The countries I havecalled home have immeasurably shaped who I am. The exposure to a myriad of diverse people, cultures,classes and religions in the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) and the incredible freedom in America that shocksme to this day have influenced how I perceive myself and the world around me.
Growing up in theU.A.E., I played with Jean-Pierre, a French boy, Walid, a Palestinian, and Iditi, a girl from Pakistan. I wastaught by Ms. Ewing from Great Britain and supervised on the playground by Mr. Nasser, an Arab. On myway to school, I greeted the shepherd who herded his sheep past our house, and watched women laden withgold jewelry and gems send their maids into the heat to buy them something to drink. Sitting in Sundayschool in the church started by missionaries, I could hear one of the five daily prayers called out from thenearby mosque. Walking home in the blistering heat, I could hear the laughter and chatter of the Indianwomen constantly adjusting their saris as they walked.
Looking back, I realize how privileged Iwas to spend my formative years steeped in diversity, for though America is called a melting pot, theU.A.E. offered a chance to see and learn true respect for the differing beliefs and cultures firmly imbeddedin people around me.
The U.S., however, offered me something often taken for granted - liberty. Iremember thinking as a child, Where does it end? as I read of the rights of Americans. It's not just wordswas my next thought as I watched a disheveled man denounce the U.S. government on the street and heardthe secrets of the President not just spread in quiet whispers but announced on national television. Havingthe opportunity and the resources to hear and know everything that occurs here and around the world hasshown me how much was previously unavailable to me.
The great freedom I have found in Americahas also come with great responsibility. The respect I gained for diversity in the U.A.E. prepared me to dealresponsibly with the freedom I was later offered. The combination of these places has taught me to begrateful for my experiences, and made me the person I am today.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.