I didn’t know what to expect when I hopped on the chicken bus and headed towards Omdurman.
To be completely honest, I don’t know that I remember the extent of my expectations. At the time, I was somewhere caught between a rock and a hard place. I had spent the better part of 4 days queuing outside the Egyptian Embassy in Khartoum ‘begging’ for a Visa. I even employed my Arabic in negotiating with the guards, and ‘brokers’ that guaranteed a successful visa application. Unfortunately for me and them, my dollars were limited. Every mile I had imagined on my year long journey had a budget attached to it, I absolutely could not afford to flex my pockets any further. You should’ve have seen what my sleeping arrangements were.
I persisted day in and out. Taking breaks by drinking Chai and fried dough on the side of the street.
The lines at the embassy were exclusively Sudanese citizens seeking work and education opportunities in Egypt. And then there was me and a couple of international students from Sierra Leone. My presence, my hair, everything about me ignited curiosity. Many of the locals assumed I was either a professional soccer player for Al-Khartoum or bound for illegal immigration to Europe in search of good fortune through the Libyan Mediterranean coast.
The former assumption was flattering. I had grown up in admiration of the style of football Al-Khartoum brought to the regional cup. Direct and speedy! It was a welcome strong commentary on my physique, I guess I looked direct and speedy. Even Jaffar, the inn-keeper at the the pension where I wrestled myself into sleep, wired on bottomless cups of sugar-tea –chai, had pre-occupied himself with arranging a tryout with the team. He swore that he was connected.
The latter assumption reopened my ears to the conversation about the African refugee and immigration crisis. First as an indication of the humanitarian deficiencies and economic hardships that continue to be obstacles to the development and of well being communities across the continent. Then to the plight of those that flee and the inevitable challenges they face that are not limited to racism, xenophobia and the ominous threat of death and enslavement. The plight of those who are caught between a rock and hard place.
I hopped off the chicken bus, and weaved my consciousness through the masses of people in Suq-ul-Jullut towards the arena. I have never felt quite at home and wrestling has never felt so real. Even the crowd was fully absorbed into the event that was about to unfold. They sat, they sang, they stood and the children play wrestled in the middle of the sandy arena.
Then the whistle went off! And the crowds roared! BATISTA! BATISTA!! The embodiment of masculine strength and physique. BATISTA! BATISTA!
He emerged from a circle of his peers and grabbed two fistfuls of dirt in his palms. He then raised his arms straight in front of his chest and let the earth fall from between his fingers. CLAP! CLAP!
The dust almost absorbed him. It was glorious
That image has stuck with me.
I think about the symbolism embodied in dirt. Whose origin is undoubtedly between a rock and a hard place.