relationships


I miss you. I miss you so terribly. I miss how you made me smile no matter how I was feeling. I miss how safe you made feel. I miss how we talked for hours about nothing and it all seemed so important. I miss how you put a spring in my steps and made the world pop with color and life. I miss how full you made an empty room. I miss how words seem to fill the blank left by an unfinished sentence. I miss the words that tumbled and spewed out of my keyboard from the simple ideas you put in my head. I miss the inspiration you put in my life. I miss our morning conversations and our endless nights filled with the radio waves of a lonely hearts station even though our hearts were not lonely. I miss the turmoil of not touching you despite your closeness. I miss feeling all the way to the deepest darkest core of my soul and knowing that pain meant I can feel where there was nothing before. I miss you. I miss you so terribly. But I don’t want you anymore. I miss you, but I don’t want you.

So throughout my life as a child and as an adult I have been asked the question in numerous forms and shapes and ways: Who is your role model? This question has always made me anxious, always. Why? I never had an answer and yet people expect you to say something, or actually name someone. And if you don’t have someone to idolize it must be a parent, since we rever them in our culture and they are somewhat sacred!

But you know what, my mother is not my role model.  I do acknowledge and appreciate that she did many great things and sacrificed a lot for us, but I disagree with a lot of things she did namely how we were raised in to be sexists and conformists. My father, well I was 12 when we lost my father so I don’t really know how he could be a role model in his absence. So there go the parents as people to emulate.

As for leaders in our times, well I hardly wanted to be a pop star, actor, sports star or any of those things. And looking around me I liked a few people who were “authority” figures but, seriously, I didn’t want to be a teacher, a professor or a manager. Even TV and movies did not present any role models that I thought OK this is who I want to be like. All the characters presented on TV we perpetuating the ideals of a “moral, conformist, sexist and patriarchal” society that didn’t resemble my life or what I wanted to grow up into (remember we only had 2 channels and  limited choice in what we saw). So I grew up without a figure to look up to or aspire to be like.

I started to read biographies, looking at the lives of people’s who were dead or outside the realm of my daily realities. I tried to look at the role models of others and learn about them. There I found things I liked and things I didn’t like. I tried to understand the cult of Che for example , when I was done I knew he was someone I respect, but  who’s approach I strongly disagree with. I’ve read the biography of many others too: Mandela, Rasputin, Queen Noor, Orwell, Mohammed…etc. And though it was interesting to learn about their lives, they were theirs to live.

So 33 years later and still no role model, where does that leave me? I’ll tell you. It left me with a lot of people to appreciate for the things they bring into the world. Things I admire and love and these are the things I want in my life. Things like passion, belief, joy, life, values, character, strength, love, serenity, intellect. I don’t want to be like any of them, but I want a life full of those things and so from different people I have learned different things; without having one role model or many. I don’t want to live their lives, I want to live mine.

The perfect guest is to some an elusive concept, but I disagree I don’t think the perfect guest is impossible to find. Trust me I should know, I have a revolving door in my house with a constant stream of guests, I’ve also spent five years of my life placing others in people’s homes. Some of the people that have stayed with me have been fantastic and have become lifelong friends, whereas others have left such horrible lasting images in my mind, that I cringe at the thought of them. Most people fall somewhere in between. So I was thinking what are the things that make you a good guest in my home? Here is a list, it’s not exhaustive or objective- I am sure we have different ideas of what makes a good guest and it will differ based on who is the guest.

1-      Replace the toilet paper and fill the ice tray! It’s as simple as telling your host she’s out or do just it yourself! And if you have stayed for a while buying more TP!

2-      Wash your dishes- really your host is not your servant.

3-      Pick up after yourself- this applies to gadgets, clothes, plates, papers…etc. Again not your servant.

4-      Ask before using- things maybe special have a special way of working or just not for your consumption!

5-      If you break/ damage something fix it, replace it or offer to!

6-      Offer to cook for your host or take them out to dinner or something – it’s always nice.

7-      Spend some time with your host, even if its just a morning coffee.

8-      Try to be considerate of cultural norms, and by that I don’t just mean different regional cultures but also home cultures, things like wearing slippers, meal times and such.

9-      Always leave the place as you found it or in better condition. I really hate picking up other people’s trash and cleaning up after them!

10-  Finally, try and leave a thank you note- they always put a smile on my face and I have kept each one that was left behind. It reminds me of the good times and makes me forget the not so good times.

So, if you are staying at mine, do remember these little things, it will make not just your stay more pleasant, it will mean that an invitation will be extended to you again and again and again.

Ahlan wa Sahlan!

OK for those of you that read my post about my birthday celebrations and want to partake I have an update. There is a lot of coordination and collaboration involved in making these things happen so I would like to thank everyone who expressed interest in joining me and more importantly those of you helping me make my thirty second birthday a celebration of us rather than me. And so here are the various events and ideas that all or any of you can help in and by doing so give me a fantastically rewarding birthday:

 

  1. Jabal Al Qalga Kite making and flying with the kids of the neighborhood with Hamzet Wasel Initiative
  2. Renovating and fixing of Women’s Center in Gaza Camp in Jerash with V-team Initiative
  3. Undecided event with Zikra Initiative
  4. Buy a tree and plant it in Palestine with APN – Arab Group for the Protection of Nature (http://www.apnature.org)
  5. Give me your old clothes, recyclable paper, tins and plastic and I will send them to a community center or the recycling center
  6. And finally for those that just want to hang out a walk in Jabal Amman and a walk in Jabal Al Weibeh (two of my favorite places in the city) the weekend following my birthday

 

 

I will post more info these initiatives and events and include dates, times, places and costs this coming week. And for those of you on Facebook I will create events for them. All are welcome even if I don’t know you and you want to do these things Ahlan Wa Sahlan.

Growing up I didn’t realize that what my mother made us do nearly every summer was going to be monumental to me later in life. We hated being dragged over the bridge, being humiliated, taken away from our creature comforts at home to go to see our grandparents in Palestine. I don’t think I realized then that my relationship with MY Palestine was starting and being formed.

 

But my relationship with Palestine was always defined by my mother’s, aunts’ and uncles’ stories of Palestine and their relationships with the places and the people. It was their relationships, views, ideas, prejudices, like and hates that I took on to be mine.

 

But 1998, when I was 21, I finally crossed into that beautiful land alone. I visited my grandmother, I visited my uncles and aunts, I visited the land, the cities, and the trees. I even went to Jerusalem for the first time. I started to see Palestine through my eyes and not anyone else’s. I started to form my own relationship with Palestine. But I may have been seeing it through my eyes I was still influenced by the anxieties and fears and thoughts of others.

 

In 2000 I went again, a friend of mine wanted to go and another friend was visiting her family there and so I decided to accompany one and meet the other there. It was a different experience for this time my grandmother had passed and it wasn’t to her home that I went and that too started to shape my relationship with Palestine and my family that lives there differently. I traipsed around the Palestine then with both my friends and was learning to navigate around the cities and was proud to show it off despite not knowing the lay of the land. I left just four days before Sharon entered into the Haram in Jerusalem and the second Intifada started.

 

With the violence escalating and oppression at its height, my solitary trips ended. Until last spring, a friend of mine was organizing an exchange workshop that was to take place in Ramallah for 10 days, I jumped on the idea despite being apprehensive for I had not crossed over in eight years and I had no idea what to expect. In eight years Palestine was an image on the TV screen, ink on paper, an idea, a slogan, a statistic. We very easily forget that it is a hop skip and jump away. We easily forget our family and people and their everyday struggle. We simply live in oblivion.  I especially was in oblivion for up until then Palestine was where we went to renew our papers and visit our grandparents. Israel was embodied by the TV my mother shouted or cried at when something was terribly wrong. We were never very political.

 

But last spring that all changed, I spent 10 days in Palestine. I went again in June and once again in December. I am reclaiming my relationship with Palestine and everything Palestinian. I bring back pictures and stories for those that can not go home or visit Palestine. But more importantly I am building my relationship slowly and clearly with My Palestine. The Palestine of olive groves and family gatherings; of uncles who love to laugh and cousins who struggle to live their youth; of cities and villages torn and divide by walls of cement and electricity. My Palestine where the fruit is that much sweeter, and the air that much purer. My Palestine, on my terms, with my impressions, my connections, my expressions.

 

I will soon be 32 and I have been asked what I want for my birthday whether it be for celebrations or for gifts. These questions got me thinking about past birthdays and gifts and what they’ve meant to me. I’ve done the crazy parties with the cakes and sparklers and massive amounts of booze, the traveling for my birthday and the quiet dinners. But this year I want something different, and I know exactly what I want.

This year what I want involves none of the above in any way, shape or form. This year I do not want any parties in bars or restaurants or cafes. I do not want any celebrations with cake, or alcohol or food. I do not want all that money spent for such a selfish and self centered purpose. My birthday! There have been many and who knows there may be many more too. But I do not want to be the excuse for a night of drunken revelry, I do not want massive amounts of food consumed at some lavish dinner in an expensive restaurant, I do not want anyone to go out of their way for me to celebrate in frivolity a day that comes a long often enough and there is really nothing special about it except that I popped out from between my mother’s legs like thousands if not millions of others on that day.

I do not want any gifts either not matter how big or small, grand or symbolic for I have enough stuff in my life and I am trying to get rid of a lot of it! There is nothing I really need at this moment in time and the things I want I can do without. So thank you but no thank you.

When I made these declarations to my friends their faces were so puzzled, confused and some were upset and said that was unacceptable! And so I told them that what would make me happy instead was for them to do something selfless, something that gives back to the community, something outside themselves and me.

One of my favorite quotes is “Be the change you want to see in the world” by Ghandi and this year this is what I want for my birthday. And so to celebrate I want organize an event that gives back to the community in some way or form. That recognizes the pleasure in working together to make a difference. If there is any money to be spent then it would be on the event and it should go towards your local community. And if you insist on giving me a gift then make a donation in my name to an organization that makes a difference to people’s lives like a cancer foundation, orphanages, NGOs that work on community development, and if you don’t want to give cash then clean out your closet and give the things you don’t want to people who can use them like the Gaza aid souk or the King Hussein center for the mentally disabled, or Ruwwad in Jabal Al Natheef, if you want to do this and don’t know how give me a call and I can help you or just drop things off with me and I can take care of it. Spend a day volunteering. If even that is too much trouble then just do something nice for a stranger in the street, it can be that simple.

If you still insist on giving me something personal then give me a good memory. Walk with me in the streets or Jabal Amman, come over and watch a movie, let’s have a good conversation, send me a letter or an email or help me paint a new bookcase I’m getting, take a picture and send it to me. I will also personally be arranging an outdoor activity that will focus on giving something back to the world we live in. Let me know if you want to be part of that activity, it will make me really happy to spend time with my friends doing something along those lines and I will post it here once the details are sorted out.

Help me be the change I want to see in this world we live in and embody some of the ideals and beliefs that I have. Yes I am an idealist and to some I may be foolish, but I think we can make a difference one small step at a time. Will you walk with me?

I was chatting with a friend about commitment and change. The context of course was meeting people and being with someone. Now if you’ve read my previous post Tarnib vs. Tricks you know I am a Tricks player. To go a bit farther and explain myself a bit more, I am afraid. I am afraid of commitment. I am afraid of change. I am afraid of losing myself. I am afraid of losing my freedom, which I have struggled hard to achieve. I am also so comfortable in my life and so used to enjoying being single that I do not want to give up this happiness for something completely unknown with someone unknown. I know that there are those people who are in relationships that will now rush to tell me I am missing out on the best things in life because of my singlehood. That being with THE ONE is incomparable. Well I’m going to go at this from two angles: the first is the concept of THE ONE, the other is THE ONE.

The concept of THE ONE is so depressing to me. To think that in this whole wide world of six billion people there is only one person for each of us is just unfathomable. The odds of meeting that one are so miniscule that you have to be one lucky bastard to find that person. What if my one was in Timbuktu? How do you go about finding this elusive ONE? Where do you start? How do you start? How do you know its THE ONE? How do you recognize THE ONE if they are standing behind you in the line at the bank? What does THE ONE look like? Can you see why I don’t believe in the idea of THE ONE?

I am a firm believer in multiple partners throughout life. I believe this for many reasons not just the odds of there being just one. I think that every relationship has a beginning and an end. Even if two people are together faithfully until death parts them, then that is the end of that relationship. And so others may form. Another reason is people change, and grow. With that growth your needs change and your needs aren’t always met by the first person you meet. So you move on to someone else. Yes, yes there are those cases of two people being together and growing together and being able to spend their whole lives with each other, and lovingly so. But call me a cynic, I somehow don’t believe in Hollywood endings. Or as Fergie sings “Fairy tales don’t always have a happy ending.”

I want to come back to the question of “what does THE ONE look like?” Well I know that as a kid me and my friends always had these lists of what Mr. Right would be like. I even carried it around in my wallet for a while. I now have no clue where that list is but I can remember a few of these desirable traits: good looking, funny, a good dancer, makes me laugh, strong shoulders and has a jeep. I know the list was a lot longer but the rest eludes me. I smile every time I think of that list because, well it’s a funny teenager’s list. Today if I were to even try to compile a list of desirables then it will be very different. Secure would be up there on the list, as is challenging, someone who can be in a relationship autonomously and give me my space and autonomy without begrudging them. Someone with a full life that complements mine, not completes it ,or competes with it. Someone who has shared values and similar goals. These are a few qualities that would top the list; And from my teen list I would keep good looking, funny and I would tweak good dancer to loves to dance. The jeep and shoulders negotiable !

Putting the list aside though, people are important to me. Relationships are important too. I don’t think they are easy, especially romantic relationships. I know that I like invest the tiem and effort in building friendships, and learning about someone, one layer at a time. I thrive on this. I take these relationships seriously. My life is full of wonderful people that I have gotten to know and am getting to know. Romance and love is usually not on the agenda when these relationships are forming. My take on that is if it happens it happens if not… oh well no worries nothing has to change, and hence I don’t have to jump. That doesn’t mean I don’t have the willingness to face those fears; I know that I am willing to jump. However, when I jump, I want a parachute, or I want to jump in tandem with someone I know I can trust to pull the cord when we need to. Until then Tricks anyone?

Yesterday night was I think the first time me and my little one year old nephew really started to bond. It was a fun and exciting experience where we had one on one play time. Granted it was only for 15 – 20 minutes but it was a fun time. Its hard forming a relationship with a child that lives miles away and being an aunt was an abstract concept until they arrived earlier this month. 

 

 

I have played, cajoled, cooed, and carried him this past week. But it was like carrying any child. But last night the fact that he was able to recognize me and want to be held by me was such a nice change and we had such fun.

 

Its funny my stance on kids was and still is so long as they go home. But I think that infants and babies are not my thing, regardless of how good I am at putting them to sleep or burping them. I like them when they are little children able to communicate and exchange ideas and thoughts with me. I love having conversations with kids and talking to them. It’s a very rewarding experience. So I guess I am now really looking forward to the little prince growing up a little bit more and being able to say more than ba and anda and such; coz that when the real bonding will start for me.

I live in many worlds, and so I interact with people of all sorts of color, creed, socio-economic status, privilege, nationality, and sexuality even. I have traveled enough places to know who I am, but to also appreciate others and respect the differences between us. And mind you, I am not infallible; I have my moments of judgment and prejudice. But it seems the more I look around me I see more tolerance and more intolerance. Our society is at odds with what it wants to appear like and what it really thinks. Let me explain…

 

I work with underserved, underprivileged communities, more specifically with kids in these communities. I find the experience very rewarding and very enriching. These kids may not have the same opportunities as west Ammanis, dress in the same way, speak a coarser tongue or what have you. But they have the same ambitions, dreams, hopes as you or me. I love engaging with them because they are more real and genuine in their expressions of who they are. Yet these same kids are discriminated against, marginalized and sometimes disenfranchised because of their socio-economic backgrounds.

 

Look around at the domestic and manual laborers we have in the country and how we immediately discriminate against anyone from the same nationality or ethnicity is something I abhor. Not everyone who is Egyptian in the country is a laborer, not everyone in the country who is Pilipino is a domestic worker. And don’t get me started on how we treat them when they do these jobs. We as Jordanians are no better than any of them. It doesn’t matter if we have blue collar or white collar jobs we all work to make a living and if some of us work with our hands and other with our minds then that is how it is. It doesn’t make you less of a person because you clean toilets or carry cement. I think all these professions and the people that carry them out are worthy of respect since we are trying to make an honest buck.  
 

 

Take out the profession from the equation and you will also find that Jordanians are racists! Yes I know this is a very strong and serious generalization, but you are more than welcome to prove me wrong. Just look at the reaction of Jordanians towards a western looking blonde and a dark African looking person, or an Asian person. We are always quick to ask “where are you from?” and that question then leads to pigeon holing a person into our social status hierarchy where the western blonde ranks very high and Asians and Africans rank very low depending on the country they are from and what the stereotype for people from there is.  We are all guilty of it… even myself.

 

And when it comes to sexuality the amount of people are homo-phobes, hetero-phobes, bi-phobes that are out there is annoying. Each wants to be accepted within their own group and is not accepting of others. Straight people are afraid of gay people and have no understanding of what gay is. Gay people don’t really like straight people and will most likely try to stay in herds of their own kind. What difference does it make who you take to bed?

Once again I realize that these are all gross generalizations. And not everyone is a racist, or a phobe of some sort, or a classist. But I constantly see people talking about acceptance and tolerance of themselves for being something or other. Yet when you look at their behaviors you realize that they too discriminate against one group or another, for some reason or another. I really think that if we focus on our accepting, respecting each of our differences instead of focusing on our sameness the world would be a happier place.

This past weekend I met the youngest person I know. I met baby Melon, who is still a baby in the womb. I had the privilege of escorting the expecting mommy to her doctor’s appointment. I’m not one to get excited bout babies or child birth and anything revolving around this topic, but I must say this was exciting. 

As the doctor moved the machine around the belly we got to see the baby lying there sleeping. We saw its hands up near its face, its long legs (takes on after the father there :D). We also glimpsed the baby’s belly and its tinny tiny stomach. But the most exciting thing was its face, there it was with eyes closed, a cute little nose, its chin, a big forehead, and little lips. It was a cute thing sleeping in there. We even got to see the baby’s brain. That visit was the coolest thing I did this weekend.

As we left I look over to my friend and told her its funny, I cant relate to babies in general, but this one is different. My relationship with Melon has started before the baby has come out into the world, and I think that will make all the difference.


By the way we call the baby Melon because we don’t know what gender it is yet and that how it will be until Melon pops out and says hello with a big old scream.

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