounded by curious people, and he made them give me some space. When the ceremony was going on he pointed out things of interest. Mohammed is a Muslim, but not of the sect that we were watching, and he seemed to enjoy the afternoon as much as I did, taking photos with his phone and chatting to others. Unfortunately, communication between us is difficult as he knows as many English words and I do Arabic ones.

The group of women (right) stopped me and wanted to talk as we were leaving. One of them spoke some English and they all wanted their picture taken, which was difficult as it was nearly dark. In fact, all afternoon the children had mobbed the westerners to get their photos taken, and thanks to digital technology could see their pictures. Many of them had beautiful smiles until it came to taking the picture when they adopted a serious stiff position, as the little girl right.

I am so grateful that I am here, whether it is only 2 months or longer that I get to stay, I know Sudan is going to have a big impact on me.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

First impressions

Yesterday, I arrived in Khartoum after a mamouth journey as my original flight was cancelled at the departure gate due to sandstorms in Sudan. Despite the 24 hour journey, with most of the time spent either in Heathrow T1 or T4, I was still excited to land yesterday afternoon.
Below is the dust filled view from my apartment-style hotel room on arrival.
I was picked up early this morning to go to the training centre, seems ok, building only 10 years old but a bit run down, good facilities though. My line-managers seem very nice men and I'm looking forward to working with them. Actually, all the Sudanese I have come in contact with so far seem very friendly and helpful, from the staff in hotel to the rickshaw driver (above) who rescued me earlier, I'll expand on that in a moment.

This end of town seems quite chilled, but it is the weekend, so I'll see tomorrow. Sudan has a Friday/Saturday weekend. I went for my first walkabout this afternoon. As Khartoum is, mainly. laid out on a grid system I thought I would walk around in a large block. I was bit wary of taking photos, and am desperate to NOT take only the tradition rundown images of Africa that predominate blogs. The fruit on the stalls looks fabulous, and will buy some in a day or so, however the dates, compared to Oman, looked very dry and dusty. Before arriving, I had the stereotype of sand roads, despite it being the capital, so I did take a picture down a sidestreet to prove I was partially right as there are several non-tarmaced side-roads.

After walking about 2/3 ks along the main road I turned right at a large sideroad. Part way along I stopped for fresh oj, yum, then turned right again. I zigzagged a bit but basically heading the same direction. There are some awesome pimped up rickshaws, which I aim to get a collection of photos of. Anyway, I ended up in an area where the roads were not gridded, and I thought I had walked back further than I had gone. Asking a couple of people for directions had mixed results... all very helpful, but giving different directions, one even wanted to put me on a bus, in a direction I thought (correctly) was the wrong way. I caught a rickshaw, unpimped, who asked another driver directions gulp. After driving a short way we stopped at a hotel, not mine. We asked the security guards for directions (me with my hamsa wahed as couldn't say 15 in arabic, which is the name of my street), and a few minutes later we arrived at my hotel phew. 

Please remember all photos are © and all rights reserved by Sue Pownall.
Contact me if you wish to use any images, thank you.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

A new challenge ahead

Tomorrow I am flying to Sudan on a 2 month teaching contract, with the possibility of staying 4. I can't wait, I am so excited.

I am concerned about the effects of the racial tension, resulting in genocide, will have had on the country. I wonder if, as a transient worker, I will even have the chance to scratch the surface of knowing who are the Sudanese people, and what their culture and life is about. 

This blog is written for my family and friends, so they can know where I am and what I am up to, therefore, it is unlikely that I will  comment politically on what I find, as there are others far more capable of that. What I shall do here, is just produce a diary of sights and sounds of Sudan, from my experience, within the limited time I will be there, and from a purely personal perspective. Please feel free to leave comments and ask me questions and I will try my best to answer.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Gratitude Friday - a moment of peace

I wouldn't say I thrive on stress nor deliberately set out to have it, but I recognise that with my choice of job and its consequential lifestyle I certainly cause many stressful situations to occur in my life. For example, I started this year moving to a new country, away from friends and family, having to find my way in a new(ish) language & culture, as well as navigate trams & buses. I had a new job, new colleagues, and a lot of new materials & technology too. Now, despite fabulous people in Turin and great students, I cannot and will not put up with the working conditions the new company has and will be leaving soon. (I'm not alone as since I started, 2 people have already left & one other has handed in her notice). This means that the next few weeks will be full of changes and stress. Possibly the hardest part - more goodbyes. 

Therefore, in this chaos of my life, which is my choice, I was grateful to find a short respite of peace and beauty. I had a few hours before I needed to be at work so walking to the office I stopped at the Church of San Lorenzo is held; a magnificent building, but filled with school children on an outing. Walking on, I stopped at the imposing building of the church of San Francesco d'Assisi and entered. I am not particularly religious, rarely going to church or praying, although I do believe in God. There was something spiritually appealing in the beauty of the interior, combined with the silence in the huge church. I  sat in a pew a just Stopped. I stepping out of my life, the rushing around, the endless decision-making, and took this opportunity for a moment of peace. I am very thankful I found, and went in, this beautiful, quiet, old church.