Ramadan Kareem

I don’t know why I blanked on what exactly Ramadan kareem meant today. It means generous Ramadan, which I should have known. I briefly thought it meant blessed Ramdan, which is stupid because that’s Ramadan mubarak, which I also should have known! Do know. Somewhere in my mind… I even had a student named Karim (and I’ve had a Mubarak!) and we discussed what it meant and ugh, the way Arabic meanings just fly in and out of my brain is very frustrating.

Anyways, so Ramadan kareem was the standard greeting today, the first day of Ramadan. I do love that the theme of the month is about generosity. In money, in food, in kindness, in everything. And work/school hours get reduced. Which is good because more or less all the students fast, which makes them tired or irritable. This will actually be my first year teaching the full month of Ramadan. Previously it fell during finals or summer, so I never got a full month of full teaching days. (Ramadan moves a few weeks each year because the Muslim calendar is not the Gregorian calendar.)

You see the generosity in different ways. Before Ramadan there’s this Halloween-esque holiday in the UAE called Hag al Laila, (it has different names in other Gulf countries,) where kids go around to doors and people give them treats. They sing some song about how if people give to them, God will give to them. I’d actually never heard of that pre-Ramadan tradition before, but this year a few local students gave all their teachers and classmates a bag of sweets for the holiday, reminding us about the generosity of Ramadan. Then the day before Ramadan, there’s always students going around giving out dates to everyone. And then throughout the month, Muslims invite you to iftars and donate food to others and share food with other families and places like the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque host huge iftars for anyone who wants.

I went to iftar at the in-laws this evening. Iftar is the meal after sundown to break the fast. To be honest, it was mostly like any other dinner there for me. For everyone else, who’d been fasting since suhoor (the meal before sunrise), it was probably like the best thing ever. His family is always lovely and generous and trying to get me to eat everything, so this dinner was just that same old thing, but for more of a reason, perhaps.

My husband always looks forward to Ramadan, and I was like, what? Why would you look forward to a month of fasting? But if you look beyond the pain of fasting, it’s quite lovely in its meaning. (Which is obviously more than just generosity, but that part’s the one I noticed today.) Ramadan kareem!

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Passport inequality

My husband has a Palestinian passport, which is a real thing, I swear. I once had to have him send me a photo of it so that I could convince someone in a bar that he didn’t just have “papers,” and that Palestine does have the right to produce their own passports. Many Palestinians have Lebanese papers that states their refugee status but isn’t actually a passport. Or they have a Jordanian or Lebanese passport that states their refugee status, but also grants an actual passport. But Palestine does also issue passports!

Of course, there are different kinds of passports in this world. There are ones that make it easy to travel and there are ones that make it difficult to travel. He’s allowed to travel to 39 countries without hassle. (With my American passport I can travel to 176 countries without hassle.) Outside those 39 countries, he has to apply for a visa and cross his fingers.

I didn’t know what it meant to apply for a visa before I came here. Because I have a golden ticket passport, I just showed up in Europe and was like “hi!” Then I came here and had to get a working visa. (If I was visiting, I still could have just showed up and said “hi!”) Then I went to India, which wisely requires people to pay for visit visas, so I had to apply for a visa. Since then, I’ve also had to apply for a Zimbabwe visa and so many Turkish ones, but when I apply for a visa it’s almost always going to be approved.

My husband will not always be approved. Or it’s not worth the hassle/cost. When we lived in Turkish Cyprus, it would have been fun to cross the border into Greek Cyprus, but lol no. I could just walk on over. For him, he would have had to find an embassy (which would have meant flying back to mainland Turkey) and pay fees and probably get rejected because who gives an unemployed Palestinian a Schengen visa?

This summer we are hoping my husband can come with me to America. Which means he has to make an appointment, pay a nonrefundable fee of $160 (which is a lot to him because he is poor), gather all the documents (marriage certificate, working papers, my working papers, financial documents, invitation letter), and hope that they let him come say hi. We’re hoping they say yes, but because my husband is poor, there’s a good chance they’ll be too afraid that he’ll overstay his visa and become an illegal immigrant. He wouldn’t, but they don’t know that. And there’s little trust afforded those without the right passports.

Fingers crossed he gets it!

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Writing that inspires writing

Bae and I are in a fight, which means I have ample free time as it is the weekend and he is not entertaining me. So I have been gorging on media. Which is ironic, because one of the things I gorged on was The End of the Tour, which is about David Foster Wallace who warned about media addictions. But also, how sad is it that he was not around for the Kardashians? I like to think he would have loved them as much as I do. Speaking of which, how fascinating is Mr. Kanye West Kardashian’s tweet storm? Anyhow, so after a segue into that, I read some negative review about how Segel did not at all portray Wallace well enough. (By a still-grieving friend who literally said “it hasn’t even been ten years yet.” …it had been nine when the movie was released, I believe. Would that one year have made the difference?) And that linked me to an article by Wallace’s other friend Jonathon Franzen about how he went to try out the whole Robinson Crusoe thing on the literal island it’s based on. And my first reaction was, “Damn, it would be nice to have editors who would pay for such a trip.” Which is of course an assumption by me, but Eat, Pray, Love made it clear to me that editors will finance some very expensive things for the sake of profitable writing.

Guess how many tabs I have open? The Internet is endless once you get into the right current. Or perhaps it’s because I’m hungover and I swear to you, I Googled it, and it is Internet-verified that it’s normal to be way more mentally alive during a hangover. I can stare at the Internet sans hangover and feel nothing tug me anywhere, but give me a hangover and I’m all over the place with excitement!

I was going somewhere with this… oh yes. The article. I love it because Franzen is way easier for me to read than Wallace ever was. (Although “This is Water” was so cute.) But throughout the articles and the movies and even the pop culture, I feel that all of it is meant to make us less alone.  And that’s something Franzen says that Wallace believed. So of course, shared belief, less alone, let’s all be writers and make everyone feel less alone! (Obviously I can’t be a writer beyond quasi-anonymous blogging. That would require a dedication and confidence that I could never cultivate. Plus the idea of fame is revolting. I literally just want the money that fame affords, but zero of the self-promoting it requires. Are there still famous anonymous writers anywhere? I wish.)

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Nothing left to use

I have a friend who once described me as a sponge. “Because you just soak up all kinds of knowledge,” she explained. And it was the most apt kitchen-related description of me that I’d ever heard. Soaking up information is my favorite hobby. I’m not talking about trivia information, necessarily. (I literally can’t remember the years of anything; I have looked up the years of World War II more times than seems possible.) But when I watch shows or read articles or books or whatever, I love to capture random tidbits of information and retain them and spew them out randomly. (I recently shared some IVF/egg freezing information that had been gathered from watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians, for example. I especially enjoyed that sponge-moment because people judge me far too harshly for that guilty pleasure, heh.)

But recently… I’ve been disappointed. See, I’ve been trying to get back into blogging, which starts with finding new and interesting blogs to read! But I keep being disappointed. People keep saying the same things. Everyone wants to be a minimalist. And they also want you to listen to their podcast. And they can’t wait to share their bullet journal with you. But there’s no interesting way to say the key to financial success is to earn more, spend less. And nobody wants a s’more dip when you can just eat a s’more itself. And where have all the interesting personal blogs with hilarious retellings of life’s daily struggles gone? And holy hell, if I click on anymore clickbait shit that leads to paid subscriptions or buy my book or twenty popups before an article… I’ll cry. Just literally cry.

Basically, there is nothing to soak up anymore in the blog world, it seems. But I feel as though my life is becoming consumed by watching tv series in my free time, which can’t be healthy. So if you have any suggestions about blogs that have interesting things to share (and haven’t made their monetization overt and debilitating), please let me know so that I can be a sponge on the Internet again. I miss those days.

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Dust settles

After all the melodrama of yore, things have settled. My husband and I are together again, and happy, but not officially living together because that would be conventional and we’re anything but. I’m working again, at the school that once fired me, then rehired me, and has now rehired me again. Thus, my finances are settling back to stable, which is probably the most calming thing to happen in a person’s life. Once finances settle, everything else falls into place too, in its ways. There was some residual radiation from the drama as my friends reacted to the idea of me and my husband being back together. But they got over it.

Basically my life is returning to how it was before I left for Cyprus, more or less. There are of course, some changes, but I find them nominal.

I’m getting back to that place in my life where I can make self-improvement plans and pretend I’m going to exercise regularly and practice language skills and shit like that… It’s pleasant and idealistic and naive. After coming off months of intense depression and anger and all things negative, it’s cute to be so optimistic about controlling my life. But it also feels unreal and I am highly suspicious of it. The idea that I exert any influence over the events of my life is still a laughable one. Shit just happens and we have to roll with it the best we can. And eventually there’s a time of calm, like now, but it could just be the center of a hurricane and I’m not ready to stop bracing to hit the eyewall. Not yet. Hopefully soon.

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