Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Where Are My Shoes?

“Ya Sarah, anjed [really], you need to get new shoes,” nagged my friend Rana, stroking her long, sleek black hair and examining her nails. [Sometimes, her beauty makes me physically ill.]

“Why? These ones are totally rockin’ and they pretty much match everything,” came my reply as I raised my eyebrows and anticipated her chastising rant. My sandals were these really cute and simple silver ones, but because I wore them nearly every day, they were really on their last leg [no pun intended]. My friends were always on my back to dress up and buy more clothes and accessories with my paycheck. Little did they know, that paycheck was the beacon of hope for my very existence and new shoes and earrings were the last of my worries.

“Ok, Sarrrrah, today we go to mall and buy the new shoes,” she said much calmer than I expected.

“Fine,” came my stubborn response, “but I’m keeping these, too.”

The end of the day came and I went home with Rana, kissed her mother as she squeezed me too tight, blessing me in Arabic. Her dad came into the kitchen in his blue, striped, button-up pajamas, his dark brown comb-over a little messed up and his mustache perfectly trimmed. He’s a little man, ex-military, who always shakes my hand vigorously and for much too long, as he insists with Rana that I do indeed speak Arabic like an Arab. [Rana is my only friend who doesn’t encourage my Arabic—she doesn’t have the patience or the hope, I think, that I could actually speak it one day. However, she demands that I constantly correct her and teach her the American vernacular. Not fair.]

Rana’s parents both work to finish preparing our lunch of makglubeh [my favorite!!!!!] and I sit in the kitchen and try to tell them about our day. It doesn’t really work, but Rana’s mom talks to me in rapid Arabic as if she’s sure that I’ll have some language breakthrough and suddenly converse with her fluently. She’s sweet and I like her, so much!!, but I doubt that’s going to happen. They force feed me, talk of marrying me to a good, Arab man and devise various ways they can make me stay here forever.

Rana’s grumpy, younger brother drives us to the mall [Rana doesn’t drive—she’s too scared, and after all, she can boss her brother about where and when to pick her up—why would she need to??]. We go through several shops and I take note of all the women in burkas, those covered head to toe, admiring the short shorts and tank tops on the mannequins. We enter and leave store after store, empty-handed, because I apparently have big feet. [Whatever—carry bigger shoes—you know there are foreigners here.]

Finally, Rana picks out a pair of black sandals with ridiculous jewels and a zipper up the back. They fit me, amazingly enough, even though I cringe at their glitter and sparkle. “They’re… soooo Arab,” I think to myself, but Rana’s happy with them, and clearly this shopping trip is for her, anyways. I was happy with my other ones, so my opinion doesn’t count. I pay for the sandals and Rana makes me wear them out of the store. I feel like I’m five-years old again.

When we return to her house, I model my new shoes for her parents—her mother especially likes them. I spend some more time with them. Rana paints my nails as we sip tea and watch an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, her favorite show, while her parents nap and her brother and his university friends smoke hookah out on the veranda, under the grape vines.

The Call to Prayer sounds and as I get up to leave, I gather my things and return her slippers to her and go to put my shoes on. Of course, I wear my new sandals and try to seem more excited than I actually am about them. I look for my old ones. I can’t find them in my bag, on the floor or in the neat row of shoes just inside the back door.

“Rrrrraaannnnaaa! Where are my shoes?!” I yell out to her.

She comes and leans against the doorframe of the kitchen, folds her arms across her body and with a blank face says, “They’re on your feet.”

I laugh, “No—my old ones—where are those?”

“Oh, I threw them out.”

I stand up, let her explanation sink in and say, “Oh. Ok.”

She kisses me goodbye and I walk out to get a taxi home.

Al-humdilallah [praise God] I’m not super girly and attached to my very favorite and beat up pair of sandals… Only my Arab friends can do this stuff to me.

We went on a little weekend getaway and wore tank tops & said sandals.
It was scandalous.


  1. Jewels and a zipper up the back. I know the sandals you're talking about, and they sound like just what you needed.

    I thought that's what friends were for: to throw away your old sandals and make you buy new jeweled ones!

    My friends sometimes try to fix me up as well! We Americans are too casual for them, I guess.

  2. HA! I don't know if they're just what I needed, but I got them! haha. My friends apparently think like you! :) And yes--I'm never dressed appropriately. I can't quite explain/capture it... it's just a different style & confidence in how they carry themselves. I can't compete. Thanks for always commenting, sweet OT. I'm convinced that it's just you & me out here!! ;) Love, Sarah.


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