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Seeing things from different corners: a story of learning and culture Harper, Lynette Alice Anne 1994

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SEEING THINGS FROM DIFFERENT CORNERS:A STORY OF LEARNING AND CULTUREByLYNETFE ALICE ANNE HARPERB.A., University of Victoria, 1975A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OFTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OFMASTER OF ARTSinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIFSDEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE, ADULT AND HIGHER EDUCATIONWe accept this thesis as conformingto the required standardTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIAApril 1994© Lynette Alice Anne Harper, 1994In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements or an advanceddegree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make itfreely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of mydepartment or by his or her representatives. It is understoOd that copying orpublication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my writtenpermission.________________________Department of ye. cochorThe University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDate / 7 y I /DE-6 (2188)IIABSTRACTThis is very important, Lynette, believe me. Because half of the problems,or tension, or suffering, that the immigrant or refugee has, when theycome not only to Canada, anywhere in the world, is this big question, “Howcan I become a European, or a Canadian?” And they feel, “I am not. . . . Iam Middle Eastern. This is terrible, I want to go back. I can’t fit here.”They need somebody to tell them, you don’t have to be Canadian. You haveto understand Canada.These words were spoken to me by Mira, a Lebanese refugee whose life historyis the focus of this study. Like most newcomers, Mira encountered many challengesin Canadian society. Some international migrants respond by integrating, whileothers assimilate, separate, or marginalize themselves. The profusion of literature onmigration says little about learning and its relationship to these individual responsesand social interactions. This study investigates migrant transition throughanthropological life history, an interpretive methodology which links the personalperspective with abstract theories and large social processes. I worked incollaboration with Mira to construct a rich contextualized description andinterpretation of her life.This life history challenges current linear models of culture learning andadaptation. It describes an evolving transition process of interdependent changes,which take place on many levels. Mira experienced culture shock when sheconfronted something that didn’t make any sense to her, something that contradictedher own expectations and meanings. This triggered a process of transformativelearning, in which Mira’s ethnocentrism and dualism shifted towards culturalpluralism and a relativist epistemology. She built upon her own subjective insightsand acceptance of different opinions to develop what she called “flexibility”, arepertoire of understandings and an awareness of possibilities which she assessedthrough critical reflection to create her own choices and commitments. At the sametime, Mira developed “practicality,” a sense of agency associated with her growingautonomy and competence in Canadian society.111The contradictions posed by her migration from Lebanon to Canada forcedissues of identity to Mira’s consciousness. Even as she began to articulate and reflectupon herself in relation to a pluralistic society and culture, her need for intimacyand belonging led her to a deep emotional affiliation with her homeland and withother Lebanese. Mira constructed a “harmony”, a coherent sense of identity basedon stable values and a strong ethnic identity. While outwardly she appeared toconform to mainstream Canadian ways and values, she chose to locate herself on themargins of Canadian society, and to actively resist aspects of both Canadian andLebanese society through teaching and storytelling.Mira’s peripheral position and strategies are like those of an ethnographerstudying a foreign culture. Her life in Canada was a personal research project,motivated by the search for a safer place to live and a commitment to personalgrowth. Her story reveals extraordinary courage and strength, and testifies to theresilience of the human spirit despite the traumas of civil war and migration.My interpretation of Mira’s story overlays her narrative, drawing uponscholarly literature to reveal intersections between theories from variousdisciplines. This life history suggests ways to further develop and integrate theoriesof learning and culture, and directions for educational policy and practice. As Mirasaid at our last meeting:When you talk about cultures, and people, and adult education, it’s nothing likewhen you say I want to write a story, and at the end you put a full stop andthat’s the end. No. It’s like art. There is no final stop. You always findsomething. you always learn about something, every time you learn aboutsomething you discover that there are so many things you still need to learnabout.ivTAI3LE OF CONThNTSABSTRACT.iiTABLE OFCONTENTS ivLIST OFFIGURES viACKNOWLEDGEMENTS viiINTRODUCTION IChapter One A THEORETICAL CONTEXT 4Charting the theoretical terrain 4A profusion of frameworks for studying responses to migration 4The learning of culture 5Agency and strategies of resistance 7Strategies for cross-cultural adaptation 8Immigrants, refugees, and sojourners 1 0Adult learning and culture theory 1 2Research purpose and questions 1 5Chapter Two METHODOLOGY AND METHOD 17Choosing a methodology 1 7The anthropological life history process: Interaction and interpretation 1 9The story 2 0The storytellers 2 2The life history text 2 5The genre 2 6Afterlife of the document 2 7My story: A reflexive counterpoint to the life history 2 8Studying my own 3 0Finding a narrator: The Vancouver Lebanese community 3 4Meeting Mira 3 5Our research process 3 8The interviews 3 8The shift to analysis and writing 4 0Chapter Three MIRA’S LIFE STORY 45The historical context: A brief story of Lebanon 4 5It’s not a village anymore 4 7A quiet and desperate diaspora 5 1Just a few lines of Mira’s life story 5 2Chapter Four SEEING THE WORLD FROM DIFFERENT CORNERS:PROCESSES OF LEARNING, CULTURE, AN]) TRANSFORMATION 7 1Identifying a transition process 7 1Changes in Mira’s understanding 7 3Family life here, it was really shocking 7 3Identifying a cultural meaning-system 8 2Removing the umbrella: Perspective transformation 8 3Mira’s transformative learning process 8 6Learning through participation 1 00VReflection.102Culture learning and perspective transformation 104Changing ways of knowing 1 06Chapter Five STRATEGIES FOR IDENTITY AND PARTICIPATION 108Flexibility and practicality: Adaptive strategies 1 0 8Strategies of resistance 1 09Storytelling as praxis 11 3Making a harmony: Mira’s sense of self 11 5The foundations are identity 11 5Having two homes - And a strong ethnic identity 11 7Marginal by choice 1 20Chapter Six THE MEANING OF A LIFE 125You don’t have to become Canadian 1 25Transition and culture learning 1 26Culture learning as agency and participation 1 27Reflections on the life history process: Stories and text 1 2 8Doing ethnography as culture learning 1 3 0Merging and storytelling 1 3 2The meaning of Mira’s life 1 3 4Theoretical implications 1 3 4Directions for further research 1 3 6Relevance for educational practice 1 3 6The most important message is peace 1 3 8There is no final stop 1 4 1RFFFRFNES 144APPENDIX A A SAMPLE OF ORIGINAL TEXT 153viLIST OF FIGURESFigure 1 Mira’s timeline of major stages in her life 72viiACKNOWLEDGEMENTSA project like this is only possible with the support, guidance, and caring of manypeople. Allison Tom, my research supervisor, has been unfailing in her enthusiasm andencouragement, her honest and careful attention to those details which make researchwork and relationships both meaningful and enjoyable. I have benefitted from theinsights and expertise of my research committee members, Kogila Adam-Moodley and atruly excellent teacher, Daniel Pratt.I thank all of the faculty in the UBC Adult Education Program, staff member JeannieYoung, and my fellow students for making the experience of learning a pleasurable one.I feel a special gratitude towards members of my study group: Janice Johnson, TomWhalley, Gwen Ellert, and Tom Nesbit. They’ve stuck with me throughout the researchprocess, providing me with sticks or carrots as required. Many others have played acritical role. Gina Blondin, her brother John Blondin, and Melvin Larocque were three ofthe many remarkable northerners who inspired my interest in learning and culture.Julia Cruikshank urged me to find a research topic I really cared about. Many friends,like Gail Haddad, Margaret Holm, and Carol Mayer have provided me with invaluablesupport. The Vancouver Lebanese and Arab communities provided a warm welcome tome and my research.I can never thank my family enough--for always being there for me. Lily Harper, mymom, the finest teacher and greatest inspiration I will ever know. My simply wonderfulsister Janis Harper and her family. My extraordinary aunt and role model Helen K.Mussallem. My husband Bruce, whose cooking and caring, endless patience and frequentproofreading were essential to the completion of this thesis, and my mental health. MyLebanese grandparents, for their courage in coming to Canada, and for their respect forlearning which has been passed on to all of their descendants.Most of all, I thank Mira, for everything that she has shared with me.1INTRODUCTIONHalf of the problems, or tension, or suffering, that the immigrant orrefugee has, when they come not only to Canada, anywhere in theworld, is this big question, “How can I become a European, or aCanadian?” (Mira, personal communication, April 30, 1992)Millions of people move across national and cultural boundaries every year.These migrants must learn to cope with new and different ways of life, no matterwhat their age. Individuals respond differently to the challenge of new social,political, and cultural environments. They may adapt or resist, and choose tointegrate, assimilate, or marginalize themselves within their new communities.What determines their response? And how does the experience of migrationinfluence their sense of identity?I am a grandchild of immigrants, foreigners who arrived in Canada with dreamsof wealth and adventure. Though neither of my grandparents received any formaleducation in this country, they learned well enough to become Canadian citizens andfull participants in the social, economic, and political life of their community. Theirstory is not unique. Last year 245,000 people migrated here from other countries.Immigrant services and education programs are proliferating amidst changinggovernment policies of integration and multiculturalism. The planners and policy-makers involved usually make their decisions based on what they believe isnecessary, from intuition and experience. Immigrant education programs emphasizelanguage acquisition and local customs. Studies of adult learning have rarelyconsidered how migrants learn and adjust in new cultural environments. It is evenrarer to hear the voices of immigrants and refugees giving their own perspective onthe process.When I first embarked upon this study, my purpose was to gain an understandingof how an adult learns a second culture, through a rich contextualized description ofan immigrant woman’s life. But while working collaboratively with Mira, aLebanese refugee, I found myself exploring new ideas about migration and learning,2and negotiating the focus of this study with her. Instead of shaping her words to fit aparticular theory of culture learning, we let Mira’s own description and analysis ofher life story guide the research. The complex processes associated with hermigration led me to seek concepts and frameworks from several academic disciplines.For Mira, migration was a life transition which triggered significant personallearning and development, profoundly influencing her sense of identity and herstrategies of acceptance and resistance. This study investigates the links betweenmigration, adult learning, agency, and identity. It explores the dynamic tensionsbetween internal and external processes, between personal transformation andparticipation in society. It also documents the life of a refugee, revealing theextraordinary courage, strength, and perseverance of an Arab woman and newcomerto Canada.The first day I met Mira, I asked her “How did your life change since coming toCanada?” That question lingered in our minds, shaping our research and writingprocess. This life history text is a synthesis of two perspectives, the ways we eachmake sense of our worlds. I have tried to separate Mira’s interpretations of her lifeexperiences, as described during our taped interviews, from my own interpretations.At the same time, though it could not have been created without Mira’s collaboration,I am entirely responsible for what is presented here. I have written and edited thisstudy based on my own experiences and understandings, informed by my readings oftheories developed in the fields of adult education and psychology, sociology,anthropology, and cross-cultural communications.This empirical study blends the conventions of qualitative reporting withanthropological life history. I have attempted to respect the academic standardswhich provided the initial motivation and guidelines for the study, and at the sametime honour the words of the research participant. Chapter One locates the study in atheoretical context, providing background and delineating the research purpose and3questions. The methodology and the methods used are discussed in Chapter Two,which also introduces the research participants and our assumptions. Chapter Threelocates Mira’s migration in a personal and historical context, providing an overviewof Mira’s life history in her own words. This story is interpreted in Chapters Four andFive in a hermeneutical process which interprets Mira’s personal narrative in thecontext of theoretical frameworks. These help to make sense of the wholeness ofMira’s life, and relate her experience to current issues and lines of research. Mira’sstory, in turn, illuminates the theoretical formulations, revealing their strengthsand their inadequacies.Chapter Six presents both Mira’s and my reflections on the research process andits implications for theory and action. What began as a graduate research project onculture learning and migrant adaptation became an exploration of processes oftransition, transformation and agency as they are lived by an individual in apluralistic society.4Chapter OneA THEORETICAL CONTEXTCharting the theoretical terrainThis is a story of change - in space, in time, in consciousness. In this lifehistory, I trace a refugee’s movement from Lebanon to Canada, and interpretchanges in the ways she made sense of herself and her world during her time inCanada. Migration is an external change of locations, a move from one place toanother. International migrants do not just encounter differences in geography,however. They have to learn to cope with a new social milieu, with differences inculture and history.Just as a life story has a particular geographical setting, every researchproject is located in a particular theoretical context. This life history isinterdisciplinary and moves through a landscape complicated by overlapping andsometimes contradictory routes. This chapter provides an orientation to thatintangible terrain, a rough map which identifies guideposts in the form ofoverlapping theoretical frameworks and research trends.A profusion of frameworks for studying responses to migrationMigration precipitates change in every setting of life. It is a transition event,posing challenges and contradictions which may trigger learning and development.While many people struggle to cope with the changed environment, others resistchange and fight to maintain old ways, or withdraw altogether. Most of theliterature on responses to migration has originated in North America, whereimmigration and ethnic diversity is an ongoing concern. Though adult educationhas made few contributions to research in this area (Mastai, 1981; Taylor, 1992),individual responses to changed cultural circumstances have been studied from5many other disciplinary perspectives, and the result has been a profusion ofterminologies and frameworks.Research has focussed on identifying and predicting group patterns ratherthan individual responses. Until recently, most studies were based on the assumptionthat newcomers would eventually assimilate: that they would cease identifying withtheir former group and culture, and be absorbed into North American society,adopting dominant cultural values and behaviours (Gibson, 1988; Kim, 1988; Mastai,1981). Theories of assimilation assume the process is unidirectional, and disregardindividual differences in internalizing cultural values.Current research is informed by a pluralistic philosophy, which proposes thatassimilation is only one among many adaptive responses. A multitude of transitionstrategies have been identified among immigrant groups, who may integrate,assimilate, separate, or marginalize themselves within their host society (Berry,1988). Other groups react by trying to change society, or by withdrawing throughanother migration.The learning of cultureAnthropological studies of learning have been preoccupied with the learningof culture. A number of frameworks have been generated for infant and childhoodlearning, including enculturation, socialization, culture acquisition, and culturetransmission. They usually trace group patterns, and are concerned with comparingand predicting behaviour within stable integrated societies. Recent work incognitive anthropology, for example, has identified hierarchical “cultural schemata”which serve as active mechanisms for the interpretation of events and objects(Wolcott, 1991). These schemata are learned, communicated, and intersubjectivelyshared by members of a social group.6The concept of “second culture learning” emphasizes the individualpsychology of learning that takes place when a person crosses cultural boundaries(Hoffman, 1988). Most studies of second culture learning have been conducted withchildren and youth, and emphasize the outcomes rather than the process of learning.Outcomes have been described using a variety of constructs such as “biculturalism,”“constructive marginality” (Spindler & Spindler, 1989), and “syncretism” (Pai, 1990).Syncretism, for example, refers to the development of a new and unique culture(which may be held by an individual or a group) and a new personal identity, byinterweaving different cultural elements together. Wolcott (1991) suggests thatindividuals create their own unique version of culture, a “propriospect” based onindividual experience which encompasses all the cultural settings, activities, andsystems of which a person has knowledge. As individuals acquire new culturalcompetencies, they do not necessarily abandon old ones. Using this scheme, thecapacity of an individual for cultural pluralism may be infinite, limited only by theopportunities presented and the choices that are made.Hoffman (1988, 1989) provides a rare and detailed description of adultresponses to the migration transition. Based on Kimball’s (1972) work withunintentional learning of cultural meaning systems and her own empirical studiesof Iranian immigrant youth and adults, Hoffman has developed a concept of culturelearning as a process of identity creation and reformation through thecommunication and acquisition of nonexplicit cultural meanings. She proposes thatthe acquisition of psychological and behavioural patterns is closely related to deepaffective identity rather than superficial behaviour.The subjects of Hoffman’s (1988,1989) studies in the U.S. maintained a deepaffiliation with Iranian culture and resisted attempts, by schools and other Americaninstitutions, to change that affiliation. The Iranians who achieved the greatestacademic, professional, and economic success in America relied upon a transitional7strategy that Hoffman characterizes as “cultural eclecticism.” They selectedbehaviours that they believed represented the best of both Iranian and Americancultures, creating a blended social self with characteristics of both cultures. “On thesurface, these Iranians appeared to be the most well-adjusted. . . Although theyseemed to be learning American culture to the greatest degree, they were in factlearning about the culture rather than becoming American” (Hoffman, 1988, p. 177).These individuals believed cultural identity and behaviour were independent.Hoffman hypothesizes that they are able to invent symbolic structures that act as“intercultures,” bridging the different systems of cultural meanings.Other less successful Iranian immigrants were unwilling or unable to changetheir behaviour without sacrificing their cultural identity. They experienced eitheralienation or “loss of self.” Alienation from American society occurred whenimmigrants were unable to compromise their values, beliefs, and patterns ofbehaviour; a loss of self was experienced when immigrants became superficiallyassimilated, but were unable to reconcile their behaviour with their deep affectivecommitment to Iranian beliefs and values.Agency and strategies of resistanceThe anthropology of education is currently re-examining the learning ofculture in institutions such as schools in light of reproduction and resistancetheories(Gibson, 1988; Ogbu, 1991). Resistance theorists emphasize the active role ofhuman agency in reproducing or resisting relations of power within a system(Giroux, 1983). Their work represents a trend in anthropological research to explainindividual responses to conflicting systems of power and knowledge by drawingupon the concept of agency, defined as an individual’s capacity to make meaning ininteraction with others (Abu-Lughod, 1989; Mahoney & Yngvesson, 1992). Hoffman’s(1988, 1989) work on immigrant learning is based on assumptions of agency, and8makes important distinctions between identity and action. She raises questions aboutthe extent to which culture can be perceived, valued, and integrated within aperson’s sense of self, and about the relationship between a person’s identity andactions.In a study of Japanese adults, Kondo (1990) suggests that individuals canstrategically consent to, cope with, and resist social expectations at different levels ofconsciousness at the same time. Kondo interprets people’s lives as “shot throughwith contradictions and creative tensions” (p.224), and suggests that people caughtin contradictory situations creatively and strategically construct their ownarrangements of meaning and power, constructing their identities in relation to andin opposition to others.Strategies for cross-cultural adaptationOutside the field of anthropology, most studies of adult culture learning arebased on assumptions of reproduction, Adaptation theorists working in the emergingfield of cross-cultural communications are only concerned with the ways newcomersfit into and reproduce existing social structures and cultural understandings. Theirwork offers some insights into the dynamics of the transition process, although itdoesn’t describe or explain the range of individual or group responses.Kim (1988) has attempted an integration of interdisciplinary studies ofadaptation in her framework for analysis and prediction of individual adaptationsuccess. She defines cross-cultural adaptation as “the process of change over timethat takes place within individuals who have completed their primary socializationprocess in one culture and then come into continuous, prolonged first-hand contactwith a new and unfamiliar culture” (1988, p. 37). She proposes that all individuals ina changing and changed cultural environment (including immigrants, refugees, andlong and short-term sojourners) share common adaptation experiences. Based on a9comprehensive review of relevant research, she describes adaptation as a dynamic,multidimensional, internal process of change that influences, and is influenced by,changing external conditions. The central dynamic of the process is a three partcycle of “stress,” “adaptation,” and “growth,” a repeating cycle of activities whichshift between “out-looking, information-seeking behaviour and tension-reducing,defensive retreat, and the resultant capacity to see a situation ‘with new eyes” (1988,p. 56). Each turn of the cycle gives the individual an increased capacity to handlefuture stresses and adaptations.Kim’s (1988) perspective is one of dozens of descriptive schemes and variationsfound among transition and development frameworks (Knox, 1977; Schlossberg,1984). Rather than seeking a common framework for what may be a complex andindividual process, Schlossberg suggests that it makes more sense to consider thetransition process in three broad phases. The introduction is a time during whichthe individual is pervaded by the transition. For a migrant, this is usually called“culture shock,” what Kim calls the “stress” phase. Culture shock was onceconsidered a form of mental illness, but has been reinterpreted as a stress whichtriggers a normal process of adaptation and change (Furnham & Bochner, 1986; Kim,1988). Empirical research has demonstrated that culture shock is not onlyresponsible for anxiety, helplessness, and frustration, it also provides the stimulusfor learning and personal growth (Church, 1982).Kim’s (1988) “adaptation” phase is a variation on the middle period oftransition, which is one of disruption, when the individual finds old norms andrelationships are changing and new ones are in process (Schlossberg, 1984). In thefinal period, an individual integrates the transition. Kim assumes this third phase tobe “growth”, but Schlossberg suggests this can take several forms: renewal,acceptance, or deterioration. This recognition of alternative forms is more usefulthan Kim’s framework for interpreting the wide range of responses to migration10including separation, marginalization, and withdrawal as well as group integrationor assimilation.Both Schlossberg (1984) and Kim (1988) identify no finite end point in thetransition process. It continues through time, overlapping and interacting withother life transitions in different life settings, while each individual consciously orunconsciously appraises, and reappraises, the impact of the transition upon her orhis own life. But Kim does identify three distinct and critical outcomes of cross-cultural adaptation. One is “functional fitness,” an improved ability to communicateand meet social as well as survival needs in a new environment. In turn, thisoutcome of the stress-adaptation-growth cycle reduces the migrants’ cultural stress,and leads to a second outcome, improved psychological health. The third relatedoutcome is the development of an “intercultural identity.” This construct representsan individual’s self-concept in relation to a cultural group. Kim suggests that asindividuals adapt, their identities become increasingly flexible, no longerintellectually or emotionally bound by membership in either their original culturesor the host cultures.Immigrants, refugees, and sojournersLike most theoretical work on the processes of migrant transition, Hoffman’s(1988, 1989) analysis is based on empirical research with immigrants. Kim (1988)looked for commonalities among different categories of migrants, though herframework draws primarily upon studies of temporary sojourners. Sojourners aremigrants who intend their residence in a new country to be short term, unlikeimmigrants, whose settlement in a new country is intended to be relativelypermanent. Neither framework refers specifically to refugees, although Kim clumpsthem together in her “immigrant” category with all other long-term migrants.11The twentieth century has been called the century of the refugee because ofthe vast numbers of people uprooted by war and politics from their homes and theiraccustomed lives (Bateson, 1989). Yet it is common for researchers to overlookdistinctions between immigrants and refugees. Perhaps as a result, refugees havenot received as much attention as other immigrants in theoretical research(Emminghaus, 1988). A refugee has been defined by the UN High Commissioner forRefugees as “any person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted forreasons of race, religion, nationality or political opinion, is outside the country of hisnationality, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection ofthat country” (Goldschmidt & Boesch, 1983, p. 17).This distinguishes the refugee from other immigrants. While most immigrantschoose to come to a new life, refugees are forced to flee, often for their lives. Theattraction, or “pull,” of the host country is less significant to their migration thanthe “push” from their previous country. They face what sociologist Rumbaut (1985)calls a double crisis. The first, shared by all immigrants, is crisis imposed by thestraightforward need to survive: to find shelter and work; to learn to speak anunknown language; and to adjust to a drastically changed environment despitebarriers of poverty, prejudice, minority status, pervasive uncertainty, and cultureshock. In addition, the refugee must also come to terms with what has beeninvoluntarily lost from the past, including home, country, family, friends, work,social status, material possessions, and meaningful sources of identity. Rumbaut callsthis double challenge a “high-demand, low-control situation that fully tests therefugee’s emotional resilience and coping resources and produces severepsychological distress even among the best prepared and even under the mostreceptive of circumstances” (pp. 435-436).This distress is intensified by the complex and restrictive regulations imposedupon refugees in many host countries, including Canada (Rockhill & Tomic, 1992).12Regulated in their new country, and excluded from participation at home, refugeescan become alienated from culture and society (Emminghaus, 1988). The limitedtheoretical work that does exist on refugee responses to migration, mostly conductedin the field of mental health, emphasizes the importance of external circumstances.An individual refugee’s transition process cannot be understood in isolation fromsocial and political circumstances.Adult learning and culture theoryThe study of culture learning and cross-cultural adaptation among adultmigrants has developed separate from research and theory in adult learning.Though learning is its central concern, the field of adult education in North Americaexists in a kind of monocultural cocoon. Theoretical discussions of adult learningseldom take culture into consideration, but instead emphasize individualpsychological explanations (Rubenson, 1982). Research in adult learning theory hassteadily shifted away from a focus on behaviour towards a concern with internalconsciousness. While it shares much with childhood learning, adult learning hasbeen characterized as “transforming” or modifying knowledge, skills, strategies, andvalues through experience. This can be distinguished from childhood learning,which is more often viewed as “forming” knowledge, skills, strategies, and values(Brundage & MacKeracher, 1980). This study, like most recent research in adulteducation, will consider learning as a process of change in a person’s understandingwhich is brought about by a reconstruction of ideas (Entwhistle & Marton, 1984).An important direction in adult educational research focusses on largequalitative transformations, conceptualized as paradigm shifts, criticalconsciousness, or perspective transformation (Mezirow, 1985). Transformativelearning is the revision of meaning systems, long-held psychological and culturalassumptions which have limited or distorted the way people see themselves and13others (Freire, 1970; Mezirow, 1990). Most studies of transformative learning havebeen framed by the concerns of educational practice, and have interpreted cultureprimarily as a constraint. It is based on a concept of culture as norms and standards:A society’s culture consists of whatever one has to know or believe inorder to operate in a manner acceptable to its members...standards fordeciding what is, standards for deciding what can be, standards fordeciding how one feels about it, standards for deciding what to do aboutit, and standards for deciding how to go about doing it. (Goodenough,1965, p. 259)This life history has been shaped by another approach to cultural analysis.Just as the study of learning has shifted from external observable behaviours tointernal consciousness, a parallel trend in anthropological studies of culture has ledto an emphasis on the abstract values, beliefs, and perceptions which lie behindactions (Haviland, 1989). I have taken an interpretive approach to cultural analysis.Interpretivism assumes that culture isn’t limited to the internal psychologicalstructures which guide behaviour. It seeks to interpret shared cultural meaningsystems, which are described in Geertz’s (1973) influential formulation:The culture concept. . . denotes an historically transmitted pattern ofmeanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptionsexpressed in symbolic form by means of which men [Sic] communicate,perpetuate and develop their knowledge about and attitudes towards life.(p. 89)This is more integrative than Goodenough’s approach. While Geertz does not excludethe notion of culture as standards for behaviour, he does not limit culture to a purelypsychological phenomena. Culture can be visualized as a web or network ofmeanings both internal and external to the individual, a lifelong dialogue of action,interaction, and meaning (Spindler & Spindler, 1989).Like anthropology itself, the interpretive understanding of culture wasdeveloped by anthropologists studying stable and distinct societies. It is currentlybeing challenged by shifting boundaries in the modern world, where complexsocieties, social change, and migration problematize definitions and studies of culture(Fox, 1991). Post-modernist and feminist critiques have exposed the relativism of14anthropological authority; some critics suggest that the concept of culture should bediscarded or replaced with studies of social practice and human agency (Abu-Lughod,1989, 1991; Bourdieu, 1977; Clifford, 1986; Fox, 1991).Few theorists in adult education are aware of this ferment of critical debate inanthropological theory. An exception can be found in the work of Lave and Wenger(1991), who have developed a theory of learning as social practice. Their analyticalperspective emphasizes the relational interdependency of “agent and world, activity,meaning, cognition, learning, and knowing. . . . This view also claims that learning,thinking, and knowing are relations among people in activity in, with, and arisingfrom the socially and culturally structured world” (pp. 50-51). They propose thatlearning increases the degree of an individual’s participation in a community ofpractice. As individuals move from peripheral participation towards fullparticipation, their changing “locations” and perspectives influence their learning,identity development, and forms of membership. Lave and Wenger name thisanalytical perspective “legitimate peripheral participation.” It is legitimate becausethere is an initial acceptance of the individual by members of the community, alongwith interaction by “adept practitioners.” They suggest that changes in anindividual’s cultural identity and social relations are an inevitable part of theprocess of moving towards full participation. These changing social relationsinvolve relationships of power, for while moving towards the centre is empowering,being kept on the periphery is disempowering.15Research purpose and questionsThe purpose of this research is to gain an understanding of themultidimensional process of personal change which is associated with internationalmigration. My goal is to explore a migrant’s transition process, tracing therelationship between internal events and understandings and the migration context.This rich descriptive example contributes to adult learning theory by providing anempirical basis for assessing the adequacies of existing theories, and by suggestingnew integrations of existing theory.From this interdisciplinary review of literature, I have constructed atheoretical map for the research journey. Rather than providing clear directionsand hypotheses for assessment, the current state of research and theory on migranttransition appears more like a maze, raising contradictions and questions.While Kim (1988) considers adaptation to be a natural response to migration,Hoffman (1989) suggests that immigrants can make their own decisions to adapt orresist aspects of their new cultural environment. Is the transition processunconscious and incidental, or a conscious and intentional strategy? What is therole of learning in the process? How are these internal processes related to thecontext of the migration?More contradictions can be located in the studies of interactions between amigrant’s sense of self, cultural identity, and behaviour. How does the transitionprocess influence the nature of an individual’s commitment to her or his firstculture? Is it possible to be deeply committed to more than one culture, or culturalgroup? Does cultural identity influence the nature of the transition process? Howdoes an individual’s sense of self and cultural identity relate to participation in a newcultural system?These questions have guided my own process of research, providing directionto the analysis presented in this text. The complexity of the questions reflects the16complicated nature of migration and the transition process. To search for theanswers, I required a sensitive and powerful research method. Chapter Two explainsmy choice of the anthropological life history process, and explores the implicationsof the methodology. Before outlining the course of the fieldwork and analysis, Ilocate the participants by describing my own background and the local communitythrough which I met the narrator of the life history. In Chapter Three, a briefhistory of Lebanon and Lebanese migration provides further context for Mira’s lifestory. Mira’s own interpretation of the stages in her life is presented in a largechunk of text from the life history interviews.Chapter Four juxtaposes my own interpretations with text from the interviews,to trace the dynamics of Mira’s learning process since she migrated to Canada.Changes in Mira’s understanding are related to intersecting theories of adultlearning and culture. To gain an understanding of Mira’s strategies for living inCanada in Chapter Five, I draw upon theories of identity and agency to consider bothher inner sense of self and her actions in the social world. In Chapter Six, both Miraand I consider the implications of the life history research process. Though we eachdiscuss the relevance of this life history, my words are directed to the academiccommunity and educational practitioners, while Mira’s words are directed toLebanese and Canadian readers in generaL17Chapter TwoMETHODOLOGY AND METHODChoosing a methodologyThe effects of extralocal and long-term processes are only manifestedlocally and specifically, produced in the actions of individuals livingtheir particular lives, inscribed in their bodies and their words. (AbuLughod, 1991, p. 150)From the moment I learned about life history research in a universityclassroom, I wanted to do it. Since childhood, I have often sought Out personalnarratives, both written and spoken, for entertainment and for guidance in makinglife decisions. The life history is a form of biography, a kind of common denominatorfor data and theory in all the social sciences, a relatively unspecialized method forcollecting data relevant to any set of concerns about human existence in society(Langness, 1965). The genre struck me as a powerful tool for doing anddisseminating research, so I was not surprised to learn that there has been a growinginterest in life history studies in sociology, psychology, anthropology, women’sstudies, and adult education (Bertaux, 1981; Warren, 1982)As I reviewed literature about migration and transition, and the parameters ofmy research purpose began to emerge, I wondered if life history would beappropriate for the task. I needed to adopt an approach sensitive enough to trace thedelicate webs of cultural meaning amongst the tangled strands of a person’s actions,values, and beliefs, without neglecting larger processes and structures. Culturalanalysis encompasses two divergent perspectives, which have been named the ‘emic’and the ‘etic’ (Wolcott, 1982, p. 93). Most life history research emphasizes the emic,also referred to as the insiders’ perspective, concerned with the individual and thepersonal. The ernie perspective has been pursued through various forms ofphenomenological and constructivist research, which stress the importance of18subjective experience and the study of multiple constructed realities. The etic isconcerned with theory and abstraction, with general principles underlyingphenomena. Positivism and objectivist paradigms fit well with an etic perspective.Rather than being constrained by either one, I wanted to link the emic withthe etic. For a fuller understanding of the transition process, I needed to relate anindividual migrant’s experiences to my theoretical map, using an approach thatcould integrate internal systems of meaning with contextual structures and systems.Anthropologists have long addressed the tension between the emic and the eticthrough a dialectical process of analysis which moves back and forth between theernie of the experiential data to the etic of theory, each perspective resolvingquestions and contradictions posed by the other, leading to some form of synthesis ininterpretation.Anthropological life history research has been used for over a century tostudy individual and cultural processes. It begins with the goal of understanding anindividual, and builds from there towards understanding the general characteristicsof the relationship between individual and culture. Since it gives a great deal ofinsight into the texture and detail of that relationship, life history has beendescribed as “an extraordinarily sensitive source of information for testinghypotheses about the dynamics and processes of social organization” (Watson &Watson-Franke, 1985, p. 138). Mandelbaum (1973) was the first of manyanthropologists to focus life history analysis on “turnings,” the major transitionsthat people make when taking on a new set of roles, entering into fresh relationswith a new set of people, and acquiring a new self-conception. Studies of thesecritical turnings have illuminated social, cultural, and psychological dimensions ofexperience (Knudsen, 1990).To study the transition process associated with migration, I chose to useanthropological life history to look for cultural meanings in the subjective reality of19one individual. The emic data of the life story provides a single contextualized pointof view from which to consider the fragmented, overlapping, and sometimescontradictory etic frameworks of my theoretical map.This chapter is an exploration of the theory and practice of life historyresearch. I will first describe the research process, the issues and implicationsraised by the method, the text, the genre, and the afterlife of the document. Then I’llrespond to those issues with a description of the research participants and the courseof our fieldwork and analysis.The anthropological life history process: Interaction and interpretatAnthropological life history is a research method (a means of collecting andmanipulating data), a text (the completed account, also called a document), and agenre (a written form whose conventions embody certain shared assumptions andbeliefs) (Harper, 1991). All three are based on the life story, a retrospective accountby an individual of her or his life, in oral or written form. The life history is a lifestory which has been elicited or prompted by another person.Anthropologists once considered the life history method to be an objective andneutral tool for producing a document that represents the actual experience of aperson. Early writers did not reflect on the process of constructing a life history,nor on the multiple influences shaping their texts. But this changed asanthropological inquiry gradually shifted towards a more subjectivist ontology.Since Kluckhohn’s (1945) first critical look at the life history, there has been agrowing emphasis on the narrative process itself, a focus on the story rather than onthe life. Most life histories now focus on the translation of oral narrative to text, onnarrative text as literature, on the cultural construction of the self throughnarration, and on cross-cultural dialogue (Blackman, 1992).20The starting-point for this life history is how one person, at one point in time,makes sense of the world. Its goal is to describe an individual’s way of thinkingabout personal changes that are related to changes in geography, culture, and self,and to analyze those changes. Rather than describing things the way they are, thisstudy explores the way they are believed to be--the way they are interpreted. Itfocusses on the individual as the center of a context of experience, and inseparablefrom it. And it asks how a person comes to terms with her subjective understandingof the events in her world.This life history has been shaped by many storytellers. It arises from aninteraction between a narrator and a listener; layers of interpretation have beencreated in the telling, the listening, and the analysis and writing of the text. Theselayers of interaction and interpretation raise methodological, epistemological, andmoral issues, which I will consider through three lenses: story, storytellers, and text.The storyLife stories are intentional revelations, interpretations which may draw fromfact and fiction. Denzin (1989) persuasively argues that life stories always come inmultiple versions, without clear endings or beginnings; that they are grounded inhighly variable personal or group criteria for truthfulness; that the story that is toldis never the same as the story that is heard; and that stories are shaped by largerideological forces, which put pressure on persons to establish their individuality inthe stories they construct. Narrators may not mention influential externalcircumstances or structures by choice, or because they are unaware of them.These characteristics may make it difficult to establish the “objectivetruthfulness” of a life story. But the purpose of this life history research is not toidentify the “facts” of a migrant’s transition, but to understand the personalmeanings that transition represents. Knudsen’s (1990) perspective on the life story21as a strategy for self-presentation and legitimization is more relevant to my purpose.His work indicates that however loosely the narrator bases the life story on past andpresent experience, its very construction reflects that person’s dreams andrationalizations. The story reveals self, identity, and personality when the speakerdescribes ways of handling problems and dilemmas, attitudes towards others, andfeelings about self.A life story is not only told in the present, it must be considered in relation tomoment of its telling. Its purpose is not so much to describe the past as it was, oreven as it was experienced, but to confer a certain meaning to the past which willcontribute to the meaning of the present (Bertaux-Wiame, 1979). Memory isselective, endowing prominence to certain moments and not to others (Passerini,1987). The life history is both less and more than memory. It is a particular selectionand arrangement of memories, an encounter between what is remembered of thepast and a current social reality. The narrator may, in effect, be building a theory ofself: “as we give meaning to our experience by reflecting on it, we form and reformourselves” (Young & Tardif, 1992, p. 137).A life story doesn’t exist inside every person’s brain, waiting to emergeconsistently and clearly in an interview. Most life stories are ambiguous and oftencontradictory, slowly unfolding and twisting back and forth on themselves as peopleseek to find personal meanings in their own experiences (Denzin, 1989). But neitherare all life stories improvised. In her study of working class women in Italy,Passerini (1987) found that life stories seemed to follow pre-existing storylines andways of telling stories. Though each personal history was unique, their form andcontent echoed older Italian storytelling traditions of female social life that involvethe passing on of experiences and stories from grandmother to mother to daughter,and between neighbours, friends, and relations. She argues that to consider life22stories only as a spontaneous product of a research interaction is to ignore this“double reality.”Whether based on traditional forms or on idiosyncratic construction, everytelling of a life history is likely to be different, influenced by the participants’perceptions of the purpose of the project, their sense of privacy, the relationshipbetween the speaker and the listener, relevance, the conventions of an interview,the presence of others, and the recording devices used. From an objective empiricalviewpoint, these are biases, sources of error which have led to charges that the lifehistory is unscientific due to its unreliability. But these same sources of error existin all interview situations, and serve as a hidden bias in other methodologies (Watson& Watson-Franke, 1985). By making these factors explicit through a reflectiveresearch process, the credibility of a life history can be established.The storytellersEven though a life history may take a different shape if it werecollected by a different person at a different time, the narrator cannevertheless remain recognizable, just as he would if he were to sit fora portrait by two different photographic artists with their ownphotographic styles. Karsh’s portrait of Churchill, while instantlyrecognizable as a Karsh photograph, is nevertheless a portrait ofChurchill and not of Karsh. (Freeman, 1989, p. 431)Life history is not just one person’s story. It is the product of twointerpretations, located in two consciousnesses: that of the narrator of the life story,and of my own, the instigator, interviewer, and writer of this life history document.I have influenced the life story by eliciting it in the first place, by my presenceduring life history interviews, and by the questions I have asked.Freeman has noted that the life history is “a rearrangement of the raw data ofa narrator’s original account. . . consciously staged and directed - both by theinvestigator and the narrator” (1989, p. 430-431). During the life history process, theparticipants construct a collaborative biography in which the relationship between23them is inseparable from the content. To establish the validity of a life historydocument, the reader needs to know more than is usually reported about how eachhas shaped the process and the text. Since the “effect” of the investigator cannot beeliminated, it must be understood through an explicit, reflexive description of theresearch process, the participants, and the participants’ relationship.A reflexive awareness of power relations between research participants hasmoral implications which are critical to epistemological concerns. Research does notoccur in a vacuum, but in a social, cultural, and historical environment. Togetherwith other forms of anthropological writing, the life history has come underincreasingly intense scrutiny. As a result, the balance of power between investigatorand narrator, the researcher and the researched, is shifting towards a morecollaborative model (Blackman, 1992; Cruikshank, 1991).The collaborative nature of life history projects raises complex questions ofvoice and power, “about who speaks in the text and whose story is being told, whomaintains control over the narrative and by implication over the purposes to whichthe story is put” (Smith, 1993, p. 399). These questions are further complicated bypower inequalities already existing in society, if participants cross the invisible butsocially significant lines drawn by ethnicity, nationality, race, class, or gender. Ifthe narrator and the investigator are not working towards an explicit common goal,their differing motivations may be another source of tension in the researchprocess, reinforcing power differences (El-Or, 1992; Freeman, 1989).In an unusually sensitive description of a life history project, Young andTardif (1992), respectively the investigator and the narrator, depict “the ebb andflow of trust, power, reciprocity, and collaboration. . . an explicit contract thatbecomes a much more complex implicit one” (p. 144). These two women eachdescribe the building of trust and rapport over time. For the narrator, this began as afeeling of vulnerability which was dispelled over time as mutual trust was developed.24For the investigator, the empathy and rapport which she used as an interviewingstrategy were transformed into an ethical issue. As Young developed a sense ofresponsibility for the private information entrusted to her, she felt the need toreciprocate both by making her own disclosures during the interviews, and bymaking more of an effort to be honest and sensitive in producing life historydocuments.For Young and Tardif (1992), the process became “an intimate experience,” anexchange resulting in a co-created biography. This may have been made possiblebecause they had much in common in terms of class and educational background.Intimacy has been named as an issue in other life history research. El-Or (1992),working with a narrator from a cultural and class background very different fromher own, found the intimacy that developed between them to be illusory. During theresearch, intimacy blurred the working nature of their relationship, eventuallyinterfering with the life history work, and complicating their disengagement afterthe project was completed. El-Or writes, “we can’t be friends because she was myobject and we both know it” (p. 71). Based on another study, Stacey (1991) suggeststhat the greater the intimacy and apparent reciprocity in the relationship betweenthe researcher and researched, the greater the danger for the participants, whosedisclosures may make them vulnerable to exploitation. Narrators who haveexperienced personal tragedies or traumatic events in their lives present anothermoral dilemma. Retelling a life story may cause further pain, as the traumaticexperiences may have left deep wounding memories, or may be consideredhumiliating or demeaning (Knudsen, 1990).These issues of power, privilege, and intimacy frame every life history,whether or not they are explored and articulated by the participants.The life history text25The interpreter must be willing to broaden and modify his ownpreunderstandings as he enters into dialogue with another’s life, whichis embedded in its own. . . meaning. . . . (Watson & Watson-Franke, 1985,p. 21)This text, like every life history text, encompasses layers of interpretation.The life story was constructed during interviews, a form of discourse which is themost important source of data for most life histories. The text is my interpretivetranslation of that discourse.In the past, most scholars assumed the investigator had the final authority inwriting, editing, and publishing the life history (Personal Narratives Group, 1989).This assumption continues to define university regulations and practice, includingthe requirements of graduate research. Collaboration seldom extends to the analysisstage. Involving the narrator in shaping and writing the final text is rare inanthropological life history writing, though the narrator is usually consulted toconfirm the accuracy of the document, and to guarantee its confidentiality (Stacey,1991; Young & Tardif, 1992). The dialogic, collaborative nature of the life history issometimes recognized in the research product, in multivocal texts which juxtaposethe voices of narrator and investigator while each remains distinct (Crapanzano,1980; Myerhoff, 1979; Shostak, 1981),To acknowledge the interacting subjectivities of the narrator and the writer,the experience and the text of the research process, I have followed this practice byincluding large segments of the life story as it was presented to me, and by disclosingmy epistemological assumptions. My own story provides a counterpoint to the lifehistory which is the leading melody in this text.26The genreA genre is a social practice, a written form which is created and maintained bya discourse community (Harper, 1991). Van Maanen (1988) has identified historicaland disciplinary constraints in anthropological writing, shared assumptions whichinfluence the narrative and rhetorical conventions of a text as much as personalstyle and modes of expression. This life history upholds the beliefs of theanthropological community, to the extent that it conforms to a genre that wasdeveloped within that community.One essential element of anthropological writing is the ethical obligation ofthe writer to respect a participant’s right to remain anonymous. Though someresearch participants may request recognition in the document, most prefer tomaintain their privacy. This can have a significant impact on the life history, for ifthe narrator is concerned about protecting the identity of others who play a part inthe story, she or he may edit the life story during its initial telling, or requestsweeping changes in the text. In order to conceal individual identities it may benecessary to change or omit descriptive detail. “The rights of privacy. . . [may havetol take precedence over the claims of science for well-documented data” (Languess& Frank, 1981, p. 124).This life history conforms to the genre in its focus on the individual andculture, its reflexive approach to the research process, and its recognition of issuesof power and confidentiality. The genre itself is undergoing a political evolution, asthemes of reflexivity and collaboration permeate and are gradually redefiningdifferent aspects of the research process. As primacy and authority gradually shiftsaway from the investigator and towards the narrator, life history is more often usedfor empowering and giving voice to those who have been regarded as silent oroppressed. The genre provides a form of critique directed towards both academictraditions and modern society.27Though anthropology and the life history genre have shaped the form andapproach of this study, other communities have also had a profound influence. As Iwrite this text I am always aware of its intended audiences, particularly the academicdiscipline of adult learning and education. I feel like a mediator between the spokenword of the life history and the writing- and theory-based world of academia.The purpose of this project crosses several academic communities concernedwith migrants, transition, and culture. Rather than be constrained by a singlediscipline, in this text I have compared, contrasted, and sometimes attempted asynthesis of, constructs from several fields. By relating my analysis to amultidisciplinary knowledge base, I hope that its meaning will be translatable andthat it will fulfill its potential to support and extend the work of other researchers.I am not making “discoveries” in the data itself; rather I am creatingmeaning, constructing knowledge whose value lies within theparameters of the community through whose discourse it is generated.(Harper, 1991, p. 41)Afterlife of the documentThe life history process doesn’t stop with the collection and analysis of the lifestory, or even with publication of the text. Some life histories, such as Shostak’s(1981) story of Nisa, have a power and popularity far beyond that of most researchreports. This has been called the “afterlife” of the life history, a “powerful mix ofnarrator, collaborator, text, and context that is subject to multiple interpretations andapplications” (Blackman, 1992, p. 2). The afterlife encompasses audience response tothe published work, reflections on its construction as text, and its impact on the livesof its narrator and writer.The research participants may have very different expectations andinterpretations of the afterlife of their work, differences which may become pointsof tension or of negotiation. Just as a writer constructs knowledge for a particularcommunity, a narrator may tailor the life story to a perceived audience from the28very beginning. As the themes of reflexivity and collaboration slowly but steadilyreshape the genre as well as the process, narrators have demanded increasingcontrol over the representation of their lives.This text has been constructed at a point of tension where the desires andmotivations of the life story narrator intersect with my own. I undertook this projectto advance my learning process, to contribute to scientific knowledge, and to acquirea graduate degree. My research has been framed by academic requirements such assole authorship, which are designed to achieve these goals. When thoserequirements have posed conflicts with my moral and ethical obligations to thenarrator of the story, I have negotiated the contested terrain with difficulty.Life histories...are, despite problems and issues, helping other voicesand other lives to be known and understood, and [the life historylendures and flourishes as a form fitted uniqueLy for this need.”(Peacock, 1992, p. 79)My story: A reflexive counterpoint to the life historyOne of the most important criteria for judging qualitative research isthat the researcher’s guiding theoretical framework be made explicit sothat the reader can judge the findings from the position offered by theresearcher. (Mitchell, 1993, p. 1)I was born in Vancouver Canada, of parents who were themselves born andraised just 30 miles outside the city. Our circumstances were simultaneously modestand advantaged. The Harpers were a middle class family with two working parents, afamily that placed a priority on education and learning, personal achievement andcontributing towards society. By the time I finished university, I had thoroughlyinternalized cultural assumptions that I have only recently come to realize arepeculiarly Canadian. I felt comfortable with mainstream North American cultureand the “white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant” neighbourhood that I lived in. I looked likeI belonged, with my fair skin, tall body, and my father’s Scottish-English Protestantheritage. But my personality and values were also influenced by my mother’s29Lebanese immigrant family. I have always been sympathetic to minority rights, butit wasn’t until I visited the Middle East that I recognized that other aspects of mycharacter may be more Lebanese than Canadian.After completing an undergraduate degree in anthropology, I spent 15 yearsworking in museums. I sometimes felt like I was working and breathinganthropology, as I moved from urban to rural settings, working closely withresearchers, First Nations peoples and ethnic minority groups. When I decided topause in my museum career, I entered the university to stretch my mind, and exploreother career options. While doing graduate work in adult education, I becamefamiliar with the vocabulary and theory, philosophical approaches and assumptionsin the field of adult learning and education. At the same time, I found the languageof the social sciences useful for interpreting and reflecting upon my ownassumptions, and I have recently begun to acknowledge the personal commitmentswhich have framed my life and my work.My philosophy is strongly marked by subjectivism. I believe that each one ofus creates our social world, and that research should be concerned with explainingand understanding those multiple constructed realities through holistic studies. Myunderstanding of culture has evolved in tandem with this belief, and parallels theanthropological trend to conceptualize culture as shared meaning systems which arefluid rather than static, and which are both internally constructed and contextual.My beliefs about the political nature of North American society are less clear.Intellectually, I subscribe to the “conflict” paradigm, which perceives deepstructural conflicts and is concerned with radical transformations of society (Burrell& Morgan, 1979; Rubenson, 1989). But when I reflect upon my actions, most can besituated in an “consensus”-based humanist paradigm, supporting the status quo. Myfeminism, a commitment which I acknowledged two decades ago, has both liberal andsocialist dimensions. Perhaps these ambiguities are related to my developing30political awareness, since I continue to grapple with the contradictions between myown experiences as an advantaged member of society (which justify support of thestatus quo), and my growing awareness of social inequities (which demand radicaltransformation).My choice of methodology has been strongly influenced by my subjectivistcommitments rather than by a political stance. Three concerns of feminist inquiryhave further shaped the research process: to reflexively place the inquirer in thesame critical plane as the subject, to use women’s experiences as a source for socialanalysis, and to conduct research for women (Harding, 1987). The first feministconcern coincides with the anthropological emphasis on reflexivity. Byacknowledging and scrutinizing my role in an interactive research process, I haveplaced myself within the critical plane of the life history. By sharing control overdata collection and analysis, I hope to reduce the inequalities of power in theconventional narrator-investigator relationship, and to encourage a morecollaborative form of inquiry.Studying my ownThe other priorities of feminist research, to conduct research about women forwomen, determined my choice of narrator of the life history. Though my decision towork with a woman was politically motivated, it is readily justified by reasons relatedto the research methodology and purpose. The literature of migrant studies, crosscultural adaptation, and culture learning overlook gender as a variable for analysis;the third person singular pronoun is invariably “he.” Yet rich and diverse bodies ofliterature in many other academic disciplines, including adult learning research,suggest that men and women have fundamentally different experiences andperspectives (Caffarella & Olson, 1993; Gilligan, 1982; Meyer, Persico, & Luttrell, 1986).I purposefully selected a woman to be the narrator for this life history, which31describes a woman’s problems, and her solutions, in the transition process. In apractical sense, this is research about women, which aims to assess and integratetheoretical frameworks for addressing the needs of women.In the Western world, anthropology originated as an outgrowth and a tool ofimperialism. Anthropologists have continued to focus their research on isolated,bounded societies and the exotic “other,” an approach which smacks ofethnocentrism as the society or person being studied is most often described andassessed, objectified, and depersonalized (Whittaker, 1992). In the last two decades,some anthropologists have questioned the relevance of conventional anthropologicalpractices in a contemporary world of complex modern societies. Abu-Lughod (1991),for example, argues that any study of the “other” enforces separations thatinevitably carry a sense of judgement and hierarchy. Researchers’ motives forstudying and interpreting the lives of people who can study and interpret forthemselves are being questioned, and sometimes rejected, as cultural appropriationand misrepresentation (Fox, 1991).To avoid such political implications and exploitation, and to lessen the powerdifferences between myself and the narrator of the life story, I chose to work with awoman from a group with which I am connected, the Vancouver Lebanesecommunity. By acknowledging and validating her voice, I am addressing alongstanding imbalance in Western empirical research. Though Lebanese womenare a familiar part of my world, they have long represented a very exotic “other” formost Western researchers. Until the 1970’s, Arab women were consistently portrayedas unidimensional characters relegated to a “private sphere” of limited significance(Eickelman, 1989). In studies of Arab communities, whether in the Middle East orother parts of the world, women were described and dismissed as completelysubordinate to men, and treated as a homogeneous whole which ignored social,economic, religious, ethnic, regional, rural-urban, and individual differences32(Nelson, 1974). Modern mass media continue to perpetuate this stereotype in the1990’s. But Western academic literature has slowly and inconsistently come toacknowledge that Arab women, and Lebanese women in particular, are not passive,veiled victims of oppression as they have most often been portrayed (Keddie & Beck,1978).My own relationship to the Vancouver Lebanese community is not a simpleone. As I was growing up, my family maintained a distance from the community, andI became involved only as an adult. My status is one of “halfie,” defined as a personwhose national or cultural identity is mixed by virtue of migration, overseaseducation, or parentage (Abu-Lughod, 1991). Halfies doing research within theirown communities face the same dilemmas as feminists doing research with women:issues of objectivity, partiality, and multiple audiences.Since the investigator cannot maintain objectivity through distance, feministand halfie research is sometimes considered suspect and accused of presenting only apartial picture of social reality. Such accusations are countered, bothphilosophically and practically, by the use of reflexivity. This has recently beenreconceptualized as positioning, a feminist practice which acknowledges thesituatedness and partiality of all claims to knowledge (Marcus, 1994). Historically,most social science research has been based on the “partial perspectives” of men,who served as the primary subjects and informants for empirical and theoreticalstudy. This life history does not claim to represent a large social or cultural group.It focusses on a particular person and her situation, which can be located in relationto larger communities and processes.Multiple audiences pose an ongoing dilemma for halfies and feminists, whoare obligated not only to the academic community, but also to the communities andindividuals they are working with (Abu-Lughod, 1991). I have been subject to thepolitics and ethics of several communities throughout the research process. This has33further complicated my careful and reflexive mapping of the research terrain.But there are advantages to a halfie status. By choosing to study a society ofwhich I am a member, I am practising a form of research which has been called“insider anthropology” or “native anthropology” (Messerschmidt, 1981). Thisapproach has grown in popularity in recent decades, linked to a growing concernwith relevance and authenticity, and compatible with subjectivist and feministmethodologies (Altorki and El-Solh, 1988). Among the practical benefits, my networkof connections with local Arabs made it easy to meet potential narrators, and I foundit easy to establish rapport with them. As an insider, I was already aware of Arabexpectations of close relationships between women. Joseph (1988) has characterizedthese relationships as “merging”, which is defined as a strong identification withanother person, with a deep understanding and reciprocity in emotional investment.I was familiar with this immersion into others’ lives from relations among women onthe Lebanese side of my own family.Experiences of closeness and embeddedness are not unique to Arab orLebanese women. Based on research with North Americans, Gilligan (1982) hassuggested that women are more embedded, attached, relational and nurturing thanmen (who are more individuated, separated, assertive, and aggressive). Young andTardif’s (1992) reflections on their interview process reflect the mutual disclosureand self-discovery that can take place when women interview women over a periodof time. But Joseph’s (1988) experiences suggest that Lebanese women are moreintensely relational, more deeply embedded within their families, and more ready toextend their merging with family to merging with friends. Although it was notoriginally her intention, she found that merging was a research tool which allowedher to figuratively “get inside” people, to experience and learn about the nature ofinterpersonal relationships and self from a specialized vantage point.34To gain a better understanding of a refugee’s transition process through lifehistory research, this study values the voice of an Arab woman. I purposefullysought a Lebanese narrator who felt comfortable in Canada, and who had vividmemories of her migration and transition.Finding a narrator: The Vancouver Lebanese communityWhen my grandfather arrived in British Columbia in 1908, he was one of thefirst Lebanese to settle in the province. There are no statistics available on thenumber of Lebanese-born or their descendants presently living in the Vancouverarea. Since there have been no formal studies of the Lebanese community in B.C.,this description is based on my own observations and personal communications withmembers of the Lebanese Canadian Society of B.C.. Most of the local Lebanesecommunity is made up of middle class immigrants, people who voluntarily came toCanada for economic reasons, or to join family members already living here. Somehave arrived as temporary sojourners while studying at a university, while othershave obtained a Canadian passport to supplement their Lebanese citizenship. Thisgives them the choice of residing in either country, and overcomes internationaltravel restrictions on Lebanese passport-holders. Since 1975, Vancouver has beenthe destination for many Lebanese fleeing their nation’s tragic civil war and thelater occupation by Israeli forces. Some, but not all, of these arrivals have beengiven refugee status. The majority would rather be living in Lebanon than inCanada, and some have already returned during recent periods of uneasy peace.In Vancouver, Lebanese make up an “invisible” minority which may consistof as many as 5,000 people. Like other Lebanese communities in Canada, its membersare far more strongly involved with their family groups and relationships than withthe short-lived ethnic organizations that form and disperse at irregular intervals(Jabbra & Jabbra, 1984). Most Lebanese in Vancouver are Christians of various sects,35though there is a small and growing Moslem population. Connections among theloosely-knit Lebanese community are mostly maintained through informal familysocial gatherings, and at occasional special events like picnics, dances, and musicperformances arranged by the Lebanese Canadian Society and a recently formedArab Community Centre Club.Though Lebanese do not physically appear very different from the Europeansand their descendants who dominate Canadian culture and population statistics(Filion, 1990), their Arabic language and culture is substantively different (AbuLaban, 1980; Altorki & El-Solh, 1988). Though newcomers from Lebanon have muchto learn about Canadian culture, sociological and historical studies of Lebanese inCanada indicate a rapid rate of assimilation and adaptation using standard measuressuch as acquisition of Canadian citizenship, socioeconomic status, and languageacquisition (Abu-Laban, 1980; Jabbra & Jabbra, 1984). As a group, the Lebanese seemto be successful in learning how to adjust to Canadian life.Meeting MiraI renewed my connections with Vancouver Lebanese by attending some socialevents, and by calling upon longstanding friends who were active in the community.I received a warm welcome and many offers to assist in my research. I asked severalpeople who were well respected in the local community to refer me to Lebanesewomen who had been here for at least 3 years. This was a time period that theCanadian government has specified as the average time required for immigrantadjustment (Ornstein & Sharma, 1983). I was introduced to several women, each ofwhom invited me into her home for an interview. They had all left Lebanon duringthe civil war, though not all of them had official refugee status in Canada.Several people suggested I speak with Mira. I was told she was a refugee froma Lebanese village, someone who had experienced the civil war first-hand, and36someone who I would like. When we arranged our first meeting over the phone, Iwas surprised to find that she lived in the same part of the city as I did. And I waseven more surprised at how comfortable I felt when I was with her, despite the usualtension of a first encounter. Her fashionable apartment, with its contemporary artand furniture, all felt familiar, more like the homes of my Canadian middle classfriends than some of the other Lebanese women I’d visited. Her origins were visiblein the presence of some Lebanese folk art, and the Arabic and French books whichshared the bookcase with English ones. I was impressed by her friendly sincerityand openness. During our pilot interview, Mira was reflective, answering myquestions thoughtfully, clearly, and thoroughly. She often illustrated her abstractideas by citing from direct personal experience, or by using metaphorical language.After a two hour interview, we spent another two hours looking through photos ofLebanon and discussing life in Vancouver.When it came time to decide which woman to work with on the life history,Mira seemed like the right choice. I felt that we had many things in common. Wewere both middle class, university-educated, and involved in the field of education,things I hoped would minimize the inequities of the research relationship. ThoughMira had spent her time in Canada as a refugee, and could not yet apply for Canadiancitizenship, she easily met the Canadian government’s social and economic indicatorsfor successful adaptation (Ornstein & Sharma, 1983). She was well-qualified andemployed full-time in her chosen profession, fluent in English, and livingcomfortably in Vancouver with many Canadian as well as Lebanese friends. She wasalso proud of her Lebanese identity, and her ability to adjust to Canadian society. Inthese respects, she was typical of Lebanese immigrants to Canada since the 1950’s(Abu-Laban, 1984). But Mira told me that she was not a typical Lebanese woman intwo important ways. Unlike most Lebanese women of her age, she was unmarried,and she lived independently, far from Lebanese friends and family members.37A few weeks later, I asked Mira if we could meet again. Over coffee at one ofher favourite restaurants, I asked Mira if she was willing to do a series of interviews,and be the focus of my life history research. She listened closely as I explained themethod of my research, and my goal: to understand the personal changes sheexperienced after moving to Canada. Mira was enthusiastic about the idea of lifehistory research. She told me that she prefers to learn by reading about people andtheir stories, so it made sense to her that my research would focus on her and herstory. She agreed to take part, saying that she would be happy to help me with myuniversity research.Mira emphasized that she wanted to help me learn more about my Lebaneseheritage. She also felt that it was important to tell people about Lebanon to counterpopular misconceptions perpetuated by North American media, like the notion thatall Arabs are terrorists. She had done several interviews with newspaper reporterson her experiences in Lebanon, and often spoke out on the topic at social gatherings.She was particularly pleased that I, a third generation Lebanese in Canada, wanted tolearn about Lebanon, and that I wanted to educate people about Lebanon through mystudy. We shared another motive--we both admitted that we enjoyed each other’scompany and looked forward to becoming friends. So the next phase of the research,the life story interviews, began in a research relationship already complicated witha dimension of intimacy. As we began, Mira was the narrator and speaker; I was theinvestigator and listener.Our research processThe interviewsMira and I met about once a week for four months. By her choice, we usuallymet at her home on a weekday evening. A few times she came to my apartment foran interview. During each session I would tape about 2 hours of interview, and38before and after that we would converse informally about various subjects forseveral hours while drinking coffee or herbal tea, sometimes eating some lightsnacks. A few times a friend dropped by, and then Mira and I would stop theinterview while we all talked together.Though I originally planned to videotape some of the interviews, Mira wasvery uncomfortable with the idea. Instead of recording and analyzing audio-visualrecords as I had originally planned, I used only an audiotape recorder with a smallclip-on microphone. I made some written notes during the formal interview, andafter our meetings I made more notes about our general conversation. I also kept ajournal of my own reflections on our meetings and the research process. All ofthese sources informed the later interviews, as well as the interpretations presentedin this text. All of our conversations were conducted in English. Though it was hersecond language, Mira never seemed frustrated by her ability to express herself.When a friend joined us, even when it was an Arabic speaker, they usually spokeEnglish in my presence.During our first interview, I suggested that she use a pencil and paper to drawa timeline and mark all the periods of her life. Though Mira outlined her entire lifefor me in that interview, she didn’t draw much. At the next interview, I tried to focusour discussion around themes that were used with North American autobiographygroups (Birren & Deutchman, 1991). That session seemed to drag even though itproved to be our shortest meeting. In retrospect I think it was the least successful, orcomfortable, because I had imposed thematic categories that did not fit Mira’sinterpretations, and seemed hardly relevant to our research focus.After that, I began our interviews by introducing topics that had come up inprevious interviews. I transcribed the tapes myself as soon as possible after eachmeeting, identifying potential themes for expansion or clarification. I let Mirachoose which ones were most important to her, and let her talk with minimal39interruption during the interviews. Only during the last two sessions did I becomemore directive, pursuing specific topics that I hadn’t understood, or that I felt neededexpansion.During those four months, our roles of narrator and investigator took on newdimensions. With Mira’s stories and interpretations dominating our sessions, I cameto feel more like a student, with Mira as my teacher. This feeling was confirmedwhen we attended a few Lebanese community events together, and I found myselfrelying upon Mira to patiently explain traditional customs and behaviour.During the first formal interview I began to experience merging, despite thepresence of the tape recorder and my sense of restraint as I minimized myinterruptions of her narrative. We were already developing a sense of intimacy,which increased the sense of obligation between us. While it underscored my ethicalresponsibilities towards Mira, the merging made it far faster and easier than Iexpected to establish and maintain rapport between us, for Mira to reveal deeply heldbeliefs and emotionally-charged subjects, and for me to understand her meaning.My admiration and affection for Mira grew immensely during this time as Icame to appreciate her cheerful and generous spirit and tremendous courage. Shedemonstrated these qualities often during our interviews. She always found time inher very busy schedule to meet with me, and showed endless patience with myprobing, sometimes repetitious questions. Her narration often led to very painfulmemories, but she would continue to speak through her tears. After this happened afew times, I asked Mira if it was helpful or hurtful to discuss such traumatic events.She told me that it hurt a lot, but that people had told her it was good to talk aboutsuch things, that it could be therapeutic. During later sessions, when I asked thesame question, her answers varied. At first, Mira thought it was helping heremotionally to “get it out”. At one of our last interviews, she decided that it wasn’thelping after all, the wounds were still deep.40Though I was concerned about being an inquisitor, Mira never said orbehaved as though she was resentful. Instead, as we neared the end of theinterviews, we spoke more often about how we had become friends, and how wewould miss our regular weekly meetings. We made plans to meet on other socialoccasions.The shift to analysis and writingOur last life history interview was a critical one. We both knew that Mirawould shortly be leaving for a long trip to Lebanon, and that this might be our lastchance to talk about the life history together. My role would change from that oflistener to the writer and interpreter of Mira’s spoken story. The power, and thecontrol over Mira’s story and its interpretation, would shift from her to me.Before our last session, I gave Mira a rough outline of my thesis, including allthe edited transcripts of our interviews that I was planning to use. Those transcriptswere identical to the interview text included in this thesis, already excerpted andlightly edited from the original transcripts. As the thesis is a text, and my own wordsare written for this medium, I felt that leaving the transcripts in their original formmade them seem awkward in contrast. Read without accompanying facial gesturesand body language, they were also misleading. So I “smoothed” our words, so theycan be read easily as text. A sample of the original text with edited text beside it canbe found in Appendix A.When I arrived to discuss the text, Mira told me that she had found the readingto be overwhelming. While it made her very sad to read it, at the same time it seemed“just titles,” as if each sentence was too brief a mention of an event or feeling thatcould be expanded to tell its own story. As I explored her misgivings, I realized thatshe was not sad about the state of the text, but about the life events that weredescribed.41Though Mira liked the idea that her story would be used to assess theory, shewas concerned that I might be cutting up her story “in bits and pieces” to prove ordisprove some academic theory. I explained my intention to use selections from theinterview text just as she was reading them, in large chunks, interspersed withtheoretical frameworks and analysis. After some discussion, she accepted myapproach, but wanted to clarify and add the messages she felt she were mostimportant to convey to different readers: for Canadians (particularly those withpolitical power), for immigrants to Canada, and for people still living in Lebanon.These can be found in the last chapter, together with my own analysis.An important part of our last discussion revolved around issues of privacy.Although Mira wanted the finished work to be publicly accessible, she also wanted tobe sure that she could not be identified, and together we altered aspects of the story tothat end. It felt like a game, and we began to chuckle as Mira chose alternativenames for each person or location mentioned in the text, and we discussed otherchanges. When we were finished, we had made only very minor changes to disguiseMira, her family, and her friends.During our early interviews, I noticed that Mira didn’t mention certain topics.I already knew that Lebanese have a different morality with more restrictivestandards than Canadians, particularly for unmarried women. We did eventuallydiscuss some sensitive topics during later interviews, within our evolving intimateresearch relationship. But the same intimacy placed upon me the obligation to omitcertain information from the text. Most of the cuts were easy to make, because theydidn’t seem to add anything new to the life history. But I did leave some potentiallysensitive segments in the text, and I made a point of discussing them, as well as theomissions, with Mira during our last interview. I was relieved to find that she agreedwith my editorial decisions. It seemed to confirm that I deserved the trust she had put42in me to this point, and gave me confidence to proceed with other interpretations ofher story.We completely finished the life history interviews two weeks before Mira flewto Lebanon for her summer holidays. But it took me over a year to write the thesis,mostly due to interruptions by other work and courses. During that time, I foundmyself re-examining my own and my family’s beliefs and behaviour, particularly inlight of what I’d learned about Lebanese family relationships. I began to irritatesome of my close friends, with constant references to my family’s “Lebaneseness.”Once Mira returned from Lebanon, we met socially at least once a month. Atfirst, our visits and conversation were much like the interview sessions. I wouldmostly listen, while Mira talked about her life. Slowly this changed, until ourparticipation in conversations was more balanced. Mira was busy with her own workand social life, and though she was politely curious about my progress on the thesis,she seemed content to leave me to do the analysis and writing. Aware of the academicrequirement to present my own analysis and interpretation, I didn’t pursue hercollaboration on the analysis.Instead, I became very familiar with the interview text, reading it, pursuingdifferent approaches to analyzing our words. I used a simple software program tosearch for particular words that had seemed significant to Mira, and to extractsegments of text. This helped me to clarify Mira’s usage of the words, and contributedto my overall understanding of her interpretations. At the same time, I readextensively in many literatures: cross-cultural communications; transformativelearning; developmental and transitional learning; and immigrant and ethnicstudies; as well as historical and sociological studies of middle eastern societies, Arabwomen, and Arab-American history. To respect the unique richness and wholenessof Mira’s life story, I sought theoretical frameworks flexible enough to addressintegrated and complex systems of meaning. I went back and forth between the43literature and our interview text, developing new insights and interpretations asthemes and ideas emerged from one or the other.During this process, I felt torn between wanting to develop a single concisetheme, and wanting to explore the many complex dimensions of Mira’s story. Inorder to honour Mira’s own words and respect the wholeness of her life, I had toresist the tendency to make it look neat and tidy. Marcus (1994) argues that “messytexts” are necessary in ethnographic writing, to portray a sense of the whole whichcan never be described or analyzed in its totality. It is misleading and artificial tosimplify a life story, just as considering a single life separate from its context cangive a false impression. Freeman (1989) has noted that the life history requires anexpansion of complexity in order to describe the phenomena. He suggests that thelife history text is rather like a prism which temporarily splits apart complex wholesinto a spectrum of meanings, just as beams of light passing through a prism areseparated into the colours of the spectrum.I used many lenses to identify the hues of interpretation in Mira’s life story,and the life history adds to the array of colour with further interpretation. Yetduring this analysis and writing, I often found myself overwhelmed by the numberof different but overlapping perspectives. As I slowly began to synthesize ideas fromthe literature with my own, I tested the credibility of each new interpretation byreturning to the interview text, along with my field notes, journals, and my memoryof our encounters. Although I saw Mira often during this time, I avoided sharing myconfusion with her. Instead, I discussed and revised them during intensivediscussions with people who were familiar with my research goals: my advisor andmembers of my research committee, a few of my fellow graduate students, and myhusband.When I completed a rough draft, I met with Mira to give her a copy and discussit. But we talked only briefly about the research, because she was leaving for a six44month visit to Lebanon the following week, and was more interested in talking aboutour personal lives. She was looking forward to reading the text, and was planning towrite me about her life in Lebanon. With her departure, I turned once again to myadvisor and committee, this time embarking upon a formal textual process ofsubmitting drafts for written comments and making revisions to each draft.This text is the outcome. I expect it will have an active “afterlife”, for manymembers of the Vancouver Lebanese and Arab communities have expressed interestin this research. I am eager to do more writing based on this life history for bothgeneral and academic publications. When I approached Mira to co-author otherpublications with me, she was flattered by the idea. But since she was moving on toother absorbing projects, and wanted to remain anonymous, she simply encouragedme to do more writing on my own. She reminded me of something she’d told meduring our interviews:Mira: I used to write before, every single night I’d write. In journals,you know, my impressions about different things. With small pictures,and little sketches. It was like saying my prayers before going to bed. Iwould read and write. But after the II of September 1973, everythingstopped. Totally. There was no way. . . . I remember, I wanted to listdown the date they blasted the house. There was no paper. I couldn’tfind a paper, I couldn’t find a pencil. We lost every single thing. Sothat’s why it was the last time I wrote.45Chapter ThreeMIRA’S LIFE STORYThe historical context: A brief story of LebanonMira: There are long histories, history behind everything, you can’tseparate yourself from your past in Lebanon.The relationship between Arabs and the West has never been a simple one.There is a dynamic tension in the Middle East between modernizing influences whichArabs perceive as emerging from the West, and Arab traditions. Arab society andculture can be described as conservative, even though its traditions are not uniformor static, or antagonistic to modernity. Within Arab societies, there are individuals,structures and institutions which resist change (Patai, 1976). In Arab regions duringthe last century, the dynamic tension between Western modernizing influences andArab traditionalism has been subject to extreme pressure. This has been expressed atevery level of Arab society, and is a primary cause of the internal and internationalviolence which racks the Middle East.The Lebanese, and Lebanese Christians in particular, have lived at a focal pointof this tension. The nation and its people have experienced profound change in thewake of nineteenth century colonialism, twentieth century modernization, andrecent internal and external aggressions. Throughout this period, vast numbers ofLebanese have left the country as immigrants or refugees, creating a globaldiaspora. A few have returned to Lebanon, accelerating the processes of changewithin the region.Lebanon, a green and mountainous country on the east coast of theMediterranean, sits strategically at the meeting of major historical trade routes. It46has been influenced by traders, migrants, and conquering armies, whichcontributed not only new ideas but also an ethnic diversity. The highlands ofLebanon have provided places of refuge for minority groups and individuals withunpopular beliefs. According to Lebanese historian Salibi (1988), the many Christianand Moslem sects occupying Lebanon during four hundred years of Ottoman rule hada long history of accommodation, sharing the Arabic language and an Arab identity.Their relationships became seriously disrupted in the mid-nineteenth century, whenvarious European powers competing for dominance in the declining Ottoman empireallied with rival Christian sects, heightening the division between Moslems andChristians as well as between Christian sects. A series of religious civil wars tookplace from 1840 to 1860, marked by bloody massacres which still live in the memoriesof Lebanese Christians, Moslems, and Druze (a distinctive Moslem sect).Active European influence in Lebanon continued and expanded after that timethrough trade and missionary schools. With a long history of Western-styleschooling, the Lebanese found their skills in demand as Arab states were shaken bymajor social and economic changes in the twentieth century (Salibi, 1988). Until1975, Lebanon was considered the most successfully modernizing country in the Arabregion. Its literacy rate was the highest in the Middle East, and the participation ofwomen in the labour force was one of the highest in the region--18% of the totalworkforce. The majority of working women were Christian, between 20 and 25 yearsof age (Hijab, 1989; Jamjoon, 1983)In 1975, civil war once again broke out in Lebanon. In the long and terriblehistory of the war, which only abated in 1993, the Lebanese have been victims notjust of internecine aggression, but of actions involving the Palestinian LiberationOrganization, UN peacekeeping missions, and the armed forces of Israel, the U.S., andSyria (Friedman, 1990).47It’s not a village anymoreMira: My home is a town now, it’s not a village any more. Because it’sabout 8,000 people.Lyn: Let’s talk about what it was like when you were a child.Mira: It was very nice, a small village, not that far from theMediterranean, it’s only a few minutes by car, and it’s 350 metres abovesea level. It’s scattered on three hills.People like my parents, they used to work. We have factories, acement factory. It’s the biggest factory, I think, in the middle east. Andmy father used to work there. And we also have olive trees. We exportthe olives, and olive oil to Arab countries and other places. And soap,too. And some of the people, especially men, they used to go to Beirut, towork in the factories.They’d come back on the weekend. Even some of the women,some of my mother’s friends, this was a long time ago, they’d go withtheir brothers, or with their relatives. They’d rent an apartment inBeirut, and they’d come back on the weekend, or every two weeks. Butnow it’s different, because in my generation, and the generationbefore, after we finished our education, most of the men becameengineers, and the girls either nurses or teachers. And also doctors,lawyers, now most of them are professionals. So just before the civilwar, maybe twenty years ago, everything has changed in the village.We started to see the beautiful new houses and cars, and they built a newschool in our village.All the village, everybody in all the families in the village, theybecame well-off. Because those who were working in the Gulf, Saudi48Arabia and Kuwait, used to make a lot of money. So they send back toLebanon, and they build. Those who have small houses, they buildbigger houses, and they buy new cars, they invest the money indifferent things. And you can see it. Most of the money, most of thethings that we have now in Lebanon, is from outside. Either NorthAmerica or the Gulf. And that’s what happened to us, because two of mybrothers, one of them was in the U.S., the other was in the Gulf. InSaudi Arabia, and they were helping my dad. That’s how we got to go togood schools in Lebanon, and to the university.And it’s not only us, not only our family. Everybody. So that’swhy now, if you go to my town, everybody is rich! And those who arenot rich, maybe they have somebody in the family, or relatives, whocan help them. A lot of people had to leave, during the civil war. Nowthey have started to go back. But there are so many families who are inBoston, and Australia, and I don’t think they will come back, becausethey have been there for a long time.My brothers, they are very happy there, they have everythingthey want. Because they already tried life outside, and they were nothappy at all. They have their houses, their land, their cars, theirfriends, their families, what else do they want? My eldest brother, theone who was in Saudi Arabia, he doesn’t work, because he has a lot ofproperty. But my other brother was in Abu Dhabi. He left a few yearsago, now he’s in Lebanon, and he works for a big company there. Andhe’s very happy, he has three kids....Some of the people in my hometown, they have their owncompanies in the Gulf, in Saudi Arabia, and some of them were inKuwait. And they are very wealthy people, millionaires.49Lyn: Would you say that’s generally true for many villages, and townsin Lebanon?Mira: No, just my region, fifty villages, most of them are like that.Because we have schools, both English and French schools. And most ofthe people, especially of my generation, and those who are a little bityounger than me, and a little bit older than me, they all are educated, sothis helps to find a job. Unfortunately, the civil war has destroyedeverything.The first thing you see when you arrive in my village is theSyrian checkpoint. There used to be beautiful houses. They aredestroyed, totally destroyed. About twenty-two houses were blasted, andone of them was our house. So it’s very sad when you see the rubble,and the destroyed houses. Now, I think, people have started to removethe rubble. And some of the families who left the village, they left theprovince, they started to come back, because it’s safer for them.We have everything. We used to go to Tripoli, or to Beirut, forshopping, now we don’t have to go there, because we have lots of cutelittle stores, and banks, offices, doctors, hospitals, dentists, everything.Because of the civil war, it was not safe enough to go, becausetravelling, or commuting, was not that easy. They have to go throughlots of checkpoints. So it’s better to have your office, or your business,close to where you live. It’s safer. .If you go to the grocery shop, if you go to the bakery, whereveryou go, people know each other and so you are very important, you aresomething. If you get sick, everybody will come and see you. There,you have no time to think about your problems, if you have problems,50because it’s everybody’s problem. It’s not easy sometimes, when you’revery close to people, when you have no privacy, it’s hard.What I like about the village, there are very narrow and oldstreets. The houses are so close to each other, we can hear theneighbours talking sometime. And people are neighbours, they becomelike relatives, like one family, they have coffee together, they eattogether sometimes, they cook for each other sometimes. Which is reallynice.Lyn: Is your whole village Christian?Mira: Yes. So we do lots of things together. For example, on Good Friday,they cook the same kind of food, special things for Good Friday. If you goon Christmas day, the same thing. And because of the marriage, youknow, people become relatives, the families.My eldest sister is married in the same village. They have a hugehouse. It’s built on something like a castle. But it’s not high, just onefloor, and it’s very dark. It has no windows, nothing in it, and the wallsare so thick, eight or ten feet, and it’s built of limestone. That’s wherepeople in my village, a long, long time ago, when the Ottoman Empirewas in control, they used to go there and hide, in that place. It’s like achain of rooms, and it’s dark, and the doors are very low, so that thehorsemen can’t go inside with their horses. The Ottoman soldiers usedto go and get people by force, whether they like it or not, to go and workfor them, in the fields or on the roads, or whatever. So when theyattacked the village, people go and hide in there. They built their houseon top of it, because it would take a long time and a lot of money todemolish it. And during the civil war, a lot of people used to go and hidethere, and I am one of them.51A quiet and desperate diasporaDiasporas. . . are a testimony to the inherent fragility of the linksbetween people, polity and territory and to the negotiability of therelationship between people and place. Diasporas come in many forms.But whatever these differences. . . diasporas always leave a trail ofcollective memory about another place and time and create new maps ofdesire and attachment. (Appadurai & Breckenridge, 1989, p. 3)Beginning in the 1880’s, large numbers of people from Lebanon began toemigrate to the Americas. In the areas ruled by Ottomans, military conscription andheavy taxes drove young men like my grandfather to leave the country (Jabbra &Jabbra, 1984; Naff, 1985). Most of them were lured by rumours of economicopportunity, and planned to work in the Americas until they became wealthy andcould return home with money and prestige (Naff, 1985). Though some of them didreturn, more remained abroad. Until World War One, approximately 15,000 Lebaneseemigrated every year, a movement that was curtailed only because of the war andlimitations imposed by host countries such as the Asian immigrant tax imposed byCanada (Jabbra & Jabbra, 1984; Abu-Laban, 1980).Yet the Lebanese continued to emigrate, most frequently to join family membersabroad. It has been estimated that there are 5 to 6 million Lebanese and theirdescendants now in North and South America, many times the number of Lebanese intheir home country (Orfalea, 1988) . The average annual number of emigrants toCanada from Lebanon was less than 3,000 from 1950 until 1975 (Abu-Laban, 1980).Since the outbreak of the civil war, that number has sometimes doubled or eventripled. In 1976, a new Canadian Immigration Act created for the first time a refugeeclass, which followed the UN Convention definition of refugees. Since that time, over70,000 Lebanese immigrants and refugees have entered Canada (Statistics Canada,1982, 1990, 1993 ). Mira was among the many individuals and family groups arrivingin Vancouver in the late 1980’s.52Just a few lines of Mira’s life storyMira: You are Lebanese first, and then you are an Arab, right? Youcan’t separate one from another. You are Lynette, you’re a girl. I amMira, I am a girl. I’m a teacher, you are a student, that’s fine.Perhaps it was Mira’s friendliness and cheerful demeanor, or the ordinarinessof the living-room that we met in, that made me feel like we had so much in common.Whatever the reason, I was unprepared for the deep pain in Mira’s life story. Duringour first formal interview, my composure was shattered as she spoke about the tragiccircumstances of her life and her flight from Lebanon. My daily life in Vancouverwas relatively comfortable, orderly, and peaceful, far from the upheavals andtragedies that still rack Lebanon and the Arab world.The following text includes most of the transcript from that first interview. Itfollows her narrative structure, though Fve made minor grammatical alterations andremoved a few paragraphs. I have also added some text from a later interview, inwhich Mira spoke in greater detail about her years in Canada.At our last formal interview, after Mira had seen the edited text, she told me thatit had been painful and frustrating to read.Lyn: That must have been a strange thing, when you read those pages.Mira: Yeah. I was reading about that, and I felt, “Oh, my God.” I mean,whatever I told you, it’s like the titles of the stories. For example, whenI told you about our house, how they gave us three minutes to leave. Butbefore that, it took them six months. They kept going back and forth,and threatening us, and you know, asking for money, for six months.It’s a whole story, but it took very few lines. Just a few lines.53But it seemed a lot more than just a few lines to me, on that rainy February eveningof our very first life history interview. Mira had made us each a cup of very strongLebanese coffee, and I’d set up the tape deck, clipping a small mike to the sofabetween us. Mira looked very calm and composed, while I felt nervous and edgy,fingering a pen and paper to make notes about the drift of our conversation,carefully searching for the right words with which to begin our work together.Lyn: The reason this kind of an interview is called a life history, isthat although what I’m interested in takes place in a very short time inyour life, everything that’s happened before is relevant. Instead of justhaving one interview on a very narrow focus, my interest is to put thechanges in your life into the perspective of your whole life. What Iwant to start out with today, is to get an idea of how you think of thespan of your life, the important stages in your life.Mira: You want me to look back at the past, and tell you about thedifferent stages of my life from where I stand now. Oh, that’s veryinteresting. .I had a very, very happy childhood. We were very happy, I don’tknow whether I told you we are nine in the family, we grew up in asmall town in northern Lebanon. I thought the whole world was herein my hometown. Because I was not that anxious to go and learn aboutsomething else, or know about anything else, Because I was so happy, Iwas the happiest, I was so spoiled. It was like a dream, everything a girlcould wish to have in life, I had it. I had lots of friends and cousins,which is nice.54After that, most of my brothers and sisters. . . they wereteenagers, about four or five of them, they went to school to differentplaces. So I stayed. And after that I started to have different feelings. Iwas anxious to see my brothers and sisters on the weekend, and at thattime we started to use the word pack and unpack. It’s like migrating,not to a different country, but to somewhere else. They’d come back tovisit, and that was so nice. I was maybe 8, 9, 10 years. .It was very sad, in the morning, on Mondays. We’d say good-bye.You know, now, when I leave Lebanon, or when I go and visit, itreminds me of that feeling that we used to get, but it’s much bigger.When I was a teenager I was also very happy, I had my friends,and sisters, I had no conflict, no problems with my parents, at all, whichwas nice. And I was in love with the area. I liked the trees, and thevineyards, and the people, the farmers, they meant a lot to me, Whenpeople leave from my home town to Australia, or to Canada, I’d say, “Howcan they live there? How can they stay there, for one year, or twoyears?” It was much beyond my understanding, how can they live faraway from where we live? We thought it was paradise there. They’d bemuch happier to stay there with their families, because family is veryimportant to us, and friends. How can you live in a place where youdon’t know anybody? They are foreigners. You can’t relate to them.That’s how I used to think about it.Lyn: When you say family, I think of my parents, and my sister, as myfamily. Do you mean something bigger than that?Mira: Sure, your family is not only your immediate family. Yourmother, father, sisters and brother, your cousins, the neighbours,sometimes. So you are not only responsible if you did something in55front of your immediate family, in front of the whole society, thecommunity. Especially if you live in a small town, like where I grew up.People know each other, and they help each other, and they care foreach other, and sometimes, you know, they gossip a lot.But there were a few things that I didn’t like in our society, and Icouldn’t find an answer to why it’s like that. There was no logicalexplanation to convince me that we should keep it. I always felt thatthere are a few things that we should throw away, because we don’tneed it any more, especially when it comes to the relations between menand women. For example, why should I make my brother’s bed? Whydoesn’t he? Why should I make him the breakfast? He has to make hisown breakfast. These are little questions, but before, when I was twelve,thirteen, I never thought about it because this was the way we werebrought up, I didn’t know how to talk about it. But after that, when Iwas fifteen, sixteen, you start to wonder and ask, why?At that time I started to think on my own, and analyze, andwonder why is it like that. I was in the residence, I used to come homeevery weekend. It was so hard for me. This was after I finished, after Ifinished my grade thirteen in Lebanon. I went to Beirut, and it was myfirst trip outside my small world. And it was big, it was the first time inmy life I stayed outside our house. I found it very hard. I took picturesof my sisters, my brothers, my mom, and every time we missed them weput them on the bed in front of us and we cried we wanted to go back.Plus, it was a totally different world, much bigger than where we grewup.Lyn: You had a roommate?56Mira: Oh yes, my parents would never send me by myself. It was mucheasier for me, and for her, to be together. Because we were both shy,and you know, and we found it very hard to be on our own, and it wasthe first time in our lives, we had never done that before. Even thoughyou know my brother, and her parents, they used to drive her fromwhere we lived to Beirut, every Monday. We were not allowed to go bybus, or by taxi. It was safer to drive us.Because it was a big thing at that time. In the fifties, and forties,very few girls used to go to Beirut, where the universities are. In theseventies, things were changing. So by the time I had to go touniversity, it was much better. And I had lots of friends, from the areawhere we lived.Lyn: How long did you live in Beirut?Mira: Well, unfortunately, because the civil war started, I couldn’t stay.Just one year and we couldn’t finish the whole year, the whole thing. Itwas very dangerous. Because we couldn’t go back home. We couldn’t goback. We were stuck for more than two months one time, no telephones,nothing, and our parents were so worried about us. . . . We had to stay inthe shelters, because at that time they started to slaughter people, just ifyou were either Moslem or Christian. That’s how it started. It was very,very bad. So even though you were innocent, even though you are notaffiliated or involved in any political organizations or anything, justbecause your last name is Christian or Moslem, they put an end to yourlife, and that’s it.Lyn: That was ‘75?Mira: ‘75, ‘76.Lyn: So, finally you got home. . .57Mira: Yes, yes, I got home, and I thought, oh, we are very lucky,because one of my brothers, and one sister, they came, and it wasincredibly dangerous. They were fighting very badly in Beirut, butthey exposed themselves to danger to rescue me, to pick me up. Becausethey thought that maybe I got killed.So I went back home, and was so happy, I cried a lot, I couldn’tbelieve that this was my room, everybody was still there. I thoughteverybody died in the family. I’m not going to see anybody. And Iwanted to die, why should I live, by myself. So I was so happy. Butunfortunately after a few months, two or three months, it started in thenorth, where we lived. It was much worse than in Beirut. Because wehad no shelters, nothing. We just stayed in our house. Luckily, we hadtwo storeys, two floors in the house, and we used to spend the whole dayin the first floor.Here it was terrible, it was horrible, this was the worst part of mylife. And it stayed like that until I came in Canada. I came in 1987! Welost every single thing. I couldn’t bring the books, or anything, that Ihad in the university. We lost everything in our house, and the housewas blasted. Most of my brothers were outside the country, theycouldn’t come back to see us. And I was always wanting to leaveLebanon, and to go somewhere else. I’d left about four or five times, toEngland, to Italy, to Canada, to the U.S. But every time I left I’d say, “No,I want to go back,” I’d feel so guilty after a few weeks. Becauseeverybody there is suffering, is dying, and I’m here. I’m safe. So, Iwanted to go back. And I was working, so hard, in a very subtle way onone important thing, to help people to understand that hatred leads tohatred. And love is the only route, the only way for peace and58happiness. But there was no way for people to listen. I was veryidealistic at that time.Lyn: But it must have given you strength.Mira: A lot of strength. Even though I knew it was incrediblydangerous for a young girl like me to move from one area to another, Iwas moving and talking to people from different religions, fromdifferent political groups. It was incredibly dangerous, yet I felt Ishould do something. I can’t fight. I don’t believe in violence, so, weshould talk.I never quit university. After that they moved the university,somewhere much safer than before, so I continued. It was dangerousfor me to go there, but I continued. I stayed with one of my sisters, andwe also used to commute. So, we went through a lot. Sometimes we’dprepare for the exam. We’d study day and night, I’d go to the gardens,or to the orchards outside. I’d say,”Mom, please don’t tell them where Iam, if my friends come, or if people want to come and see me, becauseI’m busy studying.” And after you prepare, and study, and everything,you go to do the exam, they start fighting, you just quit everything. Andyou have to wait another four or five months, and again, and again, andit was--it was hell.There were lots of things I couldn’t understand. I know it’scrazy. We were living in a country where everything was sick--theatmosphere, the mentality. I was trying to convince myself that I haveto be more tolerant, and try to be patient. But you know, thirteen yearsis enough for a young girl, more than enough. So it’s time to dosomething else, because there are more challenges in life than beingworried all the time, and scared and waiting for death. Why should I die59like that? If you die for a cause, you know that you are dying forsomething, but, just to die, because an idiot enjoys killing people ordestroys people’s lives. I don’t want to be a victim, even though I was avictim. I didn’t want to continue.I wanted to do something. I wanted a major change. So I told mysister that I want to leave, but she didn’t believe me. My sister Reem wasin Canada, she was encouraging me to come to Canada. She left beforethe war started. She came to study, and she wouldn’t go back. I didn’twait, I just went to Damascus, to the Canadian embassy, and I got a visaright away, and after two weeks I came here. In the family, nobodybelieved me. Because we used to travel before, and they thought it waslike every time I left the country. But it was not like before. They crieda lot, and I didn’t know why, I asked, “Why am I crying that much?”Especially when I see my mom, I cry a lot, and my mom, she neverwanted to leave me one minute by myself. She wanted to stay with meevery time, everywhere I go. I didn’t know that it was the end, I wasn’tgoing to see her any moreSo, I came here in 1987. But I never thought I was going to stayfive years. I thought six months, maximum one year. Because I neededa good rest. At that time, I was so exhausted. Every time my sister cameto see me at the airport before that, the moment we would meet, we hug,and we kiss, and we scream, and we’re so happy. At that time, eventhough I was very happy to see them, I was exhausted, hardly able tomove my body. I was very lucky to leave. I had the money, because theterrible inflation started around that time, and people lost their money.I was very lucky to buy a ticket. After I graduated, I taught for twoyears.60Lyii: There was so much struggle, and yet you were doing so much at thetime, it’s remarkable...Mira: Otherwise, you know, you can’t continue. You can’t live. If youdon’t keep yourself busy, doing something very constructive, there’s noway to accept the terrible life that we were living, or the things wewere going through. That’s why, after graduation, I was workingtwelve hours a day, I was teaching in four different schools, fourdifferent contracts, it was part-time. It’s like running away fromsomething that is following you--you have this kind of race withsomething very bad and evil. And you don’t want this bad or evil thingto trap you, or smash you.So I thought the best thing to do was not to sit down and thinkabout what’s going around us, but to use my time. To try to tell people,through the work that I am doing at schools, that it is much better to sitdown and talk to each other. I was travelling to an area where it wasvery dangerous for me to go there. Because one of my family, he is verywell known in a political party. At that time, if they are after youbecause you belong to a certain political belief, and they don’t like that,if they can’t get you, they get your brother, your father, your husband.Why did I do that? It was incredibly dangerous for me. Iremember driving my car, and I was a crazy driver, too. I wanted tofight everything that is causing death and destruction in my country. Ithought that I’m the only one responsible, I should do something. Allmy friends left, to different places in the world, and I stayed. They said,“Mira, why are you doing that? Why do you stay? Why don’t you go?When you go outside, don’t come back, stay there.” I said no. I alwaysbelieve that it’s very exciting to have a challenge, or a cause, in life, to61live for a cause, no matter what it is. It doesn’t give me great pleasurewhen I do things for myself. I’ll be very happy if I give from myself, topeople around me. It doesn’t matter whether they’re my people, or not.For example, look now, I am teaching here in Canada, and the onlything that is in common between me and the kids, or the parents, is weare human beings. That’s all.I didn’t want to leave. Until the very last moment, I didn’t want toleave, But after thirteen years you get tired because, you know, I wasgiving, giving, giving, not getting anything. I felt that if I’m going tostay there, something wrong was going to happen to me. I might have anervous breakdown, or I might end up in a mental institution. . . . Inever had hatred towards anybody. Even those who blasted the houseand almost killed us. I knew that it’s a big dirty game, and they areusing some ignorant people. But after that I got tired of ignorance, andbeing with ignorant people. I couldn’t see anything, I couldn’t hearanything. I was sick and tired. Of everything around me. So I left,because I was not learning anything, and was spending all the energy,everything that I had, for nothing. Nothing was improving. So Ithought no, it’s not my place, I have to go. Even though my roots aredeep there, and I didn’t want to leave.Well, when I came here, I was not equipped. It’s like a soldiergoing to a big battle, no weapons, nothing. Just myself. And my beliefin myself, and God. That’s all that I brought with me. Everything was sodiscouraging. I didn’t go to school here, my English was not very good.I didn’t have confidence, I was tired, I didn’t know whether I was goingto make it or not. I didn’t have money, and I didn’t want my family tohelp me, though they did. I was living with my sister in a small62apartment. She was happy! She was very, very happy. And I was veryhappy the first six months. I’d rest, and I gained weight, six kilos. Iwondered, why do people get depressed here? Why are they upset?When we go on the bus, or when we go shopping, if people have aserious face or they’re not smiling, I say, “Why?” There’s no reason tobe so serious, or worried, they have no reason at all. It’s peaceful, theycan go everywhere they want. The government is like a family, toeverybody.I told my sister, “Why? People here, they have everything thatwe dream about. It’s so nice, the system here, everything is organized,and people know what time to go, to eat, what time to come back, theydon’t have to worry whether somebody is going to stop them, or tokidnap them. It’s so nice, it’s like heaven, it’s heaven here! Peopleshould be cheerful, they should be thankful. Why are they on welfare,why don’t they go and work? It is safe, they can go everywhere theywant, it’s not like us.”I never thought that they were going to reject my sister’ssponsorship to me at immigration. I thought it was nice to spend oneyear here, and then go back. I decided to take courses here, like Englishas a Second Language. Then I’d go back to Lebanon, I’d take newexperiences, new things with me, which is nice. And after one year,you know, I was sure I’d be much better than when I left. But that wasnot the case, because they rejected my application. They wanted me togo back to Lebanon and to apply from there.So that’s why I had to become a refugee. Because that was theonly way to stay in the country. And at that time, it was very bad, thesituation in Lebanon, I couldn’t go back anyway. So I stayed, and it took63them a long time to give me a work permit. It was very boring, veryfrustrating. I took a course at a college, and I took another course hereand there, but that was not what I wanted. I was taking the courses, justto feel that I’m doing something, like anybody here. I know the firstyear, I was very, very miserable and upset and depressed. I found itvery very hard, after suffering 13 years in Lebanon, to come to Canadaand claim refugee. I waited all this time, and I thought that things weregoing to be better, but we ended up at the door of the Immigrationsaying, “Please, accept me here.”The feeling that I got, it was something burning, as jf I had allthe mountains around here, Vancouver, on my shoulders. It was veryhard, because I was in the air, I was not on a solid base. In Lebanon Iwas upset, I was depressed, and everything, but I was on a solid base,with a family. The land. But here, I was like a feather in the air, thewind. You don’t know where you are going to be. You are nothinghere, nothing at all. You have to start from the very beginning. Ittook me a while, to stand up on my feet. I was not working, and it wasnot because I can’t work, or I don’t want to work, it was because I am arefugee. So after suffering thirteen years, I came here to stand at thedoors of the Immigration. Claiming refugee.I didn’t have permission to work. It was very hard to get a job,my language was one of the barriers too. But the most important thing,I couldn’t believe the fact that I had to stay in Canada. And I didn’tknow for how long. Some people told me it takes three years, someothers longer than that, some others less than that. My parents, andmy family, wanted me to go back, my friends wanted me to go back, and64I didn’t want to tell them that I’m stuck here, I can’t leave the countrybecause I don’t have papers.I didn’t want to stay here. It was so hard for me to spend thewhole day at home. We used to go out, and get invited, and everything,but I didn’t want to commit myself to anybody here. At that time, Irealized how difficult it is to be uprooted and thrown away, in adifferent place, far away from everything I was used to. So I found itvery hard. Everything is different. The mentality, the relations, andthe family. And I missed my sisters a lot. I wanted to go back, I wantedto see my mom. I was not working, I didn’t know what future I wasgoing to have in Canada, and things start to build up, until I knew thatmy mother is sick.The second year, my mom got sick. She wanted me to go back, andI couldn’t leave the country. They didn’t tell me it was serious, it wascancer, they didn’t say that. And after that she died. I couldn’t go backto see. And it was the worst part of my life. I mean, we struggled sohard, me and her, and we survived. And the moment I turned my back,she was sick. It was hard. .One day, my sister told me, “I have to tell you something.” Mymom had cancer. She had known. But she didn’t tell me, because sheknew that if I went there, I was going to lose everything. I was going topack and go, but two days before that they called, and said, “Stay whereyou are, the situation is very bad here.” Anyway, two weeks later, Reemcame here. I knew, right away, that my mom died. What can you do?You can’t do anything. It was very sad, very frustrating. It took memore than two years, until I went back last summer actually, to believethat. That was the time I started to ask, “Is it worth it,” you know, to65leave everything behind and come here. Because I never thought thatsomething like that would happen in our family.Anyway, they told me on Monday that my mom died. On Tuesday,they called me in the morning to tell me about this job. It was the firstof September, the day I got a job at the school. And this was the firsttime I got a full time job in Canada. I couldn’t talk on the phone, myvocal chords were swollen, I couldn’t talk. My sister answered thephone, and I couldn’t see, because my eyes were swollen. I couldn’tsleep the night before at all. The principal wanted to talk to me, she saidwe want you to come and sign a contract. My sister said, “Go Mira,because you are not going to change anything, Mom died, but you haveto be wise, and you can’t lose this job.” So I went, but I couldn’t read thecontract, I couldn’t see anything, the principal read it for me. She wasvery nice. I just signed it, I didn’t care what they have in the contract.After one week and a half, I have to start to go to school, and I had noclue at all about what to do. She told me that I was going to teach gradeone. I had to concentrate, and it kept me busy. And they were verynice, all the teachers were very very nice. But I was very sad. Deepdown, I wanted to cry, didn’t want to do anything, just to cry. But Icouldn’t afford it. I had to work, and I had to learn, to do research, and Ihad to read books. It’s a big responsibility.I thought, “Mira, you have to go, to move forward, you can’t stophere.” I lost a lot of weight. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t look at myself inthe mirror, it used to make me worried. I couldn’t help myself, becauseall what I wanted to do was cry, and I couldn’t sleep at night. I felt soguilty. Because I had left, because my mom didn’t want me to come.66After she died, my brother needed an operation. It was veryrisky, very dangerous. Everybody advised him not to do the operation,but he insisted. He had the operation, but he never got to walk afterthat. So he ended up on the wheelchair. And I didn’t know about that,until one year and a half after my mother died. It was by accident, youknow, the mother of a friend of mine came from Lebanon, and she toldme, “Oh, your brother was in the hospital, and now he’s left, he’s fine.”And I said, “Which brother?”I was the last one to know about my brother. But I was teachingnow, everything was fine. After that, last summer, my sister wanted togo to Lebanon with the children. It was the end of June. School had justended. And here I am, by myself. Everybody left, and I didn’t have mypapers. And I can’t leave Vancouver, because I was waiting, they toldme maybe one month, maybe two months, they were not sure. Believeme, I was about to die. I couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t know what todo. I went to the Immigration office, I used to go every single day. Isaid, “I have to get my papers. Because I need to leave this country.” Iwas pushing them. One day I woke up, and I was fed up. I wrote a letterto the manager. I was on my way to take the letter by hand, I didn’twant to mail it. So I thought, let me go check the mail first. I checkedthe mail, and I found a letter. I opened it, and it was the papers that Iwas waiting for. I stood for maybe four minutes. I couldn’t do anything.So I came back, right away, and I called the travel agent. I said Iwanted to get to Lebanon as soon as possible. And after nine days I wasin Lebanon! I had had more than enough, in a way, so that nothing wasexciting anymore. And at that time I realized, here it is, the dream wasto go to Lebanon, I’m going to Lebanon, but my mom is not there. My67brother is on the wheelchair, and God knows what else. But don’t forgetthat I’m going to Lebanon. Some people lost their families. My mom,she was 69, and we’re all grown up, she had children, grandchildren,she had achieved a lot in her life, that’s what people tell me, and that’swhat I know. But what about those young mothers who died before theysaw their children.And after nine days, I was there, it was like a dream. Until now, Ican’t believe it. I was doing something, but not for myself. It’s notexcitement, it’s a combination, a mixture of everything, all kinds offeelings. I was happy, because I’m going back home and everything,but I was very very sad.My sister and her husband, my nephew, my other nephews, mybrother, were waiting at the airport. And the moment I arrived athome, I don’t remember what happened, what I did in the first fewminutes. I went to my bedroom, and I was so happy to see my newnephews and nieces. You know, things are different, they are nothappy, the people at home, not only my family. They were sick andtired of the civil war.When they knew that I was there, people started to come early inthe morning, and my friends, and it was so nice. But I couldn’t believeit, it was like a story. This separation, this part of me that was away for along time, a big part of me stayed there when I was here. There was nowords to express my feeling. So I was silent all the time, it took me morethan two weeks, three weeks, It was very hard, to accept the fact thatmy mom was not there.After that, we started to go to different places with the kids. Iwent to see most of my friends, and everything was OK. . .68Lyn: Last time when we were talking, you were telling me about agirlfriend of yours who told you about how hard it would be here inCanada, for a girl especially. Did you go back and talk to her?Mira: This is the one. She couldn’t believe it. She thought that Ichanged. After four years, I thought that she was going to be moreflexible, and more mature. And I found that she was still in the sameplace, where I left her. But she found that I have changed, I becamestronger. Maybe she expected me to be very depressed, because of whathappened. She thought it was going to affect my life, my attitude, andeverything. But she was so surprised, as she thinks that I’ve neverchanged, my shape or anything. But I’m stronger, I am more flexible,and I have courage. When we sat down and talked, she’s too logicalabout things. She’s not flexible. So I told her, it’s nice to learn, to acceptthat everybody makes mistakes, and I think that one of the mistakesyou make, is that you are not flexible, and you are not learning.Deep down we meet. Spiritually, she’s very rich. She thinks thatI’m very cheerful, and she wanted to stay with me all the time. And myother friends, they also thought that I’ve never changed. They thinkthat I’m very lucky to be outside, to be away from everything thathappened, and they missed me a lot. I don’t know, I felt sorry for someof them. Because I left them, four years ago, and when I went back,they are still in the same place. The same thing was going to happen tome, because no matter how hard you tried to help yourself, there is noroom for improvement. So, you come here, you try to learn more aboutlife and yourself, but you pay a very high price.This is one thing that when any immigrant, whether a man orwoman, loses somebody in the family, it hurts a lot. You start to think,69“Why am I here,” and “Is it worth it?” “Wasn’t it much nicer and betterto be beside them, they need me, especially when it comes to Mom andDad.” So this was the worst part. It took me a long time to recover.Mother to me now is not, you know, my biological mother. It’s the land.The country. When I talk about mother, or motherhood. These arethings we start to think about, or feel, when we are far away. So nowmy mother died. But I still belong, very strongly, somewhere--to theland. I envy people, who have the chance to stay wherever they livetheir childhood, and they put their first roots.This is one of the things that’s very hard. You get to learn a lot,it’s very, very nice to be far away, to learn about different people,different cultures, to be free, to be important, and everything. But itdoesn’t help you, as an immigrant. It doesn’t help you. It doesn’tchange anything. Because where you’re established, or where youstarted your first roots, it’s very important.Well, this is a very very interesting stage, or part of my life, thatI spent here. It’s a mixture of everything, it was very sad, it was veryfrustrating, it was very confusing, very challenging. I came hereexactly as a soldier, with no weapons. But I survived, I think. I’m notthat great, but I’m OK. I’m working, teaching, which is good, becauseteaching for me is very important. I can’t see myself doing anythingelse.And I learned also a lot, about myself, through dealing with otherpeople. From different cultures, and different religions, and differentmentality. I also got to appreciate a lot the things that I had in Lebanonthat I didn’t have here. And at the same time, I have stronger belief in70throwing away the things that I wanted to throw away when I was alittle girl.The thing that is surprising me, is the harmony between thedifferent stages [in my life]. I stayed myself. Sure, when my mom died,I cried a lot, even though I am a happy person. I was not working, Ihad to wait, it was very frustrating, and I was very depressed, but still, Iwas looking forward to the time when I’d start again, and put moresmiles on the wounds. The little girl I was at the beginning is in everysingle part of my life. And she’s so stubborn. It’s very hard sometimesto stay innocent, or pure, when there is this thick veil, and you have todig a big hole, to show your face from behind this veil. It is very hard,because of all the things that I went through. I didn’t want this to covermy face. Even though there’s a very thick black dark veil. War,killing, fighting, violence. But I always believe in turning, goingaround the bushes. I came here.So, now, if you want to know what’s next, I myself, I don’t knowwhat. Maybe, I’m going now, with this new image, a relaxed face,smiling again to my people, with more energy, starting again. Orstarting the dream that I used to have when I was a little girl, to be ateacher. To be very active in my community, and to help, and to makepeople happy. To have lots of friends, and to educate people how to behappy. How to give, and spread, happiness.I wanted to be exactly as I am now, when I was a little girl. I did afew things that I didn’t want to do, because but there was no chance todo anything else, so I did it. I didn’t want to leave my country, I loveLebanon. It’s the beginning and end of all what I want, and mylonging. But I had to.71Chapter FourSEEING THE WORLD FROM DIFFERENT CORNERS:PROCESSES OF LEARNING, CULTURE, AND TRANSFORMATIONIdentifying a transition processAs I listened to Mira’s story, and later read the transcriptions, it was so huge,so complex, and so full of life and feeling that all of the theoretical frameworks I hadbeen studying seemed inadequate by comparison. Themes of transition, learning,and culture were deeply interwoven with Mira’s personal development andremarkable self-awareness. While the major events in her life were separated bytime and space, the effects of each change on her life weren’t so easily isolated.Before Mira began her life story, I drew a single line on a piece of paper, andasked her to indicate the important stages in her life on the “timeline” (Figure 1).As she spoke, Mira marked off four major stages, which she went over with me at theend of the interview. The first stage was her “very, very happy childhood.” Thesecond stage began during childhood and continued through her teens, when she“started to have different feelings,” becoming anxious about her siblings’ comingsand goings. The third stage began when she went to university, when “I started tothink on my own.” She wrote “Beirut” beside the third stage, but as she spoke shedrew dozens of black lines to cover the duration of the stage. The dark linesrepresented the civil war, which darkened her stay at the university, and thenfollowed her to her home village. At the end of this blackened stage, she wrote “87,”the year she left Lebanon. She drew a spiral to link the date with the fourth stage ofthe timeline, her life in Canada. At the end of this stage was the present, which shemarked with a stick figure-person to represent herself, beside a big question mark.As we completed our first interview, Mira drew lines from below each stage whichintersected at a single point, the “harmony” between every part of her life.72Figure 1 Mira’s timeline of major stages in her lifeWhile I wanted to focus on Mira’s migration transition, that processoverlapped and interacted with other events and transitions. Her 1987 migrationheld many meanings for her, “ a mixture of everything.” It was both voluntary andinvoluntary. She had planned to leave Lebanon and the war, and in that sense it wasan anticipated, voluntary change, an action in which she took control over her ownlife. Her initial reaction to the departure was relief. But when she found shecouldn’t return to Lebanon and was subject to restrictions imposed by the Canadiangovernment, she involuntarily lost her country, her family, and her control overlife decisions.As she spoke about her time in Canada, Mira subdivided it into three periods.During the first six months she was very happy. But a sharp, curved line indicateswhen she found couldn’t go back and had to claim refugee status. After this she was“miserable and upset and depressed,” and during this time her mother died. Near theend of the time line, leading up to the present, Mira drew a group of circles as shesaid, “everything is fine.”73Mira characterized each of these three periods of her transition with aparticular emotional state: happiness, followed by misery and anxiety, followed by akind of equilibrium. These correspond to the three phases of the transition process.Mira experienced the first phase, when an individual is overwhelmed by transitionnot as a negative stress but as a positive one in which she appreciated the peace andorder of her new environment. Her second phase corresponds to the disruption ofchanging norms and relationships. For Mira, as for most refugees, migrationrepresented estrangement and the loss of everything familiar. When Mira’smother’s became sick and died, her sense of loss intensified and merged with hergrief. Some theorists have drawn parallels between the severe emotional distress ofrefugees and immigrants and the grieving process (Disman, 1983; Schlossberg, 1984),Mira had to cope with both crises at the same time. Whenever she talked about hermother’s death, the depth of her grief was overwhelming. Almost every domain ofher life was affected: her sense of self; her health; her work; her economic status;and her relationships with family, friends, and community. She was estranged fromher previous life, “uprooted and thrown away.” She had moved from a place inwhich she belonged to a place in which she felt marginal, “like a feather in the air.• you are nothing here, nothing at all.” The impact on her relationships, roles,actions, and understandings was tremendous.A year after her mother’s death Mira felt, “I’m not that great, but I’m OK.” Sheacknowledged her positive growth and integration when comparing herself with afriend in Lebanon, who hadn’t changed. She concluded her story with a self-appraisal, acknowledging the changes and continuities of the past and present thathave prepared her for whatever is coming next.Changes in Mira’s understandingFamily life here, it was really shocking74I wanted to learn more about Mira’s transition process since her migration. Atone of our early interviews, I suggested several different themes that we mightpursue, themes that she had mentioned during previous sessions. When Mira choseto speak about culture shock, I expected her to speak about her period of depressionand grief. That second phase of her transition matched the “classic” concept ofculture shock, a stress reaction to a new cultural environment when a person isanxious, confused and apparently apathetic, and lacking points of reference to guidetheir own actions and understand others’ behaviour (Furnham & Bochner, 1986), Butfor Mira, culture shock was a series of minor episodes.Mira: You said something about culture shock? For any immigrant, youknow, this is the main topic. Culture shock. Whether you are aware ofit or not, it’s there. But it depends on how you express it, how you talkabout it, how you live it, how you deal with it.Lyn: What was it for you?Mira: Well, it was shocking! It was a big, big shock. As you know, it wasnot my first visit to Canada, or to North America, it was my third visit.You know the first time I stayed in Canada was 1980. I stayed only forfive months. So I had an idea of what life is. And when I came in 1984,for my sister’s wedding, it also gave me an idea of something else, of thewedding, and how people socialize, because we got invited a lot, and thisalso gives you an idea about people, and a new country, and everything.So when I came here, it’s not as if I was not ready, but there were manythings that I had no clue about before I came here. I remember, a fewthings that we used to discuss and talk about, me and my friends inLebanon, when they knew that I was leaving for Canada, they said Mira,are you aware, are you ready, because there are so many things that are75totally different. You are a girl, it’s not like a guy, they have morefreedom, the man in the middle east. Whether they are in Lebanon oroutside Lebanon, they want to live on their own, they want to travel, it’sno problem, but when it comes to the women, or the girls, we have tothink twice about taking decisions, because it’s not easy. And so, that’swhy when I came here, I came first of all because I have my sister,otherwise there’s no way at all to come here...When I was in Lebanon, it was not that difficult there. If I wanteda job, I don’t have to apply, because the school knows my father, or mybrothers. It’s below my dignity to go and apply for a job. Now, when Icame to Canada, and I started to look for a job, staying here for two yearswithout working. . . . It was something very, very, very difficult for me.It was a big shock! Because I told you, there, you don’t have to apply,because if people, they know you, they know who you are, from whichcity, or town, or family, and that’s it. This is one of the things that Ifound very hard.Something else, the family life here, it was really shocking. Forexample, where my sister was, I stayed with my sister the first two yearsand a half. And there were many buildings, close to where she lives,only for senior citizens. I said, why senior citizens? She said, because,you know, here in Canada, it’s not like in our families, their childrendon’t have to look after them. They get money from the government. Itwas a big shock to me. I said, what do you mean, because my grandpawas very important in the family, even though he was ninety-eightwhen he died, we used to look after him. Somebody has to eat ahead oftime to go and feed him, because he couldn’t sit, I said, “What about ifsomebody is like my grandpa? And cannot help himself.” She said,76“They send him to the hospital, or to a special place. And they go andvisit him.” I couldn’t believe it! I couldn’t believe it, even now, Icouldn’t.I’m not saying that all the senior citizens or all the people inLebanon-- some of them, if they don’t have anybody, they send them tonursing homes. It’s very bad, the service, it’s not like here, it’s notclean. I remember one in my home town. She had no child. Herhusband died, and she had nobody, no sisters, no brothers, nothing. Somy brother-in-law, who is the priest, he used to look after her. How? Hesent her to the hospital, and we used to go and visit her, everybody.It is very different from here, very different. We don’t havehelp from the government like here, so we have to look after eachother. And it’s not only that. Sometimes people have money to put theirseniors in the best hospitals. But we need emotional support from eachother.Lyn: Are there other kinds of things you found shocking?Mira: Something else is to have single mothers. We don’t have this. Ifyou have children in Lebanon this means you are married. And it was abig shock to me, when one time I took Tina, my niece,for a walk. And Imet a lady, and she was also with her son, who was maybe two years old.So we’re talking, and it happened that she was living in the samebuilding as my sister lived, and I asked her, do you have any otherchildren? And she said, he is the only one. And I asked her somethingabout her husband, and she said, I’m not married. I said, “Oh. So, wheredid you get this boy?” [laughingjLyn: What were you thinking when you said that?77Mira: Well, that’s what I thought. Not married? And you have a child,and not married? Because, this is a shock. It is a big shock.I’d heard about single mothers, and everything. So, I didn’t sayanything. I was shocked. Because in Lebanon, for example, or in theMiddle East, if you ask a child about his father, and he says his father isdead, you know people feel so sorry for him. I felt so sorry for thechildren. And sorry for the woman, herself, because it’s very sad.Children, they need father and mother. When I think aboutmyself, how important my dad, and my mother, are in my life. Maybebecause of the way I was brought up, maybe because my mom and mydad were so close, and they had good relations, and it was reflected on us.So I couldn’t imagine it. I thought that everybody else is the same. Andthe rate of divorce is very low in Lebanon.Lyn: After that shock, do you think that you’ve changed now, in yourunderstanding of it?Mira: Now I understand why it’s like that. It took a long time. But Icouldn’t understand before, why. I mean, I couldn’t excuse that. If youwant to have a child, you don’t only think about yourself, it’s veryselfish. What about this child, when he grows up, or when she growsup. They have the right to have a father, and mother, because this is notnormal, it’s not natural.I myself, I’ll never do that. I still find it very, very sad, to have achild without a father. And one of the reasons why I didn’t want to bemarried in Lebanon, because I was not sure whether I was going tolive, to lose my husband because of the war, or not. And in case I havechildren, I didn’t want them to grow up in this life without a father.78It’s very sad. For example, I was on the bus. There was ateenager, and she has a baby. I was looking at her, and looking at thebaby. Why bring more people to this world, and make them live inagony? This teenager, she still had a long way to go. She was carryinghim on his back. I was looking at the eyes of the child, he was such abeautiful baby. I said, “Why?” That’s cruel.Now I know why it is like that. The girls or the boys, once theybecome seventeen or eighteen, they can leave, and stay on their own,right? So, what about if they didn’t fall on the right person, after that,to look after them? Because at nineteen, seventeen, they still need moreattention, and love, and somebody to direct them, and tell them what todo, and what not to do. What about if they didn’t fall on the right personafter that? Because nobody is like the parents, who care. And becauseof the gap between the generations, they have to fill this gap. Byhaving more people, more children.This would never happen in Lebanon. It is out of the question.And this is one of the advantages of being so close, living in a societywhich is family-oriented. There is something that we have toremember, that I lived with my sister when I came. So, had I had to liveon my own, it would be a totally different story. I still had the feeling atthat time that I’m living at home. People can understand you, you don’thave to translate or explain.Something else, it was not shocking, but it was surprising. Whenpeople talk about animals here. They love animals, they respectanimals, they care a lot for animals and pets, especially for pets. . . . Isent a letter home, and I told them how nice it is here, and how luckypeople are here, and how lucky the cats are here, and the dogs.79Now I’ve got used to how people think, I know why they do that.There were so many things that I couldn’t understand, because I didn’tknow what they mean, or why they do that. I didn’t know that the cat,or the dog, is very important in the life of a lonely person here. I didn’tknow that people were so lonely, and they need anything, even ananimal. Really, it’s very sad. I understand that, definitely, and it’s avery important thing, thank God that there are animals, and pets likethis.Lyn: Do you think people ever become lonely like that in Lebanon?Mira: No way. In Lebanon, you have to find a way to be by yourself fora few minutes.Lyn: Was that a surprise for you, to discover that people could belonely?Mira: It was very sad. I felt so sad. And now, sometimes, we are lonelyhere. I mean, we have friends, and everything, but we still feel that weare lonely. Because we know how our families are living there, ourfriends are living there. So, this is not enough for us. We come fromwork, you cook dinner, you eat and that’s it. On the week-end yousocialize, or you see people, or you go somewhere, and that’s it. Eventhough you go with friends, you still feel that something big is missing.Lyn: If you were in Lebanon, what would be different?Mira: I told you that in Lebanon, the family is very important, when Isay family, it’s the expanded family. For example, I go visit my uncle,because I have to go and see him, my aunt, my friends, the old people,the sick people. You always go and visit, you have to visit. You have tosee your friends, you have to see your relatives. If I am at home, forexample, you know what home means. My dad, my mom, my brother,80and the nephews, and the friends come over, and we have coffee, andwe put the dinner, and everybody has to sit down and eat, and so you arebusy. You are always busy. Doing little things, very little things, butit’s a very nice feeling, such a nice feeling.Lyn: Even after you would work, you would come home, and therewould be all this.Mira: This is one of the things that I used to complain about. When Icome home, I want to have lunch, and go and rest. But, if people comeover, this means I have to stay with them, and one time, I didn’t. I wentto my bedroom, and I wanted to have a nap. Somebody came. She said tomy mom, “Where is Mira?” She said, “She’s asleep.” “Oh, every time Icome here, Mira’s asleep, as if she doesn’t want to see us.” So my momcame to wake me up, and I said, “No, I don’t want to go and see them, youtell her that I’m asleep, I’m tired.” So my mom said, “Sorry, it seems thatshe’s very tired,” and she has to justify, or to find an excuse. I think mymom didn’t like that, because she was embarrassed. I embarrassed herin front of her friends.When I went to Lebanon last summer, believe me, I was so tired, Iwanted to sleep the first week, because I had jet lag. And my sister-in-law had to wake me up one time, and I was so tired. I wanted to sleep.She said, “Mira, they came Beirut, all the way from Beirut, please, youhave to wake up.” Because if they come, and I didn’t wake up, it’s ascandal. They’d say, “Oh, she’s Canadian now.”In Lebanon, you are not by yourself. If you wanted to askyourself, where am I now, you can’t, or the answer will be vague.There’s nothing called “I.” It’s “ours,” or “our,” or “us.” Because you, itmeans your family, it means you yourself, your family, the neighbours-81-so you can’t separate yourself from your surroundings. So you feelthat you are part of the world, and you don’t care. Whatever willhappen to you, will happen to everybody else. It’s so secure. That’s howwe feel. And it happened to us, for example, when we were living indanger. We think, if it will happen to that person, it will happen to me,so that’s fine. That’s how it was! It was very dangerous. Now, when Ithink about the things we went through, there were a few things that Idon’t dare now to think even about it, to remember it, to recall it again,it was so scary. But we survived.Believe me, no matter what you have in this world, nothing islike just a little touch of love, from your family, your friends, peoplearound you. Everything you have in this life, whenever we leave here,you leave it, you can’t take anything with you. As a person, you onlytake maybe memories. Whatever you have in the bank, or in thegarage, or in the garden, or in the house, it will stay there. And whatyou take with you is your feeling, how you feel, and these feelings, youcan’t get it by yourself, you make it with people. That’s why we need,we need each other. You can’t get it from 911. You can’t get it fromsocial insurance. You need direct contact with feelings, with emotions,with affection.Lyn: Do you think that your feeling about life has changed at all sinceyou’ve come here, or is this something that has continued through yourlife?Mira: Nothing has changed at all, but now as I’ve told you I’ve becomemore aware of things, and more practical, and more flexible, and moreexperienced.82Practical means, for example, if something didn’t work out, it’snot the end of the world, we can do something else, if not exactly,something similar. A little less, a little more, it doesn’t matter. Before Iwould say, “No! It has to be like that.” As I told you, I was over-protected in Lebanon. I didn’t have the chance to see, because I hadthis big umbrella, a beautiful parasol. It was very nice, but I couldn’tsee anything beyond it. So now, once the beautiful umbrella wasremoved, I was able to use my own eyes, and see the sky, and the clouds,and the rain, and the rainbow, and everything. By my own eyes.I didn’t have to wait until somebody tells me what’s beyond theumbrella. But I’m still myself. Nothing has changed. Nothing has changed,I’m still myself, and if you ask me why, I don’t know. I never felt that I neededto change. There are a few things that I wanted to develop in myself.Because, as I told you, I didn’t have the chance before. But I’m very happywith the things that I was brought up with. I’m very satisfied with what Ihave, and nothing will shake my belief, or my faith, in whatever I have.Identifying a cultural meaning systemAs I read the transcriptions of Mira’s discussion of culture shock, I noticedthat every one of the incidents related to the same theme: her understanding offamily. Each time Mira experienced culture shock, she was confronted withsomething that didn’t make any sense to her, something that contradicted her ownmeanings and expectations. Though many things in Canada were different fromLebanon, only those relating to family were important enough to trigger amemorable emotional response. Many significant themes appeared in Mira’s stories,such as her lifelong commitments to teaching and learning and her Christian faith.83But the theme of family was pervasive. Mira related every aspect of her life to herfamily, which provided her with a framework for understanding the world.Inspired by our discussion of culture shock, I explored the topic of familyfurther, both with Mira and in the literature of Middle Eastern studies. From myreading, I learned that Mira’s emphasis on family is not idiosyncratic, but a sharedcultural meaning system. Familism is a form of social structure in which the needsof the family as a group are more important than the needs of any individual familymember (Eickelman, 1989). It is a critical aspect of Arab life for both women andmen, one which has been systematically observed among Lebanese families both inLebanon and in North America (Kassees, 1972; Naff, 1985; Patai, 1976).Though the family is important in Canada, studies of North American culturalnorms indicate that family commitments coexist alongside a pervasive emphasis onindividualism (Podeschi, 1986). These cultural differences between Lebanese andNorth Americans are not distinct or separable culture traits, but a matter of emphasiswithin each integrated meaning system. The same schemata or meaning systems thatare integrated one way in one culture may be present in another culture, butintegrated into different large patterns, or not integrated at all (LeVine, 1984). Thefamily and the individual are important in Lebanon and Canada. But while Canadianstend towards individualism, the way that Lebanese understand and participate in thesocial world is shaped by familism.Removing the umbrella: Perspective transformationAfter living 3 years in Canada, Mira was no longer shocked by Canadian familylife. But this doesn’t mean that she unquestioningly accepted a Canadianinterpretation of family. Instead, she found a way to understand and explain it, basedon her own expanding frame of reference. Culture shock provided the catalyst forMira’s learning. Two of Mira’s stories of culture shock, those relating to single84mothers and pets, include an explanation and resolution of the shock. Herexplanations were new interpretations, although they maintained and affirmed herprevious belief in the importance of family to satisfy an essential human need foraffection and belonging. Her revised understanding integrated the concept ofloneliness, what was for her a new and significant force shaping humanrelationships. At the same time, while contrasting Canadian and Lebaneseapproaches to family, she began to scrutinize her own assumptions relating tofamilism as she had known it in Lebanon. She came to think of familism as abeautiful umbrella which separated her from the world.Culture adaptation theorists have reinterpreted culture shock as the core ofthe cross-cultural learning process, a stress which triggers a learning process ofadaptation and change which is an essential part of the transition process (Adler,1975; Furnham & Bochner, 1986; Taylor, 1991). Mira’s changing understanding offamily was a form of learning triggered by a series of minor shocks. Her newinterpretations developed in a kind of hermeneutic spiral, which resembles Kim’s(1988) progressive cycle of “stress-adaptation-growth,” resulting in a newperspective and an improved ability to handle future cross-cultural stresses.Mezirow’s transformative learning theory provides a more sophisticated andprecise framework for analyzing changes in Mira’s perspectives:Perspective transformation is the process of becoming critically awareof how and why our assumptions have come to constrain the way weperceive, understand, and feel about our world; changing thesestructures of habitual expectation to make possible a more inclusive,discriminating, and integrative perspective; and finally, makingchoices or otherwise acting upon these new understandings. (Mezirow,1991, p. 167)The phases of perspective transformation, like the phases of a transition process,begin with a disorienting dilemma and culminate with a reintegration. Mezirowexplains the process using two constructs, “meaning perspectives” and “meaningschemes.” A meaning perspective is a habitual set of expectations, the structure of85assumptions within which “one’s past experience assimilates and transforms newexperience” (Mezirow, 1991, p. 42). Meaning perspectives provide a framework forclassifying experience and a lens for defining expectations, selectively orderingwhat and how a person learns. Meaning schemes are concrete manifestations ofmeaning perspectives, the particular knowledge, beliefs, judgements, and feelingsthat guide our actions. Multiple meaning schemes arise from a single meaning-perspective.With each shock, Mira reflected on her assumptions about family, questioningand revising her meaning schemes. These small changes accumulated to effect abroad transformation in her familistic meaning perspectives. By reaching a newunderstanding of the meaning of family in Canada, she became aware of alternativesto the “beautiful umbrella” of her previous assumptions. Mira realized that therewere different ways of seeing the world, “By my own eyes”.Mira didn’t have to unlearn or forget to change her previous perspective.Instead, she developed a more critical awareness of her familism, and identified it assomething that she shared with other Lebanese, something that provided structureand meaning to Lebanese society. With this newfound awareness, Mira was able tomake comparisons and judgements about Canadians and Lebanese ways. She had theopportunity to see “the rainbow,” to cope with life in Canada with newunderstandings, flexibility, and practicality. But she could see negative aspects aswell, “clouds” like selfishness and loneliness.86Mi r a ‘s transformative learning processMira’s familism wasn’t the only meaning-perspective that changed duringher time in Canada. Mira often spoke about “seeing things from different corners,”finding new angles for thinking about her life and her environment. During a laterinterview, she explained how she developed those new perspectives.Mira: One of the things that I learned here, or one of the things thatmade me change in life, is to look into things from different corners,different perspectives. That’s how I started to know about myself, whatI really want, what I don’t want. And I also started to review certainthings I used to think about, as perfect, or the best. It was the best that Iknew in Lebanon.But every place has its best and its worst. Every place. Sowhatever is best in Lebanon, is not the best here. But I am still myself.You can take yourself wherever you go in this world, but you learn. Ifyou know how to look left and right, you get to learn a lot from thedifferent places, and corners, and stops, in life.Lyn: So what were your stops in life? When you came here?Mira: Well, you have to stop, and look at the red lights, and stop andthink about yourself, “Where am I now?” Because as I told you inLebanon, you are not by yourself. You can’t separate yourself fromyour surroundings. Which is nice, but at the same time, sometimes ittakes a long time to find the answer to, “Who am I?”Lyn: What do you mean by “looking at things from different corners”?Mira: Well. . . perspectives. Corners means like taking photos. In orderto take different shots, you have to move. And each one, it has its ownbeauty. So, if you stay in the same place, you might think that this is87the only shot you can take, or only picture you can take, which iswrong. It looks like when you take profile, and face, and while you arereclining, and sitting. You are still the same person, but you seeyourself from different corners.That’s how I started to look into life. When I started to travel.That’s why it’s very important to move, I think, from one place toanother. For some people, it doesn’t make any difference, they don’tchange at all. If you move them, they are like rocks. But some others,they develop, and they grow, and change.What I really liked about travelling, and living in a differentcountry, Canada, is you learn a lot about yourself, and you get to learn alot from people, from Canadians, from different ethnic groups here.The most important thing that I really liked about the time I’m spendinghere is what I’m learning. What I learned and I’m still learning aboutpeople, and myself. Because before that, I thought that if I say no, it’snot good. Every time I tried to think about saying no, I’d feel so guilty.Because they told us to say yes, all the time. That’s how we were trained.Whether it comes to our politicians, our religious leaders, our parents,submission. Total submission. Look our countries. We say yes, yes, yes,even about things that we have no clue about, we say yes. We arealways followers to somebody, even to idiots. And here, I learned that Ihave the right to say no. Whenever I feel that I have to say no.That’s the minimum I should do, is to talk about things I like, andto say no to things I don’t like. I have the courage now. Much morecourage to say it, and in front of anybody, any leader, any priest, anybishop, in Lebanon. No, you are wrong. That’s not the way it should be.You see? And I did it, when I went to Lebanon. I did it.88I was so mad, because I woke up, and I found that I was fooled, or Iwas used, for a long time, by our leaders, our politicians. Misused, notoniy used. How did I say no? Whenever I see something wrong, I talkabout it, that’s not the way it should be. Shame on you, wake up. Learnsomething. You think that you are the smartest under the sun, but youare the most idiotic.Lyn: You would never have done that before?Mira: No. I didn’t. The civil war started, and I was so young, I didn’tknow how to talk about it before. After that there was no time, therewas no chance, there was no way to talk about things because we werebusy hiding, and running from one place to another. And then I camehere. Now, I have time to think about all these things. Last year, andthe year before. Because after my mom died, I couldn’t think aboutanything. So only last year is the time I accepted that my mom died, andmy brother had the accident, and everything. And I started to thinkabout myself, life, what happened to us, what happened to my country.Why am I here? You put all these things together, and you come outwith what you learned.Lots of things make sense, lots of things doesn’t make sense, youexpect a lot you got nothing; you got a lot, you expected nothing before.See? So, you think about, you put all these things together, you mixthem, and--you get the juice! The essence, I mean. So, I realized thatthere are so many things that I’m so fed up of. Not only in Lebanon,here or there. We have our problems here also, in Canada.Lyn: I find myself wondering about this change, and the strength tosay no. I wonder if you were older, if you were your present age in89Lebanon, before the civil war, if you might have come to feeling thisway anyways.Mira: I don’t think so. Because when I came to Canada, I was 29. But Iused to think about things as if I was ten years old, fifteen years old. Igot to learn a lot about different things here, so this means age is noteverything. It’s the experience. Look at my mom! She was sixty-nine,and when we sit, when we talk about a few things, she used to agreewith everything they say there. Because that’s the way she learned!She stayed in the same place, and she thinks the whole world is there.There is no need to learn about anything else, for her, that is all whatshe saw.Iii my case, in my sister’s case, it’s different. It’s not enough forus to go there anymore, and stay there. It’s not enough. What theythink, how they look into things, it doesn’t make sense sometimes to us.Especially when it comes to the way they analyze different issues, oraspects of life. Whether it’s religious, political, social, mental. I’mtalking about those who stay there, and don’t go anywhere else. .Before, whatever my mom told me, whatever my neighbours toldme, whatever the old women in the neighbourhood told me, that was it.It was absolute. I thought that there was nothing beyond that, therecan never be anything better than what I learned from them. Andwhen I came here and I started to see how people live here, how peopledeal with each other. How people here make their living, for example,how people go to school, how people socialize, and sometimes I compareit between here and there. It’s not to see which one is better. I foundthat no, there’s no “this is better than that,” or “that is better than90this.” But there are many interesting things in life. More than the onethat I learned . And that’s the beauty about the whole thing.For example, one of the things that when I came here I used tosay, “Thank God I am Christian.” Now, I don’t say that. Thank God thereis a chance to go and meet people from different religions, and learnabout other religions. And thank God for learning that I’m not the best.But, if you live in one place, you think that the whole world, everythingis there. You can’t think of anything else, on the other side of theglobe. You know what I mean? So it’s not age, it’s how much you learn.Lyn: How did that happen?Mira: That’s a very interesting question. I didn’t know about otherreligions. I could only see through the limits that they drew for me.Jesus Christ, Christians, the priest, the nun, church, that’s all. That’sthe whole world to me. And I thought that everybody who is not exactlylike me is so unlucky. Until I came to Canada. Canada is a multiculturalcountry. Being a Lebanese, I am only one drop that makes the wholeocean. So I said, “Oh, who are you, Mira. You think that you are thebest. No, you are not the best.” So when I started to go, and talk to theChinese, to the Italians, to the Sikhs, to the Indians. They have also veryinteresting things, maybe much more interesting to me, and they havelots in common, sometimes, with me. But the way they conduct theirculture, or their religion, or themselves, they have different strategies.I’m not talking who is better than who, but when it comes to thesubstance, lots of things are in common. I started to read more aboutreligions. I wanted to know, when I see the Hare Krishna running andplaying drums on the street, and I feel like dancing, I want to know,why are they doing that? And I got to meet a lot of Moslem people here.91I had some Moslem friends in Lebanon, but I stereotyped Moslems inLebanon. Moslems and Christians, black and white. And I met Shadia,and we had lots of things in common, and now she’s family to me. Likemy sister, the same way I’m committed to my sister, I’m committed toher.Lyn: How did you meet all these people?Mira: Through the Lebanese Club, when we go to parties, I talk to them.I found it very, very interesting and very educational. And my sisterhas lots of friends. And there is something that I discovered, and I’mvery happy that I got to this-- It’s not a conclusion, I don’t have this“full stop.” That I’m not going to change my mind. I have noticed thatpeople who think that they are the most civilized in the world are themost intolerant. And very snobbish. And now I don’t have patience forthem at all. And I feel more close to people who have respect, forthemselves, for the cultures, for the religions, and for others.It’s very, very, very enriching, you know, meeting people herefrom different religions, and cultures, it enriched my life. It’s soboring to be just the way you were brought up, and that’s all. To beexposed to only one way. It’s so boring. To open one window, or to haveone window in your house. You can’t have this current, you can’t havefresh air. You get rotten, you get rotten soon. It’s exactly like havingone window.You don’t have to change. I’m still myself. But now I find, whenI sit down and think about myself, and how I relate sometimes to otherpeople, and what I learned, I have lots of things to think about. I findmyself not empty, as before. I mean, when I sit down to talk, I have lots92of things to talk about. Before, I had very little, because I don’t know.Now, it’s like having lots of resources.But wherever I go, I am myself. I’m building on whatever I had.The base, the solid base, is still there. I’m still Mira. And there is noway to change. Nobody can touch whatever I have, the very basics. Butyou add touches here and there. Until you get the painting that youwant. Some people say, “We don’t want to change, we are Lebanese, wewill stay, we will die Lebanese.” But nothing will stay the same, exceptthe rock. And even the rock, day after day, it changes. That’s how I waswhen I came here, that’s what I thought. The first year. No way! I don’twant to change. As I told you, the same way I used to think, “Oh, thankGod that I’m Christian,” I used to say “Oh, thank God that I’m Lebanese.”I got to learn lots from people. You can’t learn by yourself,everything. When you are with people, that’s how you get to learnabout life.Lyn: Would you talk about it with Reem?Mira: Sure, we always talk about it. About here and there, about thingswe can’t accept anymore in our society, things we can’t accept herebecause we are Lebanese. Me and my sister, because we are Lebanese,it’s not like you, Lynette. You were not brought up there. There arethings deep down in us, in our blood, we can’t ignore it. It’s carved inus, in our personality. It’s like your name. You can’t ignore it. Andthere are things, in our society, if you go there, we can’t relate to itanymore. Because, from the very beginning, we didn’t like it,I told you, that from the very beginning, since I was a little girl,there was something in me, that didn’t say yes all the time. To certain93things, and I didn’t know why. I didn’t like it. And I couldn’tunderstand why it was there--I mean, in our society.Lyn: But other things were part of you?Mira: Yes. For example, our religion. The way, when we have peopleover, the way we feel towards each other, and our values. You know,values are the same. Faith is faith, whether you are Canadian orLebanese, there is no Lebanese faith and Canadian faith. Honesty ishonesty, there is no two honesties, or three honesties, there is one,everywhere in the world. Forgiveness. Values are the sameeverywhere in the world, but it depends on the way you conduct them.The values, the way our parents passed their values to us, I like itvery much. It’s carved in me. Because my personality was built onthese, if you take the foundations, that’s it, I’m not Mira anymore. I amMom and Dad, and the society, and the schoolteachers, and myself, whenI became mature and I can analyze and think on my own. .Sometimes, when I do something and I talk like mom, I say, “Oh my God,Mom is talking.” I use the same words, sometimes. Because, as I toldyou, we are so close, in our families in Lebanon, children and theirparents, so they get to take a lot from them. So, this is part, whether Ilike it or not, it’s there. When I think about myself, who am I, I am thiscombination of everything.Lyn: But there was a change in the way you looked at things.Mira: Well, the main change was when I started to accept people. Orstart to accept the fact that people are different. And they conductthemselves in different ways. Before, that was very hard to accept,everybody should be exactly like me.94Lyn: Didn’t you meet different kinds of people when you lived inL eha non?Mira: If you don’t intermingle with a people, and socialize with them,and live their problems, and they live your problems, you get to knowabout them, but very little, which is not enough to say, “I know aboutthis,” or, “I know about that.” I don’t think that you get to think aboutpeople if you don’t need them, and they don’t need you. And then youstart to know about them, how they act, how they react, what stance dothey take.Lyn: So how did that happen when you were here in Canada?Mira: When I started to work here. I don’t know whether I told you, thatthe first job I got here, it was in a store. It was the first time in my life Idid something different.Lyn: What kind of things was it selling?Mira: Clothing. It’s Jordan’s, a French designer line. Before that I wassubstituting at schools, but it’s different when you become responsible.It was very frustrating, because to tell you the truth, I had no clue,about what I’m doing. I know about clothing, and fashions, and colours,and how to coordinate, and put things together, but I never thought inmy life, that that’s what I’m going to do for a living, for one year and ahalf. Because at that time, I didn’t have my certificate, I was a refugee,and I was limited to certain jobs. At the beginning it was veryinteresting, I got to learn a lot about, you know, the cash, and themoney, but I found that people here are very nice, and very polite,very professional. And I learned how to be humble in work. Because, ifI tell my friends in Lebanon I was working in a store, they would feel so95sorry for me, they would not believe me. They would think that it’sbelow my dignity.I had to do it, because I needed the money. I made a big effort, Iwas very flexible. I didn’t know how to do anything. In Lebanon, Inever did anything other than studying and teaching. I came here, Ididn’t know how to type, and my English at that time was not that good.Because it’s true that I studied English, but I was not speaking thelanguage, I was not practicing, just in books and tests. So I used totranslate. It was very, very, very tough and very frustrating. But Idecided that I have to keep going. If I want to live in the past, there wasno way to stay here one more day. So I decided not to forget about thepast, but to cope with the present, and move forward, no matter howslow it was. And that’s what I did. I got to learn a lot about people, andthe mentality here, and the society, and the system. And different littlethings here and there. That every new immigrant needs to learn about:How to talk in a professional way. How to deal with people, what to say,what not to say. Not to be very friendly with people. All of these things.How to sell yourself. For example, this is totally against my beliefs. Butafter that, I learn that you have to present yourself. I didn’t like thewords, “sell yourself.” But to represent yourself, in a good way, in orderto get a job.I started there, and I was doing very well, I was very happy. Butafter that, I found it very boring. And I felt so guilty. What am I doinghere, towards myself? I’m doing nothing, I’m not developing, justkilling myself, my energy, my days and nights, that’s not for me. It’senough to learn, one year and a half, you get a diploma good enough tolearn about the basic things. I felt after that, that I should move96somewhere else, where I can fit. Where I feel that, this is my place, Ican do it. Because I couldn’t see myself doing anything else other thanteaching.To tell you the truth, I was depressed most of the time. I felt sosorry for myself, where I was, and where I am now. I left everything inLebanon. I worked so hard to have a name, and to do something for mylife. I left everything behind, to come here, claim refugee, and work ina store. As if I did nothing in my life. I felt so sorry for myself, all thenights and days that I worked so hard, I studied so hard, to have mydegree, to be a teacher, and now I end up making four, five dollars anhour. I tried to be patient. I thought, maybe I’m lucky I have this littlejob, because it’s better than staying at home. Until I get my papers, andmy certificate, and everything. And I was thinking seriously aboutgoing back home.I stayed on my feet, you know, eight hours, nine hours, andsometimes ten hours. By the end of the day, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’teat, I couldn’t sit, I’d go home and put my feet up. I didn’t want to tellmy sister, you know, about how much I was suffering, emotionally, Iwas suffering a lot.Lyn: Did you have rude people to deal with?Mira: No, they were very nice. But maybe I was too sensitive, because Iwas not used to that. Some of them were very aggressive, and I didn’tknow what they meant. I couldn’t interpret it the way I do now, whythey were like that. So it used to hurt me a lot. Sometimes I cried, I criedso bitterly, and I said, “No way, I want to go back home.” You know thecivil war, the worst days we had in Lebanon were much better. Becausethere, it’s true we were scared and everything, but we were together.97In my life, I’ve never had the tension that I’ve had here in Vancouver.I felt so guilty towards myself, what did I do to myself? Is that why I leftLebanon? Especially because, it was around the time my mother died. Ilost weight, and I was so skinny, I was totally depressed. I couldn’t eat, Icouldn’t talk. I was in a terrible situation.I used to walk a lot, by myself. I didn’t want to be with anybody, Ijust wanted to be by myself because I was in a lot of pain. Emotionalpain. I didn’t like to talk, because anything I talk about doesn’t have ataste or colour. Like talking about the weather. And I always had thisfeeling of guilt. What did I do to myself, what did I do to my mom. Istarted to smoke.I was by myself, most of the time. That’s what makes thingsreally hard. It was very hard, because it was like a ping pong game.You know, these things that were really, really bothering me, I tried toget them out of my system, but there was nobody to take them, or to helpme. So they came back, they were coming, going, coming, going. Reemwas not able to understand. Because Reem was already trained to live inthis society. And she wanted me to be exactly like her. What you learnin fifteen years, it’s not like what you get in one year. She wanted me toget everything so fast, and to forget totally about Lebanon. My sisterdidn’t have to go through the narrow gates that I had to go through inLebanon. She was here, she was thinking about herself, and how to gether degree, how to stand up on her feet in this society here. She didn’thave to worry about all the things that I used to worry about, day andnight in Lebanon. So I became more mature, because of the war.Now, it’s in the past. Now, if I go and walk by myself, I enjoy it alot. Before, I used to see the water black, the mountains black, the98houses like graves. Everything was black. It didn’t mean anything tome. Now, I enjoy the mountains, and the water, the sun.But you know, I got to learn a lot from the people I worked within the store. To learn about the suffering, and hardship, that people gothrough when they don’t have enough education. And I also got tolearn about the horrible things that people go through when they don’tlive with parents who really care for them, because most of them camefrom battered families. They were abused. And they used to tell meabout their stories, I got to learn a lot. And not only that, I also becamevery humble. I never thought that there are people who suffer, whowork hard to stand on their feet, ten hours a day, and they can’t sitdown. I thought that everybody is like me, they have everything theywant, and easily. A car, house, money, friends, parents, people who loveme and care for me. I came here, I found that they are lonely, they aredesperate to find somebody to say a nice word to them, or to invite them,or to care for them. And that’s all that they have, the hours what theywork in the store, no security, nothing. I felt so sorry for them, in away, I forgot about myself.And they couldn’t believe me, when I told them about myself,they think that I’m so innocent, like a little girl. They think that I amstill like a little girl, and the way I was living with my parents. Andnow I’m living here with my sister, and the way I understand things.I used to make lots of mistakes at the beginning because I had noclue what to do. One of them, Barbara, was very, very nice. We werevery good friends. She was an alcoholic, and she left her son inMontreal. She came here, and she’s living with a man. But she hasreason to be like that, because her father left them, four or five kids99with her mother. That’s how I started to accept people the way they are,because now I know. They tell me about their stories, not only likepictures, you see them from outside.That’s how I started to learn how to accept things, how to beflexible, because I see, I’m suffering like her, I’m standing up thewhole day like her. And now I know why she needs somebody to livewith, somebody to take care of. So now I don’t say, “Oh, how come shelives with a man if she’s not married to him.” I know why it’s like that.Because she doesn’t have anybody, because she needs somebody.At that time, I realized that people hate what they don’t know.Once you start to know about things, you don’t hate it, you either acceptit or not. It’s like Canadians here, and the Arabs, or North Americansand the Arabs, they don’t know the Arabs, they don’t like them. Oncethey get to know about them, they change their mind. That’s whathappened to me at the school. But when they started to know about me,when I started to talk, they saw the way I am, how I deal with the kids.Now it’s, “Oh, you are our Lebanese sapphire.” A Lebanese whitesapphire. So now Mira is very special. And what is so special about me,because I’m a terrorist? That’s what I tell them sometimes, “I was aterrorist when I first came here, now I’m very special.” I told them,“What is very nice about you, is you have the patience to learn about meand my culture. And I hope you do the same thing to everybody. Don’tjudge people. Just be patient. And don’t attack people. You acceptpeople the way they are, first of all. And listen to them, wait until theytell you about themselves, or wait until you discover things about them.And then you say whether you can accept them or not.”100Learning through participationWhile she was in Canada, Mira began to accept other people and their way oflife. She shifted from ethnocentrism, her belief that to be Lebanese and Christianwas the best and only way, to a form of cultural relativism, an acceptance ofdifferences. She began to contextualize, recognizing that while something may beappropriate in Lebanon, it may be inappropriate in Canada. She discovered that allof humanity has much in common, but that different peoples have developeddifferent “strategies” for conducting themselves.Before she came to Canada, Mira hadn’t had much direct experience of peopledifferent than herself. But she had a strong commitment to learning and personalgrowth, something that she felt was part of her life and way of being in the world.Her culture shocks led to emotional responses, provoking serious reflection on thedifferences between Canada and Lebanon. She made an intentional decision to learnCanadian ways, even though it was “very, very tough and very frustrating. . . . Idecided not to forget about the past, but to cope with the present, and move forward,no matter how slow it was.” Through observation and social interaction, Miralearned about the Canadian mentality, society, and systems.Learning is not just an internal, individual activity. All the strategies thatMira described were socially situated. She believed that travel was a way to broadenpersonal perspectives, because one can observe and meet people with very differentways of life. She traced her social interactions with people of different religious andcultural backgrounds to her sister’s circle of friends, and to the Lebanese Club. Thiscontradicts common assumptions about the functions of ethnic associations, whichare assumed to provide a familiar refuge from a strange and different culturalenvironment, a place where immigrants and refugees can speak in their ownlanguage with their fellow expatriates (Jabbra & Jabbra, 1984; Kim, 1988). That wasonly one of the Club’s functions for Mira, who also found that it provided a safe and101secure context for meeting people from different backgrounds. Over time, hergrowing understanding of differences led her to revise a significant meaningperspective, her deeply held beliefs that only one way, the Lebanese Christian way,was the best.From her observations and social interactions, Mira learned how to deal withCanadians, how to maintain distance, and how to be professional and “sell yourself.”She selectively changed her behaviour in order to cope with her new environment.She resisted the notion of selling herself, but did accept the idea of presenting apositive image in order to get a job. She was hurt when customers at the store wereaggressive, but eventually learned to interpret their words so it was not disturbing.Mira did not think of these as significant changes, just “different little things hereand there. That every new immigrant needs to learn about.” These were changesthat either didn’t affect her meaning schemes, or that she was able to accommodateby revisions to existing meaning schemes. The same was true for her languagelearning. Since Mira had already learned English in Lebanon, she had a pre-existingframework for interpreting new words and ideas. Though it was difficult and attimes frustrating, learning English as it was spoken in Canada was something shehad to do to cope.Mira felt it was important to distinguish between learning from casual socialinteractions, and learning from people that she was strongly connected with. “Idon’t think that you get to think about people if you don’t need them, and they don’tneed you.” This observation is supported by Taylor’s (1992) study of Americansojourners in foreign countries. Taylor uses Mezirow’s transformative learningtheory to explain individual cross-cultural adaptations, and suggests that the degreeof immersion in a foreign culture influences behavioural adjustments. He recordsdegrees of immersion ranging from simple observation, to socializing andinteracting with people, to the deepest level of immersion: developing long-term102committed relationships with members of the foreign culture. Close friendships hadthe most significant impact on sojourner adjustment.Mira experienced profound changes in meaning perspectives as well asmeaning schemes as a result of her friendship and interdependence with Barbaraand other people whom she worked with in the store. During this time, she wassuffering alongside the other workers, both on the job and because of her owndepression and loneliness, and she did more than listen to their stories. Merging, aLebanese woman’s ability to “get inside” people and affectively identify with theirtroubles and their patterns of belief, enhanced learning through theserelationships. She learned about dark sides of Canadian family life, about abuse andloneliness, by listening to people she cared about. Mira respected her coworkers’stories and interpretations of their lives, and attempted to understand the verydifferent cultural meaning system that framed their beliefs and actions. In order toaccommodate and accept a very different sense of family and morality than she hadpreviously understood, Mira had to revise her own meaning perspectives.Mira didn’t need to invent new strategies for learning to cope with Canada.Learning from people was familiar to her, and her merging approach to friendshipmade it easy, though not painless, to reach a deep level of understanding. But beforeshe came to Canada, Mira had little opportunity for reflection. During the civil war,there was no time or opportunity to think or talk about her life, and before the warshe had neither privacy nor a well developed sense of independence.ReflectionMira: So only last year is the time I accepted that my mom died, and mybrother had the accident, and everything. And I started to think aboutmyself, life, what happened to us, what happened to my country. Why103am I here? You put all these things together, and you come out withwhat you learned.Reflection was critical to Mira’s transition and learning process, particularly herperspective transformation. Reflection is not the same as introspection, which issimply being aware of one’s own feelings and perceptions. During long walks byherself after her mother’s death, Mira’s introspections seemed like a ping ponggame, coming and going without leading anywhere. But later in her prolongedperiod of disorientation and depression, Mira’s self-awareness led her to reflect on“the essence”, and develop a strong sense of integration and commitment. She feltshe had resolved the contradictions posed by changes in her life and had a muchbetter understanding of herself.Reflection is the deliberate appraisal or reappraisal of learning andexperience, and a central dynamic for transforming meaning schemes and meaningperspectives. Mezirow (1991) has identified three different forms of reflection:content reflection, which focusses on what we perceive, think, feel or act; processreflection, which examines how we do those things; and premise reflection, whichinvolves awareness of why we do them, our reasons and the consequences of ourjudgements. Mira decided to “cope with the present” in Canada as a result of hercontent and process reflections on the circumstances of her life, and that decisionled to further reflection and changes in her meaning schemes. Mira’s premisereflections challenged and reshaped her previous understandings. They weretriggered by small culture shocks and changing meaning schemes, and furthercatalyzed by an intense period of grief and disruption,Mira: That’s how I started to know about myself, what I really want,what I don’t want. And I also started to review certain things I used to104think about, as perfect, or the best. It was the best that I knew inLebanon.Instead of confirming her meaning perspectives, Mira’s reflections weretransformative. She became aware of the perspectives she shared with otherLebanese, and constructed new schemes and perspectives which accommodatedalternatives and possibilities she had learned about in Canada. Then she tookreflective action, making commitments and taking action based on new insights.Just as Mira’s meaning perspectives were both internal and shared, herreflections on those meanings were both psychologically and socially situated.Though her independent reflections were critical to her perspective transformation,Mira also relied upon the reflective process she shared with her sister, a familymember who was experiencing similar changes in meaning perspectives.Mira: We [my sister Reem and 11 always talk about it. About here andthere, about things we can’t accept anymore in our society, things wecan’t accept here because we are Lebanese.Culture learning and perspective transformationMost theories of culture transmission, acquisition, or adaptation assume thatan individual internalizes a new culture after intensive exposure or immersion. ButMira didn’t resolve the contradictions of her transition by simply internalizing oraccepting the new meanings she encountered. Instead, she became cognitively andemotionally aware of different meaning perspectives and assessed those newmeanings through critical reflection. By becoming conscious of the alternatives toher pre-existing assumptions, she was able to make comparisons and to intentionallydecide how to position herself in relation to those meanings and perspectives. She105decided whether to accept or reject alternatives, made commitments, and took actionon her decisions. Mira referred with pride to the flexibility she has developed inCanada, and her practical ability to have some control in making decisions amongher options.Mezirow’s (1991) transformative learning framework provides a powerful toolfor describing and understanding Mira’s cognitive response to transition.Transformative theory emphasizes that people make an intentionalmovement in adulthood to resolve these contradictions and to move todevelopmentally advanced conceptual structures for transformingmeaning schemes and perspectives through critical reflection. (p. 147)Mezirow’s constructs of meaning schemes and meaning perspectives are useful notjust for explaining changes in personal meanings, but for relating those changes toMira’s interpretation of shared cultural meanings.Anthropologists of education have extensively studied “instrumental linkages”and instrumental learning (Spindler & Spindler, 1989), changes in the culturalnorms and rules which influence individual behaviour. Changes in meaningschemes correspond to instrumental learning. But the construct of meaningperspective transformation explains less tangible and perhaps more crucial changesin cultural meaning systems, the fluid relationship between individual and culture.Culture can be conceived as a network of individual and shared meaningperspectives. By revising her meaning perspectives, Mira could construct andredefine herself in relation to a culture system.The elements of a culture are not like a pile of sand and not like aspider’s web. It’s more like an octopus, a rather badly integratedcreature--what passes for a brain keeps it together, more or less, in oneungainly whole. ( Schweder, 1984, p. 19)Mezirow’s work has been criticized for an over-emphasis on individual agency(Clark & Wilson, 1991). But its intersection with other theories of culture, learning,and participation in Mira’s life history provides the opportunity for an integrationwhich extends our understanding of culture learning. This integration has the106flexibility and power to explain Mira’s creative cognitive response to changingcultural meanings as well as norms and behaviours.Mira redefined herself through a transformative learning process which wasparticipatory and charged with emotion. It involved cycles of reflection and actionwhich took place through introspection and social participation, often in the contextof merging relationships and storytelling. When Mira revised and acquired newmeaning schemes, she did not need to abandon old ones. She constructed a personalinterpretation of culture by revising her meaning schemes and perspectives.Though these were linked to broader cultural schemata like the familism she shareswith other Lebanese, their collective nature did not prevent her from making herown reinterpretations. When Mira revised her meaning perspectives throughreflection and action, she altered her ways of understanding and categorizing theworld.Changing ways of knowingMira believed that if she had stayed in Lebanon, she would not have grown inthe same ways. She contrasted herself with her mother, whose world wascircumscribed and shaped by her village. Like her mother, Mira had once believedeverything that people in the village told her, “It was absolute.” After hermigration, Mira’s epistemology changed dramatically, and she actively questionedthe limited world view that she grew up with. Mira was no longer willing to acceptwhatever she was told, by her neighbours or by the Christian establishment.Mira’s descriptions of her mother closely correspond to “received knowing,”a category of women’s epistemological development described by Belenky, Clinchy,Goldberger, and Tarule (1986). Received knowers look outward for moral as well asintellectual knowledge, and their moral judgements correspond to the conventions oftheir society. They selflessly devote themselves to the care and empowerment of107others, just as Mira described her mother. “Since they accept that the world is andshould be hierarchically arranged and dualistic, they channel their increasingsense of self into their growing capacity to care for others” (Belenky et al, 1986, p.48).Unlike her mother, Mira developed a different way of knowing following hermigration to Canada. She shifted from an externally oriented perspective on truthand knowledge to one that is personal, private, and subjectively known. But Mira didnot rely solely on her own feelings and intuition to make sense of her world. Sheactively listened to others, reflecting critically when she was alone and during socialinteractions. Mira developed a sense of control in her life and became a pragmaticproblem solver, building upon her own subjective insights and her acceptance ofdifferent opinions. Her ways of knowing and learning did not arise out ofconformity to external authorities, but out of a need to understand other peoplewhose beliefs at first seemed obscure, alien, and sometimes threatening.Reflecting on this change, Mira felt that her life had been enriched, that shehad grown and developed new resources. Her interpretation coincides with NorthAmerican learning theory which interprets the shift from dualism to relativism aspositive growth to a higher developmental level (Belenky et al, 1986; Caffarella &Olson, 1993; Perry,1970).108Chapter FiveSTRATEGIES FOR IDENTITY AND PARTICIPATIONFlexibility and practicality: Adaptive strategiesMira: Nothing has changed at all, but now as I’ve told you I’ve becomemore aware of things, and more practical, and more flexible, and moreexperienced.Mira adapted to Canada with developmental changes in her understandingsand behaviour. She gained a cognitive “flexibility” through her perspectivetransformation, which gave her a wider repertoire for action and more options forcoping with her new Canadian environment. Mira felt that she had more resources todraw from, that her life was not as empty or boring as before.Mira: Theoretical means, it’s exactly like sitting in the corner andwatching. But practical means, when you go, instead of watching,instead of sitting in the corner and just watching, you go and live, youdo something.Her practicality was associated with her increasing competence in Canadianways and growing sense of autonomy. But it was more than that. Practicalityrepresented a developing sense of agency--her ability to act on her reflections andbeliefs. Working in a store, for example, would have been beneath Mira’s dignity inLebanon, and a source of shame to her and her family. In Canada her flexibility andpracticality, based on experience and changing understandings of what was possible109and acceptable, gave the store job a different meaning. It became a viable way ofearning a living while learning more about her new environment.Mira did not respond to her Canadian context by simply fitting in andreproducing existing social relations. Instead, her cognitive transformation led herto develop and implement strategies of adaptation and resistance, both in Canada andin Lebanon. As Mira learned about Canada, her changing understandings influencedher relations with culture and society, as well as her profound internaltransformations. Following her migration transition, Mira not only had more timefor “theoretical” critical reflection, she was also able to act on her criticisms in a“practical” way. While she has adapted many meaning schemes and some meaningperspectives, Mira has actively resisted making other changes.Strategies of resistanceMira’s questioning of cultural and social expectations was a recurring themein our interviews. Resistance is a narrative element commonly found in women’slife stories throughout the world, “counter-narratives” which contrast self-imageand experiences with dominant cultural models (Personal Narratives Group, 1989).Mira had questioned gender roles since she was a teenager. She was aware ofpatriarchal dominance and oppression throughout her life, particularly in Lebanon.There she felt the restrictions imposed on her gender, and felt dominated by men inher family and Lebanese society.Mira: One time I came back from university, and we were havingdinner together, me and my dad, and I was talking about equalitybetween men and women. I said society should do something about it,and we should start at home by sharing the responsibility for doingthings. “Why should I, for example, set the table, or clean the dishes?110My brothers should help us”. . . . He said “Yes, that’s right, but this isthe way we’re brought up, and it will take time to erase this.” So I said,“Do you agree with me?” He said, “Yes, I do agree with you.” I said, “OK,fine, now you clean up, I’m going! Bye-Bye!” [we both laugh] See? It’sfossilized. There are a few things that girls have to do, and there areother things, that it’s not nice for women to do, in Lebanon.Mira’s feelings about her duties and obligations as a daughter and sister wereambivalent. While she appreciated the absence of Loneliness, and the nice feeling ofalways being loved and busy, she sometimes resented the lack of privacy. When shethought of objecting or resisting, she would feel guilty. Her every action reflectednot just upon her as an individual, but upon her entire family. Despite the powerfulforces of guilt and shame which operated to maintain traditional patterns, Mira’sstory described feelings of resistance beginning when she was a girl. This isn’tatypical of Lebanese or Arab women, who may act in reference to norms andprescriptions for behaviour without strictly observing them (Krieger, 1986). Usingcurrent Western standards, Mira appeared to have less freedom of choice concerningbasic life decisions while she lived in Lebanon. Yet women in Arab countries exertconsiderable power and control over their lives within the home and the extendedfamily, manipulating social relations and the flow of information inside and outsidethe family sphere. Arab women do not fall into molds prescribed by social andcultural norms, they work to manipulate and use them to their own advantage(Altorki, 1988).Mira frequently criticized Lebanese politics and religion. But before shemigrated to Canada, if she felt critical of conservative Lebanese traditions, she couldnot question them openly. As long as she was living in Lebanon, Mira’s reflectionson Lebanese religious and political conservatism remained theoretical and111unexpressed. It was only after migration and her perspective transformation thatshe felt she had the strength and commitment to act on some of her decisions.In Canada, Mira was able to openly and intentionally act upon her world. Shestrengthened her desire to throw away the things that she wanted to throw awaywhen she was young. Yet Mira’s resistance was tempered with her compliance withLebanese and Canadian societies. She accepted the strictures of Lebanese moral codesand family life, and thus met her own desire for intimacy, belonging, and a Lebaneseidentity. Balanced in the tension between dependence and resistance, Miracreatively constructed her own meanings in her relationship with others. Since hermigration, Mira has adapted by accepting and enacting some assumptions ofCanadian society, while resisting other assumptions and behaviours. Mira feltempowered as she discovered existing cultural schemata, meanings that were sharedamong Canadians, and shaped her own interpretations from them. Mira’s developingsense of agency was empowering. It provided motivation not just for adaptation, butfor further resistance through reflection and action.Mira: The way people socialize here, in general, is very different fromthe way it was in Lebanon. . . . For example, if you want me to talk aboutdetails, we don’t have this “potluck dinner.” I was so surprised! And Ilike it very much, I find it very interesting. Well, people in Lebanon,when you go, you take things with you, flowers, sweets, and things, butwe don’t have this. You know, it’s not tradition. When you invitepeople, you cook for everybody. You don’t ask people to bringanything. It’s very different, very practical.And something else, I found that people here are not so - how canI say it, warm? For example, [when you walk in a room], they hardlystand up, they don’t shake hands, they just say ‘hi’, and that’s it. I112found it shocking. I arrived, and it was as if there was no one there.Well, in Lebanon, when you have guests, when you invite people over,you show them that they are welcome. This is one thing that I thought Iwould like to maintain, The way I got it. These are the things that I’venoticed, the big differences. There’s a big difference. No way, I can’tdo things like that.Teaching was a significant way for Mira to take action on her personalcommitments. In both Lebanon and Canada, she discouraged violence and promotedpeace. After her migration to Canada, she added themes based on her revisedmeaning perspectives.Mira: My eyes are always on the kids. I know that sometimes they can’ttalk about their problems, they don’t know how to express theirfeelings. So I help them to put things out of their system, and I talk, ontheir behalf, and I teach them how to talk about it nicely, and how tosolve their problems. . . . Because I myself, when I was a little girl, Ididn’t want to. I wanted to keep everything inside, especially whensomething hurts me. You know, being a Christian, we believe that painis good. So no matter how painful the things, we used to keep it inside.I think, if you start teaching kids early, for example, six or seven years,the kind of training they get is very important, because it’s likecarving in wood. What ever you give them, it goes with them forever.And that’s why I sometimes talk to the kids as if they are my age, aboutpeace and war, and love and hatred, caring and sharing, how to helpkids from other countries. I tell them about kids from my country, howsometimes they have to stay nights and days in the shelters. I tell them113about myself. I give them time to decide, to suggest. I’m very happywith what I’m doing because you can make a big difference with thesekids. If you want to change the whole attitude, if you want to judge atree, you don’t look at the branches or the fruit. You look at the roots,the beginning.Storytelling as praxisSpeaking about her struggles in Lebanon and Canada was an importantway for Mira to take action on her new commitments. She once said to me, “I dare totalk about things, not like before.” Mira’s storytelling was a testimonial, a way ofbearing witness to the suffering of the Lebanese people. As our interviewsconcluded, she articulated the lessons that she felt should be learned from her story,the messages that she wanted me to convey. She was enthusiastic and willing tospeak to anyone in Canada about her beliefs, and I learned that her friends oftenreferred people curious about Lebanon to Mira for that reason, including journalists,the descendants of other Lebanese immigrants, and myself.The social nature of reflection and action through storytelling hasimplications for both participants. Storytelling can be a way of teaching and oflearning. When Mira listened to other peoples’ stories, she began to accept them.And even as she told and “taught” her story to me she engaged in further reflection,learning from her own story in a multilayered cycle of reflection and action that hasbeen called praxis (Brookfield, 1986).There were moments in our interviews when I felt that Mira was activelyreflecting on her life, particularly when she made use of certain metaphors. Inoticed her enthusiasm and creativity when she spoke about meeting people fromdifferent backgrounds, and how it was like opening a window to let in fresh currentsof air; as she talked about the beautiful umbrella; and again when she compared her114basic personality to a rock. In my presence, and sometimes with my encouragement,she used these metaphors to explore possibilities; to develop new interpretations; andto illuminate aspects of her experience for herself, as well as for me. Lave & Wenger(1991) have suggested that talk is a central medium of transformation, and thattelling a personal story is a tool for diagnosis and interpretation.But most of the time I didn’t feel that Mira was actively reflecting on her lifeand making decisions. During four months of interviews, there was little change inthe way she represented her story to me. Instead, her story was evidence of anearlier process of transformation. She made repeated use of the same anecdotes, andoften the same metaphors, at different interviews. When I asked Mira about this, shetold me that she had spoken to others about her life in Lebanon and Canada on manyoccasions, though she usually avoided speaking about the more personal andtraumatic details. She had not only thought about the kinds of questions I wasasking, she had already told much of this story before.Mira’s storytelling served many purposes for her. It was an active means forreflection, an ongoing appraisal of her transition processes, and a record of aprevious reflective process. Telling her life story was a means of constructing heridentity in relation to others, one which validated her interpretations and at thesame time taught others about Lebanon and the refugee experience. It may evenhave been therapeutic, an attempt to retrieve the loss of mother and country bymaintaining memories and validating them by sharing with others (Disman, 1983;Westwood & Ishiyama, 1991).115Making a harmony: Mira’s sense of selfMira: I don’t want to be in bits and pieces here and there andeverywhere. I want to live in harmony with myself, my people, mycountry. Even though I’m far from home, I don’t feel that I’m scatteredeverywhere. Because what I learned from it is part of me. And it’s veryhard to separate the person from the land, the culture, the language,and the people.Mira’s cognitive transformation, through an ongoing process of criticalreflection, commitment, and action, was inextricably linked with other dimensions ofher transition process. Her story describes the harmonious integration ofsignificant external and internal changes with the continuities in her life. Unlikeher feelings during the disruption phase of her transition when she was “like afeather in the air,” Mira had developed a solid base for living in Canada at the time ofour interviews, which took place during a period of stability and integration.Western psychologists believe that a sense of continuity is essential for mentalhealth (Laub, 1991). It is something which most refugees have to struggle hard toachieve in the face of personal, cultural, and structural contradictions (Rumbaut,1985).The foundations are identityMira: The values, the way our parents passed their values to us, I like itvery much. It’s carved in me. Why? Because this is the way it is.That’s how you get to have roots, back to your roots. Because mypersonality was built on these, if you take the foundations, that’s it, I’m116not Mira anymore. Right? You can’t separate. I am Mom and Dad, andsociety, and the schoolteachers, and myself, when I became mature andcould analyze and think on my own.To create harmony in her life, Mira emphasized the continuity throughout herstages and transitions. Overwhelmed by tremendous changes in the social, political,and cultural environment since her arrival in Canada, Mira has based her sense ofcoherence on her strong personal value system, and on critical life themes ofintimacy, belonging, and identity. Mira’s foundations and her concept of personalitystrongly resembles the concept of identity developed by Western psychologists: astable, consistent and reliable sense of who one is and what one stands for in theworld. Identity is “the interface between the individual and the world” (Josselson,1987, p.8), a dynamic underlying theme which fits together aspects of personalitywith social realities, so that a person has a sense both of internal coherence and ameaningful relationship to the external world. It is a way of preserving thecontinuity of the self, linking the past and present. And by contrasting ourselveswith others, we heighten our sense of what is uniquely individual.Identity functions on many levels, both conscious and unconscious. Consciousdimensions of identity include idiosyncratic learning which may never have beenpart of a cultural meaning system, and social identities. Mira’s role as a teacherprovided her with an occupational identity which was critical to her sense of worthand purpose in life, one that transcended international borders and placed herwithin a distinctive professional community.Other dimensions of identity, like Mira’s familism, are tightly interwoven withshared cultural meaning systems. Every culture promotes and emphasizes differentvalues. Cultural values, social norms, political ideologies, and psychologicalattributes interact to influence the formation of an individual’s identity and sense of117self (Pratt, 1991). These levels of identity function almost automatically, providing ameans by which people organize and understand their experience and share theirmeaning systems with others (Ishiyama, 1989).A person’s identity is continually refined over the life course, but every time amajor transition is experienced it triggers a crisis of identity (Shlossberg, 1984). Thecontradictions posed by Mira’s migration forced issues of identity to herconsciousness. Mira responded to dramatic changes in her cultural contexts byconstructing a coherent self and identity. Mira felt that that she had stayed true toherself, despite changes in her meaning perspectives and ways of knowing. Sheoften emphasized that her important values were “carved in blood” and enduredthroughout age- and event-related transitions, along with her Lebanese identity.Faith, forgiveness, giving, patience, honesty, humility, and simplicity, were allfirmly held personal commitments that Mira associated with family, religion, andculture.Having two homes - And a strong ethnic identityMira: People there [in Lebanon] have a totally different mentality. Andthe reason why it is like that, is because there are long histories,history behind everything, you can’t separate yourself from your pastin Lebanon. Because you are so attached to it, it’s a part of you, whetheryou want it or not. You were brought up with it, with the traditions.Throughout our interviews, Mira stressed the importance of being Lebanese.This was her ethnic identity: those dimensions of identity that express the continuitybetween her sense of past ancestry, and her future aspirations for belonging to aparticular ethnic group (Weinreich, 1988). Ethnic identity is a complex set of118psychological processes taking place over time, in which biographical continuitiesof ancestry are constructed in the wider context of social groups. In Mira’s case,these processes were concurrent with her transition processes. She responded bystrongly defining herself as Lebanese, affirming and reaffirming the primacy ofthis ethnic identity by telling stories of herself and her homeland to others.Mira: Mother to me now is not, you know, my biological mother. It’sthe land. The country. When I talk about mother, or motherhood.These are things we start to think about, or feel, when we are far away.So now my mother died. But I still belong, very strongly, somewhere--tothe land.Migration heightened Mira’s awareness and appreciation of her need forintimacy, particularly for close personal relations with family. Even thoughmerging extended her intimacy to her female friends, Mira found it insufficient.Her experience in Canada introduced her to the pain of loneliness, which was thedark side of her need for intimacy. She relied as much as possible upon her sister inVancouver. Mira told me that she wasn’t ready to consider marrying someone inCanada, because she feared that she would be torn between love for that person andfor her country. He would have to be “my Lebanon, my family, my mom, my dad,everything, because I left everything.”Mira’s sense of intimacy and belonging fused with her understanding ofidentity. Even obtaining Canadian citizenship did not change her deep emotionalaffiliation with her ethnic identity, though other aspects of her core identity hadevolved. She identified with different patterns of belief and understanding amongher coworkers and friends, and this sometimes led to critical internal conflictsbetween her own familistic identity and her coworkers’ individualism. But she did119not uncritically accept their meaning perspectives, nor did she resolve thoseconflicts by discarding or dismantling her own ethnic identity. Mira remainedstrongly committed to being both Christian and Lebanese, even though she no longerbelieved they were superior to other religious or national affiliations.Mira felt no sense of contradiction in her cultural identification. She wasliving in Canada, not becoming Canadian. She was a competent and activeparticipant in Canadian society, while maintaining her links with Lebanon byphone, letter, and occasional visits. In the late twentieth century, it is possible forimmigrants to live in two worlds, socially, physically, and psychologically(Appadurai, 1991). Instead of having two selves, Mira felt she could simply have twohomes.Mira: I’m still Lebanese, because I am Lebanese. I was born inLebanon, brought up in Lebanon, my parents are Lebanese. But, what’swrong in being Lebanese, and knowing about another country, likeCanada, and having two homes? What’s wrong in that? There’sno th i n g.Amidst the discontinuities of her transition process, Mira’s ethnic identityprovided a sense of continuity and stability, even as she began to articulate andreflect upon herself in relation to a pluralistic social and cultural setting. Tied to herpowerful cognitive and emotional needs for belonging, her Lebanese identitystrengthened her autonomy and ability to make decisions to accept or resist aspectsof the Canadian culture system.To understand Mira’s story, it is necessary to interpret her identity as acomplex and dynamic web of perspectives, commitments, and dimensions. It issimplistic to describe this as an intercultural identity, an emotional identification120that is not limited to one’s own society, but includes other cultures (Kim, 1988).Adaptation theorists propose that intercultural identity either replaces, adds to, orcoexists with previous cultural identities (Hoffman, 1988; Ishiyama, 1989; Kim, 1988;Taylor, 1992). But their interpretations disregard the subjective nature of culturaland ethnic identity. Like other social dimensions of identity, it is dynamic and self-defined. The constructs of intercultural or bicultural identity blur distinctionsbetween the deeply and often unconsciously held dimensions of identity, likemeaning perspectives and cultural schemata, and an individual’s conscious socialaffiliations. While aspects of Mira’s identity were transformed along with her sharedcultural assumptions, her sense of ethnic identity was strengthened. Mira did notinterpret her own identity as shifting, multiple, or intercultural.Mira’s identity was a cultural and social construction which she revisedthrough “flexibility and practicality,” her changing perspectives and sense ofagency. As Mira reflected critically, strategized, and made decisions, she creativelyconstructed her own identity and actions from a broadening repertoire ofpossibilities. Her identity, like her social behaviour, took shape in relation to others,depending on the particular setting and historical and cultural context.Marginal by choiceMira: If you want to view a house, you have to step outside.To an observer, Mira was successful in adapting and conforming to Canadiancultural norms. But at the same time she quietly resisted both social and culturaldomination by minimizing her participation in Canadian society. Mira experiencedlarge shifts in her status and participation in communities at different times in herlife. Though Mira felt a deep need to belong, she learned that there can be121advantages to being a peripheral participant in a community. At the time of ourinterviews, Mira had chosen marginality as her strategy for living in Canada.In Lebanon before the civil war, Mira was a full participant in mainstreamLebanese society, not an “I” but part of an “us.” Though she was aware of theinequalities of her female status, she shared that position with other Lebanese girlsand women. During the civil war, her status changed in frequent and confusingways, as her participation in different communities became a matter of life anddeath. During this stage power shifts were manifested in violence between religious,regional, family, and political communities, and she felt powerless and voiceless.When Mira arrived in Canada, after the initial relief from the uncertainty anddanger of the war, she felt very much Lebanese, and very much a refugee on theperiphery of life in Canada: “We are nothing here.” Her fellow workers at the storetreated her as a newcomer to society, “like a little girl.” Refugee legislation imposedbarriers to her full participation in society, while her sister, friends, andgovernment officials urged her to conform to Canadian cultural and social practises.Though apparently contradictory, they all delivered the same message. As a refugee,Mira was still powerless and voiceless.When Mira became familiar with Canadian society and culture, she developedexpertise and understanding, and identified herself as an agent in the Canadiansocial and cultural system. She believed that her positive transformations were onlymade possible by her migration, which provided her with both the motivation andthe perspective to reflect on her life in both Canada and Lebanon. As her meaningperspectives changed, and she questioned the assumptions she had once uncriticallyshared with other Lebanese, Mira began to become different from friends and familyin Lebanon. She no longer was protected by a “beautiful umbrella;” she had a moreindividualistic perspective on the world.122Many educated Lebanese who never leave their homeland experience conflictand psychological distress while attempting to reconcile traditional Arab culturewith Western cultural and political influences (Patai, 1976, p. 198). In Canada, Mirafound her own way of living with this conflict. While aspects of her identity wereinfluenced by personal transformation and development, Mira did not compromiseher commitment to a Lebanese ethnic identity, or to her social identity as a teacher.Returning to a teaching career was critical to Mira’s integration of her transitionprocess, for it provided an affirmation of a longstanding occupational identity, and asense of continuity. Mira’s teaching identity placed her within a particularprofessional community, and she developed friends among her Canadian colleaguesat her school. She increased her participation in Canadian society on other levels aswell. Her ability to merge with other women moved her towards an understanding ofCanadian meanings, norms, and practices, without having to internalize thosesystems of belief.At the same time, Mira’s Lebanese identity distanced her from fullparticipation within mainstream Canadian society. Her Lebanese affiliation wasdeeply and emotionally felt, fulfilling her needs while fuelling her desire for family,belonging, and continuity. Her deliberate decision to maintain her ethnic identity,along with many cultural attitudes and behaviours, is a position of resistance.Though it located Mira on the periphery of mainstream Canadian society, herethnic identity made her a full member of the Lebanese community of Vancouver.The Vancouver Lebanese are a loosely knit group which is both part of, and separatefrom, Canadian society. Its marginal position supported Mira’s ambiguous status, asituation common to immigrants who maintain options outside the dominant societyand retain a different collective social identity (Ogbu, 1982). Even though she was arefugee, Mini knew she had the option to leave Canada to return to her homeland, orto re-emigrate to another society. Mira didn’t have to conform in order to prove her123worth or position in Canadian society, because she had her own reference groupagainst which to measure her personal success or failure. But she chose not tobecome a full participant in the Vancouver Lebanese community either. She onlyoccasionally attended social events, and picked her close friends from both inside andoutside the group.Mira identified advantages which justified and supported her marginalposition. It had led to her transformation, as seeing things from different cornersand having the opportunity for reflection had given her new ways of knowing,flexibility, and practicality. And she found it a source of power, when she used herposition on the margins of both Lebanese and Canadian societies to give her voice theauthority to represent alternative perspectives in order to criticize and to educate. Ather school, she educated her fellow teachers about the Arabs and Lebanese, usingher voice to demystify the exotic Arab “other” stereotyped as a terrorist. When shereturned to Lebanon as a visitor, she found that she could express her criticisms ofreligious and political leaders.Mira’s motivations for remaining marginal included an uncertainty aboutwhether she would stay in Canada or return to Lebanon. In some ways she felt morelike a sojourner than a permanent resident of this country, maintaining a deepemotional connection and a sense of belonging to a Lebanese way of life. Long afterher migration to Canada, and a transition process which had strengthened her desireto throw away things she hadn’t liked since she was a child, Mira felt pressure toconform when she returned to visit Lebanon. Though she had begun to speak Out forpeace and against conservatism, she wanted to adjust to family expectations of socialbehaviour. If she didn’t get up to greet visiting neighbours, despite her jet lag andexhaustion, she would cause a scandal and be accused of becoming a Canadian. Thispotent accusation implied that Mira had lost her identity as a Lebanese and a familymember, and no longer belonged.124When Mira thought about returning to live in Lebanon, her speculations weremarked by uncertainty and ambiguity. She knew that people in Lebanon werechanging, forced by the war and a serious downturn in the economy to become moreflexible and practical than they had been. But she expected that she would have toembark on another transition process to find her place in Lebanese society.Mira: They do things like any place in the Middle East. Don’t ever thinkthat Lebanon is different. They are very traditional, and they stick totheir tradition, no matter whether they need it or not. It’s veryimportant, to respect the traditions, but there are a few things that wedon’t need, it doesn’t make sense. .Now, if I go back to Lebanon, I have to use what I learned here, toadapt again there, and here we are, we start again. I have to explain topeople why Mira doesn’t accept things she used to accept before, tomake them get used to me, and to my way. And this will take time, andby the time they learn, by the time I readapt, I will be--not a differentperson, but I’ll learn something. So there is no reason in life, at all, tosay, “Here I am, I know.” I don’t. Until I die, I’ll say I don’t know, butI’m ready to learn.125Chapter SixTHE MEANING OF A LIFEYou don’t have to become CanadianMira: I’m sure that the writers, the sociologists, the psychologists, theydo a lot of research in order to write theory, or to get to theirconclusions, to have this theory. But when you live, or when you talk toa person who has experienced lots of things, it’s different from whenyou are getting articles from here and there, putting them together,you know.Lyn: What is so interesting, I think, is that people who studyimmigrants are often wrong, they think that you have to come here andyou have to learn different things, but my feeling is that you learnedabout yourself. And you were like a sociologist, or an anthropologist.You were studying Canada. And it seems to me that’s like a skill. I don’tthink everybody does that. You had to pay a terrible price to do it, butmaybe other people can learn from your story, so that someone elsewon’t have to pay that terrible price.Mira: This is very important, Lynette, believe me. Because half of theproblems, or tension, or suffering, that the immigrant or refugee has,when they come not only to Canada, anywhere in the world, is this bigquestion, “How can I become a European, or a Canadian?” And they feel,“I am not. . . . I am Middle Eastern. This is terrible, I want to go back. Ican’t fit here.” They need somebody to tell them, you don’t have to beCanadian. You have to understand Canada.126Lyn: What’s so interesting to me is that although you did all that,you’re still Lebanese.Mira: Yes. Because I am Lebanese. I was born in Lebanon, brought upin Lebanon, my parents are Lebanese, but. . . what’s wrong in beingLebanese, and knowing about another country, like Canada, and havingtwo homes? What’s wrong in that? In my case, it’s very hard, youknow, to deny the fact that I am Lebanese, and be totally Canadian; ornot to be Canadian, and just be Lebanese. I can’t. Because I am betweenhere and there.Transition and culture learningMira’s life history doesn’t completely conform to any of the linear models ofculture and learning that can be found in the theoretical literature. It describes anonlinear, evolving process of interdependent changes which took place on manylevels. Migration was only one of many major transitions in Mira’s life whichtriggered or catalyzed significant personal growth and transformation throughreflective learning. It had a profound impact on every aspect of Mira’s life. Aftermigrating to Canada, Mira developed a flexibility and resilience in her outlook andher identity, at the same time as she articulated and defined herself through aprocess of critical reflection.To interpret and understand Mira’s story I have drawn upon multipleconceptual frameworks which provide overlapping and sometimes contradictorypathways through the theoretical terrain first charted in Chapter One. Sometimesmy interpretive journey led to dead ends, but more often it came upon unexpectedintersections, where theories from different disciplines met. The holistic approachof life history provided insights into the dynamics and interrelationships of certaintheories of transition, culture, learning, and agency, which are embodied and127enacted in Mira’s story. By linking the emic of Mira’s story with the etic of academicinterpretation, I have constructed a more comprehensive, precise, and integratedmap for making sense of the complex processes of personal change associated withinternational migration. Theories of agency, participation, and transformativelearning are most useful for understanding Mira’s interdependent relationship withCanadian and Lebanese cultural systems.Culture learning as agency and participationMira: You can take yourself wherever you go in this world, but youlearn. If you know how to look left and right. You get to learn a lotfrom the different places, and corners, and stops, in life.Mira’s learning was central to her transitional process. Her participation inCanadian society gave it meaning; it was mediated by the differences of perspectivebetween herself and others. Her learning was not just an internal and individualactivity. It was a social practice, defined by the relational character of knowledgeand learning, the negotiated character of meaning, and the dilemma-driven natureof her learning activities. For Mira, culture learning was both a necessity and anopportunity to develop alternative ways of thinking and being. She came tounderstand differences in cultural meanings as options that she could creativelychoose from.Mira created her own strategies for living in Canada, a mixture of adaptationand resistance in her commitments and her actions. Though her location on theperiphery of Canadian society was originally imposed by forces outside her control,Mira eventually saw an advantage in maintaining that position. She was both alegitimate participant willing to adjust to Canadian expectations, and a peripheral128participant who maintained an ethnic identity separating her from other Canadians.Mira’s motivations were complex and ambiguous and led to actions which werestrategic and creative, like her conscious management of her identity. Thoughoutwardly Mira appeared to conform to Canadian society, she minimized herparticipation in other ways.Mira responded to the transition of migration not through changing heridentity, but through a transformative process of personal development associatedwith her learning and participation in Canadian society. Mira didn’t passivelyreceive or adapt to culture. She learned about Canadian rules and expectations, andgained a meaningful understanding of different cultural perspectives. Then sheassessed those perspectives, strategized, and made decisions as an active agent of herown destiny, constructing her identity and actions through participation. Miradeveloped a sense of agency as she became aware of existing cultural systems andexpectations, and realized that she could make choices from among them. Her culturelearning was the simultaneous development of expertise and understanding, whichled to an identification with cultural systems based on agency and participation.Reflections on the life history process: Stories and textLyn These interviews have been like a gift. I feel like you’ve given meso much of your time, and your thoughts, but I wonder, if in any way,it’s been helpful for you. One time you said, it was good to talk about it.But another time you said it wasn’t good to wake up old feelings.Mira: It’s very important, yes, to talk about it, not to leave it there.Because, at any time, anything might happen, that will remind me aboutit. It will come back and stand in front of me, in my way. But it hurts,the time that I’m talking about it. Or just a little bit later on. But it’s129better to talk about it. It’s very painful Lynette, it’s very very painful.But it’s good to talk. I feel more comfortable, because at the time, Icouldn’t talk about it. It was not permitted to talk about it.Lyn: What I appreciate, is that you spent hours and hours and hourstalking to me! And that’s why I want to make sure that when I write,that you’re comfortable with it.Mira: Well, you are more creative when it comes to the writing, youknow, and analyzing the whole. Now you have a clear idea about thewhole thing.More than a year after this dialogue was recorded, I met with Mira to give herthe first draft of my thesis. She told me that she had often thought of our interviewsessions. We had met many times since the interviews, exchanging social visits andsometimes gifts, but she particularly missed those evenings when we sat in comfortin her living room and talked about her life. Though we didn’t explore what laybeneath her feelings, her words reminded me of something I had read in an articleabout oral history interviews with women: “Often fieldwork research offers toparticular research subjects practical and emotional support and a form of lovingattention, of comparatively nonjudgemental acceptance, that they come to valuedeeply” (Stacey, 1991, p. 117).Though I had deeply enjoyed our interview meetings, I had not missed themduring the last year. Mira and her words were still very much with me, occupyingmy thoughts and inspiring insights throughout my analysis and writing process.Langness and Frank (1981) have suggested that writing a life history is an attempt tounderstand another person’s reality, a humanizing act of empathy that holdstremendous power for developing the human potential of those who use it. I havebeen deeply affected by my hours with Mira and her story.130Doing ethnography as culture learningIt is common knowledge that when you do fieldwork you find out aboutthe culture you’re studying, your own culture, and yourself. (Jackson,1986, P. 264)As I learned more about Lebanese and Canadian families from Mira, it dawnedon me that I was going through a kind of transformation similar to that which Mirahad experienced during her stay in Canada. I wasn’t just studying Mira, I waslearning about Lebanon through her stories--just as she had learned about Canadathrough sharing stories with Canadian women. While my ethnographic researchwas limited to the life history method, Mira used several conventional ethnographicmethods, particularly participant observation: “living as much as possible with, andin the same manner as the individuals being investigated” (Goetz & LeCompte, 1984, p.109).Participant observation may range from complete participation throughimmersion and identification, when the ethnographer becomes a member of anothersociety, to comparative detachment, when the ethnographer maintains the role ofan objective observer. Though a participant observer may adopt a variety ofpositions, the aim is to maintain a marginal position in order to generate creativeinsights.Ethnographers. . . must strenuously avoid feeling “at home.” If andwhen all sense of being a “stranger” is lost, one may have allowed theescape of one’s critical, analytic perspective. (Hammersley & Atkinson,1983, p. 102)Like an ethnographer, Mira learned from her marginal position as an insider and anoutsider, a stranger and a friend. Though her observations and life history studieswere not recorded in text, they informed her reflective analysis of the Canadiansociety she lived in, and of her Lebanese identity.Mira and I shared goals similar to other ethnographers: to make sense ofindividuals and of culture. We both used a reflexive methodology in which our self-131awareness was part of what we studied. Mira analyzed through critical reflection,and disseminated her findings through storytelling. My own research process wassimilar, though it was defined and moderated by academic standards for empiricalresearch. Unlike Mira, who has avoided personal writing since the traumatic loss ofher house and belongings, I used writing as a medium for collecting, analyzing, anddisseminating data. Each oral interview was converted to text through completetranscriptions. My analysis was text-based, unfolding through independent andsocially situated reflection. I did most of my independent reflection while writing,and I regularly shared that writing as the basis for my analytical discussions withothers about the research findings. The product of my research is this text.Though ethnographers write about their experiences in the field as an aspectof research, their research can be interpreted as culture learning throughperspective transformation. For ethnographers, fieldwork is a “rite of passage,” animmersion which produces a form of authority based on personal and subjectiveexperience (Cole, 1992). Agar (1982) has described ethnographic fieldwork as a threephase cognitive process of “breakdown, resolution, and coherence.” His phases areparallel to processes of transition and perspective transformation, beginning withdisruption and culture shock. This culminates in what he calls “coherence,”encompassing not only an internal integration of different cultural meaningsystems, but a new set of social relationships. An ethnographer strives to develop asense of agency within the new environment, and strategically chooses appropriateroles and social identities:As my comprehension of the “other” began to emerge, so did mycomprehension of self, and I was eventually able to develop concretestrategies for field adjustment and a successful research venture.(Whitehead, 1986, p. 227)Though Mira wasn’t familiar with ethnographic methods, she used the sameapproach for learning culture. Like an anthropologist, Mira decided on the role andidentity she would assume in Canadian society, and maintained a peripheral position.132Most ethnographers are voluntary sojourners, transients who maintain a separateidentity and distance themselves from the community they study in order to maintaina degree of objectivity in their analysis. Mira used the same strategy, making only atentative commitment to living in Canada. Her life in Canada could be considered apersonal research project, motivated primarily by her refugee status and search foran alternative home. A secondary motivation may have been personal growth,something which Mira valued highly.This intersection of ethnographic research with migrant culture learning haspractical implications for both anthropology and adult education. Anthropologistshave been accused of ignoring the potential of deep culture learning in their ownwork (Hoffman, 1989). Those who support the idea of exploring the cognitive worldof others through experiential learning (Shweder, 1991) can learn about the methodand the process from this life history. Mira’s descriptions of merging andstorytelling for learning about Canada are paralleled by our research process, whichmade use of merging and storytelling for creating and interpreting the life history.Merging and storytellingMerging was important throughout the life history process, not just for myrelationship with Mira, but for analyzing her story and for reading the theoreticalliterature. It was part of a hermeneutic process which functioned at a deep holisticlevel of interpretation. Merging involved identification: putting myself in another’splace, so as to understand and share the other’s thoughts, feelings, problems, etc.(Neufeldt & Guralnik, 1988). Each time I read a relevant theoretical article, I wouldlearn about it by identifying with that approach for a time, using it to review andinterpret Mira’s story, and the other theoretical frameworks. If it made some sense, Iwould integrate it into a broader perspective for understanding. Sometimes I did thatthrough a conscious reflective process, which was both internal and socially133situated. At other times, after a break of a few days or months, I would return to atheory or a phrase of Mira’s that had seemed confusing or contradictory and besurprised to find that it suddenly made sense in relation to other frameworks.During the research interviews, I experienced a transformation of my ownmeaning perspectives through our merging and Mira’s storytelling. When Miradescribed the intimacy of relationships within her family during our first formalinterview, I was shocked by the familiar in something I had assumed would bestrange. It gave me a jarring sense of anxiety which struck very deeply, my ownculture shock. I had suddenly gained a critical insight into my own family life! Thatmoment, and later “shocks” of recognition as I listened to her descriptions, led me todevelop a different yet satisfying way of interpreting my lifelong interactions withmy own family, something that I had never before been able to explain to myCanadian friends. It was a kind of echo to Mira’s changing understanding of family:I confronted the longstanding contradictions in my life, between the Canadianindividualism of my peers, and the familistic expectations of my home environment.Within this new perspective, I have found myself coping more easily with my ownambivalence and the dual expectations of family relationships.Stories are my starting and ending point, and have shaped every aspect of thisresearch. We began with Mira’s oral narrative, her means of defining her self andher way of teaching others like me. This stage of our process is completed with theproduction of this thesis text, a written narrative of my own which has been shapedto teach others about what and how I have learned. By transforming Mira’s storyinto this text, Mira and I hope that it will become meaningful to a different, broaderaudience.-134The meaning of Mira’s lifeTheoretical implicationsThere are some brute facts about the world of the twentieth century thatany ethnography must confront. Central among these facts is the changingsocial, territorial, and cultural reproduction of group identity. As groupsmigrate, regroup in new locations, reconstruct their histories. . . the ethnoin ethnography takes on a slippery, nonlocalized quality, to which thedescriptive practices of anthropology will have to respond. . . insofar asgroups are no longer tightly territorialized, spatially bounded, historicallyunselfconscious, or culturally homogeneous. We have fewer cultures in theworld and more “internal debates.” (Appadurai, 1991, p. 192)The dynamic nature of contemporary social and cultural systems complicates thestudy of transition processes, while at the same time it underscores the need for furtherstudy. Mira’s life history illustrates the richness of a migrant’s story for exploring therelationship between culture and learning, and for refining existing theory. But howrelevant are insights gained from one person’s life history for other individuals andgroups? Are Mira’s experiences peculiar to her alone, or are they comparable to othermigrants’?There are many arguments against generalizing from one individual’s experience.Considering refugees and immigrants from a single region or country as homogeneousdenies the diversity of communities, and the concept of individual agency (Meleis,Lipson, & Paul, 1992). But this life history is a significant departure from most studiesof adult migrants, which focus on adaptation and adjustment to North American life(Freeman, 1989). Instead of suggesting that Mira’s life history is typical, or ideal, I haverelated it to broad social, cultural, and historical processes using existing theoreticalframeworks from several disciplines. Mira’s strategies have broad relevance forunderstanding international migrants, and suggest alternative directions for migranteducation.135There are a few other empirical studies of immigrant groups which support thisapproach. Similar patterns of behaviour have been described for west and central Asianimmigrants to North America (Suleiman & Abu-Laban, 1989). Mira’s transitionstrategies correspond to “cultural eclecticism”, one of four patterns described by Hoffman(1988) among Iranian immigrants in America. Hoffman called it the most powerfulstrategy, because it allowed for behavioural adaptation without internal conflict orconfusion. Gibson (1988) described a similar pattern among Punjabi Sikh immigrants inrural California, in which American norms and institutional standards wereaccommodated in order to reduce conflict while ethnic identity is maintained. Shecalled this strategy, which is predominant in the Sikh community, “accommodation andacculturation without assimilation” (p. 24).The implications of the culture learning process explored in this life history mayextend even further. Spindler and Spindler (1989) suggest that social change withinsocieties triggers personal transition processes similar to those of international migrants.Their description of “constructive marginality” among First Nations peoples bears astrong resemblance to Mira’ s strategy of marginal participation.136Directions for further researchThe study of migrant transition problematizes culture, learning, and identity.The intersections between theories of transition, agency, legitimate peripheralparticipation, and transformative learning provide fertile ground for research andtheory development in adult education. They raise many questions for further study:Is culture learning always transformative? Must a transition process be traumatic, toeffect profound changes in meaning perspectives? Is it possible to facilitate thediscovery of cultural meaning systems so that they will have the cognitive andemotional salience necessary for personal development? The detailed emicdescription of Mira’s learning process suggests that reflection can be critical to amigrant’s transformative learning. Research in merging and storytelling may befruitful not only for a better understanding of reflection and praxis, but forapplication in educational practice.The nature of the life history process has limited this inquiry to Mira’sconscious interpretations at this point in time. Although this life history stopsabruptly at a particular point Mira’s transition, the process continues. Was Mira’spresent integration a temporary phase in her culture learning, to be followed by adifferent mode of identification with and participation in Canadian society? Otherstudies and methods must be used to identify dimensions of the transition process thatMira may not have been aware of. Taylor (1992), for example, suggests that somebehaviour changes are related to non-reflective learning; and Kondo (1990) suggeststhat people in a marginal position can play a critical role in the functioning of asociety.Relevance for educational practiceMira’s story reveals an extraordinary courage and strength. It testifies to theresilience of the human spirit, and is a tribute to a woman who has maintained a137lifelong commitment to personal growth despite the traumas of civil war andmigration. Mira has experienced social change throughout her life as the veryfabric of Lebanese society and culture has undergone dramatic changes in the lastcentury, accelerated by modernization and war. Though Mira was raised in a smallmountain village, she grew up to become a middle class professional, critical ofcertain aspects and sectors of her society. When she migrated to Canada, she wasmoving between complex modern societies in which she could continue hercommitment to her profession and to her core values.Mira never participated in education designed for immigrants when shearrived in Canada, but her experiences do suggest ideas for policy and practice. Mostimmigrant education serves a remedial function, providing cultural knowledge,particularly language, which adult immigrants and refugees ‘missed’ during theirchildhood years (Briscoe & Ross, 1989; Mastai, 1981). Mira’s story suggests thatperspective transformation through reflection was a critical element in heremotional and intellectual transition, and belongs on the agenda for immigrant andrefugee education. By developing a more comprehensive and relativistic world viewwhich acknowledges and integrates alternative cultural meaning systems,individuals may be better prepared to create their own strategies for living inCanada, and to cope with further transitions in their lives.Transition theory suggests that there may be teachable moments linked withculture shock when a migrant comes to question existing assumptions and to revisemeaning schemes. The most appropriate moment for certain educationalinterventions may not be immediately on arrival in Canada, but after some time haspassed, when minor incidents of culture shock have accumulated, or there is a majorphase of disruption. Reflections on self, transition, and culture might be encouragedthrough storytelling and opportunities for meaningful dialogue and identification138with others. Identity management is another critical issue for migrants and theirtransition strategies, and this could also be addressed through storytelling strategies.The most important message is peaceDuring our last life history interview, Mira emphasized what she felt were thecritical messages of this life history. We each had many motives for participating inthe research. Mira and I shared the desire to dispel popular myths about Lebaneseand Arabs, to destigmatize people with whom we share a common heritage. For Mira,this project presented another important opportunity to bear witness to the tragedieswhich have befallen her family and her country, and to give testimony in support ofher commitments for peace and against destructive political interference andethnocentrism.Mira: The most important message is peace, especially in the countrieswhere there are lot of people who are helpless. Who are weak. Who areoppressed. That’s not fair, at all. Being in North America, one of themost civilized countries in the world, yes, we can do something.Definitely we can do something. I was so upset when Mulroney sent thetroops to the Middle East [in 1992]. They always make fun about theArabs, and the table cloth they have on their heads, and about the waythey walk, with a lot of women behind them. They always make fun ofthe Arabs. And now they want to defend the Arabs, and the Kuwaitis?So if you want to do something, I think we should focus on this. That’swhat I want everybody to do, not only the powerful and the rich shouldbe protected. That’s not fair.I told them, I don’t want to be a refugee. I’m very proud to beCanadian. But instead of accepting people here as political refugees,139why don’t you help them to have peace in their countries? Canada isbuilt by immigrants, or refugees, and this is very healthy to have morepeople coming to this country. But not people who are leaving theircountries because they were persecuted there. See? They should helppeople, who have to leave their countries. Because look at all thesuffering we’re going through here. That’s not fair.Lyn: I think that’s a message that I could put in, it can be part of theconclusion, because I wanted to conclude the conversation by sayingwhat is important about this. Is that why you were asking me who wasgoing to be reading this thesis?Mira: Yes, because North Americans means Americans and Canadians,right? And the Americans were there. What happened, what did theydo to help us? If they wanted to stop the fighting, and the war inLebanon, if they really meant it, they could have done it. The same waythey did it for Kuwait. You can’t separate the political situation in acountry from the social and psychological and economic aspect.Because one of them is connected to another, in one way or another.Lyn: So, if we were writing this for people in Lebanon, what would bethe important thing to say? What do they need to hear?Mira: Good. The Lebanese need to be more aware, and more mature,The Lebanese now, they have to realize that whether Moslem orChristian, leftist or rightist, that Lebanon is built by Lebanese.Regardless of religion, or political party, or whatever. They expected alot from the West, the Americans, or Israel, but all that they got isdestruction. Because every country was looking for its own interest inLebanon, and they used the Lebanese in a very cheap way. So it’s timefor the Lebanese now, not to forget about the past, to learn from the140past. And to accept the fact that Lebanon is for both, Moslems andChristians, leftists and rightists, and it’s time to depend on themselves.Lyn: I find myself thinking about you as a person, and wondering ifthe kinds of things you went through would actually be helpful forLebanon--learning about yourself, and your past, and about change?Mira: Mmhmm. It’s very helpful, yes. It will be very helpful for mycountry, because I have this balance. Because now if you talk to aperson who was fighting with the Phalangist, with the very fanaticChristians, you know, he still believes that you can live withoutMoslems. And vice versa. If you talk to the Moslems, the very fanaticMoslems, very few people still have this balance.Our problem, in Lebanon, this is in general, but our religiousleaders, they are very bad. For example, Shadia was telling me aboutwhat a sheikh used to tell them: “If you are not a Moslem, you can’t go toheaven.” And, so, if you are a Moslem, and living in a Moslem village,and you only deal, and talk, and socialize with Moslems, it will fossilize,here in your head, that if you are Moslem you’ll go to heaven andeverybody else goes to hell.Lyn: This is why I wonder, if Mezirow’s theory might be useful. Hesuggests that all of us are limited by things we take for granted, that wejust grow up and accept, without thinking. That “Moslems are the best,”or “Christians are the best.” He wants to build a way of educatingpeople, so that they can realize what they’re taking for granted, andchange themselves, without having to switch countries.Mira: How can adults accept things that they don’t know about? Howcan I say that Hindus are very good, and I’m impressed by theirreligion, and I respect them a lot, if I don’t know about them? You141know, you can read, there are tons of books you can read in the library,about the Hindus, the Sikhs, and the Amish, but it’s not like when youlive with the people, it’s very theoretical. It’s different from when youlive with the people.Lyn: Still, I think that your story, which has been useful for me, canbe useful for more people. It can help people who are working withimmigrants and refugees, it can help people who don’t understandpeople of different cultures. It can help in a lot of ways, because I thinkthat what you are doing, is you are reflecting on things, and learningfrom them, and growing. I think that other people could learn fromthat, it’s like a different way of thinking.Mira: Yeah, I think you are right. Because Canada is built by refugeeslike me. Right? Your ancestors were one. Maybe your grandmothergrew up, and went through the same thing I went through. Maybe alittle bit more, a little bit less.There is no final stopLyn: When you think about going back to Lebanon now, somethingthat you told me before was that you were thinking about teachingthere. Do you still think about doing that?Mira: Yeah, I’d like to try, see how it is after this civil war has ended.miss that, a lot. I wanted to do something there. Yet now, to me,Vancouver is like home. If I go back to Lebanon, I will have to comeback, you know. I feel that I have roots now, here. With my passport, ifI get my passport, and because I’m a landed immigrant, I don’t have togo through the hassles and things I had to go through before to get a142visa. So, anytime I decide to come back, it’s easy. We paid a very highprice for this. So, I’d like to be between here and there.The last time Mira and I met, she spoke at length about how much hadhappened since the life history interviews. They had taken place during a calm andstable time in her life, what the transition theorists call a “quiescent” period of calmand resolution. Since then a few dramatic events and many minor ones have alteredMira’s lifestyle, and she believes her outlook has changed as well. A week after wemet, Mira flew to Lebanon for a six month visit. She was going to see how thecountry had changed, to assess whether she wanted to return there to live. She hasacquired her Canadian citizenship, and instead of quitting her job in Canada, Miratook a leave of absence so that she has the option of returning. Though Mira still hasstrong feelings about maintaining her Lebanese identity, her feelings about herposition in Canada are changing.Mira: Time is very important, Lynette. It helps a lot, not to change, butto get used to things. And it creates this kind of intimacy, between youand the place where you live, and you start to have roots.For me, this life history has been a slowly evolving process of learning andtransformation, one which has focussed on Mira’s story but which resonated in myown life. Mira and I have both used stories as a medium for reflection, for learning,and for teaching. Mira “learned culture,” developing new meaning perspectives anda liberating sense of agency by listening to and identifying with her coworkers’stories. 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(1992). Interviewing: Two sides of the story. Oualitative studiesin education. 5(2), 135-145.153APPENDIX AA SAMPLE OF ORIGINAL TEXTThe following text is an excerpt from a typed transcript, the original text of aninterview held June 3, 1993.Mira: Well--my home town, is a town now, it’s not a village any more.Because it’s about 8,000. .Lyn: Let’s talk about it then. What it was like, when you were a child.Mira: Yeah. It was--urn--very nice, small village, not that far from thesea, the Mediterranean, it’s only seven minutes by car, and it’s 350metres above sea level. So it’s scattered on three hills. And. .But--people like my parents, they were either--they used to work, wehave factories? Cement factories?Lyn: Oh.Mira: It’s the biggest factory, I think, in the Middle East. And myfather used to work there.Lyn: Oh, how interesting.Mira: He was employed. Yeah. And we also have--you know, the olivetrees, orchards? Because we--you know, we sell--we export the olives,and olive oil, to-- Arab countries. And other places. Yes. And soap, too.And--that’s how people, those who are not employed, or who are notworking in Beirut, some of them--some of the people, especially men,they used to go to Beirut, to work in the factories.Lyn: Every day, or ?154Mira: No. They lived there. And they’d come back on the weekend.Even some of the women. My mother’s friends, some of her friends, thiswas a long time ago, they go with their brothers, or with their relatives,they rent an apartment in Beirut, and they come back on the weekend,or every two weeks. But now it’s different, because my generation, andthe generation before--after we finished our education, and most ofthem became--engineers, the men, and the girls, either nurses orteachers. And--they have also doctors, lawyers, now most of them areprofessionals. So--just before the civil war, maybe twenty years ago?Everything has changed in the village, we started to see the beautifulhouses, new houses, and--and cars, and--the school, they built a newschool in our village. We used to have a very old school, this publicschool, the one that we have, and--all the village, everybody in all thefamilies in the village, they became well-off-Lyn: What a change-Mira: Because after, as I told you, those--who were working in the Gulf,Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, used to make a lot of money. And it’s veryclose to Lebanon, so they used to come at--two or three times a year, toLebanon, so they send back to Lebanon, and they build. Those who havesmall houses, they build bigger houses, and--they buy new cars, theyinvest the money in different thingsLyn: Really.Mira: Yeah. And you can see it--so most of the money, most of thethings that we have now in Lebanon, is from outside. Either NorthAmerica or the Gulf. And that’s what happened to us, because two of mybrothers, one of them was in the U.S., the other was in the Gulf. InSaudi Arabia, and they were helping my dad, and-- that’s what, how we155got to go to good schools in Lebanon, and to the university. . . . And it’snot only us, not only our family. Everybody. So that’s why now, if yougo to my village, you--you can, you never--everybody is--I can say, isrich! And those who are not rich, maybe they have somebody in thefamily, or relatives, who can--who help them.Lyn: Very interesting.Mira: Well--lot of people had to leave, during the civil war. But nowthey started to go back. And--but, now, there are so many families whoare in Boston, and Australia, and I don’t think they will come back,because they have been there for a long time.The following, which appears in Chapter Three (pp. 47-48), is the edited version ofthe text which was reviewed and approved by Mira during our last formal interview:Mira: My home is a town now, it’s not a village any more. Because it’sabout 8,000 people.Lyn: Let’s talk about what it was like when you were a childMira: It was very nice, a small village, not that far from theMediterranean, it’s only a few minutes by car, and it’s 350 metres abovesea level. It’s scattered on three hills.People like my parents, they used to work. We have factories, acement factory. It’s the biggest factory, I think, in the middle east. Andmy father used to work there. And we also have olive trees. We exportthe olives, and olive oil to Arab countries and other places. And soap,too. And some of the people, especially men, they used to go to Beirut, towork in the factories.156They’d come back on the weekend. Even some of the women,some of my mother’s friends, this was a long time ago, they’d go withtheir brothers, or with their relatives. They’d rent an apartment inBeirut, and they’d come back on the weekend, or every two weeks. Butnow it’s different, because in my generation, and the generationbefore, after we finished our education, most of the men becameengineers, and the girls either nurses or teachers. And also doctors,lawyers, now most of them are professionals. So just before the civilwar, maybe twenty years ago, everything has changed in the village.We started to see the beautiful new houses and cars, and they built a newschool in our village.All the village, everybody in all the families in the village, theybecame well-off. Because those who were working in the Gulf, SaudiArabia and Kuwait, used to make a lot of money. So they send back toLebanon, and they build. Those who have small houses, they buildbigger houses, and they buy new cars, they invest the money indifferent things. And you can see it. Most of the money, most of thethings that we have now in Lebanon, is from outside, Either NorthAmerica or the Gulf. And that’s what happened to us, because two of mybrothers, one of them was in the U.S., the other was in the Gulf. InSaudi Arabia, and they were helping my dad. That’s how we got to go togood schools in Lebanon, and to the university.And it’s not only us, not only our family. Everybody. So that’swhy now, if you go to my town, everybody is rich! And those who arenot rich, maybe they have somebody in the family, or relatives, whocan help them. A lot of people had to leave, during the civil war. Nowthey have started to go back. But there are so many families who are in157Boston, and Australia, and I don’t think they will come back, becausethey have been there for a long time.


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