We met Marina at a recent photoshoot and immediately knew we wanted to get to know her and her family some more. We spent a morning with she and her beautiful family and chatted about her Egyptian heritage and some of the ups and the downs of immigrating to the United States.
Marina Salama and her husband are both doctors and live in LA with their two children Ava and Noah.
When did you your family immigrated to the United States? What was that experience like?
We immigrated to the United States when I was 8 years old - it was a huge change for my family. We moved to a small town without any family or friends and had to start over. Luckily, it really brought my immediate family together and we have a very close and unique bond.
How important is it for you and your partner to implement Egyptian traditions in your children's upbringings? What are some of those traditions?
Both my husband and I are Egyptian and an important piece of our heritage is our Coptic Orthodox Christian identity. We try to instill our values into our kids and going to church on Sunday is a big part of our weekly schedule.
Food is also a big part of the Egyptian community - one particular dish my children are crazy about is Molokhia - it’s this thick, green soup and I haven’t met an Egyptian kid that doesn’t love it yet!
Can you talk to us about your family's experience being Egyptian in a place that isn't always welcoming to immigrants?
We moved to a small town in Virginia - in the 1990s, it was not the most diverse place. My parents instilled a lot of pride in us - in where we came from and who we were. Almost everyone was friendly, but curious. I remember being asked by classmates if we rode camels and if we wore clothes in Egypt. But the same curiosity existed in myself - I can vividly recall seeing my first snowfall in the middle of the day when I was in 3rd grade. I actually thought the sky was falling. Or, seeing my first red-headed person. A strange sight for me coming from a place with mainly dark-haired people! Since then, the town has become much more diverse
After 9/11, our car was egged when it was parked in front of our home. The same house we lived in for 6 years - the neighborhood and community that had been my home for the majority of my life. I was SO angry and hurt and betrayed and, if I am being honest, a little judgmental and critical of the cowards that egged our car in the middle of the night. My dad though, he really stepped up. He didn’t show anger. Or hate. He didn’t yell or threaten revenge. He was a picture of strength and dignity. He stood in front of our house and hand washed the car until it was sparkling clean, never complaining once.
Did you always aspire to be a doctor? What has work been like in this pandemic?
Both my parents are physicians - I grew up with medical stories around the dinner table, hearing pagers go off in the middle of the night, going to the hospital or clinic with my dad on Saturday mornings. To be honest, initially I wanted nothing to do with medicine. It wasn’t until my mom and I traveled together on our first medical mission trip to El Salvador that I developed an interest in medicine.
This pandemic has been a learning experience for everyone in medicine - we’ve all had to learn, adapt, re-learn the presentation and prevention and treatment of this disease. It’s been very humbling to say the least.
A few rapid fire questions:
What books are on your nightstand: Intimacies by Katie Kitamura; The Way of Integrity by Martha Beck
Current favorite shows: Ted Lasso, Only Murders in the Building.
What are your kids' favorite books: Magic Treehouse, High Five by Adam Rubin, and the Elephant and Piggie series.
Go-to dinner: We actually don’t have one! We are constantly trying new recipes - my kids love to eat and we love exposing them to different flavors, textures. On Saturday mornings, we make our famous chocolate chip pancakes.
What you're looking forward to doing by end of 2021: Our first big vacation as a family of 4 - to Hawaii!
Photos by Lucia Tran