Wafaa Alwan, Baghdad, Iraq. Left Baghdad for Jordan in 2004. Came to Boise by chance in 2008.
When I think about Iraq, I remember the old time, not now. I was born beside the big orchards the surrounded the house—date palms, fruit trees. I remember how I lived with my brothers. I remember my dad’s house and how big it was—nine rooms, three salons. I remember in browns and whites and reds. I remember the orchard—the smell of orange trees in the spring, and lemon trees, too. The air back then always smelled like lemons. Now, when I smell lemon trees I remember my dad’s orchards. When I was little my brothers and I played for hours in the trees, we swam in the Tigress River. My dad’s house was beside the river. I remember the Malwiya Mosque I visited with my family. It was built in the 9th century. When I was a girl I used to run up the mosque, and it was an amazing feeling being at the top and looking over the whole city. It’s the same mosque where, when it was built, men would ride their horses up the stairs to signal the call to prayer from the top of the minaret. The light could be seen for miles. When I was at the top, I looked out and I could see everything in my town—my home, my orchard, the river, even the people swimming in the river in the summer. That was a happy life. But in 2003, the war began.