Ubah Mire (with Aunt Habibo) Somalia I left Somalia when I was four years old with my aunt. It was a terrible time in Somalia—there was so much violence. We lost everything; we witnessed killing and rape. People were starving. We had to go. We traveled by car out of Somalia and into Kenya. We landed in a refugee camp where things were really not much better. My aunt had older children who had already fled the country and were scattered in Europe and other places. There was a cousin in Dubai who sent us money, thankfully. The U.N. and the Red Cross also helped; they gave us a tent to live in. It was a dangerous place. We were not welcome in Kenya, and there was danger every night. My aunt has always taken care of me. I have often thought that if anything happened to her, if she were to die, I don’t know what I would do. She has been my father and my mother, my family, everything to me. We’ve been through a lot together. She is an incredibly strong woman. In 1999 we arrived in the United States with refugee status and joined relatives here in Seattle. Habibo and I had our troubles here too. It was very hard for her as I began to adopt American culture and begin to make my own choices. I wanted to be like my peers; I wanted to wear pants, talk to my friends on the phone, including boys. All of which really upset her. She tried to explain to me that it was not part of our culture, against our religion. We started fighting about all these things. When I was seventeen, she said she didn’t love me the way she used to. She didn’t understand why I would abandon my own culture. I couldn’t understand what that meant. Was I expected to wear hijab, covering me from head to toe? I was always proud to be a Muslim. I read the Koran. I told her that as a Muslim, I think what you wear is not as important as what is in your heart, the qalb—in Arabic, qalb means the heart. Eventually I moved in with cousins. After a few months there I realized that the person who really cared about me, the person who would always be there for me, was Habibo. I asked myself, “Ubah, is this how you want to pay her back?” I began to see things much differently. I moved back in with her and treated her with respect. I graduated from high school and Islamic school. I cleaned the house and prepared food. I listened to her and cared for her. I changed my attitude. She knows I am strong like she is, and that my life is going to be very different from hers. In November she is leaving here. She will go to Mecca for the Haj, and then she will return to Somalia. She is getting older, and she wants to go home. She doesn’t speak English, and I’m sure she’s lonely. In this culture, people don’t care for their elders the way they do in Somalia. I know I will have much more independence after she leaves, but I often wonder how I will live without her. I think about it every night when I go to bed. It’s going to be hard.