domingo, 24 de noviembre de 2013

Learning from different worlds

It was second of march , after months of fighting I was graduated and I had gotten an scholarship to study Arabic in Egypt, I was at the airport ready to fly and the line to board started to be longer, I remember my aunt, my mom and an old friend, among wipes my mom told me “Do not cry, this is what you wanted” but inside of me I knew that this trip would change my life, I knew that I was leaving home without to know about the return… I think I have not cried as I did that during that plane to panama, the hostess was watching me like wondering why I was crying a lot, by the window arriving to Panama I could see those freighter that I used to see from the balcony during the sun sets in home, but from up, from the sky there were softly beautiful, all the colors of the lights and its reflects on the water…

Once on the airport I called mom someone give me a free call because I didn’t have card, and I sat to see all the foreigners moving around looking through the gates, I remember strongly a group of Jewish with their black tunics and those strange and curios braidings, and how to forget it? The hats… I just was thinking do they really hate us as T.V. shows? They seem to be so polite and serious, too harmless and kind. Suddenly in between of my emotional confusion I saw a friend of my father, although he was not really close friend I felt so happy and I just ran to say hi, he asked if I was going back to my city, I told him the purpose and he really encourage me “You are a strong woman, I’m sure you can do it”, few words from an acquaintance but in the right moment just push me up.

The trip to Spain was good, just often I was opening the window to be dazzled by the starts on the sky at the night, contemplate the hugeness of the universe in the middle of the silence it has been one of the most sublime moments I have ever lived, when I realize how small I am, I realize how big is the universe, how great is God. Departing to Cairo I had an old woman next to me, she was really nice, single but a happy woman enjoying of her retirement, we talk about food, culture, religion and life while some Egyptians were observing us, the sun had down  when we were flying on Cairo, I was expecting to see deserts, camels and of course the pyramids, but was at night I just could see that long shine snake which is extended through the African continent knows as the Nile river, the famous island of Zamalek popular for the luxury houses, where embassies and rich people is placed. Landing was very exciting, the dust, the palms and the “International airport of Cairo” also in Arabic I was overwhelmed …I should confess that I use to cry when I travel.

Passport control and Libyans were running from one side to other, was confusing, I didn’t  know where to go, what to say, finally I just follow the others passengers of my airplane, I clearly remember a woman she was coming with me in the same route from panama indeed she was a diplomatic, we talk a little bit in the line and among all the conversation she mention that anyone who can drives in Egypt can do it in any place around the globe, I didn’t know what she meant but later I would knew it. I went out I couldn’t find my fiancé, I just asked for a called, among all the situation caused by the revolution in Libya and Egypt, the terminal for the fight was changed, and he and I didn’t know, I paid one dollar to talk to my future husband (who is not an Egyptian) I thought was expensive but in the laws of universe it was returning the favor of the call in Panama.

On the taxi I could feel the cold breeze although the weather was hot, I saw all the cars on the way, people wearing tunics, all kind of animals and a lot of noise, I remember myself  trying to catch every single information, sound, images, smell, everything. Reaching home I took shower but I wasn’t sleepy for the jetlag and I was hungry (although I have to confess that it was more an excuse to go out than a fact), I just wanted to go out and discover all, the first thing that comes to my mind was the walls on the streets, red and black graffiti’s in Arabic, was pretty! On that time I could read so always I was trying to recognize the letters, the smell of the food, many cats and a smell that I could recognize were surrounding me that smell would remain in my mind all my life but later I would know from where it was coming.

One sandwich quite spicy and very hot, while the kind man who was talking to my partner, I was thinking that one day I would understand and I could talk like them.

On the way to Giza I could observe that Egyptians are very poor and the conditions are not very hygienic, I really thought if I could life under such conditions… finally on the horizon I saw a huge shade I thought it was a mountain, but my fiancé say “we arrived”, yes, It was the great pyramid of Giza, honestly I was expecting to find something different, I have spent many night with my younger brother watching documentaries of Egypt, and I found a pile of rocks? I got very disappointed, but there in the pyramids I had my first experience about fighting with Egyptians, we “rented” a horse carriage to see the place, they ask us 500 EGP, but we realize that people were about to cheat us and leave them and decided to go by walk to the official entry,  we entered and inside we find other carriage for 200EGP (on that time 1eu was 8EGP, and 1 dollar, 6EGP), on the route I was deeply concentrate on thinking and wondering how they built it, the blocks are approximately of one meter square, how people on the hot sun of summer up to 50°c walking without shoes and hauling those huge blocks… Definitely they were a great civilization. I never until know could see the sphinx.

How to be en Egypt and do not visit the Nile? At night around 10 p.m. we went to the Nile, it was very close to our house (in Dokki), I found that was similar to our decoration in Medellin for Christmas (yes, it’s so similar to me) those boats with the lights on acid colors, and the music, that music that I love and I hate, I don’t know that metallic sound in it that make voices to seems unreal, and families clapping while young people is dancing in very exotic and sensual way.  I found the Nile as an open place for the poor Egyptian class to have fun and sin, as an Islamic country with conservator view about relationships and sex, young people has to do out what they cannot do in home, and what a better place than the Nile?

One week among touristic places, I visit Pharaonic Village that is a alive museum, there is like being in a story, you take a boat, and the function starts, the history about gods, and the live in the time of pharaoh, we were few people certainly, my fiancé, one group and me, I thought that the group was any religious tour, they were from Venezuela, later talking to them about the attraction (they didn’t know a lot of English) we learnt that the guy was a famous Venezuelan soccer player, “la pulga Gomez” and the two women were his wife and mother in law. Also I visited a popular bazar, until know I don’t know how we reached there because we were looking for Khan Khalili and for sure that was not, in that place that smell of the first night came again but stronger like flooding all my lungs, it was sweet but harassing, disturbing, I asked what was that smell, it was the famous (water pipe) Nargila, or as they called in Egypt shisha, after that day I start to hate it, I could take out from my head, returning to the story, we sat on a café, and I saw a man sweeping I was between happy and curios, I never expected to find that in a male chauvinist country (it was a stereotype), hens, rabbits,  plants and blood in many places, we just had to get out, walking we found the first mosque I saw so close, I took some pictures and then we find the military tankers, I was so happy, everybody was taking pictures and that feeling of proudness and happiness just filled me up.

The days and nights on Cairo during that week changed many of my perceptions, and it starts to showed me that I was about to live one of the best experiences in my life, also showed me that all those conventional codes that I had on my mind were about to have a turning point, but at that moment I could process all that information although in the bottom of my heart I knew that something was about to happen. And I left Cairo.

sábado, 27 de abril de 2013

…Becoming an ordinary life in a fairy tale

          I was born in a land where the banana plants can reach the line in which the sunset and the see become one, a place which has the smell of the sea salt and the freshly cut wood …that smell between humid wood and plant resin. The roads leading to this land are cover by grey stones and puddles that remains after the rains or simply water that comes from the mountain, surrounded by green ferns and heliconia flowers may you see lizards and frogs on you way, and why not? Hear stories about the “Moaning”, a woman who cries desperately on the full moon nights looking for her children drowned disturbing drunk or tired drivers who find her on their path and are dazzled by her beauty, or hear anecdotes about terrorist groups that kill or kidnap people putting fire on buses and the survivor are lost in the thick tropical jungle.

          My land is a mixture of natives, colonizers and slaves: Those who didn’t have alphabet but language, who lived in harmony with their nature among the mosquitos and snakes embroidering basic colorful figures with artisanal fabrics; those people, who came to conquer and take our wealth, our gold, women and our culture with mirror and basic tools; and those black who bring the sound of the drums and the hot and strong blood in their veins, a mixture that made our women to have the color of the cinnamon, the sweetness of the unrefined whole sugarcane and the strength of a worker.

          In a small village I was born, many memories come into my mind, some sad, some happy… My house was not a luxury house but was big and close enough to the beach to move the boats that my father used to build with the help of some guys who lived close, away of the village my mom was always at home, I can remember clearly the smell of her sweets coming from the second floor of the house while she was with her ferns saying to the housemaid to turn the oven off, my mother had a lot of friend who were buying things that she was brining from the city. We were three children, my eldest brother, me and my little brother, like cotton, wood and coal, in color and personality. Although my father was too tough with my eldest brother I think we had a happy life, always in vacations we were wearing our swimsuit and my parents were screaming “clean the garden! then you will go to the beach”, we were so excited to finish fast and go to have fun fishing and swimming, my little brother learnt fast how to fish small fishes, while I was making sand castles or my eldest brother was burying my in sand drawing funny things.

          Kids in this village they go to school before seven at morning, at that time you will see all the kids going by the seaside with their bags usually bigger than them, some in bicycle carrying one or two or more, you will hear them talking about their street games, because when I was a child few people had TV or telephone on their houses, our school was poor school, many kids they had theirs clothes ripped and they had to share the shoes for school with their sibling at the midday, at that age you may not recognize poorness. I can remember one of my teachers, he was dark and very tall, I remember him writing in the green board with the white chalk and complaining of its dust, at the end of the sessions shinny reflects from the sea were starting to appear on the board, they were moving up to down disappearing, the sound of the waves crashing against rocks cooed me until the bell started and was time for our break, kids running and jumping with ropes, others playing with crystal balls, the smell of eggs and milk from the lunchboxes kept me away from the park, on the garden close to the beach I used to see the clouds through the wiring I was wondering always why they were like squares and not like bubbles like on the cartoons, in the wonder land that is possible!,  I used to pay attention scared to the girls who were washing the mops on the seawall, I think because I heard stories about drowned girls who were doing the same and they never appeared again, I used to spend my break eating caramel or jelly with mango and banana that my mother used to make for us. Before to leave school we had to clean our classroom and in some cases the toilets of the whole school, I don’t know I always choose the sweeper.

          Going back to home was like victory, I was very good student, I was one of the bests, on the way back all the kids had their uniforms dirty with glue and snots, I remember all them crossing the street from one side to other yelling it seemed they were so happy, some of them stoning mango trees or coconut palms and then running when the owner discovered them, I remember a lot the teacher Doris, she was teaching on the highschool, she and her husband the mathematics teacher were well-known and a respectful family, she used to made the best homemade ice creams, I loved to stop on her house and buy one or two with few coins and enjoy them under the hot sun and the fresh breeze from the sea.

          In our home were some lizards and frogs, I never felt disgusted from them until I grew up and I found that my eldest brother put a tale of lizard on my hair and it was moving after being cutted… at the nights sometimes used to rain or be storms, we were always worried that one strong wind took the roof of the house or a flood from the sea invaded the first floor, I was a child and one day in my room I asked to my mother “those lights from where they come from?” she said “there is a big man there outside who is taking pictures of you” now that man have a lot of sense to me and when I remember myself posing for the pictures I think how cute and innocent may I was. I remember sometimes I messed all my room up, fall sleep angry and my father waking me up saying “do you want to eat ice cream” I just jumping from the bed and in our motorbike we were going to the village to eat those melted ice creams that made me so happy.

          Like in any fairy tale there is good and bad people, in the wonderland  sometimes murmurs about dangerous people coming to the village were heard, people at the sunset were running to their houses afraid to be shoot or caught by them, many night my parents heard the sound of the guns coming from the village, my mother say she used to hide us in small places because they were scared someday those people came to our place, many time they cut the electricity and we remain days and days among candles and wood stoves,  some people had power generators but if they were discovered they would be killed, my father many times turned it on to have ice on the refrigerator and to see the news on the television… other nights we spent them hearing stories about adventures and witches from my parents and relatives, even though they were always the same tales was exciting for me hear them on the darkness of the night among the mosquitos hearing the sound of the waves.