Once I was a little girl, playing in the rain without a care in the world. Other children my age were splashing and kicking up mud as the rain cleansed our bodies, our minds. For me that is the strongest memory of my motherland, Kenya. Now, as I have traveled around America over the past several years and have the chance to reflect on that little girl in Kenya, little me, I realize the choices for her were limited, but now as I have grown up in America, I know I have many choices and many opportunities.
I remember the day when my parents told us that we were coming to America like yesterday. I would never forget it because I was leaving behind everything I knew and didn’t know what I was coming to. At the time, all I knew about America was that they had big huge skyscraper looking buildings and escalators that would cut your toe off. Which at the time I didn’t know what it was called but I found out later that it would be one of my biggest fears.
Migrating from place to place, my parents had to leave everything that they owned, which wasn’t much, but coming to a new place as refugees made everything so impossible. I remember getting off of the airplane and seeing so many American females wearing jeans with their hair opened. I thought they were boys because they didn’t dress like me and as I come to find out later, they thought I was a boy, even though I was wearing a skirt.
Because we were a family of 9 at the time, the government didn’t have a house to set us in yet. They were still looking. They placed us with a family that was related to us and we stayed with them for a few days until we got settled. At the age of eight, everything surprised me. The house, the bathroom, the beds, and the kitchen. The bathroom was so different from the ones we used back home that when I saw it, I thought I was going to fall in. It made the flushing sound after I pressed down the flush button and I ran out of the bathroom with my pants down to my ankles. It was at that time when everyone ran from the living room to find out what was going on. I was told by my aunt that, yes, the bathrooms did that here and that it was nothing to be afraid of. Everything felt so hard to do because to me it was all fancy and I wasn’t used to it.
I came from a refugee camp, where we slept in mud-made beds or on the dirty, hard floor and suddenly out of nowhere, we were sleeping in cozy mattresses with warm blankets. We went from all of living in one room to living in a house with a huge yard, a big kitchen, two bathrooms, 4 bedrooms, and a living room. I mean I didn’t even know what a TV was. When I saw sesame street for the first time, I thought the puppets were real. I went from drinking chai in the morning to drinking and eating Soda and Hot Cheetos. I was amazed with all that I saw. However, somehow, I was missing my life back in Dadaab where everything seemed simple and easy to do.
The reason my family and I moved to America was for freedom and many opportunities. With the war that was going on back in Somalia, my parents never had the opportunity of getting an education. When my parents found out about America and the freedom that we would have here, they didn’t hesitate to try and do everything they could to get us here. Back when I was in Kenya, I heard that America was a place where you can become anything you would like and no one was there to stop you. My parents moved from Somalia because it was not a safe place to be at. They wanted to provide us with many opportunities that they didn’t get to have.
I have been here for 13 years now. I grew up here in America. I went to school here. This is the place where I call home. I started from elementary school and in a couple months I will be graduating the University of Arizona with a degree in psychology and journalism. Thanks to my parents for providing me this chance of a life time and for always being here for me. Without them, my siblings and I wouldn’t be where we are today. Today we consider ourselves fortunate enough to be here amongst the other refugees who became citizens.