work


I’ve been traveling continuously since April 2009. My stay in any one place averages between two and three weeks. And in between all that travel I have moved countries. Why am I telling you all this? Because the number of times I get asked what do you do? How can I get your job? Or hear the statement “I want your life” has been in direct contradiction of how I feel about all this travel.

When all this jet setting started I was excited about it. I was going to new places, seeing new things, doing new things. But slowly  the wonder and excitement of anything new has been replaced with the more practical considerations of where to get a new SIM card, how do I get online, where is a good cheap and healthy place to eat, how long is the lay over…etc. Every place became just another hotel room or bed to crash on and with a focus on the task at hand, wondering when I will see my pillow again. It also meant that I could not focus on moving into Beirut, a place I found impregnable and hostile mostly because I wasn’t here to try to make it home (among other reasons I won’t go into now). I was always missing things because I was in the wrong city at the wrong time.

So here is a word of caution to all those that want a life of constant travel. You lose the wonder of new places. You end up going home to clean and do laundry and repack for your next trip with maybe a social event or two. Your social life is mostly online since you are always in the wrong place at the wrong time. People are always mad at you for not making the time to see them or for missing their events. You wake up sometimes not knowing where you are or where you are going next! Your wallet is full of the wrong currency and you always have the wrong map or no map.

On the flip side, you get to know the tips and tricks of various airports and how to get to the immigration line ahead of all the crazy lines. You know which airports offer free Wi Fi (because paying for it is against my religion, but paying for the coffee isnt). You have favorite haunts all over the world and can give insider tips to friends about random and not so random places. You learn to say hello and thank you in different languages and brush up on body language since its universal- just make sure you have the right dialect. You get to see people you miss and make new friends who’s path you would never have crossed otherwise.

But to be honest, and even with all those perks, I just want some time at home. I want to finish that paint job, get plugged into the art scene, actually make friends and not acquaintances, finish projects rather than just suggest ideas for others to maybe take on and well, settle into this new city I now call home. So I’m putting my passport away for a few months and I currently have no travel plans, so come visit and lets explore Beirut together and make that list grow from 10 to 20 and more.

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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.

My body aches for Gaza and in a good way. Last night I was one of the lucky few who went to the ARAMEX warehouse in Qastal to help with the donations campaign for Gaza. There were nearly a hundred volunteers working last night. We prepared packages of food for our brethren in Gaza.

What amazes me is how tirelessly everyone worked pitching in with a smile working as a team. Many of us came as strangers and we left as strangers, but throughout we worked as one family… a team. Helping each other, working together, knowing that at the end of this day we have helped many.

Last night when I spoke to organizers of the group we had unloaded between 12-15 truckloads of donations and packed upwards of 900 boxes of aid, and yet we were a handful of volunteers.

The warehouse is massive to say the least, it is full with donations ranging from medical supplies, food, hygiene products, clothing, blankets and tents and every other random item you can think of. Children, youth and adults, men and women were all there. No one is too young or too old to help. Everyone can make a difference. There is so much work to do that I am calling out again to each and every one I know and don’t know.

If you have to go to the gym, this is defiantly a work out. If you want meet friends, then bring them here for an hour or two. If you have a family engagement then ask them to donate too. That argileh can wait, that meal, that coffee wont miss you as much as the children will miss warmth, and food.

Each one of us makes choices everyday on what to do, where to go, what to eat… we are privileged. Use that privilege; make that choice come help us sort out donations today, tomorrow, and everyday until we are done. Does Palestine, does Gaza not deserve two or three hours of your time? Come and let your body ache too and in a good way!

For more information go to 7iber.com where you can see pictures, videos and get directions of all the good work we are doing.

We never think twice about throwing out stuff, or do we? Last night I was walking home and I saw a man meticulously going through the garbage dumpster in the street. He was taking every bag out, opening it and riffling through. Looking back at the scene all I could see was a man bending down over a bag with lots and lots of other opened bags around him. I got to thinking about this man, his life, his occupation. I didn’t get far before getting sad.

 

What I saw got me thinking about my trash bags and what I throw out. Its stuff I wouldn’t want to go through again, yet here is this man who is not just going through my bags but the whole neighborhoods bags. I wonder what he is looking for? Clothing that can still be worn, household goods that can be salvaged, old perfume bottles that can be refilled, recyclable materials? Probably all that and then some. What does he do with them? Is there a parallel world of garbage collectors that buy all this junk, polish it off and reuse it? Probably! They may even resell it back to us!

 

Thinking back to the scene from last night, one other thought struck me. He is working late and into the middle of the night. I know it’s not because of the midday heat, even though that could be part of it. But I have a strong feeling it is because he is ashamed of what he does. He doesn’t not want to be seen in broad daylight rummaging through other people’s trash!

 

It is a sad existence, like a parasites, living off of others in such a dirty way. But this is what the existence chain is like. The weak feed off of the strong. I do not pity him because that implies arrogance. I am a privileged person knowing that I do not have to live off of other people’s discarded trash, but I do empathize with him. I know I will give more thought to how and what I toss out in future so that his pickings may be easier.  

Today I have been a chameleon in different worlds with in my city. Today I have hob knobbed with the underprivileged and stood side by side with the upper echelon of society.  I do this belonging to neither. 
 

Today I visited more than one location in the lesser privileged or served areas of Amman for various reasons. Whenever I go to these neighborhoods, I am greeted with a sense of belonging; a belonging to society and humanity with its true daily struggles. The smiles are genuine. Their hearts clouded and heavy, but simple and pure. The people walk, carry their own bags. They know their baker, butcher and candlestick maker. They are appreciative, and ever so giving. They aren’t afraid to loose because they have nothing to loose. They are the salt of the earth, and you can’t live without salt. 


 

Today I also was in more affluent neighborhoods and places, whether it was the elitist gym of Abdoun, where I took my laptop to work use their free wireless or the mall up the road with all its designer stores. But what took the cake, or chocolate, I would say was the opening of a new chocolate house I went to. This place was full of society men and women, I saw three fur coats, many coiffed heads and the ostentatious atmosphere was all around. What saddened me was I fit right in too. 
 

I traverse time, space, and privilege nearly everyday with the various duties of work, society and family. The contrast I see is widening, it scares me. I walk a middle ground between the two lives but the path is getting narrower and narrower and it is only a matter of time when me and the likes of me will no longer be able to traverse between the two lives seamlessly. When the time comes to choose, I know that I would be happier being among the salt of the earth, because you can’t live with out salt.  

This week has been a whirlwind of activity, thought and of course the mundane. And so I have decided to review this past week, as my memory permits. I will work my way back as it is the easiest way to go. 

Yesterday was the day from hell… it started with no water, I was all over the city in heels and even outside the city too and I was informed there is a dead pigeon in my house! I had back to back functions and events starting at 5 pm and I ditched one only to end my night at 2:00 am. It was fun I must say. What I loved about yesterday was visiting all the community centers and seeing great work in local communities being done. I also liked seeing my friends, the children at Ruwwad, one more time. The day was exhausting but I must say it balanced out the good, the bad and the ugly with the balance being in the good.  Wednesday I got my ego stroked at Toastmasters. I am rejoining my club, and I was invited to speak at table topics (impromptu speaking) and I loved it. It truly is a positive environment that for me is a great ego boost. But it is more than that. It is a way to connect to people, learn and grow that is social and intellectually stimulating even. I had been inactive for 8 months before deciding to return. I am glad I made the decision.  

Also on Wednesday something striking did happen… I was out at night near the third circle and a swarm of bats was flying in the air from tree to tree. It seems they are migrating somewhere and it is so amazing to see them circle and move and play at night. 

Other mundane things that happened this week include my weekly visit to Ruwwad. I was working on the computer and there were three or four boys just standing around me watching me work. They asked questions about the internet and about computers, which I answered. I then asked them if they wanted to play and each one in turn got to use the computer for a little bit. This left an imprint because they come from and under served  under privileged area and yet they knew how to use a computer. Something unheard of a few years ago. They had the wonder and excitement of playing with a new toy but not the fear of technology that I had when I first started working with computers ions ago. I think that somewhere, somehow someone had done something right for these kids. There is still a long way to go but it seems we have the first few baby steps taken. 

This week also saw culture on my part, I attended not one but two of the EU film screenings that end today. They were fun to go to seeing the world through another cultural scope was illuminating and even funny in parts. The Dutch film had its juvenile moments yet was very funny in others and well worth the time. The Swedish film was very moving and poignant, highlighting the lives of three sisters and the relationships in the microorganism that is a small town. It was well done and engaging. However I must say I was bemused by the Swedish language and how it sounds. I still smile every time I think about it.

One other thing that sticks out from this past week are traffic patterns but I will write a whole other post about that. 

My brain is still half asleep and this is as much of the week that I can remember. There is one request though I have of you my dear reader. After such a long hectic week, I would like to ask you to wish me luck. Its been a tough week and the more positive energy I can channel the better… so think it, say it or even write but if you can wish it.

Last week I started and ended the week at the airport, but alas I went nowhere. I was however treated to the best of government runarounds and boy were they great trips. 

My first destination was customs. I had a shipment come in and I had to go get it. We started downstairs and then went upstairs back down a different set of stairs to another location, up stairs again to two different offices and finally back downstairs to collect the shipment and exit from another door. Are you dizzy yet?

The funny thing is even with all the running around we did, I am still unable to define the process or describe it. One reason for that is the help of a wonderful friend and his college whom we met randomly in the customs holding area. After running into him, he took our papers and there we were no longer headless chickens looking for the next step but rather harmless sheep following where we were led. Quite laughable in retrospect. In the end what would have taken three hours was an hour and a half ordeal. What would have been painful became effortless and successful with minimum damage.

Little did I know that later that week I would be back for yet another trip down government lane. This time it was at the ministry of interior and putting the stairs aside, it took me four hours, six signatures, three memos and fax to get nowhere.  I did get a case number and armed with that I headed to the airport for my mission which was to get the approval from the ministry to let someone who had been detained overnight into the country. Upon arrival at the airport it took me 30 minutes to find someone to talk to me, over the phone, because you know God forbid you actually see someone and interact with them face to face. After the phone runaround it was evident that the mission was not going to succeed and our dear friend was to be deported on the next plane out back to where he came from!

In both instances I was struck by how unclear, unstreamlined and unfriendly the process is, and this is after all the “improvements” undertaken by the government to help us with the processes. Please don’t get me wrong, there is an improvement, what I did in one day would have taken a week a few years ago, and there is a system, it is not an arbitrary process. However, I was never able to understand what the whole process was, where I was supposed to go when and what the end result is (other than what I desired that is). The next step was always provided at the end of the current one, no one gives you the full picture. Communication with the public and information dissemination is at best dismal. The other observation I had was what a man’s world it is. At customs my friend and I were the only women in the whole area. At the ministry any women I saw were either there to get paperwork done or were stuck in back offices away from the public and behind the scenes. 

I can honestly say it was not the best way to start or end a week. The days in between were only slightly better. I am happy that that week is over and a new one is starting. Hopefully I wont have to deal with any bureaucracy then.