Pictured above: This man’s joy in his work was contagious! His dress shop was amazing and tailor made for tall Sudanese women – I fit right in. After materials and labor, its challenging to believe that he can still turn a profit charging $6 for a child’s dress.
These are the last major things that really stuck out.
1. The importance of a greeting in the Sudanese culture. I spoke more about it in a post on Sudanese Culture Travel Tips.
“Greetings are valued deeply in this country, and good byes are not important whether it is for the day or if you might never see them again. When you meet someone, it will be common to be asked how you are, how your family is, how their health is, how you have been eating, how the animals are, how your sleep has been and how work is, etc., etc.” And, even if you leave for 10 minutes and come back to join the group, don’t be surprised if you do it all over again. And love shaking hands – they do this all the time. I really liked it, as if it is affirmation of the friendship.
2. Gift Giving – I also wrote about this in the Travel tips, but worth mentioning here as well.
“Gift giving is a big deal in this culture, but thanking someone is not. Do not be offended if you give someone a gift and they act like it didn’t happen. Inside they are very grateful. In turn, be ready to receive gifts graciously, even if you know what a tremendous sacrifice it is for the family. It is their pleasure to give and you will insult them by saying no.“
3. Where did their smiles go?
The Sudanese might come across as a loving, jovial and friendly people, smiling all the time – but put a camera in front of their face and it instantly grows starc. Why? Well I finally asked on my last day in Malakal and found out because they see smiling in pictures as a type of weakness. “If you are always smiling, how could you be a serious person, how could anyone take you as a stern leader, able to punish and be strict?” they told me.
So they told me they were very confused by Barack Obama’s photographs that they saw everywhere, on TV, on the internet, and in the newspaper. He is smiling all of the time, so even though everyone in Sudan loves him and thinks he is their savior as well at the U.S.’s, they don’t believe he will be able to be the leader he will need to be and be serious when the time calls for it.
Contrastly, if they are sending pictures home to their families or friends, they will smile and be very happy, because the need to apprear serious is unnecessary – but since they don’t know who is seeing mine – they opt for the straight face. You will see below, sometimes I am able to steal a smile out of some kids, and how truly beautiful the smiles are!
I was so psyched to buy this skirt and top at the Friday market in my last day in Malakal.