I was born in Switzerland and spent most of my childhood in Paris. I arrived in Lebanon when I was 10 years old and stayed there until I was 18.
I have now been living in London for over 13 years. And so, I often get asked “where is HOME?” – which is a tricky question to answer because I simultaneously feel a bit like HOME and a bit like a foreigner in all these places. In London, people say I have a French accent. In Paris, they ask me how come I speak such good French?
And in Lebanon, I speak such terrible Arabic – I often get taken for a tourist.
I moved to London because I wanted to go to an art and design college. It felt really easy to adapt as I always felt like I belonged in this cosmopolitan city that is so open to diversity. My friends and colleagues come from all over the world – Ireland, Portugal, Italy, Spain, America, Australia – and they too live far from their families.
My life as a student in London was fairly easy. I had friends and family living here who offered me immense support and I had five months of holidays in total each year. I spent much of that free time in Lebanon. However, I felt very torn between those two places. I had a life (and a boyfriend) in Lebanon, and I had a life and a degree in London. If I look back, I didn’t immerse myself in my London life as much as I probably should have done.
My first working year in London was more challenging. I was not able to visit family as often as I pleased, but it definitely brought stability to my life. That’s when I met my husband Samuele, who is Italian. It was the first non-long distance relationship of my life. I was finally starting to learn to live in the present moment, and not in the nostalgia or the anticipation.
Today I feel happy and appreciative of my routine London life, but I still sometimes miss the mountains, the sea, the horizon and the sunsets. I especially miss the view from my bedroom window in Cornet Chehwan. But most of all, I miss my family. And so does Samuele. We both juggle, trying to visit Italy and Lebanon as often as possible all the while trying to build our own family.
I’ve come to realize that in order to ease the pain of leaving Lebanon each time I visit I need to know that I am coming back soon, and that my plane tickets have already been booked. Otherwise, I tend to suffer huge anxiety with a fear that I might somehow get cut off.
I do not know where we might live in future, but I am grateful my husband Samuele loves Lebanon as much as I do, possibly even more. He finds it quite upsetting he can’t acquire a Lebanese passport, especially as his wish is to hopefully one day be able to retire in Lebanon.