My penultimate week in Khartoum was pretty much the weirdest and most EMOTIONAL of them all yet. For some, it was a very irritating time, as a complicated exit visa situation meant that many of my fellow volunteers weren't allowed to leave the country. To cheer some of them up, The Tedious Englishman and I met up with the remaining members of the Burri Collective and enjoyed an over-priced dinner at O-Zone followed by an unexpected table tennis tournament. I didn't even know Sudan had table tennis tables so y'know, 6 MONTHS WASTED NOT PLAYING REGULAR TABLE TENNIS, THANKS GUYS. I was informed by one friend, in a secretive whisper, that he "actually used to go to table tennis club" when he was younger. Thankfully it turned out that we were all equally shit at what is, lets face it, a ridiculous game (although not anywhere near as awful as the "8 Ball" we were forced to endure in Ethiopia a few months before).
We had known for a while that it was impossible for Jefferson, the love of my life, to come home with us to the UK. But I think I had avoided really thinking about it. With the Tedious Englishman's practical help, we had got as far as sorting him out a new home, with the cousin of a Sudanese friend who "liked to raise animals" (i.e. was unlikely to eat him - at least, that's what I hoped he meant).
I spent most of the evening before staring at the LOVELY CREATURE and giving him affection in the way that all pets worldwide detest. CLINGING, LINGERING, STRANGULATING AFFECTION. All too soon, the morning came around, and he looked confused as I bundled him into a shoe box ready for the journey to his new home. Unfortunately, Jefferson wasn't a fan of boxes, and spent most of the journey shimmying his way out of it onto my chest, not helped by the absolutely appalling driving and lack of suspension going on in the amjad we'd got unfortunately chosen.
To make matters more complicated, our Sudanese friend wasn't able to meet us and take us to his cousin's place, so The Tedious Englishman was charged with liaising between our friend on the phone, and our awful amjad driver who was getting increasingly lost and angry, as we toured around the backstreets of Omdurman.
Eventually, we managed to find the workshop of said cousin, and he invited us in (the awful angry amjad driver invited himself in, which was also very confusing). Communication was a little difficult since he spoke no English and our Arabic was, obviously, atrocious, but he could tell I was having SEVERE EMOTIONAL ISSUES connected with imminent-rabbit-loss and put on a very comforting face as he took Jefferson off my lap and inspected his eyes, teeth and nails etc. Again, I am hopeful that this was to make sure he was healthy because he likes animals, and not because he was planning on making a rabbit sandwich as soon as we left.
I wept, said my goodbye, and we departed, as there was so much more of THE WORST DAY left to come.
Here are some boring pictures which I'm mainly including to remind myself, when I am 407 years old, of what my daily life looked like briefly, when I was young and lost in Sudan.
Fortunately for us, old This-N-That (our rambunctious next door neighbour, boss and landlord) next door was very quick to invite us in and share the excellent 1st-Day-Of-Ramadan (...not it's official name, obviously) meal his lovely wife had prepared. After a lot of dates and hibiscus juice, we thanked him for putting us up in his other house for several months, waved goodbye to said house that had been ours for several months, and this time, successfully got an amjad.
It was also time for another of our gang to be departing, so we met some of our friends at Gad for a big goodbye meet-up. The Tedious Englishman was even awake for some of it.
The next morning, slightly disoriented and not just-a-bit sad, I woke up to a standard Khartoum power-cut and the usual all-embracing covering of sweat - yum. However, not long after, an amazing thing happened. I was walking to the shops with one of the girls and a rickshaw driver was following us and repeatedly not taking "No, we really don't want a rickshaw" for an answer. And because he was looking at us, and not at the road, he drove straight into a humongous hole in the road. It was equal to a person genuinely slipping over on a banana skin. What an absolute twat.
We spent the evening hanging out and making ratatouille - and all was lovely and well.
My last week in Sudan looked mainly like this: a LOT of Mindy Kaling and dinner experiments with the Lovely American Girls.
Mid-week, we all headed over to the US Embassy for a two-days-early Fourth of July party. I was expecting the usual expat crowd and perhaps slightly more debauchery than usual, but it was a full-on swank fest. We shook hands with ambassadors in suits from all over the place, schmoozed with a Senegalese major-general and saw some pretty excellent and unexpected fireworks. It was all very "'MURICA" and very good fun.
The next day involved another big old sandstorm but that didn't stop us heading over to Bahri (where I lived with the Lovely American Girls for a few weeks at the start of my time in Sudan) for a last dinner at Estella's. Unexpectedly, we were recognised by the cousin of a friend of one of the girls (....) and got our entire meal for free. LOVELY SUDAN.
Reigning in my returning emotional wreck-itude was difficult, but I managed to hold onto a little of my integrity as I hugged my friends goodbye for the last time, and weepily trundled my BLOODY MASSIVE AND HEAVY suitcases down the stairs and into an amjad.
A bewildering, insane, frustrating, fantastic, fascinating, swelteringly hot six months in Sudan were over. My head bleeds almost all the adjectives in existence when I think about it and try to summarise my feelings about the whole experience. In short - I am extremely glad I went, I will always be amazed and grateful at the fantastic people I found there, and I am intrigued and excited about how the country is going to change over the next few years.
Thank you for baring with me through all of my sandy updates :)
All the best,