On Sunday, 3 May, I leave Virginia for Sudan, arriving in Khartoum at 3:15 a.m. on 5 May after a several hour stopover in London. Like many people, I endure rather than enjoy long flights and always find it near impossible to sleep. On these at least twice yearly visits, I bring along a good book or two and also use the time to mull over the work ahead. Usually I don’t talk much to my seatmates as most people find it hard to understand why anyone would voluntarily go to Sudan. So it would be too complicated to tell them that this is my 23rd return since I was expelled in late 1998.
This time I’ll spend a few days in Kadugli, the capital of Southern Kordofan, in order to monitor TfS educational and educational support projects, talk to government officials and meet the two new staff members in our four person office. I’ll also call on representatives of other charities and UN agencies with which we cooperate. And every night I’ll eat either beans or bread and peanut butter (this latter carried in by me) for supper. Although life in Kadugli is now even more expensive than Khartoum, there is little food in the area and many people are chronically hungry. But sitting after dark in the street market with the generators roaring in the background is always a magical experience, a feeling of solidarity with an “end of the earth” place where human needs are enormous and anything you can do is appreciated.
In Khartoum, where I’ll spend most of my time, life is much more up market. There are grand hotels and restaurants, most very recent, embassies and high rise buildings and too much traffic. I’ll spend a lot of time in the Together for Sudan office with our nine employees and even more time battling traffic to call on potential funders including embassies and international organizations. I’ll attend an Eye Care Outreach and the graduation of our first group of public health trainees in the IDP settlements and have meetings with some of our Sudanese Patrons. And I’ll do a bit of office encouragement and management and catch up with friends. After midnight on 14 May I’ll board a flight for London and then another for the US, chasing the sun, so that it will still be 14 May when I arrive in Virginia. I’m always both sad and relieved to leave Sudan – a country whose diverse people are very kind and hospitable and captured my heart over a decade ago.