Saturday, May 12, 2007

haven't seen a pharmaceutical factory, yet...

salaam aliekum my friends,

I've been in Khartoum for the a few days now. it's been just roasting hot outside with temperatures between 40 to 46 C. that's really hot. i've never experienced such intense solar radiation. there's not much that the uninitiated can do during the day except to keep outside or inside activities to a bare minimum. for me, that's walking slowly to and from the local shop for multiple bottles of life giving water. cool clear water. i'm not kidding. once you're in the throes of dehydration you are toast. i certainly picked the wrong time of year to visit sudan.

i do go out at night. the area i'm staying in is called souq al-arabi (the arab market). each and every night the streets are lined with vendors plying their wares (undergarments to bottled parfume). it's pretty chaotic. alot of shouting and thousands of shoppers. i've noticed a couple of things. khartoum, well this part at least, is a dump and most sudanese are pretty tall. i'm surprised more have not followed in the footsteps of manute bol (nba player extraordinaire).

so far the people have been pretty friendly. when i'm walking about people shout out SINDEEGA (sp)!!. that's a term of endearment assigned to each and every chinese national working in sudan. supposedly, there's 5 million brothers and sisters who drew the short straws and call sudan home. surprisingly, there isn't a chinatown in khartoum, and the laundry biz is not dominated by the chinese (yet). i've only seen a few chinese in town. apparently, a bulk of them are working the oil fields down in the South.

i've unabashedly used my unofficial sindeega status a few times already. to hell with being a canadian in these parts, eh. the police don't hassle me and soldiers shake my hand. i was trying to buy some laundry soap last night (ok, it's my heritage). a guy was trying to help me out because of my poor command of the arabic language (i used the right word, that being "become" when asking for the cost of something). sometimes people are so shocked that i can utter a few words of their language that they are in a state of de-nile (get that joke, ha!). my helper asked me whether i understood english or not. that's hilarious because i had been speaking english with him for at least a minute. he asked where i was from. china (of course). well, the chinese are very supportive of sudan. they (the chinese) are great people. uh huh... blah, blah, blah... look buddy, once the motherland wants payback it's lights out for sudan if you can't fork over the oil.

the "d" word...

it's amazing the conversations i have on buses. i figure talking with the normal folks is like taking the pulse of the nation. you know, getting to down to the nitty gritty. well, i made my first sudanese friend, asser, on the air conditioned bus from gederaf (see map) to khartoum (see map). asser's a really nice guy. when the steward put on the feature movie (a really bad d-grade hollywood flick about some american dude blowing up stuff), asser turned his head.

are you ok, i asked.

"i don't watch american movies"

"why not?"

"american movies always makes us look very bad"

"you know it's a story and not real?"

no answer.

the conversation some how turns to the subject of the D word (i'll just say it's in the west of sudan). according to asser, the "problem " in the D region is exaggerated by the western media. sudanese people are beautiful. i agreed (well, most of them are). if he sees any foreign troops in sudan, he wouldn't hesitate running up to them and slitting their throats with a dagger (the latter comment was done with great animation). there is a silver lining though. tourists are ok (thank Allah). that includes american tourists. i digress. the only way foreign forces can "take" sudan is if they killed all the sudanese people because each and everyone will fight till their last breaths.

he was really working himself into a lather by now. i was flabbergasted. yet, i couldn't resist asking him what he thought about george bush. surprisingly, he calmly replied that if he ever stepped on sudanese soil he'd call him a tosser and give him the one fingered salute (i.e. the worst thing a sudanese could give dubya). asser demonstrated the latter gesture by slowly lifting the middle finger of his right hand. well, at least dubya won't need the aid of a translator in that case. he went on to complete his thought by saying after the hand gesture he would have to, on the spot, disembowel dubya. ok...

i think i fell asleep after that. a/c has that effect on me.

by the way, asser said "death to america" as i faded. he tried to teach me the arabic translation but i can't remember what it was.

ed. notes.

1. no corresponding artsie photo this week. i'm required to purchase a photography permit at some horrendous price. i can't take pix of men/women in uniform. because the po-leece and armed forces are ubiquitous, i can't take a whole lotta pix in any case. therefore, in lieu, this week i have to type a million words to explain myself in place of the pix.

2. monday will be my first attempt at escaping the mirage called khartoum. i managed to get a ticket for 3 class (i.e. the cattle class) on the world's slowest train. no a/c. no diner car. sleeping sitting up. i'm going to treat it like a big picnic at bowness park. in 36 to 50 hours, theoretically, i should arrive at wadi halfa, a frontier town on the southern tip of lake nasser. there i take a 16 hr. cruise up the lake (i.e. the nile dammed) to aswan, egypt.

3. they ain't got beer here, but someone did offer me hashish though. go figure...

4. update: there was a break in the heat spell today. the sun was blocked by a massive sandstorm. there is a god. Allah.

5. it took me 5 hrs. yesterday to purchase the train/boat tix. today, it took me 5 hrs. to be registered as a foreign alien. for the latter, it was 44 USD to tell them i'm an alien...

6. i'm hiding in this internet cafe b/c they have great a/c.


soapyDave said...

great update, even though there are no pics. I can't imagine the heat but Gina wouldn't make it, that's for sure. i hope the train to aswan is at least bigger than the train at bowness.

in other news, we just lost camera person #2 due to a strike and possibly have to postpone the shoot until our return from Europe.

soapyDave said...

i meant the train to wadi halfa

qtlibrarian said...

You rock Al

That is all

Dillan said...

Like qtlibrarian said.

Anonymous said...

Hey Sindeega!

Love the tales - I wouldn't be able to handle that kind of heat - I guess I will just have to stick to coastal Namib in 2013!

Glad to hear you are still hanging in there Al! Take some pics on the boat - I wanna see Lake Nasser! :-) Mebbe some nifty waterbirds? Any crocs in those parts? Don't fall out of the boat!

Big hugs from the
haus frau

Wasta said...

Hey, SINDEEGA! Khartoum sounds HOT and slow. Sounds interesting anyway. By the way, who needs beer with offers like that?

Write us some more stories like this one!