I cannot count how many times here I’ve been asked when I’m going to get married. The Sudanese seem to think it’s a personal affront that I haven’t gotten hitched yet and are determined to be offended for me. ‘Why aren’t you married,’ they ask in an unnervingly direct way. ‘Well, no one’s ever asked,’ I say, which seems to get me off the hook.
That all changed yesterday because someone did ask. Paul, who asked the typical question and to whom I gave the practiced response said, ‘ok, then, marry me.’ Paul is southern Sudanese, amiable, kind, probably a decade younger than me, our mechanic, and perhaps one of the finest human beings I’ve ever met. It seemed a reasonable offer…but first we had to get a few things straight.
‘You’re not already married, are you?’ I asked because being a second (or third, or fourth wife), while perfectly acceptable here, is something I feel that I’d probably dislike.
‘How many cows would you give my family?’
‘200.’ (Not a number to be scoffed at!)
‘And?’ I asked trying to close out the deal.
‘A white Land Rover,’ he said. ‘And, I’d give your parents a house in Southern Sudan.’ (Something that I’m sure my parents would be delighted to learn.)
‘Not bad!’ I said.
‘Of course,’ he replied. ‘We’ll need to wait 10 years.’
I think I could’ve done worse. Might have to wait ten years but all in one go I could get married, have an SUV, property, and take up cattle-ranching. I have to say that I can think of plenty of married people who have ended up with worse deals than that!
And, with such a deal on the table, I’m going to need to think up another response to the concerned, ‘why aren’t you married?’ question. At least, I can get a good ten years out of the, ‘well, I’m engaged to a mechanic in Sudan,’ response.