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Interview with Athian Athian

Athian, Athian
DuBose, Darren
Date of Interview: 
Cultural identification
Athian Athian talks about escaping across the Sudan desert and his time at school.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Darren DuBose interviewed Charlotte, NC residents to collect various stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
DD (Darren DuBose Sr.): And your last name is?
AA (Athian Athian): My last is same Athian.
DD: Athian, so A-, it's pronounced Athian.
AA: Yeah it's pronounced Athian.
DD: Oh, Athian, I'm sorry. And it's spelled A-T-H-I-A-N.
AA: Exactly.
DD: OK, alright. And um, where you from?
AA: I'm from Sudan.
DD: Sudan?
AA: Yeah.
DD: And how old were you when you left Sudan?
AA: I was probably seven years.
DD: Seven years old. Um. Now can you remember back to when you were in the Sudan, how exactly-, uh, education or teaching, uh was, was taught, how classes were taught? Were you actually in classrooms? Or, um any type of information that was passed down from your parents, how, how exactly did that happen?
AA: Exactly, um in Sudan education system is uh, not average.
AA: Um, like in Sudan people have to, to learn Arabic first, every student have to first Arabic before he learn English.
AA: And um, most of the people there have not learned because of that problem.
DD: OK, OK. Now the uh living situation, where, where did you live when you were still in the Sudan? Was it um, is it the same type housing that we have here in, in the US or is it totally different?
AA: They are different because some of them build with iron shears-.
AA: And, um, some with pine woods and with grasses-.
AA: And um, so it quite different.
DD: OK, OK. Now what, was their a particular, uh, I guess tribe that you guys belonged to when you were there?
AA: Yeah, especially I belong to a particular tribe, I'm from Dinka tribe.
DD: Dinka tribe. Oh great, OK. Now what exactly made you leave Sudan at seven years old?
AA: Um. The main reason why I leave my country is a civil war in Sudan-.
AA: That, uh, between, uh, Sudanese government and accompanied by Islamic forefronts. Again, uh, Sudanese-.
AA: Citizen and Sudanese people, that, uh, forced me to run away from my family.
DD: OK do you know exactly what they were fighting over?
AA: Um, I don't know exactly when the fighting went-.
AA: Because this is a long war now.
DD: OK. Now when you left, you said you left at seven years old right? Who did you leave, uh, your, um, village with?
AA: Uh, exactly I leave with some of my friend that I meet on the way-.
AA: And um, and um, two cousin, that uh, I re-, I meet them when I leave to another place. I meet them and then we walk and across that piece together.
DD: OK, so your parents stayed, stayed behind then.
AA: Yeah, my parent stayed behind.
AA: And I don't know exactly where they were to stay at that time ( ).
DD: Oh OK, and um now where were you, where were you exactly walking to when you left? Did you know where you were going?
AA: Exactly I don't know where I was going before. The time that I left I really want to save my life but when I meet a lot of people, there are some big people that try to help us to walk.
DD: OK. Some elders, some ( ). Now uh do you remember how long you were walking for?
AA: Yeah, exactly I walk like, I walk three months to reach Juba.
DD: Wow three months, walking for three months. And this is through t-the jungles and the deserts of-.
AA: Through really a long desert and uh, jungle and a lot of rivers, that I was not supposed-, I, I don't know that I was survived across those situations.
DD: Wow. So what were some of the experiences, some of the things that you came across while you were walking?
AA: First thing uh I came across a lot of thirsty because I go to the desert and in the desert there is no water, there is even no tree and the desert is uh called Sahara Desert um, between, um Sudan and Juba. There was a long, long way and also when I cross that area, um I go to river and the river was-, there were a lot of danger living there.
DD: Um-hum.
AA: So it is really, um miss, I meet a lot of people with that situation. Also I meet a lot of people I left some people on Sahara Desert, died because of thirsty.
DD: Wow.
AA: And because they were not able to walk anymore.
DD: Wow so you-, a lot of your friends died of thirst and, and hunger.
AA: Yeah.
DD: And were, were there any wild animals or anything you came across?
AA: Yeah, um when I read that also between uh, Suriba, there are a lot of wild animals there. So those were animals, they really attack people because the time that we walk, we walk as a group and there is no protection to protect ourselves.
DD: Right.
AA: So those wild animal know that we don't have to support ourselves, so they take some people.
DD: Right. Did you, can you tell me the story about the, the lion that you had told me before? What, what happened with the lion?
AA: Yeah that lion was really funny uh the time that I was really, I go to river and went to go and take a shower, and uh I hear, the sound, of something that coming. When I look behind I see that it was lion coming towards me, and uh I decide what to do so I jump into water and I thought that the lion will stop not to go into the river.
DD: Um-hmm.
AA: Immediately he jumped also into the river. And I was trying to swim across, swim like dog.
DD: Um-hum.
AA: And then I dived into the water because I know how to dives.
DD: Right.
AA: Then I dive into the water and walk under water, and then I go and, and come out again. I see there was killed prey from across the river and then I swim back across, b-back to where I, I coming from. So it is across the river and I cross the river-.
AA: Wanted to see me, I come beside it to go and came back toward me-.
DD: Oh boy.
AA: And I run. So I run to, to, to another place that was near to me that I will save myself, I save my life.
DD: Right.
AA: So that was-.
DD: So lions can swim huh? [Laughs]
AA: Yeah, so and I believe that lion really swim.
DD: Right.
AA: Yeah.
DD: Right, well you-.
AA: And before I don't know lions swim. I do see the big lion, when I looking at they cuddle but is was not like that.
DD: Right.
AA: It was really wild life.
DD: Wow that must have been something, and there was also other wild animals that you guys came across like, was it a rhinoceroses and things like that?
AA: Yeah, there are a lot of wild animal out there. Some, some they really attack people, whether they don't eat people but they attack people.
DD: OK just as protection.
AA: Yeah.
DD: Maybe to protect them. Now you said you were in this, this desert uh in this jungle for, for three, three months.
AA: For three months.
DD: What did you guys do for food?
AA: Oh, really we don't dream about food that time. Um really don't. Some people they lose their hope that they will not eat anymore.
DD: Right.
AA: And um, those who lose their hope they don't eat anymore so they left in the desert.
DD: Wow.
AA: And those who have confidence that one day they will have food, and they will have enough water to drink, and they will have enough uh whatever to support their life that they reach Suriba.
DD: OK so the hope kept, kept you guys alive.
AA: Yeah. Also when we reach Suriba, um the life in Suriba was so hard for us to live there because there is no food also.
DD: Right.
AA: Yeah we stayed there like a month with before eh, uh, UNHCR help us a little bit to serve us some food-.
DD: Right.
AA: Because we were so bad but, some, you know sometime you survive when the life is hard.
DD: Um-hum.
AA: You have to look what you make your life to be.
DD: Exactly.
AA: Yeah.
DD: So you guys reached Subiya and you guys stayed there for like a month.
AA: Like a month.
DD: And then where'd you go from there?
AA: Oh when-, that is where we stayed-.
AA: When we stayed there for a while, um then the UNHCR heard there are people who suffer in Suriba um and they don't have anything. So they came with, sometime they came with one truck with grain, to serve a number of big peoples, so we used to, we have that small amount of food.
DD: Right.
AA: But it's harder. Like when you come some grain you were billed would be 10 or 20 and then that'll work for a day.
DD: OK, OK, now what, did you stay in Suriba the whole time before you came here to Charlotte or did you go anyplace else or you stayed there the whole time?
AA: Exactly I stayed there in Suriba for four years.
DD: For four years.
AA: See and I stayed there for four years, the war broke out in Suriba again.
DD: Oh, OK.
AA: So I ran out from Suriba, go back to Sudan. When I come back to Sudan, water, still the same thing would happen so we were on attack ( ).
DD: Um-hmm.
AA: So we come across the water of Sudan to Kenya.
DD: OK so Kenya, once you passed back through Sudan, you went to Kenya.
AA: Yeah.
DD: Now was, what was, was Kenya a safe place?
AA: Exactly, it same as that place because there is no war there.
DD: Um-hum.
AA: And you know, some people where conditions like ours was not really safe but it is quite safe.
AA: Not in like Sudan because in Sudan we are a lot of things there to lose a life, we have to lose a lot for war and the same thing we have to lose a life for a different kind of sort of thing.
AA: But in um, in Kenya where we live, some people died because of lack of some food so that was um situation we're in. And now is, that is object here, that we got at least food.
AA: And survived. So that area was desert.
DD: Was a little bit, a little bit better huh?
AA: Yeah.
DD: OK did you stay uh, in, in Kenya the whole time until you came over here to the US?
AA: Yes, that where I stay longer than, than Suriba. I stayed in Kenya for 10 years before I came to the United States.
DD: OK now how did you-, do you remember, remember the program that sort of brought you over here? Uh to the US, how you were approached to come over to the US?
AA: Yes, exactly, we were being held by, migration-.
DD: Immigration.
AA: Yeah, immigrations and refugee services that help us uh to come here.
DD: OK, OK had you heard anything about the US before you got here or-?
AA: Um before I come here I heard about the US, um when, when those people went there and tell all about US, you can go to the US maybe you have better life than-.
DD: Right.
AA: Than living here in this desert without helping yourselves.
DD: Exactly.
AA: So that is where I heard about US.
DD: OK. Now when you were in Kenya before, just before you left Kenya, did you guys have schooling and uh education?
AA: Yes. We go, we have school in Kenya that where I really basic, get a basic education.
AA: In Suriba we learn on the streets, there are some teachers that from our people that, that do speak English, so they try to help us knowing alphabet.
AA: So when we came to Kenya, some Kenyan teacher try to help us.
AA: To teach us even though they are not paid good amount of money-.
AA: So they are trying to help.
DD: OK, so it wasn't like a formal, uh, education classroom with you guys sort of grouped together and try to learn uh English and things like-.
AA: Exactly, that we were, that what we were doing.
AA: We used to, used to him. Going on, on the train and gathering there, the teacher would come and, and explain teaching um, before there were not a lot of resources, that we like to learn.
DD: OK, now with um-, what was the, what was your original language, uh, um in Sudan? What, what did you speak?
AA: We do speak Dinka language.
DD: Dinka.
AA: That is uh, the language-.
AA: That we speak. Another part of the country, they do speak the different language because there are lot of uh different language in Sudan. And most of the people they understand Arabic because these people they have been obliging for a long time within Sudan. So they are the one to force people to learn Arabic so that more the people would become Muslim.
DD: OK, OK so when you first got over here, uh to the US, you, did you come straight here to CPCC for the adult high school program?
AA: Yeah the first I start my classes I came to CPCC.
AA: That is first school I came to and when I came I sit for the test and they try and tell me to join some YMC, to go and have some classes there.
AA: I went there and I finished my classes and I join some YMC and then they transferred me back to Central Piedmont.
DD: Now did you find it difficult? Did you find the education in uh, the US more difficult than in, in Kenya?
AA: It is, because the time that I came I did not understand some words speaking.
DD: Right.
AA: And um right now I really learn how to listen to people and also I improve my written, when I write I write better-.
DD: Exactly.
AA: Than I did before.
DD: Exactly you did, you did write very- you learned to write very well. Um now what are some of the differences that you see from your country to the US? Some of your traditions, you see a, a lot of differences?
AA: Yes there are a lot of difference. The first difference is um, a system, um, system of education here-.
DD: Um-hum.
AA: Is uh different, a little bit different, and uh also the culture, is also a big different because the culture that uh, the youth has, uh especially the youths is quite different. How, how the people like dress is different.
DD: Right.
AA: Yeah, they are different.
DD: I, I know, I remember you telling me that the uh you know the traditions of marriage are totally different, than in, in your country also.
AA: Exactly, especially treat their wives here but the culture is really different. Like here marriage here is quite, different like in our country we used to marry, claim a lot of dowry. And if you don't have dowry, you will not marry.
DD: And what is considered a dowry?
AA: The first thing consider is cow even though you have money.
DD: Um-hum.
AA: You have to buy cows to marry.
AA: And that was considered most important. And even now, I want to marry I have to get at least some cow.
DD: Um-hum.
AA: So that I will marry a girl from my country.
AA: That was the main important thing. Before I have a lot of money, I have to show that I have dignity to buy some cow to pay to the parent of the girl, that as our appreciation.
DD: And the cows are given to the dad, the father?
AA: Yeah to the, the girl parents.
DD: Oh OK. Great. And here you, you see this is totally different.
AA: Yes very, very different. You may agree with the, with the girl and when the parent of the girl agree with you to marry her, you, you miss, you prefer you're, you're married and then you consider celebrating your marriage and you will be with your wife without having to pay anything to-.
DD: Right, right.
AA: To the parent of the girl.
DD: Exactly.
AA: Seeing your life personally and your girl is going well, the parent have no deposit in you anything.
DD: Right, right. Now you guys uh, do you guys uh live in the same apartment? You and your uh, uh um brothers from the Sudan, you guys have a, share an apartment?
AA: Yeah most of us have sharing apartment like, we have little business on Central Avenue and where we live, we rent different apartment but we lives close to one another.
DD: So you guys stay in a central area?
AA: Yeah, a central area.
DD: So you guys stay close. And when you guys are together do you still speak your native tongue?
AA: Exactly we used to speak like when we play, we do play and speak with our natural language, but when there are different people with us we usually speak English so that they understand what we are talking about.
DD: OK. Right, exactly [laughter] Now do you guys uh practice any form of religion? Are you, do you go to church or anything like that?
AA: Exactly. Um, all of us are Christian.
AA: And um we belong to, even though we belong to different denominations and churches, we just see them it is only one.
DD: OK great, great, great. Now do you, you plan on moving on to college?
AA: Yeah I, I plan to go ahead because the education, I think the education is the best thing that is make me to improve my lives. That why I decide to consider going to college and when I go to college it will be, my English will be more better than I do right now.
DD: And you, you have the job set out that you want to, want to do here in the US? Is there a certain job you want to do?
AA: Yeah, exactly I would like to, if I go to college I would like to study or to specialize in some subject that help me, let me to know what I'm going to. Like I decide to study political science but know what make different government be different.
AA: That what main important I want to know. Also I want to know to, I want to study, um industrial science.
DD: Industrial science.
AA: When I study those things also there will be ( ) of my career that, um like study different um process involved, different goods.
DD: OK, OK that's great and you guys, you guys still work, you go straight from school to uh TJ Maxx warehouse right?
AA: Yeah that what we do. When we leave here we go straight to work until we come out at one-thirty.
DD: Um-hum.
AA: We go home and when we have assignment we have to do them. And it is not hard because body has one already to everything, so now our body has adapted to that situation.
DD: Um-hum.
AA: We do come from school and then we go to work.
DD: // And you first class starts at eight-thirty. //
AA: // Before, before we start it was // hard but now the body allow it, even though you don't have work to do, you have feel like doing it.
DD: Exactly.
AA: So, I was really glad, glad that everything is depend on the body.
DD: Right, right that's great. You guys, do you have, you guys have the weekends off or do you work weekends also?
AA: Um we do have weekend off, like at weekend on Sunday we do go to church.
AA: And that is time that we have time to go listen to the one upfront.
DD: Um-hum.
AA: And um and have a time to come and read, meet with people and have our laughs. That is the main time our family keep us even though they don't have a lot of people too.
DD: That's good. Now you, do you have any contact with anybody back in your um, uh prior country?
AA: Um, not.
AA: Because you know, my, in my country especially there are no good communication because our communication is local.
AA: So we have not a chance to communicate with them.
DD: So a lot, a lot of the areas still don't have telephones and, and computers and things like that?
AA: Yeah, within town they do have, but those things were controlled by um, government.
AA: So th-, those are like, southerners they don't have much to, to communicate with out, with the people outside, or within nearer, within a country that nearer to them.
DD: OK. So you guys are enjoying your time here in the US then?
AA: Y-, yeah we do. Really we now enjoy it and we really learn. And that is what's the most important things to us.
DD: Um-hum
AA: The first time we came here we came and when we see the town is very nice, we hoped that our education would go all nice.
DD: Um-hum.
AA: And now really a lot of people help us uh, to support us to go ahead with our education and that is appreciation to those who are trying to help us.
DD: That's good, that's good. Alright well I, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much and-.
AA: I appreciate it thank you very much for talking.
DD: Alright.