Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A foot in both worlds.

I have found through my 39 years on the planet, 21 one of which were spent in Bahrain, that by and large Americans arent all that informed about things unAmerican I mean anything that falls even slightly outside the American culture(if that can actually be defined). This is never more clear than when your an American that has been abroad...has experienced another culture etc...and maybe even acquired some of that culture...and then take it home to meet the family and friends. Having a foot in both worlds sounds a lot more physically painful then one might be led to expect....but its nothing compared to the emotional and mental pain...that takes on a whole new meaning.

When I first stepped foot on Bahrain dirt over 20 years I was a very young...very naive...very white girl that didnt have a clue about what misery she had just signed herself over too. Granted life in Bahrain has not been a 24/7 sweat filled muscle clenching pain fest...but its had its moments. Forgive me if my rants are just a tad too ranty still about Bahrain...the wounds are still healing.

Anyone that has walked in only one pair of shoes their whole life would not understand what it means to have a foot in both worlds...the two worlds Im talking about are...the world of America/American...and the world of Islam/Muslim(and by proxy Arab as the two are hardly separated in thought or action). When I first arrived here I was as American as you can get...plopped right down into about as far from that as you can be and still be on the same planet. I was not in Cultue Shock...I was in Culture Meltdown...Midwest America does not prepare you for Mid East living.

Within a few years I was hijabbed ...converted...was "influenced" into changing my style of manners(well those can always use some improving)...basically, through time, the Americaness of me became less...the Arab influence became more. Many will say its a good thing...and in many ways it is a good thing as Arabs have a lot of cultural traditions that are superior to ones we in America might have....but at the same time, I lost a lot of myself along the way. My hesitation to change myself in bigger ways...eventually became a downright refusal to change myself in even little ways. The breaks had to be applied...slow the horses down for Pete's sake...before I was led right over the cliffs edge...into oblivion....

Over the years when I visited America I was rather caught between those two worlds. I now dressed like an Arab...but was white as eyed to this caused a lot of Americans to assume I was Syrian...maybe Jordanian...something "other" than American...and my ability to speak english fluently was always cause for surprise. People sometimes spoke to me slowly and deliberately and usually with a rather loud if my assumed inability to understand english was on account that I was deaf or something. Assertions that I was, in fact, American as they were ....never seemed to ring compeltely true...because I eventually came to realize that I wasnt really like them...not anymore. I had spent enough time in the Middle East to have acquired...even if by force...many Arab habits and thinking...I had taken them in without even realizing it because everyone else was doing or thinking pretty much the same. Its only when I arrived in America that I realized how different I had become. Others could feel it and see it too. So this left me in a very awkward position...I wasnt Arab enough for Bahrain...still American in the eyes of the masses...still not quite a full blooded Muslim cause, as a non Arab I could never be considered "truly" Muslim...and when I went home I didnt feel like a full blooded American...cause I had too much Arab "in" me to make me feel if I didnt this world or that. So even when I went home I felt like a stanger in my own country.

So now, circumstances have changed...I am planning on going home once again...but without the confines of a hateful marriage forcing me to endure life in a certain way...without the hijab on my head which caused so many of my fellow Americans true consternation and instantly labeled me "unAmerican"....without the Arab name and without many of the Arab habits that I have recently shed believing they are not really me...and Im a hypocrite to go on pretending they are. I will be setting foot down in my own country as Me...or at least the me Ive become in this past drama filled year...a year which has changed me once again...into something neither Arab nor American..something neither Muslim nor non Muslim...something quite different and unique from any of will be the first time I experience being an American in America as me(since I left at 18 and my father...well thats another story u might all remember).

To say Im nervous hardly describes say Im scared to death doesnt even touch say I can hardly wait...well...lets just say...Im ready ...if America is....more on that later.

1 comment:

Susanne said...

Nice reading this. I hope you enjoy coming back home. :-) When do you plan for that to happen? Your posts are so interesting. What are some of those Arab traits that you picked up and now have shed?