one of the most difficult things for me to accept in sudan, among all of its hard edges, is that everyone has better sunglasses than I do. well, not everyone. mostly the old men. in my other life, I live in Kensington market in Toronto. when I am not working or running from once place to the next, I am wandering the streets of my neighbourhood trying to soothe that one hollow part in my spirit that the right pair of sunglasses would fill.
I don't think this is a sign of inner dischord, representing a broader sense of dissatisfaction with the universe. nor do I think I should be looking for sunglasses inside my own soul rather than in second hand store windows or on the faces of old Sudanese men. I know this because once I found the right pair. i bought them in new york on the street for ten bucks. they were like blue blockers, except orange, and on the bridge, had a swordfish. with them on, the world was better. minty. I took them off only when necessary. last year, on my way to train with msf, sleep deprived and excited, I left them on the seat of a german taxi. as it took off, I felt a familiar ache.
it is a grand leveling that msf, as part arbiter of my sunglass woes, placed me in a country with such a high density of cool sunglasses. I could even begin to forgive their role in the loss of my perfect pair if I could track some down. when I was in Khartoum last, I spent an afteroon with a driver roaming driving from place to place, souk to souk, looking for some. he would pull up to a stand with racks of fake Gucci glasses and look at me hopefully. no, I would say. I want old man sunglasses. confused, we drove on in frustrated silence.
and now I am in abyei. the souk is full of carbon paper stores. the one selling cigarettes, powdered milk, tomato paste, lighters, and biscuits abuts another selling cigarettes, powdered milk, tomato paste, lighters and biscuits. there are two restaurants. at bashir cafeteria, one can take his chances with beans, goat, or if he is lucky, tomatoes. at the other, beans, goat, tomatoes. the worst part is, of course, the old man who takes your money has the best pair of sunglasses you have ever seen, but the market has none. I asked him one time where get them. he smiled, shrugged, and turned away. he could smell my desperation.
all this to say, I needed to write something that was not about my life here. something trivial. my days and nights are imbued with a reality where one has no choice but to lean up against the broken, beating heart of one of the world's most broken countries, where some people eat grass and others fight viciously. at night, as often as not, I can't sleep from all the ghosts. and when I wake up, and step from my tukul, the world is reflected in all of its sharp edges, and the light is harsh and unflinching.
hence the sunglasses.