Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thankful for Thanksgiving Without Pirates

This Somali refugee family lives in what we think of as very uncomfortable conditions. But they are living better than they did in their own country and are very thankful for the opportunities in America. We should all be thankful for our lives too. DP

Some of Ali’s family are in Boise. Left in Somalia are a sister, some brothers and three of his father’s four wives. Those here are all working and receive no government assistance. By sharing bedrooms and pooling their money, they are living better than they ever dreamed was possible.

By Jill Kuraitis

The chaotic and violent East African country of Somalia has no official government, but it has some big-time pirates. Their latest acquisition on the high seas, just last week, was a Saudi oil tanker the size of three aircraft carriers.

Not even Johnny Depp could have pulled that off, but audacity isn’t a problem for this kind of piracy, which has become a career for some Somalis. Faced with little choice in a country ravaged by warlords and combat for more than 20 years, pirates were once people who stole because of hunger, and then hunger turned to greed.

Poverty which leads to crime and violence – an ancient story unfortunately still with us.

It’s impossible for ordinary Somalis to try to organize against the warlords. “How can we do there?” asked Mali, a Somali mother newly arrived in Boise with her two daughters. “Just to step the line outside the village we are killed,” she said.

The Somali refugees in Boise know about pirates. They know about starvation and suffering, slaughter and death, and the spirit-killing stress of living in daily terror. Boise has about 1,500 Somali refugees, most having arrived in the past two years. Some emigrate to warmer climates, but many are willing to learn life in cold weather to live in Boise, a town which most immigrants find to be unusually friendly and welcoming.

One of the recent Somali immigrants I’ll call Ali, a teenager who is learning English at Boise State University’s language center. He attends classes three times a week and has two private tutoring sessions with me. In Somali culture, a proficiency at language is considered a sign of extreme respectability, and Somali refugees tend to take advantage of English lessons in larger numbers, and with more persistence, than some other cultures.
Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

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