Salutation from Brittany

To live far away from one’s country is not an easy thing, even if we think that the grass is always greener on the other side. Zeina Sawaya Marion expresses her nostalgic feeling towards HOME.

Since 1976 I have lived in London, Athens, the United States, Paris and now 13 years in Brittany. Yes, many of you will wonder where exactly that is (honestly I had no idea where that was before I ended up here). Brittany is in the north west of France. It looks like the nose of France on the map.

It is a picturesque area dominated by nature, not yet spoilt  by industries; it is a tempestuous region with powerful winds  and storms that can  keep you awake at night.

Brittany’s tides are sometimes high and sometimes low but they’re the biggest tidal range in Europe. The beaches are wide, natural, free to the public and covered with the most beautiful seashells, but the tides are wicked, they’re strong and very rapid; imagine lying down on your  towel then you fall asleep to wake up to cold water hugging  your  body.  It is an  amazing phenomenon to witness and experience. Be careful, the sand gets covered totally and you lose your way back to the land, this has happened to me  many times.

The temperatures vary  between -2 degrees in winter and 28-30 degrees in the summer. Despite the high temperatures in summer (which by the way last  only ten to twelve days mainly in July), the evenings remain very fresh due to the strong westerly winds from the Atlantic. You always need a jacket at night similar to the mountains in Lebanon. You never put away your  carpets or your  comforters.

The towns and the streets are clean, the environment and driving regulations are respected. There are beautiful landscapes but people keep to themselves as they are not very open. It is an individualistic  society where the state takes care of its people and the family ties are very different to the ones we are used to in Lebanon. Taking care of one’s aunt or grandmother is absolutely unheard of here.

However, behind this individualism hides a lot of humanity and solidarity which I discovered through personal experience.

Having lived in Lebanon, Greece, the UK and the US I found this change and adaptation more difficult than in the other countries. I think this is due to a lack of a Lebanese community; wherever Lebanese people end up living we look for Lebanese people.

"We have this constant need to seek out  the Lebanese in the area, the food, the language and mainly the warmth of a person or persons who remind us of HOME and we don’t  give-up"

We have this constant need to seek out the Lebanese in the area, the food,  the language and mainly the warmth of a person or persons who remind us of HOME and we don’t  give-up; we keep looking and thank God the Lebanese are everywhere! Upon arrival, I found a Lebanese doctor for my children,  a dentist and even a school professor!

"After 13 years, I still try to find similarities or things that remind me of HOME"

After 13 years, I still try to find similarities or things that remind me of HOME; the things I really miss  like the small cucumbers that smell and fill up the entire house when you peel them, the simple taste of a 'manouche', the sweet and juicy fruits,  the green almonds eaten green and as they become harder cracking them open and eating the almond inside, the 'janarek' that we only eat green in Lebanon. The list is long, but mostly I miss my family, my childhood friends, the fresh air of the mountains, the pine  trees and the sound of crickets that sing together when the sun  rises and during  the day chant at different times and then stop, and start again very loudly when the sun  is setting and then stop together as if a choir master is standing before them and telling them what to do. I also  miss  the Mediterranean Sea and walking on the streets with my mother or aunt hearing my maternal language and stopping every two  steps to say hello to familiar faces, this is priceless and unique.

I am settled here now and I enjoy and respect the way of life. Wherever one goes there is beauty and new things to discover but I can’t  help  feeling  like a cedar tree that is growing  in Brittany, and I still dream of going back one day but wonder if I will  find the country that I have frozen and protected in my head.

In conclusion, one always longs for HOME and in the end the family and the land you were born in will always come first.


 

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