On Ramadan in an Arab Country Part II

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So here I am two summers later and in the last 1/3 of my Second Ramadan in an Arab country. I will admit things are better the second time around! At least in this instance. Some of it stems from working vs. studying in a place and all the repercussions that follow: not living with host family (Glory to God!), not having to sit in an enclosed classroom/being expected to study and keep up while the spirit of Ramadan flurries about.

 

Some it stems from where my head is now. And the rest of the difference comes from being a more comfortable place. Morocco is fine, but the Gulf is more comfortable (if you can afford it?). Ramadan work hours are more amenable this time around…. 9-2! Hay hay! Can we have this policy instated year round? Ha ha…..

 

But it’s also summer, so a lot of expats are on vacation. This means less people in the streets in general… it’s like a lull has taken over this place. That didn’t stop me from getting into two traffic incidents in one week! But Rabna Kareem! The malls have some Ramadan decorations, but nothing over the top (except for maybe the Ramadan village in the center of one, for kids to play and color and stuff, but that actually is kind of cute, IMO.

 

Morocco is more flexible when it comes to fasting rules though. Here also it is against the law to eat outside during daylight hours for everyone. In Morocco western restaurants (in the case of our town, Meknes, Mcdonalds and Pizza Hut) will still let you sit inside and eat. Mcdonalds had a sign that said (in French, so some of this is pure conjecture) that Muslims could order but could not sit inside and eat. Fair enough.

 

But here is a different story. There are very few places open for you to even carry-out food. Most places don’t open until just before iftar (which drives me crazy because what if you want to order food so that it is at home for you right at iftar time? …. Not everyone has a home-cooked iftar every night….but whatevs) and a few will do delivery, but more likely there is a delayed response, like no delivery until a few hours before iftar or something. That has been my experience anyway. So the fasting rule is more strictly enforced over all, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. Another thing that is different is the blacking out of windows. In Meknes, many a day was spent at the Mcdonalds (it had AC and Wifi…. Two things my host family did not possess) Whole weekends were spent there. But they never covered the windows to the place.

 

Here, I notice restaurants with shades like that on the windows, the cafeteria where I work does the same. I’ve heard about this in other countries, like Syria, so I know that the UAE is not alone, but it’s interesting to see in real life anyway.

I guess I am getting more rest… nothing is open during the day except supermarkets. So I just go to work and go home. At work, I crank out what I need to get done and enjoy coming home a little early, to be mistress of my universe. I’ve been to a few group iftars and those are cool too.

So yeah, I was dreading Ramadan here, because of the heat. But since I don’t walk anywhere and just go from the airconditione d car to office and home…. Or maybe the mall… I can barely tell it’s summer…. Weird, huh?

Overall, I am happy for this slowed down time. The introvert in me is relishing the extra quiet…. Time to think, reflect and plan (but we all know that no matter how much we plan….)

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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:

If My First Host Family Stole My Innocence, the Second One Just Plain Stole

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I landed on US soil, said my alhamdullilah’s as the plane touched the ground and thought, “where’s my cell phone.”  Remembering that I always put it in my carry-on, I figured I would call my mom to tell her I had landed once I got through Customs.

After Customs, I opened my carry-on bag, and didn’t find my phone there. “Argh!” I thought, “must have accidentally packed it” However, when I opened my suitcase, my phone was not there.

I wanted to think the best, so I didn’t point the figure of blame until I was 100% sure. Today my suitcases have been sorted through and yet, I still can not find my phone.  Yes, I believe my host family or rather, a member of it, left me with one last parting gift…

This great caper was more than just a nuisance,it solidifies for me the fact that the host family system is a broken one.  It’s crazy how they can make or break your experience, it’s crazy how they have the power to take complete advantage of you.  What’s more interesting is that just like in the case of the money that was stolen earlier this summer, the program officers think I’m lying, crazy/etc.
Well either that, or they don’t want to lose what they think is an amazing family (amazingly bad if you ask me). the funny thing is, I am even more convinced of their back stabbing when I reflect on what happened before we left on Saturday.

My room mate’s Ipod, mysteriously disappeared when she was in the shower.  Thankfully, our host dad miraculously found it  in-between her mattresses!  a very strange place especially since she placed it on top of her book bag on the floor before going to dinner, returned to the room and quickly dis-robed to shower and then came back after she showered to find that her Ipod was missing.  I wasn’t there till the tail end of her shower, but I helped her look for her Ipod. She even took apart the trash,  piece, by piece.

Everyone feigned not knowing where her Ipod was, but it’s certainly strange that that thing jumped from the floor to in-between two matresses.

In terms of my phone, in looking for the Ipod we scoured our trash, under the beds with a flashlight and other crevices, if my phone had been there, I would have seen it. The last thing I did before leaving their home for the last time was to check and recheck everything to make sure that I didn’t leave anything.

So how or why I didn’t see my phone is a mystery, although not all that interesting to me.

At any rate, it’s over…

Thank you Moroccan host family for completely doing away with what was left of my belief that human beings are by nature kind or to be trusted. sigh.

Stealing is a big peeve of mine. Sheesh, my phone sucked, I mean they could maybe get 100 dirham for it I guess, but that’s not much… it’s so stupid…. sigh.

But to each his own.  This summer I saw something up close and personal,  I’ve learned how people can smile in your face and literally steal from you the moment you go to take a shower.

At any rate, here’s to all of my future host-family-less travels and living arrangements.

 

I don’t know about cars, but I can give you a 100 reasons why the host-family system sucks…. sigh.

On Desire as the Root of suffering

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I don’t remember much from world religions class in high school, but I do remember that a central idea in Buddhism is: Desire is the root of suffering.

I’ve been thinking about this concept as of late, and am trying to put it into practice.  No, I’m not Buddhist.  But I think there is something to it.  How often do we go around  wanting things and torturing ourselves because we don’t have them, can’t have them?

Whether it’s the trophy husband/wife, dream job/fellowship/scholarship, financial life, social life etc. I think a lot of people fall into this pit.  Did I?

hmmm not sure, but I’m trying to rearrange my priorities.  Maybe I will have a better attitude about life if I can try to think about things within this prism.  As a believer, His grace/provenance and guidance should be enough.

Maybe I hate my host family because I desired too much, maybe I tire myself out with the unnecessary pressure I put on myself for things that are beyond my control to a large extent.  Maybe I regret my educational pursuits, because there is something in human nature that always makes us see that the grass is greener on the other side, that makes us question our choices in 20/20 hindsight. And don’t even get me started on social/romantic choices.

All of that is a thing of the past.  Desire is the root of suffering is my new mantra… although I wonder, could the opposite be true?  Could suffering be the root of desire?   Could you need to feel the burn in life in order to push yourself harder, to be faster, stronger, wiser?

Today I put up a facebook status, that was basically my realization of two important facts.  1. For every year since 2004, I have spent at least 1 month abroad.  2. Each of these experiences  in turn, made me appreciative of the fact that no matter what, America is the place I call home.  Some of these trips at least, involved real, raw suffering. They made me desire to be back in the place that I perhaps otherwise would have taken for granted… even though it too is/was filled with it’s own sets of obstacles…sigh. That’s life folks. Can’t live with her, can’t live without her, (does that even make sense?)

At any rate, I will see what I will discover in the next few weeks and months,  from here on out, I’m trying to desire as little as possible.  He who expects nothing is never disappointed.  I don’t know if Buddha said that… but something to keep in mind.

I’m not going to turn into some ascetic or anything, but I’ve been needing a fresh page for a long time… I don’t know if this is it… but here goes nothing.  Which is what I desire.

I’m finally a Winner: On Understanding Moroccan Music

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As this summer draws to a close, I being to focus on the reason for coming here, bearing with the most awful iftars I have ever had in my life, 108 degree weather with the adjustments for wind and humidity making it feel like 135, being called random things at random times, being stolen from etc….

I came here to learn Moroccan Arabic (darija).  And to a certain extent I have accomplished that goal.  Moroccan Arabic was never complete jibberish to me… the way it is to millions of Arabs around the world… ha, ha…  but it was never fully understood.  Unfortunately it still isn’t.

But I have reached the point where I can listen to a song, and not just identify a few words in it, but rather get the gist of it, and whether the person is speaking relatively clearly or not, I can understand most of it!  Although there are some exceptions to this rule, as this remainder of this post will make plaine, that is nonetheless an accomplishment.  So here’s to giving myself a pat on the back.

As I prepare to leave, and take a small break from Moroccan Arabic, I have charged up my mp3 player with songs from this summer… I’ve discovered music artists that I love and some old ones that I now understand a little better.

The first person I want to talk about is Oum, a Moroccan R&b/neo soul singer.  This is a video of her song Whowa (and he)… it’s a song about a dude and how awesome he is… on a side note, she looks like one of my program mates from Egypt… ha, ha…

Here’s another song of hers, called “Shine” again, about some really awesome guy in her life…

Of course there are more traditional singers as well, well if you consider Moroccan pop to be traditional… the cutie of the week is this guy: Saad Lamjarred

the song is called “Salina” which in Moroccan Arabic means, “we’re finished” in the context of the song “we’re through” might be a more accurate translation.  The song might actually be in the Khaleeji (Gulf Arab) dialect, but I’m not sure.  The beat sound Khaleeji but the words are Moroccan, except for the use of a few words which I’m not sure if you can in Moroccan, either way, I really like this song, even though it’s about a break up… I’m there for you Saad… ha, ha…

Another song to give you a feel for his overall sound is called W3dini (promise me)… and it’s a googley eyed love song about how he will always love her …. the proverbial her not anyone in particular… Pretty song nonetheless.

Yes, it’s not you just imaging things, there is something about him that smacks of former boy band or something, maybe it’s because he’s blond and looks more like the American boy next door than the stereotypical Arab guy… At any rate, I like him a lot.

Of course he has some songs that I just don’t get or like, but hey,

لا واحد كامل غير الله (no one except for God is perfect)

I should probably end this post with a taste of some old faithfuls, thanks to a friend’s interest in the subject, I have known about Moroccan rap since way before i could understand it.  My favorite group is still Fnaire.  Naturally, I still don’t understand all their songs, but it’s been great to understand more besides the beat and a few words here and there.

my favorite song from their new album is called Basma (smile).

from what I can tell, this song is about people who are poor, depressed, people who for one reason or another can’t achieve their goals, smiling is supposedly the solution for their condition? either that or they wish they could put a smile on their faces.  Like I said, I still don’t understand everything… ha, ha… I hope I’m close.
At any rate, I liked this song from the moment I heard it, probably the first week or so this summer, funny now I understand it a little more, but I have yet to unlock all the mysteries… ha, ha.

Another thing that I really like about Fnaire is that they blend traditional Moroccan musical instruments and singing into their songs.  Take this song for instance: Amualam (oh teacher!) this song actually has some French in too Well there is a guest French Rapper on the track. but I don’t really understand what the song is about… I think it’s one of those songs that are like “hey our beats are awesome’ but not 100% sure

Anyway fnaire has been around for forever so they have tons of songs…they get played on MOroccan radio and everything (as do many other Moroccan rappers, although as said before I still think Fnaire is the best).

However, there is one song they have that I don’t know whether I love it or I hate it.  It’s called be winner, the beat is great, the Moroccan Arabic rhymes are fine, but the English ones are not so hot… eh, to each his own… if I remember correctly these guys learned English from the likes of 50 cent, Eminem and Jay Z…. At any rate, the song gives you good advice kids “If you wanna be a winner, you have to be so different, when you something, do it well, or don’t do it all”  🙂

They also get props for having Samira Sayeed a Moroccan legend, sing the hook.  Too Bad Said for the most part sings in Egyptian Arabic.

Oh wait, I have one more song… it’s an Islamic Nasheed that I used to hear all the time when I spent a semester in Morocco.  I liked it a lot even though I didn’t really know what it meant. It’s called Ana Mali fi ash or the Qasida alfiyashia.

And it was actually a sufi poem turned into a song.  This song has been one I have been focusing on the past few days. here is  a rap version, which might be more interesting than the traditional rendering to someone who doesn’t speak Arabic:

there’s a line in the song that goes

أنا عبد الربّي له قدرة يهون بها كل أمر عسير

فإن كنت عبدا ضعيف القوة، فربّي على كل شيء قدير

which means,

I am a servant of God, and He is able to make every difficult situation easy

So even if I were powerless, my God can do anything…

There is something about finding this song again after so many years, being able to listen to it and finally understand these verses … it all happened at the right time for me.. sometimes I literally just say these lines over and over to myself (ocd anyone… ha, ha..).

Well, that’s it for now on the Moroccan music front.

What’s the Difference between a Dialect and a Language?: Arabic Edition…

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This was originally an aside in an intended post that nonetheless will appear at some point in the future.  But I felt like it deserved a post of it’s own.

A friend of mine in this program speaks Portuguese. I speak Spanish.  When we want to talk about something we don’t other people to know about, we speak these languages to each other.  Granted for whatever reason, Portuguese is a bit grating to my ear, over the course of time I have gotten used to it… a little. I understand her and she understands me (my friend that is, not the Portuguese language). My point being that their  (i.e. Spanish and Portuguese) roots in Latin enable me to decipher what my friend is saying and  she me.

I’ve heard it said that the difference between a language and a dialect is that languages have armies, as I end my formal education in relation to Arabic language I am all the more struck by how true that is.

As I reflect on how far my understanding of the Moroccan dialect has come, much like I did with the Egyptian dialect, I feel that the entire experience is more akin to learning a new language than it is to just acquiring another dialect.  Wait, let me back track.

When I first started learning Arabic (yikes! 10 years ago) I learned Modern Standard Arabic, it’s like Mandarin Chinese (I hope this analogy is a fair one), the standard form of the language.  In the Arab world, Modern Standard is the Arabic that for the most part, books (fiction and non-fiction) are written in, it’s the Arabic you hear on the news and that you read in the newspapers and Magazines.  It’s a language that is spoken daily, but not on the streets.

That is where the dialects come in.  Every country, and even sub-regions within countries have their own dialect of Arabic.  Each dialect has been affected by the historical, geographical and cultural circumstances specific to that region.  For example, Egyptian dialect in terms of sentence structure and even some of it’s words, is highly influenced by the ancient pharaonic language, that is to say that, when Arabs invaded North Africa, they brought their language with them.  Egyptians (Much like the Phoenicians in the Levant—Lebanon, Syria, Palestine etc. and the Amazigh in the rest of North Africa) didn’t completely do away with their native tongue.  I think of it as each region speaking Arabic with it’s own accent and local color.

If you want to communicate with people in everyday life in the Arab world you are better off learning a dialect.  Even if you are understood (and for the most part you will be) people in a lot of places will think of you as weird.  In Egypt, you will be laughed at… ha, ha.  😦

But back to the point of this post, Are these different Arabics really different languages? Or are they just dialects?   On the one hand, Once you understand how the language changes from Modern Standard to a particular dialect, it get’s easier to apply that knowledge to the context of another dialect.  Take me for instance, it took a full calendar year to get to Advanced level understanding of the Syrian dialect, about 9 months to get to near native understanding of Egyptian and now, about 2.5 months  to get to somewhere between advanced and near-native Moroccan… (only test results will tell).

Sometimes it feels like the similarities between dialects start and finish with the Arabic Alphabet…

Some things in grammar are pretty much the same, a lot of sayings and proverbs are the same or very similar.  For Example, in Egyptian Arabic, if you want to say that the old dog was up to his old tricks again, you could say

رجعت ريمة لعداتها القديمة (Rima went back to her old habits) but in Moroccan Arabic you say

رجعت حليمة لعداتها القديمة (Halim went back to her old habits)

Not much change here.

But like I said, these dialects are highly influenced by the culture and language of the local inhabitants.  In the case of Moroccan dialect, intonation and pronunciation are clearly the vestiges of the influence of the Berber (Amazigh) dialect.  This is why even though many of the words in Moroccan dialect are actually Modern standard words, many Arabs from other countries don’t understand when Moroccans are talking (I have literally seen Arabic-language programming where Moroccan callers/commentators/contestants are subtitled!…. same language?  I think not).

That is why, after 2 years of learning different dialects, and getting better at being able to differentiate between them, I am basking in my effort to learning/trying to master a new language.

The state I have been in since I started learning these dialects…. sigh.

Yes, that it precisely what I consider the Arabic dialects that I have earned to be: Languages.  They have about as much in common as French and Spanish have with each other, and yet someone gets credit for being a poly-glot because they mastered 2, 3 or 4 Romance languages and I don’t because I technically know  only Arabic…. Sigh. It is indeed a strange state of affairs.

My experience learning Moroccan Arabic this summer, makes me recall my one-month intensive Catalan language program that I did in 2008.  I had the same wrinkles in my forehead as I tried to remember the slight differences, the big differences and the similarities between the two languages.  Despite the fact that a very good point could be made that Catalan and Spanish are probably more similar than Moroccan and Egyptian.  Despite that after one month, I pretty much understood Catalan and regarded it (mentally) as just Spanish with a different accent, while it would be pretty hard to do that with Moroccan and Egyptian, One of these pairs is a pair of languages and the other is not.

So yes, I indulged in a little first world problems mindset today… (how come Katy gets to say that she speaks 5 languages and I can’t?) But my point, I think still stands).  Questions of Arab unity aside, different Arabic dialects are not like the differences between British, American and Australian English.  They have their own rules, verb conjugations, sentence structures you name it.   Are Arabic dialects different languages? Or not?

On What a difference 16 inches of Hair and 6 years makes…

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What a difference some fake hair makes! ha, ha… my hair is in Senegalese twists now, which are really long (longer than I had anticipated) I mean all the way down to the end of my back long.

Since I got them in, I’ve noticed longer stares and more talk from people of the opposite sex… (give me a break).

But this post is not about random Moroccan dudes.

It’s about how being the new person in an older, established group of friends and colleagues can catch you off guard and relegate you to the nether regions of said circle.  If you happen to meet the guy that’s into you because you’re something new… you’ve hit a wall….

It’s a bit of deja vu… the same thing happened when I was in Morocco for a semester and met a bunch of sub-Saharan African students.  It was wonderful to meet them, but it was awkward with some of the guys.

Thankfully the numbers are fewer (age and location have much to do with that this time around but the situation is nonetheless a funny one to be in.  I’m not here looking for a man, I don’t think I act like I am, I’m not flirty at all… so how people read me as “open” for that mess, that is beyond my guess.
Case in point, yet another Romeo that I met when getting this fantabulous ‘do… apparently “can’t stop thinking about me”… ha, ha… if I thought these sentiments were at all real or credible  I wouldn’t laugh, but I’ve been down this road before.  Only this time instead of being confused and taken aback by such language, I rolled my eyes and told him to just stop.  It’s not that hard to do, (just ask my rather short list of ex and unrequited loves… ha, ha…)

I don’t want to give the idea that I am fighting them off left and right here, because I’m not and it’s not thaaat serious.  But, I do think about this situation, because of it’s parallels to my other time in Morocco.  Back then I still tried to navigate friendships and ignore that googly-eyed talk that then and now, is pretty much just their idea of what they think a girl/woman wants to hear.  Perhaps I’m just cynical, but I like to think of myself as a person who as they say in Moroccan ARabic

كيدق وكيقول “شكون”

(someone who knocks and says, who is it, i.e. someone who knows themselves very well)

I’m not that memorable, not after a few random conversations… once again just ask my (rather short) list of past and unrequited loves…. or any of my bffs whom I haven’t seen or heard from in ages…. I am very easy to forget.

Is it just me, that thinks that someone that says that you are all they think about or some craziness like that is well, crazy and creepy? …. ha. ha…

So yes, I guess I’m just lamenting how guys like these, whether you meet them at home or abroad, get in the way of my making real friends with pretty much everyone else. Some of the other girls/women won’t like you because they think you are just there to steal their men. Some of the guys that aren’t interested in you in that way but would be really cool to talk to won’t talk to you, because in their minds you have been relegated as so-so’s new interest. And they don’t want to be starting something… And perhaps more importantly (if that’s your aim), people like this become cock-blockers (excuse my language…ha, ha…) because if you are actually interested in someone, you will none-theless have been relegated to the untouchables section because of your “connection” to random starry-eyed guy. Sigh.

This time around, I almost didn’t catch this one, before it was too late, he was the kind that’s nice and then slowly eases in that talk that I don’t want to hear… ha, ha… smh…He was the undercover bugaboo… Regardless of when I caught on, my spidey senses were tingling early enough to let me know that this was a no-go.  What a difference these years have made, the older, wiser me, is pretty good at sniffing these “types” out.

The older me, also nearly sprained her foot today, thereby having to back-out of our planned group outing…yeah, God’s got my back too, ha, ha…

at any rate, with one week left and counting… by this time next week I will be completely packed up and ready to blow this infernal pop stand…