Hana Shafi The Plight of the Immigrant Kid

Seven-year-old me was always jealous of the girls in Brownies, the girl scouts, the kids whose parents would send them to summer camp. Sleeping in cabins, making s’mores, singing songs by a fire; all memories being recapped by the kids in my elementary school. Only later did I realize something: I was a Middle Eastern immigrant kid, and all the other kids who had immigrated here from countries far away seemed to be having the same dilemmas. 

These were realms that our parents did not understand, these were leisures that they never grew up with. So what ended up happening to me? None of the overnight summer camps, unfortunately. Though, I did spend much of my childhood in some kick ass art classes, but the memory which sticks out the most was that of computer camp. It wasn’t really a camp; just day classes where me and a bunch of other Middle Eastern and South Asian kids learnt how to make tacky websites with clip art pictures in every corner. My friend, whose parents immigrated here from Poland, went to art classes too: Polish art classes specifically. 

Lunch time became another one of the immigrant kid struggles. Any kind of smelly foreign food would be sure to make you the subject of teasing. Thankfully, I was able to persuade my mother into just sticking with cold cut sandwiches and Dunk-a-roos. Still, some of my classmates weren’t as lucky; their parents still sent them to school everyday with some delicious, though highly pungent, meal from their homeland. Either that, or those kids simply did not give a fuck; they weren’t trading in a delicious home cooked meal for some crappy Fruit Roll-Ups. 

The final phenomena completely new to my parents, and many of the other parents who had immigrated here from countries that were not part of the Western World, was sleepovers. Ah, the eternal immigrant kid struggle to get your parents to let you go to a sleepover. My friend and I were reminiscing over our constant efforts in convincing our parents to allow us to the spend the night at a friend’s, it took some serious negotiation and even then, sometimes they just wouldn’t budge. 

And it was always hard trying to explain this to your 100 per cent white Canadian friends. They’d ask you why your parents wouldn’t allow you to go to so and so’s party, and the frustrating part is you would never have a clear answer. My parents certainly never gave me any clear justification of their persistent “no’s”. At least my fellow immigrant friends understood. Here’s to you guys and your overly strict parents, smelly lunch food, ESL classes plight! (Did I mention my two painful years of ESL classes?) 

On the bright side, I may not have been a girl scout, but we got to watch The Matrix at computer camp. Good enough. 


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