I nearly fall out of my chair today during a phone call with one of my staff members in a North Darfur camp.
It has gotten quite cold in the area where we works and most of the agencies have started planning their responses to the approaching winter weather. I ask him for a quick update on our plans in this camp, and nod along approvingly as he lists the programme activities that he wants to carry out.
Blanket distributions, yep. Lots of them. Plastic sheeting to fix some of the shelters, yep. More clothing for the children, yep.
"Oh, and we're also encouraging people to get married before the winter starts." We are doing what? I jump to attention (this is stage where I nearly topple out of my chair). Surely, we're having a language problem again here.
But no, he repeats it. "We're encouraging people to get married, especially the ones who don't have blankets yet. They're cold inside their shelters at night. Just think about it - it's a lot warmer for two people sleeping together, and then of course..."
Dear God. I'm sitting up straight now and cut him off mid-sentence. "What are we doing? Hassan, can you start again from the beginning with this one? I really don't understand."
There is a silence on the line, but I think he can sense my utter disbelief. "Hassan, are you still there?"
Finally, he erupts with laughter, I can hear some others behind him joining in. "Calm down, I was just joking with you. We haven't started a marriage service yet. But it's a good idea, no?"
I'm smiling now. "Ok, you got me there. We'll keep it in mind, the marriage thing. But stick to the blankets for now."
Tags: Sudan, Darfur, aid worker, winter, marriage