>Sudan. If you haven’t heard of Sudan by now then you aren’t reading this, haven’t used the Internet, and are probably a good candidate for a real-life version of “Lost.”
Currently, the world is applying pressure on China to affect change and prevent more tragedy in Darfur. But Darfur is in the western part of Sudan. The southern part of Sudan has fallen off of most people’s radar.
From the early 1980s through 2005, the southern part of Sudan was involved in a civil war with northern Sudan. I may need to amend that – the North was at war with the South. The South contains the oil, which the Chinese want, also better soils, which the southern Sudanese want and the northern Sudanese wish they had. Complicating the conflict has been religious differences; the North is Muslim, the South is Christian and Animists. The North is mostly Arab, too, while the South is African.
During the two-decade long civil war, the North killed, captured, or ran off thousands of southern Sudanese men and boys, who fled to Ethiopia and later to Kenya. Fathers, husbands, brothers, and uncles were forced from the lands or killed by the northern armies. Those young men and boys that fled, on foot, through dangerous territory, would be called the “Lost Boys of Sudan.” They would become separated from their families and many, even to this day, have not yet been reunited with family members. Families were broken apart; mothers, daughters and sisters were killed, some fled and became refugees in neighboring countries. Thousands ended up in refugee camps, and from these camps, choice few were selected for lives in the U.S.
The movie follows four Sudanese Lost Boys, primarily John Bul Dau, and their new lives in the U.S. We learn about their lives while in the refugee camp and glimpse life within one of these camps. We see their introduction to technology, listen to their notions of what life in the U.S. must be like. Seeing these young men and their interaction with airline food and bathrooms is interesting, like watching full-grown children, as everything is so new and different. While interesting, much of this I found disturbing.
We, as Americans, take so much for granted. Something so simple as looking into a mirror that each of us do a dozen times a day is captivating and mesmerizing to the young men. Seeing themselves in the mirror at the airport bathroom maybe the first time each had this experience. I was stunned by that. Later, I was stunned again by the lack of counseling these men went through to assist them in managing such culture shock. No mentors, outside of the first day walk-through of their apartment. They were quickly introduced to trashcans, the refrigerator, the toilet and toilet paper, and potato chips. And then left on their own. Strange land, strange country.
They also get to pay back their airfare, after having to work two or three jobs. Loneliness also haunts them. Their “families,” other Sudanese Lost Boys in a refugee camp in Kenya, are half a world away. The people here, in Buffalo, NY, are unfriendly, not talkative, “you can’t just walk into someone’s house and talk.” In the camp, one is surrounded by friends who have been through the same experience, and through the Grace of God, a few get an opportunity to succeed in the U.S.
The film is very eye-opening and poignant, and covers many positives, such as John reuniting with his mother after 17yrs, and working towards bettering the lifes not only of other Sudanese living the U.S. but also advocating for those still living in refugee camps in Kenya. But I couldn’t help but think that all Sudanese would much rather have their lives back, and live in their Sudanese homeland, rather than live life abroad.