Arabic 101: Lesson 3- Honestly Teachers Make the Worst Students

It has been 5 weeks since I began taking Arabic course and every week I have to drag myself to go.

Most of the time it’s because I’m lazy but I also run an after school activity where I am cooking healthy snacks with a group of 17 excited first-third grade girls on Wednesday which is one of the days I attend class. -And after working all day and doing an additional duty, all I want to do is chill.  But it is also because the class is not fun, at all.  I don’t know why I thought it would be fun learning another language.  It is so hard and I am kind of in a place in my life where I just want easy.  I’m also used to being one of the brightest crayons in the box, but in this class, I’m just slow, dull ass gray.

Most of these people seem to know more Arabic than me and seem to be catching on faster too.  Or maybe, they just study and read the book.  I’m not big on studying either.  Did I mention I’m lazy?  I haven’t always been lazy but my current life is the cause.

However, I am not giving up.  For one, I paid way too much money to just give up.  Secondly, I really am learning and want to learn more.  Finally, I am not used to giving up.  I’m not a quitter.

Now that, that is out the way, here is some Arabic for you…(please keep in mind that I am spelling these words phonetically so that you can say them almost right)

Some colors:

Abiyad- White,   Akdar- green,    Aswad- black,   Ahmar- red

Some phrases:

Heya tashraboo shy bedoon haleeb- She drinks tea without milk

Kitabi akbar- my book is green

Ma Lahwn al column- What color is the pen?

Zawjee oheeboo an yadros- My spouse likes to study

Ana Asifa- I’m sorry (f)

I’ve also learned 17 letters out of 28 and have done some writing with most of the others.  Inshallah, I will make it 7 more weeks.

Masaa al-khayr- Good night.

 

 

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Seeing the Beauty in my Imperfection

When I first decided to blog, I knew I did not want to focus on my disease but then something wonderful recently happened.  More on that in a minute…

I have alopecia totalis, hence the bald head.  Alopecia is a skin condition in which my immune system attacks my hair follicles, mistaking them for foreign.  It started out as alopecia areata, hair loss in small patches, then I would get needles in my head with a cortisone to make it come back.  To make a long story short, after years of getting this done I got tired of it, so one day I shaved it all off knowing that without the shots it wouldn’t grow back.  It also spread to my legs (a blessing in disguise), eyebrows and eyelashes.  The summer before I moved to Qatar I had microblading done for my eyebrows.  They’re like tattoos.  Learn more about alopecia by clicking here.  There is even a national agency, National Alopecia Areata Foundation.  To learn more about microblading, click here.  I also have a Facebook group called ‘Women Living with Alopecia‘.  It is a support group for women like me.

…on to the something wonderful that recently happened.  A little over a week ago I happened upon an article on Dohanews, about a women here in Qatar who does henna on bald heads for free, for women who have suffered hair loss from cancer. You can read it by clicking here.  I contacted her and asked would she do the same for a women living with alopecia.  Her answer was a resounding “YES!”  Then she asked me if I’d be willing to do a photoshoot.  And my answer was “YES, of course.”  [In my former life, when I was taller, I dreamed of being a model, so I was super excited.]  It took less than a day for her to set up a Whatsapp group between me, herself, a make-up artist and the photographer and two days later they were all at my flat.  For a day I felt like a runway model and didn’t I look like one.

bomb beauty

henna head bomb

garden tribe

All three of these lovely Sri Lankan women provided their services to me free of charge.  They have renewed my faith in the good in people.  I feel so blessed.  Thank you Nazma, Lucky and Nadeesha with all my heart!

the gang that made me beautiful for a day

Henna by Nazma Mazhar.  https://www.facebook.com/qatarihennastudio/  http://instagram.com/qatarihennastudio

Makeup by Lucky Allure  https://www.facebook.com/luckyallure1/

Photography by Nadeesha Rathnayake  http://www.instagram.com/nadrat_photos

Even almost a week later, my henna is still beautiful. [unedited picture below]

henna head day 3 2

I have a brief interview coming up on a Qatar TV show in a week focusing on “People of Qatar”.  I plan to rock my bald head with a henna crown, thanks to Nazma, and speak about my activism.  And for all my fellow women living with alopecia, I leave you with this quote.

Don’t ever let your imperfections make you weak, instead use them to give you strength!˜Me

Arabic 101: lesson 1

Anyone who has known me for several years will not be surprised by this post so here it is.  Even all the way in the Middle East, I have found a way to enroll in school.  I’m the one whose family members say ‘has made a career of school’.  I’ve been in school beyond primary school off and on since 2001; ever since my oldest son was 2.  Well this time is not for a degree but it is to add intellect to my brain.  What can I say, I love learning! I did say, I would like to learn Arabic and what better place to do this, than in the motherland and where I can practice it in a full immersive environment.  In the end, it’s going to look really good on my CV.  This was me last night in my first class…

Well sort of.  But really it was a great first class. My hubby and I are taking these classes together and this is our first time in school together.  We are very competitive so this should be interesting.  I think he is a better student than I already.  They say teachers make the worst students and they might be right.

We are taking these class at TII- Translation and Interpreting Institute located in Education City.  The classes are twice a week on Monday and Wednesday from 5-6:40pm. The cost was 2500 QAR or about $700 usd each.  We also received a 10% discount each because of my employer.  (Thanks to Larisa Mount for the recommendation and for the course books) This class is called ‘Survival Arabic’ and you learn speaking, listening, writing and reading.  I like that it encompass all of those aspects.  There are more consecutive courses that you can take but you must take ‘Survival Arabic’ first.

If you come to the Middle East, it’s nice to know some words and I thought it would be a good idea to share some of the things I learn with my readers each week, so here you go: Lesson 1

I’m sure you have heard of ‘Assalamu Alaykum’, which is the official greeting among Arabs.  It means ‘peace be unto you’ or hello.  The response is ‘wa alaikum salaam’- sounds like y-a-lake-um-salahm.   You can also say hello with ‘Ahlan’ or ‘Marhaba’.  When you say hello back to a male- ‘ahlan bika’ [ah ha lon bee kah], to a female- ‘ahlan biki’ [beekee].

‘Ana Ismii’ [Isme]- My name is____

‘Ana min’ [mean] America- I am from America

‘Laa’- No

‘Na am’- Correct      ‘Haq’ [hah khan]- Right       ‘Tamam’- Ok

‘Haadhaa’- That   ‘Haadhi’- This

Khalas- finished, enough

These were just some of the things we learned in Class #1.  We also learned how to write the long and short vowels.

Screen Shot 2017-09-26 at 1.52.56 PM this is one example.  I think Arabic writing is beautiful.  It reminds me of calligraphy.

 

Hopefully you learned something today.  See you next week!

Maasalama [Mah salama]- Good bye

 

 

 

That’s When I Knew I was in First Class

Then the flight attendant offered me my pajamas and slippers…and that is when I knew I was in first class.  

Over the summer, along with checking Cuba off of my “I Will DO IT” list, I was able to check off Flying First Class, x2.  The first experience was with American Airlines.  Darryl had already booked our flights home from Miami so I figured I’d see how much it would cost to upgrade.  The upgrade costs us less than $300, so why not.  Before we boarded, we went to the admirals club.  American Airlines had sent me two free passes to the admirals club in the past and I hadn’t used them until now.  Admirals Club is a membership program and lounge operated by American Airlines.  In the lounge, there was free food, drinks for purchase, free wifi, showers, television and comfortable seating.

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Of course, First Class boards first and we were seated in the second row.  The television screens were bigger than in economy class and we were served drinks right away.  We had the constant attention of attendants and received free snacks and a tasteful meal. There was more leg room and the seats were comfortable.

I may have been acting a little bougie, because I kept wondering when they were going to close the curtain.  And when they did- that’s when I knew I was in first class.  You know that E*Trade Commercial, yeah I was the women with the champagne…

There were lots of kids on our flight, but I didn’t hear any.  You don’t know how good it felt, to be the first ones off the plane either.  No waiting, no pushing, just strolling. Like A Boss!

Well something like that anyway.

I sent the following IM to my girlfriends:

“Yo, I just upgraded to first class American Airlines. I’m chillen in the Admirals club waiting for my 4:30 flight with free food and Wi-Fi and showers.  Why not, it’s my birthday month.”

This was my girlfriend Jennifer’s response:

“Let me know when you are riding first class on the way to Doha! That’s when you’re fancy.”

So, what did I do when I got to JFK airport when my summer had concluded and it was time to head back to Doha?  I asked how much it was to upgrade my Qatar Airways tickets to Doha, and that was on some other level!  Now let me clarify something: I am by no means rich, but I have learned how to work the system a little and get cheap flights.  I found a super cheap, one way flight back to Doha from JFK so I was willing to splurge a little if the price to upgrade would put me around the same price of a regular ticket. Sometimes you just have to live a little and at that very moment at that first-class counter a quote I refer to often came to mind…

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So I bought ‘the shoes’, well the tickets.  I was some what salty because we didn’t get to try out the Qatar Airways lounge.  After fighting through New York traffic and walking that big airport it was almost time to board.  Qatar Airways is already top shelf, so I could not wait to ‘eat the cake’, especially after the ticket handler said that I wouldn’t be able to get my pre-ordered vegan meal.  She said because that was for economy.  She said my meals would be better.  I was willing to have my pre-ordered meal but she said not in first class; they could not bring me economy meals.

We boarded first, of course, and found our seats or reclining beds.  Then the flight attendant offered me my pajamas and slippers…and that is when I knew I was in first class.  Don’t mind if I do.  She handed me a toiletry purse and directed me to the bathroom.  This bathroom was better than some homes.  After I changed into my pjs, she took my clothes and hung them up in a closet and then made up my bed.  Did you hear me?  She made up my bed.

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My husband asked if we could order a drink but was told that they can only offer champagne until after the take off.  Don’t mind if I do.  We were given menus to choose what we wanted to eat and were told me could order how much and how often we’d like. Did you hear what I said? Order how much and how often we’d like.  It was like having our very own butler, because the attendants attended to our every need.

Seven hours into the flight, Darryl woke me up and reminded me that I had slept half our first-class experience away.  It was the best sleep I had ever had on a flight.

So we watched some movies on our big screen monitor together and ate and drank for the duration of the flight.  First class makes a long flight enjoyable and if I could fly this way everywhere I would spend the money and do it.

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The only thing I didn’t like about both of my first class experiences was the big console in between the seats.  Darryl and I couldn’t cuddle.  In economy you can lift the armrest and lay in each other’s arms but the big consoles between us made this impossible. Should that deter you from flying first-class?  HELL NO!  It is an experience worth having at least once, if you can afford it.

Has America Lost it’s Sense of Humor?

What stuck with me the most was, what one comedian said, America has lost it’s sense of humor.  Everything is so serious and it is, but if Qatar can do it, so can America. 

Imagine living in a foreign country in the middle of a diplomatic crisis, during a time when your country recently elected a very controversial President, while sitting through a comedy show.  Wait, that’s not all.  Now imagine that foreign country is in the Middle East, a level of censorship is maintained and speaking of certain things is considered taboo.  Confused, well this is the position I put myself in 4 days ago.  Was it the best idea I’ve had here in Qatar?  I’m still not sure, but hey, I’m here for the experience right.  I didn’t think of all of this prior to paying for the tickets but in the midst of so much chaos in the world, humor is always a good idea.

So as I sat through the Doha Comedy Festival at the QNCC and laughed along with hundreds of people, natives and expats, there were times when I felt very uncomfortable.  Maybe it was the comedian from India, who made mention of hand jobs and women being able to wear whatever they want.  Or perhaps it was the stage set up of buildings with smoke coming from behind them as one comedian mentioned, with Arabic comedians.  There was jokes of marijuana, cross-dressing, terrorism and racism. But most of the jokes centered around the blockade and President Donald Trump.

Honestly, I didn’t expect it to be that funny because of where I live.  My husband and I had a conversation before we went about our doubts that it would be funny.  We even planned our code phrase for a reason to leave early.  We thought because the country is Islamic, that there would be no profanity, or inappropriate jokes. Aren’t those the things that make comedy in the first place?  There was profanity and inappropriate jokes, totally unexpected and we laughed through the entire 4+ hour show.

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All of the comedians were funny and America, my native country, was the biggest blunt of jokes.  The sad part about it was, the jokes were true.  In the face of this blockade, Qatar held a comedy show, where many Qataris showed up and even the host/comedian was Qatari.  They laughed at the headlines that circulated in the media about the false reports of Qatar during the blockade.  What stuck with me the most was, what one comedian said, America has lost it’s sense of humor. Everything is so serious and it is, but if Qatar can do it, so can America.

With all of our differences, the audience all laughed together because…

“Laughter has no foreign accent.” — Paul Lowney

 

Looking back on my first year in Qatar

In all this was an amazing year. Despite all the hiccups and stress, I don’t regret anything.

A year ago, I was nervous about my new adventure.  I had received my flight information and reality was beginning to set in.  I was shopping and packing, preparing to fulfill a dream of mine.  I was fearful but wanted to feel free.  I quoted Nina Simone, “I’ll tell you what Freedom is to me. No fear.”  But I’ve learned that real freedom is not the absence of fear but the ability to not be enslaved by that fear, and the courage to keep it from holding you back!

Well I didn’t.  I conquered my fear and survived teaching abroad, in Qatar, as a black American. That sounds so stupid to me because I wouldn’t say survived or black or American, but these are some of the words people used when I first announced this as my plan.  I would reword it to say:   I fulfilled a dream, lived and worked abroad in Qatar and it was absolutely amazing!  The experience was like no other and totally liberating. Now don’t get me wrong, I’d be lying if I said it was easy.  It was hard and some days I asked myself, what was I thinking.  It was filled with happy and sad moments.  There were things that I loved and things that I hated just like in Philly.   But I feel so accomplished and so much wiser than I was almost 1 year ago.  A lot can happen in 1 year.  Here are some of those things…

Happiest moments:

Visits- The happiest moments I had there were when my husband and sister came to visit.  I felt like a giddy child every time and very sad once they left.  I felt like a tour guide when they would come, showing them around my hood.  They seemed so happy to see me and the boys.

Traveling- Who would have ever thought I was afraid of flying the way I traveled this year?  I’ve been to places I never even heard of, before I left.  Life outside the U.S. bubble is truly something to experience.

Conversations- Having conversations with people of different backgrounds than yourself is truly life changing.

Hardest things I had to deal with this year:

3: Moving to a new country is a big adjustment.  I always thought I was a person that easily dealt with change.  Guess what, dealing with change is not that easy.  I’m not going to lie, sometimes it was hard.  I really love living in Qatar, but it took me all year long to feel this way.  There has been so much change this year.  I’ve lived in two different accommodations, both with their own quirks but I had to accept that none of these quirks were earth shattering.  CHANGES! I’ve never worked with so many people with so many different backgrounds, and so many different views.  CHANGES!  I’ve never gone to a supermarket and been so overwhelmed in my life.  CHANGES!  I’ve never been surrounded by so many strangers without anyone I know.  CHANGES!  I’ve never felt so lost in my life. CHANGES!  Etc. Etc.

2: You will lose people along the way.  Nothing I read, before I moved overseas, and I read a lot, informed me about this.  And to be honest I don’t think, anything could have prepared me for that.  I have lost ‘friends’, and family not thru death (thank God) but in life.  I have learned the true meaning of ‘reason or season’.  I know that people have lives and sometimes life gets in the way but it can get lonely living abroad.  It is important for expats to feel missed and loved.  Be prepared as much as possible to lose people and to gain people along the way.  Know that you may have to take this journey alone.  Your dreams are your dreams and yours alone, do not expect others to embrace it so easy. APPRECIATE THE ONES THAT STAY!  Know that I appreciate you, you know who you are.

1: My youngest son said he wanted to go back to the U.S. to live with his dad: After all I had done to make the best life for my sons.  Traveled hundreds of miles and spent thousands of dollars to give them something I never had and afforded them an opportunity of a lifetime.  Took them to countries many children in the U.S.A never even heard of.  I raised him with the help of his step-father and minimal help from his biological father, put him in several charter schools and then struggled with tuition in private school for years because he actually liked it after only attending 1 year of public school, which was awful. Then he lied and said he wanted to go back because the school here was too hard and his brother was bullying him only to finally fess up and admit that he only wanted to go back because he missed playing his video games with his friends online.  Talk about a smack in the face.  No matter what I do, in his eyes, I could never compete with his love for gaming.  It was completely selfish and I was hurt, angry and sad. But I granted his wish. Why, for several reasons.  One: sometimes as parents, we have to make hard decisions and choices that we may not like. Two: Kids need to learn lessons, not just be told, the best lessons are those learned through experience.  Kids don’t believe that shit stink until it’s under their noses.  Third: My son was miserable and he did not care to hide it and I refuse to allow anyone to steal my joy, even my own kids.   I also believe that everyone deserves to be happy even if I don’t agree with their path to happiness.  I’m sure his dad felt like he had won.  Despite all my degrees and his lack of, despite all my money and his lack of, despite all the attention to school I gave my son, and his lack of, despite my desire for growth, and his lack of, despite all the opportunities my son had with me, and the lack of these with him, one of my sons, his boy, chose him.   This broke my heart.  I mean this was my baby, my 13 year old son, who was choosing to take a game over me and his brother, after everything I had done for him.  To me this was the ultimate betrayal and I didn’t know how to deal with the betrayal of my own child.  He is so much like his dad and it kills me that he would throw all of this away for what… I knew it wasn’t personal but it sure felt personal.  And it still hurts as you can probably hear the tone in my words.  I had lost friends, even some family members by taking this huge step but never in a million years, did I think I would lose my baby boy. It felt like someone broke up with me and never explained what I did wrong.  On top of that, once he went back, we only spoke three times and those times were within the first month.  It’s like out of sight out of mind.  Am I wrong for not calling him?  I mean he left me.  He chose to go back.  Does this make me a bad parent?  I literally went through four stages of emotions after he left: Hurt, Sadness, Anger, and finally acceptance.  Yes, I finally accepted that he chose to leave me to go back to America and live with his dad.  It is what he thought he wanted.  I accept my part in this whole thing.  I took away the one thing he loved the most in life, games.  But life is funny like this sometimes, no regrets. Now that I am temporarily back in America, he has not left my side, yet.  I love my son.  I will end this here.

Trips I’ve taken in order, You can read all about them in past posts by clicking them:

Qatar

Dubai

Bahrain

Muscat, Oman

Maldives

Cairo/Luxor Egypt

Paris

Porto/Lisbon Portugal

Back to the U.S.A

Things I loved:

All the people I’ve met- I have met some very smart people this past year and made some friends.  It felt great being surrounded by like minded people with similar goals.   The expat community is a tight knit group of people because we are all we got.  People look out for each other.

My job- I love my job.  This teaching year has been one of my favorites.  It has indeed been the most un-stressful teaching year.  It wasn’t perfect but it wasn’t stressful either. My students were good and the workload was light.  When I was finished at work, I was finished working for a change.  The amount of work days with no days off were a bit much but I would take that over teaching in Philly any day.  In fact, after this year, I don’t know if I will ever teach primary school in Philly again.

My kids and parents- I had the sweetest group of students ever.  I would have looped with them, were I not the only first grade teacher staying at my school.  I was the newbie this year and everyone else that taught first grade had been there 3+ years, so they all moved on at the end of the school year.  Next year, I will be the only veteran.  I’m actually excited about that.  Anyway, my parents were great too.

The weather- No Snow period

The food-  OMG! Well you read all my blogs about my food experiences in Qatar, hopefully.  I’ll leave it at that.

The safety- I’ve never felt so safe in my life.  There were nights that we slept with the door unlocked.  There were no news reports of guns or violence.  Islam means Peace, did you know that?

Things I hated:

The weather- No Snow also meant no snow days.  Hot everyday and cover down to your knees and your shoulders, need I say more.

Dressing- I am a closet nudist, so being covered, is not really my thang.

Being in the middle east during a diplomatic crisis- which is still going on with no indication of an end in sight.  I hope they find peace and soon.

Things I’ve learned about life:

No matter where you are in this world, people are just people

There are shysters all over world, people trying to get over. People will try you, don’t underestimate them. Don’t think just because, you are in a safe country that someone won’t try to rob you, they may just be a little more slick about it.  Watch your back and don’t let your guard down!  On the contrary, be a good person, because I believe there are way more good people than not in this world.

Everyone is not your friend

Don’t allow everyone into your world.  Watch and then choose a few.  Everyone gossips. There will always be haters and people trying to drag you down and get you in trouble. There will always be people that feel threatened by you and try to steal your joy and shine, don’t let them.  And if they are successful, because we all are imperfect, let it only be for a short while, and don’t stoop to their levels, things always have a way of working out. Stay focused on your purpose!

To experience is to truly know

If you have never lived in another country than you haven’t lived.  If you haven’t traveled, you don’t know shit.  That may sound strong but anyone who has traveled will say the same thing.  You can never learn from a book what you will get from first hand experience.

Things I’ve learned about me:

Chill and be still

For the last 14 years of my life, I’ve been on a fast pace.  If I wasn’t in school, I was at work.  If I wasn’t at work, I was at home cooking, cleaning, taking care of kids or doing homework or work for work.  I was tired all the time and always moving.  It was difficult for me to just do nothing some days.  As much as I craved this for years, I didn’t know how to to do it.  I felt like I was cheating.  But I have now learned that it’s not cheating, I was cheating myself for years.  I believe that this year has added a few more years to my life because I have learned that it is okay to just chill and be still.

Patience

I’ve never been a very patient person.  Maybe it’s because I grew up in the city.  But there you don’t have a choice but to be patient, patient with people, patient in traffic, patient with paperwork.  Losing your patience won’t make things happen any faster.   I’ve learned how to stay calm in what could be stressful situations.  I’ve also learned that things are usually escalated because of our own lack of patience and agitation.  It goes along with learning to just chill and be still.

Reflective

Along with being patient I’ve learned to be reflective of myself.  When a situation turns sour, I think of ways I could have handled it differently and what part I played.  I think of how to find silver linings amongst clouds.  I’ve learned that I am an impulsive reactor.   I react so quickly sometimes without thinking first, my blood goes up and I lash out. Acknowledging this fault of mine is the first step, I think, in changing it.

In all this was an amazing year.  Despite all the hiccups and stress, I don’t regret anything.  I am looking forward to year 2 in Qatar.  For now, I am enjoying my summer back home, meeting up with old friends, chillin and being still, being half naked outside, enjoying a drink outside of a hotel, spending time with my husband, son and few family members, shopping for next year, eating at my favorite restaurants, watching HGTV, cleaning, creating some DIY projects and making appointments and plans.

I will end this post with advice for anyone considering taking this journey:

“I’ve learned that fear limits you and your vision. It serves as blinders to what may be just a few steps down the road for you. The journey is valuable, but believing in your talents, your abilities, and your self-worth can empower you to walk down an even brighter path. Transforming fear into freedom – how great is that?”      Soledad O’Brien