I have been traveling for the most part of my married years. This traveling part was something we hadn’t planned at the time of getting hitched. We spent 3 years in Muscat, Oman, followed by 5.5 years in North Iraq. Both were completely opposite and exhilarating experiences in terms of personal growth.
In 2014, we made a trip to Jordan as our fifth wedding anniversary trip. Two months prior, I had suffered an ectopic pregnancy which had landed me in the emergency, fighting for my life. While that incident was very frightening, it also proved to strengthen our bond as friends first.
Jordan to me was like stepping into one of those phases of my life where I started pondering over things beyond the limited life I had lived up till now. If I start listing those things here, they might not make sense to you. There is a time for everyone where everyday mundane life strikes them a little differently and it helps them see the world in a new light. Jordan might have struck me very differently and deeply because I had just gone through a life threatening incident two months ago.
I remember going to the Dead Sea, floating surface level on water where I was sure I will drown, but obviously didn’t. I remember looking across that small patch of water, onto a patch of Israel. I remember walking through Amman as the perfect stranger, where no one knew my name and every passerby would offer us gifts because they wanted to host us.
I remember going to pray Asar to the mosque of as-haab e kahf, roaming about with respect inside the cave and watching with bewildered eyes because to this day, sunlight does not enter the cave!
I remember visiting the baptism site of Christ. Personally I thought it might be the place where Zakariya (e.s.) did Eesa (e.s.)’s ablution. But, that’s just my wild idea. Who knows!
I also remember praying Maghreb somewhere around the old city of Jerash.
The best thing I liked about not being home back then was… no body knew my name. No body knew where I came from. And I’m fine with that.
I sometimes feel that in a familiar environment, we forget to note even the most obvious things. Comfort zone has been a killer for many. Not knowing who we truly are and what we are capable of has wasted more dreams than people actually sitting around deliberately wasting their lives. You must be thinking where I’m going with this. I’m not sure either. I just know that being where no one knew me, I was just another random person, gave me the liberty to do whatever and however I pleased.
I’ve been to places where they don’t know English. Not even the most basic words. How do you communicate then? I once had a driving instructor who knew just 10% English, fluent Persian, and fluent Arabic. I on the other hand, knew fluent Urdu and English, just 10% Arabic back then and bits and pieces of Persian that I had picked up from my husband over the years.
We developed a language of our own, my instructor and I. We knew how to make it work. We used broken words of each of the above languages I mentioned and became the best of buddies. Before learning how to drive, I had a very strong fear of the road. But with our limited vocabulary for each other, she not only taught me how to drive, but talked me into believing that my fear was baseless.
I once met a young girl of 15 in Haram. She was Yemeni and knew no English. Only Arabic. We had a long, amicable conversation like long lost friends. We parted ways after we shared a very enjoyable tawaaf around the Kaaba. I never saw her again, but I know I’d recognize her if I ever meet her again.
On my way up north towards Iran, we ran into Jummah time. I needed to do wudu. We stopped on a lonely path with just one home for miles. Not knowing the language, not knowing who was inside, I asked to be let in. The generous ladies of the house served me hot tea in that January rain, a place by the fireside and my husband and I shared their meal with them. They didn’t even know our names but it didn’t matter.
Go where they don’t know your name. Socializing with people is good but too much of everything is bad. Escape to random, unplanned getaways and discover where you end up.
Wave at the person walking by on the road with you, share a meal with someone you don’t know. Look around you for once. For once.
I’m sure you will find something new.