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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Adha Moubarak

Dreams do come true...Happy Eid

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Letter To My Teacher

Dear Doctor Wooton

Finding then reading your email late last night brought me such an immense pleasure. It must be nearly impossible for you to remember me after all this time. In fact, it's been twenty eight years since I sat in the back of your class. As my teacher, I must let you know how you influenced at least this one student of yours.

I was a City Planning major at USL. American Literature was a required course and I approached the prospect with predictable trepidation. English was not in fact my second language but my third after Arabic and French. I was a twenty-year-old Syrian student who came from a small city by the sea and who dreamed of going to college in America. I was also an ordinary reader of modern Arabic poetry and translated mystery novels when I took your class. Within weeks, and thanks to you, I was transported to an exquisite world of words, one which I never willed to leave since. I had my true revelation when you introduced us to "The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock" by T. S. Eliot. This poem changed me forever and through the years I must have read it hundreds of times. It evokes the same sense of awe and humanity in me today as it did back then.

Halfway through the course, with straight A's in quizzes and the midterm you announced that: "Abufares is exempted from taking the final exam with a well deserved A." I was the only foreign student in that room and you had no idea what your recognition had done to my self-confidence back then.

I later pursued my Master's degree, became a Graduate Teaching Assistant in my department and enrolled in a Writing course of yours. I chose to translate four poems by Nizar Qabbani (1923 -1998), the most influential Syrian poet of the 20th century, into English. In your notes on the side of one of my papers, you scribbled something like "read, read, read..." and I have not stopped reading till today. Then once, during a short discussion we had after class about "imagism", you asked me to attempt to write a few short poems. I remember only one as I have lost all of my papers and bits of my memory with the torturous passage of time.

To My so-called Aunt Dolly

twenty-two years separate us
but between your lips and mine
when we kiss
years are crushed
and they die

Almost three decades later and after the few hundreds of "English" books I have read, "... after the cups, the marmalade, the tea" and when I was finally able to momentarily free myself from the burdens of labor and every day's obligations I started my blog. In reply to your question about my writing career I still do not have one but that could change one day. I waded through my first words on this blog and continue to derive delightful fancy from my interaction with readers. A few months ago I took my first plunge into fiction as a co-writer of an online tale by the name of Sea Side with Mariyah, a most inspirational woman and a beautiful writer beyond my meager words. I would be thrilled if my English professor of old chooses to take a look at our story, not for the sake of vanity but rather as a token of appreciation on my part for what you have taught and instilled in me.

Thank you Professor for writing to me. I am honored.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

In Love with a PC

I bought my first computer, a Timex Sinclair 1000 in 1982. It had a membrane keyboard, Black & White NTSC output, a whopping 2 KB of RAM and weighed in at hefty 12 oz. Since then, I have never been caught alone without a computer. If I am not mistaken, the laptop I'm caressing with my fingers right now is the 9th I've had in the ensuing 27 years and she is the first girl in the bunch.

At my age one would assume that I should be making more sense than to genderize machines but I have always looked at them as personal friends. I have started my blog on a Toshiba Satellite laptop. We became very close over the last few years and I have entrusted him with all of my secrets, big and small. Yes, he's a boy and he has a name too but as of late he's been sick and started showing his age. I knew that he's not going to last forever but it was so hard for me to think of, simply, putting him to sleep. Recently he made two visits to Damascus and Aleppo for maintenance. When my hopes became very slim of his full recovery I started my online search for a new laptop. A good friend of mine suggested a MacBook Pro. I was really tempted but remained hesitant. I was never attached to Windows per say but I did find the Mac aficionados a little on the wacko side. Their loyalty and fierce defense of their platform and operating system were too much for me to come to terms with. Besides, I have a love/hate relationship with my iPhone already and didn't think I can handle the pair of them. You know my iPhone reminds me of a show dog rather than a good field pointer. It's beautiful to look at and pet on a couch but it wouldn't stand a chance in today's demanding work environment. The Apple milieu lacked that real world feeling to me and whether smartly or not I opted for a Windows 7 machine. After several days of searching I found exactly what I was looking for and a week thereafter she arrived from Dubai. An HP DV3 13.3” beauty with embedded patterns on her dark blue skin. It was love at first sight and so far I'm truly impressed with the stellar performance of …. (yes she already has a name of course) and Windows 7 in general.

My private online time is a significant part of my life. I say that without apology or regret. I'm still using three PC's (1 desktop and 2 laptops) for work and play. However, with the arrival of my new HP I made a wise and long overdue decision. I moved my personal stuff strewn here and there and entrusted her with all. Will I enjoy the travel of her keys and the touch of her screen when my fingers dance over her body? Will she appreciate the words I type for all to read and my most secret thoughts for her eyes only?

This is our first blog together and we're already dancing to the tune of love!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Perched On My Rock

My mother told me that on the night I was born a storm of freakish magnitude hit Tartous putting the fear of god in the hearts of her people. The little town was ravaged by torrential rains and strong gales. The power went down and all hell broke loose. Psychotic lightening raped the sky with lunatic vehemence, quavered then climaxed in deafening rolls of thunder. Tormented shutters flapped on hinges in agony and moaned. The wind howled in between the alleys chasing genies deep into their holes. Rain drummed on tin roofs in a sadistic crescendo. Thunder bellowed threatening to disgorge the earth beneath. The sea pounded the beach a hundred meters from the room with a view to the sea, spitting its froth on the window. It roared above them all with deafening anger: “Be quiet!”, then I cried.

As a toddler I sat all day in my playpen on the balcony facing the sea. That was the only way to keep me content, my mother's bedtime story went on. Browsing old black and white photographs, I see myself swimming by the age of four. I have no recollection of my first steps nor of my earliest plunge. I do know, however, that the passage of years did not change me in the least. I still run away from it all and stare at the sea with an insatiable hunger and a profound thirst. Even in the dead of winter, when only a fool with a lantern roams the beach, I am there perched on my rock.

One thing about Tartous which made it different from all the landlocked cities I lived in is the expanse of her horizon. I remember an early trip to Damascus when my mother and father were traveling abroad and had to leave me at my grandparents'. I searched for the horizon but could not find it and I was afraid. How did they live within walls of mortar and shadows and not suffocate? Where did they escape to when their world closed in? There was no salt in the air to breathe. They did not sweat nor feel the caressing fingers of a westerly breeze cooling their bereaved souls. No sail carried their cravings to foreign lands. No ship horn wailed in the dark of night filling their minds with vocal scenes. Did they ever dream while they slept or did they barely live, fearless of getting lost at sea?

I have counted my days and ways by the ensuing tides, my spirit rising and falling with the imminent swell. I spread my wings and soared with the seagulls above. I let go, drifting, till I turned into a far-flung spec then disappeared. Time, being left without me, panicked. It gathered its hours and minutes and scurried beyond the mountains to the east, waiting for me to reappear.

I fell in a waterspout, morphing with the distant ripples. By dawn, they made it as breakers to shore. I climbed on my rock, naked and strong. I filled my lungs with mist and walked the desolation. The cowardly time, finding courage in my return and eager to please, asked me when I wanted to go.

I slumped in my bed, where I was born in my home by the sea. My nightly voyage left me invigorated and alive. I shut my eyes not to sleep but to see you closer. And I did.