Borderland

Refugee

It’s a few minutes before eleven o’clock in the morning at Nadapal border, in the north-western corner of Kenya. This is where the refugees from South-Sudan enter Kenyan territory.

No one so far, but give them another 30 minutes and they’ll be here, the immigration officer tells me. Ten minutes later the first ones arrive. The vehicle is bumping its way towards us, with impossible amounts of luggage strapped on top, and six refugees inside. The passengers have just finished offloading when the next group arrive. Most of them come by car, but the poorest have to walk across, carrying all their belongings with them.

Nadapal is hot, dusty and hostile. The Kenyan immigration police have a checkpoint and an office here, the MSF a few tents and that’s about it. After having their documents checked everyone must pass by the medical staff in the tents before they’re allowed to enter. After that they have to wait until the UNHCR-trucks arrive to drive them to Kakuma camp, 120 kilometres further south into Kenya.

I have found myself an old tire to sit on as I watch the people arrive to a new country, and a most uncertain future. I have decided to start asking the questions the followers of the blog sent me. In fact I want to find a child and ask Lynne’s (sixdegreesphotography) question about the favourite memory from home. I see group after group passing until I find the child I’m looking for. Nyamal Biel is dragging a heavy suitcase across the border. The wheels have stopped rolling long time ago and are making two tracks in the dirt road. The child is happy to take break, when I ask her to stop and talk to me for a while. Fortunately her brother, Dak, is able to translate. Nyamal is watching me closely when I ask Lynne’s question, then she moves her eyes from me to her brother when he translates it.

– School, she answers, without hesitation.

– I miss school, and I hope they have got one in Kakuma too.

They have plenty of schools, darling, but why are you so eager to go to school?

Nyamal looks at me and shakes her head as if this was the stupidest question ever asked her.

– I want to go to school to learn a lot. I have to, you see, because I want to become a doctor.

Why a doctor?

– Because I want to make sick people well, of course.

The funny thing, Lynne, is that your question made perfect sense to her. Mine didn’t. I guess I need you guys to help me do my job. Keep up the good work, and stay tuned.

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7 Responses to “Borderland”

  1. […] Øystein Mikalsen is back with a new post – and this time with questions you, the readers, have submitted to him. For this post he is visiting the border between South-Sudan and Kenya, where refugees from the former country arrive to their new country, and a most uncertain future. Most of the refugees come by car, but the poorest have to walk across, carrying all their belongings with them. Check out Øystein’s report on Untold Stories. […]

  2. These are brilliant! I just forwarded this to our education advocacy network in the State of AZ and will share with my daughter who is struggling to stay in an ueber-test-focused system. This gives so much perspective. Thank you.

  3. Bella la sincerità della risposta che ha dato e soprattutto la voglia di aiutare il suo prossimo!!

  4. Oh my.. school..I’m speechless. she is a darling and I will pray she continues to go to school..she is already a teacher!
    thank you for sharing the questions/answers..

  5. I’m glad the question makes sense to her. She won’t give up on her dream, and I surely hope the doors somehow open for her.

  6. I hope she survives and lives out her dream. She will be a wonderful doctor.

  7. Oh, wow. The opportunities and things we take for granted in this country are dreams for so many in other countries. Children in the USA celebrate snow days when they don’t “have” to go to school. And then there’s this dear little girl…May she live to realize her dream.

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