The subject of my upcoming marriage is of endless fascination to my staff. Never mind that there is no date, there is no location, the proposal is non-existent, as is - possibly the clincher (!!) - the groom. No matter, this doesn’t discourage them. I cannot convince our staff that I am not getting married anytime in the near future. Without fail, at lunch everyday the subject comes up. They will not be dissuaded. They are simply convinced that one of these days I’ll show up at the office married. They talk about whether I will marry a Sudanese, a Brit, an American and the pros and cons of each of those choices. They talk about the ceremony, the food, the venue, the cost. The entire thing has been hashed through down to the smallest detail - how much livestock will be traded, what I will wear, what gifts I should buy for my non-existent in-laws, if I should be a first wife, a second, third, etc. (you're allowed 4 in Sudan). And then, the next day, it is brought up again and so on.
Every male of the species that darkens our doorstep has been scrutinized – Tearfund staff, other aid workers, shipping suppliers, the guy who drives the donkey cart and delivers our water. When I deflect all the names of potential suitors they throw at me, Mohammed, our logistics assistant, throws his hands up in the air and says, dramatically with a sigh, “Why you will not marry? We are praying to Allah for this everyday. You must marry!”
“Mohammed,” I say. “Why marry and make just one man miserable when I can stay single and have so much time to make all of your lives miserable?”