Many people have the desire to travel across the world to experience the different lifestyles. However, for the majority, the latter remains only as a dream. On the other hand, for those who make to travel outside the country, they are aware of the significant differences that distinguish these regions. For me, I have been lucky enough to live in three different countries in different continents namely Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Canada. Therefore, I tend to have a blended culture that accommodates all these places. In this narrative, I will present my experience living in the three different continents and the challenges I had in adapting to the different cultures.
I was born and raised in Bangladesh, Southeast Asia, for two years by my parents who are Bengali natives. My family moved to Nigeria, Africa, after my parents were posted there. We settled in a rural setting where we lived in harmony with the members of the locals. People in this area were underprivileged and lacked even necessities. Nonetheless, they were warmhearted and very accommodating to foreigners like us. Through intermingling with the locals, I came to learn about their culture including their native music and dances. In fact, when I was six years old, I often sneaked from our house in the evening and joined the villagers in their daily story-telling and dance sessions. I vividly recall one evening when my parents could not find me and had to organize a search party with the villagers to try and find me. However, since my dad was a renowned doctor and friendly to the villagers, it did not take long before I was found in the dance session.
Being a Bengali native, it was challenging for me to adapt to the African lifestyle but I eventually succeeded. However, I was forced to learn three languages simultaneously including Hausa (the local Nigerian language), Bangla, and English. Furthermore, while I enjoyed the local Bollywood movies, I also wanted to enjoy the movies from my native land, and hence, my dad was forced to install an antenna that accessed cable services outside Africa. One interesting thing about Nigeria is that their literature is still passed on by word of mouth that entails proverbs and dilemma tales. Furthermore, the Nigerian arts have also been widely influenced by westernization which is seen as both a threat and enrichment to their culture. Nigerians are also avid lovers of sports which has seen them produce world-class athletes in football, boxing, and on the track. One piece of advice: please be careful when you visit Nigerian game parks. I had a near-death experience when I was bitten by a scorpion and at the same time had an encounter with a python. Nonetheless, the stay in this country was impeccable, and I have always treasured the moments I spent in Nigeria.
After spending seven years in Nigeria, we finally moved back to Bangladesh after my parent's contract terminated. It was hard on my side to leave all the good friends I had made during my stay, but at the same time, it was a good feeling being back to my motherland. In my first days in school, I was constantly bullied because of my African heritage. It became traumatizing that I had to struggle to fit in my country. Furthermore, I was also not fluent in the local Bengali language which made my first days in school hard given that the education system was different from that in Nigeria. I remember during my first day in school, the science teacher called me to stand and introduce myself but all I could do was to stare at my classmates as they laughed at me. However, with concentration and encouragement from my parents, I was able to perform exemplary in my studies and even became a class representative. Additionally, I also won the Japanese Top Art Award, Mitsubishi Ennikka Festa Award in 2012 for showcasing my artistic designs of the African culture.
In Bangladesh, I witness peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims which was not the case in Nigeria. I visited the Sheikh Temple and touched the famous 150-year-old turtle with the hope of being blessed immensely. In addition to the three languages that I was already familiar with, I also learned Urdu (Pakistan language), and Hindi from a favorite anime called Doraemon that was popular among children. In Bangladesh, there are three types of dance and music styles namely folk, modern, and classical. Indian culture influences the classical style. I also learned these dances which were entirely different from those in Nigeria. Also, the media in the country was outspoken and mostly owned by private investors. While in Nigeria, I enjoyed watching soccer, but after coming to Bangladesh, my friends and cousins introduced me to cricket which I saw as a mundane event. However, eventually, I became a die-hard fan. In Bangladesh, weddings were among the most valued social occasions which I also enjoyed especially because of the dances and food. My favorite food being chicken biryani was very hot and spicy. Weddings could even have as many guests as five hundred. People, especially children, could get lost in these occasions. During my last days in the country, we visited the Sundar Ban, a major tourist destination where we were involved in an encounter with a tiger that almost devoured us.
My stay in Bangladesh was short-lived because four years after settling in the country family and I relocated to Canada, North America. Initially, my parents had filed for immigration back to Nigeria which was, unfortunately, approved after we had settled in Canada. The moment was quite confusing because we had already resettled in Canada but Nigeria seemed better-suited according to my parents. Nonetheless, we decided to stay in Canada. At the time, I was in grade eight, but it was not challenging for me as I had learned how to conform to different cultures. The one thing that was shocking to me was the fact that in unlike Nigeria and Bangladesh, students did not have school uniforms in Canada. However, I was presented with a major challenge when people asked me where I come from. Bearing in mind that I was born in Bangladesh and raised in Nigeria, it was and still is quite challenging for me to answer this question without hesitating.
Furthermore, being a woman of color has presented me with numerous identity challenges that I never experienced in Nigeria. First, when people ask where I live, and I say to them, Hamilton, Westdale Area,' they nod, but their body language suggests that I am probably lying. Other than my skin color, my name also suggests that I am not a North American native. Furthermore, while my English is quite perfect, there is still an Asian accent that betrays me. Despite having lived in the country for five years now, it is hard for people to believe that I am a Canadian. However, one lesson that I have learned from living in different continents is that diverse experiences can never interact neatly. Having spent my life in three continents even before I was eighteen has affected my identity. On one end, I feel like I have an identity crisis. I cannot fully identify myself as a Canadian despite having lived here for five years because part of me still feels that I am Indian. On the other hand, while my origin may be Indian, I also have incorporated too much African culture which also makes me closely linked to this part of the world. Therefore, I can neither classify myself as a Canadian, nor an African, or Indian because these are all parts of what make me who I am. I regard myself as an amalgamation of all the three cultures.
While my stay in Canada has been good, I had to endure a few issues during my year of stay. I even struggled to adapt the westernized culture and disown my original way of life which was I began to see as primitive and backward. I disowned all the African and Indian culture and conformed to the western world views. I had lost my pride in everything I believed in just to fit in a new world. However, after a while, I began to see that despite all the assimilation, I remained Indian, a lesson that people with the same experience can attest. I believe that the experiences in our lives determine who we are and it is contemptible to abandon all these experiences and try to assimilate a suitable' identity. I quote the word suitable since there is no such thing as a proper culture. Despite the weird name-calling and harassment that I may face from time to time, I have learned to deal with it and also share the same with my parents who are my sources of inspiration. Additionally, I have many friends in Canada who are very fascinated by my stories which make me proud that I have established relationships with people who understand who I am.
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