Tuesday, December 27, 2011

See You Next Year: January 10, 2012

After writing 38 amazing posts this year,
Sarah is taking a much deserved break.

You can look forward to her next post on January 10, 2012.

See you then!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

So This is Christmas

Christmas is beautiful. It really is. A few hymns strike me so deeply:

Long lay the world in sin and error pining…
Born that man no more may die!
Let every heart prepare Him room…”

Last year, The Story was more understandable for me in some ways, being that I was in the region and cousin culture to that of my Holy Book. I started to see what a shame it would be to be Mary, or her family, or Joseph. And how terrible it would be to travel to your “hometown,” but have no relatives to take you in. [Unheard of.] Or what it might be like to actually see shepherds leave their flocks. [At night.] And Mary, without medication, just “treasured it all up, pondering it in her heart.” [And accepted visitors...]

I began to see that this momentous night, which changed the whole course of history, which has also written MY story, was intricately planned and probably… really quiet. Apart from the angels puttin’ on a show out in the “fields nearby,” what else was a big production? Nothing. There was just another new baby to some new mother in a barn.

On that spring evening [don’t argue with the scholars—just because we celebrate it in December, don’t mean that’s when it happened…], in that manger, no gifts were exchanged, no extravagant meals prepared, no trees decorated. Only the angels were singing and Joseph HAD to be thinking about how he was going to register his “betrothed” instead of his “wife” and… their son? [Whoopsies…]

I’ve been to Bethlehem and have drunk tea in Nazareth, while the Call sounded simultaneously with CH. bells ringing. They’re not the towns they once were. No, they have neon signs, pizza joints and checkpoints, as well as people of three different faiths. All three groups of followers claim to be “right” and know “the truth.” And they fight. We fight. In His hometown, we’re fighting. At His birthplace, we’re fighting. We’re fighting and we’re hurting. We throw stones, do major damage with advanced technology and raise our children to hate and fear one another. Yes, we’re doing this.

I walked down streets where the air was so static and thick I thought I’d die under the tremendous weight of the tensions and anxieties of… people, of humans from not so different ancestors or languages. It’s a homeland to both of them… all of them. To us.

I’m not pushing a political agenda: Just voicing a human plea.

Indeed, our world is still pining away in sin and error. The majority is feared for their few radicals’ actions. My ancestry is freshly remembered for their crusades, as if it were just last week. And every day, checkpoints are restricting people from living their lives, dreaming their dreams and hoping their hopes.

No doubt, my own little world has been flipped upside down. I’ve had an old, sweet, wrinkly grandmother take my face in her hands, inches from her remaining teeth and smothering kisses. My friend translated something that sent my head spinning: “Ya Shagra, inshallah, you’re going to [my hometown]. Please, go to the market and follow the road towards the mosque. Take the third right. And there you will see it: a two-story house that was my home. Please, inshallah, go to the door and explain to that family, inshallah, that they can keep my dishes, but ask, because you are American, peace be upon you, plead with them to return to me my wedding blanket. They can have my land and they can have our house, but just go get my blanket, ok, my love? My mother made it for me.”

I remember watching my own reflection in her deep well of brown eyes as I fought back tears. All I could do was kiss her back and agree to accept her assignment. And as you leave, inshallah, ya Shagra, take a lemon off the trees in the front and throw it at a window. And then run, my love, run. God be with you.” She laughed and I cried.

I never went to her house. I never intended to, either. But if I can pinpoint specific events where my heart was drastically changed in the desert, this would be one of them.

Let’s remember that He was born so that man no more may die. And that it’s a great part of our work that we dream, hope and pray for every heart to prepare Him room. His birth reconciles us to Him.

I’m hoping for also, one day soon, inshallah, to each other.

“Merry Christmas, World
--From Bethlehem Ghetto”

Merry Christmas.
Wherever you are in the world: Merry Christmas.

[A great blog—one written from a position
I hope my heart is moving towards

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Letter [Part II]

So I get this letter and am kind of laughing, but wonder how serious I should take it. In a world where men and women don’t really interact, I was already pushing the limits. Some of my American female peers judged me to be “too friendly” and “too comfortable” with these men already. I immediately fell into a “shame” structure of thinking—that it was my fault that he even thought to write me, that I brought this on myself because I smile and briefly visit with the guys downstairs.

Clearly, he’s not romantically interested in me. I’m not so into myself that romance would be my concern. I got proposed to and told I was beautiful and that it was a shame I wasn’t married and making babies nearly every day. The line that made me laugh was the, “…and I have the ability to do what ever you order, anything…” My response to that was, “Oh! Like ‘I ORDER you to MARRY ME so we can steal away TO AMERICA and live happily ever after!!!! Pretty please!!!’No. My concern was his reaction to my declining his requests. And the guys downstairs, who watch me every day, were waiting to see how I’d respond.

So I made the quick decision to… show them just how Arab I was.

I gathered my… male representation. I would never have received this letter if I was married. To men, I was a little lamb—I had to go get my owner, who does business, speaks for and protects me. They already knew that I wouldn’t marry an Arab, that my dad “only wants an American for me.” [That was settled months before this happened.] But my dad’s a million miles away and I’m a sitting duck. I went straight to the foreigners. I emailed them the letter and they, in the excitement of the drama, drew up Plans A & B.

Plan A: Write him back and ask him to meet me in front of the dukan. I could see who he was and then, suddenly, “John” [my “brother”] would emerge from the shadows and scold him for making this proposition to me. [Made for Lifetime TV drama. Here, I would play myself.]

Plan B: Ignore him.

I didn’t like either plan, but Plan A sounded kind of fun. As I spent an hour at their home the next afternoon, we just talked about it. It may sound silly to you, but as funny and harmless as this letter was, it required some attention. Of course he wanted money and probably to get to the States. He must really be desperate, and I’m sorry for that, but he shouldn’t ask me. I’m sure he thought he was taking the most respectful and discreet approach, and I’m glad he didn’t approach me in person or come to my door.

And as John and “Susie” walked me home, all the guys were hanging out on the steps. Susie and I went inside to buy some juice and John stood outside, talking with the landlords. Dukan Boy leaned forward and whispered to me, “What do you say about the letter?” I pretended not to understand him as I handed him some money. Susie went to the door and called out, “John, here’s your chance—he’s asking her about the letter.” I kept quiet and worried that Dukan Boy was going to get in trouble.

John, who has had a relationship with them of over three years, talked with them about how disappointed he was. That it was shameful for a man to contact me through a letter, that it wasn’t respectful and how I would never entertain such requests. The men immediately agreed with him and claimed that the guy is “meskeen”—a poor-charactered fellow. They knew I’d never marry him, they assured me. Susie and I just stood there, as the men discussed me. [For those few minutes, I didn’t feel like a person.] They raved at what a “good girl” I was and how they missed my cheer and saw that I was troubled by this.

Really, I was disappointed in myself. After nearly a year of being there, I was surprised to find myself cognitively changing, ever so slightly, taking on the very posture that made me steam for the women around me: [in my opinion] their skewed sense of self-worth. Many will tell you that they cover because they are responsible for the men’s lust and sin. If a man sees her hair, it’s the woman’s fault that he approaches her or maybe acts distastefully towards her—not his. And his behavior towards her reflects on the honor of the family—again: her fault.

But this is what I was doing…

I was blaming myself because some guy had written me a dumb letter.

[This picture is… inexplicable… but I’ll try.
You bite down hard on your forefinger
and shake out your other hand
when something is just…
“unbelievable” or “out of control” or “a cryin’ shame.”
It’s an acted out: “OH MY GOODNESS!!!”
That’s what this is
(And please excuse my short sleeves…)]

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Letter [Part I]

Have I mentioned that I’m single? Not only that, but I’m “too old” to be single? And that for a while there I lived alone in an apartment in the Middle East in a neighborhood where no one really spoke English? Well, in case you’re just joining us here at TYD, that’s the skinny on me.

And just when I was getting settled into a groove, where I genuinely felt comfortable in my neighborhood, where I no longer had visions of being attacked by any [lame-o] followers, things changed. [Dunt, dunt duuuunnnt!]

The protector guys down stairs were working day and night to put up a nice patio roof [??? I have no idea what to call things sometimes] in front of the dukan [gas station without the gas] on the bottom floor of my apartment building. The guys were up on makeshift ladders, hammering away. The ones who knew me, watched and greeted me from afar. The ones who didn’t stopped hammering and just stared. I felt their eyes and didn’t mind. I was wearing a black fleece over my red, polka-dotted dress, jeans and sparkly sandals [the ones my “FRIEND” threw in the garbage]. My hair was its regular, hot mess and I was tired but happy. I nonchalantly and quite enjoyably approached my building with my hands resting in my front pockets. I smiled and stopped to admire the work they were doing, wishing God’s strength on their work.

“Pssst. Sarrrrrrah. Ta’li. Bsurra’ [Come here. Hurry.],” came the hissing of a high school boy on the ladder. [I still don’t know his name, but we like him. If I only bought two tomatoes or three eggs, he’d wave me off and give me a candy instead of making me pay in the dukan. I liked him. I should know his name.] He tucked his hammer under his arm, reached deep into his pocket and nearly fell trying to give me something. I reached up and saw that it was piece of notebook paper all folded up. I started opening it to read it there, but he scolded me and hurried me upstairs and off the street.

Intrigued and a little scared, I sat down and opened to this in blue ink:

*Dear Sara;

How are you ? And how do you do here in ___? I’m so sorry for my msg, and the way that I’m talking to you, but I’m really need a help from you …

I’m teacher of English language in the Ministry of Education in ___ but my job can’t make me enough to live well here in ___, and the money of the government didn’t enough to continue my free life. And I try to get more money but I haven’t someone to help me. So, I see that you’re the only one who has the ability to help me to travel to the United States of America to get more apportunaties to get more money. And if you please to agree to help me because I’m really need for help. Please gives me a chance to help me and I have the ability to do what ever you order me anything …

Thanx a lot for your reading my msg and I hope from you to reply on my msg which tells me your agreement and if you accept me please mention in your msg a date ( when and where ) you can see me even today . And it will be a nice time which I’ve ever met a person like you …

Your Neighbour

[his phone number]

Well, first of all, he spelled my name wrong so of course I’m not going to be interested. Second of all, I don’t know him. I don’t know who this guy is. I’m totally creeped out. I have… a stalker? Do I know who he is? Have I seen him? How does he know about me? Oh yeah, I’m the only foreigner I see, too. Does he live in my building? Does he think this is romantic? The kid isn’t “WeldAli,” right?

I immediately text some foreigners near me, a married couple, who help me when I need. [My protector guys think I’m the man’s sister. They can’t understand any different.] “New drama in a new stalker department. Email coming. Advice & protection requested. :)”

I’m alone.
I don’t speak the language.
I probably am not reading some social cues here.
I don’t know this man who’s written to me.
I don’t know why this boy has delivered the letter.
I don’t know who’s watching.
And I don’t want to respond. Or followed. Or hoped after.
They know I’ve received the letter… Now they’re just waiting.

Is he my neighbor? Does he live in my building? Do I pass him every day? Will he accost me in person? Is this a normal pursuit? Should I take it seriously?

What would you do?

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