Long Distance Loving
the phone rings. you are eight and you groan. it’s muqdisho, nairobi, london, toronto, juba, detroit, addis, cairo, edmonton. you can tell it’s long distance from the way it rings higher and longer than usual. you are closest to the phone which means you have no choice but to pick it up. slowly, you reach out for the receiver.
you are nine and in the car and the family’s driving to kfc. your parents are talking about politics, about transitional federal governments, about your grandmother and sending money back home. you and your brothers are arguing about video games when suddenly your father yells at you to stop talking in french. you speak enough french at school and outside he says, and that as long as you are at home or out in family you can only speak somali.
you are ten and your father’s brother is calling from detroit and when you start speaking to him he laughs a delighted laugh and tells you he is proud you can hold a proper conversation in somali. suddenly this language that once filled you with shame (because you did not speak it with the ease you felt you should’ve) becomes a source of pride. he tells you to use it more, to be grateful because a lot of kids born and raised in the west don’t get to learn the languages of back home.