Spring, 1990 The spring season in Kabul is warm and breezy; the sun caresses the trees and newly blossomed fruits. My grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and family all try to fit in my uncle’s red Volkswagen, I decide to hang out the window, my cousins sit in the trunk, we manage to fit all in one car, except, the it car has to be driven slowly so we don’t fall off. My grandmother’s orchard is decked with cherry, mulberry and apple blossom trees. It looks lush and green, the stream is playing its spring music by watering the greens…We are soaked in ecstasy! I couldn’t wait to get to the cherry trees, so I grab my cousins and run towards cherries. I ask them to shake the trees so cherries could fall down on my turquoise hat. We get a hat full of cherries and eat them with everyone else. My hat is stained red; my mother says the stains cannot be washed off. I say, “It was worth it!” Everyone laughs… Spring, 1992 My mom asks me to go buy some yogurt; I say okay but go outside and start playing with my friends. We are immersed in our hopscotch game as always. Suddenly, long bearded men with long trousers and vests, holding Kalashnikovs stormed onto the streets. My friends and I did not know what was going on, I ran upstairs to my mother and told her that there are men outside holding guns, and they look scary. Mom comforted me and said not to go out till my father gets home from work. We both waited anxiously for my father to get home and explain the abrupt interruption of my hopscotch game by strange men. Every now and then, I would look outside the window to check if those gunmen were still there. They seemed happy, as if they had just won a battle. The skies were getting darker, the sun had decided to bid us farewell…My father entered the front door. My mom and I ran up to him. He looked concerned and weary. I didn’t understand what he told my mother, all I heard was “it’s over, they’ve taken over”. I don’t know what it meant for everyone, but for me, it meant not being able to play outside with my friends again, it meant having to hear bullet and rocket sounds, it meant living in constant fear… it meant saying goodbye to my childhood. Winter, 1992 It was snowing that day, the tiny snow particles were falling on the ground as if they wanted to cover all the blood which had the city had endured for months. A ceasefire was announced on the radio. People came out in hordes to leave the city. We, too, left our house that day. I had never seen my father that distressed. We were leaving our home, our country, our ancestors and …our identities. We left everything behind. Fall, 1999 I am leaving Pakistan today. It has been almost seven years since I had to say goodbye to a place. It’s a strange feeling. Pakistan is not my country, but I have become accustomed to it. I like their monsoon rains and sweet mangoes. I like my school friends, and the night before Eid, when I would buy colorful bangles. I don’t want to leave , …But I have to. Pakistan is not our country. We were told that repeatedly, sometimes daily. Yet, my affinity grew and leaving it behind was being uprooted once again...But, such is life, I pack my clothes along with my memories and head towards what lies ahead. Fall, 2009 A decade has passed. As I write this, my entire life flashes back. Even today, Kabul is the city where my grandmother’s orchard grows cherry and mulberry trees. I still think of it as the city which has the best bread and the sweetest grapes. The news I hear today about Kabul is incongruent with the image I have in my mind. I don’t recognize the Kabul on TV, where dozens of people are killed daily; I don’t want my Kabul to be an image broadcast on CNN. I want my Kabul to remain as it was in 1990. Today As I look back, I gather that my life, my personality, my goals and my ambitions…all are all tied to events in my past. I don’t let myself dwell in it, but it has unconsciously affected me. My Afghan heritage has encouraged me to persevere, learn to deal with failures and hardships and to bounce back every time I fall. The migrations from one country to another have taught me that the world is too big for one to be confined in just one place. Tolerance and compassion cannot be learned in schools. I firmly believe that in order to become a better person, one must live amongst different cultures and people. Human beings are not as different as the geography or history books portray them to be. I know how it feels to live at the brink of poverty, to watch your friends die and see your family disperse. I know how it feels to start anew and build again. Though, every single experience in my life has made me who I am today, I do not wish any child to undergo war, poverty, migration and struggle for things which we take for granted. I loved my childhood; I hope that every child gets to live theirs, fully.