Liana telling the story in a nutshell

Love is the twin of a beautiful dream that survives birth to reality; but my love was a reality that survived arduous parturition only to remain a beautiful dream

Blog Archive

March 14, 2005

22. The Cheerful Happy Inside Glowingly Shown On The Outside

It was around quarter to eight when Bann pulled up, and in a few moments we were, all five of us, marching once more across the same old car park, heading for the same building that we had visited well nigh a month before. School holidays had rendered early wake-ups a heavy task; we were all still yawning. Drowsiness seemed to farewell us, though, the moment we stood in front of the same lady at the front desk, who greeted us with a meaningful smile, ‘Mabbrook, congratulations’.

Our names were already placed at the reception. We were escorted, after a short wait, to the fifth floor along with three other females, for a meeting with the head of the department and the authority to whom we’d be directly reporting, Mr. Riyadh, a man who spoke good English. He was a graduate of one of the American universities , as we realized later; tall and rather full, in his late forties, with a square reddish face and silvery straight hair.

Following a brief but cordial welcoming speech, Mr. Riyadh embarked upon work particulars, stressing, as Ms Hanna had, the importance of attending two weeks of training, designed to familiarize us with the key requirements of the job. All training seminars were expected to take place at the training centre related to the same establishment.

Mr. Riyadh concluded the meeting with polite wishes, and instructed that we be taken on a preliminary tour of our offices. Our feverish expectation was only punctuated by our astonishment at the vastness of the headquarters and the numerous additional blocks that were dispersed all around, teeming with employees from different fields and specialities. All these further augmented our lively interest. By this time we had been informed that our assignment was to the foreign section, where our job basically entailed working with the foreign advisors who were contracted by the establishment. This news added to the excitement of our jobs. The opportunity of working with foreign people, we thought, would have an efficacious impact upon our English language skills.

People with light skins, fair hair and eyes of varied hues were busily working behind desks when we arrived on our visit, while a few others were gathered in some sort of a meeting. I discerned American and British accents, and I thought I heard German; Fury picked it up too. Knowing how much I yearned to practise my German, she jested, ‘Hey kiddo, you’ll practise Almani too’. Our brief visit did not diminish in any way the sense of exhilaration that gripped us. We were received with welcoming nods and inquisitive smiles.

Before long, we were taken to the adjacent training centre, about fifteen minutes walk from the offices, for our first session. Urgency prescribed compressing a one-month course into two weeks, in order that assumption of responsibilities would take place in the shortest possible time. Training was full- time. By and large, it focused on putting into practice some of the theoretical knowledge we had acquired at University. However, we were no longer green students with professors watching over our shoulders, but qualified employees soon to function independently and with self-assurance.

Notwithstanding, we were agreeably reminded of the good old days at college in the happy and cheerful atmosphere that prevailed at the training centre, with one exception: clowning in any form had to be scrupulously avoided. If our inclinations tended otherwise, then it was to be kept strictly among us. In spite of enjoying enormously our time together in one class which had three other female recruits, we yearned to start upon our proper jobs.

The training days, at long last, were over. And the anticipated day arrived, well earned. We were brimming over with joy and hope that were twinged with anxiety, yet this feeling was quite unlike that which stemmed from our job applications. We ascribed our sense of apprehension, not implausibly, to our lack of practical hands-on skills. But, like most Iraqis, we were also vulnerable to unjustified misgivings, which, like our tears, are prone to leap to the surface on occasions of joy as much as in times of sadness.

Appointment to the various sections was in line with the results. I led, with Fury next, and Mai, Bann, and Sumer following in that order. The latter three were assigned offices in two separate buildings where each one of them had to embark on a fresh friendship. As luck would have it, Fury and I were posted to neighbouring offices where we could wave to each other through a glass sidewall. It was beyond what we would have dreamed possible. We were thrilled to pieces, but the other girls were obviously vexed. They teased us by saying that we must have got it through wassta, having the right contacts.

A joyful Saturday marked my first tentative timid step into this new phase of life. I was walking on air, and my heart was rejoicing. Life could not have been better, or seem rosier, and it seemed to presage greater happiness. The girls told me I looked tenfold prettier since we first started our training. I couldn’t say I wasn’t aware of it. I guess the cheerful happy inner self was glowingly manifesting itself on the outside.

My arrival there raised evident attention, which was growing with every move I would make. It wasn’t inconspicuous that I was turning heads. And the young female within quivered, delightedly sensing for the first time some strangely pleasurable feelings. In this impromptu and abrupt way, I experienced my transmutation into womanhood. For until two weeks before, I was the dewy-eyed Lu, whose greatest interests pivoted around study and good-humoured pranks, a pampered kid, who loved very much resting her head and dozing off on Mum’s lap, or Dad’s shoulder, a romantic girl, who preferred dreams to reality. Things, nonetheless, were seemingly kicking in with a dizzyingly stupefying speed. Hence, it was time I changed too. And it was time I started thinking and acting like a twenty-one year old, a graduate, a worker and a woman, instead of being a twenty-one year old kid. And if I wished to persist as a kid, then it would only be at home, with Mum and Dad, who loved very much to treat me like one, possibly hoping that I’d stay as one for the longest possible time, so that they wouldn’t have to yield to the course of nature and lose me to my future husband, an eventuality they would have embraced joyfully, yet most unwillingly, and with broken hearts. It’s a customary scene in our culture to find a mother crying her heart out, or a father enveloped in sadness, when one of the married sons opts to live separately from the parents, or when one of the daughters departs the family home on her marriage. Such scenes will remain cogent evidences of our warm and affectionate natures.

Our bus pulled up at the establishment’s huge bus park at five to eight. The majority of governmental establishments provided transportation for a nominal monthly fee. Quite apart from avoiding the hassle of a long drive to work, collective transportation was favoured by the majority of employees who saw it as a blessing, especially those who did not own a vehicle. The buses were quite comfortable, air-conditioned, with tinted and thickly curtained windows to screen one from the heat and glare of sunlight in summertime. In addition, there was the stereo, which was amply supplemented with an assortment of tapes through the generosity of the employees.

The most delightful thing was the nap that I used to have on the trip back home, not to mention Fayrouz’s voice, which used to warble through the bus stereo. Both state-owned radio stations sequentially broadcasted songs of this Lebanese singer for an hour, usually between seven and eight every morning. Fayrouz is phenomenal in the Arab world. Every morning, for years, Iraqis would pander to their addiction for her fabulously angelic voice. Her beautiful songs and sophisticated music filled the heart with peace and joy, making the entire world seem like a small village, safe and secure and full of love.

Several other buses were drawing up at the same time. Droves of employees were rushing out to their various sections. Likewise Fury and I hastened while we reviewed a few topics from our training that we regarded as important. A few minutes later, excited and with heart pounding in joy and excitement, I was stepping into a world of reality that I had only imagined before. I crossed my self, wishing for God’s blessings, and walked inside, thrown upon my solitary resources for the first time.

Three advisors were inside when I walked through the main entrance. Two were sitting behind desks working, while the third one stood aside, seemingly studying some charts that were stuck to the wall.
‘Good morning’, I said shyly, while I stood in the doorway.
The one standing turned. He stared at me. ‘Hell it is!’ he replied, more like whispering to himself.
Candidly speaking, I did not understand the remark. However, from the look on his face I took it for a positive one. I sensed my face and ears heating up.
‘You must be the new lady?’ he asked, while he moved towards me.
‘Yes’, I replied, so softly that I could hardly hear my own voice.
‘I’m Allen, Allen Richardson; you can call me Al’, he said, and stretched his hand.
‘Liana’, I replied, and we shook hands.
The other two guys rose now to their feet, and strode towards me.
‘I’m Larry’.
‘Jack, pleasure meeting you’.

Civility and courtesies concluded, Jack pointed towards a desk placed next to his, ‘This is your desk, Liana’.

I smiled, and moved with heavy legs. I sat nonplussed and lost. I felt enormous heat pouring out of my face and ears. I opened my purse, and pulled out a tissue, and wiped up the few drops of perspiration that my bashfulness produced on my forehead, upper and lower lip.

‘Why do you blush, sweetheart?’ Al asked, examining my face, with astonishment. Then turning towards Jack and Larry, he addressed them, ‘I can’t remember the last time I saw a woman blushing. Hey guys, I think I’ll move offices. Hey Jack, how about you going down there and I come up here’.
Jack shot him a blatant look of reproach, ‘Knock it off, Al’, he said, and turned to me, ‘He’s joking Liana, you’ll get used to him’.
My heart pounded further. Two weeks of training seemed all but evaporating.
Suddenly, another foreign face dashed hastily in. He was quite handsome, tall, with a beautifully shaped body, blue eyes and light chestnut hair, and much younger, in his early thirties.
‘Guten Morgan’, he said, more like singing the wishes rather than uttering them.
The three guys replied in English. I did in German. Astonished, all the four faces turned towards me. The German guy, though, seemed pleased.
Ah, sprechen Sie deutsches Fräulein? You speak German Miss?’
‘Ja, aber nicht sehr gut, yes, but not very good’, I replied shyly.
Ich bin Gerhard’, he stretched a hand, introducing himself
‘Liana’, I replied, and we shook hands.
‘Looks and brains! How did it happen?’ Al remarked, and proceeded towards the door. ‘See you later, gorgeous’, he waved. But before disappearing, he turned to Jack, ‘Hey Jack, I’m serious about moving offices’. Jack shook his head, smiling, and gestured disapproval with his hand.
To Be Continued.......