Where am I from? I get asked this question a lot, and my answer is rarely the same two times around. I could just say the name of one city or country or part of the world I lived in, but you see its not that easy. I am not the only child who grew up in such a situation and I'm sure many of you reading this can relate. 

“Where I am From”

My Country of Citizenship

My passport says I am a citizen of a small country named Lebanon. Lebanon is a 10,452 kmbit of land on the coast of the Mediterranean, surrounded by Palestine, Israel, Syria and Jordan. Lebanon has a population of 4.467 million people. Some more fun facts about Lebanon: there is currently no president (been like that since 2014), there is no reliable source of electricity for the entire country, the internet can go up to 4 Mbps (at best), and there is an estimate of 8 to 14 million Lebanese people living outside of Lebanon, the majority of which reside in Brazil. It isn’t all that bad though, the food makes up for it.

The large diaspora is due primarily to the never ending tensions and clashes between the different sects in the economy. The quarrels are usually related to the extremely right winged religious or political viewpoints of the people involved, and these viewpoints are usually the same by geographic location in Lebanon; So basically as a citizen of this country you’re born into your sect based on where your family lives (sort of like clans among villages).

My Parents

Both my parents were born in Lebanon. My mothers’ parents however were not. They were born in Palestine. They had to flee to Lebanon during the war there to have a better life. This war was between incoming Jewish migrants, fleeing the holocaust, and the people who lived there at the time, the Palestinians. The Jews were exiled from their homes as well so think of this as a domino effect. The people with the financial ability and power to move their families abroad, did. That left the less able, less capable people, in a country where a large majority of the population is stricken with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and in a constant state of anxiety. With little experienced personnel and law makers on board, the problems spiraled out of control and mental health never got the awareness it deserved.

After another war struck Lebanon, both my parents decided to find jobs away from Lebanon and join the increasing number of Lebanese citizens leaving the country. My father moved to work in multiple countries in the gulf region, but finally settled in the United Arab Emirates. My mother moved with her brothers and sister to the UAE as well. They both found work with large corporations and later met through a friend. I was eventually born to two Lebanese parents in the United Arab Emirates.

Where I Am From

Home (Or what home means to me)

So here’s the thing about being born in the United Arab Emirates. I am not considered a citizen of this country. I am not eligible to gain citizenship of this country. I was born, raised, and went to high school there. That’s 17 straight years of my life. Every year, sometimes every other year, I would visit Lebanon with my parents to see my family and friends there, and of course “where I am from”. So technically Lebanon has never been my home nor did I feel like a citizen of this country either. I never really understood the politics of my own country since I had no one to discuss them with, nor did I of the UAE, the country I lived in (it is frowned upon to discuss politics in the UAE). Sure, I can speak the language, I love the food, and I can fit in like a plug in a socket, but I do not feel like I belong, in Lebanon or in the UAE. The former because I never lived there and the latter because I can’t stay there if I don’t have a job (imagine retiring and then being asked to leave a country that you have lived and worked in for years, or getting fired then being asked to leave the country). At this age I can’t even enter the country anymore unless I get hired and sponsored to be in the country.

My Education

My school (all the way to high school) was taught in English and I mostly consumed English entertainment. Even though the primary language of both Lebanon and the UAE is Arabic, I came to like the simplicity of the English language, growing up, as compared to Arabic. It was easier to learn and communicate with, as words do not have many different connotations when compared to Arabic. Also as a child I loved watching cartoons (most good ones were in English) and then picked up a lot of western TV shows, movies and documentaries growing up. Watching something on TV and experiencing or seeing it are two completely different stories though. I am only recently coming to realize this, as I didn’t do much as a kid growing up. The weather in the UAE is well…hot! Like insanely hot. There are barely any trees and well any sort of outdoor activities in the summer are almost impossible to do.

My Way Out

I always wanted to visit a primarily English speaking country. In the summer of 2007 I finally got that wish and got to visit Toronto with my family. I had an uncle who moved here a long time ago and my parents thought it would be a good idea to visit. As soon as I landed I felt the difference between Canada and the United Arab Emirates. It was as if everyone in Canada understood each other and got along better than in the UAE. Driving was less worrisome, the rules set in place were followed by everyone, and in general society felt more mature. Upon graduating high school, I was faced with a hard decision: move to Canada for university or move to Lebanon for university (Think of it like a red pill or blue pill respectively). I decided to go red pill and study engineering at the University of Toronto. A decision that is like a double edged sword, swing it the wrong way and it can harm me. Thankfully, I swung the sword the right way, and now have a different lens through which I view the world, one that’s adjustable and modular and not based on any cultural bias.

My Enlightenment

After coming to Canada and learning about the history of the world, without any cultural bias, I came to see the world in a different light. People perceived to be bad will usually end up being bad, and those perceived as good will usually end up doing good. But then again what does good and bad even mean since different cultures have different connotations. So in this sense, hating on someone (or any aspect of them) will make them (or people with similar aspects to them) hate on you (which could end badly if pushed past the activation energy).

If you need a frame of reference of what I am talking about look up the Stanford Prison Experiment, and how easily those guards conformed to their roles (There is a very nice movie called "The Stanford Prison Experiment" released in 2015 which you could watch if you are interested). I began to understand why people in different countries behave differently, heck even people from different cultural backgrounds who grew up in the same country. So which came first then, the action or the role? And how then can all these different people be living in harmony and peace under one roof? Well the answer is simple: every person (to some extent) is treated equal in Canada. People are generally perceived to be good and so will be good. The way people feel here is different and so their behavior is too.

So where then am I from? Well the simple answer is Lebanon, based on what my paperwork says. But that doesn’t explain it, and explaining it well…takes an article.

Published by Danny F.