As a child, you never fully understand your living conditions or the situations that you may find yourself in. You do normal kid things – going to school, riding your bike, and playing with friends – this is all you know. For most children, you don’t understand what is going on around you or why some things are happening. This was the case for me: I never understood the perilous environment of my home in Lebanon.
Living through a war as a child was confusing. I didn’t fully understand what was happening and nobody would tell me what was going on because I was just a kid. All I knew was that I was no longer allowed to go outside, ride my bike, go to school, or play with my friends. I recall sitting in my room watching bombs dropping in the distance. One day, a helicopter flying over my house dropped a note that said “Get out of this area!” I was scared and confused.
Immigrating as a child was equally as confusing. I was not aware that we were leaving Lebanon; all I remember from that day was being in a car, then on a boat, then on a plane. While we were on the plane, I remember seeing fighter jets flying on either side of the plane. I wasn’t sure if they belonged to the Canadian Armed Forces or if they were trying to take us down; I hid under the seat for the remainder of the flight.
Some of my family already lived in Canada, so they helped guide us through our transition to life after immigration. They slowly helped us adjust to the way of life in Canada by introducing us to family friends and showing us where to get groceries. The adjustment process would have been considerably more challenging had my family not been there to support us.
The largest adjustment upon coming to Canada was undoubtedly the language barrier. I didn’t know the language so I couldn’t talk to anyone at school. It was difficult finding people from my community who also spoke Arabic and could relate to my experiences. Over time, I slowly began adjusting to the English language and it became easier to meet new people. Once I learned English, adapting to this new lifestyle was easier and I started to feel that I belonged.
As a child, it was not that I didn’t feel welcomed, it was that I could not find anyone that looked like me; there was a lack of Lebanese culture where I lived. I thought that I could not relate to anyone because I was different from most others. Because of this, I felt that I did not fit in. However, over time, I came to realize that I am just as Canadian as anyone else, regardless of my culture. Children do not see differences in people so I never felt isolated or unwanted. In fact, I would learn about my friends’ values and culture and they would learn about mine. Everyone in Canada is benevolent and accepting of newcomers. Nobody treated me differently, but rather they made me feel at home.
Lebanon was all I knew, so I did not know what to expect upon arriving in Canada. Observing social interactions and the Canadian way of life has made me realize that Canadians adhere to values of altruism, compassion, and benevolence. This has inspired me to become a police officer and give back to those who welcomed me so graciously. I would not have learned the importance of these values if I did not immigrate to Canada.
In Canada, there are assurances of safety and security. I was able to ride my bike down the street without fearing what would happen next. I feel safe in Canada, and I think that is the greatest joy about immigrating here and making Canada my home.
The last time I envisioned a normal life before immigrating was before the war. Although I miss the natural beauty of Lebanon, living in Canada has been unequivocally rewarding. Immigrating as a young child was not easy, but I learned that I could live a better life here in Canada than in Lebanon. Canada has become more of a home than Lebanon could ever become.
This story is a collaborative effort between Raelynn Tkachuk and Ahmed Juma
Please note that certain facts have been altered for anonymity