Friday, November 7, 2008

To Friends and Wives of Friends

Apparently people find their way to this blog. I mean, apart from you--Mom, Dad and Mirja.

And apparently people call people up at ungodly hours because of things I write.

But first, let me tell you about about Ali. Because Ali and I have a special bond, it seems.

It all started yesterday at lunch.

(blur into flashback)

I was fighting to keep my eyes open in front of the computer screen; trying to make my brain concentrate on conflict and terrorism in Central Asia. Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and fundamentalists and water rights. Finally I just couldn't do it anymore, and I decided it was time for lunch.

At about the same time, Ali and his mom and dad must have decided it was time for lunch too, because as I came down to the UN cafeteria and made my way past all the men in suits and the women in high heels, I heard a man speak Arabic. I don't hear it a lot here, so I reacted. Looked over to where he was standing, and then went over to the salad bar. Didn't notice his family at that time.

I got a banana, paid for my lunch and went to find a seat. As it so happened, the Arabic speaking man had placed his suitcase at the same table that I sat down at, and not before long he came and sat down with his wife and his son.


Ali and I exchanged looks in secret. He smiled. Mom and Dad got the plates organized. Ali started eating with his fingers. Mom said, "Use the fork." In Arabic. I took a bite of my stuffed grape leaves. Ali looked at me. He laughed. I looked at him. Dad went and got napkins. Mom gave Ali a piece of chicken. Ali looked at me and laughed. I smiled. Ali laughed and spilled rice on the table. Dad came back. Mom smiled at me. Ali laughed. I started laughing back. Ali laughed even more and slid under the table. Dad said, "He's shy." Ali got up again, took one look at me and started laughing again. I started laughing. Ali started laughing even more. I started laughing even more.

"Ali," I said. I had heard his parents call him by his name. "Men ween enta?" Where are you from?

Ali laughed so much that he couldn't get a single word out. Dad said, "Allah Allah, you speak Arabic?"

And so I made friends with an Iraqi ambassador and his family who just recently came to New York. Mom and Dad didn't find a school for Ali yet, so they take him with them wherever they go. Lucky me. I swear, wallahy, I have never met a person--4 years old or 44--that made me laugh so much before we even started speaking. To be sure, we didn't speak very much at all, but every time we looked at each other, Ali and I, we laughed. And Ali laughed so much that I'm afraid he got more food on the table than into his stomach.

Now, you may think this was just a coincidence --that I should go for lunch just at the same time as Ali and his parents did--that we should sit down at the same table by chance. But today, I was going to meet with Ammar Hijazi (hi Nour!) outside the Delegates' Lounge, and the security guard stopped me all the way over at the escalators and wouldn't let me go any further. I was stressing out a little bit, because I couldn't see whether Mr Hijazi was waiting for me already or not from where I was standing. I tried to win the guard over, but he wasn't amused.

"You can't go anywhere on this floor unless you're escorted by a delegate."

And just at that moment, who comes walking but Hanan (Ali's mom) and Ali! I go, "Hanan!" And, "Ali!" Ali laughed, of course. I walk with them over to the Delegates' Lounge.

Hanan says Ali didn't stop talking about me yesterday. He told his brothers about me and calls me sadiqty. My friend.

I don't tell them, because I don't know how to say it in Arabic, but I started laughing to myself everytime Ali came into my thoughts yesterday. On the subway going to my aunt. On the street waiting for the light to change. I saw Ali in front of me, and I couldn't help but laugh.

It's two days in a row we meet without planning it--you tell me that Ali and I don't have a special bond. We do!

In any event, Ammar Hijazi and people who call people at ungodly hours to talk about my blog:

We sat down to have lunch in a dining room I haven't been to before (when you're escorted, you can go to all sorts of interesting places at the UN), and Mr Hijazi goes: "You have a blog, right?"

I go: "Yeah, did you find it?" Disbelieving.

Ammar Hijazi goes: "No, but my wife did."

And he tells me the story of how his wife googles him to keep track of any mentions of him in the media, and how she came across my blog. And how she called him up at a time she usually never calls up, and goes, "Who's Ruby?!"

Ammar Hijazi goes: "Who?"

So it seems that I have to start being careful with what I write, if field correspondents at Al Jazeera English read my blog. Especially field correspondents who receive prizes for their work (well, I don't know if that makes much of a difference, but I just wanted to mention that, because Mr Hijazi told me about it, and I thought it was pretty cool--Mabrouk, Nour!).

Well, I have nothing to hide. And honesty always wins out in the end. So Nour Odeh: thanks for letting me borrow your husband for interesting conversations at the UN. He talks a lot about you and his son. About life in Gaza. I didn't make that many friends here, but I feel I have a friend in your husband.

And Ali of course. Sadiqy. Habiby.


Married to a Muslim said...

Eh dah? Ali 7elw 2awy ya Ruby! ;)

Wa7eshteni 2awy ya brinsesa!!! :p

Ruby said...

Enty el brinsesa ;) miss you too ya gameela xox