Home is Acceptance
by Yagmur Akay, December, 2013
What is Shaema’s idea of home and how has coming to San Francisco changed her? When
it comes to the concept of home, most people state things like the place where they grew
up, the place where their parents live or the place where they feel the most comfortable
with themselves; however, Shaema has a unique and different understanding of home. She
is from France, and when she turned eighteen, moved to San Francisco all by herself.
Shaema states, “I have been living here for two years and there are people that I care about
so deeply that I will carry in my heart forever. And it is like that everywhere and that is so
beautiful; you can travel to India or anywhere else and find that you have strong
connections with people that don’t speak the same language, have a different a culture and
live across the world from you. So that’s what home is, making this place like…your
world” (Bendeks). Even though Shaema has been living in San Francisco for two years,
she has found people that she truly cares for. In addition, she claims that she is able to find
deep connections with people everywhere she goes. When it comes to Shaema’s concept of
home, it is a place where she feels accepted for who she is and receives love and
understanding from everyone around her. Shaema does not limit the number of her homes.
She can have ten or twenty homes as long as she receives the feeling of acceptance from
everyone around her. In sum, Shaema is at home when her home has the elements of
acceptance and understanding. Shaema does not like to be judged or discriminated against
for who she is. Even though she was born and raised in Paris, she does not consider France
to be her true home. She states that the people are too judgmental. Currently, she feels at
home in San Francisco and explains that, ever since she moved to San Francisco she has
changed for the better.
Shaema’s journey to San Francisco began with a 12-hour plane ride from Paris to San
Francisco. She states that during the twelve hours the only thing that she thought about is
how it would feel to arrive to her new destination. She states that she had a different
mixture of feelings such as anxiety and excitement at the same time. After the long
12-hour flight, she arrived in San Francisco to find a Chinese driver waiting to drop her off
to her host family. Shaema states, “So when he dropped me off in the Sunset it was like
this little yellow—no pink little pinky house in the corner and this little Chinese woman
was waiting for me. I just felt so like nothing was holding me back. I was freaked out at
first; I walked into the house and it was not that clean and I am kinda OCD and I was like
can I do this?!” (Bendeks). Shaema describes her temporary San Franciscan home as
being pink and not very clean and states that her new host, the Chinese lady, was waiting
outside for her arrival, and continues that at first sight she asked herself if she could really
do this. Later, after her arrival, Shaema enters her new room. She gets good vibes and, out
of nowhere, really begins to hear in Bob Marley’s famous song “Every little thing is gonna
be all right” in her head; in addition, she states “the song sounds so simple and cheezy but
if a person is able to project that state of mind everything becomes okay” (Bendeks).
Shaema is able to accept her new temporary living situation and is able to (with the help of
Bob Marley’s song) focus on the positive elements of her situation.
Coming to America has definitely changed Shaema in a positive way. She
emphasizes that, compared to Paris, she wanted be at a different environment to discover
who she really was. Shaema states, “I just wanted to have an experience. I wanted to have
something that would have an impact in my life. Now that I have been living here for two
years, I can definitely tell that I have changed and evolved so much and learned so much
by me, who I am and what I wanna do in life and how I am going to get there” (Bendeks).
Shaema explains she wanted a new situation that would affect her life. She has been living
in San Francisco for two years and the experience has allowed her to grow and learn more
about who she is as a person. Sheama also explains that she knows more about what she
wants to do in life and how to achieve her goals. By coming to San Francisco, Shaema has
been able to learn more about herself and discover her true passion in life, which is to
When I asked Shaema if she had received any discrimination from anyone, she
states “it is San Francisco; it’s really hard to be discriminated against in this beautiful city;
there’s so much acceptance,” meaning that, with the great range of human diversity, it is
hard to be discriminated against in San Francisco. On the contrary, Shaema states that the
greatest discrimination or, a better way to put it would be, unsupportive approach she
received, was from her own father in Paris. Shaema explains that, when she first came to
San Francisco, her father told her that she could only stay for one year to experience a
different country and have fun. However, for Shaema it was more than having fun. As the
one-year time limit passed, Shaema came to the realization that she wanted to stay and
finish college at City College of San Francisco and later transfer to a four-year university.
Unfortunately, her father had different ideas for her and did not show support to her
decision. Shaema states:
“He was really just angry. Like, we just were fighting over it. He was like no; it was fun for a year but you belong to Paris. This is your home, this is where you grew up, and this is where you belong. That is where the concept of home came in and how we did not agree. Like our values were different and I told him no. It is not because I was born somewhere that I have to stay my whole life. Thank god it is not like that. I can go wherever I wanna go and right now I feel good right here in San Francisco” (Bendeks).
Shaema’s views are different from those of her father. According to her father, the place
where Shaema was born and raised was her home and her father wanted her back in Paris.
However, Shaema wanted to stay in San Francisco because she felt accepted. Unlike her
father, Shaema has a universal approach to the concept of home. Shaema cannot imagine
herself staying in one place for the rest of her life, because she feels stuck. However, right
now San Francisco feels right as a home.
Furthermore, when it comes to Shaema’s realationship with her father, things were
very bitter because with Shaema’s solid decision to stay in San Francisco her father cut
financial support. Shaema states:
“He thought not supporting me financially would be a big enough obstacle to for me to agree with him and come back home and live the life that he wanted me to live. But I did not agree. I fought for it and, umm, you know, it was struggle for a year because it was financially really hard. Because my mom and my grandmother were the only ones supporting me. Because I cannot legally work in this country, it was hard but, umm, you know, I think the fact that I went through such a hard time, ummm…He understood what it meant to me. That it was not just having fun and you know like drinking to bars every night just having the fun life San Francisco in America. I was really here because it meant something important to me. I think that after all the obstacles he put me through he understood that this was really what I wanted and nothing can keep me away from it” (Bendeks).
Shaema’s father thought that by not caring for her daughter financially would
have caused Shaema to come back to Paris and live the life that he found right for his
daughter. However, Shaema, with the support of her grandmother and mother, was able to
survive the whole year without her father’s money. Shaema states that it was hard for her
to get by with the support of her mom and grandmother but she is proud that she was able
to fight through it. By showing her father that living in San Francisco is more than “fun”
for her and living without his money, Shaema was able to prove to her father how
important the fact of living in San Francisco meant to her. Furthermore, her father, after
Shaema’s struggles, understood the importance of Shaema’s decision to stay in San
Francisco and finish school. Continuing, Shaema explains that her passion to stay in San
Francisco and to study music was difficult for her family to accept. However, she was able
to prove to her family and, especially to her father, that this was the only thing that she
could see herself ever doing.
Shaema states that, whenever she returns to Paris to visit, her parents’ friends give
her a hard time by asking her continuous questions about her life in San Francisco and her
studies in school. One event that Shaema cannot forget is at a dinner party: her parents had
and a friend of her father’s approached her with his wife and asked her questions about
what she studied in San Francisco. Shaema stated to them that she studies music and, when
her father’s friends heard her answer, they asked her, in a mocking way, what she intended
to do with her major. Shaema stated, “I wanna be a fucking painter!” what do you think?! I
want to be a musician. You know, and then they say,” that’s good…”.You always have to
fight to prove yourself. Just to be who you are and it should not be that way. Therefore, it
was hard for a while and I went through this struggle with some of my friends and some of
my family” (Brendeks). Shaema felt that she always had to prove herself to her friends
and even to part of her family. While in Paris, she was also bothered by her father’s
friends’ restless questions. It is clear that Shaema is studying music to be a musician. In
addition, according to Shaema, musicians, in Paris, are considered as the broke and
starving people. Therefore, that is why her family and family friends couldn’t understand
Shaema’s point of studying music.
Shaema truly belongs to San Francisco with her unique approach to life and
beautiful different views on the topic of home. She feels accepted in San Francisco and
calls it her current home. The power of acceptance is very significant in Shaema’s life. Not
receiving it from her father for a year and not being accepted in the French society pushed
her to discover a new place where she feels okay in her own skin and feels confident to go
after her dreams. In the academic journal The Exceptional Parent, author Paul J, Callen
writes about the power of acceptance. He states, “acceptance must be based on
unconditional love. Accepting and being accepted should be our starting point, not our last
resort, when faced with new challenges and relationships” (Callen). What Callen is saying
is that acceptance should come from the heart, where pure love exists. When there are
relationships that are challenging in life, acceptance should be the first approach.
Continuing, the power of acceptance can be very significant in a person’s life. When it
comes to Shaema’s journey, her father’s approach to her decision to stay in San Francisco
caused Shaema to struggle for a year; in addition, it damaged her relationship with her
father. However, if her father had accepted her decision to stay in San Francisco, Shaema
would have not struggled. Shaema states, “you know it was struggle for a year because it
was financially really hard. Because my mom and my grandmother were the only ones
supporting me. Because I cannot legally work in this country, it was hard but umm you
know, I think the fact that I went through such a hard time ummm…He understood what it
meant to me” (Bendeks). Shaema explains that only her mother and grandmother
supported her for a year and points out that, because of her legal status she was unable to
work. However, she was able survive in San Francisco without her father’s help and
eventually her father understood how important it was to accept Shaema’s decision to stay
and finish her schooling in San Francisco.
Shaema feels happy and accepted in San Francisco. She feels that people do not judge
her for who she is like they do in Paris. Another reason Shaema feels so accepted in San
Francisco is that she is a lesbian and, in Paris, this is not so easily accepted. When I asked
Shaema if she felt more discriminated against in Paris than in San Francisco, her answer
was yes. Shaema states:
“Hell yeah. And even sexuality wise…Being out of the closet in France is not easy at all. Especially when you are in high school, believe me. It sucks! It is not necessarily the big things. It is just little things. It’s not like you are gay I hate you and I am going to beat you up. It’s like, owww, you’re gay…okay, how is that working out for you? Just like…You know that they know you are gay. For me, whether you’re gay, straight or whatever it is that you are, it doesn’t change the way I am gonna talk to you and it’s like you never told me. But you can see if that there’s that thing you know or not. It’s weird” (Bendeks).
Shaema explains that, at a young age, coming out of the closet was hard for her. The
way people spoke to her was discriminative. According to Shaema, it should not matter if
the person likes women or men; it is their personal choice and everyone should respect
that. She significantly points out that person’s choice of being gay or straight does not
affect the way she speaks with that person. But she points out that you can have an
intuitive feeling of the person but even this should not change the way you approach the
person. Furthermore, Shaema is able to find an understanding environment in San
Francisco where people are accepting of each other’s personal choices. Furthermore, her
father is not comfortable with Shaema being a lesbian. When I asked her if he knew that
she was a lesbian, she explained to me that he does not say anything about the topic, but
Shaema has a good feeling that he knows. This is also a barrier between her and her father.
I believe that, to have a healthy relationship, parents should communicate with their
children and approach them with love and acceptance.
A story that is similar to Shaema’s is the story of Vica, a young, transgender,
undocumented immigrant. Vica’s story is a lot more tragic than Shaema’s but, when it
comes to acceptance and parental relationships, Shaema and Vica have things in common.
When it comes to Shaema, she at least has one supportive parent (her mother). However,
in Vica’s case, she only had one existing parent and that was Olga, her mother. The
relationship between Olga and Vica was not your typical mother and daughter relationship.
Olga was a single parent and had busy work hours; however, she paid attention to her
children as best as she could. Olga truly cared about her children and moving from Mexico
to LA for her children shows how much she loves them. Nevertheless, caring is one thing
and accepting your child for who he or she is takes more courage and understanding. Olga
was eventually able to accept Vica for who she was but because Olga grew up with
conservative parents it took some time for her to accept Vica as a transvestite. Olga
explains, “It took me a long time to accept things. I come from a family that is very
reserved. My parents were born in Zacatecas. After they were married they moved to
Guadalajara. But they were always from the ranch, the kind of people who were always
worried about what people might think, what people might say” (Orner). Olga states that it
took her some time to accept her daughter and one reason is that her own parents were
from a small town in Mexico. In addition, Olga’s parents valued what other people thought
about them and were very conservative. Olga, raised with a conservative mindset, explains
that it was hard to accept Vica’s transgender identity. However, after a period she was able
to accept daughter for who she is. When Vica receives the acceptance and love from her
mother, she is able to find trust and comfort at home. Even though her story does not end
well, because of the human right abuses she faces, she is able to find happiness and
acceptance at home. Furthermore, when it comes to Shaema, maybe this is what she needs
from her father. I cannot be certain if this will solve the whole problem of her not feeling
at home in Paris but it might help the relationship with her father.
When I asked Shaema if she has changed since she moved to San Francisco, she
looked at me with a smile and asked me how much time I had. She explained to me that
she has changed a lot. Shaema states, “When I was back in France, I was a lot more
stressed out, nervous, nervous, and even violent sometimes” (Bendeks). Shaema explains
while she was in France she filled with stress, nervousness and anger. Furthermore, her
father caused her nervousness and anger. Shaema states:
“Well, the thing is, when I was in France, my dad has like anger management issues. He’s like, he can like…Some situations can blow out of proportion. Like I grew up in this like to me even though it’s crazy it sounds normal. You know, it sounds normal and I am like okay. But I realized that now that I have moved away. I am like do you realize? I am not even saying that for me but I am saying that for you. Do you realize that you put yourself in that state? I don’t even know; it’s like beyond my understanding. You know, growing up in that energy-filled thing made me angry.”
While growing up, Shaema was deeply affected by her father’s anger management issues.
She explains that his anger would be out of control sometimes. Living with a father who
was unbalanced caused Shaema to be nervous and stressed all the time. However, after
coming to San Francisco, she was able to connect with her true self, which is the way she
is now; relaxed and happy. Shaema explains that, moving away from her father helped her
to find inner peace. In sum, Shaema has changed for the better since living in San
In conclusion, Shaema’s idea of home is anywhere she feels accepted and
understood. This is different from the dictionary term home but it works for Shaema.
According to Clara Cooper Marcus, the author of House As a Mirror of Self: Exploring the
Deeper Meaning of Home, “A home fulfills many needs: a place of self-expression, a
vessel of memories, a refuge from the outside world, a cocoon where we can feel nurtured
and let down our guard.” Home is a place where the person can express his or her
personality and feelings; it is a place where a person can recall previous experiences and
feel safe to be let his or her guard down. When it comes to Shaema, she is able to find
these elements at places where she feels accepted and understood. Currently, she calls San
Francisco her home because she feels that she can let her guard down and be accepted for
her identity. The feeling of being accepted is an important element; however, it is not the
only factor that makes a person feel at home. For some people, the one is born is one’s
home but, when it comes to Shaema, the feeling of being accepted is her key answer to the
question of what her idea of home is. Furthermore, the right home has the power to
“protect, heal and restore us, express who we are now, and overtime help us become who
we meant to be” (Marcus). Person’s true home can give safety, can give the person
freedom of expression, which will eventually help the person to reach his or her goals. A
true home can give a feeling of being accepted to most people. Ever since Shaema moved
to San Francisco, she has been able to heal her wounds from her relationship with her
father, feel more confident in her skin and has been able to go after her dreams, which is to
study music. In sum, Shaema’s idea home is in places where she receives the feeling of
acceptance for who she is and ever since she moved to San Francisco she has become a
happier person. Currently, Shaema feels right at home.
Callen, Paul J. “The power of acceptance.” The Exceptional Parent. 39.4 (2009): 78. Print.
Marcus, Clare C. House As a Mirror of Self: Exploring the Deeper Meaning of Home. Berkeley: Conari Press, 1995. Print
Orner, Peter. Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives. San Francisco: McSweeny’s, 2008. Print.
Interview with Shaema Bendeks:
YA: Where are you from?
SB: I am from France.
YA: How did you come here?
SB: I swam across the ocean… I took the plane (Laughter)
YA: What is your concept of home?
SB: hmm… My concept of home is place where I feel..amm.. where I can be myself and feel confortable with it.And be around people that I love.
YA: Describe your native country?
SB: My native country?
YA: Yeah, descbribe..
SB: I grew up in Paris which is a little bit different than the rest of France. So ummm… It’s a a beautiful, very beautiful place. Like an outside museum. Everything is just full of history and art and it’s amazing. The people are little bit too narrow minded and judgmental for me to actually be comfortable over there. Umm. It is like everything like has a norm and you have to fit in a box. And I do not fit in a box ahahhaha.. so.. umm, it’s just now moving away from France I feel like-I see it completely differently than used to so..umm. I think France like everything else you just have to find something that you like about it and forget the rest and live in your that’s home. Home is what you make of it so whether you are in France or anywhere else umm it’s what you decide to make of it and what you decide to see umm. And to take with you and your experience
YA: Okay.. So for you home can be anywhere as long as.
SB: Yeah. Yeah.
YA: So what elements like that are important in that.. What the are the factors that has be there? People you love, etc.
SB: Well, you find people you love along the way too umm I moved here by myself not knowing anyone and now I been living here for two years and there is people that I care about so deeply that I will carry in my heart forever. And it is like that everywhere and that is why so beautiful you can travel to (being from France) India or anywhere else and find that you have strong connection with people that don’t speak the same language, have a different culture and live across the world from you. So that’s what home is, making this place our like.. your world.
YA: So right now where would you consider home? Here of France?
SB: That’s a tricky question. It’s a really tricky question… In some way both you know. I say I am going to go back home for Christmas so to Paris. Than when I am in Paris for too long whenever I come back to SF, it is like coming back home. So you know.. it’s ..Actually friend of mine..
YA: Could you say that you have two homes?
SB: How many countries is there in the world? I have that many homes I think you know. So. There is that place where I grew up in which for people would be defined as home but it’s not to me. It is still part of my history, that’s where I was raised so it is one of the homes that I have. Umm but I don’t consider it like my ground my go to.
YA: Okay, what made you want to live in the US?
SB: I wanted to explore the world. I wanted to just see something else, something different you know. I was really close to my parents like you know. I felt like I was in a close, I lived in close circle like in a closed box. I would always be with the same friends, I was in the same high school for about 8 years.. Like we would hang out with same people and go to the same bars, same neighborhoods and seeing family, the same people, the same surroundings all the time. I was just sick of that. I wanted to see how it would be to be somewhere else and I wanted to know myself and about the world that I live in.
YA: Nice! So what did you expect to find and what did you find in the US? Did you have any expectations or did you just get on the plane with totally open heart with whatever, whatever.
SB: Pretty much… Pretty much that is what I find exciting about travelling is that you don’t know what’s gonna happen and its scarce most people not to know. People are scared of the unknown of what they don’t know and that’s what excites me. I don’t know what’s gonna happen so I can make it anything that I want to be and that’s what a new experience is like.
YA: What did you want it to be? Did you have anything in mind?
SB: I just wanted to have an experience. I wanted to have something that would have an impact in my life. Now that I have been living here for two years, I can definitely tell that I have changed and evolved so much and learned so much by me, who I am and what I wanna do in life and how I am going to get there. And it is not necessarily about America, it could have been Australia. It could have been any country and it would have been the same sort of experience because it’s about me.
YA: Would you say that you had to move away from home to find home?
SB: Pretty much, I needed to go away from home to figure out who I was. Ummm not depending on this circle of friends or this like family. It’s like you kind of have that print on you. Your friends, your family, your social status, your school aaa so.. I wanted to see what it was like if I was in a completely new setting without knowing anything, anyone and to see who I really was. Without anyone influencing me. So and aaa that worked out pretty well. But I didn’t really have any expectations you know, I just wanted to go. Not knowing what was gonna happen. I think that was the biggest excitement for me. So..
YA: What was the feeling when you first got off the plan in the US?
SB: I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in the in the plane for 12 hours so I had time to think about it for 12 hours. Ummm you feel a little bit anxious because you don’t know what you are going to find out there but that anxiety was really exciting to me so like thrilled and I got there and there was this Chinese guy who was supposed to drive us to our respective homes/ houses where we would stay. And I stayed at this host family in the sunset. Never met them before. Umm so he dropped me off in the sunset and I didn’t think that SF looked like that at all. It was like, the sunset was the first place I ever got to. I was like okay… I didn’t realize by than that SF was so diverse. Depending on where you go in the city it looks completely different. There is different vibe, there is different architecture, everything is different you know… So when he dropped me off in the sunset it was like this little yellow no pink- little pinky house in the corner and this little Chinese woman was waiting for me. Umm and it just I just felt so like nothing was holding me back. I was freaked out at first, I walked in the house and it was not that clean and I am kinda OCD so I was like can I do this?! Ohh no! Three months with people I don’t even know and umm I walked in the room and I got good vibes and I felt like everything was gonna be okay. It was like you know, whenever you hear that Bob Marley song “Every little thing is gonna be alright” you realize that it sounds so simple and so cheesy and that’s what like everything is gonna be alright. IF you project yourself into that state of mind, that everything is be alright eventually. It always does. It just that I felt so free and I walked around the block everywhere not even knowing where I was and took random pictures and I was listening to the “Hooks” that one song and singing my heart out and I could see the ocean two blocks away that was so much so free and ready to start the journey.
YA: Wow! Okay so , have ever experienced any negative approaches from other people for being an international student ?
SB: American people or French People?
YA: Anyone around you.
SB: Yeah, it has been a struggle. Yes, well in America not so much everybody thinks it is great that I am from France and that it is amazing that I am from Paris. Umm.. people from Paris though… My dad especially. I was just supposed to be here for one year like as a gap year to explore, have fun. At least that is what he (my dad) thought. Like that it was a great opportunity for me to have fun and he wished that he had done that when he was young. He did not realize that it was more important for me than just having fun. Aaaa… and after that one year I liked it so much that decided to stay. And it was always and option but like he always hoped that I would go back and have this awesome experience. Because for him ummm so yeah, anyways I decided to stay and he did not agree with it. He was really just angry. Like we just were fighting over it. He was like no, it was fun for a year but you belong to Paris. This is your home, this is where you grew up, this is where you belong. That is where the concept of home came in and how we did not agree. Like our values were different and I told him no. It is not because I was born somewhere that I have to stay my whole life. Thank god it is not like that. I can go wherever I wanna go and right now I feel good right here in San Francisco. That’s where I feel comfortable, that’s where I wanna live my life for now. Ummm so we did not talk for like a year at all. He refused to support me financially umm because he did not agree with my choice of staying here in San Francisco and my choice of studying music. So ummm he thought not supporting me financially would be a big enough obstacle to for me to agree with him and come back home and live the life that he wanted me to live.But I did not agree. I fought for it and umm you know it was struggle for a year because it was financially really hard. Because my mom and my grandmother were the only ones supporting me. Because I cannot legally work in this country, it was hard but umm you know, I think the fact that I went through such a hard time ummm…He understood what it meant to me. That it was not just having fun and you know like drinking to bars every night just having the fun life San Francisco in America. I was really here because it meant something important to me. I think that after all the obstacles he put me through he understood that this was really what I wanted and nothing can keep me away from it.
SB: Am I not the best choice for an interview?!
YA: So umm…you are saying that your dad was the only one that had a negative approach.
SB: Well you know even my grandma who supports me financially is awesome. She was so sad that I left because we are so close and ummm I realized that afterwards. Whenever I would go back to visit my family it would not be the same between us.I was like why she felt angry with me, we used to laugh all the time like talk for hours and one day I was like I feel like you are angry you are still angry with me and one day she was like yes. I am angry at you for leaving and she never told me so before. She was like I am angry at you for leaving me and leaving me behind. And umm and we went through this emotionally intense talk and I was like I love you but I can not stay here for you even though I love you so much! I have to be little selfish and think about myself. Because this is my life right now and I feel like I have to do this now. And aaa but she still supports me financially and is awesome with it. Even though she doesn’t think that music is the necessarily the most stable thing. So I have to, you know it’s kinda like you have to prove yourself everyday that what you are doing is worth it and that what you are doing is important for you. It’s not like a little selfish kid, you know this is what I breathe. This is, I have to do this. It is not just [with a higher voice] Yeahh music is fun! San Francisco is fun! I am just here…No!! This is something that like, that is so important to me. This is the only option. This is the only thing I could do and I see myself doing right now and ummm back home whenever I say I am a music major to adults or umm even people my age. The question that everybody asks me all the time, that is why I hate meeting my parents friend’s. “Ohh you live in San Francisco what do you do over there?” and I say that I study music and the question that always comes up is that “ What do you want to do with that?” [sarcastically] SB says that “I wanna be a fucking painter!” what do you think?! I want to be a musician. You know, and then they say,” that’s good…”.You always have to fight to prove yourself. Just to be who you are and is shouldn’t be that way. So it was hard for a while and I went through this struggle with some of my friends and some of my family. And umm you might wanna do this by yourself.
YA: So can you say that coming here was freedom for you?
SB: It was a way to I guess umm do the big jump and take responsibilities for myself and make my own choices.
YA: Would you have stayed if France had opportunities like this?
SB: No, I just you know, I just wanna see things and I am not done travelling. Whenever people ask me “do you see yourself living in SF or Paris?” and “What are you gonna do next year?” I am like “I don’t even know what I am going to do tomorrow”. I do not even know, I might be in San Francisco transferring next year or I might be in Spain doing stuff. I do not know I might be anywhere. And I don’t see myself living in SF forever and I don’t see myself living in Paris forever. I just see myself moving around. Culture and people are so fulfilling.
YA: Okay, that is great.
SB: I wanna find home everywhere in the world.
YA: Would you say that like, finding home everywhere in the world that means that finding a piece of yourself everywhere? Do you think that there is a place that where you gonna feel whole without like feeling that you’re…
SB: What I think is that… Okay so my dad used to talk to me. Whenever we talked about religion, I do not subscribe to any religion, my dad would. Cause I grew up- I was raised Jewish. But my dad was really into it but not like super super crazy religious. He would always say that, he would only do the things and believe in the things that ummm spoke like touched him. That made sensed to him which might not make sense to someone else but it would make sense to him. I think that’s what it is with traveling, with cultures is that in every culture, in everybody, every country, every city and every single person you are going to meet there is gonna be someone that you appropriate and learn you know. Umm so I think that I am not looking for that one place where I am gonna feel whole. I think all these places and experiences and all the people that I meet along the way are gonna make me feel whole. You know.
YA: So you think that there has to be a certain amount of time until you feel whole?
SB: Not necessarily. It’s not that I am lacking and that I am looking for something to like fill complete that I am not right now. It’s just that there’s always something more. Even in life there’s always something more to learn you know. When you are fifty years old, you still have something to learn. Maybe from a 10 year old and maybe from a 80 year old there’s something to add. So it’s a never ending process.
YA: You are saying that as you meet people and discover the world the place that you call home doesn’t feel home anymore because you are growing out of it?
SB: No! It’s that every experience is a part of me, is a part of home, it’s another block to the house.
YA: So for you where ever you go is home for you because you are home?
YA: Did you experience discrimination?
SB: In America? It is San Francisco! Therefore, it is hard. [Hahahah. ]
YA: Yeah I know, [hahaha]
SB: Ummm not as much as I did in Paris. Even though it’s not as bad, you know there’s always…Ummm the funny thing is that in America- San Francisco, everyone is really open and really diverse. Umm I feel like, there’s still some. .. It’s the way they view the world because of the things they have been taught and the way they perceived certain historical events. You know there’s like that whole stereotypical view on things umm especially like different races, different religions and stuff like that so ummm it’s like you know, people realize that my full name is not Shem but Shaema which is actually Arabic, they obviously assume that I am Muslim and like you know a lot of different things like that. And umm it’s like they stigmatize a lot the way umm and it’s hard to tell because it’s San Francisco it’s not really that way at all but I feel that with some people they assume too fast.
YA: So you felt discriminated before by some people?
SB: No, I just feel like not in San Francisco. I just realized the way the academic system and the way they would just –it’s like communism is the worst word to ever use.In France communism is the worst word to use. When in France, you know, whenever we are in class umm we talk about communism. Its just like you know, it’s history and there’s still communist parties in France and stuff like that , here it’s like the biggest insult –they have really radical point of view on things. So you are a communist, your this and this…And they don’t even know what it really is. You know..So I feel like there’s a few things like that the whole Jewish thing, the whole Arabic family but yet French umm you know. When I am here I am French right because I am in America and my nationality is French. Though when I am in France and they ask me like who I am. I say that my ethnicity is actually Algerian because my grandparents were from Algeria. Like, Jewish Algerians. Umm so it’s just really weird because like people don’t see you differently as you say you know, when I sound French like people have this image of me. Ummm but they don’t necessarily know that I have this Arabic cultural background. Because I don’t really look like it. When I do they have a different view on things which is interesting. Not necessarily negative.
YA: Yeah exactly but they just assume things.
YA: So you are saying that you have felt more discriminated in France than you have felt discriminated here (San Francisco)?
SB: Hell yeah. And even sexuality wise…Being out of the closet in France is not easy at all. Especially when you are in high school believe me. It sucks! It’s not necessarily the big things it’s just little things.It’s not like you are gay I hate you and I am going to beat you up. It’s like owww you gay okay, how is that working out for you? Just like… You know that they know you are gay. For me whether you’re gay, straight or whatever it is that you are it doesn’t change the way I am gonna talk to you and it’s like you never told me. But you can see if that there’s that thing you know or not. It’s weird.
YA: Where do you think you belong?
SB: I don’t know. Everywhere. I really don’t know. I feel like, I feel like there’s definitely a part of me that belongs here in SF. It’s definitely. I am probably going to spend, not necessarily now but near future. But some day I am going to be here for a while. I have travelled on vacation a lot actually, when I was younger. So I travelled I lot but there’s a lot to know and to discover. So..I don’t think I belong to one specific place. Cause there’s gonna be, you know more you travel the more you that’s like there’s a part of your soul everywhere. So..
YA: How have you changed since you moved here (to SF)?
SB: OHH MY GOD! How long do you have!?
YA: We still have time.
SB: Ohh my god. How have I changed? Ummm ummm, okay. I will just make it simple because otherwise it’s just going to take up a lot of time.
YA: No we have time so you can go head.
SB: Okay, ummm well… I will start with the most certain thing that comes to my mind first. When I was back in France, whenever I say that to people, they would be like really. I was a lot more stressed out, nervous and nervous and even violent sometimes. What really, you are like this bubbly and happy person all the time. Well the thing is when I was in France, my dad has like anger management issues. He’s like, he can like…Some situations can blow out of proportion. Like I grew up in this like to me even though it’s crazy it sounds normal. You know, it sounds normal and I am like okay. But I realized that now that I have moved away. I am like do you realize? I am not even saying that for me but I am saying that for you. Do you realize that you put yourself in that state? I don’t even know, it’s like beyond my understanding. You know, growing up in that energy filled thing made me really, cause I am really similar to my dad and in a way that I hate. Ummm and I think it’s also the influence he had on me. So when I moved away, I am a lot more relaxed and patient and you know not as angry all the time.
YA: Because you are away from him?
SB: Yeah. It’s hard to say but in some way yeah. Because you know what it’s always been what I really am. I am just that chill, peaceful and relaxed person. But because I was living around him I couldn’t find my inner self.