I wanted to name Zayinson, Anonymous A, because it sounds more like a superhero than an ordinary woman, but for the sake of consistency I’ll refer to her as ‘Zayinson’.
In case you were wondering, her parents didn’t actually choose to name her ‘Zayinson’, though I do concede ‘Zayinson’ is a fabulous name. She, however, has chosen to use a pseudonym given she’s currently studying and living in Palestine and wishes to maintain a level of anonymity.
Zayinson and I met one fateful Saturday night at a Fear of a Brown Planet gig and we haven’t looked back since.
Unbeknownst to us both, we had a slight admiration for one another even before we officially met.
I’d heard about Zayinson, through my brother as she had recently married one of his friends. I was particularly intrigued by her motivation to distribute ‘Thank you’ cards post wedding ceremony. I had concluded it was great tomfoolery, complete bravery, or unequivocal ignorance that had resulted in such a thoughtful gesture of thanks – one Arabs tend not to engage in. We’re usually more preoccupied with critiquing your choice of mezza, the bride’s decision to wear ivory instead of white or the audacity of the couple to indicate that they preferred ‘no gifts or flowers’. Giving thanks on a cream embossed card is not high on our list of priorities. Laughing at you for choosing to do so on the other hand, most definitely is.
As my heart bled for the non-Arab Zayinson, on the other side of town, she was engaged in some serious cyber stalking.
The coincidence of running into Zayinson and her husband was a welcome one. Zayinson says ‘I had stalked you obsessively online and when Husband knew your brother at the comedy thing, I forced him to awkwardly introduce me to you, because I’m a fan.’ If only she’d known, I too was a fan.
So anyway we met and ‘it was on, like Donkey Kong’. I don’t know what that saying means so maybe it wasn’t on like any kind of fictional gaming character but whatevs man, we’re friends who meet up for coffee and I know it’ll be a long lasting friendship because she comes to every coffee date with the bio of her latest unsuspecting bachelor target, ready to see us married off before the month is out.
More seriously, Zayinson is incredibly kind and witty, with a knack for making the most ordinary experiences extraordinarily awkward, resulting in minor eruptions of [nervous] laughter.
She’s also somebody, who though I’ve only known her a short time, just over a year to be precise, I know I can be unreservedly honest with.
If you love Zayinson as much as I do, and I know you will, you can check out her blog awestbankstory.wordpress.com which details day to day encounters in Palestine – it’s informative, moving and in true Zayinson style, hilarious!
M: So you recently packed up your life in Australia and moved indefinitely to Palestine. Tell me, what inspires a decision like that?
Z: I wanted to learn Arabic to be a spy able to work in Arab countries. My friend pointed me to an Arabic language program at Birzeit University and I decided it looked good and decided to go for it. By coincidence, I later procured a Palestinian husband, who kindly agreed to come too. That definitely made life easier. I’m also very interested in questions about justice and human rights, and Palestine in certainly the place to come if you want to be smacked in the face with constant lived questions about both those frameworks.
M: I can’t think of a single witty comment that doesn’t rely on people knowing you to understand. So instead tell me, what’s a day in the life of Zayinson like at the moment?
Z: It begins with me clicking snooze 600 times and then leaping out of bed and getting ready in about five minutes to get to university on time. Then I go to class with an amazing portly little lecturer who yells at my class constantly but, I think, regards us with a touch of fondness. Then I spend my afternoons volunteering- one day a week teaching English in a refugee camp, and the rest of the week with a great NGO called the Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture. Then I generally go hang out with some relatives of my husband and infuriate them all by being laughably bad at a card game that we play. Then I collapse into bed and spend the next two hours wildly flailing my arms in the darkness unsuccessfully trying to kill mosquitoes.
M: Has your Arabic improved?
Z: It’s hard to tell. I haven’t asked a bus driver if he’s going to ‘the tomato’ for a while (yes, that actually happened), which I suppose is an improvement. However my studies have increasingly convinced me that Arabic is a horrific language and studying it is a descent into madness. Unfortunately, I’m too far gone now for any hope of recovery, but it’s not too late for you, dear reader. Save yourself while you still can. Stick to French.
M: Or learning all three Japanese alphabets. I studied Japanese for two years and could actually write a sentence by the end of it. I’ve studied Arabic for over 20 years (on and off) and honestly I’m lucky I can spell my name.
I bet Muslims are always really fascinated by your conversion story. I’m not going to make you tell it, but I do want to know how many times you’ve been asked to recall it?
Z: The minimum is about once a day but usually about three to five times a day. I have basically got a memorized spiel which I repeat. I didn’t realize I did that until a friend said it back to me and it was word for word what I say every time. I should put it on a business card and hand it out when people ask, to save time. I used to get super annoyed by people always asking, but the other day I was hanging out with a Buddhist convert and I was all like, “wow, that’s so different, why did you convert, how did your parents react etc etc,” and then I realized I was a wanker for getting annoyed at other people for doing the exact same thing to me. I do still think you should try to not make that the first question, or first conversation you have with a person, though.
M: Just put it in your ‘about me’ section on Facebook. What’s on the cards for you career-wise over the next few years?
Z: I have absolutely no idea. I like human rights a lot and hope it’s something down that track. My husband is just hoping it’s not yet another internship. Also, I want to shlep back to university pretty soon to continue working diligently towards amassing a massive HECS debt.
M: If you die before you earn any real money, you’ll never have to pay it back. Decent arrangement if you ask me. Now for the trivial questions. What’s your favourite word and why?
Z: I’m not sure I have one.
M: I really love it when you say ‘chump’. Just saying. Who inspires you?
Z: I am inspired by masses of people. Occasionally I am inspired by my family’s dog. I’m not a hard person to inspire.
Most of all though, the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) inspires me because of his gentleness and kindness, his wisdom and his commitment to social justice, among a million other reasons.
M: What do you do to help regain focus when you feel overwhelmed?
Z: My immediate thought was, “go on facebook?” which probably explains why I have never regained focus in my life.
M: That’s kind of depressing. If you could have any super power what would it be?
Z: The power to fly. Because I cannot over exaggerate how much of a wuss I am on planes. I watched a few episodes of air crash investigation, and that was it. You’ll find me on the smoothest flight clutching my armrests (as though they could save me), praying fervently undering my breath and wildly asking, “did you hear that?! What was that?!!!” at every imagined noise. Last time I flew, to try to distract myself I started watching Madagascar 2. The first scene is a plane crash. Madagascar 2 is a cartoon for small children about furry animals who can speak and fly planes. I started crying.
Also because Israel is super annoying in its love of regulating and disrupting and obstructing EVERY aspect of life here in this corner of the world, and so travel to anywhere is a major bore. To get to Gaza you have to cross continents. So flying would be great. I’d like to see them try and maintain flying checkpoints.
M: Finally, can we follow you on Twitter?
Z: No, I’m very exclusive on twitter. I’m kind of a big deal (but not really).
Sure you can, @zayinson is the name.