By Mira Khatib
My palms start to sweat, my heart beats a little bit faster as my mind races to find the right answer to what may seem a regular and innocent enough question…”where are you from?”
I gulp and swallow hard wondering which answer to use this time. Even now as I try to explain to you why such a question; might sometimes drive me up the wall, I find myself in the midst of confusion.
Okay to make things a bit more clear I will share with you my dilemma and background for that matter, and you be the judge. I was born in Kuwait…many of you ex-pats would say, ‘Ah you’re a Kuwaiti then’, well not quite. As many of you know, us Arabs proudly follow in our fathers footsteps and although I had the privilege of being born in Kuwait yet my father was born in Palestine. ‘Oh so then you are a Palestinian.’ Again I would like to think that I am, but you see even my father doesn’t really hold a Palestinian citizenship; he was one of many who left during the 1967 war and was given a Jordanian citizenship instead. Personally I only visited Palestine a few times, and as magnificent as it is, I really don’t know if saying that I am 100% Palestinian is fair, especially that my mother is actually Lebanese. ‘So are you Lebanese?’, I often get asked. Well I do believe I’ve got some Lebanese blood in me, but I’ve never been to Lebanon before, so again it is not fair to say that I am Lebanese either.
Did I mention, that like my father I also hold the Jordanian citizenship, ‘So you are Jordanian then!’. Mmm…does living there for a few years mean I am actually from there? I am really not convinced. You see after college I got married and lived for many years in many different countries, I’ve been every where from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Dubai even Canada. Each country has left its own imprint inside of me, adding a little bit of who I am and influencing my personality in many ways. I have an assortment of wonderful memories in each place and met many great people along the way; many whom have become very close friends of mine till this day. I would love to say I am a Kuwaiti, a Palestinian, a Jordanian, a Saudi, a Bahraini, an Emirati, and a Canadian; because truly there is a piece of me from each place.
My concern grew when I realized that I passed my dilemma over to my children. When their school principal asked them from where they come from, my son answered ‘I’m from Jordan.’ While my daughter said ‘I’m Canadian.’ The principle was amused and looked at me questioningly…’Okay here I go again…’
I have to admit that I consider myself very fortunate. Coming from different places and being exposed to different cultures has truly made me a cosmopolitan person. I like to believe that due to my travels I have become a more open minded person whom easily adapts to change and I learnt one of the most valuable lessons in life that there is no right way just a different way.
Sure living in a different county every few years has its setbacks. Like the hassle of starting all over, from houses, to schools, to paper work to making new friends. Also the heartache that goes from saying bye to old friends and places. Then there is the feeling of never being settled with the luring question in the back of my mind ‘Where next?’ In addition after a while you grow use to change, I find it difficult now to stay in one place for a long time even though I favor it.
Well I guess Paul Young said it best when he sang ‘Where ever I lay my hat that’s my home.’ And personally I believe that home is where the heart is, and my heart is with my family whom right now happily reside in Dubai. I am glad that for the coming months and hopefully years Dubai will remain my home teaching me new things and new ways every day. Just please don’t misunderstand me when I hesitate when answering the simple question, “where are you from?”