Marhaba! Which means Hello, in Arabic and specifically Lebanese Arabic. I’m from Lebanon, I’m 27 years old, and the most common questions and comment I get when traveling abroad is: You seem happy, you’re not what we expected, don’t you have war going on over there? Phrases that made me realize that I have chosen the right career and path.
I’d like to think that I did not choose Finland, but it chose me. As I was scrolling down social media on a Saturday afternoon, I came across this link that a friend had shared about “This Is Finland” and highlighted was this phrase “Lebanon is included!” I immediately knew that I should apply and also spread the word, because as I was reading about the program, I noticed that Lebanon was not represented before. Weeks after, I was chosen!
There are loads of things that I can’t wait to experience in Finland, knowing that this won’t be like any other trips I have taken to other countries, I will get hands on experiences from locals, I will be able to ask a lot of questions about this green country, and I am hoping to return home with some answers, but mostly, I am hoping to return home with some extra energy. I would also like to offer Finland something in return: a whole lot of life that I’m bringing along with me from Lebanon, and surely a lot of resilience, which is a Lebanese specialty, since we tend to bounce back from all challenges and obstacles, somehow, back in Lebanon!
I applied to this program because at this point in my life, I felt a bit drained. I have been working and running around and did not even bother to notice the call for a break from my own mind, body and soul, because when you live in Lebanon, and specifically the Middle East, you barely have the space or time or resources for a break, because something is always around the corner: an event, an exciting unusual piece of news, or sadly, a war.
I have been writing since 2010, and eventually the stories you have written will have a toll on you, no matter how resilient you are, you’ll cry, you’ll feel helpless and depressed, especially when the number of stories that include conflict and negative news tops the positive ones.
From covering the Arab spring, the refugee crisis, the Syrian conflict, to constantly writing about Lebanon, and Beirut, my country, my city, and the apple of my eye, I came to realize that there is a whole world out there that needs to be written about, This is Finland seemed like my -temporary- new world for August.
Which is why I can’t wait to write from there, to take pictures and to ask questions that will help me understand how I can, as a journalist, activist and citizen, help my country grow to be as happy and a green as Finland.
Call me overly optimistic but hey, that’s how this program described me!
And why Finland? Because I’m still 27, healthy, energetic and ambitious, simply: because I still can!