Opinion: Voice messages from Dubai

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Paige Thomas/The Occidental

One of the saved world clocks on my Clock app is Dubai. They are 11 hours ahead of us in LA. Right now, as I am writing this, it’s 3:29 a.m. there, which means that I have to impatiently wait for another four or so hours before my godsister wakes up for the day and sees the voice message I left for her on Instagram.

I was baptised when I was 4 years old and for the occasion, my parents decided that my godfather should be one of my dad’s childhood best friends, and that’s how my godsister became my godsister.

My godsister and I have known each other since we were very little. I’m nine months older than her, but the two of us have been in the same grades together growing up. Just like me, she is finishing up her first year of college, just on the other side of the world.

She was born and raised in Dubai, and I was born and raised in Tehran, Iran. Despite the distance, she and her family frequently came back to Iran to visit family and friends. I remember the times when she would come to my house and we would play Xbox together, or when I would go to her grandma’s house and the two of us would play monkey-in-the-middle in the backyard with some of her other relatives, cousins and my brother.

Later on, my family and I moved to California in 2015. In the summer of 2018, though, we went back to Iran to visit family, and she and her family came to visit at the same time. The two of us saw each other again after a long time, this time as the older versions of ourselves. We no longer played video games or monkey-in-the-middle but instead sat down and talked together about school and other activities.

But then we both went back home. We mostly forgot about talking to each other, and ever since then, we’ve been about 8,320 miles apart from each other, or roughly 13,380 kilometers since they use the metric system there. We still followed each other on Instagram, but we never actually talked much. That all randomly changed one day, and I can’t remember exactly what sparked our sudden start in talking and close friendship. I only vaguely remember it being the beginning of the start of the 2023-2024 academic year, when we both started our first year of college.

The two of us started texting each other about little things that happened in our day: a funny conversation with a friend, an embarrassing or awkward interaction we had with someone or anything that we found worth talking about. The texts eventually turned into voice messages. I remember the first time when she sent me a voice message, I realized that I had forgotten what her voice sounded like. To me, hearing her voice and sending her a voice message back solidified our friendship. I felt like I had an actual conversation with her, as opposed to incomplete, imprecise sentences sent one by one.

Eventually, we started sending each other so many voice messages that they replaced the music I listened to on the walks to my classes or the MP in the morning for breakfast. I started checking my phone first thing in the morning to see if she had left me any messages while I had been asleep, and I started ending my days by sending her more voice messages. We’ve even started sending each other more pictures and short videos depicting glimpses of our daily lives.

The two of us also tell each other about the problems we are having that we feel uncomfortable telling others. I tell her when I’m feeling down, and she sends me detailed messages back helping me get through the problem. She’s helped me end my days on a good note and gain confidence for the next one. Overall, I feel that I’ve grown much happier and more confident since our friendship matured.

I get so excited when she happens to be out of class and on her phone when I send her something because it means we can have a continuous conversation right then instead of having to wait for hours due to the time difference.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve realized that my godsister has become a very big part of my life, despite the fact that the two of us haven’t seen each other for about six years now. I don’t really even know much about her in person, like what outfits she likes to wear, what her mannerisms are, what type of smile she has or how much she’s changed since the last time I saw her, but I still feel like she’s been right here with me through the best and worst times of my first year of college, and I hope she feels the same about me.

She’s made me realize that you always have someone that can help you through your problems or listen to the most insignificant stories from your day-to-day life and laugh along with you — even if they live thousands of miles away from you.

Contact Francine Ghazarian at ghazarian@oxy.edu

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