Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Shared cultural heritage builds bonds and friendship

From the Caucasus to the World

Issue date: 10/21/08 

Spartan Daily

My heavy backpack pulls on my little shoulders as my short legs stumble down the bus steps.

It is autumn, and Jordan's climate is that of a desert. The cold, dry wind blows against my face and I squint, with my short golden bangs dancing across my forehead.

A teacher helps me down the steps. She looks at me and smiles.

"Are you Circassian?" she asks, noticing my unnaturally pale skin and "foreign" facial features.

I nod, smiling bashfully back and run off to my classroom.

Yet another day at elementary school, and it begins.

I am surrounded by unfamiliar people, but thankfully my best friend is there, smiling to see me enter.

She has saved me a seat by her side.

I interact with my classmates, but I never get as close to anyone as to Lina, my best friend.

I later learn that she is Palestinian, before even learning the difference between Jordanians and Palestinians, but her strong longing toward the occupied territories of her homeland connects me to her - someway, somehow.

I don't understand fully why I am different from the rest - but being around Lina comforts me.

At home, Mother speaks to me in a language I later learn is called Circassian. It is the language my grandmother speaks as well, but since other family members and friends spoke Arabic, it grew to be my first language.

A couple of years roll by and I continue to feel "different" until one day a new boy enters the classroom. The girls whisper to one another and I learn he is Circassian, just like me.

His name is Yaldar. It sounds familiar - it's a Circassian name. Hearing the name being pronounced in the classroom seems alien to me. How come there is another Circassian in the same classroom as I am?

He becomes another best friend of mine. We speak about Circassian dancing, some mutual friends. I enjoy having him, another Circassian, around.

When I think of it today, I cannot help but wonder: Was I discriminating against my fellow classmates just because they were not of the same ethnic back-ground as mine?


It is March 2009, and I am finally living in my home country, the Caucasus.

I wake up to the dripping lullabies of the morning rainfall drumming on my window's front.

It is 6 a.m.

I hear my neighbor speaking to someone in Circassian. I pull myself out of bed and peek outside the window, hiding behind my colorful, flowery curtain.

He is speaking to the old lady sweeping the streets. Her gray fuzzy hair is covered with a light piece of cloth. She smiles and wrinkles on her face arrange themselves in a way that accentuates her happiness.

I look in the distance, and I see the world known as Mount Elbrus. We call it Uashkhemakhue' in Circassian. It translates to the mountain of happiness.

I stand at the edge of a sidewalk, watching the cars pass me by in the capital Nalchik. I watch people's lives and happiness fills me to know I am home. But when will I really feel like a native to this beautiful land?

I glance around me and whisper:

"When Circassian becomes my first language."

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