Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Chapters from an Immigrant's life, Part XVI. Career Path

In 1997, I finished my Bsc degree in chemical engineering and decided that this is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. It took me a while to land a job, and I started at $10/hr working part time. Eventually, I got the full time position. My first job was as a research assistant at a big company. I was eager to learn more and more trying to impress my manager as well as expand my knowledge. I jumped from a lab to another, and that helped me greatly. In 2000, there was the first layoff that hit the company and they laid off many engineers and scientists. I survived this wave due to the fact that I was versatile enough to fit in any position or field, so it did pay back.

I had a colleague who believed in me, and I needed someone to do so. I needed the support, any way I can get it. He persuaded me to start publishing. My first publication was actually a midterm paper in one of my elective classes that the college of arts decided to place it in the library, after having me edit it further, specifically, in the English language and grammar. I had (and am still having) rough time with control on the English language. But my first real publication was in 1999, and was my masters thesis. It was presented in a conference called “PICMET” that took place in Oregon, USA. It was about a japaneese operation management technique that I thought could be implemented in the chemical industry. I had rough time presenting it, for it was my first time in front of audience who had lots of question about such new technique to the chemical industry. It went alright although I looked sweating and scared of the crowd. It was like a nightmare that went by real quickly.

Then in 2000, I published another technical paper in a conference in Florida, and followed that with two more in the following 2 years, in NY and in Houston. The work is published in the ANTEC conference proceedings. I also had the honor to participate in writing a chapter in a chemical handbook. I stopped for a couple of years before publishing my last paper in Chicago in 2005. That was just before the second wave of layoffs hit the company. This time I was told that I was out of a job. I took that the wrong way for now I am not alone. I have a family with me. This was in 8/24/2005. So I walked back to my disk knowing that I have till 11/1/2005 to finish up my work and clear my office. On 8/26/05, another manager in another department in the company came rushing to my office asking if I accepted any other jobs yet. I said I didn’t even start looking. That’s when he told me not to look. 2 hours later, he walked in with an HR person and offered me a job in the same office I am in and in the same field I am in. The offer was the same salary and benefits, but I was honestly hurt why my company would do that to me. I declined and he quickly raised the offer significantly. That’s when I decided to take it on the spot. To this day, my wife doesn’t know I was laid off for 2 days. Didn’t want to bother her with such problem. Or maybe my pride or ego prevented me from telling her.

I was still hurt inside me. Early January, I decided to post my resume on Monsters.com. I got offers from companies for interviews but declined because I wanted to get a better job. One company called me and asked me to just and interview, still didn’t like the location (it was in Pittsburgh). Late January, I got a call from a big customers of my current employer who wanted to meet me. I paused for 10 seconds and said sure. I know the company, and I know how strong it is. I also wanted to get out of my current work for I had no trust in them no more. They did indicate to me that they cleared it with their legal department that they can talk to me, for they had an agreement not to pursue employees of the current employer, some kind of a deal part of a package between the two companies. So they flew me to Indianapolis for the first interview. I could tell that they liked me because there was no interview. It was a lunch gathering with some engineers. On my way home, my manager told me in the airport that he already made the decision and that he feels strong about me, but nothing firm yet. I told my wife that things are going ok.

This is going to be embarrassing to tell. They gave me few papers to fill and send to them. I actually forgot about the papers. My wife was eager to know why these guys didn’t call me again. 2 weeks later, I got the same call from the HR in indianapolise asking about the papers. I laughed but decided to lie. I told her that I’m sending it in mail this evening. I went home rushing and filled the papers and sent it to them. I knew that it’s a done deal. A week goes by and I get another call from the HR wanting to fly me again for a lunch with some guy who is coming from wales, England and a guy from headquarters in KY. So I flew there to have lunch with these guys, and it was fun. My manager tells me to talk to HR about what I would like to see in the offer, but I told him that this awkward. There is no offer on the table and usually, a company makes the offer and the candidate counters back. Anyway, I told the HR person what I would like to see in the offer.

3 days later, I got the offer over the phone, and it was more than I specified to her. I asked for a week to think about it, and I did. I accepted the offer as is, but asked for an extension stay for 5 months in a hotel while I sell my house and buy the new one. I was given that on the spot. I then went to my manager in the current work, and told him that I’m leaving. He wasn’t too happy for he wanted me have asked him before accepting the offer. I didn’t want to play the bargin game and I also wanted out from ohio.

4/2/2006, I moved to an Indianapolis hotel, and started my new career path. It was a Monday. On Thursday of the same week, I was told by my manager to travel to one of our plants for they are in need of some help, and I did. The plant was happy and sent great feed back to my manager. That opened up the door on other plants to seek me to go to them, and I did. I started making great friends, and enemies who were threatened by my progress. I was worried more about my family that I left behind, and fly to every 2 weeks to spend a day or two with them.

From 4/2 to 8/1, I lived in a hotel room bonded by 4 walls. That’s when I started reflecting more on my present and future. I was always thinking about my family. No matter what I did, their memories were always in my mind. I was counting the days till I meet with them again and get life back on track. Finally, it happened and they moved in Indianapolis on 8/1/05 in a furnished apartment with me. We then closed the deal on the house 2 weeks later, and moved in our new home.

Although I love my new career, and the things I am accomplishing, but this job requires travel constantly. From the time I bought my home, till today (10/31/06), I spent more nights traveling than being with my family. I have to do this to establish my presence in the current job. I guess we all have to make sacrifice for the best for our families. Beside, I enjoy traveling for I get to meet nice looking waitresses on the road, not that I would do anything, but I just love them college girls who work hard in restaurants to make a living and go to college. It reminded me with myself back in the days, although I am pretty sure I am a boy not a girl. Heck, I even know them by names and their life stories.

If I look back 10 years ago, I would have never imagined myself being where I am now. Never would even thought about where I am now. But I guess hope and luck has been good with me recently. No..not luck, but destiny. I love my new career, and I love the challenges. I also love the fact that my life turned around totally the opposite, and that was good for me. Maybe I wish I have done that earlier, but what the heck, life is good now, so why bother with when that decisive moment in my life occurred.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Chapters continue..Part XV. Arabs in the USA, The twilight zone

When you work, live, interact, and deal with arabs, you’ll tend to get a different picture of what they look like. The sad thing, to start with, is the fact that they left home long long time ago and they got stuck in the twilight zone. They left home many years ago, and they were shocked with the new western society that confused them. The solution was to try to hold on as much as possible with traditions, while slowely melting in this melting pot of American society. It doesn’t sound as difficult, but bear with me.

The first thing is the language. Arabs in the states have a unique distinctive accent, or dialect. Seriously, you could tell who is arab-american by simply listening to his/her words. They, arabs, held on to the mother language, which is 50 years old probably, and were disconnected from back-home due to their fear of melting completely in this new western society. Words like “elsayyaarah mlayycheh” (meaning the car is leaking) or “barracht elsayyarah” (I parked the car) started surfacing quickly. Sometime you hear “20 ryaal” meaning 20 dollars..or qaraaat (meaning quarters) also found a place in the arab language. I could go on with the list like storaat (stores) 6awaabe3 (food stamps) pampaat (gas station pumps) ya chuzen (cousin) and so forth. The sad thing is you’ll hear this from 7 years old girls who live in the USA in 2006.

Then there is the attitude…yes the attitude. I participated in an organization called ACCESS which deals with different arab issues, social that is. During my 4 months participation, I saw many things that drove me nutts. There was a girl, a 16 years old girl, who ran out of the house because her uncle rapped her, and she can’t tell anyone fearing that they’ll kill her. Another boy who brought a knife to school to stab another teenage boy because he flirted with his sister. A 15 years old girl ran out because the imam of the local mosque wanted to approve her marriage to another man, and her family were signing on the approval. A woman who was beaten by her husband for he thought she was cheating on him, and burned her arms. Another woman who was sexually abused by her husband in ways she couldn’t tolerate it. A young man who stabed his cousin because his cousin opened a new store next to his. A widow who is in need of money. An old man who came in crying because his 2 teenage boys converted to Christianity. A father who sees his daughter doing all bad stuff, from drugs to sex, and he can’t do anything to her because the law prevents him. Many stories, specially from teenagers that will make you cry inside out knowing you can’t help them, except via disconnecting them totally from their parents to protect them from any reprisals. ACCESS is located on Lorain street and W93rd street for those who are interested anyway.

But the most troubling story to me was a young arab woman, 20 years old, where her uncle saw her walking home from her work, and offered to give her a ride home. During the ride, he touched her in places where she felt uncomfortable, and tried to molest her, or maybe rape her. She screamed and opened the door and got out. He tried to talk her into going back in the car but she refused. Then she complained to her parents, who got angry at the uncle. They then sat down to make peace, and the outcome was that the uncle will pay 10,000 dollars compensation, and he did. The father got paid, and the uncle got off the hook, and the young woman was left devastated by such actions. She felt that her honor was sold out for 10,000 dollars and she was right in feeling that way.

Then you look at education. There is a large community of arabs in Cleveland. Yet, very very few that go to college. Here is how it works. The father owns a store or a gas station. His daughter is 15 years old, so he takes her off school to protect her honor, or his honor I should say. Then his boys are also taken out of school to help out in the stores. What you are left with is a family, that is uneducated, even education is free, and are so backwords in their language or way of thinking that makes you wonder. Many parents in Palestine and Jordan sell their land, so they can provide money for their kids to study in America, and these arabs here don’t even use the free education system? No wonder that there are generations after generations that know nothing but gas stations or stores. This is really sad. It’s sad when you see 6 arab American college students in the university, and you know that there are many out there.

I coached soccer for the local arab girls, 14 and under, and had so much fun with these girls. The looks on their eyes when they have fun playing a sport. I swear I enjoyed every moment watching girls fight about fouls or screaming “3ammo…she started it”..it was really fun. But the sad part is you look around and you see 3 mothers only sitting away and no fathers. There were more than 30 girls, and only 3 mothers? And no fathers? Then I look at the baseball field next to us and I see parents rooting for their kids and makes you wonder, these girls can’t even get 2 hours from their parents to watch them play sport? The girls didn’t feel that of course because they are used at it..but I could feel it. I wanted these little girls to feel appreciated. Can you imagine the smile on their face when a father screams “that’s my girl” when she kicks the ball? I felt sad for them for I wanted them to feel that they are just like the other kids. Not even 2 hours a week? That’s ok anyway..the icecream trip after the game meant great for them, and for me too. For those who are familiar with Cleveland, this practice used to take place up until 4 years ago in a park next to west gate mall in Westlake.

When I started to fast again, I used to go to a local arab society (I won’t mention the name here) to break my fast. Families used to cook and bring the food for the single students like myself. In one day, I walked through the door, and it was still fasting time, and found guys smoking and sipping coffee while gambling. There was money on the table so I knew they were gambling. We walked to the food tables, and as soon as it was ok, we started eating. Then the guys walked in and said “go an eat..we are going to throw it away if you don’t anyway”. At the spot..I lost my appetite, and walked out of the place. It’s not like we needed the food or anything, all we needed is a taste of home where we see families around us to remind us with home, not because of the food. We are all capable of buying and dining out.

Those who lived in Cleveland during the ninties can easily remember the FBI busts on arab stores and homes. Here is a situation. Sometime in 1994 or 95, there was a major bust, and the FBI caught more than 20 arabs, men and women, exchanging foodstamps for cash. Food stamps are a some coupons that the government issues for poor families in the slumps of Cleveland. These poor families will then exchange these food stamps, for cash, at a value of maybe 75% of the original value. They needed the cash to buy drugs and alcohol, and arabs took advantage of that. So the FBI busted more than 20 familes, and the TV station loved it as they showed the faces of arab men and women in jail waiting to pay bail. In addition, the FBI busted the homes of those arabs only to find hundreds of thousands of dollars stacked in shoe boxes in attics and basements. The store owners couldn’t deposit the money into the bank because the government will ask them about the money. Hence, those guys lost everything. Of course, some arabs “civic leaders” started crying foul and that the government is after arabs in general. Well, why give them the excuse? Whats wrong is wrong, and feeding on those poor families to make wealth is wrong, regardless if the government was after arabs or not.

Arabs also mastered the technique of being on welfare (to collect government aid) while owning wealth. They could be driving hummers, and spending food stamps in the store. They also masterd the coupons where they clip coupons from the newspapers and send them to the vendor for face value. Again, those who lived in Cleveland know such busts. The tax code meant nothing for arabs. The store owner would claim that he is only making profit of 20,000 dollars, yet, he owns a mansion (registered in his wife’s name). How does the wife get away? That’s easy. They marry in the mosque only, not in the civic center, so the state doesn’t know that they are married. That’s when it hurts women the most when they get divorced, and right after they give up the houses without their knowledge by signing the deed to a cousin of the husband. Hey, arab mothers (generally) don’t know how to read or write English.

It is sad to see how arab families struggle to live in the states. One look at their kids, or their way of life and you’ll quickly come to realize that this is a very sad situation. Kids are usually the best investment for the future. You can work hard in building an emire of wealth, and when you die, your children will spend it in a very short time on bad things because you didn’t spend enough time with them to teach them how to survive.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Reality bites in the ...........

Reality bites you in the…..

As usual, I had a nice meal last night, and when this happens, it spells trouble. That meant that I needed to spend quality time in the bathroom, and when I do that, my mind starts wondering around and thinking in a way that scares me sometime. So, I asked myself “oh wicked self, what have you done for her lately?”. I panicked. I looked around and I saw no one. I heard the voice again saying “yeah you, what have you done for her lately?” I said “who’s her?” After few seconds, the answer came back in a sad voice “Jordan”

Then I realized that self is torturing me again with those wicked questions that make me look weak and bad. That’s when I started thinking (yeah I spend way too much time in the bathroom) about her. I know that so many of us are so darn good in talking and writing about home, and how noble this home is. I remembered after the amman bombings, how the whole country reacted to such terror. I could remember so many posts I read in the very few days right after the bombing. Heck, I always sing the song of yeah sure I miss the falafel and the crowded streets in amman, the fig sellers on the airport road, the gathering of family and loved ones, and would sing like whitney Houston (not that I recommend anyone to hear my singing, I suck big time) about love and passion using words that can only describe a sweet love story that is filled with lust, biut the question remained “what have you done for her lately”.

I for, myself, did nothing, absolutely nothing, beside talking. I wish I did actions instead of talking during the bombings. Or maybe demonstrated during Lebanon war. But I did nothing, and what adds more on such flames, is the fact that I know others did, not just spoke. Sometimes I try to convince myself with excuses that are built on a very weak base, that I didn’t have the chance. Didn’t have the time or maybe the access to do anything. But deep inside, I can hear myself telling me “what ……..do you think these are solid excuses? That’s when I get stuck and not be able to answer back.

I got jealous of the ones who did, not just spoke. “Resalatona” is a great example of that. Some people actually did, when I didn’t. Some went to danger zone during Lebanon, and I didn’t. Some gave up lots of money and time, when I barely did few dollars. Some demonstrated in the streets when I sat down behind a computer screen typing words that anyone could type, but very few could do. I wish I was one of those few, just to be able to look myself in the mirror and say “a job well done” instead of this blame game.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Part XIV, The secret window

I know that the vast majority of us saw this movie. It’s about a writer who sits in front of his window to write, only to find out he is a crazy writer who killed his wife and her lover, and then buried them in a corn field seen from the window. Yet, most immigrants, like me, do have a place, a window or a backdoor that looks at something. I have changed houses many times, but in each time, there was that one place where I can sit down and look through a window, or a back screen door to reflect on past, present, and life in general. It’s as it’s a screen, a movie screen that displays his or her life, past, present, and sometimes future. Whatever was that place, it was always there.

I work from 8 to 5, the American dream, or what I thought was. My body is accustomed to waking up at 7 am, and in weekends, this usually spells trouble for me. My best “secret window” was in my previous house, where it overlooks the lake. It didn’t look directly at the lake, but at the lake street, where there is a line of houses between this street and the actual lake. But I could see the lake clearly from my home office in the second floor. I would make myself a cup of coffee, and sneak upstairs hoping not to awaken my wife, to have my moment. I start the day with a couple of sips of freshly brewed coffee before my fingers automatically seek my pack of Marlboro light back then.

That window used to be my movie screen that displays anything my simple mind wanted to view. Sometimes it displays my past, and how I got to where I am now. The agony and misery, shame and disgust, love and passion, and hope and persistence. I could see it all. On occasions, my mind would tend to sneak away when a jogger runs by, or a car drives fast, but it comes back to me quickly after. Sometimes I wish I could forget the past, but myself keeps dragging me back to that window, and I wish I could control what it displayed. I could see the day I arrived in NY airport, and how naive I was. Or the day I was humiliated by the so many who crossed my roads. Even those I hurt during my short life in the states. I sometimes thought that God is punishing me for what my soul have done.

Sometimes, this window showed me my present, and how happy I am. A home, family, and a career that I adore. Part of society, that seeks hiding no more. I smiled so many times when I could see my wife walking behind me, and feel her arms on my shoulder. I wish I could tell her that I’m haunted by this window. She wouldn’t understand anyway, for she can’t see what was playing today. But the simple thought of where I am now was enough to fill my heart with joy. Looking around my home office, seeing my accomplishments, and the price I had to pay, was a constant reminder of hope.

My worst nightmare is when the future was playing on the screen. To be able to provide, and love, is not easy. I know that our faith in the almighty lord should offset such fears. But we’re humans, and humans always like to prepare. Where am I going to die, or will I be able to see my parents again? How is my wife going to deal with my departure, if it was distended to be then? Will I ever go back to my heavens that is somewhere in 6abarboor? Where is my comfort, is it in being an immigrant, or a bird so eager to go home? Will I ever go back to my filth of the past, and fall victim to what was once my hell? How strong am I to resist the calls of the past? I wish I could answer such questions, yet I kept going back to such secret window as if I was self-punishing my soul for what once was.

I never figured out what was my worst viewing, past, present, or future. Each had it’s way to haunt me, in their own ways. I tried to avoid the window, with no success. Until I forced myself to believe that no crime will ever be at rest, till punishment was applied. Maybe this was my punishment, or a way to heal the soul. So many years passed, and I’m yet to find the cure. But now I am convinced that the pain has to go on, till the soul believes that the dues were fully paid. And for those of you who read my poem “leave me alone, I’ve paid my dues” could relate to this chapter. Or maybe the poem “prisoner of sorrow” was the perfect description of what I maybe feeling. Heck, I have written so many poems that describe the same feeling that I have lost count. But in the end, there are things that we control, and things that us they control.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Need your opinion about writing

I discovered that I love writing. I never published anything before, except participating to write a chapter in a polymeric handbook. But recently, I discovered that I have a deep feeling inside, an ambition to write. I hate to turn off any dream or ambition in me, or to feel faliure early in the process. Some of you did read what I wrote. I have few poems published here, as well as a narrative story of an immigrant. I feel and believe that if i pur my head in it, i can make it happen, specially the immigrant story. However, I have problems in english. I lack the right english language and sentence structure. But if i went back, and filled in the blanks in the immigrant story, I feel that it may worth a shot of being published. I only posted less than half of what I intend to write, and i can fill in so much more of historic events that can be included in the story.

my fears are in the command of the english language..and this sems to be a very weak aspect in me. But i have a dream, and we all dream. When i was growing up, I loved guitar, so i bought a guitar to express my love and to try and excericize a dream. However, the guita is still in it's box, even after 14 years. Every time I look at it, it reminds me with a dream that never came true because of my lack of persistance. I hate to do it again. I don't know..maybe after I'm done with the immigrant story, it opens a small window of hope in some day writing something that is not chemical related.

So I want ur honest opinion, and i will accept any criticism or judgment. Do you think I have a shot? Should I pursue it, or forget about it and focus on my career?

Chapters from an immigrant's life, Part XIII, I bought my son

Part XIII. I bought my son

I have a friend..a dear friend of mine. He was married to an American woman. My understanding is that things were going great on their first year of marriage. Then suddenly, things started to turn to ugly. He decided to go for divorce. However…he discovered his wife to be pregnant. So he decided to withstand his life of hell for the sake of his child. I don’t agree with his decision, but it was his life anyway. I felt bad for the guy.

So his son was born. He named him Tariq. Tariq is aa sweet cute looking boy, and honestly, I now understand why he changed his mind regarding divorce. But his life is really a mess. I’m sure he tried to fix matters but seems his wife was unfixable. He used to invite me to his house, and I could see how crazy he was with his son. Such a cute and smart child. But I could also see in his dad’s eyes the sadness that could kill a man. A heavy purdon on his life. I felt bad for the guy.

Tariq is growing fast, and his dad’s misery is growing with it. His wife was not an honest wife. She was bad, and I suspect that she was cheating on her husband. Maybe he knew she was, but couldn’t divorce her for the sake of his son. The things people go through for the sake of children. I don’t know how he could live with her like that. I know that he wanted out so bad, but his son was like the shackles that tied him to such miserable life. I felt bad for the guy.

Tariq was 6 years old now. The father then decided to pursue divorce. He seemed to have enough of such mess. So his wife leaves him and goes to her family’s hone. She takes Tariq with her. The guy kept calling me crying like a baby with so much sadness about his son. I knew this was going to happen to him for I could see the strong relationship with his son. I really felt bad for the guy.

Three months later, the guy is still calling me trying to seek an end to his misery. I kept comforting him to hold on for longer. I wanted to see the guy strong and resisting any calls from his heart to back down and get back with his wife. I gotta be honest, I never imagined him leaving his wife, but he did, and I’m happy for him. He told me how he went to his wife’s home begging to see his son, but she refused. I felt bad for the guy.

A couple of weeks later, he called me again crying for he just heard that his son was in the hospital. I rushed to his side and went with him to the hospital. I now can see Tariq different. Skinny and so slim. He was told that his is going through a physiological shock. He was asking his wife seeking information of what happened. She was as hard as a stone. The FBI is now questioning the couple about the child. The poor man was just sitting with his face so shocked. So they wanted to take Tariq to see a psychiatrist to examine him. Tariq wasn’t saying one word as if he was just pale. He then jumped toward his dad and I couldn’t hold myself from crying and comforting the guy. God I felt for both of them. The wife was in another world.

Later, I was told that the doctor recommended that the son moves with his dad. Then few weeks later, I got a call from my friend wanting to meet me in the coffee shop. I again rushed to meet him for I could do anything for him. As soon as he saw me, he shed a couple of tears and said “I just bought my son”. I was shocked. I said “man are you ok? This is America, no one sells or buys children”. He said “dude..I’m telling you, I just bought my son” So I demanded to know what happened. Well, it seems that my friend offered his ex-wife money to give up custody of the child. She demanded a higher figure and he basically agreed. He showed me the custody papers, and that’s when my heart screamed “God is great” for I felt happy for my friend. I felt great for the guy.

Tariq is now 12 years old, and as cute as he was 7 years ago. Happy with his father, and making his father, the happiest dad alive. That story moved me so much and reminded me with the troubles in ghorbah. The things we do for our children. I am happy to say that Tariq and his father are living a happy life. He got married again, and he has a family now where Tariq is a big part of this family.

To me, seeing Tariq and his dad together, and remembering what his dad went through, makes me smile and believe that God is always there, but we have to wait and be patients. How many men leave their children to the unknown, not caring about what may happen to them? I know of many. But this man kept fighting never losing hope ever. He was willing to give everything he owned, including his life for the sake of his son.

I sometimes wonder if I was that guy, and what would I do, or have done to save my son. Sometimes, it’s hard to make the right decision, or the right decision has a hefty price to pay. This friend of mine held for 6 years living in hell, and finally, God gave him the gift of life. A great family and a great son. God bless us all.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The chapters continue...Part XII. Prejudice

I had encountered very few prejudice behavior toward me. The first ever one was back in 1991 while I was working in a gas station told me that he was coming back with a gun to send me back home. I laughed..yelled at him, and cursed him. He never came back, but this was a situation where I was called “sand nigger”. Luckily it was just a simple words exchange.

In another situation, I was denied apartment because the guy found out I was arab. This is funny. Ok..I had a girl roommate, but also a girlfriend when we felt the urge to enjoy a night, or if her boyfriend wasn’t around. This is complicated and I wish I can explain more, but lets leave it at that for now. So she was helping me locating an apartment for she was going to have her boyfriend move in with her. So she called this add, and the guy told her to come and take the apartment. We both went there, and as soon as the guy saw me, he wasn’t happy. So he was asking who is moving in, and she told him that this guy is. He said “sure no problem, give me your address and I’ll send you the application”. The girl said “but you do have applications right here” and the owner quickly said “those are old needs updating”. She offered to pay the security deposit now, and he declined. I knew what was cooking in his mind. I was just sitting down and enjoying seeing my babe yelling at the guy. She eventually told him that she thinks he is a racist. He said “come on lady, he even can’t speak English, and didn’t say a word since he came in, how can I let him live here?”. So I got up, and told him what I thought about him (very honestly of course), and told him that I knew he wasn’t going to give me the apartment because of my ethnicity, but I didn’t care. I also indicated to him that I am not going to enjoy spending my money on a scum like him, and I walked out with the girlfriend.

So I did hear some “sand nigger” and “camel jockey” and that sort of things, but it was all harmless. The worst cases of prejudice I encountered where to my surprise from immigrants, like myself. One time was when I was going with my wife to immigration in 2002. The wife decided to wear the veil few weeks before that. So, we approached the help disk. There was an Egyptian guy that works there. He was mean, rude, so nasty, and very mean to us. I didn’t like his way of treatment. I demanded to see his supervisor. He laughed and said “go home” in Arabic. I said that I wasn’t allowing anyone to approach the window until I see his supervisor, and I didn’t move. So a security guard came to me, and that’s when my wife paniced. She tried to get me out of there, but I didn’t move. I know my rights in this country and I know my duties, and I wasn’t going to back off. The guard approached me and said “what do you want?” with a tone that wasn’t happy. I kindly requested that I have a right to see this man’s supervisor because he was very mean the way he’s dealing with me, yet he was smiling and happy when he dealt with the Romanian babe that was a head of me. I told him exactly that.

So the guard burst into laughing when I said “Romanian babe” and said hang on man, we’ll get you the supervisor. So I complained to the supervisor, and told him what happened. He apologized, but told me to go home now, and we’ll follow up in 8 weeks. I was ok, as long as the guy was kind to me, so I went home. Hen I mentioned the story to my friends, they all knew the guy who works there. A Coptic Egyptian man. So I quickly called one of my greatest teachers in school, who was the priest of the Coptic Church in Cleveland, and he was Coptic of course. We visited him in his house, and truly he is such a nice person. I told him the story of immigration, and he laughed and said yes he comes to my church and I always get complains from my muslim friends about him. He assured me not to worry next time I go there. Indeed, things went so smooth after that.

The other time was at my previous job. In early 2006, and after the prophet’s cartoon’s incident, a Hispanic man approached me. His name was Gonzales, and I knew the guy for few years at the job. He is a technician working in the plant. So anyway, he usually comes and asks me about arabs and muslims all the time, but I could feel in his voice that he has some kind of prejudice against us, yet he is able to control it. So anyway, I knew he was going to act silly. I almost reported him to HR few weeks ago because of his remarks on muslims. So anyway, he asked me about the cartoons, and I told him what I thought. Then after debates and cautious exchange, he told me “why do you people burn flags and chop heads because of a cartoon, this is not the desert anymore”. I paused fo seconds and said “you people?” then one of the engineers walked into my office, and Gonzales left. But I was still burning inside. I have heard a Hispanic guy telling me “you people”. That’s when I decided to go to his boss, and complained. I asked him if it was going to cause him his job, and he said “too late to ask such questions, this is our policy and when it comes to racism or prejudice, we have a 0 tolerance policy” I then told his boss that I wanted to withdraw my complaint for I hated anyone losing his job. He refused and said “I was trying to fire this guy for so many years, but was scared because he was the only Hispanic guy here, and was worried of being labeled racist, but he is lazy, immature, doesn’t do a good job, and all engineers complain from his work” that made me fool comfortable.

But there was that one time that I was treated very bad and couldn’t do anything about it. Again, this was probably 1990 or 91. I was driving my car and was stopped by police. He got out of his car, approached me. “can I see your driver’s license and registration please” he asked. I gave him both and asked what did I do? He then demanded my insurance, and I said what did I do? He asked me again “sir, I’m going to ask you for the last time, show me your insurance”. I said “sir, I’m not going to show you my insurance till you tell me why your stopping me”. So he made me get out of the car, booked me, and threw me in the back of his car. So I spent a night in jail, and in the morning, I saw the judge.

The judge was asking me “whats your name” I was still confused, this was the first time I see a courtroom. He replied “whats wrong, are you ashamed of your name?” Now I got more confused. I have a judge who is angry at me. “No I’m not, why would I?” He was still angry “I ask the questions here, and you answer. You are accused of resisting arrest and failing to provide identification, so state your name and how you plea”. I told him my name and that the cop is not telling the truth because he has my drivers liscence, and that I do have insurance and didn’t resist arrest, and then plead –no-contest hoping to get with the least problems. So he fined me a hefty fine, and let me free. Normally, judges let people go because of time served. One day in jail was supposed to be enough punishment, even for a crime I didn’t commit. So I walked out of the court, with flames inside me, but still, had that feeling of an immigrant that you can’t mess with cops.

Other than that, I got nothing but support and compassion from my neighbors or co-workers, especially after 9/11. There maybe prejudice in America, but everyone seems to be able to control such prejudice, except our friend Gonzales.

Chapters VIII and IX...sorry for forgeting to post them

Part VIII. Finding God

I was brought up in a lightly conservative home. Dad wasn’t the kind of guy who goes to a mosque, or even pray. Mom was a reflection of women of the 60’s, the mini skirt and the funky hair style. But slowly, she became closer to God, and she started wearing the veil when I was almost 16 years old. Nevertheless, I may have developed a rebellion mentality and did the opposite of what they were. I was praying all 5 prayers in the mosque in the neighborhood in al-ain. It was probably a quarter mile away, and I was the only person who was praying in our house.

Prayer was a funny thing for me. I mean I was praying 5 times a day, yet, had that funky hairstyle of the eighties, and the old style jeans. I was very religious and fully convicted in God and Islam. My life style was not of that a religious Muslim, but still, I was so attached to defending the principles of islam. I even fought with my dad when I was 17 years old, because he was doing banking and getting interest from the bank. Of course I lost the battle, but didn’t seem to make me back off.

In one Ramadan, and that’s when my dad prays only, he was to be the imam. So he started to pray, and I refused to pray behind him, and prayed alone. I was 16 years old back then. When dad finished his prayer, and before saying the esteghfar, he jumped on me and kicked me a couple of kicks. Of course I didn’t like that, and decided to walk outside and eat somewhere else.

Then suddenly, and few weeks before my departure to the states, I started hanging out some guys who were going to dubai for pleasure (they were Lebanese back then, and I hear they are Russians now), and party in the intercontinental hotel in al-ain. That’s when I was introduced to beer. I started liking this new life style of mine. It was cool.

I carried on with me this life style to America. And to make matters worse, I started hanging around a group of leftist arabs at some point in time, and started adopting their mentality. They were kind, very kind and very active, but the majority didn’t believe in God. I kept my faith even when I was drinking or doing the forbidden matters. Then I started debating these guys and gals. “what the hell do you mean that there is no God?” I asked. Their answer was a simple “sure sure..the egg came from the hen who came to life through evolution, that happened after the big bang”. That’s when I got smart and asked them where did the big bang come from, or who caused it. They were smarter (at that time) and said “sure..God created the big bang, but can you tell me where did God come from?”.

To be honest, this question bothered me a lot. I then started drifting and not believing at all. God can not be an unjust God, yet we see death, crimes, oppression, and God is watching. He hence doesn’t exist, because if he did, he would’ve interfered since he is a just God.

It never stopped at that. I started preaching the non-existence of God amongst some of my friends. Some laughed at me, some left me, and some hated me for such belief. Now, I have very few friends that stood by me after my change of belief. I started drifting more and more toward my new friends from the left. I mean they were fun. Drinking and dinner parties, they had it all. Not to mention the cute arab girls of the left, this was another factor for me.

I started hating all muslim students. There was an MSA group at school, and I worked against them for most of my time there. Why not when they would never shake my hand and publicly say that I’m an infidel. I would even make fun of them and their appearance. At one time, I was parking my car in the visitor’s parking lot, and the guy who was working the booth was one of the MSA guys. He refused to let me in saying that I’m a student. We argued back and forth and I then heard him telling me “If I am able to kill you, I will oh you infidel”. He was hinting that just because we live in the states, he can not, but if this was Jordan or Kuwait, he would’ve slit my throat. I didn’t like that, and went straight to the booth, grabbed his neck, and hit him a couple of punches on his face. I then lifted the bar, drove my car in, and told him if I see a ticket or if my car is towed, he would pay dearly.

Sometime late 1998, and while I was working on my masters degree, two students who I worked with on a project were going to the Friday prayer in the 4th floor. They asked me to come with them, and I said sure, why not. I went up stairs, and saw different faces from different countries. Women, men, all were praying. I was sitting outside, but looking through the window. To be honest, I was just looking at the girls faces. This prayer never moved me an inch closer to God, but made me at least respect and acknowledge those who worship him. This is a major change in my life, for I wasn’t even considering any believer to be a sane person.

I started going more and more with these guys to the 4th floor. Then one time, I was embarrassed by one of my friends there who asked me “do you know how to pray?” I honestly forgot the prayer, and I told him that. So he asked me to come to his house, he’s having a party, but no alcohol or women. That’s ok anyway, I gave up alcohol and women sometime ago, so I went to his party. Maybe I’ll get lucky and meet my future wife there. The party was nice, guys and girls, sitting around, with the boys on one side, and the girls on the other side. Some girls were wearing veil, and some were wearing mini skirts. Then it was time for prayer, and only few prayed. So it’s not bad after all, I mean it’s not one of those muslim gathering where they bore me about life after death. The food was great, and the topics of discussion were so sweet. Nothing about religion at all. It was about cars, parents, life, jobs, and that sort of things. Then the host said “do you guys want to watch a tape?” I was shocked…tape? What kind of tape? Where am I?. So he put the tape on. The tape was for an imam called “alzanadani”. He was talking about the miracles of science in the qur2an. I found myself so attached. I felt weak. My heart was pounding faster. I asked for the tape, but there was a long line ahead of me. I decided to wait for my turn, #6 on the list.

Nevertheless, my friend may have wanted to cash on the opportunity. He took me aside, and whispered to me “I have another tape for you”. It was another tape for this imam zanadani, but a longer one with scenes of scientists declaring their shahada upon hearing the translation of some verses from the qur2an. I took the tape home, and quickly played it. I played it again and again..and felt my heart is starting to question my own belief. I’m leaning toward believing in God once again…but there was something that was keeping me away from him.

I returned the tape to my friend and he asked me “so whats up? Are you good?” I said “of course I am, what make you think I wasn’t?”. He then pushed me a little strongly against the wall and held my Tshirt and said “how long are you going to be an idiot? Whats the matter with you? Unless you believe that an illiterate arab named Muhammad wrote this qur2an that talks about science, then you are just an idiot. Tell me that Muhammad wrote the qur2an, go on tell me”. I pushed him away. He shook his head saying “you can’t be that stupid, think man, think” And that’s what I did.

I started asking for tapes from my friend..and he was happy to give them to me. Then I asked him if he has a small book about prayer, or teaching kids about prayer. I could swear that this is the first time I see someone laughs so loud, yet cries in the same time. He put his arm around my shoulder and walked with me to the lab to show me how to pray. I knew the movements, but didn’t know what to say.

The next Friday, we both went to the 4th floor, and I asked him to watch me pray first and monitor any errors. I prayed. He informed me that I had an extra “rokoo3”. That’s ok..I can feel myself looking and feeling different. I started reading more about God, and listening to Tariq swedan, and amr khaled, and these guys. I started reading books about the history of Muhammad PBUH. I found myself so attached to prayer, and to God.

I really appreciate what that friend did to me. He stood by me when I needed a friend the most. He never gave up on me, and kept trying. I could see he cared. He didn’t want anything from me, as he was leaving to Kuwait anyway. I can never forget him or what he did for me. Sometimes I look back in time and start believing that indeed God sends messages through people. I gave up on God, yet he never gave up on me, and stood by me even in times when I was cursing God.

Islam in America has another taste, a different taste than what it is in the arab world. During Ramadan, and on Saturday and Sunday, so many families will cook food and bring to the mosque, for single people like us to eat and feel home. They would hang out with us, and we get to know them, men and women, and appreciate what a good life to be amongst people who care for you. It wasn’t like they are giving charity, no, not at all. They were cooking and eating with us together as a family. That made a difference.

Looking back at time, I sometimes smile at the cycle that I went through. I started a strong muslim, then went through a phase that don’t want to even remember, and now back safe where I belong, closer to God.

Part IX. Love in America

I left my family at an early age (17 and a half is early). Every young man will go through such moments of love. Some of them make sense, and some don’t. I had my funny moments with love.

I loved this arab woman. She was probably 35, and I was 18. I met her in an arab party. I actually met her and her husband together. I somehow loved her. I was always searching for occasions where I could see her face. It never occur to me that she is married. I wasn’t after any unlawful relationship, or that sort. I just felt my heart pounding every time I see her face or hear her voice. This one sided love lasted maybe 6 months. I finally told her that I love her. She looked at me weird and begged me not to do anything that harms her marriage and to leave her alone. That’s when it occurred to me that she was married and we can’t be together. I know I know….

Then I was dragged into my darkened world, and never tasted love again, till I married my wife. I was deprived of living love moments that normal people do during their twenties life. Maybe I chose to stay away from love. I may have been punishing myself for what I was doing, or maybe I despised all women and felt they were made for my satisfaction. I frankly don’t know.

But I’d like to go back in time before I left to America. Kind of a funny story, but sad too. When I was 15 years old, I loved the cousin of one of my friends. She was the most beautiful girl I ever met in my life. I was just crazy about her. I would call her and hang up. I wanted to be with her so bad, yet I was so idiotic in my approach. I started writing her letters, and have my sister slip the letter to her without knowing. I was slick when it comes to writing love letters, and I may still be. Then I started calling her, and expressing my love to her. She would never hang up on me, but she never speaks. She just listened to my love words.

Then I started visiting her home with her cousin. She never showed attention in me, yet she was always around us. I tried to reveal to her that it was I who is in so much love with her…but I was a true chicken. Then came the time where I was supposed to depart to the states. I had to speak to her. I called her cousin and told him to bring her, and I wanna speak to her. The meeting was supposed to take place in Hardee’s in the main street in Al-ain, by the bridge. I went there first, and sat down. They came then and sat down. She didn’t suspect anything, but she looked happy. We ordered pepsi, and then my friend left us both alone. That’s when she started suspecting something. I could still remember her face, so beautiful, so magical. She asked ‘whats going on?”. I had to tell her everything, so I did. She was just listening, and shocked. I could see that she is preventing her tears from flowing. Then I told her that I’m leaving in 2 days.

She laughed so loud, and looked at me and said “so you loved me more than 2 years, and you never told me that you do, and now your saying that your leaving in 2 days?”. I said “ummmm yes”. She laughed again and said “don’t worry, I never loved you anyway, and frankly, would never love you”. She got up and walked away. I tried to see her face one more time, but couldn’t, as she got in her cousin’s car quickly and asked him to drive her home fast.

That kind of hurt me a little. I was wishing that she loved me too. But it’s ok, because if she loved me too, I could be the biggest idiot, and would leave her in pain”. So I wanted to be an idiot more than I wished to see her hurt. I was relieved somehow, that she didn’t love me.

However, my sister told me that indeed she loved me and she was waiting for my move. She was fearing that she may have been loving me from one side only. That was a year after I came to America. I was devastated. I called her, and spoke to her. Only if I made my move 2 years sooner, I could’ve lived the best love story of my early life. I mean she loved me more than I probably loved her, and she didn’t want me to feel the pain of saying goodbye, instead, she chose to look like the evil one till I settle in the states. Now I am the biggest idiot God ever created.

To me, that was the only love story, real love story I ever lived, or witnessed, prior to meeting my wife. Which in turn, was a love story that I don’t think I’ll forget either. Although we didn’t see each others a lot prior to marriage, we some how developed the respect and love toward each others. I could remember that before I proposed to her, I told her about my past, everything, and every detail, boring detail too. She of course was shocked, and asked me to give her till tomorrow to think. I honored her wish, and did that.

I was fearful that she will refuse me. Still, I had to be as open as possible with her. It was a gamble on my behalf, but had to be done. I couldn’t sleep the night, for the though of her rejecting me was haunting me. Sometimes I hear a voice telling me “you idiot, she was ok, why did you have to open your mouth?” I had to. The next day, I went to her house, and asked her if I should go through and propose to her dad. She agreed but asked me to never go that route again, and I promised her never.

Then I went back to the states alone, and was with her on the phone almost every other day. I just had to hear her voice. Now, love, women, family are all coming together. Women are not so bad after all. They are not a pleasure item. They think like me, talk like me, feel like me..damn..this great.

So I guess love wasn’t a big factor in my years in America. It seems that my mind was so occupied, and my heart was blocked from love. That’s ok…I have won the love game in the end.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Chapters continue, Parts X and XI

Part X. Homesickness

I guess I started my love toward home sometime in after 1997, when I went back to Jordan after 8 years in the states. However, I left Jordan in 1975, at the age of 6 years old, with my father who landed a job in the UAE army. From 1975 till 1989, I visited Jordan for a period of 2 years total, over 14 years span. 3 months here and 4 months there, and so on. The last one was in 1984. Then I was away till 1997. So I didn’t have that relationship with home, yet. I was away all my life.

Then in 1997, and after seeing my family for the first time in 8 years, I had the luxury of seeing Jordan. I went to that same hill top in Tabarboor that I used to spend my childhood life on. For those who know Tabarboor, it’s a hill on the south side of two military camps. Dad tells me that one of the camps hosted two important prisoners in 1971, and they were the current president of Palestine (mahmood abbas) and the late abu eyad. So anyway, I went back to that hill, and tried to find what I used to see when I was growing up. I was lucky for I saw a shepherd with his sheep. I can also see a couple of humvies. The desert floor is still there. That magical breeze that is coming from the west is also there.

I started visiting places. Went to petra, and to aqaba. I also went to the castles of the crusade era’s. Went to the farms of the north and by the Jordan river. I am now starting to awaken something that was sleeping so many years in me. And that is the love of the land. I should have that feeling anyway. I proudly came from a family that defended the land, from my grandfather to my dad and uncles.

I can feel all that building in me slowly and cooking over the two months in Jordan. I enjoyed it pretty much. And when I came back to the states, it showed on me quickly. I looked for the Jordanian flag, and found it, and hung it in the house. I started hanging around my fellow Jordanians. I registered with the embassy, and got to know more Jordanians close to my location. I was happy to be able to express that I belonged to some land somewhere n this universe.

But that all comes with a price. The price of homesickness. Once you develop this love toward someone or something that is so far away from you, you start living in pain, and memories keep haunting you. I started getting depressed. Every time I hear a song, or hear of someone who is visiting Jordan, I get depressed. I wanted to be that someone. Sometimes I would wish for getting fired from my job, or forced out, just to go home. I seem not to be able to control that, but would wish to see it happen to me. I just can’t make it happen.

I was feeling a very mixed feeling. It’s a strange feeling. I started feeling the pain of being away from home, and started dreaming about home. A voice in the back of my mind was telling me to look for a job there. I did. Found one with $400 JD in a drugs factory. This was back in 1999. I thought about leaving and getting the job. But everyone, including my brother in law who found me the job via his contact (yes, called “wastah”) was screaming at me to pursue life in the state. The land of opportunities, and indeed it is.

I guess I listened to the many voices, and decided to see what happens in the next years in America. Things were going so great for me that I decided to stick around. Decided to chose career over being with family. No right choices here, both were wrong in my opinion, but didn’t have the choice. But I now know that every time I see a box of sweets from a store in amman, I feel there are internal tears that acts like a sharp knife ripping through my flesh, inside out. A simple thing like mansaf, would stir emotions so wildly inside me. But I made the choice, and every choice has a price that comes with it.

Part XI. The Coffee shop

There was a coffee shop in Cleveland. It’s an Arabic coffee shop where you get a sahlab (seriously) and a shisha while playing cards. I would go there many times. Although I hated the atmosphere where people curse God and some yemani student were sneaking “Qat” in, but for the most part, I would get lucky and see someone who is sitting alone, and go there. I wanted to stay connected with the great feeling I received when I was in Jordan. I wanted to hear arabs speaking about issues, just like Jordan. But that comes with a price too.

In one instance, I went to the coffee shop during a cold night. I got in there, and saw an old man sitting down by himself. Most of the people in the coffee shop were young kids, todays generation that thinks manhood is about few muscles and a fancy haircut like amr diab, and of course, the typical crooked walk. So I didn’t want nothing to with them. Sure I was maybe 28 to 30 years old, but I could see so much difference between the two schools of thought, my generation and theirs.

At any rate, I kindly requested to join this 40 to 50 years old man. He accepted of course, and I could see that he really didn’t want to talk too much. It’s ok..I was fine with that. Few words later, I managed to find out that he is a mechanical engineer who came to the states some time ago, got married to an American woman, then got divorced and lost his 2 daughters to her, then married again to another American woman, who bankrupted him. Wow..I doubt that this was after few words, but you know how it goes; words just keep rolling. I felt sad for him….I really did as I could tell when he pauses for few seconds to regain strength and remember some moments. I’ve done that…and I know how it feels. That’s probably a sample of so many different arab lives of what you could find.

Then of course there are those who go there drunk and start cursing God as they are losing a playing card game. At one point, there was a fight because of a game..what a shame. I saw chairs and tables flying. I remembered my arrogance when I was growing up in the states, and how I could relate to that. But these guys are no 20 years old kids, they are middle 30’s. What a shame. I had a chair hitting me one time during one of the fights in the coffee shop. I didn’t want to react, so I didn’t. People cursing each other’s sisters, and mothers, and I’m sitting down way on the end smoking my shisha and wondering if it ever gets uglier than that. It didn’t anyway.

The only reason I used to go to that coffee shop is there was a guy that worked there, an Egyptian guy, who was kind enough to play at least one Jordanian song while I’m there. I needed that to remind me with the few days I spent in amman. Reminded me with a nation, a king, and people. Reminded me with picnic trips with family as we drove the cars through the hills and the farms while listening to alabdallat or nahawand music.

I filmed a trip that I took with family, and just like any Jordanian family, you start filming as everyone gets in the cars, then as we are driving, and filming uncle’s flan’s driving, or my sister driving behind us in her car, and I could see the girls clapping their hand in that car. I was filming that, and I am sure they were listening to great music and enjoying our simple but beautiful life in Jordan. While filming, we’d have music playing, heck, call it a movie tracks, but there were iraqi’s songs, and of course alabdallat and the whole 10 yard of the Jordanian music spectra. So yes, the whole trip comes back to me whenever I hear my songs at the coffee shop.

One day, I was sitting in he coffee shop. Then I saw one of the guys that I’ve known long time ago. He was a walking bottle of scotch, and he still is. He said hello, hi yada yada where have you been, and that sort of things. I told him that I was working in a company, so he smiled and said “I’m in business”. Anyway, he sat away from me for he was waiting someone. On the other side of the coffee shop, there was a Syrian guy. Again, you really need to visualize this. The Syrian guy waived his hand at the other (Palestinian) guy asking him to join him. The Palestinian guy declined kindly apologizing for he is meeting his friend here.

Anyway, they started talking. The Syrian asked the Palestinian if he knows a buyer for a gas station. The Palestinian guy yelled (from 5 table distance) “oh yes man, I’ll buy it, how much” The Syrian said 2 million dollars. The Palestinian replied “why that expensive? I have 2 gas stations and I paid 1 million for both”. So he asked the Syrian about the location, and after he told him, he said “naaaa, 2 million is too much, but I think I can take it for 1.6 million provided that I check it first”. The Syrian declined and said he isn’t selling for less than 1.9 at any way. All this conversation and I was just sipping my Turkish coffee while smoking my shisha. Then I got up and called alaa’ so I can pay him the tab. Alaa’ walked with me outside the coffee shop and told me “my friend, those guys who were talking about millions are both working in gas stations and barely making money to pay their tab here, it’s all just fluffing talk” as he called. I smiled and thanked him. I didn’t care anyway if they made millions or pennys..both looked like the type of people you try to avoid as much as possible in your daily activities.

The funniest thing that ever happened in the coffee shop, was this arab student, could’ve been Saudi or somewhere from the gulf region as I could tell from his accent. He walked in the coffee shop, with his girlfriend, who was wearing a very short mini-skirt. They both walked calmly, and sat down as they ordered shisha and tea for him and juice for her. I knew because I was interested to see how she is going to manage to sit down with such short mini-skirt. Beside, she was cute. So, there were few arab guys that you can tell never had any encounter with women what so ever. Their eyes glued to the girl, or mini-skirt all the time. The boyfriend wasn’t comfortable…so he walked to the guys and kindly asked them to stop embarrassing him with the prostitute he has with him. A prostitute? Oh my God, did I hear him right? I guess I did because he offered her to them for tomorrow, but to stop embarrassing him tonight. They looked like a couple of wolves starring at a prey. They didn’t even answer the poor guy, instead, they waived their hand to him to scram. I knew on the spot that this is going to get ugly. The two boys were persistent, and the boyfriend got up and wanted to leave with the girl. They held him at the door and told him that he is only allowed to leave alone. So one of the guys approached the girl and asked how much for the two. Oh well, there was a deal anyway, and the thing went ok when the 2 boys took the girl home (or whenever) and the boyfriend, or at least that’s what I thought, drove home alone.

Sure it was funny…but sad too to see such behavior. Maybe I was like that 10 years ago. Maybe I think I’m different, but I’m only different because of the age. I don’t know, but suddenly I’m seeing what I may have looked like 10 years ago. It wasn’t a good feeling at all. Anyway, I loved this place. Although I didn’t make friends there beside alaa’, still loved it. Come to think of it, I’m glad I didn’t make friends there.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Chapters from an immigrant's life, Part VII. The come back

Some time late September, or early October of the year 1997, I flew back from amman to the states. I was a changed man. The two months in amman were enough to make a different man of me. I can feel me very strong now. “I am ready for the jungle” I kept telling myself. As soon as I got to the states, I started planning for my job hunt. I applied and applied with no luck. Dad gave me enough money to last me for a whole year. Still, time was running short and I needed a job.

My job hunt wasn’t easy. I even drove in the street looking for any company that may look like a chemical company, or manufacturing plant. Until one day, I got a call from an agency that hires newly graduates for short term assignments with companies. I’ve got the call for an interview, and the place was about 40 miles away each way. I asked about the money and was told it’s $10/hr for 3 month assignment.

To me, this was better than what I was in. I know that it hurts for an engineer to make that low of money. But I didn’t care. If I had to clean bathrooms, I have to do it. Beside, it counts toward my experience. So I drove to this company, did a short interview, and my boss tells me to start working today. Good…that’s a good sign. I started working. They liked me at the job. I would be given short assignment, and finish it, then go back to my boss and ask for more. That introduced me to so many different job functions in the first 3 months, that they decided to extend the contract for 3 more months.

Three months later, my boss approached me and asked me to go back to school and pursue masters degree. He promised that if I get it, he will get me the best job. In the mean time, he even increased my pay level from 10 to $17/hr and extended the contract for 2 years to make sure that I am covered while doing the masters. I signed up for the masters program, and 2 months later, the company hires me full time employee with a full salary and benefits. They picked up the cost of my masters degree program of course. I was saving money left and right, and paid off my car. Now my goal is a wife.

In 1999, I graduated my masters program, and quickly, sent the degree to my parents in Jordan as I promised. I then started looking for a wife here. I approached the mosque, which I’ll describe in details how I went to the mosque later, and the guys were searching for a bride for me. Yeah, funny, I know. The first attempt was a bout a girl that I never met in my life, but was told that she is a good muslim woman. So, I was told that the mother wants to talk to me before I could even see the girl. Fine, lets talk. Her questions were more about how much money my father has, and land, and where he was working. 20 minutes later, I got up, smiled at the woman and said “I’ll talk to my dad if he wants to marry your daughter” and walked away. It wasn’t a shocker at all to me, but part of growing up and maturity.

The second encounter was toward an arab-american girl. I saw her once and I liked her. I proposed to her, and her family agreed preliminary pending my parents officially asking the girl’s hand. But because of my past, I wanted to check on the girl first. I watched her only to find that she has a boyfriend. I laughed at my luck and decided that even if I found the right girl, I will always be suspicious. The decision was to look in Jordan.

I called home, and asked mom to look for a bride for me. A potential bride that is. She says “do you remember #### (saying my wive’s name)”? I said yes mom, is she still available? She said yes. I told mom that I’m coming to Jordan in 2 weeks. I flew to amman, and met the girl. I knew her from before. She was close to us. I was 30 years old and she was 24. I remember her when she was hanging out with my sisters. So yes I know her. I got out with her few times to places, although her dad threatened to hang my head on the door of my room. I liked her. We spent great time in amman. I felt great being around someone like her. Then I went back to the states.

We kept in touch weekly almost, if not every other day. I went back in 2001 to officially propose to her. Her dad wasn’t too happy, but the deal went through as we say in Jordan. I knew that she was the one I always wanted. I knew she is the one that I need. So we got married, and then she moved to the states with me.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Chapters from an immigrant's life, Part VI…Recharging the soul

Ok…This won’t be easy on me to talk about…but it’s a very important 2 months in my whole life. Sometime middle of july, I went through the gates of Cleveland airport, for a flight to amman Jordan. I was flying northwest flight from Cleveland to Detroit, and then connecting on KLM toward Amsterdam and finally amman. I got to Amsterdam, and I had to wait for 4 hours there. It was ok. I walked around. But I wasn’t behaving like someone who is going to see family for the first time in 8 years. Once I got close to amman, and saw the shores of Palestine, then quickly my legs were shaking. What am I going to say..what an I going to do? I had no clue. I just wanted to be home.

Got to amman..walked toward a smoking section, and sat down thinking of how am I going to react in this moment. I have never been in such situation before. Gather ur self my friend, you are a man, with a pride, and a strong apology that you have to show and express toward your family.

As I was sitting down, a guy approached me..saying my name. I said yes…He said what the hell are you doing here while your family are waiting outside? It was my brother in law whom I meet for the first time in my life. He told me to relax cause looked pretty bad. I begged him for few more minutes, so he sat down with me smoking and talking. “don’t be scared…whatever you do or did in your life will never affect the smile and happiness on your mom’s face right now so eager to see you, so get up and lets go” “I can’t..not yet” I said. “ok//I’ll give you 5 minutes, or else your mom will get a heart attack thinking that you are stuck in the security and intelligence office, come on lets go, they know I’m looking for you here”.

Ok gather your strength my friend…get up..and let the day go by. I got up, straightened myself, fixed my tie and shirt, and walked straight to the waiting area. I walked through…..I could see some faces. I looked and looked…then I saw my dad on the right hand side. He had a smile that I have never seen on his face before. But where is mom? I asked my brother in law who was walking beside me “don’t worry, she is home and I just called her”. It was only dad and my brother in law. To be honest with you, I was scared and felt that they were going to take me to the desert and kill me there to wash their honor. I know..it’s silly, but I was so confused and disoriented, yet happy. Dad hugged me so strong and kissed me, and I quickly overcame my fears.

In the car, I was seeing amman. Now, I can relate to home. This is home. This is what was missing from me…the feeling of belonging. I have never had this feeling before. These are my people, and I’m their son. Dad didn’t say a word, but the smile on his face was so magical. I didn’t either. It was a long silent 25 minutes drive. I asked my dad to park away a little as I wanted to surprise my sisters and brothers. The car stopped on the side of this house, which is new. This wasn’t the home I was raised in. Now, all my fears are gone. I walked to the door. I saw this teenage girl. I approached her. She panicked. She took a step back. Scared, she was really scared. I took a step forward, and she screamed for mom that there is a thief trying to kidnap her. I laughed with a couple of tears on my eyes “no you silly, this is me, your brother”. She started crying as if someone hit her, and hugged me after she saw my dad and brother in law approaching with suitcases.

I have never felt such happiness like now. We walked inside the house and mom is crying waiting for me approach her. I couldn’t wait till I reach her warm chest to finally hug me and give me what I was so eager for all those years. She never let go of me, and I didn’t either. Suddenly, voices are yelling at mom asking her to let go so they can have their share of the action.

We sat outside on a porch, drinking tea. Younger sister is missing. I asked about her, and they told me that she went with her cousin, and she’ll be home soon. It’s almost 7 pm now, and she is not here yet. Then those two girls approached us. The first one came to me running, and I said “this gotta be my sister”. Isn’t it a shame that anyone could forget a face of a brother or a sister? I hugged her and kissed her. Then I looked at the people around me and all were shocked and smiling. My mom was pointing her finger at the other one saying “this is the one you need to hug dummy”. Sure I was embarrassed, but didn’t care, so I grabbed my sister and hugged her.

Every time I look at someone’s face or eyes, they are all starring at me. Sometimes with few tears, and sometimes with a big smile. Then dinner’s time..and behold, it was mansaf. I knew for I could smell it from a distance. The last time I had mansaf was 9 years before that day. I am home now, and that’s what counted then. Faces I’ve never seen before. Relatives I never knew existed before. It was a huge gathering.

I was able to sneak out after the mansaf, to a fig tree in our house, and smoke a cigarette. Both my sisters came to me. The older one (17 years old) was a smoker too. I felt strange handing my sister a cigarette. I wanted to say so much. They too. But it’s still a shocker to all of us. They just wanted to be so close to me. Maybe fearing that I would disappear again for another 8 years. I wanted to cry so hard and so much, but couldn’t, with all these people around me. I wanted to be alone with my mother, and lean my head on her legs, just like old days, and just lay there for hours, and cry all those tears that were kept inside me for 8 long years. But I couldn’t…they are all here.

We ate and had fun, then all went home, except my cousin. The one I hugged by accident. My parents slept, and now, it was me, my 2 sisters, and my cousin. They were asking questions about America, and life there. Then I found out that my uncle died of cancer 3 years ago, and this is his daughter. Maybe that’s why she is closer to my parents, for she is considered their daughter, and kind of adopted her in a way. She was 16 years old. I was saddened by that, for my dad loved this uncle so dearly.

Then all slept, and I had to sleep. It was about 1 am. At 4 am, I was up again. I went to the kitchen to make me Arabic coffee, but without success. I didn’t know where everything is. Then my older sister, the 17 years old, woke up, and she made the coffee for me. We both sat outside in the yard, somewhere in 6abarboor, with a magical breeze blowing. We drank coffee, and then my sister went back to bed.

Mom was up now. Finally, she and I are alone finally. Without hesitation, I started crying and weeping like a baby and got close to her, and just rested my head on her legs and cried…and cried with no words. I wanted to relief myself from all that pressure, and I did.

I went back to bed after that, and relaxed my soul, and heart. I never slept that good like today. I slept…and slept…and really slept. I was awakened by a sweet touch on my face, and it was my mother telling me to get up, it’s almost 5 pm.

I got up..and again, the house was full of people. That’s ok…I’m in Jordan for a long time, and there will be some time that I can dictate who to see and where to go. I know, I still didn’t manage to get rid of my arrogance. So I walked outside to the family room, and sat down on one of the couches. My little sister…I mean youngest sister for she is no little anymore, came and sat next to me with a toy in her hand. It was an old teddy bear, very old. She asked “do you remember this?” Why don’t these people leave me alone, all this torture is killing me? Of course I remember it. It was the teddy bear that I bought her on her 7th birthday, just before I left to the states. I looked at her, and smiled, and said “how can I ever forget it”. That made my day, and it sure made her day. My brothers are back now from the aqaba trip. Business they say, but I’m sure they were up to something there. They looked similar to how I left them.

I wanted to walk..just walk anywhere. So I asked my brother if he could drop me somewhere in amman city center. I just wanted to be in the street to see what home look like. So all wanted to walk with me but I kindly declined their company and promised that we’ll do this another time, but for now, I lied and said that I have to deliver some money to someone and he’s meeting me in the city center. I promised to be home by 8 pm. I asked how to get a cab, and what to tell him.

I walked for about an hour in the city center. Just walking. Looking at people. I smelled falafel, and bought some. I didn’t know the place but later it became famous, and yes it was hashem’s restaurant. Then got a cab and asked him to drop me home. I got home, and everyone was excited to see me back. They were worried that I may get lost. They don’t know that I was lost, but now I found me, finally. After dinner, I got my certificate of the degree, and few letters from the dean’s office and the governor’s office where I was getting over the 4 years for my gpa average. I then got my graduation project. I showed to dad and mom for now I wanted to see the smiles on their face. They didn’t know that I graduated yet, and they were still thinking that I’m still away from school. Mom started “zaghroota” with tears, and dad got out his old gun, and started shooting in the air. The neighbors came rushing, as usual, and they were told that these were bullets of joy. The degree never made me happy, but it sure made them happy, and that was more enough to make me finally feel the joy of their joy. I promised mom and dad that another degree will be sent to Jordan in 2 years.

Those moments were my recharging moments. The moment where I finally snapped out of my deep sleep, and made me look straight ahead. I am now having a revived dreams and ambitions. I now feel that I’m ready to pursue life, and get married. I want to be a husband to some woman out there. It’s the feeling of responsibility that I was probably missing the most. I am now recharged. Two months are long, very long, and I wish to talk more about them. I now need to gather my strength, and head back to America to pursue my life. I promised to go back home in 2 years at the most, and I kept my promises.

To be continued..

Chapters from an Immigrant's life, Part V. To be or not to be..

When I graduated in 1997 with a Bsc in chemical engineering, I was happy. I gathered my friends, all the booze I could get, got some meat, and started barbequing and drinking all night. It was a fun night. We all were happy. I was really a smart nerdy boy at school, but a different kind of nerd. The kind of nerd that doesn’t wear glasses or pocket protectors, instead, would chase girls in school. My graduation project was on top of my class, and it impressed a company that they decided to hire me as a research assistant while I am pursuing my master’s degree. Instead of making $5.50 for arabs, I am now making $17/hr researching. We’ll talk about that later, but for now, the party is up all night.

At 4 am, I had to give one of my friends a ride home. I was so drunk that I said “sure why not”. His house was about 3 miles away from mine. We were both drunk. I was also carrying my gun with me. I bought this gun after an incident that happened to me, but bear with me a little. So the gun was under the seat, and I was drunk, and drove him to his house. On the way back, I was stopped by a cop. Oh my God, I am screwed now. The day I see my dream fulfilled, is the day I’ll go to jail? How did I end up like this. Suddenly, my mind is not drunk anymore. It was screaming at me “you idiot..look what you have done to yourself”. I knew that this was my end. The cop approached me. He had his flash light looking at me. I tried as much as possible to act normal. I didn’t want him to see my eyes. He would’ve found out quickly if I was drunk by a simple look at my eyes.

“Do you know why I stopped you?” he asked me. I quickly said “I’m sorry officer, I seem to have crossed a passing line without a signal, but I did make sure that there were no other cars, and I really needed to go home for I’m sleepy after studying all night for my test at school tomorrow”. “What class r u taking and what school r u going to” he asked my while looking at my registration and drivers license. I answered him. He then handed me back my papers and said “I see that your almost home now, drive carefully son”. I was so shocked that I cried while driving home.

I went home and started thinking….maybe it’s time for me to wake up. I picked up the phone, and called my brother in law asking about my parent’s home number. I haven’t spoken to them in almost 4 years. He informed me that they always ask about me from friends, but they never knew my phone number. I knew that because I warned my friends never to give my number to my parents. I took the number and called. Mom answered…I hung up. I called again..she answered..and I hung up again. I was so scared to say anything. I paused for few minutes, then called again. She answered again, and I said “yummaa….”(which means mom in English. I could hear her cries over the phone. I again said “yumma…..I’m coming home yumma..I’ll see you soon”. She asked me if I needed money for the tickets or anything, and I said “no mom…I’m coming home as soon as possible”.

I started evaluating my life. Maybe it’s time for a new beginning. How did I have the heart to not speak to my family for 4 years? I now have sisters whom I left as 8 and 10 years old girls, and now they are 16 and 18 years old. Or my brother who was 4 years old and now he is 12. How did I do that? I know they were asking about me, but I never asked. And what about drinking? And not believing in God. I started thinking that God does exist and he just saved my life and career. I must be doing something wrong, because my life is not normal at all. Now is my chance to snap out of it.

I asked myself who am I? A question that I have been failing to answer. But I have to answer now, this is my chance. I am, me..a smart boy growing up in the UAE, with dreams and ambitions. I am me, a graduate with an engineering degree, ready to start contributing to society. I am me, the lover of all lovers, who wouldn’t say no to any woman that needed some action in her life, married or no married. I am me, a walking bottle of alcohol, wake and sleep on alcohol. Wait a minute….that doesn’t make any sense. Those were two opposite sides that just don’t make any sense. It’s time to give up one of them. Only this time, I gave up the correct choice. I can not be who I want to be, while doing wrong.

I swore on the day of 24th of june, of the year 1997 that I shall never drink alcohol again. I succeeded till today, with few weak points in the beginning, but still managed to be finally alcohol free. I knew I had to do that. I felt bad for degrading the family name in such filth. I didn’t need that. I gave up women on the same day. I swore never to touch any woman except my wife, once I find her. I was firm in that. I never felt weaknesses at all, and burned my phone book so fast, before I could change my mind.

I quit my gas station job, bought a ticket, and flew home. That in itself was a very painful, and joyful moment in my life. From the time I walked through the security gates in cleveland airport…..I better stop now.

To be continued.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Chapters from an immigrants life, part IV, working for arabs

Part IV. Working for Arabs

So I needed to get a job to be able to support myself after the disruption of flow of finance from dad. I couldn’t work openly or get a job like anyone else in the states. Just like other arab students like myself, I searched for jobs within the arab community. I first worked for a Palestinian guy who owned a store, a small store with no windows, on some corner of the least secured place in Cleveland. I was happy. Now I’m making $2/hr whole working 76 hours a week and making 150 per week. This was the first money I earned myself. I worked hard for it, and it sure tasted so damn right. Yeah babe…show me the money.

3 weeks later, the owner fired me saying that his nephew needed the job. Of course, he didn’t pay my third week. So I worked 76 hours free for him. Made me angry. Life is not easy, not like before where the check from dad will be in my account every 3 months. Then I got another job working from 10 pm to 4 am in an area called “the flats” where the nightclubs and strip joints are located. I was selling gyros. Although I worked for 5 hours, but I made more money than working in a store. I loved this job. I made friend with so many people, night people. But now, I’m watching other people have fun, in a part of night that I used to have fun in, only now I can’t. So what…I needed the money…yeah babe..show me the money.

I lasted few months in this job..up toward the late 1993. Made enough money, and saved some of it. Then in one night, I was approached by 4 guys, and I quickly knew that my luck will run out. They were drunk. Then suddenly, out of no where, one of them struck me in the face that I felt my jaw broke. I was on the ground, and all I could feel are kicks on my body. They left me alone after they broke the stand (like a hotdog stand) and took all the money I made that night. The funny thing is you get be bleeding lying on the ground in this area called “the flats”, and no one will offer help. As if there was nothing was going on at all. Probably everyone was drunk to notice a bleeding person laying on the ground. Oh well…it’s the price of making money, so show me the money.

The owner of the gyro stand didn’t like what happen, and fired me. So now, I’m looking for another job. Went back to working in a store. $200 dollars a week, 7 days a week, from 9 am to 10 pm, with one day off each month. I lasted in the job for a couple of months. The daughter of the owner, who was 16 years old, kind of liked me. I liked her too…but….she is only 16. So we both were friends, very close friends, but each of us was scared of doing the one crime that ruins us both. I think I loved her. You know what I did love her, and didn’t want to hurt her. But it was obvious, and her mom noticed that. So she told the father, who came to me one day so angry (I could remember his name..abu sami, and he was from a city called elbeereh in Palestine), and started yelling at me warning me from getting close to his daughter, and he would never have his daughter marry a scum like myself. He cursed me by calling me “your garbage, and don’t dream of marrying my daughter”. I responded screaming from the top of my lung, “I’m not garbage, I came from a big honorable family” and turned my back and started destroying the shelves in his store, then walked out.

I took the long ride bus home (3 busses from the east side of Cleveland to a community called Lakewood), and it was about 2 hours ride. I was thinking all that time. Thinking about my dreams, ambitions, and where I wanted to be. Why am I not understanding whats happening to me? I’m 23 years old young man, and all I do is wrong…after wrong. And I’m not garbage. I came from a big family, an honorable family. My family shed blood for Palestine and Jordan, while these people sold their lands to jewish settlers, got cash money, and immigrated to the states. I’m no garbage. Who the hell am I? I now asked myself the one decisive question…who am I? Like usual. I failed to know the answer because my mind was so busy thinking how to get back at those arabs who degraded me and my family. Then found a way where I get the pleasure of hitting them where it hurt the most….and I did all I could….[edited by author].

Sometime late 1994, I landed a decent job at a gas station in the east side of Cleveland. I was paid $5.50/hr and again working for an arab (from a town called beet haneena). I worked the nightshift, while went back to school in the day. At any rate, I’d love to discuss other aspects of my life, especially at this point of the story, but will have to restrain myself from doing so…don’t want to be that transparent. I started studying hard and working hard. I even bought a brand new car, same year model. I worked so hard in this place that I ruptured a disc, and was almost paralyzed for 2 days till I was able to regain my control. School was going great. Somehow, I am awakening now. I was still weak for women and booze as we say here in the states.

I had to get out of working for arabs. I got nothing but misery and almost physical disability from working for arabs. I had to endure so much of their hatred and oppressive behavior toward us. They have abused me and others, and on top of that, they were always telling us that we’re lucky that we have a job with them. Yet, they were gaining a lot by having cheap labor, less taxes, and not having to pay overtime at all.

Sometimes I look back at those days and laugh at some incidents that occurred while working for arabs. In one time, I was hungry so I grabbed a bag of potato chips, a small bag that cost 25c and ate it. The owner looked at me, and said “that was delicious wasn’t it? I didn’t see you paying for that?”. I was angry of course, yet, it was so funny that I laughed, and gave him a dollar and said “I’ll get 3 more bags later today”. The customs were your food was supposed to be free in the store that you work in. A lousy 25 cents bag of chips.

Sometime, the idiots will have me pick up some food for them from their homes, and I would drive to their homes to pick up their food. I liked that because I got deserts in their house, for many times I would smell something tasty, and say “wow that smells good” only to have the wife or daughter make me sit down and eat whatever she was baking.

To summarize, working with arabs had lots of good things for me, like meeting their wives and daughters (most were very nice, unlike the males in their families), eating fresh made arab food, establish my personality toward others, taste oppression, and finish my education without the need of my dad’s finance. Some bad things happened were like oppression and how it affected my aspiration, enduring the looks of the 17 years old arab boys driving the best cars, eating the best food, having the best life, yet when you ask for 50 cents raise, they go wild. I know that there was a mentality against arab students, I really know that. We had something they didn’t have…and that is education, and persistence to endure hardships in pursuing our dreams. Oh yes..they also hated us because of their nice wives and daughters who were nice and caring.

To be continued

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Chapters from an Immigrant's life, part III. The wrong path

Like most of arab students who study abroad, the first thing in their mind is school. However, the problem also is that the next thing on their mind is women, let’s face it. I was young, full of energy, and looked at Michael Jackson and George Michael as the inspirational sources. So I dressed funky, with those shirts, and unzipped few buttons on the top, even though I lacked the muscles or the chest hair. But it was the norm back then, and wanted to look cool. The race has begun for me against time and the goal was….with all sadness..it was to sleep with as much women as I could. What the hell was I thinking?

Having a girlfriend was the last thing on my mind. I didn’t need commitment as it will slow me down. So I started going to the nightclubs with the guys. Stay till 4 am drinking, or trying to get some girl drunk . I wasn’t paying good attention to my school work at all. I was pretty smart on few topics that I was passing easily, and others, I would flunk, again easily. My Gpa was still surviving, and my advisors were all trying harder with me. I always told myself…There will be time for school, let’s have fun now. What the hell was I thinking?

Then I started hanging around a group of leftist Arabs. I started attending their gathering, and parties. There was drinking, and there were women, plenty of women, so I found something to grab my attention to their side. The one better thing is now, and for the first time…I mean the second time, I could sleep with arab girls. This was a no for me as I always had the Arabic honor of screw any woman in the world, but never arab women. Silly you say? I know. I was still growing up and far from the maturity level any young man would want to be. What the hell was I thinking?

So I did what I did while hanging around this group. Only now I started to wake up. Now I am a part of a revolutionary young men and women, who seek justice for all, and suddenly communism was looking pretty good for me. And now..for the first time, I am starting to believe that Palestinians are not bad people, unlike what my father (who is Palestinian) was telling me all those years. Now I am attending demonstrations, and participating in intellectual debates to convince the public, and convey the message of love and equality to the rest of arab men and women in the community. I knew if my father knew about this, which would seriously send a hit man to kill me. I could remember his advice. He did advice me against drugs and women or drinking, but the majority of his lecture was “don’t drag yourself along side Palestinians for they will sway you off the right path”. I know why his hatred toward the Palestinian revolutionaries, for they tried to assassinate him back in 1971. What the hell was I thinking?

I started paying more attention to school. Now I changed my mind about dentistry. I started to like engineering. 3 years so far in America, and I am still in first year chemical engineering college. That’s ok..I’ll manage from now on. Dad wasn’t too happy about my progress. He decided to stop the flow of money. I felt angry. Not at this time dad. I am almost there, and I am awakening. He just didn’t send any money. I decided to never call family again. Months go by, and it’s almost a year and a half, and still, I didn’t call. I changed my phone number too. I flunked school, and decided to start working just like the rest of arabs. I have hated myself for so many were calling me a part of the “borjwazy” people. I wanted to be from the workers people. I wanted to be just like those who raised the red flag in Russia whole building their country from ruins. I wanted to be just like Che Guevara. The hell with the fancy life I was brought up in. What the hell was I thinking?

I got a job in a gas station. I worked there for about 4 years. I’ll talk in details in another part about that period of my life, but in short, those 4 years have changed my life forever. But for now, I am still in the wrong path. Drinking and women are still part of my life. School was missing from my life. I’ve been in the states for about 4 years now. It’s 1993, and I’m still disoriented. Every decision I made was wrong…very wrong. My life was not a life. As if I was simply killing time awaiting my death. My normal day routine was work from 9 am to 8 pm everyday, while getting paid cash money that is the equivalent of one half the minimum wages. I would go home then, and start drinking. By 10 pm, I would have pulled my phone book, and started to call any woman who wanted a piece of the action tonight. If I was lucky, I would be still not drunk when doing so, because few times I would call 2 women at the same time, only to cause problems, and lose both on the spot. I know I know…what the hell was I doing?

Sometimes I would love to view my life in the first 4 years in America as some movie, where I can pull the plug and cut out any unwanted scenes or memories. I do believe that our past is what made us who we are today..but I would’ve loved it if those 4 years were never part of me, regardless of who could I have become if they were not part of my life.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Chapters from an immigrant's life, Part II..The Disorientation

Part II…The disorientation

My first day at school was around 2 weeks after I arrived. I’d love to talk in details about those 2 weeks..but I just can’t. I got in the bus, and remembered everything my friend told me to do. Say hello, then insert 55 cents into the machine by the driver and say “can I have a transfer please” I did exactly that..and walked to the back of the bus, as I used to do in my high school days. I tried not to stare at people’s eyes. Maybe that’s why I sat so far in the back. This was the first time I go through cleveland’s ohio streets. The past 2 weeks were just driving close to home with friends. But now,….. I’m on my own.

I got off the buss in downtown, and I was amazed to see tall buildings and so many people, in one area. As I was waiting for my next buss, I saw few pigeons gathering around me. I laughed internally and imagined how I would chase such birds if I was in al-ain. We used to do that a lot when I was growing up, with my friends, chasing birds and cats. But now,…I’m on my own

The college, which to my surprise is also called “school” here in this part of the world, looked different. I was expecting to see few buildings, all isolated within a wall, just like high school. But it wasn’t. It was many buildings in part of downtown, and looked like a small town. But it’s ok…now I have to concentrate on registering for classes. I remember how first day at school looked like when I was growing up. Well..it was like any normal day, you walk to your class, and your given books, and that’s it. Now I have to ask questions, and look for lines, and would need to have the courage to ask. I have to be honest, I was a little shy to approach people. From line to line, walking with few hundred dollar bills, scared that someone will steal them from me, just trying to find my way to the right line. It’s so harsh I tell you…for now, I’m on my own.

Then some girl felt pity for me. She asked me “do you know your way around here?” My answer was No. She said “neither I, lets help each others and go through this day” with some witness in her eyes as if she was about to burst. So we got together, and we were able to go through the day. Except when I was about to pay my tuition, and when the cashier said “$1800” (some where around there), and I started to count hundred dollar bills. Then we both walked toward the cafeteria, as I was about to express the Arabic honor of no woman shall pay for lunch in the presence of a man. We ordered some sandwiches, and I held her hand when she was about to pay for her’s and I said “no no I pay”. I could tell the surprise looks in her eyes, and maybe they were the looks of “where did this idiot come from? What land?” So we sat down, and we were eating. It’s so good now, because few hours ago, I was terrified for the fact that I was..on my own.

We started talking about school, majors, and then where I came from. Then the religion part came about. Anyway, I managed to tell her that I don’t eat “pig meat”. She said “you are eating a ham sandwich”. I replied “yes I know, it’s really good, we call it mortadella back home”. I found out later that ham is pork and is also pig’s meat. I learned so many things in the first few weeks. I did manage to be a friend with this girl, she was really kind, Although my friends did suspect that I had something going on between me and her, but nothing ever happened. I did try, but she was a very strict catholic, and no I know what that means. God it’s so wonderful being on my own.

Or is it not? True I was having fun every day and almost every night, but when I tuck myself in bed, and get ready to sleep, I start remembering my life. Suddenly, I’m away from home, mom, my little sisters, brothers. Now this is becoming realty. I am sleeping in a house without my mom around me. Sure I was almost 18 years old, but hey, it was a major change that happened so fast. Now who’s going to wake up in the morning back home and prepare the tea, and the breakfast for my sisters and brothers before they go to school? I used to do that. Who’s going to take my youngest brother to the arcade on almadina street in alain? I used to do that. I started remembering my life that is now suddenly changing. I left the girl I loved for 3 years. I left my friends. My football games in the small playfield that we, boys, built it’s goal posts and cleaned it from rocks. I just realized that now I’m on my own.

Sleep now my friend, for tomorrow is another day. I tried to convince myself that shedding a couple of tears wouldn’t make me les of a man. Funny that it didn’t take me long to acknowledge that, still, I covered my head under the sheet, and cried like a baby, and although I was alone in the room, still, I was worried that someone may see me crying. I just wanted to get it over with so I can concentrate on my classes tomorrow. I’m going to start writing in English now, and those who went through the first day of school in the west, know that it is not easy fitting in class on day one. God it is scary being on my own.