Morocco World News
Fez, September 12, 2011
No one knows what life holds for you until you reach the very moment itself. Omer is a friend of mine whom I have known for years now. He is originally from Morocco, but he has been in America since 1990.
In most of our conversations, I had always been confused about how to define him or rather how to introduce him to others. Should I introduce him as a Moroccan or as an American? He himself couldn’t make things easier for me and provide an absolute answer. For that reason, I thought of interviewing him as a way to search for answers to my indefinite questions. All my questions targeted his diasporic living experiences. What does he feel towards his homeland and “hostland”, how does he refer to himself? And how does he think about his identity and life in general?
I asked: “What can you say about your diasporic experience in the US?”
Omer: “I love being in the US. It has many opportunities – school, jobs, business, cultural diversities, food, inexpensive good products, freedom. Of course, life here is a trade off – got home sick at first, lost childhood friends, left behind relatives, neighbors, homeland, familiar surroundings, food, and even my mother tongue. For many years, I have been speaking English most of the time, and associated mostly with Americans and non-Moroccans. But I have learned so much about life experiences through the process of leaving my homeland in search for freedom and opportunities…”
“Do you consider the US another home for you?”
Omer: ‘Yes, the US is my home now.”
“What about your native home, Morocco?”
Omer: “Morocco is still my homeland, but I am here, it is real for me, my life is here, I have different senses of belonging; it is still in the process.
I was born in Morocco and spent around 16 years there. I have a lot of memories during my 16 years there, but they are just memories.
I am here in the US, so here is my home, where I live, study, work, grow, and my future is here.”
“Do you long for going back to your native homeland?’
Omar: “I left Morocco a long time ago, so I am more comfortable living here. Things have changed so much there, and it is more ordered, easier to do things here – ordered, predictable. I have adopted some American values, but I still have my Moroccan values. With Certain things, I am very American, with certain things I am very Moroccan, and with certain things I am both.
Omer explained further: “In short, I know who I am, where I come from, and how I want to live my life. You have to learn to adapt, accept the reality, do your best to find your support system, to have a sense of belonging, and to deal with different changes and challenges in other countries and cultures.”
“At times, I wished I never had to leave my homeland, so I did not have to deal with so many changes in my life, but this country has offered me many opportunities that I did not have when I was in Morocco,” he said with a deep sigh.
“I believe God created the world – the universe – for human beings and other creatures to live in. Each of us just happens to be born in a particular location at a particular time. The lines we call ‘borders’ only apply to human societies, but in God’s eyes, we are all his children, and our lives on earth are temporary, but our true homes are not here, they belong to a different world; the spiritual world.”
Omer made me think deeply, wondering whether identity is shaped and changed throughout time and whether home is everywhere and not restricted to any geographical space. I also wonder if Omer’s whole conversation is a pretext to escape from the confession of a lost identity or a confused and unfixed one.
Omer is torn between acquired values and assumptions, and his native traditions. The strenuous effort to balance the two cultures can be clearly exposed in cultural hybridity. Indeed, Homi Bhabha’s concept of hybridity is very useful to scrutinize Omer’s situation. It allows integration within the other culture and environment and hence leads to different outcomes. On the other hand, it makes the person, who is the subject of this process endure the pain of living and adopting two different cultures, ideologies and customs at the same time. It creates a situation of ambivalence in the side of this hybridity. To put it in Bhabha’s words, “the subject is itself always ambivalent because of the intervention of the otherness.” That’s to say, the hybrid fails to comprise two identities and ends up experiencing permanent feelings of alienation and loss.
*Yassmine Zerrouki is Morocco World News’ correspondent in Fez, Morocco.
Editing by Benjamin Villanti.