Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Back to Amreeka: They Don't Know...

April is going to be my month of reflection and saying goodbye.
This one’s for those who have asked me
about “transitioning back to the States.”

The thing about being a shagra [blondie] in the desert is that people spot you a kilometer away. And they watch you. And they wonder about you. They call out to you. They welcome you. And sometimes they follow you. Well, in the States, no one knows about my secret: that I'm ruined. They don't know that just 24 hours ago I was sitting on a concrete floor sipping mint tea with my friend, “Amina.” Or that just 3 months ago I was dragged onto a bus filled with women dancing, smoking, singing and just cluck-cluck-clucking. In my face. At a volume that still makes my ears ring. They don't know that I can [barely] communicate in Arabic, or that just 9 months ago, I was a minor celebrity in a teeny-tiny-Middle-Eastern city. Nope. They don't even notice me. And if they do, they're wondering why my clothes don't quite fit or why I’ll approach three women for directions before remembering that it's okay for me to accost a man.

They don't know that I secretly talk myself into eating with my left hand. Or that I had to have a little discussion with myself about wearing a short sleeve shirt without the cardigan. They don't know that I worry about letting the water run for one unused second or that I feel totally guilty about taking a 10 minute shower. They don't know why I stare at women with head coverings or why I crane my neck to see, just see, if maybe that couple, just maybe, is speaking "my kind" of Arabic. They don't know that I almost kissed that woman when she hugged me or that I totally recoiled and cringed when that guy gave me a hug. They don't.

They don't know that I sometimes struggle going to church on Sundays or that I'm beaming because I simply just said something like my Love's Name aloud without some modification. They don't know that I still get nervous about visiting websites with articles that have words I'm supposed to avoid. They don't know that I actually needed this scarf a year ago and now it's just “a cute accessory.” No. Actually, someone with six kids sold it to me on a street corner after asking me if I knew Justin Bieber.

I had to come to terms with the fact that everyone was waiting on me to be “normal” again. To not get upset when someone at a cash register hands me my change, thereby touching me, instead of placing it on the counter or on a small dish for me to collect without making contact. They're waiting for me fight the urge to systematically greet everyone in the room, to drive in between the dashed lines on the road and... wait in a line. Silently. [What. Ever. America. Totally ridiculous and uptight of you.] They don't know that I love women who sit too close to me, who feed me when I’m not even hungry and who pray over me to find a husband… yesterday.

Father has given me a peace and a delight in this. I no longer need to explain to every person I meet that, “Oh, I've never seen that show because I wasn't in the States when it came out.” Nope. They don't need to know, I don't need to talk about it and I don't need them to know.

Turns out, I still get a little upset when people ask me what color my burka was. [Yellow. With purple polka dots, of course.] But, slowly, He started bringing me people to talk to and share with—those who’ve traveled and lived abroad more outrageously than I. People who have their own “Aminas” and “Mohammads” and “falafel moments.” And they have shown me that they are able to engage in both worlds with a beautiful balance.

In the months before I left the ME, people kept urging me to disengage and transition back. And I made a conscious decision to “be all there, wherever I was.” And I don't regret that at all—I’d do it again. What I do regret was that I failed to apply that rule when I started over in the States. I’m being taught to “be all here”even while large chunks of my heart are in another world, with another people. I think it's a most excellent problem to have—the challenge to balance yourself, your interests, your relationships, your conversations, your love. I'm here for “such a time as this”—to engage with those who are right before me. This is a reality, too, and this American life is worthy of my full attention and energy, especially when I firmly believe that our Father is forever sustaining us, preparing us and directing our steps.

He's beautifully writing a story of my days,
and those days will forever include
my sweet Desert City and all it entails.


  1. Hi Sarah,
    Just to update ya... I really tried to take to heart your advice to "be all here" in these final months - not simply b/c you said it, but b/c I knew Father was impressing that on my heart as well. I don't regret that decision, though now I admit that, as the days draw closer, I'm getting excited about that 1st hug from my dad and having my mom's way-too-spicy red beans and rice and a thousand other little things. But I just wanted to say thank you always for your honesty and sharing what you're learning.

  2. So so true. Being "all there" was far far easier "over there" than it is being "back here". Even almost 2 years down the line. Thanks so much for this reminder, challenge and encouragement rolled into one!

  3. I find it hard to believe so few people have commented on this post. It was beautiful, and so "right on" (to use a phrase from way before your time). Wow.

    May the peace and delight continue as you remain in the "here and now" as God leads you and adds to your story.

    Your photo is gorgeous, too!

  4. Leah! What up, girl. Glad you're still with us. ;) Yes!! Get excited about your family!! They love you and it's always good to be in the arms of the ones you love--even for just a bit. How long are you there for? What's next for you?

    Bayta! I checked out your blog--you're sweet. Glad my little heart can resonate with yours--it's good to know I'm not alone in this!! :)

    JJ! Sweet woman. I'm about to drive down to Mexico just to stay at your house. ;) Yeah, I don't get sad about the no comments anymore--it just feels good to write it out. I say 'right on' and appreciate you saying that to me for this--it's been a long struggle for me. I haven't exactly excelled at being back in the States. :-/ Thanks for reading and for your encouragement!!



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