I’m writing this from the Bahrain airport, sipping a ridiculously good draft beer in a smoky airport bar. It’s not that Stella is even a particularly good beer. It’s just that after not being in a bar for a long time, and not having a draft beer for a long time, this is a feeling I am positively savoring, despite the copious amounts of secondhand smoke I’m inhaling.
We left Yemen a few hours ago. For good. Unless some twist of fate brings us back someday. But in all honesty, I felt like when we drove past the three-quarters finished taupe houses and pushcart vendors with qat-swollen cheeks selling dusty mangoes, it was the last time I’d see Sana’a.
Mr.YemenEm’s tour has come to an end. For him, that was two years in Yemen. For me, it was nine months. We said goodbye to our “ELOs” (entry level officers) last night at a nice farewell dinner and shut our hotelpartment door for the final time today. I have zero regrets about quitting my job in DC to move to Yemen, but I’m very ready to be on to the next thing. For Mr.YemenEm, though, I know it’s different. Yemen was his top choice back when he was bidding on the country in which to start his diplomatic career. That was back when most people only knew of Yemen from a reference in an episode of Friends. For him, it’s been amazing career-wise, and I’m so glad I got to come here to see him be great at his job (and to actually get to be with my husband during our first year of marriage). We had a lot of fun being a new(ish) couple together in Yemen. But being so cooped up for nine months was a little claustrophobic so I’m beyond excited (actually it hasn’t even really sunk in yet) that we’ll be traveling through France and Italy, and then on the Friends and Family Tour in the U.S. before being back in DC this summer.
While I might not ever be quite as nostalgic for Yemen as Mr.YemenEm will be (after all, he was here before we were confined to a hotel and got to see a little more of Sana’a than I did) I wanted to share a snippet of a poem about Sana’a. My Arabic tutor lent me a book of poetry called “The Book of Sana’a” when I first started lessons and I think it really captures the history, romanticism, and buried potential of Sana’a.
Every spring morning, the poet leaves his sleep
before the face of the sun rises from behind Gyanman
He dresses in the wonderment of a child.
He encloses himself in the narrow alleyways
in order to write The History of Stone: Its Dreams
A burning stone traces shapes and lines
In this void, a nostalgia for her balconies, palaces of cypress and groves of willow
that defy the stars with their leaves.
A stone layered in white
another entirely black, celebrate San’a of the Spirit
on her birthday.
A stone, its color is fresh
A stone, its color is faded
A stone, shaped to the size of a dove’s grasp
Sometimes delicate eyelashes
and a nose hungering for a fight.
Sometimes an ancient woman, preparing for oblivion
Sana’a has the face of a saint
the tongue of sage
the voice of a martyr
and the proclivities of a poet.
And in case you’re wondering what is to become of this blog now that we’re no longer in Yemen, I’ll use it to document our travel, our time in DC, then our time in New York City. Come 2014 and our move to the next post in Madrid, I’ll change the blog name, but I won’t stop writing. Thanks to everyone who followed along in my adventures in Yemen.
Farewell to Yemen,