Grandmother is a friend, role model

MY 69-YEAR-OLD grandmother, Jamila, is part parent, teacher and best friend.

Most of all, my grand­mother is a role model to me, because she taught me everything I need to know to become successful in life.

She is a woman who taught me how to respect my family and other people around me while growing up in Ethiopia. For example, she told me to respect elders and treat people how they want to be treated. She taught me how to speak Amharic and inspired me to go to school because of the opportunity she did not have when she was younger.

My grandmother was married at the age of 16 and did not complete her education. She wanted her chil­dren to go to school, but they could not because they had to help out with chores in the house.

When my mother was pregnant with me, my parents applied for a visa to travel to the United States. When my parents filled out the paperwork, they did not yet know if I would be a boy or a girl, so I was not on the application. But instead, they put my siblings’ names on the paperwork. Because of this, I was not able to travel and stayed behind with my grandmother. My parents, sisters and brother arrived in the United States in 2005.

Later, when my father trav­eled back to Ethiopia and told my grandmother that it was time for me to come to the United States, I was excited about the prospect of seeing new things. But I also realized that I would be leaving my grandmother, who raised me for 11 years.

When it was time to board the plane, Jamila asked, “Do you have to go?” I held back tears.

“It’s time to board the plane, Razeqa,” said my uncle, Awel.

As I walked to the plane, I did not look back. I sat down in my seat and tears filled my eyes. I realized I would not see my grandmother for a long time.

My parents, Munira and Jemal, came to America because they wanted to give us the opportunity to get an education. But, life in Minnesota brought its own chal­lenges. I missed my grandmother. Her sense of humor always made me feel comfortable. Comfort was anything but what I was feeling. I did not speak English nor did I know anyone in school. The language barrier, change of surroundings and classroom settings were difficult to grasp.

Slowly, things started to get better. I learned how to speak English at school. And my brother, Nuradin, who had already been in Minnesota for six years, taught me new vocabu­lary words. In 2012, I felt like I had to accept the fact that Minnesota was going to be my home.

Another thing I learned from my grandmother is that family is impor­tant and always sticks together. After being here for five years, I realized I depended on her because she was the only family I had.

My grandmother lives in Ethiopia with my aunt and cousin. My goal is to visit her when I am in college, to let her know that my respecting elders and being successful in life was all because of her.

I talk to my grandmother on the phone every other weekend, and so do my siblings. Hearing her voice reminds of the good times we’ve shared.