Story of Samir Moussa, a Global Nomad
Story of Samir Moussa, a Global Nomad

Samir Moussa was born to a Lebanese father and a Columbian mother. He grew up in Washington, DC, and Columbia . He has traveled all over the world and has spent significant time in volunteering and learning about tribal medicines. He teaches elementary school students and plays in a band called Sandfly. Samir’s life has been influenced by globalization on many levels.  He looks forward to telling you his story.


1. How old are you?

I was born on March 1, 1977. I am 28 years old.

2. Where did you grow up?

I was born in Washington D.C. to a Lebanese father and a Colombian mother.  I studied at the Washington International School (WIS) in D.C. from Kindergarten through high-school graduation. During those years, I was extremely fortunate to spend a lot of my summer and winter holidays uniting with my extended families in their respective lands. So I grew up in D.C. while visiting my family in Lebanon and Columbia all the while. Also, by the last few years of high school, my closest friends had moved back to their home countries and…I would visit them, or they would visit me, and these relationships came to open up a lot of Europe for me and opened up the Middle East for some of them. It had become evident that we had already become international beings that really only had the world to call home.This was true for a lot of us and it served to strengthen our bonds.

Once I graduated from the Washington International School in 1995, I went on to the University of Toronto, in Canada….I have since continued my travels to visit my friends and family and am now living in San Francisco, California.  So, where did I grow up?  I am still trying to figure that one out.

3. How has globalization affected your life?

Globalization has had a very strong affect on me.  It has allowed me to live with my friends and extended families that live in very different cultures and settings.  The extended exposure to these different cultures and languages has opened my eyes to the value and diversity we have as a human race on this planet.  Different value systems were shared with me from a young age and it gave me a lot of food for thought….

While I was growing up, Lebanon had been going through a civil war.  My family would still go to visit our family in Lebanon.  I was exposed to the truths of what war can do to a country and a people.  Seeing a war-torn
Beirut and the people living there just as the war ended had a profound affect on me.  Without a roof over their heads, families found ways to survive in a war-ravaged city. It was, truthfully, an awesome show of a determination to survive, and of the human spirit, and it was also a cold splash of reality for me.  War and poverty are real.

Globalization has also allowed me to be exposed to several languages.  I am fluent in English, Spanish and French and can speak, what I like to call ‘taxi cab’ Arabic.  Exposure to these languages has given me a real appreciation for words and their meanings and has allowed me to draw a parallel line between most languages and religions.  Although people speak using different sounds and alphabets, they generally speak of the same things and so who is to say that the French language is better than Persian…

Globalization was thus a source of inner strength for me. It also served, however, to be a source of outer frustration.  >It had taught me so much through worldly exposure, but had left my closest friends and families, with whom I shared my globalization experiences with, spread out all over the world.  So it was a source of isolation for me too.  But as a responsible member of the global community, I chose to channel my joys and frustrations into my work.

3. What do you do now for a living?

Currently, I am preparing for the release of my second record.  I have spent the last few years supporting myself through two jobs; teaching children at different elementary schools and my music. Twelve years ago, I started working with children in D.C. and what started as a summer job at the International School grew into a ‘Plan B’ career move for me.  I figured that with my global experience there came a responsibility.   And so I felt I had a responsibility of bridging cultural gaps and that there was no better place to start than with the children…

 My music has always been my gift from the gods and so I have worked very hard on developing my craft and niche.  I founded the musical band SANDFLY five years ago and in the past few years, my band has been featured on the front lines of the Peace Rallies in San Francisco .  We have performed to the tens of thousands of people in the international call for peace and dialogue twice in 2004…We have toured and have been broadcast live on the air, broadcast on television and have made it into the concert halls of the legendary Fillmore in San Francisco, performing with acts such as The Roots, Eryka Badu, Femi Kuti and more.

4. How has globalization affected your work?

I am also involved in another project. In 1998, one of my self-motivated academic trips took me to Costa Rica to be a volunteer with the Costa Rican National Ministry of Natural Resources (MINAE) where I was to gather needed information from several of their national parks.  Once my work was over, I spend 5 days traveling alone.  It was during that time that I was introduced to Don Candido Morales Morales, one of the last medicine men of the Bribri tribe of Costa Rica, and his family.

This introduction would prove to be the beginning of a relationship that has continued to this day…In 1999, I had been put into contact with a film producer from Los Angeles, who had a growing relationship with Don Candido.  Together, they had decided to pull their resources together in order to film a documentary that would tell the story of Don Candidos family as it was caught in the middle of two worlds; the traditional ways of their ancestors and the ‘modern’ world that was at their doorstep.  They needed a translator for this work and they knew I was the man for the job.  I spoke 4 languages, 3 fluently and I was inline with their vision of utmost respect for the indigenous culture. Don Candido was to share with us whatever he felt he wanted and needed to share.  We were to provide him with a platform to discuss HIS story and struggle. We have made several trips back to Costa Rica and the documentary ‘The Hidden People’ is due to for completion by early 2006.

5. How does your work contribute to making a better society?   Are there any success stories of those you helped?

The name SANDFLY was born out of my second trip to Costa Rica and its story serves to highlight the significance of indigenous knowledge and how it can contribute to making a better society.

While we were filming the documentary ‘The Hidden People’ in the jungles of Costa Rica, a sandfly kindly laid two parasites into my arm.  It was not until I had returned to D.C. that I learned that I had them and western scientists knew that what I had was ‘Cutaneous Leishmanaisis’..[which] is spread by sandflies.

There are several kinds of Leishmaniasis, some of them deadly, like visceral leishmaniasis.  Luckily, this one was not as serious.  Of course, I researched my parasite and I found that ‘the global burden lies primarily on the ‘developing’ world.  An estimated 1.5 million people are currently infected with visceral leishmaniasis, also known as kala-azar, and approximately 500,000 new cases arise annually worldwide. As many as 200,000 people die every year from this disease. Over 90% of visceral leishmaniasis cases occur in India, Bangladesh, Sudan, Brazil and Nepal.’ (“Leishmaniasis,” 2011)

Luckily, I did not have visceral leishmaniasis, but I did have ‘Cutaneous Leishmanaisis’ which can develop into a potentially fatal situation if left untreated.  So I underwent an ‘experimental’ treatment at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Washington, D.C. .   I was injected with a solution that went straight into my heart, everyday for 45 minutes for 3 and a half weeks.  The results were toxic.  I felt as though I had been injected with zinc or mercury and my spirit was rendered lifeless, temporarily.  But it did the job and for this I am grateful.

All the while, however, I was certain, after having seen the immense knowledge of the medicine man in Costa Rica, that there was another cure for these parasites…Don Candido has a cure for Cutaneous Leishmanaisis.  It lasts three days and has zero physical and spiritual cost, but there is no working system in Costa Rica in place to honor his knowledge or to inform his community of his presence.  And this condition is common in Costa Rica.

So I chose then to name my musical effort SANDFLY to speak of the indigenous science and knowledge that is losing credibility to western science and knowledge, to speak for the lack of opportunity in most indigenous communities.  This is just one element of the current globalization phenomenon…

My studies at the University of Toronto were Environment and Sustainable Development and I firmly believe that indigenous knowledge needs to be a corner stone in our global effort to develop sustainably.  Their knowledge of the land is profound and its value should be immensely incorporate into the global discourse of health and medicine…

With regards to whether my work has had success in contributing to making a better society, I defend that it has in many ways.  I will first mention the power of the mind and the power of intention.  Both my mind and intentions have been geared towards lifting consciousness.  Those around me are exposed to the concentrated effort and can see the fruits of such labor.  I will give a quote from Carl Jung that I just came across the other day that I think sums this up best “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”

Also, there are many children whom I have helped.  Children need many different things and it is important to work with their personalities.  I have tried to make them more responsible and steering them away from asking of the world ‘What’s in it for me?’ but rather ‘How can I help?’ (Deepak Chopra!).  These efforts I believe are seeds planted for a better society.   Musically, I have sold records across the world and have gotten heart-warming emails and praise encouraging my voice and my message.  This feedback has been encouraging and if my music can make a difference to one individual, than I have succeeded at contributing to making a better society.   I have long since realized that my international heritage or my musical abilities were not to be taken lightly.  I have put my heart and soul into trying to make better societies, using my musical talents as my muse.  Music has got the unique ability to touch everyone, regardless of language or creed.  I have taken it seriously and it has served and continues to inspire people the world over.

6. What is your message to young adults?

I suppose my message to young adults is that ‘WE ARE ONE’.  The entire human race, the environment, everything in interconnected.  That the key to harmony in inside of you.  Learn to meditate!  I can not stress this message enough.  It is the greatest source of power, peace and joy.   I encourage everyone to read Deepak Chopra’s ‘Instant Manifestation of Desire’ and I encourage young adults to trust themselves.  Know that ‘only dead fish swim with the stream all of the time’.  And, of course, listen to SANDFLY ; )

To learn more about Samir, visit


Next: Frederic Braun, a Third Culture Kid