Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hatim on People Knowing His Country

"I grew up in Sudan. My father was a university professor. He is retired now. My mother is an art teacher. I grew up in a typical, sometimes overprotective, Sudanese middle class family. I had to study all week and could only go out on the weekends. After high school, I continued to live with my parents. In our culture, we don't have that concept of leaving the home after school. I enrolled in medical school in Sudan and came to the U.S. to do additional medical training. My brother lives in Houston and tried to get me to live there. When I went there, I didn't like it. I started to travel around the U.S. looking for another city. I came to D.C. and this was it. Now, I am studying medicine and working in a hotel at night. There is a degree of discrimination in transferring my medical degree here, but it is natural. It is fair that you give priority to those in your own country. 

"This city is great. Here, people know where I am from. In Texas, people used to say to me, 'Sudan, where is that?' Or, they would ask if I was one of the Lost Boys. In D.C., people know my country. This place is so diverse and intellectual. You see the best of the best of every culture. You meet almost anybody and they can engage you in a deep conversation on politics or the economy. There are a lot of enlightened people in D.C. 

"Still, this place is not perfect. I like to joke about some of the things that happened to me in D.C. I met a girl who had spent time in Africa and we were talking about Nubia, the region where I am from in Sudan. One of her friends wanted to join our conversation and asked me where I was from. When I said Sudan, she said, 'Oh really! Oh my God, you must be better off here.' I was really shocked and angry. I said, 'What a horrible thing to say to somebody. Nobody is better off out of their country. I am here to pursue a career and then I want to go back to my country.' Another myth is that everyone in Sudan is impacted by Darfur. Sudan is the largest country in Africa and Darfur is the size of France. France is huge! It's like something happening in New Orleans and your family lives in D.C., but people still ask if your family is okay. I don't blame people and appreciate the interest, but I joke about it. 

"The other big shocker for me was meeting African-Americans. They assume that because I am African we have a lot in common, but I found out that we don't. When they find out I am thirty, they ask if I married. I am not. Then, the next question is usually if I have children. This is outrageous to me because in our culture if you are not married, you are not supposed to have children. Still, despite all the differences, what makes me happy about D.C. is that people know my country." 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

sounds like you need to meet some other african americans