"Eli" Goytam Havos Eritrea My mother tells me I was almost walking when we left Eritrea. It had already become very dangerous by the time I was born. So like so many other families, we left just about everything behind and made our way to Sudan. I grew up there and I still feel a strong connection to that place. Even though I have no memory of Eritrea, I have never considered myself anything but Eritrean, one hundred percent. A lot of Eritreans living in Sudan went back home to join the rebels, to fight in the war. They simply had a lot of love for their country, and of course they wanted to fight for our freedom. Everybody felt that way, even the little kids. So two of my friends and I decided to go. I can’t remember exactly how old we were, maybe thirteen or fourteen. Our parents had no idea; they would never have let us go. No one wants to see their loved one go off into the jungle, pick up a rifle. We were very curious. We knew that Eritreans were always longing to go back and pick up their lives, live in their own homeland. Everyone dreamed of that. We were just kids, we didn’t even know home, but then again, we knew we had family there. So one day we took off. We went to the border three times before they actually took us. We went to a training camp, but before long we realized they had no intention of sending us to the front. They just sent us to school. They loaded us up with a bunch of other kids and took us to a place in the mountains to study, where we were safe. There was a program to educate kids who were too young to fight. I was always curious as to what might have happened to me if I had been a little older. My life would have been very different. I might have been well trained, but no matter how prepared or how brave you are, it is a question of how much you can take. To shoot a person is easy. But then to live with that is another matter. I’ve seen some of it on video, pictures of dead people, dismembered people after the battles, even just a few years ago. It’s unbelievable. I just don’t know. I was not there. I will never know how it might have affected me. What I wish for the most is for there to be peace in Eritrea. For Eritreans and Ethiopians, we’ve both been through a lot. From this distance I sometimes can’t always understand what the conflict is all about. All Eritreans have someone who they have lost in the war. Every one of us has suffered. You can’t possibly say that I am not Eritrean when I have family members and friends who were there struggling and fighting so that we all could have a place that is home.