Fortunately, I couldn’t hang with my new bezzie for long as it was time for more pizza at Lovely DFID Lady’s apartment – and my first amjad (essentially a taxi, but beefier and less yellow) ride by myself. SUCH BRAVERY. Her place is so amazing. I actually found myself stroking the cushions, that’s how luxurious it feels compared to everything else in Sudan.
The next day, I got up early for a meeting with the SVP coordinator, the SVP founder and some members of the university I’ll be teaching at. Since it’s Sudan, as soon as I arrived I was informed that the meeting had been postponed for a casual two and a half hours. This was fine though, as it just meant I got to spend some time in a lovely garden, chatting with SVP’s eccentric 75 year old founder who seemed very taken with my embarrassing Kindle selection. Eventually we got a rickshaw to the university, and went for a wander, partly led by SVP’s coordinator’s cousin who is a student there – useful. It was actually one of the nicest looking places I’ve been to here, all plants and flowers everywhere. BUT THE BEST THING – they have pool tables. Everywhere. Outside. We attracted a fair few onlookers when we had a game (yes I lost, shut up), including some very lovely girls who wanted a picture with me. ‘Cos I’m famous now. Right?
Griselda is a tiny wonderful combination of lovely and formidable. At 2 months off 89, she remains pretty amazingly active and has a crazy packed social life. She welcomed us into her huge beautiful house covered in African art, books and furniture from wall to wall, and brought us tea (with real milk guys) and biscuits while we chatted about teaching and travelling etc. etc. Very interesting lady. And she said I could have hot baths at her place any time. Score.
Later in the evening, after I’d arrived back at the Secret Garden to find police/soldiers just sort of casually walking around the place, I was invited to go and see Sudan’s biggest band (they’re called whatever “Diamond Necklace” is in Arabic) in concert in 20 minutes. So much activity here seems to happen like that. I think I was expecting classical instruments in a village hall, which makes no sense, and was in fact the complete opposite of what this turned out to be. Instead, we walked up some concrete steps to emerge into a huge open-air amphitheatre, with a 12-14 (I kept counting, but they kept moving) strong band in full swing and a huge Sudanese crowd going nuts. The music was pretty good, all African-y and rhythmic and clapp-y. Apologies for all the non-words in that sentence.
The next day I said an emotional goodbye to the Secret Garden and grabbed an amjad to my new place, accompanied by the SVP coordinator leading the way on his motorbike.
About 2am, as the party was coming to an end, many drunken shouts about after-parties were flung about, and it was clear that no one had any idea what the fuck was going on, but there was general agreement that something must of course be happening. In the confusion, I started talking to an RAF guy WHO HAPPENS TO BE FROM MAIDSTONE? WHAT? That’s my home town in case you didn’t know. Exceedingly odd. I eventually found myself in the huge embassy vehicle of an American chap along with some SVP friends, and before long we’d arrived at some guy’s house but it turned out he was essentially unconscious. So we trooped over to Lovely DFID Lady’s apartment. Only then Unconscious Man seemed to have awoken. So back we went. Only, by the time we arrived, Unconscious Man was once again, unconscious. At least he lived up to the name I’ve just given him.
More late night/early morning driving through a silent Khartoum continued, until we arrived at the absolutely gigantic three storey house of one of the members of this weird new rag-tag gang we’d got going on. This was mostly fine. Unless you consider driving by a group of non-uniformed guys wielding AK-47s and waving down cars in the middle of the road terrifying… It was terrifying. Easily the most scared I’ve been since I got to Sudan. But that was quickly forgotten since we were at an after-party in an amazing house and everyone was being very drunk and weird. Excellent. Eventually left around 5.30 with The Burri Collective since Bahri is about a million miles away from wherever the hell we were (no exaggeration, obviously).
The day after was essentially a write-off, with everyone trying to piece together all the weird things of the night before in a very bemused sort of way. Drink and drama are rare treats out here so we had to make the most of it. In the evening, we’d been supposed to go to this Chinese Spring Festival thing, only by the time we actually found it, it was too crowded to see anything. Awesome. So instead we had burgers at a restaurant by the Nile, which was all very nice until a gentleman came over to us very tired/hung-over/generally-in-a-bad-way people, and wanted to join us. We politely declined, and then he suddenly looked at me and said “It was worth it…FOR YOU”. Umm…yes? What? No. I was reminded later of how the majority of Sudanese people have been very kind to us, and not weird in restaurants, when a bus that wasn’t going where we wanted to go, just took us there anyway. Lovely bus man.
Eventually, I actually had the opportunity to unpack properly and settle into my Bahri home a little more. Exploring the huge sprawling souk with one of the Lovely American Girls was very nice, and allowed me to bring home the treasures of over-priced deodorant, weird hair oil (finding conditioner here is something of a non-rewarding challenge) and a scarf. My friend bought some sugar cane, which I didn’t even know you could eat by itself. Not that you eat it, you just chew out the juice and spit the rest out. Pretty tasty though.
Until then, I hope you are all doing well and feeling a lot less dusty than I am right now,