“How was your Christmas and New Year’s break?” Kanini asked her friend Abdi Fatah.
“It was great! I just got back from Mogadishu.” He said with a huge grin.
“Mogadishu?” Kanini was baffled, “…and it was great?” she thought to herself.
Kanini couldn’t believe Abdi saw anything worth celebrating or being happy about in Mogadishu.. Kanini had to know more.
“How did you make it back to Kenya? Your family actually lives there, out of choice? Why would you do that to yourself?” Kanini’s mind was spinning with questions for Abdi.
“I thought you are Kenyan, why is your family in Mogadishu?” Kanini managed to blurt aloud.
Kanini wasn’t that ignorant to call him or his family terrorists. She was worried, concerned, she knew his family would be targets of Shabaab.
Abdi could read what could be going through her mind. “I know.” He said as he gently held her hand and directed her to sit. “Let me help you understand.” He smiled ever so gently. Kanini looked down feeling ashamed that she had asked.
“Don’t beat yourself up about it. Everyone thinks it…at least you seem to really want to understand.”
“Ok…I am sorry if I was judgmental, I just don’t understand how you can find joy amidst the carnage and bullet ridden buildings. I am sorry…”
“Shhh!” he pressed his index finger against his mouth and hissed. He pulled out his phone and began to scroll through images. It was the shores of a beach, children and adults laughing and playing. Then there was the picture of a market and then another of an amazing restaurant and another of a sign in a restaurant, he translated it for Kanini.
“No Ak 47s, pistols or knives and machetes allowed in here.” They looked at each other and laughed.
He showed Kanini pictures of university students in class. He told her of the risks they faced to get to class. Kanini laughed and teared. She was relieved and slightly ashamed of herself. There was life, lots of it. People went beyond the constant odds against them and chose to live.
“Devlish tenacity to live, we Somalis have…” Abdi smiled and Kanini mouthed, “Sorry.”
“Kanini, it is OK. If I wouldn’t have shared my story with you, you would never have known. That’s why I needed to tell you.”
Kanini sighed and shrugged her shoulders, she was really sorry for being so arrogantly judgmental with her perception of Somalis and Somalia as a whole. The country is yes, a failed state, but the truth is, people are still going about their lives. Somalis from the diaspora still returned home to rebuild and establish enterprise to get the economy moving.
Abdi smiled, Kanini smiled back, Kanini began to giggle, he began to giggle then they both burst in to uncontrollable laughter.
“Here one more photo,” Abdi scrolled to it, an image of him and his family in a studio photo in Mogadishu in the early nighties. “God is great! We are all alive and well; all eight of us.” Kanini nodded. They embraced.
“Let’s go eat some Anjeera.” Kanini said, Abdi laughed, held her hand and she arose from her seat. Off they went to a Somali restaurant in Nairobi.