Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Mabsoota!

The data collection phase of my research project has come to an end; today I interviewed my final participant! Just as it should be, my last interview opened up more questions than I have the time or the capacity to answer. For one, I could hardly understand half the words the woman was saying and I had to ask Zahra to help clarify some points and make sure that I had filled in my final questionnaire survey correctly. This last woman, with her unfamiliar dialect and different way of thinking and living (different to the other women I've met), reminded me that, while I may have reached my target, I have but scratched the surface of this community: What are the relations like between men and women within households? Does a high income for a husband also mean a high standard of living for his wife and children? What role do brothers play in their sisters’ lives? How can one live in this day and age from hand to mouth, just off the money they get from their livestock and the little aid they receive from the government?

Tonight my stay in Jizan will end inshallah with dinner at Zahra's, and it is only appropriate that I also end my blog with a little about this lady who works at the clinic and who has helped me with my interviews. Zahra means "flower" in Arabic, and Jizan— according to my tourist guidebook— is known as "Balad Al Full Wal Kadee" (Land of [2 flowers whose names I don’t know in English]). Of all the ladies I have met and interacted with in this village, it is Zahra who will stay prominent in my mind. We spent many hours discussing life: she with a bagful of sunflower seeds in the palm of her hand, and me with my ink-stained fingers frantically jotting this and that in my notebook. What little authority I have gained in this community because of my status as a researcher from an institute of higher learning, Zahra has gained in my eyes from her position as one of the rare workingwomen in these villages. Not only is she a workingwoman, she is also a mother (her youngest son is 2 years old) and, most remarkably, her family's sole breadwinner. It is she who buys the groceries after work, she who checks up on her mother in the afternoons, she who takes care of the bills, she who feeds and clothes her children. And it is she who has spent the last 2 years paying back debts, while her husband stays at home, unemployed and demanding.

And yet her attitude is always cheerful, content with the very knowledge that she has picked herself up and is carrying her own weight... Not a care in the world, all the while thanking God for the blessings He bestows on all of us. And every morning, the day begins with the same exchange:

Me: Kaifik ilyom? [And how are you today?]
Zahra: Alhamduillah, mabsoooooooota!! [Happy as can be]

Fin.

3 comments:

Hyewon said...

Good job, darling!!! Remarkable closing note! "Mabsoota!" became my word now. :)

Tereen said...

Alhamdolillah! Oh I am so mabsoota you had this incredible journey and you were able to share it with us through this blogsite. Thank you! I love you my great explorer! -Tereen

Anonymous said...

I'd like to contribute to your project - Kaan.

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.