Wednesday, July 05, 2006

blues, beiges, and reds

July 4, 2006

"Going native." That's what anthropologists call it when researchers adopt the life of the people they are researching. And that's what I did this morning. Arriving at the clinic with only a few interviews left to collect, I was able to embrace the slow pace of life in the waiting room of the clinic and take it slowly myself. It is easier now that I'm no longer an attraction. I have become as much a part of the setting as the blue chairs in the waiting room and the posters on the wall that describe the dangers of Typhoid and Hypertension. In fact, I have become so uninteresting that some women have actually declined my requests to interview them. Handling the rejections calmly, I followed Zahra into one of the patients' rooms during the dead time of day and lay down on a cot to enjoy the soothing breeze emanating from one of the A/Cs. This is the life: Me wrapped like a black Samooli bread in my abaya, with Zahra folded the same way in another cot. Why pretend to do work when there's no work to be done? We came back out when the patients started filtering back in, and I got my 50th interview of the week before lunch!

Whatever I said the other day about Man conquering nature, I was just joking, I swear. God please forgive my arrogance and restore the desert's calm temperament! Beginning at 1:30 today, I saw nothing but beige: Heaps and heaps of beige culminating in a sandstorm reminiscent of the Dust Bowl of Miss Samirah's 9th grade American History class. It is on days like this that Ahmad’s driving skills are worthy of a standing ovation. In Jeddah, his unpaved "shortcuts" to Nora Ham's house had more speed bumps than either one of us Noura's could stomach. But today I thanked my lucky stars that he learned to drive in Yemen. He knew exactly when to speed up; when to slow down; when a car was coming in our direction; when a car was coming from behind; and when to ask me if I was still hanging in there. Meanwhile, I held my breath and stared with bewilderment at the farmer trotting along on his donkey, seemingly unaware that there was sand blowing into his ears and out of his donkey's nose. (Mama, the sandstorm hit unexpectedly, we had no choice but to go forward.) When were finally back at the campsite, I walked into my cabin to find my brand new A/C spitting ice onto the carpet...

Germany vs. Italy!! I was invited over to the General Manager's place to watch the game with him and his German wife. Ok, fine, so maybe I invited myself over... but I couldn’t bear the thought of missing the game! They welcomed me in with a warm cup of Moroccan mint tea and a delicious (port-a-)home-made fruitcake and it was pure excitement despite the lateness of the hour. My text messages to Edo and Hyewon should reveal which team I was supporting:

"Oh my—Wha! YAYYYYY * yay * congrats! Wait, and that was the second goal! I can’t even deal right now so how are you feeling!"

[My condolences to Michaela, Yara, Duc & Nisreen!]

For me, the real enjoyment of the game actually came from something else entirely: During half time, I counted on my fingers and toes the number of familiar faces strewn around the globe who I knew for a fact were also glued to their TV screens, be they in a pub in Germany, somewhere off Iffley Road in Oxford, or with friends and family in Jeddah and Bahrain... A shared 2+ hours watching a man running like the wind in his bright red shoes and another man with a bobbing ponytail that acted as a shield when his skull made contact with the side of the football field. And all of a sudden, I was no longer living among tractors, shrimp hatcheries, and mangrove nurseries at the outskirts of a neglected village in the Arabian Desert. On the contrary, and as Hyewon reassured me once, "We’re all under the same sky." It was then and there that I got the push I needed to get me through my last day of interviewing at the clinic.


Hyewon said...

After receiving those lovely messages from Jizan, my emotional distance between Oxford and Jizan narrowed down so much!! :) Good night, my love!!! We miss our habibty on Iffley road. Alè Italia! :D

ali said...

i was there too. at a sheesha cafe on edgware road... which i have a feeling shares more with jizan than just the same sky. the way i see it, we were practically in the same room enjoying the game =) haha

Hyewon said...

haha, Ali, yes, I feel in the same way! :)

Janelle said...

And poetic!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful way of summing up the small world we live in...where we all live under one sky.. yet that simple point is usually forgotten given ones surroundings, and only at certain points in life does one realize how everything that does happen, happens under the same sky making us all part of the same small world.....


IT began as a field diary for my summer in Jizan (2006) under the title "Watch Out Bubba Gump." Now I'm not sure what it is... but I do know it's time for me to start writing again.