The summer after my last year of middle school was filled with anticipation for what high school would bring. I was excited about becoming a freshman at Catalina High School, spending the summer hanging out with friends, and doing pretty much nothing. My parents had other plans; I would be accompanied by my two younger brothers, my older sister, and my mother to my parent’s native Sudan. Grudgingly I took the three day voyage from Tucson to Atlanta, Atlanta to Gatwick(London), Gatwick to Dubai(UAE), and Dubai to Khartoum(Sudan), followed by a two hour trip to my mothers native of Wad Madani.
Upon arrival, there was a bundle of people waiting for us with both exuberant and inpatient faces. All introducing themselves to me one at a time, I was surprised to realize how expansive my family actually was. After things settled down and I was finally able to enjoy a good night’s sleep I awoke to a completely new world. Growing up in Tucson, I was always intrigued by my parents. Sudan always seemed to be this exotic place in my mind, and although I was not excited about spending my entire summer in North Africa, apart of me always wanted to experience the culture of my parents’ home.
Wad Madani, was a city bustling with markets, outdated soccer stadiums, and a diverse population of Arabs, Dinka, and Nubian people. The hospitality extended to me and my family by all of the different people I had been acquainted with was touching. Dining in Sudan was an experience in itself. Many people are ravaged by hunger, and lunch in Sudan is a big deal due to the fact that for most people it is the only real meal per day. So if you were hungry you had to be diligent and take what you needed, or be hungry for the remainder of the day. Hunger is one of the many problems plaguing Sudan but I was also struck by the level of violence and lawlessness that the people lived under. Family members would be frequently approached by men brandishing AK-47’s. I quickly realized that I was no longer in the peaceful town of Tucson and I should be much more careful about telling people where I came from.
Towards the end of our stay, my family decided to pick up souvenirs for friends. I was struck by the scene of both children and adults begging not for money, but for food at the stores. I found this level of poverty to be unbelievable. Few of them were lucky enough to have the most ragged of clothes. All were so thin that you could see their rib cages. Children orphaned by the war crying for help. These images stick with me to this day, and all I felt was utter shame for being disconnected from the reality that afflicts Africa. I left Sudan with a new found realization of taking full opportunity of the education granted to me here in America.
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