Just Another Afghan Kid
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.
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.
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.