By: Lindsey Marchessault
Bourj el Barajneh

It was very difficult for me to choose the subject for this report back to Canada from Bourj el Barajneh. So many things have happened since I have been here and there have been innumerable “defining moments” of the summer so far. To try to describe the entire experience and how it feels to be here, I could write for pages and pages and never find the right words.

So, I have decided to write about an experience that I had visiting with one of my students, and how it made me feel about the situation of the Palestinians here in Lebanon as well as my own role as a visitor here.

I could tell soon after meeting her that she was a very determined and persistent 13 year old, because about 45 seconds after I learned her name she insisted that I come to her house for lunch. Over the course of that lunch, my student gave me a glimpse of her life, and taught me something about real ambition. As soon as we sat down in her home, without me asking any personal questions, she started to open up to me and spoke quite eloquently about her life.

A life that includes being a Palestinian refugee in Sabra, being the victim of structural discrimination, being a young girl with dreams that are very nearly impossible, being Muslim and loving God, and of course the trials and tribulations of being a 13 year old girl in general. Mostly she felt she needed guidance, encouragement and hope. She wants to do so much with her life, for herself and for Palestine , but is afraid she will never be able to do most of it. I felt sad for her, because of the obstacles she will face, and at the same time I felt hope. That somehow if she works hard enough in her pursuits, and if we work hard enough to lift the restrictions barring her way that her ambition will prevail.

The hard part is, I don’t know who the “we” is in the previous sentence, and I doubt that I am even a part of it. I know I want to be, but the solution as to how is illusive. I came out of that meeting feeling very spoiled for the luck of my birth and freedom, and weak because I don’t know how I would be in her place.

As a Canadian student here for only one more month (a virtual stranger) I know that the personal guidance I can give to this girl is very, very limited. But I know that when I go back to Canada my obligation to this girl is to find a way to participate, indirectly at least, in making her goals more achievable.

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