Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Oh, Little Star of Bethle....ahem, what?
Najm calls while I'm at the gym. He's made a traveling team called the Syracuse Blitz and he needs a ride to practice. I tell him it is okay because they have internet access at the indoor field now and I can continue to work there. I like a change of scenery. The star above is the Somalian flag and Najm means star in the language he speaks.
I pick him up and I notice his house is now for rent. He tells me his mom can't afford it anymore and they currently don't have heat. He tells me his mom is leaving for Africa because there is a land dispute amongst relatives and she needs to go and fight for her aunt. She's been in the U.S. for six years with five children, and was a nurse in Somalia. Her husband had a farm. The war broke out, however, (because of Western interest in oil) and men, like her husband were being killed. The women were being raped. The children were being slaughtered. They ran to survive. They went to Kenya and heard rumors there would be safety in Egypt. They made it to Egypt. They were treated like trash and hid in their one room apartment. Often, the mother would find work and not get paid. The Egyptians laughed at refugees from Somalia because they were seen as pathetic and easy to take advantage of. The family applied to the come to the U.S., and with only two years of education, Najm's family arrived to New York. He is scheduled to graduate this year if he can only pass two more state exams. This is his first year out of ESL.
Najm has learned that his father is alive and in England. He remarried and has kids there - he didn't know his wife survived and so did his kids. He's never sent money to the family in the U.S., and visited once. He chose never to come again. His mother is cleaning hotels for minimum wage and trying to provide for the family the best that she can. Najm's older brother quit school and works at a parking lot. When Najm's mom returns to Africa, he needs to provide for his younger siblings who are still in middle school. He needs to get a job soon.
Najm and I drove to soccer talking about religion. We talked about the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, and the animist traditions of Africa. We talked about Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart. We discuss how America has indoor soccer facilities and in Africa they created balls out of taped trash and made goals out of cardboard. The world is so divided, yet our histories are so united. The Gods Must Be Crazy where ever we go.
If I could see the night sky, I'd look for a star for guidance. Seems there has to be hope out there somewhere. Najm tells me he'd like to be an x-ray technician and he wants to go to college. He reads to learn to speak English better. He doesn't talk in his classes because he's afraid of the American-born students and teachers. He loves history and writes about Africa every night on Facebook. He knows he needs to sacrifice real soon so his little brother and sister have a better chance in America, so they can finish their school. The family is looking for an apartment...one with heat...a two room apartment for the six of them. They move over Christmas, God willing. That is their hope.