…life from my perspective
I thought he said his name was Shark. Come to, his name is “Shaquille” but the Romanian’s accent was SO thick I heard “Shark” instead of “Shaq”. I was trying to figure out why the Romanian kept laughing every time I butchered Shaq’s name and when he finally told me I just blamed him for having a too strong accent that forced his words to not come out right. It ain’t my fault. Shaq was almost as tall as the oversized Shaquille O’ Neal but possessed waaaay more intellect and an eloquence that just naturally rolls off the tongue of freedom fighters; one that I am all too familiar with. I enjoyed spending time with all my UK buddies as they were pleasant, funny, down to earth and a joy to be around but Shaq left the greatest impression on me. If I had to guess why, I’d say it was probably because he was the most engaging. I wouldn’t blame it on the alcohol but on his humility, positive spirit and personal story. My ignorance drew me in and our like mindedness, that he never knew we shared, forced me to continuously probe. The more I asked, the more he told. We all sipped wine, danced to their version of house music (I can’t go), devoured Shaq’s homemade chicken curry dish whose aroma was like those you’d find at your finest Indian restaurants while I treated my sweet tooth to Lavinia’s HOMEMADE Tiramisu. FLAME. As the night wore on the guys trash talked each other while playing Modern Warfare and some boxing game on PS3 and Lavinia shared details about her home country and extended me an invitation to visit her there, this summer, at Montana, Romania . I left the gathering with the thought that people are more alike than they are different and that disenfranchised people, all over the world, speak the same language. From America to East Africa to Romania and beyond. Our voice is the same.
Shaq is an English bred Muslim schooled in London whose parents are from Uganda. His family pledges allegiance to England because the British government accepted them into this country when they were kicked out of their home country. He said his parents had 48hrs to leave Uganda and were only allowed one suitcase apiece. Leave or be killed. It was a crash course in history and the details are still a bit fuzzy but I will try to recount as best I can because I’d like to share with you his story. Shaq said the British colonization of Uganda brought with it not only a hope for a new economy but a large Indian population who were used to help the British “develop” Uganda and carve out for it a new economic infrastructure. During our talk, Shaq mentioned that he was of South Asian descent but I said to myself no….you’re Indian. I used to think Asian descent was Chinese, Japanese and Korean ONLY. But no. SOUTHERN Asia IS India (which neighbors Afghanistan and Pakistan) and countries in Sub-Sahara Africa (regions NOT considered part of the Arab world) have a very large South Asian population. So, as part of Amin’s program to turn control of Uganda’s economy and resources back over to the indigenous people, he ordered the expulsion of all Indians from the country. This meant Shaq’s family had to go so they emigrated to Britain. As Shaq was telling me this story, I remembered bits and pieces from the movie, The Last King of Scotland. When I saw the movie a few years back, I thought Amin did a very brave and heroic thing. But somehow listening to Shaq describe the brutal murders and inhumane treatment the Indians witnessed and were subjected to, doesn’t make Amin’s ethnic cleansing project so valiant and heroic anymore. I love the fight for freedom at the hands of revolution but I hate the casualties and bloodshed that often accompany it. I believe the indigenous people deserve control of their land, its resources and a portion of the financial benefits made from the sell/trade of those resources. How a “government” or leader puts that into practice without the killing or inhumane treatment of its citizens lies outside my skill set but I can’t imagine it being too difficult.
The Romanian expressed his disdain for American foreign policy with an aggressiveness and passion that I think I speak with sometimes. Shaq communicated a similar sentiment with more of a diplomatic tone and a plethora of factual information and a much wider knowledge base. Being the only American in the room I felt the need to defend my home country and justify some of the unjustifiable decisions made at the behest of our government but the more I listened to myself speak the more I realized I sounded foolish and that I needed to stop. It didn’t take me long to figure out that this was a listening party for me. Once I did minimal talking ensued. My face wore a stoic expression but I was smiling on the inside because the truth being told in the room that night resounded loud and clear. I like when sharing the company of others is enjoyable but unpredictable. We had fun, got serious and then had fun again and I spotted a dim ghetto light in all of them that I KNOW given the right time and place will shine BRIGHT AS HELL! People are people and at the end of the day let’s explore each other as best we know how so we can move away from stereotypes and become more comfortable in our own skin. As I said before, the dish you serve ends up feeding you. Until tomorrow youngn’s.