We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofLagele Ayti

When I was a six-year-old in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, my family had to make a hard decision to come to the United States of America for a better life. When my mom told me we were leaving, we were in the  backyard celebrating with other family members. They were drinking coffee and eating Ethiopian cultural food. The texture of the injera was so soft and the soup was tasty. When I got a taste of the injera that my grandmother makes, I didn’t ever want to stop eating because she makes it so good that I would go for a second round. I was really going to miss Ethiopia.  I thought that I would lose everything when I moved because I would be leaving my grandparents behind. They were the only people I would run to when I had a problem. They would take their time to listen to what I had to say, even though I wasn’t very good at speaking their language, which is called kunama. My grandparents were the only people who understood me. Leaving them was the hardest part about me coming to the U.S. I worried that they would be without many supplies to help them through the hard  times in Ethiopia.  When I was in Addis Ababa, my family was having a hard time maintaining our family. The school in Ethiopia was good, but the teachers were strict and it was far from where I lived. I was glad to leave that school, but sad to leave my family. I was in so much pain that I would cry. Every time I think of Africa, I can only think of my grandparents. When it was getting close to the time for me and my mom and sisters to leave, I gave a hug to my grandma. I was crying out loud, telling her that I loved her and would never forget her.  In 2011, my family came to the United States on a plane. When we got to the U.S, a refugee settlement group helped my family get our things together and got us an apartment to live in. I already had other family members here, so they helped out my family. After a few months or so, we moved into an apartment farther away from the family members because my stepdad was coming to the United States to join us. I was really happy to have him in America because life for me was harder not having a dad here to help us.  Things in the U.S. were hard and I missed home. I teared up when my mom would call my grandparents because I didn’t talk to them often. When my grandma called me all those sweet names that African parents called me, it made me so happy that my eyes were filled with happiness. Even though I left them, they are always in my heart. I can hear them telling me to keep fighting and be the strong granddaughter that they have raised me to be. The longer I have been in the U.S, the less I have talked with my grandparents. I regret not talking to them more. We have drifted apart, and it breaks my heart.  A lesson that I have learned is that the past stays with you even when you try to run away from it. It is always better to face the fear and sadness than to run away from the past. Even though I may have left my grandparents, it doesn’t mean that I have lost my cultural traditions. Loving my grandparents has been the biggest love in my life, because they never let me down. Never forget where you come from; it will fill you up like a good injera. 

© Lagele Ayti. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person’s teacher.