by VANESSA GONZALEZ-PELAYO
Westfield, IN (January 21, 2020) - Visiting Iraq for the first time in six years, Mawadda heard a loud boom while shopping with her family. She was told by her parents that it was a popped tire, but she knew that it was a bomb.
Junior Mawadda Al-Fateen has a unique background. She and her family are from Iraq. They moved because her father worked with the U.S. Army as a translator and the army gave him a visa. Mawadda’s family first lived in Indianapolis but then moved to Westfield and settled down. She was excited in the beginning to come to the United States but when she got here it was different than what she expected.
“The first year I was crying every day...I only knew my ABC’s and numbers,” Mawadda explained.
Mawadda and her family moved from Iraq when she was only eleven years old. Therefore, when she first arrived, her English abilities were very limited. She couldn’t communicate in school because of the fear of being made fun of or judged. Mawadda was even put back one grade. She would go back if she could but something is stopping her.
“It is too dangerous there… there is more chance of you dying even if you are not walking around,” Al-Fateen said.
Living in Iraq is not easy. Mawadda’s family might be there one day and gone the next, she never knew what was going to happen. She recalled one time that someone left a time bomb in front of her family’s home. Unsure of what was going on, her and her sister, Bushra Al-Fateen, were told to hide under the stairwell. Anything could have happened in this time. The bomb could have gone off, but luckily the police arrived in time to disarm it. But in times like this, Mawadda learned to value what she had. For example, her friendships and her sister Bushra.
“We broke down the wall so we could talk to our friends,” Bushra said, “and our moms would sit there and talk too.”
The Al-Fateen sisters say that in Iraq, although it could be dangerous, they had more freedom to play outside and in the streets with their friends. A childhood memory they have is that back in Iraq, their house shared a wall with their friend’s house. Both parents decided to go ahead and knock down a part of the wall so they could communicate better. Here in the United States, Mawadda feels as if society is more isolated from each other. Besides society and customs, Bushra noticed something else that was different, the weather.
“You always know what to expect but here it’s snowing and then the next day you have to wear shorts,” Bushra explains.
In Iraq, there are only two seasons, winter and summer. It is very hot and dry in the summer and there is rarely any rain. In the winter it is just a little colder with rain and hail about once a year. It was difficult for the Al-Fateen sisters to get used to the United States but they did it.
“After moving to Westfield, I made so many new friends at school and I loved all of my teachers and that made me feel like I belong here, “Mawadda said. “It made things a lot easier.”