On Getting what I want but wanting what Can’t get just yet

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It’s been a while dear reader, Gazelle has been living life and trying to figure it out. Since my last personal post in February I went to the States for spring break, had a really restful time in San Francisco, CA.

 

Well, I don’t know how restful it was because although I basically slept and ate while doing little actual work, my mind was turning, thinking replaying and approximating. It will soon be time for me to move on from where I am now.

The realization has not come suddenly, but I have indeed received a myriad of clues from those around me and from within myself: I am starting to get restless.

 

As I tell women when they ask me about the dating scene here in the UAE, when I decided to come here, I knew that that was a part of my life that was going on hold.. ha ha…

So yeah I wanted to work here and was fine with what I gave up, at first….

It’s so strange to be so grateful and happy with a decision, to know it was the absolute right oen to make, but at the same time be ready to move past this happy experience, one that I have benefitted from greatly and go on to…. What exactly?

 

America, I don’t know.

 

I have major decisions to make in the next few months and am hoping for nothing short of a miracle if I hope/expect for things to work out the way I ideally would like them tooo… haha…

This is basically what I am trying to figure out

Not much has changed. Chatting with a friend from my last job, where we spent the day talking about the jobs we were applying for and how we were ready to move on from our current positions did make things very de ja vu-ish. Le sigh.

 

I know I sound cryptic as hell but here’s the skinny:

 

I can’t regret coming  because my being here caused a certain experience to happen and me to realize something very important: that I want to go home. No, I don’t hate it here. But I have realized that there are more things pulling me state-side than are keeping me grounded here.

 

So I can never regret the experience, but I still am eager to move on to the next one. Ya’ll can read between the lines on that one. It’s still too early to tell which way the wind will blow; Lord knows, have no idea how all the pieces will fit together. But Al7amdullilah I have faith that they will.

Right now, as in right now???

So if you happen to have job leads for someone with Arabic language, program management in an academic setting or qualitative research skills in either the DC Metro or San Francisco Bay area… hit me up! Pleaaaaaaaaaase!

 

😉

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.

Lord Help Me, I’ve Been Mr. Darcied- On being amazing (for a black woman)

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I have had it America! (Africa, Asia and whomever else might read this) I’ve Just had it!

Pride and Prejudice is my all-time favorite Jane Austen novel. I don’t want to give too much away, but there is a character Mr. Darcy who falls in love with the protagonist. But he’s richer than her, so he’s conflicted: how can he possibly be in love with someone beneath him?

He professes his love to her in an almost insulting manner. Darcy basically tells her , “I know that I am better than you in every conceivable way, but I love you despite you being beneath me…” Yeah it was real romantic…. NOT.

Really?!! Tell me more!

That scene was almost a watershed moment for me in young, naïve not really exposed to love experiences mind. I thought Darcy was awful and was so happy when the protagonist told him to shove his crappy proposal.

Well, 12 years later as an almost 30 something, I am finally getting better at recognizing when I am being Darcied. The latest offender was the last effing straw… he’s the reason I came up with the term.

It became obvious as my interactions with him made me feel like he was thinking along these lines… Gazelle you are awesome, but I am X race and therefore better than you. You have no right to look at my faults because I am x race and while you are awesome, you are only awesome… for black girl.

Basically, he’s a guy that a woman like me in his community would not necessarily jump at the chance to be with but me… oh yeah he had it in the bag. :-/   I was practically told what I have in my blog title… I’m amazing (that I know). But his actions led me to believe that I was being Darcied big time.

So here are some clues to when you are being Darcied… this could be the case if the person in question:

  1. Gives you weird, backhanded compliments (you’re smart for a blonde, educated for a [insert group name here]
  2. Assumes that since you are a member of a certain group, that you must be super honored/excited/pressed to be their companion
    1. If they consider it an effrontery that you would even think about not staying with them even though they like/low you DESPITE coming from a particular group… no need to look for further signs. YOU ARE BEING DARCIED.
  3. Criticizes people from the group you belong to and then tries to save their rude comment, with a “no offense” or a “but I don’t mean you”
  4. Thinks you are some sort of exception to the rule when it comes to the group you belong to and your manners, education, morals etc.

 

The thing about being Mr. Darcied is that there is nothing wrong with you, the Mr. Darcy just thinks there is and can’t understand why he/she likes you anyway. It’s a Freudian sinkhole.

There are others, but these are the big red flags for me. Gazelle has no time for the Darcies of this world… unless they are reformed, come to his senses type Darcies.

And don’t be fooled, as in the case of the original Darcy, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a race or class thing: you can be Darcied for just about anything, (size would be the part three of the big three)… people look down on each other for really stupid reasons. That is what 20 something me is coming away with as I prepare, InshAllah to meet 30 something me.

But yeah for me, it has tended to be a race issue. Somehow people think that because I studied other cultures I somehow do not love my own and want nothing more than to be absorbed into theirs?

That’s what it looks like when people assume I am not proud/happy/content with being black….

 

Ok, this is the end of my rant. no wait, this is the end of my rant:

I am precious, it’s society that’s a piece of shit… that makes so much more sense… words to live by…

On Being Grateful

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I am thinking about where I was a year ago, feeling a little hopeful, because for once an interview process with several stages resulted in an offer.  I was a little less depressed than I had been earlier in the year.

Alhamdullilah!

What I am trying to do each and every day

It’s not all rosy, this new chapter in my life has brought with it new challenges, personal, spiritual, professional. But I am learning to slow my pace and take things as they are, accept the things I can not change and fix the things I can.  I am turning 30 in less than thirty days but I’m just looking at it as it “is what it is.”

 

yeah, I am realizing that some of the stuff I cared about isn’t really important at alll

This life is not what I envisioned for myself at 22.  But I see the the bigger picture in terms of why certain things were meant to be.  Of course, there are things that I wish were better, that had gone the way I wanted, but such is life.  It might have been great if that project I started actually worked out, or if that encounter had lead to something more fruitful, but, ya know.

 

Now, it’s all about thinking short and long-term, reflecting each day and keeping calm.  Yup. Alhamdulilah!

 

 

 

On Othering Africa Right Before My Eyes….

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A few months ago I went to an event called “Africa Day” which promised to be a day of fun, African Music and food and African crafts for sale. Needless to say, it was interesting.

The food tasted good (and it should have because it was about 30 dollars a plate). But it was mainly dishes like couscous, tajine, injera ethiipian stews and an assortment of grilled meats. It felt more like East African food day to be honest.

The crafts for sale were lackluster, but I didn’t mind that as much because how many authentic local craftsmen can you expect to find here?

The entertainment was abysmal. One the one hand they hired a live band. On the other the only thing “African ” about them was one dude’s dreadlocks and the lead singer’s Erykah Badu headwrap (pan-African, anyone?). What really annoyed me about the band and the music at this event in particular, was that the band only sang one song. I don’t mean they only sang one time. I mean they sang the same song, over and over and over again. And what song was that?…..

 

Waka Waka by Shakira!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Are you effing kidding me! Are you effing kidding me! Of all the great African Music artist out there from classic, respected artists like Mariam Makeba, Youssef Ndour, Anjelique Kudjoe, Fela Kuti etc. and even the relevant comtemporary artists like Nameless, Wiz Kid, Dbanj, Bracket, Timaya, Omawunmi etc.

They pick a song that is not even by an African artist. The most fun I had at the event was making fun of it. But I left with my belly full, and my heart full of disappointment: This is the essentialized view of Africa. It’s garbage.

Fast forward today, I am sitting at Shake Shack (their burgers really are quite nice!) and Waka Waka comes on. I start telling the two people I came with about the Africa event and how it was the only song that the band sang. And then we hear drums… A live African group is marching into the restaurant area (which is within a mall) complete with all the requisite representations of Africa: Leopard print strips of cloth, red fabric tied as regally as Mufaro’s beautiful daughters, cow print pants, a drum the color of Ghana’s flag, cowrie shell head dresses and face paint.

I. Just. Can’t. I. Just. Cant.

We left two minutes later.

It hurts that this is how Africa is viewed in the Western world, but I know this is the way it is. For some reason, any image about Africa, even a positive one ahs to include an African Woman’s bare breast, whether it’s a tribe in some remote village or a NYT article about a maternal health program started by the Sierra Leonean government that is saving lives go through the slide show and count all the times some woman’s breast is exposed, look at some of the other photos of births, photos we would never see if this were any other part of the world…how many pictures of births in Syria, Gaza, Somalia, China, heck even Latin America are presented in this raw manner?— it’s not journalism it’s poverty porn and rubbing out respect for these women’s chastity, modesty and femininity). Heck even Google is on my shit list check out the first picture that comes up when I google the word “African” I am sickened and disgusted by the othering of people who look like me, simply because

 

But to be so otherized by a group of people that complains of the same thing, it leaves my heart heavy. I’ve blogged about it before, as recently as yesterday.

Everybody, it seems thinks they are better than Africa and Africans….

 

Except her? … then again look how well it worked out for those Japanese women she used to have follow her around (*eye roll)

I’m just done.

 

It’s not enough for me to be  the privileged exception to this rule (sometimes, once my background and accolades are enumerated for all to see).   Events like the one I witnessed today exasperate me 5 years ago, when I thought I wanted to tackle these issues as a PHD, and they exasperate me now as regular Jane. I don’t know what I can do to undo these disgusting archaic ideas about AFrica that everyone and their grandmother’s cat has articulated, internalized and now regurgitates about the continent.  No one bats an eyelid.

 

But we’re not all in this together…

I’m. Just. Done.

On Being An (African)American vs. being an AFrican-American…

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I was gonna post about the rest of my car exploits, but something else is on the brain, so that will have to wait.

I will start off with saying, I love black people, I really do (cue the racist rest of the sentence)… but I whenever I meet a group of black(American) ex-pats we seem to get into a funk. Namely, a I am gonna complain and look at everything that happens to me here within the racial framework of the US of A. This is problematic on so many levels.

It’s a hard rope to walk, I of all people know that. But imagine my surprise when an African American woman who could pass (really pass) for Arab was trying to school me on the way people in Arab society look at black people…. Um????!!! Okay!

Pardon my indignation, but you do NOT get to try and school me on how Arab societies view black women with clearly African features…

I am frustrated because I know where their frustration is coming from. This blog is all about that: the lusty gaze of men, the women who look at you like you should be cleaning their houses, the children who are afraid of you or run after you chanting racist epithets. I get it. I’ve been through it, I go through it.

And yet, it doesn’t make me closed off to the world. Maybe the African-Americans I am meeting have had the luxury of being in majority black settings up until they came here, But I haven’t. For at least 10 years, I have consistently been THE black person in classes, programs, work etc. And I’ve made friends of other races, friends I can be real with even with racial issues.

But somewhere along the way, I’ve forgotten that others haven’t.

That became all the real for me when I was trying to explain what happened to a blonde friend of mine in Egypt. Sexual harassment all day, everyday (from men and women might I add). This experience I think, made her realize what black folk and other minority have gone through in other contexts.

My AA compadres reaction: oh well. It was interesting that one even confessed that she wouldn’t even feel bad for my friend had she been there in Egypt with her. Another woman saw it fit to school me on the male gaze towards white women vs. black women. Yes, white women are part on pedestals all day, everyday. And Yes, black women are more likely to be used as pedestals.

However, I can safely assume that neither woman went through in the US what my friends went through in Egypt. We would have to go back to at least, civil rights era deep south before we saw ish that crazy!

I have written this before, but being in a place where people automatically assume you are culturally depraved and will have sex with any man who wants it from you, is just as bad or worse as being in a place where people assume you are only a maid, or serve only in subservient roles.  Let’s be real: Both POVs involve dehumanizing the person in question.

At any rate, the lack of empathy, was alarming. Bitterness should not make you a cold, unfeeling b*^#$. Then again, it happens all the time. It is hard when  you feel like no one sympathizes with you, when you have no one that understands what you are going through.

And so, I realized the conversation was useless… they didn’t know my friend, and felt that they probably could never really be friends with a white person. So it’s heavy. It’s really hard.

It’s interesting to be an (African)American vs. being an African-American.

Yeah it’s all about differences in perspective

 

I feel like much of their frustration (and some of mine) comes from looking for people who hold views that are similar to yours.  But being the same shade is not the same as being from the same cultural group. People often remark, why can’t we be like the Filipinos or the Latinos, they have their groups and get along well… But We are on the outside of those communities looking inward. Sigh.

 

On What Two Women, as Different as Can be, Have in Common

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Two women as different as can be. One average height a little larger than average size the other short and petite. One trying desperately to gain weight to bulk up, the other trying methodically to lose some weight.

Two women exchanging anecdotes into the wee hours of the morning: One a muhajiba who can’t seem to find the right guy the other, no scarf in sight but dealing with the same issue.

Two women, pushing thirty, giving each other advice that never seemed to work in the first place.

 

If the end result is the same, that you end up alone, does it really matter?… ha ha…

That was my weekend folks… ha ah… it was fun, but saddening to find the same old story with single women no matter where I in space or time I meet them. And you know what? That is ok!

I am tired of being made to feel like the rawness, and sometimes hopeless inevitability of spinsterhood is nothing to fear. I am tired of being made to feel bad or somehow less worthy of the “feminist” title because I want my baby and trophy husband too.

This is what we are doing and we’d appreciate it if you had a little less attitude when churning out advice on just how we keep calm and wait… Thank you!

I remember once a blond white woman in response to my (very real) declaration that statistically speaking, it’s very hard for educated black women to get married said this: “It’s hard for everybody” and then proceeded to discuss her past deadbeat and otherwise unsuitable suitors. Well, that woman is married and it happened for her within 3 months of meeting the guy… I guess it’s like she said, it’s hard for everyone. But channeling the great writer George Orwell, I would add that “but it’s a lot harder for some than it is for others.” I have other friends who are blondies and in my same predicament, so don’t get me wrong, I know it’s not a hard and fast rule, not by a long-shot.  But sometimes, it’s nice to not have to walk on egg shells in reference to other people’s priviledge. Sometimes, you just want the difficulties you face to be acknowledged, and validated.

 

And sometimes I just smile and nod when people spout out that “We all feel the same pain” BS… and prove my case without even realizing it

Don’t get me wrong. As I say with many aspects of my life, Rabna Kareem. Things will happen when they are meant to happen. However, I am human, and I don’t know when that when is. Is it tomorrow or 5 years from now? The now knowing part leads to periodical pity parties (where I am the only attendee…ha ha..) and sometimes they lead to awesome joking and chatting into wee hours of the morning with a woman who couldn’t be more different than you are.

We are fabulous and we are worth every form of sacrifice.  We also know that good things come to those who wait. I’m ok with that.

 

There isn’t a relationship out there whose dynamics I envy.  It’s not about anybody else’s timeline, this is not a race.  It’s about my timeline, my great expectations for myself.

And this other lady, growing up in a different hemisphere but criss-crossing between the two just like me, trying to figure everything out just like me and knowing that God is the only one who really knows the outcome of any this as I believe as well, She just wanted to let her hair down (figuratively and physically I guess).

It just felt good to know that there was someone else out there who understood and didn’t have trite diatribes to spit out at me (and I know I am guilty of using them as my go-tos as well).  It’s  not all in my head, the problems are univeral, international, however you want to put it.

And to prove my point, here is a page out of Cosmo Phillipines… ha ha…

I haven’t let loose like that in a long while.  So, all in all it was a good night.