By Martha Gebru Weldesellasie
Martha is an Eritrean-Canadian, who was born abroad and has lived abroad for most of her life. She is a woman who has accomplished many things, but the one thing she had left was coming to visit the motherland. This is her story on how she was inspired to come back home after decades away. – NUEYS Editor
To tell the truth, I never dreamt that I would be sitting in Asmara writing an article for the Diaspora, or for that matter writing an account of my experiences while in Eritrea with my parents. The desire to connect with my parents and to put an end to my struggle of feeling disconnected with them is what brought me to Eritrea in the first place.
This time last year, it was the tail end of Corona, and I was at my whit’s end in Canada with the pressure of having to take care of my aging father while maneuvering through his geriatric needs, my kids, finances, as well as the never-ending restrictions caused by the pandemic; all while watching my mother try to keep our family together. At the time, I was ridden with guilt and turmoil as I had no clear direction as to how I would provide for my father’s cultural needs while maintaining my usual North American lifestyle; also, more pressing, if I would mentally survive this confusing phase of our lives.
First off, I was born abroad and spent most of my life in Canada, speaking English was not a choice and holding on to what little I had of my cultural identity was a feat in itself. Unfortunately, as circumstances would have it, I had never had an opportunity to return to Eritrea to understand how important it was to identify with that part of myself.
It wasn’t until I was faced with the responsibility of taking care of my frail father and spending every waking moment listening to his truth that it finally dawned on me that I needed to revisit that suppressed part of myself. I realized that I had no idea how it pained him to not have had the opportunity to share his culture, land and identity and how it equally pained me to possibly never have had that connection with him.
I had to do something as the emotional pressure was mounting, and at the time, it wasn’t clear what I needed to do and how I could express these feelings towards a fruitful end. All these obstacles seemed daunting but would lead me to go on a whim and apply for a visa, purchase tickets for my parents and I, so that we could go back and experience Eritrea together.
When we finally arrived in Asmara, without an itinerary nor any expectations, we just had faith and love for each other, which is more than I could have asked for. What was supposed to be a month trip turned into two, then three months, and as we continued to extend our trip, we began to see parts of ourselves that were lost and needed healing.
Presently, my father is thriving as he is surrounded by experiences that are familiar to him, my mother is at peace connecting with lost family members and I am finally beginning to understand whom and where I come from. In all honesty, travelling to the motherland has been an eye-opening experience that has left us all with sentiments to last a lifetime.