Once upon a time I used to be a very shy little girl who would blush and shrink to herself if you looked her way. I was very quite, I kept to myself and made very little friends. For a little girl who didn't seek attention, it was inevitable. I am a blue eyed, light skinned Middle Eastern girl with super curly black hair. Basically, I am a unicorn, an oddity, a strange creature in a region where olive skin and brown eyes are the norm.
Since then my personality has turned around 180 degrees. I am now confident, outspoken and very sociable. I don't shy away from stating my opinion and I am not afraid of being wrong. I've grown to embrace the oddity of my looks and I focus on nourishing the goodness in my heart.
I've tried to trace back the series of events that led up to this drastic transformation, but I couldn't make sense of anything.
All I know is this: there has been three important women in my life that influence me on a daily bases. They have each touched my life in separate ways, but together they've helped shape me into the human that I am today.
To give each women justice this letter needs to be a three part series.
I would love to tell you a little about each woman, in hopes that you could help me understand the transformation in my personality.
My Maternal Grandmother
My grandma has lived in our village in Palestine since she was born. She's visited my mom in Jordan and went on pilgrimage to Mecca multiple times. She had an opportunity to move to the U.S. but vowed never to do so. She is a proud woman who lived a rough and unfair life. She got married young and realized early on that she needed to become independent and self reliant.
Even though I visit grandma once every couple of years, I have one prominent memory of her etched in my mind.
It was Fall of 1994. My parents left my siblings and I at my grandparents house and travelled to New York to visit my dad's side of the family and to give birth to my youngest sister; Dunya.
I was sad that my parents left of course, but at that time, I was the oldest of four and understood my responsibility to help grandma take care of my siblings until my parents came home with my baby sister. My grandparents enrolled me in school and I was learning to read and write. I was so excited, because reading and writing didn't come easy to me. So once I got a grasp on it I was trying to read anything and everything.
One day, I was helping grandma unpack one of the winter boxes. I noticed the writing on the box and attempted to read it. I don't recall what it said but I remember it was written in what looked like a child's hand writing. I asked grandma to help me read it, but I could see that she was struggling to read the words too. Curious I asked her "Did you write this?" She said yes and proceeded to explain that it's been a few years since she's taken the Literacy course.
At 7 years old I was shocked to learn that an adult didn't know how to read and write when they were young. As any curious child I wanted to understand why, and proceeded to ask many questions. Grandma was so patient answering all of my questions. She explained that our village didn't have a school for girls to attend when she was young.
Grandma told me how she hated the feeling of relying on people to help her read or write, and as soon as an opportunity presented itself she wanted to take action and become independent. One day a traveling adults literacy school visited our village and grandma was the first to sign up.
This memory haunted me throughout my educational journey. My grandma understood the value of education since it wasn't available to her. Seeing first hand how its influenced her independence, her value of education was instilled in me too.
I recently learned that because of the war, our village progressed slowly. The only school close by offered education up to grade six. Mixing between genders was not acceptable, so only boys attended school. I don't know if my dad was joking or not but he said "after 6th grade you'd start back at 1st grade and make your way back up again a second time."
It took me 10 years to finish my higher level education, and in spite of everyone in my village saying that I would eventually drop out - because I had gotten married, then moved to a foreign country and then had a baby. I still managed to beat all odds and finish.
Today, I continue to educate myself any way I can and I am always happy to share the knowledge that I've accumulated over the years with people around me. I hope that this practice helps instill the same values grandma gave me in my own children.
I'm curious to know if someone impacted your life in a direct or indirect way. Please feel free to share. It's nice to know that I'm not alone!
In this episode Enon talks about his culture growing up in Netanya and how it’s changed since he moved to New Jersey. He talks about what’s culturally acceptable in Netanya and how it’s based on the strength of your faith. Enon also talks to us about his struggles growing up in a land of continues conflict and how he’s found peace and acceptance since he’s left.