How the scariest moment of my life changed my life

"You don't even know Arabic. Shame on you". My older cousin was taller, prettier, and could speak my language better than I could. "You're simply an American,” she would say, "Americans know nothing.” We both shared typical Middle Eastern features: beautiful dark chocolate locks, almond-shaped eyes, and olive-colored skin. Although our looks were similar, our minds were very different. Praise was given to my cousin for her trilingual skills, while I was the rusty penny tossed into a well. Anyone who couldn't fluently speak the language was the minuscule ant that was looked down upon. "What a disgrace. You cannot speak it, but your own cousin can?” mother would say. Warm tears dripped from my hazel eyes to the edges of my chin, getting damper as each foreign word came out of my mother's angelic lips impeccably. My attempts at uttering simple words were useless and my vocabulary was gibberish. My mother was frustrated and gave up completely on teaching me the language. I could not speak a single word of this odd lingo. California was my hometown where the norms were sunny skies, white sandy beaches, and Hollywood glamour. I had been born in the golden state where I intended to stay; however, my parents had different plans. "We're going to Lebanon!" they exclaimed in unison. At that moment, a whirlwind of thoughts traveled throughout my head in never-ending circles. What was I to do? Would my relatives understand me? More importantly, would I understand them?

For the obvious reason, I did not want to go to Lebanon primarily because I was afraid I would be mute the entire time. Sadly, this was one of those situations where my parents forced me to go. They have always encouraged me to try new things and then form my own opinion.

Finally, the day had come. It was July 12, 2006. After seven days of enjoying Beirut's delicacies, the beginning of a war broke out between Lebanon and its neighbor, Israel. Our journey went from a serene environment to all chaos. We were with relatives watching news updates on the war, while eating gelato. All of a sudden, two bombs slapped the earth as if it was its foe. My mother jumped up from her seat screaming in terror dropping the Italian ice cream. At that moment, I had an epiphany, which was that it did not matter what language we spoke or how different we were. What mattered most was that I had my family. During this intense time, I understood that my family was all that I had and all that I needed. Since I was the type of person who kept my emotions bottled up, I began to write my feelings down in a daily journal that my grandmother had given me as a gift and document my journey.

Grasping the idea that danger was close, we came to the realization that we had to depart immediately back to the United States. As the situation became more extreme, my family and I had to result to traveling on a United States Navy evacuation ship to Cyprus in order to get back to sunny California. The conditions on the ship were terrible, even worse than vile airline food and kids kicking the back of your seat on an airplane. There were only a few benches on the ship for children and the rest had to stand for eight solid hours. Understandably, due to the unique situation of a large amount of people, the ship lacked refreshments, sanitary restrooms, and content faces. We stayed in Cypress and continued our grim journey back home a few days later. During this time of uncertainty, loved ones surrounding me was the only thing that kept me sane.

Although I was opposed to going on this trip, it was the extreme circumstances and the valuable lessons I learned, which made me want to tell my story to others. This is what inspired me to follow my passion of becoming a journalist and/or musician. Writing stories and songs based on non-fictional experiences will allow me to share other people’s stories that may have never been told. I realized that sharing my interesting experiences as well as creating new ones was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life and I thank my relatives for that.

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