Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Khartoum Bank Holiday - not a log blog.

Back in 2004 a very forward thinking young lady called Thea invited a recently retired Royal Air Force  logistics officer to see if he could help a group of PhDs and development professionals make a difference in Darfur.  The RAF officer was me and 8 years later putting operational know how from the military and commercial sectors into the aid and development sector, particularly when working with national staffs, still excites me. Since then I have built and run hospitals, cleared rubble, distributed food lead entire teams delivering camp management, public health, education, GBV and more.  Below is an extract from one of my first emails home from Sudan.  I remember enjoying the freedom of not having a uniform and the good friends of my first NGO job, Jason A, Jason W, Anders and Abbai.  I shall let you enjoy the picture of Khartoum circa September 2004.

"Khartoum is silent today, it is a national holiday and the usual
thronging streets are peaceful, the occasional purr of a car passing
the only thing to disturb the birdsong so often masked by the sound of
the commerce and traffic.  I walked home at 4 along my usual route
along Al Jamia Street, passed the monument of national unity and the
people's palace – the ironies of which did not wholly pass me by.  The
peace allows you time to sift thoughts usually disrupted by the
concentration required to navigate the hurly burly of Khartoum life. 
The streets lay bereft of battered yellow taxi's and lazy street
hawkers, apathetic almost to the point of silence- disdainfully
proffering their dusty wares in the vain hope you came out to buy
musical casserole dishes.  Amid the calm comes a sense of the lost
grandeur of Khartoum, slightly embarrassed by it colonial past
colonnades and covered walkways line the main streets forgotten and
dilapidated masonry crumbling, paving cracked, paint decaying – hardly
the heroic death the patrons of the empire would have wished for.  The
Sudanese have left their edifices and now lay sprawled in municipal
gardens dulled by the heat of the afternoon sun the murmur of
conversation is low as many slumber in the shade of bent and twisted
trees.  A large group studies together, books nestled in laps and
balanced neatly on crossed legs they stare intently at the pages
trying to decipher algebra, archaeology, Arabic or the study of the
day.  The wildlife takes the opportunity of human lethargy and takes
to the streets, birds land to inspect an ants nest for food; cats
prowl across the top of walls and fences nimbly tripping through the
overgrown hibiscus aware there will be no stoning or kicking today and
the dogs shut both eyes in their heavy slumber leaving just and ear
cocked for trouble.  In this daze of discovery I bring myself almost
to my front door.  I find a lone store open in the street to my hotel
and buy a natural yoghurt and some guava juice to sweeten it with and
haul myself the last 200 metres to air conditioning, and so you find
me enjoying my late lunch of yoghurt and grapefruit as I type this to
you now.  At times like this Khartoum is beautiful and a walk by the
blue or white Nile is a peaceful magic on Saturday the magic will
change for that of the hawker, the salesman, the businessman and all
street life will resume."

It has been a crazy 8 years but my passion for such rich cultures still remains.

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