our own house
Organized by: ola Aljubouri
I have always asked myself, what is the highest level of education that I want to reach for? When am I going to have all the knowledge that I need in this life? The answer to both of these questions is that there is no highest level of education and I can never have all the knowledge that is provided in this world; simply because education doesn’t have a highest level, whatever you learn in this life is just like a drop of water in the sea of knowledge, but that is an inspiration to learn more and to reach the highest level I can ever achieve. Ola or “Integrity, and highness” is the meaning of my name in Arabic, and I will always seek to achieve the best of everything. I was born in Iraq, the country that I can never forget. I was surrounded by all of my relatives. We were in a rented house, then after a few years, my father built us a house, and he was the one in charge of building it. I was really happy that we were going to buy a house. I had a lot of friends in the new neighborhood, especially because I used to ride my bike around. My dad had his own stores. I used to visit my grandparents every Friday. I was so happy. Just like any fairy story, there have to be some struggles. The Iraq war was the worse thing that I have faced in my entire life. During the war my family was unable to visit my grandparents, and we had to live in one room, with one light that my dad connected to his car since we didn’t have electricity. A few weeks later we received the news of my aunt's death; she was in her neighbor's house, and a bomb was dropped on their house which killed everyone, even the kids. I was sad since my dad was really close to his sister. That was the first time I saw my dad crying. My grandmother’s death was a result of the tragic events that were happening to Iraq. I started realizing that Iraq is just becoming worse and worse everyday. Instead of the freedom that we were promised, all we got was corruption. When I was in third grade, most parents stopped sending their kids to school because it wasn’t safe. I was one of the kids that continued studying. But I can still remember seeing my friend being kidnaped in front of me and how the kidnappers put him in the trunk of the car. Once, there was a big explosion at one of the mosques; the school sent us home with no adult supervision. My parents didn’t know where I was, and I still didn’t know the way home since I always rode the bus. I was happy to reach home, but I found my mother crying. I was scared that in any second I would be kidnapped just like my friend. But life went on. My dad still had his job and we were still in our house. One day my life changed;I heard someone knocking on the door. I went to check who it was. I was really scared because the man at the door was covered with blood and he had a sheep, and a knife in his hand. My mom asked what he wants and he said isn’t that your husband and he pointed at my dad’s car. My mom was shocked, all she did was cry; she called my dad to see if he is okay because his face was yellow with some cuts. All my dad said is, “Let the guy do his job”. We opened the door for the Butcher.If a person survives a hardship, it is an Islamic tradition to sacrifice a sheep. The next day my dad told us the story; he was driving back home from work and a man stopped him. He asked if my dad is going left or right; my dad told him “I am going right”. The guy answered, “if you are going right then just take a left because…”, and a car bomb exploded. My dad was a mile away from the car. If that guy didn’t stop him my dad would’ve died. After that my father decided that we should leave Iraq and we would have to find a country which is safer. The only option we had was Syria. My parents asked my sister and I if we were in favor of moving to raise our hands. I remember that I raised my hands and legs for that. I was so happy that we were moving. We left Iraq and went to Syria. It was really scary for me to find new friends and adapt to the new life. People didn’t have the same accent that I had. I felt like kids were taught to not talk to Iraqis. In 2010 things started getting worse in Syria. I was really sad to see Syria collapsing in front of me. I remember we had a government class one day and the teacher wanted us to talk about our opinion. In my head I felt like this is the time that I could do something about Syria. This is the time that I could stop all the things that happened to iraq. So I stood up and I told everyone in the class that the protest is really not going to make the country better, instead it would make it worse. The class didn’t like the way that I talked to them and they told me that I shouldn’t even be involved since I am Iraqi, and I didn’t live in Syria for long enough to understand the situation. I was sad since I felt like Syria was my second home. After a while we received a call that we had been accepted as refugees to the United States. We finished our final exams and my mom finished packing up our belongings. Moving to the United States was scary for me since I wear the headscarf and because I will be in a country that we went through war with. There was a group of people waiting for us in the airport; they were sent from the church that sponsored us. There were volunteers that helped organize and clean the apartment for us.Those volunteers soon became our friends. We arrived in the summer; one of the volunteers thought it would be a good idea if we go to an ESL program before we start school. My sister and I got accepted into an Islamic school, Austin Peace Academy, which was like home for me. That was my life away from school. During the war and after, school became my refuge. Education became my passion. When I was nine years old, I disassembled a toy bus because I really wanted to see how this bus worked. I had a Playstation, but I was unable to play with it because I also took it apart and I didn’t know how to put it back together. My father got us a computer desktop that I was so happy to have, and asked a tutor to come help him understand how to work with computers. My dad couldn’t understand everything that the tutor told him. I watched their session from over the banister. My dad never asked this person to come back, since I was able to explain it to him later. I helped my cousins get familiar with computers too. I felt so happy because I was only ten and I was able to help people. When I went to Syria I received a certificate for Photoshop CS4. When I arrived to the U.S I fixed my dad’s phone several times, and I changed the hard drive and the laptop screen to a Dell laptop. I changed my iPad screen as well. Soon I found out that Austin Community College had an organization called Bat Lab where we use Arduino to make small robots.I enjoy the Bat Lab experience since it gives me an insight of what I will be doing in the future. I always counted all the experiences that I went through to be great opportunities for me. All the struggles that I went through in my life were lessons that taught me that education is the only thing that can be with me for the rest of my life. Our family have moved a lot and I think it is time for us to settle down. it is really hard for me to see my dad in pain because he is trying so hard to buy for us a house but he is not able to. He always thinks of him being a store owner and now he works for people. it is really hard when you lose everything that you built and our family need your help to find the house that can bring us happiness.