This video will give you a pretty good idea of what Malakal was like. The homes. The street, the children and the mamas and babas (mom and dad in Arabic). The boys delivering water from the Nile using donkey carts, the minimal trash, the businesses.
During my short 7 days in Malakal, I learned about tribal conflict, the significance of greeting one another, of saving water and electricity, the value of learning even a few phrases of someone’s mother tongue, and most importantly, gained my own view of Sudan, apart from media or whatever 3rd, 4th, or 9th degree of separation information that someone hands me. Some of these things I already knew, but learned them differently here.
My bro and sister-in-law had been studying Sudanese Arabic for a number of months once I had arrived, so I asked around and got some phrases that could be used a lot and with many different people. With the phrases listed below, I was able to have a conversation for about a minute with kids, parents, shop keepers, mostly anyone. My spelling will look ridiculous because I have written them phenetically in case any of you would like to visit Sudan one day and need some English-Sudanese Arabic words to take with you! Also, don’t worry, if you come and need to just speak English, you won’t have to seek anyone out, they will find you to practice what they know!
- Shukran – thank you
- Ma Salama – with peace/good bye, basically, ‘go with peace’
- Salam Aleakum – Hello, a greeting, translated: Peace to you
- Aleakum a salam – The response Salam Aleakum, translated: To you, Peace
- Kev: What’s up?
- Kwaysa: I’m good, can also be a question: Kwaysa? – (are you) good?
- Tamam? – (I’m) good.
- Ismuk muhnu? – What’s your name?
- Iss mee _____ – My name is ____
- Suke – Market
- Chi – Tea
- La – No
- Yala – Scram!
- Iowa – yes, or shortened to just ‘I’
- Mumkin – possible, maybe
- In tee shatru – You are clever.
- Surrah – picture, softly roll the R
2. Group ownership prevents begging
Most of the families in Malakal and across Sudan share their income, food, clothing, homes, and so on with anyone that is related to them at all. Sometimes the earnings of one man or woman will go to supporting 30-40 people! Can you imagine the pressure! They are a people so willing to share for those who need it, who take care of their own. And since there is such tremendous trust to care for one another and take people in so easily, this yeilds a lack of begging in the community. I was so shocked. Malakal is about as big city as Sudan gets, but I still expected mothers with children holding out their hand, and kids all over tugging on my pants, but this did not happen at all!
The only incident was my last day with my brother. A small boy, probably 10 or so, came up and asked for money, but he quickly left and most likely just asked us because he was bored due to the 7 day holiday of work and school to encourage people to go register to vote.
This country is yet another example of tremendous hospitality. These people give what they have not to give. But my favorite part about it, is that it is not what they give you when you come to visit, but that they give at all. It is the hospitality that is important; so it might be coffee and cookies one day and maybe watered down juice another, and yet a feast on a later day. I hope this is something that I instill in my family one day. Everyone is welcome all of the time. I don’t have to be prepared and there aren’t expectations for what I can give. We will pull things together and no matter what we are doing, stop for the guests (hopefully in my wrap around screened in porch) and visit for a while. How nice is that!
And my hope is that my guests don’t call, don’t text or email. But just come and knock.
(more to come in one more Sudan post)