Back in London, but lets pretend I’m not because I have a load of unfinished Yemen posts, the first of which: Death always seems so close.

25 Jun

My gosh, I haven’t posted in so long, it’s shameful. As the title of this post alludes, I am actually back in London now, but have many Yemen posts that I need to post, so am just going to post as if I am back in Yemen in order to bring these posts to life and also because you’d be asking too much from me to go through these posts and change all the “here”s to “there”.

Death always seems so close

In fact they seem quite blasé about the whole keeping yourself safe thing. I am not sure if this is because health and safety just isn’t emphasised here as it is in the UK, or that they simply have an admirable acceptance of the inevitably of death.  Danger just seems to be more in sight. It’s normal here for gas cylinders to be used in open sight and with the electricity cuts, loud portable electric generators being used everywhere.

Of course, I am sure the conditions of the country play a part and you hear of the most awful freak accidents. One example: army planes keep on falling out of the sky. I am not sure if the problem is that the planes are simply malfunctioning or if there is some sort of political game going on, but one fell on open plains, another on a busy market, and most recently onto a residential area not far from where my grandma lives, obviously resulting in deaths. Its crazy how, as a result, the topic of conversations here so differ to ones I would have in London. The day after, I suggested that the family go and have a picnic in the park. “So that a plane falls on us?” my grandma asked me, putting an end to that idea.

 We also have other issues. Corruption has seeped through to the masses so instead of building quality roads, engineers pocket most of the money and only lay a thin layer of tarmac. Heavy rainfall in Yemen and a problem with the drainage system has meant crazy uneven roads, and so there have been a couple of incidents where the road has given way and cars have fallen in to drains. I know, it sounds like slapstick comedy, but these are people’s lives. Though perhaps the best way to deal with it is to make light of it, as my uncle said, “When you cross the road in Yemen, you need to look left, right, then up and down before walking”.

The thing is, though they all need to have a serious think about health and safety, I think my perspective also needs to change. One night, we went to a restaurant for supper. My cousins and I were playing in the restaurant’s garden when a tanker arrived and started transferring gas to the restaurant through the use of a rubber pipe.

“Is that safe?” I ask my cousin.

“Not really” replies my cousin nonchalantly, swinging on her swing without a care in the world.

I get up from my own swing. She looks at me as if I am crazy. I sit back down. I contemplate my end.

 But then I think I get it. If it’s meant to explode it will explode. It could explode even if all safety measures were put in place, (still though, try to put safety measures in place.) My time in Yemen has led to an epiphany. Death IS always close. Whether we talk about it or not, whether we see the dangers or not. Accidents happen everywhere and death happens everywhere, at any time.

 And you know what? after this internalisation, I never felt so alive. Not in a cheesy, happy carpe diem way, but I mean: so conscious of myself and my surroundings, so aware of everything, even my breathing. Thinking of death made everything so profound. It gave me this incredible balance where my thoughts became grand but the little everyday things became unimportant, as they should be.Who needs drugs when you can think of death? I understood why the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) recommended that we remember death. I also felt terrified of course, but lil bit of terror never killed nobody. Of course, as is the fickle human heart, this only lasted a few weeks but it’s a state I will always try to get back to.   

But still, they really need to teach children at school the “left, right, left” rule before crossing the road. Many kids here seem to think the best time to cross is when the car is right in front of them, at which point they run across with their arms flailing about.

2 Responses to “Back in London, but lets pretend I’m not because I have a load of unfinished Yemen posts, the first of which: Death always seems so close.”

  1. Philippa (Gutbetucht) July 2, 2013 at 3:50 PM #

    Salam poor little Muslim girl 😉

    What a spot-on post! Their perception of safety is indeed different, I remember this from so many of my stays in the Middle East and South Asia. If you live in an environment where safety standards are so low you probably *have* to adapt this attitude, because otherwise you’d go crazy… Noone can worry *all* the time (and stay sane).

    I particularly liked the second last paragraph in which you describe this feeling of being “more alive”. I don’t think I have ever reached this stage, for me it was mostly panic or obliviousness 😛 but if that’s what a situation like this makes with you, it’s probably the best thing that could happen to you. 🙂

    Salams from Germany

    • poorlittlemuslimgirl July 2, 2013 at 10:19 PM #

      Ahh but its the panic which makes you feel alive! Though I would say that at that point I was also hearing of alot of deaths of very young people, and that probably contributed to me reaching that zen stage of “death can come to me at any time”. I totally agree with having to adapt the attitude, but like you, I could only do this so far. One day, I went with my cousin to a hair salon where they had put their massive portable electrical generator inside the (tiny) salon, and I sat in panic until we left. When I asked, my cousin knew it wasn’t safe too but was not at all perturbed at it, and I did find that I admired her care-free attitude!

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, Philippa and do drop by again!

      W.Salam 🙂

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