Sunday, May 11, 2014

My mother was born in 1936 in Tripoli, Libya. Her father believed in making his daughters strong and sent her to school, and her mother lost a finger sneaking around trying to get educated herself as a child. I don't know why.

I do know that the value of education, especially with regard to girls, was passed down strongly through the generations. She used to sing me "Na7lam beek tkunee wazeera, mu7amiya, doctora" (I dream of you becoming a minister, a lawyer, a doctor). She admired Thatcher, the woman of steel, as she referred to her. I don't know if she understood Thatcher's policies so much as she cared that a woman was in power in the mighty United Kingdom.

Whether she would call herself a feminist or not, I don't know either. I think she is conflicted because being a feminist might be offensive in Libya. I don't even know if the term was used when she was growing up. It might have just been rebelious and upsetting.

I can't help but wonder what she would be like if she was growing up now. She is already amazing and has been my entire life. Annusa Shaaban Al Zwawi is the greatest gift of a mother ever and I just want to be as close to her as I can be.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Being Gay and Muslim

Someone very close to my heart has broken the rules in a way that's less acceptable than the ways I have: he's gay. He's Muslim, Arab, Libyan, masculine... and gay.

What breaks my heart isn't that he's broken the rules--I've broken a number on my own and so has everyone I know--but that this is a deal breaker. You can screw up in a multitude of ways...and no matter what beauty and magic you've given to the world, you can't be Arabic, Muslim, and gay. Or so they tell you.

Remembering myself....

I'm sitting in my apartment in the sky in Abu Dhabi pondering what progress I've really made in my life and in myself after all these years, countries, experiences, highs and lows, loves and frustrations, successes and failures. A lot of the pretensions

scratch that....

Third Space is back...

I know it's been years. I know that I've lost pretty much lost everyone that used to read my blog, and there are many reasons for the years of silence which I hope to go into in future posts. I've missed blogging and I've missed the people I've met through blogging and I'm happy to be back. 

I will be going through a sort of re-branding simply because I'm not the person I was when I began this blog. So many things have happened, some of which I'll share but some which I can't. I still prefer this over FB for really sharing my thoughts and having discussions. 

For those following me from before, I now live in the United Arab Emirates, and have been here for six years now. While it's still has the multiculturalism that San Francisco had, the rules here are quite different. It's an amazing nation with the kind of commitment to its citizens that I can only pray Libya will eventually have.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Been way too long huh?

Not sure if anyone's even checking this blog anymore, but hello and sorry to those of you who might periodically stop in for updates. I'm still in the middle east, living and working and equally enjoying and getting agitated with the way things are... you know, life as it would be anywhere. I've had some amazing opportunities come my way here and I'm on the edge of yet another big change. From Ras Al Khaimah, I'm moving to Abu Dhabi over the next couple of weeks to begin work on an exciting government initiative. Also, I'll finally have my own place... yes, my first ever to do in and with what I please. No one else's dishes to deal with, no one else's hair in the shower, no OCD organizing battles or unsolicited opinions about what should go where (you know what I mean if you live with family).

I like to think I can return to blogging after this move, but judging from the last year I seem to find a lot to keep me busy away from the computer. Maybe it'll be a new years resolution? We'll see friends. Until New Years... Eid Mubarak, season's greetings, be well.

Friday, October 26, 2007

October update

I keep opening up blogger and having no idea what to say or where to begin!

It's almost the end of October now, and I am in Istanbul again but not for long. I've been in Turkey since late June, worked at a daily newspaper, got an offer in the United Arab Emirates, quit my job here, flew to London to spend a night with my favorite cousin, went back to the US to go to a wedding, see some friends, and pack up whatever of my life I could fit into a couple of suitcases and boxes (ahhh!), spazzed out a whole lot, returned to Turkey, have taken the time here to recollect myself and will be off to the Emirates on Sunday night to start a whole new thing for at least the next six months.

This really is the year that I hope never to forget.

There's still a lot of clean up that I have to do, a lot of loose ends that need to be tied and wounds that need to be healed (I mean wounds I seem to have inflicted this time) and a lot a lot a lot (did i say a lot) of communicating and checking in that I have to do with people and a lot of self-adjustment that I have to work on.

But I feel like I'm in a much better space to do it now, like the noise in the background is gone now and things are clearer--really, I'm clearer.

But not clear enough to focus on this posting to make it any longer than this right now.

Am I really leaving... again?! Snap! Wish me luck.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Greetings from a new-ish home

I know, it's been forever since I've last posted anything but sometimes, as we all know, other things take priority over blogging. I'll give a quick update of the last... what... year or more.

That huge change in my life I referred to in a previous post that was supposed to give me more time to blog turned out to have the opposite affect actually.

If ever the rug has been pulled out from under your feet so hard that you didn't realize what happened until you looked around and saw nothing but pieces of what used to be your life and found them foreign, you might understand. A personal Hurricane Katrina happened and I never knew it could. Of course, who ever does?

The brighter side of this is that all the cracks in the system--that is, my system--became clear, but so did the blessings. And after the ego bruising, all you can do is brush yourself off, go on, and learn.

So I have and I am.

This spring, I decided to take the vacation I'd waited for for two or three years. I was waiting for someone and, as it turned out, that someone wasn't coming or going anywhere with me anymore. So I planned the trip I dreamt of: France, Italy, Greece... and maybe, maybe Turkey. It was a lot for three weeks, I knew, but really at the point I was planning the trip, the only thing I could think of was leaving. Where I ended up actually going wasn't important. I had a departure date and a return date, and everything else would be up in the air--except for one place I knew I had to go to heal.

France reminded me of something I lost touch with; Italy helped me let go of some things I shouldn't have carried with me in the first place; In Greece, I finally was able to float in the most beautiful Mediterranean water I'd ever laid eyes on. And float, I did...all the way to Turkey.

And I'm still in Turkey. Istanbul, to be exact. I've been here for over two months now and am loving it. I'm working at an English news paper, living with a Greek co-worker/friend, and a somewhat crazy British English teacher in a nice part of town. Enjoying Ramadan in a Muslim country again after almost 10 years of being in the U.S. and loving it. Retraining my ears for sounds and words that are completely foreign but delight me nonetheless. Learning a new geography and new social rules that are both familiar and not at the same time. Already, I've had a couple of visitors here and have a nice community of friends and coworkers.

So that's the update... next will be the journey. I miss writing here though I have been keeping up with my personal journal much more than ever before. Blogging is different though, and I have a lot of stories to share.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

NY Times: 400,000 of Libyan Govt Labor Force to be Laid Off

Comments to follow. Initial thoughts are where is the NY Times getting info from and what the hell is going on and how much will this impact the Libyan economy and are loans what people really need? Also, have the Libyan people really been living off petrolium? Because I kinda think our standard of living is much different than other comparable oil producing countries and standards of living.. like, say, Kuwait.

Don't get me wrong--yes, Libya has universal health care and a lot of basic living needs are subsidized. I just can't help but wonder whether if less was spent on soccer clubs and designer sun-glasses and sending the children of comrades to reknowned universities, that maybe the pot-holes of the streets of Tripoli might be taken care of. I also wonder about the second/third phase of the brain drain as it's happening right now.

I don't think that government employment is the answer. But it was an economic policy, which means that people came to rely on it as somewhat of a right. And, like the US labor force and outsourcing, I'm not sure that these decisions do so well at helping people deal with the reality of economic liberalization and globalization.

C'est la vie, I suppose. I just don't really like it.

More notes soon.

Libya Says It Will Lay Off 400,000
Published: January 22, 2007

The Libyan government plans to lay off 400,000 people, or more than a third of its work force, to try to ease budget pressures and stimulate the private sector, Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi told Parliament on Saturday.

Mr. Mahmoudi said that the number of civil servants and state employees had grown excessively in recent years, to more than a million, and that their total salaries cost the government more than $3 billion in 2006.

Outlining a $25.3 billion draft budget for 2007 at the meeting, in the town of Sirte, Mr. Mahmoudi said those who lost their jobs would receive assistance.

Each public employee who is laid off will be given a full salary for three years or will be granted up to $40,800 in loans to start a business, he said in his speech, which was broadcast on national television.

''The objectives of this budget are to increase Libyans' standard of living by 5 percent during this year and to promote productive activities,'' he said, without elaborating.

Mr. Mahmoudi added that he wanted to improve health and education and encourage the private sector to make manufactured goods of sufficient quality to compete with imports.
The Libyan leader, Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi, has frequently said that his nation of five million people, a member of OPEC, depends too heavily on its income from oil, which is the source of almost all of Libya's hard currency earnings.

He has also said Libyans are too dependent on foreigners and imports of consumer goods. Colonel Qaddafi has said he intends to move toward economic self-reliance and to make changes that will support the private sector in an effort to reduce unemployment, now at least 13 percent.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Eid Mubarak, Happy 2007, and my Mother

It's time to bid farewell to a passing year and greet with warmth and hope another one. Not sure about you, but the last couple of years have been a bit rough for me. I've tested and been tested and will continue to test myself from what I hope is a healthier, more centered place. I've never done the resolution thing, but I think this year I just might hold myself to something... or a few things.

A number of people have entered my life this year and some have left it too. I've done some of my own leaving and I hope that even if it's not understood that people can find it in their hearts to forgive me. I've needed to hybernate for a while and given myself time to lick some wounds I discovered had been ignored. To those of you who have shared with me over this year, thank you and kisses at midnight. To those of you frustrated by my disappearance, expect a more personal apology and explanation. To everybody, HAPPY 2007!

It's been hectic with so many things happening at the same time. First, it's Eid el-Adha (Sacrificial Holiday), which celebrates Abraham's obedience to God and God's reciprocal generosity to him. One of my favorite aspects of this holiday (as well as Ramadan) is that it demonstrates the sense of social responsibility in Islam in a tangeable way--the meat of the slaughtered animal (sheep or lamb in most places) is distributed among friends, neighbors, and the poor. And while I'm on the secular end of things, I appreciate this as well as the emphasis on family.

In addition to Eid and the New Year, it's my mother's birthday! Born exactly 71 years to this day in Tripoli, Libya, was the lovely lady that would later have her own 7 children of which I am musmasit il karsha (womb rinser is the strange nick-name for the youngest in Libya--don't ask where that comes from).

She would become one of the first generation of Arabic Libyan students and teachers and dropped off by her father (a true revolutionary) in Msilata to teach at a new school as a part of the government's education program. From msilata, she adopted the custom of using way too many jalapeno peppers in just about everything she cooked. This would be a source of contention for some years between us as my pallet wasn't yet accustomed to 3rd degree fires in my mouth. But as is predictable, I have turned into my mother: I now happily create fires in my own cooking, causing others to resent me in exactly the same way. And it was true when she said she didn't intend do because I don't either.

This amazing woman would marry an ambitious hotty from the small eastern village of Derna--a neighbor of her older sister's husband from the same town--and they would begin their adventures together thereafter. And the adventures were only beginning when he flew in Dutch cows and brought a small calf home one day because he couldn't figure out what was wrong with it. This would eventually lead them to actually move to the small ranch (villas and cows don't mix well) and dabble in dairy products. Other adventures I've heard of include cross North African road trips during which eccentric hitch-hikers were picked up.

She later returned to teaching and school administration and is gleefully addressed as "Abla A---" by many women throughout Tripoli and even abroad. Her disciplinary method of choice was a tight pinch on the inner thigh--sufficiently horrifying hundreds of students into behaving. Besides that, she's the kind of person whose gentility and kindness elicit respect from children and adults alike (and you don't want to get on her bad side lest you continuously are at the receiving end of subtle yet effective looks of disappointment).

When life brought tragedy and trouble to her, she buckled down and got to work. And when she saw the opportunity to take back what was rightfully hers, she would take the risk that so many others before her were afraid to do. As much as the approval of her loved ones mattered to her, her sense of right, wrong, and justice were strongly centered in her faith. And if God is on her side, nothing could make her back down. So she didn't. And she was right.

I owe so much to my mother and I can't possibly list it here. She's wise, perceptive, and gentle--and has a killer smile! Lucky for me, I look exactly like her (though she's really prettier). Happy Birthday to la madre mia! Inshallah next year, I'll be with her on this day.

Salams/Peace to all!