Tuesday, December 31, 2013

a tale of two goodbyes

date: 1 October 2006
city: Cairo

she carried her handbag, left her apartment which was right next to "Kobry El Kobba" metro station, took the Cairo underground metro to "Esaaf" station. she felt more comfortable riding one of the first two metro cars for women and children only. half an hour later she got off, walked upstairs to hail a taxi: "26 July St. please". At Shagaret El Dor St. corner the taxi stopped and she had no problem remembering the address because she came here a few days earlier for an interview, it was September 27th and when her husband came to pick her up in their FiFi (that was the nick name of their red Fiat 128 hatchback car) she found a wrapped gift on her seat. "happy 1st montharsary dear" her husband said. he bought her a wooden salad set of one large bowel and two small ones because he knew how much she loves colorful salads. 

the Cairo bureau of this newspaper was located in Zamalek, the balcony overlooked nice gardens and she could hear birds singing in harmony with the sound of the computer keyboard. her fingers played quickly on the computer, her head moved from the Arabic newspapers spread open next to her on the large table at the center of the rectangular office to the screen in front of her, her brain raced to translate news headlines from Arabic to English. she had a great first day on her part-time job. 

for a whole year, this was her daily routine with a one-hour commute to work, sometimes she preferred to walk the first half of the distance on her way back home even though the Boulak and Abou El Ela area can give you a "cultural shock" walking down that bridge connecting Zamalek with that poor market place, but an experience in Cairo's public transportation wasn't on her list because it was a whole package of filthy mini vans, over crowded buses, and a selection of harassment incidents she can't pick and choose from. 

at the end of that year she and her husband had to move from Cairo to Alexandria, this young couple decided to inform family, friends, and acquaintances in Cairo ahead of time, so she went to tell her boss that she's leaving. to her surprise, the assistant journalist came up with a brilliant idea and the boss approved of it: "How about you do the same translation but from home? You'll be online during the same working hours you spend here. Let's try it while you're still in Cairo then we'll surely know that it's going to work after you move to Alex." and this was the first e-mail she sent :

the years passed by and she spent a total 7 years and 3 months in this part-time job. so much happened during these 86 months, but she kept sending that e-mail every morning and waiting for more translation requests from the boss. the Cairo bureau of this newspaper changed 5 journalists during her stay, each one of them appreciated her work and she kept the job, even when she traveled she would e-mail the headlines and when she gave birth to her first son she took two weeks off then went back to work even if it meant typing the translation at 3 or 4 am with the newborn baby on her arm. when the Global Financial Crisis started she didn't ask for a raise but when her daughter arrived she did and the request was rejected. when the last boss informed her that the end of 2013 will witness the end of her work she had mixed feelings.

at first she felt sad and scared, she was sad to lose a job that was more like a miracle, it was very convenient for her to work form home while she was pregnant the first and second time and even more convenient when she had the kids with no help around she was able to both look after them and work from home, but she felt sad because whatever income her salary added was more needed now than ever, even though her salary witnessed no change what so ever during these 7 years and 3 months regardless of the climb that prices witnessed between 2006 and 2013 yet she did not wish for this income to stop.

a few weeks after she received the news the initial fear and sadness started to fade and were gradually replaced by excitement and hope, she felt that she's set free, this job was perfect but only for a while, it's no longer the best thing for her and she enjoyed this feeling of anticipation, waiting, searching, and guessing what could be her next perfect step... now she's free, the sky is the limit (with 2 kids in the picture! or the frame maybe), she can think outside the box and decide what she loves and can do for a living.

so the end of 2013 witnessed the first goodbye for her, the last time she types the word "Headlines" in the morning e-mail subject-line, the last time she opens these three newspapers first thing in the morning, the last time she clicks "send" so that the e-mail would arrive on time... there's nothing else in her life that she was committed to doing for so long, doing the very same thing every single day (except on weekends) for 87 months, not even her quite time... it was hard to send this last e-mail

and say goodbye to what has become part of who she is, but she wondered which one of these two goodbyes was more painful...

2013 wasn't as good as all Syrians expected, hoped, and prayed for... it wasn't as bad as our worst nightmare either... it was much worse... one might think that saying goodbye to a bad year is easy because one can't wait to put it behind them and open a new page, but the year 2013 is hard to say goodbye to, because it has to make up for the mess she's leaving behind, we can't just forgive her and let her pass (the word "year" in the Arabic language is feminine) shouldn't she pay for the damage she caused before bidding us farewell? but to be realistic, if 2013 is to be sent to prison until she pays her dept then she'll be in jail for a decade, a century, or maybe forever. so we have no choice but to let 2013 go and make some room for 2014 to deal with the old package and unfold what she has prepared for us.

date: 31 December 2013
city: Alexandria

she, the blog writer, at the end of this day, made peace with these two goodbyes looking forward to new beginnings, to finding a new job, to peace being restored in Syria, to a new year as sweet and flavored as our homemade ginger Christmas cookies...


No comments:

Post a Comment