We are all set to go to Kass tomorrow so we can relax and send other tid-bits...
Life in the Nyala office has been very pleasant. There are five foreign staff and over 10 Sudanese staff. Over the past week, we also had a couple of scientists from the Berkeley Lab here conducting tests on fuel efficient stoves with people in the camps. Firewood availability is a big problem so they hope that organizations like OURS will agree to distribute their stoves to people here. Overall, the group is lively and interesting to talk to – especially the scientist who calls rectangles quadrilaterals when the sides are not exactly the same length, know the total number of species of hibiscus plants, and facts about the size of stars galaxies away.
Sudan is predominantly Muslim and the country is governed by Shar’ia law so is extremely conservative. All women cover their heads, and there are lots of mosques with loud-speaker calls-to-prayer. Our office/guesthouse compound is right next to a mosque, but for some reason when they blast the call-to-prayer at 5:00 in the morning over our rooms, I do not hear them. Unfortunately, G is not so immune. And there is absolutely no alcohol here whatsoever, none for sale anywhere. You can be arrested if they find it in your luggage in customs – not really worth the risk. The only people who have access to alcohol are the large aid organizations who fly it in on their own cargo planes with the relief food and materials. Apparently, they throw good parties. So we have not had a lick of booze since our last beer on the plane to Khartoum. For a special treat, we go to the Indian restaurant to drink a nice frothy lassi (an Indian yoghurt drink, that is for now the closest thing to ice cream), or we go to an Italian restaurant and get a “cocktail” (a delicious mix of fruit juices including guava, yum). We tried going to the movies in an outdoor stadium, but all that was playing were very violent Indian films. So we went for a “cocktail” instead. That is all the excitement around here.
They call foreigners “hawajas” here and I have taken to calling G that, too. The locals think its very funny and so do I, but sometimes G is not so amused. Actually, as the Field Coordinator, he has the distinction of being the “boss” of the Kass office so the staff refers to him as the “modir” of Kass. He is tall enough for the distinction…speaking of tall…even though this is near the land of the Dinka, the standard bed-length and doorway heights remain the same.
We are slowly learning Arabic, and lucky for me, many words are the same as in Uzbek (???), maybe because of the Muslim culture. And some are the same as Turkish from what little Turkish we learned earlier this year. G’s Russian doesn’t go very far except for us to speak in code so no one else can understand.
G is a master at driving the 4x4 pick-ups, able to dodge donkey carts, took-tooks, pedestrians, and other white agency vehicles all at the same time. We have been going around town on our own rather than depend on the OUR drivers. Hopefully, there will be fewer donkeys around in Kass when I will start to drive, too, although we will have two drivers for our work.
Ok. I'll leave it here until after we get to Kass.