So, this week initially looked as though it was going to be like any other. I had just made plans to go to the Natural History Museum here in Khartoum with one of The Lovely American Girls, when The Tedious Englishman decided that a semi-discussed plan to visit the town of Kassala in the east should happen. THE NEXT DAY.
We decided we still had plenty of time for museum-ing before I needed to pack (as we'd be staying at the SVP flat in town so we could get up slightly less early in the morning). How very wrong we were. It turns out that when handy things like guidebooks and websites tell you that Sudanese museums will be open for certain hours throughout the day, what they actually mean is: THE OPENING TIMES FOR EVERYTHING ARE INCREDIBLY AMBIGUOUS AND NOT USEFUL. We discovered this when we arrived in what should have been plenty of time, only to have a man washing his car in the road to roar with laughter at us and shout "YOU'RE TOO LATE!". Brilliant, thanks. So back home we went, and happily for me, the Bahri electricity supply was having a little joke to itself, so I had to pack in the dark. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME SUDAN?
After a healthy dose of packing related stress, I bussed it over to the flat, and headed out with Mr. SVP Coordinator for some dinner in the road. Literally, we sat on a matt in the road. I do very much like eating here. Before long we were joined by The Tedious Englishman and spent the next few hours being bought tea and coffee (the latter in a room that looked very much like a torture chamber) by some Friendly Egyptians we found, before heading back for some mosquito related non-sleep in the SVP flat.
At the delightful hour of 5am, we forced ourselves out of bed and into a barely held together taxi, which took us somewhere dark, cold and far-away where buses live. Our particular bus was essentially Dolores Umbridge's office on wheels, minus the kittens (you are a terrible person if you need that reference explaining). Chic it was not. Oh, fun fact - in Sudan, you can pay half the price of a bus ticket to essentially not have a seat. WHAT?
When we got there, a tiny boy-cousin of Mr. SVP Coordinator led us through a small gated compound, and there we met several family members and were shown to the little out-house where the three of us would be staying. One of the most excellent things about Sudan is that people like to rest A LOT, and so we were given a huge tray of food, followed by tea, then left to sleep for a few hours. When we woke up, our host came in to pour us 'coffee'. It was ginger. I swear it was just ginger.
We settled for scrambling a little way up the mountain instead, which I had to do barefoot since my sandals are almost falling apart. It was also another occasion where the phrase 'not easy in a full length skirt' very much applied. STORY OF MY (SUDANESE) LIFE. We rounded off our first evening with some tasty bread chunks in a bowl of stuff and cheese (I am king of useful descriptions), and then a lizard came to join us in our room, and made weird noises all night. So that was fun.
Many friendly farmers and fruit gardens did await us at the foot of the mountains. I will let the pictures do most of the talking:
I found myself a nice slab of rock to sit on and was having a nice time watching the sun go down by myself, when a few guys came up and asked to have their picture taken with me. That was all fine, until a whole load more of them appeared, and they started putting their arms round me, holding my hair (...I don't get it either) and occasionally touching my legs. Fortunately, just as I was beginning to feel pretty uncomfortable, The Tedious Englishman re-emerged from his own private scrambling adventure, and on seeing a male kawaja, my short-lived crowd quickly dispersed. Not my favourite moment of Sudan so far. DON'T TOUCH ME. At least the views were good.
Since then, I have mostly been recovering from all the Kassala based excitement and also undertaking long motorbike rides to check out my new digs and the university I'm going to be teaching at. I am moving into my own HOUSE in a few days, somewhere to the very south of Khartoum. And I even have a start date for teaching - it's all happening! Pictures to follow next week. I will say this though - MY HOUSE HAS A SWING SEAT!
Until then - Stay Sandy San Diego,