My Imperfection is my Super Power: The Crown

“Step outside of the box and others will follow” by Kennesha Bell and Amani Khlifa

I told my son I believe that it is important to give and serve but I didn’t think that I was doing enough to help other people.  Yes, I am teacher and I help little people every day but that is my career.  Then my partner, Nàzma (the very talented Henna Artist from Sri Lanka), called me to do an interview with her.  She wants to get her free services out there and serve, so that more people are aware and can use her.  For some reason, she has not gotten any call backs for women with cancer or alopecia wanting henna crowns for their bald heads here in Qatar.  She has contacted the cancer society here and still no responses.  I have my own opinions about that.  I think people here are ashamed.  I told her that if she was in America, she would have too many clients to handle.

I was first interviewed by a young Northwestern University student named Noof.  I met her at a local mall, where she asked me a few questions about how Nàzma and I hooked up and my perception on the culture here and its response to hair loss.  She then wrote a paper as part of her assignment for school.

You can read the feature story here:

feature story alopecia and Henna 

After that initial interview we just called ourselves partners.  Each time Nàzma called, I answered.  She was contacted by a Qatar University college student, a journalist, Amani Ben Khlifa (famous from AJ+ as well).  Amani did a documentary on us and presented it to her school.   I was so bummed that I couldn’t make it to the presentation because I had prior engagements but I was honored to have been a part of it.

My featured Image above was from the front of the brochure she created and the documentary is here:

 

One of our proudest achievements Nàzma and I did, was the interview with Al Jazeera.  Laura Burdon-Manley and her videographer came to my flat and recorded a whole news story on November 14, 2017.

This morning Nàzma sent me this Whatsapp message, “Kennesha we will be on aljazeera…I don’t know when, everyone messaging me that they saw me…”  No-one told us when it would be airing and apparently it had already aired.  We searched and searched through the tv channels and online.  Nàzma was able to find it by scrolling back through the news on Al Jazeera English Live and youtube.  And then while sitting in front of the television, there it was:  My big bald, beautiful head.  They aired the Headline again and I was so proud of myself and my partner.  Then Laura, who was in London, sent us the clip and here it is:

 

So now I’m thinking, I am helping people, through my story, at least I hope that I am.  I would love to be the face of alopecia and inspire other women, who like me, are bald and beautiful.  It has been an internal journey to accept me, but I hope that my external journey is just beginning, the journey to help others to accept themselves.

I am using my imperfection as my Superpower! What is your SuperPower?

Special thank you to Nàzmä Màzhar- a very special and talented person, Noof Al-Ahmad, Amani Ben Khlifa, Ahmed Photography, Laura Burdon-Manley for helping to get the word out.

I value the opinion of my readers and would love to hear from you, do you have any suggestions of how I can advocate more for alopecia sufferers, inspire other women and or become the face of alopecia?  Please leave a comment with your suggestions!

If you or someone you know has alopecia please join my facebook group: For Women Living with Alopecia.

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A High-Tea for Vegans in Qatar

I’ve been hearing a lot about something called High-Tea and I didn’t know much about it but I knew I wanted to try it out.  Through a group on Facebook, I’d heard that the Shangri-La Hotel here in Doha offers a vegan afternoon tea and without knowing any more than that I booked it.

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For 98 Riyals you and a friend can enjoy an assortment of coffee, teas and small bites such as: Falafel in pita bread, mushroom and pine nuts calzone, asparagus baked in filo pastry, berry crumble, banana and date almond bread, banana ice-cream and more.  It was a small amount of food but it was nice for a light, late lunch.  The eating area is comfortable and quiet and several waitresses are there to assist.  I was just happy, this vegan had an uncompromising and tasty lunch.

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Road Trippen’ in Qatar

Yesterday, Darryl and I got up early to go check out the Torba Farmer’s market in Education City.  I’d seen the advertisements all over Ed City when we traveled to class every Monday and Wednesday and I’d heard about it in several of the food groups on Facebook.  It was underwhelming with maybe 12 stands of merchants selling handmade items and food.  However, we did try out a Vegan Hazelnut Crepe which was tasty but could use some powdered sugar on top.  We also purchased a cup of lemonade with chili peppers in it.  It was okay.  I found the prices to be a little on the expensive side, especially for the produce.  Feeling a bit disappointed and wanting some adventure, I suggested we take a road trip…

…And that’s exactly what we did.  We threw on some beats that we could vibe to and drove to the northernmost part of Qatar, Madinat Ash Shamal.  As we drove farther away from Doha, the buildings disappeared and so did the houses.  All that was around us was desert and one highway.  As we reached Ruwais, some houses began to show up again and then there was a port.  A drive up the coast led us to a beach area with sand that reached far out into the Persian Gulf and way into the distance was the illusion of land.  While posting our location on Facebook we noticed that we were only 36 miles from Bahrain International Airport.  This discovery made me feel kind of sad; to think that the Kingdom of Bahrain was so close yet politically so far away.  Last year, my sons and I visited that country with a visa on arrival, and now as a resident of Qatar, I would be denied this same visa despite my U.S. citizenship due to the blockade against Qatar.  So much can happen in one year.

After we left the beach we headed west to Al Zubarah, Qatar’s Unesco World Heritage site.  The fort is a historic Qatari military fortress built under the oversight of Sheikh Abdullah bin Qassim Al Thani in 1938.  It was built on the ruins of an older castle that had been destroyed.  The fort is open daily and is free to the public.  You can learn more about it and how to get there by clicking here.  A short distance away from the Fort was the walled coastal town of Al Zubarah which is now being excavated and is protected by a fence.  The town flourished as a pearling and trading center during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  The layout of Al Zubarah has been preserved under the desert sands which swept over it after it was abandoned in the early 20th century.  Read more about Al Zubarah here.

After learning about pearl diving and some of the animals that surround the area, we wanted to keep driving around the coast line of Qatar all the way home but realized that we were low on a gas and did not know where the next gas station would be along our journey so we turned around and headed back the way we came.  Hey, who wants to be broke down in the middle of the desert, not me.  We will save the rest of this adventure for another day.

to be continued….

Arabic 101: Lesson 4

My last post about Arabic class was not so positive. Well I am happy to say, it got better.  I decided to take it serious and it is paying off.  Darryl and I review our notes together and go through the textbook with the companion website to complete the relevant exercises.  I received a 17-20 on my first quiz which included, un-connecting and connecting the letters, translating questions and answering them in arabic and identifying the letters.

Some classes are better than others and I still find it difficult to attend class on Wednesday but my after school activity duty on Wednesday is over so it should get easier.   We only have about 4 weeks left of class and we are considering taking the next one.  We’ve gone through the entire alphabet now and are learning new words and phrases.

One of the most confusing parts of arabic for me is changing the words to fit the gender and possessives.  In english, we just add he, she, I, we, us, our, -s, -es, -ies, -ing, etc…; but in Arabic it’s a whole process you have to learn and the root words change.  Also in Arabic, there are words that are spelled the same or very close but have completely different meanings depending on the pronunciation.  This is similar to homonyms in English (pole, pole) except homonyms sound the same.

Kalimat Jadida- new words

Nahnu-We;         Heya-she;          Howa (who-a)-he;          Anti-You(f);            Anta-You(m);

otbkh(authbook)- cook;         anthf(ounawthif)- clean;                anam- sleep;             ajls- sit;

Ghor-fat Nawm- bedroom;   Ghor-fat TaA’aam- dining room;   Ghor-fat Joloos- living room

Ham-maam- Bathroom;         Mat-bakh- kitchen;         Hadeeqa- garden

Ayyam fi al oosbooa- Days in the week              cooliyawn- everyday

Al-Ahad- Sunday

Al-ithnayn- Monday

Al-thulathaa- Tuesday

Al-arbiaa- Wednesday

Al-khamees- Thursday

Al-jumaa- Friday

Al- sabt- Saturday

 فَقَط‏- (faqaṭ)- that’s it

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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]

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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