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My bittersweet days in Sudan

Updated: 2018-09-03

When the bell rang on Christmas Eve, I dreamily stared at the dancing snowflakes outside the window. I suddenly realized that it had been more than six years since the completion of Sudan Wadi Airport project.

Looking back on those hard times, I feel like there are many things I would like to share with you. Please follow me in recalling those unforgettable days.

The light renovation project at Sudan Wadi Airport was the first truly EPC project for the AVIC INTL’s Beijing subsidiary -- design, procurement, logistics and site construction were all duties of our team. 

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Scenery of the airport

Before the project, many seniors took the initiative to offer instructions and share their own experiences in Africa and discuss the potential risks and difficulties that might be encountered during the implementation of the project.

To be honest, I had no idea what was currently going on at the project site, even though I knew the project was difficult, because none of us had ever taken part in such EPC project and did not know what problems may emerge at the site, either.

My routine included visiting project owners. I put on my suit and tie and started the business visit -- shaking hands, making presentations, presenting gifts, taking photos and saying farewells were repeated at every stop of our tour. I returned to the hotel and ordered dishes with colleagues after work, enjoying the casual Sudanese lifestyle. Then we took a rest in the room. During then, I felt quite tired, though I was yet to engage in any concrete affairs of the project.

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Sui Yongjie

I felt like it wasn’t easy to carry out a project and we were all on the move for it. But later I found out that I was wrong. Visiting project owners was the most relaxing task compared to the workload during the construction period. The workload of the later was many times more than that of in the initial stage.

Due to lack of knowledge on shipping and EPC before the project, we notified the constructors to stand by and they arrived at the airport too early, which meant 30 workers had nothing to do for 25 days.

Transporting, laying cables, drilling, percussion drill, mixing cement and wheeling trolley..... I had never been exposed to these jobs before and I got involved in them and enjoyed all of them more than once in this project. Finally, after a few weeks of efforts, I made friends with the workers at the construction site and never heard any slowdown or complaints. I still remember a long-awaited heavy rain in Sudan. On that rainy day, I took off my coat and enjoyed the shower with my co-workers for the first time.

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Sui Yongjie and his colleagues

At the acceptance ceremony for the project, after Sudan’s air force commander delivered a speech, we thought the ceremony was over. But we were told that a transport plane was about to land at the airport, and everyone was waiting for the historic moment. On that occasion, Sudan’s air force made its first nighttime landing in its history. The highlight was that they had not yet debugged the equipment, and had done no rehearsals in advance, giving us a pleasant surprise.

Although several months isn’t that long of a period, what I learned from it is hard to calculate. Let me end this article with the then head of our department Jack’s saying -- “Happiness” and “Appreciation” are two goals of our life-long pursuit.

The author Sui Yongjie is an employee with AVIC INTL.

(Executive editor: Hao Wen)

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