Did you know that there are over 2 million internally displaced people in Sudan? Today we went to a refugee camp where we gave mosquito nets to dozens of orphans from the Darfur crisis. They sang to us, Christian songs taught to them by the people in the trenches. One of the reporters I spoke with, a Christian man, said that even though he was baptized with his name, he cannot be confirmed until he gives it up for a western one. Is that still the approach in these global times? Back home, when I'm sitting comfortably in my living room, or thinking about the devastation wrought upon First Nations people (my people now, I guess - did I mention I just got my letter of status?), I can say things like: is what they really need? to have their culture ripped away from them as well? But at the same time, it is the Christians over here who are bringing in the most money to cover the basic necessities. The world is grey, the world is grey.
We went on a tour that was meant to be three hours and wound up being the whole day. I had gotten my laundry done in the shower that morning, and figured I could simply clean my bike when we finished our next day. We went on a boat ride on the Nile, where the white and the blue Nile meet. There were animals about, though there were no crocs. The fella said they tend to be where the current is faster, further in the south.
We went to see where General Gordon was decapitated when the British were initially removed from Sudan (they came back ten years later with the Egyptians to force Sudan into submission). We went to the YMCA to see the offices where they teach people skills to get jobs so that there will be less poverty in what is an extremely impoverished city. Looking at Khartoum, you have to wonder why they don't all just move to the country. And one of the greater complaints of the people is that it is too expensive now to get married. With dowry and wedding costs, buying your bride is about 18,000 US. Mail order from Russia? Kidding.
We were brought round to the house of the man who runs the YMCA. His wife had spent the day cooking for thirty. Soups, vegetables, chicken, rice, fruit, everything you could ever desire! We ate like kings. Tehre was the Reuters correspondent there. He told us of how great it was that there is now peace between the south and the North, as he hadn't gotten to see his family for 17 years. As a journalist there was no way he would be granted permission to travel. When asked for my profession while coming into this country I stated that I was a cyclist. Staying away from the whole writer thing.
After listening to a CD of one of the guests present - Mary, a lovely girl from Sudan studying in South Africa to work for African NGOs - we headed off and went to a cemetery. Malcolm, one of our riders, has a grandfather who was buried here in Khartoum. We left him to find it, and he got a rubbing of the grave to bring home to his family. They are going through the process to bring his grandmother here to Sudan to be buried alongside her husband.
And now I'm here, in this mall where they chant the call to prayer over the intercom, contemplating pizza, and getting ready to head home to my tent and sleep until 5:30, only to start out on the road again.
Love to all - You'll here from me in six days when I get to Ethiopia.