Advertise - Print Edition

Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The expedition of a lifetime

Published: October 1, 2007
Section: Arts, Etc.

When some people win a lottery, they are awarded vast sums of money, but when my parents won the Diversity Visa Lottery, they won the chance to take our family out of Eritrea and immigrate to the United States.

However, my experience in traveling to the United States was not as simple as booking a one-way ticket to any U.S. airport. Even though I was only 15 years old, the Eritrean government declined to grant my family an exit visa.

My journey has had a great impact on my life, especially in acculturating to American culture. I never imagined that my sacrifice would bring me such happiness when I crossed the border of Sudan from Eritrea on foot.

Even though I was fifteen years old, the Government of Eritrea declined to give us an exit visa. No one was allowed to leave the country due to the political situation and the obligatory term of military service that had be performed after high school.

Thus, I had no choice but to reach America via a neighboring country. One option was to leave Eritrea through Ethiopia, but this was impossible because of the conflict between my country and Ethiopia regarding border issues. The only other alternative was to cross through Sudan.

In order to cross the border, my 18-year-old sister and I decided to undertake the 900 km (1,500-mile) trek through the desert by foot. There is no life, water, or food in the desert. The temperature ranges from 34C to 55C (93F-131F).

We were led by paid guides, who misinformed us that the journey would only take three days. Based on their information, we took two gallons of water and some bread.

In reality, the journey took us seven days with 20 hours of walking each day. By the third day, our supplies were running low, but we had no choice except to continue the journey without looking back and were determined to achieve our goal.

Hope was the only zeal we had in this life-or-death trip. Thoroughly exhausted, we managed to reach Port Sudan on the seventh day, even though we had not eaten or had anything to drink in the past two days.

Fortunately, we met Sudanese nomads living around Port Sudan who were generous enough to give us some water, tea and bread. What was more fascinating was that they treated us with kindness even though they were Muslims and we were Christians.

They advised us to dress like Muslims while traveling in the Port Sudan. To help us pass through the check point at Port Sudan, the Muslim nomads paid a truck driver to take us with him as his family members.

Seeing these nomads selflessly help us taught me the importance of helping people who need assistance even if they are different from you.

Once we passed the check point, we found a traditional doctor of Eritrean origin. He and his wife took care of us for ten days until we rested and tried to revive ourselves.

He called our family back home to tell them that we had safely reached Port Sudan. My father called us back that night, but even then we were too exhausted to talk to him.

The next day, my parents flew from Eritrea to Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. I felt born again hearing my parents' voices during their call from Khartoum. We left Port Sudan for Khartoum to meet our family. The Eritrean doctor helped us get an exit visa and ticket to fly to Khartoum.

Sitting aboard the plane to Khartoum, I couldnt believe that not so long ago, I was just a fifteen-year -old boy traveling on foot with my eighteen-year-old sister through the desert of Sudan without food or water.

Our zeal, combined with the determination and hope for a better life, were our tools for success. This proved to me that a person with a vision can succeed if he works hard and perseveres through the challenges.

This trip and its success in turn aided my assimilation and acculturation to the multicultural society in America. Arriving in the United States of America, we faced a major cultural adjustment. I enrolled in Brookline High School half way through the year and we moved into a shelter.

Making my adjustment even tougher, we had no one to help us and we came from a third world country with no exposure to the developed world. Again, my journey to the U.S. served as an engine in my life, powering me, reminding me that nothing is impossible if I work hard enough.

Moreover, my vision and intention for moving to the United States of America was to pursue a better education and quality of life.

These core elements helped me successfully adjust to this new situation. I have been in the United State of America for two years now.

Just as I did in the desert, when I got here, I stayed calm and observed my surroundings and tried to learn from them. My focus became my education while I tried to fit in with my classmates and neighbors.

My experience in crossing the desert and introduction to the American society has made me more determined in life. I will work hard. I will always help and respect people regardless of age or ethnicity.

Having undergone these difficult conditions and having struggled to achieve my objectives has molded me into a sharp and smart individual. This will help me to succeed in the future, whatever obstacles I may encounter.