Wednesday, February 10, 2010

bees in the desert

When I was three, my tongue was introduced to the acrobatics of Arabic.
Our little family had moved halfway across the world to a city in the middle of a vast desert, called Dubai. Time has eroded my memory of this beautiful language. Suddenly a bright-eyed seven year old girl, I left Dubai for Turkey, replacing the deep music of Arabic with Turkish.

I remember the Dubai of my childhood faintly, but colourfully. I remember how the sand could be yellow, and at times orange. I remember the lonely two-laned highway that greyly stretched into the desert. I remember the smell of the oleander in our school yard, the taste of sugar cane juice on my lips, and the paper-like bougainvillea that cascaded in a magenta waterfall from the tiny balcony of my bedroom.

Once, to my delight and fear, I discovered a colony of bees had built a home amongst the flowers, and the dread of getting stung was overshadowed by my curiosity and wonder at the day to day movements of the little insects. Inevitably, the day arrived when a man with a giant moustache and a knife came to remove my buzzing neighbours. I remember him as being tall and dark, with fiery eyes and a turban, his knife a gleaming machete— whether or not my imagination transformed his appearance into something of a mythical nature, I will never know.

I returned to Dubai when I was fourteen, and discovered that these storybook memories had been replaced by bright highways, cold steel and glass skyscrapers, and where the endless sand crept, green, green grass grew.

While I enjoy the free wireless at Doha International Airport, killing time before my connecting flight, I can't help but wonder what lies in store for me. I have followed the development of this ever-changing Emirate with my unchanging curiosity, and know that there will be little remaining, if any, of my childhood. The life I lived then has long since blown away with the sand, and I will very soon walk unfamiliar streets a woman, grateful for having known such extraordinary things.

8 comments:

Anna Denise said...

What a beautifully written piece, Samantha. Really beautiful. And what a childhood to have, what a treasure.

kanishk said...

congratulations!

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Chris Menice said...

Wonderful.

szaza said...

Thank you so much, Anna Denise, kanishk and Chris.

BELLASTELLAGIRL said...

Sometimes it is not always good to go back to a childhood home. The present never matches to the memories and only serve to highlight the ever-changing world in which we all live. Who knows? Maybe Dubai will one day return to the sand.

szaza said...

You're right, Bella, the present never matches the memories, and the memories feel like a dream or a lingering taste on your tongue after a splendid meal.

Revisiting an old home reconfirms the fact that life carries on; that things are in constant movement, that we are small, and that we will eventually become memories ourselves.

Being here, now, with no evidence of my childhood except my memories, I feel the brevity of life as tangibly as a handful of sand, and I know that this is my only story, and I choose how it will be written. I feel marvellously free, and I feel thankful. I am excited about making new memories.

But you know, as I sit on this balcony, the smell— the smell of the air has not changed one note.

Thomas Taylor said...

This is a moving piece of writing. And nothing is as special as the memories of things that are lost. Lovely... thank you.

szaza said...

You are welcome, Thomas.
I'm happy you enjoyed it.