Reflections of a Nomad Journey: Part 2

I sat nervously in front of the lady interviewing us with the rest of my family. Her dress was immaculate, I remember. And she spoke a perfect English, at least not the kind my ears were use to in Nairobi’s mixed lingo of Kiswahili and English. What was I doing in front of this Black-American (that’s what we called African-Americans back then) woman? This was our interview for our visa to the States. Now looking back I can’t help but feel how little I knew this interview’s result would impact my life forever.

We finally reached our final destination in NC around 3 or 4 in the morning. I already slept through most of the roadtrip but it didn’t help one bit, I still needed a lot more sleep. So I spent the next two days sleeping and only getting up to eat. My head felt really tipsy (no, I do not know the effects of alcohol but I’m guessing a hang-over does feel similar to jetlag), my appetite shitty, and my sleep incomplete. The following week we had our doctor visit – I think they call this “refugee check-up” – just in case the doctors in Africa missed some contagious disease that we were not suppose to bring to the U.S. Although they didn’t find anything, they gave us a pill for a month or two, which I think was suppose to “clean our” malaria-infested bodies for good. Not sure it did any good, though.

In late March I started high school. Clearly I wasn’t ready for high school but my age condemned me to early Greek Mythology readings that I was in no shape or form ready for. I didn’t attend school the previous five years but it didn’t matter. With less than three grade’s worth of formal schooling, I embarked on my education journey in the 9th grade. I wasn’t use to waking up early – not 5:30am for sure – in the morning. The first two months were quite tough: new country, new language, new friends to be made, and homeworks! It was quite overwhelming at times but I was determined to go through it, but more than once I though of dropping school and going into the labor force with fake documents. I didn’t. I didn’t want to disappoint my parents most of all.

I made friends quickly in my English as a Second Language (ESL) classes where students were from all over the world. From Africa, the Middle East , Eastern Europe, South America, and the Caribbean. My teachers were amazing – particularly my ESL and 9th grade English teachers. They spent countless hours explaining the smallest thing I couldn’t understand, help me with my homework, and most of all, encourage me. The transition wasn’t easy but caring teachers and good friends made it easy.

Today I sit here writing this post thinking about the kid like me who may sit in front of an interviewer tomorrow that will determine his/her entire future. Then I think about what my life would look like today if I didn’t get that chance. Perhaps already dead or carrying an AK-47 for some godforsaken warlord? I’m glad I didn’t go that route which millions of children unfortunately end up.

Categories: Education, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Reflections of a Nomad Journey: Part 2

  1. Well, I’m glad you didn’t take that route either, Om 🙂 You’ve done an amazing job catching up and surpassing native speakers in your language ability!

    How are the applications going for the summer semester abroad?

  2. cigaal

    lol@black-american. is it rude to say that? keep positive and inshaAllah stay on course. ‘good job!!’, that’s all the american i know.
    first time i ever visited the place, i landed at jfk…i guess everyone does that. then harlem. the first time i ever saw really really old black folks still walking, alive…..

  3. Om

    You’re too kind, Aya! It is funny that you should mention the application for the summer program…the lady in charge of the program apparently left her brain one day @ home and forgot to include the essay section of the app. This she realized after two weeks past the deadline! I now have to write an essay….just crazy.

    Cigaal, I don’t think it’s rude to say that but you know we “Africans” don’t believe African-Americans are ‘real’ “Africans” – an odd reasoning. Interestingly as well, many African-Americans feel “Africans” are a bit inferior to them.

  4. Om, damn! She almost cost you a chance at the program! Good luck with the essay.

    BTW, send me that thesis draft at any time if you still need a second pair of eyes on it.

    • Om

      That’s what’s so scary about it….I hope everything works out alright for me. I’ll definitely need your eye!

  5. AMTAF!

    Oh wow Om! I am SO proud of you and all that you’ve accomplished so far. We need more people like you.

    Here’s to many more successes and accomplishments. To the next Somali intellectual 🙂

    I can’t imagine the incompetence of that lady, to think you could have missed the chance because of her! Good luck with the essay and your thesis (I loathed writing mine).

  6. Hind

    I finally got around to reading some of your posts. I am glad that you and the rest of us young immigrants were blessed with much opportunities. Yet its saddening that many or perhaps the majority of children around the world are deprived of such opportunities. Believe it or not, its actually one of the reasons that drove me to ‘our’ major lol. Off course beside the fact that you talked me into it that day on the cafeteria. I believe that we can’t change fate, but hopefully we will be able to help these children create a new path away from such conflicts, wars, and poverty.
    btw I like the way you write, better than my IR book 🙂

  7. Om

    AMTAF!, I’m not worthy of your kind words. But I try to be the best I can be…thank you very much:-) I’ll definitely keep you posted on the progress/or lack off.

    Hind! Lol, I don’t remember talking you into IR but I’d be very happy to take the credit! And I agree we can’t change their fate but we can certainly provide help to them. Us Africans in the diaspora need to go back and give our knowledge and expertise to help mama Africa and its people.

    Shukran for the compliments; I wish I was one-tenth as good as the IR book….you know what, the IR book is too damn boring! haha…

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