Thursday, July 28, 2005

Besides the fascinating meetings, Khartoum also offers us aid workers the rare opportunity to indulge in a bit of luxury and pampering.

Shopping for Nutella and Pantene shampoo at the air-conditioned Afra Center is a bit surreal after a few weeks in the markets of Darfur, but it does give you an appreciation for the sense of awe that locals still display towards Sudan's only functioning escalator (...and yes, watching people try to go up and down this for the first time remains a huge source of entertainment for locals and foreigners alike).

The smallest hole-in-the-wall restaurants suddenly strike me as sleek and cosmopolitan, and rather than complaining about the size of the pot-holes I have begun commenting on the beauty of paved streets.

With offers of NGO parties and "cultural evenings" at the embassies (whose main function is clearly providing large quantities of the favourite national drink), it's almost worth getting a bikini wax from the lovely Philippino ladies at Street 15.

The ultimate luxury, however, is not something that can be found in the aisles of Afra.

It is sitting on the plush chairs of an anonymous hotel restaurant (if possible poolside) with relaxing elevator music, some nice conversation and a glass of ice-cold juice - entirely forgetting (just for one moment) that you are still in Sudan.

The very bitter aftertaste to this brief escape is the realisation that it is an option that is not open to the people of Darfur.

To an outsider, it may be a frustrating few years of work, or no more than a sad article in a newspaper. Until we move on to the next thought, the next country.

For millions of Sudanese, no matter which side of the conflict they find themselves on, it is simply life as they've always known it.

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At , Blogger Vasco Pyjama said...

I have a lovely lovely friend, Aris, who is working in Khartoum. I can't remember who with. He is Malaysian and used to work for Mercy Malaysia. I met him when we did RedR training. Perhaps both of you can meet up sometime.


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