"I am carried on the shoulders of those who cannot see the landscape I describe." ~Unknown
Summer is over, and I am back in the States. Since being back, several friends have remarked that they have a hard time 'imagining' North Africa. Maybe these photos can help accentuate the vast variety of the country- the desert and the sea, the traditional and the modern, the poverty and the beauty.
After the birth of my beautiful niece, I am back in the Arab world. I miss her and my family already.
Back in the Arab world though... am I crazy that it feels like home here? Well, I don't even know what home is anymore... Texas? Jordan? North Africa? An airport perhaps?
Though our North African house is quaint and pleasant, its certainly not home. I do love it though. I am living in the 'Old City' of my town, within ancient walls dating back to the Ottoman Empire. (Perhaps longer.) Our home has a built-in ten foot hole in the roof which adds a charming touch. The hole serves as a weather forecast as it provides instant alert when its raining and also lets us know when the neighbors decide to slaughter geese. Last week we had downy feathers floating into our living room.
I strolled down to the beach in the late afternoon yesterday and for a moment I found 'home.' A soccer match was taking place in front of me between brown barefoot little boys. Grandmothers wearing pink and purple head-coverings pulled naked toddlers along the shore. I waved to them, singing, "Asalama" and "Salam Akaykum." Tanned teenage boys splashed in the water, avoiding the lines of the fishermen. The Call to Prayer was sounding, reminding the beach bums of their religious duties. The smell of shwarma was a reminder of a different kind- that soon their bellies would need nourishment. YES. This is home. This is me. White, freckle-faced, head-uncovered, English speaking me... finally at home.
At that moment three Arab men plopped down beside me. "Hullo! Duetchland? Russia?! English?! Hullo?! You no speak? Just friendship?" I rolled my eyes and scooted away. Five minutes later more Arab men came to the other side of me. "Welcome Tunisia! Speak French? No? English? No? Kiss maybe?" My moment was over. I stood up, dusting the sand out of my skirt, slightly hoping some might get in their eyes.
But that time yesterday on the shores of the Mediterranean (before the greasy guys joined me) touched a deep desire in my spirit. I wanted to carry that feeling with me, to store it away and take it out whenever I am homesick and let the contentment and peace of that moment on the beach wash over me continually. To be at 'home' forever.
I know my home isn't the Med or the Arab world. For every day that it feels like home and woos me with its charms and hospitality, there is also a day that it bruises me and beats me. No, this isn't home. But for that moment yesterday, it felt like home. It was a taste of my future home.. when Arabic-speaking grandmothers and brown little boys will join with white, freckle faced girls and together we will live and worship and play in a world (or kingdom) where we both completely belong.
As I daily pass homes with blue shutters and doors, I am reminded that I do not share the same mystical worldview as my neighbors . They paint their doors the color of water to keep away evil spirits and appease the powers of water. They are aware of their vulnerability- that they lie at the mercy of water and nature and a spiritual realm. In my American mindset, I am quick to chuckle or even frown at their superstition... until I realize that maybe its actually weakness that my worldview leads me to believe I am in control, that I am ruling my life and my luck. Their blue doors remind me that we do live in a spiritual world and are at the mercy of the sea and the One who sets it's boundaries.
"...by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed." 2 Pe 3:5-6
My seaside African town welcomed me and my exploring feet today. I wore skinny jeans and boots to fit into the local attire, as well as a cardigan and scarf because of the salty wind and cold. I grabbed a notebook, pen, book, and some dinar and was set.
The smell of fish and fried bread drew me to the Medina, or the 'City Center' of town, where I purchased pastries and one more rainbow scarf. I was not the only foreigner roaming through the ancient walls. Sunburned and fleshy retired Europeans strolled through the Medina in their spaghetti straps and shorts, oblivious to both the chill and culture. Alongside the Medina was a peer with docked 'pirate ships' waiting for the gullible tourists to be lulled into their 4 hour tours.
Apart from the pirate ships and mass Europeans, it indeed felt like the Arab world. Just a bit fishy and also a bit French. I pulled out my notebook to begin surveys with a few of the young women and was able to glean some valuable information for our research. Yet, I couldn't help but wish I had a friend with me as I tasted and smelled and touched and walked. Just someone to laugh with when I can't understand the shop-keepers or when I fail miserably at navigating.
Now I'm back at home with my awesome American family, where I can hear the waves and see a light-house in the distance from our living room window. Soon, I'll begin my nightly routine of line-dancing in the kitchen with the teenage boys I live with. I think our featured song tonight is "John Deere Green." Keep your eyes out for a future video post of our Texas dancing talent.
I may have just written a nostalgic post about transitioning back to the States from the Middle East and the desire to use a drying rack. However, I'm returning to the Arab world tomorrow for two months. North Africa!
My packing thus far. As you can see, I'm bringing peanut butter and Altoids with me. Yes, that is also a swimsuit, since I can hear the sea from my bedroom!
I'm allowing myself one post-Jordan entry... and its about laundry.
I went to Target and bought a drying rack. Now, my parents have a great dryer, but I miss my drying rack. Actually, I miss drying my clothes on the line on top of my first roof in Jordan. Its ridiculous though. In the winter our clothes would hang for several days until they grew mildew, and they still wouldn't be dry. I would've given anything to have a dryer. Now, I MUST hang my clothes.
Hanging clothes to dry isn't only about the crispness of the laundry or the saving of energy. To me, it represents a simpler life. One in which I scheduled time in my day to hang clothes, wash dishes, and cook from scratch. I once thought that chores like these took away precious time and the invention of machines made life easier. Yet it almost felt like such chores kept life paced and simple. Routine. They gave time to think and pray and listen to music and talk to whoever may be coming or going.
I hope that I will always have a drying rack instead of a dryer, just as reminder to keep life slower, simpler. And to retain a part of my old and uncomplicated Levant life.
My neighbor's laundry hanging to dry. One of my favorite sites.