For quite some time she was just a name to me and a couple of photographs. A Surinamese once married to a Lebanese living in the Netherlands who came to Tripoli with the UN back in the 1980s and worked as a nurse in the Orange Nassau hospital in Tripoli.
Everyone likes Joyce, Tayta can tell me a bunch of stories also all my aunts uncles and cousins who visited the Dutch side of the family and I finally got the chance to meet her and get to know her. Joyce decided to have a vacation in Tripoli after 32 years despite the terrible recent situation but I guess once a resident of Tripoli, she understands that the news are exaggerated and the conflicts are relatively far from where we live.
When I knew she was coming before and without Rachid & uncle I was quite surprised, then I knew she kept in touch with most of her friends from the old days and she made her own plans. Joyce stayed at a hotel in El Mina, a few steps away from our house and to be honest I admired the woman the very first day she came and the minute we met. I passed by the hotel at 10 because I thought it would be inappropriate to go earlier than that, and to my surprise she wasn’t there! I asked at the reception about the lady who came from Holland the night before they said she left. I was so scared! Where could she possibly be?? What if she got lost?? Do you know where she left? I asked. Are you Ymn? She said you’ll pass by, said the woman who couldn’t relate with the fact that I was wearing a headscarf and asking about Joyce. And?? Well she went to see Antoinette and I gave her directions.
I thanked her and took off. I’m not a fan of Antoinette, an old lady whose house is just across from ours but I had to knock on her door. When she opened the door and before even letting me say hello, she said you want Joyce? I nodded and she led me inside her house. I don’t think Joyce knew how I looked like but she immediately asked me: Ymn? And when I smiled she hugged me so warmly to my surprise. I asked her how she got here, she said the lady at the hotel gave me wrong directions but I asked a nice woman passing by when I thought I was lost and she showed me the way. Later that day I was telling mum how courageous Joyce is. If I were in her shoes I would never have had the guts to do what she has done.
Joyce never failed to amaze me. This 66 year old woman could be set as a live example for the linguistic intelligence following Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. Not only she’s capable of speaking English, French, Arabic, Spanish & Dutch but she’s also able of switching from one language to another so easily in no time. She speaks Arabic with Tayta, French with aunt Naamat, Spanish with mum & Dad and English with me and my sisters, and if she happens to get a phone call from her son she would resume in Dutch.
The best thing about her vacation was the sunny weather, she wouldn’t mind spending most of the day on the terrace reading a book. She’s also easygoing and always always finds something positive about any situation. “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” she often told Antoinette and it seems to be her motto. I like that she appreciates little things.
I loved the afternoon visits and how we’d talk about anything, share funny incidents and I told her before she left that I’ll mostly miss those times. I can’t believe it’s been six weeks! Hopefully she’ll be back in two months for Nour’s wedding. She had teary eyes when we said goodbye. This isn’t farewell Joyce, it’s a “Hello, there & See you soon”.