Once I had settled in to my new environment at the hotel and seeing the embassy, it was time to explore and tour the land. The next day was a Saturday and I only was at the embassy for a short shift, not really much to do when no one was around. I did sit near the main entrance to the building for a few hours enjoying the sun and drinking tea with the guards. Do I not look laid back?
But, I was getting restless having a full night sleep before and the jetlag waning, I needed to move. Not having a briefing on Khartoum and not knowing the level of security (plus I was still new to this), I figured a walk was in order. After seeing the state of the local taxis’, I definitely did not want to take one of those anywhere and my Arabic is definitely limited or non-existent! So, out I went, cannot be that hard, right? My advantage is that I am not geographically challenged, so I knew whatever direction I proceeded, I would find my way back.
Out the door and looking in either direction, what way did I want to go? My friend Nabil informed me that there was a mall not far, all I had to do was turn left to the end of the street and then right…eventually I would find it. So, that is what I did, I decided to go left and make a right at the end of the street. Figuring it was not that far, this seemed like the right first adventure to do. Well, some five kilometers later and a few gallons lighter in the noon day sun in Kharoum, Sudan, I had found the Afra Mall! (wish they had the fit bits back then)
Water was my first order of business! Oddly, until now, I did not realize that I was an “expatriate”. But then came the looks from the locals! Suddenly I started to see that I was no longer in Kansas. I did not feel at all uncomfortable or nervous, it was a sense of understanding that I was in a foreign land and that I needed to adjust. Or it could have been that I was a dripping mess from the walk and possibly had an air about me, who knows. Regardless, the looks were more curiosity than anything, everyone was quite friendly. I managed to find water and walk the mall…not that there was much in this mall other than the normal electronics and clothing outlets. Cell phones and computers being the biggest sellers.
After about an hour I had enjoyed enough of the mall’s A/C and figured it was time to start back to the hotel. What I enjoyed most about the walk, other than the sun, was walking past the Khartoum International airport. Roughly 250 meters East was the beginning of runway 36, which was really cool. Always having been a fan of watching controlled crashes of aircraft, it was fun to see the planes coming over head to land. During the day, all of the national flights were operating, the international carriers always ran at the wee early mornings when it was cooler and normal people were sleeping.
I had also forgotten how traffic was in third world countries, what delight playing Frogger to cross the streets (if any of you recall that video game). Traffic does not wait for pedestrians nor do pedestrians have any right of way! And oddly enough, traffic seems to get more congested as the day goes on, no matter the day of the week. I learned later that people come out after the noon day sun as it starts to cool off. I guess 30 degrees is cooler than 40!
Back at the hotel I had to fill up again with more water. I decided that that was my adventure for the day and that it was time to connect with home and see how the family was. It was nice having the days free to explore and the evenings to catch up and share my days.
Next – Days to Weeks – Sudan 2008