Well it has been a week since I returned from my trip. I just finished re-reading the diary that I took as I traveled. As I read through it, I feel as if every day held a new city, new people, and new experiences. The only constants were a camera, a pen, and myself. I remember falling asleep on a train to Bremen, waking up, and forgetting where I was going. It took me a moment to remember – I was tracking down the emigration camp in Bremen from where my grandfather and his brother immigrated to America. This feeling of jumping from place to place only becomes heightened as I read my diary, and all of the two months of traveling are condensed to about thirty minutes worth of reading, eight blogs, and a small black box that holds my footage. But, I also have memories outside of these physical things. I find that when I look through them, they trigger some memory, and I can sit in silence remembering details I had forgotten until then. Continue reading
It’s always quiet. I always imagine him sitting in a quiet room. Perhaps a lamp is lit. Or maybe he writes as the sun goes down, using any light that he can. He moves into the sun and away from the lengthening shadows, his body contorting to a comfortable enough position to allow his mind to wander. His head rests against a wall, maybe; his knees come up to form a place to rest his diary while he writes. Or, maybe he writes, as I do, on his side, or at a desk. It is always night, or in a park. I always imagine him writing in a place of rest and reflection. He settles into a content location, and he loses himself in his writing, as I am doing now.
My grandfather was 21 years old when he began writing his diary. By this point, he had lost a sister and a father to the Nazi persecution; he had taken over the role as head of the house, along with his sisters, to help provide food; he traveled 30 km to and from his family and his work with food and other necessities in tow; and, he was two months from being taken to a labor camp to an unknown destination and unknown consequences. In January, I will turn 21. The hardest decision I have had to make is whether or not to attend Duke University. I know nothing of loss. Continue reading
The blog post on traditional marriage generated questions that I thought very insightful and important to explore further. Of course, last week was rather busy for many South Sudanese. The 9th of July marked the first anniversary of our country’s independence from Sudan. Several people who live and work in the Bay Area went to Washington, D.C. to celebrate. And participation in the discussions was quite small as a result, but we still had wonderful conversations and touched on many issues and questions. I rather liked that the questions were derived from comments posted by those who are following the Kenan Summer Fellows’ blog and that I was merely mediating and facilitating. This is the fist installment. We shall do two questions per a follow-up. Continue reading
I have been in Frankfurt, Germany for 16 days. My goal has been to recreate some truth of my grandfather’s childhood. I started with the Frankfurt Jewish Museum where I walked up to the front desk to a man named Ronald. I was armed with my microphone, camera, tripod, and headphones. “Hello,” I said. “My name is David Mayer. I am making a film about my grandfather…” and so on. He gave me a name, a free ticket into the museum, and his contact information. Fast forward to now: I have filmed my grandfather’s childhood home, the home that was bombed out during the war, the prison my grandfather’s father was taken to in 1943 for being Jewish, the headquarters of the Gestapo, the train station, their home in the Tanus mountains. I have met and filmed what seems like every archivist in Frankfurt, an author of a book about Jewish persecution, a cousin of my grandfather’s, a man who was in the Weisser Adler with my grandfather, and a woman who knew my grandfather during the time he wrote his diary. My hard drives are getting rather full, and my mind is getting stretched to every corner of this city. And, what’s funny is that after it all, after seeing the places they tortured people in the prison, after seeing documents that my great-grandmother filled out to apply for 1000 Reichsmarks as compensation for the loss of her husband, after seeing these pieces of my grandfather’s home, I remember my own home in North Carolina. I remember my twin, my brother, my mother, and my father, and I miss them. Continue reading
I am reunited with my father, Lueth Tong Matiok, after twelve years of separation.
Today, July 9, 2012, marks the first anniversary of South Sudan’s independence. And, as expected, political analysts and experts are pointing out the challenges that are still plaguing the new nation. According to the International Monetary Fund, 47 percent of South Sudanese are undernourished, which means that they are living below the poverty line. Inter-communal conflicts over cattle and other resources continue to terrorize, displace and kill people in states like Jonglei, Unity and Warrap. After the shutdown of oil production last January, which constitutes 98% of revenues, the new nation is nearly bankrupt. Civil societies have reported also that the government has been tamping down basic freedoms such as the right to speak freely. In short, the South Sudanese government has come short in providing development, stability, democratic transformation, or the basic aspirations of South Sudanese. While am aware of these challenges, I hope that analysts won’t equally hesitate to qualify these assessments with the phrase: One year later, South Sudan. This is important, because nations aren’t built, secured, or developed overnight. Continue reading
During our first small group discussion last weekend the topic of our conversation changed, rather imperceptibly , from examining the benefits of raising children in America to evaluating the importance of traditional marriage. I shouldn’t be that surprised, though, for the participants were mostly married people. I am not at liberty to disclose their names, of course, their occupations, their backgrounds, but there was a total of five: three men, all married, and two women, one married, and one at the threshold of being so (she just finished college and gentleman-callers, with serious intentions, are making themselves known!).
It wasn’t that unfortunate a turn, really, the topic change. Traditional marriage, we learn, entails more than patriarchy and polygamy. It presupposes expectations and imposes obligations to creating and maintaining the good family, the prerequisite for the good community. This is the argument that the male participants advanced. Although they were educated in the United States, their families in South Sudan arranged their marriages. They married the traditional way. They didn’t meet their wives, call on them, fall in love with them, and then propose—the way it is done in America usually and sometimes in South Sudan—no, not at all, they didn’t have to go through that ordeal. Nor did the wives. Everything was arranged. Continue reading