Friday, March 11, 2005

Sunday, March 6th, 2005
Good morning…
I came back to Amman today from Dubai. The conference we attended was very useful, and interesting, there were delegations from 26 countries present, and we enjoyed meeting each other, and listening to lectures. The delegations were from different countries; India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Al-Bahrain, Oman, Egypt, South Africa, Malta, Canada, ukrenia, …. The lectures were about the techniques and technologies of treating water for drinking purposes, especially purifying the salted water, by (Reverse Osmosis) devices. There were exhibitions of new products, discussions of defects in previous products, and some very interesting lectures about (Emotional Intelligence) and (Body Language).
Since our arrival to the Dubai Airport, I was amazed at the elegance of the Architectural Design, and the excellent construction of by unfamiliar materials; thick glass in the elevators, stairs and on windows, cladding by matt Aluminum sheets, that give magical touches, rich, shiny, and clean Marble floors, uncountable escalators, endless corridors, electrical elevators, direction signs about gates and their numbers, small cars that carry people, like those used in amusement parks, boutiques of artifacts, perfumes, and gifts, signs and advertisements about everything…. Mobiles, chocolate, hotels, restaurants, perfumes, ….. And people in large numbers, rushing, queuing, by the Visa counter, in the eye-scan line, on the passport line, by the luggage rack, in the duty-free shop, or in cafeteria’s. And so many nationalities; Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Arabs, Italian, French, German, African, with black, braided hair, Europeans with blond hair.
I stood amazed on the passport stamp line, feeling myself in a world without an identity, a world of human mixtures, on each line there is a group speaking a language that doesn’t resemble the language of the group on the line before, or after it. I felt a great foreboding, as if myself was asking me: Where are we??
We went out on to the street, waiting for the car that would take us to the hotel. Beside me were a young man, and a young women, speaking French, then, another young man came along with a young women whose face was indicating she was an Asian woman, with her distinctive eyes, then the man spoke in French, giving a very warm welcome to the first two, then he introduced the Asian young woman to them, and she kissed the French young man, then the young woman with him, acknowledging each other with smiles, then went on their way. I saw confusion and bewilderment in the young Asian’s eyes, as she moved among the French, and by GOD, I sensed her emotions…just like what I felt, when I first went to live in Amman, a very young woman, away from my family, with people we are a bit different from, in the small details. Yes, small, but enough to create a feeling of strangeness: Where am I??
I remained standing, watching people go out of the Airport like bees, moving in various labyrinths; black and blond, tall and short, thin and fat, rich, and poor…they shook hands, laughed, talked…asking warmly about each other, perhaps some of them cried, I don’t know, whether from happiness or sadness, for what befell them while away from their countries, and loved ones. As for my heart, who was amazed, looking with me, and smiling, wondering at all the small details, or perhaps, half of it was smiling, the other half sad… a part of my heart is in Baghdad, or maybe Baghdad resided in it, and he carries her with him, I do not know. But I remembered her here, with her sadness, devastation, and the daily trapped cars, planted by criminals with unknown identities, to tear at what is left of her….and my feeling of estrangement grew. A sarcastic voice inside me asked: What would you say if a trapped car exploded here now? What shall happen to those people, and to this city that is sinking in elegance and riches… and I answered her: Shut up please, enough non-sense, for my heart is tired, but I don’t wish any harm to the happy people….but there was a Holy Quranic Verse that kept coming back to my heart: ( …And thus we created you, in nations and tribes, so you would be acquainted….). and I smiled for the word (acquainted)… HE didn’t say –so you would fight and become enemies for each other, but Said (so you would be acquainted….), meaning; for the sake of establishing peace and love among the various nations on earth.
On the first day of the conference we were greeted, and they gave each delegation a bunch of beautiful, colorful flowers, with a lovely scent, and we were acquainted with each other as we stood in the lobby. The one from South Africa was a shy young man, originally from Europe, which was a bit of a surprise for me, I remembered the problem of apartheid that the country suffered from, and I remembered Nelson Mandela, so, I asked him about the man, he smiled, and was red in the face. I asked him about the water there, and its problems, and after a short dialogue, I discovered he had some difficulty in speaking English, he said they talked the native African dialects there, and his family has been in the country some 300 years, originally from Holland, but they do not go back there often, which means that their ties with their ancestors were almost cut.
That was a new bit of information for me. I could not comprehend how a European could live in Africa since hundreds of years, and believes it to be his true country, how did that happen?
Then he asked me about Iraq, and what’s the news now, what would be the future? Were the days of Saddam better, or now?
Of course, every day I meet new faces, from various countries, and the same question is repeated. The amazement and sadness I see in the people’s eyes for what happened to Iraq, and what awaits it. And I always answer the same: in the days of Saddam we suffered the loss of freedom, expression, and the right to speak up, when we got rid of him, there was an occupation force, which ruled us in the open, and by hidden ways, and an unknown future awaits us. We are free to talk and criticize, but matters are not in our hands, is this democracy?
For instance; there was a new announcement from the government a few days ago, that the official week-end holiday in the country should be Friday and Saturday. Why? All our lives we know that Friday is the Muslim’s holiday, Saturday is for the Jews, and Sunday is for the Christians, so, why choose Friday and Saturday? Who decided this? And for what benefit?
People walked out in demonstrations, and so did universities, but the government doesn’t care, and the decision is still valid, as if they are saying: go to hell, we do what we like, even if you protest, we have the power of decision in our hands, we mould it as we like. And that happens in many countries of the world, even if governments claim they are democratic, respecting the people’s opinions, but in the end, they do what ‘they’ see as suitable. So, what have we gained from democracy, then? And what is its difference from dictatorship?
In the days of Saddam Hussein, we didn’t suffer from the high prices of petrol, water, electricity, and telephone bills, the studies were free without charges, even in Universities, Masters, and PH. D studies. As for now, only GOD knows, America wants to privatize the economy in Iraq, the government owned establishments will be sold to private companies, the prices of bills will rise, like water, electricity, telephone, and fuels, and perhaps not even the education will remain for free, new, different laws shall be implemented, new classes of rich people shall appear, and classes of crushed, poor people, like it happened in all world countries…
Day by day, we met the other delegations, they were all nice, friendly people, and we had an understandable, joint language of discussion. On the third day, there was an item in the conference agenda about exchanging gifts between delegations, and this was an item of happiness, for each would give the other delegations a gift expressing the art of his country. I gave everyone pieces of real leather, on which the map of Iraq is drawn, with the two great rivers, Tigris and the Euphrates, and around them there were drawings of our ancient civilizations; (Assyrian, Babylonian, Sumerian…), and I received beautiful objects of hand made popular products, from India, Pakistan, Egypt, Sudan, Palestine, Syria, Iran, Canada, Ghana, South Africa, and Malta….
And on the lectures of ‘Body Language”, we laughed a lot as we listened to the lecturer speaking about hand shaking among people, and its significance, the different ways of expressions in a handshake, that give an insight about the other person; a warm handshake gives a positive impression, a negative, cold handshake, with a hand like a dead fish, gives a bad impression, a severe, nagging, aggressive handshake gives an annoying impression, then, there were the hand movements, and what they imply in anger, or when expressing the ignorance of some matter, (I don’t know, and you open your hands and spread them in front of the person facing you, to show him that you have nothing to hide from him), as for putting the hands in the pockets while talking to people, well, that might mean you are a bit arrogant, or reluctant to reveal your self, or plain cold. Putting your hand on your friends shoulder while talking and laughing with him in our countries mean you are close friends, while in America that gives a bad impression; perhaps those were gay…a funny matter, really, these differences in explaining things.
We talked about women handshakes, and we agreed that women usually, and in most countries, would give a sign with her consent or refusal, according to the situation, and customs, and we, (the women in the conference) said that we usually extend our hands for a handshake, but not to everybody entering the shop or office, but perhaps to a customer we want to express our respect and appreciation for, giving him our attention and care. Work makes this a must, in many cases.
The program of the lectures was long and tiring; breakfast at seven, then gathering in the hall, waiting for the lecturer. Around 9:30 the lectures would begin, then, a tea break, and another lecture, lunch, a break, then more lectures, and so on, till 4 or 5 p.m. Then the evening program would start; items like shopping, sightseeing, then, dinner in a distinguished place.
Since the first day I decided not to join the evening program, for I wanted to be free, without commitment. I brought some books with me, telling myself that I’ll spend the evening reading, while stretched on my bed in the hotel room, enjoying myself, after the tiring day, and the swollen feet, from long standing and sitting times.
On the second day, we visited my friend’s sister, from Jordan. In her bookcase I saw a series of translated books about enhancing one’s abilities, intelligence, and memory, Hummmm, I liked them, so, in the evening, I went out and bought a collection of them, wondering: why aren’t these books available in Amman, or other Arabic states I visited?
I suppose the reason is that Dubai is a work center, companies, and competition, the worker there needs to know these details, or rather, western requirements, to have a better employment opportunity, because most companies here are western, and so is the administrative mind. While in other Arabic countries these would be books that no one cared for, because there is a big difference in the administrative mentality, and the employee’s specification. Among these books I found a book I heard about once, called (Men from Mars, Women from Venus), by John gray. I had a little curiosity to know what was in it, so, I bought it.
I leafed through all the books, and not every thing in them was valuable, some had chapters of boring talk, neither practical, nor useful, while some had new ideas, really useful in enhancing the subjective abilities, and gaining success in work, for an employee, or manager- (a leader in the job).
As for the book about men and women, well, that really amazed me! As if I stood before it, while it was talking about my experience in life. The book described men (like they were rubber bands, getting near, getting far), they give emotions and interest in their relationships with women, (wives, friends, or loves), but sometimes they withdraw back to their caves, because they ling for their freedom, their independence, leaving women confused…
As for women in general, the book says that their emotions are like the waves of sea, rising, and falling…
I was amazed at his expressions, and his intelligence, as he said that his relation with his wife taught him, opening all these secrets to him. I wished all men were like him ….. had the same intelligence, understanding, and feelings.
I have spent all my life wondering: Am I normal, or dose my mood change too much, becoming too tiring? Sometimes I would be at the peak of self confidence and happiness, and the wave would be high. Then, in a few weeks time, fatigue and exhaustion would accumulate, so, I move down from the high wave to the phase of the Well’s bottom, as the author calls it….then I would be in a state of severe weakness, and very sensitive to everything, I hope to find someone to give me a word of encouragement, with which to rehabilitate what was shattered of my confidence, emotions, and spirits. Sometimes I find someone to help…but in most cases, I find no one who cares. Then the wave would rise up again, so that I need no one anymore, but extend my help and sacrifices, to see the others happy. I learned to become strong with the passage of time, getting used to moving up and down with extreme skill. I learned to hide my “bottom of the well” condition as good as I can, so as not to make those I love sad, nor those who see me as a strong symbol…
No one is absolutely strong but GOD, The LORD of all people, and all of us are weak creatures.
Then, I went with my friend, the engineer, to the women’s gym in the hotel, where we spent some nice time practicing on the machines, and, in the sauna and steam room, we discussed the validity of work specifications, and the materials used, just like business men would do, Ha Ha Ha… the sauna room was lined with wood, having a very distinctive smell, as the wood was very hot. The steam room was lined by fiberglass, walls and seats, and the steam smelled a little of detergent. I liked that room very much; its steam erased tension from the muscles, and perhaps erased the psychological tension as well as the daily pressures…then we lay on long, wooden benches in the hall outside the sauna, just like those on the beach. I said to my friend: In the west they think we are ignorant, and badly treated, while we enjoy our lives as much as the western women do, but without appearing in front of men, because we are in conservative societies. A woman’s respect for her self, and her decent appearance is a necessary thing. I mean, even if a woman was a collage graduate, had a career, and self confidence, who reads books, well-educated, goes to the sports club, and swims in a closed-hall swimming pool, what would be her difference from a western woman?? The difference is that we are committed to a decent appearance, after all that progress in our lives.
Is this a backwards notion?? I do not know…
But in my opinion, this is respect to the woman, and her unique characteristics, instead of walking almost naked, in a swimsuit, in front of the eyes of men, among whom I can not guarantee the presence of at least one angel, Ha Ha Ha.
My theory in these matters is always: that who goes too far in covering women, depriving them from the joys of life, and learning skills, would be wrong-doing them, and that who goes too far in allowing them to go indecently covered, would be also wrong-doing them, because he would be taking advantage of the fact of her being a woman in order to market some merchandise, or make an advertisement about a hotel, restaurant, or club.
I wondered at a company manufacturing big filters, then, in the add, puts the picture of a woman, standing in swimsuit among the filters, smiling.
By GOD, this is an abuse for women, and a mistreatment.
One day in the conference, the evening program was a picnic into the desert, and dinner in a tent. I didn’t attend, then I learned on the next day that there was a semi-naked dancer, whose picture they proudly advertised on the daily magazine of the conference.
I put my hand on my check as I leafed through the magazine, finding this a shameful act, rather than civilized, to be rejected by the eastern civilization, as well as the western.
Even if they had attended a party at night, drank and danced, and even if there was a naked fool who might think herself happy with such a career, she wasn’t supposed to be put on the daily magazine, along with the activities of yesterday’s program, and its lectures.
If I had been responsible for protecting the women’s rights, I would have forbidden such trash in the media, because it insults the woman, portraying her as a petty animal, presenting amusement to petty men, who can afford to pay money, while she displays her body in return. Hummm.
Isn’t this an insult, and an abuse to women? Or is this a part of a civilization I can not comprehend….
As for the elegant, high-rise buildings, the streets, bridges, and modern tunnels, the expensive car models, the restaurants and hotels, furniture, cars, electrical sets, clothes, and shoe shops, all in various, world- famous models, and the malls, (the huge shopping centers)…well, all are uncountable, and full of people from all shapes and nationalities.
Well, in all truth, all this is present in huge quantities, bringing forth amazement, and doubt. I kept wondering where did all this money come from? Is it from legitimate sources? Or just through money laundering, by mafia, and administrational corruption that is spread like a virus in all world countries, from East Asia, Russia, Europe, Africa, and America. Hummm.
Perhaps here are the billions of dollars that disappeared from Iraq after the fall of Baghdad. Ha Ha Ha.
Every thing is possible in this amazing world…cities fall, and regimes, nations lives are destroyed, moving back to the zero line, or below…no water, no electricity, no security, but lines of unemployed people, without even the least standard of services, or human rights.
And here, hotels, high-rise buildings, and residential complexes are being built, along with a new development plot that will be the most expensive in the world. Extravagance, extravagance, and extravagance…in everything. This is a world where money talks.
And in Iraq, and some other places in the world, injustice, poverty, hunger, and the unknown future talks.
This is the amazing planet Earth on which we live.
I looked at the sky one day before I traveled, my tears fell, and I said in my heart:
(My GOD, You are the GOD of the blue sky, You are One, and this planet on which we live is one, but on this planet, the people are different, we have fools, villains, good people, and weak. You move this universe, managing it by Your Will…and I am but a weak creature, impatient…Forgive me for my anger, sadness, and refusal for what I see, for You know, and I do not know….please give me the ability and patience to endure the pain in my heart, for what happened to Iraq, and what will happen….).
And those people who live by our side, who are supposed to be our brothers and neighbors… living in far off worlds, very far away…as if you were very poor, and the connections between you and your brothers were cut. And one day you went to visit them, only to find them living in luxury and well-being…you can only smile, raising your head to the sky, saying in your heart: Now I realize why you didn’t remember me in my ordeal….you were busy with this worldly life…..
Injustice and poverty can block the eyes.
Luxury and extravagance can also block the eyes.
Iraq has the world’s third largest oil reserve, so, why do its people live in hunger, need, worries, mishaps, wars, and problems that wouldn’t end for tens of years?
Why don’t we live like anybody else? What do we lack in our lives, to live like these people?
I certainly do not have the answer….and I do not think the reason is always “Saddam Hussein”.
The conference ended, we finished the last day with many tasks, then went to spend the night in my friend’s relative’s house… they were very nice, but I was feeling a big estrangement. I remembered my Canadian friend Tara…who used to work as a journalist and photographer in Iraq, for one year after the war, then I met her here, in Amman two months ago. She said she was going back to Canada, but was feeling an estrangement. On the last holiday, she went on vacation, but found the people silly, talking about silly subjects, and she sat among them, remembering Iraq, its people, the pain and suffering that the Iraqis live.
I smiled bitterly and asked her: you, the Canadian, say this, what should I say, the Iraqi? How will I get along with the world, with Iraq in my heart wherever I go…like a bleeding wound, that has no cure?
Today I remembered all this, while I was with the people who invited us. They suddenly operated some new, powerful speakers for their TV. Set, (I think the screen dimension was some 700 inches…ha,ha,ha). Anyway, the noise was frightening, the whole house shook, but the people of the house moved about normally, smiling. When I asked what was happening, the man smiled coldly and said: Nothing, the kids are trying the new speakers.
I was going to die from tension…I remembered exactly the times of Baghdad air raids, the most violent and fearful moments in my life… the house shaking, we were hiding in the room, while glass broke, and the curtains flew…the night was dark, forbidding, without lights… of course, these weren’t nice memories.
I suddenly stood up, and closed the kitchen door, to keep myself from hearing the noises, but the man apologized, after I told him that all this hurts me, reminding me of Baghdad, the war, and the American air raids… I think he asked them to lower the volume, I can’t actually remember, but they took me to another room upstairs, so I can work on my laptop quietly, I was reading my e-mail then.
They were nice people… but perhaps I was aggressive with them. There is a big gap between us. The vocabulary of their life were modern cars, with distinguished tires to take heights, and speed boats in the weekends. And the vocabulary of my life were a torn country, threatened by conspiracies, a people that suffered from injustice, repression, and wars in the past years, then the occupation of foreign forces, whose hands are controlling everything…. Facing a threatened, ambiguous future.
I sleep and wake on the same dream, How will Iraq be liberated, when shall Iraq have independence? When shall we mould our lives again, building everything a new?
And I would be terrified thinking of those who will penetrate this dream, messing, stealing, being unjust, delaying the walk towards achieving the beautiful dream….
In the early morning we rose, carried our bags, and thanked the people of the house for their hospitality, kindness, and for having to put up with us.
The woman said, as she was bidding me farewell: you added something new to us, how optimistic you are in life? How much bright life is to you!!!
I laughed, and thanked her…then I remembered that I talked a lot last night, and we laughed a lot…my waves seemed very high….but in truth, I was very close to the bottom of the well. I couldn’t tell her that this face, that laughs a lot…laughs to hide deep, big sorrow.
The Prophet Mohammad, (Peace and Prayers Be upon Him), says, in meaning: “ If you can not be patient, pretend to be patient”.
And so I do…if I cannot be really happy, I pretend to be happy, to give a feeling of happiness to those around me. This is as much as I can present, as an expression of my love to life…as a release to what I am suffering inside……
And GOD only knows what the hearts are hiding, in love, or sorrow……
GOD only knows…
Translated by May/ Baghdad.

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