But I have to say, if I'm being really honest with myself, that after 10 years, it felt repetitive. Like even before we even knew that there was an option to move to California. I was already saying, "I think I've given all I can to this city and I think it's giving me all it can. And I'm done here."
Lale Arikoglu: I really love how you just described it 'cause I always think of life, particularly in cities, as being reciprocal. Like you give to the place and, in turn, it gives back to you. You got to the end of your time in Dubai and you felt like it had sort of given you everything it could and vice versa. That feels like quite like a nomadic approach to existing within the world. Would you consider yourself a nomad?
Zeina Hashem Beck: Yeah. Yeah. You know, Edward Said has a very beautiful essay that I'm sure a lot of people are familiar with called, I think, “Reflections on Exile.” And he describes the state of being in exile as nomadic, de-centered, and contrapuntal. Contrapuntal to borrow from music is that you are always aware of several cultures and several places at the same time. So yes, absolutely. Nomadic, de-centered, and contrapuntal. Yeah.
Lale Arikoglu: Spending the pandemic here in New York actually really bonded me with the city. I don't know if you could call it trauma bonding exactly, but I think Spring 2020 made me feel a sense of loyalty to the place that I hadn't before. The way London handled the pandemic was different from here. And I quickly realized that the only pandemic experience I would know is the one here in the U.S. For the first time ever, it felt like there was something in the U.K. that I wasn't a part of. But I was a part of New York. And there was a stoicism and a sense of let's get things done that I hadn't necessarily experienced before. I actually think for a city whose reputation can be incredibly harsh and somewhat unfriendly, New York showed a huge community spirit.
It's a bit cheesy but I always say that it will be time to move somewhere else when I stop looking through the back window of the taxi whenever I go over the Williamsburg or Manhattan Bridge on my way home from Manhattan to Brooklyn. When you're going over those bridges and you turn around in the back seat, you have downtown to your left and the World Trade Center where, incidentally, I work and where this podcast is being recorded right now, and then to your right you have the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, all those icons that I grew up watching on TV and in movies.
It's thrilling to explore living somewhere that you've romanticized about for ages. Here's a dispatch from listener Diane Covington Carter.
Diane Covington Carter: I had studied French since I was 14 and I'd had this dream of living there and becoming really fluent. And I wasn't able to actually have that dream until I was in my 40s. I started traveling every year to France. And then at age 50 I moved there for eight months. I noticed right away the politeness and how in America we are just like, you know, on our way and I'm coming through and... But in France, it's like you walk into a bakery and it's, Bonjour, madame. You know? You take this moment to just be there with the person. And then at the end it's merci or au revoir, bonne soiree. If you're in the Carrefour, which is their big supermarket and you accidentally step into someone's personal space, which is quite a big thing there, it's, Oh, pardon. And I'll never forget how a little boy, about four, ran in front of me on the sidewalk and he was like, "Oh pardon." And I was like oh, how adorable. You know? [laughs]