“Oh well oh well I feel so good today
We just touched ground on an international runway
Jet-propelled back home from overseas to the USA”
-Back in the U.S.A. (written by Chuck Berry)
I’m baaack! That’s right I’m back on American soil. And have I got a story to tell you. So pull up a chair, sit back, relax and check your judgment at the door. Seriously, this post should have a warning label: You need to be this open-minded to continue on this ride.
Well dear readers, the best way to begin this entry is to recite the old adage, “Man plans and God laughs.” It was a mere 8 days ago that I wrote the following words on my blog in reference to my teaching overseas, “I hope I get the opportunity to continue my enlightenment. However, it is only through the grace of God and you, dear readers, that I will continue my spiritual growth. I look forward to our being together a good long time.” And within mere minutes of that post, my world and all I had known for the past five months, came crashing down around me.
My sister, MR, had been visiting me from the states and she and I had just finished a delicious Egyptian meal courtesy of my tutor, ESS. MR had been my guest for only a week. However, MR, ESS and I were quite the triumvirate. When we weren’t working, ESS and I introduced MR to the local culture, cuisine and customs. To say that it was different than anything she had ever experienced is a drastic understatement. For myself, I was experiencing everything through fresh eyes. When I had arrived five months earlier, my focus was clearly on doing my job and doing it well. I had been drawn into the culture as if in a vacuum. This tunnel vision allowed me to slip into a society which, for all its lip service, never embraced me as one of its own. I began to probe what had been dancing around the outskirts of my conscious thought for the past month or so, “Why wasn’t I fitting in?” I did not have to ponder long, dear readers, as the answer was sleeping in my bed: my sister, MR.
Although MR’s light is a bit more dazzling than mine, we both possess an inner glow that has always drawn attention, especially when we are together. I use to shy away from the glare, but now I embrace it, it is who I am. And throughout this week I began to see my presence in this society through the eyes of the locals. More specifically, I began to see my presence through the eyes of my principal, Mudeera (Arabic for manager). I felt drawn to her in a way that one strong, independent woman is drawn to another, equally strong and independent woman. And clearly she felt the same. Ahh, but there’s the rub; her independence was merely an illusion.
I was able to be me, even dressed in an abaya. I was able to let my light shine, she was not. And perhaps I am wrong about her wanting to let her light illuminate the room like I know mine did, but I don’t think so.
Throughout our week together in the Middle East, MR and I had such a wonderful time. However, that week at work was both rewarding and excruciatingly painful. Finished with their finals, my students streamed through the teachers’ workroom to say one last goodbye to their teachers, after all, they had graduated. As I watched them work their way around the room, I noticed they all seemed to walk a little straighter, a little slower, a little more reserved, a little more like well, the other Arabic women in the room, until they moved towards me. They screamed as only teenage girls can and they laughed uproariously, as did I and we made complete spectacles of ourselves as only uninhibited people do and we hugged and we cried, and they left. And as they left, I knew they would not soon forget me as is evidenced in what one of my students wrote to me, “It was my honor actually that you have been my teacher once,.. I personally have learned a lot from you Miss! beyond English. We’ll never forget how hard you worked and tried to get to become very close to us even though we’re from different cultures and [you did] stuff that has made me believe nothing is impossible.. we will never forget you I’m telling you .. you had a hell of an impression on us…I love you Miss Victoria.”
And this is where the story should end, dear readers. But life is messy and it never does what it should. Along with my heartfelt note, I received a sort of cryptic note that read in part, “Ohhh miss I do really love you so much and I am gonna miss you , I won’t forget you and I hope you will forgive me for anything bad that I did to you . I wish we could be in touch and talk to each other so I can tell you.” It was a sweet note but it didn’t make much sense to me at the time. This particular student had never done anything to me that needed to be forgiven. Well, never say never, dear readers.
In all of the excitement of the girls leaving, I had forgotten that this student had told me that she had found my blog on-line and had read all of my posts. She said she couldn’t wait to read what I would post next. I was too busy being full of myself to grasp the consequences of what she said next, “I like that you’re in love, Miss and I know who ESS is, does he love you, too?”
Again, too stupid for my own good I said, “Yes!”
“I didn’t tell anyone, Miss. But I think the principal knows.” And with that, she hugged me tight and she left and I was left with her strange note.
Well dear readers, the principal did indeed know which in and of itself would not have been a cause for alarm. It is what she did next that scared the hell out of me. Exactly eight days ago, I was enjoying the company of my sister, MR, and my tutor, ESS. We had just finished what was to be my last meal in my new home when my world was turned upside down. ESS received two very disturbing phone calls, one from the principal and then one from his supervisor. He was told to pack all of his belongings and be ready for his supervisor to come pick him up. Neither one would tell him where he was going. However, his supervisor did tell him that the principal was accusing him of having an inappropriate relationship with one of her teachers. MR immediately demanded that I call the U.S. Embassy to let them know what had just occurred. Not sensing an urgency I hemmed and I hawed and I called the embassy. Meanwhile, ESS was whisked away to parts unknown. Okay, it wasn’t “Midnight Express” but it was nerve wracking. However, I still wasn’t convinced that I was in any danger.
After I spoke to my first point of contact at the U.S. Embassy and explained to him what had just happened he turfed me over to their emergency unit. A little disconcerting, but alarm bells were still not going off for me. After explaining the situation to the emergency unit, the young lady on the other end of the phone said as calmly and as clearly as she possibly could, “I can’t give you advice on what to do. But, you and your sister might consider coming in to the embassy tomorrow to talk to someone. I will pass this information on to the proper unit should you want to follow up with us tomorrow.”
“Okay,” I said, “Is this serious?”
“Well, I can’t say one way or the other, but you can contact one of the lawyers listed on our website.”
“Well, should I contact a lawyer,” I asked naively, still not grasping the enormity of the situation.
“I can’t tell you yes or no. But, if you decide to come in to the embassy tomorrow, someone will have your information and you can talk to them.”
As I hung up the phone with the U.S. Embassy, my sister was already packing to leave. Going through the motions of packing only what I could stuff into two suitcases, my mind was numb with fear for ESS. Where had he gone? What will they do to him? Do I really need to be running? My sister was adamant that we leave before the crack of dawn so that we could make the two and a half hour car ride to the embassy before we were whisked away. Nope, I still was not convinced…but it was becoming a little more unnerving.
Standing in line outside the embassy the next morning, I was certain that we would be turned away at the window. Instead, to my complete and utter amazement, we were whisked off to the back. Once in the crowded back room where people waited in lines to conduct their business in one of the several very public windows, we were whisked off to a private room where we had employee, Mr. S’s complete attention. Okay, it’s starting to get a bit unsettling. In fact I was quite nervous at this point, just not entirely convinced it was life threatening.
After hearing our plight, we were given our options and what the protocol was that we had to follow. Oh yeah, and a list of lawyers we could contact should we choose to do that. I still wasn’t convinced. I was unconvinced that I was in imminent danger. However, MR and I checked into a hotel and I decided that it was probably best if I just cut my losses and head home because this probably was not going to end well. Still, I didn’t call a lawyer to seek out his advice. Finally, and just to appease my sister, I called one of the lawyers on the list I had received earlier in the day from the embassy.
I told my story to the voice on the other end of the phone. He was convinced that we needed to fly home immediately and he convinced me. In short, here is what he told me. An accusation is enough to land you in jail. There does not need to be any evidence of wrongdoing, just an accusation. In addition, he informed me that just last month, a British couple was accused of the very same thing and they were arrested and thrown in jail. They served 30 days before they were summarily deported back to England. No evidence, no trial, just an accusation. He told me that “running” home was in my best interest. “You just need to leave as soon as possible, as soon as possible.
Okay, shit just got real!
And that is exactly what we did, we ran home. And home is where I now sit, safe but dazed and confused. In the coming weeks I will be able to relax and examine just exactly what has happened to me. I do know that had it not been for my sister, I would have definitely compromised my safety, to what degree, who knows. I’m glad I didn’t have to find out. As for ESS, all I will say is that he is safe and we are still in love, khalas. Would I do it all again, dear readers? Yes, without a doubt. As I said, life is messy. And sometimes a kiss is not just a kiss. Peace, ~v.