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Lillian Sabuni's story: My Concept of Home

By Susan Gitenstein Assadi
As I glance in front of me I see a beautiful short sturdy door: my mother. I raise my head slightly and see the rooftop, my father. The windows and the walls are my siblings. To put it simply, my family is my home. Home to me is not just a physical building but rather the people and the memories created. My home is made up of unique individuals that have unique dreams and unique goals. However, deep down I question myself. Maybe the reason I am use this trite analogy to describe the concept of home is because I have never really had a physical home because I have never stayed in one place for more than three years. My mom and dad successfully escaped the brutal war in Congo. We escaped to Tanzania where our memories would bind us together. We were the wealthiest in Tanzania and our home grew as Patrick, Kiza, and Jeanne and I gained little siblings: Rene, Alfred, Johari, and Riziki. Soon enough, though, it became too dangerous to stay. I loved Tanzania, but we were not wanted there. We had no country, no home. We were blessed and fortunate enough to hide in refugee camps where we faked our accents to avoid being caught by the Tanzanian police. Those were tense times. Those were dangerous times. Those were times spent with family. Spending time with my mother as she farmed corn, peas, and sweet potatoes for upcoming seasons was the most relaxing. Playing the traditional Oro Nage Nogo with relatives and friends was the most fun. Walking miles to feed the goats and getting food, was the most adventurous. Losing Riziki to Malaria at only six and watching my sick mother struggle was the most sad. However in all three refugee camps, my family stuck together. After a rigorous interview process with the United Nations, my family immigrated to America. We were amazed yet lost in this world. In 2011 we moved to Michigan. Moving schools and being from Africa, meant my siblings and I became easy targets at school for bullies and those who did not understand or want to. However, at home, with each other, we found safety and comfort. A year passed in Michigan, and we moved back to Arizona. My mother’s illness returned. Diagnosed with type two diabetes my mother was unable to work which meant my father became the only provider for the family. Money became scarce. There were times where we had no running water for days straight, and no electricity, and bills upon bills to pay. In 2014, we became homeless for two months. Through these hard times I missed the life we had back in Africa, and often wondered why my parents came to America only to be faced with problems that seemed so un-American. But I slowly came to understand the importance of valuing people and culture rather than materials. Home is not a place; it is a feeling. It is where my memories are created: the escape from the Congo, the absence of a physical home, and the death of a sister. We might have moved from one house to another; however, my actual home, my family, was always there. Through sad times we found laughter. Through dangerous days, we sound safety. And through hard times we found each other.
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Susan Gitenstein Assadi