First performance in Africa!

Last Thursday I played my first performance in Africa, in Khartoum. And it was great!
The African rhythm isn’t always easy because things are often postponed or take days to organise instead of hours. I suffer from this a little because everything takes a lot of time and energy. So this week my team and me flipped a coin, and we decided I would do the performance. A not so easy decision for me as I can’t ‘just play’ this performance in front of an accidental audience of three

But as it turned out it was a good decision (someday I’ll learn!). The location ended up being the perfect location. And not just a few audience turned up but 200 not so accidental passers by watched the performance. I played in the area where I walked around the most the last couple of weeks. In the centre of the city on the sportsfield of the Comboni School. Because of this I had white visitors from the embassy and local NGO”s. I could welcome Omar Echzas, the police commander (who we asked authorisation to use the location)…and his little daughter! And many Sudanese from all the corners of this country.
I had not been easy on myself; I had decided to sing a part of the performance, even though I had no melody for it yet. I improvised with Khaled my translator as a kinda cool relaxed rapper net to me. It was only later that evening, that I realised what I had done. I had, as a white girl, sung the lungs out of my chest as a real soul sister. No idea of difference in colour of skin or cultural background. (Duh!) What cultural difference? My generation has the same roots. The world has become very small. It was an amazing evening that lasted until deep in the night. I loved it.

Since Sudan I have become more serious. Maybe it is because of this country. Maybe it is because of the months behind me. In any case it’s a daytime job to gather ones thoughts and at the same time get everything out of the moment. (You can hear it between the lines: It’s not going to happen!)

Doggy Kosovo is four and a half months old. He changed his teeth in Kharthoum. In essence he is the equivalent of a four year old. And more than a hand full at times! I’m sure it is partly due to his stubborn character, and I’m not the one to want to break him. He’s far too cute for that. When I return from a trip on the tractor he goes almost bezerk. He has that with all of us. It gives a great feeling of coming home: Yeeees I’m back Hello there…! Why do I write this? Yesterday he was castrated, and I feel guilty! (Even more after all this talk of female mutilation. I’ know it’s no comparison but still…!)

Chaos in Khartoum

Khartoum takes me with her in her world. I drink tee with Omar Kafi’s (a musician) aunt, and eat zalabia (a kind of dumpling we Dutch eat around Christmas and New Years Eve). KJ has been delivered to Docters without borders/medicins sans frontiers MSF, with tears in the corners of his eyes. Allready the next evening he came and brought us pizza as a surprise. We swam in the German-Sudanese club and I felt, after those weeks and weeks of desert, as a colonial.
Geert arrived, we saw and heard his plane land and took him with us on the tractor. Since then we’re all in interviewing mode. By interviewing we are drawn into a world of diversity of people from the south, the west and east of Sudan, and their stories. I came into contact with Omar Echzas, a well know singer from the Darfur region. I heard him sing about his country and the freedom of his people. He sings for peace, even in the refugee camps in the west, in Darfur. With him and Adel Idiris, a businessman with different companies in Khartoum, we make a boat trip on the Nile and we meet some young men. They talk with courage about their dreams.

One wish they all have in common: they wish for peace. They wish to live in peace with their families and friends, and want to build up Sudan. Nobody of whom I meet has hate in their eyes, everybody is inviting.
And each day we talk with Robert and his friends who live in Khartoum but left their families in the south or in Darfur. Every new aquaintance leads to another, and strengthens the bond. It’s impossible to escape when people are soo nice. The female journalist (who speaks her opinion and is not affraid of the government) wants to take me to a Sudanese wedding tonight, ‘you have to see one! ‘ Adel organises a henna drawing on my hands for the occasion. Omar and Omar take me to the French cultural centre and organise that I can play my performance on the coming Sunday, and everybody will drop by to see my tractor performance on the street. Unless the Pan-African conference botches things up. It will start somewhere this week, or next week, or will it be in the weekend (nobody knows, ‘Inshalla’) but it will disrupt the whole town. In the hands of African time. And it flies, even though you think you are standing still. Where do I find the time to write you all?

Today I am in one Sudanese newspaper, tomorrow in the next.
I have to visit a family in Omdurman and photograph all the kids in the street. I have to organise a telephone because mine was stolen yesterday, and that’s hell. Now nobody can reach me. Or wait, nooo, I get (within 3 hours) a Sudanese telephone from someone plus a pre-paid card. I know it was purchased honestly and that it was expensive. This is a big gift, how do I accept it? The radio wants to call me, the man says: I want you to finish your journey and that you keep talking to the world, I want you to tell them about the hospitality of our people. Do it, take it. I can miss it. And everybody, from streetkid on the corner to the tee-lady nods yes, take it. With hesitation but also very happy I take it and make have my first interview. I trip over my words..

Dervishes at the mosk and a quiet breakfast in the shade of the truck before it gets really warm.


The boat from Aswan to Wadi Halfa was a wonderful experience. Cup of tea with the English, cooking together, for the first time since long losing myself in a simple book! Calmly sliding through the water, I did the washing next to my tractor in the sunshine with water from the Nile. The dog’s blanket floating ten meters behind the boat, seemingly as bait for the crocodiles. (Alas I did not see any..)

The temple from Abu Simbel with its Faraonic statues hewn out of the rockwall. Three days long I read an incredibly simple book on this boat. After all that bumping and being thrown about in the Egyptian desert a great new experience, gliding the waters so smoothly.

The first evening in Wadi Halfa turned into a party, although I unfortunately wasn’t feeling too well. The English, with Colin in his wheelchair, from Driving Home, the South-Africans we shared the boat with all gathered in the courtyard of the little Nubian open-air hotel. We all ate the foul and other local food and salads with the typical flat bread. The South-Africans treated us to watermelon as desert. We slept together on matrasses under the awning of the courtyard. In the morning we discovered the national breakfast of Sudan: tea with dumplings. A taste of Christmas and New Years Eve in this heat!

Colin from Driving home and the streetlady selling the dumplings

Against all my expectations I drove into Sudan crying. Not from being touched or a sense of having ‘made it’ but from an overwhelming sense of being alone.

The overwhelmingly beautiful environment was in stiff competition with my feelings. The cadavers of cows along the roadside, the black rocks, the desolation and the starlit sky at night. I felt so alone. Why couldn’t I be just like any other person with, underneath the Christmas tree, a loved one on my side?

But how long can you stay sad when nature and people are so heartwarming?

The first days I drove alone and lonely. More than once with tears in my eyes from this overwhelming feeling. I drove on my own over a narrow and sober track, bumping and rolling with a speed of mostly no more than 5k/h. The black rocks, a dead cow on day three, the windswept trees in the distance. A landscape that sublimates sadness. (According to Sarah)

The times that I did see people touched me deep in my heart. The women of Sudan are so powerful and radiant. A smile is like a replacement for being in love. As if mother earth herself takes you in her arms. I drank tea in a little village and slept in the ‘garden’ of a Nubian family.

Jungle by the nile

Then there was Christmas and suddenly there was a Christmas tree at my feet. (Contoured in the sand with a green rope). There were even presents underneath the tree! Dutch liquorice, sweets, pens, little bottles of soap and cream and whishes. I celebrated Christmas with the tractorteam, and we sang songs around the tree. On Christmas eve KJ had played beautifully on his mouthorgan under the radiant starlit sky. It sounded like a song for all sad people and a call for peace. I gave Sarah tractordrivinglessons on the plain, and I must say she’s a natural! It was wonderful to share the days together.

Maybe people are wondering why I don’t make this journey on my own. My answer is not about practical things like safety. During this journey, apart from all the contacts ‘on the road’, for me it is great to work with people for a longer period of time. Because as a team you can get further than on ones own. And, despite travelling together, the follow-up car and the tractor both have a different adventure. (See also the ‘follow-up car diary (Volgwagen dagboek))


We celebrated New Years Eve in the desert just outside Dongola. I made the dough for the dumplings and they were delicious. (Thanks to the recipe from a Dutch family in Alexandria) We welcomed the Newyear twice. Once on the Sudanese midnight and (because it was so quiet around us) two hours later at the Dutch twelve o’ clock we hoorayed again. In my mind I was in Holland, and I imagened the fireworks and kissed all my friends and family. Instead of fireworks, which of course we didn’t have, we let up balloons (with helium from the performance) with attached twinklers. The sight of these silent fairylike orbs glitteringly disappearing into the balmy desert darkness was truly a sight. Like a wish going up: Happy New Year!!!!!

The last 120 km to Khartoum I played African towtruck!

Kj is now on his way to Darfur to work for Medicins sans Frontiers…sob..

We picked up Geert from the airport, and saw his plane land! Exciting to think how things will go from here.

We’re on our way!

We arrived yesterday in Khartoum, the stories and pictures are on their way…

Happy newyear!

We hope you had as nice a holiday as we had. We write this message in the desert of North Sudan… And people have breakfast here with the same kind of pastrey we traditionally eat in Holland on new year’s eve!

Happy New Year!

We hope you had just an unexpectedly wonderful Christmas and New Years celebration as we had. I write this from the desert of North Sudan. Very coincidentally he people here have for breakfast, what we have as special treat around the Christmas holiday. Dumplings!!! We don’t have to miss the taste of the Dutch celebrations. In a week or so the news and photo’s from our travels through North Sudan. Until then I’ll bump and roll a little more towards Khartoum..

2006: the year of the Dog: It stands for truth, loyalty, openness, and honesty, woof