My return to Sana’a

By Mac (Houston, Texas)

Much to my own surprise, Sana’a, Yemen has gradually become like a second home to me. In July of 2007, I arrived to Yemen without knowing a single word of Arabic. For the next 10 months, I studied the language and eventually developed close friendships with my Yemeni friends and neighbors. When it came time to travel to the States in May 2008, I hoped that I’d have the opportunity to come back to Yemen someday.

Ten days ago I finally returned to Sana’a to study and work at the Yemen College of Middle Eastern Studies. Since my arrival, I have been grateful to find that my old neighbors still treat me as a one of their own.

July 2nd was my first full day in Sana’a. In the afternoon I took a stroll over to my old neighborhood (called Bustan Al-Sultan or “Garden of the Sultan”) – the place where I lived during my year of Arabic language study. As soon as I turned the corner onto my street, all the little kids ran towards me with their arms open wide, laughing and shouting my name. I felt a bit awkward at first; many passers-by look over at me and the swarm of children with puzzled looks.

The kids proceeded to bombard me with all sorts of difficult questions in slurred Arabic, such as: “Mac, do you remember my name?” (I often didn’t, but I had a helper who assisted me with not-so-subtle whispers). One girl ask me, “Mac, would you like to get your ears pierced?” Her father – who happens to be a good friend of mine – overheard the comment and asked her to “Please apologize to Miiister Mac.”

The following day, several of the neighbors invited me over for a large welcome lunch. All of my favorite Yemeni foods were laid out. It was delicious. I thanked them profusely as I am used to doing back home in the States, but then I was reminded of my error. My host and good friend Hussein looked toward me and said: “Mac, there is no reason for ‘thanks’ (shukr) in your own house.”

Taken aback by his expression of friendship, I slipped again and said: “Thank you, Hussein.” As long as I live here, I will still think and behave like an American.



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2 responses to “My return to Sana’a

  1. Sally White

    Hey Mac,
    Good to see your face! Sounds like the reunion of your friends was a great time. Keep us posted!

  2. Wayne Buckhout

    Hi Mac!

    You know who has repeatedly promised to send me a link to your new blog, but (as you might expect) never followed through.

    Glad to see you are continuing to describe life of everyday Yemenis in Western terms. A joy to the eyes and ears.

    As a Westerner, I can freely say “Thank you, Mac.”

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