Identity, Life

A diaspora kid’s guide to surviving summer in the motherland

Save any beauty care you've been putting off for salons abroad.

For children of the diaspora, summer is a time for visiting the global south to reconnect with your roots, rekindle family ties, and preserve the other half of your hyphen-identity. In light of the season, here are some survival tips to get you through yet another summer in the motherland:

Do not worry about learning the language you’ve spent your entire childhood, adolescence and young adulthood unlearning. You’ll pick up on it again while you’re there and forget it once you’re on your connecting flight in Heathrow, where you will officially have no use for it anymore.

Choose a proper term of endearment for the country you’re visiting.

Can you really call it the “homeland” when you weren’t even born and raised there? When you’ve spent the last few years spitting out so forcibly, so determinedly, “I’m from LA” when someone asks you where you’re really from?

Maybe, because your mother was born there, you can call it the “motherland.” But what do you know about the labor pains it endured?

Save any beauty care you’ve been putting off for the salons over there.

The hairdresser won’t gape at your hair, trying to comprehend how such a monster could exist. She won’t call it wild. She won’t think it’s a burden. She won’t charge you extra for washing so much hair. In fact, she’s done this seven times just this afternoon and you look just like her daughter.

Take a clear stance when it comes to politics. Are you with them or against them?

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Or don’t. What do you have to say about calls for revolution versus pleas for stability? You’ll be long gone if debate ever came to action.

Make a list of all the foods you’re craving because no matter how globalized this world gets, sugarcane juice will never taste as sweet as it does at 2 am in July surrounded by your cousins.

People will stare at you because you look a little different there, too.

Don’t think about what it would be like if your grandparents, your aunts and uncles, your cousins, all lived in the US with you…if they only applied for a VISA 25 years ago like your parents begged them to…

Enjoy the nightlife culture that stopped short of crossing the Atlantic.

Make a playlist of the popular songs that blare through the radio all summer, so that when you stumble upon it years later when you’re cleaning out your hard drive, pain and shame well up inside you for forgetting “Amazing Summer 2015” so easily.

When you see the abundant breakfast spread your maternal aunt has made for you, feel proud that your people are the most hospitable people on earth.

Hope that your aunt chastises you for leaving the house a mess just like she yells at the rest of her nieces and nephews who get to see her every other day.

Even though she probably won’t. While the others are forced to deep clean the bathroom and scrub the floors, she will be asking you instead to put batteries in the remote control because that’s just how much she wants you to be pampered.

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When you come back and coworkers and classmates ask you how your trip was, do not tell them about the things they wouldn’t understand: the crowds, the trash, or the heat.

That’s between you and the motherland.

Jasmine Riad

Jasmine is a recent graduate from the University of California, Irvine with a BA in English and a minor in psychology. There, she was highly involved with the Muslim Student Union, taught a course titled "American Dystopia," and served as a social justice mentor for the Muslim Gamechangers Network in California. She likes to read, write, and become way too emotionally invested in fictional characters' lives.

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