As long as I can remember, I have had the dream of having a good job, MY own house, MY own car, husband and children. I have had this dream that I am successful. If you notice, my success is MY success. My dream did not include anyone but ME and MY own personal achievements in life. Why? This is how I have been conditioned. I come from a society that teaches us to be self-sufficient and to possess a character of individuality. We are taught not to depend on others for anything. So, you can imagine my suprise when I experienced the unity between families here in the Sudan. It is something I have never seen. It has caused me to wonder how much we could accomplish in the West if we had more unity and cooperation.
Teaching in Sudan has taught me much. On my job, I administer placement exams for English courses. Two of the questions we ask on the test are, “Could you tell me something about your family?” and “Why do you want to learn English?” The answers to these questions always leave me astonished and amazed. It is Oh so easy for us self-centered and arrogant Westerners to believe that everyone wants to learn English so that they can pursue a life in one of the English speaking countries. But, this is not always true. Through asking these questions, I have learned how to be a better mother, daughter and neighbor.
There are sons and daughters here in the Sudan who want to learn English as a small step to accomplishing a larger goal. Being English proficient increases your chances of obtaining a good paying job with stability. So, some simply want to be able to pay their parents back for sending them to school or to take care of them so that they no longer have to work hard anymore. One of my students answered, “I have a typical African family. I have many brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins who need to be fed and who need higher education. I want to be able to contribute like everyone has contributed to my education and well-being.” Another student was working in a high traffic tourist area during Ramadan and taking English classes as well. When he found working, studying and fasting to be too difficult, he quit his job. So, I asked him how he was going to pay his bills and eat for a month. He responded with surety, “My brother will give me money for that.” I sat for a moment wondering to myself how he could be so sure of this. So, I asked him. He said, “No problem, when he was in school to become a dentist, I always sent him money. Here in Sudan, we have unity. What is money? Money is nothing. You use it to survive only.” I felt so ashamed. People here would be shocked to know that I have a couple of millionaires in my family!!! They do not and would not give to any of us and we would not dare ask them for anything. My grandmother raised both of them and they have never reached out to help her financially. We really need a lesson in unity.
I have found myself doing so much self-analysis; teaching my children to function as a unit. I hope that being here in Sudan will cause my children to have a personality of giving, sacrifice and love. This is truly one of the most beautiful things about Sudan and its people; a spirit of giving.