News of hurricane Sandy hitting New York just days after my escape was heartbreaking. Seeing the damage and wishing I was there to help, to experience my home in such a state that I could barely wrap my mind around. It’s strange. But I’m here in Yemen, another home that I’ve been yearning to see for two years now.
As far as power shortages, low water supply-that’s a constant reality of life here in Yemen. Some days water is only running for a few hours, so we resort to our backups: buckets filled with water. Showering is quite the task and makes me feel incredibly spoiled for not initally knowing how to take a full shower with just one small bucket of water. Sometimes the power goes out for hours on end, either due to people destroying wires or just pure lack of technology to keep it on.
The last time I was here two years ago, the lack of resources such as water and electricity was bad, but it wasn’t as bad as this. It’s never been bad as this, and I know it’s only getting worse. As far as political issues, it’s of course, not as bad as the news portrays it to be here in the South (most of the trouble is North, near the capital of Sana’a). Sometimes I think the government tries to scare Yemeni people into thinking things are becoming stricter, tighter, with things such as road checkpoints every few kilometers. In reality, the guards are just chewing qat and resting lazily while their AK’s hang loosely around their backs. I photograph them with no problem, sometimes they even pose for me. The citizens just live as if the checkpoint is a bump on the road, with their children standing on truck beds while they drive in the middle of the lanes and chew qat as well.
If you ever want to experience a land without law, order or modern technology, come to Yemen. I feel as though my photographs can’t even capture how insane this place is, how different it is from the modern world I’ve lived in. Sometimes I have to pinch myself and say, “Am I really here? Is this place even real? Are my roots seriously based HERE of all god damn places?!” But then I remember how lucky I am to have a family here to keep me safe, to be my fixers, it’s a journalists dream.
I’m happy, my family is happy, throughout all the political bullshit and lack of water/power, people here are happy. They’re giving, they’re kind, peaceful, hospitable. The only thing that they are not is forward-thinking (the majority, at least). Their means of logic is based in old Islamic medieval times. Women’s rights, LGBT rights, things of the such. Those things don’t apply here. Sometimes it makes me crazy to argue, to teach them, but sometimes it’s not even worth it. I have MALE (!) cousins of mine nagging at me to wear a niqab (the face cover) if I have so much as mascara on my face, even if I’m already draped in black from my hair to my toes (in the abaya and hijab). That bothers me to no end, and in regards to that matter, I defend myself and the women around me until they just learn to let go.
Aden was once free, open-minded, progressive-all less than 30 years ago. Looking back on its rich history, I feel so confused as to how much a society can regress in such a short amount of time. These photographs and words are just the tip of the iceberg in regards to what I’m working on during my few weeks here in Yemen. Let’s say, a quick introduction. Can’t wait to share more, real soon.