Thursday, 13 August 2009

A quick sojourn into the mind of a Khartoum meat exporter, unwinding at the Greek Club.

The pool is bubbling with chaos. The water, furious and warm, is sticky to the touch and altogether too concentrated with human limbs to be a restorative source of serenity. The Greek club is not what it once was.

The old Greek air has been drowned in the manic flappings of grown men and Russian air pilots playing cards at the water’s edge. They show about as much respect for the invisible lines of the lap swimmers as they do for air traffic controllers or the regulations in their blood alcohol level. No respect for the law. Not even Greek law.

This used to be the kind of place you could come and relax, the kind of a place where a man could smoke his cigarette and stare at the still water in peace. Now it is like a Slavic summer camp for hyperactive heavy weights.

A clear winner saunters past.

I admire his tight swimming trunks, featuring an American flag and an eagle. The eagle’s beak is in a strategic position.  Quite simply, it suppresses my will to live.

His thong is complemented by long black socks that come up to his knees. He is an ample man, a real prime rib, pink and round, kind of succulent if you’re into Russian meat. His paunch alone could feed Darfur and have room for export. As I watch him teeter at the edge of the pool, I wonder how Halal he really is.

My phone rings. It is my accountant. He tells me there is a new tax.

“Salam Tax, sir” He says without a trace of irony.

“Salam?” I almost choke on my cigarette, “What about last week? The Jihad tax?”

“I guess they cancel each other out?” He offers.

Whatever happened to economies of war and peace dividends? I curse the day I ever opened my slaughterhouse. No meat is worth this kind of trouble.

I wonder if I still care. It is clear my business will fail whether I care or not. Besides, I have to compose myself for later on, when I tell my father in Lebanon how things are going in Sudan.

Meya meya. Ma fi mushkella.

The prime rib removes his socks and cannon balls into the waves. His colleagues clap.  Captain, they call him. He is a lion in the ring. 

I am a mouse. A mouse in a circus. A mouse in a circus full of tax and regulation hoops and Siberian lions wearing thongs. 

Meya meya. Ma fi mushkella. I say to myself as I down the last drop of lemon juice in the glass and consider the pool as an exit strategy. Death by flapping. 

Monday, 10 August 2009

Exit Visa Limbo Hell

I'm writing this post in my journal in an attempt to quell the chaos.

It's been a long morning and my patience is as weary as the withering AC unit that is currently blowing hot air onto my face.

I'm sitting in the Ministry of Higher Education's Administration of Finance but don't ask me why. I am looking for a woman named Souad who is apparently going to give me an official letter that will fit in nicely with the other two letters I have already retrieved from the University of Khartoum. These letters form the backbone of an impressive portfolio of pieces of paper that I have managed to amass in my three days (and counting) in exit visa limbo hell. Some are photocopies. Some are photocopies of photocopies. Some feature suspicious stamps that cost more than advertised. Some took hours or preparation and patience while some fell from the sky like drops of golden sunlight on cloudy miserable days. My portfolio is heavy, crumpled and grudgingly held in my fist. 

All in all, it has been a pleasant trip in visa limbo hell but I am quite ready to depart...

Souad Ahmed of the Ministry of Higher Education, where are you???? And when will you return to your office and furnish me with the ultimate jewel in my crown? 

For yes, I do wish to return to the Department of Foreigner Registration (or whatever that place is called) and partake in the multicultural jousting sessions you hold in your midst. I want to marvel at the beautiful system in which 10% of the workforce carries out 99% of the work. Perhaps if I am really fortunate, you might throw in another HIV test. It's been six months and who knows what I get up to in Khartoum, the Las Vegas of Africa. There is real money to be made in the veins of khawagas.

I wonder if the secretaries in Souad's office will let me have a go on Solitaire. I have been a very supportive spectator and there are no men to play the mustache game with. Is a nap out of the question?

Man, I wish I had more "wasta".

Outburst over. Malesh Laura. Bokra Inshallah you will get your visa... or at least hand in your passport to retrieve it baad al bokra, or baad baad al bokra... INSHALLAH. Otherwise no holiday for you. : (