I had no intention of blogging through the entire VONA workshopping experience (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4a, Day 4b). The fact that I am is a testament to how inspired I am by all the intense writing energy, ideas, and the learning around me. Today was the final day, and it was about presenting our edited selections from our manuscripts during the workshops and we have a collective performance showcase of all the workshops.
Our instructions were to reflect Travel Writing from our workshopping experience. The way we collectively approached this was to list- listing is a favorite thought processing tool for Faith! We began to brainstorm and as a group concluded that the best way to create was to also help others prepare for their trip to VONA.
In listing, drafting, and editing my portion of the piece I wrote down a quote from the poet Colleen McElroy for purposes of inspiration:
“It is how I find my way back, in the dark, to some place that made me take a second look at myself while I thought I was about the business of exploring someone else’s country.”
~ Colleen McElroy
In exploring another place, movement takes us physically away from our comfort zones. I enjoy both the process of transitioning and even packing for the trip. Like McElroy, I followed all the rules as a child. My form of misbehavior was less confrontational and more personal. But even in this I never ventured beyond the boundaries laid out by my parents. Whether it be culture, religion, or the families honor, I played it safe.
Though I was born with an innate desire to travel, like writing, its hard wired into my genetic code. If I don’t travel I fall into a funk and get angsty. My parents on the other hand were home bodies, comfortable with the known and the established routine. But change was going to come, and when it did I broke free and embraced the need to be on the move. Before traveling the world, I moved each year to a new apartment for close to ten years. Like the lines in Sam Cooke’s song ‘A Change is Gonna Come’, writes McElroy, I too was born next to a river, the Indus River, “and just like that river I’ve been running ever since.”
What I have learned from traveling is that history and politics aren’t to far when you are an American Muslim male. My portion of the piece, presented below in its unedited form, are the things an American Muslim male needs to pack in order to travel in a post-9/11 world.
This is a packing list for flying while Muslim and male-
Pack away your Arabic- sensitive ears dont understand your “Insha-Allahs” from “Allahuakbars”;
Stow away your prayer rug and ritual prayer, fearful eyes can’t make sense of faithful hearts;
Store a disposable razor to shave away that travel stubble, fashion has no place in the color coded national security system;
Brace yourself for accusatory stares, trailers trained on healthy doses of “see something, say something”;
Pack your branded clothing because nothing says “I’m an American” like consuming Lacoste polo’s, Ray Ban’s, and Tumi luggage;
A for good measure slap that shit with American flags to be extra patriotic;
Paste on an extra big smile and carry a manufactured cheery disposition, because no one feel comfortable with a mourning brown man stuck in introspection and loss;
Carry that blue passport with pride so you can be an accessory in a line of white bodies, blonde hair, blue eyes, and cherry sun tanned red cheeks.