Friday, September 23, 2005

Heat Blisters

Ok, so I've been in Sudan for a month now. Today me and French Charlotte went shopping in Souq Omdurman, a market in the old part of Khartoum. We were lucky and met two Sudanese boys that followed us through the market and managed to give us better prices. They were really nice and it was nice to see that there actually are male Sudanese that are all normal without having a hidden agenda. I was sweating like a pig for four hours under a burning sun, crowding and the stench of garbage, excrement and God knows what else. When I got home I had water filled heat blisters all over my body. That wasn't too fun, but at least I gained a new experience!

I met three more Swedish girls; Cecilia, Ida and Linn. A couple of days ago we went to a women's café and watched traditional sudanese wedding dancing. It's great to see that the muslim women can move in such an... exotic way, when the men aren't around! Next Thursday I think I'm going with the girls to a big wedding, so I'm hoping to see more of what a Sudanese wedding is like then.

The Sudanese people are very kind, but they often go from one extreme to another. If you for example order an orange juice and it's too sweet (like most of the things are here, the Sudanese LOVES sugar!) then you will get a juice with no sugar at all next time. If I ask our cook to make a little less rice until next time, then she stops cooking rice completely. If you ask someone to help you with something, then they suddenly want to help you with everything.

Despite of everything, I'm liking it here. As soon as you got a small group of friends it's more than ok. I mean, there are way too much that is bad in this country (the heat, the dust, policemenwith automatic guns everywhere, starvation, illness, poverty etc), but it definitely has it's charms. People here have gone through so much and from the deepest parts of my heart I admire their ability to still be able to smile. I hope that you, back home, are smiling too, because you certainly have a reason to! Yalla!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Fruitless Crocodile Hunting

Yesterday I got my first Sudanese love declaration from a guy that was really really embarrassed and was blushing the whole time. "I fell in love with you - did you fall in love with me?". Before that, our only communicating was a few polite greetings, all over and done in a couple of minutes. Then he gave me a package of cookies. Hm... Oh well, I've started to plan for small trips I'd like to go to in the nextcoming few months. I'll definitely go camping in the desert, by the pyramids and go to Port Sudan and scuba dive.

I went crocodile hunting (with my camera, not something sharp) a few days ago, but I didn't see any and got really disappointed. Thinking of going to Tutti Island and make a new search as soon as I get my photo permission. Everything runs veeeeeery slowly here. A lot of talk and too little action. The Sudanese appears to want as little responsibility as possible, and if they get a task it will take ages until something happens, if anything happens at all. But at least they're nice : )

Transit in P3 (Travel program in a major Swedish radio channel) got in touch and want me in one of their programs. It's ramadan in a month or so and I said that I'm thinking fo making a short report then, so keep your eyes and ears open!


Thursday, September 8, 2005

Powerlessness and Hibiscus Jiuce!

I got a friend! A sudanese friend! Her name is Shayma'a and will probably be my local link to the arab world here. I met her and her friend last week and had Sudanese juice with hibiscus. Strange but nice.

Everythin runs smoothly here, however slowly. We have a full time employed electrician in the house since the electricity is not something to trust. Got to sleep without AC last night again, but that went ok since we've had a few "cool" days when it's only been around 35 degrees. Thank god I got a membership at the Grand Hotel Villa, which probably is the closest you can get to luxury in Sudan at this time. They have a big swimming pool, parasolls, sun chairs and food and drinks that are more than way over priced. I suspect this will be my refuge from now on. It's nice to get away from the dust, the hordes of people and the heat from time to time, although I'm starting to get used to is. A little. I'm still sweating rivers, but it would have been wierd if I didn't. In Sudan it's as common to be shiny with sweat as it is to have a running nose in winter-Sweden.

I've been a criminal too! A couple of days ago, me and Mathew (my employer) went to this China restaurant that serves "special tea". This special tea happens to be BEER! And let me tell you, it was probably one of the best beers I've ever had.

Reality is starting to come back to me down here. A couple of days ago I found out that the house opposite to ours is used as an "questioning building", where the military tries to get information from people with the use of unpleasant methods. Most people call it torture. I almost feel bad for coming from Sweden. We have it so good back home and you realize it first when you've seen what reality is for other people around the world. If you report your wallet to be stolen (as a western person at least), they will most likely grab an innocent Sudanese on the street and beat him for hours just to report that someone has been punished for the crime, although most likely not the right person (but you'd do best in not mentioning that. In fact, don't report your wallet stolen at all, if you can help it).

There are still slave camps in Sudan, where women and children are forced to hard labour without payment. There are thousands of political refugees that are tortured every day. And we see all that back home in Sweden, on TV and in newspapers. We hear of eye witness testimonials and stories, about how rape is used as a weapon during the war, about young men who was forced to rape his mother. We know all this, but it never really gets to us. It's nice there, in the soca, when we're eating crisps and watch the news. We see when people starve and die from dhiorréa and say "this is so sad...", but we never realize how fucking sad it really is. How can we sit there and eat crisps while people have their hands cut off, gets stoned to death, starvs or dies of thirst? How can we not get more affected of what we see on TV?

I feel bad. For being Swedish and "rich" (although God knows I'm not). Every day I have to ignore someone who reach out his hand for monay, every day I have to turn my face away from someone that I can't help. And in the building opposite to ours, people are being tortured.

And can you belive that all the competent people has goon to USA to help the poor americans that got struck by hurricane Katrina?! A few western people die in a natural disaster while thousans are starving every day, and who gets prioritized? Not the children with pointy ribs, flies in their eyes and swollen bellies. Kuwait gave half a billion dollars to USA, an amount of money that could have built this country up from scratch. But who cares about Sudan? Or Nigeria? "But" says someone, "it's not the same thing!".

In a few days the new government will be announced, which is supposed to be a mix between the ruling NCP and the former rebels. Many says that NPC agreed to give the rebels power just to end the fightings, but that they will never keep their part of the deal. If this is true, I believe we can count on more disturbances in the country and that the peace agreement will no longer be.

Thursday, September 1, 2005


I've now been in Khartoum for exactily one week. When we landed, minutes before midnigt, it was closer to 40 degrees celcius outside so I got a tiny chock when we stepped out of the plane. When we got to the house, our aidconditioning broke, so there was I, trying to suffer through a night in the insufferable heat. Luckily I was tired from the journey and managed to fall asleep after a while anyways. Despite of the 40-45 degrees in the shadow, it just found out that this is the start of the Sudanese winter. Yeay.

Khartoum is more poor than I first had thought and although we live in one of the most "presticious" blocks in the city, this would still be classed as slum with Swedish standards. The electricity disappears wherever and whenever (along with the airconditioning of course), the roof is leaking when it's raining and when it finally rains the whole city will be flooded for 5-6 days which makes it more or less impossible to get anywhere at all by foot.

The city is big and most people here live under extremely simple conditions (without airconditioning!), but despite of everything they all, for some mystical reason, manage to keep their spirits upp. The Sudanese are among the nicest, warmest and hospitable people I've ever met.

As a white woman you get a lot of attention wherever you go. From women and men, grown ups and children, black and whites. I hade a whole army with Italian soldiers behind me the other day, people stops their cars to look at me, I've been paparazzied, called for, stared at and talked about basically every day. While writing this I have five Sudanese men talking about me and think that I don't understand that they do. But I've started to get used to it. Compared to many other places the attention I get here is mostly based on curiosity, so that doesn't really bother me anymore. And by the way, I'm an attention craving woman, so shouldn't I just enjoy it all while it lasts? ; )

We have two sisters from Ethiopia as maids and they're both wonderful. Only one of them speaks English, but I have learned that it's fully possible to communicate with gesticulations and body language. We have a HUGE black man as guard outside of the house too. His name is Ball and is really really shy. Apparently he comes from a tribe in Southern Sudan that are famous for being the tallest people on earth. I don't doubt it.

Today has been a muslim holiday, I can't remember what it's called, but I think it's today that the prophet Muhammed returned from Mekka and/or Medina. I haven't noticed much from the holiday or the celebration and most has been as usual. Five times a day there are callings for prayer, with a man reciting verses from the Quran up from a prayer tower that are scattered around the city. I like listening to it although I don't understand a word of what they're saying. It's peacefull.

Oh well, Khartoum is not a big city like any other. There is no luxury here. Not even the Hilton hotel is particulary nice. There is no real city center, no sky scrapers, no McDonald's (because of a blockade) or any other shopping chains. Everything here runs extremely slow. People don't get stressed up and do not try to fool you. A smile means nothing other than a mise and people are not being nice because they want something from you.

I'm in an internet café now but think I'll be going home now. I'll take a ride with a tuktuk (I believe they're called raksha here), for the sake of nostalgia : )