Friday, 23 April 2010

Kidnapped aka Out of Control

Those of you who know me know that I do like control. I can be spontaneous, like the time J and I ended up on a plane to Dubai 2 hours after sitting at home doing a crossword and talking about the weekend. I'm also alright with an unstructured/non-planned day, but I confess I like a say in what I am doing.

This morning I was feeling lazy and it felt too hot to even go to the pool. I had a missed call from one of my students, but I thought I'd return it later to avoid having to turn down an invitation as I just wanted to be a couch-potato. About 12  noon I decided to walk to the shop to get some bread for lunch, as I crossed the street my student, he of the missed call, drove past with his friend Salma, and I was kidnapped. Well, I told them truthfully I was going to the supermarket and they said they were hoping to take me for "breakfast", and opened the car door for me, so I had to go. Note to self, must teach meal names next week.

We had a drive downtown, pass both of their universities, as there seems to be some competition over whether Khartoum or Sudan Uni is the best. I saw some things I'd passed before and other parts of the Nile that I hadn't, which was really interesting. Finally, we went to a fish restaurant (pic right) which served the best fresh Nile fish. It was served on a huge platter between us, (above) with bread rolls, and salad. Eating with our right hands, we ate our way through the mountain of fish. Only having eaten a couple of times like this, I was not very good at getting the delicious white fish away from the bones, but Amar was a real gentleman and kept passing me the choice pieces de-boned. To drink we had a Sudanese soft drink called Champion. it is slightly fizzy, quite sweet with an unusual flavour. What I would have done for a cool glass of white instead is anyones guess.

From the restaurant we drove back to my area to a cafe where we had fresh lemon juice and shared a banana split, which I didn't have room for but was unable to refuse. Salma invited me to a dance class this Sunday, Egyptian/Sudanese dance, whatever that means, and issued general invites to visit her family home, friends, and workplace. So much food, such great hospitality, and terrific friendship shown by them both. I really must learn not to be such a typical  type-A personality and chill out more. I had a lovely time with them both and I am so pleased I was too lazy to go to the pool. As this is Gratitude Friday, I am thankful for people like them and unexpected events.

PS. Sorry about the  quality of pics, as I hadn't planned on being kidnapped I did not have my camera with me and these were taken on my phone.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010


Horse & boy, originally uploaded by travelingsuep.

After work today, instead of being dropped back at the hotel, I got dropped downtown about a block from the Nile. I wanted to visit the Ethnographic Museum, which I'd failed to do at the beginning of the month. The museum was very interesting. It helped as it is very well laid out and has signs in English. Afterwards, I walked about 7 blocks in the very hot afternoon (around 42 °C) trying to find a bus. 

I've said before that the Sudanese people are lovely, here's an example: I was at a huge junction, and could not get across the street. An old man walking past, changed the direction he was going, guided me across between the traffic, then crossed back and continued on his way. 

Moments later I was hailed by one of the minibuses. It's quite strange to see the minibuses slow near people stood on the pavements and a boy/young man stands at an open door shouting out the bus's direction. I asked for my area and street, the young man didn't know where I wanted to go, but another passenger said yes they were going there so I got on. I was charged half a Sudanese pound (about £0.15 ) and was taken through areas that I vaguely recognised and areas I didn't, but was told to get off shortly after I had seen a building I had walked past on one of my early wanders. I was at the bottom of my street phew. 

I always find taking public transport very nerve racking, and worry I am going to end up somewhere miles from my destination, especially when I'm not sure they have understood where I'm going. After this little adventure, and as it's so ridiculously cheap, I will be hopping on more minibuses, although not until later in the day, when it should be a little cooler.
As you may have noticed, I do not have a picture of a minibus, but thought the boy with his horse & cart I took recently would be a good substitute.


Thursday, 15 April 2010

Gratitude Friday - random events

Thursday, I had just got up for work when I received a call saying the day had been declared a holiday, in order for everyone to get the opportunity to vote. I wondered what to do, but was unsure if the museums would be open as it was a holiday. Also, I was slightly wary of going downtown on the last election day (the papers have had a few reports of disgruntled voters, who can't vote through admin problems). Therefore, I used the morning catching up on mail, sorry mum & dad I didn't send you one, painting and blogging.
 In the afternoon, I thought I would go for a walk, although it's starting to get too hot. I know this is a gratitude blog but - why is it soooo windy here, carrying a ton of sand & dust into my eyes, hair and clothes??? Anyway, I went to a park I had spotted when "misplaced" last week from the knight in shining armour aka a rickshaw. Families & couples were sitting on the grass and benches, relaxing or having picnics. There was a small zoo with gazelles, but I couldn't work out how to enter, so I continued walking around.

This is the point that random events collide to make me grateful. I came across a group of young boys setting up a band. A young man was sat on a bench strumming a guitar and in a space in front of a turquoise building they were setting up a drum kit and electric guitars. I sat at a vacant picnic table and it soon became clear that they were using the park as a place for band practice. When I left, they had regrouped and along with the drummer were 3 or 4 electric guitar players and a keyboard. The short parts of tunes they played sounded quite good, especially the guitarists, and there was lots of fun and laughter. What a fabulous thing to hear and witness. I am thankful for seeing this slice of normal Khartoum life.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Sudanese Elections ahead

I'm still really enjoying it here, but watching the news carefully as the first elections in 24 years are planned for 11/12/13th April and nobody knows if it will be peaceful or not. One of the prime candidates pulled out of the presidential race on Wednesday amongst rumours of ballet rigging (and that's before it starts). As the BBC wrote yesterday "The only safe thing to say about Sudan's elections is one never knows what might happen next." 

Al Jazeera News international added today that now "Sudan's main opposition parties [5] have withdrawn from the country's upcoming presidential polls, effectively handing a hollow victory to Omar al-Bashir, the sitting president." The parties have pulled out for "irregularities" and say the country is not yet ready to go to the polls as there has not been fair opportunity to campaign the country. Certainly on the main roads around the area I live, every street light along the centre of the roads is covered in huge posters for Al-Bashir's party (left) and you have to look hard to find posters for other parties (right).

What is worrying is that in the Al Jazeera article they quote Khalil Ibrahim, the leader of the Justice and Equality Movement "Ibrahim said it would be a catastrophe if al-Bashir won the election. "He will continue the violence, especially in the west part of Sudan," he said. "I don't think the other parties will accept this, there will be chaos and war if he [al-Bashir] wins."" . I hope not as Sudan is an amazing place and, to be selfish, I have not had the chance to really explore yet. 

People think that the election days will be a holiday here, and people at work have promised to ring me if I need to stay indoors or anything. I think living away from the city centre may be a good thing if anything happens. Hopefully it will be, less selfishly, the Sudanese deserve to have a fair election and to live peacefully after all these years.