World Cup Season

In America, the summer after graduate school when I was underemployed and there was a freeze on new teaching hires in NYC, the 2010 World Cup happened. Growing up I had never really been around people who cared for the sport, but that year I cared. My roommates were also very into it. And we were all underemployed, so we had far too much time to sit around watching football all day. We printed out the schedule and hung it on our fridge and had a million inside jokes about teams and players. We didn’t have an A/C for much of that hot, hot summer, so we lived off of popsicles and football. And it was amazing.

There are only three games left in this World Cup, (or four if you count the third place game) and I would hardly say that I’ve watched all the matches, and I definitely can only name like three players (who wouldn’t learn the name of the fantastic flopping Neymar?), but I have so enjoyed it once again. The other day bae and I were watching Russia lose to Croatia and it was so fun to just cheer and pretend we care and see these strangers who’ve trained all their lives play so nicely for our entertainment.

And it’s such a lovely excuse to get together. For more than one game, I’ve gathered with people I rarely see anymore, and yeah we enjoyed seeing the game, but it was also fun to see each other. As we get older, sometimes we need excuses to get together. Because we’re all in our lives and our routines and unless there’s an important event, sometimes it’s easy for people to just flake on the plans or for nobody to initiate a plan or for the plans to only actually be realized once a month. It’s easier to just hide in our lives and continue our routines and pretend we’re going to the gym or we need to do laundry, but we’re really just going to go home and order food and binge-watch something that’s not even that interesting.

So I encourage you to make a plan with your friends to watch one of these last few games! You might not care at all about the teams (all my teams are gone – possibly because they were chosen entirely for their underdog qualities) but watch the first ten minutes of the match and then decide who you like more. Pretend you’re a die-hard fan. Joke with your friends about the players and their foibles. Talk about who’s the cutest. Mock the die-hard fans who’re in the bar with you all. And revel in the fact that all around the world, countless other groups of friends are doing the same thing.

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I’ve started planning my trip back to America for the summer. New York City and it’s surrounding areas (two weeks), Chicagoland (less than a week), and New Mexico (solely to see my bfffff) form the current itinerary bones. But I was reticent to finalize all the plans because I’m honestly just wary about it all. I haven’t been home in two years. And America, well…. there are no words for it’s nonsense these days.

And I have to go alone. Bae has wisely decided to spend the time here trying to make money, rather than following along with me and spending a ton of money. And while I get that it’s the only logical choice, it makes me curl my lip like a moody toddler denied her favorite ice cream. I don’t want to be there alone, gawked at by everyone, having to explain the rest of the world to naive Americans, (who would never deign to come visit me, but still resent that I haven’t been back in two years/expect me to move mountains to fit them into my itinerary while they change literally nothing about their routines.) I loved the idea of carting him around and being like, “And for today’s show and tell, a real live Muslim Arab!” And they would all marvel at his beard and his English-speaking and his niceness and his normalness and how nice he smells because of all the perfumes.

Oh well, perhaps next summer he can come with me. And maybe by then I’ll learn some more Arabic and we can gossip about people in front of them. And they will all tilt their heads in wonder at who I have become. And then I will write a book about it. And it will enjoy minimal success because I have zero online following and books are dead, hurrah!

(One of the things I am actually looking forward to about going back to America is the shopping. I’m going to buy a whole new wardrobe and I’m going to bring back enough fake food to last a month and oh the boooooooks! My list of books to buy is going to require me to check a bag on the way back. I never check a bag anymore! But I’ve already started online shopping and shipping things to my mom’s house, haha.)

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Summertime countdown initiated

One of the most common responses that teachers get when we complain about our low wages is “yeah, but you get paid summers off, so….” And if I’m perfectly honest… it is pretty awesome. We still deserve more money. Or easier jobs. But paid vacations are the holy grail we count down to.

At this point in the school year, the kids are off the walls. I had my last class of the year on Wednesday (we are currently enjoying a four day weekend for Eid – the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan) and the last period of the day, we were trying to review and oh. my. god…. there was this one kid who literally could not sit in his seat. (I teach grade 6, so that’s not normal.) Like he couldn’t make it two minutes. Constantly up and messing around and killing me, slowly, slowly, slowly.

But khallas, the teaching is done! We have three more weeks of work (for finals and then planning/administrative whatever) And then freedom! For two whole months! The official countdown is so very much on!

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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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