Out of Qatar but not Home yet!

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So I was supposed to be home as of the 14th of January, but here it is the 16th and I am London.  How did this happen?

I missed my connecting flight twice 😦 I’A I will not do this the next time.  Both times were a mixture of leaving too late and jumbled information from British Airways.  Rest assured that God willing I will not fly with them again! Being in London has brought back all the memories of  the differences between how  Britons communicate versus the way I am used to in the States.  I can not tell you how many times people who are employed to help me or at least give me information have done so with much attitude and rudeness.  Meanwhile I am left wondering, “what I do to make this person mad?”

My cousin who has been a darling through all this has said that she hadn’t recognized the rudeness until I came, argh! Here are a few of the scenarios:

1.  a British Airways employee asks me If I didn’t have “Enough sense” to look at my ticket and realize that it wasn’t checked in (even though another BA employee had told me that I was all set– I don’t really know what a ticket re-issued in under the circumstances should have looked like, and I certainly asked the woman who issued them what I needed to do when I came for my flight the next day)— I guess it’s my job to do their job for them.   Now, I have a few choice answers for him, but the moment is past.

2. I was given long-drawn out directions to get to where I could claim my luggage.  I made a wrong turn and asked another British Airways employee for help.  His response  was an accusatory “didn’t you ask for directions?” my response “yes, but I’ve lost the way somehow” his response “well you didn’t bother to pay attention did you? ” in a really snarky tone.  He wasn’t joking either,   he really meant to be the rude .

Sometimes it’s not how you say, it’s the way you say it.  That stuff might be funny on Fraiser, but it’s not in real life.  There is no love lost between London and me right now, and I will definitely write a complaint letter to British Airways about some of their incompetent, unhelpful and rude staff.  The sad part is that throughout this I have met up with maybe 3 nice BA employees as opposed to the 6 or so rude one that I have met…. sigh.   This drama will be over soon.

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Headed Home…

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I am headed home in another week and half and as I try to check all the touristy stuff of my list I am trying to start being really reflective about the past 5 months and what being in London has meant.

1. For starters I guess the idea that everything happens for a reason is even stronger. two weeks after getting here, I was able to mourn with family over the loss of our loved ones. That truly means boatloads. I had originally been looking at spending this semester in France, oh how happy I am that that did not pan out.

It’s also been refreshing in many ways to study abroad but live with family. Last week, I met up with a colleague from college and she asked me if I had many any friends since I’d been here. Of course I was frank and said no. But, truth be told, I don’t rightly care. I’m not a junior in college trying to break out for a semester of clubbing and such with other under 21-year-olds. I’m at a different place in life and am happy to go to school and come home.

2. I have found it interesting and frustrating to follow U.S. politics here, but this is my second time as an American in Europe in a national election year, and think/hope this experiences have helped me understand the way others, family included just don’t get it….lol… how they conceptualize the American thing. To top it off, its crazy how I can recognize so many of the political pundits.

3. I’ve learned how to deal with people more this year. That room mates won’t always be neat/tidy/give a damn about tidiness. sharing blood or knowing each other for years doesn’t mean that you will be automatically understood.

there are other things, but they need to be processed more

obnoxious Baby names ?

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I know I’m not the first one to write about it, and I know a lot of black folk stand on either side of the issue, but I don’t really care about them right now….lol.

Someone told me about an article they read on a girl (presumably black) in the states who sued to have her name changed. The thing was, this person referred to those names as “Obnoxious” names. Immediately my Wendy Wellesley (well some of ya’ll know what I am talking about)— I am offended-dar went up. I don’t see how someone named Pakaneesa, or Dayshawnda is obnoxious. It’s different, you might even call it ghetto, but not obnoxious— not Clitorisa or something like that (yes, that is someone’s name, well it teeters– but I digress)

Of course the subject of the conversation was what I at least have it commonly referred to as Ghetto names. funnily enough, I read a post on it at stuffblackpeoplehate (p.s. his stuff is quite sharp,  fyi… you may be offended).

At any rate, this topic is close to my heart because like so many girls i have already picked out my baby names, and one of them could be interpreted as an obnoxious/ghetto name.

my first daughter is going to be named NaN’mah and pronounced Naa’ma or Nayeema, I haven’t decided yet). Yes my baby name is chocked full of true meanings and has its roots in actual culture. I explain below:

N’Mah (nnn-ma… that’t the best I can describe it) is a name that means mother and is not uncommon among certain tribes in Sierra Leone/Guinea.
It’s highly unlikely that I will marry a Sierra Leonean , so I want my kiddies infused with thier momma’s culture from the jump. It’s bad enough they will 2nd generation Diaspora…lol

adding Na to N’Mah gives it a meaning in Krio, the patua/lengua Franc of Sierra Leone. Na N’Mah, is a phrase which doesn’t really mean anything amazing, but I like it none the less. It just means “It’s mother” or It’s N’Mah.

finally my spelling or pronunciation also makes a word in Arabic- Na’ma which means blessing.

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I have an “African/ethnic” name and it has a meaning, but thankfully it doesn’t have too much of the spelling/pronounciation issues that some other African kids have. In fact, when people see it, they can’t tell what I am. And I like it that way.

It’s hard to discriminate when you can’t figure out whether I am black, Middle Eastern, Indian, African, etc. When I was little I wanted to change my name to Tammi, don’t ask why, we all have our phases. But I love it, love it, love it now and wouldn’t change it for nothing.

but I don’t want my baby having to explain the “etymology” of her name to people all the time. I remember meeting a girl in one fo my classes at a bus stop and we got to chatting and exchanged names and I feel a bit shamed of it now, but I think I jolted a little when she told me hers was Shakwanda ( I had never met anyone with that name before and it’s always up there on the list of default examples that people give of ghetto names… doesn’t excuse it, i know). To make matters worse, we actually had a lecture in class later in the semester that some how ended with everyone laughing at the “ridiculousness” of such names (well actually a rather comical outburst of another classmate) and all the while Shakwanda was annoyed I don’t blame her. She’s extremely bright, and doing her thing educationally and otherwise, what’s in a name?

I don’t want my kid to have to go through that. maybe NaN’Mah will have to be her pet name, Gogol in that Mira Nair movie which I can’t seem to remember the name of …lol.

Back in London– Things I missed about Barcelona

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Been back for almost a week now, and nothing has change in contrast to Barcelona’s warm lazy, dry days, I was welcomed back by London drizzle, the smells of the Tube and an even greater realization of how home-sick I really am…lol oh well.

The things I will miss about Spain are all the more with now. I wrote this post before I left and did not get a chance to upload, but better late than never, I guess,

Things I will miss about living in Barcelona:

The Fresh baked bread and cheese cake from the local patisserie
The view of the Mediterranean (if only it were warm enough to sit on the beach and do work)
The Latin-American telenovelas (I dig them so much more now that I’m here, can’t say why)
The preponderance of Zaras and Mangoes (if only to look/browse every few).

Down to my last week and I’ve realized just how much I have eased into a daily/weekly routine.

The television which I once despised, I have found to be a great companion as sit in my apartment meticulously writing and editing my thesis. On one hand its kind of sad to be in such a city full of stuff to do and do nothing but basically go to class and home each day. On the other, who gives a *(&(% I am basking in having my own space. My apartment is in many ways my sanctuary and not my prison. But I digress, back to television.

I have really gotten into the telenovelas which are basically imports from latin-America
1st there is el Secreto del amor which has the same main protagonist as Tropico (my other telenovela secret delight).

Then there is Sonar no cuesta nada, which kind of sucks, but its good background noise.

Finally I enjoy watching Accorralada, which actually was on in the states last summer, but I never really had a desire to watch it. Well it is the SHOW here (for me anyway) and I will def be tuning into the Gran finale with all its melodrama this week.

I’ve actually realized that I dig that show Bones. Although I never watched an episode before coming here, after two dubbed episodes, I think I will tuning into see it when I get back (it’s on before House, right?…lol).

Aside from the other dubbed American shows there are two Spanish ones that I will really miss. Funnily enough they are not sitcoms or dramas (just don’t get Spanish humor).

The first show is Fama a bailar it’s a Spanish version of so you think you can dance, but better. (um, more like so you think you can dance mixed with Big Brother). I have my favorites and will have to go on the internet to see how they fare in the end. So far, one of my favorites, Kiko won a spot as Mariah (or as they say here, Maria) Carey’s backup dancer. I was so happy for him!

The show is weird in that instead of voting for who you want to stay, you vote for who you don’t want stay anymore. Also, in addition to learning and performing different dance styles, the contestants choreograph pieces too.

Interesting. I also just started watching last week so I don’t get the structure, it seems like a revolving door. When people get kicked off, new people are put on.

I think I’ve really gotten into the show, because it takes me back to my dancing days. No, I wasn’t en route to Juliard or anything like that, but dance was a big part of my life in high school and college, where I jacked up one of knees doing it and it has never been the same ever since, so go figure…lol. I guess its all for the best that I’m not busy trying to shake my thang or do twists and turns on stage anywhere anymore. But, audiences have always been besides the point for me. I miss learning new choreography, I miss the feeling that I got when I got all the steps down pact. Like I’ve mentioned before, I can be quite anal, so when everyone else was done with practice I would still be there, until the steps were intuitive, like drinking water when I was thirsty. To this day, when I hear a new song the thought that comes to mind is “that would be so hot to dance to.”

This show reawakens all that for me. The choreography is soo hott! And not just the hip-hop or the “Funky” (i.e. Britney Spears pop-ish songs), I saw a classical piece the other day and really enjoyed it (I’m not a big fan of balle for whatever reason).

Funnily enough, my favorite dancers among the girls are Belinda and Marcielle, both happen to be black (or have some black in them—- oh I just found out that Marcielle is Cubana). I don’t know, I think the way they move reminds me of well, me. One puts everything into every performance its awesome. Even when she’s doing stuff that would otherwise be considered corny, she makes it work. I love it. The other girl has a fluidity with her steps that I love. She’s so cute. Or maybe since there is only two of them, they both stand out. Too bad Macielle got booted off the week I left 😦

It’s like I’m living my life vicariously through these people. If only my knee wasn’t the way it is…lol…. Let me stop and be true to myself!

Baila me Corazon! …lol.

Barcelona or Bust… and British Scarves

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I am feel like a lion ready to pounce!

I’m not sure how to explain it rather then to say that I ready to peace out of London. Waking up just up the road from the Mediterranean Sea seesm charming and romantic right now.

I got my hair straightened again two days ago and now have to do the extra scarf, hood bob and weave every time I go outside (under no circumstances is this hair getting wet!…lol).

Scarves are a funny thing you know. When I go to Morocco I always wear one. I found that it cut down on the street harassment, (well at least that you can’t tell by looking from behind that I’m a “GAzelle du Sahara” i.e. black woman, i.e. foreigner i.e. ideal target for the advances of random-ass Moroccan men…lol.

My school is full of hippies, hijabis, niqabis and few regular old fashionistas. I’ve blogged about the homogenity of the people I see around me, but the one thing that varies a bit is the way women wear their hair.

Of course theres your run of the mill hijabs– wrapped around the head and pinned.

But some people really do some beautiful stuff with theirs, ONe girl must have like three or in varying shades of blue to black and she tied it like a turban-like crown. I guess my descriptions aren’t so great, but I had never seen anything like it, so it stopped me in my tracks.

there was a girl, she stood out because she is clearly a Wasp or the British equivalent(yes, I know white people can be Muslim)but she wrapped her scarf in this psuedo west-African style. It was gorgeous.

Then there are niqabis. I’ve definitely seen more here than I see in the states,
but after my stint in Yemen, I’m sorta like “eh, nothing to see there, moving on.”

another thing I have noticed are the west African/sub-saharan african Muslim women wearing hijab … not just hijab, but clearly Iranian/Arab influenced styles… abayas and such (there aren’t alot… but a black face here that is clearly not a Somali or some other horn of Africa one means the person has parents that are or is from “black Africa” or the Carribbean … There’s much of a British equivalent to African-Americans and it’s interesting to see how immigrant children forge their identities )
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I’m not into hijab discourses (all that Islamic feminism stuff from undergrad tired me out…) and don’t plan on starting one here in favor of or against it.

But I will say that the variety of styles of wearing scarves (hijab or not) is awesome. I really love the creativity, the colors, the fringes and sequins.

It’s great to see different types of women doing there thing…. and more importantly doing it well. 🙂

On How Others See Americans

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Listening to Brits discuss the electoral process in the U.S. has been grating. It’s one thing for Americans to disparage one candidate or another it’s another thing for people who don’t know what  they are talking about to do it.

I find it offensive when people say, “Oh, you’re black so you must be voting for Obama, right.” What!?! I am not capable of making decisions by using my God-given intellect?
Like I said, O-Fen-sive.

Furthermore people’s insight into what the American people “should” find important is grating. absolutely grating. I like how people make projections about whose political career is over and whose is budding and who can never come back.

Sometimes I just want to scream, What! What do you know about America or American culture?

I am reminded of an advert for a British (apparently) comedy show where these two kids knock on a man’s door and say “trick or treat.” The man then replies, ” Get of my doorstep, we’re not American” or something like that.

and so the kids reply “Well, we want to experience and appreciate American culture”
and then the man says “Ok, Get of my doorstep or I’ll shoot you.”

Wow. especially considering the fact that violence is alive and well here in the U.K. Maybe I shouldn’t be offended but I am so sick and tired of people who have never even been to the states telling my how Americans are or are not.
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And it’s not just random people, if I hear another professor or staff member involved in running my study abroad program (i.e. someone who you would hope had some freaking knowledge of the American education system) program say “Oh, the education system here is so much more different than the U.S. isn’t it?”

or “I suppose you guys in America aren’t expected to write papers as long as 3,000 words are you? (this was said to a group of people from some of the best schools in the U.S.- How can someone really believe we don’t write 8-10 pg papers!). What?

What is mot bothersome is that they don’t even give us the benefit of the doubt. The U.K. system must be better, because England is England (once t-again what?)

Meanwhile, professors and the writing department give out guidelines for paper writing saying things like ” you need a clearly defined thesis when you write a paper” (one last time, what?)

Maybe I’m wrong/hypersensitive
But I am disgusted by the hubris, the underlying assumption that Americans somehow don’t have it together.

Yes, it’s true that the k-12 education systems don’t have it together (everywhere— mind you neither does Britain)

Our college and university systems continue to churn out some seriously brilliant minds. You can find Americans as leaders in most any field. Meanwhile, I can’t help but feel like rolling my eyes at the pointless discussions we have in class, It just seems that the students here aren’t saying anything new, nor does it occur to them to do so.

Last time I checked, discussions were about bringing up your own ideas/impressions, not regurgitating what the professor said or going so ridiculously off topic or bringing up some point that is basically what the professor said only wee bit more nuanced. Boo all that!

I’m not saying this is the case at all schools in the U.S. but I think that students are encouraged to think out of the box in the U.S. moreso than they are here. I know that I and most of friends at a variety of colleges know that papers must have thesis, don’t flinch at 8-10 pg papers, can develop and argue an ORIGINAL point etc.

I’m not saying that students here are not able to do this, I’m saying that I have yet to see it.
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It’s just frustrating because in college we (well at least I) give the international students the benefit of the doubt. Instead of ASSUMING that we know about their background/culture/education system, we ask. Further more, there is this appeal of British accents that have a lot of people thinking that sounding like Hugh Grant or Colin Firth automatically denotes intelligence.

Whereas here, it’s like, oh you poor American, you don’t understand a thing! Give me a break!

On learning Arabic in Britain

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Ok, a little over halfway into the semester, and I’ve got the hang of the Arabic thing over here.

It’s strange because the amount of grammar covered in two years is about equal to the grammar covered over 3 or 4 years in my programs in the U.S. Weird.

But of course there is a catch, the classes are taught in English (as opposed to the U.S. where you’re taught in Arabic–in my experience anyway even when you don’t know what the freak is being said…lol). And more importantly the grammatical terms are learned in English so for a while I had no idea what she (my professor was talking about) as a matter of fact I still don’t always know what she means, but oh well. Furthermore, we don’t really practice listening, or speaking like we do in the states, (but since I have a good enough background I can handle it with a little help of BBC Arabic).

It’s been really helpful though. Having terms explained in English has its merits.

but more importantly, for once I’ve gone abroad to study Arabic and 1. have not been inundated with inadequate resources/teachers, racist/sexist epithets, or bed bugs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

both of my experiences in the Arabic speaking world: Morocco and Yemen were not without their merits either, but I’m done with trying to get at that Arabic in it’s natural setting. I actually enjoy Arabic class, and am not restlessly looking at the clock until the pain is over…lol.

I wish I had done this sooner and saved myself a world of grief (more so Morocco than in Yemen… but I digress).

It’s just amazing to me how much enjoyable a learning experience can be when your not borderline depressive, crying yourself to sleep at night as you shiver in the cold, praying the bed bugs don’t bite or that your host brother hasn’t rifled through your stuff or abused the peep hole in your door (yes all this and more did happen to me, so I got some issues to work out still, but I’m getting there….lol).

I like it. Let’s see if I like it enough to give Arabic one more push and go headfirst into a summer program.