Sunday, July 29, 2007

My First Time in the Middle East, for the Second Time in My Life


First of all, I’m going to give the disclaimer that I would normally have given had we had a discussion in real life. Disclaimer: I don’t think I possess a mastery of articulation in writing, but I hope anyone reading this will appreciate the effort in trying to capture my experience. This will be my first post on the blog, and I’m actually writing it at over 30,000 ft above sea level.

I’m on a British Airways flight from London’s Heathrow to Amman, Jordan, where I’ll be meeting my family for pretty much the first time in my life. The actual trip itself from Chapel Hill to Amman started off as a disaster. After having planned everything to a T, and made all my travel arrangements, I was standing up an hour before leaving time when all of a sudden the room started to swirl around me and I hit the floor. About 5 hours later, needless to say missing my bus to JFK, I was being diagnosed with a case of Acute Peripheral Vertigo in the emergency room. But! To make a long story short, thanks to an extra $250 and my will power, Jesus, Allah, Buddha, George W. or whoever it is you believe in, here I am now flying over the English Channel. Within 4 hours I will be touching down in Amman.

When I get off this plane, a guy who I’ve never met before is going to give me one of the most adoring embraces I’ve known in my life. His name is Mahmood, and apparently he is my cousin. Trying to explain what that feels like in words is a talent that evades me. He is actually only one of the over 30 cousins I have on my mom’s side alone, and I’m ashamed to say that I don’t know any of them. Honestly, how do you deal with that? With that sense of loss of identity? I’m flying back into the heart of the Middle East, as a Middle Eastern, who can only speak a broken Arabic hybrid of ammiyah and Fusha (compliments of Nasser). I’m flying back to the Middle East, and I feel like I’m going to a foreign country!

I’m so grateful for the ability to make this journey into the land of my origin, but it’s hard not to be frustrated at the past and the power structures that prevented me from making this trip sooner. (For those of you who don’t know, I just recently, after 17 years of living and paying taxes in the US, received my Green Card from the United States Immigration Services, and with that the ability to leave and re-enter the country) I have a general understanding of globalization, boarder security, and the greater context of “terrorism”, but it still doesn’t alleviate me from feeling so small at the edge of it all. If at any point in my immigration process someone had just taken the few minutes to listen to my case, it wouldn’t have to have been 17 yrs before I got the chance to meet my family. And now that I’m finally over that giant hurdle in my life, my heart goes out to the people still trapped in that system.

I’ve come to be very proud of my identity, very proud to be American and Arab, both simultaneously. I’ve always known what it is to be American. Hopefully after this trip I can look into the mirror and have more than just an Arab exterior staring back at me. Hopefully Jordan will fill in that outer Arab shell with a little bit of context.

I don’t know what awaits me in Jordan. On the itinerary aside form the obvious, meeting my family (who says that?), is a trip to Petra, a planned trip to Damascus with Marium and who ever else we can con into going, eating nauseating amounts of Nablus style Kanefe, the same as the previous for shawarma, and picking up a wife (hahhaahaha yeah RIGHT!) Until the next post, this is AnArabiaNight saying Ma’assalaama!


outspokenarab said...

if you're going to pick up a wife, make sure she is SYRIAN! they make the best wives dude

QuiQui said...

What do you mean you're not articulate and stuff? You're a great writer and I enjoyed reading this post! Except you spelled it "boarder" instead of "border", but you know what? The deserve to be misspelled. Fuck borders. Fuck them and fuck their spelling. B-O-A-R-D-E-R-S. There! I did it too, in solidarity. -- Peace.

P.S. I'm glad you got on the plane safely, since our phone call was cut off. TELL ME MORE! Continue writing, please.

Matt said...

A fantastic start to what I hope will be many posts on this blog. Welcome!

Gale said...

Have a wonderful trip and I bet you really enjoy your family. They have waited so long to meet you.

Your family (the whole US minus the INS) awaiting you back in this country wishes you well.

Your writing is great.

I feel anxiety as you have your first family reunion there, as I am planning one and meeting some family members for the first time. The difference: we all live in the US and did not have to wait 17 years to accomplish this. It gives a new importance to our gathering.

Bless you and your family.

I bet you would have never dreamed of having an impact on another reunion, half way around the world.

Gale said...

Excuse me for another comment on your PROFOUND blog but I want to be a bit clearer about how you have had an impact on my family in the states.

By reading and sharing your blog we as a family realized the freedom we had to plan our gathering, and when and where we would have it. Sounds corny but it is true. Maybe next time we will be denied a reunion.

We did not try hard enough to make sure your rights and civil liberties as a human being were being protected.I apologize.

None of us can afford to stand by and let this continue. Our democracy is in great peril and so negatively effects the world in total.

We have been reminded of a saying: "We all make it together or none of us make it."

Sincerely we are waiting to hear about "My First Time...for the Second Time" ...