Against all odds

November 2014

It was a misty and cloudy morning as I stared at the plane’s window. I just landed in Frankfurt, Germany, the first European country my feet had stepped in. Nope, I was not visiting this city, I just had a few-hour transit before I reached my last destination, Paris, France.

Hundreds of people lined up to get off the plane, I was there alone, trying to figure out what to do next since it was my first long-haul flight to the unknown. Yes, it was my first trip, my first journey taking a plane and my first visit to the other country and continent. I had always been afraid to get on the plane, but that day, the excitement outweighed the fear, the joy conquered all the horror.

Frankfurt airport is a huge place, I myself was so much bewildered by its magnificent view, not to mention that it has so many passageways and I was also lost to find the immigration gate. 

I finally saw the queue through the gate and I held my passport with me. As my turn came in, there was one big guy standing in front of me asking a few questions. He interrogated me what I was going to do in Paris and asked me for some additional documents to prove my visit. I handed him a pile of documents I brought with me and he read them thoroughly. 

As my passport stamped, he let me go through the gate and continue my journey to catch a connecting flight, which was less than an hour to go. I was in hurry and looking for the next gate to board. I probably didn’t notice that I had to go to another line and conducted a security check, and there I was. After running through the alleys, I found out that I had to go through the scanner. I was in line with other hundreds of passengers before we caught our flights. 

There was one female officer asking me to take off my jacket, boots and cap. She searched my body as if I had something illegal. I was with one other middle-eastern woman standing next to each other while being scanned by the officers. 

As a moslem traveler, traveling overseas has always been a daunting situation regarding to that islamophobia spread out in the entire world. My appearance can obviously be seen as a moslem because I wear my headscarf or hijab on me. 

After everything was checked, the officer let me go and luckily I could get on the plane 10 minutes before it took off. 

The journey from Frankfurt to Paris took approximately an hour. I was like the only moslem girl on the plane and everyone I saw there was white European people. But the journey went well till I reached Paris around 10 am. 

I was waiting for one of my friends to pick me up. I was still perplexed and couldn’t believe myself to have reached the continent, also to have reached one of the most favorite destinations, Paris. 

My friend took me to the designated place someone has set for me and I got few hours to rest. Again, I told you, I was beyond happy and there was nothing called jet lag at that time. In the evening, my friend enthusiastically took me out to see the most iconic tower in Paris, the magnificent Eiffel tower. I was just stunned and enjoyed the sparkling tower at night and chilled for a few minutes before taking a stroll to the Louvre museum.   

I didn’t use to travel. In my family, we didn’t have that privilege to visit other countries because of the expenses we have to deal with. However, I felt that my life was too tedious that I had to break the rules. And I did. It took me days and months to convince my parents about the journey, and they agreed on the huge leap I would take to travel and also to learn something.

Therefore, my journey to Paris was not only for traveling, but also for studying. I had a 70-day permit to stay and study in a course in Paris. It was like killing two birds with one stone.

In Paris, I went to a TEFL course to get my English teacher certification. I met some amazing new friends from several English-speaking countries. It was definitely a self-rewarding moment that I had always dreamed of.

At school, I was the only moslem girl and they had probably thought that I was different. But hey, I didn’t feel intimidated. I explained everything about islam, including the 5-time prayers I have to do everyday. They let me pray. Sometimes, in the middle of discussion and prayer time was on, I went to a tiny space near the toilet and prayed there. Nothing was wrong, I felt appreciated. Besides, France, or more specifically in Paris, I heard that there were many moslems living there, so I guess being a moslem in Paris is not a big deal.

My 70-day living in Paris has taught me many lessons and it’s a life-changing as well. There, I learned how to accept differences, how to live in diversity and how to appreciate people. Moreover, this journey was the first move I took, against all odds. 

 

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