The 3rd World Countries You Come From

“So is it considered a 3rd world country?”

Cringe. Didn’t they stop saying “third world”? 

“I’ve been to a third world country. It was beautiful. But, like, people like going to those places.”

Those places? Why the stress on ‘those’? Stress on what was once unstressed. 

“We have to remember. They’re still third world countries.”

You don’t have to remind us. We have to remember why they’re still, as you put it. 

 

 

People from Over There

“I read so much about Afghanistan. It’s a shame what is happening over there.”

Over there. 

My father and I were at the register when the woman at the regiter began speaking about the books she reads, where she checks them out, and the episodes of National Geographic she watches. We looked foreign to her. We looked like people from over there. 

“Yeah, well, war does that,” my father began. “Just like what is happening in Iraq and Syria.” I wondered if my father was thinking of the Syria and Iraq my grandfather – his father – would tell us about. I was thinking about how his eyes would almost begin to sparkle when he’d say, “Baghdad kanat Baghdad.” Baghdad was Baghdad.

“Yes, yes. It’s a shame. I believe everyone deserves equality. No one should live like that in Afghanistan.”

“We’re actually from Palestine, anyways,” my father responded.

“Hmph.”

Hmph. The number of times I heard that hmph. 

“It’s a shame for the people of Afghanistan. I’m going to keep reading about it,” she said as she printed out the receipt.

“Yeah, you keep reading,” my father told her.

“And praying. Reading does no good. Praying does it,” she replied.

“Then, pray for equality.”

Later that day, my father asked me, “How many books do you think they need to read before they finally get it?”

 

Dancing and Belonging: TWIP

Hey everyone,

I haven’t been writing and updating my blog in a few weeks because I have been adjusting and moving half way across the world.

Do expect pieces really soon, though!

In the meantime, check out my contribution to June’s edition of This Week In Palestine. Meet Hala Sweidan, who is inspired to dance and also inspires with her dancing!

http://thisweekinpalestine.com/dancing-and-belonging/

Happy reading!

When You Open Up Your Own Bakery

I always say that when it comes time for me to retire, I’d open a little bakery with an outside seating area.

Well, a friend of mine beat me to it and is running her own bakery. Check out her story here, a piece by myself on Barakabits:

From Unemployed Palestinian Psychology Graduate to owner of Asal Bakery

The End: Things You’ll Learn

The university I attended was not my choice…or it was…but it was a difficult “I want but I don’t want” choice. I still remember the day I went to sign up, not knowing what it was I wanted to major in. I even remember orientation day, where I’d meet one of my best friends. I didn’t know it then, but I’m sure of it now. That’s the thing…you learn things along the way you never thought you would. Here are the bits I learned…and would have liked to tell my few-years-ago self.

You’ll see the beauty of your campus just like the girl who is to be your best friend in the years to come commented on on orientation day. You’ll hate it, but on quiet days, you’ll love it and even get a sense of nostalgia.

No one will understand the choices you make. No one. Except like two people. And that’s okay. You don’t have explain anything as long as you know why.

You’re going to be so nervous in those Arabic classes you take. You’re going to feel left out, even though you know the language. But you’re going to get comfortable speaking Arabic…even your Falahi Arabic.

You’re going to make good friends. These are the friends that are going to remind you to keep going and to keep it real. They are the group you look forward to seeing after your classes, even though you vowed to not make any friends when you started college. You’re going to have good moments, bad moments, inside jokes, tears and sadness, and lots of good laughs. You’re going to thank God.

You’re going to regret your decisions when you’re having a bad day. Remember that it is just because you are having a bad day.

Boys…If they don’t support you, if they think you’re “too strong” or “too outgoing” or “too opinionated”, walk away like #byeFelicia.

You’re going to hear about students going to prison and even being killed. Even if you don’t know them personally, their faces will come to mind every now and then.

You’ll hear this extremely, painfully loud silence as the body of a fellow student is off to be buried. You’ll remember it always.

There’s nothing to lose with tiny acts of kindness.

Some professors will encourage you, and they’ll never know they had such an impact.

You’ll eventually make a promise to yourself that you’ll never turn down opportunities out of fear of being not good enough or fear of change. And you’ll always silently pray to the person who got you to this point.

Anxiety attacks? A lot of them. Tears and tissues? Lots of them. Depression? it happens. You eventually get through them.

Your mother is your number one fan.

You’ll find yourself saving horrible photos of yourself because the memories were so good.

You’ll start a blog. You’ll get writing opportunities you did not see coming. And those that know how much writing means to you will be happy for you…happier than you, even.

You’re not going to know what you want out of life…a lot of times. And you’re going to remember one of your professors when she once said, “It’s okay to not know what you want to do.”

You are going to learn so much about yourself. You’re going to cross that finish line and realized how much you have grown as a person. And you’re going to realize it even more when people around you start noticing.

You’re not going to give a crap about what people think when you go get that diploma, and you’re going to dance.

That extra year you were worried about? You’re going to be thankful it happened.

So, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll come across other things I have learned on my rather tiny journey. I’ll look back at this post one day and add things or even remind myself of these things.

For now, ladies and gents, I’m ready to take on what’s next. At least I think I am.

Birzeit Politics: Wolf packs and flags

Around this time of year, Birzeit University looks like Hogwarts in preparation for the annual game of quidditch. Flags of the different political affiliations and colors (green, yellow, white, red, the occasional Palestinian flag) wave on rooftops, tieds to fences, and even raised to the tips of trees (and here’s where a dear friend comments and says, “They race to see who will hang the flag the highest as if they are racing to free Palestine.”) You also have your students from different parties huddling in groups like wolf packs.

If anything, those colors signal the beginning of election week. Actually, no. What signals that BZU’s student council election week is coming are the university security guards that start asking for your student ID each day from the beginning of the month before you enter the university.

The next day, after the colors go down, is the debate. The university – or whoever – suspends classes for two hours, and students and professors alike stand (or sit) under the sun and listen to six different groups plead their cases.

The debate is usually sponsored by eight things (I’m sure there are more):

  1. Who Can Yell The Loudest Through The Microphone
  2. Who Can Answer The LEAST Amount of Questions Asked By The Moderator
  3. Who Can Bring Out The Biggest Basket of Dirty Laundry For The Other Party
  4. Who Can Make The Most Empty Promises
  5. Who Can Shame The Other Party More
  6. Who Is The First To Go Over 5 Minutes
  7.  Whose “Followers” Can Cheer The Loudest
  8. Ignoring The Smaller Parties

The Islamic Bloc (commonly known as Hamas) debators and the Martyr Yasser Arafat bloc (commonly referred to as Fateh) debators stand at either side of the stage – with the other parties in the middle – and start with the “big” politics of Palestine, mentioning all that goes on in Gaza and the West Bank…and how Gaza will turn into a bed for ISIS and how the West Bank will make room for traitors. They call for the continuing of the “3rd intifada” that seems to have died down. It only escalates from there. Lemons and other fruits are introduced to accompany analogies I couldn’t comprehend. Also, the Martyr Yasser Arafat Bloc’s debator promised 1,000,000 Jordanian Dinars to go as student financial aid for the next 5 years if they win the elections. And if they don’t, where does this 1 million go? No idea if it even exists.

The two blocs stand there and call for unity among the parties. They even hug it out, and they go back to their shaming each other and calling out each other for not answering the questions asked and not making women a part of their parties.

And the students get so hyped! I’m pretty sure the revenue for the koffiyeah factory went up, with all the koffiyeahs, in all its colors, on students’ shoulders. The media gets hyped! It’s rumored that BZU student council elections get more coverage than any other political election in Palestine.

Today was voting day. There are five different spots students vote in according to their student ID numbers, and then, everyone waits for the results. How were the results this year?

The voting turn out was 76% out of the students eligible to vote. The Islamic Bloc won 25 seats compared to a 19 seats won by the other bloc out of a total of 51. Note that the Islamic Bloc won last year, making this a two-in-a-row win for them.

This is my last year attending BZU Student Council elections. What have I learned? People call for change and conformity and unity and division at the same time every damn time.

 

 

 

 

 

To The “Complimenting you” and “Just looking” People

I don’t think you realize this, but your kid is sitting in the passenger seat right next to you. I don’t think you realize this, but your kid notices a lot more than you think.

Your son just noticed you sticking your head out of the window and practically eating the female  that just crossed the sidewalk with your eyes. Your son heard you whistle at her. Your son heard you say, “What a beauty!”

Okay. So it wasn’t your son. It was your daughter sitting in the passenger seat next to you. I don’t think you realized that, either.

Your daughter just noticed it all, too.

Your son will grow up, and probably, unfortunately, if he had no better guidance, will become you. He will think that it is okay for him to open his car window and give a “compliment.” He will think that it is all right if he whistles at a girl. He will think he has every right to speak to any female that is in his life in any way he wants…because he’s a boy, and “Daddy showed me that it was okay.”

Your daughter will grow up, and if she doesn’t have any better guidance, she’ll think it’s okay, as long as she ignores it. She’ll think it’s because of what she wears. She’ll suck it up because people will tell her to think of it as a compliment. “Boys will be boys,” and “Daddy isn’t a bad person.”

I don’t think you realize this. At least, I hope you don’t, because if you do realize what you’re doing and you continue doing it, then you clearly have nothing better to do. Don’t blame the people that curse your sons’ father. It was precisely you that did not teach him better. Instead, you were busy  disrespecting every female you know: your wife, your daughter, your mother, your sister, and your female co-worker.

It’s not a compliment. It’s not okay. ضب حالك.

 

 

Whispering Secrets: Late night poetry

She was the secret
he whispered to the wind
and to the horses he rode.

He whispered her name
in the hallways he walked through,
and spoke of her in metaphors
to the ones that crossed his path.

He poured her through the tips
of his fingers on the keyboard
as he created her into the character
he wanted her to be.

He wondered if she ever did the same.

(The first stanza was originally a Haiku I wrote a few weeks ago).

The Case of The Tiny Hands: On Body Image

By now, I’m used to the comments I get on my extremely tiny hands. My mother says it’s because I’m always typing away at a keyboard or phone screen. (This is where she and my grandmother make deformed typing gestures with their fingers. The comments get even worse and more hilarious when I say my hands are freezing.) The very first comment on my tiny hands came from one of my closest friends whom I met in college. Then, they just started coming. People I’ve known – and people I’ve just met would (awkwardly) grab my hands and match it to theirs and say things like, “Woooaaahhh. They’re smaller than mine.” Even my driving instructor once asked, “What wedding ring is going to fit on these fingers?”

Those comments are fun. I always get a good laugh, but the other day, what came after the usual comment got me thinking…and writing this.

I was sitting with a friend and her friend around campus when two of our acquaintences stopped by. One thing led to another, and the conversation went from some weird, don’t-say-this-in-front-of-my-mother talk to my tiny hands.

“Wow. They are tiny. You don’t look it, though,” one of them said, glancing at my hands and then at me.

Ladies and gents, that is a subtle comment on your weight/your build/your structure/your features. I know she did not conciously want to make a subtle comment like that, but it happened. I know she probably did not mean it as a way to call me huge or “big” as opposed to my “tiny” hands. Nonetheless, it is these comments that the hidden, body-critic “being” (so to speak) feeds on.

I think we all have this devillish “creature” brewing in us, except some are able to keep it in check more than others. This is the creature that has us looking in the mirror and seeing things that aren’t really there. (You know what? So what if these “features” are there? Congratulations. You’re a flawed human – you probably don’t want to be human while Trump is running for president, but congrats, nonetheless.) This is the creature that criticizes you for looking the way you do wearing what the flawless mannequin was wearing. This is the creature that wants you to change your hair color, your eye color, your height, your breasts, your buttock, and anything else that is changeable because “that is beauty. Not you.”

Sometimes, you overcome this creature. You push it all the way in the back with every nagging, criticizing, second-guessing voice…until you get subtle – and sometimes, not so subtle comments (Thanks to the people who do not mind their business.) You (hopefully) and I don’t like subtle and not-so-subtle comments.

When it comes to body image (and lots of other things that are subject to critcism and bullying by others and ourselves),  we need to be accepting. We need to embrace what is or isn’t there. We need to believe that we can shut down the “creature” in our heads for good, and we can leave the comments far behind in a place where the “creature” cannot even take a whiff of them yet alone feed on them.

As humans, we have a tendency to bully ourselves. We are so quick to fall out of love with ourselves before we even get to know who we are. We can point fingers at the fathers that weren’t there, the mothers that didn’t know any better, the friends that aren’t friends, the media, Trump…the list goes on, but at the end of the list, it is our reflection in the mirror that we’re pointing at.

Point at yourself with acceptance. Point at yourself with love. Point at yourself with wanting to be the best you can in a world that never ceases to judge.