The Ten-Year-Old Man

Cultures evolve and adjust to change. Without effort...

Many will continue to fall behind; without a meaningful transition into the new world, the challenges will remain difficult to address. I have always thought that being surrounded by people of similar cultural background is the better way to methodically embrace the new cultures, but I’ve realised this is a mistake. I need to be more open, to speak to strangers and hear their stories. Catching a train caused me grief in the early days in Australia because of the way the seats were arranged. 

I would have to sit facing other people. It terrified me. There was almost nothing I could do: looking down or away might invite an inquiry from the person sitting opposite. I resolved this problem by wearing dark sunglasses to ensure that no one noticed my weary and fearful eyes. Despite this, I was still stared at, but with the newly found courage from behind my sunglasses, I was able to stare back directly into the eyes of those looking at me. The commuters had reasons to stare at me. I looked funny; others might have called it ridiculous, a clown trying too hard to fit into the city life. Had it been in South Sudan or another developing nation, I would have been asked many questions. How long are you staying in the city, or do you know where you are going? Clearly, it often appeared Phillip Pitia Lako that I didn’t know where I was headed. I was putting pressure on myself to fit into an Australian way of life without knowing then that the process of integration is gradual and methodical. There was no doubt that the lack of engagement from the public was agonising for me. I thought, the nation was not welcoming. Even the birds attacked me within hours of arriving in Australia. 

Mark Twain said that there are two critical moments in life...

The first is your birth. The second is figuring out why you were born. I have pondered and continued to try to work out the real reason I have been placed on this planet. Every time I engage in a conversation, the question of future aspirations and dreams comes up. As a person who has struggled until very recently, I have found it difficult to capitalise on these ambitions for lack of a supportive environment. My arrival in Australia restored and created the atmosphere for me to think clearly. Compare the ordeal of reaching Australia: from the time I left my village at the age of ten, I have been like a man in the desert, with some idea of where he wanted to go but encompassed by the vastness, the emptiness that creates great despair, in servitude to the wild and uninviting country that unsettles him. But determination, resilience and the insatiable desire to assist my family in any possible way became the driving force that kept that little man trekking around the Sahara Desert.  

Many fall and do not see any reason to get up  because the challenges in Australia can be hard to confront. Albeit, the environment provides opportunities for those who get up and try to make a change to their lives and the lives of those around them.  While many organisations have aided me during my time in Australia, close members of my community acted as mentors. Though many do not have in-depth knowledge of Australian ways of life, and their citizenry obligations, such as paying taxes, they did what they can to support and helped me settle. 

The ordeal came to a halt sometimes...

when the little man saw a tree far away, through a blinding mirage. The man was convinced that this lone tree would provide him shade and that, while he took refuge, he could think about his destiny, the calling he was created for. Had this man not known what he wanted, he would have missed the only tree in the desert. To make it more personal, the desert is the ten years I languished in the bush of South Sudan and the four years I spent in the refugee camps in Kenya. The only tree in the desert that restored all the time lost wondering about the purpose of my existence is Australia. The land of hope, a fair go, the battlers, opportunities, law and order, liberty, justice and freedom has made me realise the reason I was born: to provide support to the humanity in any way I can. 

Although many people consider me to be an emotionless person...

I am softer on the inside than I used to be. I learned the habit of putting on a ‘poker face’ as a defence mechanism to deal with the challenges during the ten years of destitution in the bushes of what is now South Sudan. After having been battered by the world, rendered emotionless, I had every reason to give in and allow myself, my future and the purpose of my existence to be decided by whatever force that had power over me. Fate. But I opened up and learned to share my personal tribulations with others who won my trust. I learned to begin a conversation with stranger, with hope to cheer their day up as I hoped for the same for myself. There are times you will be tempted to act against your conscience because the benefits are immediate. I have been rejected, shunned Philip Pitia Lako and let myself believe that there is no chance I can dream about the things I hoped to accomplish in this world.

I have also felt the generosity of the good people I have come across, many of them strangers. Even now, I fail to understand what they get out of helping a peasant like me. I have learned that sometime the best people, those who can restore your dignity, are not those you call relatives. I have learned that when people are given a chance to live a decent life, they will contribute to their human full potential. I have dreamed for years of fulfilling the promise made to my parents as a child, of hoping to make a positive change in the village I grew up in, but I have not found a way to make that work.

The death of my mother in May 2018 caused much pain and made me wonder if I had failed to show my appreciation to her and to my father, who is now frail. It is with hope that the success of this book will contribute to my voracious and overwhelming desire to help the disadvantaged come true that I finish my writing. I give praise to God, and count my blessings each day, for keeping me alive as I aim to make a difference in the world. Would you do the same? Remember not to let anyone tell you what to do. Think for and believe in yourself, because you are the best judge of your worth and potential. It is better to have a dream than to live a life controlled by fateful events. Do not allow fear to prevent you from discovering the core purpose of your existence. 


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