Atrocities. Impeachment. What Next?

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Photo by Hampton Lamoureux on Pexels.com

I am rarely at a loss for words. But tonight, I was utterly speechless.

Two significant events have left me unable to comprehend our un-humanity:

First: Close to a million civilians in northern Syria are fleeing bombardment. They have nowhere to go. The Assad regime and its backers – Russia, Iran, Hezbollah – call this a cleansing operation. Others call it genocide, or at the very least, atrocities on a massive scale.

In an extraordinary feat, the international community continues to simultaneously wring its hands and sit on them when it comes to Syria. 

Second: After months of boycotting U.S. news about – what else, the impeachment hearings – I watched Donald Trump’s post-impeachment speech. I listened for what seemed like forever but was probably about 5 minutes. I tried to understand what he was saying, but I couldn’t.

I thought just listening to Trump’s speech would help. But looking away from the screen actually made things worse. Because when I wasn’t looking, the sound of applause and laughter was amplified.

Behind that merriment, I could hear fear. Hell, I could almost smell it. 

I bet those dozens of lawmakers in the audience so intent on pleasing Trump were doing so out of fear that they would be his next target. Would he tweet insults at them in the night? Would they go from being “helluva guy” to some teenage version of “poopy head”?

Times like these call for deep thought and…PIZZA. And wine.

I realized I was feeling let down by America. The America I have always loved; the America that had been – in my mind – the world’s greatest hope to become the land of the free.

We all know that racism abounds in America. Just look at the prison system and you’ll see institutionalized slavery. Check out Big Pharma and you’ll see a perfect dealer-user dynamic.

But what I thought we had – what we always would have – was a group of politicians that would dare to speak uncomfortable truths. That both parties, no matter how radical and divided, would put their country before their choice of party. That representatives elected by the people would not lie down in the face of justice to avoid their president’s mockery.

I’m not sad because Republicans showed their support for their candidate; I’m devastated because they let their greed, lust for power, or weakness (or all three) stand in the way of Doing. The. Right. Thing.

I know Syria isn’t America, and Donald Trump has not murdered hundreds of thousands of innocents. I know nobody in their right mind would ever call Syria a democracy.

But I do know this: my split Syrian-American identity knows there are two authoritarian presidents, both willing to destroy their countries to stay in power.

What do YOU think? 

 

Pure Love

Yesterday I was feeling really down: depressed, anxious about work, questioning the future, not sure of anything, not trusting myself to make decisions. I managed to pull myself together enough to go for a walk on the beach. After all, I moved to Malaga to be by the beach!

The 15-minute walk did me a world of good. I was feeling much better when I found a little grassy hilltop where I could sit and watch the brave swimmers and sunbathers (it’s warm, but not THAT warm!). In front of me was an adorable family, what looked like two sisters and their babies. The mothers were chatting and the little ones were playing. The youngest was particularly cute. He was staggering around in that I-just-started-walking way as he played with the other kids.

Suddenly, he started to whine, then cry. His mother tried to distract him with toys and a song, but the cries were getting more insistent. I recognized the sound – “I’m tired and hungry so will you please just whip out that boob!” The mother recognized it too, and within a few seconds feeding her baby.

Once the baby’s hunger subsided, he relaxed. He stretched an arm, extending it towards his mother’s neck. His fist started to unclench. The waves provided the perfect background noise. The baby opened his hand completely, laying it gently against his mother’s neck. She was looking down at him, completely mesmerized.

I was mesmerized too. I finally forced myself to look away. It probably looked creepy, me staring at a stranger breastfeeding her child. If the mother had asked, I would have told her that just seeing the two of them had removed my dark mood. That the beautiful transformation from cranky to at-peace baby had soothed my nerves.

The walk and the sun had soothed me. The waves had made me relax. But witnessing the purest love of all – well, that lifted me. Thank you, mama.

Day Trips

Here, There 'n' Everywhere

Introduction

After our two day stay in Torremolinos, my family and I went Fuengirola, where we will be staying until the 15th of July. While in Fuengirola, we took 4 day trips (as of July 4, 2019) to Malaga, Mijas Pueblo, Marbella, and took a second trip to Malaga

Malaga (part 1)

Malaga is home to many interesting houses, castles and buildings. This building was one I found to be interesting due to the fact that it was several hundreds of years old and was in a “modern” area of the city.

Fuengirola is maybe an hour from Malaga, so on June 28, my family and I decided to go explore it since we had heard good things. My mom (who I’ll be moving with in September) quickly fell in love with the city. We walked around and decided that we needed to live there so my mom scheduled an…

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Countdown to Spain

I’ve decided to move to Spain!

WHAT?

I’ve decided to move to Spain!

Step 1: Decide what kind of visa I need.

After reading literally hundreds of documents, blogposts, guides, and advice columns, and firing one lawyer, I have decided to apply for a Non-Lucrative visa in Spain. This type of visa will allow me to live in Spain for up to 1 year. The catch is I can’t work for a Spanish company. I can still work online and support my US-based clients though.

Step 2: Apply.

In progress. I’ve done the background check and am waiting for my FBI-and-fingerprint-check to come through. I’ve made a doctor’s appointment to get the health certificate. I’m talking with my insurance company to make sure I have full coverage for the year in Spain. I’m gathering bank statements to prove that I have enough US work and income to cover my expenses. I’ve booked an apartment through Spotahome for the initial trip that involves the family – well within the 90-day Schengen visa – so we have a place to stay. I’ve written the letter that describes why I want to live in Spain. I’ve found a service that will translate and certify all my documents.

The real work begins once I go to the Spanish consulate in Washington, DC. I’m told they don’t give appointments, so I’m planning to spend a lot of time waiting in line…WISH ME LUCK!

photo of gray castle and bridge
Photo by Nicolas Postiglioni on Pexels.com

Looking for adventure? Step out of your comfort zone.

My first guest post! Check out Norma Wallace’s thoughts on Solo Travel.

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“I remember reading Rafif’s post about solo travel and realized I have a story to tell.

At first, I thought ‘no big deal – I have traveled alone before, in my 20s.’ Oh, that was 54 years ago. Things have changed!

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Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

A friend asked if I felt comfortable driving 200 miles and going through Portland.

I said, “No, I am not comfortable— but I need to get out of my comfort zone if I am going to have any adventure in my life.”  So after reading Rafif’s blog I thought I would put a positive spin on traveling alone.  I was going to have a good time.

The first obstacle was a fire that closed the highway for 1.5 hours. Luckily, I had a good book in my purse. I read while I waited for the highway to open.  The next obstacle was traffic. I was so thankful for a GPS to tell me where to go. (They didn’t have those 54 years ago!)

The last obstacle, I thought—eating alone. Actually, I was so happy to have gotten through the fire area and the traffic that it was a great relief to be by myself, order the type of food I wanted, and do a little people-watching.

The last obstacle that I haven’t overcome yet: the TV remote in the motel. What happened to just turning on the TV and changing the channel?

Why is every remote different? I will try one more time. Wish me luck.”

~ Norma Wallace

Unlearning. Or: Everything I didn’t learn in kindergarten.

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This is not me. Photo by Binyamin Mellish on Pexels.com

After a not-so-discreet hint from a friend, I returned to the gym. And I remembered one of the reasons I like working out: it helps me to think through problems and different strategies to solve them. Exercise allows me to redefine what I believe about random subjects.

I realized that I need to have really long workouts. How else to categorize and work through all the random thoughts that plague me? As a dynamic person – mother, consultant, activist, feminist, single woman – I have quite a bit to think about.

So, while I was huffing and puffing on the treadmill, I came up with some random solutions to some random problems, and random thoughts on random subjects. I’ll start with these.

My new mantra is:

Unlearning. We have been taught certain values, morals, opinions, and attitudes. We have been taught how to speak, think, and react. We need to unlearn these habits.

Guess what? Many of our learned behaviors are simply wrong, irrelevant today. Inappropriate in modern society. Unacceptable to a growing number of people. Today’s world is very different from that of our parents and grandparents. Yet some of us continue to hold on to outdated traditions, perhaps out of fear. 

So.

I believe we need to “unlearn” things and redefine our morality, ethics, and values. We need to redefine our language and re-think how we speak and behave, both alone and in groups.

And if you’re bi-cultural, you’re even more likely to need to unlearn. By bi-cultural, I don’t mean if your ancestors were English and French. Ask anyone who hails from the Middle East, especially women who are 50+, if there are things we need to unlearn…

…speaking of women, please consider this concept:

  • Feminism. All of us – men, women, children – are the products of a patriarchal system that has flourished for thousands of years. Our attitudes about gender and gender roles are pre-informed by all those years of male-dominated social structures.  Whether we’re being bopped on the head by our hunter-gatherer or intellectually arm-wrestling in the boardroom, we are the product of a male-dominated narrative. It’s time to shed old notions and habits. It’s time to accept women as equals and change the dominant narrative, and…

…speaking of narratives:

  • Language. Our language is geared to support the male-dominated social structures. For example, greeting a group of people with “hi, guys!” seems innocuous enough. But it actually excludes all those who are not guys. Some say that’s an overly sensitive attitude.

OK, think about it. Suppose we switch it up. For a week, try “hey, ladies!” when addressing a group of women and men. See how your male colleagues react. (I just got a mental image of that and laughed out loud.) See if the men feel excluded, or if they feel their masculinity is somehow compromised. You see where I’m going with this.

I find that usually when I call someone out for being chauvinistic or downright misogynistic, they tell me I’m “oversensitive.”

Well, ladies (guys), let’s put the shoe on the other foot.

And speaking of sensitivity…

  • Sensitivity: Again, not the world of your forefathers (foremothers?). Sometimes it seems that people really are overly sensitive to words, actions, situations, and the realities of life. When I start to think this way, I have to stop myself. A quick check and a reminder: the people who I think are overly sensitive (mostly men) are living a different reality than mine. Who am I to judge? Why am I imposing my insensitivity on them? Am I contradicting myself?

By the end of my workout, I had come to the conclusion that unlearning is the way forward for me. By unlearning, I will try to shed some of my preconceived notions, longstanding beliefs, and attitudes towards others. Through unlearning, I will hopefully become more conscious of how I speak, and try to use more gender-neutral terms. In unlearning, I will try to consider the impact of my words on others before I blurt them out.

Let me know what you think.

 

Traveling with Sneakers. Or: Stuck at the airport.

I’ve grown bored of all the posts and articles that claim to teach us how to travel: things you should know before you go, how to pack, what to pack, how to get upgrades. The information is almost always the same, just recycled with different pictures and minor edits. I stopped paying attention to the advice: “Pack light!” “Roll your stuff!” “Be prepared for different climates!” I’m sure there’s new and fresh information. I wish someone would publish it.

Also: in response to a common question (“how can I not stand out as an American?”), the number one guidance is: “don’t wear sneakers, especially white ones.”

Well, from my perch at Keflavik Airport in Reykjavik (Iceland) this morning, as part of the Itinerary From Hell that is my current trip (will rant about that separately), EVERYONE but me is wearing sneakers.

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Photography: me. Models: fellow passengers

The sneaker-wearers are women and men of all ages. They are surly teenagers and hyperactive adolescents. The wearers were Americans, Icelanders, Arabs, French, Spanish, and a host of other nationalities I could not readily identify based purely on spoken language.

I know all this because I had a pretty decent amount of time during my layover (did I mention itinerary from hell?) to people-watch quite extensively. (Greatest sport of all time.)

I saw white sneakers, some with stripes, on not-American feet. There were lime-green sneakers and black sneakers and orange sneakers and a few startling shades-of-fuchsia sneakers.

There were a few sparkly sneakers too, worn mostly by 50+ not-American women. Go figure, globalization knows no boundaries nor age groups.

Anyway, because I have time before my next flight, here’s my travel advice:

  1. Pack light, because you just might have a long trip with multiple stops before your final destination. It just may be that the gods will conspire to make every escalator break down and you’ll have to lug your suitcase up and down the stairs to get to the restroom, the gate, and the coffee. These three places are not necessarily on the same floor.
  2. Take a sweater or warm scarf, because who doesn’t travel in 3 different climates on the same trip? If you don’t take some warm clothing, you may find yourself shivering in a corner of Keflavik Airport, trying to discreetly draw warmth from fellow passengers who are appropriately dressed but who now think you’re a creep.
  3. Oh, hell. I give up. Wear the damn sneakers. This is so you “blend in” when experiencing 1 and 2 above.

I survived the trip. Looking back over the past 24 hours, now that I’m back in Istanbul and finally warm, I’d say it was a tiring but good day. I got lucky with my seats on each leg of the trip: an exit row, an aisle seat on an overbooked flight, and a near-empty row on the last. It could have been so much worse.