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New immigrants: Glad to be in the land of the free
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By Jamie Hughes • [email protected]
Saturday, July 04, 2009

St. Cloud resident Ahmed Abdulle (right) spends part of Thursday afternoon sipping his coffee and listening to his friend Abdihaye Hamsshi tell a story at the 33rd Meat & Grocery in St. Cloud. 
St. Cloud resident Ahmed Abdulle (right) spends part of Thursday afternoon sipping his coffee and listening to his friend Abdihaye Hamsshi tell a story at the 33rd Meat & Grocery in St. Cloud. (Kimm Anderson, [email protected])


Ahmed Abdulle doesn’t need July 4 to celebrate living in the United States. He does it, on some level, 365 days a year.

When I sleep at night, I think about the life I was in and the life those people are in and are having there,” he said.

Abdulle is originally from Somalia. He fled his home country in 1996 because of its violent unrest, spent a decade in a refugee camp in Kenya, then came to the United States in 2006.

Abdulle, a 27-year-old electrical engineering student at St. Cloud State University, said security is the best gift the states has given him and other refugees.

“First of all, if you don’t have security, you can’t work and if you can’t work you won’t be able to have a life,” he said. “As a human being you need security. Another thing is we see war every night. You don’t know when you will die. This problem will get you. Right now all we worry about is the people who stay there, who are in the refugee camps.”

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He said security also offers the mind a rest.

“If you don’t have security you won’t be able to function in a peace of mind,” he said. “You won’t be able to be creative. You won’t be able to do anything.”

Although he’s grateful for what the United States has given him, Abdulle said he was a bit naïve about the land of opportunities that awaited him before he left Kenya.

Abdulle said the weather is what shocked him first and foremost.

“The first time I landed it was January, so it was snow all over the place,” he said. “We use ice over there to cool the water so we can drink so I thought ‘what’s going on here?’ There’s ice all over the place so the first that scared me was the ice, the snow, the cold weather.”

But aside from a large climate difference, Abdulle said he was too optimistic about finding a job.

“When I came here I didn’t have relatives here so what happens is you have to stand by your own,” he said. “You have to go out and find a job, you don’t know how to search (for) a job, you have to sustain your life ... you don’t have a penny. So life was also tough here in the first year.”

Schooling is different, too. In Kenya, the school system had national tests and curriculums. Students in Kenya memorize mathematical and scientific formulas. Here, formulas are given multiple times so students have the opportunity to understand the concept, he said.

American schools also offer the chance to understand democratic ideals.

“Especially what’s good for Somalis is learning social studies,” he said. “It’s very good that governments can be changed without violence, without any kind of interruption. Government can be changed through voting, through other means, good ways and means.”

But even though Abdulle is constantly celebrating being a Somali-American, he said he’s excited for today’s festivities.

“I am really proud that I am in this country celebrating for the Fourth of July, the Independence Day of this country. It’s really an opportunity,” he said. “I am really thankful to the community of St. Cloud, thankful to the United States, thankful to this country, thankful to this nation.”

The first week of July holds another celebration for Somali-Americans.

July 1 is the date Somalia gained independence in 1960, something Fartun Hussein said she wishes she had more desire to celebrate.

Hussein came to the United States in 1999 and said the St. Cloud Somali community usually comes together to celebrate both independence days. Because of the recent rise in violence in Somalia, the community didn’t feel much like celebrating.

“Last year we celebrated both together because we’re both Somalis and Americans,” she said. “But this week there’s not too much hope to celebrate.”

Hussein said she didn’t feel like celebrating, knowing her and her friends’ families are dying.

However, Hussein is still grateful for what the United States has given her and said those born in the country can sometimes take it for granted.

“When you’re here you don’t have to worry about hearing gunshots or seeing people die in front of you or seeing family members die,” she said. “I know my child has the endless opportunities she wouldn’t have had if she was born in a refugee camp.”

But Hussein hasn’t lost all faith for the security of her homeland and the safety of are still there.

“We still have hope and I’m going to watch the fireworks so that will lighten (it) up,” she said.

Source: St. Cloud Times, July 04, 2009



 





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