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Mary September and her son in front of the federal building in downtown Seattle during a Nov. 20 immigration reform rally. (Photo by Mohamud Yussuf / OneAmerica).

It’s Christmas Day, and my eight-year-old son and I are in Denver on a layover to Austin to be with my sister’s family.

The airport TV screens are filled with year-end stats and reviews. I am pondering a few stats of my own: 4,272 is the number of days I’ve been married and 1,170 is the number of days my husband and I have been living on separate continents. Our son has been alive 2,598 days, and he has spent 45 percent of his life away from his dad. And on this day especially, it became abundantly clear to me we have spent far too many Christmases apart.

Three years ago, I left my life in rural Malawi — and 15 bouts of malaria — to return to the states with my son. I thought I was coming home. I assumed my family would be welcome, but instead, have found that on the issue of keeping my family together, my country is more my adversary than my advocate.

“Many things that shouldn’t have happened, happened because of money,” says Wang Youliang.

“The situation [in Wenzhou] is a secret everybody knows, but you can’t talk about it in public.”

He is a young entrepreneur and shoe manufacturer working in Wenzhou, China. Among his friends, five failed factory owners fled and one killed himself.

The country that is predicted to be the next big super power on the world economic stage has its own hidden crisis.

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Tuareg people spread across five nations in the central Sahara have long sought independence. But last January rebels in Northen Mali began a movement for succession. (Photo via <a href="http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/homepage/"> magharebia.com</a>)

Tuareg people spread across five nations in the central Sahara have long sought independence. But last January rebels in Northen Mali began a movement for succession. (Photo via magharebia.com)

Until a couple weeks ago, you probably didn’t think much about Mali, the large, former French colony that spans North and West Africa.

I know I didn’t.

But then we started hearing about French troops invading northern Mali, and militants kidnapping foreign workers in Algeria and that this all somehow connected to the fall of Gaddafi in Libya.

So, what’s going on in North Africa, and why does it matter to us way over here in Seattle?