TIME World

This Stunning Drone Footage Will Convince You Antarctica’s the Most Gorgeous Place on Earth

Precious few people ever get the chance to visit Antarctica, so allow this stunning eight-minute video to provide you with a rare glimpse of the remote region.

Swedish filmmaker Kalle Ljung and his crew shot this drone footage during a 20-day trip to Antarctica this past December/January. “We started from Ushuaia in Argentina and went to Port Williams in Chile, rounded Cape Horn and crossed the Drake Passage towards the Melchior Islands in Antarctica,” Ljung explains in the video description.

The resulting video is a breathtaking look at the region’s natural beauty. It captures an overwhelming feeling of isolation and stillness — but also captures some rare moments full of life, like a gently moving fishing boat and a family of whales.

We recommend watching this video in full-screen mode, and with the volume turned up, because it also features some very soothing music.

Read next: Antarctica May Have Just Set a Record for Its Hottest Day Ever

TIME Nepal

These Are the 5 Facts That Explain Nepal’s Devastating Earthquake

Destroyed villages sit on mountain tops near the epicenter of Saturday's massive earthquake, in the Gorkha District of Nepal on April 29, 2015.
Wally Santana—AP Destroyed villages sit on mountain tops near the epicenter of the massive earthquake, in the Gorkha District of Nepal on April 29, 2015.

The 7.8 magnitude earthquake will hamper Nepal for years

The earthquake that ravaged Nepal, killing at least 5,000 people, has revealed the best and worst both in the Himalayan nation and those rushing to its aid. These 5 facts explain what’s shaping the domestic and international responses to the 7.8 magnitude earthquake, and where Nepal goes from here.

1. Quick to aid

Aid pledges are pouring in: $10 million from the US, $7.6 million from the UK, and $3.9 million from Australia, among others. But as welcome as this influx of funds is, the sad reality is that Nepal is ill-equipped to make full use of these resources. That is why countries are lining up to donate technical expertise via disaster response teams as well. China has sent a 62-member search-and-rescue team to help the recovery effort. Israel has sent 260 rescue experts in addition to a 200-person strong medical team, while Japan has sent another 70 people as part of a disaster relief team. The United Nations, in addition to releasing $15 million from its central emergency-response fund, is busy trying to coordinate international efforts to maximize their effectiveness.

(TIME, Quartz, Wall Street Journal)

2. A weak base

Nepal’s infrastructure was critically feeble even before disaster struck. With per capita GDP less than $700 a year, many Nepalese build their own houses without oversight from trained engineers. Nepal tried to institute a building code in 1994 following another earthquake that claimed the lives of 700 people, but it turned out to be essentially unenforceable. To make matters worse, a shortage of paved roads in the country means that assistance can’t reach remote regions where it’s needed most. Local authorities are simply overwhelmed, as is Nepal’s sole international airport in Kathmandu. Planes filled with blankets, food and medicine are idling on tarmacs because there are not enough terminals available.

(TIME, Washington Post, TIME)

3. Half a year’s output gone?

The economic cost of the earthquake is estimated to be anywhere between $1 billion to $10 billion, for a country with an annual GDP of approximately $20 billion. The economic impact will be lasting. Tourism is crucial to the Nepalese economy, accounting for about 8 percent of the total economy and employing more than a million people. Mount Everest, a dangerous destination under the best of circumstances, is the heart of that industry. The earthquake this past weekend triggered an avalanche that took the lives of at least 17 climbers, and as many as 200 people are still stranded on the mountain.

(Quartz, Deutsche Welle, Wall Street Journal, The Independent)

4. Internal political barriers

Nepal’s domestic politics are not helping. Nepal’s 1996-2006 civil war claimed the lives of at least 12,000 Nepalese, and the country’s political system has never really recovered. The government that stood before the quake was woefully ill-prepared to deal with a disaster of such scale. There have been no elections at the district, village or municipal level for nearly 20 years, and the committees in charge of local councils are not organized enough to deal with the difficult task of coordinating emergency assistance. Things are not much better at the national level, where Kathmandu has seen nine prime ministers in eight years.

(Washington Post, New York Times, TIME)

5. A competition for influence

Not all foreign aid is altruistic, and some countries never miss an opportunity to capitalize on tragedy. For years, Nepal has been an object of competition between India and China. For India, Nepal has been a useful buffer state between itself and China ever since Beijing gained control over Tibet. Relative to China, India and Nepal are much closer linguistically and culturally. Nepalese soldiers train in India, and New Delhi is a main weapons supplier to Nepal. For China, Nepal is an important component of its “New Silk Road” plan to link Asia with Europe, and offers a useful ally against Tibetan independence. China was already Nepal’s biggest foreign investor as of 2014. While in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake both Asian powers are providing significant assistance, it’s in the reconstruction phase where the true competition between the two will emerge. Pay particular attention to the race to build hydroelectric power plants: both Beijing and New Delhi have been positioning themselves to take advantage of Nepal’s 6,000 rivers to feed their respective energy needs.

(Quartz, BBC, TIME)

TIME World

U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Goes Blonde in Solidarity With Spokeswoman Called ‘Dumb Blonde’

Posted photo of himself with blonde hair with the caption "we're all blonde"

The U.S. Ambassador to Turkey went blonde on Instagram Thursday after the mayor of Ankara ridiculed American spokeswoman Marie Harf as a “dumb blonde.”

Ambassador John Bass posted this photo to Instagram Thursday, apparently using Photoshop to color his dark hair blonde (it doesn’t appear to be hair dye, but it’s not immediately clear) along with the caption “we’re all blonde.”

#ABD'li diplomatlar: hepimiz #sarışınız. #American diplomats: we're all blonde.

A photo posted by John Bass (@amerikanbuyukelcisi) on

It was an apparent retort to now-deleted tweets posted Wednesday by Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek, who referred to Harf as a “blonde girl” as he called her out for previous criticism of Turkish police crackdowns on public protests in 2013. He said that criticism is now hypocritical in light of the American police response to the protests in Baltimore. Gokcek tweeted a picture of Harf’s face next to a headline that said, “Where are you, dumb blonde, who said Turkish police used disproportionate force?” and added a comment in English that said, “come on blonde, answer now.”

Harf declined to comment on the Twitter insults, telling reporters she wouldn’t “dignify them with a response.”

TIME pacific rim

How the U.S. Can Counter China in Asia

President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting with leaders from the Trans-Pacific Partnership at the US Embassy in Beijing on Nov. 10, 2014 in Beijing. From left: US Trade Representative Mike Froman, Obama, and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting with leaders from the Trans-Pacific Partnership at the US Embassy in Beijing on Nov. 10, 2014 in Beijing. From left: US Trade Representative Mike Froman, Obama, and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership offers a new solution

A historic debate over trade is now heating up in Washington. President Barack Obama hopes to persuade Congress to grant him fast-track trade authority to help complete negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive multilateral deal involving the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim countries. The talks include nations on both sides of the Pacific, ranging from Japan to Australia to Peru. Together with the U.S., the group represents a third of world trade and 40% of global GDP.

Given those numbers, the political stakes are high, and emotions are running hot on both sides. Pro-business advocates who favor TPP say it will generate economic gains worth hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade by reducing barriers to trade and investment. Projected GDP growth in Japan and Singapore for 2025 would be nearly 2% higher with the deal than without it. Malaysia’s GDP might rise by more than 5%; Vietnam’s, possibly more than 10%.

TPP isn’t expected to move U.S. GDP much, but the White House insists the deal will boost exports by 4.39% over 2025 forecasts. Exports create the kinds of middle-class jobs that drive longer-term growth and reduce income inequality. TPP would also give the U.S. a firmer commercial foothold in the world’s most economically dynamic region, and it could aid U.S. efforts to negotiate future diplomatic agreements in Asia–even with China, which pointedly isn’t a part of the deal.

Those who oppose TPP–such as labor unions, human-rights groups and environmental organizations–warn that details of the agreement have been negotiated almost entirely in secret. They recall the tumultuous negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the early 1990s, and the confident predictions–which detractors believe went unfulfilled–that the pact would create millions of new jobs.

Both sides miss a critical point: unlike NAFTA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is much more than just a trade deal. It is the foundation for an intelligent reorientation of U.S. foreign policy, one that will help revitalize the entire global economy and reinforce security ties with Asian countries fearful of China’s growing regional dominance. It remains the centerpiece of President Obama’s long-delayed “pivot to Asia,” a smart plan that could extend American influence in East and Southeast Asia for many years to come.

That pivot is overdue. China’s rise has challenged the U.S. and its economy by promoting a system of state capitalism that gives political officials a powerful role in directing market activity. By using state-owned companies, state-run banks and loyal firms to achieve political goals, China has tilted the commercial playing field away from foreign companies and the U.S.

TPP can help counter the growth of Chinese-style state capitalism in Asia in much the same way that potential European Union membership once encouraged reform in former communist nations. Countries like Poland and Estonia learned to abide by E.U. rules that advantage private-sector competition and liberalized labor, trade and investment standards.

The deal would provide a landmark win for free markets, the rule of law and Western labor and environmental standards while inviting Beijing’s neighbors to hedge their bets on China by also strengthening investment ties with the U.S. and other TPP members. It would signal that America intends to remain in Asia as a stabilizer even as China becomes an ever more influential player.

And for President Obama, TPP would anchor the legacy of a leader who has often seemed adrift in global politics.

Foreign-affairs columnist Bremmer is the president of Eurasia Group, a political-risk consultancy


This appears in the May 11, 2015 issue of TIME.
TIME brazil

Over 150 Injured in Teacher-Police Clashes in Brazil

The city's mayor called the scene a "war without precedent"

(RIO DE JANEIRO) — Police unleashed waves of rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades on striking teachers in a southern Brazilian city Wednesday, leaving over 150 people injured.

The police said their action was ignited after a few of the protesters attempted to gain access to a state congressional building where legislators voted to make cuts to teachers’ pension plans, but the authorities’ action was widely criticized as heavy handed.

Live television images showed police firing the non-lethal weapons into tightly packed clusters of striking teachers after some protesters tried to break through police lines around the Parana state congressional building. Water cannons were also used to knock demonstrators back.

A statement on the Curitiba municipal government’s website said at least 150 people were treated for injuries suffered in the melee. The state security secretariat said about 20 police officers were hurt. It was not yet clear how severe any of the injuries were in the action, which appeared to end by nightfall.

Curitiba mayor Gustavo Fruet called the scene a “war without precedent” in the city and labeled it a “tragedy foretold” that he blamed on the security forces, who are under the responsibility of the state government.

The statement on the municipal government’s website said the city’s unarmed municipal guard security officers had formed what was described as a security corridor that allowed the injured striking teachers to reach the city hall building to receive first aid.

The Parana state government, which controls the security forces that clashed with the teachers, said in a statement on its website that it “deeply regrets the acts of confrontation, aggression and vandalism caused this afternoon by protesters” not associated with the striking teachers.

It said masked protesters used stones, fireworks, sticks and iron rods to try to break through the police lines to invade the state congressional building and that they’re “directly responsible for the confrontation.”

The statement added that seven people had been arrested for attacking policemen.

TIME Japan

Japan’s Shinzo Abe Is Talking in Washington — but He Needs to Talk to Asia

Shinzo Abe, Joe Biden, John Boehner
Carolyn Kaster—AP Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks before a joint meeting of Congress, April 29, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

The Japanese Prime Minister is a hit in Washington, but the reaction in China and South Korea will matter more

Shinzo Abe landed in the U.S. this week to great fanfare. Delivering the first-ever speech by a Japanese Prime Minister to a joint session of Congress, Abe proclaimed his resolve to “to take yet more responsibility for the peace and stability in the world.” Japan is busy trying to shape a new foreign policy course for itself after years of relative isolation on the geopolitical stage, a result of its pacifist constitution that dates back to its defeat and occupation by the U.S. after World War II.

Yet while much attention has been focused on Abe’s overture to Washington, just as critical to Japan’s re-emergence on the global stage is its relationship with its Asian neighbors — especially China and South Korea. How these two economic powers respond to a more assertive Japan will go a long way in determining how far Abe’s ambitions will take Tokyo.

After decades of hostility, Japan-China relations have markedly improved over the past six months. Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping have had productive encounters over the past two years, and have agreed to keep the lines of communication open going forward. China and Japan have both promised to use “dialogue and consultation” to deal with territorial disputes in the East China Sea and to work towards developing crisis mechanisms to avoid escalation.

While this might not sound like much, it is a significant achievement for two Asian heavyweights who have long been at each other’s throats. China’s rise casts a long shadow over all of Asia, but Japan has signaled a willingness to collaborate, boding well for the future. Japan’s dramatically improved relationship with India should also make China cautious in its dealings with Japan. There remain a host of issues to work out — particularly over Japan’s actions during World War II — but the China-Japan relationship now has the best trajectory of any bilateral relationship in the G20.

Yet for all the progress Japan has made with China, its relationship with South Korea — technically an ally — remains strained. The trilateral relationship among the U.S., Japan and South Korea is critical to American plans for the region, but historical disputes have threatened this framework. During World War II, South Korean women were forced to work for the occupying Japanese army as “comfort women” — a euphemism for sex slaves.

While Abe said in a speech at Harvard University on Monday that his “heart aches even now” for the victims, he has stopped short of officially recognizing and apologizing for the practice, as Seoul has demanded. Abe maintains that previous government apologies for Japanese wartime aggressions are sufficient. The South Koreans clearly disagree, with a Korean newspaper denouncing Abe as “the root of the problem” on its front page this week. With a sputtering economy and a government weakened by scandal — South Korea’s Prime Minister resigned on April 27 after bribery accusations — it is no wonder that Seoul is eyeing Japan’s aspirations warily.

The U.S. has tried to stay out of this charged dispute, and is taking a page from its playbook with another key American ally: Turkey. Out of concerns for Turkish feelings, President Obama has refrained from uttering the G word to describe the mass killing of Armenians in Turkey early in the last century. That caution — even though most historians accept that a genocide occurred — is calculated to avoid damaging a strategically important relationship.

In Japan, Abe has the political capital to apologize for historical aggression, but chooses not to. Japan is too important to Obama’s “pivot to Asia” strategy to risk estranging its leaders, especially with the critical Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal on the horizon.

If the pivot to Asia is to succeed and Japan’s new foreign policy ambitions are to be realized, America’s democratic allies in Asia need to find a way to move forward. Abe is talking in the U.S., but what matters is whether Asia is listening.

TIME World

This Young Woman Fighting Stage-4 Cancer Remains Positive and Inspirational

Nicole Jannis, 29, was diagnosed with breast cancer last year

Having a stage-4 cancer diagnosis at 29 might prompt some people to frantically attempt every far-flung journey on their bucket lists.

But Ontario resident Nicole Jannis – who is continuing to fight the disease – says her goals are much simpler.

“You really just want to sit at home with your husband and your dog and watch Netflix and do what’s normal to you. That’s what you crave,” Jannis told Yahoo! News’s Daily Brew in a story that detailed her fighting spirit and upbeat attitude in the face of cancer.

Jannis wasn’t surprised by her breast cancer diagnosis last year, as cancer runs in her family and she had been told she was BRCA positive at 27.

She always assumed it would be an inconvenience she would treat and beat.

“From the very beginning it was, ‘All right! I’m going to go through cancer, and this is going to be something I do and then be done with it and I’ll move on and have my babies and life carries on.’ I never ever wavered from that,” said Jannis.

To keep the mood light, she and her mom wore wacky outfits to her chemotherapy appointments. She also chronicled her cancer journey with a series of optimistic posts on her blog, Boobie and the Beast.

“I think that’s a huge testament of how I’ve been able to get through this past year, probably denial, but also pure optimism to the point where I was like ‘Oh, I’ll never die from this, that’s crazy,’ ” she said.

Staying on top of her treatment and feeling positive about her prognosis, she was taken aback in January when she was told the cancer had been deemed stage 4 and “terminal,” metastasizing to her bones and spreading to her liver and lungs.

Now faced with a new reality, Jannis admits it took some time to adjust.

“I remember throwing up right away ’cause that was just my go-to,” she said of learning the grim diagnosis. “It was just utter despair at first, like holy s—, let’s just give up.”

But after the shock wore off, Jannis’s upbeat spirit shined through again – and she is choosing to continue her treatment.

“You can only wallow for so long,” she said. “You should never be told you’re going to die, because I think if you believe that then you will.”

“I’m positive because I don’t know how not to be,” she added.

This article originally appeared on People.com.

TIME Autos

Audi Just Invented Fuel Made From CO₂ and Water

Water, CO2 and green power are the ingredients for Audi e-diesel
Audi Handout Water, CO2 and green power are the ingredients for Audi e-diesel

The next step for the project will be industrial scale production

An Audi research facility in Dresden, Germany, has managed to create the first batches of diesel fuel with a net-zero carbon footprint — made from carbon dioxide (CO2), water and renewable energy sources such as wind or solar power.

Germany’s government has welcomed the new technology, created in partnership with a greentech company called Sunfire. Johanna Wanka, Germany’s Federal Minister of Education and Research, even test drove the fuel and called it, “a crucial contribution to climate protection and the efficient use of resources,” according to an Audi press release.

Manufacturing involves first breaking down steam into hydrogen and oxygen through high-temperature electrolysis. The hydrogen then reacts with CO2 to create a liquid called “blue crude.” This is then refined to make the e-diesel.

A visual infographic released by Audi explains the steps in detail.

Visual representation of Audi e-diesel
Audi Handout

The next stage for the project will be industrial scale production because Sunfire only has capacity to produce 3,000 liters (792.5 gal.) of e-diesel in coming months.

“If we get the first sales order, we will be ready to commercialize our technology,” said Sunfire CTO Christian von Olshausen in a company press release.

Read next: This Is How Much OPEC Really Earns

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Nepal

6 Ways You Can Give to Nepal Earthquake Relief

Nepalese people rest in their makeshift shelter next to a road in Kathmandu on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal.
Prakash Singh—AFP/Getty Images Nepalese people rest in their makeshift shelter next to a road in Kathmandu on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal.

An impoverished country is struggling to cope

Massive financial support is going to be needed if impoverished Nepal is to rebuild from the devastating weekend earthquake that claimed more than 3,600 lives and flattened buildings, among them some of the country’s best known landmarks. Here’s how you can donate.

1. Save the Children

Save the Children is an international charity that has been in Nepal since 1976 and is therefore in an exceptional position to help after years of operating within the country, Save the Children spokesman Philip Carroll told TIME.

Carroll said that a response team of 24-emergency specialists, including a medical team, had been dispatched to assess humanitarian needs. He specifically emphasized the importance of distributing clean drinking water to prevent water-borne diseases in a country that already had low sanitation standards. They are also distributing hats and blankets for babies, as many families are living on the streets because of the fear of aftershocks.

Also, 10% of funds are going to preparations for future disasters.

To donate to their Nepal Earthquake Children’s Relief Fund, click here.

2. Red Cross

The Red Cross has committed an initial $300,000 of aid as well as 19,000 non-food relief kits which include clothes, kitchen sets, tarpaulins and mosquito nets.

“We do not yet know the scope of damage … People will need considerable support including food, water, medical care and emergency shelter,” said Jagan Chapagain, the director for the International Federation of Red Cross Asia-Pacific said on Sunday via the organization’s website.

To donate to their Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund click here.

3. Global Giving

Online fund-raising platform Global Giving is running a project to raise $1,000,000 for disaster relief in Nepal and has raised over $570,000 so far.

To make a donation, visit them here. If you have a U.S. cell phone, you can text GIVE NEPAL to 80088 to make a $10 donation.

4. Friends Service Council Nepal

FSCN is a Nepalese NGO with over 20 years of experience in supporting disaster relief efforts for disasters in Nepal. They are based in Kathmandu and have about 50 volunteers. Chairperson Surya Bahadur Thapa tells TIME that since the earthquake they have been rushing money, food and tents to people in need.

If you want to give directly to a local charity, get in contact and Thapa or a volunteer will explain how best to transfer money to them.

5. Oxfam

Oxfam, which works in more than 90 countries, has already dispatched technical experts from the U.K. to Nepal and sent a China-based team to assess humanitarian needs in Tibet, where the quake also struck.

Nepal country director Cecilia Keizer stated that Oxfam was “preparing to help provide clean water and emergency food.”

To make your donation to Oxfam’s relief effort, go here.

6. Goonj

Goonj is an Indian relief agency with 11 offices and more than 300 employees. They have set up Nepal-specific donation centers in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Rishikesh, founding director Anshu Gupta told TIME.

Currently, Goonj is readying two trucks of relief material to transfer to Nepal, with more urgent supplies going by air. Gupta will be leading team to Nepal tomorrow. Find out more about their operations here.

For more information about how to donate, visit their website.

Read next: Kathmandu on Edge After Deadly Quake Ravages Nepal

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME world affairs

The Day I Discovered My Grandparents Survived a Genocide

Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

A simple school assignment unlocked the horrifying truth behind my family’s moves from Armenia to Lebanon to the United States

I remember when I first learned about the bad thing that happened long ago. It was in the mid-1980s in Tulsa, Oklahoma where my parents moved to from Beirut shortly before I was born. Like the children of most immigrants, I had become adept at navigating the different worlds I inhabited and at sidestepping the humiliations that often came with being one of the very few students in school whose roots weren’t in Oklahoma (let alone the United States). Sometimes a slight setback would occur (like that terrible day my father put a whole cucumber in my lunch; oh, the pathos I invoked after that ordeal) but for the most part I was staying ahead, being as American as a girl who talked kind of funny and had a weird last name could, deftly incorporating y’alls into my accented speech like a third-generation Oklahoman.

At home, Lebanon permeated the air. I became used to waking up, coming home, and falling asleep to the sounds of CNN, our only lifeline to a Beirut ravaged by civil war. My parents’ worries and sadness were palpable. I would fall into an uneasy sleep, dreading being woken up by the phone. Those awful nights when it would ring, a chill would run down my spine as I tried to make out my parents’ voices, all the while praying that our relatives were okay, that Lebanon was okay.

This was my normal. My feet so firmly planted in the present that it hardly ever occurred to me that there was something else–something that happened somewhere else, long ago–that had touched my family in ways I could hardly begin to understand. I had my hands full as a six-year-old processing our exile – little did I know we were exiled from our exile.

I learned about it almost by accident. We had received an assignment in school to fill out a family tree. I came home, a bit baffled by the assignment (fill in some names? that’s it?), and became more baffled still when, after asking my parents for help, it turned out that most of those branches on the family tree were going to have to remain blank. I implored my parents to try to remember. I became desperate, begging them to just make up some names. (I was about to receive a lesson in ethics and family history all at once.)

As delicately as they could, my parents told me my mother’s parents were orphaned when they were young. That my mom’s aunt, who helped raise her, was not actually her aunt, but a member of the makeshift family that formed in the Beirut orphanage where my grandparents met and grew up. I remember asking what happened and being told that there had been fighting in a country called Turkey, where my grandparents were born (yet another revelation: they weren’t even from Beirut!). That bad things had happened and many people died but my grandparents survived. That they were little when they were found and rescued and taken to Beirut. I thought about my grandpa. My always smiling, cuddly dede, who only had one eye and whom I loved more than anything. Who wore a beret, snuck me candy bars, and sang funny songs to me while the bombs fell that time we visited Beirut.

It all suddenly became too much. I just wanted to finish my assignment. I asked for just enough information to include in a note for my teacher. And so, I scrawled on the bottom of that half-empty family tree, “I couldn’t fill in all the names because of the Armenian genocide. One million people died but my grandparents survived. You can ask my parents.”

Somehow, along with the war in Lebanon, the genocide was folded into my consciousness, yet another part of my normal. Something bad had happened to people I loved long ago, and that was it. Absent in my conception of the war and of the genocide were those markers so often used to differentiate and to categorize: there was no Christian, there was no Muslim; there was no Turk, there was no Arab. There was only dede and yaya and mez mama and all those others I would never know. I knew I was Armenian, but I couldn’t have told you what that meant. It was something I only understood through the prism of the life I knew at home: the mixture of Armenian, Turkish, and Arabic we spoke; the shish kebab, hummus, and manti we ate; and the Armenian, Turkish, Lebanese, and American pop that we danced and laughed to when my parents finally had enough of CNN. All my happiness and all my sadness existed here, in this unquestioned plurality.

Of course, I couldn’t stay there forever. Eventually, I began to see myself through other peoples’ eyes and realized the strangeness of our normal. I became painfully aware of the incongruity of all the different parts of myself and of the way my ethnicity, nationality, past, and present appeared to others. I saw a Lebanon of terrorists and belligerent Armenians who couldn’t let go of the past. I became ashamed of my father’s dark skin—that most obvious sign of our “Otherness”—and of my mother’s insistence on asking my teachers why they don’t teach the Armenian genocide in school. And soon I saw the question mark that follows this genocide wherever it goes and that shows itself in the linguistic acrobatics of politicians and journalists avoiding the g-word.

I first saw it at 13, when I volunteered with my mother at an international fair where the small Armenian community in Tulsa had a booth. Included in the brochure that we were handing out was a small paragraph on the genocide. As I returned to the booth after a short break, I saw a stranger berating my mother, telling her she was lying about the genocide. When she calmly engaged him, I should have been proud. But then, I could only see the humiliation of it. The utter humiliation of having to fight to be believed, of having to fight to be heard. Of knowing your narrative must be silenced in order to keep another’s intact. As I watched her with tears in my eyes, an image of my now deceased dede—who I missed more than anything–flashed before me and I wanted to hug him, to protect him like he protected me. And it all suddenly became too much. I wanted her to stop—just please, stop. I didn’t want this anymore. I didn’t want to be Armenian, I didn’t want to be Lebanese. I wanted to be something that could just be.

It’s a yearning too many of us know, this desire to be something stripped of implications, of politics, and of history. It’s something you can’t think about too much because it can feel overwhelming, suffocating. In those moments, I close my eyes and think about when I don’t have to be anything other than myself: eating Turkish food, dreaming in English, gossiping in Armenian, cursing in Arabic, singing with Johnny Cash, and going to the football games on Fridays. I grieve for the family I’ll never know, for those empty branches on the family tree. My stomach turns as I think about the horrors they suffered and recoil at the taunting question mark that mocks our pain. And I cry—I cry because I’m sad, because I’m angry, because I still don’t understand.

And then, when it becomes too much, I think about my dede. I can feel his hand in mine. He sings to me that funny song and we laugh.

Sylvia Alajaji is an associate professor of music at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Music and the Armenian Diaspora: Searching for Home in Exile. She wrote this for Zocalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com