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Why are power outages much scarier far from home? Arab migrants and fear of darkness

Opinion Arab Migrants

Tuesday 9 May 202305:45 pm
إقرأ باللغة العربية:

"كيف أعود إلى العتمة بعد أن اعتدت الضوء؟"... فوبيا الكهرباء

I quietly opened the door to my house so as not to wake my little girl, who was sound asleep, and sneaked outside, relying on the flashlight on my mobile phone. I gently knocked on the door so as not to disturb anyone and requested to borrow a camping gas canister, which they call "gas for trips and camping". Then I hurried back to my apartment to start preparing the hot matté (herbal) drink that accompanies me during my nights at home.

I didn't let the pot boil, since the water added to matté should not reach the boiling point. I then snuck back through the dark hallway between my apartment and my neighbors' apartment to return this precious piece of treasure that is no longer on the markets, so that they too can enjoy a cup of brewed tea.

All this happened at the end of a long day that my daughter and I spent with them. We hadn't planned it in advance, but it was a kind initiative from my neighbor. We decided to leave our homes in search of warmth, and hot food, with a reasonable percentage of battery life on our mobile devices.

Some may think that I am narrating an ordinary day in one of the countries of the Middle East, specifically those that are engulfed in darkness more often than not, or may think that we experience this every day. But the truth is that what I am writing about happened in Canada, in Montreal, which was enveloped in complete darkness for more than two consecutive nights because of an ice storm that hit several Canadian provinces and caused power outages for about one million beneficiaries in Montreal alone, including houses, schools, businesses, and shopping centers, and my house was one of them.

Some may think I'm narrating an ordinary day in a Middle Eastern country, specifically those engulfed in darkness more often than not. But the truth is, this happened in Canada, which was enveloped in complete darkness for two nights due to an ice storm

This was not the first storm I witnessed since coming to Canada, nor was it the first time I have been without power and internet services for days on end. I have experienced similar situations in Syria.

But this time was different from any of the previous ones. I could not understand the emotions that overwhelmed me from the moment it happened, and I couldn't find a logical explanation for what I felt. It was as if life had come to a halt around me. I felt an anger inside me that I couldn't comprehend, accompanied by a sense of loss that gradually transformed into a bitter nostalgic longing.

I was lighting candles to dispel some of the darkness that surrounded me, and then sank into distant memories that I once had lived with my family members, where power outages were normal and expected. They repeated so much that they became a daily routine that we got used to and created our own rituals for.

This family image would manifest vividly in front of me whenever I'd see the shadow of my fingers on the paper that carried these words of mine between its lines. I realized how even this shadow has changed from the one I used to know. It no longer resembled the same shadow, with which I used to draw various shapes on the walls of our house, taking advantage of the scattered candlelight.

We used to have a lot of fun with this game, and for a moment, I thought it would be just as entertaining for my daughter, who wasn't accustomed to the dark or the games of shadows and the imagination associated with it. But my attempts to create some warmth in our cold house did not succeed, nor did those old traditional tricks succeed in calming her protests. I myself am no longer convinced of them and can only accept living in a normal way that provides me with everything I need to make my life easier.

How can I now go back to the dark after my eyes have become accustomed to the light? How can I regain my skills in deceiving them? I seem to have completely forgotten how we used to do it, as if I had never experienced it.

After all these years of having access to all the normal means of living, like electricity, water, heating, and the internet, any disruption in any of them causes me to feel suffocated, and even betrayed. I accepted to be far from my family and country and live in this far-away land solely out of my desire for a life without complications. I did not leave my country out of hatred or love for distance and alienation, but rather in search of an end to the tunnel we lived in for so many years of our lives. If I got angry about what happened, it was merely my fear of repeating the experience and tasting its bitterness again, even if for a temporary period of time.

After all these years of having access to all the normal means of living, like electricity, water, heating, and the internet, any disruption in any of them causes me to feel suffocated, and even betrayed

My sense of disappointment grew as the second day passed without electricity, and I lost faith in the competence and foresight of the Canadian government. And I started to doubt its ability to compensate me for what I had lost in exchange for seeking refuge in it.

I was troubled by an indignant thought questioning the usefulness of living in a country that revolves around electricity. If it is lost, the government seems incapable of providing alternative and rapid solutions for its citizens. I also found it perplexing how all this technological advancement could easily succumb to the power of wind and rain!

Then my audacity to ask those strange questions made me laugh, as I seem to have forgotten the years I spent in my homeland, where darkness prevailed whenever the wind blew. I seem to have also forgotten about the sharks that would occasionally devour the Syrian internet cables. And what kept refreshing my memory is one sarcastic sentence I kept hearing during these two days: "Are we in Syria for the electricity and the internet to get cut off because of the weather?"

No, we are not in Syria; we are in Canada. The sentence, "Finally, the electricity is back," seemed both strange and amusing at the same time. But now I understand my reaction. Today, I have come to fully understand the meaning of being a person with rights, and it has become difficult for me to give up any of those rights, no matter how small. In fact, I have the courage to demand them.

What refreshed my memory is one sarcastic sentence I kept hearing during these two days: "Are we in Syria for the electricity and the internet to get cut off because of the weather?"

In exchange for those rights, the Canadian government traded in my many years of experience living as a third-class citizen, and also what little patience I had left after exhausting most of it there. How can it now violate our agreement and demand more, leaving me vulnerable to the mockery of my sarcastic friends who have started offering to help us by sending batteries, LED lights, and other makeshift solutions they have been using for a decade, which I could barely believe I had managed to escape.

* The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Raseef22

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The Arab world has been a world stage for conflict, displacement, and war. Raseef22 has been covering the stories of various refugee and diaspora communities within and without the MENA region; whether it’s the story of those who left willingly or unwillingly, in search of a better future and brighter opportunities. Feel like sharing your's? Don't wait! we would love to hear it!

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