The girl from outside
After 25 years of being born and raised outside I decided it was time to visit home for the first time. The things I was met with, the conversations, the judgement and the curiosity sometimes felt overwhelming. The way I moved, my appearance and even the way I spoke changed. It was if my voice, my inner voice got louder and instead of ignoring it I let it speak. I had no other choice but to trust myself fully even when it led to mistakes and some embarrassment. Meeting new people, meeting old people that knew the soul who birthed me and to live in the house she was born and raised felt like home coming. Home taught me about the past, the history of my loved ones and more importantly how all of that fits in my own identity. This experience I believe did not change me, it helped me to discover parts of me that I neglected for 25 years.
We have all answered and even asked the question: ”Where are you really from?”. I knew where I was from in terms of my ethnicity and heritage but I had no Somali identity to speak of. When it came to my Somali culture I was clueless, speaking the language felt like a war in my mouth and having an emotional interest or feeling invested in my community (here in the West or the one in Africa) was non existent.
Two days after my 25th birthday I separated from London town and embarked on the most beautiful journey, love affair, fairy tale, story with Mama, yes Mama Africa. East Africa to be exact. You would think that an adult that has a degree in HUMAN GEOGRAPHY I would have at least Googled.. ANYTHING about what to expect in Mama Africa, right? No, not me. I did not research, present some questions to my family or even try and create a concrete plan about what I was going to do there. All I knew was that London town and I were not a good terms, the love was not there and I felt that London town (the place where there are endless opportunities) was not letting me grow. Yes, it does sound that this trip started off as a quarter life crisis/ melt down and that I was focused more on leaving than actually arriving somewhere else. In all honesty, I was ready to be in a place where everything was new and different. East Africa did that for me in ways that I did not think were possible.
During my visit in Djibouti I met the most incredible children and it also made it very clear that children they just want you to acknowledge them as the incredible individuals that they are.
We all know children love to play games outside and just be happy. What you may not know is that in my neighborhood I am that big girl that will just jump in and play too. One afternoon, a couple of girls were playing volleyball, as I was walking past with my friend the ball went into my direction and I hit that ball back. To the point I kept playing with the other girls and even my friend kept saying that I need to stop cause people are watching. I stopped but then one of the girls got the ball did not say a word but gestured at me to join back in.. What did this 25 year old woman do? I joined back in for a couple of minutes then some random woman yelled: ”Don’t you have any shame? You are a grown woman stop playing sports?!”. That annoyed me so bad that I just gave her a look of : ”And you are?!”. After that whenever I saw the girls playing, the same girl would always wave and smile at me, the girl who wanted me to join back in.
Every lunch time, Zainab (9) would come over to my house to drop of lunch but today instead of running back to her house, she stood there watching my cousin and I playing football. At one point I kicked the ball to her and the most beautiful grin just covered her entire face and she shot it back. We kicked the ball for a bit and after a few minutes she went on her way. From that point on I adopted her.. emotionally. After I left Djibouti she visited my cousin and asked if I truly had gone. My cousin told me that Zainab was a bit upset and told her that I was the person that showed her the most kindness. Zainab is one extraordinary child and I pray that one day I will return back to Djibouti and see her happy and well.
Yes, I am a grown woman but I feel like a child and I am not embarrassed to play outside with you or even ask you how your day is going. All I know is that children want to be acknowledged and mostly through the little things that will only cost you a few minutes. These amazing individuals in return share their joy with you.