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Author shares work on tracking Somalis' journey

By Mark laFlaMMe


LEWISTON - Rilwan Osman still marvels sometimes at how easy it is to make soup in this country.

Back in Somalia, he said, he would have had to travel half a mile just to get water and then spend considerable time and effort heating it.

A dozen years after he came to Lewiston as a refugee, it's still a wonder to Osman that there are restrooms everywhere he turns. Back in Somalia, the simple act of going to the bathroom meant another long walk.

"You would have to take your water with you," Osman said. "And you would have to go out to the bush." Osman could recite all night the differences between life in Somalia and life here, but that wasn't the point.

On Tuesday night, he was at the Lewiston Public Library with Catherine Besteman, author of the new book: "Making Refuge: Somali Bantu Refugees and Lewiston, Maine." In the late 1980s, Besteman, now a professor of anthropology at Colby College in Waterville, conducted fieldwork in southern Somalia. In her book, she follows the trajectory of Somali Bantus from their homes in Somalia before the onset in 1991 of Somalia's civil war, to their displacement in Kenyan refugee camps, to their relocation in cities across the U.S, and finally to their settlement in Lewiston.

Back in Somalia, social networks were keys to day-to-day survival, Be-


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