Robel Yemane, The Circle

I was born in Canada as a son of an Eritrean immigrant parents. Yes, I am a Canadian African citizen, born as a Christian. However, I gradually have stepped away from religion; I do believe in God, but I can say that I am not very religious compared to my parents.

As a child, I did not like my culture as much as my parents would like me to. I was young, despised going to weddings, going to Eritrean social gatherings. I had only few friends that were from the same background as me, the rest of my friends were from other backgrounds such as Punjabi, Albanian, Tamil and other cultures. While growing up, I started to see what my parents wanted me to see as from what the culture is about and why they liked it so much.

I noticed that I started listening to my cultural music a lot more. I was dancing more to the songs, tried to speak my language, learning new words and phrases to communicate to my grandma who did not no any English. I have visited my home country once when I was about 11 years old and as what you can guess from what I have previously said, I did not enjoy the trip. The lack of internet was something I could not get past when I was younger. I later learned where my grandma lived was not modernized as other places were in the country. My parents were born in Eritrea and lived there for about 20 years until strife occurred in the country. A war emerged between two neighboring countries and my parents decided to move to another country. They moved to a few numerous countries until they met in Canada and decided to settle down. As my parents were born from Eritrea, they think a little bit different then I do from who they talk to, who they will want me to marry and things of that nature. As I got older, my parents have always told me they would prefer for me to marry someone Eritrean because it would be easier for the family to get along.

As a first generation, I was born in Toronto in November 27 at Mount Sinai Hospital, I grew up in Toronto for about 8 years, I then moved to Mississauga. In Toronto, most of my friends were from my school and daycare, surprising enough a lot of them were Eritrean so my parents usually did not mind if I stayed over their house, since there was a connection or understanding that my parents had with other parents that were from the same culture as them.

In Mississauga, I was forced to stay out of comfort zone a bit and make friends with people who I never met and at a city I have never been exposed to. This was great for me because I was able to make friends from a lot of different backgrounds such as Indian, Albanian, Tamil and Korean. I believe this helped my parents to accept more cultural backgrounds as well because they would often come to my house to play. I am now 21 years old now; I have realized that culture is very important. From the surface, it can look un-intriguing, but there is a whole lot of history behind in culture.

I now live in Waterloo. I have noticed that the region is dominated by a lot more Caucasians than I am usually used to in Mississauga. Being exposed to a more dominant white culture has let me grow in many ways, in one way; it has let me to be grateful of where I have come from and the culture I have been exposed to. When I first moved in my dorm in first year, I was very excited to meet a lot more different cultures and experience things I can never experience living at home such as the difficulty of living with people who you never met before and getting accustomed to there cultures and habits. An example of this is when I first moved in my roommate made me an Indian cuisine that I never seen before and I really enjoyed. In my program I noticed that it is a dominated by a lot of people that are Muslims or from Islam, this has led me understand a lot of the Muslim religion and Islam. What really surprised me when I first heard about it is when I heard that they must pray 5 times a day, I was first wondering where they find the time to pray that many times a day. One day I remember in second year I accompanied one of my friends who were Muslims, joined in them in their daily prayers, and found that each prayer only takes 5-10 minutes of your time that was good to hear.

Living in Canada is a once in a lifetime opportunity, living with so many people from many diverse societies is great and as humans I think we often must be remembered that living in Canada is a privilege not a right. Some advantages living in this diverse society is that it gives you the chance to try out many other cultures you may find interesting depending what it is. Living in Canada can give you many opportunities, since it is such a technological advanced country when compared to other countries. One other advantage is that in a country like Canada, as citizens you are given an opportunity to make something of yourself, my parents are from Eritrea and they often tell me it is a very poor country with very little opportunities so living in Canada can give me opportunities to do what I need to do. Why I choose to open myself to people from other cultures is because they can help expand my mind and change my mindset drastically. As a first generation it will be up to me to pave the way for my children and for the people that will come after me.

Being an African in Canada does have its challenges from time to time, examples are like racism, social stereotype, and judgemental people. Some examples of racism I have experienced is that when I was in Waterloo in for school, I visited one of my friends apartment when I left one of her roommates said “did he steal anything?” this is incredibly rude and inconsiderate to me as individual. When moving to Waterloo I noticed that it was dominated with white people and that the amount of racism was a lot more then I usually experience in Mississauga, maybe it is was because I matured more in Waterloo being away from my parents that I notice more or if it is actually true. Another example of some racism is that I was once in Waterloo bus and I got on the bus, to ask a bus driver a question he completely ignored my question but answered another individual who asked him a question who was not black. I also believe being a black individual exists limitations when like applying to jobs or trying to make a name for yourself in a business standpoint. Overall limitations and challenges do exist, but I think that goes for every culture, as people we must be able to overcome those obstacles and better ourselves mentally and physically.

For people to live better interfaithfully I think we must not quickly judge other people’s culture. Usually when we first see someone’s culture, we may think its weird because it may be something you are not used to doing or seeing. I recently learned in a video is that the first step to accept or recognize an individual culture is to first look at yourself. Taking a step and looking at the bigger picture can help you understand a culture or at least not judge them. I think that this does makes sense because I believe everything starts from your mind, changing your perspective can change your outlook on simple things like eating, going to school etc. What we can also do is try to give back to the less fortunate as well , I think this simple deed can go along way because showing you are able to give back means you do not care of a persons cultural background but more of what happened to them and how you can help them. I think there should be more people who give back and are nice to people in general because at the end of the day we are humans, where we come from should not justify whether a person deserves to be nice to. Although I say there should be more people that are nice, I am grateful for the people who are giving back and are nice, I believe those people will help make a difference in society.

What I have learned from others who have lived in our community is that seeing people from what is on the surface meaning background or culture is meaningless. By doing this we limit ourselves by not seeing what the world has to offer after all there is a whole lot of cultures in the world and some of the foods/traditions you might like better then your own if you try to expose yourself to them. I have lived with someone who is international from Punjabi and he has often told me that people in this community often restrain themselves by talking to people from their own culture, which he thinks is good but at the same time is very bad for people’s growth and can often not let people see the greater picture in life. Overall living with people who have different cultures then my cultures has been fulfilling it has opened my mind to a lot more foods, traditions and expanded my mind a lot more. Even though I say living with people from other cultures is what people should do, You should still associate with people from your own culture, in my experience they bring a sense of belonging and a connection that is easy to understand, for some people this is enough for them to be happy.