My 4 Year Journey in Sudan

By , Needham, MA
In the 7th grade I made a decision that stripped me of something valuable: a typical high school experience. Instead of spending 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th grade in the U.S., I traveled to Sudan. My grades from Junior year reflect my prolonged absence. However, I do not regret my decision to travel to Sudan, because I gained something invaluable: a first hand look into a culture and country like none I had ever experienced. It all began the moment I stepped off the plane into the warm dry air of Khartoum, Sudan.

I stayed with my grandmother in a small neighborhood, where people knew each other well. The Sudanese teenagers I met were unaware that American movies did not depict normal American life. Sometimes, after a game of soccer, I would tell my new friends stories about America, or explain my previous daily routines. This allowed me to connect with the children, who began to realize that there were more similarities than differences between our lives.

One thing that interests Sudanese kids about America is its music. Knowing English, to the Sudanese boys, meant knowing how to rap. Though I tried explaining that I couldn't rap, they continued to urge me. I ended up singing a couple of verses from “In Da Club,” by Fifty Cent, a song with which they were familiar. It ended with many cheers and laughter.

My experiences were not all so enjoyable. One morning, while walking to school, I came across two boys sleeping beside the road. They were no more than eight years old, yet their malnourished bodies suggested an even younger age. The original colors of their disheveled clothes were no longer distinguishable, as though the clothes had been used to clean out a stove. Flies crawled along their parted lips; the sleeping boys could have been carcasses. Kneeling beside them I dropped my backpack to the dirt, and tried to shoo away the persistent flies. I cried. Things like this were ordinary in the streets of Sudan. I felt ashamed of my clean clothes and sunglasses, of the bed that awaited me in my room, and of the lunch I had in my backpack; these kids had nothing but each other for comfort. The next morning I revisited the spot where I first saw the sleeping boys, but they were gone.

I once took life’s luxuries for granted, but after living in Sudan I learned to appreciate things I previously failed to notice. The good times I had with my friends created a bond between us that helped bridge cultural differences and my first hand experience with the orphans made me realize how oblivious I had been to the suffering of others. I wouldn’t trade this experience even if I had the chance to, because it has changed me into a mindful person. My experience in Sudan will be the most helpful asset I use to incorporate mindfulness and awareness in the experiences yet to come; the first of which is college.





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