2014 has come and gone. I am sitting in my room listening to children play some game as they shout at each other in Egyptian and Syrian dialects. OMG I have succumb to all that is ex-pat living. This quiet, humdrum passage of time has become the new normal.
Store clerks in malls call me “madam” out of respect, systems for getting things done are altogether different from what I had in the States. But this is home… It’s been over a year and yes, I live (not study, not just work) abroad. This reality was solidified as I went through the course of 2014.
For me, last year was one of those quiet, unassuming years, that brought with it much promise but ended as quietly as it began. And now, I sit reflecting on all that I learned through it… and what I should hope for/look towards in 2015.
I can’t recall the extent to which I documented things (probably not very well at all) but I traveled quite a bit in 2014, much of it to places I had never been or had any previous connection to: Italy, Cyprus, China (the Mid-west and Western US). So I was thrust, for the first time in a long time, back into the role of foreigner, of tourist.
When you live in the Arabian Gulf, foreigner, I think doesn’t really stick as a title. Everyone is foreign (the vast majority) and so we all fit even though we seem like this strange menagerie of colors, tastes and sounds. Food from the Phillipines, the Indian subcontinent, south east Asia and Ethiopia are all within my fingertips (not to mention the Arab World). My neighborhood is a noisy, bustling barrio dominated by Arabs and South Asians with sprinklings of Africans (mostly East siders) and East Asians: I hate it and love it all at once.
Being here has made me realize the extent to which I have internalized a sort of Arab cultural mindset, in the way I dress, interact with others and even see the world in a lot of ways (this was a scary realization)…. it’s Egypt that did me in, I think. And it’s easier in many ways to weave in and out of communities as this “new” me. In some ways though, I feel like I’ve confined myself to a system that is not my own, that I didn’t ascribe to previously and that I have subconsciously taken on even though I don’t have to.
Yes, 2014 made me realize all of this stuff. I guess the post title is a misnomer, because all is not yet elucidated. But, Gazelle, as ever is thinking about next steps.
living here as a single, introverted ex-pat is great. But I would want to have a family life back home or at least somewhere that is not here…. ha ha… and as the fireworks that came with my 30th birthday celebrations (in Cyprus!) should have made clear…. time is ticking….
For lack of a better term, living here has got to be the ultimate “cockblocker”…
I’m just not into any of it (the halal kind or otherwise). People tend to fall into certain categories: the ones who come here already married, the ones who meet the person they will marry here but quickly within the first year or so, and the ones who don’t quite make a go at it. I fall into the last category…haha (there are also different classificaitons of ex-pat men that I have deduced, but that is for another post)… but I’m not mad.
Going abroad, it seems always makes me realize how American I am, how proud I am to be American, and how much I love home. It’s in no ways perfect, but it’s where I grew up and where I have the strongest ties. It’s where my roots are grounded and where my heart is.
2014 Marked the 10th straight year in which I traveled outside the US for month or more:
2004- studied abroad in Morocco and Spain
2005- studied abroad in Morocco
2006- Research in Spain and short trip to Morocco
2007- Yemen, and where I started this blog
2008- 5 months in the UK
2009- I rounded out the 4th quarter of the Year in Qatar
2010- Still in Qatar
2011- Rounded out the year in Egypt and the holidays in the UK
2012- Still in Egypt and returned to MOrocco for the summer
2013- Moved to the Gulf
2014- Living in the Gulf with short stints in Cyprus, Italy and China
It’s a lot of experiences that I have tried to pack and unpack (some on this blog some not). It’s pretty anticlimactic, but 10 years and 35 pounds later… I’ve realized that I’m a down-home, All American girl. It’s been wonderful learning about all these beautiful places and people. It’s been rough dealing with harassment, racism, prejudice (both from within and without) but it’s been worth it.
It’s not like I know all there is know about anything, really. But I guess that is what I’ve learned the most: there always something new to know, some new place to experience. All in all, Alhamdullilah for 2014 and Alhamdullilah for 2015, 16, 17…. you get the picture.