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

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The Truth about Expat Life- Petals and Thorns

Dealing with change is hard especially when you are used to things going a certain way.   Sometimes people say they can deal with change, that is until change happens.  Then they are all kinds of flustered.

At first glance, you may think my life in Qatar is Roses.  And you’d be right!  I’m going to new places and paying off debt.  I’m obtaining new experiences and meeting new friends. I’m eating, a lot and smiling.  I’m making good money and don’t have to stress about paying bills.  I love my job and my life. My resumé is growing and the blank pages of my passport is shrinking.  I feel completely safe and there is no snow.  Did you hear me, NO SNOW?

But on roses are these pointy, sharp edges called thorns.  Nothing and nowhere is perfect but I tell you, living here as an American Expat Teacher definitely has it’s petals and thorns.

Work

I actually really love my job here.  I teach first grade and I had a really good class last year.  I don’t know if that is because it was a good group of kids or because my classroom management is the bomb.  It’s probably a mixture of the two.  We will see what this year holds out and then I will revisit this thought.  I have a really light workload.  I never stay after hours or go in early to complete work.  When I take work home it is never out of necessity; it is a choice.  But there is always something happening at work.  There is always something new to prepare for that I wish I had been told earlier so that I could get a jump start on.  I receive so many emails in one day that before I finish reading one, here comes another. My classroom does not belong to me even though I am the homeroom teacher and am responsible for the room.  My students only attend one special a day, so all other teaches come into my, excuse me, the classroom to teach the students.  I have OCD about some things, like a neat, clean and organized classroom but this cannot happen when you share it with others who don’t feel the same.  I could drive myself crazy but instead I have learned to let it go.  We have helpers that clean our rooms, and some people have gotten so dependent on them, that they forget how important it is to teach children to clean up behind themselves.  So work has its share of stressors, just different kinds of stress than the kind you experience in the U.S.

My work day is 6:45-3:00pm.  Yes, 6:45 am.  My alarm is set to 5:00am every week day, that’s Sunday-Thursday.  Yes, Sunday.  Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 5.24.51 PMAnyone who knows me, knows I am not a morning person and I am still not used to the time.  I hit snooze at least 3 times and bribe myself to get out of bed.  Students start coming into the classroom at 6:45 and dismiss at 2:00pm. From 2:00-3:00, I’m engaged in dismissal duty, meetings and prepping.  I’m asleep before 10 everyday.  If not, I’m a walking zombie and need a red bull to give me wings to fly or a caramel macchiato with soy milk and a double shot of espresso from Starbucks to even function.  That is until Ramadan when the work day is reduced to 8-1.

Many teachers complain about behaviors of students and this is why I will only teach the younger kids.  I learned my lesson my last year of teaching in Philadelphia when I wanted to play super teacher and take over a failing, troubled 5th grade class.  I did it, but that was the last year I taught in a Philadelphia school; I should have just stayed in my K-2 bubble.  By the end of the year, I gained valuable experience but I will never do that again.  Just so you know, kids are kids everywhere you go.

But for every benefit there is a cost.

Work-Life-Balance

Are there things to do here? Yes.  Do I have time to do them? Yes, because I am not overwhelmed by work.   When I come home from work, I am not totally exhausted.  On the weekend, I am not playing work catch up so I have plenty of time to be involved in other things.  I am in a new country so there is tons to do, even in the desert.

Thing is, you have to work harder at work-life-balance here than you would at home. When you are surrounded by people you don’t know, you either have to make new friends or be a loner.  I’m somewhere in the middle.  You have to be willing to try new things and take on new adventures or you can wind up with ‘no’ life and become depressed if you are not careful.

 

The People

Qatar is a melting pot of cultures.  With so many people from different walks of life, come different perspectives, even on personal hygiene.  I don’t know if I will ever get used to the various smells and take on manners.  But there is so much you can learn from people who’ve grown up some place different than you.  You have to be willing to learn and ask questions and accept differences.  I am a teacher but I am also a life-long learner.

Fun

There are things to do here for fun but most times you have to create your own fun or pay for it.  It’s often too hot much of the year, so you have to wait for the cooler months to enjoy outdoor fun.  So we enjoy visiting our friends, having adult game night or just staying in and watching tv.  I used to go to the movies a lot in the states but the movies here are censored so I don’t frequent them.  Eating out is expensive and it’s hard for vegans to eat out without compromising, besides I enjoy my husband’s cooking the most so we mostly eat at home. Recently my husband and I purchased pool sticks so we play pool at our complex or swim or work out.  When it cools down a bit, we will take road trips around Qatar, go to the beaches, camp out, run on the Corniche, spend time in the Souk and become more creative.

Missing out

Weddings, parties, birthdays, births, you will miss out on all of them when you leave everyone behind to live overseas.  You also realize that people can live without you. lol. Home goes on without you and you start to wonder, what is home.  People who cried that they will miss you, stop calling and people that said they would visit, won’t.  And when you go back home to visit, things will be the same but things will also be different.

Change

Dealing with change is hard especially when you are used to things going a certain way.   Sometimes people say they can deal with change, that is until change happens.  Then they are all kinds of flustered.  I guess we should specify what kind of change we can deal with and what level.  And a lot of times, you are not sure how much change you can deal with until it is actually upon you.  Change is harder than you think, especially when you have no control over it.  Moving overseas in itself is a huge change, then there’s culture change, job expectation change, circle of people change, all kinds of change. There is also good and bad change.

I needed this change.  I would not have been satisfied without it.

This expat life ain’t for everyone you have learn to work around the thorns to enjoy the petals!