it’s a series of events made me feel i don’t belong there and i have no place in that country and no future whatsoever.
when i was 20 years old back in college i met a muslim woman, i am greek orthodox and she was muslim and this kind of relationship was a hard hard red line in syria and a few people tried it and it didn’t work out for them very well.
even if they were actually in love and even if they got married, some way afterwards probably out of syria, they were outcast, they lived through hell of events.
we tried it, we stayed together for about 2 years and everyone was against us, my family, her family, our friends, no one was supporting us and eventually we broke it off.
arabic is a very rich language, it’s richer than english, everyone knows that arabic has a huge vocabulary, has a huge amount of words, and you can express yourself in arabic than in english, i feel that in english, i am more pause stranded and i have to stick with the way pause native people speak in english, naturally it’s not my first language so whatever i say in this language it won’t be my real self, you know what i mean? i try to adapt to it, i try to get used to speaking in english but of course when i speak in arabic you get the real version of me, english is a little bit altered min 10:03 to be adequate with this new society.
can i be honest with you? even bluntly honest with you? if i was darker looking, if i was brown, i would change my answer, but you saw me, i am white, i am white and kind of blond, so whenever people see me for the first time they never think that i am from syria or that i am an arab, and i know that what i am saying is really bad, like what i am saying right now says something about the society here in canada, your look will define how people perceive you, so if i was darker or had a brown skin people will treat me differently and they will have probably a different first impression of me, i am white and i’m blond 11:26
**when you are angry, you will still think in arabic, when you wanna curse at someone, you wanna curse in arabic not in english, because this is the instinct you have to express yourself, it will affect your personality and your lifestyle
i get into fights in work just like any other workplace with my coworkers, with my boss sometimes, we get into arguments and i always wanna say things to them in arabic, not particularly a bad thing not particularly curses but just my raw thoughts, my actual real thoughts are always in arabic and i have to translate them in english
being a refugee, theoretically it shouldn’t be any difference but in real life no it’s totally different, the society even looks at you in totally different way, even the immigrants looks at me in a different way, like lower position
in toronto allan gardens is close to me but not in my heart, because it’s green even in winter, in egypt i miss anything along the nile or the red sea, my hometown minya, aswan, nubia, dahab ras shitan, the desert
when it comes to social services they do measure the quantity more than the quality, so how many people we served not how much or how many of them they were satisfied or how many of them already got the service that they need it’s not i am a social worker i got a 100 person this month i served a hundred new comer to canada how they can settle, no this is not how it should be calculated. this is not only in canada it’s most of like when it comes to international community development, most of the foreign aid international it works like that in quantity because it’s so hard to measure quality, it’s so hard, so, how many people, done, but the quality of it no one can tell and actually you don’t even, they don’t even work on stuff about the quality, they can make an application a survey or something to measure the quality, they don’t use it as much as they use the quantitative method
it’s a different social structure, and each country in the world they have their own social contract and from my own experience the canadian one it’s all about me, i the person, so i have my own personal freedom, i have my own personal space, i pay my taxes and i get my rights, that’s it and it’s a very individual culture and it’s a very competitive culture, especially in toronto
the sense of community this is the main issue in canada, what’s the good thing i get out of a collective or to belong to a community? networking, inspiration to do many things, learning, capacity building, i see it from other way, because other people they say when i am alone i do this, but i see it no when i am in a collective i am more active, i have more appetite to do things than to do things on my own.
in canada anything you do you have to do it for a purpose, you don’t just live the moment for just living the moment
**people even don’t trust me if you ask canadians what language do you speak they say egyptian, they don’t know, they don’t know, they are very shallow minded, they don’t know, and even sometime one person asked me, oh you are from egypt, do you speak moslem? that was epic, i couldn’t stop myself, i was dying laughing, because there is no one who speaks moslem, it’s not a language, it’s a religion, that’s the thing so mixing arabs, moslems, terrorism, harams, belly dancers, falafel, stuff like that this is what they see, this is their own problem, halal food, you are married to 4 women, stuff like that, my language doesn’t have any problem, there is nothing to do with my language in canada
22:59 english, it’s the language of the machines there is no emotions, for me, this is how i see it, here like when someone gets sick, oh get better, you get better on your own it’s none of my fucking business
**the music, the tone of my talking, my sound it’s egytpian not english not canadian when i pause, yeah so i don’t think in english i express in english but i don’t think in english. even if i use the language to think but the structure, the logic not english logic if i think in english trust me i would be in a way better place in canada
the usage of the language make the mind function differently, totally differently, totally differently, like in gender roles, we cannot have they in arabic, it does not exist, it can’t, then your mind cannot accept it, so when you say lgbtiq in arabic context we don’t get it, because the language itself it’s very gender based, everything, nothing neutral, nothing at all, at all 29:00
31:15 democracy, united states of america and england, how long they took in time and experience and civil wars and revolutions and dictatorship and all of that to reach a democratic approach, together? and democracy in the states, different than democracy in canada , different that democracy in the uk different than democracy in france, each country they make their own model, how come when we just export our model to another place and expect they do it in a couple of years, make no sense, it’s all the same thing, this is the problem with foreign fund, they thought we succeed, yes you succeed because you had a journey to reach that idea and to implement it, you cannot just take it there and do it, it doesn’t work like that, it should happen organically there, those people find their own way and how to understand things, that’s the thing and that’s the thing by the way with the western culture because of the advancement they have now they think they own the knowledge or they own the truth or they own the facts and everything, we did it, it succeed so you will do it you will succeed. no, it doesn’t work like that. you cannot get a palm tree and plant it in canada and expect it to give you dates no it will die, and you cannot get a pine tree and put it in the middle of the desert and expect it gives you anything, it will die, there is no problems with the trees, both trees nor the environment, but its each place they have their own things.
i miss my home, i miss the beach, i miss the old villages, the mountains, the warmth of the people, the generosity, the love and the fearlessness
it’s been really overwhelming, i went on sick leave for a couple of days because i wasn’t able to absorb all the information that is being catered to us in this country because you don’t always see the news you have to begin to look for places where you can find the news from back home, because the news here are not talking about the situation in lebanon
language is not only spoken but it is in our soul and it shows in the way we behave and it’s all about passion and straightforwardness and being genuine, being sincere as opposed to being passive aggressive or beating around the bush and not saying it like it is, we say it like it is.
i think the arabic language is very poetic, even if it’s verbal or if it’s colloquial, there is a lot of poetry, a lot of affirmation in what we say, whether it’s a hello or have a nice day or be safe, there are the words that we hear from our people but we hear them with love
being an immigrant we carry this with us, like we always worry about how people are going to perceive us coming from an arab country especially at work where we are full of emotion and this is not well perceived here
**speaking arabic it’s a whole package, it’s not just what we say, but it’s how we behave who we are what we expect from other humans, what we expect from other people and vice versa, 10:36 because sometimes there is a preconceived vision of who we are that is not necessarily the reality.
it has taken me such a hard time to warm up to that place, it is such a cold place like on so many levels, the first place i thought about in terms of comfort was my room, like my apartment with my sisters because we put such an effort into making it a comfortable and cozy kind of place that reminds us of home.
allan gardens, a botanical garden in the east end of the city and it’s really peaceful and beautiful and i used to babysit there, i had a job when i was working under the table giggles to stay in the country aaah just babysitting and i used to go to that park and it was really nice, no i would say the parks i think we are really lucky in toronto we have lots of green spaces that we are able to use for the 5 minutes that’s warm, faaaa it’s nice to have that, all the parks around the city i guess and it’s nice to have access to the lake even though we shouldn’t go inside but giggles especially on like a cold gloomy day it’s such a nice treat for like the senses
i consider a lot of places home to be honest the definition of home i used to have was always wherever my parents are faaa right now one of them is in cairo and the other is in doha so i consider i guess both of those places home but i guess the older i get the less it becomes a physical place and it becomes more like a feeling, it becomes wherever i am comfortable, the definition of home is always something i thought of as a challenge because it’s not a really traditional definition, if most people say what is home and they give you a geographical location bas i think because i moved around in so many different places i don’t have that same relationship with the concept that like a nation or a country or just one place that you call home, more and more honestly and i am even moving the definition of home to where my parents are to where i feel the most comfortable that’s multiple places it’s not just one place
**and only now i am starting to become ok with that, like before you just saw like i apologized for the complexity but even now i am like i shouldn’t apologize for that like that’s normal it’s normal to be complicated, i think because in the west they are so used to easy categories just very easy answers and so you kinda force yourself to have a simple answer to everything but it’s not, it’s not simple especially if you’ve immigrated or if don't even grow up where you’re from that’s another layer, if you moved around a lot there’s lots of layers to it
only very very recently have i started considering using the h-word giggles with toronto and i have been there i think now almost 16 or 17 years and again the reason for that is so layered but it’s mostly because if you are immigrating somewhere it’s like you’re fighting a system and the way it works is that they are trying to weed you out so they’re trying to figure out who is tough enough to make it through our immigration system and so you feel like you are constantly fighting the thing that you are trying to attain, i don’t know if there’s a better way to say that it’s a very complicated relationship, at the same time ok there’s still a lot for you to be there while you’re waiting for your papers it’s like hanging over your head that you might not stay they might ask you to leave, are you sure you wanna stay like with every form you have to fill out here, fighting like yourself, you’re fighting like the immigration system, you are fighting even me i never really had like this nationalism and i still don’t because of having to go through immigration, you see that it’s bullshit, like it’s forms, faaa i am only now considering toronto home but on my terms and i kinda deal with it how i want to deal with it and it’s taken a long time to get there but slowly but surely i think i am able to form that relationship, a part of that relationship means leaving it sometimes to remember the things that i like about it so that when i come back i’m like ok this is something that this place has unique that no other place has
part of getting the papers in the first place was so i could access freedom of movement, there was never really any real like romantic idea in my head that oh my god i am moving to this amaaazing country and i am just gonna like set up a life there and live there forever and i’ve always been someone who needs to move around a lot and the papers that i had growing up they don’t facilitate that, and so it was a very conscious decision i think when i was like 17 i was like i got rejected for a visa i think to the uk with my sudanese passport and i just fell into like the deepest depression i am like how? why? why would you reject a 17 year old from coming to a country faaaa from then on i kind of decided i never wanna go through that again and i wouldn’t want my kids to go through that again if i ever have kids fa that kinda set the path towards immigration but yeah it wasn’t for the love of canada or for the love of toronto that i immigrated and i know probably makes people mad but it’s the truth i think there’s lots of people who apply to become citizens so they can have some of the privileges associated with being a citizen. now in the process there are things about canada that i really like as a society it’s doing better that maybe some of the other places that i’ve lived but i don’t think one country is better than any other country in all aspects.
i was born in saudia arabia, my family is from sudan so around the house we spoke arabic then the first place we moved to after saudi arabia was new york and i was school age like preschool, kindergarten obviously there is no arabic speaking schools and we lived in new york so my parents enrolled me in an english speaking school and apparently i didn’t speak a word of english so i just made up my own language.
20:18 but then there is also the issue of i speak my mother tongue in sudanese arabic, which not a lot of people from different arabic speaking countries understand and so you have the issue of i guess accent switching which i’ve done since i was very young like if i’m speaking to an egyptian i’ll speak in egyptian accent, if i’m speaking to a jordanian i’ll speak in their accent and this is also something that i’m starting now to question within myself why i do that and if i wanna continue doing that
30:25 my grandmother and grandfather allah yerhamo his apartment in alexandria because that was one of the constant places in my life when we were even moving around a lot no matter where we were in the world every summer for 3 months we would go stay in alexandria with my grandmother, it has been sold which made me actually really sad because there are so many memories we have there because it wasn’t just our family that would come it was my aunts and uncles and their kids and every friday all the cousins would spend the night and at night if you came in the room there would be like 7 mattresses on the floor with like 15 different kids and like legs popping out in every direction or like people on the bed and like all different ages and every friday my aunt would give us an allowance of 1 pound and 1 pound is like now not even 5 cents but in the 90s when we were kids that would get you like maybe like a candy and bag of chips or like ice cream or like some soda, and my cousin and i because we were the eldest we would also got to choose the movie every friday we would have movie night so we would make the list of all the chocolates and stuff that people want and me and her would get sent to the dokkan like to the store to get all the stuff and then to the movie store to pick a movie for the night and then we would do that every week eeevery week at the summer growing up, i think something about the consistency of that and obviously having like my grandmother there, cousins and family and just the repetition i guess of that sort of bonding between the cousins that for me made it really get like home, yeah i would like say my grandmother’s apartment in alex.
it was really nice it was like a simple life, it was maybe like a 20 min walk from the sea so on reaaally humid days you could smell the sea it was really nice, it would get soooo hot like 40 degrees inside the apartment and have like people passed out in all the rooms have their lunch woooo the tram, the train was really close by so every few minutes i remember hearing that wooo i am not sure if it’s still the same now but it would be like every 20 mins or half an hour a donkey cart with different fruit going by if my grandmother heard something that she wants she would like give me change be like you have to lower the basket for the watermelon guy or like for the mango guy or whatever guy who’s come or the robabekya guy, that was my favorite, robabekyaaa
i am from alexandria, i grew up being close to the sea all the time like that’s the norm and like just walking by the sea was like just like our normal hangout, especially more east basically mahatet el raml, bahary, these are the places my family used to take me there a lot to basically shop, sit by the sea, eat ice cream , maybe shawarma sandwiches, and also the only cinemas in town were located around mahatet el raml so whenever we had to go to see a movie we have to go to that neighborhood, one of my really early memories of like just realizing the world and realizing i exist and this is my family this is me, it was actually at antoniadis gardens, so these are like really huge huuuge gardens was built during king farouq era or like during like the time of monarchy in egypt and there was one of the palaces one of the king’s palaces was there and it was only for women that place, they would go there on like specific occasions or specific like times of the year or like for specific meetings, it wasn’t like they lived there, i remember the first time i was like playing in a big park was actually there and the gardens there are like full of greek and roman marble statues like all over the place and most of statues like they would have their private parts cut off you know like egypt is a very conservative society so people chose to eliminate those naked private parts but it was funny that like years after that the same place was actually one of the main, when i went to university to study art that place actually the same spot i remember as a child was actually the main spot we went to for landscape painting and statue like drawing and all of that, so it was like as if i belong there, i know the place very well, i had that intimate connection with that place
over the 5 years i’ve been studying at art school that place would change each year, it’s a little bit different, like something would happen, but it was like really interesting to be there as a student this time
there was a venus statue, it was really in an intriguing position was like on top of a little hill, so was kind of really different, a little bit unique from the other 16:18
i remember when i used to live there i just wanted to leave and i didn’t really plan if i’m gonna come back or not so like my intention was just to leave but now i think because i am far away from that place so i’m starting to feel really nostalgic and like oh like yeah i wanna go back i miss that place so it’s basically it’s the first time i’m confronting myself and very honestly and i’m saying yes i miss that place, i wanna go back some time, but i don’t know when, but it’s kind of you know like i got rid of my anger and disappointment with alexandria as a city, as a community, as whatever, so i believe like i needed to have that distance so i can overcome this difficulty of not accepting what’s happening in my home city, politicly, socially, culturally, like everything i was really like angry about everything
22:29 i didn’t start really to think about what is the idea of home what is it about identity like who i am, but speaking of the anger that moved or like the frustration that moved from alexandria to toronto i would say that it actually doubled, i remember a quote from amin maalouf book about identities, he says like “immigrants leave home for a reason they rebel, they didn’t accept certain facts or like certain realities and they want to change these realities”, so like when they move to another country and they get shocked or they hit the new reality so they get more and more reluctant or like really or frustrated because they didn’t leave home actually to find or like to fight other people’s cause or to find other kinds of trouble.
it might take me some time to express myself in english and then people start to make the assumption that i am having trouble with language that i don’t understand them and it’s not actually true because like if i don’t use enough like different words or like i’m not like using the language strongly but i can like understand more than i can ever speak , so i understand every word, i understand every sentence that they say to me but it takes me some time to respond and then they jump into that assumption that i’m having troubles understanding them and then by the time i learn that ok i need to be faster, i need to speak faster i need to respond faster i need to interrupt them if i don’t understand so i can overcome that barrier of oh you are an immigrant probably you wouldn’t understand me, or also sometime i realize that some people would really like speak slower and a little bit louder than usual when they know that i’m an immigrant and it’s kind of funny because i can hear them very well and i can understand them very well it just takes me a little bit of time to process everything because my brain is actually functioning in arabic but i know english very well and i’ve been studying english since i was a little kid, it just takes me time to make that switch or like to hold myself back from speaking arabic, which happens, the more that i use english the more that i tend to like stammer and accidentally get arabic words in my speech, the more i tend to hold it back it pushes forward
**it’s mainly about how the brain works and how the narrative builds up
i landed in toronto i was a little underwhelmed, at first but the fact that i had family members i think as an 18-year-old kinda gave me some safety and support and i decided to abandon quebec.
my parents migrated to bahrain from the west bank originally, they moved from the west bank to amman jordan and part of my father’s family is from there as well, from the north actually not from amman itself and then my father applied for a job in bahrain as a doctor and i grew up in bahrain but i visited amman and the west bank almost every summer.
i would say amman is more my home in the sense that i have relatives there, i can speak my language even my accent is not you know, is not foreign, like in bahrain speaking in palestinian, you completely stand out and it’s very obvious and you get picked on actually, yeah in amman i can have my own accent, even my name is more spoken, it’s familiar. so, yeah there is a contradictory relationship for me especially with bahrain as i was growing up i was probably came from one of the very few palestinian families there, so we faced i wanna say my family but children in school definitely faced more discrimination around you know, things they eat, their accent, their language.
in toronto i struggled to feel at home for sure, i’ve moved a lot around the city and like you know there is constantly for me of fighting to exist, i’ve worked for many people, moved around the city a lot, but i spent the place where i landed, which is downtown downtown like chestnut and dundas, that particular street, which is where i stayed in residence as a student, i would say that felt very much like home because i guess i arrived there and my first experiences as someone who’s migrated somewhere new on their own and a lot of my friendships that are continuing until today and have sustained me throughout my journey of migrating and settling in the city started there 9:14
my sister lives now in rabia, it’s an area that i grew up going to a lot because my cousins lived there, so even just arriving from the airport and mmmm driving through the streets, seeing the landscape, feeling it, the air in jordan is different like a drier air, mountainous, you know those are the things that instantly hmmm create that feeling that oh yeah this is home this is amman, even i can feel like my language changing you know, your tongue moves differently in your mouth when you are speaking solely in arabic or solely in english.
17:05 we all write in arabic from right to left and english is written from left to right and growing up so i started with arabic so you know, and then when i started writing in english i felt more comfortable turning the book upside down, so that giggles so that i am writing from right to left, you know it’s just the way and then i feel like that colored the way i see things in life for some reason, like i am able to perceive language in a different way generally speaking of the english language because of the construction of an arabic sentence in which you are almost like you are telling someone, ‘ i went to the supermarket’ for me it’s a very polite sentence but in english it comes off as very blunt, like i went to the supermarket, so what? what are you trying to tell me? giggles at least that’s how i am perceiving society.
when my husband and i first dated it was very similar it was like he was perceiving things that i am communicating in my head very endearingly, you know with like a lot of feelings , like i am spoiling you you know, spoiling you with praise he would perceive as attacking because the tone, because the way that they perceive tone like, you know and the funny thing is that jordanians are known i mean i don’t know how much but they’re known in the middle east to be very blunt and very direct and very grumpy and their humour is very you know like, it’s dry, so giggles very funny to make that transition where also we yell on the street, you know, and i am not condoning yelling like i am not saying here we should be all feeling ok by yelling at each other, bas in the streets like half of the time the funny bantering giggles is actually like, it’s a joke let’s say that i am trying to cross the street and the guy of course he won’t let me, you’re thinking he’s gonna stop the car and wait for me to cross, no he’s gonna keep trying to drive with no respect and i am with my grandmother, or older aunt, in a funny way he’ll be like get out of my way giggles
on the scale like if you 22:25 look at the five emotions whatever the five basic emotions psychologically there is different you know words in english for different levels so irritated, angry, rageful, you know, so it depends, basically one of the communication issues was that i would say things like why are you screaming at the top of your lungs basically to translate, so my mom was like oh yeah she’s irritated, you know why you are irritated basically, so when i tried to use, you know to translate word to word into english and you say those words, i guess because culturally perceived differently right? like anger is perceived as extreme hmmmm yeah then people read it differently i guess, but yeah so that was one of the adjustments we had to do my partner and i, when you know why are you screaming, he’s like i’m not screaming, i’m like ok but why are you irritated? but, it could escalate because i’ll be like ok you’re not screaming so why are you not allowing me to speak? it is exhausting especially because also in arabic we flip the subject, where the subject is in a sentence and where the action is, versus in english where, you know the…i don’t know which comes first but one of them is perceived more polite than the other.
but you are communicating in other languages and definitely like an exercise in spelling out how you feel more.
i just say hello and they’re where are you from? giggles i have to tell you my entire immigration story right now?! and at first you know i was like people are just curious but then as it happened you know more and more and you start to realize…it makes you feel a bit like you’re the different one, like who are you tell us.. and i have to reveal a lot about my background before i even i know this person and they haven’t revealed enough to me yet, so it feels sometimes a bit outing but then sometimes you i meet people who have the same accent as me whatever the degree is, and we connect.
i don’t even know how to say this in the most eloquent way but i’m you know an arab a very light skinned and can easily be pause you know hidden, and how i navigate society on a very superficial level, and i totally see the kind of privilege i get in those spaces, sometimes i’m like really hmmmm it becomes very obvious to me the racism that white spaces predominantly white spaces have towards people of color because they don’t show it to me right away but i see them projecting it towards others in exclusionary way and then you know they ask, the first question is, your name, difficult to pronounce pops the question of where are you from? and very arab, with some other alphabet that can be more easily associated with other cultures.
also like once you speak what kind of enunciations you have in your speech and how you navigate lingo, like english lingo, even from the basic conversation, like how how are you man
i find canadians particularly canadians they talk in a lot of labels, like i went to the lcbo and took the ttc, and when i first arrived, i couldn’t understand a whole sentence, you know my grandfather used to make fun of english speakers like you go chichinchin and inginging which is funny to hear from the perspective of someone who sees english as a foreign language, but that’s how it sounded to me giggles
the perspective is different and everyone comes in with a different perspective and the dominant culture expects you to know it or operate in it, hmmm and i think language comes from your own personal perspective, it’s your inner voice, so how do you change your internal voice, your inner voice unless you completely change, even if i knew how to be you know swag like a canadian it would like i was acting.