Somalia: Home away from home

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Lots of people I meet are curious about life in the Embassy. It’s a bit of a mystery to those who haven’t experienced it. We are a couple of dozen people ‘packed’ into a rectangle the size of a football field where we work, eat, exercise and sleep. There isn’t a lot of room, and you get to know people very well.  It lacks the glamour of other posts, but it has meant that we are a close group of people that watch out for each other.

Some of you may know that at the start of August my mother died. With no questions, a colleague booked flights so that I could be with her at the end, and to have some time with my father and sister.  My deputy delayed his holiday and the Head of the DFID gave up his weekend so Embassy life could continue. No one made me feel guilty that I was away when the new Africa Minister, Tobias Ellwood, visited Somalia for the first time – his first overseas trip since being appointed.

I‘ve had wonderful messages of support from members of the Embassy and Somali friends alike. It has it’s made me appreciate quite how special and privileged I am to be working in Mogadishu for an organisation that looks after its own and in a country where family really matters – and where Somalis, with their nomadic tradition, understand what it is to be far from family.

I’ve long marveled at the culture of hospitality that is ingrained in all Somalis. I’ve experienced it in every part of Somalia (and indeed Somali communities throughout the UK) that I have visited, being invited into people’s homes, and offered hospitality from people who have almost nothing.  Somalis have lost families through war and violence, and continue to do so, yet these last couple of weeks they have taken the time  to offer their condolences and words of comfort – and have shown me that they understand death, and that it is a time of sadness, but not despair.

So this blog is to say thank you.  At the same time as I was half-orphaned, I found a different sense of belonging.

Read More: http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/author/harrietmathews/

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