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An interview with an Afghan
Afghanistan has been plagued with war from Russia; known for harboring terrorists such as Al Qaeda and their training centers, and the Taliban government, which took control of the country after the pull-out of Russia. (Afghanistan is an extremely poor, landlocked country, highly dependent on foreign aid, farming and livestock raising (sheep and goats), and trade with neighboring countries. Economic considerations have played second fiddle to political and military upheavals during more than two decades of war -CIA world factbook) My interviewee is Afghani she was not born there, but her parents were and they fled in the wake of the Russian invasion. My interviewee’s name is Manija, she is an ASU West student. My name is Vinay the interviewer.
Vinay: how old were you when you came to the United States?
Manija: (she thought for a minute) I was 12 year old When I came here. I was born in Iran (soon after Her parents left Afghanistan) lived there for five Years and moved to Pakistan, then to the Netherlands for six years, before finally coming To the United States. From the book “Crossing the Blvd” the story of Shekaiba who with her father moved to Queens when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan just as Manija’s family did. Since then Shekaiba’s mother has also moved to the U.S because of the more recent war in that country. The nearly 10-year Soviet military occupation (which ended 15 February 1989), during that conflict, one-third of the population fled the country, with Pakistan and Iran sheltering a combined peak of 4 to 6 million refugees. -CIA world factbook
Refugees Admitted to the United States FY98-02 -CIA world factbook
Afghans: 97' 98' 99' 00' 01' 02' 98'-02'
0 88 364 1,710 1,649 2,964 14,275
At the end of 2001 there were about 4.5 million Afghans living as refugees in the world. most notably in Iran (2.4 million) and Pakistan (2.2 million). According to UN High Commissioner for refugees about 53K Afghans filed asylum applications in Europe. The UNHCR has assisted Afghan families (21,000) to return to Afghanistan. About 144,000 Afghans returned to Afghanistan from Iran because the Iranian authorities would not assist them or allow them to work.
Vinay: Did you and your receive any assistance from An organization, if so what was there role?
Manija: My family did not receive any assistance When we arrived here because my grandmother, Aunts, and uncles were already living here and We just moved in with them. Furthermore, my Mother started working as a real estate agent My father worked in a factory where they Manufactured plastic cups.
Vinay: what was your first impression of the U.S?
Manija: My first impression of the America was Very negative. We had to switch planes in Chicago and my first thought was “what did I Get myself into? I should have fought my Parents more when they told us we would move To the U.S!” I had imagined America to be Exactly like they showed in the movies we usedTo see; however, the reality was that things are Much harsher.I recall my first impression of the U.S was seeing a color t.v at my aunts house. It looked like the strangest thing, I was truly amazed. I also remember the same night eating a donut, I had never had donut like that it was great, and the next morning I remember asking for it again.
Vinay: what aspect of U.S society was hardest to Accept?
Manija: Since I had lived in Europe for 6 ˝ years Before moving to the U.S, the U.S. society Was similar but I still had a hard time adjusting. The people in Europe were friendlier and more Laid-back. Europeans have more time on their Hands; therefore, they can have more leisure Time. However, in the U.S it seemed to me that Everyone just cared about money and work. Everyone was always running around trying To look as if they had something important To do. Also, there are so many taboos in America. People here are so afraid of things That I sometimes have to hold back from Laughing at them. Many of my older Afghan Friends tell me of Afghanistan and how great It used to be there. Strangers were welcomed Into homes without any question and everyone Had respect for each other. The same applies for the Netherlands. No one was afraid to leave Doors open even if no one is home (unfortunately that is not wise in a big city, in the U.S, people will rob you even with the door is locked. Fear is definitely a factor). I remember this one incident where we were out after midnight in Europe and my parents didn’t care that the door was unlocked. I think the hardest aspect for me was the fact that everyone wanted to “fit in.” I had never had trouble-finding friends but when I came here, I didn’t know the language and the culture. I remember my first day in school, my teacher said something in English and I responded in Dutch. The class laughed and I think that that one instance really affected me. Some of the kids would try to teach me words in English but I didn’t understand a word of what they were saying. This story by Manija is somewhat similar to the one by Shekaiba because she to had a hard time with grasping the English language. Shekaiba hard time saying chicken, when asking for food in the cafeteria, she would pronounce it as “kitchen”, that is cute cause my son also used to call chicken –kitchen. There was a program in the school, English as a Second Language, but it did not really help me at all. The lady would hold up a picture and she told me that I had to name what the object was. Since the Dutch/English alphabet is the same, I tried to read English books. After that class incident, I became afraid to speak up even though I learned new words everyday. I had never been shy but my first few months in America really changed me. I became more and more withdrawn and threw myself into schoolwork. When my sister, cousin and I spoke Persian to each other, the teachers told us we could speak only English at school. But when I started high school, my teachers put me into the accelerated and AP courses and I made more friends and got involved more in athletics, clubs, my friends and the school’s newspaper.
Vinay: Do you feel that the U.S tends to assimilate Immigrants or is the U.S culturally sensitive?
Manija: I think that the US tries to Assimilate the new Immigrants. Immigrants come here, they must learn the new culture and the same language or they will not survive. Personally I am also an immigrant from India, I feel that the way American society is, an immigrant must a have good grasp of the language and the way to dress. Those two factors really stand out in public when you are an immigrant.
Vinay: Overall how does your family feel about their Experience in the U.S compared to yours?
Manija: My family has adjusted great to the American lifestyle. In some ways, many of the Immigrants/migrants become “Americanized” soon after they become accustomed to some concepts of language and culture. My family has kept their culture and heritage close and tried not to fall into the melting pot.
Vinay: what aspect of U.S society would you Change, And how would you go about implementing your idea(s)?
Manija: I would change the fact that if the migrants want to adjust, they are forced into the “melting pot” of America. Here, everyone wants the so called ‘American Dream’ even though the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The current middle class is dangerously shrinking and the lower class is increasing daily. People come here with such high dreams, hopes and expectations but are faced with loneliness and frustrations. I feel that this country would be much better off if the laws were much harsher. Too many people are able to get away without any punishment. There is no incentive for a would be criminal to hold back if he/she knows how to get away with literally murder in many cases. For example the O.J Simpson case.
CIA world fact book
Crossing the Blvd. (Out of Kabul; Shekeiba, Sultana)
Los Trabajadores, 2001(48 min), on day-labor center in Austin, Tx
ŇWorldwide Refugee InfoÓ http://www.refugees.org/world/worldmain.htm
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