Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Main Line Student of the Week Samson Tesfamariam's fascinating life story

(Editor's Note: This is the autobiographical essay, titled "My Dream" and written by Main Line Student of the Week Samson Tesfamariam when he was a student at South Philadelphia High School, after coming to America from Ethiopia. He is now a senior at Lower Merion High School and has been named  Main Line student of the week)

My name is Samson Tesfamariam. I was born in Badme, Ethiopia. I am not sure of the exact date when I was born. Many years ago, Ethiopia and Eritrea were one country called Abyssinia. The Eritrean leader wanted Eritrea to be an independent country. In 1998, both countries fought a war against each other.

Many innocent people died. Kahsu, my father was Eritrean. He was tall with black color skin. He was the wealthiest man who lived in Badme. He traded goods from Eritrea to Ethiopia and had a big supermarket.

Badme was on the border of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Before the war, both Ethiopian and Eritrean people lived in Badme, but they later fought because of the land. During the war, my family lived in Badme. However, my father had to leave because he was Eritrean. I was terrified when the war started. I remember it happened on a Friday around June 1999. I hated Friday because of all that happened on that day.
I still remember that day even though I was a little child. It was dark but shiny by the fire of the gun. That day smelled of blood and fire all around the village. I saw many people die. The Ethiopian army was attacking the Eritrean army. The war planes came over us and they were very low. They bombed most of the houses. The houses were made up of dry grasses which caught on fire really fast. We were in our house and the house next to our house got burned. My uncle who lived across from us ran and came to help us. He took us to the burned house because he knew that if the plane came back, it wasn't going to hit a burned house again. I stepped on a lot of small thorns. However, I didn't feel the pain because I was focused on escaping alive from the war. There were a lot of dead people in the village.

The sun set at 6:00 P.M but it was light, noisy, crying, and screaming from different places in the village. After 6:00P.M, my family and neighbors began to leave the village. We were under the target of Ethiopian shootings because Ethiopian soldiers thought that my family and I were Eritrean soldiers. We ran like a wind into a shelter which my grandfather dug out of the dry riverbank because he anticipated that there might be a war someday. The roof was my grandfather's height so that people could stand up. The roof was made up of big logs. The door of the shelter was rectangular and small. From above the shelter one could not see anything. Our family and neighbors were together. We were about twenty five. We had to keep our ears covered with our hands because the noise outside was loud with the sound from the guns. It was near the river where it was dark. Inside, it was very dark, no food, no water, only humans.

Some hours passed. It was still dark. Suddenly the village got silent. The soldiers stopped fighting. When the soldiers stopped fighting, it was silent as the way it was before the fight. While we were in the dark shelter, suddenly a bullet from a gun came from somewhere and hurt Ababa's leg. She was our neighbor. All of us thought we would die. Then my cousin carried Ababa until we arrived at an Eritrean refugee camp. We walked three days without water and food.

Finally, we arrived at an Eritrean refugee camp. After a couple of weeks, the war stopped and we went back to Ethiopia because my mother was an Ethiopian citizen. My father didn't come with us. I returned to Ethiopia with my mother Mebrat, sister Rahel, and half- brother Dawit. Life became very hard for us. My mother had a small shop, but it wasn't enough to support the entire family. My mother was kind, generous, and thought more about others than herself. She had one cow. During the holidays, she gave milk, butter, and yoghurt to some people who were poorer than we. My brother Dawit was a smart student. I wasn't as smart as he was. I didn't want to go school. I only went to school to play with my friends.

When my uncle, Mulley, got married, it was a big occasion. After ten days, my mother suddenly got sick. I was worried about my mom. We didn't know the cause of the disease. I wasn't sure, but I think she had a snake bite. She had pain all over her body every day and night. As a result, when she went to Sheraro (a town about 40 miles far from Badme) to see a doctor, she passed away. Before her corpse was brought to Badme, I had a dream where I asked, "What if she died, what we are going to do? Is that possible to live without your father and mother?" The noise of an ambulance was bad luck in the village.

When the ambulance came to my house early in the morning, I started to feel alone. I started to be scared of the world. I thought that life without my father and mother was impossible. I always thought about my mother and wanted to run and to be alone somewhere. I asked God, "Why did you let her run away from me forever? Why? I cried again and again. I made up my mind that she was gone forever.
Then we moved in with our uncle. I had been a lazy student and didn't care about anything. After my mother died, I became worse. I drank too much alcohol and I even tried to smoke, but when a lady from my neighbor's house saw me smoking, I stopped it because it was unusual to smoke, except for the soldiers and adults.

Everyone hated me because of what I was doing. My brother and uncle told me that I have to change. The teachers were mad at me every day because I didn't do my homework. I started to study. I started thinking that if I were a doctor, I could have saved my mother. I believed that I could be a doctor. I didn't want any child to lose his mom because the world for children after their mothers pass away is dark, visionless, hopeless, and dreamless. I didn't want my friends and other children to feel what I felt. I became a student who liked school. I always did my homework and got good grades. I studied day and night to become a successful person.

After all of that, my half-brother Adhanom Tesfamariam escaped from Eritrea because the Eritrean leaders told him that he had to join the Eritrean army. When he came to Ethiopia, he went to Shimelba, a camp for Eritrean refugees. He found out about us and called us. He had left Ethiopia when I was so young that I could not remember him. Adhano signed for me and Rabel (my younger sister) to take care of us. Then I left for Sheraro secondary high school so that I could get an education. It was not in the camp. I stayed in a room in someone's house with several friends from school. I was among the top ten students out about on~ thousand students.

Finally, it was the time to come to America. I was checked by doctors and received a one week orientation about American culture by 10M (International Organization for Migration). I took a lot of medicine before I came to America.

After the orientation, I met up with my friends for about one week. I and my friends traveled to Badme from Sheraro to say goodbye to all my friends and all the villagers. My best friends included Misgna, Tesfay, and Seare. Misgna gave me advice to help me to be a good and successful person in America. Misgna said, "Samson my friend, first I hope your journey will be safe. I would like to remind you of these things: books should be your best friends. Don't forget your goals. I hope you will be a doctor. Finally be religious, you are Orthodox Christian. Don't change your religion. I love you so much my little brother."
My dream lives. I believe I will do it for my mother, myself, my friends, my villagers, and for the world.