From Lemons to Lemonade

So I picked myself up and re-evaluated my situation without comparing it to anything or anyone else because comparing doesn’t help you see the whole picture of the subject. 

Lemons

You may remember reading this from my last post, “Only a portion of our school has been approved by the powers that be, so we will all be uncomfortable for a little while longer as we will be squished in.” Well, still only a portion of our new school is usable so the uncomfortability still exist with no clear end in sight. My classroom is still not ‘my’ or ‘mine and my students’ classroom as it is still being shared by all others subjects. This is a headache because I am OCD about certain aspects of my classroom and everyone else is not, so others don’t hold the same high cleanliness or organization expectations as me. And even though we all use the space, I am the homeroom teacher and the classroom environment lands on me. Sharing a classroom is annoying as hell.

The class sizes have increased this year as they work to fill the school and of course that means primary classes have more students than any other grades. P.E. and Music are my students only specials this year, versus last year when they had 4 specials including IT and Art, versus the year before when they also had library. So who do you think is responsible for these things now? My contact hours have increased drastically partly due to not filling these positions after the staff made a mad exodus at the end of last school year and the year before and partly because of people complaining about not having enough teaching time. Now I teach no less than 3 whole class periods a day and have 3 other duties including arrival, soft start, and dismissal. On the last day of the week, I have contact for 5 straight hours, which is way too much for me let along 6 year olds, on top of dismissal duty. This includes: arrival, soft start, 4 straight periods of teaching, lunch, finally a break then dismissal. This may seem like a typical teaching day in America, my past, but I’ll admit, I got spoiled here. In the past I only had to teach whole class 1 hour a day and 2 small groups for 2 additional hours with arrival and dismissal duty and the occasional lunch duty. Sadly, the grand ole days when the work was so easy and light are gone.

Prices here continue to rise. The prices of flights are ridiculous making it hard to travel reasonably or to have visitors. My sons want to come visit during the winter break but it’s just not affordable. I really wish the blockade would end. Qatar is making strides toward self-sufficiency but things have definitely changed and there’s been no news lately of any end in sight.

Two weeks ago I was not in a good space. My new motto: Ride the waves, don’t make them, was not going well. I was in a very negative mood and I didn’t like it. I wanted to throw in the towel but then I remembered I have goals to achieve and I can’t throw in the towel yet.

Lemonade

This was a very low point for me and I could not stay there. So I picked myself up and re-evaluated my situation without comparing it to anything or anyone else because comparing doesn’t help you see the whole picture.

I really like my students this year, so far. Some of them are really low, which means I will see so much progress. Only a few have shown me behavior problems and the behaviors are minor ones. The students seem eager to learn. The working environment is not the best so when I’m there, I don’t think of work, I focus on teaching and that’s something I love doing. So instead of saying, I’m going to work I say, I’m going to teach! This mindset shift makes the work day enjoyable.

At the end of those low two weeks, a friend of mine hosted a vision board party. I didn’t know much about what a vision board was until another friend filled me in and I did some research. I decided to go to this party and I was so glad I did. Oh, let me tell you what a vision board is in case you were like me and don’t know. Huffingtonpost.com defines a vision board as a sacred space that displays what you want and how you want to feel. Click here to read more about it. Here is a picture of mine…

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It isn’t finished but it is a work in process. I left space for me to continue to think and add more. I can’t tell you how empowering it felt to be around other women with goals and were making the first steps to putting their plans into place, women who were really thinking about being better and doing better and how fortunate I felt when so many women were looking for what I already have, a good husband and a house. The energy and the vibe in that room started my upward spiral.

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I have decided to make this year all about SELF-CARE! I joined a gym and have a personal trainer. I have surrounded myself with inspirational, uplifting and encouraging quotes. I have scheduled a full body massage once a month. My trip to Thailand to a wellness and detox retreat is paid in full and less than 4 weeks away. I smile because it makes others smile back, it’s easier than explaining what’s bothering me to people who may or may not have a genuine interest and because smiling feels good. I dry brush, exfoliate and surround myself with my favorite aromatherapies. I vent and then I let it go or I try to turn the negatives into positives. I’ve learned that I have some personal things to work on. For example: I tend to be judgmental of others but honestly, if they are happy, what business is it of mine. So, I’ve decided to work on Kennesha. I’m choosing to be happy because it’s a state of mind and because I am truly grateful for all I have.

If I didn’t have some goals laid out that I’m intent on achieving, I would leave this place and go where the wind blows next. For now, the wind stands still and so do I. But while I’m here, I plan on becoming a better person, setting goals, staying quiet about them, crushing the shit out of them and clapping for my damn self. And in the meantime, I choose to be happy because it’s good for my health.

I’d love to hear from you…

If you’ve taught overseas: Did you ever have a low point, and if so what was it and how did you overcome it?

For all my readers: What do you do for self-care?

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.

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henna head bomb

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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