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Interview with Peter Dau

Dau, Peter
Dubose Sr., Darren
Date of Interview: 
Cultural identification
Peter Dau talks about being a Sudanese refugee, education in Africa, and marriage customs.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Darren Dubose Sr. interviewed Charlotte, NC residents to collect various stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
DD (Darren Dubose Sr.): Alright. I'm here with Peter Dau. D-A-U is how you spell your last name, right?
PD (Peter Dau): Yeah, D-A-U.
DD: Alright Peter, um, t-, tell us a little about how old you were when you left, uh, your country.
PD: Uh, really, I just left my country when I was eight years old.
PD: 1988, that's when I left.
DD: 1988, and you, you-, that was the Sudan-.
PD: // Yes. //
DD: // Also //. OK, and what caused you, uh, to leave?
PD: Uh, really I just, I left the country because of war.
DD: Oh the // war that was going on? //
PD: // Yeah, yeah. //
DD: Now your parents, uh, did they stay back, uh, at the village also?
PD: No my parents are not there. At the time of the war my family was killed.
DD: Oh, OK.
PD: Yeah but I got, uh, sisters and brothers and they are there in Sudan right now.
DD: Oh, so your sisters and brothers were, were there, alright.
PD: Some of there in Kenya where I live and some are in Uganda [background noise] another close country to Sudan.
DD: OK now when you left, uh, who, who did you exactly leave with? Wh-, who did you walk with?
PD: Uh, sure, when I lived in Suda-, when I lived in Sudan I just lived with my older brother-.
PD: I just walk with him together.
DD: OK, and you sort of joined up with the group that was leaving at the time.
PD: Yeah we just walked and we joined a big number of people that left there to, to Suriba.
DD: OK. How long do you remember being in, in the desert, in the jungle, or how long do you remember the, the, uh, the, the, the time of travel to be?
PD: Uh, really, from Sudan to Ethiopia, it would take like, ah, three months. I don't remember, really, because I was uh-.
DD: // Little child. //
PD: // Yeah, yeah // but I, I made like three months like that to Sudan, to Ethiopia, from Sudan to Ethiopia.
DD: So you guys would walk all, all through, throughout the day.
PD: All through the day and through the night and the day just, we just rest under the tree and stay there because when we walk at the daytime, the sun and the people can get thirsty really.
DD: // Oh, OK. //
PD: // We die of water, // we just walk at night so-.
DD: // Because it was a lot cooler? //
PD: // Yeah. //
DD: Oh, I didn't know that. So, you did your sleeping during the day then?
PD: Yeah we sleep daytime.
DD: Were there, did the, how did the adults keep you guys, make you guys feel safe? Did they sing songs or tell stories while you guys were walking?
PD: They tell the story and, and then they support people like if they get something like food to get child healthy like that and give it to us so-.
DD: // Oh, great. //
PD: // So that's good // they just go to the parks and kill animal, they bring the meat. We don't have any food that we carry.
DD: Oh great. Now did you, you remember, um, losing anyone on the journey?
PD: Yeah, I lost, uh, my cousin that walked with us together-.
DD: Wow.
PD: That was in ( ).
DD: Did he die of, um, starvation, or-?
PD: Starvation, yeah.
DD: Wow. OK, now you guys made it to Suriba?
PD: Yeah we, at that time, we just left Sudan we are the big number like 30,000 boys-.
DD: Um-hmm.
PD: But at that time we lost more people there in Ethiopia because of hunger and a lot of starvation like that. The reason that we come to, at that time we came back from Ethiopia from 19-, from 1992 we come from 1990, we just left Ethiopia because of war and we just come back to Sudan at that time. We reach in 1992, we are the number like 16,000.
DD: Wow, so lots, a lot of people // along the way //.
PD: // We lost, a lot of people there //.
DD: And the terrible thing was you had to leave one, one place you left Sudan and got to Suriba, the war was going on there too, so you had to, to leave and go back, huh?
PD: Yes sir.
DD: OK, so you ended up in, in Kenya then?
PD: We just come and leave out in Kenya.
DD: OK now-.
PD: That where we come and learn English speak a little bit like we, we just go to school there. The school was very nice there.
DD: OK, now where did you guys stay in Kenya? Wha-, what type of living arrangements did you have?
PD: Uh, we just stayed in a camp, our camp was Nam Kakuma. Yeah, we just live there like another part of Kenya, so much closer to Sudan. Yeah, we just come and we stay there.
PD: United Nations ( )-.
DD: UN, UN, OK, OK, and there was a lot more food and resources there in Kenya then.
PD: It's not a lot of food really [laughter] they just bring food but that food just, people eat like one time a day.
DD: Wow.
PD: It was hard. A lot of people died there too because of some disease that other people got because of starvation and-.
DD: Wow, were, were there a lot of people, uh, looking forward to getting educated, were a lot of people trying to learn?
PD: Yeah everybody want, want to go to school but because of the condition there ( ) people try to understand something in school so all of us we are in school, we have like a 21 in school-.
DD: Um-hmm.
PD: Twenty-one in school in Kenya ( ) school, uh, most of people are there up to grades, up to old, twelfth grade are in Kenya but they are among us the boys we are like 16,000 people that are there in the school.
DD: Oh, OK.
PD: Yeah.
DD: OK so had, had you heard anything about the US? At the time, did, did you hear stories about us?
PD: Uh, really we don't, we don't, I don't know, really, about US until I came here.
DD: But, but you knew that it, it was a better chance-.
PD: // Yeah. //
DD: // To get anything. //
PD: They just come and call out, at the time, the first time when they came for us they say you come and you will fill out applications, go through that. I just looked (), fill that application. I can say too they are liars. [Laugh]
DD: Cause you didn't think it was going to happen, huh? [Laugh]
PD: Yeah, I // say // it seem like a dream.
DD: // [Cough] // Right. Excuse me, right, now they put you guys on an airplane, right, didn't they?
PD: Yeah they put us on airplane, the time that I go to the airplane that is the time I believe, I will believe them [Laugh]
DD: You knew it was really going to happen huh? [Laugh] Now how, how was that first experience on an airplane?
PD: Oh man that is my first time to, to take airplane so it was so hard from a small town that we live is ( ) to Nairobi-.
DD: Uh-hmm.
PD: The capital city of Kenya, they take us from a small airplane we are a like yeah, we are like a, I don't know 20 people or how many people we just ( ) a small airplane-.
DD: Uh-huh.
PD: Man it was a lot of people throw up they're in airplane because they don't know really airplane. [Laughs]
DD: [Laughs] Yes that's a, that's a interesting experience for the first time, huh?
PD: Yeah.
DD: So when you, when you got to the US you came straight here to Charlotte, North Carolina?
PD: Yeah we just take the second airplane from uh Kenya to Europe take like eight hours man stay in airplane. And we came from Europe to New York and then we came to Charlotte-.
PD: // And-. //
DD: // You were the first person-. //
PD: Yeah. I'm the first person to come here and two guys live with me then we are the first people to Charlotte.
DD: From, to make it here huh?
PD: To make it to Charlotte. So it was so hard for me to live in Charlotte. I, when I came here, I thought it's better to live in over there in Africa-.
DD: Because it was sort of you were alone then huh?
PD: Yeah because we just came here and some people tell us that don't get outside some people may kill you and shoot you outside there is a lot of crime here and murder it's the, just like, like that so when I, when we came uh we just came through the social services of consulate to Charlotte and then, they just tell us they just show us the apartment to live. Nobody come to us and we stay inside the apartment for the whole day. [Laughter] We stay again they, they just bring food for us-.
DD: Uh-hmm.
PD: And that like three days inside the house we don't come outside and because we thought that-.
DD: You would get robbed or killed. [Laughter] Well it had to be scary. I didn't, I didn't know you were like the one of the first ones here wow you're a charter member. [Laughs] So the time went along and you got more, more comfortable with living here in Charlotte and, and got out and th-, then you end up here at CPCC.
PD: Uh well we don't know about CPCC when we came here, I get to stay like, like uh four months out of school and at home but I don't work I just stay inside the house and consulate social services pay like my bills, pay me too like 180 dollars a month-.
DD: Uh-hmm.
PD: And then we take, we know nothing about it here we just stay in the-, we, we got no friends, we got no one we just stay inside the house-.
DD: Right.
PD: And there's second when some people come like ( ) we are like a group we just get a like a friend from churches uh they tell us about this school ( )-.
DD: So there was more safety as the numbers increasing you got more friends to come over-.
PD: Yeah.
DD: OK so you guys sort of built a family here then just-.
PD: Yeah.
DD: Now was it hard, did you find it hard uh you know to start learning the education that was being given to you here in the US?
PD: Yeah really it's not hard because it's the same English that we go to school over there but really the one thing that is hard is just like pronunciation of some words uh we still get used to right now but it's not really, just listening to some way that some people they have bad English but at the time we came here the English is very different because we just speak British English.
PD: Uh American English is so different from British English.
DD: Oh wow so you had to learn a whole other style huh?
PD: We need to go back. [Laughter]
DD: Now how did the uh, how did the people here treat you when you first got here?
PD: Uh they are nice to us because we just, when we came here when we just came and we met the friend from churches, these people are so good when they, when they heard about our history, they have interest in that-.
DD: Right.
PD: And they help us really, take care of us they are really nice to us.
DD: That's good, that's good now have you uh um wh-, what would be your favorite subject that, in, in school here?
PD: Man [chuckle] uh it is career when I came here I just decided to go to school for several engineering-.
DD: Oh wow.
PD: And like decided I guess to go to school like to learn about like security like that, but really I guess I have changes on my mind right now because I don't think so. I will think again, I, I didn't decide. [Laughter]
DD: You still didn't decide that's OK it take, takes some of us a while to decide exactly what we want to do. And you're still working at uh TJ Maxx warehouse also right?
PD: Yeah I work at TJ Maxx when I was like ( ) thirteen.
DD: And a lot of, a lot of people don't know but you guys wh-, when we had the ice storm last year you guys went to work anyway-.
PD: Yeah.
DD: And nobody was there right?
PD: Man we sat here because man you know the snow is not there in our country and it's like ice storms like that they are not there in our country. Temperature is always high we just have a cold at wintertime but it's not like snow // like ice // we don't have that thing. We have like ( )-.
PD: // Right. //
DD: So wh-, when you guys had the ice storm this year did your electricity go out too at your house?
PD: We just go out to enjoy and it's so cold man. [Laughter]
DD: You went out to enjoy the ice. [Laughter] Now when, when you guys showed up to warehouse they had, they had cancelled work for that day though, didn't they?
PD: Yeah they cancelled work for the whole day and-.
DD: And I bet you guys were probably the only ones that were out driving in the ice storm trying to get to work.
PD: Man the car go like this ( ). [Laughter]
DD: So you guys learned to drive here when you got here too?
PD: Yeah we just came and learned to drive but I go for a truck driver right now I go for a CDL.
DD: Oh OK.
PD: And I drive a truck.
DD: Alright we stay out of your way if you do that. [Laughter] I'm going to stay out of your way.
PD: I used to, truck drive man it is so hard man. Have to turn gears, change gears, climb in climb out of it. Uh a lot of things fun there man.
DD: So you guys are learning new things everyday no matter what it is-.
PD: Yeah really.
DD: That's good. And y-, you're definitely going to college when you graduate.
PD: Yeah I will.
DD: Good, good.
PD: I will go to college and I will complete my-, this is my last semester.
DD: Now who, who do you stay with in y-, your apartment how many guys?
PD: Uh we just stay uh, uh four of us yeah there's four uh yeah.
DD: Oh four of you guys OK.
PD: We live close here ( )-.
DD: Right up the street here huh that's good-.
PD: On ( ) Street.
DD: Now what did you notice that was different about the culture here in America?
PD: Really the culture is so different total from being in Africa it is different yeah. Our culture you just from our culture our parent take care of child and here you don't do that.
DD: It's not always the case huh.
PD: When I was in Africa and my parents lived there after the age I was right now they still take care of me until I'm married.
DD: And how old are you now?
PD: I'm 23.
DD: So they t-, the parent is responsible for their child all the way up until they decide to take a wife or a husband?
PD: The parent too they get to go and see the girl that you will marry and you don't go by yourself and see the girl like here. Your parents take care of you and then they see the girl, when you see the girl and then you come tell to your father and tell your father I want to marry that girl, that girl and if, uh if he say no you will not marry her.
DD: You cannot do it huh no matter how upset you are. [Laughter]
PD: Because he is the one of developing the family.
DD: Now do you see yourself marrying uh an American girl or do you want to go back to your country and-?
PD: Not really damn, I don't know about that but I want to go back to my country to get a girl. Not here um anytime that I decide to go back over there.
DD: Now is this, is it uh still pretty violent back there, is there still war going on in Sudan right now?
PD: Yeah. Yeah we have war in Sudan but really when I get here to Sudan I don't go inside Sudan I go to the close country and then I call the rela-, relative and related people to come to that country and then they meet me. I don't go inside Sudan, I go to Kenya, Uganda.
DD: Oh OK and that's where did, didn't Madook just go back to uh visit?
PD: Yeah Madook left last day and maybe today he reaching Africa.
DD: Oh OK and he's coming back though?
PD: He will come back after two months yeah.
DD: OK is he, he has a family that he's going to visit?
PD: Yeah he have mom, father and brothers, sisters.
DD: OK and I know uh one of the guys uh told me that um in Africa there's not a lot of um smoking, cigarette smoking you guys were surprised at a lot of-.
PD: Yeah.
DD: Young women smoking cigarettes and so you, there's, a lot of people don't smoke over there right?
PD: Yeah all of us especial most of us they tell people who are there don't smoke but all of us we don't smoke- the age we are don't allow to smoke much because like I tell you your father take care of you and your father give you smoking like cigarette and the magazine, dirty magazine. [Laugh]
DD: Trouble huh. [Laugh] Alright so have you planned a trip back too? To the country?
PD: Yeah I, I decide to go back there but my cousin will go back this coming month, my cousin live with me together right now.
DD: Uh-huh.
PD: He will leave in December to Sudan to uh to Kenya and he'll be back but not me, I will decide within that year.
DD: Next year right. [Laughter] That's good that you guys can at least go back there and, and not worry about getting hurt or anything so there are some safe, safe areas you can go to. So how far are you away from getting your high school diploma?
PD: Uh yeah I guess the language is center and then I will get my high school.
DD: Ok. And you still haven't decided what course of study you're going to go into-.
PD: Yeah.
DD: In college. How man-, how many you guys have moved on to college? You know what the numbers are?
PD: Um maybe about, I got three guys with me total always with me they just go to college and uh maybe twenty like that they just ( ) right now.
DD: You do, you know how many of you guys are here in Charlotte?
PD: In Charlotte yeah I know we are like 47.
DD: 47.
PD: Yeah.
DD: Are, are more showing up, you think more are coming in?
PD: I don't think so there is none.
DD: Now d-, d-, did all males come over with you is it that they sent all, all men over or are there females that were sent over also?
PD: We have a lot of females but they are just came for, for husband and they're here before. In Charlotte we don't have females here from Sudan.
DD: OK so you enjoy the US culture?
PD: Really.
DD: Have you gotten used to it?
PD: We still get not used to but little. [Laughter]
DD: How about the uh food have you uh w-, what types food do you guys eat? Because I know I've seen you guys going out to dinner before.
PD: Yeah we just get uh grocery and get some food that we just for, we just cook food, we just cook our food like in Africa.
DD: Oh OK so you're still able to make the, the same recipe-.
PD: The same food right.
DD: Where do you buy, what type uh grocery stores you have to go to to buy the ingredients, is there a special store you have to go to?
PD: Yes we just go to, to, to Winn Dixie-.
PD: And Food Lion, that are the store we usually go to.
DD: They have all the ingredients and everything you need.
PD: Yeah.
DD: OK so no girlfriends yet?
PD: Not yet. [Laugh]
DD: Not yet, education first. [Laugh] Alright Peter thanks man.
PD: Alright yeah thank you man.