On Counting My Blessings: 1

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I saw this thing on Facebook about how to literally count your blessings. Every time something good happens to you you write it down and put in the jar. At the end of the year, you count all the good things.

I’d like to do that, but just my luck, am having trouble finding a jar/container…. ha ha… so for now, I will write things on post-its. So far, I’ve got one “big” thing: Achieved an educational milestone of sorts.  Don’t get it twisted, Gazelle is done with formal education… ha ha… But have been learning about some stuff as of late, started out being something I needed to get some basics on for work, but it’s gone beyond that now. I’m just really surprised at myself because I am learning about things that I never thought I was capable of learning, especially not in the time-frame that I’ve done it.

And I have a certificate to prove it… yay! Alhamdullilah.

Yeah, it’s hokie-ish, but Gazelle still has some tenacity in her. 😀

hmmm as I write this, maybe I will do the count my blessings thing via this blog too… It’s probably a heck of a lot better than all the depressing stuff I have been posting as of late… ha ha.

Happy New Year: Elucidated Reflections on the past 368 days

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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.

Ok, it hasn’t been thaaat quiet

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”…

Or could this be the sad truth….???? ha ha …

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

2015….

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.

I can’t believe I turned into one of those people… ha ha…

 

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.

خذي شايب يدلعك ولا تأخذي صبي يولعك: Marry an old man who will spoil you, not a young one who will only give you headache

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A few days ago on Facebook, my status was the title of this post.

After a looong dry spell, I had an unexpected brush with the possibility for louuuuuuuuve…. Ha ha…

 

The suitor was cute, educated, spoke at least three languages well (including English!… ha ha) and for whatever reason was impressed with me. There was only one problem …

 

Okay one main one among many that had yet to be discovered:  He is old… much too old, for me. He doesn’t look it, which MashAllah is good  for him, but the fact still remains that he more than 10 (but less than 20—- and no it’s not 19) years older than I am.  I was bothered by that fact.  The context, I will spare,  but he’s a serious minded individual looking to settle down in late age.

I am no spring chicken, but damn! I’m not Catherine Zeta-Jones or Celine Dion. For whatever reason I have been binging on Romantic comedies and Disney Classics: Love stories and then some… I think they messed with my head ya’ll!

I did some reflecting and realized and said to myself that this is an individual that is looking to get serious very soon and I am not in that zone.  It wouldn’t be right to just go along for the get along.

But part of me did some reflecting and said, hmmmm … I’m awesome, I know that. But, how can I tell if this person recognizes that or is just getting the best that he can get now that he’s old(er) and perhaps can’t catch the PYTs of his own race. (Yup, he’s not black).  Being here has made me even more sensitive to this phenomenon: Older (usually) white men bagging young(er) beautiful black women.

 

Something like this… Love is does not have an age, I know, I know. But…

 

Now this guy is not white, but he’s not from an ethnic group that completely embraces black people (are there any that do???!!!). And I just can’t tell if he was attracted to the novelty of the black girl who not only speaks Arabic, but his dialect as well— and I didn’t want to discover what someone would probably never admit anyway.

 

Not every man is Joe DeBlasio, you know!…. wait is his first name even Joe? or did I just make that up?

His directness took me off guard, but then I realize that older men have no time to waste. I, on the other hand am not in quite so much a haste.  One of my friends made a good point, her dad is ten years older than her mom and now that they are older he can’t be as active as she is. Then I remembered that my dad was 11 years older than my mom and he died, leaving her with little kids to raise at a pretty young age. Then I started thinking about Celine Dion (praying her husband pulls through) and I wondered if this was something really worth trying out to see if it fit.

I am not one for “practice” and see where it goes in relationships. Things are less messy that way.

I mean, look at me writing a journal post about something that is a whole lot of nothing, but because it very easily could have, has got me thinking, reflecting etc.

I guess I’ve realized that talking to people for the purpose of marriage is heavy stuff, and I’m not sure I am cut out for it… it’s too much pressure…. Ha ha… then again, the last time I did it, it was with someone older than myself and with some of the same time of our lives differences coming up.

Oh well.  I guess when you end up alone after a little bit of excitement, the threat of spinsterhood rears it’s ugly head in your subconscious.

 

And this is what it says…Guess it’s a good thing I stopped watching Glee when Finn died…

In the mean time I can stare and continually be rattled by the new coworker who looks just like the high school sweetheart…. How fitting that I be around such a constant reminder of the folly of teens and early twenties on the eve of my turning thirty…. #FML

 

… No, Rabna Kareem, so I am keeping hope alive that the next frog I kiss (figuratively) will be a prince.

 

What 29 year old me has to say to teenage me…

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Yesterday, I was talking on the computer (cuz you know how international calling goes these days, right?… haha) and doing mindless facebook clicking: One friend’s profile led to another friend’s profile which led to the profile of someone I am not longer in contact with on FB or otherwise. Nothing serious, I just had a phase when I went through and removed most of my high school connections. At the time it was freeing.

At any rate, this no longer FB friend is doing well (and I had no doubt that he would) He’s apparently in medical school or maybe graduated from there and has a cute girlfriend/fiancé. All in all kudos to him. I am writing this entry about this encounter because this guy used to be that boy: The one that was soooo into me (and I had no idea why) and would be annoying/creepy about it. Well that is how I felt about it then. He was never stalkerish, but would wait for me in the mornings in my classroom. He had no business there, no friends there per se, so it was painfully obvious to my friends what he was doing. (un)Fortunately, through no fault of my own, I was habitually late to that class… ha ha…. But he faithfully waited like everyday for moooonths. On the rare occasion I actually got there before he had to make a dash to his own, all he would do was smile with one of those goofy, awkward , dorky smiles you see on tv and say hello.

 

Sometimes its better for all if things are left unsaid… ha ha…

 

Ugh, I was teased quite a bit for that. But, that was then, and this is now. My how things have changed! Ha ha… First off, NO! seeing his FB profile did not change my mind about not wanting him…. Ha ha… I’m genuinely happy for said brother.

Looking at his profile just made me think about how much life changes. Gazelle has gone from pushing 30 to being damn near dragged over the line into the next decade and has started to think about how have I changed.

I always like to think that it’s the people around me who change, but I, at my core and for several layers of epidermis after that, am still the same old girl from the block. But Alhamdullilah that is not true. I have matured in my thinking about a a whole slew of things. For one thing, I could have handled the situation with Early Morning Romeo a lot more smoothly. I was never mean (was old enough to know better than that!) but I can’t help but cringe at my immaturity in all of our interactions. I can’t turn back time, I can’t change a thing, but if I could, 29 year old me would whisper in 16 or 17 year old’s me’s ear and say… get it right girl! Ha ha….

What else would 29 year old me tell teenage me? Hmmmm… probably something about embracing that aweseome size 6 body while it lasts, because aside from that fall semester after your extremely malnourished junior year abroad, it’s NEVER EVER EVER EVER getting back together…. Ha ha… but seriously, I would tell me that the things that I think hold constant aren’t necessarily true.

 

Yeah I used to be pretty badass, now it’s all gone… sigh… wait, it probably was never there like thaaaat to begin with… ha ha…. The past is always how you remember it, right….

I would encourage her to follow her mind a little more than her heart, because the heart can say some crazy ish that makes no sense and will take on wild goose chases for things, careers and people you can’t have. But your mind knows that you know better than that… ha ha… So yeah maybe teenage me would not have been so caught up in the other point on that – Gazelle- early morning romeo- Mr. ugh, I can’t believe that was a thing for as it was

Triangle…. (Because that was a mess and made me a mess, and was full of cringe-worthy episodes).

Oh God, if that was the higlight of my love life…. yikes!!!!!!!!!!! I demand a refund!… ha ha…

Maybe I would have buckled down and been a computer science major and had more options. Maybe I would have know that just because a 6 foot three guy with a basketball player’s build, Elite University degree and killer smile pops out of no-where and we happen to hit it off, it doesn’t mean anything…. Because you will discover that he kind of sucks as a person… ha ha….

 

He sucks, like as a person… he just, sucks 😦 … ha ha…

Naw, what I would probably tell teenage me is that you smart, kind and important so own it! Sometimes I look at older pictures of myself and sigh because I don’t think I saw then the awesome person that I see now.

So yeah , I guess that’s 29 year old me’s advice to 30 year old me: See the awesomeness that you are NOW, relish it, embrace it, and OWN it!

Even if the scale is a little (or a lot) heavier, even if you get tired and can’t party like you think you could have when you used to… ha ha… you will probably look back and think, dang I was so cool. Let’s hope this time around, you don’t say, I wish I had know that back then.

 

So Yeah, all of this to say it’s time to reflect, on a lot of experiences and interactions and figure out what pearls of wisdom 29 year old me can give to 30 year old me and probably wishes she could give to 16 year old me… ha ha…

Expect more posts to come…

I’m Crying not Because it Happened, I am Smiling Because it’s Over….

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I’m Crying not Because it Happened, I am Smiling Because it’s Over….

I am 11 days too late,  but forgive me, I have been busy.  It’s been a year, a year since I nearly spiraled into true craziness thanks to the all encompassing job search.  A little over a year since I got this gem of a message after applying for a job that the rejecters reached out to me to apply for:

“Dear applicant,

We would like to thank you for your interest in the [redacted] position with [redacted]. We received many applications and you have not been selected for an interview. For future opportunities, please feel free to check our website: 

We wish you the best in your future endeavors.

Regards,”

 

personally reach out to me to apply for a job and then reject me before I even get a chance to graduate?… yes, shame on you!

 

 

And maybe I should not have, but  I took it personal.  It felt like the biggest slap in the face. Compounded with the fact that I was beginning to absolutely hate my then job, I was at what I thought was my wit’s end.  But Alhamdullilah!

It took a while, but that rejection letter was one of the best things that every happened to me! It motivated me in ways you wouldn’t believe. A few weeks after receiving this rejection, I submitted the application for the job I now have.

So yeah, I don’t have it all figured out.  But sometimes I have to look at things like this that happen to me in life and say thank God.  Sometimes painful things happen so we can grow, and sometimes things we don’t like happen to us for a reason.  This is not an isolated incident: I’ve got a barrel of incidents like these that have happened in my life.

Yup, that’s da TRUTH!

I’ve also got some rejections (personal , professional etc.) that I still haven’t made sense of.  Go figure.  At any rate, today, I am not crying because it happened, I laugh because it’s over.

If this is how I make sense of life for now or forever, well it is what it is.

La Dolce Vita: Gazelle Went to Italy Ya’ll

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Italy, Italia… however you spell or say it, wow! That place was nice.

Going to Italy made me realize the need for balance in my views on non-Western cultures.  With good reason, I didn’t focus on Western Civilization in College or beyond: There was so much that I didn’t know about the Arab World, Africa and Asia (so much I still don’t know). I can’t even begin to fill the pot holes on the road of knowledge about Latin America.

And yet, this trip left me in awe and amazed at…..drum roll please…. Western Civilization! ha ha…

It is a strange thing, I think. To be in awe of Italy and particularly Tuscany/Florence, where I went, the extent to which I am is weird. Yes, for me it’s weird.

I am not unfamiliar with Michaelangelo’s David.

Look at him. He’s beautiful.

But I wasn’t aware of not just how amazing it is to see this in real life, but to understand something about the amount of work that went into carving this.  The statue is anatomically correct (including the muscles and veins!)… Michaelangelo didn’t even get to pick a choice block of marble for this: He had to carve the David out of crappy product, making this feat even more amazing.  But the real kicker is how old he was when he did it: 27 years  old!

And um, yeah, here are the masterpieces he completed by 15 or so:

Yup 15

Yup…only 15!

But you know what, I could gush and gush about him forever… so let’s leave it at that… ha ha…

This trip just helped connect a lot of dots in history… I saw a shrine dedicated to Galileo (Florentine). I also saw the graves of ….. Leonardo Da Vinci (Florentine), Dante Aligheri (Florentine), Machiavelli (yup… Florentine) and Michaelangelo himself.

I saw some of the great works of artists whose names were familiar and unfamiliar, but their works pieces I had scene as I rustled through pages of white-washed history books.

It was amazing, exhausting and humbling. I have never really cared for visual art or museums. And I am surprised by the extent to which I connected emotionally with the pieces I saw (and most of which I could not take pictures of! Ugh! museum policy, but yeah I bought a book about MA’s masterpieces… ha ha…). And I don’t just mean Michaelanglo’s stuff either. Look at this…

I actually saw the finishing touches of the restoration of this altar/chapel... amazing, the time and effort it takes

I actually saw the finishing touches of the restoration of this altar/chapel… amazing, the time and effort it takes

 

When I say amazing to see in person, I mean, Amaziiiing! …. my photos don’t do it justice, but this one (from the web) at least let’s you see the entire piece.

 

 

 

 

Seriously, and experience like this 12 years ago, might have turned me into an art history major….. (…. no comment).

 

 

 

 

and yeah, if anyone was wondering, the food was awesome… and I say this although I got sick (and don’t think I will ever eat Lasagne again!… ha ha…)and never actually tasted pizza in Italy 😦 …. I guess that means I ought to go back?…. ha ha….

Anyway, here are a few more snippets of what I saw in Italy.

IMG_00000570 IMG_00000607 IMG_00000581 IMG_00000609 IMG_00000588 IMG_00000605

 

So yes, I completed an art history on crack tour… and am so grateful for the experience. Would I go back?

Sometimes I think when you back the magic is lost. But, you never know…  Italy will never be Spain to me… Barcelona will always have a special place in my heart… ha…

 

On My New Favorite Song….

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So yes, Gazelle  is still alive, just getting a bunch of stuff together collectively known as her life! Ha ha….

I just had an interesting language moment (one of many I have had since I arrived here on the 1st) and wanted to share/memorialize.

A friend of mine, who really apparently knows my music tastes so well it’s a bit scary, sent me a YouTube clip of a really pretty song. It’s from an awesome group called Babylone.  Not to brag, but I like to pride myself on being hip to Arab artists like these, who have a more unique sound and are not afraid to blend old and new styles, so imagine my surprise when I realized I had never seen or heard of them before.

I’m guessing these were the early years?…

At any rate, I listened to the song (and then proceeded to scour the www for every other song they have, yup it’s an obsession of sorts…oh well).  On the first run through I  understood some, but not all.  This wasn’t unusual to me because that is how things usually go with me and songs sung in Moroccan Arabic.  I think that in general, I can here something in Egyptian Arabic and understand 90-95% of it.  Moroccan it’s something like 80-90% on a good day… ha ha… but that’s just life, Moroccan is supposed to the be harder dialect, and 80-90% is more than what a lot of Arabs understand from it.  So I am not mad at me.

At any rate, I found the lyrics online and thought about them until I reached what my best guesses were for the meaning of the song (and yes, guesses, I think that’s what they are for me in any language, sometimes you can be fairly certain of something but still not have all the pieces).

My favorite verse, and so much to unpack here… so many clues that this was not Darija (Moroccan Arabic)…. and even after reading the lyrics it didn’t click… ha ha….

The next step, was to find an English translation and see how mine measured up.  There were a few words I did not know (not surprising) and some parts of the sentence structure seemed strange.

But Alhamdullilah, I found an English translation on Youtube and I was pretty much on point! … except for one verb (the meaning used for it in the song was not among the ones listed in the Moroccan-English dictionary… so not my fault…ha ha) …. Then I read the third verse of that translation, and decided that the English didn’t make any sense.  So, of course, I had to find another.

This second video is the better translation, I believe.

What’s interesting is that it made me realize something.  I was getting on myself for not knowing certain words  and trying to figure out, how in the world should I have known that ?

Well, the simple answer is this:  I shouldn’t have!  Babylone is an Algerian group, not a Moroccan one. I am chalking up the words I didn’t know to this.  I am also chalking up the fact that  I had never heard of them to this.

And so ends my tale of triumph and defeat in language learning after the degrees have been issued and classrooms have shut their doors. Ha ha… It’s just another example of how porous borders are.  Sometimes when studying dialects we do think about theses languages as fitting in little boxes.  But of course, everything is more complicated than that.  I automatically assumed they were Moroccan because 1. (they looked the part— but really they just looked North African and 2. The accent and word choices are what  I automatically associate with Morocco.

Now I know that the weird words and grammar used in this video aren’t weird at all… and I learned a few contrasts between Algerian dialect and Moroccan (it also explains why they use some very-un Moroccan words in their other songs…. Words that I would associate more with Arabic dialects further East.  What I thought was literary license is probably just a difference in dialect).  In some cases, I would sing along to the song using the appropriate Moroccan word, not even realizing that that was not what the singer was saying.

Over all my big finds were that Algerian uses

وين  Instead of فين   to mean “where” this is interesting because وين  is a Word that I associate with Levantine and maybe Gulf dialect… it was all over this song, but my ears glossed over it.

The verb صار (Sar) which once again, for me at least is something that I associate with the Levantine variety of Arabic

The verb حوس   (Hawas) in Algerian means ‘to look for’ but in Moroccan it means to rob blind… ha ha… so imagine how different my understanding of the song was because of this verb alone! (mainly because of this verb.

Algerian does not seem to use the ش   (SH) as a form of negation the way it is in Masri, Moroccan and Lebanese.  When I didn’t see it at the end of verbs in the song, I thought it was them being creative, ha ha…. In this way, along with how things are pronounced in some of their other songs, Algerian dialect really does remind me of Levantine.

But my budding interest in linguistics is now done.

At any rate, Babylone is an awesome group, there is something West African in their music, like they channeled Youssef Ndour or something.  They may not be Moroccan, but I will keep on listening and not beat myself up for what I don’t understand…. Plus, they are easy on the eyes… Ha ha…

hmmm, or maybe it’s just the man scarf that did me in… ha ha…

I do need to figure out however, if the words I didn’t know can actually be used in the same way in the Moroccan dialect or not….

Here is the song with English sub-titles: