The chance to be intimate (with you) actualized. An encounter, for which I had prayed and yet could not follow through, left me dumbfounded.
In the hours and days that followed, I could have and probably did attribute my unexpected inertia to morals and not wanting to lose... something; whatever it is, it eludes me at this moment of writing.
The need to avoid the truth was so strong, that I repeated these bullshit 'lies' in my head every time I remembered.
I did not have to acknowledge to myself the real issue and could continue living my life on some kind of auto-pilot mode.
But (un)fortunately, avoidance, the panacea for most of my intimate hurts, could not be applied to this encounter.
As much and as often as I tried to convince myself of the stupid 'reasons' why I chose not to have the experience that I wanted with you, the real issue kept on nagging at me in my soul's past.
It is time to lay the past to rest.
I just want to feel safe and protected.
That's it as far as my life goals for the rest of my existence on this earth goes.
It has taken me the better part of three decades to realise this very important need and more importantly that only I can satisfy it.
And yet, it seems like the impossible dream- to be safe and protected. Here, the color of my skin simply does not afford me this right.
I am not. Even though I will never be the loudest person in a room, I am not the social recluse that so many people perceive me to be.
Yet, despite my best laid plans weekend after weekend, I find myself at home.
Going to a bar, cafe or club is just an exercise in suffering indignity after indignity because the general conclusion is that I am there to sell my body.
I would rather be safe than be out there alone, pursued and stereotyped.
Blogging in the Middle East is a risk.
On the anniversary of the failed coup in Turkey, scrolling through my Twitter feed, I happened upon a tweet with a startling video embed.
Three children- siblings, addressing the 10 year prison sentence imposed on their father for the crime of blogging in Saudi Arabia.
I am a writer. And even though I manifest an apolitical narrative, I can't be so naïve as to believe that the messages that I convey on my blog may be misconstrued as the opposite.
I am Caribbean, Barbadian and within the Middle Eastern paradigm I don't have a dog in the fight. Furthermore, the perceived injustices in the Middle East that force, otherwise, introverted masters of verse to publicly voice their disgust are not limited to this one geographical space as well as the deadly consequences, real or imagined.
So, why write about this place?
I don't. I feel.
For the first time in my life I have become intimate with myself in ways that I never knew were possible. Separated from my homeland and my painful reality there, I am no longer consumed by the fears and hurt that informed so much of my life in Barbados.
As a result, life is brand new for me in the Middle East. I no longer have to sit in dread and pain in the same way that rice bathes in a gravy or stew.
Finally, there is a daily cycle of life experiences, feelings, understanding and clarity culminating in a sense of purpose that makes life worth it.
This cycle is always certainly expressed in my writing and it is the very act of, that makes the cycle cathartic.
And I need it.
The space to express my feelings and to grow in understanding.
...Is a fate which my family believes is inevitable if I continue blogging while living in the Middle East.
Is it a crime to search for clarity on the page?
My experiences in the Middle East are not supplemental. Rather, they, after much scrutiny, serve to clarify, contextualise and direct me unto a peace that goes beyond my own understanding.
And that effort is painfully paradoxical.
Will I ever understand:
- Why you left?
- Why you consciously and devoid of any, stripped me of my dignity?
- Why I was chosen?
Limiting but possible, only so, through the execution of writing.
LIFE DOES NOT HAPPEN TO TOURISTS
My Jordanian Experience
''Be careful. That place is hella expensive'' advised an acquaintance when told of my life long dream to visit the Wonder of the World that bears my name- Petra.
I took their warning with a grain of salt, considering it was all relative, but in hindsight I should have paid attention to the variables that would have solidified this seemingly innocent opinion as fact. This acquaintance was a business man. A well travelled businessman throughout the middle east in places like the UAE and Qatar etc. - the known expensive places.
Hence, with their experience and understanding of numbers (I am clueless), I should have been forearmed by the time that I had touched down in Jordan in early spring of 2017.
In Jordan, the hustle is real. The realest that I have ever seen and experienced. Mainly driven by tourism, Jordan's economy, unlike its other Middle Eastern brothers and sisters, is not bolstered by oil production and trade.
Given that Jordan's tourism industry is very decentralised, any Jordanian, not just those living in Amman, can ply their trade around tourism.
And ply their trade do they!
I am not writing in a pejorative tone; rather I do so with one of respect. An opportunity to make a transaction is never overlooked or missed. Ever!
The art of the deal
What is offered always appears and usually is an excellent deal. Case and point, on my visit to the Citadel, a photographer and a guide approached me separately and I, non the wiser, acquiesced to their 20 JD deal of a private tour and 50 digital photos with five of the best in print.
By the end of the tour, I mentioned a trip to, of course, Petra, in the coming days. Another deal was proffered. Petra: private tour, and photos. However, the number of hours and photos i.e cost, would be indicative of the travel time to Petra, time in Petra and the time returning to Amman. Easily at least 24 hours in total. Of course, these hourly rates were not explained to me until the photographer came to deliver the photos from the Citadel tour to my hotel.
At that time, he had taken it upon himself, to buy a photo album, make a plaque using one of my photos and commission a beautiful piece of memorabilia from the desert sands of Jordan, which I had to pay for promptly. I never wanted these extra items. Just the CD and the five prints as previously discussed.
Annoyed at the audacity, I used that experience to further negotiations regarding my Petra trip. They were futile. He was adamant, that since he did not have a car, he would have to leave with me in the wee hours of the morning from Amman to Petra. Hence the 24 hour tally of a whooping 300 JD.
Privy to all of this was my designated driver during my stay in Jordan. I lamented to him, after refusing to follow through on the deal with the photographer, and indeed the trip to Petra, about how I felt taken advantage of.
I believed that he understood.
Anything for Dead Sea Mud
''I am dying to see if it is really as good as they say it is,'' I indicated to my driver as we headed out one morning from the hotel with no planned itinerary for the day.
''Only problem, I need to find the real stuff, nothing fake, you know?'' I further indicated.
Looking forward to spending a day or two on the Dead Sea, those plans were quashed when my mother begged me not to go. She took the name of the place a little too literally.
I could have gone, unbeknownst to her, but I did not want to betray her, so I cancelled. However, I certainly did not want to miss out on the real treasure of the Dead Sea- its mud.
And so, I was left with the hassle of finding a legitimate distributor of this rare product.
''No problem, Ms. Petra. I have a friend with a big store, that's all they sell. You will not be disappointed, trust me,'' reassured my driver.
And so, we were off. Driving out of the city to a non-descript store.
Know the rate, mother-effa!
Just plain dumb and a sucker for customer service. I don't know of a Jordanian who can't sell you alone on customer service.
''Good morning and welcome,'' was the greeting I received straight out of the car into the store as I entered.
''My name is ______ and it is my pleasure to serve you today. Please, let me show you around.''
Customer service, right?
Turning around I saw a vista of Dead Sea products- the very best and I was ecstatic.
Not one to forget that money does not grow on trees, I enquired about the price of the first item as I placed it into my shopping basket.
That's like, 50USD right? I thought to myself.
Anyways, we continued shelf by shelf, row by row, and I was completely sold by each product and its specific use. This ran the gamut from toenails, to of course, face, to bust creams, to hair.
The soaps deserve a special mention at this point.
There were so many of such different compositions, most of which synonymous to only the Middle East- frankincense, myrrh, goat's milk, and of course Dead Sea Mud.
Before long, my shopping basket could not accommodate anymore bottles, soaps or containers, forcing my attendant to carry my cache by hand.
By then we had moved on from the skincare section to the home goods section.
Beautiful is not the word for these pieces.
One for me, one for Patrice, one for Babbs, I thought as I put three of everything on the counter.
My sales assistant did not have to work hard for this sale at all, and during those moments of running to the counter to place items for the cashier I often saw my driver sitting with cups of tea and biscuits engaging in conversation with the many men who seemed to work for the store.
By the time we made it to the front of the store, having done a complete circumference of the store, I too, was offered a cup of tea and biscuits as the cashier ran up the tally.
''Wait, what!'' I exclaimed. ''JD or USD?''
''Well, what is it in USD?''
''That can't be real, right,'' I stammered flabbergasted by the price and their nonchalant blank tone.
''No, its accurate,'' the cashier said as he turned and cast his right arm to the mound of products at the end of the counter.
Still with a befuddled look, the sales assistant and by then the driver chimed in looking at my opened purse and its cards and advised, '' You don't need to worry, Ms. Petra. Use your cards.''
They stepped back.
Life does not happen to tourists
"Why so expensive?" I demanded to know from the driver the next day.
As a result of not having a very strong Barbadian accent, I am often times mistaken for being an American. Unfortunately, the main stereotype attributed to Americans, is that they are filthy rich.
"Taxes, Ms. Petra. We pay our government a lot of taxes. It is hard for everybody," was the explanation.
"I see," I said still not totally convinced.
"So, what is your plan for today, Ms. Petra?"
"I just want to take it easy, you know. Petra is off, Dead Sea is off too, so I am just going to take it as easy as possible and relax. It has been a tough couple of weeks for me and I just need the rest."
"Are you sure, Ms. Petra? There is so much to see and do in Jordan," he argued.
"I know that there is much to do, but I just need the rest more. My father died one month ago; I have a lot on my mind."
"I will call you tomorrow, Ms. Petra. By then you will be ready, I think."
Despite my most concerted efforts to and disdain for, I can't stay out of the spotlight. Born an identical twin and having worked in the fields of journalism and public relations, lived in remote cities with no other people of colour, I have had to unfortunately constantly negotiate this 'problem' throughout the course of my life.
Of course, in this day and age we live in an instagram world- everyone loves attention. But I don't, even though I am not the kind of person to judge those who do.
So, when on my first outing to The Citadel in Amman, Jordan's capital city, I had had the very conspicuous privilege of my own personal photographer follow me around, not only taking photos of me, but more importantly, orchestrating poses to complement the backdrop of the city, I had secretly hoped and prayed that the other patrons did not see me as some superficial twit.
It was not my intention when I had arrived.
Not prepared with Jordanian currency to pay the entry fee, I had caused a minor stir, when the cashier and security were left scrambling looking for another option. The cafeteria would have to change my USD. And so, they initially let me in for that purpose.
By the time that I came back to the cashier to pay, a 'tour guide' was ready and waiting to sell me on a once in a lifetime opportunity to have a private tour of The Citadel where all of its tightly held secrets would be revealed.
Glancing up the hill, I could see other patrons- tourists wandering around aimlessly outfitted with professional cameras taking photos of random stuff. Random because they had no clue its meaning or significance, only that it looked ancient.
As a result, I decided that a private tour would not be a bad idea. Of course it came with a fee, which was practical and reasonable.
And then, the cold air hit me. Amman had had severe thunderstorms a few days prior to my arrival, and even though I was now on the tail end of this weather pattern, on what was probably the most elevated part of the city, the spring air felt more like late autumn.
I instantly lamented and asked about a souvenir shop that may sell hoodies etc.
Not wanting to lose a sale even before the service had begun, my tour guide extended the offer of giving me his own leather jacket.
How could I refuse?
The Art of the Deal
I can assure you that this sub-title will be seen many times in the blog posts to come when I recount my experiences in Jordan.
On our way, we started the trek up the hill.
As we started our trek, I noticed a tourist who had overheard my negotiation with the private tour guide and who too like many of the other tourists carried her own professional camera, had a smirk on her face- you know the kind when you are witnessing a con of sorts and have no problems sitting back and watching the train wreck happen. Yup, that kind.
Hence why, I thought the man standing near her, was with her.
Knowing what was to happen next, I think that she was just enjoying the seamless execution of snaring a young single female traveler into 'you are a star' trap.
The man standing next to her, stepped forward and approached me.
Strike A Pose
"Oh really?!" was my response to his proposition.
A CD of photos with a choice selection of five prints for an amazing price. He would follow me on my private tour and at specific points against the backdrop of Amman, take photos of me for posterity.
I was sold and grateful.
Many times I have struggled to document my travels throughout the Middle East because I had to make the conscious choice between filming and experiencing.
I think you can guess my preferred choice.
I Love The Tea
Still not sure how well this would all work out in the end, I was pleasantly surprised when the photographer stopped to show me some of the photos taken on the camera.
I was impressed and on a cold dismal day, the photos, had belied the dreadful ambiance.
Moving through the roll of photos, we both gasped at a photo that had... taken our breath away.
"That's just beautiful," we both said in unison.
Still pondering over the photo, the tour guide came to look at well. And we were all speechless.
Breaking the silence, the photographer remarked,
"That cup of tea is beautiful."
A riotous round of laughter emerged from the three of us, getting the attention of the other patrons who were wondering around the ruin that was once a mosque at the top of the Citadel.
I could not be there but naturally wanted to contribute significantly to his farewell. I recorded the eulogy and it was played during the Church service.
My father died today.
Today, I wore red .
Red is his favourite colour.
Red is my favourite colour.
Today is Valentine's Day.
Friday is his birthday.
I woke up without the accustomed grogginess; albeit at 2:23 am.
I had the insatiable need to cook.
My father's love was cooking.
As I chopped carrots, onions and garlic, I thought of him for no other reason than to fan flames of misandry.
Finally, I gave up the fight with my indignant attitude and a just as thick carrot stick and said:
"You know, when daddy dies, the first person to meet him in heaven will be his father."
One hour later the irony of those words would be realised.
When I uttered those words, I had chosen to acknowledge his painful childhood; almost incomprehensible to me in large part to the father that he was when I was younger.
I am often at fault in speaking in absolutes, but I could not have had a better father than the one I had for the first 11 years of my life- not even Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
Why then had I, after my sister's own roundabout way of trying to get me to speak with him a few days ago, refused to pick up the phone and call?
Furthermore, why then had I made the decision (not yet acted upon) to 'cut him off' from my life for 2017?
He was my first love. And I do believe I, his.
And my first heartbreak.
So painful a heartbreak that the events that precipitated our estrangement have left me numb.
My father does not deserve that indictment. The man who fathered me perfectly for 11 years does not deserve that. The man that inspired in my soul and in me an unshakable confidence that informs every success ever accomplished or will in the future, does not deserve that.
But yet, it is the truth.
His decision to choose another- woman, friends, family broke my heart.
It was not until 5 days ago- after watching a video online about healing and boundaries did I understand that his actions, though diabolically painful were not intentioned that way or even malicious. Rather he was doing something for himself and not to me.
5 days ago, I finally came to terms with that.
And yet, I did not call or answer his messages.
The reality is that understanding is not forgiveness.
It starts the process. It is not the end.
The truth is (and nothing to do with my father) I have endured things in my short 35 years on this earth that Quentin Tarantino would turn a whiter shade of pale for.
I think the pain I have as it relates to my father, though separate and distinct, has been unfortunately compounded by men and events that he would have killed to protect me from.
With his untimely death, I now hope that justice, balance, mercy, grace, dignity and self-respect can now be restored for me and for him.
Rest in Peace, My King. And Rise In Glory. I will be waiting for you and I promise, in the next life your mistakes and my ignorance will not have the power to tear us apart ever again.
Oh fear not, cause I'll be with you all the way.
Don't you worry it is almost over.
My King don't you be afraid, fear not
And when the world starts trembling
Just say my name.
Fear not, cause I'll be with you all the way.
I admired her. Long before the revelation was made. Initially, precipitated by events surrounding birthday celebrations and feelings of sheer horniness, her embarrassingly and abnormally loud screams, cries and moans during nights of marathon sex didn't, surprisingly, evoke an attitude of disgust in me.
Born and raised Muslim, the matter of fact manner in which she negotiated and reconciled her desire for sex, which was perceived by her as a mundane fact of life, with her very conservative Muslim religious beliefs, deeply fascinated me.
Many times after a riotous night of reckless abandon, she would emerge in the morning to have breakfast woefully lamenting of mediocre sex.
"I just can't deal," was her catch phrase.
Embarrassed and at a loss for words, I would sit across from her on the breakfast table, carefully using my knife and fork to cut my scrambled eggs and sausage into bit sized pieces and desperately searching in my mind for a new subject matter.
My embarrassment, I guess did go un-noticed for a while until she realized that I was not the only audience during these nights of wild abandon. Living in an apartment building let alone a tight network of many apartment buildings, where sound easily bounced off walls, her penchant for dick soon became will known in the neighbourhood.
Even then, as we walked the streets (no pun intended) and received glares of disgust, she remained indignant.
For me, my admiration of her confidence, the confidence that I would never have in a million years, slowly began to change.
I was a patsy. A good old fashioned patsy.
A black girl from the Caribbean, Christian, unmarried and career driven, the neighbours were inclined to believe that I was the source of the nightly screams that pierced the tranquil nights of this very conservative city in Turkey.
What could I do?
Time to Roll Out
"I don't like being heard like that," she finally admitted one morning out of the blue.
"I think that I will just hook up with guys in Istanbul or Ankara from now on."
And just like that, she was gone every week for two three days on end. On her return she would often recount tales that mirrored the encounters she had had in our apartment.
As for our apartment, if you are wondering, it was not located in a seedy red light district part of the city. Quite the opposite. It was chosen for its 'conservative point of view.' Regarded as safe and away from the unpalatable elements as determined by a Muslim community.
And this is why I admired her so much. She had courage.
Yes, she used me as a patsy, but I know that she would never had known that I would have been her roommate when she arrived in Turkey one week after me.
It was sheer coincidence and luck for her that I became her roommate.
So, while her machinations may have been perceived as malicious, using racial and cultural stereotypes to seemingly impair identification, the reality of the situation was that it was purely coincidental.
Later over some conversations, her disgust for Muslim men's hypocrisy became evident and served as a reason for which she simply did not care how they perceived her ... and why I shouldn't too.
"At one point, I loved my religion. I practiced it with a passion. But then I realised just how hypocritical the whole thing was. Men. And now, I just don't care," I remember her explaining.
That was as far as her testimony was to go with me on that issue.
Hook ups or Business?
Because her sexual escapades had started with hookups, I assumed for that time that was the nature of her sexual exploits.
I was quite oblivious to the fact that she was actually in the business of selling her body to anyone for the desired price. Married men, college men, married couples; the list of clients was as endless as the demand.
It was only after a friend had visited me, whose interest in her had been piqued considerably by her frequent visits to Istanbul- a seven hour journey- at least 3 times a week despite having a 9-5 job, was the truth finally revealed.
This friend stayed up late to have a friendly chat with her and over a couple shots of alcohol she stated what should have been obvious to me, but sadly was not.
She was a prostitute.
As my friend whispered this secret to me the next day, I simply could not believe it.
But after a few moments of adding things up, it all made sense. Who has this much sex all the time? Who would travel seven hours every day, four days a week for dick and the occasionally clit? Who?
My admiration for her was now made groundless with that revelation.
I had admired her because of her 'courage' to defy religious and socio-cultural expectations. Furthermore, my admiration had been bolstered by each passing sexual encounter as she appeared more beautiful, confident and I dare say, regal.
Sex to her was like finding a piece of her soul and for someone who had lost theirs in acts of indignity, I had often wondered if God was trying to tell me something as I listened to her scream her head off during sex.
The very thing that had stripped me of my own power, autonomy and respect could perhaps restore it.
Of every minute;
Of every hour;
Of every day.
I think about it.
I am proud of my astrological sign-Aries. Number 1- always. Valiant, brave, pioneering...What can I say? Everything that could be right with the world is summed up in the folklore of my sign's Greek legend.
For me there is shame in tears, pity and even in assuming the victim role.
Last night, my shame knew no bounds. After returning from my failed latte experience where several patrons refused to sit next to me and I was charged nearly doubly as a surety of keeping me away from the establishment once and for all, I quite unexpectedly lost it.
When Gods Fail Men
Covering my hair in a scarf, I plumped my pillows and slid into bed anticipating nothing but sweet dreams. Twenty minutes later consumed by the anger and shame of that experience, I started to cry so badly that my congestion momentarily cleared up.
It is beyond dehumanising. It is powerlessness unparalleled. And I never want to feel that way again.
Like everything that has happened to me over the last few years, Brenda dropped into my life with an unceremonious thud of 'out of the blue'.
Confusion, was my initial impression of this middle aged woman who bore a scary resemblance to my paternal grandmother. As I stood in the narrow corridor of my apartment in Iraq, I extended pleasantries to my new roommate, not sure of how this new dynamic would or could work.
Almost immediately, a firm and distinct line was drawn to distinguish her status and class. Having lived and worked in Kenya for over three decades, this Goan native, had buttressed almost every non-applicable utterance with "Well, you know, a woman of my standing... would not know how to do that, or would never have to do that" to indicate that she was not of the working class but of the privileged technocracy.
I nodded and smiled as it seemed the least consequential thing.
When Ignorance Is Bliss
48 hours later, I knew something was not normal. In that time span, I had entertained an obscene number of requests for the most mundane of tasks ranging from the drafting and sending of emails to neighborhood strolls to possibly even doing Bible study.
The nature of the requests was not what made it obscene; rather it was the frequency. It seemed like every five minutes there was a reminder of what was said just five minutes before.
To think that you could avoid any one of these requests was as unlikely as Brenda keeping her mouth shut for more than 5 mins. Impossible.
I considered my own mother when frustration grew, choosing to be graciously complicit and understanding to her needs.
Despite my best dogged attempts to satisfy her insatiable demands, there was none on her part to even acknowledge, let alone, respect me.
By the third night, I had woken up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water and had slammed my foot into... something as I was walking into the dark kitchen. Fumbling to find the light switch, I audibly gasped when the light revealed an entirely new kitchen layout. Fridge, water cooler etc. had been shifted into completely new positions.
Despite having the energy to remodel the kitchen, Brenda did not have the energy to clean the mess that had resulted. Rust shavings, dust and cobwebs were all left to me to clean, which I did on the spot.
As I cleaned, I could hear Brenda's reminder of her social standing playing in my mind over and over again.
And while this incident was not so blatant a sign of disrespect, it certainly foreshadowed what was to come a few days later.
Still inundated with demand after demand, Brenda met me at the door as I got home late one afternoon, and insisted on us going out to dinner.
Dinner out was certainly not in my plan for that day let alone evening.
However, so persistent (annoying) was she that giving in was the only way to make the damn noise stop.
Before leaving I went to the kitchen to get a small sip of water. What awaited me revealed why she was so persistent.
One sink, and counter full of every dish and utensil that apartment had.
Over the last few days, Brenda, the able cook, had cooked, but refused to wash any dish. Realising this after the first day of wares not being washed, I kept my own stock in my room and used and washed at will so that her increasing ware count did not affect me.
Now, with no clean wares or utensils in sight, Brenda had no choice but to eat... out.
Why do I have to go with you?
Was my initial thought as I braved the cold winds walking to the restaurant.
" You really don't need a lot of people around you, do you?" she asked as we walked.
"No, not really. Never been that much of a people person."
"That's nice. Not like me, I need lots of people around me all the time."
Ordering our dinner was comical. Explaining to Brenda that English was not the language spoken made no difference, as she insisted on finding out as much as she could about the menu.
"Brenda, you are going to have to look at the pictures and choose that way," I said after a solid five minutes of her interrogating the exasperated cashier about the ingredients of each meal.
A few days later I would hear through the grapevine that she 'bought' me dinner that night with the same tone and sentiment often extended during Christmas or Thanksgiving.
I guess that should have prepared me for what was to be the penultimate form of disrespect.
Scrambled Eggs and Sausage
The sound of a crash and a clatter in the living room 5:30 in the morning made me sound my voice to ensure that everything was ok.
"Yeah, I am ok. Something just fell." Brenda responded.
Two hours later, I opened my door preparing to leave home for the day. Seeing a mass puddle on the floor in the corner of my left eye, I turned to see...
a swampy soup of scrambled eggs, sausage and tea.
I stood confused.
Looking at my watch, I was now able to put the crash earlier that morning into its rightful context.
Now that I knew what had happened, I still could not understand how two hours later, the impressive mess that had splattered across the sofa and walls too, was still there.
Not having any time to react or be angry, I rushed out the house leaving Brenda in her room.
You are taking the Mickey out of me
Nine hours later, I returned home and was almost paralysed as I saw the mess still there.
A few days earlier, Brenda had made it clear that a woman of her standing in Kenya never did such menial tasks- only the locals did.
I guess I looked like a local so I could may as well have been one.
Two more hours elapsed with Brenda even taking naps on the sofa that was directly above the mess.
My resolve had worn thin.
Not wanting to give into this lunatic but not wanting to succumb to rodents and cockroaches, I cleaned it up. As I did so, I lamented the number of times I had succumbed to Brenda on the grounds of compassion and understanding.
As I finished my second round of mopping, Brenda who had hidden herself away in her room, opened the door with a pep in her step and a smile on her face and said,
"I was just about to clean that you know. You didn't have to do that."
You don't belong. Their eyes refuse to make contact with any part that is your black you. When forced to confront you and the stereotype that is you, they move seats or simply leave the establishment.
You are bad for business. You don't mean to be this much of a problem- you just want a latte and a chance to take today's instagram selfie.
You scare them away when you take out your smartphone and pose. Apparently, you are not taking a selfie, but rather, unscrupulously filming your white subjects because what else is a black girl supposed to do in a cafe full of white people.
You are charged almost double the amount of money.
I have a bad habit of speaking in absolutes. What can I say? I am a zealot in more ways than one, hence why I must confess in the only manner I know i.e. extra, that Diana is breathtakingly beautiful.
Located in the North East of Iraq, this small traditional city boasts some of the most scenic areas, I dare say, in the Middle East.
So scenic and mesmerising, Diana, that the task of taking out my camera, focusing and adjusting apertures just to prove my absolutism, proved too arduous and sacrificial a task.
Capturing this region's beauty at every turn would have denied me the experience, which I know I will never have the privilege of again in my life.
Forgive me; I could not oblige you.
On my way to Diana from Erbil, I had glimpsed clues of its majesty. And before I went out to explore further, I explained to my sister in Barbados, how gorgeous Iraq was.
Like me, I am sure that maybe she had had a preconceived notion of this place.
Still, she acted unaffected by my descriptions, instead affirming the history and folklore of the region.
"I forget that you in Moses country," she said in Bajan dialect while wolfing down her breakfast.
And suddenly it clicked.
On my way to Diana, much of the scenic range was dominated by mountainous ranges with distinct ridges of water marks from thousands of years ago.
Unconsciously, I was referencing biblical stories of Noah and the Ark and the Great Flood that killed off humanity.
These mountainous ranges were so massive that it was hard not to imagine them as once beds of a great ocean as the water marks certainly give more credence to the idea of a place that was once a rich water resource.
Diana greeted me with a maze of hairpin twists and turns down into a valley lined by beautiful streams and one amazing waterfall.
Spellbound is not the word. And again, I am sorry that I was so entranced that I could not take photos. As my body leaned left and right and then left again with every turn of the car, I was not prepared for the waterfall to appear quite unexpectedly after a colossal cliff face.
"There are waterfalls in Iraq?" I thought to myself as I stared with an opened mouth.
I remember an Iraqi friend in Turkey telling me about the beauty of the Northern Iraq region. He had mentioned that the idea of Iraq as a water scarce region was just as much a fallacy as any of the stereotypes associated with this Middle Eastern region.
One such stereotype that I was forced to challenge in Diana was Iraq as an Islamic country.
Before leaving for my trip, I had obviously done my research on Diana and had surprisingly found out that the very name of this city had its origins in Christianity. Diana is the Kurdish word for Christian and so, was often associated for thousands of years as a place with a strong Christian community.
This Christian community still exists today, as I later learned.
Regardless of the religious affiliation or lack there of, the scenery of Diana challenges your belief system in a Higher Being.
The peace that you experience as you try to wrap your mind around the largesse of the place is soul deep.
I started my trek around Diana in the afternoon. The falling sunset gave a beautiful vintage brown glow to the majestic backdrop.
A solid 10 minute drive uphill from the city center to Korek mountain almost reminded me of the Grand Canyon, which I had flown over many times en route to Las Vegas.
Even though there were similarities attributed to the rocky mountains, it was still different. Diana had mountain ridge after mountain ridge with cliff faces and deep ravines, traced by crystal clear streams. Despite the streams and rivers there was not much greenery and that was because the mountain ranges were skyscraper high.
You certainly felt the size of insignificance as you looked at this scenery.
Given the watermarked time stamps displayed on the mountain ridges, it was impossible for me not to think about life here hundreds if not thousands of years ago, where Assyrian, Islamic, Semitic and Babylonian cultures clashed.
Ever so often, lodged in a cliff face of a mountain ridge you would spot the mouth of a cave.
"Could there be treasure in there?" I pondered.
"Or buried texts of antiquity unlocking many of life's mysteries?"
These were questions that I wish that I could answer myself. But the likelihood of me going hiking through this region was slim given my athletic inability to even get over highway bumper rail.
Probably a blessing because imagination in the case is far better than finding truth.
And almost immediately too, I could tell that this middle aged man, married for as many years with grown children had had the kind of life that writers dream of personifying in their characters, if only to hold their audience captive.
And captivated I was.Read More