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.


  1. Welcome home Susan and the best wishes for 2014! Hope to enjoy more of your excellent writing in the coming year.

    The phrase that should describe people with mixed backgrounds is: "Third Culture Kids". Check out this video: It was a thesis project of one of the students from Georgetown University.

    Happy New Year!

    1. Thanks Hedwig! I'll look at the video ASAP.

  2. Reading this made me happy and sad. Have a wonderful new year!

  3. LOOOOL! B.Vompkin and P.Vompkin!


  4. Wow. I read this and feel it is the exact opposite of it myself (except for the Canadian apologies---I still miss that;---and wondering about if home is an idea we make up or a place we just never found)). Whenever I was in Canada I wondered, is home really where you grow up>}} : The cold would get to me despite my love of the phsyical appeal of seeing snow falling down. The people would be themselves with me-politely prejudiced in a way that cuts more than Omani open rudeness I guess. I love things there, I hate things here, and the same back and forth. I'd be waiting to touch down and feel the softness and anonymous-ness? of abaya and niqab. To laugh and go crazy with my Omani girlfriends in Muscat in our majlis/living rooms with no one dating some loser who doesn't deserve her and crying all over one not worth it, or drinking to have fun ect.... To be around people who care what I think and do, not just what I have or who I know. Parts of me still wish for an ideal small-town Canada, without redneck guys to harass me or threaten my family, where we have fall fairs, candy apples, a straw bale mazes. Or a sophisticated Canadian city like Victoria or Montreal, where art and history and little book shops and pattiseries are everywhere, and almost everyone is nice... but that without the police that tapped my phone, or the neo-nazis that attacked me and my friends when we were just walking home.

    And Oman. A little village in the mountains without people using religion that they don't even know or care to read about as an excuse to take away women's rights, where everyone helps one another, and are proud to have a colourful history that guides but does not limit them...

    Home is what you make I ultimately think. What you carry with you. No matter where you go. It isn't geography. It isn't exact, like a science.

    You have the advantage of being able to create for yourself and any of your children the home that you carry with you in your ideals of what that should be, having come from more than one place;).

    -Loved reading such personal writings. Almost sorry to intrude with thoughts I am thinking of my own as I read.

    1. Thanks for your input! Your thoughts aren't far off from mine! My bus was between Ottawa and Montreal! There are things I love about Oman and things that drive me nuts. Same goes for Canada. I suppose it's about being content with your own bubble wherever it may be.