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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Something About Me

I started blogging on April 24th, 2006. Since then, I have posted fifty eight diverse entries. First and foremost, I am happy to have had the opportunity to tell you stories about Tartous during these past five months. Some of my posts included glimpses of my personal life, but always in a vague sort of way. I was lacking in conviction that this aspect is of any interest to anyone who read my words. However, a few, a very few readers, asked me to write something about myself. As Ali the Expat puts it:
“… your writing style made me very curious about the education, life, and experiences you’ve had. Hence, I ask you to dedicate an entry to describe those sides.”
I need to be brief with this one from fear of boring everyone to death. So fasten your seatbelts, we’re cleared for takeoff…


I followed my heart when I made that decision to return home twenty years ago. I was in my prime with opportunities abound. My earliest childhood dream of flying had been fulfilled. I was working as a professional commercial pilot with my eyes set on the airlines. Two years prior, I have completed my Master’s Degree in Urban Planning and had already started on my PhD as a teaching assistant at the university. When I went for the flying job interview, my prospective employer asked me what was I to do with the doctoral program I had had already started. My answer was straight and flat. “You are offering me the opportunity to fly”, I said. “I wouldn’t let any title or degree takes that away from me.”

So I flew!

My little office was a cockpit in the air shuttling the airspace of the southern United States. New Orleans, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Miami and many other smaller but no less wonderful American cities were my playground. In the evenings, with flying buddies over a cold beer, or with a girlfriend and a glass of wine, I would always express my amazement and disbelief that I was actually getting paid fulfilling my dream. I logged hundreds of hours of flying time, taught several students (most of whom are airline pilots today), delivered many shiny airplanes to small airstrips and flew countless corporate clients to business meetings and secluded cottages with favorite secretaries.



Then came that unforgettable flight with my mother as my copilot. I had to deliver a brand-new airplane to a client in Miami. My mother at the time was staying with me in Lafayette, Louisiana. She was leaving back to Syria in a a matter of weeks. First though, she wanted to visit with my sister in Florida. I was exuberant, thinking of flying her myself the next day. Although she had flown with me on numerous occasions before, I knew that this one would be a flight to remember.

Late in the evening, sitting side by side, watching television in my small bachelor apartment, she spoke softly as she sipped her tea:
Why don’t you come back home?.. You’ve been away most of your life. I wouldn’t be living forever, you know... My dream is to have you near me… To see you married… To hold your children one day…”
“……………………….”

I didn’t offer an answer. She didn’t wait for any.

I tossed in bed for an hour or two. Deep inside, I knew that this is decision time. There was a right turn and there was a left turn. There wasn’t any straight road ahead. The last time I took a left turn was two years earlier, when I decided to stay in the United States and work there. Another left turn was much more complicated this time. I had no idea how many years would pass, if ever, before I would even consider asking the question again: “Why don’t I go back home?” I was making my way to the crest of the wave of my advancing career. The further I would climb the tougher it would be to stop, retrace my steps and make that right turn and head back to Tartous. Too much was at stake. Like an athlete contemplating an early retirement while still ahead, I made up my mind and slept very well after all.

I left alone to the airport early in the morning to meet with my boss. He was more of a friend and he listened very intently. “Should you change your mind”, he said, “you’re always welcome to return.” We shook hands, patted shoulders and hugged. It was the last time I saw him, rest his soul.

In the crisp and cool early afternoon air, at 11000 ft altitude, Air Traffic Control cleared me to make a right turn and follow an easterly heading. I told mom that I’m returning home with her. She was the happiest woman in the word. She laughed and cried. She silently prayed.

I went back after a couple of days to Louisiana, celebrated my last New Year Eve with friends and bid them farewell. After eight years and eight days in America, I packed my stuff and left. Up until then, I had spent more than fourteen years away from home. I have been several times since to the United States but always as a visitor. Most of my friends are there and we never severed the rope of friendship that tied us together.

Here I am in Tartous, twenty years later, sitting in my own private office, an architectural & consultancy practice, reminiscing over my wonderful days in Lafayette, remembering my late mother who had passed away seven years ago. I still fly to Europe regularly on business, but only in a back seat, I’m afraid. I got married, and my mother had her chance to hold my two daughters. My boy, Fares, she had never met. He was born one year after her departure. I look back into the past as much as I look forward into the future. Could I have done it differently? Possibly! Do I have regrets? Not really!

People who know me always express their surprise on how easy I fitted back in again. Myself, I was never surprised. “With your background, with your potential, with your dreams… How could you have ever taken that decision?” they would ask. As Bugs Bunny would have said: How come you didn’t take that left turn at Albuquerque?

In all honesty, it wasn’t that hard. That one flight in the crisp and cool early afternoon air at 11000ft with my mother by my side was worth it all… and much more.

35 comments:

Yazan said...

amazing abu fares,

I wish, someday when I will be faced with left turns and right turns, and blocked crosses, that i will have the courage to take a turn, any turn, Right now, I feel like I'm just gonna stand there and stare at the spot.

cheers to you, and to ur wonderful mother.

I would love to have a chance to meet you in person when I go home, if ur free, over a coffee or drink.. :)

amazing post.

Ascribo said...

Abufares,

this post made me cry dearly. I never knew all those details about your decision, although I have always admired it...I always wanted to ask you if you regret coming back, and I can see the answer now...

This post was full of sweet memories, great challenges, tough decisions, and overwhelming affection...Too much was at stake! Indeed..

Sure Tartous is really proud you made it back...

Omar said...

aha.. the mystery unfolds.. you're a fellow architect.. that's why I keep coming back here over and over again.. birds of a feather my friend.

I couldn't resist the shiver through my spine when I pictured that night of tossing and turning.. I had it several times and I know that I will be having the final one soon enough.. it's that damn left turn that I have been trying to avoid all these days.. it's very theraputic to listen to someone's experience when it comes to that.

man.. if you and Yazan ever get down for that drink.. count me in.. (no animals heads for me :)

this was very beautiful and powerful.. I gotta go and contemplate this a bit now..

cheers my friend

abufares said...

Dear Yazan
Pieces will fall together in place in due time. No need to rush it at all. When I read the anguish in your words, I wholeheartedly sympathise with you, just because I've been there.
You just made me a promise that you'll look me up when you're here. I'll be extremely happy to spend more than one nice evening together.
Thank you for your kind words.

abufares said...

My dear Ascribo
I'm always happy to read your comments. I can learn so much about you from the simple words you write.
You're already made me proud and I know that you'll continue the way into a brilliant future.
One day down the road, you will reach your crossroads. I know you well enough to predict that you're going to make the right decision.

abufares said...

Dear Omar
Thank you for dropping by. There's already a bond that's bringing us all together. May mere words, when they come from the heart are more revealing than years of personal association.
I'm waiting for you too, my friend, for that evening along with Yazan.
No heads I promise, but I might come up with something more absurd to commemorate the occasion.

Rick said...

Love your writing about taking the turns in life. Still find it hard to believe that we don't fly together any more.

abufares said...

Rick My Friend
One of the recurring dreams in my "adult" life is flying with you again, pilot & copilot. We use to swap the left and right seats on a round trip.
Some of the most memorable flights we've made were when we were simply having fun.
One day, we'll do it again.

Omar said...

very very nice post Abufares.

I cannot begin to imagine how brave of a decision you had to make. An I'm very glad you had no regrets. I missed my chance to meet you in person this past summer, but I'll make sure I won't miss it again. Omar and Yazan, got an extra cup?

abufares said...

Hi Omar

I wouldn't call my decision, per say, brave. The truth of the matter is that when faced with a monumental decision such as the one many young Arabs who have left their homes may have to face one day, any decision they make is brave in the end. There is no single better road to take, that's why we have to take our pick.
I'm very eager to meet you and the guys next time you're around.
Cheers.

Ascribo said...

Thank you for your kind words Abufares...

I was thinking, do you really made that decision in one night? Easier decisions take me days and night to say anything, and unless there's one big force pushing me in one direction, I find it really hard to choose...

So did you really think about all the odds, or you were pushed by nostalgie?

I'd like to know

abufares said...

Hi Ascribo
There's always a buildup before it manifests itself in a final decision making moment. The minute signs were there all competing for attention. But, in the end, no matter what the decision is, one has to make it in an infinitesimal instant of time. One has to finally say, left or right, black or white, ye or no.

I love Munich said...

I guess I'm pretty darn late this time and I apologize for that - I wouldn't have missed this post for anything though! You well know I'm never handing out fake compliments and I did like ALL your posts a lot - but this is the one which impressed me most, which stunned me - which I like best!

What wonderful memories you are having of this last flight with your great mom .. I am sure, it meant the world to you - and her alike! Your fulfilled her biggest dream and that alone says it all ...

You're a truly remarkable person abufares, very caring, very considerate - and I do consider myself fortunate to be able call you a dear friend. Thanks so much for sharing these glimpses - they give a clear indication of your wonderful character as well as mindset and show without any doubt the beauty of your soul!

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abufares said...

Dear Karin
You're welcome to drop in anytime. You were not late at all. I only posted this yesterday.
Thank you for your nice words and I know that you mean what you say.
I'm happy you've been here, although as I've indicated in the beginning of the post, it didn't occur to me that such a story is of zny interest to anyone.

Chet said...

My friend, your story is of great interest and hopefully the younger generation will be able to dream of what you have done and live it. Your are an amazing person. I feel like I have known you for years. You have a lot to give and share with the world. Thank you for sharing this part of your life.

abufares said...

Dear Chet
If anything, your words humble me.
I thank you for taking the time to read one personal story of mine.
I, too, am amazed by the brotherly bond I feel toward you. Your stories are always a great motivation for me and for all of your readers.

Shannon said...

What an awesome story...Thanks for sharing it with us.

abufares said...

Dear Shannon

Thank you for reading my story and taking the time to comment on it.
I really appreciate it.
I'm glad you liked it.

Ali said...

Here you are again dear Abufares!!
I am more than satisfied with your wonderful post. It must’ve required a great deal of courage and firmness to undertake such turns!!!
Anyway, your flying experience reminded me with what Al-Motanabi once said:
فما حاولت على أرض مقاما ,,,وماأزمعت عن أرض زوالا
على قلق كأن الرح تحتي ,,,,,أوجهها جنوبا أو شمالا

Again, it is indeed a wonderful entry
In any case, thank you for responding for my request
Ali

Anonymous said...

Even though I know quite a few things about you, I was not aware of how you took that "turn". As always, this post was very nice to read.

Rick, nice to hear from you

Abu Abdo

abufares said...

Thank you Ali for motivating me in the first place to write such a post.
I truly don't believe that my decision was corageous since I wasn't doing it as a sacrifice. I did what I thought "better" at the time. I'm happy and content that it turned out the way it did.

abufares said...

Hi Abu Abdo
I'm glad you've commented because you know that you've been a great part of my past. Has it not been to the fact that we live worlds apart, we would've still be enjoying each other's company today.
I hope this Ramadan is not that hard on you down under.
Always a pleasure hearing from you.

Shadi said...

Thank you for this amazing post Abu Fares.
Thanks for being so open, and such a wonderful person.

abufares said...

I\'m really glad you liked the post. Thank you for the wonderful compliment.
Please come again.

Ihsan said...

I coudn't stop a tear while reading your post Abu-Fares. My mom keeps saying the same as your late mom, may her soul rest in peace, but with the difference that I have only been away for one year. It's early to take such a decision, I still need few more years. Thanks for this great post and I do aplaud your courage of taking such a decision that I, myself, may not be able to take it when the time comes.

abufares said...

Dear Ihsan
May God protect your mom for you.
It's too early for you to make such a decision. So you shouldn't worry about it at all for the time being. When the time comes, you'll do what is best, I'm sure of that. I have to say it yet again, my decision was not based on courage. Each person will go through certain given circumstances and has to act accordingly. Just think of an individual life like a football game. No 2 games are the same and each one is completely unique. Just be sure you don't play a boring game. Give it your best, then we win some we lose some. It doesn't really matter.
Thank you for your visit.

Anonymous said...

Abu Fares, what a great post! Thanks a lot for sharing your ‘vintage’ experience with the younger generation. Comparing with other people, we Syrians seem to be more nostalgic and homesick when abroad. I think it has to do with the vivid family and social atmosphere we have at home.
Keep posting my friend, for you are a mentor, a rule model and inspiration!

abufares said...

Dear Dubai Jazz
Thank you for the wonderful compliments, although I honestly don't think that I deserve that much. I'm happy to know that my words might bring solace to the younger generation. I truly believe that we measure our lives by decades in the essence that peoplein their twenties are different from those in their thirties and forties, ...etc.
It's a shame. We could all learn from each other. The younger some experience from the older and the older some spontaneity from the younger.
Again, thank you for your visit

Ingrid said...

Abu fares, this post really got me straight in my heart. Like you, I had emigrated (from the Netherlands) to Canada (at first, now in US) and I left when I was 20. I realize now, I was running from personal issues and sought out to find happiness 'outside' of myself and the 'old world'. Very much outside. Now, I'm 42, and I am starting to think of what would have happened if I had returned home after the one year nanny job for which I left Holland, and my mom. I find myself being melancholic too because I feel I could not readjust to life in the Netherlands, never mind that my American husband could not live there I don't think plus he has a great job and life in North America does have its advantages. Still, I've been going through some soul searching in general and when I read this post a while back, I just ended up crying. You went back, I didn't. My mother is still alive and well, but what would I do when she gets sick? She does not like life in the US at all, plus she actually has more of a (social) life than I do. The one thing I miss is the social aspects of how people relate to each other. The Dutch culture is so different than the American one.
Anyway, I was too emotional to comment when I first read this, but now, I have to share it with you, thanks for posting this. I think many emigrants can relate to this,
blessings
Ingrid

abufares said...

Dear Ingrid

Thank you for your wonderful feedback. Leaving home and starting a new life has never been easy. It's true that for some people the decision is easier than for some others. But in the end, no matter how miserable one's life is, with the move there's a sense of being uprooted. I think you have crossed the hurdle a long time ago. In retrospect, I'm almost sure that if I didn't make that decision to return there and then, in all probablity I would've been still there and we would've been neighbors. I liked the South in the US. Up until this very moment, I still consider Lafayette, La. my home away from home.
I, too, am following your blog and I really enjoy your posts.
Thanks again.

Mariyah said...

Abu Fares, the tears flowed as I read this. An experience so unique to you and yet so many emotions shared by others who have had to make a similar decision. What a touching moment with your mother - these are the things that stay with us forever.

abufares said...

Don't cry for me ... Mariyah
I remembered the song.

There's never a correct or wrong turn... as long as we continue walking.

Fenella said...

Isn't it amazing how life goes? We take steps in one direction and then wonder what would have happened if we'd gone in the other.

You made your mother happy and proud. A very sweet and introspective post, Abufares. :)

abufares said...

@Fenella
The ironic truth of life is that by the time we find our bearing we are too far ahead down the road.
I will veer toward my heart's choice against cross and headwinds for as long as I can.
I made my mom as happy as I could back then. Someday it will be my turn to find my true course.