In December of 2008 Brian Hartenstein and family left America for an adventurous life overseas to live and work throughout Asia, raising three daughters with a sense of wonder and awe at the possibility of the world. It is now 2016 and the adventure continues back home in Oregon. This blog remains as a time capsule to that period. Thank you so much to all our friends around the world. Please stay in touch. We miss you all!
Friday, June 7, 2013
Muslim Women Swimming in the Red Sea
We had gotten up early to play basketball at the only health club in southern Jizan. Me and some of the other fellas, Mad Dog Joey Earls and Larry Fred Flintstone and Scoopes. Good fellas who'd been to places around the world you've never heard of. We had one flat ball and a pair of tennis shoes between us, hailed a cab, and headed out before it got too hot to move.
The health club was named after some prince... Sultan? Abdu-Aziz? Thurston Howell? Armed guards paced the front barricade. Males-only. There were gardens and an empty cafe. Mad Dog talked us in, he was the kind of guy that was always talking us into places we shouldn't be.
Inside the gym lobby about twenty young boys lounged atop a sofa, arms and legs and bodies intertwined laying atop each other and petting one another's hair. They didn't seem to mind us entering or asking if we could use the court. A hand pointed languidly down the hall and we left them to each other.
Once outside there were dozens of basketball and tennis courts enclosed in fences and we immediately started tossing Hail Mary's and half-court alley-oops. It just felt so good to run and sweat. We stripped down to our shorts and just shot the heck out of the ball.
Scoopes had played some in college and went to work at the 3 point line, and Mad Dog brought out a headband and pair of goggles that made us all drop to the floor in laughter. I didn't care if any of my shots went in. I just wanted to shoot. I wanted the ball in my hands, running, dribbling, flat as that ball was, I didn't care about anything but play.
When the guard came to kick us out, we knew it was coming. He pointed to his membership card and said in Arabic, "You don't have." We asked him to let us play, Mad Dog screaming that there was no one around... but he said, "No, you go!" ... and then he started in with the kaffirs... mumbling it under his breath... "You kaffirs... you infidels... you go."
We didn't return through the main gate by the guard and gardens. Instead, we took the back path, walking through the servant's quarters which were a row of trailer campers no one could see. Clothes lines and port-o-potties and spare tires burned out as barbecue pits. There we wiggled through a hole in the fence and climbed the ten foot steel gate and shimmed over the top. Across the highway was the beach and we walked right down the sandy bank into the low tide of the Red Sea.
Muslim families were there. Men in wrapped scarves and children splashing, and the black clad Muslim women lifting their abaya hems and wading into the water. It's there we scattered. Mad Dog headed toward a scuba shop and Scoopes went jogging off and Flintstone popped some shades and faced the sun. I punted that ball strait into the sea, watching the high arch droop down and splash. Waves carry. Brown orb floating. He showed a lot of heart. Swimming in after it felt good too.