Meet Ayman Johar
There are hopes that phone and Internet at home will be introduced to our building soon. Everyone is in high-anticipation mode. Will keep you posted.
I am in the US these days. Yesterday, I literally had my first day off in weeks. I decided to walk around San Francisco and check it out.
Amazing city; loved everything about it. The houses, the people, the shops. South Beach, North Beach, Market Street, Columbus Street and those amazing Italian restaurants, Fisherman's Wharf.. etc.
Had an interesting encounter though. I walked into a grocery store to pick up a can of diet coke and a packet of napkins. I saw a sign that says "Shawarma, Falafel and Hommus." An Arab looking young fella stood behind the counter. "Arabic food, No?" I asked while pointing toward the sign. "Yes," he said in a typical Ara-english slang. "You Arab?"
"Oh really .. min wain enta?" which means, where from in Arabic.
His face lit up. "Min Falasteen. my name is Ayman Johar."
Like myself, Ayman was raised in Kuwait. His family left the country to the US when he was 10 years old after Saddam's 7 months uninvited visit in 1990.
We talked for a good 10 minutes. We talked about names of schools and streets in Kuwait. Shops and neighbourhood. His family, his life. We talked about how does it feel to be an Muslim Arab living in the US these days. "Are you planning to live here?" he asked. "No, i just work for an American company. I live in Dubai but I come here from time to time."
"Its good you live in Dubai. Its is close to Kuwait. 2 to 3 hours drive and you see your family."
Its a bit further than that really. Also, i can't get into Kuwait that easy. You know, VISAs and stuff.
"Visa?," he asked. "But you are Arab. Why do you need VISA to visit another Arab country?"
I didn't know what to think or say. Should i mock his naivety and his lack of any form of comprehension to Inter-Arab politics, geography or the way the treat each other in their own backyards? Or should I admire his self-sketched picture of Arab nationalism - which happens to be so far away from the "real deal."?
I laughed and said "It must've been a while since your last time in the Middle East." He nodded.
A Chinese woman came in to buy a newspaper. She asked if she can pay him later. He said OK. At that point, i felt i overstayed my welcome and excused myself.
"Stay my brother. Why don't you sit down? Lets have some tea."
I can always tell when someone is inviting me just for the sake of 'common courtesy'. In Egypt they call it "3ozomet Marakbiyah = The invite of a boats man. Remind me to tell you the story behind that anecdote.
Ayman wasn't just being polite. I felt that he really wanted me to stay and hang around. I felt he had many questions he needed answers for. He needed someone who is fresh out of Arabsville. . Not Palestine, nor Kuwait, but from the Arab world.
I walked out of his shop. I walked out with that feeling you get when you go to bed without finishing your homework. When leaving your office without replying to that urgent email you received. That heart-sinking guilt-filled voice saying "you could have stayed for a few minutes."
I decided to walk out.
Its better for him. Let him keep that 10 year old child image of the only thing he feels he belongs to.