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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Learning about Sudan in a van: Taken for a ride

Published: April 13, 2007
Section: Arts, Etc.

Note: some quotes in this article are paraphrases, as the person quoted has very broken English.

I hadnt intended to take a class on cultural conflict on the van ride to Brandeis from Logan Airport, but then again, I hadnt intended to be arriving at midnight, either, thanks to a seven hour flight delay.

I arrived at Logan Airport from Chicago, picked up my luggage, and within moments saw my Airporter waiting outside. I boarded and we were off.

As I often do, I asked the driver about himself, where he was from, etc. His name was Bahaedin (I never did get his last name) and he was a Sudanese immigrant. He had arrived seven years ago, after hearing from friends that life was better here in America. Was it true?

Oh yes. Back in Sudan, I would get paid maybe once a month and the money would last about three days. I couldnt support myself. It wasnt just me, everyone else was in the same situation. We would go to the market maybe once a week and buy a kilo (2.2 pounds) of meat, and that had to last the family for the entire week. So we cut it into small pieces and put as much sauce on as we could. A lot of people tried to rob the rich and succeeded, since law enforcement is very weak there. Here, I get paid every week, I have my own car, my own apartment, life is perfect-almost perfect. Sometimes things are slow because there are so many people, but you have rules here, so everyone works together.”

My driver appeared to know a lot about Sudan, so I pushed him further. What did he think about Darfur? Mostly, Americans dont know anything. They think its about religious issues or skin color issues. It is nothing like that. The local tribes dont work together, but tribe leaders have absolute loyalty of their people. I think the main problem [that results from this] is a lack of resource sharing.

Another issue was education. According to Bahaedin, there is very little. He himself had to walk 5 miles to school and back every day, many didnt go to school at all. The lack of education, he noted, was largely responsible for theft and lack of self accountability. They dont know anything..theyve always been raised that its everyone for himself.

An Arabic newspaper was sitting on the floor. I asked what his opinions were on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I dont see why everyone cant get along, he shrugged. Youve got like two million Israelis, three million Palestinians, some old buildings, why cant they just work this out? At that point we arrived at Brandeis, excellent timing indeed. I didn't know what to believe at that point, but it had been an interesting and educating ride, nonetheless. I paid my bill and climbed up the stairs and back into the Brandeis bubble. If youre up for an interesting ride to the airport, just call The Airporter and ask for Bahaedin.