Sunday, September 8, 2013

the adventure of living abroad

a few days ago my friend went to France for a one-year masters program. she was both scared and excited about this new step she's taking away from the comfort of her family, friends, and country

so i wrote her a letter to read on the plane, typing brought back wonderful and difficult memories of my own experience of living abroad pursuing a degree that wasn't available in my country... here are parts of the letter i wrote her, i've changed her name for privacy reasons and had to exclude certain paragraphs...

Hi Aline, 
So you're on the plane now... i'm better at writing than face to face communication sometimes, specially lately with the two little distractions in my life.

your trip to France reminds me a lot of my trip to Beirut in 2000, i had spent 4 years at Damascus University (2 years at the faculty of Economics and 2 in Biology) so my friends were graduating and i was starting all over again, from zero, at age 21 minus a few months. it was the beginning of a five-year journey and there were two things that kept popping up in my mind during that specific bus ride. 

the first one is a cartoon series, a variation of a famous story: "Daddy Long Legs" with an orphan character called Judy Abbott. she attended a boarding school, so she was a lot younger than me, but her life in her room, the letters she wrote, the adventures she had were always mesmerizing to me. i saw my introvert self in her and then i found myself starting a life that's somehow similar to hers. i was excited about this new beginning at a new country where i know nobody, where i'm determined to excel academically, and to soak in whatever new experiences that come my way, like a dry sponge. i went by bus, i had a book with me but i couldn't read because i was looking outside the window lost in thoughts, fears, and anticipation. 

the second thing was a song i saw in a Disney animation called Anastasia. it arrived to the cinema in Damascus in 1997 or '89, i watched it with my cousins who were very little back then (my kids' ages now) one of them was sitting on my lap (distractions!), but i fell in love with the film specially the songs and i bought the sound track cassette and memorized all songs. one of them in particular was relevant 13 years later. it's called "Journey to the Past". Anastasia was searching for her Russian royal heritage and sang this song as she was traveling, if you make a few replacements ("future" instead of "past" for example) it will be just perfect:

"Heart don't fail me now
Courage don't desert me
Don't turn back now that we're here
People always say
Life is full of choices
No one ever mentions fear
or how a road can seem so long
or how the world can seem so vast
courage see me through
heart I trust in you
on this journey to the past

Somewhere down this road
I know someone's waiting
Years of dreams just can't be wrong
Arms will open wide
I'll be safe and wanted
Finally home where I belong
well starting here my life begins
starting now, I’m learning fast
courage see me through
heart I trust in you
On this journey to the past

Heart don't fail me now
courage don't desert me
Home, love, family
There was once a time
I must've had them too
Home, love, family
I will never be complete until I find you

One step at a time
One hope then another
Who knows where this road may go
Back to who I was
Onto find my future
Things my heart still needs to know
Yes, let this be a sign
Let this road be mine
Let it lead me to my past
courage see me through
heart I trust in you
And bring me home
At Last

... so, time to get started, here comes the adventure, i'll be praying for you, take lots and lots of photos (silly ones and great ones. you can always delete what you don't like) and write names of places and some dates of major milestones (even if you don't get to start the blog i suggested you write, keep a private note of names and dates, i wish i've done that every time i traveled). and whenever you feel like sharing i'll be curious and exited enough to read or see photos :) 

under His umbrella
(Alex. Sep.2013)

talk about the effect of watching cartoons on kids (or teens) i wanted to BE Judy Abbot, i loved her skirts, her hats, her desk, her letters and trips to the mailbox, her love for children, her sense of humor, her tears and loneliness, her dreams and positive attitude... i'd love to watch that show all over again as if i'm watching scenes from my 5-year-adventure abroad, the differences between my experience and Judy's include the following, just to name a few: e-mailing my sister (instead of writing letters, even though i did actually receive lovely surprise packages she used to send me to my university inbox, the tangible one not the digital one), i had a single room during 3 years out of 5, i used to go home to visit a great family of mine with real parents and siblings.... 

i guess i should instead just "grow up" and read the original novel by Jean Webster, the characters in my imagination will always be influenced by the cartoon "The One With The Tall Shadow" (Arabic name) صاحب الظل الطويل... thank you Judy for having such a powerful effect on shaping my personality at a crucial age, here's a sentence i never imagined myself saying...

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