Expat Living, Learnings, Somaliland
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on Roda, and resilience

Roda invited us into her tea shop, a wooden frame of sticks and crunchy, curled, leaves shading customers from the sun. We had made our way into rural Somaliland for monitoring activities, and at one stop we chatted with Roda, businesswoman and single mother of six. A tea kettle sat on smoking logs, and we sat on woven mats on the ground. birds flitted through the leaves above us, chirping away.

Somaliland Somalia village tea shop leaves

At the time, Roda was doing pretty well for her family: she had a decent income from her tea shop, and she owned a couple cows. She was making it work, holding it together.

Somaliland Somalia Gabiley village fence door

I’ve been thinking about Roda during the past few weeks as the drought in Somalia and Somaliland slides quickly into something much worse. Of all the things we’re able to control in the modern day, the weather just isn’t one of them (yet), and this corner of the world is especially vulnerable to climate change.

village roof leaf shop business

I think also about community, and its power to manifest resilience in the individual. In this place, community is fierce; a Somali with 5 grains of rice to his name would share 4 before letting brethren go without. I won’t venture any inadequate comparison to famine, but there’s no doubt that community is key to survival–physical, mental, spiritual–in crisis.

rural village monitor evaluate write Gabiley

I wonder how to manifest my community going on 5 years as an expatriate. Lately there are moments when the ambition for a life abroad that obsessed me before I left the US, and sustained me for years after, wanes in the face of great distance between me and my community of family and friends. As I get older and my curiosity pulls me inward more than outward, I crave worn, weathered connections, I crave the wisdom of aging family. Grateful as I am for the miracles of Skype, Whatsapp, social media, etc., there’s a robustness and soulfulness that’s lacking. And grateful as I am for the astonishing breadth of characters, warmth of friendship, and generosity of spirit that have flooded my life over these years, I feel a pull homeward. I don’t yet know exactly where that is, but I know who will be there.

Somaliland rural tea shop entrepreneur Gabiley

Roda is in my wishes, and I hope for an opportunity to stop in sometime soon. I am sure she has built a thriving community, and I pray that community sustains her now.


Photos from Geedabeera Village,

Gabiley District, Maroodi Jeex,


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