The beginning of my expatriate life started in 2008 in Sudan. Before this, life was not always easy, as most people may be able to relate. Being a military veteran, my skill were limited to those that are not in demand in the private sector. I had taken several course over the years between the military and this time to enhance some basic skills.
I held odd jobs as a paralegal, security guard, private investigator before moving into the field of technical writing. Here I had an opportunity to improve on my writing skills (hence a blog) and master applications. However, working as a technical writer had its limitations for me and eventually I grew bored of the mundane office life. 8-4 Monday to Friday, behind a desk, in front of a computer…just did not cut it for me.As anxiety began to set in and a few setbacks, this career path ended abruptly in January of 2008 due to corporate cutbacks and relocation. Again, I was in need of work and a means to help provide for my family. An opportunity arose while working as basic security guard of all places. Here I was given an opportunity to set new aspirations and not knowing the future and how it would evolve, a new hope (not to quote Star Wars).
The opportunity was to work for the Department of Foreign Affairs on a diplomatic mission in Khartoum, Sudan. At the Canadian Mission was a gentlemen who had sought diplomatic immunity at the Mission, and whom the government felt needed guarding. Not really who was being guarded, the gentleman or the Mission, but regardless, it was an opportunity in which I would end up taking full advantage of. Read More
The assignment was a six-month deployment to Khartoum, of which I would be away from my family. This took a great discussion, but in the end, my family agreed it would be an opportunistic move forward, so we all agreed that I would take on the first of what would be many more missions to come. Sadly, some missions came at a cost, which you will read about in the coming pages.
It was late September, 2008 when I took the first of my two flights to Khartoum, first stopping in London to change from Air Canada to what was then British Midlands Air. I think this is where the first real adventure began, not in London, but the flight from London to Khartoum. The BMI flight was a duel leg flight stopping first in Beirut, Lebanon.
Beirut Passenger Count
What seemed to be a normal exodus of passengers (probably 80 percent of the plane left) and entrance of new passengers bound for Khartoum (I believe only 5 boarded), we would soon be on our way. Well…that was just not going to happen!! Murphy arrived and would you not know it, no one could count to 23. Apparently the manifest had 23 passengers onboard but the crew could only count 22. Not sure where the math went wrong…but it took two and a half hours for the crew to count 22.5 passengers (the 23rd a baby).
In that time, the aircraft became circled by the Lebanese military, Police entered in full riot gear and still no one could count. At the end of this ordeal, I had made three new friends, one of which is a friend for life whom I still have contact and see on occasion, Nabil.
When we landed in Khartoum, naturally I was dressed for late fall weather! Not a pleasant experience deplaning into 40 degree weather in a sweater, long pants and heavy socks! I damn near melted right there on the spot! And, as in Beirut, Murphy had to make a presence in Khartoum.
Here I am, passing rapidly through Sudanese immigration with my lovely red diplomatic passport, nothing inspected, only to go outside and where is my driver? Seems that the delay in Beirut implied I would not be arriving and my driver decided to go home! Ever thankful to this day to my new Lebanese friends (Nabil), who were staying at the same hotel as me, to offer me a ride.
Remember, 2008 and cell phones were big, but still not reliable (not that they are today), plus I did not have one! My first lesson as a Global Security Advisor – Have local phone on arrival and contact list prior to departure!
Assaha Village Hotel
We finally arrived at the hotel, the Assaha Village Hotel, it was close to 0330 and I was to be at the Mission by 0900, meaning time for a couple of hours of sleep and shower (before and after) before heading next door. How convenient to put an Embassy next door to where I would be spending the next six plus months! The hotel check in was quite easy and they put me in a nice suite, the first of what would eventually be three moves over the course of my stay.
As the sun came up and after a quick call home to let my family know I had arrived and tell them about the adventures on the flight, I finally had a chance to look out my window. The first thing I saw over the hotel wall was a very dirty, brown and red Canadian flag flying in her storied misery. What a sad sight for sure and I knew that would have to be remedied and quick.
Next – Starting the Mission – Sudan 2008