I'm actually too tired to write anything coherent but here goes.. I've been in Africa for almost 7 months now. It's already time for me to start making plans for moving to my next post. I've already talked to several people in Sydney regarding housing, training, security forms, what you can and can't bring. The planning for the move doesn't bother me really. It's the feeling that I just got here and by the time you've gotten a handle on things like driving, restaurants, and places of interest you want to see, it's time to move on.
If you're interested in joining the Foreign Service, prepare yourself for fast short term relationships, always missing the things you never brought with you, and hitting the ground running. When I first got here I remember thinking, what is this going to be like. Actually, my first thought was "why is it raining?". Then I wondered what it was going to be like.
You could immediately tell things were not like you're use to at home. When I got off the plane last August, I felt some of the tension I still feel to this day. But it wasn't directed at me. After being around the citizens of Khartoum and talking to people you hear the normal remarks about how things could be much better. Most of the time you have to approach someone on the subjects that face Sudan. Once you do, then people will talk. They will tell you what they would like to see, who they support, and if they like a foreign leader. I wondered why people put up with a governments treatment towards its people. Here it's more of a hesitation due to retailation. People will only go so far or otherwise they would be considered anti-GoS (Govt of Sudan). Since I've been here there after been a couple public displays of the GoS clamping down on would-be coups. Word leaks by someone looking to profit from a tip and the police are sent out. I'm not a Political officer so I refrain from speculating too much.
When I've gone out for a late night workout. I'll see a different view of the city after midnight. Road blocks pop up at random locations. Just last week I notice one I had to go through. I carry my identification and our vehicles plates let it be known I'm a diplomat. They wave me through with no questioning. But it's still discerning to see it and you're reminded you're a guest of the host country.
I haven't been treated poorly since I got here. Occassionally I get a "Howaja" from a stranger calling me a foreigner. But in a more matter of fact way than could ever be construed as an insult. But most of the time it's just curiousity and lots of stares. I didn't notice it when I first arrived, since I was so busy trying to remember where I was in the city. I still use landmarks over street names since it's easier to tell someone when they don't know their way around. But now I've noticed, when driving in traffic, you'll see a bus full of people next to you and 1/2 of them are looking at you. I don't mind. Since I'm probably a bit of a rarity with the other minority of expats running around the city. When I was at the camel market Saturday, several people came up to me just to shake hands and welcome me to the market. I never was approached for money. Everyone was just curious to see what we were doing and asked to see what the pictures looked like that we were taking. (Before I forget here's a word of advice. I've noticed any pictures I've taken of Sudanese during a sunny day come out with their faces hidden in shadow. Joe, my neighbor, said he bought a flash for his high end digital camera just for that fact. I've had to get people out of the sun to bring out any facial features in photos. It's a shame since a few great shots ended up in the recycle bin because of that.
(note: Since writing this I've talked with someone that just arrived. She's an African-American. She went to the camel market with us and several locals mistook her for Sudanese. There were occassional comments on how she should be dressed in a burka or similar covering until people understood she was not Sudanese. It didn't escalate into anything but I think that was because several people were with her. Something to keep in mind.)