SHEDDER REFUGEE CAMP, Ethiopia - The Somalian woman lives in a stick hut covered by ragged blankets in this dusty refugee camp. It was here that her 15-year-old son wanted to travel on a perilous journey as a stowaway on a plane from California.
Ubah Mohammed Abdule hasn't seen her boy - who was hospitalized in Hawaii after landing there last week in the wheel well of a jetliner - for eight long years.
Clutching her black-and-white head covering, she wept Sunday as she stood before the flimsy shelter holding her meager possessions and spoke about her son, Yahya Abdi.
She was alarmed, she said, by the dangerous journey the teenager undertook. Those who stow away in plane wheel wells have little chance of surviving, and many who attempt it are Africans desperate for a better life in Europe or America.
Abdi had been unhappy in California and desperately missed his mother, according to those who know his family. So on April 20, he hopped a fence at San Jose International Airport and climbed into the wheel well of a jetliner bound for Hawaii. Somehow he survived the 51/2-hour trip over the Pacific.
"I knew he was an intelligent boy who has strong affections for me. I also knew he always wanted to see me, but I know his father won't let them contact me at all," Abdule told an Associated Press reporter in this remote camp in eastern Ethiopia.
The boy had recently learned she was alive after being told by his father that she was dead, Abdule said. She said her ex-husband took Abdi and two of his siblings to California without her knowledge and that she hadn't heard from them since 2006.
The boy's father Abdilahi Yusuf, said in a statement Sunday through a family spokesman that his son was "struggling adjusting to life" in the U.S..
Shedder Refugee Camp, in eastern Ethiopia near the border with Somalia, is home to about 10,300 Somalis who fled their country because of Islamic militant violence. Most Somalis here are from minority groups who face persecution.
Abdule, 33, arrived in the camp in early 2010, after fleeing heavy fighting in the Somalian capital, Mogadishu. She earns a small income selling vegetables in the camp market.
Late last year, an acquaintance at the camp, Uways Salad Jama, who had resettled in California, was able to contact Abdi and his siblings with the news that their mother was alive and living in Shedder Camp, said a spokeswoman for the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, Fati Lejeune Kaba.
Abdule, who has two other children living with her in the camp, said she hasn't been able to eat since learning of her son's misadventure.
Abdule may yet reunite with her children in the U.S. She has passed her first interview with the U.N. refugee agency's list of those who might qualify to immigrate, said a legal protection officer at the camp. If she passes the next phase, he said, she could move to the U.S. in less than a year.