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By  Selma A. Cook  

 

The true story of a woman who migrates to a foreign country with her three children.

 
I turn around and find myself in a strange place.
Strange that I still feel strange in a country where I've lived now for seven years.
I keep myself on the outskirts of life here.
Just in touch enough to know what's happening and form an opinion, but far away enough to maintain my inner peace, my identity and self respect. Can you guess where I am?

If it means anything, I didn't actually choose to be here.
But one day nearly seven years ago I hastily packed my children's bags and put them on a plane with some friends of mine and sent them to the other side of the world.
The emptiness I felt as I turned and walked away from the exit gate could have swallowed me up then and there..

But I kept going. We all do. We have to..

I approached the ticket office at the airport, trying to look calm and asking to buy tickets for two woman and three children. "Where are you going?" she asked politely..

"Do you have a map?" I asked..

"Yes", was the reply..

I stared intently at the map and drew an imaginary line around the vicinity of the middle east region..

"Oh, anywhere around here"..

With raised eyebrows she answered with a concerned "Hmmmm"..

"Well, the plane for Jordan left this morning. Wait, I'll check Syria…Yes there's a plane with plenty of available seats and it leaves tomorrow evening.".

"I'm sorry, but we have to leave tonight.".

The receptionist looked at me somewhat suspiciously and hesitated..

"Well look, here we all are, bags packed, our ride has already left. We can't stay in the airport just hanging around until tomorrow night with these children. I want to leave tonight!" I thought if I sounded sure of myself, she wouldn't doubt me..

Her fingers tapped on the keyboard of the computer while she decided whether to call the manager or help me. Thoughts of kidnapping, criminal activity all went racing through her mind. But it was all legal, that is, if we left that night. All of us sat pensively, waiting, praying and having no idea what to say should she inquire further..

How could I tell her the whole long story? It would be so difficult to believe. My friends and I had been concerned for sometime about the idea of raising our children in an atheistic, materialistic society, which hid behind a fasade called multiculturalism. We'd discussed many ideas but all seemed improbable until one of them got some prior warning that her ex-husband was applying for joint custody of their daughter, so if she was to make the move it had to be soon. I'd already prepared the passports for my two younger children but the oldest one's passport was proving to be a problem. I was determined to get them out and live with people who had similar hopes and values. Sometimes you get the chance to do something, one shot and you know that if you miss it, you won't get another chance..

My friends and I sat together on that Friday morning planning what to do with the new information that had come to light. If she waited, she'd never be able to get her out and the continuous cycle of access visits, stepmother problems, and value clashes would never be broken. It was me who said they had better leave that day, take my younger two and I'd follow as soon as possible. It was all agreed and we started to organize our exodus. I booked a plane for five thirty that afternoon. I packed the clothes of my three year old and five year old and dressed them for winter, although it was a hot summer's day. Their little faces looked at me dubiously as I put their winter coats on and herded them out the door. With so many people travelling, it would be too easy to lose their coats, so I let them wear them..

As it turned out, we missed the 5:30 plane and hence ended up at the ticket office..

The receptionist shook her head a little and then said," The only other plane leaving tonight for this region of the world that you've indicated, is for Cairo Egypt, but I think it's full." I looked at my friends and they nodded their heads in approval..

"Could you please check just to make sure?" I asked anxiously..

Click, click went the keyboard. If I close my eyes I can still hear that sound. We waited for what seemed like an hour and then she said,"How's that for a turn up, there are five seats left on the last plane to Cairo!".

Our faces beamed and the children yawned. "We'll take them!".

We needed exactly five seats. Three children and two women..

We had to wait for two hours until the plane was ready to leave and my three year old just lay her head on my friend's shoulder and went to sleep as they walked through the exit. However my five year old turned back and asked me,
"Are you coming Mummy?".

"Yes," I answered, "But not right now. After a little bit I'll catch up with you guys, ok?" He didn't look so sure but he kissed me goodbye and followed the others through the exit. It was hard to keep the smile on my face. My oldest son was with me but he had to leave that night to stay with his father for a week's holiday. He didn't want to go but I told him it was better to act normally. You see, I couldn't get his passport except by forging his father's signature. My son was twelve years old and he desperately wanted to leave with me and leave the country and his father behind forever. Stories of abuse court cases and injustice. He agreed about the plan but he was worried about me. As a mother, I would do anything to save my children from this repetitive kind of hell and let them grow up in stability, in a more moral society..

At one o'clock in the morning my son and I parted and went home to my large and messy house. I'd packed in less than 45 minutes and the place was upside down. My children's toys and clothes could be seen all over the house. I sat down on my bed and a feeling of emptiness, aloneness and deep sadness overwhelmed me. To describe it like a feeling of death would not be too far fetched. But I honestly believed that I had done the right thing and now I had to wait. The only people who knew what had happened was my son and my good friend who lived a short distance from my home. Not even my mother knew because I was afraid she might tell my son's father about my plan. I lived in dread of her call. I didn't want to lie to her..

I had lodged my son's passport application and prayed that it would go through normally. I'd booked the tickets for 10 days later. The days passed but no news of the passport. I called the passport office and tried to sound demanding and complaining but inside I felt like jelly. I kept praying for guidance and success. My son who was 100 km away called me daily to know the news. One Friday morning I got up and felt a sense of urgency to cancel the passport application. Call it intuition or whatever, but as a muslim I know that Allah guides those who trust in Him and that morning I had no doubt about what I should do. I phoned the passport office and cancelled the application saying that my travel plans had changed. I hung up the phone and felt that I'd failed. I'd have to go and pick up the two little children from Egypt and come home. The family had to stay together. I consoled myself by thinking I could try again at a later time..

I called my son from the airport and told him that the passport hadn't come through and that I was going to pick up the children and come home. I'd be home in two weeks Inshaa Allah. He started to cry. He felt so hopeless and angry. Yet he never said a word to his father or anyone. He told me he wanted to see me off at the airport but I told him it wasn't necessary and that I'd see him in a couple of weeks..

My airplane was flying over the ocean I think, at the time the Federal police arrived at my house, surrounded it, seeking my arrest. Accusations of terrorism, criminal activity and all that. On the fourth day after my arrival in Egypt, my friend in my home country phoned. She was crying and and told me,
"You can't come back. There's a warrant for your arrest and they'll pick you up at the airport.".

I hung up the phone, sat on a chair and stared into space. My only thought was my son, stuck over there, and so so far away. I was completely helpless.

 

I turn around and find myself in a strange place.
Strange that I still feel strange in a country where I've lived now for seven years.
I keep myself on the outskirts of life here.
Just in touch enough to know what's happening and form an opinion, but far away enough to maintain my inner peace, my identity and self respect. Can you guess where I am?

If it means anything, I didn't actually choose to be here.
But one day nearly seven years ago I hastily packed my children's bags and put them on a plane with some friends of mine and sent them to the other side of the world.
The emptiness I felt as I turned and walked away from the exit gate could have swallowed me up then and there..

But I kept going. We all do. We have to..

I approached the ticket office at the airport, trying to look calm and asking to buy tickets for two woman and three children. "Where are you going?" she asked politely..

"Do you have a map?" I asked..

"Yes", was the reply..

I stared intently at the map and drew an imaginary line around the vicinity of the middle east region..

"Oh, anywhere around here"..

With raised eyebrows she answered with a concerned "Hmmmm"..

"Well, the plane for Jordan left this morning. Wait, I'll check Syria…Yes there's a plane with plenty of available seats and it leaves tomorrow evening.".

"I'm sorry, but we have to leave tonight.".

The receptionist looked at me somewhat suspiciously and hesitated..

"Well look, here we all are, bags packed, our ride has already left. We can't stay in the airport just hanging around until tomorrow night with these children. I want to leave tonight!" I thought if I sounded sure of myself, she wouldn't doubt me..

Her fingers tapped on the keyboard of the computer while she decided whether to call the manager or help me. Thoughts of kidnapping, criminal activity all went racing through her mind. But it was all legal, that is, if we left that night. All of us sat pensively, waiting, praying and having no idea what to say should she inquire further..

How could I tell her the whole long story? It would be so difficult to believe. My friends and I had been concerned for sometime about the idea of raising our children in an atheistic, materialistic society, which hid behind a fasade called multiculturalism. We'd discussed many ideas but all seemed improbable until one of them got some prior warning that her ex-husband was applying for joint custody of their daughter, so if she was to make the move it had to be soon. I'd already prepared the passports for my two younger children but the oldest one's passport was proving to be a problem. I was determined to get them out and live with people who had similar hopes and values. Sometimes you get the chance to do something, one shot and you know that if you miss it, you won't get another chance..

My friends and I sat together on that Friday morning planning what to do with the new information that had come to light. If she waited, she'd never be able to get her out and the continuous cycle of access visits, stepmother problems, and value clashes would never be broken. It was me who said they had better leave that day, take my younger two and I'd follow as soon as possible. It was all agreed and we started to organize our exodus. I booked a plane for five thirty that afternoon. I packed the clothes of my three year old and five year old and dressed them for winter, although it was a hot summer's day. Their little faces looked at me dubiously as I put their winter coats on and herded them out the door. With so many people travelling, it would be too easy to lose their coats, so I let them wear them..

As it turned out, we missed the 5:30 plane and hence ended up at the ticket office..

The receptionist shook her head a little and then said," The only other plane leaving tonight for this region of the world that you've indicated, is for Cairo Egypt, but I think it's full." I looked at my friends and they nodded their heads in approval..

"Could you please check just to make sure?" I asked anxiously..

Click, click went the keyboard. If I close my eyes I can still hear that sound. We waited for what seemed like an hour and then she said,"How's that for a turn up, there are five seats left on the last plane to Cairo!".

Our faces beamed and the children yawned. "We'll take them!".

We needed exactly five seats. Three children and two women..

We had to wait for two hours until the plane was ready to leave and my three year old just lay her head on my friend's shoulder and went to sleep as they walked through the exit. However my five year old turned back and asked me,
"Are you coming Mummy?".

"Yes," I answered, "But not right now. After a little bit I'll catch up with you guys, ok?" He didn't look so sure but he kissed me goodbye and followed the others through the exit. It was hard to keep the smile on my face. My oldest son was with me but he had to leave that night to stay with his father for a week's holiday. He didn't want to go but I told him it was better to act normally. You see, I couldn't get his passport except by forging his father's signature. My son was twelve years old and he desperately wanted to leave with me and leave the country and his father behind forever. Stories of abuse court cases and injustice. He agreed about the plan but he was worried about me. As a mother, I would do anything to save my children from this repetitive kind of hell and let them grow up in stability, in a more moral society..

At one o'clock in the morning my son and I parted and went home to my large and messy house. I'd packed in less than 45 minutes and the place was upside down. My children's toys and clothes could be seen all over the house. I sat down on my bed and a feeling of emptiness, aloneness and deep sadness overwhelmed me. To describe it like a feeling of death would not be too far fetched. But I honestly believed that I had done the right thing and now I had to wait. The only people who knew what had happened was my son and my good friend who lived a short distance from my home. Not even my mother knew because I was afraid she might tell my son's father about my plan. I lived in dread of her call. I didn't want to lie to her..

I had lodged my son's passport application and prayed that it would go through normally. I'd booked the tickets for 10 days later. The days passed but no news of the passport. I called the passport office and tried to sound demanding and complaining but inside I felt like jelly. I kept praying for guidance and success. My son who was 100 km away called me daily to know the news. One Friday morning I got up and felt a sense of urgency to cancel the passport application. Call it intuition or whatever, but as a muslim I know that Allah guides those who trust in Him and that morning I had no doubt about what I should do. I phoned the passport office and cancelled the application saying that my travel plans had changed. I hung up the phone and felt that I'd failed. I'd have to go and pick up the two little children from Egypt and come home. The family had to stay together. I consoled myself by thinking I could try again at a later time..

I called my son from the airport and told him that the passport hadn't come through and that I was going to pick up the children and come home. I'd be home in two weeks Inshaa Allah. He started to cry. He felt so hopeless and angry. Yet he never said a word to his father or anyone. He told me he wanted to see me off at the airport but I told him it wasn't necessary and that I'd see him in a couple of weeks..

My airplane was flying over the ocean I think, at the time the Federal police arrived at my house, surrounded it, seeking my arrest. Accusations of terrorism, criminal activity and all that. On the fourth day after my arrival in Egypt, my friend in my home country phoned. She was crying and and told me,
"You can't come back. There's a warrant for your arrest and they'll pick you up at the airport.".

I hung up the phone, sat on a chair and stared into space. My only thought was my son, stuck over there, and so so far away. I was completely helpless.