Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Simple Life?

I just got back from two weeks in a village in northern Sudan (hence my incommunicado status), which reminded that no matter where you go or how many times you travel, you will always have find moments of awe, when something seems so new and beautiful to you.

But let me start from the beginning: the bus ride.

Wayne, an RCMP officer I know from Canada who is in Sudan working with the UN, and I had decided to visit our Canadian Sudanese friend Mohammed, who was on vacation in his natal village in northern Sudan. We arrived at a dark empty street at 3:45 am to catch the bus to the village (called Taitti). We were the first ones there and had to wait a good 20 minutes before the bus even arrived. I hadn't slept, so I was looking forward to a nap on the bus - but there would be no such thing.

"Hey, what do you think that screen is for" Wayne asked, when we got on the bus. "Showing movies?"

A reasonable assumption. But when the show began, well what can I say - I have never experienced anything so excrutiatingly painful.

It was a video of some Muslim child prodigy preacher. Seriously. A six-year-old kid at the pulpit, waving his hands dramatically in the air and screaming in the most horribly screechy voice to hundreds of congregants. This went on for a good 40 minutes. Every time there was a pause and I thought it was over, his screeching voice would resume. The only respite from this horrible, horrible soundtrack (which, ps., was blaring through the speakers) was Wayne listening to his headphones and singing to himself beside me.

After a while, it all became too funny and I couldn't hold back my laughter at the ridiculousness of this video. It must have been the lack of sleep, but when the grown men in the video began repeating "Amin" after his sentences, I just burst into laughter. Every time his voice cracked, I laughed harder. The guy in the aisle across from me started looking over, smiling. SERIOUSLY, WHO IS THIS KID? I've never seen anything like it.

Anyways, when we finally arrived, it was astounding. We were dropped off on the side of a paved road in the midst of the desert. You do a 360 degree circle and find nothing but sand. It was really incredible. From there, we took a truck through the bumpy paths through the desert to the village.

Taitti is made up of about 3,000 people, whose homes are made of mud, but quite nice looking (painted white and blue) and quite spacious, with tons of different rooms and beds everywhere! They use beds as chairs, as seats for guests and parties, and of course, for sleeping.

It was really different being here than arriving to villages in Chad. While the Chadian villages were much poorer, there was an obvious UN presence and thus less feeling of isolation. Here, I truly felt far from the world. People here have no TVs, no radios, no newspapers. I had to walk to a specific spot down by the mosque to get cell phone reception.

They have no electricity - meaning no fans, no computers, no fridges... All food is cooked on the day of, fruits and fridge-requiring foods are rare, and the place is just SO quiet. If you sit there on an afternoon, all you hear are the roosters crowing, and the flies buzzing. It's really amazing, the silence of the place.

The people drink the brown, cloudy water from the Nile. I drank it too. It tastes good actually, and never made me sick - although I tried not to drink too much of it every day. Some families, like Mohammed's, have dug their own wells and built tanks to bring well-water into their

homes - not for drinking, but for washing/cleaning/cooking. This water is burning hot during the day because it sits in the sun-soaked pipes all day. The water from the nile is kept in clay pots to keep it cool. Along main roads or near mosques you will find these pots for passersby to get water if thirsty.

At night, we carried the beds out into the open-air centres of the homes, and slept under the stars.

I'd love to write more (for a better description, check out Wayne's blog at:, but I haven't eaten all day, have about 1,000 phone calls to make, a trip to the south to plan, and an article to finish!

Take care,

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