Caught Between Two Worlds

​By Rawan Olma

    I moved from Egypt to the U.S. when I was in third grade. Upon arriving in America, I was overcome by tremendous cultural shock. The first two years were awful, as I spent them distancing myself from my culture and heritage. I was an alien, to say the least. I wanted nothing more than to be like the white American kids at my school with their Lunchables and after school dance classes.
Fast forward four years when my parents announced our first summer visit back to Egypt and I was absolutely thrilled. I yearned for the feeling of belonging once again. I was excited for late night walks on the beach, catching up with my cousins, making up for the lost time with plenty of sleepovers, and seeing all of my favorite childhood places. The dizzying possibilities made me giddy with anticipation... 
The reality was a disappointment to say the least.
    Part of me had always thought that when I left Egypt, I would be pressing some sort of pause button there and when I came back, everything would be right there waiting for me to pick up right where I left off. The truth is, there was no pause button. People fell in and out of love, friends drifted apart, couples got married- life went on. It went on without me. Nothing hurt me more than that. Coming from America brought on a rush of different reactions from different people. Some treated me as royalty, but underlying all the feigned politeness was a twinge of hatred. Some treated me as a clueless foreigner- always feeling the need to throw in some English vocabulary in a conversation or explain phrases when I already knew what they meant. A lot of my family  treated each other like the strangers we had become. Our interactions were laced together in messy stitches of "how are you" and small talk that could only be kept up for so long until it finally sinks in that we’ve just drifted too far apart.  That was the summer I began to feel homesick for a place that didn’t exist. A place where sleepovers could mend the eternity of four years, a place where I could finally be comfortable in my own skin. That summer, I realized that I didn’t have a home. I was a foreigner in Egypt and an outsider in America. No matter where I went, I was always going to be regarded as an alien.  I was either too Egyptian, or too American, or not Egyptian enough, or not American enough. However, as hard as it is, I’ve been trying to embrace the often awkward space that I occupy between the two cultures. I’m learning that having both American and Egyptian influences doesn’t take away from my identity, it only adds more to it.

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