So yes, this is my quarter life crisis. While many questions run through my head, I also have come to many realizations and understandings...
1. I hate humidity.
2. I hate teaching children...they're cute, but they need to listen. I now
understand why the nuns in Catholic schools always carried a ruler.
3. Frank's Red Hot is undoubtedly the best hot sauce ever. EVER!
4. I will never be happy with a 9-5 job.
5. I could give up expat life following the next election ~or~ may not consider it
6. True friends and family will provide the support and help for you when you need
it the most, and expect nothing in return.
7. I am addicted to watching Desperate Housewives.
8. I think I killed myself in a former life due to lack of air conditioning.
9. I could live on fresh pineapple.
10. The existence and availibility of Lavazza espresso and Merlot is proof there
may be a God.
11. While the majority of foreigners who choose to live abroad are quite
interesting, there are an equal number of socio paths and those rejected in
their home countries seeking refuge abroad. That, or they're running from the
12. Choose friends wisely as sometimes it's the one ones you thought would be there
forever who are the first to forget.
13. Duct tape can repair just about anything.
14. Money is not everything, but it sure does help when you have some.
15. Nostalgia is a double edged sword...you feel bad to remember and even worse
when you realize you've forgotten some fo the details.
Much more can be added, but those I'll keep for myself. These rambling thoughts of nothingness were conjured up from my over-availibility of time on my hands. I have been ordered by the doctor to rest while my back recovers from surgery. As a result, I am not allowed to be as active as I used to be...at least not for another couple months. Time has been spent reading, sleeping and meditating and I have had time to reflect on what it is I actually am doing with my life now and have come to the realization that I am currently going through a quarter life crisis.
Up until this moment I have studied, traveled and worked my ass off on what could be dubbed, the 'Road Less Traveled'. I know that I should be able to land a job easily with my language and experience...problem is that the careers I'm bound for don't exactly list help wanted ads in the Sunday Classified Section.
Taking time away from constant Arabic study was wise just in the fact that I now understand what area I want to focus on...a professor once described our perception as a gold fish in a bowl. Unless you take the fish out of the water and say, 'hey look that's water...it's what you live in', you never come to a complete understanding as to what your surroundings are.
Now the question remains as to where I am headed. My contract is due to expire in March 2009, and I highly doubt that I will be staying in Taiwan longer than that. One of my main goals next year is to get to Damascus and hopefully find work there...most likely I will first return to Cairo and then go to Syria after.
At the same time I am attempting to break into the world of writing...which at the moment feels like I am bouncing a tennis ball off the wall and having it repeatedly hit me in the head. I'm preparing an application for a Fulbright Grant, planning to take the exam for entrance into the famed Arabic language CASA program and tossing the idea around of grad school. I know that I can return to Pittsburgh for a Master's Degree with funding provided for...but my heart is set on programs at NYU, Berkeley and Georgetown.
And I'm planning to apply for the Foreign Service...between 2004 and 2005 I was both an intern and contractor for the State Department in DC. At the time, I said it was an introduction to everything I never again want to do again in my life. hating the buttoned up bureacracy, political round about negotiations and having to provide a face for the Bush Administration. However, I'm registered to take an upcoming entrance exam, which requires that I travel to Mainland China to do so. I don't understand how there can be a testing center in Phenom Penh, Cambodia; yet not one in Taipei, Taiwan or Hong Kong. So yes, working for the MAN could be an option.
And then I have to think of family. I love to be abroad, but I love and miss my family, too. And what am I going to do when I get older??? I mean, unless I find that rare guy who at the drop of a hat would move with me to Afghanistan...well I may have a bit of difficulty there. I mean, I don't want to be the sixty year old cat woman!
And I'm sure when I hit the mid life crisis I'll look back at this all and think it was peanuts compared to what I'm up against then.
Two months of early morning practice was spent to get my company's team ready for the International Dragon Boat Festival which took place from June 6-8th at the DaJia riverside park in Taipei, Taiwan. My position on the boat went from rower, to steering helmsman (even had a Mandarin training lesson, with the certificate to prove it) to cheerleader on the sidelines. My surgery took place a mere two weeks before the event.
During the festival, teams from all around the world (mostly from Asia) and race their boats four at a time. First and second place moves on to the final round, third and fourth are disqualified. My team won the first race, then lost the second by a mere 1.5 seconds. So sad!
During the festival people sell special sticky rice dumplings that are wrapped in leaves and tied with a string...some of the dumplings are stuffed with meat, lotus seeds and eggs. Others are like dessert, they are heated so the rice become like jelly and the inside is some kind of bean. I find it odd here that red beans are always sugared and served as dessert...my thoughts of red beans are always for burritos. It is surprisingly yummy to eat. Sachets, little bags of fragrane, are are also given as gifts.
Many told me not to worry about not rowing this year because I can always do it next year. That will all be insha'allah.
Shisha is alive and well in Taipei!!!
There is a saying in Arabic that says that once you drink the water of the Nile you will undoubtedly return. I never did drink the water, let alone touch it as I always feared amputation may be necessary. I once ate a fish from the Nile and my face went numb for five hours as a result. Also, when the Bird Flu spread to Cairo, there was a mass slaughter of chickens and rumor has it their bodies were dumped into the mighty waters o the Nile. Water was cut in Cairo for three days as a result.
Regardless of my failure to drink the water, I do feel that I need to return. Whether it be to live I’m not so sure, but I have missed living in Cairo since the day I left. I do not have the same desire to return to Yemen; however I do have a desire to get back to the Middle East. I used to say this about Latin America, and I do feel this way. While in college I studied in Peru and Bolivia and I will always hold those times dear to me and I have since returned. But there is something about the Arab countries I find fascinating.
I left because I needed a break. Arabia is a special place and is not for everyone to live. For the western visitor it is truly the exotic experience. For the pessimist, it is thought to be utterly dangerous. For those that fall under the spell of Arab culture, the people, the food the dance, the history and camaraderie all of the negative reasons fall by the wayside.
Arabia does have its fair share of ironies such as veiled women buying sexy underwear from outdoor male vendors. There are the nuances like the five calls for prayer that can shock the new comer especially if they are staying in a hotel next to a mosque. The 4:30 am fajr prayer sounds as if there were a man in your room with a blow horn to let you and you alone know that Allah is waiting for his prayer. And of course there are the fears like eating with the wrong hand.
And then there are all the other sights, sounds, smells and tastes that overwhelm the senses. Men who wear long galibeya dresses in Southern Egypt and men who are wearing futa skirts and daggers in Yemen; this of course not being complete without a wad of qat in his mouth. The occasional man with a flute charming snakes. They sit and chat over spiced mint tea, the sounds of Um Kalthoum wafting in the warm night air while men sit puffing on large pipes that bubbles and fruity smoke is exhaled. Child vendors with youthful but the eyes of an adult. Taxi rides that can make you re-evaluate your goal in life as you almost lose yours in the process of getting to your destination…the cabs that have screwdrivers holding the window in place and the door that occasionally opens in traffic.
The daily fast during the month of Ramadan and the party that begins with the evening call for prayer. Prayer, always there is prayer. Drinking a Stella beer on the rooftop Odeon when the Morning Prayer is sounded through the city. Saudi business men dressed in freshly starched white, clutching prayer beads with one hand and tossing money to a belly dancer on stage with the other. The belly dancing, tie a sash around your waist and then watch hip shimmies and body control that make every onlooker envious for their own respective reasons. The look of sadness in the eyes and abnormal white power on the face of a Somali prostitute forced to service sailors.
Defending myself while I was being robbed by a corrupt manager of a Yemeni airline and the generosity of the others on my flight who were appalled by his behavior.
The hospitality, the un-relentless Arab hospitality that is a must and makes the host forget about world politics and ideas. A bond that is formed between strangers by uttering only a few sentences in a common language. The jealousy of the women who want the same freedom in life as their brothers. Sweet smelling incense being burned to clear the air especially on Thursday evenings. Holding the coals under my hair allowing the smoke to fragrance my hair and sometimes being wrapped in a green cloak and forced to stand over the burning coals to perfume my body and clothes. Mixing henna and having women with years of practice quickly decorate my hands, feet and arms with intricate floral designs. I remember seeing the same floral designs in the black wedding khadab (black henna)on the arms and legs of a Yemeni teenage bride, not more than 16. She was made up to look like a doll and had fear in her eyes and she was fighting back tears while she waited next to a packed suitcase; waiting to be taken to her new home and life.
Being one of five females out of 700 men packed onto a boat from Egypt to Jordan and wrapping my hair in a flaming red head scarf to ‘protect’ me…protect it did and also enticed a Jordanian customs official to propose marriage. Watching the sunrise over the jagged mountains of Sinai and thinking if it really was the location where Moses received the ten Commandments…thinking the same thing at the gate of St. Mary of Zion Church in Ethiopia where the Ark of the Covenant is rumored to be kept.
The characters I have met and friendships I have found through the years from every walk of life and every corner of globe. Waving goodbye and giving a kiss on the cheek; walking in opposite directions and not knowing if those paths will ever cross again. Wondering if this crazy road I’m on will ever end and where that will be. Hopefully it will not be with a dead end.
I left it all because I needed a break, and I long to return. While I lived in Yemen, many had told me I had become Arab. I laughed and cast this to the side. But I understand now, I did in a way become Arab. I had created an identity for myself, and now I’m beginning to lose it. I guess it’s like a drug, skeptics are apprehensive to try it; however, once they have a taste they are dying for more. Perhaps I’m suffering from a bit of withdrawl. This time too will pass.