Saturday, 16 March 2013

15 March – transferring between cultures and climates

After a very emotional couple of weeks of parties and partings, I finally left Sudan yesterday on a 6.30am flight. I was driven to the airport by Griselda’s driver and was immediately pounced on by a porter who helped me carry my large amount of luggage into the airport building.  He asked where I was going and then delivered me to the correct window.  I checked in my luggage, including my viola and then sat in the very drab waiting area.  Various staff came at intervals to ensure I got to the right departure gate.  The departures lounge is old and shabby with no duty free area although there is a small cafe. 

What Sudan lacks in modern efficiency and comfort they certainly make up in individual care.  As I have found travelling elsewhere in Sudan, although all signs are in Arabic and people speak little English, there is almost always plenty of help available.  I do think they are missing a trick not having shops at the airport though, as it would be a great place to catch travellers who want to buy Sudanese gifts for relatives at home while waiting for their flights. 
I had booked a window seat on the plane and was very glad I did, as I kept bursting into tears each time I thought about my new Sudanese friends, left behind in Sudan.  I was able to turn away and look out of the window so at least I was saved from making a complete spectacle of myself.

I transferred planes at Amman.  The airport is newly built and very modern.  After Ed Damer and Atbara, and even after Khartoum Airport, it seemed like a different world.  However, the duty free prices were also in a different world and all thoughts of buying small gifts for my grandchildren were quickly dashed. The announcements were made in very good English as well as Arabic, which felt very strange too.
Then I took my second plane onward to London.  In spite of travelling at the most civilised time of day (leaving Amman at midday and arriving in the mid-afternoon UK time) it was the emptiest plane I have ever taken.  Most of the rear seats were vacant and even towards the front where I was sitting, I had an empty seat next to me.

Once I arrived at Heathrow I went to reclaim my luggage, only to find that my viola had been lost.  I went to report it.  The member of staff handed me a form to fill in, checked my luggage receipts for the number, and told me that she would check with Khartoum and Amman immediately.  When found, it would be put on the next flight to Heathrow and I could expect a phone call at 3pm tomorrow.  She asked for an address so it could be delivered to me.  She was very apologetic for the inconvenience, which (as I pointed out to her) was not her fault at all.  In the event, the phone call came at 8.30am today to tell me that my viola had been found at Amman.  What efficiency!  The word ‘inshallah’ (God willing) was not mentioned once in the whole conversation!  A timeframe was given without me having to ask.  What a contrast with Sudan where even the English teachers struggle with telling the time and the chances of getting a definite time for any event are very slim.
As I had no winter clothing with me, I had asked my daughter-in-law Amelia to come to the airport to fetch me bringing winter clothes.  I knew that she would be a couple of hours late as she was on a course during the day, so I settled down with my mobile in the warmly heated airport and called various friends to tell them that I was back.  It was fantastic to have my Blackberry fully functioning after so many months in which it has refused to provide any internet features at all. 

Amelia arrived with a bag of my own winter clothes and warm boots.  Then we took my luggage on the Underground to their new flat, which I hadn’t seen before.  It was raining slightly and the temperature was about 10oC, which felt very cold indeed to me.  Everything looked so grey and drab after the bright sun of Sudan.  Even our fellow passengers' winter clothing was dark and dull.  It all looked very bleak.  Roll on the spring and summer which are so necessary here!
The flat is above a shop in Hammersmith, close to a parish church which I used to attend years ago.  It will be nice to see people there again after so long.  It feels so strange to have limitless hot and cold water and heating.  I soaked in a hot bath, which felt luxurious after my cold water showers in Sudan, and after the rather grim journey through London. 
Griselda has very kindly offered me her flat in London as a base, so I will be moving there in a few days and will be able to leave my son and his wife in peace.

What next? I don’t know.  I need to plan my next phase and will spend the next few weeks looking at what I am going to do.  ‘Inshallah’ it will be something similar to what I did in Sudan.  This is the last post in this blog, as I move on to a new phase.

1 comment:

  1. Very moving post Rebecca. Glad you made it back OK to chilly London even if your viola was a little waylaid. Good luck with the next phase!!