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Last Day in My Home Country: First Place Winner 2021

By Rosie Watuna
Someone once said, “To be called a refugee is the opposite of an insult; it is a badge of strength, courage, and victory." Thinking back, it shocks me that my family and I survived in a refugee camp. It was not only a hard life but an impossible one. Being a big family of fifteen-plus people made life more challenging. There was never enough food, and we couldn’t afford two meals a day. The education was poor, and because of the crowded camp and absence of infrastructure, the camps were unhygienic. Clothing was another issue. We did not have comfortable covers or coats to keep us warm during the brutal Namibian winters. Seeing dead bodies each day was typical. After suffering so much, many people turned to suicide to end their misery. As a result, I was raised to believe that the US was paradise on earth. A land of freedom, no suffering, no more tears, just happiness. My dad had advised us to begin packing some of our clothing and not telling anybody about our upcoming journey. I wanted to say goodbye to my friends. However, I realized it would cost my family since people could be jealous. My family even worried about voodoo and such things. “Why would they do black magic on us, Daddy?” I asked my father. He answered, “You will understand when you grow up. Yet if anyone knows about our journey, we may be stuck in this camp like the other families.” I wanted to cry my eyes out, but I needed to remain strong for my parents. Mainly my dad because he has gone through so much. The conflict between Tutsis and Congolese left many individuals dead, including his family. My father had run from their home country because of war in search of a better life. My dad always told us how his family got killed. It's a miracle that he survived. His father hid him and his siblings in a hole that he had dug in the house for times of war. Unfortunately, they got caught as a result of suffocation and lack of oxygen. The rebels realized there were people alive in there. They dragged them out of the underground space and shot all of them. “Make sure they’re all dead,” the commander said in a foreign language and left. A teenage boy among the other soldiers shot everyone at once, and my dad immediately fell on the ground and covered himself in the blood of others. My father’s stories were on my mind as we were preparing to leave but I had to pull myself together and just look at the bright side. The next day, we went to Windhoek, Namibia's capital city, and went to the airport. We waited for our flight, but then we got sad news. Our trip had been canceled due to my mother's health condition. The specialist who was supposed to come from another country to care for my mother was not able to get there. My siblings and I cried because we knew people would laugh and shame us. We knew we were going to turn into the refugee camp laughing stocks because that how it has always been when one’s family miss their flight people don’t bother to ask why instead they go around and spread false rumors just to make individuals miserable. As expected, it happened we were miserable for months. Fortunately, after months of waiting, we finally got the call we have been waiting on, they said the doctor has come, and we were leaving the next day. I was so displeased with the things people gossiped about us in the camp when we returned. That when I heard we were finally going, I was thrilled and could not wait. I will never forget the last day in my home country. It was the most joyful and saddest day in my life. In any case, I will consistently be appreciative of the chances I got. America is truly the land of opportunities.