Thursday, October 14, 2010
On the issues of belonging, coffee and Baker Street
It took a very long time for this post to arrive.
Today, marks my 3rd week in London away from home, and no it doesn’t feel like forever yet. I haven’t yet found my routine, but I found my routes and a street I now consider home.
London is different, whether it is a great city or not would be a premature judgment from my side, since all my accumulated knowledge of the city comes from my impressions as a tourist and what other “Londoners” told me about it. It is however different, and I am yet to understand or grasp the potential changes that will affect my life and my perceptions of it. The one change I see clearly creeping its way into my mind is my overall understanding of what rights as citizens and humans we are “supposed” to enjoy.
Prior to this experience, I always entertained and rather engaged in conversations about civil rights, human power, and un-gendered discourses candidly offering my opinions and takes on issues I thought I understood. I was naturally wrong, and that was clearly proved to me in my first week here in this city. Details of that political and cultural shocks are un-necessary.
In fact, there are many details that should be spared only because I am not yet in this calm place to accept the mundane, and critique objectively.
SOAS is great, at times very Arab which is both comforting and frustrating, nevertheless the anti-imperialist approach to education is refreshing and not very Arab-like indeed. I paid good money to come here believing in the old Arab proverb that says “Education is in England” -which of course reflects our devotion to the knowledge offered by the white man- only to be told on my first day that the education that Mesopotamia provided the world is the essence of modern academia now. I was reminded of how funny and Anglo-Saxon the world has become, and for that I am fortunate and enlightened.
I am now sitting in a small café, on Baker Street, holding on to my laptop and handbag while attempting to drink coffee and write. I am still scared of the potential mugging, and I do sometimes look very funny to the average street-walker.
But I don’t look like a tourist, or at least I would like to think so. I am often stopped in the street for directions, and 4 out of 7 times I managed to know and give the right directions with a glorious sense of achievement: The little things that make us happy!
I also feel like I belong.
London is a very interesting city, people from all races walk with the confidence that I don’t understand. It seems like they all enjoy possessing the dignity of belonging, which for me is the basis of my struggle as an individual in this world. This struggle is evident when I attempt to explain where I come from, and where I live and how these axes have failed to meet. I am now comfortable in associating myself with the only identity that makes sense to me: I am a Muslim.
And regardless of what and how the person in front of me views divinity and devotion, this association is always met with respect.
Respect, another word that is unraveling itself to me after 28 years of thinking I mastered its meaning.
So many things to write, tweet and talk about, yet I find myself again in the position of the observer, I am appalled by my inability to express but I am also comforted by the fact that I wrote something today, and the rhetoric I am using to justify this inadequacy is acceptable for now.