Reality Check #1

May 5, 2011

There are a few things I’m still getting adjusted to. The degree of poverty for one thing, is extraordinary here. It’s such a different kind of poverty than what we have in the United States. Because the standard of living here is already so low, the poverty is crushing. Stepping outside, it’s nearly guaranteed that one will be approached by aggressive beggars. At times it can be emotionally overwhelming. And once eye contact is made, turning away feels almost monstrous. It’s immediate entrapment and in that moment the beggar’s tongue showers you with a thousand blessings, and some of the sweetest verses you’ll ever hear. It’s a ritual each beggar performs with the hopes that they will be rewarded with a few riyals. And each time they do, it’s just as disarming. People tell me that at some point I will get used to it and learn to ignore it. And I’m sure they’re right. But for now I can’t imagine getting used to this. I could flatter myself and pretend it’s because my humanity is better than theirs. But in truth it’s because I’m so spoiled as an American that I approach these encounters with a naivete that is Western in origin. Coming from New York City, I’ve never encountered such deep levels of poverty. It’s quite a humbling reality check.

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2 Responses to “Reality Check #1”


  1. I hear ya. Is this your first time in the Middle East after a long time? I had a similar feeling in Iraq and ended up giving away everything but the clothes on my back (and my ziyarat purchases). But then, my stay there was very short, so I could afford to do that. Is there a fear the poor ppl will start to swarm you or snatch things from you if you give anything or even talk to them? I know that’s the general feeling in places like India and Pakistan.

    Keep writing! Wanting to hear about your everyday thoughts in Yemen…

    SZN

    • Amel Says:

      yea, it’s also very different being here alone. the last time i went, i was fairly sheltered by the fam and didn’t really experience the “real” Sana’a. my mom actually suggested leaving my clothes behind for charity. it’s definitely the fear of being swarmed, but sometimes there will only be a single individual by us but the attitude is “we don’t want to encourage their begging.” so people are more likely to give to someone selling bottles of water, trinkets or things of the like because they figure at least he/she is attempting to make a living. thanks for commenting saman. 🙂


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