Thursday, February 22, 2007

The vagaries of packing

Things I brought that I didn’t need

  • My cobber – I’m sure it will be great in the hot months, but the weather during the winter months is great here!

  • Black socks (See the shoe entry below. Don’t bring black work socks unless you bring actual work shoes, which I failed to do. They look a little funny with my green Tsubo sneaks)

  • Lots of books and magazines and knitting (Sadly (in some ways) I haven’t been doing much of any of that. I’ve barely even used my laptop since I’ve had generally good internet access from work and the hotel. Otherwise, I get home from work, go for a late dinner, watch a bit of tv or one of the above, and go to bed.)

Things I should have brought

  • More shoes! (or maybe different shoes – I brought 4 pairs of “sporty” shoes and only one pair of dressy shoes – thrown in as an afterthought. But even if the aesthetic is less formal here than at home, wearing sneakers or hiking sandals to meetings is not always appropriate. I need to buy several pairs of flats before any future visits.)

  • More pants! (this is just a case of not enough. I only brought three work type pants and a suit, but I’ve had something work-related every day so far. I am here for 18 days, so I’ll wear each pair at least 4 times. This is not helped by the fact that three of them are grey or black. Those colours are warm even when its not 30+ degrees outside!)

  • Deodorant (this one should be self explanatory)

  • A belt (this should also be self explanatory. It’s really hard to feel professional when you’re worried about your pants falling down. I feel like one of those people I complain about in Canada who are always tugging at their clothes because they don’t fit quite right, and its making me crazy. So maybe the best option would be to just get them tailored. Voila! No more belts)

  • Longer shirts (this could also be listed as higher-waisted pants. This is also related to the point above. Abdominal skin is sort of worst possible thing to show here (I mean if bare upper arms are a no-no, you know your stomach shouldn’t be on display), so I’m constantly pulling down shirts and up pants.)
  • Shawls (who knew they would come in handy in such a hot country? You can get away with wearing a lot of things if you have a shawl to throw over your arms and shoulders when you’re outside. I have a bunch at home (although I think the wool ones will be a bit warm) but I’ll probably buy a bunch more before I leave)

None of these things are crises, just things that might have made life a little easier. Except maybe the deodorant… All I can say is that I'm glad the second list is longer than the first, since it means I didn't lug too much unnecessary stuff.

PS. I have no idea what's happened to the text on my blog. Especially on the side bar, since I haven't touched my template in ages. Unfortunately, I probably won't work through the problem until I get home.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


So, what can I say about Khartoum? The weather is really nice right now, hovering in the low- to mid- 30s during the day (according to the thermometer thing in our car). That sounds hot, but it doesn’t feel too bad, since there’s usually a breeze that makes it feel quite nice (although the breeze also often carries sand and grit with it – not so nice). I do understand that April, May and June are the hottest months, with temperatures often in the high 40s. I won’t get to experience that on this trip, but I rarely meet anyone who has lived through a summer here that doesn’t immediately mention the heat when they find out I’ve just arrived.

The driving is mad! There are everything from motorcycles to buses (including these motorized rickshaws, which I haven’t had a chance to ride in yet) all vying for space on the roads. It doesn’t have as much traffic as Cairo, but its close at times, and the general strategy is pretty much to edge yourself into traffic far enough so that somebody has to stop, and then you get to go. There aren’t very many traffic lights, and people don’t always follow the ones there are. Also, there are a number of one way streets, which only complicate matters.

There is an amazing amount of commerce going on. All along the edges of main streets there are fruit and vegetable sellers, bread sellers, even little tea stands that are nothing more than someone with a kettle and a few very short stools. At most intersections there are people selling perfume, cigarettes or candy. Yesterday, I even saw someone hawking a drill set to cars waiting at a light.

This can be an expensive place to live, although it really depends on what you want to buy. A 12 pack of 500 ml bottled water (produced locally) is $3 USD, and something like a 350 g box of Special K (which is far better in the Middle East than it is in Canada, imho) is $8.50 USD.

The weekend here is Friday and Saturday for us, although many offices are open on Saturday as well. The office hours are generally shorter in that case, from 8am to 2:30 or so. I have to admit that the change of schedule is hard to get used to, only because I keep saying the wrong date because I still assume that I start work on Monday.

And the best part so far is all the people I’ve met. I’ve been busy every evening with things to do. I even went to a Valentine’s dance at the International Club on Wednesday night with some people I was introduced to through a friend back home. It was a nice, low-key evening.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I have arrived!

Just a quick message to let everyone know that I have arrived safely. I am in Sudan for work. The flight was long and uneventful (I watched at least three movies!). The hotel I'm staying in is nice. I actually have a fridge and kettle, and a sitting room with a computer! I spent the time I had last night figuring out how to work things. (There's an 8 hour time difference between here and Ottawa. It's currently just after 11 am.) I still can't make the fan in my room actually spin (the lights go on, and it beeps, but no spinning) and I'm not sure I have the air conditioning quite right, but it will all work out.

Khartoum reminds me vaguely of the West Bank, but I'm sure that will change as I get more acquainted with the place. Its mostly a smell, I think, especially at night on the little balcony. I am in the office this morning. I can tell that I'm still tired though, so I've been told to take the afternoon off to sleep so that I can meet many people at the wine and cheese tonight. Hopefully I will have pictures at some point.

Friday, February 09, 2007