Aya Mhana knows the meaning of living in a developed country such as Canada and the meaning of living on the edge of the danger in Syria. She also knows the relative importance of shoes in such different countries. For Aya, life is a weird journey through contrasting lifestyles and emotions.
Somewhere on this planet, there are people in empty basements hiding from harm and slaughter, facing darkness and loneliness, holding their breath just to save the little amount of air they have. They go through this just because they were born in a miserable spot on the earth.
Somewhere else, there are people discussing the best perfume for a fancy party and which shoes to wear with it. People suffer to look as beautiful as they can. They pay to put scars on their bodies. They distort their feet by wearing tiny shoes to appear more attractive.
This is the amazing weird experience of life. Where there are opposite values and opposite concepts about what is the best way for a human to live.
Feet are not what helps us to achieve our dreams: we walk towards those with our minds.
But here in Canada, I can say, yes, I notice my shoes. My ranger boots, which I got second-hand in Syria, are planting my roots in this new soil. And now I can see how they extended roots for me in Syria and in the empty and sad places that I landed in, places like the countryside of Damascus where residents had to leave to survive, places that were just rubble when the residents returned. These boots also planted my roots in crowded historical structures, like the Al Hamidiya souq in Damascus, a street that has witnessed thousands of steps through history.
My boots were good company, and they never complained about my heavy thoughts, which I carry and which inspire me to change the human trail.
They know about the punch of broken hearts during the long term of bleeding in Syria after the war started. In these boots, I worked with refugee families, visited their camps and assisted with their needs, like the basic food to eat, sheets to stay warm, and clothes. Those people never thought about which shoes they should wear, but only how to protect their kids from the sudden death that happened to so many others.
This is life where I was born – in Swaida, Syria, that small city close to Damascus. It has black rocks, but its people have white hearts. I never imagined my country would endure a civil war for more than eight years.
I never imagined the olive trees would lose their leaves because of thousands of guns threatening their peace or that the tasty apples would lose the touch of the farmer who stopped looking after them because there was an army in his field. In Syria, produce has memory. It carries the taste of the workers’ sweat and the soil, in contrast to Canada, where we buy our food without knowing who grew it or where it is from.
I came to Canada in 2015 wearing my ranger boots, struggling to ground myself and my cold feet. I couldn’t even afford socks. I am one of the thousands who went through the same experience. We do not consider ourselves victims, but heroes, changing our destinies. We can build a life here and help make this multicultural place a peaceful mosaic.
This is what I am doing in my boots, my terrific mates. I’m breathing here through my music. Although I have broken English, I speak music and get understood. And I’m adding adorable creatures to this universe, changing its demography by being a mom to two-year-old Enya, expressing my individualism through pregnancy and motherhood. There are millions of moms in this world, but each one is unique.
With all of that, I’m becoming more and more Canadian but at the same time absolutely not less Syrian.
AYA MHANA’s work as an influencer and commitment throughout her music career is paying off. She won an award for her musical talent and is now a resident artist at her local public library in Calgary. She was nominated for the 2020 YYC Music Awards. Although music is still her first love, she works as a digital marketer and has recently started her own company. She is always eager to learn and overcomes any challenge to achieve her goals.