September 2008


 

Today as I was in Rainbow street I came across a group of young men dancing. They had spontaneously gathered with their music and started to dance. It was so much fun to watch the young men each taking turns to show his abilities at skill at the intricate footsteps.

 

This went on for about 20 minutes. The audience that included the dancers as well as bystanders in the street were all engaged, and entertained. As I was standing in the crowd I looked around me and thought this is just lovely. This is just full of positive energy. I wish there were more positive spontaneous expressions of self on the streets. Self expression is important to our identities, and our communities. And these acts of spontaneous street art make for wonderful surprises as we walk down our streets don’t you think?

 

 

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Last week I had the privilege of dinning with the unprivileged. In a group iftar for some 200 kids from various orphanages and centers, five toastmasters (myself included) volunteered with Action Committee and Family International to help with the kids and entertain them. We were all hosted by Al Isra’ University.

 

I must say when our club circulated emails about the event I dismissed them. I had no inclination to do this. The our club president called and we discussed it over and the conclusion was we needed to help and supervise activities for the kids and he had me slated to story tell. That pretty much sealed the deal. And off we went to the university.

 

We walked onto the football field to find kids as young as 5 and 6 years old and young adolescents that were 16 years old. They had with them their surrogate moms and dads from the centers and everyone was having a good time. We were all running around playing games, learning dabkeh, playing ball among other things.

 

We then broke fast for those fasting and had dinner for those that weren’t together. The energy in the hall was lovely. Everyone was having a good time. I was impressed with how organized, well behaved and obedient the kids were. One of the groups came from a center for juvenile delinquents and contrary to my image of how these boys behave they were a joy to be around and such fun.

 

After dinner I put on my costume, and prepared myself to tell a story. I got up on a stage, put on a mic and pranced around with different voices, different characters and a story to tell. I had such a great time, and the kids as well as the adults were all having fun. For 25 minutes I was able to put a smile on 200 kids faces.

 

It was such a feeling of euphoria, I have done this kind of thing before but usually at parties for the privileged. Parties with spoilt kids who are thirsty for pop culture not history or fairytales. That night though it was I who was privileged.  The lives of these kids are so removed from ours that we forget them. We forget that they exist, we forget that they need love, care and attention not just from individual but from society. And if there is one thing I am grateful for Ramadan for it is the remembrance of these kids. It is their inclusion into our lives. It is the spirit that we lost.

 

I am glad that I was able to recapture the lost spirit of Ramadan, even for one night. And as Ramadan comes to an end this week I would like to wish all those that partake in the month a Ramadan Kareem and a Happy Eid.   

I never realized just how demanding looking after a baby can be. This past few months have been very educational for me as I have learned to truly appreciate what it takes to look after a baby. It has been a privilege for me to spend time with baby H and be entrusted with her care.

I met Baby H months ago when she was still hanging out in mama’s belly (see Meeting Melon), and so I have gotten to know this baby since she was swimming her way into the world. Watching her grow, cry, feed, and now laugh and smile has been a wonderful journey. Babysitting baby H taught me that time means nothing, truly nothing when there is a baby around. You get so absorbed in the baby’s needs that when you do look up hours had gone by and you really aren’t interested in rushing to make up that lost time.

I also learned that when you are taking care of the baby then you are taking care of the baby. You cannot multi-task in any way … not even a phone call! Babies are in constant need of attention: you feed them, and that includes preparing the baby meal, you then burp them, they poo or pee and their diaper will soon after need changing- otherwise baby will get cranky, and after all that they take a nap. And when they wake up you play with them for a bit before you have to do it all over again. Baby H was no exception. All of this needed my full attention and so nothing else could happen.

If this is what it takes to look after a baby, then raising a child is no easy feat. It is not something one person can do alone. After this experience I truly do not understand how single parents do it. I have a new found respect for anyone raising a child single handedly. It’s hard enough looking after oneself let alone having a tiny baby or a helpless child dependent on you to fulfill its needs.

Babies and children are a lifelong commitment. You commit your time, your energy, your money, your thoughts, but most importantly your love. Seeing how baby H is cared for is a great insight to how bringing children in to the world should be. She is a loved and wanted child and will grow up with those privileges and many more. Yet as wonderful as being with baby H was, I still am sure that I am not cut out to be a mama… not for little ones at least. And unless something drastic changes in my life I stand by my choices not to wed or have babies. I am just not cut out for those kinds of commitment.

When tolerenace only goes one way and is expected and cooreced from others closures happen…

So for those that choose not to practice what few havens exist are slowly being mowed down by illegal closures. This behavior reminds me of KSA and its Mutaw3een. Is it a matter of time that the “haven” Jordan is becomes another extremist, fundamentalist state? The government is supposed to protect its citizen and their interests, but is that truly the case, or is Ramadan an excuse for personal agendas to take precedence over the law?  

It is disappointing when we have made so much progress in many arenas including social freedoms that this happens.

 

If you are wondering what I am talking about read here:

http://www.7iber.com/blog/2008/09/18/closing-of-bookscafe/

It’s official. I hate Ramadan. It is my least favorite time of year. I know this now because I recognize a pattern of behavior and mood swings that comes with it every year, and this pertains to both the community and to me personally. It is a month that does not bring out the best in people but their worst too. This realization comes with a lot of disappointment and sorrow. A month that is meant to be such a powerful positive force is instead a month of bigotry, intolerance, gluttony and family friction.

Some of you may be wondering what I am on about with this wonderful month of cleansing, purity, giving, and sharing. It may be the case for some, but what I see of this month is unfortunately not so pretty. I don’t fast, I don’t pray, I don’t practice any religious obligation. That’s who I am. Yet I am asked to be respectful and tolerant to those around me and abstain from eating, drinking and general merriment because I too have to suffer in their chosen suffering. Well, I am sorry but last time I looked Islam was a religion of tolerance. It is tolerant of freedom of choice, freedom of religion. It recognizes free will and so each person is judged individually as the sum of their actions and not collectively as the sum of the communities actions. So why is it OK for the office cooler to be turned off, the water bottles not replaced, restaurants closed and closures of those that are legal opened to take place? Every year there is a loosening of the morays and attitudes of people only to be backlashed by aggressive behavior of those more fundamentalist. I ask those where is the tolerance that this religion preaches?

I have been to some iftars this year that have been few and far in between, and at each one it has not been a meal but a feast. Where is the empathy in that? How is this cleansing to the soul or the body? We become such gluttons, that with bellies full and minds numbed we sit and do nothing but watch soap opera after soap opera till there is nothing left of the persons we were at the beginning of the month.

The whole month is a disruption of our regular habits and schedules, and not in a good way. Life and people go crazy just look outside a window at 4:30 or 5:00 and then at 6:30. Traffic becomes chaotic and scary with people rushing to fill their bellies. And then the city becomes a ghost town not a soul in the street. I’ve gone out at this time of day only to be met with a great feeling of aloneness that is amplified by the sound of silence. The city doesn’t sleep, it dies. And then again wakes from the living dead in the evening to nights of worship. People who worship their God in a mosque or worship of the argileh, food, cards… or whichever vice that comes at this time of year. The hours of the day and night are messed up and it is reflected in our daily lives and used as an excuse in our offices.

And lets take a look at families. We all come together and so there is more friction, more tenseness, more boredom, more feuds. Even though we quietly put aside our differences for the couple of hours we share a meal the amount of passive aggressive behavior I see is scary. I heard somewhere in reference to the holiday season in the west, it is the time that emergency room visits increase because all that family time causes so much anxiety and depression. It made sense. Maybe it’s because I come from a dysfunctional family, but done we all at some level suffer from dysfunctionality?

When I was a child, Ramadan was an exciting time. It was a time that was made fun by our parents, it was a time to fast, to work hard, to learn, to become spiritual, to be one with the community, a time for family to connect. I hear that from many people around me. So what happened? Where did that spirit go? Has it disappeared into the Ramadan lights covering the city in glitter and glitz? Who stole Ramadan?

Sometimes I wonder what signs we have on our foreheads. They are written in invisible ink, and seem to change based on the reader, but recently mine has been reading “DUMP YOUR SHIT ON ME”. I don’t get it, why do people think that I want to know about their problems or that I may have solutions for them, or that I care?

 

In the past few months I have heard more crap about addictions, relationships (romantic and otherwise), health, work, sex, and businesses than I care to know. I know I am a nice person, I’ll listen and I’m approachable. I also know that I won’t lie or soften the blow; I call it like I see it. This usually makes for some tough love, and people can count on it.

 

But I would like to point out once again that every once in a while I need space to be too. I need to hear your good news too. I like to laugh, to smile, to celebrate. I am available for that kind of thing too. I like to get the random I miss you call, or I just want to see how you are doing call, or lets hang out because I haven’t seen you in a long time call.

 

These days, it seems the only time I get calls are from people who want to dump their crap, or are bored. I am available 24/7 for my GOOD friends who call for the good, the bad and the ugly. Who want to hang out because they want to hang out not because they are bored and don’t know what to do so let’s see what Shalabieh is doing. And there are many of those and if you are reading this and you guys know who you are… I love ya all. But if you are the ones that always have a drama, want to whinge, or just think about how I can entertain you … well dears this is not a news flash, and it’s not a gentle reminder either! This is the deal… MY WORLD REVOLVES AROUND ME! I have my own crap to deal with, and I have my fair share mind you. And even if I don’t I like to keep my life happy and clutter free and that includes keeping my brain, my mind, my surroundings clutter (aka crap) free too. So I really don’t care!

 

So next time you call with a problem or if you are bored, ask yourself “Does Shalabieh care?” if you don’t know how to answer that question then don’t make the call, instead go buy yourself a few self help books, get with it and pull yourself together. If you still need help call a professional, otherwise I will start charging you by the hour, and my advice does not come cheap!