(Still) In Europe– ON Finding Elucidation in a Jet-lagged dream

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Well my week in Dublin came and went… Ireland was great, from what I could see, unfortunately everything closes early besides pubs, so my work schedule didn’t really allow for much of anything else.

My impressions of Ireland though is that it’s pretty meh weather, very friendly people (or at least less of a culture of otherizing than what I experienced previously… it was great to walk around in space where I was only 1 of a very few number of black people and it was not a big deal… the other black people didn’t make eye contact, didn’t try to connect since we were the only ones of our race in a hostile space… ha ha… but everyone else went around their business: I never felt otherized).

Food was ok, but from what I understand, traditional Irish food is a lot of stews and a lot potatoes.  I didn’t really eat much of that… it was more hotel/restaurant food. I think I should have stayed through today (Saturday) so that I could really get a feel for the town.

I did go to the city center my last evening there and thought it was really cute (too bad again, everything closes so early…. 7pm ! on a Friday night!)

But something else happened during my trip, that I wanted to codify, a little bit. Laying in my lovely hotel apartment (it had heated floors!… ha ha, and a pretty comfortable mattress,  but overall I think it was a little hyped up… not complaining though it was lovely). I have been thinking about a  few things… related to my “new  year” philosophy.  I have had a disquieted spirit for a few weeks. Well, not disquieted really but there was some stuff I was trying to make sense of, because I felt overwhelmed and preoccupied by a a lot of different thoughts. The anxiety has been building, tbh, I was looking forward to going to Dublin and the subsequent vacation. It wasn’t just one issue, really, it’s a bunch of separate ones, some interrelated, some not. But it all felt so daunting.  Anyway…

Jet-lag is weird… I lay there that first night in Dublin, desperately trying to sleep and focus on sleep. But my mind kept staying super active, and going everywhere but to counting sheep. And boom somewhere around three AM I realized two important things: The first, about an issue that has lasted the past couple years. I have been trying to resolve it within my heart and mind, and succeeded only to a certain extent. But there was sort of a final piece that I realized, acknowledged and came to terms with and I immediately felt a source of peace…. The only hitch is that I also shared what I had realized that morning… In a manner that I thought was tactful with the other person involved… And their reception of it is still TBD.:

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FWIW… LJC if you happen to be reading this, I meant what I shared, but hope it wasn’t taken as an insult of any kind. I thought sharing was what you wanted, but maybe not… Ironic though, when I finally feel like the issue is completely resolved that manages to have (potentially) cringeworthy repurcussions. I can see how it can feel dragged out and maybe even like some sort of attack. Am hedging my bets that this is not the case here, that this is not how you read things. But I know that everyone has to do what they have to do. Sigh.  With that said, I value you and your friendship greatly.

And it would be really sad if as everything was making sense to me, the craziness of it made you say, fuck this…

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Can’t put it back, honestly I wouldn’t want to… There is a freedom in pointing out certain things… At least, I hope all parties can see this.

 

The other issue, is a newer one, in a newer dynamic that I am still trying to figure out… but as I tossed and turned, I figured out what I need to do for now… Some rules that I needed to clarify for my own self.  Gazelle figured out what she’s doing!!! —- in a situation where I didn’t realize there was figuring to do.

So it’s  a little crazy that it took traveling almost 5,000 miles to help me realize some key things that have been weighing on my subconcious. Still a lot of other things to sort out, but checking off two things from the list still feels good.

 

And now I am taking it easy this weekend. Breathing in and out… hoping for the best.

On Starting 2017: Honesty is the Best Policy

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There are things that I promise to do differently next year. Promises are often broken so we will see how many of them I can keep. In anticipation of my endevour to be more frank and cut the bullshit with others, I am starting with myself.

I am a reasonably happy individual, all things considered. But what things exactly am I considering? It’s a hard story to tell in one blog entry (and I am trying to keep it down to one).

I was a relatively happy child, but poor as fuck. Not rural poor. Not as poor and as desperate a situation as other kids (because of course, the sick beauty of this world is that no matter how hard you have it, there is always someone else who has it worse).

But yeah, childhood was intertwined with intuiting my family’s socio-economic status and trying to the best I could with it. To be honest, I have never gone to bed hungry in my life. To be honest, I have always had a roof over my head.

But to be honest, I’ve been homeless, for extended stints throughought my childhood and adulthood. The first time was when I was 8. Spending the weekend at my cousin’s house and wanted to call my mom. My uncle’s wife (more of wicked stepmother type than the cool aunt type) at the time, told me there was not point to call home becuase there was not home call and that my family (mother and siblings) were out on the street. Naturally, I didn’t believe her. I was already accustomed to her always finding the most mean and cruel things to say to me (I loved my cousin dearly, I guess, otherwise why the hell did I love going over there so much). Anyway, I tried to call the house, but the line was disconnected. And the evil aunty found comic relief in my confused face.

A couple of days later, my mom came to pick me up. I remember we needed some for me so we were going to the bastion of footwear for the poor: Payless Shoesource. It was there just a few feet away from the entrance that she told me we no longer had a place to live. I got my shoes, a pair of suede-like booties… and the memories of that time crstualized in my memory.

TBH the apartment was a hell hole anyway, teeming with mice and rats. I slept on the floor, another sibling on the couch (where the rats had bored holes and made a nice home for themselves no doubt.

But As I mentioned earlier, I have always had a roof over my head. We stayed with family for a couple weeks (interesting lessons learned from that experience for sure) and then with family friends. Within a month we were in a better apartment, in a better area. So I guess it worked out for the better in this case. We had fallen behind on the crappy place, and although we had a verbal agreement from the landlord that rent could be paid late, he double dealed and put in papers for an eviction anyway.

When I think about it, I never was the same after that. The new apartment was bigger, but we had no furniture for the first year. And eventually, with other members of extended family moved in with us there, the cycle began again…. By the time I was going to high school, another eviction loomed over us. This time, we got ahead of the curve though: We moved out before they could throw us out. And again we stayed with family friends until we got another better space.

Like I said, I’ve been homeless many times. This better space was fantastic at first, but when the working poor fall ill or lose their jobs, then their already tenuous situation gets worse. And this is how I started college. I worked my ass off (academically and literally in the dining hall shifts and other gigs) because my family could not support me financially at all.

The irony of the American dream is that here I was at one of the best colleges in the country despite my circumstances (and thanks to some good years of ebb right before)  and studied abroad (thanks to student loans and generous grants). It was not a fun time, (it was a very broke time!… but I made due).  But I came home to no home at all: In danger of being evicted yet again, after unemployment ran out, we had to move, this time leaving tons of shit behind/ or giving it awawy. This time, there were no real family or friends to lean on. What could you say? Yet again? Evicted yet again?

That stretch of time was some of the darkest days of my life to date: All of the complications, a sibling was also sick and I was sick too, in a way. I wish that I had done some therapy in retrospect, but therapy how? and Where?

This was the longest stretch of homelessness- from the summer before I went abroad. during the break between semesters we were living in one bedroom in the home of a then friend of my mom. Like I said, I can never say that I never had a roof over my head.  I worked that winter break and considered leaving school (but my mother said no). The house was in the suburbs but I walked two miles in shitty shoes in unpaved ice and snow to make 8 dollars an hour as restaurant hostess: Every penny counted. We were paying rent for the room, but things were strained and by the time I cam back from Morocco we were staying in an extended stay-like hotel.

I worked my ass off that summer, to help pay for the room for the night. My days were spent thinking about how to get the 77 dollars needed for the room that night. Our meals were either rice eggs and vegetables, or noodles eggs and vegetables (all we could afford and cook in the room). Depressed isn’t even the word to describe that time. We didn’t even have time to be depressed literal homelessness loomed all around. By the time I returned to college that fall, we had moved to stay with a family friend/distant relative. But that soon soured, and my siblings were in another hotel situation. The job situation picked up though, so by October at last… we had a place to call our own, a bigger one.

I always remember how people remarked so positively at all the weight I had last: Between shitty study abroad and shitty living at-no-home, I went down a dress size. They had no idea what I had gone through to become the then much skinnier me. Yet through it all, I studied for the GRE, got a fellowship to graduate school. Talk about high functioning depression!

Sadly, sickness would rear its head again and again so eviction happened some years later. By then I said fuck it and shouldered the responsibility of making sure as best I could that it didn’t happen again. There have been some near misses, especially when I went to grad school the second time (In search of the almighty steady paying job, I assure you, but before I would be able to get it). Needless to say, I was well into my late twenties before I could begin to maybe hope that poverty and homelessness were a thing of the past.

It’s been interesting to occupy my own unique form of intersectionality.

Being poor ate my youth. Sometimes I think it sapped our energies so much, that we couldn’t really have been fully functioning human beings. I see the effects on myself, on my siblings. I understand what the working poor go through, my life is the embodiment of that struggle. But I also have had opportunities that others perhaps have not. Despite the shit hole that so many months and even years have been, I was never prevented from pursuing opportunities… We simply made due. For that, I am always grateful to my mother; she saw that dropping out of program X,Y or Z or not pursuing A, B, or C would hurt me more in the long-run

Upon further reflection though, this thread of homelessness is the reason behind much of my decisions. Like I said, it ate my youth. Sometimes I look back on things and people and think why didn’t I do X, Y, or Z, but then I remind myself that I was poorer than a church mouse at the time and didn’t want to have to explain myself. Why am I explaining myself now? I don’t know, I just want to get it out and leave it in the dustbins of history.

I was never a flake. I was never afraid to make bold changes. I had real deal shitty circumstances to contend with and for longer than anyone knew. I think this is why time is so important to me. So much of my life has been wasted fighting this scourge, I didn’t have time for much else. I don’t like the idea of wasting any more time than I already have. Gazelle feels every trash relationship, every shitty business meeting more acutely because I feel like I’m playing catch up with life, like I’m just learning how to breath.

But I know I’m not alone. This piece on NPR and this one from the Atlantic say what I already know. It does feel good to get it out though. The one thing I will say for this life experience is that it’s taught me how to weed people out, and the importance of trying to be sensitive to other people’s sensitivities. You never know what someone is going through, has gone through. And you also never know where someone will end up. It should come as no surprise that I’ve had an inordinate number of people shit on me and my family (even members of my extended family) and yet many of those people who wrote me off as trash back then, have a very different opinion of me now. But I just roll my eyes. (and keep my friend circle amazingly small… ha ha… had to have some levity in this post, no?)

Finally though, needless to say it’s made me very sensitive to issues around homelessness. In my own way, I have tried to fight it on the individual level. Why I didn’t end up pursuing it as some sort of career goal is anyone’s guess.

I think what I call immigrant sense of shame kept me from saying any of this, like ever. But now I have declared it on a public blog(that a very finite group of people read, so there is that). I want to leave this heavy load in 2016. Putting it on here, and out there, is one way I am trying to do just that.

I guess I could write more, but this post is long enough.

This was a lot more cathartic than writing about the online and offline randos that I have unfortunately crossed paths with this year… ha ha

 

 

 

 

2016 in Review: Highs (so few), Lows (so many), Dating Woes- Part Deux

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So let’s start with January. Ah January came on the heels of a very shitty last quarter of 2015 on so many different levels. If you care to remember it was when I was int he middle of a lot of bad choices, lots of regret and lack of clarity on where exactly I would be moving onto in 2016 (jobs, locations etc).

But like the lighter, brighter friends (with the good hair… ha ha) I joined the online dating thing for real: partially because I was lonely and curious to as the possibilities the then New Year would hold, partially because I thought it would be good to do some unofficial gauging of what my options were, figuring that wherever I moved to next would be where I would beed to find my Mr. Wright…

I matched with an interesting Moroccan man.. an IM and he was funny and thought I was cool too. But there was hitch (and there always is one, isn’t it?) … Upon meeting in person I found that he was a lot lighter and a little chubbier than his photos. But still, I forged ahead. (I should have taken that as a harbinger of things to come). I soon realized that IM as mainly looking for a quiet penis receptacle. He straight up told me that he didn’t like talking and was looking for someone who would support him, he didn’t want a girlfriend who made him think: He did all his thinking at his engineering job…. Wow. This, plus his mistaken notion that since I am black and speak Arabic I must be desperate to be Arab and ashamed of being black meant that this was doomed from the start. I slightly regret how I ended things here, but at the same time, he pushed me till I felt like I had to choice but to be super duper frank, perhaps more frank than I wanted to be and not terse enough. Funny thing is the story doesn’t end there…. Ha ha… Before the end of January this budding relationship had died the death of a falling star.  It had hit earth and We both had moved on, or so I thought…. Queue Valentine’s day when I get a message from IM out of the blue. My response: “Who is this?”

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Give me some credit, I didn’t quite respond like that! ha ha

Apparently, that was not the response he was looking for. IM responded with a terse “No one” and (I believe) blocked my number… I was really confused by the immaturity of his response, but also reprimanded by friends for being unfriendly… ha ha…

Mentioning it in passing to my sister and she said that my problem is that I like to be in control… I as annoyed that someone who had written me off and I had written off would come back out of the blue  rattle me.

 

Who knows? For me this is the beginning of the encounters that I leave in the trashbins of history.

 

 

Better Late than Never: On Indonesia and Malaysia

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I’m baaaack! from where?

Well from Indonesia and Malaysia. No, I didn’t go to the resort towns, this trip was really to see my friends from my Qatar program. It was great in a lot of ways.

I think I’ve mentioned how much I regret not doing this trip sooner, but it is what it is. Overall, it was nice to go where I really felt wanted. All three ladies appreciated my trek to see them and it was great catching up. I’m happy I also have a more positive Asia experience to add to my list now. China was weird… I have never felt so utterly different from everyone around me and clown-like (heck even on this trip a little Chinese child looked at me in horror as she pointed at me and told her mom whatever the heck she said to her… sigh… but that was in the airport. And it doesn’t really matter). Thailand as a place was great, but in retrospect the circumstances around my going and my company during that trip weren’t optimal, to say the least…. I should never have gone. sigh. First world problems, I guess.

So it was great to walk down the streets of Jakarta, alone, black woman with natural hair and no one batted an eyelid, little children didn’t run away from me down the sidewalk. Everyone minded their own business. It’s a feeling a girl could really get used to… ha ha… but in Indonesia the language barrier was real and the currency had a lot of zeros in it, so I was always getting confused… ha ha. I am so happy I had my friend to take me around and translate.

here are some pics of my experience… Food, the view from my hotel room window, the national monument as I rode by (I did see it up close, but either I or my friend are in those photos so not posting them up… nope, nope and a family with a child on a motorcycle. Ya’ll I saw babies, I mean like 6 month old kids riding motorcyles standing up and it wasn’t a thing. ha ha… but people drive a lot slower there. Oh yes, and the Cathedral. The National Mosque of Jakarta is right across the street from a catholic church (pictured below). I didn’t go inside because it was Good Friday and services were being held all day long :-/…. but it’s such a great testament to the religious tolerance in the region. I loooooooved it. (sorry no mosque photos as I am in all of them… ha ha)

 

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Malaysia was more developed, and even less people giving a shit about a black woman being there. Here I met up with my friend who is still a single lady, so the spots we hit up kind of reflected that… ha ha. (I mean don’t let your minds go too crazy, she is Muslim and wears hijab so we weren’t doing anything too out of this world… ha ha). Like Jakarta, I stayed near the city center, and it was awesome.  Food was great, the twin towers (which the UAE totally copied for their burj Khalifa and water show  ha ha), the view from the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur and the outside part of the National mosque of Malaysia.

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The trips were great, but they are honestly probably the last one I will do for a while. I enjoyed my time, but I was tired out (and gained 2 kilos!)…. It’s taken me about a week to get back to normal (including weight-wise).

If I could sum it up I would probably say Indonesia is older-feeling and the social stratification was more apparent there, but it was very clean and I think I enjoyed the food there more.

Malaysia was more modern, and the racial diversity was all around us (including tons of Arabs presumably there on holiday, I have heard Arabs say they love Malaysia, but my oh my, they were not lying… there wasn’t a single day that went by that I didn’t hear tons of Arabic or see tons of Arabs) the foods were a mix of Asian cuisines: Malay, Chinese and Indian.

All in all a great experience, I would definitely go back to either place as I barely scratched the surface of what there is to see (and eat!)… ha ha. Alhamdullilah I made it this time.

On planning my next Trips

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In case anyone was wondering… I am feeling a lot better… (cricket)…. Being my own psycologist/psyhiatrist is just fraught with moments of deep reflection and falling into the despair that may come with those reflections. I am a work in progress…

Anyway,

While I am in the MENA region, I should be taking advantage of this and travelling. Due to a lot of different reasons, I didn’t go all the places I would have expected to go by now: I went to San Francisco last year for Spring break, but I wish I had used that time to go to Indonesia and Malaysia instead.  I also went to Thailand in September, but I really again, wish I had done Indonesia, Malaysia or Turkey instead.

But wishes don’t wash dishes.

I think I hinted in one of my more brooding posts about going to sub-Saharan AFrica. That is still on the table although figuring out the details of this trip has been a bit more cumbersome due to the nationalities of my travel buddies.

And then an idea came that I have never really responded to before, but makes sense… Gazelle wants to go to Iran! ha ha… yes I really do. I mean when next will I have the chance? I don’t plan on learning Persian or working in Iranian affairs, so it’s not a professional opportunity that is likely to pop up. So yeah, the visa process sucks for Americans but if I can swing it, I might to Iran…. BY MYSELF this summer!

I am not scared of Iran or Iranians, but I am curious as to what it would feel like as a black woman traveling alone to country like that… where black Iranians exist, but probably not a lot in the capital.

Turkey is still on my must-dos as is Jordan.

I wanted to head to Tunisia, but that’s a place I feel like I would probably have the chance to visit again, maybe even under more feasible travel circumstances. So, yeah some dreams are dying so that other dreams may live… ha ha.

On one year Anniversaries: I wish I had a time Machine

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I am always trying to explain my funks. And it hit me today, as I made plans with friends for spring break (might actually make it to Sub-Saharan Africa this time around!)

It’s been a year since I started making really bad decisions. TBH last year from January – end of September is a stretch of time I deeply and bitterly regret. It’s not like good things didn’t happen during that time. They did. I accomplished some goals.

But if I was balancing on a scale, the effed up decisions I made have had long-lasting impact. (Maybe I should be over it by now. But I am not, and since it’s my space, I will bitch and complain and reflect on it until I decide that I no longer wish to do so).

 

Anyway, I am a little sad because I had been doing well. But curiosity got the best of me this weekend and stared in the face of what I last year thought (foolishly) would not be something I would have to face. And I didn’t stand tall, unfazed; I crumbled worse than Fetta.

And once I crumbled with such ease, every insecurity, every doubt, every blame that I rightfully (and maybe even a few that I wrongfully) deserve just came in and set up house. In the end, I am not enough. Not for me and not for anyone else apparently.  I am neither kind nor smart, nor important, no matter Viola Davis says (ha ha)….

proof of lack of kindness: karma is a bitch, so this must be for ish I pulled. proof of lack of intelligence: Well, honestl what’s saddest of all is how long is taking to figure this out. And lack of importance: I am writing a cryptic as hell post about some cryptic ish that no one else cares about or is dealing with but me….. sigh.

Sometimes I dryly says that if my life was a movie title it would be “a series of unfortunate events” and sometimes when I’m super bitter I add, starting with the holiday season in which I was conceived (well just doing some math as I was born in September, I figure the holiday cheer had a hand in my creation … never asked though… ha ha).

I wish I could do better. That I had done better, that I could be better. Not so much for anyone’s aggrandizement, but for my own. I’m not sure when I became a flagellite but here I am (writing blog posts instead of working 😕 ) back in the same rut of anger and frustration.

Like I said, I bitterly regret last year… right now it feels like the damage is irreparable. Or maybe I am just acknowledging this fact.  But there are few things worse than feeling like the only thing that would help would be to jump into a time machine. I would warn my past self not to go to X or Y. To forget about Z. I would beat the optimism out of her and throw off her rose colored glasses and stomp them to bits. I would connect the dots better for her. I would show her the face of the future that I have seen.

And While we are on the Subject: Sketchy, old(er), Arab Men

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I have talked about a strange dynamic between me and Arab men. Some think I should be honored to be with an Arab man since my inferior African genes can get an upgrade a la mixed children. Some think this, but also think that I am not soo AFrican/black since I speak Arabic. It’s the equivalent of white people not saying your not black, black.

Something that has happened to me on more than one occasion is that Arab men, specifically older Arab men try to hit on me in the grocery store. Yes, the grocery store. I gave this preamble about racial dynamics because I think it’s pertinent in this context.

There’s a socio-economic hierarchy based on race and nationality here. I defy these paradigms because I am a black American woman who doesn’t necessarily look like a black American (whatever the eff that means).  If I’m speaking ARabic, then I am a Sudanese woman. If not, then I am just African… ha ha.

If I am in the grocery store and bagging my own groceries because I don’t feel myself to high and mighty to do them myself… then I must be a maid…. see where I am going with this?

If I am a maid, then I must be easily swayed by cheap shit and flashy talk. Sigh.

Case in point, last Friday I went to the grocery store, wearing a brace on my wrist that I had injured exercising. (Gazelle is trying to get into shape, ya’ll but it’s not working 😦

I bagged my own groceries and pushed my own cart out into the parking lot, because I didn’t have a lot of stuff and figured I could load the car myself. This older, (Arab) guy who was behind me in the line catches up to me and asks if I need help. Now, because of how I had noticed him hovering near me in the store, I was afraid he was gonna try something. And he did not disappoint.

I smiled and said no, and he exclaimed, when he realized that I wasn’t gonna push the cart down the sidewalk (i.e. I wasn’t going to take the cart to my home, but rather to a car)”Oh you have car!??”

GAzelle is already annoyed at this point and so I just roll my eyes and say yes, and ignore him. Then once I reach my car he is still nearby and proceeds to declare that he is looking for someone who will “work with him.”

I give him a blank stare that says “WTF does that have to do with me?”

He then responds, sounding hurt and a bit offended, “You don’t want to work with me?”

I am so annoyed at this point that I blurt out with as much attitude as I can that I already have a job so I am not in the slightest bit interested in working with some damn stranger.

He finally takes the hint and walks away at some point, as I load my groceries.

I hate incidents like these. And no amount of white-washing will make me believe that it’s not tied to race. I get singled out because they assume that I am desperate and can be taken advantage of and men like this dude in the parking lot make me sick. I hate to just go to the stores that western ex-pats shop in. I like having access to things that make the local color of this city so vibrant. But the reality for me, as a black woman with African features, is that I have to dress the part.

Again, I am in a brooding introvert era in my life right now and out of fucks to give on Friday morning when I’m just trying to get my stuff before the after Friday prayer rush. But usually I make sure to hold my keys in way that they are visible and to wear jewelry. The keys so these predator men know I have my own car and therefore am not looking for a ride from strangers so need to even ask. The jewelry so they know I can buy my own gold and will not be wowed by H&M accessories. Blunt as this may sound, this has largely worked for me. But those days when I let my guard down… ish like this happens.

It’s not just old Arab men (although it happens with them quite bit, to me anyway). I have had brush-ins with older European men as well. But again, Gazelle is not looking for a sugar daddy. There are plenty of young women here paired up with super old men to let me know that there are many who willing to go that route, I wish these guys would not get their wires crossed.

I am not interested in whatever “work” that creepy guy at the grocery store was trying to employ me to do. I just want to be left alone. Sometimes dealing with these social dynamics that are fraught with this snap-second judgements based on your perceived nationality…. make me let out such loud sighs.