Celebrating our Asian diversity…
Mohammad Al Jamous, Syria
Tell us about yourself
I am from Syria and have been in Whistler for about 2.5 years. I came to Canada seeking a better opportunity and to explore this beautiful country. It has been great, got more into skiing and mountain biking and I love it. Right now, I have 2 jobs where I am working as a tour guide for Ziptrek Ecotours and another job with Whistler Multicultural Society helping with outreach and marketing.
How is Canadian culture/life different from your home country?
The food is definitely different. There are not many options for Eastern food in Whistler, so I try my best to make food at home (for example, I make my own hummus, baba ganoush and it tastes very good). However it’s hard to get some ingredients in Whistler. Sometimes I need to travel to Vancouver to get it. Weather is different, in Syria it is dry and hot in summer, rain and cold in winter. It does not snow as much as in Whistler, but the snow here is amazing because I love skiing!
A lot of system, procedures are pretty similar but there are some differences. . Like driving, there are a lot of curvy mountain roads. More uphill and downhill roads. Education, health systems are different.
Which parts of your home culture do you try to keep (in Canada), and why?
Music (Jamous said it immediately)! I always listen to some Arabic music in the morning (especially Fairouz), music is like time travel, you cannot take your body to a certain place but definitely you can take your soul somewhere else, and I think music helps with that!
There has been a significant increase of hate crimes against Asian in Canada since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. How has that affected you personally?
Frist all, when we talk about Asian, most people will think of China, Japan or Korea. Not many people know that Syria is also part of Asia. Because of how I look people think I am from South America or somewhere in Europe, but I am not. I think hearing about it and watching the news, reading reports, makes you feel upset, you may start to question, am I going to be the next person to encounter a hate crime?
It definitely makes people feel unsafe and uncomfortable and no one should ever experience something like that because we are all the same. But definitely racism is like a disease hard to get rid of. I hope that the people who have some hate in their life replace it with love because everyone deserves to feel safe and welcome.
Why is it important to recognize/celebrate Asian Heritage Month? This year?
Yes, it’s important especially for this year, due to the pandemic and the increase of hate crimes against Asians. We can use this opportunity to showcase the cultures, food, and arts to other regions. This event can create a lot of activities and diversity to our community. Immigrants and Asian Canadian will feel more welcome and that will create more harmony in the society (Canada).