Wednesday, October 01, 2014
[Memphis Reads 2014] Fresh Reads Top Ten Winner Hozyer Saeed
Fresh Reads Essay Contest Winner Hozyer Saeed
“Living here is as close to living back home as one can get, which is precisely why I moved out after two years and precisely why my uncle has never left.” In this part of the book, Stephanos tries to visit the old apartments he lived in with his uncle, but he was not there. While Sepha is there, he realizes how much the apartments felt like back home. But if he missed Ethiopia so much, why would he leave those apartments if they reminded him of back home?
Throughout the book the reader is able to see Stephanos go through a complicated stage in his life. Some days he wants to give up, put down everything, and abandon his corner store and go back to his homeland. “As a capital city, it doesn’t seem like much. Sixty-eight square miles, shaped roughly like a diamond, divided into four quadrants, erected out of what was once mainly swampland. Its resemblance to Addis, if not always in substance, then at least in form, has always been striking to me.” All through the story, Stephanos tries to compare America to his homeland, maybe to make himself feel better, maybe to make himself feel as if he is at home. His stay here, in America, seems like it would work out for him, but he refuses to accept change. If he tightened up his store and became more social, he would have a good life. Sepha does not want to accept that fact, though. He says, “I refused to acknowledge the charm of a sunset or the pleasure of a summer afternoon. If possible, I would have denied myself the right to breathe another country’s air or walk on its ground.” The negative attitude really impacts his stay, causing him to live a bit miserably.
While reading The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears I would connect to Sepha time after time. Dinaw, the author, did a great job making sure he connects his foreign readers to Sepha, which made this book intriguing. I, like Stephanos, have also been in the situation where I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. I was much in the same position as him, where I missed home, Kurdistan, where I was born, but I was not able to go back with ease. Entering America in 1996 was mostly every Kurd’s dream, because of the harsh times it was going through. People were getting abused by the Iraqi government; it was awful to live there. I am grateful that we had the opportunity to move to the United States, but sometimes you stop and wish things had worked out better at home and none of that happened. Everything has either a positive or negative consequence, in most cases both. The negative part of living in America was not being able to be with the rest of your family. That was the biggest disappointment. You also miss out on the culture back home. When you do get here to the States, you are mixed with the American culture and often times forget about your own. I have no uncles, aunts, or cousins here; it is only my brother, two sisters, mom and dad. I am grateful to have them here, although it would be undoubtedly better to have the rest of the family.
My family and I had our green cards since 2006, giving us permanent resident, which also gave us the privilege of traveling back home, but when we did, there was always a bad outcome. The expense of going back is extremely large. It usually affected us here, but we might not show it when we get back, because it is worth every penny when we see our family. That was half of the problem; the other half was always being questioned and taking longer for our documents to get here conveniently because of the September 11. Since we were Middle Eastern citizens at the time, they made us go through extra investigation before allowing us to go home. After years of waiting anxiously, the chance finally came for my parents to take the Oath of Allegiance in 2006 and to become citizens of the United States. Although it made the process of going back home quicker, because we did not have to worry about going through the extra investigations, it did not help financially. We have gone back four times and on average we roughly spent around $10,000 on gifts, food, hotels, etc., not including plane tickets for each member of the family. There are six of us, and it costs $2,000 per person. It never mattered, though, when we are back home in Kurdistan; the price would not affect us until we made it back to the States. Then it was going back to work on a daily basis for my parents. Most occasions they hoped they got the chance to work overtime or come in during the weekends, because that is how hard we were impacted financially from going home to see family.
Like Sepha, there are always communications between us and the rest of the family back in Kurdistan, thanks to electronics. It has been easier, too, over time as devices have gotten more advanced. Now we use tools and phone applications like Viber or Facebook that help us connect to them easier and smoother. As I get older, I get more fond of my hometown. Now I am making plans to visit soon.
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