Saved By the Adhan

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In case anyone was wondering… Iftar was a marked improvement today…

For their sakes, I happy, because I’m not sure what I would have done had I seen the nonsense they put out the last three nights.  As I walked home I was in quite a stir, It’s the principle, that these people get payed a  decent amount of money (or at least we pay a very fair, I might be more inclined to say generous amount) to live with them. Even if the middle man takes his cut and every penny does not reach them,  rotten food is a no-no.

I told my room mate that if it was I who had that salad I would have told my host mom that is was خايبة which in Moroccan Arabic means bad or rotten… and then told her to keep it so she could taste it after iftar if she thought i was making things up.

The thing is, regardless of tonight’s improved offerings, the talking to, still needs to happen, these next three weeks will be unbearable if I have to eat the nonsense that passed for dinner the first week of Ramadaan… sigh.  I have a feeling my host mom sensed that things had reached a boiling point, the bathroom is clean*er (i.e. she wiped the most dastardly dirty surfaces) and Alhamdullilah there is a replacement toilet roll in the bathroom (even I was not expecting that!)….

sigh. The little things. On another note, we are headed for yet another heat wave this week, as I write, I just finished taking a shower and am already sweating… too bad my only bed-time tank top is in the wash… lol

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On Being Worried— curfew

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I have always been a worry wort.   I don’t deny it.  I hate being without structure, being in a place/time where you have to wing it… as it were… That’s precisely where I am right now,

In a country that sometimes feels like everyone is against me and I have to insist and fight for little things, @ a juncture where I have no idea what I am going to do or where I am going to be after a few months and in a political climate that is starting to make me concerned about my feelings/love for “the process.”

that about sums me up right now,

1.  I came back and suited up with my metaphorical armor, and rightfully so, because the people who run the women’s dorm here are among the most , ineffective people you could ever meet. — Except when it comes to getting something that they want….

There’s always something with them, and I am at the point where Gazelle is not playing.  There was a big brooh ha ha about changing things and listening to students and their needs—- they even chose reps from each dorm to meet with the head of housing (guess who was her dorms rep… :-() yup, chosen, not elected) but I realize now that it’s all posturing. I know that dorms in the U.S. well, I mean colleges are like this, but really!

The main concern of most women living here are two things 1. the food, which is awful and sometimes in my opinion is not fit to give to the stray cat that practically lives outside the cafeteria door begging for scraps!  (Wallahi—- I swear it is thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat bad).

and as I have mentioned before, the other is the 10pm nightly curfew, which is complete nonsense and is not installed for our safety, or because this is a Muslim country to —- ( there are  Qatari girls and women in general who are out and about in Doha after 10 along with adolescent children and toddlers. I grit my teeth when I see a  5 year old riding a bike down the Cornishe while I have to get on my “find a cab” hustle as to not be too late!)—-  It feels like the people who run this place…—- no who are in charge of running this place are just too mean and want to make everyone else as miserable as they are.

At the end of last year there was a meeting with the head of Housing for the University.  I asked for two things 1. better food (along with every other woman in attendance and 2. a  midnight curfew for the weekends.

Of course this was attempt number 2 for demand number 2, attempt number one was a petition for women who were not afraid to put their names to a reasonable request….   and was answered with the most inadequate response I have ever seen in my life.  It was an awkwardly crafted, perhaps it was because the Head of Housing never read the thing, and instead, he just forwarded it to the Head of Female Housing who (doesn’t speak English well) and couldn’t be bothered.

At any rate, we were granted a 12 pm on the weekend three nights a week curfew! I was ecstatic…. little did I know the battle was just beginning.  The people who work here have used some really baseless tactics to keep people in by 10 and it’s ridiculous.  I had people emailing me about this when I was home during the break.   When I decided to test the waters and stand up for my rights I was met with the same opposition but was able to expose them:

Worker 1&2: You have to be back by 10

me: (surprised scowl) no we will be back by 12 we have until 12 on the weekends

Worker1: (exasperated look—- I guess she figured she had stomped this desire out of all the girls) but I told you this before the curfews are back at 10

me: (playing a bit on the Sapphire stereotype) Me? who was in America during the long break?  You told me?

Worker 1: Oh but I told A, A you know that I said be back by 10

A: and I never agreed to that (* A had had it out with worker 1 a few weeks back, calling her underhanded and  a liar, to her face)

Me: (with angry, raised voice) I don’t care, I know that I have till midnight and I am going by that

Worker 2: No the midnight curfew was just for January 1

Me: (angrier and voiced still raised) No it wasn’t because I didn’t celebrate the new year outside, and I was at the meeting with the head of housing

Worker 2: (with a look of surprise)  ok well, the rule was one that was going to be discussed it was not one that was decided for sure

Me:  (still angry and voiced raised, but stuttering a little for the right Arabic words) No! that is not tru either! I was at that meeting and I know what I heard, and asked two other Arab girls in attendance to make sure I was absolutely correct.  There was not talk of further discussions!  I know what I heard!

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The conversation goes on like this for a while, the offering nonsense and conflicting  reasons for why the curfew, never was in effect, was only in effect for a little while, still has to be discussed, was discussed and decided that it should be done away with etc.  and my replies as why their reasoning is complete horse manure,

and then worker 1 says, “well it’s not fair to us to have to wait up that late!”

and finally I get the confirmation for something that I knew all along. It’s about them and what they want!  What is the difference between playing computer games in the office or doing your online dating mess there or watching movies there vs. in your dorm—- No offense, but it’s not like you have a life!  (I need to ask someone who to say this in Arabic…lol)…

I was firm and probably a bit scary, and simply said that we had already made plans and were not going to change them, and that we could return before midnight, but most certainly would not be coming back before 10… we argued a bit more about that and they finally said ok, 11 pm but just for tonight and I said whatever! …lol

The funny thing is, we were done by 9:30 but their rudeness and talking to us like we’re stupid made us stay out as long as we could, returning at 10:59!….lol….

I am not being mean, but I am being real, I can’t believe I live in a place where people think me wrong for challenging them when they thwart all the legal and morally correct channels for their own personal comfort and gain….  I respected the 10pm curfew and went about having it changed the right way, but they want to treat us this way!

What’s messed up is that they aren’t even Qataris that are doing this, it’s Egyptians! What a horrible way to represent the culture of this country that has international aspirations.  I have to keep telling myself that the female housing is not Doha the city where there are tons of movies and festivals and presentations and restaurants that cater to the after 10 pm crowd, that cater to Qataris after 10 pm.

Aegh!  I detailed this struggle because it’s become a matter of principle for me and it brings to fore some of the stereotypes and default understandings that I have been taught about Arab societies, developing societies (whatever that means).

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This whole struggle, which is far from over as we are now putting another strategy into effect.  Inshallah this one will be more successful but I doubt they will take it lying down….lol…

Being here has made me realize that everyone takes things lying down here.  It’s the default, and as stated above, even when it’s a clear injustice down to you, it’s a surprise and effrontery to them if you stand up for yourself.

They look at people like me and A who simply speak truth to power and call things as they are, as if we are the ones with problem.

I don’t want to turn this into a treatise on the superiority of democratic societies or America in particular, because stuff like this goes down everyday… just in another form— in the U.S. too.  Bet I don’t think a U.S. school would handle the situation the way this one did,  well at least not any of the institutions for which I have worked or studied in…

And then there is another angle, my passport is blue, so is As.  They have tried to mess with other people but were able to get them to back down, A and I have no problem telling them like it is and insisting on justice.  But the fact is that they don’t really do anything to us. Compare that to the treatment of some of the other women, and it doesn’t take long to see where America fits on the food chain of nationalities— the top! :-/

I know I can get away with more because my passport is blue, but what now? I am trying to fight for everyone knowing that some people really can’t be seen doing so openly, but I also know that I could just flaunt the curfew if push came to shove.

Then there is the issue of trust— there simply is none here, the assumption I feel, is that if given the opportunity to do anything bad or morally base a woman will take it.  Hence, we want a 12 am curfew so that we can fornicate…..lol…. well at least that’s the way it feels, they look at you like what is there to do after 10 pm… and I get it   ( I know the saying ain’t nothing opened after 1 am but legs) but the idea of wanting the right, versus always using that right is lost on the workers here.   case in point, we were done before 10, and had we had the 12 curfew would still have come home early, but they don’t get that.  maybe I should write in caps and send them letter saying JUST BECAUSE I WANT THE RIGHT TO RETURN BY 12, THAT DOES NOT MEAN THAT I WILL ACTUALLY USE THAT RIGHT ALL THE TIME!

But does that even make sense?  why press for something so simple so stupid…. I will be gone in a few months anyway…lol

What then?  Is there a deeper lesson to be learned from all this about the way societies work?

At any rate, I am worried that this ridiculous struggle for a midnight curfew on the weekends will drag on.  It bothered me enough to take me out of blogging slumber and write this ridiculously long entry…. meanwhile real struggles are going on in the world.

* P.S. congrats to me for being able to argue in Arabic despite being visibly angry!  yay! way to stay on message!  Thank God!

I don’t drive women on my bus

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So we had a “field trip” yesterday and one of the bus drivers refused to drive the female students (yes, we travel in segregated buses here).  I was so annoyed!

The school bus is not your private car, how can you refuse to drive women?  and why didn’t anyone protest, but let him roll on with his mess?  If you don’t want to interact with women, maybe you shouldn’t be a  driver for a University that has both male and female students!  It’s not piety! argh! I hate it when people treat people as if they have some sort of disease… trust me no one was going to jump Mr. Bus drivers bones… argh!

Only in Qatar have I ever encountered this kind of thing….. at least it’s only happened once.

But the bus driving incident is connected to a larger aspect of my experiences here and that is male-female interaction here, it’s so awkward, I mean I feel awkward, so the best way to deal is to just not talk to them much or hang out outside of class.  This makes me sad, Most of come from countries (No ALL of us) that aren’t this strict on the male-female interaction.  So why do people act so strange?

I am actually not the worst one, there are definitely guys who are Joe cool on Facebook but try to act like one of the Companions now that we are in Qatar…. I don’t get the dichotomy…. I’m not trying to be down anyone’s throat but some people act like having a conversation with a female classmate will ensure a place in Hell for them… which is why I prefer to just not deal.

It’s a shame because I’m sure they have perspectives and insights that I don’t…. and I am here to learn Arabic but to learn more too 😦

Another aspect of the weird cross-gender interactions here is that unfortunately interactions however innocent can easily be blown out of proportion…. it’s like we ‘re living by the Qatari standard….   We need to grow up…lol…..

Oh home sweet home here I come….lol

shwaya bi-alingleezia (a little in English)

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لا استظيع ان اكتب كثير ولكن اريد ان اقول بعض من الشياء التي تشعربها الان
فإن هذا برنمج ليس سهل وعندنا واجب كثير و انا فعلاً تبعنة كل الوقت.
ممكن انا اشعر بالغربة؟ و لكن هذا غير ممكن فإني في امريكا!
اريد امي

ok, that’s enough of that…. I just wanted to note that

1. I have decided that one of my neighbors is a werewolf, (I hate dorm life..lol… not really lol). Only a hairy scary monster can shed that much and not clean up after herself.

2. I hate cliques.

3. I hate small talk.لا اهتم باي شيء عن حياتك بصورة خاصة

I mean that as respectfully as possible.

4. I hate the grading. When I say where I went to grad school there is a look of i don’t what the hell it is, almost like their trying to hide their disdain. then when I say that I also did undergrad at Wellesley, now we’re happy. eyes light up and banners wail… b.s. … all of it. Clearly I’m not stupid….lol… am I?

5. I hate it when giving their educational background people don’t mention where they did undergrad cause it was not an ivy league school or some ish like that, but they do nothing but talk about their grad school, not the school in particular, just the continual mention of their affiliation with it…. b.s. all of it. be proud of who you are. Its the person, not the name that’s important.

6. I hate school, and writing full sentences and meeting corny people, and dining hall food, and only listening to Arabic news (how many more Youseff Qaradawi interviews can I watch, bbc arabic and NancyAjram can I listen to….lol…..)

two of my favorite songs 🙂

7. I hate chicks who throw themselves at dudes in the first few weeks of a freaking summer program. Damn decorum please. I also hate chicks who were never taught to wash their hands (or never heeded that lesson).

8. I love the fact that I still have tomatoes 🙂

ok, back to my mountain of work. let’s see if I can be down by oh, 2 or so 😦