“Where I live; Where they live”

For nearly all of my adolescent life, I have moved around from state to state due to my father’s job in the USMC. I was born in California, but later moved to Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, before finally settling in New Hampshire. I would undoubtable refer to myself as an American, but also a resident of New Hampshire, ignoring the various other states as NH is the location where I lived the longest, and therefore connect with the most. In all areas I’ve lived, English is the most spoken language, though throughout my life I have encounter people who speak Spanish, French, and even a community of Polish immigrants and their families where Polish remains the first language taught. Despite these experiences, there is no official language in the United States, but English remains the most widely spoken and outside of a few regions of the country, it is necessary to speak in order get by. The United States and its people can be characterized by a strong sense of individualism, which explains the lack of an official language or even an official religion. Christianity has, and continues to be, the largest religion in the US, just as English has remained the largest language, but like language, there exists a wide range of faiths practiced across the country. Even in Christianity, you will find Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Evangelicals, and Protestants, with other present faiths including Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and many, many more.

There are few similarities to draw between where I grew up and, say, someone from Syria would live today. Unlike the US, Syria has an official language, Arabic, which is the most common, but like the US, many people speak other languages, including Kurdish, Turkish, Aramaic, Armenian, and many more. Like the US, many different ethnicities exist here, the largest being Arabs, followed by Kurds, and many other much smaller minority groups. Another similarity culturally to the US is the lack of any state religion, but Islam remains far and beyond the largest practiced faith, with denominations of Christianity making up a sizable portion of the population as well. Unlike the relative safety I have experienced in the United States for my whole life, the lives of Syrians have been defined for over a decade by the violent Syrian Civil War since its outbreak in 2011. In New Hampshire, I experience a full range of seasons, with hot, humid summers and winters with dozens of inches of snow each month and temperatures often failing to rise above 10° F (-12° C) at the peak of the day. The North of Syria experiences a somewhat Mediterranean climate zone, a drastically different environment to that which I face. For that reason, most of the West of the country, in that temperate zone with fertile lands from the rivers which flow through. To the East, however, lies a dessert which covers over half of the country, creating a completely alien environment to me.

The region I live in has very few similarities to Syria culturally, environmentally, and linguistically, but these admittedly zoomed out looks often do not paint the full picture. Earlier, I described a community I lived near to which culturally was more similar to Poland than to me, whose story would not be reflected in the wider view of the United States as a whole. Although there seems to be no true link between where I live and where they live, and deeper look into the lives of individuals may prove to tell a very different story than what I as an observer thousands of miles away was able to pick out.

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