Monday, December 16, 2013

Goodbye, 2013

2013 will be a year remembered for a quite a few reasons, but mostly for illness, tears and death. I don’t think there’s ever been a year so full of tragedy and exhaustion, at least not in my relatively pathetic and boring life. I’m sure many other people can say different. The one thing I am thankful for, however, is that my immediate family has been spared, and that I met all these events at home instead of abroad. That makes it just that much more bearable. I truly hope this is the last year we see so full of sorrow, and that the future brings only good news. I would rather not count how many people died, who was rather expected and who was a shock, who left behind children and grandchildren and who left behind devastated parents. Death does not differentiate between ages, backgrounds or gender. It doesn’t give an excuse or ask permission. It just happens, in the blink of an eye, putting an end either to a lifetime of accomplishments and long, drawn-out illness, or to a childhood with a lifetime of accomplishments awaiting. We belong to God and to Him we return, and we will all meet one Day, hopefully in a better place. The only one good thing that comes out of this, is that somehow, it brings those remaining closer together. It’s not much, and it never fills that gaping emptiness the departed leave behind them. But it’s something. It also makes one think over and over again: am I doing enough? Will I be ready to go? Have I packed my bags for later properly? And I also, what will I be remembered for, if anything at all?
2013 was also the year the government lost its mind and announced its clear intentions to kill every last citizen, either by starvation or shooting, and will continue to do so until there was no one left but them. We’ve always known that was their plan, but there’s something rather uncomfortable about seeing it stated blatantly and unabashedly, and knowing we’ve reached the beginning of the end. What’s far worse, however, is seeing the people give up. Prices go steadily higher, but the voice of dissent grows steadily fainter. People accommodate themselves to emptier stomachs and longer walks. They grumble about the size of a piece of bread getting smaller, but take it anyway. The number of food items in kitchen cupboards and on the lunch tray lessen bit by bit, but they tighten their belts. Homes and lives are lost in floods and air raids, but life apparently goes on. Entire families of well-dressed people are seen looking in dumpsters for something to eat. A middle-aged man once showed up at my office with an inhaler, asking for the 32 pounds it cost to renew his prescription. He told me: ‘ana Ja3ali min Algi6ena,’ which was more than enough of a description of how humiliated and broken he was to have to resort to begging because he simply could not afford the most basic necessity anymore. And in the midst of all this: sirens preceding dozens of luxury cars at all times of the day and night; aluminum and marble-clad buildings spring up all over the city; waist lines getting bigger and skin getting softer; as if there is no tomorrow. However, something good comes out of this, somehow. At times of need, the people come together, despite different tribes and colours and religion. All the barriers put up over the past 24 years of hell we’ve been living are broken down in a second. #Nafeer, Shari3 Al7awadith, Sadaqat, To Sudan With Love, Star Charity; every blanket drive for the freezing homeless and Ramadan iftar for the hungry; every food bank and clothes collection and medicine donation. If there’s any good that has come out of this good-for-nothing government, it’s showing the good in people, and knowing that come what might, the people will always be there for the people.
2014 is expected to be a difficult year, and there’s no reason for us to believe otherwise. We just ask that its nothing we can’t bear, and that God shows us the mercy He is known for.

اللهم ارحم موتانا وموتى المسلمين جميعا، اللهم اغفر لهم وأكرم نزلهم، ونقهم من الذنوب والخطايا كما ينقى الثوب الأبيض من الدنس، واغسلهم بالماء الثلج والبرد، اللهم ان كانوا محسنين فزد في إحسانهم وأن كانوا مسيئين فتجاوز عن سيئاتهم، وارحمنا إذا صرنا الى ما صاروا إليه، إنك أنت الغفار يا كريم يا الله
اللهم ارحم عادل محمد الأمين وعثمان الناطق وإحسان علي الشيخ وحمزة علي حمزة، وأحمد حسن جعفر وأمنة وزينب خطيب، وعمنا عباس، اللهم ارحم الطاهر محمد الطاهر، وصلاح  سنهوري وجميع الشهداء، امين

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Coming Home: 4

This isn’t really a complete part since the story isn’t over yet. I actually stopped asking and don’t expect anything to happen anytime soon. A few weeks after giving all my papers I was called by the administrative director (the guy who had my file and was getting things done for me) and told that I would need to have an interview, because since I’m getting a ‘new job’ then we’ll have to go through the whole procedure. I didn’t mind at all. So, being told to come early in the morning, I was seen parking my car and walking into an almost empty building on a Sunday morning. There was no one but the cleaning ladies. I looked into each and every office, went round to the other building and came back, until finally the guy showed up. He was surprised I was there, and so early. I was then told that someone name Isam (I think) would be coming to conduct the interview. I was starting to have my doubts about this issue of someone coming all the way over just to interview me, especially after hearing that he didn't actually work with the selection committee, but I thought I would wait to see what happened. I had to go back to my office on the other side of town and then drive back to the ministry for a meeting at 2 p.m., so I was nervous. Naturally, the guy was late (2 hours actually), and twice I almost got up and left. I sat in the director’s secretary’s office, where she and another lady (who I had met before and didn’t like) were sitting around ‘working’. Then a third lady came in who used to work with me before moving to the directorate, and we chitchatted for a while. People came and left, mostly women. Then, an exceptionally skinny young woman came in carrying papers to be signed, and then asked about directions to the institute where I worked. Immediately the women started giving her the most useless directions. Being the only person in the room who actually drives and works there, I offered her a simple route:
‘Just take Africa road right till the end, over the fly-over, then take a right at the first traffic light. That’s Shari3 Alhawa; its straight and easy, no turns or anything. Stay on it and you’ll pass another traffic light, after which there’s a petrol station on your right, take that turn until you reach the main road and you’re there.’
She looked at me blankly, then asked for the directions again, very slowly, after which it was still too complicated for her and she was sure she would get lost. She turned back to the other women who continued to give her their confused directions.
‘Shofti alsog almarkazi? Just turn right on that road.’
‘Right? Before or after the sog?’
‘Before it, just turn right and then go straight, pass the first traffic light, then keep going, then pass the second traffic light, then keep going. You’ll see an empty space on your left. And there’s also a building, a green building. Then you’ll see a kiosk, just turn left at the kiosk.’
There are about ten thousand kiosks on that road, and 150 green buildings. Also, there’s only one road next to Alsog Almarkazi, not one before and one after it. Anyway, apparently this description worked for her because she took it and left. I left about an hour after her, and when I arrived at the office she still hadn’t arrived because, surprise surprise, she had gotten lost, and serves her right.
Anyway. When I was tired of waiting I went back to the guy’s office and told him I was leaving. At that moment the guy we were waiting for came in. He was shady looking, with this weird hat and glasses and sandals, and didn’t look anything like a government official who was in charge of interviewing doctors or anyone else. He sat down and started writing something on a blank paper, and asked for all my documents.
‘They’re in my file.’
Was that so? And where was the file? The administrative director looked at the ceiling and walls, and looked like he was saying something out of the side of his mouth. Isam couldn’t hear him, so he coughed, rolled his eyes, and said out loud:
‘Her file was lost.’
I thought I hadn’t heard him correctly, or that he was joking.
‘You’re joking right? My file wasn’t really lost.’
‘Nope. It was lost.’
I couldn’t believe it. After all this, the reason for the delay was that my file had simply gotten lost. It was actually funny. I just sat back and let my mind go blank. The guy wrote something or another, took all my documents and stapled them to the paper he’d written, and told me to go home. Apparently, they were going to bypass a whole bunch of steps and get me a grade higher than what I deserved, and that was the only way to do it. After he left, I sat looking at the admin guy, and asked him to explain to me exactly what was going on, because I didn’t like it.
‘We are going to bypass a few steps, because that’s the only way to get things done. If we go to the employment committee in Riyad it won’t go anywhere, forever. Ok?’
It wasn’t ok of course. Why is it that to get anything done in this country I have to a) know someone in a high place, so that b) I can get someone who works in the place to get my things done for me, and the only way for that is c) to cut corners and bypass the system? Why is it? I was breaking every single rule I believe in. Nope, I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it at all. Obviously, all this disgust was written clearly on my face, because he told me:
‘Listen ya doctora, ne7na nas bina3rif Rabana. What we’re doing is neither 7aram nor breaking the law. But there is such a thing as twisting the law to get over the roadblocks, which isn’t wrong. Because that’s the only way things get done. Ok?’
I didn’t know what to think. It didn’t look right to me, but I was sick and tired of the whole thing. I told him fine, do whatever it is you want to do, and hoped that if whatever he was going to do was wrong, that God not include me in the punishment. I called him twice or 3 times in the following month, always getting the same answer: it’s almost done, the job will be out by end of today or tomorrow at latest, don’t you worry! That was 6 weeks ago, and I am still jobless, working minimum wage.