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January 2005

good friends and bad eggs

Just came back from a going away dinner for Dave, who I met while doing my tour here. He arrived about a month after I did and is heading home to his family and a great job state side. He's the cameraman on the photos of me juggling for the Khartoum American School. We hit it off and I know I'm a better person for knowing him. I knew we have days like these in the FS, but it's still tough to see someone go "wheels up". I like to think it's not goodbye instead it's "I'll see you later". Not to get melodramatic but it's a small world and I like to think I try and keep in touch with as many friends I can. Sometimes it might be years, other times its months and occassionally its a few times a month. If I owe you money then forget it, I'm a distance memory. So safe travels Dave, I'll catch ya later.

Works going well, still waiting out the Govt of Sudan for visas. Despite the clamp down on issuing them, we've had a few new staff arrive to fill much needed positions. Within the next couple weeks I find out who's going to replace me later this year. After 6 months here, if you don't have a handle on everything your responsible for, there's something wrong with the way you're organizing your day. I'm still thrown a curve ball on occasion but it's a nice break from the known hurtles I run into.

Now for something completely different, know how you tell if your eggs are bad? Put one in a glass of water and see if it floats. If it does, you have a bad one my friend. Always thought that was a myth, but I've tested it on a whole 24 pack I bought. (Yes that's the smallest size I've found that they sell). Several weeks later I tested them again and about a 1/3 of them are going belly up like a 2 year old goldfish.

Bought a kilo of tomatoes yesterday and will be experimenting with them for a pizza sauce I'm going to make. If it's the last thing I do here, I will perfect a homemade pizza with all the ingredients god intended a pizza to have. Pizza from a resturant here comes without tomato sauce. It's Cheese bread, people!! com'on. Every other kiosk I see sells tomatoes. I know they're out there being used for something. But what exactly? I must learn this..

a quiet day

I got a kick out of making this so maybe somebody else might enjoy it too. Here's a link to a mini movie I made today after taking a few photos. Hope you like it:

Khartoum Sandstorm.wmv

In other news, I receive the care packages I mailed to myself from home. A new record, only 2 weeks from the day they were mailed to their arrival. Now if the GPS I ordered would only arrive.

The latest class of new hire specialists started orientation this week. Congratulations all and welcome to the Foreign Service. It probably seems like a lot of information they throw at you during the first few weeks. Don't worry, whatever doesn't stick, you'll have plenty of time to ask questions through out training.

Let the cleaning begin - I finally hired a maid to clean my house. After months of doing it myself, I'm ready to hand over the mantle to someone that can do a better job than I can. Not that I'm lazy, but I'd rather be spending more time with my hobbies than worrying about when was the last time I cleaned the dust off the top of the refrigherator. 

one year anniversary

It's one year since I joined the Foreign Service.  With all the planning and preparing, the time flew by.  I'm back to working out again and  found a few places to actually run.  Aside from stray dogs and the occasional trash pile it's not difficult.  Some days it's easier to go to the gym.  A couple of days ago, I woke up to a haboob that blew in and filled the air with dust.  Working in the office felt like I was in the middle of the Sahara.  The wind was doing everything it could to blow dust into the office. 

The holiday is over and work has starting full swing again.  I could tell since it followed me home.  No matter where you go, if you work in the IT field people assume you love to work on problems even when you're home trying to fix a meal and get some stuff done.  2-3 times a week I get asked to help someone with a personal computer problem.  It's just easier to say no to everyone, otherwise I wind up spending another 10 hrs a week training someone that dished out 2 grand for a laptop and hasn't bothered to read a manual.  There's only a few people I'll help and those are basically my family.  Sorry to rant but I know every computer tech has run into the same thing.  So if you stop for a moment and think, do I want to do what I've been doing 10hrs a day, 6-7 days a week during the off time I have.  You'll get the idea what its like. 

Counting down to less than 200 days left in the 'toum.  My sixth months into the tour is coming up and I'm already starting to plan for my next tour in Sydney.  Looking forward to the chance to associate with a lot of my stuff in storage that I could bring here.

Top 10 things I wish I had brought to Sudan.

10. Juggling Torches
9.   Mountain Bike
8.   Washburn D10SCE Guitar
7.   Electric Ice Cream Maker
6.   Simpsons DVDs (all available seasons)
5.   Drywall Stilts (just cuz their fun to walk with)
4.   Eyes (Lasik surgery - try cleaning contacts and glasses after a windy day)
3.   A crate of M&Ms, Krispy Kreme donuts & Tomato sauce (pizza without sauce just doesn't cut it)
2.   My favorite Hawaiian shirt
1.   And xmas lights so I could hang them up all year and look like the lazy neighbor everyones lived next to at some point.

fast food in khartoum

A group of coworkers and I went to a new fast food place in town called "Steers". It's only been open for a week so the term fast food is used loosely here. I had the King Steer, double cheeseburger and a chocolate shake. It was pretty good. We have a couple other places that serve hamburgers also. There's Amwag and Lucky Meal. I've tried both. Amwag has great chicken and Lucky Meal looks suspiciously like a McDonalds logo when you see the resturant. I've only had a hotdog at Lucky so don't know what the rest of their food is like. Getting back to Steers, not surprisingly, there was no lines. Not to say it wasn't busy, it's just everyone pushed up to the counter to order so you had to do the same otherwise everyone walks around you. We all got our orders in and the last person to order got his food first. I got mine next and slowly they forgot about the last 4 folks with us. We went to the counter a couple times to remind them we hadn't gotten the rest of the food. My sandwich came and was eaten before I ever saw my milkshake. After a little persistance I got the shake which turned out to be more like chocolate milk than having any ice cream in it. We never did get the last shake and a coke for the other folks with us. Some of the folks sitting next to us were folks we knew from Ireland. They had the same problems. All in all it was still nice to see a new place and have some time to talk with each other. As far as the cost, it was 1400 dinars for my burger, fries and the shake. About 6 bucks US.

Enjoying the local holiday and getting some work done at home now that I'm back.

I leave you with Happy Tree Friends for your viewing pleasure. (Warning not for small children. Don't try this at home. Try it at a friends house).

tales from toumtown

Arrived Sunday night back in Dustyville. Our expeditor was there to rush me through the crowds. After 27 hours for the trip, start to finish, I definitely appreciated it. Getting home felt great. Well not as great as being in the States but good never the less. I learned the next day we have a local holiday going on here Wednesday through Sunday. Guess I could of taken a few more days off but we have enough work to do I'm glad I didn't.

Speaking of the holiday coming up, it's called Eid ul-Adha (Arabic: عيد الأضحى). It's the second in the series of Eid festivals that Muslims celebrate. Eid ul-Adha is celebrated as a commemoration of Prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail for Allah. The holiday lasts 4 four days.

Muslims will sacrifice animals deemed fit. The meat provided will be giving to those also in need. Tuesday was the start of Hajj, the pilgrimage to a small villige outside Mecca, called Mina.This trip is one of the five "pillars" of Islam, or central religious duties of the believer .

Watched the CNN coverage of Condoleezza Rice's testimony in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Gonna miss Sec of State Colon Powell.