The Woman in the Burqa Smiles Back with Her Eyes

sophiaToday I read an essay by a college student living in Amman Jordan.  Unlike most of the stories I download and read for GoNOMAD, this piece had little of value to a traveler, but a world of moral value to anyone  interested in communication between cultures.

In fact as I read Sophia Jones story, which we titled “Living in Jordan: The Charm and the Hassles,” I began to get teary.  That’s because she was so eloquent explaining the love she felt for the Middle East, a bittersweet love that mixed with resentment over how she was treated, as  a young, blonde, American girl.

“The blonde woman watches as her eyes scan the square, eying the children, the old men in suits, the ice cream and the blonde woman. And the foreigner wonders what this woman thinks of her. Her pale forearms and blonde hair are showing and she wonders if this offends the conservatively dressed woman.

She smiles sweetly at her, expecting to be ignored. But the woman smiles back, with her eyes. She folds her gloved hands in her lap and continues to smile under her burqa. She will never forget this moment.

The blonde woman looks away, distracted by a young boy cat-calling her, but she glances back, marveling at the woman, wondering if she’s beautiful and if her husband finds her beautiful, wondering if she’s ever felt the cool air blow through her hair on a night like this, wondering if she herself, as an agnostic American woman, will ever feel the intense spirituality that this woman does.”

It’s writers like this that make my job such a joy.