By Faiza Jama
Somalia was more than a trip about rediscovering my homeland. It was an intentional voyage to find a silver-lining to my lived reality as the child of struggling Somali immigrants. I wanted an escape from the fringe, from otherness – into the centre.
So here I was trying to find my centre.
Flying over the coastline, the first being I spotted on Somali soil as my plane landed on the tarmac was a white person fishing off a giant cliff. The next, two red bellied white men jogging along the fence opposite the airport. I grunted. You got to be kidding me. In those first scenes of Mogadishu was a dark truth. The owners of my city, truly, were not the original inhabitants – and I came to know that deeply in the following weeks.
Halane is known as the ‘Green Zone’ to people living in Mogadishu. It is where most of the expats and United Nations employees reside. Halane Beach runs parallel to Adan Abdulle Airport, where all planes coming into Mogadishu land. Every evening you can see western employees of various NGO groups enjoying the coastline, whether it’s fishing, sunbathing, swimming or Jogging.
So here is what I imagined. I’d go back home, my family in Somalia, who my parents have been supporting for as long as I can remember, are doing very well for themselves. Every morning starts off on the beach, a turmeric mask plastered on my face- baati on- turban wrapped- in relaxation mode. I mean, I studied the photos and videos from the diaspora community. Somalia is all Beaches and bajaj rides, mango drinks, cafés and coconut water.
This romanticized idea of Somalia that I so longed for, was crushed beneath me when I saw my family in Mogadishu- 26 years of remittance later, were still poor. Damn. Generational poverty extends beyond North American? An even bigger crushing blow was that most of the Somalis in the city were poor, and unless you’re a part of the top five percent, you’re not enjoying the “luxuries” that you saw on social media.
Most of the city looked like a slowly healing wound. I had to shift my thinking, because home isn’t a structure, and buildings and the sea. It’s people and hospitality and going the extra mile.