After graduating in languages and international relations, I took off for Lebanon to continue my studies of the Arab language and, at long last, to immerge myself in Middle East culture that fascinated.
It might seem odd to tell the story of an experience beginning from the end, from when I had to leave the Middle East, but that was when I grasped the importance experience.
As I prepared to return to Italy, my thoughts went back to when it all began, and I asked myself if my long-awaited stay in the Middle East could already be over.
I remembered myself as the girl who was taking her first steps into the choas of Beirut, who felt like everbody was staring at her because she was a foreigner. In a matter of a very little time, however, people began to stop me on the road and ask me in Arabic for directions, mistaking me for Lebanese. Perhaps it was more my prejudiced view towards them, rather than the opposite! In the beginning, the indifference towards the new environment was involuntary, which prevented me from getting out of myself and loving the people walking by. I hadn’t yet understood that the environment around me was just different, not dangerous.
I realized how much my vision of Lebanon changed over the course of the year. At first I had mostly perceived the differences with respect to Italy. Then, I quickly fell in love with the land, its richness, the variety of religions, cultures, scenic landscapes and history. I had fallen in love with the people who, in spite of their recent painful past, was able to live again, Christians and Muslims shoulder to shoulder. I had fallen in love with a people that was spontaneous, welcoming – and had a fantastic cuisine! Then I had to recuperate a bit of objectivity in looking at a land that like every other had its own contradictions, such as the great poverty and ostentatious wealth that live not far apart.
In my mind I went back over the year in Lebanon during which many aspects of life that once seemed dangerous or odd, unfortunfortunate or disappointing compared to Italy, have become part of my daily life (not at all infelicitious – on the contrary!).
When I said good-bye to the Sryian refugee children whom I had helped with homework, they only said “ciao,” showing how we’re all important and none of us is indispensible. Realizing that I’d probably never know what had come of them was rather painful.
I had to say goodbye to the friends that I had made, to whom I owe so much and hoping with all my heart that I would see them again, but never really knowing if I would. It was quite an effort to embrace the thought that distances was coming between us once again, not only geographically, but mostly bureaucratically. To leave each other, knowing that borders, visas and distance were about to fall on us was, at times, exasperating and even unbearable.
But now I know that this is the price you pay for being a global citizen as we Gen say. Now, after having left pieces of my heart around the world, a united world is no longer merely something that would be nice if it were really true: a world without borders has become a need.