#4 - So Should I Hyphenate?
Jody Finver - 2 September 2001
(Luxor, EGYPT) - "I would rather swim from
Ethiopia to Egypt than go through the Sudan, Jeff." Those were
my words to him before embarking on this trip. I had no intentions
of traveling through the country. I had even told my parents
I wouldn't. But the group had talked me into going saying that
I would be safe traveling in an international group. See, I
am the lone American passport and in my eyes, I thought the
Sudan was just another Libya -- a country teeming with hostile,
anti-American propaganda, terrorists, and sand. I had visions
of being kidnapped and sold into slavery in the south. But I
must say, the concept of going to a country deemed 'dangerous
and unsafe' by my embassy made it too tempting. So while part
of me wanted to get rejected and fly to Cairo, a larger part
of me was anxiously awaiting the harrowing drive and hoping
to see this so called danger zone.
My preconceived notions were totally unfounded
and I am convinced that the American Embassy gets its information
from Bazooka rappers cause the Sudan was the safest, nicest,
friendliest country I have ever been to in my life. It was daunting
to encounter so many genuinely friendly and hospitable people.
Perhaps it is the New Yorker in me that makes me think everyone
is out for something., but the people of Sudan.. or the Sudan…
however you call it.. it's part of their culture to help people.
Funny, but that never gets relayed by Peter Jennings or the
As an American I would happily promote tourism to Sudan. Go.You'll
have a wonderful time -- provided you bring plenty of money and
rehydration salts. Damn hot there. And as a woman, just be prepared
and laugh it off like Sally and I did.
" I am strongly desiring to kiss you."
"I have a boyfriend."
"But - please -"
At this point, I couldn't bear to overhear
this ping-pong conversation from the hall and I walked into
the room where Sally and one of our hosts sat. It was our last
night in Khartoum and the boys were going for broke. While swimming,
one asked if he could be my boyfriend. I laughed it off and
relayed the story to Sally having no idea what was in store
for her later that night. Sally was money in Sudan. Blonde,
blue eyed, full-figured, you couldn't blame the guy for trying.
You could however blame his friend, who less than an hour after
his friend was shut down, crawled into her bed and tried to
spoon her. On the rooftop, with Jeff, Gulin, his friend and
myself all attempting to sleep. Sure he was 26-year old bucket
of repressed hormones and she the blonde temptress, but ewwwwwwwww,
it was revolting. Sally to her credit kept her calm. She ousted
the guy and moved her bed smack dab next to mine where I sat
awake and on guard for most of the night. When morning came,
I told Jeff what happened. He responded, " Gooooood times."
We left silently as the boys pretended to be asleep, embarrassed
at their mis-judgement of this particular western women.
Gulin had been safe through the Sudan. She used her middle name,
Zeynep, a nice Islamic name. She was their sister. Their cousin.
As for me? Outside of the simple request to be my boyfriend, I
was left alone. But I was told by several Sudanese women as well
as the men that I needed to eat more. I was too skinny by Sudanese
standards. I suppose being sick in Wadi Halfa with food poisoning/stomach
bug/ heat? didn't rack me up any points. Fine with me.
As we were leaving Sudan the men had warned
us about Egyptian men. They were not extolling words of praise.
They said one of us should be married to Jeff for safety. Sally
told them that Jeff and I were getting married. In actuality,
we got married in Khartoum. Well, not exactly so calm down Mom.
It worked out like this: In many Muslim countries, men and women
can't share hotel rooms unless they are married. Sometimes they
even ask to see marriage certificates. (I remember that from
my last visit to Egypt.) I have been wearing my mom's wedding
band all the while traveling and since I am not wearing Sally's
St. Christopher medallion that says 'Love, from Mike' around
my neck, and since I don't have the name Zeynep and can't recite
words from the Koran, I was picked. Romantic, huh? He wears
a ring that Sally bought for herself and we downloaded a marriage
certificate from British Columbia superimposing our names on
it. December 31, 1998. Looks legit.
I was dreading coming
back to Egypt. When I was here a few years back, I had some
pretty terrible experiences.. I mean it was bad. No, exaggeration
to it. Egyptian men are forward. Aggressive. They grope… and
they don't let go. On the cargo boat heading here, the engine
dude was pestering me (in a crew of Sudanese, he was the lone
Egyptian, no surprise). Sally said Jeff needed to put in a good
show and so my husband appeared, sat by my side for an hour
and voila… the asking me to massage him later or something to
that affect stopped. So all in all, I guess being married puts
me at ease. (Even if my husband snores louder than the call
By the way, Jeff and I are registered at
Land Rover. We still need shock absorbers, though cash would
be graciously accepted as well.