A Refugee Kid is also a Third Culture Kid

Just another refugee kid

You might find me in one of the overcrowded stinking slums outside a big city of Pakistan or Iran,  or up in the mountains hiding from the latest danger. If I describe myself, it won’t help you much in your search. I do my best to look like any other kid, so the police will never find me and send me across the border. My name is Omid, and I’ll be fifteen my next birthday. My father gave me my name, which means Hope. The birth of a son brings hope, he said. I don’t know what he meant. Hope is something I lost when he left us once again to try to find somewhere for us to live in safety.

Just another Afghan Kid

It is four years since he left us in my mother’s village in Afghanistan. We waited and waited for news after he had left. We hoped that maybe next year we would be together again. Next year has come and gone four times. My baby sister could not yet walk when our father went away. Last year my mother decided to take us to Pakistan. We could not live in her relative’s home any longer. We joined a group of refugees who also had to flee from their homes. This must have been the fifth time in my life that I had to flee from one place to another. I can’t even remember what happened the first two times.

I sometimes dream of a home where can live together in safety. I don’t care where that home is, just that we can be safe and live without fear, without bad dreams. I have to stay here and take care of my mother and my sister. Women and girls cannot live alone in this country or our country.

My mother has told me stories about my father. “When you father was fifteen years old he had to flee from his home in a mountain village to Iran. He traveled all alone to find work to support his aging grandparents. If he hadn’t fled he would have been forced to join the rebels and fight the Russians, and his grandparents would be left starving. He always came back home hoping that he would find a peaceful place for his family. Each time he returned there was a new war, and he refused to fight. That is why he always is on the run. They would kill him otherwise. He has always longed for peace. He has been in several countries, trying to find work and trying to make a home where we could live in safety.” Mother repeats that each time I complain about him leaving us.

Just now he is in a small country somewhere in Europe seeking asylum for himself, and as he says, for our whole family. Europe is very far away from where my mother and I and my little sister live. Sometimes I have talked with him on our cell phone. That is our only link with him. Mother always cries after she has talked with him. Sometimes even she thinks he has abandoned us.

I remember a short time of peace when my father took us back to Kabul, the capital city. It was quite frightening to see the ruins of bombed houses. Father said we would be safe now. His cousin knew one of the rulers of the city who had promised to take care of us.

Father had returned from Europe. We might have been able to join him there if his cousin had not asked him to return. There in Kabul, we lived in a nice small house with a tiny garden where mother quickly planted some of her favorite vegetables. Coriander grew quickly and gave a distinct aroma to our food.  I helped her tie strings for the yellow and green beans to climb the fence. Tomatoes, cauliflower, and eggplant grew in that small garden. I saw my mother was happy again.

She did not have time to gather in the harvest when we had to flee again. My father’s cousin was shot, and the Taliban was looking for all his relatives and friends. My baby sister was born in a cave somewhere up in the mountains where we were hiding. We returned to the village where my mother was born. It was not safe even there for my father to stay for longer visits. He said that one day he would find a safe place for our family.

The Search for Safety

To be continued.

First Visit to Grandma

Two swallows flew high in the sky. The forest was full of birds’ chatter. All the migrating birds had returned home and were busy with their young. I got a glimpse of a white two-storied house behind a dark spruce fence. A white picket gate stood open.

“This is where we go in,” said Mother. Purple and white lilacs filled the air with their scent.  Scarlet roses surrounded by blue and yellow pansies stretched their stems to welcome us. Grandma was in the kitchen where she had just taken a sheet of golden brown cinnamon rolls from the oven. After giving me a welcoming hug, she let me taste one of the warm rolls. The crunchy crushed almond on top and the sweet, spicy filling just melted in my mouth.  A glass of juice – made of Grandma’s apples from the tree just outside the kitchen window – made me feel like a fairy tale was coming true: a story Mother had told me over and over again.

A fire was burning in the large kitchen stove where Grandma fried meatballs in a big black frying pan. The savory smells from the kitchen made me hungry. Grandma said, “I’ll need some more potatoes from the vegetable garden and some sprigs of dill to go with them.”

Aunt Elna said, “I’ll get them,” as she took a black enameled bucket which stood by the door.

I noticed the buckets in the kitchen. My mother explained: “This white one with a lid is only for clean water from the well outside. That brown pail is for dish-water. The black one is for leftovers.”

Grandma asked Mother, “Anni, do you remember where we used to keep the lingonberry jam in the cellar? That goes well with the meatballs. Could you get me a jar of it and bring in some milk too. Take Lisa with you. Oh, I almost forgot. We must have the pickled herring to go with the new potatoes. There are some jars at the back of the cellar which I prepared just for Midsummer .”

I went along with Mother out the front door and around the house to the steps which led down to the cellar door. A big rusty key sat in the lock. She let me turn the huge key.  As the door creaked open, a musty smell rushed out, along with a blast of cold air.  Mother switched on a lamp. The dim light revealed rows of labeled jam jars from last summer, 1952, the year Grandpa had died. There was strawberry, raspberry, red and blackcurrant, and of course the dark red lingonberry jam, which we had come for.

Mother showed me the jars of herring. I went to get one.  A new experience was waiting for me – to taste the pickled fish.   The milk cans stood on the floor under the shelves. Mother took one of them. We were ready to leave the cellar.

I ran out to see where Aunt Elna was digging the ground.  She had the bucket half-full of small pale baby potatoes. They were the first potatoes of this summer, enough to cook for our arrival. Elna asked me, “Could you take a few sprigs of dill over there.”  I was not sure what she meant. I had never seen any dill plants before.  She came over to me and said, “Here it is. It tastes lovely with fresh new potatoes.” A new fragrance rubbed itself into my hands when I broke a few green sprigs.

They could have said No

Empty stable

MARY

You could have said, No,

When the angel came

And asked you to bear a child –

A gift from God

You could have said, no.

Who am I?

I’m too young and

Far too weak

To accept responsibility

For life from God

The risk you faced was real

To be despised – rejected – even stoned

Who would believe that it was true,

That this child has come from God?

You took the risk

And you said: Yes.

Whatever it brings

Pain or distress

I’ll put my trust in God

With tears of joy

You see the Child

The King of Heaven

In a manger

The Gift – Life – God

Wonder

JOSEPH

You could have said no.

It was just a dream

There are no angels

Mary is

A disgrace to her family

A shame for her bridegroom

– A fatherless child

Is not your responsibility

Yet you believed that it was true

You responded – you said,

– Yes.

To a marvel, you could not understand

The miracle was born.

A tiny baby

With ten fingers and ten toes

no teeth and no hair

Then all the choirs of heaven sang

The stars shone brighter than before

Shepherds left their flocks at night

Kings traveled from afar

Joseph, You were a part in this

Just because you said,

– Yes.