“An Important Notebook” story transcript
Matthew Zeig: Ok, thank you, Reem, for helping out with our digital story project that we have for our class. So, well, just kind of start off with the questions that we talked about and just go through the responses. So, the first one is: Describe, [uh], you brought an object with you, so please describe the object and what does this object mean to you.
Reem Aabed: Ok. So, I was thinking about this, like, I really wanted to do an object but I had to like really sit back and think, like, what object do I wanna share and I actually grabbed this object [points to notebook on the table] this morning, ’cause I was leaving [and saw] my desk in my room; I noticed it, and I was, like, oh, its right there. I always have it with me and so, I was like, this is the object. Because through all my life I reflect on that a lot, ’cause I reflect on my dad’s journey.
[Uhm] So, this is actually a notebook that he used when he first came to the United States [chuckle], and he writes his English words that he doesn’t know and then he writes it in Arabic. So, when he translates it… so, he’ll like… When there is a new word in his classes, or when he is doing his master’s program, or when he’s doing his PhD program, if there was a word he didn’t know, he would write the English word down, go Google it, translate it, [find it in the] dictionary, until he finds the Arabic translation so he can figure out what does this word mean [sic!]. So [chuckles, uh], since then, when I first, when he first gave it to me, I think it’s the next question, but I’ll let you ask that, but that’s what the object is – it’s a little notebook that he’s had since he started his master’s program in 1998.
MZ: Ok, ok. So, how did you, how did you get the notebook?
RA: So, I got this notebook when I was in 9th grade, in high school – so that’s 2009 [laughs]. So, I came home having a really bad day in English class, and I was complaining to my dad, and I was crying, and I’m just, like, I don’t know, I just don’t understand this language, like, I’m trying my best in this class, and, like, all these words and the grammar and sentences that I’m trying to form. I’m doing my best, but I wasn’t doing well in the class and I was still probably a C or B range, but that wasn’t me, so I was very, very, very upset at the time. And he was like, “Hold on, Reem, one second,” and he goes and he gives me this little memo pad and I’m just like, “what is he [laughs], what is he trying to show me right now”? And he’s like, “I didn’t like that language either at first [laughs loudly].” He’s like, “It was hard for me, too.” He’s like, “But look, this is what you do, you gotta practice, and you gotta be determined, and you will get this, and it’s gonna take some time, it’s not gonna come easy to you, ’cause you do have another language that you do know, and you are trying your best.”
So in that moment, like, I really realized that my dad was being very vulnerable with me at this time, telling me, like, you know, this whole time I’m seeing him like, “Oh wow, my dad, like, came here to America for a whole new start and he, like, did his master’s, did his PhD, and I always told myself, like, I’m gonna be the next doctor Aabed but 2.0, but he’ll always be the better version.” So, but when he, like, shared that with me, like, I kept it since. So, anytime I have a hard time I reflect on his journey and the English language.
MZ: Ok. What role has it played in your life?
RA: Yeah, so it’s just constantly something that I reflect on. So, like, just taking a look at it when I’m having trouble within [a] work position or in a class. So, when I decide to do my master’s program, it came again where I came back from. Specifically, maybe it was a law and higher education course and I was, like, “I don’t understand it.” There’s, like it’s American history, and I have all this thing [sic!] that I have to know that I’m very unaware of, and he, like, sat down with me again so… In that piece, it just constantly brings me back to my dad, where me and him have a conversation about something, you know, that I’m being challenged with, and he gives and he inspires me constantly. So, the fact is he did it, so I can do it. And I have his support and when I do, am struggling, you know, I come back and reflect on how much he’s come through and what has he done [sic!].
So, I think in multiple times in my life, like, a small object that represents so much, so much of a journey, so much of a story. And I think about him a lot and how much he’s done for our family, that I’m like, “Ok, I can do this, reel it back in, Reem, what are your goals? Where do you wanna be and how can I get there?” Through his support, and so… yeah.
MZ: Ok. You said you got this in 9th grade, so how did the importance change over time from maybe 9h grade to see where you are now?
RA: Yeah, I mean I think [in] 9th grade I didn’t think that I would actually end up enjoying English [laughs]. So, I did my undergrad in Children’s Literature, so something in the English Language department. So that was something that I, it… just the fact that is, like, such a hard time where the language that I had to learn for everything, that [what] I was doing in classes became such a big part of my life, so, you know, being able to do a thesis in my undergrad, and learning storytelling, and kind of working towards that, but then also going back to higher education and thinking that I am doing a master’s, and still being on that front, that I do wanna do a PhD. So, even it’s just the idea of something maybe so small [that] has so much memories [sic!] and so much, like, you know, it gives me that push to kind of keep reflecting on that journey.
MZ: All right and then [the] last thing, I know you talked about, [uhm] you know, really in terms of experiences or people – your dad’s main focus with this notebook – but do you have any other reflections or anyone else or any other experiences that you have?
RA: Yeah, [uhm] so it’s just interesting because I think right now, like, since I graduated with my master’s… So, my dad did his master’s in Educational Leadership and his PhD in K-12, where I’m kind of higher education, so we were able to have even much more [sic!] conversations relying about [sic!], like, K-12 school and higher educations and so it’s like, I’m constantly having these conversations with my dad. Where [it’s] something that I don’t know if it would have happened if I didn’t go the route I did, so I think I even… with this object, [it] makes me reflect specifically on the English language a lot.
It also helps me think about, you know, “where would’ve I been if my dad decided not to come to America all those years ago?” If we decide to come back or if we actually, you know, if he was gonna bring us over in two years after it. So, he came to the United States in 1998, finished his master’s program in 10 months and then he came back to Palestine, then we came back again in 2000. He brought our whole family over, so just thinking of the idea of, like, possibly, like, what if my dad decided never to come? He actually was an English teacher in Palestine and that’s kind of where he started the love for the language. He actually stumbled upon a translator who was a journalist but he needed a translator of the Arabic language, so one of my dad’s, like, faculty professors, like an admin person, was like, “Hey, you should definitely come to Adnan.” He’s really good, he understand English pretty well, so that translator journalist became, like, a really big part of our family. And so from there he told my dad, like, “Hey you should definitely come to the United States and go study.” So, my dad considered it and just that simple conversation that started off with language – that it’s just a huge ripple effect for so many things. So, the idea of you know my dad meeting a journalist and he just taught him to translate from English to Arabic, Arabic to English, and how he’s here and we’re where we came from, I guess, so yeah.
MZ: Cool, well thank you very much, Reem, for sharing your object and your story for our class project, [it’s] very much appreciated.
RA: Thanks for inviting me and having this conversation with me.