I am on vacation in my homeland: Lebanon. It’s peaceful here. Waking up to the sounds of chickens and birds remind me of my college years living here and the simplicities of life. Life is too fast paced in L.A.; I forget to slow down and smell the coffee sometimes. The quietness of the mountains, the peaceful street, the view of the ocean, and living thousands of miles away from the office, phone calls, distractions, and routine is what vacationing is all about.
[View from my balcony]
Being around family has been refreshing of mind and spirit. I miss them terribly. I wonder sometimes whether my decision to live continents apart was a wise one. I came to the land of opportunity five years ago: To live the “American Dream”. I came to America as a first generation immigrant. It was no culture shock for me…I’ve been an international student my whole life, English is my first language. I grew up around foreigners and enjoy being around people of different cultures and backgrounds. Change is consistent….my faith is the only constant. When asked where home is, I tell people it’s Heaven. I didn’t grow-up in Lebanon, I grew up in Saudi Arabia. That’s NOT home for me. Nor is Lebanon….as for America, it’s been an awesome opportunity, best place I ever lived, but not quite “home”. Is home truly a place where you can live without family, or so far from them?
For the longest time, I considered the church my home. I lived in it, I thrived in it, I allowed strangers into the inner depths of my soul. I was on a roller coaster high for four years. Life couldn’t be any better until I felt burned. Burned by the church, by people, by expectations, and then realized that NOTHING in the world compares to your blood and bone family. No one is going to call and see how you’re feeling when you’re in your hospital bed, except your family. No one is going to clean up after you, make you meals, and love you like your mother or father would. Maybe I’m making big assumptions, but I know that my family is like that. And, I feel really blessed to have and experience such depth of love. I then feel so guilty for leaving them behind…..however, in less than a two week period of vacationing here, I am reminded why I stand strong in my decision to live abroad, relentless.
Two car bombings have happened since vacationing here. On December 27th, 2o13, only FOUR days before New Year’s Eve, Mohamad Chatah, a former Finance Minister of Lebanon and a foe of Hezbollah, was killed in a car bombing in Beirut. Seven others were also killed, innocent civilians on the street, pedestrians nonetheless, some taking selfies which appeared on twitter, only moments after the explosion! My brother could have been there, passing by on his way to University. It was heart-wrenching and devastating. It instilled fear in people’s hearts, just a few days before people would be out celebrating the coming of a new year. It had been a few months after a previous car bombing that happened on July 9th, 2o13. People’s resilience had settled in and they started to lead a normal life, carrying on with normal affairs like nothing’s happening. Kind of scary, if you ask me!
A few days later, on January 2nd, 2o14, I was visiting my aunt’s house when our phones interrupted our coffee and cake conversations and notified us of another car bombing incident. Four people were killed and 77 others were wounded in a suicide car bomb that struck Haret Hreik, a neighborhood of Beirut’s southern suburbs where Hezbollah supporters live. Another devastating live coverage of the incident reminded people in the new year about the vulnerability of the nation and the unstability of the government and it’s power to protect its people. Our neighboring country, Syria, torn by a civil war offers no comfort as well. There’s even a Wikipedia page dedicated to all the car bombings and assassinations that have happened in Beirut from 2004 to the present.
These unsettling accounts that occurred in a very short time span since vacationing here has reminded me especially why I dared to venture out five years ago with two suitcases on hand, a bible, and the violin into America the Great. The land of opportunity, freedom, security, and a future. My determination now much stronger and renewed with a sense of hope for my mission and future. I want to create a better life for myself and my family. I want to create a place for them to retire and come and live here with me.
Many Americans don’t understand the freedoms they have in their country. Many hate the government system and complain about it all the time. Coming from a war-torn, unstable, and insecure country that offers NO protection, retirement, respect, care or even security for its people makes me adore and love America even more. America has done for me what my country has not: It’s offered me a solace, a place of peace and opportunity, and even naturalization (in one month’s time!). Now, that’s the American Dream. For me, it’s not one of riches and wealth, but one of opportunity and stability. One where one day my children will look back and thank their mom for being so bold and courageous, to take a step outside the comfort of home and family and make it out in the real world, thousands of miles away from the known, and into the unknown: to make their lives a better, secure place. A place where I am not persecuted for my faith in Jesus and can boldly mention His name and serve Him faithfully. I am His servant. He provided this opportunity and freedom, and I owe Him my life for it.
~Coming Next: New Year Resolutions for 2014~