• Abdulrahman Alkhamees

The Paperclip


What is The Paperclip?

It's a space for sharing stories, experiences, and cultures with those who share similar views on life.

A case in point is the picture above.

Definition of Paper clip

noun

a small piece of bent wire or plastic used for holding pieces of paper together


a circle with a paperclip icon inside of it

What is the meaning behind "The Paperclip | Hold Together"?

When I knew I wanted to start this project, I immediately thought of the humble paper clip. I recall reading something about the paper clip as a sign of resistance against Nazism and antisemitism, which intrigued me.

The tiny device was invented in Norway to hold paper together. However, it ended up becoming a sign of unity and resistance. Uniting communities and nations, binding them together to see past the noise and recognize the importance of holding together.

The paper clip is a reminder for me to keep things together. Its shape is a reflection of how people live their lives. Which can be from the outside going in, such as getting in touch with the outside world to understand yourself; or getting in touch with what's inside, within yourself, to understand the world around you.

What is it about?

The idea behind the paperclip started as a persistent thought "I need to share these moments with my friends and family." Over the last few months I had left in Portland, I started to look for a medium to share some of my stories and experiences, and shine a light on my friends and community that helped me grow and become who I am today.

Starting a blog is an ancient practice in internet years, but still less intrusive and much more accessible than carrying a camera + gear with me to document my journeys.

All I have on me is my phone and the curiosity to know what's around the corner.

I felt compelled to start this project for many reasons, some I will get into further below. But to put it simply, it comes down to representation and storytelling.

Who am I trying to represent?

Myself, and my people.

Sadly, there are a lot of negative connotations to the words Muslim, Arab, or Kuwaiti. I can almost guarantee you that many people unfamiliar with my people and my culture wouldn't associate these words with anything like "cyclist, adventurer, traveler, a cosmopolitan human being."

We are not seen, not even by our own sometimes. So I'm obligated to bring some change to this matter, not necessarily for myself but for those who will come after.

After all, I'm trying to plant trees in whose shade I'll never sit under.

I started by writing down some topics I wanted to share with folks on the interwebs. I see great value in topics such as the importance of communities, lessons from failures, and the most enjoyable topic to me, cycling.

I specifically chose to write more about cycling than anything else. If you know me personally or have been a reader (in that case, thank you!), you probably know that cycling shaped my life and changed it for the better.

Tenfold, easily.

Cycling gave me more than a healthy lifestyle. It taught me lessons I wouldn't have learned otherwise. Cycling Taught me to plan, prepare, and persist.

I learned that if I want to go far, I have to pace myself; it is more of a mental game than a physical one. I learned that if I wanted to reach the summit, I had to grind and put in the work to get myself up there. Finally, I learned how to appreciate every second of the day and every moment I spent with people who enriched me simply by being around.

I could spend an hour listing all the things I learned from cycling, the community, and the folks who influenced me to constantly better myself.

In some sense, I found my niche and a sense of belonging.

Why tell stories?

I remember how much I loved hearing travel stories from my direct and extended family, especially when they got pictures and videos to share. Some of those stories are about my grandfather's excursions across the world or when some of my cousins crossed the western Sahara. Or even about their weekend trips to the Arabian desert.

Gathering around the fire on a cold winter night in the desert and listening to those stories with a cup of spiced warm Karak (a close cousin to Golden Milk) are some of my fondest memories. They most certainly shaped the way I saw the world without leaving Kuwait.

During my time in the PNW, I loved asking people about their "St. Helens story." Those who lived through that time anyway. I got lots of unique stories from people who probably have never met each other about the same historical event.

One of my favorite St. Helens stories comes from a camper that let me crash his campsite on top of Deer Park, Washington, a campsite sitting on a northern peak of the Olympic National Park. I can't recall his name, but he was in his mid-70s and had been on the road for the last 18 years at that point.

On May 18, 1980, he drove west to Hood River, OR, from Boise, ID, with two of his friends. They were aware that St. Helens was growling and rumbling. It was an event the whole nation tuned in to listen to. The volcano erupted that day at 8:32 am while driving down I84. Just before they got to The Dallas, the day had already turned to night, and they were forced to stop in town and figure things out. "I made a mistake using my windshield wipers. The ash turned to mud, and I couldn't see well. By the morning, there were about 2 inches of ash covering my car, if not more" His story took place roughly 70 miles (112km) east of the volcano.

In contrast, I recall a story from a local Portlandian who was just 8 years old at the time of the eruption. Paul and his parents were in the west hills, a tall ridge with lots of vistas, with many others trying to get a glimpse of St. Helens. Paul mentioned the loud bang from the volcano just 55 miles (88km) northeast of the city. As a matter of fact, the eruption was so intense that it was heard almost 200 miles (320km) away.

St. Helens
St. Helens

The more stories I listened to, the more I wanted to set out on my journeys. I felt influenced enough to stay out of my comfort zone as much as possible. In fact, I embarked on my long journey to the United States, where I pursued higher education. To be honest, getting both my BA & MA in Applied Linguistics was a great outcome, but it certainly wasn't the highlight of those years.

Throughout my years in the US, I consciously chose not to take any of it for granted and to live every second of it and immerse myself in the present.

I learned to live.

Those years have been fundamental in solidifying who I am, and I couldn't be happier with how things took course. All of it, the great, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

So The Paperclip is simply me trying to recreate those moments I lived as a kid. Sharing moments of my life with you, lessons I learned traveling around, and writing about my bike rides around the world. As I mentioned above, those days fundamentally impacted me as a kid. They gave me hope, made me curious, and broadened my horizons. And if I can influence someone else to set foot and explore what lies around the corner, then my job is done. Especially people from my region, the Arabic World.

I don't believe in originality, nor do I think that anything I am doing is original. I believe that I am part of the mosaic we call culture, and I seek to recognize that every day.

The Paperclip is about people, places, and the juxtaposition of the two with the nature around them.

Do you have a story you want to share?

If you resonate with anything you read on this post or The Paperclip in general and have a story you want to share, please get in touch! I'd love to hear from you.