Monday, October 27, 2008

"The number you are calling...

I started working for Bloomberg News last week - it's an American financial news wire service, kind of like Reuters or Associated Press. And what do my days consist of?

Sitting in front of my computer with my phone to my ear calling number after number, trying desperately to get a hold of ANYONE to follow up on breaking news stories.

And what do I hear?

"The network is busy"
"This number is out of service"
"Please try again later"

Example. Minister of Presidential Affairs for Southern Sudan has FIVE different phone numbers (you have to have phones from different networks, so that when one goes down you can use the other). I have two different phones. I called each of his five phone numbers with each of my two phones.. nothing. Imagine spending your whole day like this... every day.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008


A few of you have asked, 'So what's really happening in Darfur?' and I'm sorry I haven't been more enlightening on this blog. There are some reasons for that, including the fact that I'm not sure just how much I should say. I had a run-in with Sudanese National Security in Darfur - let's call it part of the harassment many international people here undergo. They went through all my things, deleted my digital pictures, copied files from my laptop, body searched me, etc. It was an unpleasant experience, to say the least. One diplomat put it this way: "We are challenging the Sudanese government just by being here. So they turn around, and when they can flex a muscle, they do."

But in terms of Darfur, I will say that it is unclear what is happening. It is impossible to say anything with any certainty. Rebels are constantly changing alliances, armed attacks take place by unidentifiable assailants, even regular people have been politicized and it's hard to know when to trust what they say.

But here is the best analysis I could come up with: Might as well read it from the source.

You can listen to another recent story I did, on a separate subject, that of Arabs in the far north of Sudan here.

Otherwise, things are going well in Sudan. The last few days had been a bit rough, but things are getting better now.

Me and Stephane (my roommate)'s biggest struggle right now has been getting our money back after a man on the street gave us a fridge that didn't work. This comes in fourth on my worst experiences in Sudan (after being robbed, the visa sagas, and being harrassed by National Security). We have been fighting with him for 3 weeks to either fix the thing or give us our money back. But he is totally a "con" as we say in French, and just blowing us off. It's such a frustrating feeling screaming at someone who just doesn't give a damn. Going to the police is likely a waste of time, and now we have resorted to accepting assistance from the butcher across the street who offered to have his friend fix the fridge because he pittied us - we'll see if he's playing us too. Stupid Heba still hasn't learned not to hand over cash unless she gets something in her hand to show for it.

In other news, a good friend of mine from Canada is moving to Khartoum to work for the UN. I only met her for 2 days during a training session in Canada, (She was part of the group of Canadians selected for the CANADEM program which sent me to Senegal last year, and her to Kenya), but I felt we really connected. So I'm pretty excited for a new friend in this lonely place. I think she will move into our house too!

And in soccer yesterday, I scored a goal with my head off of a corner kick. It was beautiful and it blew all those old men (who can't comprehend that a woman can play soccer) away. Apparently female soccer is much less common outside of America. Even the Europeans are astounded by the fact that I know how to make a pass.

Anyways, I'll leave you with some pics. The Darfurian town of Tawila from the air; me eating something like sugarcane at a camp for displaced people in North Darfur; UN peacekeepers in Darfur (one was killed on Monday in an ambush by unknown attackers); and finally, just to show it is not all misery in Darfur, people at a camp for displaced people celebrating Eid. They gather in small circles clapping and singing while one person in the middle jumps up and down. A tradition of the Zaghawa tribe, from what I'm told.