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The face of happiness
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My parents were raised under the Taliban but I was not. Neither were my sisters or brother. Poverty was normal. No one could go to the doctor or dentist. All our teeth were rotting. We speak Pashto and my dad worked at the airport with the American army. He guards their airplanes. Sometimes, he comes home scared. The Taliban wants to come back and sometimes a woman would get stoned if she wasn’t covered up or she was around a non-relative man. There were a lot of rules. I’m glad I’m a boy. It’s easier. I can do what I want. I get to go to school sometimes and I don’t have to clean or cook or take care of my baby sister. But, my dad was getting more and more nervous and my mom was scared. No one talked about it. But the neighbors said people were trying to leave because the Taliban was taking over and the Americans were leaving. I didn’t know what that meant really, but fear was in the air, in the food, in everyone’s mouth like dust. One day my father came home and said we were leaving. Everyone had to take the smallest bag. We had to leave the chickens. What about my books and toys and friends? No one answered. Just go with your father. Everyone walked to the airport. Everyone was there, yelling and pushing. We held hands and stayed close, but there’s a lot of us. My oldest sister got separated and we couldn’t find her when it was time to get on the plane. It was the last one. We couldn’t wait. I cried the whole night. Why wasn’t she here and what about our grandparents? No one answered. They just told me to shush. I was good at crying without making a noise. Or not cry at all. Once we landed, we were put in a cement building with wire on the wall. Where would we escape to? It had taken a whole day to get here in an airplane. We didn’t know anyone. There were a lot of other Afghans strangers who spoke Pashto, but no one was happy. No laughter. No food from home. What are we eating? It made me sick. Finally we were told that we should get on a bus and go a long, long way. I just followed my dad with the rest of my family. No talking. There were a bunch of Vietnamese families that gave us a basement to live in and bought us food and clothes. They took us to the dentist and the doctor and we got to go to school. English isn’t that hard. I am the best at it. But sometimes no one understands me. At home we talk Pashto. It’s a lot easier. There are other Afghan families here. The Vietnamese families had to escape their homes too….a long time ago. They seem happy and fat and they have nice clothes and cars. There is a family that isn’t Vietnamese and the mom, I call her auntie, comes to teach the women how to speak English. They bring us things like chickens and a house for them. The grandma took us to the beach and a park. I learned to make rocks jump over the water. We had three parties for Eid Al Fadir. All the Afghan people dressed like at home and we ate sweets and talked Pashto. Then we went to a friend’s house that helps us. Then all the families came over. Auntie brought a pinata and I beat it down with a stick and got a lot of candy and money! The grandma gave us presents too and my mom a sewing machine! We have a lot of candy and $5!!! My sister drew Henna on all the hands which really made them happy. We fed them a big Eid dinner and watched them eat. We eat later, but father eats with them. They were happy and so was I. I got new clothes. I like America. This is better. I don’t feel the fear anymore. My mom smiles more. My dad has a hard job inside a really cold room with fish, but the families found him a new one and he is now smiling.

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