My EVS experience “Roots”

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Root: noun.

  1. The part of a plant which attaches it to the ground or to a support, typically underground, conveying water and nourishment to the rest of the plant via numerous branches and fibres.
  2. The basic cause, source, or origin of something.

I don’t really know why someone should get so tired searching for its roots. Simone Weil, a well-known French 20th century philosopher and political activist, author of “The Need for Roots”, asserted that the central drama of the modern era was uprootedness – the disconnection from the past and the loss of community. But, what is this need really about?

She would say: “To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.”

But why we are so concerned to find these strong bonds that keep us stucked on the ground. Searching for memories from a past that we never lived but we strive for; looking to ourselves in the mirror thinking that we are the result of an unknown blood mixture and hundreds of years of love making.

But for me it could be simpler than that. I loved my father to Heaven, and that’s where I pray he is now, guarding me from there. They say that a father is his daughter’s first love, and I promise it’s like that. I got people tired speaking always about him. He is still too much alive, even if life took him away from me a dozen of years ago, slowly and violently.

He will be always part of me: he was my backbone, my sweet guardian, the one and only that truly loved me unconditionally all along since I first opened my eyes.

He loved me without getting tired, caring for me daily and feeling deep inside him each of my mood swings, each of my changes and sad moments. He knew and cared for my sensitive heart much more than anyone did. He knew I was not brave, nor really self-confident, but he did believe in me blindly, and maybe that’s why he’s gone: to give me space to discover my strength by myself.

That’s how I gave sense to his lost. And now I wonder if he’s proud of me.

Anyway, I started my European Voluntary Service (EVS) on the 24th of August 2016, in his beloved country: Egypt. Since then, eight months passed.

I’m sitting in a restaurant in Downtown to write this article, alone with my thoughts. In a month I will finish my service, which was with its ups and downs a great challenge and an amazing and unforgettable opportunity for me to travel through Egypt, Jordan, and shortly Palestine.

Master loneliness was my main fear and challenge. It was so painful sometimes, but I faced all its violent waves with my pride and stubbornness.

I walked his path; I went back to my father’s big and warm family in Alexandria: the stunning city on the Mediterranean which made me tremble and brought back many memories.

I love and hate Egypt for how it attracts me and reject me at the same time. An ongoing war inside, between all I am and all I am not, when actually it’s not really easy to distinguish. A western girl, born in Italy, from an Egyptian Muslim father and an Italian mother, feeling always cut in half: half there and half here. Which cultural values prevail in me? How to find a balance? It was always my life struggle, not to feel complete or really comfortable anywhere and with anyone.

Though, these months in Cairo I learned to accept this division or just surrender to it: I will not win over my roots when I fight with them and they won’t win over me.

My roots are a bridge; they expand all across the Mediterranean from one side to the other, and tend to embrace the two cultures. I am complete as I am, beautiful as I am; with all my unsolved conflicts and doubts.

My father’s choice was to plant his seeds in Italy, and as a gift I can choose where to plant my own. I will honor this gift, as it is a blessing that not everyone has. I will be myself a bridge and if I won’t be able to I will try to build bridges then with my actions.

On a personal level, and as a self-growth learning phase and reflection, I went through and experienced the feeling of nostalgia as homesickness. Basically  ̶  as for immigrants, expats, soldiers, students and workers who travel abroad for long time  ̶  it is a “psychological distress following leaving home, accompanied by separation-anxiety and loss”. Well, it was not that bad for me since I chose to leave my country, but I thought about how does it feel like for those who are forced to migrate, instead. How they manage to deal with the cultural shock and all the effects on their cultural identity. We should put that into consideration if we want to work towards refugees and forced migrants’ inclusion in our societies, not having a judgmental or paternalistic approach, but a more open and sympathetic one. It may seem obvious, but being eradicated and unrooted it’s something painful and violent, it’s a trauma and a hidden chance for a change, at the same time. Feeling home  ̶  wherever we are and whoever we are with  ̶   it’s probably one of the strongest necessity we all have, something that should not really be denied to anyone. And that’s one of the most useful lesson learned I earned throughout all my EVS experience.

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