Conceived – Lebanon: Meeting My Homeland (Chapter 1)

by Rayan Harake

I stood beside my mother and little sister as an employee at the airport insisted a paper was incorrect. We should have gotten a certified copy of a certain family document, but my mother had a normal copy instead. She says, in her best English mixed with Portuguese (both languages that the employee spoke), that it is my father who had prepared all the papers, and that he would have gotten the right one had he been informed. As the discussion isn’t moving forward, the employee looks at me, the eldest of the two sisters – neither of whom is veiled like their mother – and asks me in clear Portuguese:

“Is this your mother?”

I freeze.

I had been given life, brought up and lived with this woman – my mother – for the whole 10 years of my life, and this guy just randomly walks up to me and asks me if she is my mother. After a few seconds of extreme discomfort on my end, coupled with my mother’s impatient looks, I hesitantly say that “yes, she is my mother.” The employee, though a bit reluctant, agrees to let us continue our trip. As we walk away from the stand, my mother, who is extremely irritated with me, goes on about how I couldn’t answer a simple question, and how much trouble I could have caused.

Our last plane on our long trip from Brazil to Lebanon is set to take off from Milano. Here, I see real snow for the first time in my life – just outside an airport glass door – but never get near enough to touch it. As we wait for the plane, my mother gets chit chatty with another woman who is also heading to Lebanon. To my surprise, this woman is not veiled. I had somehow assumed everyone in Lebanon is a good religious Muslim – as opposed to the secular Christian Brazilians, who are never good enough in the eyes of my father, and whom we were never allowed to have relationships with outside of school.

The only Lebanese TV channel I had ever watched while in Brazil was an Islamic one, where all women who made an appearance were veiled. Growing up, I had understood that we – the religious Muslims – were very different from the other Brazilians. We ate differently, spoke differently, and had our own way of living. We built relationships with other religious Muslims in the diaspora, but not with Brazilians. For me, Lebanon was supposed to be the place where my ‘kind’ existed in abundance – where it was the norm to be like me. While I hadn’t arrived yet, meeting an unveiled Lebanese woman at the airport was the first challenge to the conception I had of my homeland.

It turned out, however, that being aware of Lebanese cultural diversity is not that crucial for the 10-year-old me. After all, for a long period of time yet to come, everyone around me will indeed be the same as I am.

We are welcomed at the Lebanese airport by extended family – numerous aunts and cousins, all hugging and crying. The most important thing for me, however, is that I finally get to reunite with my two older sisters. They were sent to Lebanon two years earlier to live with my grandmother, because they were getting bigger, and it’s not good for a girl to grow up in a place like Brazil. It was a departure that left a hole in my heart.

We are a bit shy when we first meet. Now they are bigger than when I last saw them, are veiled, and are no longer talking to each other in Portuguese like we always did, but in Arabic instead.

We, the newcomers, also move to my grandmother’s house. We are not yet prepared to rent our own house – the house where we are all supposed to live together when my father finishes his business in Brazil and comes to join us. My father will take quite some time to finally catch up with us – a time that will allow me to have the closest thing to a normal childhood.

(…to be continued…)

2021: Conceived – Volume 2 of a Contemporary Transadaptation

January: The Pack – Alejandra Baccino (Uruguay)

February: The Pink Shirt – Talia Stotts (America)

March: Dragging the Past out into the Light – Kate Korneeva (Russia)

April: Looking Forward to Spring – Marilin Guerrero Casas (Cuba)

May: Every Little Thing – Gennady Bondarenko (Ukraine)

June: The Girl Who Chased the Rainbow – Toni Wallis (Sarah-Leah Pimentel) (South Africa)

July: Another World – Jonay Quintero Hernandez (Spain)

August: Life after Nare – Nane Sevunts (Armine Asryan) (Armenia)

September: Meeting My Homeland – Rayan Harake (Lebanon)

October: Catching Water (Part Two) – Javier Gomez (Argentina)

November: Remember – Seyit Ali Dastan (Turkey)

December: Los Caminantes – Veronica Cordido (Venezuela)

Background – Context

In the Middle – Prelude to a Contemporary Transadaptation, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2020)

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world

Credits

Photo: Beirut, Lebanon – Approaching Beirut – Leonid Andronov (Shutterstock)
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

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