Not the Yemen I left behind

21 Sep

By: Malak Shaher

Yemen Times 

Just a few days before I came back to Yemen after spending five months in Pittsburgh, USA, people have been telling me of the reverse cultural shock that would happen to me when I would come back. I never believed in that because when I was there, I have never done anything against my principles and religion.

So I came back and the so-called reverse cultural shock never happened. But my situation was different and the shock that happened to me had nothing to do with culture. I was in a shock to see the destruction and the deteriorating situation of my country.

Before I describe what happened to me when I came back home, I would describe my life outside Yemen. My life was easy and sweet there.

Nevertheless, I was promoting Yemen in the US. Many people have changed their ideas about Yemen as they had never met any Yemeni before. Some even said that they would like to visit Yemen soon and get to know it more. The easy life there was not able to make me forget my county and I have never wanted to live the easy life. I was homesick and I assumed I would come back and find the same Yemen I have left behind in March. So, as September was approaching, my fellowship was coming to an end.

I arrived home last week. On the way from the airport to my house, I passed by Al-Hasaba. The building of the Yemen airways, Yemenia, was the first notable thing from a distance. The glassy building which once reflected the shiny sun has become now a black skeleton. I still remember when I was telling my friends that this was the only modern building that we could be proud of. I have learned that a great deal of people have not come back to their houses in the aftermath. What can they do with houses cover by random pock marks of bullets and another possible war.

 Six months ago, when I saw the Change Square in front of Sana’a University, the place was not packed with tents and people. The number of the tents there did not exceed fifty and traffic moved freely through the area.

But now I found out that a line of tents stretches until the old University of Sana’a which means more than five kilometers long, not to mention the small branches of this line along the smaller surface roads. Whenever I turned my head I found a pile of garbage not to mention qat spit. The smell is not pleasant and no means of transportation can be found there. Qat is the stimulant green leaves Yemenis like to chew in the afternoon.

After raining, the place is even worse as the water makes a paste spread on the ground. While I was trying to find my way to the nearest bus, I could not be more careful as I did not want to step on the disgusting green qat paste.

For someone who spent five months in the US, this was by no means a real shock. Sometimes while walking there, I would have flashes from Pittsburgh and I would become choked up, unable even to talk to the person walking with me.

Last week, I was walking with my brother when I saw a row of four soldiers chewing qat. As they were sitting in the sidewalk and throwing the qat leaves, a street cleaner was sweeping the leaves from the ground. They did not even stop whole he was cleaning and after he finished sweeping, the leaves were still there. I felt pity for him.

During my five months in the US, I never saw anyone throwing anything into the street. But here, people spontaneously throw whatever they do not want on the ground and when you tell them that it is their duty to keep the street clean, they would simply point to the street cleaners.

I was in a shock not because of the huge difference between Pittsburgh and Sana’a but because my country does not look as beautiful as it was in the past. I do not dream of Sana’a to be like Pittsburgh but I just want to see the Yemen I left behind.

Photo by Ali Saeed

Ten-year-old Osama Hadi, standing in his family’s destroyed house late in May. The house which was in Al-Hasaba district was among the houses that were affected by the war between Al-Ahmar, a prominent family in Hashid tribal confederation, and the regime security forces.

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2 Responses to “Not the Yemen I left behind”

  1. Frances September 21, 2011 at 11:11 pm #

    Now that you home, remember to keep your eyes wide and document your life. People want to hear your story. Stay safe!

    • malaakshaher September 24, 2011 at 6:25 am #

      thanks Frances, I hope Yemen stays safe and our crises ends soon.

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