Veg. thali

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From my Diary 

Saturday 30 August 2008 

We need another bartender. Our bar- maid is sick and her counterpart, a man, was repatriated to Kenya for a severe case of malaria. Also, he is not expected back for allegedly trying to rape one of his co-worker. 

A Ugandan cleaner working for Cedars (a restaurant within Palmtree compound) is applying for the job. He is a certified primary school teacher but since the pay back home is so little, he decided to seek fortune in Sudan. 

I will keep him in mind but we have to check other candidates before making a decision. 

Francis, a safety officer for PAE, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation, is having lunch at the Dining hall. She is from Honduras and lots of fun to talk to. In Spanish she tells me to try the roast pork at the buffet, we both love pork.
Francis is easy-going with a jovial personality and we all treat her as a queen because she is one of the few women staying on a long-term basis at Palmtree. She loves chocolates and movies.
She wants to borrow a laptop to download music from the internet and within minutes her wish is granted.  

After lunch I invite her for a glass of wine at the Palm bar and we spend half hour gossiping about who sleeps with whom. 

Lots of Ugandan or Kenyan women working for Palmtree end up sleeping or shaking up with someone we know. The expatriates are the favorite targets.

The romance regularly last the time of a contract and when it is over they find a replacement within a few days or weeks. That’s the expat life.

This evening, all Rumbek bars will be full. The easy women will be on the look out for their next meal and if lucky may even get a wedding band on their finger. Expat men think with their dick and not their head.
A courtship in this environment can last one drink, love is consume the same night and the passion is gone as soon as the morning comes.
Good looking women are paraded as the “girl friend” until she leaves when the financial incentive dies down.
Expats’ full time girl friends are expensive.  The “John” must also give money to support the extended family.
These relationships are shallow, fast paces with lots of boozing and happy times and two-way cheating is the norm.  

In Southern  Sudan it is rare for an expatriate to go out with local girls.  Their society is protective of their women.  Anyway, I think that it is not accepted,  try and it will surely lead to a brutal assault or even death at the hand of a Dinka which is the predominent tribe in the area.
I heard of a Kenyan who is in Rumbek’s jail for eloping with a local Sudanese girl.  He is unable to raise the fine of seven bulls imposed by the “court”.
Yes! I said bull. In Rumbek fines are paid in bulls, not money but bulls or its equivalent in hard cash. 

A heavy drizzle is falling, I hope not for long,  I want to go to the Indian’s house who invited me for dinner. 

Felix, the mini-manager, as his uncle one of Palmtree’s owner calls him, shows up. The Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) manager is insisting on making money.  He wants Palmtree to charge, for accommodation, regular price for his bank workers coming on short stay. He will settle their bills at a discounted price and pocket the difference.
I refuse since I have no time for petty thievery coming from this bank manager and I am uneasy with his request.
I don’t understand why Felix is giving him so much importance. 

The Indian’s house is about 4 kilometers from Rumbek centre.  The dirt road is rough and bumpy and trucks carrying diesel fuel thread carefully the pot holes. I pass two SPLA road blocks to reach their house.  

The six men live in a large half way build house.  From the porch, in what will be one day the foyer, I see two rows of neatly aligned bed wrapped with mosquito net hanging from the ceiling.
No window panes and the light comes from two bulbs hanging from wires hooked to a car battery. They’re all from the same village, in the northern part of India bordering Pakistan, and they have not seen their family at least two years. 

The house sits in a  fifteen thousand square meters plot. It was purchased by their boss who lives in Nairobi, also an Indian from their village and now a Kenyan citizen.
He came to Rumbek as a builder. All was good the first year until the contracts ran dry.
He then decided to go into the business of baking bread.  The business is slow and he does not sell more than one hundred fifty bread loaves daily. 

By chance Palmtree contracted two of his workers, my host, and the four others are waiting for the never coming job. They tend to the bakery, upkeep of the house and the garden.
They are Hindus and strict vegetarian, the vegetables comes from their immaculate small garden in which they grow even ginger and lemon grass to make tea.  It horrifies them to see people eating meat. 

Our dinner is served outside, on a small plastic green table surrounded by four chairs but only my two hosts join me, the others set up their service on a makeshift workbench.
Our meal is chapatis, bread which looks like a flat pancake, fritters made of graham flour, a vegetable stew delicately spiced, stuffed green peppers and beans covered with a mix of Indian snacks.
I can’t stop eating, the food is delicious and a big relief from Palmtree’s routine.  The chapatis and the stuffed green peppers are heaven. 

We all eat slowly and talk about their lives which are fascinating.
Two of them spent 10 years in Oman. One as a construction worker and the other as a field laborer.
They lived in a large dormitory called labor camp. During that time they saved little money since their employers made deduction for air ticket, housing, food and other amenities necessary for a basic existence. 

All have been in Sudan for two and half years and now speak Dinka and Kiswahili, my hosts smile knowing they will go and visit their family in six months time. They long for their families and will spend at least a month in their village. 



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