Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Finale: Sandcastles and A Full Closet

My new dresser with random toiletries and ceramic artworks I made for a class previously.

I am here. I'm in Massachusetts. This is my second day and I am content and exhausted.

When I first arrived, I have to admit that my anxiety was at its peak. I tried to mask my fear with laughter and jokes about my journeys with my best friend and his mother (who is indeed also my friend), who helped me settle into my new room in my new apartment. However, there was this terrible pounding in my chest the whole time. I am sure they could see my nervousness and lack of ease, but they were nice enough to be quiet about it and help me out. They are very, very good friends.

We arrived in the area of my new building and I was confronted with the fact that this was my new place to live and thrive. This was the place that I would have to not only get used to, but actually work with in order to get to other places in my life. This new, unfamiliar place was supposed to be my new home base for a while; a new brick in the road.

The first thing I felt when I got into my room was the harsh impact of missing my parents. You know how it goes - when you are with them, you complain and nag and are nagged by them, but when you are apart, it's the hardest thing in the world. When I was speaking to my parents on the phone for the first time since I got here, I burst into tears at hearing my Dad's voice. I was sitting in an ice cream parlour eating a very cold, very sweet crushed ice treat. He sounds naturally melancholic all the time, and when he said he missed me, I realised that he was so far away, and his voice got to me. It really dawned on me that I wasn't even just a phone call away. It slapped me in the face when I thought it was so late at night where he and my mother were, but where I was, the sun was still shining and the heat was still stifling.

That is the biggest difference here - although Saudi is insanely hot, Massachusetts is extremely hot and humid, which is hard for me to deal with, as I am not used to it. I prefer the dryness of Saudi in this way. My hair sticks to my back and no longer has the bouffant appearance it did in Saudi. I think the water I wash my hair with itself is different. The mineral content is not the same. Just like being without my parents is not the same. At least I do not need to drink that much water.

Many things are different; little things that take adjusting. I now have to make sure that no hair goes down the drain in the shower. I also have to schedule 2 times per week that I can do laundry. I have certain weeks of the month where I am in charge of cleaning the kitchen or bathroom. I have a room with a huge, huge closet but no desk whatsoever. I can't play Dragon Age until I figure that one out.

I think I can do this. I feel optimistic despite the change, especially since I had the help of my friends. They helped me so much, I don't know how to thank them. I bought them lunch, but seriously, what the hell is that? Their help means more than lunch - even if I do love food. And yes, I need to stop and say that the food was delicious - it was American-Italian, and for the first time, I ate full garlic cloves on pizza. Actually, they are insanely delicious and not too strong - a pleasant surprise.

I am glad for the help of these wonderful people, and for the kindness and consideration of the house owner. All of them understand just enough about how difficult it can be to move in from very far away into the unknown. The house owner even lent me bedsheets without me even having to ask. I still haven't seen her yet, and my thanks to her are only by email and very briefly over the phone.

If I didn't have these small blessings, right now I would be a wreck. I would be writing about the difficulties of adjustment as well as the sadness of being alone. Right now, I am alone in my room, but I don't feel alone in the world. My friends, and certainly my family, have made this new start a great success.

Some of the little things said by my parents about missing me did bring tears to my eyes. But then, I realise this is the wake up call - they need to know that I am okay, and I need to be genuine by making the most out of everything I have, so that in the end I really am okay. I also need to let them know regularly about the little things in life that I am up to. That is something that I did not do during the period of my undergraduate degree - 3 whole years. It was very, very wrong of me.

While things were very difficult at first, once I started speaking to other members of my family, things got better gradually. I spoke to my cousin and grandparents in New Jersey, and today I spoke to my sister and my aunt in Chicago. They showed concern for me as any family member would - asking me how I am, how I was feeling, and whether I liked my new area. It may seem like small talk and nothing special, but just knowing that they are at all interested is very meaningful and relieving. I have family, I have a roof over my head, and guess what, everyone? It feels really, really good.

So far, the time I have spent here has been put to use. Some of it is about resting from that long, almost sleepless journey across continents, but some of it is about putting together pieces of my new life. I needed to buy things I don't really think about too much - scissors, markers, envelopes, things like that. Then, there are new home things: bedsheets, air fresheners, cups and plates. I needed cutlery but all I could get was plastic ones - Kohl's only had these $40 sets and the ones in the supermarket were all plastic. In fact, I was FOOLED by Shaw's because they had cutlery in a packet that looked silver at first glance, but were really plastic! How dare they make me believe such lies?

In the end, I have everything I need for now. I have everything I bought above, and this morning I went on my own to a Greek grocer. He sells many things I am familiar with, and the closeness to Arab cuisine makes me feel warm and fuzzy somehow. As usual, the way to my heart truly is through my stomach - I hear it's in my blood. It really pleases me that I can buy hummus, greek yoghurt, feta (if I feel like it ever; I usually dislike it), pita, zatar bread, or any of the many frozen greek foods every day of the week - before 7pm. Everything in the immediate area closes around that time.

So, here I am. I'm sitting on my double bed. I'm leaning up against a wall. I'm looking at my poor excuses for decoration, while wondering what else I can do to make the room my own.

I tied my jingly scarf on the doorknob of my huge, endless closet that was able to fit 2 suitcases and my big green monster.

Like it was when I was leaving Saudi, I am full of mixed feelings. I'm sighing at the thought of eating soft, delicious Saudi lamb. I'm smiling at the prospect of tomorrow - I buy my books for my grad school classes, which is a small thing but a way to learn more about the lay of the land. I will eventually start classes in a program that looks more fascinating the more I learn about it.

I have a bright tomorrow, a wonderful family, and amazing friends. No matter how I feel, adjustment will be made easier with these three things. I am made safer from the desert winds by the shielding hands of my loved ones and the strength to put up my own hands; a strength bred within me from years upon years of constant change - the gypsy life which is in my title.

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