What our young abroad, miss.

by Mr Ibrahim Haj 21-11-2004

Some times, I just can’t help feeling sorry for our young. Boys and girls alike. For those born and brought up outside Eritrea. Those who were not lucky enough to grow up in Eritrea. They have missed on a lot of things. Not of their own making, of course. But they have missed many things. Things that would make one feel a real Eritrean. Things that would shape one’s identity. Things that one would use as an anchor when someone, somehow, feels lost .When confusion sets in. When things get tough.

Growing up in your own country, in your own hometown, your own neighbourhood is a privilege. You grow up with a deep sense of patriotism.. A sense of belonging. A sense of who you are. With a special feeling A feeling that comes natural.  Some thing you develop through your own childhood experiences. Your experience of Eritrea first hand. Things that one can not inherit from one’s parents, Parents’ memories are, after all, theirs. Not yours. They can’t pass them on to you. You need your own childhood stories. Your own personal experience. Not theirs.

Experiences such as growing up in your neighbourhood .Playing and fighting amongst your peers. Knowing who was who. Who lived where, who was the brightest at school, the naughtiest, the best in football, the prettiest girl, the ugliest , who sported the best Afro hair style, who owned a bicycle etc…

Growing up in your own country helps you make sense of your own surroundings. Have a pride in your own local heroes. Have your local role models. Singers. Footballers. Athletes. Intellectuals .political heroes. Having a local role model has a unifying effect on the psychs of the kids while growing up. Later in life, these are the sort of things that they would relive with a great sense of fondness.

Growing up playing football in the streets of your neighbourhood had a special feeling. Special taste.

We used to play football with a ball made up of an old sock stuffed with old cloth materials solidly stitched up. The ball was called “Kuret Sherab or “Koeso Chergee”. Controlling the ball required special skills. We used to compete against boys from a different neighbourhood. Winner gets  25 cents!. And those who ultimately made it to bigger clubs were kids with generally a superb (kuret sharab /Koeso Chergee) background.

I still have some sweet childhood memories. Your neighbourhood was considered as an extension to your own family. We grew up as friends in our neighbourhoods. We did not care much about who was a Christian or who was a Muslim. Of course we realised there were mosques and churches around. But there was mutual respect. Not a calculated one. It was a respect that came out naturally.

 After playing football we used to go to   “Enda Aboy Kidane” for cold water!. Their son, Mesgena, played in our team. They owned a fridge. In fact they were amongst the very few who owned fridges in the neighbourhood at the time.  Massawa is always so hot .Specially in summer (July-Sept).

Our childhood friendship still exists. Whenever I visit Asmara I make sure I catch up with Mesgena Kidane. We sit at his house or at one of Asmara’s elegant cafés and keep reminiscing about our childhood moments over a cup of coffee.

These are  some of the things that Eritrean kids growing up overseas generally miss. They do not, for example, get to know each other .They sometimes pass each other in the street with out exchanging hellos. This is a tragedy.

The point we need to realise is that there are many Eritrean Muslims who had Christian great grandfathers and vice versa. It is not as if we are from two different planets. If you are from a  Tigre speaking background it does not take long to master tigrinia, and vice versa.

These are some of  the things  our young which you miss as a  result of not growing up in Eritrea.

The difference between growing up in Eritrea and abroad is like the difference between one who went through a university attending real lecture and interacting with fellow students feeling the attachment and warmth of the campus and one who earned his degree through correspondence. They are two different things.

This is a  fact. A sad fact.

See you later

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