Friday, May 21, 2010
In the Sudan
It's taken over a week, but I've finally been able to get myself on-line and reasonably up and running. You learn quickly here the difference between western time and "Sudan time." In the Sudan, the pace of life is slower, but deliberately so. Likely owing to the warmth - even now, in what is the "cool season," days typically peak-out somewhere around 80-odd degrees - there is a steady rhythm to life, a measured pace that is rather slower than our pace in the west. I would describe it as a steady lope, and as you move around the city or out in the countryside everyone is moving to the same steady lope. The only people I see running are small children or westerners that have not yet adapted themselves to the local pace. It is funny to be walking, or even more noticibly to be driving around, and see hundreds of people walking around all at the same languid pace. It is all the more impressive given the character of their appearance. True to what I had been informed, most of the locals are rather tall and slender. And neatness of appearance is of critical importance to the Sudanese, and at almost all times while they are out in public you will see men and women dressed very finely, in what we might call our "Sunday best," slowly loping about the city. Tall, lanky men dressed often monochromatically in matching blouses and long slacks, and the women dressed in beautiful tunics with very bright, patterned wraps covering their bodies and carried up over their heads, all of them loping about town. The image I had beforehand of tuniced men with turbans and women in bhurkas does not exist here in the southern part of the country and I've seen very few people dressed in the Muslim style, though there are a number of mosques in town, including one of the largest not far from the office. The oft-heard call of the muzzein calling the faithful to prayer becomes part of the background noise of the city, though because I haven't been here that long I am still enchanted by the novelty of it and find myself listening hard to make out the familiar phrase, "Allah akhbar." Overall, the people are remarkably kind, polite, intelligent and thoughtful. They place primary importance on personal relationships, and devote a large portion of the day to warmly greeting one another and sharing news of how everyone is doing. It would be unthinkable to a Sudanese to enter a room and begin straight away talking business without first greeting everyone in the room, shaking hands and such, even if the same person had been in the room only a few minutes before. This behavior accounts for much of the difference in the pace at which progress is made, but it also encourages consensus and congeniality which has a value of its own.