Sunday, April 29, 2007

From: My friend, Mona, whose very serious essays on the middle East I sometimes post on my BLOG

Subject: FW: A beautiful story--Naomi Shihab Nye
Date: Sun, 29 Apr 2007 14:29:58 -0400
this is so beautiful for it gives all of us hope that life can still
be beautiful and people still have trust in strangers.

Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal

by Naomi Shihab Nye

After learning my flight was detained 4 hours, I heard the

If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic, please
come to >the gate immediately. Well -- one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there. An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress, just like my grandma >wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly. Help, said the flight
service person. Talk to her. What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she did this.

I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly. Shu dow-a,shu-biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick, sho bit se-wee? The minute she heard my words she knew -- however poorly used -- she >stopped crying. She thought our flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the following day. I said no, no, we're fine, you'll get there, just late, who is picking you up? Let's call him and tell him. We called her son and I spoke with
him in English.

I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
ride next to her.

She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of

Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I thought just for the
heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know and let them chat
with her. This all took up about 2 hours. She was laughing a lot by then.
Telling about her life. Answering questions.

She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies -- little powdered
crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts -- out of her bag and was
offering them to all the women at the gate. To my amazement, not a
single woman declined one. It was like a sacrament. The traveler from
Argentina,the traveler from California, the lovely woman from Laredo -- we were
all covered with the same powdered sugar. And smiling. There are no better

And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers --
non-alcoholic -- and the two little girls for our flight, one
African-American, one Mexican-American -- ran around serving us all
apple juice and lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar, too.

And I noticed my new best friend -- by now we were holding hands --
had a >potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing, with green
furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always carry a plant.
Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought, this
is >the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in
this gate -- once the crying of confusion stopped -- has seemed
apprehensive about any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all
those other women, too. This can still happen, anywhere. Not everything is lost.

Naomi Shihab Nye is an American poet of Palestinian background.

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