Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I'm Going to Beirut!

Assalamu alaikum Quest readers and awesome blog friends!

A while back, about a year ago, I applied to teach English literature in Beirut. A few months back, I got the job!

I've lived all my life out of Lebanon or any Arab country -- never visited too. This will be my first visit, and stay, for a year, inshAllah. Come with me on this new adventure!

The child raised in the West grows up and goes back 'home' to explore her roots and culture and the country of her forefathers, with all its turbulent politics. The question of Gaza, for example, continues to shape the pulse of the streets in Lebanon.

I plan on doing many things there, but if marriage prospects comes my way, you will be the first to know, I promise. I wonder if I still have to come down the stairs rehearsed over there, or if they accept improv.

Finally, and this is more of a thought, I wonder if I should start a beirut-blog ...

Stay Tuned!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Dancing on Coals

Didn’t know what to think when I read that Israel stopped the attacks on Gaza, and is pulling out, despite Hamas’s continued rocket firing. Thousands dead. In between it all.

I've been following it all from the start. Senseless like child-play. I swear.

But sometimes, for a change of rhythm, we got to turn it off, for a while, walk away and breathe. Smile. Be.

… So I pick myself up and go to liza’s house. She’s my Indian-Afghan friend and she shows me a new bollywood flick – Slumdog Millionaire. Her eyes lit up like two diamonds when she said: “it won a golden globe this year!” Or when she said, “A R Rahman did the tunes for the movie. I grew up listening to this guy sing, it’s like I’m up there taking the globe with him. One for India. Bam!”

The stars of the movie are about to be interviewed on Ellen Degeneres. Aha! What? They’ll do a live bollywood dance, too? This is spoiling me. I run to the kitchen, grab some minute maid, a bowl of bhel puri, I sit on the couch, grab the remote control cuz ya know that’s mine, and I’m ready for the show!

Phone Rings.

Liza picks up. She talks.


Uff! Those commercials. They take forever man I’m almost finished my snacks …

I hear Liza on the phone: “… no way. Oh no…”

Liza Liza Liza! Come on it’s starting hang up hang up just come! Woooooooh! I get up and dance.

“hey narges was on the phone and she said Hizbollah might get involved more from Lebanon. Then, it’s Iran”.

Jai Ho! Aaja Aaja Jind Shamiyane ke Tale … WOOOOOOOOH AHA AHA that’s how we do! Come dance with me Liza! Jai Ho!

“look I’m serious. You need to be more serious. Don’t you have family in Lebanon. Even at the refugee camps?”

I somehow turn around, and catch a glimpse of her face. It’s serious. The diamond in her eyes, it's gone. I stop. Dancing.

“I know you don’t know them, because you’ve lived here so long, but …”

Look. I don’t want to think about it all the time okay. I just want to dance!

She looks at me. I look at her. We both look back – at the T.V. We both listen, silently, to the Indian music …

[translation to lyrics]

I’ve passed this night dancing on coals
I blew away the sleep that was in my eyes
I counted the stars until my fingers burned

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Palestine. If You Were a Bride

Marching in a protest against the occupation of Palestine always, always keeps me wordless. And I am a wordy woman. On normal days. When I forget where I come from.

I think I just found my words. I went to Suheir Hammad. I mixed her voice with my wordless scream. Like a mute thunder. Her words give me voice. Always.


… Because I come from somewhere
I come from some people
Us who put our lives on the line

I don’t want to hurt nobody
God knows
How do I tell American Youth that popular culture means nothing to Justice
And everything to keeping them numb to the world

How do I scream
When I have no voice left
Who will answer me

Even I -- it seems -- have developed a callousness to the deaths of Palestinians
There are people who say I am not supposed to go there
To Palestine. I am North American. Stay here.
No passport. No citizenship. No money. No power will keep you alive.

This is not a poem. This is not a treat. This is a promise
I will chant the names of the innocent
I will stand with those who have kept their hands clean of blood
And their hearts clear of hate
It is hard not to hate right now

But I have been loved. I have loved.

She is dead now. Our bride in white. And the ocean will miss her gaze.
Her family will miss her breath.