An epic and meaningful story, Ruby Bartlett
March 17, 2022
Imagine being woken up by your mum and told to get ready to go – to leave behind the life you know to be free from violence and war. Imagine travelling over 13,000 kilometers, not for a holiday but in terror and fear. Imagine surviving terrorists, corrupt police, starvation, and terrible living conditions with very few possessions and just a tiny glint of hope for a better life in a country you never knew existed.
It seems unimaginable and very scary, and for so many people around the world this is reality. After the Tampa is written by Abbas Nazari, an inspiring young man who relives the terrifying journey from his village Sungjoy in Afghanistan to what should be freedom at the bottom of the world.
Nazari describes a basic but happy life in rural Afghanistan. Sungjoy is 2000 metres above sea level in the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountains. It is a small village with houses that follow an alpine creek that is central to the lives of the families who live there. These descriptions will create a sharp contrast when later in the book he describes his surroundings while he flees across Asia to Jakarta.
There are chapters that explain the political, social and historical situations in different countries. I found this information quite useful and very interesting. I learned so much about religion and culture. I was also quite shocked to learn about how the Australian government treated asylum seekers and how the decisions John Howard made about Nazari and the other asylum seekers were based mostly on votes and winning that year’s Australian national election.
The story changes in pace a lot, which I think reflects what his journey must have felt. Travelling from Afghanistan, to Pakistan and Indonesia and eventually arriving in New Zealand sounds exhausting. Nazari and his family were asylum seekers for six months. Half a year of constant fear must wear you down and then launching into a new language, culture and way of life here in New Zealand! I think they must have been very tired by the time they arrived in Auckland and finally settled in Christchurch.
Six months after leaving his precious Sungjoy and simple but happy life, Nazari arrives by airplane in Auckland. It felt like such a relief getting to this part of the story. Even though you know they make it, the story is so scary and harrowing that you almost forget where they will end up.
The rest of the story is much lighter with many humorous tales about settling into life in New Zealand. Once the family have settled into Christchurch and a somewhat normal life, we get to see how motivated and driven Nazari and his family are. When they deal with the Christchurch earthquakes and the mosque shootings, they use the resilience they have developed while surviving being asylum seekers.
This book has impacted me hugely. I’m working so much harder at school – if Abbas can go through what he has and still strive for excellence, then I have no excuses not to give my absolute best, even in subjects I don’t really love. I can’t imagine surviving what asylum seekers go through, we are so lucky here in New Zealand and this book really makes you appreciate what and who you have. I enjoyed the writing style, and the pace was great and changed with the action. I also learnt a lot about politics and cultures.
I would definitely recommend this book to young New Zealanders. In fact, I think every New Zealander should read After the Tampa! Nazari says that he wants readers to get at least one thing out of his book and that is to imagine a situation in the future where you must make an impossible choice to save yourself and your family. I got that and so much more from this epic story. It was worth every hour of reading.
5 out of 5 stars!
- Ruby is 12 and lives in Ashburton.