Om Kalthoum, Jasmine and Coffee

My friend explained to me today an idea he came across about cultural intelligence. In simple words, he said that humans have two levels of attributes; core and flex attributes. the core ones are the ones we believe that if we give up, we are no longer who we are, whereas the flex are the ones we are willing to negotiate or compromise.

My friend’s idea left me with some thoughts about what my core is. I left a big part of me in every house I lived in, but I was also lucky to be able carry parts of my houses everywhere I went. As an architect, think a lot of the three-dimensional space, I always check places around me and analyse how designers think when they build things. I evaluate and compose a silent opinion about everything. It is annoying sometimes, but it also makes me feel special in a way. However, I believe that the emotional and the sensual dimensions are more significant to the space. I am starting to recognise this in London, especially in evenings like this when I open my window and a breeze brings the smell of the rain into my brain, “oh God! This smells like our village” I think. then I realised that places also can travel 🙂 .. In moments like these, I play Om kalthoum and I can grow roots wherever I am.

Well, there might be three dimensions for a house and five dimensions for a home… I started to recognise the sensual dimension of our home from the moment I started to be aware of who I am. I remember that our house in Damascus smelled like a specific soap. that smell was home, until spring came, then the Jasmine blossomed, and our windows would always be wide open and our house smelled like jasmine all the time. Evenings and mornings smelled like a mixture of Jasmine, coffee, and lemon blossom.

Om kalthoum’s music takes me back to the time when I was six years old playing in the yard while my parents listened to her songs and had coffee near the Jasmine tree. Familiar music notes pile up, they hold each other to build walls and ceilings, they build a home, a womb where I hibernate. I remember that I used to dislike the music my parents listened to; Their taste made me think of them as old backward couple.  Tonight, I couldn’t spend an hour at a club with my friends. I told them I have to work tomorrow then returned home to play my parents’ “backward” music and grow my roots again. After seeking change for a long time, we then seek familiarity.

looking back now, back to my friend’s idea about cultural intelligence, I think my core is not made of big ideologies or beliefs, instead it is filled with om kalthoum (in relation to my family), jasmine, lemon blossom and coffee …

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my favorite tailor

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It always impresses me how Picasso’s “La guernica” portraits me, and almost all of my close friends who have been through the same path more or less, except we look normal from the outside, the mess is only from the inside. I recognise how fragile my balance is when I can not engage in a conversation about how difficult it is to have your mother visit you over Easter while you have too much to study… my mom can’t visit me, that nice old lady will not see the beautiful red London buses or the stunning architecture. So yeah, I have more time to study; I will not have to be her tour guide in London, I will not take her to the Thames or London Eye. She will not see my room or the garden where I read my books.

My colleague was complaining how she doesn’t have time for her mom’s visit, while all I said was “Yeah, I know it must be difficult”, I showed a fake smile of sympathy and thought to myself, is it my fault that I don’t sympathise or that I get angry at this type of problems? I know that everyone is fighting their own battle, but why should my battle be this difficult? Why can’t I worry about my food not being organic enough or not having my vacation in the best island in Greece or even spending my birthday alone! These are the kind of problems my colleagues complain about on a daily basis, while I stay silent fearing if I talk about what worries me, I will hurt their feelings or ruin their evening. It worries me not to have a place to go to after I finish my masters because my country is not accommodating and is not a “pleasant” place to live in. It worries me not to ever see my mom again. It worries me that I don’t have a place to call home, the uncertainty, the loneliness, the exile of everything and everyone I love, death worries me… life too does… I wish I can just worry about global warming, then I would go every day to protest in front of Westminster with those nice people, but I am too broken to worry about the Earth. I wish I am that sane and sweet, but I am neither. If I am given the choice, I would probably choose to complain about the amount of field work I have to do, that I have to travel 70% of my time despite being paid three times more like that guy I met today, but I know I would be grateful to get a job unlike these people who would seize every opportunity to complain. I am not like them, I am broken. I would like to believe that I am unique because I left my pieces behind and tried to stitch myself nicely. I stitch myself on my own, I am not a good tailor, but I do my best. I do my best to be nice, to sympathise, to understand, and appreciate. I am not always a good tailor, but I am my favourite tailor.

I am sure that to other people in my country, I am like my colleagues who complain about spending their birthday alone. I live in London and I share nice photos on Instagram, oh God! We are all broken, but do I want to be fixed?

No, I don’t…

How do wars end?

It has been eight years since the nightmare started. Does it mean we were living the dream before that? No, but ignorance is a bliss almost always. In eight years, I have changed five cities, seven homes, countless skins, two hair colours, and two souls. I lost the track of time and the sense of place, and I most importantly I lost the sense of belonging somewhere.

It has been more than a year I haven’t visited Damascus. The strange thing is that I was haunted by this city; I was in love with its old stones and narrow roads.  I thought I will always have it as my home despite the destruction and the tears I dropped there. I left my home in 2015 with a lingering wish in my heart “I will come back someday when the madness evaporates, and men come back to their senses”. This never happened… Not yet, and never will apparently.

Despite the glamourous new year’s celebrations in London, I decided to spend the holidays in Damascus. Although was not excited to visit Damascus again, However, I wanted to find solace with mom who is the only reason I would always want to go there. My mom is 63 years old, she has that smile that makes me feel safe and loved. She is the elastic bond that ties me to my country, wherever I go I find myself going back for her. Also because London with all its glamour and its nine million people still makes me feel like the loneliest person on Earth.

I travelled from London to Istanbul, then from Istanbul to Beirut, then Beirut to Damascus. The car in which I came from Beirut left me near a small shopping mall, and the other car that was supposed to drive me home was late. So, I went inside the shopping mall until the driver arrives. The shopping mall was full of goods that no body bought, because people there can’t afford to buy “luxurious” things, and by luxurious, I mean new clothes. Outside there was a checkpoint where two men check IDs. I don’t remember that I was this intimidated by guns like this before, rifles were “silly” and normal. Now is when I realized I became a “white Syrian” somehow. I learned at the age of 13 how to assemble and reassemble a gun and a rifle, but now I can’t even look at them.

As I was going through the highway that leads to my home (the picture), I saw the destruction, the dust, and ghosts of people who died there, or whose dreams died there just like me. Everything changed, only the sun still visits the place every day to show us the fiasco and disappointment we should feel for what happened.

The question in my head was; What will happen after the war to these places? This road will be built again, high rise office buildings will attract businesses, those same businesses that funded the war and destroyed these homes to forever displace the land owners and start a new era… the era of the war nouveaux riche.

For eight years we thought that war is ugly, but the realization of this trip was that post war will be uglier.

damascus

 

a year, a tear and a smile …

Two days ago, I typed the word “Levant woman” in google search engine, my blog was the first search result. I clicked on it and noticed an orange cup, it was the first time I get such a notification. I clicked on it and waited for it to tell me what is this cup standing for, the internet doesn’t always help me here. then this sentence appeared “Happy anniversary with wordpress.com!” ….

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yes, It’s been a year since I first tried to speak up my thoughts. That sentence made me smile and go back in time. It sounded a long long time to me, and that depressed sad lady who lost her way seems to have foggy lineaments that makes it hard for me to recognize she was “me” but the truth is, she’s really me, though my hair is longer than hers and my eyes are colder with less tears waiting on my hem. but we’re the same.

a year is a long long time…

In this long time I learnt that time doesn’t heal as we’ve been told.

I learnt that we don’t over come the pain in time unless we decide to.

I learnt that in time, we become the character we choose to play in life theater. if we choose to be the victim, we become what we choose. if we choose to be the hero, here we are , the heroes. it’s all about your attitude.

finally, I learnt that I’m the queen of the universe 🙂 and that was the most precious thing I discovered this year.