طلع مبارك…. ألف مبروك للمصريين

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Viva la revolucion!

The Pharaoh has finally let the people go!

Long live the spirit of the Egyptian Revolution!

A new era has begun!

I guess my next question is much the same for many … who’s next?  will the revolution continue to spread?

My bet is probably Yemen, although many of my classmates think it will be Jordan.  eh, I think the situation in Yemen is a lot more dire, people are more poor, more angry, perhaps… but, really, who knows?

I need to look up how Africans (ahem, sub-saharan Africans) are following the news, are they gonna go on and get inspired too? It seems 2011 is going to be a very interesting year.

Right now, it feels like anything is possible, kind of like the extreme happiness I felt when America finally elected its first black President.  It’s the sensation that whatever you might think or lean political or ideologically you have to be proud of the fact that people had their voice heard.  And in particular, the youth saw what can happen when they aren’t dissaffected.  I’m inpsired… to what, I don’t know… but vamos a ver.

Studying Arabic just got a whole lot more interesting 🙂 …  I’m happy to be in a milieu that forces me to digest this information in its natural habitat.  Of course, I’ve got my eye on Syria, and I won’t lie, whatever happens in the next few will certainly affect the choices I make with regards to Damascus living.  I’m thinking of perhaps living as close to the American embassy as possible (if only I were joking).

But Syria was never as bad as Egypt, so we’ll see.  At this point I think that  “never say never” when talking about the future is about we can do.

In Yemen the Bed Bugs Do Indeed bite– Am I really a princess?

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Well, just like the title says, I have bed bug bites 😦 My greatest fear has been confirmed. I am very worried about bringing them home (Any remedies and/or tips would be greatly appreciated).

But bed bugs are not the only thing that have been “bugging” me. I’m wonder if I can do it any more– Be abroad that is.

I was seriously considering one more year of study at another Middle Eastern Country but which one? I think I could only handle a Gulf state.

Sure they don’t have the rich history that I can find in Egypt, the colors of the Moroccan souk, or the beautiful simplicity of Yemen. But you know what they do have- Starbucks, Mcdonalds, air-conditioning, a large immigrant population and private drivers. Will there be bed bugs in my apartment in Qatar or Dubai? Maybe, but it would be a lot less likely.

Does that make me a princess? too prissy? At what point is it willing to sacrifice comfortability for some important life lesson just not worth it.

I am from a third world country and was talking to my cousin about the bed bugs and she told me that she had been in the same situation in some when she was in Sierra Leone. Well, the way I see it, if I want to experience bed bugs, undrinkable water, food that makes me sick etc. why not go my country of origin?

I am all for the inter-cultural experience, but You know what? inspecting your body for bumps scratches etc. and then trying to figure out what kind of insect was the perpetrator, using the bathroom that is nothing more than a hole in the floor (even at “nice” restaurants), losing 5-10 pounds in just a few weeks or month can all get boring and monotonous.

I really get annoyed when people  give me that “oh you aren’t interested in melding into the culture of [insert adjective of country you are visiting here]? Then you must not be worldly” look.

Give me a break. I was born in the land of malaria and other curable diseases that people nonetheless die from. I grew up in the psuedo-ghetto where people have more options than they do in Watts or S.E. but many nonetheless fall through the cracks- drugs, teenage pregnancy etc. I may live in the burbs and am working on my second degree now, but it was not that far back when the “Good Times” theme song described my life.

No, I am not another angry black woman (not always anyway… lol). But integrating/melding into a culture is not the only way to learn about a society. I am not Yemeni, Spanish or Moroccan. And even if I wanted to be, judging from the large number of people from each of these societies that have gone out of their way to demarcate our differences, integration is no walk in the park. You shouldn’t have to lose yourself in order to learn about someone else’s reality.

I’d like to think that as a black woman, I get the real inter-cultural experience. No one expects the black woman to have the money to buy their wares (unless she is rolling with a pack of white folks) and so they don’t go out of their way to be nice her when she enters their shop. No one expects the black woman to be educated and in a better socio-economic situation than their own and so they say whatever they want to her in the street, even belittling her for having dark skin, propositioning her for sex and whatever else they feel like doing.

I am not (as) bitter about these things as I may have been in the past. Instead, I try to value the perspective that I gain from being black in a brown world, knowing that many of classmates, group mates and co-workers will neither comprehend nor empathize with what I have been through.

It’s the world as I see it, neither pampered nor pretty.

Yemeni Stares- What the Eyes Say

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I have been trying to figure out how different Yemen is from my other experiences abroad. At first, I was struck by the respect/avoidance of women in the street. I love it when men wait till I walk up 2 or 3 steps so that they don’t get too close.

It’s so weird how even though Yemeni society is waaaaaaaaaaaay more conservative than Moroccan, it has afforded me a lot more freedom and ease than I could ever experience in El-Maghreb.

BUt then it happens, little by little I start to get annoyed. I haven’t been called slave or Nigger (yet) but to date I have been called Senegalese, Somali (innocent adjectives in and of themselves but we all know delivery is everything, i know first hand how nationalities scan be used as perjorative terms 😦 and lets not forget the apparent personal favorite of children Cau Cau
( whatever that means).

Yemen is great because unlike Morocco and Spain the white people here get the same looks that I do and they generally have some idea of what it feels like to be stared at as if you were newest attraction at the freak show. What is funny is that even the adults stare with impunity. Usually, when someone is staring at you, you stare back and they become ashamed and stop looking. But not the Yemenis, especially not the women! I thought about waving at them to get them to stop, but my Arm will probably get tired… lol

Sometimes I feel like a museum exhibition.  In fact when I went to the museum, I think many of the people spent more time looking at me than they did the artifacts!

It’s really hard to describe Yemeni stares. There the ones you get from lusty men excited to see a woman whose face isn’t covered 😦 it’s pretty disgusting  😦

There are the ones you get from kids who have never seen a black person before ( besides all the ones that clean the streets and beg in the souks ;/ … I still don’t get why they look so confused. Maybe it’s because I am a black person that is not cleaning the streets or begging that gets me the attention).

There are the ones from  women, I don’t know what the heck is going on in their heads, as I wrote above, they just stare with impunity. I think that is the stare that I hate the most.

It’s weird to see the reversal of roles. Any woman dressed the way Yemeni women do are bound to get stares in the Western world, but here in their home turf, I am the weird one, the odd woman out. Needless to say, I know how movie stars feel, it’s fun and even amusing for a while, but at the end of the day all this attention is just annoying.

I can’t wait to be home: I need a return to normalcy.

On Sketchy Men

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So I went to the Rugby game where they warmed up for an entire hour before finally playing the game. Unfortunately by the time it came to play, it rained like crazy.  The streets filled with water, you could literally swim!

I went to KFC, my fave restaurant in Sanaa (which is funny since I don’t really eat KFC when I am home) and on the way back was standing on the street deciding whether I want to hail a taxi or take the less expensive Dubabs. This guy and, and his buddy, both selling ice cream on the same  street corner, came up to me and started talking to me, asking me if I want ice cream ( fair enough, they were trying to get their hustle on).

When I told them that I didn’t want any of their ice cream, the conversation switched gears. “Are you Ethiopian?” “Are you Somali?” (neither of which are questions that you want to hear, because as it has been explained to me,  it means they are sizing up how poor you are– i.e. how desperate for money you are— unfortunately there are a lot of refugees from the Horn of Africa in Yemen and their situation is pretty dire).

Then the  street vendors moved in for the kill and asked  if I had the money for my taxi. Mind you, not because they were interested in helping out a stranger, their eyes were eyeballing me with a  lusty look and they were getting physically closer…. scary?  a little.  weird? a little.

I learned today that,  a clearly foreign but black woman standing on a street corner, I MUST be a  prostitute!

Luckily a taxi came by and I jumped into it. If I had stayed there even a little longer, I think I may have had to hit one or both of them.

Then came another saga with the taxi driver. He asked me where I was from and although I responded with West AFrica he was like “but you live in America, right?” He then proceeded to tell me about how he wanted to marry and American woman and move there. Fine. But then he asked me if I was married ( and of course, I Lied… lol)…. and just in the nick of time, we reached my destination.

An interesting night to say the least… Thank you Yemen for these interesting anecdotes.

New heights

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So we had a ladies only party the other night and of course I went ( Yemen is not known for its variety of night life activities). Surprisingly, the party was unlike the crummy parties I had attended in Morocco.

The food was great, the company was good too.

I savored the opportunity to let loose and dance… something that is a obvious no, no in the public space. They played Arabic Music first, and a few of the women got up and did a dance (which I was totally in awe of, cuz I can’t belly dance to save my life… lol).

and then, they wanted us to do an Ajnabee (foreigner dance). My friend and I got up and danced to Pussy Cat Dolls “Buttons” ( I love the Dolls), then a Tarkan (Turkish pop singer) song. finally, they played Shakira and Wyclef’s “Hips Don’t Lie:” It was all over

We got up and danced to make up for the past three weeks on inertia and mucular atrophy. Unfortunately, I didn’t take heed to the fact that Sanaa is one of the highest elevations on the Arabian peninsula, the room were in was hot and filled with Sheesha smoke, and that when I dance I tend to give it 100% of effort. When the dance was done I literally could not breath! After gasping for breath for like 10 minutes, my muscles ached so bad and had to be massaged. I’ve been sick ever since

I will say this much, I am thankful to God that it happened in a controlled setting ( we were planning on going club later that night… and I was supposed to go into the mountains the next day….. what a disaster either situation would have been).

Moral of the story: be careful of the kinds of activities you engage in when approaching new heights.

Standards… of living…There’s a Bite Mark in My chicken!!!!!!!!!!!

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Here’s a synopsis of something that happened two weeks ago that nonetheless has got me thinking:

My friends and I went to Al-Hamra restaurant (kind of like a Middle Eastern Mcdonalds) for the third time and ordered our food as usual. Although women usually sit upstairs away from the gaze of men, we were a mixed group and so we sat downstairs. (Of our group of 5 only two of us were women).

We had done it once before with no problem. BUt this time around a “waiter” came overt to us in a very authoritative and aggressive tone: “Next time you go upstairs!” and walked away. To top things off the chicken that I ordered had bite marks in it, which led me to believe that they had recycled a meal and made me pay full price for it.

Now, in the states I would have had a fit, but I was calm (disgusted, but calm) and resolute my mind to NEVER eat at that place again.

Here’s the thing, no one else has a problem with Al-Hamra. In fact one of my comrades here said that if he had bite marks in his food he would have eaten it. ” You have really high standards.”

I know I am an in a developing/underdeveloped country, but since when is expecting the food that you order to not have bite marks in it having high standards?!? I can be a princess at times, and bitch about things that are to be expected in a non-Western, or even non-American setting, but recycled meals is where I think I have to draw the line. Besides, even the dive restaurants that We’ve eaten didn’t serve recycled food: or at least not food that was quite so obvious of its dubious nature.

Hamra’s meals cost about $5.00 which is maybe a sandwich in the U.S. but only middle class People in Yemen can afford to go there… Doesn’t everyone deserve a certain standard in food preparation? I just don’t understand how this can be acceptable for anyone…. These are paying customers I am talking about.

Is there some lesson in cross-cultural interaction that I’m missing? Am I being stuck-up, snobbish, self-righteous? Maybe, but as God as my witness I will never set foot in an Al-Hamra again, not if I can help it.

My rant ends here.