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The Diary of a Bint Batuta - Part 1 | Blog

Life Style

Part I

When you’re young and you feel like the whole world is at your feet, it’s pretty easy to feel like you can reach for the stars. The older you grow you feel those stars get further and further away, almost becoming unreachable.

Dalia Yunus is my name and this is my story. I grew up in one of the most beautiful African countries, where the weather is perfect and the earth is a deep rich brown and surrounded by beautiful greenery all around. Eating organic food that is there all year around and is found in abundance. At 13 I knew what I was going to be when I grew up, nothing and no one was going to stand in my way. After several years of watching CNN in the 90’s and that being our most reliable news source , was it no wonder that Christiana Amanpour International news reporter covering some of the most dangerous places in the world would become my hero, my role model? I knew deep down, that I was ready for that challenge which would require lots of preparation to get there with the road ahead filled with interesting surprises.

Growing up in post-colonial Kenya, I was fortunate that my generation escaped the cruel indignities that were meted upon our parents and grandparents. Segregation, arbitrary imprisonment and the displacing of locals from their land were some of the atrocities committed during their time in Kenya. Segregation was a foreign concept to me, I could not imagine it existing especially as I looked around the lunch table at the smiling faces of my high school friends that some of us would never have been in the same room because socially, racially and culturally we weren’t at the same level. We were as diverse in culture, faith and tradition as they came with nothing but our Kenyan identity holding us together or so it would seem.

I was born a 4th generation Kenyan Somali in the Muslim faith raised in Nairobi and wouldn’t know where my original roots were if I was pointed in the direction and told it’s there because all I knew was I was Kenyan. I had my close childhood friend who was of Kenyan Indian origin and could trace back her existence from when her grandparents were brought to Kenya to build the railway. My friend Ciku, who was Kikuyu and from the largest and most predominant tribe and whose forefathers were accredited for being the founding fathers of Kenya, not to mention my friend Met whose heroic ancestors were the Maasai and for whom the city I grew up was named were just some of the souls surrounding me.

We were such a melting pot of difference and yet in that difference I always felt we were exactly the same and to imagine that my parents never experienced this, I am so ever grateful for what I had growing up. Little did I know that the cocoon I was lucky to have around me in my youth would be something that wouldn’t always be there and the older I grew this would be a defining part of me.

My friends and I graduated from high school full of hope and dreams for the future. I turned to writing and polishing my skills with the enthusiasm one has for his/her first love. I was so secure in my belief that I knew almost everything I needed to know about life and people as only the young can know... and having always been someone who was very focused and goal oriented I was book smart but not people smart, but that didn’t matter I was going to be a writer! I was going to write deep moving articles and report on tragic situations where you would see the rawness of human emotion especially suffering despite never having experienced any real emotion that affected me with any profoundness or depth. The reason I say this is because you can never become people smart till you feel deeply and connect with people at the most basic levelness of our humanness and I had never really done that.

I grew up a privileged child, not in a material sense, although I was fortunate enough to have that and much more thanks to my wonderful parents, but in the sense of having a happy secure home life where love was in abundance and support and encouragement was the order of the day. No one ever told me I couldn’t do something, or I couldn’t achieve my happiness and goals if I tried. My abilities were never in question in regards to my gender; because I was girl I couldn’t be a war correspondent or travel the world writing and doing what I loved. Neither was the fact that I was a Somali Muslim girl having such aspirations when it was generally frowned upon for cultural reasons for girls to exercise such independence I was oblivious to this fact as this was never a barrier in my house. As a child who was raised to speak her mind and express herself I was extremely blessed to have this growing up. This is why I feel I was privileged in so many ways and I took this to be the norm more than an exception till I left home and experienced what the world had to offer.

So my research showed that a war correspondent must speak another language preferably one which is widely spoken in areas where there is crisis and instability. I settled on Arabic, the Middle East was and is still a hotspot. I chose Khartoum Sudan to be the place I would go. This country and its people would become my first teachers in the School of Life.


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