Khartoum, Sudan: Summer 2012. And some other stuff.
Sudan Update 4: No Subtitle This TimeSalaam!First of all let me apologize for being so quiet for the past 2+ weeks. I have some catching up to do!I finished teaching my English class last week. It went really well! It was a great experience; just what I was looking for in coming here to teach. I really learned a lot through observing, preparing lesson plans, teaching, and the extra-curricular activities like English Club, and just hanging out with the students. The students were very engaging, the other teachers were very kind and helpful (and enjoyed having a native speaker around to ask questions to) and the administration is definitely interested in me returning. Right now, I have no definite plans to come back, but I’m certainly very glad that that is a possibility!On Friday Sami and I went to a Coptic Orthodox monastery that is about an hour’s bus ride (no rock fight this time) away from the city. The monastery has been there for around 30 years, and currently has about two dozen monks. There is a small church and park on the grounds, separate from where the monks live and work, where anyone can come to attend Mass and hang out. This place, and the men there, mean a lot to Sami, as he used to spend a lot of time there. However, it had been over seven years since he had last visited, so this trip was very special for him. He was able to reconnect with a monk who had been a mentor to him, which was really great because he had no idea if the monk would still be there after seven years. He also got to reconnect with an old friend who had become a monk. We got to spend time with the monks in a garden in the “monks only” area, and they were very hospitable. They fed us lunch, and told me the story of Moses the Black, a monk who lived nearly two thousand years ago, and who’s monastic tradition they follow, I believe.Now it’s Ramadan, a month of fasting sunrise-to-sunset, and the whole city is very quiet. I’m sleeping in, reading a lot (the house I’m staying at has some great books. So far I’ve read Fahrenheit 451 and When Helping Hurts) and hanging out with Mario occasionally for dinner or a movie. I’ll probably be going to the market this week, and then Friday, my birthday, having dinner with friends and watching the Olympic Opening Ceremony (thanks IOC!).I’ll be home in 9 days!Andrew
It eluded us then, but that’s no matter - tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning—
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
— The Great Gatsby
Sudan Update 3: Halfway!
Not a lot to update you about this week. Here’s the gist:
First week of teaching went really well. I feel comfortable teaching, and the class is really engaging. I’m continuing to hang out with students outside of class everyday, and answering questions like the ever-popular, “How do you find Sudan?”, “What is the best way to speak English really well?”, and “What are American weddings like?”
The other day I was riding the bus and a guy got off without paying. The driver started to yell at him from his seat (which I was directly behind) and when the guy kept walking away, the driver stopped the bus, climbed over me, and walked out into the street to engage the guy in a rock throwing confrontation. They played dodgeball-with-bricks for several volleys before the driver gave up and went back to his duties.
Friday I got to hang out with several Americans (and a Norwegian and a woman from Japan.) We had a great time eating lunch together, and it was kind of refreshing being surrounded by native English speakers. Friday night I went to another party at the Ethiopian club with Sami. This one was to raise money for a huge dam on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia. They shot off Roman Candles! So that was my 4th of July (on the 6th).
My trip is halfway over! The first half has gone by really fast, and I’m sure the second half will go by even faster.
Sorry for the sporadic nature of this update! It’s midnight and I’m tired. I’ll send a more thorough update next week, enshallah (God willing).
Sudan Update 2: Lesson Plans, Sleep Overs, and One-Armed Ambassadors
Please forgive my tardiness in sending out this second update. I guess I’ve gotten a little too adjusted some aspects of Sudanese life, like the loose commitment to deadlines.
So this week I officially moved past the point of “getting settled in.” There’s not a specific event I can point to, just an arbitrary feeling I guess. Also, I wasn’t as good at taking daily notes this time, so I’ll just have to give you the highlights:
Most of my mornings/early afternoons were spent at ACE observing more classes, and writing my lesson plans for my first week of teaching. I turned those in on Thursday, and have my first class today! Wednesday at English Club the discussion was on what it means to be a servant, the difference between servant and slave, and who we represent (or are an ambassador of) and how we represent them.
Friday was the celebration for the formation of the Ethiopian Youth Council, which my friend Sami was elected President of. For the past two weeks he’s spent everyday after school at the Ethiopian club, having meetings to get this thing ready. Setting up was kind of stressful for the group, and the celebration began a little late (see: 2 hours) but it was awesome. Over 300 people came and there were a bunch of speeches that I didn’t understand, the local Coptic Orthodox Priest made an appearance, and the Ethiopian ambassador to Sudan (who is apparently a really big deal, and lost his left arm in a war) was a big part of the ceremony. Then the party really got started with the cutting of a huge cake that looked like the Ethiopian flag, and was followed by hours of live music and dancing. I may or may not have joined in on some of that dancing (video to come).
Saturday I spent the night at the University with Mario. The evening included dinner (for $2!), ice cream (we saw some Americans!), and a movie (Scott Pilgrim!)
I’ve also been learning some life lessons on this trip that I didn’t expect to learn. Like how to live with a roommate and how to share almost everything. I’ve gotten really irritated more than once, but have (reluctantly) come to realize that, whether or not my frustration is justified (it probably isn’t), if I follow the guy that I say I follow, I should be able to share selflessly and “do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.”
But really, did I have to go to the other side of the world to learn that?
Sudan Update Number Waheed (that’s one)
Salaam! As I type this I’m sitting in one of the most American restaurants in Sudan, and it’s in the low 80s outside. Not exactly the environment I’ve been adjusting to for the last few days.
Mario (my fellow American) and I arrived Monday at 2:00 AM Khartoum time, and spent the first day sleeping and getting settled into the house in Bahri (a suburb of Khartoum). We met Sami, a Khartoumian who’s living at the house we’re staying at and teaches at ACE, where I’ll be teaching. He took us out to dinner and helped us buy a few things (like the USB modem I’ve been using for internet.)
Tuesday we went to Ahfad University, where Mario will be working for the next 6 months, and reconnected with some people we met last year, and checked out where Mario will be living. Then we took an amjat (taxi) to the home of some Americans (and almost got lost. which is really fun when you don’t speak the same language as the driver.) and spent the evening with a few ex-pat families and their kids.
Wednesday I went to ACE for the first time and observed a couple classes, and attended English Club. English club is a once a week event where ACE students break into groups according to what level class they’re in, and develop their conversational English by discussing a chosen topic. This weeks topic for the 50+ advanced students was “hope”. An American woman told a brief story pertaining to hope, and then gave each group a list of discussion questions. They invited me to lead/moderate one of the groups. It was a really incredible discussion.
Thursday I returned to ACE, and observed a level 4 class (I’m going to begin teaching a level 4 class on my own on July 1st), and spent the rest of the day with about 20 students around me (most of the ACE students have graduated from college, although some are in high school and college), asking me questions like “how do you like Sudan?” and “what are American weddings like?” These students are really eager to speak with native English speakers, so there’s never a dull moment. That night Sami took me to the Ethiopian embassy (because he’s Ethiopian) where they have a restaurant and a small park, and we had a traditional Ethiopian meal. It was awesome.
And that brings us to today. Friday is the Islamic holy day, so I slept in this morning. In the afternoon we went back to the Ethiopian restaurant/park (they call it a club) because Sami is part of starting an Ethiopian council in Khartoum, in partnership with the embassy, that will create a closer community among Ethiopians living in Khartoum. Tonight Sami was elected to be the chairman of the council, and there’s going to be a big celebration for the formation of the council next Friday, with traditional food and music. Also, I am proud to announce that I have humbly accepted an invitation to become an honorary member of the Ethiopian council.
To Be Continued…