What does home mean to you?
Is it a shelter built from walls where you can safely rest your head? Or is it a stable roof where you can live peacefully with your family?
For me, home is not just a place. It is a feeling, memories, and people. Home is one endless journey and the scent of a faraway country. If I had a chance to go back to the past, I would definitely go back to a place that we once called home: the green grass, the school trips, the smiles formed on my friends' faces, and my favorite art class.
It was the place I once called home, until they took it away from me.
My family and I left our country in Afghanistan because our lives were in danger. We had several issues going on, and staying there would put our lives at risk. With a little bit of faith, we started our journey from Afghanistan. From there, we took a flight to India and stayed there for 39 days. The weather was unapologetically cold during our stay in New Delhi. We spent days and months clinging onto that piece of hope, until we finally received our visa and successfully reached Malaysia.
It has been five years now since we live in Malaysia. I am now pretty much used to my daily schedule. I'll wake up early enough to help my mom doing household-chores in the morning, and going to school in an NGO-run school in my state area — though it is not like a regular school because the teachers are not coming every day — but that is the best option I could get as we weren't allowed to participate in public school. And I continue to paint once I get back home.
Although I enjoy my current life, these lingering dreams and scenes keep playing in my mind every now and then — thoughts about my earlier life. I often dream about how everything was okay back then — dreams about home.
I remember those old days when my classmates and I went on a school trip together. We usually went to a lot of places. We could be exploring the forests together, having good times at an amusement park, or just strolling around the local zoo. While most kids probably prefer staying at home rather than going to school, it was different for me. I always loved school. It was something that I was deeply passionate about. It was one of the reasons why I woke up with excitement every morning. I loved meeting all of my friends, talking to my classmates, participating in the art class, drawing on my desk — it was something that I was looking forward to every day. I cherished every part of it, and being together with my friends was what I loved the most.
But now, I will never know where my friends are. Ever since I left, I never heard from them anymore.
Maybe most of them are still going through the same routine, went to the same neighborhood school, and laughing at the same jokes inside the same class I attended before I left the country. Even perhaps, some of them are in other parts of the world, living a new life with their families, just like me. But maybe, a few of them are still floating in the ocean with their families, spending nights in shivering cold while hoping for a future in uncertainty.
Whichever the case may be, I would never know. All I know is that I miss them from time to time.
I recall the times when my two younger brothers were still freely playing on the wide green field with white clouds and blue sky. I remember how I could see happiness and joy in their little brown eyes. They would run around, feeling the soft green grass on their feet, and cheerfully walking to the school.
At that time, they were still able to walk and play without any fear. As of now, there is nothing that I want more than to bring back freedom and happiness to my brothers' eyes.
Those happy moments felt surreal by now. Now, it feels as if I was dreaming for a long time only to wake up at this exact moment: a moment where 'home' is gone.
For my community and me, home is a country that provides the sense of safety and security. Losing these two aspects signifying that we can no longer stay there— that we no longer have a home. It means that we lose our sense of belongings, and we cannot go back to the harbor once we have sailed our ships.
But, it also means that I can start building a new 'home' all over again with new hope, wishes, and dreams, and wear my heart on my sleeve. It also means that we can still recollect the pieces of our homeland, retell the past stories and memories, and create a new chapter as our new journey begins.
For me, home is the language that I've always remembered.
Home is the song that I've always sung with my classmates. Home is the food I've always eaten, and familiar faces passing by the streets. Home is the lovely smell of the air and the earthy scent of grass. Home is when I am surrounded by my family. But at the end of the day, home means a true sanctuary, security, and color represents the peace that I've always longed for in life.
-A story about Sara Noori, a 19 years old refugee, born in Afghanistan, she fled home and now living in Malaysia with her family. Written and interviewed by Adelia Dinda Sani for The People of Asia, retelling Sara’s story about her meaning of home, and how she perceives it throughout her journey.