Saturday, 21 May 2016

On Belonging and Identity


From time to time, it suddenly hits me. I don't belong anywhere. I left my country, where I grew up. Left my family behind, the familiarity.  There are moments where I feel at ease where I am now, lots of times actually. But then , I suddenly realise, I've not been to a family wedding for a while. Only heard of family members passing away over the phone, not been to see them one last time.

I left home 19 years ago. Another three years, and I would have spent as many years abroad as in my home country. In my heart, I still feel totally Algerian. But I feel definite connections with the places I've lived in: France and England.

But then, it only takes a random sentence, some get-together, to feel excluded. I don't belong. Despite my language and cultural proficiency, I am not French nor English. Actually, I am not sure I still belong in my home country either. And I certainly do not belong in Switzerland!

Ramadan will start in a couple of weeks. For the last eleven years, ever since BK1 was born, I spent most of it in Algeria. There, activity is reduced, life slows right down. Nobody expects you to take kids to the open-door swimming pool in the searing heat while you haven't had a drink or anything to eat for the last 12 hours. Nobody plans a school musical show preceded by nibbles at 5pm. Nobody wonders why on Earth this crazy nursing woman of four kids would abstain from eating or drinking from dawn till dusk.

This year is different. Because the girls are still in school for almost the whole duration of Ramadan, we'll only be able to fast the last few days in Algiers. And it makes me sad. It makes me long for my childhood smells, the market stalls,  the anticipation of sharing a long-awaited meal with my parents, the long evenings, the rituals.

Today is one of those days.