On 2013 Being the Lucky 13: My Unemployment Chronicle

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Wow this post has indeed undergone many incarnations… I added this final bit to it in September 2013… the moral of the story: The job hunt is not for the weary… The funny thing is that this post, the “job” I supposedly found is not at all the job I ended up with.

Exactly what I did when it was finalized….

You see, sometimes I write posts that will be future posts, if they could just happen in the present.  It’s a bit like positive affirmation.  In the end I am employed, and will tell that story in another post, I just wanted to share just how long and arduous my job search journey has been this time around.

And just an fyi, I know I am one of the “lucky ones” being underemployed with two Masters degrees, is a lot better than being unemployed with only a High school diploma.

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And here it is July 2013 and I can finally post this!… yes, this post had undergone many incarnations and additions.

I didn’t want to post about the ups and downs of the job search because it’s pretty darn depressing.  I made a decision sometime circa March 2013 that I would just wallow in self-pity all by myself.  Some things are better left unshared with the world… ha, ha…

But, I was severely underemployed since February 2013 which was indeed a step from being unemployed.  My job, a full-time, paid internship, was something to pass time with, and afforded me the chance to keep up with my Arabic (that’s for sure!) but it paid a paltry salary: There are people with high school diplomas who make more than that… and certainly people with fewer degrees/experiences than I have.

At any rate, the past few months were difficult for a number of reasons and having a job that fell so far below what I should be capable of earning, hurt like the dickens.  But what was a girl to do?

Oh God, I wish it were that easy…

Sometimes I hated my job and everyone I worked with, but then I would come down from my depression high and realize that how I felt had nothing to do with them, and everything to do with my circumstance.  I talked a good talk, trying to give pep-talks to my underemployed/unemployed compatriots.  But I was actually trying to jazz up my situation in own mind, “everything happens for a reason,” “Rabna Kareem (God is generous…i.e. He will work it all out)” “My situation could be a lot worse” “One day, I will get out of here”…

My life for the past several months…

But the reality was that sometimes I would literally go the restroom and cry for 5 minutes… It would really suck when someone else came in and I had to make sure to stifle my groans… ha, ha… (but not really funny, because it really happened, like a lot).

I largely kept to myself, (for financial reasons and for personal ones).  Socializing wasn’t on my brain, not when that time could be spent applying for jobs.  Networking for me, always turned around to bite me in the butt… to this day, I have never ever got anything via networking, besides a bunch of false hopes… ha, ha… some people’s lives are like that.  I just got tired, and grew increasingly so with every passing day, with each application that didn’t end in the way I wanted it to… the best (i.e. worst) one was when the person who was hired in my stead had Zero, 0, zilch, no middle east experience whatsoever!

I’ve gotten that one a few times too… fml

It wasn’t a wake-up call per se, it was just another one of those wtf moments… fml…. It was ironic in a way, the people I felt were my real competition turned out to be rejects just like me, at least at the time.

Yup, besides all the positive reinforcements that I was giving myself, the fact of the matter was that my life was in fact F*&* up…..Sometimes I wondered if I wasn’t cursed… like for real, cursed (and I am not overreacting… my underemployment was just the cherry on top of my cake of problems… I always allude to things, but can never delve into everything on this blog… suffice to say my life has been a shit show in a lot of ways… sigh)

But, that part is over now.  Now, I can finally publish this post that I had hoped to be able to put up months ago without the edits and preambles that it now has.

Oh well…..

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from circa December 2012:

Alhamdullilah! all is not lost, I have been hired for a position. ( and that apparently is no small feat).  I will get to speak Arabic, maybe travel to the Middle East and get some meaningful, full-time work experience under my belt.  So Gazelle the constant traveler is docked on this hemisphere for a while.  No more extended trips out in God knows where, doing God knows what.  That is a relief?

I always say I want more family time. Well I get it now.

So life is not quite as disappointing as it felt a few weeks ago. Or last year…  This job was a welcome surprise. Knowing that my Spain dreams were grinding to hault, I began a daunting job search in earnest.  Did I mention how much job searching in this economy stinks?  I went from being upbeat and optimistic at interviews to making my heart as cold and unfeeling as the whole job-hunt feels.  I tired of the waiting on bated-breath as some really nice and some not- so- curteous institutions got back to me with a big fat “NO!  We don’t want you!”  I think the rejection after the interview is worse than just getting a you didn’t make the first cut rejection.  By the time you interview, especially if it’s a second interview, you have so much vested in this process/organization…. it just makes your denial a little more personal.

(incidentally, I first drafted this post while on a high  after one of those what I thought was a shoe-in interviews.  Then, I had to pump the breaks on posting because, well the wonderful job opportunity was not mine.  I could definitely go on and on about the self-doubt and just complete despair this process engendered  but let’s leave that to other bloggers.  I am just glad it’s over).

Is all right with the world again?  Hardly. But God threw a flashlight at me, which enabled me to see down here in this pit of despair.  2012 has been a weird year.  I have much to be thankful for, that’s true, but also much to sort out.

I have had a nagging feeling since my uncle passed that I wasn’t going anywhere— and I don’t mean in the physical sense.

In short, this  lost opportunity is the least of my worries.  Here’s to 2013 being lucky 2013…

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On Being a Woman of a Certain Age…

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Where has time gone?  It seems like yesterday I was a 22 year-old in her first year of grad school and writing about whatever I observed during my stay in Yemen.

Now I’ve got one more year as a 20 something, and don’t know what to do with my self.  My mind goes to travel, possibly getting the travel bug again and what that would mean for logistics… love logistics that is (ha, ha… ok, that was terrible).

Yes, it’s come to this… Don’t judge me!… ha, ha…

I am somewhat one-track minded.  Right now, the focus is getting other affairs in order.  But as a dear friend’s nodding and prodding reminded me, and as I advised her… “you can not be young forever!… settle down when you can and do not put it off till later, there is not always a later.”

So here I go again.  Maybe it’s the Egyptian culture that seeped into my way of thinking. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m usually the oldest or one of the oldest among my group of friends.  Maybe it’s because I saw a particularly hot picture of Ashton Kutcher and decided that James Franco is superbly handsome as well.

And I don’t even like Apple products….

Maybe it’s none of the above.

Nope, it’s definitely James Franco

But I’ve got marriage on my mind… not in the classical sense (good Lord, I am not ready to jump on the first man that moves…ha,ha…not that desperate, ever!) but I’m realizing that wherever I live in the next few years will almost certainly impact whether I get married and who I  marry.

On one hand the whole prospect is quite alluring. Do I want to end with Carlos Manuel in Spain? Perhaps a good, hometown southern boy down in Georgia or Texas?  Do I want to duke it out with all the other stuffy, young professionals here in the DC metro area?  Or maybe, I need to find an awesome expat somewhere in Arab world to get my happily ever after?

Really? I guess my books could keep me warm at night… sigh

These are the thoughts running (well maybe gallantly jogging is a better description) through my mind at the moment.

I briefly met up with some friends today and one had great news:  Her sister was marrying a German guy and moving to Germany… permanently! Do I have what it takes to do that? Hmmmm… I don’t know. .. ha, ha.. but that’s ok.

It is somewhat daunting to think that I could end up somewhere, choosing a country/region that seriously limits my choices for a partner…

The Arab World, would probably mean ending up with an ex-pat, which is fine.  But, there aren’t many ex-pats like me… I wouldn’t want to be with someone who hated/looked down on the local culture… or who didn’t have a clue about local language and customs.  And unfortunately, ex-pats tend to form little isolated gated communities, interacting little with regular folk.  What’s the fun in that?

Married life won’t be anything like this…

That he be religious (i.e. practicing) is important to me (which cuts out a lot of people in a lot of places… like most of Western Europe, right?). I wouldn’t mind someone from a more religiously conservative area (of the US) but Bible/Quran thumpers need not apply.  I’m just no cut out to be a missionary’s wife or like the dad in that movie, Mooz-lum (Evan Ross does a great job in that film btw).

And then of course there is race (and yes it always comes back to this in one way or another)… I have to live in a place where being dark and lovely does not equal being dark BUT lovely.  Because, that could mean ending up dark and lonely … ha, ha…

I’m not necessarily married to the idea of having a soul mate; And yet, I just think about my many idiosyncrasies, and wonder, who in the world is going to be able to deal with all this?  And will I be able to deal with all of his that?

At any rate, if anyone knows of anyone that might fit the bill, holla at a sista!  …ha, ha…

Who actually believes this?… ha, ha…

Tonight to me, Baby, I Make My Declaration of Loooooove!!!!!!!!!

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I watched the dark girls documentary and I found it to be nothing special.  I can’t disparage someone else’s experience.  Some of the women in the documentary exhibit traits I can understand- even if I don’t do the same.

There was a woman who felt completely broken, because of the way she was treated throughout her life. Many of the women spoke about never being seen as marriage material, but having men only willing to take them to bed.  Many men did as well…Sigh.  no wait, WTF?

Oh well, as for those dudes, I chock it all up to ignorance.

I think it also comes down to imagining things that are not always there. One woman, talked about this as she said she just went through life assuming that no man would want her and was aggressive against males because of it. She figured she would just as well be mean and cut out any possibility of someone sending advances her way.  That, I think is not just something related to dark girls, plenty of people do this for some short-coming, perceived or otherwise.

Overall, I think I was quite disappointed in the random, tongue-in-cheek way some of the respondents talked about the issue.  It really seemed like the directors just went out and asked some of the most random, inarticulate and obnoxious people they could find.  I mean one of the guys admitted to talking out of his ass!

As for the more serious respondents, who in the film’s defense were the vast majority of the people in the documentary, I still felt like there was not much depth.  The film didn’t really delve into the reasons for dark-skin preference… ok wait it did, but overall, it somehow still came off as whiny and repetitive.

I guess because there was nothing new that was said: Colonialism, imperialism, economics (i.e. being darker meaning you worked in the fields), and slavery were all submitted as reasons for discrimination against darker-skinned women, world wide. But who doesn’t know that?

Who doesn’t know that growing up being belittled can screw you up?

I feel like this documentary would be illuminating for someone who isn’t a dark girl. But, unfortunately, for someone who is, it was kind of lackluster.

It failed to hit  a nerve, to really show how/why black girl pain is unlike fat girl pain, or plain girl pain poor girl pain, or whatever the other myriad of reasons why people are made fun of. It also presented no real solutions, besides teach your daughters to love themselves… um …. duh!

Maybe they could have done some dark girl makeovers… that might have helped…

So yes, I am here and all I can say after this somewhat lackluster entry about an eh, documentary is that, this dark girl is here to love herself.

So regardless of what weirdos, non-nos and just plain ewww guys (and girls) have to say, despite the vast swaths of people that colonialism and slavery has entangled in its snares, I am smart, beautiful and important.

I’m a dark girl.  I love me.

 

And I guess, that yes, the documentary is right about that. Too big/too tall/too fat/too thin/too brown/ to white/ too buck tooth/too [insert your supposed shortcoming here] girls take note.

Wedding me This, Wedding me that

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So it’s wedding season…. Everywhere I turn some I know or someone who’s friends with someone I know is getting hitched, jumping the broom etc.

For the most part I am happy for them.  Sometimes I am ambivalent.  All the time I check out the pictures and can find something that was really nice/pretty/creative about the festivities.

but I saw one a little while ago, that has been bothering me since.  Not because I am desperate to get married, but because it hit a little too close to home.  He, the greatest waste of my time… like ever, Got married.

Now I knew it was coming they’ve been engaged for quite some time.  But what bothered me was her dress.

It looked like something I would wear, heck I have dresses in that cut sitting in my closet right now… ha, ha… I of course, would have looked better in it… ha, ha…

now why she had to go and have taste similar to mine?  Maybe it’s all the post Egypt planns I have been arranging and the traveling to boot, but that dress, that darn dress, threw me for a loop.

When you are in a phase where you question your life choices for the past 5 years or so, that dress is enough to send you over the deep end.  Why’d she have to wear that dress?

 

Maybe what I need to do is diversify my dress cuts…

In that dress, she symbolized career-life balance, sensible life choices and clear-cut new beginnings… So yes, I asked myself… not why did she wear that dress, but rather, why didn’t I?

at this juncture let me reiterate, it is NOT about Him… He to me, is water under the bridge… a waste of time, but what’s past is past.  I hope he’s a lot older and a little wiser and cleaned up his act, for her sake.

But back to me, I’m just thinking about how we all make such different choices despite being from similar backgrounds educationally, age-wise, culturally etc. This is not what I need to be thinking about right now, 5 more days before the next chapter of my life… sigh.

Why did she have to wear that dress?  She has good taste.

She made her choice, but I still have time to make mine….

On Losses and Gains…

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I went to the doctor yesterday… to get my physical form for the Fulbright filled out.

Things went pretty quickly, but I ws surprised by something, perhaps pleasantly so…

I weighed in at 10 pounds less than I did just 10 months ago!  I am still confused about that, because I don’t know where the 10 pounds went, and am thinknig that maybe the doctor’s scale is a bit old and not functioning properly.

I had heard it quite a bit near the end of my Egypt stay from people that أنت خسيتي خالص!  that I had lost a lot of weight, particularly around the waist… but it never felt like that to me…

But now that I am back home, and packing up for yet another transatlantic trip, I am going through the things that I didn’t take to Egypt and seeing if they might be useful for wearing in Morocco.  And by golly, things fit really well, things that didn’t fit before I left for Egypt now do!

I’m not quite back to where I was when I graduate from college, but I think I’m pretty close… weird.  But yeah, 10 pounds though seems like a lot…. still doubt it was that much…. my friend’s digital scale in Egypt had me at about 3 pounds less. The analog scale here at home has me at about 7 …. 7 pounds.. hmmm I can live with that… ha, ha…

and what is this weight loss due to?  stress!  I mean I ate out almost every day the second semester … unlike Qatar where I exercised 5 days a week for an hour, I didn’t do diddly… but for the most part I only ate one big meal a day… sigh…. I mean I hope it’s not because I contracted some worm or something, I mean the loss would have been much more dramatic, right?

 

Sheesh, the way some people exclaimed when they saw me, you would have thought I was obese when I first got here… I guess that’s why I didn’t put much stock into what they were saying… apparently I should have.

Now I’ve go to  get to used to this new, old body… I never really realized anything was different, my clothes for the most part, seemed to fit the same… but I guess not… in restrospect there were some changes, I just didn’t know what the true cause was.

So this is a loss, that in a way is a gain…. completely unexpected.

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On Hijab Masri (Egyptian Style)

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At any rate after this brief introduction to Fashion in Alexandria I want to dive into illustrations of the different types of hijabs in particular that I have seen in these past nine months.  The truth is, I have seen it all.  Egypt really is a great place for hijab inspiration, women here have developed a diverse set of styles, some of which I think I would certainly copy if the mood was just right. Ha, ha… which reminds me of when I came to class with a scarf for a week or two, and some of the university staff thought that I’d become a hijabi…. Nope.

At any rate, this picture above illustrates what I mean in previous posts about layering hijabs being the standard here.  Women usually layer one or more scarves or they buy undercaps to give their hijab a little umph.  the underlying scarf is usually a solid color.

There are of course the more traditionally Conservative women who wear hijabs that look like this, scarves over gellabiyas or long dresses that completely hid their feminine form.

In general though there is a wide range of hijab, most girls are middle of the road, technically covered, but they wear tight clothes.  some even go as far as to wear what I would call clubbing clothes (ie. shirts with holes in the chest area or halter tops or tank tops or some combination of all three) and just wear a long sleeved under shirt called a “body” underneath.  Please note that “bodies” come in every color you can imagine.  So just think of all the fashion possibilities…. I was almost tempted to by a lime green body once…. then I thought better of it…ha,ha…. I hope I don’t regret the decision when I go home.

 

This is another example of layering, but this woman seems to have used at least three different types of fabric… and somehow manages to avoid what I referred to in my previous post as the goit look.  i.e. too much fabric around the neck area.

 

alot of women wear caps or bonnet-like (I say bonnet like because they are actually just scarves wrapped in a certain way) hijabs such as the ones pictures above.  Depending on the woman, her neck/ears may or may not be covered.  This is incidentally the way I wrap my scarves when I wear them…. causing confusion in some instances… sigh.

at any rate, this style can involve a bun as in the lady in dark purple and the woman in black and white picture above. Or some women opt to have the fabric drape like the day in pink, but their hair is still fully covered.

 

 

Other women still, opt for what I call the pirate look.  That is, they wear either a turtle neck and pin their scarf to it in the way pictured in green above, or they wear a black cap that completely covers the hair and then wear a different colored scarf for decoration.

matching

 

 

The last two are representations of hijab styles I have made reference to previously.  The precious baby above, is the best representation I could find of the goit look… too bad she so’s cute she makes it look good.  But trust me, it’s not cute on a 25 year old woman.

the second photo is a representation of matching done well…. notice that she too has many layers on her scarf.

 

Of course the are other types of hijab I didn’t picture here… but I think this post is enough to give people a good idea of the variety of hijab fashions found.  the truth is, I couldn’t find pictures online that represent every style that I have seen, and I didn’t think it would be right or prudent to go around trying to take pictures of random Egyptian women.

But Gazelle tries to keep promises even ones that she made to no one in particular.  With this post I have satisfied my goal of writing about hijab in the Egyptian context.

 

 

 

On Relationships that Die a Natural Death Part I

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Wow!  I am processing so much at one time at this moment.  I felt like I needed to put my thoughts down…

One of the classes that I take this semester is Egyptian Cinema, the instructor is terrible (I think I’ve skipped 2-3 of her classes to date, more than any other… sigh).  But, the films are great, well even when they’re bad, many of them particular the older ones which are considered classic, are not films that I would have known about otherwise, but Egyptian Cinema (which by the way has a history that is longer than American cinema, yes, that’s right Egyptians were making films before Americans did!  —-) is an eyelet into the culture, I think.

The problem is, that many of the big films that are deal with controversial issues about Women’s roles, power and social/religious freedom are the very films that some of the Egyptians I encounter refuse to watch… for them, these films  air Egypt’s dirty laundry, and they want no part in it…

To each his own, but then problem is, when these Egyptians are your instructors and they are leading a speaking/discussion roundtable, and the topic is these films!  One instructor in particular has been getting on my nerves since last semester.  He is someone that styles himself an intellectual, and he’s about as deep as a blow-up kiddie pool.  I have never met someone so willfully ignorant and yet so convinced that he knows what he’s talking about.

I respect him when it comes to Arabic language, because he really is unmatched in his knowledge of grammar and vocab (in comparison with other instructors)  I feel like my writing and vocab has improved so much and much of the reason is because he knows his Arabic extremely well…. social issues however, he DOES NOT! and so of course we butt heads, because I call people out on nonsense, or illogical arguments when I hear them, .. whomever the person may be.

I won’t get into all the ridiculous claims this man has made since I’ve met him, but suffice to say, he is one of those Egyptians that has never seen films like “The Yacoubian building”  because one of the characters is gay and there was some premarital sex in it, or “A girls secret” because it’s about a teenage girl who gets pregnant out of wedlock or “this is chaos” because it’s about a super-corrupt official who assaults an Egyptian woman…or “6, 7, 8” because it’s about street harassment in Egypt….. These films, to me and in many ways the larger public, at least, are important.

They raise questions and talk about issues that many Egyptians are woefully ignorant about, or are reluctant to talk about, but nonetheless are problematic and are only going to get worse if no addressed properly.  Movies that discuss women’s issues in particular, are what have been weighing on my mind. During the discussion, rebutted a flippant remark about street harassment and how it’s a international phenomenon, saying that it’s clear to me that many Egyptians really don’t understand how bad it is,  far too often it goes beyond harassment and enters the realm of almost rape…. women in my program have had men touch them, expose themselves to them, and even clearly try to rape them…. this is not normal… especially for such a small sample size.  What’s worse, what we deal with, is really no different from what the average Egyptian women, veiled or not, deals with… my conversations with Egyptian women point to this, they get touched too, they have dirty things said to them…

But many men I have interacted with, like my instructor, don’t get this.  He told me that harassment is worse in Alexandria because people in Cairo are more used to foreigners so what women go through here is because we are foreign…. He added that one of his students told him that in Cairo a woman can wear whatever she wants….

Needless to say everything he said was pure BS!  Cairo is devastatingly worse a place for street harassment than Alex is (any woman will tell you that) unless you are talking about the ex-pat/high class enclaves like Maadi or Garden City…. Egypt is just not a place where you can wear whatever you want… so I have no idea what he was talking about (and neither did he). I told him, I was making my claims based on personal experiences and those of almost every woman I know, Egyptian and foreign that has been in Egypt…..  He only shut up or toned down his voice when our Egyptian woman instructor, in her quiet, poised, way, agreed with me, and told him he was wrong.

The point of this post is not to tear down his arguments, but to say that this encounter points to something that has been bothering me for a while… a particular aspect of Egyptian culture…

That is, the idea that you don’t talk about “shameful” things…. ever.  It’s the reason why a woman who is being abused (sexually or physically) by a family member will probably never speak out, it’s the reason why a woman who has been raped will never report it (because it’s always her fault or if it’s her husband, then it wasn’t rape at all), it’s the reason why people like my instructor who has 5 sisters is still woefully ignorant about basic things that are all wrong in this society when it comes to how women are treated in public space…. or at least he pretends to be (it has crossed my mind that he just doesn’t want to talk about that stuff in front of foreigners).

I don’t deny that some of these issues happen in the States too, but at the very least there is dialogue about it and more popularly supported efforts to fight them… Something my classmate said still rings true to me, why can’t people just acknowledge the fact that this is a cancer in the society, stop making excuses about sexual repression or unemployment (which is an issue in so many places and we don’t see nearly as terrible cases of harassment)  or the fact that sexual harassment happens all round the world (mainly people who have never set foot outside of Egypt love to use this, sigh…. ) this would make campaigns to stop it, so much more successful.  You can fight these issues if you accept the fact that they exist and acknowledge the role you play in perpetuating it….

Sometimes when I think about these issues I feel like a caged bird, like Masri (Egyptian) society is so stifling that I can’t breath, but at least I have the fact that there are only 2 months left here to look forward to.

The other thing about these encounters is that I think about the Egyptian education system, and how it does not prepare people to think for themselves or to make logical conclusions based upon evidence.  My instructor is currently pursuing his Master’s degree, and yet, he on more than one occasion has made sweeping generalizations based upon one conversation with 1 or 2 people…. (which is why I end up shutting him down, ha, ha….).  He’s not the only one, we take classes at the University of Alexandria and the quality is very hit or miss, mostly miss for certain subjects.  Students just seem to to blindly memorize information (I mean word for word, our academic tutors are always surprised that we don’t right down everything the professor says, just the main idea), I have a classmate who is taking a University class for which the 4th-year university students have to turn in a research paper, their first research paper ever!  They are just learning how to cite source and (hopefully) how to evaluate the trustworthiness of a source….

Yes, this is true, but what kind of future is it in the context of Egypt?

All of these issues don’t make me optimistic about Egypt….Heck, our first unit in modern standard Arabic class was on the innate problems found in the Egyptian Education system and Arab system in particular…. I mean my class this semester seems like an Egyptian version of “lean on me” or “to sir with love”… eerily similar, and these are 3rd year university students…. sigh.

It points to a larger issue, how to do we expand education, and still keep the quality of it very good.  It’s super cheap to go to college here, the American students pay more for one semester here than an Egyptian pay for all four years of college (at a public university of course)… so that I think, affects the quality, the apathy on behalf of some of the professors themselves is so sad, How can your students feel excited about the subject when you are not?

What does all this have to to with my post title?…. I think this post is too long, so I will explain more in the next one…. to be continued…