As I sat down to write this introduction to my blog, the power went out. This is not a strange occurrence here in Yemen; indeed, it goes out several times a day. And besides, having lived in a remote mountain village with basically no electricity has taught me to live without total dependence upon it. When the power goes out, you just have to learn to do what you can, and accept that this is something that is simply out of your hands.
Out of my hands. Like the images of hundreds of people camping out, protesting, laughing and crying, living and sometimes dying, in streets I used to walk; at first simply looking at all the Arabic books hopelessly, later buying them and unlocking the secret of their words. Streets I used to walk, smelling the wonderful smells from the restaurants and spice shops, listening to the banter between shopkeepers and the bargaining that went on with every transaction. Streets I used to walk, buying brightly colored crocheted baby booties from an old woman near the Military Museum. Streets I used to walk, giving a coin to a small girl with a dirty face and hopeless eyes, or a woman hunched over her babies lying stretched out on a blanket on the sidewalk.
Change is coming to Yemen- but Yemen is a country that has seen a lot of change in its history dating back to ancient times, and the pace of that change has quickened in the last twenty years so that the people can hardly keep up with it. I have lived here for eight years- long enough to have learned to love the country, but not yet long enough to truly have become a part of it. It is a land of beauty, of stark desert side by side with lush mountain aeries. It is a land of generosity and kindness, side by side with fierce loyalties and sometimes casual violence. It is a land of war, side by side with a peace rarely felt in the world today. It is a land of strong traditions and beliefs side by side with a longing to share in Western prosperity, and charge into the modern world. It is a land of contrasts…and, having grown up Catholic in a small village in heartland of America and converted to Islaam and eventually moved here to Yemen with my family, I understand and resonate with those contrasts.
I hope that you will join me in my journey, a journey in time, and space, in mind and heart. My Yemeni Journey.