The aim of this blog post, is to offer another insight into the type of parent our father is. One of the strongest messages that emerged from both our mother and father was the value of adventure: embracing the unbeaten path (sorry for the cliche).
Certainly trying to run an independent film company for more than 35 years, despite the devil worshipping, blood sucking and soulless conglomerates has been an adventure. Yet, Pop’s adventures started long before his film career blossomed. Our childhood was filled with stories of our father’s escapades in Chad Africa As a scrawny nineteen year-old Freshman at Yale University Lloydie was fed up with the Ivory tower and the tweed jackets. So he grew a beard and enlisted to participate in the trial run of the Peace Core in Chad. (if you’ve read his books i’m sure you are familiar with this pivotal moment in his life. I regretfully read such segments and now can never look at JFK’s face the same) He lived in the “Bush”, three hours from any settled town. On weekends he fueled up a little moped and chugged down a clay-dirt path to town in order to pick up the week’s supplies. I still have a image of his sweaty face caked with orange dirt from the road, bracing the wind as he cuts through an arid and deserted land— as if i was there.
Our mother too embodied the adventurous spirit. As a petite 105 pound blond hair and blue eye bell she conquered the Matterhorn mountain, and lead treks along alpine glaciers, gracefully hoping over crevices which dropped hundreds of feet below. Perhaps, however, the greatest adventure she embarked upon was deciding to marry a pale, bushy bearded, bow-tie wearing jewish boy who dreamed of hideously deformed creatures.
We children have certainly picked up the adventure bug from our parents, spending extended time in unexpected places like Tibet, Senagal and the latest Yemen. Yemen is where I find myself now, researching for my Bachelor thesis.
At this very moment, I am lounging in a mafrage (sitting room) on the eighth floor of a some 600 year old building in the old city of the capitol of Yemen. It is a small square room that overlooks what is considered the oldest city in the world, old Sana’a. It is storming outside and the clouds seem to be hanging, reaching down to the same level up to which we have climbed along winding and uneven stairs. The Koran mentions Yemen as the final destination of Noah after the flood. His son Shem laid the first cornerstone for the city. Sitting in a room so intimate with these billowing clouds, It is not hard to imagine the stormy weather that brought Noah and his family here.
We chew qat, a plant consumed by the majority of Yemenis for its slight narcotic effects. We lounge on maroon pillows. All sit in the same way, leaning to the left, right leg propped up, left leg folded underneath. The floor is littered with scattered, discarded qat leaves- those which are too tough to store in the cheek- and empty pepsi cans or half filled water battles.
We are six in this mafrage. There is Azees, Muhammad, Kamal, Ahmed, Hassan (the shabab (youth) of the neighbourhood) and me. Of course I am the only woman. Yemen is a country where men and woman outside of the family sphere rarely interact. In the street woman envelope themselves in what one taxi driver described to me as “the ninja get-up”: the balto, hijab and nikab. Their whole bodies are concealed by black cloth, with only their eyes visible . It is rare if not impossible, that you would find an average woman sitting casually with men at a cat session. I however belong to the third sex, i am treated not as a woman, but as a WESTERN woman.
There are not many of us members of the third sex here in Sana’a. In fact there are not many foreigners here at all. Yemen, presently, is known for two things the birth place of Osama Bin Laden and the alleged training site for the infamous underwear bomber. For many, Yemen has become synonymous with terrorism, and the thought of traveling to the country is out of the question. This couldn’t be more of a misconception, and it grieves me to read the daily exaggerated and superficial coverage of this country that is printed and broadcasted by American Media. A discussion of this representation is fascinating and complex and not the point of this blog entry, so I will stop my babbling here.
My father completed his first film while he was in Chad. A short and delightful 8 mm sequence of a pig being slaughtered. Following in his footsteps I have been trying to document bits and pieces of this trip. Although I haven’t succeeded in locating a porker to film (as this is a very muslim country), in this upcoming week I may be directing low key video clip for the first Yemeni hip hop rapper, Arabian Gold AJ. This will certainly be an adventure, since filming in Yemen is not a common activity.
I would love to share what I have been capturing, but unfortunately the internet here is too slow to upload videos. When I return, however, perhaps i will have a chance to edit together “ a look at Yemen through a Tromatic lens”. Although i think it will definitely disappoint regarding the usual blood, guts and boobs.