Because writing about anything it’s not enough. To give you better picture of what is for me the Middle East I finally decided to share also my experience from my own travels through this blog and Instagram. My very first visit to the region was quite bold one and those are my memories:
Travelling? Just don’t do it my way
Maybe travelling alone across the World with $100 in your pocket and no hotel booked is not really a good idea, but it’s definitely the greatest adventure you can experience.
I’m standing by the University gate trying to call the guy who was supposed to pick me up from the airport last night. No avail. Passing by students are looking at me with curiosity and even distrust. Some girls next to me are chatting and giggling in lower voices. They are coming into my direction. I know that they are smiling. I can see it in their eyes. I cannot see their faces. They are wearing veils. It’s Wednesday, October 27th 2010 my first day in Sana – capital city of Yemen.
Five minutes later four of us: me, Bushra, Amal and Iqlim are carrying my heavy luggage to the students’ house reception. My new friends are studying English Language and Translation and should be in their classroom right now, but they are still with me going from one building to another, marching along the Sun parched land and leaving in dozen of offices my photos and copies of my passport. In the last place we are trying to find out where I’m going to live and why it’s impossible to contact the person who should take care of foreign students. I asked the question and I got the answer. Without taking his eyes off the computer screen one gentlemen says that I could apply for a place in the students house, but not today. On Saturday. And as for the men I was trying to call, he was kidnapped two days ago and probably that is why he didn’t pick up the phone. I cannot believe this, I start to laugh.
We are going out. Girls have to go back to their homes and me, I don’t know. All the students are slowly leaving University Campus and when I look at them I see one very tall blond boy. He’s looking at me with “where have you been?” expression on his face. As I found later he’s name is Michael and he’s renting a single room in the Old City. So we are driving to his home right now, which is also going to be mine, for the next few months.
During my very first month in Yemen I have no classes at the University. Nevertheless I’m not bored at all. Never before in my life I’ve experienced such an enormous bureaucracy and laziness of clerks. But finally after struggling to get the resident visa in different offices, police station and hospital (in Yemen problem of HIV “doesn’t” exist so each single person who wishes to stay here longer needs to do blood test) my classes starts. Apart from me and Michael, students of Arabic Course for foreigners consists of one Korean, two Australians and group of Chinese – the most visible and audible students. Our ustad (professor in Arabic) is good, he’s even excellent I would say. Even though we have only one handbook to study from lessons are never boring. Somehow without any effort he can change any topic in something amazing and absorbing. But he has one disadvantage. He’s always late. Our ustad is late for each single class, from 10 to 45 minutes. It can happen that he doesn’t show up at all. However he’s not the only one. Some girls are late too so probably there’s nothing impolite in it and probably it just us – the rest of the students who are too sensitive. Picking up the phone during the lesson is fine as well, but I don’t do it. I still didn’t get rid of my weird European habits. At least somehow I managed to get used to the local habits and I’m not surprised any more when something like this takes place. But I was so painfully wrong when I thought that nothing would astonish me. The day has come. Today for some reason we cannot have classes in our schoolroom so we are waiting for ustad to let us in to the new one. Finally we are come in, so far nothing unusual, chairs, desk, blackboard – normal classroom. When everybody is inside and ustad finishes talking on his mobile and it’s time to close the door he actually does it, but because the lock is broken… he rolls quite big stone so the door remains closed and not wide open. After this normal classes starts. Therefore five minutes later one student has to answer his phone. Because he doesn’t want to disturb us he’s going outside, he rolls the stone on the side, closes the door behind him. So now ustad has to roll the stone back on its place and after about another five minutes, when the student finishes the conversation he has to push the door and the stone so he can get in and ustad back again rolls the stone to close the door. And like this two or three times per lesson.
This is how the University looks like, but it’s only part of my life in here. The Old City, this is the place where I spend majority of my time. It’s hard to describe it in words. Sana is one of the oldest cities in the world, situated high in the mountains and its old part is on UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s amazing, beautiful, mysterious, almost magic, full of live and energy. Some time ago, when I was already living here about one week and I thought than I know my neighbourhood good enough I decided to have a walk from my home in Hara Talha to Bab al Yemen – the main, ancient gate to the city. And because Old Sana is like enormous maze I got lost straight away. And while I was straying between picturesque buildings I could feel somebody watching me. It was a group of children, at the beginning shy but when they noticed that I had a camera they started to ask and shout to take picture of them, one, two……..five………eleven, all of them together, in small groups, each one separately. They were one of the best and my favourite pictures I took in Yemen. Nevertheless I still was lost and somehow I had to get back home. While I was circling around getting thirsty and tired I met him, my rescuer. It was middle-aged gentlemen wearing traditional Yemeni clothes and belt with Jambijja (curved knife, which is part of the traditional outfit). When he saw me – foreign girl walking around he just came and asked if I was lost and where is my home. I couldn’t even tell him my address. I just remembered the name of the nearest hotel and how lucky I was, he knew the place. On our way home my rescuer asked where I was from and the thing he said in reply left me almost speechless. It doesn’t happen very often when foreigners don’t link my country with vodka and communism. Not only he didn’t even mention those two things but started to talk about polish football and how our national team used to be good back in the days. He knew even the names of the players. We get home chatting about sport’s victories of Polish in late 60s and early 70s.
This is how passed my two first months in Sana. I’m going to spend here five more, during which I will experience more and more each single day, living intense life I had never before. I will learn Yemen, its culture and diversity. I will see for myself that it’s a country of many extremes, where nothing is black and white, from relations between people, through religiousness, hospitality, economic stratification within society, even weather and finally demonstrations and revolution.
So, as I said. My Instagram IG account: kinga_plata