Then Grab a Cage So I Can Put You In It

Location: Beirut, Lebanon (Supermarket parking lot). Year: 2012

I gently swerved off the main road into the lot, careful to avoid the crowd of happy-go-lucky pedestrians enjoying the cold Sunday afternoon. (Who, due to their happy-go-luckiness, never actually watch where they’re going, so I had to do it for them). I pulled up to the guy at the entrance to pay the parking fee, and rolled down my window.

I had expected to only exchange the usual pleasantries as I dug out change from my wallet, but the man wanted to add more to the conversation.

“It’s a zoo! A zoo. We have a lot of them now,” he said in Arabic, gesturing to the pedestrians.

The people he were pointing out were Filipinas. Domestic workers, enjoying some fresh air and shopping on their day off.

“So many of them now,” he repeated, his voice a mix of incredulity and exasperation.

I handed him some cash. I had no time to really tell him what I thought of his racism so, stumbling over my Arabic words, I replied, “You know, if we didn’t bring them to work, they wouldn’t be here.”

I grabbed my change and went off. I had no time to mull our conversation over—the subject was hardly surprising. Besides, I had groceries to buy and essays to write when I got home.

But now that I’m here, I wonder:

Why would anyone be surprised or upset that Filipinos are out having a good time on the one day off in a week that they have? And of course there’s a lot of them! Aren’t we the ones who open our doors so they can come do everything the Lebanese would find beneath them? What is there to tell people like the parking lot attendant besides the blatant obvious? “They’re just as human and just as much in need of a good time every now and again.”

Like that would change anything.

All of a sudden, because domestic workers actually behave like people and not lesser creatures who only come when called, people feel the need to point them out specifically and liken it to a crowd of animals. Great.

There goes another point of pride in my debacle of a country.

A Perfectly Nonchalant Conversation

Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Year: 2003

I plunked myself down in my usual front-row seat. I was well into my first semester at Dawson College, a CEGEP located in downtown Montreal. It was, thankfully, a 180-degree difference from high school and I had contentedly fit into it like a hand into a glove. (Well a glove that fit, anyways).

I was early; there were only two or three people milling about in the room. I pulled out my notebook and attempted to kill time my usual way: Spacing out while peppering the margins with doodles. It wasn’t long before the sound of my name broke into my reverie.

I quickly turned around to face a girl several rows behind me, “Yeah?”

She wasted no time, “You’re Lebanese, aren’t you?”

“Yep!”

“How old are you?”

“Seventeen.”

“Seventeen?” she said with genuine inquisitiveness, “Aren’t you supposed to be married by now?”

Um what?

Despite my initial incredulity, she remained earnest. This was an honest question. Perhaps it was odd that my teenage Lebanese self wasn’t sporting a wedding ring already.

When I found my voice again I retorted, “Um, no. Why would you say that?!”

“I just meant–well my Lebanese friends are all saying that they’re gonna get married soon, so that’s why I asked.” (I don’t know how relevant this is, but as far as I could tell, the girl was a typical-looking Caucasian blonde).

“Oh…well, no I’m not about to get married anytime soon.”

By this time, the class was filling up and the instructor was calling us to attention, so that was the end of that bit of oddness.

It was my first experience with how Lebanese girls are seen from a foreigner’s perspective. Apparently my teenage brethren were known for wanting to get hitched in 21st Century North America.

Who would’ve thought?

The Ending to Begin Again

This is “Episode VI”  in the memoir I’m writing for my Creative Non-Fiction class. Previous installments are herehereherehere and here. It’s a short one that I plan to use as my ending:

I sit on the precipice of another new beginning. It will take a blink, maybe two, and I’ll be a graduate. I have some idea, a big idea, no idea where I’m going to go next. I just know that I want to travel again, and I want to make an impact on the world, like it had an impact on me.

I want to have an open future, but I know I don’t have much time to sprawl on the couch and be picky about what I want to do. I like to write, to tell stories and I want, hopefully, to teach. I see people as books to be opened, and I want to have an experience in their lives as they have one in mine.

Sometimes I feel isolated, or passive, and I hate it. I miss that time in my life where things were fresh and just…different. I want that feeling you get when you come home at the end of the day and know you did something unique, something that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. I haven’t had that in so long. I’m coming to a point where everything I plan will point me in that direction—in the one of change, travel and adventure.

It’s another five months until I pull through to the other side of AUB, and another two months after that before I get my TEFL certificate. That will be my ticket to world travel and encounters that will have a higher impact on me than I’ll ever have on anything else.

And after that, who knows? My life was never based on plans that actually worked out, and, for better or worse, nothing ever turns out the way I think it would. Then again, what does?