I am to fly out today. i will drive to agok, 30 km from abyei, and wait by the cracked landing strip with a few other desperate travellers each scanning the sky for a plane. the first thing we will hear is a thin drone. we will move from our landcruisers into the harsh light, shield our eyes, and look for a spark of sunlight glancing off the white metal frame of the WFP plane. the drone will grow louder (there it is, someone will say), and we will watch the plane approach, circle, make a pass at the airstrip to frighten animals and look for errant bricks or logs, circle, then land in a dust cloud. as the engine whines down, two pilots will jump from the small cockpit, light up cigarettes, completely unimpressed with this, already their third stop in a brown, scrub town, in the no(middle)where. one will start to scan the manifest as the other walks behind the plane, hand on his hips, and opens the luggage compartment. we will grab our bags from the car, and walk out onto the strip, acting nonchalant while secretly trying to beat the others to the pilot in case there aren’t enough spaces on the plane. we will hold our torn paper tickets to him, which he will ignore.
"name?" he’ll ask.
"masaly?" he’ll say.
"get on the plane."
i will. i will hook the seatbelt over my lap, and ignore the uncomfortable bar of metal under my sacrum. I will listen to the sparse instructions, a promise of turbulence, and cram my bag under the seat. the props will twitch, then turn, then blur. the plane will jerk to a start, turn around on its heel, bump along over the dry ground, gaining speed, and lift smoothly from sudan. agok, and abyei, will fall from all sides.
in sh’alla. WFP, in addition to its correct acronym as the World Food Program, is also known as “where the f is the plane?”. our nurse, andrea, finished her mission on sunday, and left for agok in a flurry of hugs. two hours later she was back on the veranda, lying on the couch her bag beside her, unable to catch up with the rest of her that had already collapsed on her bed in Geneva, exhausted. as such, we temper our expectations. we will leave if we do, if like everything in sudan, it is god’s will. I will be in the sky, hanging on as the plane drops like a stone through an air pocket, if I am. if not, I will be back here, hanging on until I fly.
shamefully, in a week full of important news, this post has avoided it all. I will write more from Khartoum. in sh’allah.