I once heard from an uncle that, in America, if you desire a soft drink or a beer all you have to do is go to a certain machine and press a few buttons and WALA, your wish will come true. If you have used one before you would have realized that this is a story of a vending machine.
Yes, the perception of what America is based on our uncles’ stories or as portray in flashy Hollywood movies seems harmless, yet it has crippled relationship and financial progress among the South Sudanese Lost Boys.
It is narratives like these that make it hard for relatives of the Lost Boys to be empathetic toward loves when they say, I am broke after many requests for financial assistance by dozens of relatives.
Because of this fictitious perception of what the West (America, Canada, Australia, the UK, etc.) is, it’s only normal for illiterate and uninformed relations to take the West synonymous with paradise. So, when people call their relative for financial help and they don’t get the response they expected, it’s easy to assume that the Lost Boys/Girl refused to help them, easily dismissing that they might not have the money, or they are just taking care of their bills and other financial responsibilities.
The second curse of living in the West as a South Sudanese, and especially a Dinka is the marriage curse. It’s hard to separate the matters of the heart and those of the pocket when you are a Lost boy. Once you lay an eye on a woman, the brokers from your in-law side will start shouting dowries auction-style, literally. The family of the girl will overcharge you. But the extravagant marriage is not the end of the nightmare, there are after-marriage problems. The in-laws will want you to educate a couple of in-laws somewhere in East Africa, and the mother-in-law will suspiciously start having back pain every two weeks. This is the case even if the in-laws are financially able to manage on their own. So, when you get married, you don’t just marry the woman you love, you marry the whole kinship.
So, they have emptied their pockets and hearts to please you back in South Sudan and are ready to settle with their wives in East Africa as they wait for the immigration process. This time, to any couple, would be the happiest time of their lives, but no, the trouble is not over. Once the Lost Boy leaves his wife for the West, the vultures, ones colloquially dubbed “visa boys” will start to gather at the horizon of his home state and in a couple of months the Lost Boy will be sending a lot of money to his wife to feed her “visa boy.” This is one of the negative effects of arranged marriage or one that is financially motivated; there is no loyalty and emotional connection between the wife and the husband. So, while the young man slave away in God knows what factories or warehouses they worked in America, his wife is keeping a visa boy comfy in their queen bed in Nairobi and the infidelity continues.
But you might ask, why don’t these men visit their wives to maintain intimacy, especially in these young marriages? The problem is, it’s hard for Lost Boys to visit their families because they get swarm by relatives and friends who all want their “piece of the pie.” It’s not the flight ticket that is expensive, it’s all the “visit” uncles and aunties and the community that keep them away.
They just can’t visit Africa with less than $10,000, they must distribute money. I am not here to kiss the Lost Boys’ rears, I am just saying we can do just by them as a society. By no means are they angels, they are certainly responsible for some of these problems including the commercialization of marriage itself, inciting some of the deadly violent incidents in the villages, force and/or child marriage, etc. but we must admit as a community that we have burdened and abandoned them. It’s the story of the Lost Boys of South Sudan that touched the hearts of Evangelical Americans and the Bush administration, leading to the CPA of 2005 in Naivasha. They deserve some support and respect from all of us, we should not undermine their marriages and relations.