This is Rabee’ Abujudeh (and Hattar), aka Robbie Moore, who apparently is a travel vlogger, sort of like how I am a travel blogger (he has a YouTube channel, and is an actor who now lives in OC). That makes it even more funny that we happened to meet at DFW boarding the same 777 to Bogota, Colombia.
Thankfully, a crew member was a few minutes late for flight 1123 on 12 March 2022, which meant a crowd of us stood at the gate, waiting. Meanwhile, the gate agent asked many of us for document checks. No seats remained in the waiting area, so I had been sitting on the floor. At that point my back didn’t care where we sat, so long as my body and back–now two separate pieces–were sitting. When the GA announced he was asking for passport swipes, I stood, certain I would need another. Never have I traveled internationally and only needed one swipe, but this was the day. Shout out to little Lawton, OK (LAW) and American Eagle because they swiped me all in with Verifly and I was done. But while I was standing there, a Colombian man spoke to me in Spanish. Of course my Spanish is muy poquito. So poquito is it I mixed my Spanish adn my French when I answered him (oopsie!) He was kind, But we stood there when Rabee’ came over. He talked to the man, asking him something I forget now, but in English. Then he asked the man if he was Middle Eastern. He asked the man if we were traveling together. I said no, we were just standing nearby. Then I asked him if he was because why else would be be asking. Indeed, he was.
“Where are you from?” I asked.
“Oh wow, I was born in Palestine.”
We made a couple comments about our close homelands.
“What area of Jordan?” I asked.
Okay, that may mean nothing to you, but it is everything to me.
First of all, Fuheis is not big at all. It has around 20K residents, but is mostly (95%) Christian. Obviously both Palestine and Jordan are Muslim-dominate regions. (As a reminder for those new to reading things from me and new to understanding this culture, virtually everything in this part of the world is classified by religion. While we in the United States would declare “freedom from religion,” religion is interwoven into culture in the Middle East, and Christianity is not common anymore in my homeland. It used to be two percent, but has dwindled down to about one percent.)
Fuheis. His perfect pronunciation did not disguise the memories that came back to me from four years ago when I first heard the name Fuheis, when I found out my birth father fled to Fuheis after raping my mother. When I found out that many, many of my birth relatives still live in Fuheis to this day.
I also remembered two years ago to an Oklahoma City restaurant Nabati, which I highly recommend, that makes the very best Jordanian/Palestinian food and asked the amazing cook where they were from. Jordan, she told me. I asked what region, and she said, “Fuheis.” Really? I asked her name and we looked up my DNA chart, where I matched the last name and held up the screen to her of people I am related to with her last name. “Do you know any of these people,” I asked her, pointing to all the people in Fuheis with the same last name. Her mouth dropped open as she pointed to her cousins and aunts.
“You’ve heard of Fuheis?” He sounded a bit incredulous. One does not just randomly hear of Fuheis the way one hears of Amman or Petra.
But wait, this encounter in the airport gets weirder. Rabee’ had mentioned he was from Beit Sahour, and I knew that area from my childhood. I told him about my best childhood friend who I am still close to, Najwa, and how I was drawing a blank right that second on her neighborhood–maybe it was that. I told him my birth family was from Aboud, as well as Taybeh. And then I said when I was a girl I studied at Rosary Sisters there in Jerusalem before moving to the States.
“You studied at Rosary Sisters!” he mostly exclaimed.
“As a child, but yes.”
“I studied for a year at the seminary at Beit Jala,” he told me.
“WAIT! Do you know Abuna Hanna Salem?” (Abuna Hanna is the Priest at Beit Jala).I was about to fall over on my Diet Coke.
“I studied with him. I figured out it wasn’t right for me, but yes, he was the one I studied with.”
“He’s my second cousin. My mom was his aunt.” I pulled down my mask so he could see since we basically look alike.
Right there, thanks to a delayed crew member, which only caused our flight to arrive 9 minutes late in the end, I met Rabee’ Abujudeh, aka Robbie Moore. We’re probably cousins because in that region basically we all are. No, seriously. We actually tried to explain this to the sweet Colombian man between us.
“Will you take a selfie with me?” Rabee’ asked.
I told you. We’re cousins.
And only I would have this happen.
But also, this is why we travel. Because even before we leave the gate things happen that can never happen behind a computer screen. Never.
If you want to check out my new friend, probably cousin’s, work, and need a place to start, try his video on Jordan. You can watch it here. (Side note: He did not ask me to do this.)
Rabee’ had been to the new Capital One lounge, while I had been lounge hopping the Admirals Clubs in Terminals D and A. And in true Palestinian and Jordanian form, he pulled out two of the to-go type items the new lounge at DFW offers, and gave them to me.
By the way, this all happened on 12 March, Naomi Shihab Nye’s birthday–who also, incidentally, loved the food from Nabati when she came to deliver a lecture at our school and I brought her food from there–a reminder of my favorite poem of hers, “Red Brocade,” and I leave you with that as I close this story:
The Arabs used to say,
When a stranger appears at your door,
feed him for three days
before asking who he is,
where he’s come from,
where he’s headed.
That way, he’ll have strength
enough to answer.
Or, by then you’ll be
such good friends
you don’t care.
Let’s go back to that.
Rice? Pine nuts?
Here, take the red brocade pillow.
My child will serve water
to your horse.
No, I was not busy when you came!
I was not preparing to be busy.
That’s the armor everyone put on
to pretend they had a purpose
in the world.
I refuse to be claimed.
Your plate is waiting.
We will snip fresh mint
into your tea.