Project Thumbs Up Africa
Neda Boin (22), Sierd van der Bij (23) and Christiaan Triebert (21) are the lucky Dutch trio who began on 1 October a three-month-long hitchhiking trip from Groningen in the Netherlands to Cape Town, South Africa. They are part of the Thumbs Up Africa project, which aims at raising global awareness about sustainability.
Inshallah is what they say here, meaning if Allah wills it, or it is in God’s hands. After travelling almost a thousand kilometres from Cairo to Aswan, it apparently wasn’t God's will for all of us to reach Sudan by boat. Half our crew got visas and boat tickets, but the other half – including me – did not.
By Neda Boin
So there we went again, all the way back to Cairo, to arrange for our visas and then take a plane to Khartoum, Sudan. Who knew that a plane was written in our hitchhiking story? If there’s one thing Africa teaches you, it is to go with the flow. But when we land in Khartoum, I immediately feel a warm welcome. The friendly faces, the children's laughter, the excitement of their Eid celebrations.
Nema and Slim are the two 21 year olds who are so cool to be taking us everywhere we need to be. Together, they’re our right hand, helping us get past the language barrier.
Tastes a lot better here
The first morning after we arrive, we get invited to their traditional Eid breakfast. Imagine a long table with loads of food: the sheep meat they have sacrificed to Allah, rice, nut salad, bread, various different sauces – from sweet tomato to something very spicy – and also tahina, the sesame paste we ate a lot in Egypt, though somehow is tastes a lot better here.
The whole family eats standing up around the table. They dip bits of bread into the sauces, talking and laughing. In the corner, Uncle Ahmed is throwing some more meat on the barbecue grill. And this is only breakfast!
With all these wonderful people around, I notice how I don’t miss my family so much any more. Still, I recognize my father’s dance moves in those of Nema's father. I recognize my nephew in the guys I play football with. I recognize my mother and aunts in the women who laugh and talk loudly with each other while preparing dinner in the kitchen. I recognize myself in Slim’s sister who tells me her brother can drive her crazy, but she could never live without him.
As God wrote all our stories with the same hand, I see how you can recognize everyone in anyone. Today in Sudan, next week in Ethiopia and who knows where else. Inshallah.
Read more Thumbs Up Africa blog entries here.