On January 17, 2018, Aziz and Safia arrived in Madison with three children: Taufiq – 14, Aziza – 11, Savera – 8. They had left their home, family, friends, and all things familiar in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. Two days later, Safia gave birth to a new baby boy – Ayan.
Their path to Madison was direct and smooth. After only a brief layover in Istanbul, the family flew directly to Madison, where Aziz’s brother and family eagerly awaited them. After living for one week with Aziz’s brother’s family, they moved into their own home. Safia said that Open Doors for Refugees had completely set them up in an apartment. Everything they needed was supplied and arranged by the volunteers. It was wonderful. The kids said their first impression of Madison was very “cool.” People helped them, and they were happy.
Living in Madison is very different from Jalalabad. Although there have been challenges, having “guides” in extended family who had preceded them here made everything easier. Naturally, learning English was the biggest challenge for all. The children learned quickly from being immersed in Madison public schools. Both parents immediately began studying English through ODFR tutoring and classes. Some of the differences included shopping, transportation, and new schools to get used to. Taufiq said that co-ed classrooms were new for him, and that in general, the schools he had left behind were more rigorous and demanding than school in Madison.
Things are going well for the family now, even in the strange, restricted COVID culture. Aziz is employed; Safia is learning to drive; the kids are doing well in school. They do miss Afghanistan, especially family members, their palatial home, school, and the food! They are happy to be living in Madison, and they seem to be adjusting well to American culture, while maintaining appreciation for their Afghan heritage. They are a generous, loving family.
Note: Aziz and Safia declined to have their pictures taken for this article.