Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Coming Home

Something a little different - Reflections from my journal 
December 29, 2013
I am on a bus between two cities in North America. It’s dusk and the snow is falling ever so softly.  Even after two hours, the landscape is mesmerizing. Snow-covered field after snow-covered field. Bundled up in my bright green hoodie and white hijab, I blend in relatively well with the other passengers on this bus. How many of us are going home? How many of us are content with our lives right now? How many of us know where we belong? I ask the same questions whenever I settle down for a session of people-watching, be it at a sidewalk café in Europe or at the local supermarket at home.
and when you’re needing your space …. To do some navigating … I’ll be here patiently waiting to see what you find….. Jason Mraz is crooning into my ears. I Won’t Give Up is probably one of my all-time favourit songs. 
I haven’t blogged for a while. The past year has been insane (in a very good way) but has also forced me to take time off writing. I feel guilty (why?) but I need not apologize.
December 30, 2013
Ladies and Gentlemen, captain from the cockpit, we’ll be starting our descent into Muscat International Airport in approximately twenty minutes. Please adjust your seat to the upright position, stow away your tables, and switch off any electronic equipment. Also make sure no blankets are blocking the exits to the aisles. The weather in Muscat is lovely at 19 degrees Celsius with a gentle wind. If this is your last destination, wish you a pleasant stay in Muscat. If you are transiting here, then we wish you a wonderful continuation of your journey. As always, thank you for flying KLM and we look forward to welcoming you on one of our flights in the future….
I could probably recite this in my sleep. Traveling a lot does that to you. You find yourself in line at Starbucks at Schipol and the loudspeaker system shouts out “Passengers V.VOMPKIN and B.VOMPKIN traveling to Oslo, you are delaying the flight. Please go to gate E12 immediately….”  And you find yourself completing the sentence out loud “or we will proceed to offload your baggage”. The American in line behind me snickers and says he’s always tempted to do that. 
It’s always that cup of coffee in Schipol Airport when I suddenly feel ill, nostalgic, homesick. Homesick for what? In a few hours I will don my black abaya and black headscarf, replace my backpack with a feminine purse, my sneakers with flat blacks, stow away my iPod and put on my ‘Omani persona’. Technically, in a few hours I will be home, if home is where one grows up and lives. But in fact, I’m never really home. I’m not entirely sure where home is. Is home that place in the snow with a warm fireplace, cups of hot cocoa, a Christmas tree, and loving family? Or is home that place in the sand with even more family?
There must be a word to describe people like us with mixed backgrounds. Always homesick for a place that doesn’t exist.

December 31, 2013
I’m standing by the luggage belt at Salalah Airport, surrounded by other abayas and white dishdashas. Men stare at me. Perhaps they’re still not entirely used to seeing females without a face veil. The first thing I notice when I reach Oman is how people stare. Sometimes I tell myself that it’s a curious stare. Other times I want to pull my hair out and scream. I’m not very good at ignoring my surroundings. My luggage appears. As I reach out to grab my big bag, a man steps forward and pulls it off for me then insists that he will take it to my car. I thank him politely and reject his offer. He starts to insist. In the end I had to be firm and tell him ‘Thank you but NO, I’m perfectly capable of pulling my own bag, thank you’. He notices my Dhofari accent and immediately starts the usual ‘Are you from Salalah? Whose daughter? Which tribe?’. In other words ‘who the hell are you and why are you traveling alone without a dozen chaperones?’. Instead of telling him to piss off, I pretended to get a phone call then I dragged my bag off to arrivals. A man pushes past me with his trolley and knocks my purse over. In Canada, he would apologize. Here, he growls at me and moves on. I’m just a woman. I step out into the sunshine and admire the palm trees lining the airport road. What a beautiful town this is. To my right a man takes one long look at me then turns to his side and spits on the sidewalk. Oh well, there goes my moment. Welcome home, Susan. At least for the moment this is home.