Sudan Day 3 & 4

I am in Khartoum, Sudan now. This was a really long and not an easy trip. Too many long layovers—which must, I’ve decided,make a significant contribution to jet lag, as I normally don’t get jet lagged, and its been a tough adjustment.

It might also be this land— Sudan feels, to me, like stepping into the arms of the ancient mother. I was here three years ago, in Khartoum and Darfur, and I was especially captivated by the sand in Darfur (which is here, also, but less visible due to development). The sand is the color of dawn and runs like silk through my hands. In these ancient places, it almost seems as if the sand has absorbed the memories of many millions of years of sunrises and sunsets, of stars in the sky, of footsteps and camel-steps and the advance and receding of older oceans. I have asked a friend currently based in Darfur, but headed back here tomorrow, to bring me some sand, so I can touch all those memories.

The people here are magnificent. Walking through a market (souk) here is like seeing all of humanity in a few faces—skin tone and color, features, ethnicity’s, all strikingly different face to face, and yet the elements of the many tribes and races and religions and ethnicity’s that have belonged here can sometimes be seen in one face. I find the Sudanese people unusually warm and generous.

We are here (my friend and colleague John Fawcett and I) to teach a 4 day training on staff care. To hopefully bring some energy to the idea that not only beneficiaries— but also staff -–living and working in complex emergencies/humanitarian responses must also be cared for, supported, and tended to.The group we are working with brings amazing history and resource to the workshop. Many work in Darfur; several have survived abductions. One of the women is someone I worked with (briefly) 3 years ago in Darfur—we recognized each other, but didn’t quite recognize that we recognized each other, until she gave her introduction. She was able to answer my questions about the whereabouts and safety of the people I knew while there, who I have remained concerned about since leaving—and have been really concerned about since many NGO’s were expelled from the area, leaving so many Darfurians without aid, work, support, witness. She agreed to carry letters back for me.

We talked about aspects of Sudanese culture that serve as protective factors from the harm that can be caused by exposure to stress, and one particularly moving example was of the practice of seeking counsel from a wise person. It was his description of this practice, delivered with reverence about a practice he described only having heard about, that was moving. Many of the traditions and practices have been lost or sacrificed to politically induced, cultural changes.A focus of our afternoon discussion was on how to “grow” the seed, the kernel, of these practices so that at least the core or essence of them is preserved.This seems a good inquiry for all of us.

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