I don’t know why I remembered this but here it is:
At some point after we tied the knot, my husband and I flew to America to visit my new family. We spent about a week in the Midwest visiting with family, then flew to California to attend a friend’s wedding. From there, we rented a car and drove across California, Oregon, and Washington state to meet the other side of the family. It was my first time ever in America. My first impression was… big. America compared to Egypt is grand. The roads were wide, the cars were huge, and so were the people, although Egyptians don’t fall on the light side either. But I was in the Midwest… ya knaw. We stayed in Madison WI, strolled through it’s cute downtown and dined at it’s fanciest restaurant. My husband’s family are very generous people.
Contrary to our stay in Madison, after we flew to California we were invited to stay in a suburban hotel by the grooms family. I was terrified from the FIVE! lane highways, the speeding cars, and I know I mentioned this a few times here, but the sky was huge and seemed closer than it should’ve been.
Arriving at the hotel I spotted two black kids. “Look!”My husband swiftly grabbed my pointing fingers and place my hand along side my body. The boys were what I have envisioned black kids in America look like from all my American movie watching, they wore gangsta style low riding baggy pants exposing most of their boxer shorts, and moved their hands and heads while talking. I was infatuated.
“It’s very rude to point at people here dear, and one more thing, please get out of people’s way when you see them coming your way.”
“Can’t they just go around me?”
“It’s considered very intimidating here”
A man crossed the street and walked right up to my husband and I, and immediately started complaining about America, and how he’s ashamed on behalf of his country, then he apologized for the Iraqi war. I smiled and thanked him while my husband slowly pulled me away from the man, moved in my place then started walking without saying his greetings or waiting for the man to finish his speech. I thought my husband was being uncharacteristically rude. When we were away from the stranger’s earshot, I asked him about his behavior (in my culture you don’t give your back and start walking away from someone still speaking unless he was harassing you, but the man’s words were so kind…) My husband then explained that the man was acting strange, his body language and raised voice were not stable. Seeing the worried look on my eyes, my husband assured me that the man was not a threat, but it was just best to stay away.
The things you don’t learn upon acquiring a second language.
We drove past giant woods and a top tiny windy mountain roads that induced car sickness and a breathtaking view. We picnicked by empty cold beaches with crashing giant waves that are the dream of every surfer in the universe and slept in nameless motels along the highway. It was my debut to America and I was taking it all in. We stopped at confusing tourist attractions, one of which offered a drive through a giant tree with a hollowed rectangular tunnel. “But why? we get that it’s a big tree even without the drive through tunnel”.
Because it’s America, I told myself they don’t have pyramids…
We stopped at this wonderful town which I wanted to move to as soon as I set eyes on it. A university town, surrounded by massive woods, clear running rivers, and looming mountain peaks covered in snow in the middle of July. The residents were young students grazing in the towns parks with flowy dreamlike garments and strumming string instruments while smiling in the sunlight. Even the tap water ran clear and sweet. I was in love. I declared to my husband that this is where heaven has been secretly placed on earth and we should seriously consider settling in. I was without a doubt wholeheartedly decided that I have found home. Comes nightfall, the place slowly started creeping with and uneasy feeling. The wonderful people have all been replaced with (in my mind I thought) hideous monsters. Every single person we laid eyes on was on a serious kind of drug, screaming, running down the streets, wailing, hysterically laughing or laying on the sidewalk unconscious, some of them came to talk to us. “Let’s get out of here fast!” is what me and my husband both agreed on, but it was late, so we decided to spend the night in our already checked in motel, and leave with the crack of dawn.
There is no heaven on earth, I consoled my disappointed self.
Our next stop was the complete opposite to the one I just described. It was a logging town. It looked like a ghost town. Empty streets, closed windows, dull looking houses. “But the streets are lined with parked cars, who parked all these cars?” so we stopped at a pizza place, and as soon as we opened their front doors, all eyes were upon us. I’m assuming the only time they laid eyes on a Muslim looking girl were on Fox news. A massive lump gathered in my throat and the trip from that front door of the pizza place to the ordering counter felt like a slow scene from a cowboy movie, where an unfortunate traveler unknowingly walks into the wrong kind of bar, the sound of his heavy footsteps on the floor, while slowly all cowboy hats turn in his direction with unfriendly expressions. When asked my husband and I almost with the same breath opted for the “to go” option. We felt the eyes pierce through our backs until the door closed behind us.
We did not spend the night.
“And how would you like your eggs ma’am?” It seemed like the waitress stood there for an hour. I made one last desperate eye plea to my unwilling to help husband and replied with fake confidence “I would like them well done please!” The confused waitress raised an eyebrow “um… like crunchy?” Again with my fake confident tone “yes, that’s exactly how I like them!” The confused waitress turned to my husband and asked the same question.”over easy please” came my husband’s effortless and swift reply.
When the waitress was gone, I stared at my husband and confessed that this was in fact how I wanted my eggs, but since he was unwilling to help, or order for me (In Egypt if there’s a couple dinning, it is polite to ask the man for what his partner wishes to order, then the woman tells her partner who then informs the waiter what he has already heard from the woman, but politely pretends to have heard it for the first time from the man) I was forced to sound ridiculous, “and don’t get me started on how many bread choices you guys have. What’s rye bread btw?”
This was my first and thankfully last breakfast (either that or I have blissfully forgotten) ordering dilemma in one of our many stops.
America does not have the Pyramids of Giza. But it has a tree that survived hundreds of years and time before that. You can touch the circles on the massive trunk where important historic events were marked. And so I found the circle that marked the birth of Prophet Jesus, and then the circle that marked the birth of Prophet Mohammad (peace and blessings be unto them) traced them with my hands, and told the tree in my head (I was young and talked to trees in my head then) ” you lived through the time of great men, and stand here still alive in this foreign (to me) land, and I thank you for being here all these years, bearing witness”
…and in that moment I knew that *all together now*
Chorus: This land is your land, this land is my land From California, to the New York Island From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters This land was made for you and me As I was walking a ribbon of highway I saw above me an endless skyway I saw below me a golden valley This land was made for you and me Chorus I've roamed and rambled and I've followed my footsteps To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts And all around me a voice was sounding This land was made for you and me Chorus The sun comes shining as I was strolling The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling The fog was lifting a voice come chanting This land was made for you and me Chorus As I was walkin' - I saw a sign there And that sign said - no tress passin' But on the other side .... it didn't say nothin! Now that side was made for you and me! Chorus In the squares of the city - In the shadow of the steeple Near the relief office - I see my people And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin' If this land's still made for you and me. I couldn't help myself. *Whispering* Also I still talk to trees sometimes. Peace.