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Diary Entry: An Immigrant’s Prayer

I can’t sleep without gritting my teeth.

My mind is racing, traveling miles away.

I can’t focus on anything but the constant rapid beating of my heart.

This sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach hasn’t left me for over a week.

This constant anxiety seems to never leave me.

Nothing holds my attention anymore.

I haven’t had a decent work day in over eight days.

I seem to be existing rather than living.

 

What is wrong with me?

Why does my daily routine suddenly seem so exhausting and futile?

I hear nothing — not even the sound of city streets, nor the sounds of my supervisors urging me to get myself together.

If I close my eyes, I can picture it perfectly.

Flying colours of red and white, the green cedar standing out. The ground vibrating as the dabké nears the corner. Exhausted chants of revolution filling my eardrums.

A single tear escapes my eye. I don’t want to be here.

Montreal is now at its most glorious days, with fiery replenishing colours invading its every corner. And all I want to do is throw myself into the burning fires of the Lebanese revolution.

As the clock struck midnight on Oct. 17, my spirit answered the long-awaited call for riot — seeming to forget where it actually was.

No responsibility seems too dire, no task too urgent — nothing matters but the uprising in my native country.

I know I should be stronger than this. I know I should be mindful of my surroundings. I know now is not the time to long for home.

Yet more than ever, the pull is strong.

The ache in my heart is unbearable.

My people are tired, my people have had it.

They took to the streets, and said “no more,” and with that made all my lost hopes soar.

It wasn’t three weeks before I was asked if I had witnessed any change in Lebanon’s youth, and if I anticipated any sort of uprising. I had chuckled dryly, and shaken my head. “Not in my lifetime,” was always my answer.

And I was never happier to be proven wrong. And god knows I love being right.

So hear a broken immigrant’s prayer:

Do not let your foes fool you once more.

Do not let them lay further traps.

We are now louder than ever before, and hold the whip on their fear.

Fight, and rise from the ashes of corruption, my beautiful phoenix. It was long overdue.

 

Photo by Laurence B.D.

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The missing bridge between two worlds

One student’s thoughts on leaving Chile and entering Montreal’s diverse atmosphere

Moving to a different country often leads us to feel between places and cultures. I’m sure most of us who have come from a foreign land to study here at Concordia struggle to find that sense of belonging, whether our place is here, there or neither. It is easy to lose your sense of identity and feel lost, or like you have no sense of direction after your studies. Does this sound familiar to you? Because for me, it is a recurrent state of mind.

It is important to acknowledge the privilege many of us have to have been able to leave our homes in order to pursue a degree. However, this is not the situation experienced by the vast majority of people who immigrate. Many do so due to the hardships, conflicts and lack of opportunities they face in their home countries. Regardless of the case, experiencing nostalgia, sadness and/or loneliness is common. We all leave a life behind in order to make a new one; making multiple sacrifices along the way, since parting with what is familiar to us is never an easy task. Of course, there are the family and friends you’ve left behind, which always encompass one of the biggest pulls between both worlds.

Personally, growing up, I always had a particular itch to leave Chile, in order to get a new perspective on both the exterior world and my interior one, too. I was so confident that a change was in order—that if I moved, it would be permanent. I was and I still am extremely grateful for the privilege I have that allowed me to make that decision in the first place. But now that three years have gone by, I’m able to acknowledge how wrong and naive I was. Ever since I left, I have felt in between places and countries; not fully here but not quite there, either.

In Montreal, we experience new challenges. Language becomes a barrier if you don’t speak French and learning it can be a difficult task. Especially since by attending Concordia, we are mostly exposed to English speakers, which leads us to connect with only a small percentage of Francophones. However, one of the best features this city has to offer is diversity. No city is perfect, nor has it all, but Montreal does have a certain degree of multiculturalism, which helps us bridge the gap between our two worlds.

I must also acknowledge the fact that we are students living in a student city—in fact, Montreal was named number one in the world according to a 2017 QS World University ranking, an annual publication of university rankings by Quacquarelli Symonds. That being said, there’s always someone else you can bond with over the struggles that come with moving and living in a different country.

Nothing in life is permanent but change, and we are happiest when we do not resist it or overthink about the future. What I’m trying to say is that it is ok to feel conflicted, lost, homesick, sad, unsure, lonely—you name it. We must allow ourselves the space to experience the baggage that comes with moving farther away from home. This way, in this new place, we learn to grasp and contemplate our previous life from a new perspective. At the same time, we create a mindset that allows us to live and make the most of our current student experience.

Changing countries has multiple complications, which at times can be overwhelming, but feeling lost or homesick from time to time is natural. Getting anxious about where we are going next will only take away the peace that we enjoy in the moment. We will get there as we once got here. And if there is still a void you cannot fill, I strongly recommend you fill it with large quantities of Quebec’s greatest gift: poutine.

Graphic by @sundaemorningcoffee

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The cost of having a wonderful holiday

One student’s experience with coming to Canada, Christmas, and consumerism

Whenever my siblings and I asked for a family vacation, my Nigerian mother would say: “How can you go on a vacation when you are already at a vacation destination?” For most Nigerians back home, travelling to a country like Canada would be seen as travel destination but also a place to dwell. However, what happens after we settle here? We consume ourselves with school, work and bills, then travel back home once in a while during the holidays. This has become a repetitive cycle, and sadly it is one that my family found itself in for many years until recently.

The meaning of holiday has changed drastically for my family over the years. In Nigeria, we made the most out of every holiday. This included going back and forth visiting family members from my mother’s side to my father’s side and them paying us a visit. There was always an exchange of cooked meals between neighbours and decorating the house for Christmas.

Living in Canada has completely changed these practices because we are no longer surrounded by the families we used to visit and spend time with. Consequently, the holiday spirit died down in my family. The cold weather that I am still not used to prevents me from partaking in fun activities in Montreal such as celebrating Christmas at Parc des Compagnons-de-Saint-Laurent.

There are also other factors that killed our holiday spirit. The first being that working parents, especially those not in the professional field, have fewer vacation days than most. This makes it hard to travel as a family—especially if raised by a single parent. My mother works at a factory and is only allowed two weeks of paid vacation every year, which is nothing when you consider travelling expenses.

Another factor to consider is the millennial culture of balancing work and school which makes us drained by the time the holidays approach. Therefore, holidays are merely seen as work days with only a few days off, since most employers will want you to work during the holidays. I view it as resting days from school, work and even a break from the social life that I swear I will catch up on once I get the time. These factors put a strain on getting the family together and being festive during the holidays.

That being said, various strategies have helped to bring my family together despite the struggles and the lack of holiday spirit. A tradition that we have maintained is sticking to the true meaning of Christmas, and that is spending Christmas day at church. Thankfully, various churches in Montreal offer different activities on that day for those who attend, such as carol nights, potlucks and plays. I believe one of the advantages of sticking to the traditional meaning behind Christmas is that it takes the stress of buying gifts away, which has only amplified consumer culture. But of course, when you do get a gift, it is appreciated and unexpected.

Another strategy that we started is a tradition of binge-watching a Netflix show during the holidays in new pyjamas. During this, phones are not allowed, and a penalty is usually set for whoever breaks this rule; this keeps everyone at bay. Ultimately, every member of the family is allowed their personal space to do whatever they want after the New Year. Despite the age gap among my siblings and I, we truly enjoy the holidays now due to the effort that we have invested into it as a family. After all, the holidays are what you make of them and what better way to celebrate them than as a family?

Graphic by Ana Bilokin

 

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Trump’s “shithole” comment is plain old racism

The president’s choice of words with regards to immigration contradict the age-old American Dream

On Jan. 11, President Donald Trump was reported to have referred to Haiti, El Salvador and parts of Africa as “shithole countries” during a White House meeting about immigration reform, according to The Guardian. His response came as a reaction to the idea of allowing immigrants from those countries into the United States, according to the same source.

The Internet was quick to erupt with outrage following the horrific statement. Many people, including notable journalists such as Don Lemon and The Daily Show host Trevor Noah are labeling Trump as racist. The comments came as Haiti was preparing to commemorate the hundreds of thousands of lives lost during the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck eight years ago, according to CNN. According to Time magazine, individuals from Haiti have been under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) since the devastating earthquake struck the island back in January 2010. CNN reported that Trump appears to have ignored the fundamental humanitarian purpose of TPS, which allows people to live and work in the United States if their countries are affected by natural disasters, war or any type of political conflict that would prevent citizens from safely returning to their homeland.

Following Trump’s comment, an opinions piece in the Washington Post argued that American news media “has long treated black and brown countries like ‘shitholes.’” The news media in the United States has systematically reported on Haiti and African nations as poverty stricken and disease ridden—and that’s when those countries are even considered worthy of coverage in the first place, according to the same article.

However, I believe the news media did an exceptional job of calling Trump out on his racist comment. Essentially, what the president is asserting is that he doesn’t want to welcome anyone from those countries no matter how qualified they may be, all because of where they come from. A fundamental value of the United States is the American Dream—the idea that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, you can still make it there. You don’t have to be rich to be worthy nor do you need a college degree.

Part of what’s important to keep in mind is that, not only was Trump’s comment exceedingly racist, but it’s also inaccurate. According to Vox, 30 per cent of people born in the United States have college degrees whereas 43 per cent of African immigrants have college degrees. Additionally, 10 per cent of white Americans have advanced degrees compared to the 25 per cent of Nigerian Americans who do. These facts completely refute Trump’s ignorant opinion about people from Africa. In my opinion, the fact that Trump seems to believe an entire country should not be welcome in the United States is the textbook definition of racism. You can’t dismiss entire countries whose populations are not white—let alone refer to them as “shitholes”—and not expect to be called a racist.

I believe there have been numerous examples of Trump demonstrating he is indeed racist, despite many people only now starting to realize it. It’s especially appalling that words such as “shithole” are being used to describe entire countries and continents by those in the White House. For years, African immigrants as well as Haitians and Salvadorans have been coming to the United States and bringing up the learning and entrepreneurship rate—thus helping make America a greater nation, according to The New York Times.

Politically speaking, it would also make no sense to exclude parts of the world seeking entry into the United States given that an influx of immigrants will only help better the economy in the long run. In my opinion, Trump’s racist comment is yet another piece of evidence that the United States is being led by a man who applies policies that will “make America white again.”

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin 

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