This summer, I've worked a job that requires I interact with the general public for about 7 hours a day. The most common (personal) question I get is "where are you from?"
When I reply "Ottawa," people are left unsatisfied.
Some people ask again, "where are you really from?"
So, today, with this blog post, I am going to clarify it all.
When you ask me where I am from, what you actually mean is:
why do you look different?
Why do you wear extra fabric on your head?
Why do you wear pants and a long sleeve when it's a sweltering 40 degrees outside?
When you ask me where I am from, you do not want a run down of my family tree, or a description of where I, or my parents were born.
What you actually want to know is why I do not fit your idea of normal. Of status quo. What you want to know is what implications or stereotypes you can associate with this creature before you.
So here is my answer.
I am a person who happened to be born in Montreal, Canada to parents who were not born in Canada.
One of my parents was born in Syria and the other in Tunisia.
In Canada, I am foreigner.
In Tunisia, I am a foreigner.
In Syria-- well, I haven't been there.
From a young age, with bi-cultural parents, I knew I didn't fit any boxes. I am African, but I am fair-skinned. So naturally, this does not make sense to most people.
I am Berber but don't speak Amazigh. So I am suddenly a traitor to the indigenous people of North Africa.
I am Syrian but do not speak the dialect, which to some people makes me somehow "un-Syrian."
My English accent gives me away. My French accent gives me away. My Arabic accent gives me away.
So when you ask where I am from, and what you really want to know is what box I check in government forms, the answer is: Other.