When the Newness of your Host Country Wears off…

It feels like this school year should be further along than what it actually is.  Between all the packing and unpacking and repacking and re-unpacking and moving to a new school building and shifting classrooms and constant changes this school year feels infinite.  Thank God, winter break is just two weeks away.  But outside of work, it seems the flashy newness of my host country is wearing off and after two and a half years I’ve settled in.  So now what… Well I’ve started checking things off of my ‘Things to Do Before I leave Qatar’ list.  This doesn’t mean that I’m leaving tomorrow, because I have signed on for another year, but next year may be my last for several reasons unless there is a major change in my position, because a change is overdue. 

For our anniversary this year, Darryl and I stayed at the famous Torch hotel and had dinner at Restaurant 360.  It rotates so you get a full view of Doha.  The hotel is very nice.  The rooms are all powered through the Ipad and you can set the mood in the room by changing the color of the lights.  The food at the restaurant was delicious but the service was slow.  However the view was great.  

For his birthday, I took him to Nobu- a well recognized Japanese restaurant.  Although the lightening of the interior is a bit darker than my taste, the food is amazing.  I could not resist the Black Cod Yuzu Miso dish, so my fake veganism re-appeared. 

Last week we went to see Creed II in the Seven Star Novo Theatre in Souq Wakif.  It is very similar to a First Class Flight on Qatar Airways with reclining leather seats and partner pods.  You even get a blanket and satin covered pillow.  We received a welcome non alcoholic drink upon arrival and ordered some food that was bought to our seats.  Had I known, this movie theatre was so luxurious, I would have dressed better. Oh the movie wasn’t half bad either.  

A few days ago, my girlfriends and I made a visit to the beach that is literally down the street from my house.  We had a small picnic and some girl talk.  It was the first time I actually sat on this beach and I’ve been in my flat for 6months.  There was a nice amount of people there enjoying the cool weather and I decided that I’d frequent Al Wakra beach more often.  Besides, I always wanted to live near the beach. 

Over the weekend, Darryl and I along with another couple (Britney and Quahn) went Kayaking in the Mangroves of Al Khor.  I didn’t know kayaking was so much work.  But it was nice to be out on the water, and for a little while, I felt like I was on vacation. 

I don’t know how much longer I will be in Qatar; I’m thinking 1-2 additional years Max depending on the situation.  But before I leave there are still a few more things on my list that I plan to do before I go because once I leave here, I don’t plan on returning.  In the meantime, I’m off to see another part of the world.  Nine Days in Sri Lanka, coming right up.  Stay Tuned…

Back to Work

Well, the worst thing about winter break is that it ends.  Sadly, tomorrow it’s back to the grind.  Three weeks off was great and even though I didn’t get to travel (yes, I tamed my inner travel bug) I still enjoyed it immensely.  I got some much needed rest but I am sure that no matter how much rest I got, my morning will look something like this…

I’m not even kidding either.

I’m sure my student’s will have forgotten everything they’ve learned and they will be tired too so I won’t be alone.

The good thing about staying local was that I was able to see my Al Jazeera news report, rest and not spend a lot of money.  Returning back to work means spring break is not too far off and neither is traveling, so I’m looking forward to the second half of this school year.

Today I met up with some of the ladies from The Brothas and Sistas of Qatar facebook group and had high tea at the Shangri-La again.  It was a nice way to end the winter break.

I’m just happy I wasn’t in Philly where they were enduring harsh winter weather.  I don’t miss it, sorry friends.

Your Perceptions Could be Wrong

With only a few days left of winter break, I decided to call one of my new coworkers and invite her to lunch.  It is amazing to me how ignorant we show ourselves to be before we get to know people.  Let me first give you some background: I think that many Indian women are beautiful, have long dark hair, brown coffee skin, and of medium build.  There are many natives from India here in Qatar but the ones I’ve noticed, bobble their heads when speaking, have a recognizable body odor, and are mostly low income.  This was my impression until I met Omaimah.  Omaimah is from the northern part of India and when I first met her, Indian did not come to mind.  When she told me she was from India and I responded with, “Really, I would have never suspected”, she said, “Why, is it because I don’t bobble my head?”  I was so embarrassed, as I should have been.  Which leaves me to question: How often do we judge people or a group of  people before we get to know them?

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This is Omaimah, fair skinned, big eyes, long dark hair (got that right), smells nice, does not bobble her head, is pretty well off and a teacher from India.  She’s beautiful and thoughtful and she has taught me, and she doesn’t even know it, not to judge a group of people before I get to know at least one of them.  Everyone from one country do not all fit in the same box.  I want to apologize to the universe and say thank you Omaimah.

Has something similar ever happened to you?

Read my next post to find out how lunch went, with a real Indian, at a real Indian restaurant…

365 Day Recap

It is New Years day here in Qatar and I am not at work. Hallelujah!  -My New Year’s Eve was kind of boring (no fireworks here, and stayed home instead of partying) but after the amazing year I’ve had, I’ll take it!  If you came to my blog expecting this…

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Sorry to disappoint you.  Sure, there are things I plan on doing more and even some I plan to do less but believe me I’ve set and broken enough resolutions in my life.  I like to set goals whenever I feel like it, not just at the start of a new year.  But that is me, so if you have set New Year resolutions for yourself, I sincerely wish you success.

When a new year starts, I like to reflect.  I like to reflect on the things I did in the last 365 days.  It is a way for me to stay humble, grateful and thankful.  So here is my 365 day recap…

I started 2017 in bed because I had to work the next day for the first time, that stunk but that was no indication of how my year would be, in fact quite the opposite.

I visited 7 countries, 6 of them for the first time, 1 of them from my original bucket list (now called my Places to Visit List).  

My husband moved to Qatar with me and I moved from my big villa to a nice apartment.

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Us at Banana Island

I had some of the most amazing food ever and even tried really hard to be a vegan when I wasn’t eating seafood. 

Really what would this post be without some food pics!

I found fun ways to enjoy my time and took in some sights around Doha.

I flew first class for the first time, twice.

I watched my girlfriend marry her sweet heart in Vegas and we had a blast.

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I ended this year with several interviews and a headline on Al Jazeera, focusing on my superpower- alopecia!  Something tells me this is just the beginning…

I’ve made new friends and lost some people along the way.  Everybody I knew last year, is still alive and that is a blessing in itself.  This is only a portion of my last 365 days. 

The next 365 will be even better!  I LOVE MY LIFE!  I am on a journey and the path looks amazing! 

What were some of your highlights from 2017?

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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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

 

 

 

 

Go Bananas!

On the weekend of 11/11/17, my husband and I celebrated our 6th year wedding anniversary.  I surprised him with a trip to Banana Island!  Yes, that is the real name of the island.  Take a look at this video:

It’s actually a resort by Anantara, just a 25 minute catamaran ferry ride away from Doha, Qatar or a private helicopter ride.  It’s a luxury, dry (alcohol free- out of respect for the local Islamic culture) resort.  The resort features 2 & 3 bedroom villas with private swimming pools and 1 bedroom hotel rooms.  It also offers over-water bungalows. We stayed in the hotel since it was just us.

I’m trying hard to stick to my commitment of saving versus traveling but last year was our 5th anniversary and we spent it on two different continents so I wanted this one to be special.  Is a weekend on banana Island expensive?  Yes, but still cheaper than paying for a flight, hotel and food someplace away from Qatar and wasting time on a plane ride for a quick getaway.  I called Darryl on the phone three hours before I left from work and instructed him to pack for a weekend.  It wasn’t until we were on the Corniche, being dropped off by our good friends Jennifer and JD, that he realized where we were going.

You check in to the resort while still in Qatar and as soon as you enter this small building, you’re treated with royalty.  The banana island check-in is located near the MIA on the Corniche.  As soon as we walked under the arch, someone greeted us and took our bags.  We were offered dates and water.  Ten minutes later we boarded the ferry.  In less than thirty minutes we arrived to the sounds of beating drums.  Our preferences were reviewed and we were escorted to our room. Our bags met us shortly there after.

The room was huge, featuring a full bathroom including a large rain shower head, dual sink vanities an attached sitting area and closet.  The bedroom had a sitting area, mini bar, small refrigerator, Keurig machine, king-size bed, and a large spa tub in front of the balcony overlooking the ocean.  We turned on the t.v. to check the channels and was surprised by the Boss surround sound that followed into the bathroom.

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The island is beautiful.  It has several restaurants, a public pool, large play area for the kids, surrounded by beach of course, golf carts that will take you around with one call, a cinema, bowling and more.  I was actually surprised by how cold the beach water was, but we still enjoyed it.

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What about the food? Well, they did not disappoint.  You know if the food is good, than you got me.  They were very aware of my vegan diet and at each restaurant the Manager came over to greet me and consult with me about what I wanted to eat so that they could prepare it fresh for me.  He even asked what I would want the next day, so that they could prepare it.  I mean top shelve service, even down to room service.

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There were only 3 things, I had a problem with: no villas for single couples, no alcohol, and the pillows, where your head sunk right to the bed.  So take your pillow and the other thing with you (if you know where I am coming from) and enjoy a 5 star vacation 25 minutes away from Doha.

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