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.
Crazy & random thoughts
8 years ago