Gender & Identity, Life

I help hide my motherland’s dirty laundry

Because how could they know what this country means to me despite all her imperfections?

This summer, I traveled to a certain Arab country to visit my family. There, I dealt with the typical trials of traveling their during the summer. I was perpetually a little sweaty. When we walked around, I had to maneuver over piles of trash on the floor and puddles of mysterious, murky liquids. Talking about politics was depressing and frustrating and seemed to produce no real benefit. It was terribly crowded. People didn’t respect rules or manners. A five year old cut me in line at a beach snack bar.

I’d rather not say which country I traveled to, for reasons you’ll understand in a minute. But just because I’m not mentioning a specific Arab country, don’t you dare clump them all together and assume I could be talking about any of them.

By the end of the trip, I was exhausted from being hot all the time and pushing through crowds to do something as simple as go to the supermarket. Of course, I still didn’t see the most impoverished, unpaved, and crowded parts of the country because I was still a privileged, American citizen whose cousins only wanted her to see the best parts of their country. When we landed back in the suburbs of the US where I live now, I was grateful for orderly lines, clean streets, and weather that didn’t leave me with a perpetually sweaty-salty face.

Now, as usually happens after my trip, I will tell people that I went to this country over the summer and they will be both surprised and inquisitive.

“Wasn’t it so hot?”

“Oh my goodness, wasn’t it dangerous? Are you okay?”

And, chuckling, as if the existence of my homeland is a joke and my visiting there is a fun little adventure I can document in my book of experiences: “How did that go?”

Of course, I have much to say. But I don’t tell them about the inadequate infrastructure and the unpromising political future and how unbearable the heat was during the summer (why do I keep going there in the summer?). Instead, I tell them about why I keep going.

“The mangoes during this time of year are perfection. I had fresh squeezed mango juice every night.”

“It was so fun. We stayed up until 2 a.m. every day at coffee shops with my entire family.”

“The beach is absolutely gorgeous. We would drink lemonade and walk along the shore. Look at these pictures!”

Because how could they know what this country, my motherland, means to me despite all her imperfections? How could they know that although I’ve really lived there, I felt home whenever I came to visit? How could they know that Her sights and sounds are so ingrained in my heart that whenever I hear car horns, the athaan, and drink fresh juice at coffee shops, I imagine them working in a perfect symphony that brings me back to Her? How could they know how terribly I miss Her for the three years I spend saving up to be with Her again?

Perhaps I am protective. But the Motherland has helped raise me. The least I could do is hide her dirty laundry from people who will laugh at and hurt Her. Perhaps one day I will actually wash her laundry and I won’t be worried about showing her off.

But for now, all the qualms I have are between me and the Motherland.