I spent this gone Friday and Saturday with a South Sudanese man who has just returned from South Sudan. I was amazed that he spent so much money just to go back and celebrate the independence with family and friends. I admired his patriotism. We talked about the current state of the new nation and what was the general public feeling and assessment of the government thus far. He said people are hopeful and confident that government will deliver, given time and “the benefit of the doubt.” Then he said something that was, well, off topic, but quit relevant to the research this summer.
He said that while in South Sudan he felt more American than he ever felt while in America. 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 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
This is my first interview: a phone conversation which occurred in a course of two days. The person I interviewed asked that his name and those of his family members be kept private, and so we shall call him Beny. He was born in South Sudan, between 1970 and 1980, and immigrated to the United States about a decade ago.
In 1983, one of Africa’s deadliest civil wars erupted between the Sudanese government and the South Sudanese rebels, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement. This conflict claimed millions of lives and forced many people to flee their homes. Beny was separated from his family in Bahr el Ghazal region when he was only ten years old. For about two years, with a band of more than 200,000 orphaned and displaced children, the Lost Boys of Sudan, Beny marched hundred of miles across the country to the Kakuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya. There he spent his childhood and adolescence years, fighting for everything, shelter, food, clothes, education, and anything to survive.
Beny currently lives with his wife, a native of South Sudan herself, and his two U.S. born daughters in a two-bedroom apartment about fifteen miles outside Downtown San Jose. Beny works for a vehicle rental company and enjoys and appreciates his job. “I’m really lucky to have a job, considering how bad the economy is right now,” He said. “I’m happy I’m able to provide for my family here and for people back home.”
I asked Beny why he referred to South Sudan as “home” and to US as “here.” Continue reading
Call me Nyuol (no allusion intended). I am from South Sudan (the world’s newest nation). I matriculated at Duke with the intention of studying philosophy and economics, and am still interested in them, but I am currently double majoring in literature and linguistics. I have lived in different places and experienced diverse cultures, all which, in many ways, form the edifice of my consciousness. I consider myself a cosmopolitan person, at least intellectually, if not existentially.
In the summer of 2006, I moved to the United States to study. Like many South Sudanese who received comparable opportunities, coming to America marked a new beginning for me. Before that breakthrough, the prospects of getting secondary education, going to college, or just improving the conditions of the refugee life were rather bleak. And so, that summer, when the FedEx package arrived containing a letter of acceptance and a scholarship award to attend a boarding school in California—well, everything changed. Those documents established my qualification for a passport, which means country, nationality, recognition, rights, privileges I was denied, being a refugee and all.
Anyway, I found myself in America overnight. Continue reading