Monday, November 28, 2005

Dragon Meets Giraffe:

My often surreal Sudanese encounters began at a delicious Lebanese lunch in New York with a diplomat who was helping me obtain my visa. She had grown up in Khartoum, the daughter of a medical doctor who took her with him on his rounds out in the countryside, where she remembered watching jockeys racing ostriches. She introduced me to the tobe, the 13 feet of black (for sadness and traveling) or white (for work) or colorful fabric every Sudanese woman wraps around her hair and body. (In Sudan, among thousands of colorful tobes, I never saw two alike, as though every woman was a garden or a national treasure wrapped in her own flag.) My diplomatic friend also told me about the civil war that had raged since Sudan's independence in the 1950s, and she acknowledged "rumors" of slavery still in the south. I had already received a lurid no-go advisory from the US State Department. Sudan seemed an alien world, problematic and totally unfamiliar. But when the diplomat asked about my background and I told her I had written Enter The Dragon, she was stunned silent. Then she gathered her wits and told me, "You know, when I was a girl in Khartoum and my father bought us a VCR, our tape of Enter the Dragon was the first thing stolen from our house."


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