Today I am celebrating a special “silver anniversary”. 25 years ago today, I arrived in Europe, leaving the land that I was born in with the plan never to return.
The plan took seed in 1990. I was doing my Masters in German literature when I first came to Germany on a full-paid scholarship to attend a 6 week course at the University of Bamberg. After finishing the course, I spent another 2 weeks traveling with a girlfriend around Germany and Switzerland. As I have often mentioned before, I never really felt at home in the country I was born in. I was “too independent”, had a mind of my own, fought for women’s rights and broke a number of social and cultural taboos. When I first came to Europe, I met many like-minded people and this strengthened my conviction to continue my fight against discrimination and misogyny.
I returned from Europe filled with enthusiasm. However the two years after were hard and I realised very soon that I was swimming against the stream. Most of my women/girl friends were succumbing to social pressures and giving up their ideas of women’s rights to fit into society, to find a “good husband” and settle down. In these two years I finished my master’s degree and realised that the only profession open to me was teaching which was not something that I wanted to pursue. I also realised that it was way too exhausting to fight the battle alone and so I decided to come to Germany to do a course in business management.I am very blessed to have a mother who encouraged such dreams and decided that my getting a degree in business management was worth supporting more than saving up for my marriage (this is very unusual in the country of my birth). She did not get much support for this herself, in fact many thought that she was to blame for the “wild and
rebellious” person that I was. And I am very blessed to have a brother who also supported my dreams and helped financially – even though my dreams, wishes and lifestyle were (and are) sometimes so different than his. Not only did he support me, he even took leave and came down to see me off (he was working in the Gulf region then). The title picture of this post was taken at the airport just before I was leaving.
I boarded a plane to Frankfurt shortly after midnight on 24th October 1992. I had a suitcase filled with some personal belongings and books; a heart filled with hopes and dreams. From Frankfurt I took the train to Bamberg since I was going to study Business Administration at the University of Bamberg.
I chose Bamberg not only because I knew it from my first trip to Germany but also because we had got to know a wonderful family then. It was this family that welcomed me with open arms again and as coincidences go, the father in this family turned 50 the day after I arrived. This meant that I was at a big family birthday party the very evening I arrived and was warmly welcomed by the extended family too. This wonderful man became a loving father figure for me and sadly passed away over 10 years ago. Over the years the bond with this family has grown so strong that I lovingly call them my “foster family”. I don’t know how I would have managed without their love, support, guidance and encouragement but that is the topic for another post.
My plan had been to finish my business administration and then go on either to UK or to
the US. But then the most unplanned and surprising thing happened shortly after I arrived in Bamberg – I fell hopelessly in love. Surprising because I was very focussed
and goal oriented; practical and logical and very aware of the fact that I had to get a job soon and stand on my own feet. But love hit me when I least expected it; turned my life upside down and inside out; made me forget all my resolutions, dreams and ideals.
Life took a very different turn after that and it has not been an easy 25 years. The years have been filled with pain, heartbreak, dreams that died, loneliness, facing discrimination, losing friends-both physically and emotionally, fatigue from carrying responsibilities that were not mine.. the list goes on. But when I look back at these 25 years I also see the beauty, laughter, wonderful friends, love and support from unexpected sides, the amazing opportunities that I have had – both professionally and personally. I have lived in three different countries, worked in and with so many more. I have grown and changed a lot in the past years, even physically as many tell me 😉 (just the other day one of my school teachers didn’t recognise me on Facebook and was astonished when I told her my maiden name!) But one thing hasn’t changed but has strengthened over the years – my fight against discrimination, abuse and misogyny.
So today I am thankful for so many things: for the dark periods in my life because it makes me appreciate the beauty and light even more; for the people who hurt and betrayed me in so many ways because it makes me appreciate and not take for granted the friends and family who stand by me, love me unconditionally and support me; for the pain because it makes me appreciate joy even more.
Even though I miss not seeing my mother, my brother and his lovely family more often; I have never ever regretted the decision I made all those years ago to start a new life in a country other than the one I was born in.
And I know that no matter what I have gone through or what may come- God will carry me through; guide me, give me strength and courage when I have none; send me people when I need a human hand to pick me up or a shoulder to cry on. He will always be faithful and He has a good plan for my life – a life filled with beauty, light and love.
So today 25 years later, I am especially thankful for my mother and my brother who made it possible for me to board that flight to Frankfurt and to embark on a journey that has been unique, different and yet way better than I would have ever dreamt of. And I look forward to all that is awaiting me in the coming years!