Basia Monka
My motto: keeping life interesting and meaningful!

‘Shway, Shway’…  Let’s try to slow down in this fast world

“Shway, Shway” – kept saying the Bedouin woman who was my private guide, I met on top of the mountain in Petra. She appeared suddenly, in the middle of nowhere, while me and some other lost tourists were looking for the way. There was no track. There she was in a long black skirt, a scarf covering her hair. And her dog. Enima, that was her name, she took us the way there was no one else. “Shway, Shway” (slowly, slowly) she was saying, at some point asking us to put away bottles of water and cameras, as we will need our hands to climb. “Shway, Shway” — “Do you see this rock? — she continued — from here last month fell down the French woman.  But you — don’t worry. You are not French.” She seemed very nice, but for some reason, I told her I am from Poland, not Israel…  No sure why. “Shway, Shway.”

In the last part of the trial, she insisted on being paid and not taking us all the way down, as promised. But because she told me earlier not to publish a photo of her in the Internet, ‘because of the family’, I understood she would get in trouble, seen by the Bedouin men, that she worked.  It was their men business to guide tourists. So we said goodbye to Enima and continued down the red rock ourselves.

Red rock. Red Petra. One of the most incredible sites in world. Amazing views worth that hike. But most of you have seen pictures from Petra. But what I will really keep from it, will be those Arab words “slowly, slowly” repeatedly said by my female guide.

* * *

In Hebrew it’s “le’at, le’at”…

One morning, in Tel Aviv – Jaffa I participated in a workshop of the Hebrew calligraphy. It was interesting and not easy. After one page of practicing one letter, I wrote my name, which made me very happy, but the teacher stopped me, saying:
“- you cannot start from difficult things [I always do…],
– calligraphy it is observing and patience [observing with pleasure, but patience…],
– breath before each line,
– don’t change direction,
– don’t improvise,
– make your letters al dente, not soft spaghetti… [Who does soft spaghetti??] “

I felt like in my first grade when I had to write nicely and I didn’t.
I will not come back to the workshop. My letters will be not perfect. But it was an important experience. The process, the way.

* * *

On the way from Petra to Aqaba I was digging “shway, shway” and other Arab words I picked up during the day. Yusuf, our driver knew I am from Israel. He was eager to learn about, so close and so far to him, The Israeli Land.  In the back of the car my friends were sleeping, and we were having a Hebrew – Arab ‘language exchange’.  The orange line of sunset was slowly disappearing, a dark night was surrounding the empty road and Yusuf was telling me his life stories, almost like fairy tales.  As a young man he didn’t want to marry a girl chosen by his parents. In order to avoid it, he found an opportunity to study medicine in Cuba. There he secretly married a Mexican daughter of an important communist (that’s what he said). She was beautiful. He never met after anyone as beautiful as her. But the marriage didn’t last long. His father never found out about it. Yusuf came back to Jordan, got married to another found by parents girl. They have five children; each of them went a different path.  One of his daughters decided to be more religious and to cover her face, as neither his wife nor his mother did.

Yusuf, who is around 60 years old, has put away the dream of being a doctor, but he said he enjoyed his life. He was telling with lots of passion about the olive oil he was buying in the north of his country, and about the olive trees that need rain and time to grow. Again, they need time, “shway, shway”…

* * *

Was my Bedouin friend Enima, or maybe rather Enigma, hiding some secrets of deeper understanding of life?  Was Yusuf really married to the passionate Mexican woman or that was his fantasy that helped him drive through life? The Hebrew calligraphy teacher in Jaffa who was looking for perfection, but demanded patience in order to achieve it. In the fast world we live in, I heard all of them calling to slow down.

Thinking of it just weeks before Rosh HaShana, with New Year’s resolutions…  While climbing a mountain is worth to stop and look around.

About the Author
Basia Monka is a multilingual journalist with many years of experience in TV and leading respected international publications, specializing in both culture and politics. By education, a psychologist. Besides, she is a coordinator of international high profile events, Jewish educator and consecutive interpreter. In Poland, she worked also in the film industry, as an assistant director and interpreter on the set. Always passionate about culture and travel.
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