13 December 2012

A Mistake I Made

On a list I read today about events that are "guaranteed" to happen to you in your twenties (only 7 have happened to me so far, oh goodness me, I must not be normal...), the event that stuck with me as I was pedaling my way to school was "You’ll read a book that will change your life."  Setting aside for one moment the fact that I read dozens of books that changed my life before I turned 20, or that yes, I actually am "that book's bitch" of the one that did change my life in my twenties, I also realized that perhaps the 'book' I read that changed my life was actually many series of blogs and online 'long read' articles.

In reading a collection of the best long reads of 2012 (related to the MENA region of course), I have come across many posts about and by Moroccans.  I discovered a woman, Laila Lalami, who, in her post that I read, made imagine that if I have half-Moroccan children, maybe they will one day be like her, devouring novels in French (though I hope mine would devour them in Arabic and English too), sitting on the ponj at night between two parents engrossed in novels, and getting lost in a book under a tree in Ifrane.  If only the real world could have such an idyllic combination of what I love about Morocco and what I love about being American (and if only this daydream didn't firmly cement my place amongst Orientalists in the minds of critics).

After getting temporarily lost in the maze of the interwebs, I returned to the list to discover yet another life-changing blog entry.  Well, maybe just slightly life-diverting-from-the-path-I-would-have-already-taken blog entry.  Here, besides making me feel inadequate about my command of the English language, as well as Darija, the author makes me realize that, by initially going into Morocco as a volunteer, and basically being groomed to be a diplomat, I was sheltered just like all the other Moroccan girls in my town from all the true, innovators, and minorities in Moroccan society, except for the poor.  I say this because she dissects a song by a hip-hop artist who I was told not to like, who I was told said "bad words" and "bad things" and thus, I assumed, still seeing life through my American white-girl lens, that they meant he was simply swearing and talking about 'bitches an' hos'.

Never did I consider that maybe by "bad things" people meant criticizing the system, pointing out urban poverty, and telling a story from the view of a disillusioned suicide bomber.  I did myself a disservice by not investigating what I was told not to, by not remember how my education and my religion had taught me to always question the status quo and make that 'preferential option' for the marginalized just as much as it taught me to be a diplomat and to listen and reflect before acting.

From her article, in my never-ending struggle to make up for recognize my white, first-world privilege  I will hold on to this paragraph, that reminds me of my friends from Salé, and how they are so easily able to identify their place in the world, and surprise every new group of American students with the keen and perhaps poignant awareness of the responsibility/burden they will always have of defending Morocco/Arabs/Islam/brown-people-in-general:

Bigg’s character feels the gap between not just his life and those of the Moroccan “bourgeoisie,” but also those of the “developed” world.  Media glorifying the local and global haves on the other end of that gap is all around him—including the famous rappers he loves. I n a situation perhaps reminiscent of W.E.B. DuBois’ observation regarding African-Americans at the turn of the 20th century, Moroccans live a kind of “double consciousness.”  As (mostly) Muslims who (mostly) claim Arab descent, they know with DuBois how it feels “to be a problem.”  As a result of decades of colonial domination and “developing nation” status, Moroccans always have to be able to read the local through the eyes of “the global”—which generally means the global North. 

05 December 2012

عن قناة الجزيرة

Here's a look at half of my final grade for my current Arabic Media and the Social Sciences class.  It's a summary of a presentation I will be giving tomorrow about Al-Jazeera, its history, and it's role in the Arab Spring.  If you can read Arabic, enjoy!

الجزيرة شركة و قتاة تليفزيونية فضائية مقرها في الدوحة  بقطر و هي مشهورة لأنها جد مثير للجدل، في العالم العربي و أيضا في  كل العالم.  الجدال و الخلاف اللذان يحيطان بقناة الجزيرة تزامنا تقربا مع تأسيسها.  أنُشِأت قناة الجزيرة في قطر في سنة ١٩٩٦ و مُولت بمنحة ١٥٠ ميلون دولار من أمير قطري «حمد بي خليفة الثاني» و تزامن تأسيس قناة الجزيرة مع إغلاق قناة لتلفزيون هيئة الاذاعة البريطانية بالعربية (بي بي سي عربية).  إنشاء قناة الجزيرة حدث لأن بي بي 
سي عربية أغُلقت.  مما جعلها تنجح أكثر نظراً يغياب قناة منافسة قوية كبي بي سي.

في البداية، كانت مهمة قناة الجزيرة البحث عن آراء المخالفة، فقبل إنشاء قناة الجزيرة، كانت هناك القنوات أخبارية كثيرة لكنها لم تبث سوى آراء حكوماتها.  في أوائل أيامها، يبدو أن قناة الجزيرة كانت تحاول أن تكون منصفة ومتوازنة:  شعارها كان «الرأي والرأي الآخر» و حاولت الحفاظ على الموضوعية. لذلك كانت شعبية و حتى محبوب لدى الشعب العربي ولكن تغيرت الأمور بسرعة و كما معروف «منصفة و متوازنة» شعار فوكس نيوز، و هذه القناة ليست منصفة ولا متوازنة، و للأسف، تغيرت قناة الجزيرة و أصبحت متحيزة مثل القنوات الأخرى.

أولا، قناة الجزيرة قناة قطرية و لذلك لم تكن تنتقد قطر أبدا و هذا يدل على أن قناة الجزيرة لم تختلف كثيرا عن القنوات القديمة حتى في بداية بثها.  أيضا تلقت انتقادات كثيرة لأنها حاولت أن تمثل آراء الشعب العربي (في كل دولة إلا قطر) هذا يعني أنها لا يمكن أن تتجنب إغضاب الحكومات، خصوصا قبل ثورات الربيع العربي وبعد الحكومات قامت بالسماح لقناة الجزيرة، بالعمل في بلدانهم ولكن عندما كانت قناة الجزيرة تُكثر (في وجهة نظرهم) من الانتقادات كانت النتيجة الطرد.  مثلا، في المغرب في ٢٠١٠، عندما طردت الحكومة المغربية قناة الجزيرة لأنها كانت تنتقد خطط عملها في الصحراء الغربية.  بالإضافة إلى ذلك، تلقت قناة الجزيرة انتقادات كثيرة من أمريكا و دول أخرى غربية بسبب مواقفها عن الإرهاب و أسامة بن لادن و الحروب في العراق وأفغانستان: مما لا يثير الدهشة، قناة الجزيرة لا تتردد في انتقاد سياسات الولايات المتحدة.  رغم أن  دول مثل روسيا و إيران انتقدت قناة الجزيرة لأنهما ظنان أنها متحيزة للغرب.

خلال فترة الثورات، تلقت الجزيرة انتقادات أكثر لأنه أصبح من الواضح أنها بدأت أن تكون متحيزة في بعض الدول، مثلا كانت هناك تقارير يقول أنها كانت تدعم الجيش الحر السوري بتكنولوجيا الأقمار الصناعية.  أما في فقد كانت قناة الجزيرة متحيزة أكثر للحكومة بحريني ضد الشعب و لم تدعم الثورة البحرينية لأن كانت الثوار شيعيين و الحكومة القطرية السنية (و ذلك قناة الجزيرة) دعمت الحكومة البحرينية السنية.  أيضا في مصر في صيف ٢٠١٢، قيل انها كانت تستخدم مقاطع فيديو قديمة لتشجيع المزيد من الصراع.  في ذلك الصيف، فقدت قناة الجزيرة مصداقية بكثير وفقاً للشعب العربي، ونحن لن نعرف لفترة طويلة إذا من الممكن أن تستعيد شعبيتها و شهرتها.

20 November 2012

Another Arab Hip-Hop Website

You all should know by now that I'm interested in Arab and Arab Diaspora Hip-Hop, both personally and professionally.  I wish that I had the time and the physical and linguistic access to find new and exciting hip-hop for you all, but alas, such is the life of a grad student.

For now, if you are interested in learning more, please check out this great introductory guide posted on awl.com:

An Intro To Rebel Hip-Hop Of The Arab Revolutions

It even includes a new version of a video by one of my favorites (and my new Facebook friend!) Soultana!

26 October 2012

Ana Msh 3adad - أنا مش عدد - Revolution Records - Ahmed Rock [English Su...

"I'm Not Just a Number"

I'm presenting on Tuesday in my Arab Media and Social Sciences class about Arab Hip-Hop in the time of revolution.  Would this be a post-revolution song?  Or just a sign that the revolution is not limited to January 2011, and still has a long way to go?

(Hamdullah for English subtitles!)

From here.

24 October 2012


‫علمتني الحياة أن لا أتعلق بشيء فكلنا ذاهبون

وأن احببت أحب بصمت فلا داعى للجنون

‫وأن لا أتحدث عن كرهي للبعض فربما في داخلهم حبا في القلب يخفون

فما الحياة سوى مطار قادمون منه ومغادرون

15 August 2012

A Cautionary Tale

During our orientation in Washington D.C. before the program began, one of many meetings stuck out in my head amongst all the meetings  (common in US gov’t and State Dept. programs is to be inundated with PowerPoint presentations before embarking on any “adventure” - happened when I was a volunteer, and before my NSLI-Y program as well).  This particular story however was about why the Oman CLS program was returning to Salalah, a city in the south with much better weather (low 80s and foggy as opposed to 110+ and sunny and humid), after having been in Musqat since 2009.  This story cleared up some rumors I had heard before arriving in D.C., but, as a disclaimer, what I’m about to write here may not be exactly true, much was left to our imaginations.  Still, it is an example of what the consequences of being an Ugly American can be in Oman, and in the Arab World in general.

Once, in the CLS program in Salalah in 2008, there was a girl.  They called her “Gladys” but we might have figured out her real name.  Not that I’m going to post that here, but people are getting easier and easier to find online... Anyway, this girl refused to compromise in anyway when she came to Oman.  She refused to wear clothes that were culturally appropriate.  She saw it as an affront on her personal freedom that she was asked to wear long loose pants instead of shorts and asked to wear loose shirts with sleeves below the elbows instead of tank tops.  Maybe she didn’t understand, maybe she didn’t care.  In any case, it was “bad enough” that the administrative director and his wife took her out shopping to buy her some more appropriate clothes, and tried to explain to her gently the ideas of respect and compromise involved in their request for her to dress more modestly.  But she still didn’t change the way she was dressing.

Still, this was nothing compared to what happened towards the end of trip.  Apparently, one day she was walking to the souq, or back from the souq, or around the center of Salalah.  Maybe she had had a bad day, maybe her culturally-inappropriate dress had led to some harassment.  Maybe she was just tired.  But that day, as she crossed the street, a car screeched in front of her, and barely missed hitting her.  (Oman, like many countries in the region, has a surprisingly high rate of car accidents.)  She reportedly slammed her hands of the front of the car - this could have been added for effect, or could be just how I’ve been picturing the story in my imagination - and yelled F*** YOU!  at the Indian driver, who was driving his Omani boss around.  Unfortunately for the girl, this Omani woman knew enough English to know that she was being insulted, and even more unfortunately for the American, insulting Omanis is a crime in the Sultanate of Oman.

The woman pressed charges, and the girl, a young American student, was put in jail for a couple of days, and, more distressingly for Gladys, had her passport taken away.  When she got out - a bail which I am sure the State Department would NOT pay - she discovered that she would not get her passport back until her court date, which, unfortunately for her was not for 15 more months.  So Gladys was stuck in Oman for 15 months.  I don’t know what happened to Gladys but I do know that CLS was NOT welcome in Salalah after that, and not in Oman at all until 2010.

The lesson we were given from this cautionary tale was how not to behave in Oman.  I was both pleased and surprised that they told us the whole story, because based on my previous experiences, there is a lot of “need-to-know” secrecy in the State Department.  It makes sense, though, to tell us, when they had just succeeded in getting us back to Salalah after so long.  Some of the students later confessed that this story had scared the crap out of them, but to me it was just a firm, if over-the-top reminder of what the consequences of our actions abroad can be.  And, al-hamdulilah, we had no “Gladyses” on the trip, and, I hope, were able to show a whole new group of Omanis (and Indians, Philippinos, Pakistanis, and others) that the Ugly American is the minority.

14 August 2012

Pop Tops

One of the smaller, lighter, more amusing differences between Oman and the U.S. (and Oman and Morocco) that I noticed during my two months in Salalah was the exclusive use of pop tops!

Do you know what pop tops are?  I actually think that both ways of opening a can of soda used to be called pop tops, but I’m not really clear on the terminology.  Maybe it’s just a Midwestern term....

Some of the younger people on our trip had never seen them before, but I remember them from the late 80s, before, I think, the environmental regulations came into play and we stopped using them in the States.  I particularly remember them on the pineapple juice cans that my mother put in my lunches.

There’s not too much of a difference between the pop tops that they use in Oman, and the “normal” way of opening a can that we have in the States, concerning function.  The older kind can be used to make pretty great chains if you are under the age of 14 - the newer ones you have to keep together with a string, but the older ones you can just fold over each other [PICTURE????]

The problem, however, with the older pop tops, is that they come off of the can.  And then you are stuck with this sharp-edged piece of aluminum, and usually, no where close to throw it out.  Most of the time, I would just hold on to them, and put them back in the can when I finished, but sometimes, like in class for example, it was very awkward to hold onto the pop top.  I know, I know, first-world problems, but the problem was, more so than the awkwardness of holding onto the pop top was the danger of what would happen if you threw it out.  You could totally miss the trash can, or, if you were of a less-concerned-about-litter mindset, just throw it on the ground, and then, like I often saw, there would be these little sharp-edged pieces of aluminum everywhere.  They could easily piece through a flimsy sandal, or if indoor, catch someone’s bare foot when they weren’t looking.

Do I sound too much like a PTA mom?  Perhaps, but that’s what happens when you cut your big toe on one of these suckers.

13 August 2012

Word's from Rachd's Heart

Excerpts from one of my Omani teacher’s reflections on his trip to the States.  Reading this made me so proud to be involved in the work of cross-cultural exchange and education.  Hopefully it will give you a little glimpse into why I do what I do...

1- Don’t Give Up Your Dreams:

When I was 17 years old, I had a dream to study in the United States after finishing my high school in my beloved country, Oman. I couldn’t achieve that dream, but the wish to be in the United States has lived in my soul.  On December 1, 2007, I received a call from the university I was studying in that I had been nominated for a Fulbright Scholarship and I had succeeded in passing exams and interviews, which enabled me to live my dream to be in the United States for the academic year of 2008-2009.

2- Let Us Free Ourselves From The Prison of Misconceptions:

I live in a small village in my country, surrounded with beautiful mountains with my poor family.  I am the first person who got the chance to travel to the United States form that village.  It was hard for people there to imagine a young person with little experiences to have an unsafe adventure in a country has political problems in the Middle East.  “Being in the United States is not safe for a person from the Middle East, especially if he is a Muslim with beard!” some of my friends and relatives warned me.  “It is my life and I am free to make my decisions what to do in my life,” I replied to them.  “I think it is better to go there and find out the truth about the American nation myself.  Not all Americans agree with those horrible acts done by greedy, ignorant guys,” I said to them.

Being in the United States helps me see out of media’s negativity. I have met here many good decent people. I believe that living with other nations is the best way to know them instead just listening to news.  News can’t show the whole picture of any nation on this earth.   To know more about people in the Middle East, you need to go there and listen to them.  I am pretty sure that you will find out that most people around the world are good and most of us are victims of stupid politics.

After my experience here, I can prove to others we - as human beings- can live together if we give ourselves a chance to understand each other.

3- Study at the College and live in a small Appalachian town:

I am leaving the United States in few days, but the college and this small Appalachian town will never leave my heart.  The College is a small school with a lot activities which can help students grow intellectually and spiritually.  The town is a piece of heaven.  It is in the mountains with high beautiful trees where you can feel secure and meet friendly people.  After coming there, my faith in paradise has increased since I lived the beauty created by God.  Four seasons, wonderful weather, green lands and terrific views has made me live in a place like a paradise!

When I was applying for a Fulbright Scholarship, I tried avoiding the possibility to be in the South of the United States.  I was told that people in South are not friendly to foreigners.  I was stupid to believe them.  But, by a fortunate mistake, I signed to avoid the North!!  I believe it was God’s will and He always knows what good for us.

4- Be one in the Community:

I got to know many of people in the community.  They are very nice and helpful.  I visited more than 10 American families during my program and I really enjoyed talking to them and I established friendship and understanding with them.  Moments of visiting these families proved to me that human beings are great creation when we come together as one family.

5- Experience Religious and Political life:

My curiosity and desire to learn led me to visit more than 15 churches and to pray with Christians on Sundays.  Also, I got to know Baha’i and Buddhism which helped expand my knowledge and learn how to be tolerant to other faiths.

One of the interesting experiences happened to me while I am here was the presidential campaign.  Fortunately, last semester, fall 2008, I was studying a course about American Government with a great, knowledgeable professor.  That course helped me understand the US election more than before and opened my mind to get general ideas about the system of American Government.  Before studying this course, I hated reading anything touched politics.  Now, I believe that it is important to know how governments run countries and lead nations.  Democracy can not survive in ignorant societies.  Freedom will fade away if people do not know their rights and responsibilities.

6- Enjoy Teaching and Studying:

I admit that I was a student before I came to the States.  I was thinking how to teach American students who are very close to my age and almost have the same experiences in this life.  Then I considered this experience as a challenge can improve my personality and refine my teaching skills.  At the same time, I was a student; learned sometimes with same students who signed up in my courses I taught.  However, I really enjoyed each moment in teaching and studying.  This time, I can give my parents the official transcript from the College since I have no an “F”!!!

7- Offer thanks and Express Gratitude:

I feel that I have succeeded in my program this year. This happened because many people around me always supporting me. I am very pleased to convey my gratitude to:

  • Everyone who greeted me when I passed by.
  • Everyone who smiled to me.
  • Everyone who talked to me.
  • Everyone who shared his/her lunch or dinner with me.
  • Everyone who provided me with a book or a movie and to anyone who sent me an email within useful article.
  • Everyone who involved me in Thanksgiving, Christmas and other events.
  • Everyone who gave me a ride.
  • Everyone who made me feel that I am a part of this college and the community.
  • Everyone who provided me with clothes to keep me warm.
  • Everyone who was in my trips.
  • Everyone who helped in teaching me Southern dialects!!!!!
  • Everyone who helped me in scanning some papers I needed.
  • Everyone who attended some of my classes.

8- Ask a Favor:

Please do not believe everything you hear or you read about Arabs or Muslims in the media.  We need to find out the truth ourselves.  I believe that if anyone is faithful in knowing the truth, sooner or latter will find it. Just we need to be very patient and get rid of pre-conceptions and to open our minds to listen attentively.

You can start with these basic facts:

  • No real Muslims can kill or harm innocent people. “If any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as he saved the life of the whole people.” [Al-Qur’an 5:32]
  • It is a crime to force others to convert to Islam. “Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from error”[Al-Qur’an 2:256]
  • There are more than 15 million Christians in the Middle East living together with Muslims in harmony for more than 1400 years. 
  • There is a whole chapter in the Holy Quran with the name “Mary” talks about her story with her son Jesus peace be upon him. And Jesus has been mentioned in the Holy Quran many times as one of the greatest prophets was sent to the humanity.
  • Muslims can’t be Muslims if they don’t believe in all prophets and among them Jesus. They love Jesus and many Muslims with name “Jesus” in Arabic “Issa” 
  • What I mean that let us establish a strong bridge of understanding instead of living in prisons of fear and hatred. Let us remember that we all belong to same father (Adam) and mother (Eve) and we have been created by the same God. Many crimes are committed in the name of divine religions: Christianity, Jewish or Islam. As a matter of fact, greed, ignorance and pursuit of powers are behind most horrible crimes in the world. 

07 August 2012

A Little Info About Ramadan


Check it out!

05 August 2012

Arab Spring in Oman too... kind of...

First of all, I'm writing this on June 10, 2012 but I've set it to post after I leave Oman, just in case.  When I'm only in a country for two months, I don't want to risk any consequences.  Especially when I'm on a State Dept. scholarship.  Sad but true, freedom of speech being stifled... or different interpretations of what "freedom" actually means.  I'm torn.

Anyway, I noticed these two articles pop up in my NewsFeed/Blog Reader.  Even in nice, calm, benevolent dictatorship Oman, human rights are up for interpretation:

Gulf News:

Three activists were detained from Fahoud oil fields on Thursday for visiting the site to show solidarity with the striking workers from contracting companies, working for two oil companies in the country.
Former Oman volleyball player Habiba Al Hinai, Sohar activist Esmail Al Muqbali and Yaqoub Al Kharusi were held by security forces, according to a rights group in Oman.
The three had gone to support the striking Omanis, who are working for Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) and Oxy Oman contractors.
The workers are on strike for more than a week demanding better wages, risk allowance and provision for pension.

The strike has been termed illegal and workers have been asked to report back by around nine contracting companies. The workers have been warned they could risk losing jobs if they continue the strike.
Some of the Shura members and prominent citizens have tried to intervene.
According to a Facebook post by an activist, the last contact with Esmail Al Muqbali was on Thursday morning.
Esmail Al Muqbali, Habiba Al Hinai and Yaqoub Al Kharusi are among some activists who formed an independent human rights body. Oman already has a Human Rights Commission.

And follow this link for a more critical take on the situation.

Update from July 6, 2012:

Protests in Oman

Oman: End the Detention of Women Human Rights Defenders

Oman frees some protesters, keeps others in jail

Update from July 17, 2012

Jain Terms for Omanis

28 July 2012

These Photos Are of the First Female, Saudi Arabian Olympians in History - The Atlantic

These Photos Are of the First Female, Saudi Arabian Olympians in History - The Atlantic

Sorry I haven't been updating the blog lately.  The end of the program is only 2 days away.  I plan to take most of August to write entries about my experiences over the last few weeks.  There is much to be said.

Happy belated beginning of Ramadan, for those of you who are celebrating.  This is my third year fasting, and as always, it's both a trial and a joy.

More soon, from Oman and from Morocco!

22 July 2012

أهمية الدراسة والتعليم في الحياة

في هذه الحياة، أؤمن بأهمية الدراسة و التعليم فوق تقريبا كل شيء آخر إلا الطعام و الماء و الهواء.  لذلك، التعليم تقريباً أهم شيء في هذه الحياة.  بالطبع، التعليم مهم بالنسبة للحصول على العمل و كثير من الناس يظنون أن الحصول على العمل هو العمل هو الفائدة الواحدة من التعليم.  يرون الدراسة كمجرد طريقة لنهاية العمل و يريدون أن يكملون الدراسة بسرعة و التعليم لهم طريقة لتحسين مهاراتهم فقط.  بالنسبة لي، هذه وجهة نظر حول الدراسة والتعليم خطيرة.  إذا كنا لا نريد الشعب الذي يفكر جيدا أو يقرر لنفسه، إذن من الممكن لنا نسمح للتعليم يكون للعمل فقط.  ولكنني أؤمن أن التعليم و الدراسة عندهم هدف أكبر من ذلك. 
في العالم العربي، قاد طه حسين الصراع للتعليم المجاني في مصر في منتصف القرن العشرين و وبالإضافة إلى ذلك، كان مدافعا ضد التعليم من أجل الأغنياء فقط.  و كان صحيح عندما قال إن التعليم كالماء والهواء، و حق لكل إنسان.  لماذا هو صحيح؟  لأن الداسة و التعليم يساعدون الإنسان يفهم حالته و يفهم الدنيا و يقرر الأشياء الجيدة و المناسبة لنفسه و لمستقبله.  و فوق هذا كله، الدراسة تسمح للإنسان بالنجاح في العمل و يمكن الحصول على راتب أكثر.  و لكن التعليم ليس مهم فقط على مال، طبعا. فممكن تتخذوا قضية تعليم الفتيات:  تظهر الاحصاءات أن الفتاة التي درست فهي صحية أكثر، و أنها تلد أطفالا أقل و هم أيضا عندهم صحة أكثر، و يمكنها قررت زوجها و هو يكون مناسب لطبيعتها، وقد أظهرت بعض الدراسات أن تعليم الفتيات رفع الناتج المحلي الإجمالي للبلد بأكمله بنسبة ٠،٢٪.  و الأهم من ذلك، الفتيات سوف تلدين وستصبحين الأمهات، ولذلك، الفتاة سوف تعطي فوائد تعليمها لأولادها، وهكذا الفقر بين الأجيال سينتهي.  أيضا التعلم للبنات عنده أهمية أخرى: في المدراسة، يمكنها أن تلتقي زميلاتها، تبادل الأخبار، تطلب نصيحة، تقول نكتات، ترقص، تضحك، تحلم، وتكوين صداقات.  فمن قضية التعلم البنات، نرى كيف أقر يكون بعض أهميات التعلم و الدراسة.  التعليم و الدراسة تؤدي الى حياة محترم و مثمرة لكل البشر.
...An essay I had to write about the importance of education and study

21 July 2012

Why Muslim do Ramadan

"During Ramadan, we fast to starve ourselves – starve us of our egos, our materialism, and our individualism. During Ramadan, we experience, together, the realities of an empty stomach and the realities of a fed soul. Make the most of this month and make the most of those around you. Learn about your fellow Muslims, fast your shyness. It is in the sunnah of the Prophet that when you meet someone for the first time ask them their name and where they are from. Join in taraweeh and make the most of your nights, especially during the last few of Ramadan. Starve yourself of your lethargy and avoidance of the Qur’an. Fast your tongue, your eyes, your ears and your hands. Create a routine out of this holistic fasting so that by the end of Ramadan, you have certain habits which have become a part of your general etiquette. Use this Ramadan, this very one which is fast approaching, to renew your intentions regarding yourself and to use each and every pillar of Islam with such sincerity that it becomes a sewn piece within your heart and mind. Don’t let Ramadan end at the first of Shawwal. Carry this into Shawwal, Dhu al-Qi’dah, Dhu al-Hijjah and throughout the year until we find ourselves here again."

Sana Saeed "On the Eve of Ramadan"

20 July 2012

بعض الأفكار حول الشهرة

الجميع يريد أن يحقق نوعا من الشهرة.  إذا كان أي شخص من أي وقت مضى  قال لك: " أنا غير مهتم بالشهرة" لقد كنت ترى في عيون كاذب.  و أعتقد أن معظم الناس يريدون الإثارة من المشي من خلال الجماهير التي يعجبون به، أنهم يريدون أن يدعى إلى الأحداث الأكثر تميزا، ويريدون الصحفيين المشهورين لأسأل عن وجهة نظرهم حول العديد من المواضيع خلال بث التلفزيون الوطني.  فوق ذلك، لا أعتقد أن هذه الرغبات يعني إنهم مغرورين أو أنانيين، في الواقع، هذا يعني أنهم بشر.  الرغبة في الشهرة من الرغبة في الحب و الرغبة أن يشعر مهما، اليس كذلك؟  أي شخص يريد الشهرة أو مكانة عالية في عمله أو يكون بارزا في أي شيء، في النهاية، يريد فقط الحب و الإحترام الذي يعتقد انه يستحقه.  وهذه الرغبة في نفسها ليست شيء سيئ وكلننا أبناء آدم ولذلك في بعض الأحيان نريد أكثر مما هو جيد بالنسبة لنا، وكما نقول في اللغة الإنجليزية، "انتبه مما ترغب فيه" و هذه الجملة تعني أن ما نريده في الحياة لن يحدث دائما كما كنا نأمل أن ذلك سيحدث. 
ماذا يعني؟  ربما الشهرة ليست رائعا كما يبدو من الخارج.  في يونيو ٢٠١٠، توفي نجم سينمائي كوري حاييم، الذي أشتهر بأدواره في أفلام للمراهقين في الثمانينات.  وفقا لـلأخبار، كان جرعة زائدة غير مقصودة من الأدوية وصفة طبية. وفاة حاييم، ووفاة آخرين مثله، ويتني هيوستن مثلا، فإنها تظهر في الجانب الأسود من الشهرة:  المال والشهرة يمكن ان تحصل في الحفلات الأكثر تميزا، ولكن لا يمكن الشفاء من الإدمان التي قد تأتي معها.  
يمكننا أن نرى أيضا الجانب الأسود من الشهرة عندما علمنا أن زوج نجم سينمائي ساندرا بولوك خانها.  ربما لم تكن هذه المعلومات مهمة جدا لمعظم الناس، ولكن يبدو عديد الناس يهتمون بهذه القصة، و لذلك، الصحفيين تقرير النميمة التي تدور حولها، ويحاولون الاكتشاف المزيد من المعلومات عن مشاكلها.  القضية الأهم في هذا المثال هو أنها ساندرا بولوك لا تستحق أن تكون شؤونها الشخصية التي كشفت عنها وسائل الإعلام. خانها جنسياً زوجها، وهذا فظيع، ولكن من الأسوأ لأنّ الجميع في أميركا يعرف عنه  .كأنّها تعرضت للإهانة مرتين.
حتى الآن رأينا أن حتى الآن رأينا أن شهرة هي ادمانية مثل المخدرات، و حتى مشكلتك الشخصية الأكثر إحراجا لن تبقى خاصة إذا كنت مشهور.  فمن الواضح أنه، على الرغم من الفوائد من الشهرة، لديها عيوب واضحة جدا.  وأعتقد أننا، في النهاية، بقدر ما نريد الشهرة، نحن نريد أن تكون لنا الحياة التي لديها معنى، حياة الحب، وعيش فيه معنى.  نحن نريد أن تكون قادرين على حفاظ الأشياء في التوازن، ونحن نريد أن نحمل خصوصيتنا ونملك حريتنا.  ما زلنا نرغب في الغنى والمجد، ولكن إذا لا نحصل على ذلك، على الأقل نعرف أنّ الشهرة بالتأكيد لديها عيوب.

...An essay I had to write about my thoughts on fame

12 July 2012

News-y Thoughts

Look!  A blog post in English!

Requests have come in for me to translate the previous four entries, and hopefully I'll get to that soon.  Until then, however, I'm going to post a few news stories I found relevant and interesting to my life in the Arab world.  Hope some of you have time over the upcoming weekend to check them out.

Facing the music: Morocco's tenuous balancing act
Corruption remains a primary mechanism of political power and ever present in the lives of Moroccans.  Another article about post(?)-Arab Spring Morocco.

Saudi Campaign Against Ibadis
So one thing I did not know about Oman before I came here was that the majority of the country follows a non-Shia, non-Sunni version of Islam called Ibadism.  In fact, I am ashamed to admit I had never even heard of Ibadism.  But, apparently, it used to be really big, back in the day, and now Ibadis are a rather under-the-radar minority.   When I figure out what exactly the differences are, I'll get back to you, but I've so far discovered that they are different in the way they imagine God.  Some have told me they were the precursor to Sufis, and others have scoffed at the idea.  Either way, they used to be as far west as (you guessed it) Morocco and thus, once again, Oman and Morocco are connected in my life!

Oh, and by the way, this is from the "Angry Arab News Service" so you know (just from the title) that it's rather biased, but still, informative and a different point of view than your average news.

More about Omar Offendum,
this time from Rolling Stone.  'Cuz I can't get enough of the guy.  Previously mentioned here and here.

Stories of Iraqi Refugees
During the fall, I volunteered on and off for the Penn Law School's Iraqi Refugee Assistant Project.  They've posted some powerful video on their website.  Take a look.

10 Things Most Americans Don't Know About America
Ok, so this one has been making the rounds on Facebook and the blog-o-sphere in general, but I still think it's important to repost.  I actually have a lot of problems with a lot of what is being said here, but still, in the big picture, I agree with the article.

09 July 2012

A Comparison between American Journalism and Arab Journalism

مقارنة بين الصحافة الأمريكية و الصحافة العربية
من أحد دروس "الكتاب في تعلم العربية" تعلمنا كثيراً عن تاريخ الصحافة العربية و كيف بدأت في العالم العربي، و خصوصا في مصر خلال القرن الثامن عشر.  تاريخيا، وجدت اختلافات كثيرة بين الجرائد الأمريكية و الجرائد العربية، ولكن اشتركا في شيء واحد في تاريخهما، و هو العلاقة مع الاستعمار.  كما نعرف، الصحيفة الأولى في العالم العربي أنشئت في مصر في أواخر القرن الثامن عشر خلال عصر الاستعمار الفرنسي و طبعت باللغة الفرنسية.  و بالمثل، أول صحيفة في أمريكا أنشئت في عصر الاستعمار البريطاني في أوائل القرن الثامن عشر حيث أسسها جيمس فرانكلين، الأخ الأكبر لبنيامين فرانكلين.  ولكن هذه الصحيفة الأمريكية الأولى كانت شعبية في حين الجرائد الأولى كانت رسمية في العالم العربي.   لذلك، من نقطة الانطلاق المشترك هذه، تاريخ الصحافة العربية اختلف عن تاريخ الصحافة الأمريكية كثيراً.
كما هو معروف جيدا، الدستور الأميركي يحمي حرية الصحافة و من تلك الحماية طور تقليد النقد الذي استعملته الصحافة بحيث السلطات أو الشركات تحملت المسؤولية عن أفعالها.  أحيانا في تاريخ الصحافة في أمريكا، العلاقة بين الحكومة أو الشركات و الصحفيين كانت جيدة أو على الاقل غير سيئة، ولكن معظم الوقت كانت العلاقة متوترة و في أوائل القرن العشرين، بدأ ذو النفوذ يستخدمون اسم جديد لبعض الصحفيين هو الصحافة الصفراء و هذا اسم يعني ”كاشف الفضائح.“  فشعر ذوالنفوذ أن الصحفيين كانوا يبحثون فقط عن الفضائح لبيع نسخ أكثر من جرائدهم.  وكان هذا أحيانا صحيح، و هي ما زالت شكوى عن الإعلام اليوم في أميركا.
في المقابل، الجرائد الأولى العربية كانت رسمية فقط و تحدثت عن العلاقات الدولية وإعلانات الحكومة و شؤون المحكمة المدنية و المسائل الرسمية الأخرى.  خلال القرن التاسع عشر، ظهرت الصحف الشعبية الأولى في العالم العربي، و في القرن التالي تطورت الصحافة العربية بسبب الصحفيين من سوريا و لبنان الذين كانوا مفكرين و قرروا أن يطبعوا صحفهم بدون نية الرِبح.  وهكذا بدأت تتطور الصحف العربية من شكل رسمي فقط إلى خليط بين الأشكال الرسمية و الأشكال الشعبية.  لكن طبعا كانت مدة طويلة من بداية الصحافة العربية إلى الآن، و في السنوات بين ذلك الوقت و الآن، كانت سياسة الرقابة واضحة و كثيرة في العالم العربي، و فقط في السنوات الأخيرة مع ظهور الإنترنت تطورت الحرية الصحافية أكثر.  
بالرغم مما يبدو أن حرية الصحافة موجودة  في العالم العربي و أيضا في أمريكا، فإنها ليست الحرية الحقيقية، لا في أميركا ولا في العالم العربي، لأنّ الآن مَن عنده المال يقود كل شيء، و خصوصا الإعلام.  والفرق الأول بين العالم العربي وأميركا هو أن أحيانا الحكومة عندها أموال أكثر وأحيانا من الشركات عندها أموال أكثر و الفرق الثاني هو أن معظم العرب يعرفون أن صحافتهم ليست حرة  في حين معظم الأمريكيين يظنون أن عندهم الصحافة الأحسن و الأكثر حرية في العالم، ولكنهم عندهم معلومات خاطئة.  لذلك، أتمنى أن يظل الإنترنت مكانا للتعبير الحر.

08 July 2012

عمر أفندم

عمر أفندم
عمر شقاقي معروف باسم عمر أفندم هو فنان الهيب هوب الذي يعمل كمهندس معماري و أيضا هو مربٍ وناشط اجتماعي.  وُلِدَ في المملكة العربية السعودية لوالدين سوريين و بعد ذلك تربى في مدينة واشنطن دي سي و الآن يعيش في لوس انجليس.  اهتمامي بدأ عندما تعرفت عليه في شهر نوفمبر في سنة ٢٠١١ حين جاء للاشتراك في حلقة نقاش في جامعة بنسلفانيا.  المشاركون الآخرون في حلقة النقاش هذه كانوا أولا، أستادة علم الإجتماع من جامعة روتجرز في ولاية نيو جيرسي، ثانياً، طالب دكتوراه سوري من جامعة بنسلفانيا الذي كان يدرس الاعلام العربي، و اخيراً طبيب سوري كان قد قُتِلَ أخوه على يد نظام بشار الأسد عندما حاول أن يساعد و يعالج متظاهرين في دمشق.  خلال النقاش، اعتقدت أن عمر أفندم كان من أفصح المتكلمين خلال المداولة.  بعد النقاش، تقربت منه لأسأله بعض الأسئلة و أعطاني ألبومه مجانا.
من أول مرة سمعتها، احببت موسيقى عمر أفندم.  أعجبني أنّه يغني باللغة الإنجليزية و العربية معاً و أعجبني أنّه يتكلم عن قضايا مثل العدالة الإجتماعية و غربة المهاجرين و العلاقات العائلية و الربيع العربي. كان قد قال في مجلات إلكترونية انٌه يحاول أن يسوي الخلافات بين تراثه العربي و هويته الأمريكية، وفوق ذلك يحاول أن يظهر للعرب قليلا من الثقافة و الفن الأمريكي (مثلا، ترجم القصيدة المشهورة ”الزنجي يتحدث عن الأنهار“ للشاعر الأمريكي لانغستون هيوز إلى العربية الفصحى و أسماها ”العربي يتحدث عن الأنهار“) و يحاول أن يظهر للأمريكيين و الغربيين الآخرين قليلا من ثقافة و فن و إحساس و أفكار العرب.
نشر الألبوم الأول لعمر أفندم في مارس ٢٠١١، و تميّزت أغانيه مثل الأغنية التي ترجمها من قصيدة نزار قباني "قارئة الفنجان" و في أغنية آخرى ترجم و روى قصة ”مجنون ليلى“ و في أغنية آخرى تكلم عن الشارع المستقيم في دمشق و الناس الذين تعرف عليهم هناك و آخيرا في بعض الأغاني تكلم عن مدينته الأمريكية واشنطن دي سي.  عندما بدأ الربيع العربي، في البداية عمر قال إنّه لم يردَ أن يغني عنه، لأنّه كان يسكن في أمريكا وكانت الثورات ليس ثوراته، لكن بعد الأحداث في مصر، هو و مجموعة من فناني الهيب هوب ألهموا لكتابة الأغنية، اسمها "#٢٥يناير" من الموضوع في تويتر الذي كان مشهور خلال الثورة المصرية.  من هذه الأغنية، أصبح معروف قليلا من بين المتحدثين باللغة الانجليزية الذين اهتموا بالعالم العربي.  
حاليا، عمر أفندم يستمرّ في النشاط السياسي و يغني في الحفلات الموسيقية و المظاهرات، و في ربيع ٢٠١٢، نشر أغنية عن المشاكل في سوريا، اسمها "#سوريا"  في هذه الأغنية، البيت الرئيسي هو ”الشعب يريد اسقاط النظام“ من أكبر مظاهرة في ذلك الوقت، في مدينة حماة يوم ٢٢ يوليو ٢٠١١.  و تكلم عن إحلامه لسوريا و شجع الشعب السوري و دعمهم ضد الحكومة السورية.  شخصيا تعلمت و استمتعت كثيرا بأغاني عمر أفندم و أتمنى أن يستمرّ في عمله في الهيب هوب مستقبلا.

This post is about THIS hip-hop artist.

07 July 2012

Arabic Blog - Cultural Discussion

التحديات الثقافية
حياتي في الولايات المتحدة و في الخارج، واجهت الكثير من التحديات و أكثرها كانت خلال الثلاث سنوات التي عشتها في المغرب.  لكن هناك يوم واحد كان أصعب من الأيام الأخرى و كان ذلك في شهر أبريل في سنة ألفين و ثمانية عندما كنت متطوعة في هيئة السلام الأمريكية.  فقد بدأ هذا اليوم بشكل عادي مع درس اللهجة المغربية مع أستاذي.  بعد الدرس دخلنا مكتب المدير للنقاش عن برنامج دروس اللغة الإنجليزية التي كنت أريد أن أدرّسها.  و لأنّ الأستاذ رغب أن تتحسن لغتي العربية، لم يترجم الاجتماع.  المدير كان رجلا كبيرا في السن و شعره أبيض وكان تقليدي في سلوكه.  كان يدخن كثيرا و أسنانه صفراء جدا. وفي كل مرة كان يسحب الدخان من سيجارته، فالدخان كان تأتي عندي و بدأت أسعل.  بالإضافة إلى هذا السلوك، أدعى بأنه لم يفهم لغتي العربية.  حاولت أن أتكلم معه بإحترام و بشكل مناسب لأنّي كنت مستعدة للاجتماع، و عملي كان مهم جدا لي.  لكنه كان لا يريد أن يعمل أو يتعاون مع البنات أو النساء في عمله.  لكنني تعودت على سلوكه غير الودي.  كل الناس في البلدة كانوا يقولون لي أنه غريب و لا يتعاون مع أي شخص، و عندما كانت بنات أمريكيات أخريات يعملن في نفس العمل، كان يتعامل معهن بشكل سيء أيضا و لكني لم أكن متوترة جدا قبل ذلك حتى دخل صديقين أستاذي المفضلين في المكتب.
الرجال الأربع بدأوا الحديث بالعربية بسرعة، و في البداية عن أشياء عادية، و لم يتحدثوا معي.  لكن بعد خمس دقائق، بدأوا يسألوني عن نفسي. ”من أنتِ؟“  ”لماذا جئتِ إلى المغرب؟“  ”ماذا تفعلين في هذه البلدة؟“ ”هل أنتِ تحبين المغرب؟“ و الخ.  و في المغرب كان يحدث ذلك لي كثيرا، تبدأ كل محادثة بأسئلة شخصية و تنتهي بالحديث عن أمريكا و سياستها.  الأسئلة  كانت تتغير.  بدأ الرجلان الجديدان يسألانني، ”كيف يمكنك أن تساعدي بلدتنا؟“ (هذا السؤال، عندما يأتي من الأخرين، دائما صعب على المتطوعين لأننا أحيانا نشك في قدرتنا على مساعدة الناس في الحقيقة) و ”لماذا صوت الأمريكيون لبوش مرتين؟“ و ”هل كل الأميركيين يكرهون المسلمين؟“ و الخ.  كنتُ مرتبكة و مندهشة، أدركت أنني ليس عندي كلمات عربية كافية لهذه المحادثة.  وقررت أن أترك الاجتماع قبل البكاء أو الصراخ لأنني لم  أرد أن أحطم سمعتي في المجتمع.  نهضت بهدوء وبكرامة، وقلت وداعا للمديرولأستاذي، وذهبت مشيا من المكتب.  أستاذي كان مندهشا عندما  غادرت والمدير تلفظ بخشونة لكنني لم أكترث.  
لحسن الحظ، في اليوم الثاني، بعد أن استرخيت قليلا و فكرت في ما وقع اليوم الماضي، وجدت أستاذي و شرحت له أنني قد شعرت بالتوتر لأنني كنت وحيدة مع الكثير من الرجال في المكتب.  و قلت له أنني لم أرد أن أهين أي أحد.  و هو شرح  أنه و صديقينه آيضا (باستثناء المدير غريب الأطوار، طبعا) كانوا فقط متحمسين بسبب الفرصة لسؤال أمريكية حقيقية عن الولايات المتحدة، لأنهم سمعوا كثيرا عن أمريكا في الاعلام. وذهبنا عند المدير و بمساعدة أستاذي و ترجمته، نجحنا في التخطيط البرنامج دروس اللغة الإنجليزية. 

This is a translation/reinterpretation of THIS blog entry.

06 July 2012

Arabic Post - Differences Between Morocco and Oman

So for the next few days, I will be trying to post some things in Arabic, for the first time on this blog yay!

Every week I've been writing a page to a page and a half on anything I want to, pretty much, so after working with my teachers to correct all my mistakes (hamdullah they get fewer and fewer as the weeks pass), I decided to post the final versions on here.  Sorry for most of you who can't read Arabic, but there are a few Arabic readers here, and, for those of you who can't, there's always Google Translate - although it's not the greatest translation tool, it will help you get the idea.

So here we go!

الأختلافات العامة بين المغرب وعمان
في هذا المقال القصير سأكتب عن بعض الفروق العامة بين سلطنة عمان والمملكة المغربية من وجهة نظري من خلال الأشياء التي رأيتها حتى الآن.  أرجو من القارئ أن يسامح أي غلطة في ملاحظاتي لأني قضيت في عمان تسعة أيام فقط ولكن بين السنة ٢٠٠٧ و٢٠١٢ قضيت ٣٩ شهرا في المغرب، ولذا أعرف كثيراً عن الثقافة و الحياة و التاريخ للمغاربة.  قبل وصولي إلى عمان، ظننت أني لن أرى فرقا كبيرا بين البلدين. لكنني اكتشفت أختلافات كثيرة.  
أولاً: رأيت هنا في عمان الشوارع والسيارات و كل شئ خارج البنايات نظيف جداً.  في المغرب، خارج المنازل توجد قاذورات كثيرة ولكن داخل المنازل المكان نظيف جداً.  ما زلتُ لم دخل بيت عماني حتى الآن، لكن بالنسبة خارج البيوت، القمامة قليلة جدا و ما زلت لم أر عددا كبيرا من القطط والكلاب الضالة.  وبالإضافة إلى ذلك، الأستاذ صالح –مدّرس اللغة العامية- أخبرنا أنّ في عمان يوجد القانون الذي يتطلب أن تبقى السيارات نظيفة.  هذا القانون يساعد جداً، لأنه لا يوجد في المغرب هذا القانون، ومظهر السيارات متضرر جداً.  أريد أن أعرف مَن ينظف الفضاءات العامة في عُمان؟ هل الحكومة تدفع لموظفين أو هل الشعب العماني يحفظ البيئة بدون الحكومة؟
ثانياً، رأيت أنّ الناس يتصرفون بشكل مختلف في البلدين.  الشعب المغربي بشكل عام متحمسون وحريصون على التعرف الناس الجديدة.  دائما عندهم الكثير من الأسئلة عندما يتعرفوا على صديق جديد.  أيضا هم مضحكون جداً فدائما يقولون النكات.  أنا مازلت لم أتعرف على كثير من العمانيين، لكن مما رأيت، هم حنون و يرغبون أن يتعرفوا على ناس جدد، مثل المغاربة، لكن يشعرون بالخجل أكثر من المغاربة.  مثلاً، ليس يمكننا أن نسأل إذا شخص متزوج، لكن في المغرب هذا السؤال مناسب.
أتمنى أنكم استفدتم من النص و أيضا أتمنى أن أتعلم أكثر عن عمان و ثقافته و شعبه.

03 July 2012

Camel's Milk

On one of our weekend trips, we took a (long) drive to West Dhofar, and on the way, we ran into (almost literally) a group of camels hanging out on a bend in the road with their herder.  Do you call a camel guy a shepard?  Anyway, here are the obligatory camel pictures, so you don't think that we're not in the Middle East or something.

Oh hey camels.  What's up?
A one week old camel, say "aww" all at the same time.
Why hello there!
Inshirah loves camels!
Rivers of milk... but no honey.
Zach takes a breath before going for a second gulp!
My roommate, isn't she cute!
Still drinking, yum!
Here's me, and Michael's reaction, which is probably more priceless.

In all seriousness, it was great to have the opportunity to drink camel's milk, even though I wasn't the biggest fan.  I love cold cow's milk, but this was straight from the camel, so it was warm and frothy and surprisingly salty.  As a group, I think most of us didn't love it, but there were some people who thought it wasn't that bad, and some people who loved it.

01 July 2012

My Very First Time on TV

So last Tuesday (June 26), I was fortunate enough to go on Oman TV!  The program was called “Hona Oman” (هنا عمان) or “Here is Oman.”  It is a weekly (or maybe daily, I’m not really sure) hour long live program about culture and events in Oman.  It’s not quite news, but it’s pretty close.  I’m not sure how many people watch the program in Oman, but I do know that when I told my friends in Morocco about it they were able to watch it because it is broadcast internationally on Nilesat, a group of channels that most of the Arab world gets and watches.

This all came about because the teacher who was with me on the program, Houssain, was approached by the TV station.  I don't quite understand still how they found out, and why they contacted him, but I am guessing that it was because he is a university teacher in Salalah, and because you can't miss a group of 30 Americans in a small city with a gossip network like the one that exists here, and so, I’m guessing someone put two and two together, and was able to contact Houssain and the other people in our program.  Our administrative people came into our class Tuesday morning (the most advanced class here, Intermediate Low/Mid, I think, is our ACTFL level) and asked who wanted to do it.  First, we asked what it was, and they said that our program had gotten the opportunity to be able to have ONE student and ONE teacher interviewed on Omani State TV, and that we would have to go that very same night, late, to be interviewed live.  Then then asked who from Oman class wanted to go.  Immediately, everyone pointed at me and the other strong speaker in our class.  Neither of us jumped up right away, but I felt my heart start pounding with fear and excitement.  Whenever I was near a TV camera in Morocco, I had tried to get on 2M, but in my 39-ish months in that country, I had never been successful.  

Since I didn’t want to deny anyone in the class the chance who wanted it, and since we were kind of in the middle of class, the other girl and I decided to think about it and talk with the administrative people at lunch.  Very kindly, the other girl offered me the chance, and I thought that was fair, because she had another interview with another TV channel. Faced with this decision, I was not able to concentrate on anything in class after that.  Finally, during lunch, after talking with a few people, I decided to take the chance, face my fear, whatever other cliche you can think of, and accept the opportunity.

After classes were done, I went home for the day, intending to take a nap (because in this program I am eternally tired), but instead, got caught up in picking up my laundry, getting some nicer clothes than anything I had brought with me, and picking out some make up.  I’m really glad that I did because eventually when we arrived at the studio, I was the only woman in the whole building, and there was no make up and no one to help me with my clothes or hair (as you can probably tell from the video ha!).  

Anyway, I had my wonderful roommate help me with make up etc. and at 10pm, I met Houssain in the lobby of our hotel, and we drove to the studio.  When we arrived though, it turned out that we were going to the Salalah Khareef (Monsoon) Festival, where we had been the night before.  The studio was, as I was expecting based on experience with “fancy” places in Morocco, super decorated with all kinds of slightly gaudy/slightly cool decorations.  The best part, however, was the glass walls, so you could see out and in from the festival.

We were ushered into the green room - or what I am going to call the green room - and were offered Omani coffee and “helwa”.  Although I have only been to an Omani house once, I used a combination of what I had learned there, and learned at the university when being offered Helwa, and my Moroccan guest skills, to act what I think was rather appropriately in a room full of men.  They were respectful, and quiet, and not too curious, but curious enough to keep me talking in Arabic before the interview.  I met so many, I could not still tell you any of their names, and because TV is a formal occasion, they were all wearing the Omani dishdasha and so it was hard for me to tell them apart when I met so many at once.  

Fortunately, being the only American in the room again (hamdullah) made it much easier for me to get into my Arabic “groove” as I call it, and temporarily forget English for the interview.
Before the show went on air, I was able to speak to the host, I think his name was Rashd, and he asked Houssain and I a few questions, for his information, and for his interview, and I was able to get more of an idea of what he was going to talk about.  I also was able to tell him that it would be a better interview if he could talk a little bit slower and clearer for me, and he was very nice, telling me not to worry.  After he went on air, the other younger guys in the room told me not to worry as well, because the host was very nice.

And then we went on.  We had had to wait a while, because we were the last part of the show, following a few other interviews about youth and education, and an interview with a employee of the Ministry of Health, who was in New York to accept an award for the IT quality of the Omani Ministry of Health.  
In general, I felt like handled the interview pretty well, and there were times when I had a very strange out of body experience, and was watching the situation with kind of a detached intereste, because, on one hand, the questions he asked me were just like the questions I’ve gotten about my Arabic since 2007:  When/why did you start learning Arabic?  What do you think of Oman?  What do you think of Salalah?  What words do you know?  What did you find hard about learning Omani dialect?  What about learning Standard Arabic?  (I think those are all the questions they asked...).  On the other hand, I could not relax and forget about the cameras and the lights, and concentrate on the language around me, like I can when I’m visiting people, or talking to taxi drivers and storekeepers.  Still, for as nervous as I was beforehand, I didn’t have to worry as much as I did, because I was well-prepared for the interview, and because the interviewer kept asking Houssain about his views and more in general about the program, so during those times I could take breaks and breathe, and think of what I was going to say.  

And then, it was over.  We stood up from our couches, took off our microphones, and left the studio building.  And it was normal again.  Houssain and I talked about how he became a teacher, and what he taught during the year (Omani culture, civilization, and Sharia Law and Islamic Jurisprudence!!) and he drove me back to the hotel.  

On a fun, side note, about cultural miscommunication and dating, during the green room conversation, I was talking with a man about a school he was starting in Nizwa, for teaching Arabic to non-native speakers, and I made an offhand comment about how I would like to see his school one day.  I must have not been too clear, because I gave him my card for future communication, and on Thursday he called me, but it wasn’t the call I imagined.  It sounded to me more like he was calling to follow up on a first date, and I feel bad because I did not mean to give him the impression that I was interested in him, or interested in going through an official visit of his school.  I knew I would have to turn him down when he started talking about how he told his mother and family about me, and they had watched the interview and liked me.  Whoops.  Poor guy. 
I haven't watched the interview because I don’t like hearing my voice, but my classmates who saw it and teachers said I did a good job.  My Moroccan friend was able to watch it live too, and he, of course, said I did great too, and he said that he could hear my Moroccan accent, but that it was okay, and still good "Standard" arabic.  I know that many foreigners in the Arab world who speak Arabic, especially white foreigners who speak Arabic, and especially white female foreigners who speak Arabic, feel like they are animals at the zoo being stared at when they speak Arabic.  I could imagine that someone else in my place might feel this way, and truthfully, I did a little bit.  But overall, I was thankful for the professionalism of the TV studio and the kindness with which everyone treated me.  It was a great learning experience, and I feel very thankful to have had the opportunity to go through something like this, and moreover, to having been able to cross something off of my bucket list!

30 June 2012

Lessons from the Old

In a recent previous post, I talked about a Shawafa, and how she changed my life.  And yet, even before my encounter with her, I was attracted to old people in Morocco, to talk to them and to learning from them.  So of course, when the chance came up in Oman, I was delighted!

Two Mondays ago, we went to the Center for Handicrafts of Salalah.  Before this visit, I had been feeling rather like our chances to talk to Omanis had been dismally low, and so when the time came around for our weekly “Language Socialization” event, I was excited at the chance to visit with different Omanis, and especially Omanis who did not speak English.  

CLS Students helping make the incense burners
At first, the visit wasn’t very exciting.  After a few weeks in any place, you can pretty much get an idea of how the tourist industry works, and what objects and ideas are being mass reproduced and sold to people as genuine artifacts of a culture.  So when we entered the small center, this is what I noticed.  More frankincense burners, more perfumes.  Fortunately, after a small introduction from the manager of the center, we were able to go into the back rooms, which they had set up to represent traditional Omani culture, one room of a bridal suite at a traditional Omani wedding, and one room of how Bedouins live.  

Finished and unfinished products
The good times really began though when we were herded into the back room where there were 5 older women working with clay to make the incense burners.  As soon as I saw them, all my wonderful experiences working with and talking with women came rushing back.  So I did my best to remember my social justice lessons about taking time to SIT with people, and to ask questions, and give try to give them the most TIME that I could.  It was interested to talk to these women, because, unlike Morocco, our dialect wasn’t quite the same, but they definitely appeared to understand me, and I know that I understood 80% - 90% of what they said.  

The ladies!
I asked them about how they make the burners, of course, but I also was thinking about all the people I know who worked in Morocco with traditional handicraft makers trying to start small businesses, and so I asked them about what their daily schedule is like, and how the center is organized - cooperative? association? small business? (I’m so glad all those words are the same in dialect and Standard Arabic).  Unfortunately, I didn’t quite understand the answer, but I did get that, like most of the new development and projects here in Oman, a lot of the start up money came from the government, and now they are working on paying off the loan (maybe?) and trying to perhaps save some money as well.    And then of course all the usual expenses of a small business.

Working on a very big incense burner!
Eventually, the small back room got too crowded, and I moved out into the main room.  While I was waiting for the visit to finish, one of the bus drivers came up to me, and started talking about how life used to be in the past.  Again, I didn't quite understand everything he was saying, but I definitely got the point that he didn't bathe more than 2 or 3 times every few months, and that he used to wear just a braid of leather on his head, and that he spend most of his time tending to his herds.  I used what I knew about life in the desert/mountains of Morocco to imagine how his life might have been.  I guessed that perhaps he did not tell me that much about what they used to do because life back in the day took a lot more effort in general.  Even getting bread could have been an all day affair - he told me they used to bake it in the sand, when they did bake it, because rice is the primary staple in Oman, unlike bread in many other Arab countries.  They used to carry their water in lizard skin pouches too, and not drink very much of it because, well, the lizards were not that big.  

Is this what the Mountain People looked like??
Having the opportunity to talk to these people has inspired me to seek out as much contact with older Omanis as I can.  Hopefully my efforts will, at the very least, lead to some good blog entries!

29 June 2012

Dance Club

Yesterday I talked about Poetry Club - which I'm sure will come up again - so today, I'm providing you a video of Omani dance.  If you watch the whole thing, the second dance, which starts about about 38 seconds in, is the one we learned in our dance club.  Obviously we're not quite as good as these girls...

The title of the video is الفن الظفاري or Dhofari Art.  Dhofar is the governate of Oman where Salalah is located, and had quite a different culture from the rest of Oman, and it is the host of our CLS program for the summer!

Happy Friday!

28 June 2012

A New Song

Wednesday in our Poetry Club (after "school" each day now for the past two weeks, we've had either Sports Club, Calligraphy Club, Women's Dance Club, or Poetry/Song Club), we talked about nationalistic Arabic poetry.  Rather we touched on it briefly, listening to the Omani National Anthem, as well as a Tunisian nationalistic poem.  I rather wished we had read some of Mahmoud Darwish's more nationalistic works, because I read some of them in English, and would like to start better understanding why Arabs love him so much.  I know it's because of the way his poetry is, but even if I understand that logically, I don't understand it emotionally yet.  But I digress...

Much of what I enjoy in my life, as far as art is concerned, is melancholy.  Of course, when I need a pick-me-up, or am celebrating the awesomeness of life, I like a good happy dance song, but most of the time, the melancholy or the pessimistically optimistic, really speaks to me.  So, with this in mind, I'm sharing with you my favorite song/poem that we've talked about so far:

This is apparently a very specific kind of Omani poetry/song that only old men sing.  Either way, I enjoy it because of it's melancholy, most of which comes from the L3oud instrument being played, and the way the voice of the man singing blends with the single string instrument.  I'm not quite sure what the song is talking about, but they mention the words of love, and of years passing, and so that was enough to give me the (maybe overly sentimental) image of how life in the desert was before Oman experienced modern development.  I could be wrong, and I could be projecting what I want the song to be about, but either way, this song is now on my "Arabic Favorites" playlist of my iTunes, and part of the soundtrack of my life.


The problem with an intensive program is that we spend so much time studying, and thinking, and learning, and sometimes worrying about what we’re doing, that when I do have a free moment, a moment where I’m alone, or where I don’t feel guilty speaking too much English, blogging is not the first thing on my mind.  And for this I apologize.

But here I am, trying to write and trying to catch up on my blog.  It’s the first day of our weekend, Thursday, and last night I slept for 10 hours straight for the first time in months.  On Tuesday and Wednesday, I had very busy days (I’ll get to this) and I had only slept about seven hours between those two nights.

Another reason I have been putting off writing this blog is that I am going through a much more negative period of culture shock than I have experienced in a long time, maybe the most difficult bout in my whole life... maybe.  So I didn’t want this blog to be a place where I just complained, especially because I have learned the hard way (twice) that expressing my exact and detailed feelings here can get me in trouble.

Finally, I’ve been experiencing regular periods of absolutely not internet, so trying to update via the blog has been a challenge, because if I want to get things done online, I have to stay in this one place in our hotel for too long, and I’m usually doing homework which means no time to write.

So there you have all my excuses for the lack of communication over the past three weeks.  And now back to your regularly scheduled entries about Oman and our life here.

21 June 2012

I'm Not Dead! Just Very Busy

Sorry I've been so late in posting.  I've got a few entries coming up soon.  Until then, I hope this video makes you smile and tides you over!

10 June 2012

God Phrases in Moroccan and Omani Dialect

In many Muslim countries, or Muslim communities in non-Muslim countries, it's quite important to have to correct God phrases in social situations.  In Morocco we learned how to say them, and then they became natural for me to say them.  They became so natural, in fact, that I started translating them into English, and saying them to friends and family, both to fill the empty "manners" space I felt was missing in my English conversation, and to make people give me a second look, or ask, "What the heck are you saying?"

It's really interesting to me when I use God phrases, because some of them sound perfectly reasonable in English, and it makes you realize that this connection to God used to be part of our language too.  I notice a lot of Christians as well as older people use more God-centric speech in their everyday language.  It also makes me think back to many lessons we had in Sunday school about not "taking the name of God in vain."  I used to wonder about this in Morocco, and I think I've come to some kind of conclusions.  I would guess that people used to say "Oh my God!" as a way of calling on God for help in a difficult situation - Moroccans say "Ya Allah" or "Ya Rbbi" (Oh my Lord) when they're surprised, or tired, or hurting, all the time - and the invocation of God's name would not, in that context, to be taking God's name in vain, but the way the meaning has changed contextually over time, the meaning became (much) more profane, and thus, was no longer appropriate in the eyes of some upper echelons of some church's hierarchy.

Here in Oman, I've felt the a hole in my conversation because I didn't know the correct God phrases to say.  As usual, my assumption that all Omanis use them was slightly off.  Today during our daily evening tutoring hours, I caught our dialect teacher, Ustad (teacher) Salah صالح, and grilled him about the uses and similarities and differences between "adab" (الادب, manners) in Oman and in Morocco.  The following is a sampling of what our dialect teacher told us, but there are many things that Moroccans say that Omanis don't say.

After a haircut or a shave or a shower or working out:
Omani: na'aeeman (نعيماً) - meaning "paradise or bliss" (Naim is a Muslim name too)
Maghrebi: bssah oo raha (بصحة و راحة) - meaning "by/to (your) health and relaxation"

The response:
Omani: Allah yna'am a'aleek (الله ينعم عليك) - meaning "may God give you bliss/paradise"
Maghrebi: 'llah a'atik saha (الله يعتك صحة) - meaning "may God give you health"

When you know a person has bought something new:
Omani: ma sha allah, mabrook a'ala ________ (name of the thing) (ماشاءالله، مبروك على هذا ــــــــــــ) -
literally meaning "by God's will" but said for anything new or beautiful, and then "mabrook" is congratulations
Maghrebi:  bssha oo raha/mabrook

The response:
Omani: Shokran (شكرا), Allah yaeebarak feek (الله يبارك فيك) - meaning "thank you" and "God bless you" (like how the name "Barack" actually means "blessing")
Maghrebi: To "bssha oo raha" the same as above, and to "mabrook" the same as the Omani response.

After a meal:
Omani: Saha wa al-a'afiya (صحة و عافية) - meaning "health and wellness"

Maghrebi: bssha oo raha

The response:
Omani: Allah ya'afeek (الله يعافيك) - meaning "God make you better"

Maghrebi: 'llah a'atik saha (الله يعتك صحة) - meaning "may God give you health"

If someone is sick:
Omani: Allah yeeshafeek (الله يشفيك) - meaning "God heal you"

Maghrebi:  the same!

The response:
Omani: jameea'an (جميعاً) - meaning "(may God heal) us all"

Maghrebi:  Amin (آمين) - meaning Amen

What do you all think?  What other God phrases do you know? 

09 June 2012

A Week in Salalah-land

As you may have noticed, if you've just joined me here or have been reading my stuff for a while is that I tend to procrastinate.

WELL, finally, my lack of blog-i-ness is not due to procrastination, but rather, to a lack of quality internet.  When outside the U.S. I really appreciate how fast my internet is when I'm there.  I can watch TV, chat, write, read, and balance my checking account all at the same time from one computer.  Here, most of the time, I can barely load my email.  But, as they say here, msh moshkila (مش مشكيلة) no problem.  Okay, so I don't know if they actually say that a lot, but I've made it so because that's how you say it in Omani dialect, and Moroccans say it all the time.

Anyway, Salalah.  Oman.  The Gulf.  That's where I am now.  I don't know why I subconsciously thought it would be the same as Morocco, but I am now realizing that I did.  I mean, that's the ONLY ArabMuslim country with which I had any experience before this.  But now I realized just how true it is when everyone insists that the Middle East is different from the Gulf is different from North Africa.

I have not had much time to make cultural observations, but, as I wrote in my first of many Arabic essays yesterday, I have noticed that Omanis are shyer or more private or quieter than Moroccans.  This is, as must be said, a very general statement, and not a value judgement.  That being said, because of this tendency, I'm finding it harder to really get to know Omanis, even with the hours of facilitated language we are having with them.  But I'm not giving up, because really, I'm not the most skilled 'friend-maker' in the world.

But enough about my woes.  I'm sure most of my friends and family are interested in my schedule and why I have been absent from the internetz for so long.

So first, we had two days in Muscat.  Beautiful.  Huge.  Hot.  More humid than I expected.  Rather lonely to visit it without a car.  Not my favorite place in the world, but than again, I would love to see how it's different in the winter.  We went to the Embassy (the AMURIKIN) to get the usual scare-the-pants-off you briefing.  Nothing I haven't heard before.  Oman is one of the most safe and most developed countries in the ArabMuslim world, and I feel like I'm jinxing myself by saying it, but we were told we don't have to worry too much about pickpocketing or street harassment.

It's SO NICE not to have "bonjour" or "ca va la gazelle" or worse yelled at you every time you go out.  I didn't realize how much it happens in Morocco, because I've learned to ignore it, until I came here.

Anyway, we also visited the Sultan Qaboos Mosque.  Probably, sadly, the only mosque I'll get to visit in this trip.  I thought, because Oman was never colonized, I as a foreigner might be able to visit more mosques here (like the best Turkey trip where my friend and I spent New Year's Day 'mosque-hopping'). I forgot about the women part.  One of the American Muslim girls and I both want to find a mosque, her for praying, me for watching.  We have not been successful after two Friday prayers... so far!

Last Saturday, June 2, we flew to Salalah.  And since then we've been studying.  Seriously.  I want to make all your American tax dollars worth it (thanks guys!) so I've been surprisingly dedicated to my studies here.  But, from what I've seen, Salalah is green, clean, well-planned, and going to be fun to explore.

And now, the GDS!

General Daily Schedule: 
(Weekdays, meaning/y3ani, Saturday-Wednesday... yup, my weekend is Thursday-Friday now.  We call them "Emotional Saturday" and "Emotional Sunday")

7am: Wake up

8am: Breakfast

8:30am: Load the mini buses outside of our hotel (yes, that's right, hotel.  2 months living in a hotel, I feel like some kind of movie character.  but with elevated privacy comes less opportunities for homestays... but I digress...)

8:45am: Arrive at Dhofar University, a nice, clean, quiet, cute campus with less than 10 buildings.
9am: Foosha/MSA/Standard Arabic Class (usually with a Omani Dialect interlude of 50 min)

11am-11:30am: Tea/Snack/Try to talk to Omani girls in the "Ladies Restaurant" break

11:30am: More Foosha/MSA Standard Arabic Class (This week, we're starting Media Arabic)

1:30pm: Lunch time woo!  We crowd the poor understaffed cafeteria, joke with the Egyptian guys who work there, let the Indian workers help us take our trays to our tables, and do a little light studying.

2:30pm: One-on-one interviews/talks with our Omani Language Partners, one day a week in Dialect, today I (finally) successfully made an Omani laugh when she and I pretended to be a vegetable man in a souq (market) and she wanted a cucumber.

4:00pm: Load our mini buses as a group back to our hotel!

: Do some personal chores, e.g. grocery shopping (today I bought apples! but I didn't feel like bargaining because it was a store where prices seemed rather fixed, maybe another time), laundry (I also delivered my laundry to the 'mghasala' for the first time, no more hand-washing for me!), exercise (ha ha), and other things.

5:30 or 6:00pm:  Start a mix of study-time and wandering-around-Salalah-time.  I usually study, but I want to wander soon.  Maybe with a friend or too.

11pm-12am:  Bedtime.

Rinse and repeat.

Apparently, real Omanis drink "Doow"
I'm told that we'll go on three excursions while we're here, one overnight in the desert that I'm really looking forward to - I've been to the desert twice before, but not since 2009, so I'm curious to see if I still love it, and how the deserts are different.

Now that I've successfully found time to bring you all up to speed, I'll try to post shorter observations more regularly.

Now it's bedtime for me!