Piachaud Gardens, Kandy, Ceylon

THE RETREAT

By my seventh birthday, we had moved again. Since our arrival from Hong Kong to Ceylon just over two years earlier this was our third home. I couldn’t count the temporary homes in three different countries on three continents we had lived in the past six years, but this house felt different. Each step I took towards the house felt like I was walking in a dream. The house became a nurturer of my dreams. Mother sent our address to friends and relatives in Finland.

“THE RETREAT” Piachaud Gardens, Kandy, Ceylon.

I did not know the history of the house at the time, or why it got its name. I just knew it was home. It was my home only for thirteen months, but its impact has lasted a lifetime.

The Retreat

A book- A Key to the Future

The former occupants of The Retreat were Swedish missionaries Einar and Anna Johansson. They had fled with their five children from China to Ceylon just a few months before us in 1949. They shared a Swedish teacher, Marta Persson, with the Bjorkenfors family who had four children. The fact that they had a teacher was one reason why Mother chose to take us to Ceylon. She did not know when she made that decision about the school in Kandy that would form my identity for years to come.

The Swedes had left a behind a book by Elsa Beskow “VILL DU LÄSA” – Do You Want to Read. It had beautiful pictures. I found in it a story which led to important choices later in life. I wanted to learn to read that book. Mother’s native language was Swedish. She taught me. I had read several books in English before I started school. Our home language was Finnish.

Elsa Beskow’s book

Parcels from America

Sometimes we received packages from churches we had visited in America. Once, among all the clothes and dried foods was a post-order catalog. My nine-year-old brother and I studied the pages with pictures of children’s clothes. Can there be so many lovely clothes for children? I wondered. My mother sewed most of our clothes on her hand-driven Singer sewing machine. Some of our clothes came in parcels, but they were never as beautiful as the pictures in the catalog.

  

“If there are such a lot of cute clothes for children, we must have a lot of children when we grow up!” Emmanuel said.
“How many should we have?” I asked.
“Twelve, I think is good. Six boys and six girls.”
“Why six and six?”
“Well, Dad always has so much work to do, so he would need more boys than he has to help him put up his tent for tent meetings and preaching. He has only three of us.”
“Yes, and Mom has an awful lot of work every day, and she has only Mary and me to help her here at home.”
Since we agreed on these matters, Emmanuel went to mom and asked, “Can a brother and sister get married when they grow up?”
“No, that is impossible. A brother and sister can’t marry each other.”

We decided to pray for each other to find the right person to marry – and for the twelve kids, each one of us should have.

 

A Refugee Kid is also a Third Culture Kid/2

Just Another Afghan Kid

Just another refugee kid Pixabay

Continued.

My mother has tried to teach us the old traditions of her family, but it is difficult to follow old traditions when we live in fear all the time. We are afraid that some neighbor here in the slums will tell the police that we live here illegally. Where can we go? The years of my life pass without hope. I kick stones along the road just to hide the anger in my heart. Will we ever be able to live together as a family, together with my father?

With each year that passes, that dream drifts further and further away. Here in this stinking slum, as I try to avoid the piles of trash and slimy black sewage, it is hard to dream at all. I try to do all I can to help my mother and sister survive. I search for jobs so I can buy food. Sometimes, even after working long hours loading sacks or sweeping floors or whatever work I can find for the day, I might not get paid. So we all go hungry. Some bosses know that I can’t complain to anyone since I am here illegally.

When we were in my mother’s mountain village I used to look up at the stars every night and dream of what it would be like to live in peace and prosperity somewhere. I dreamt that I would study to be a teacher so I could inspire the children to plan for a good future for themselves and their families in our country, where grapes and plums, pomegranate and oranges would grow all over the hills.

School in Afghanistan – Pixabay
Rainbow of Hope – Pixabay

 

My father sends us money whenever he can. Each time, I wish he would also send renewed hope of getting us out of Pakistan and to a new country, that he has received his residence permit in that country far away, and that we will get permission to join him before the next Norouz – our New Year celebration. When that happens, I know my mother will start singing again. I can remember her songs of sunrise and hope and new beginnings, and her songs about peace. She will start collecting fruits and nuts that she will dry in the sun. When we join my father she will make the Haft Mewa, or Seven Fruit Salad.

http://slideplayer.com/slide/10725099/

Now I must go and find someone who will teach me proper English. I watched a man setting up a blackboard behind the market place. He saw me. I was not just another refugee kid. He asked me if I wanted to join his class.

My father will be happy when I show him what I have learned. It can’t be long now before we join him and our family’s hope is fulfilled.