Archives for posts with tag: happy

i wreak of diesel fuel right now.  no amount of washing will get it out.   i think i’m going to die of random fume + dust smells.  okay maybe not. LOL.

oh wait, i’m ahead of myself.  maybe i should backtrack and get to where I am today.

so the other night during my skate lesson I bit it really really hard.  Right in the face.  I’m still recovering but I’m not gonna whine about it.  Okay yes I am because it’s on my face and it’s all i can think about.  Plus, since I have on this hijab ALL you see of me is my face. LOL.  So to have a big bruise on your chin, well. ugh.  I look either like a tough girl or a battered wife.  But internally, honestly it’s interesting to see how the body responds when you keep going when you don’t want to.  After the fall I got back up and kept skating.  I’m so proud of that part.

On that note, I’m learning and relearning the idea of patience.  We wanted to paint a mural today (or at least get the ball rolling).  And to do such a thing is a bigger job than grab paint, grab brushes, slap it on board, let it dry.  Here, searching around in the dark because the power is out for the 10th time today and all the lanterns are being used for much more important purposes means that finding the supplies is a real challenge.  Or realizing that going to buy new rollers to paint with will be an all day affair.  Needless to say, that when all was said and done, the easiest, simplest way to get the paint off of my hands was to wash them in diesel fuel – because that’s all we had, and it was going to have to work.   Spending time complaining or fretting is just a pure waste.  There are so many things going on in the day – and so many little moments to really savor with the kids… I dunno.  I get it.  You do the best you can with the tools you have and move on.  Wisely.  But move on.  The gas smell will eventually fade.  The mural I am going to help teach them how to paint will hopefully be here many years to come.

I’m learning about how organizations built up of a collage of people from different nationalities is challenging.  There are so many random cultural idiosyncrasies that the simplest ideas can take forever to be generally accepted by everyone in the room.  Or, even, trying to hash out a process sometimes ends in arguments because sometimes people are saying the same thing but in different ways.  Or, perhaps there are assumptions being made by one party or another.  It definitely makes me want to take a class in cross-cultural communication.   Especially because in the end – we always figure out a way to get things done.  We pretty much work 12 – 13 hour days here on average.  Much of that time is dedicated to making sure we get it all done and that folks are clear on the mission.  There are oftentimes still misunderstandings, but in another sense, it’s beautiful to watch us humans figure it all out.

In other news, I’m growing more and more frustrated with being a woman here.  I have my thoughts that perhaps I’ll share later about how why countries who don’t allow for equal space for both genders can’t really thrive.  But in the meantime, I WILL take this time to whine about how I just want to go to a shop and buy something, talk to some people, maybe go get a soda.   But really, there is such a huge fear here of women.  Yes, I call it fear.  Its sad really. But also, you grow jealous of your male counterparts.  They go and do and walk around with relative ease.  They don’t know quite how frustrating it is for us women working here.  I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to do an exercise where the men in our office had to be a woman for a day.  Just to maybe get a glimpse at how it feels to be so restricted.  So funny how the most degrading thing for a man to even consider being is a woman.  So sad.

I’ve never in my life ever really wanted to be a man.  But in this instance I wish I could perhaps just not be any gender.  I just feel like there are so many parts of this country I’ll never get to experience because I’m a woman.  Sort of frustrating to come all this way and for that to be the reality.

#rantover.

i’m headed home for the evening now.  i’se sleepy.  hmmm…. i can’t wait to come back and tell you more about my classes and the students tomorrow.

So here I am in Kabul, Afghanistan.  I wanted to upload all my pictures so far… but I forgot my camera cord at the guesthouse.  I’ll have to add them later.  Sorry.

What a week it has been.  So many many things have happened.  I’ve seen and learned so much so far it’s almost all a blur.  I’ll try to break it down/remember as much as I can before it slips away from my memory.  Sadly, for now the internet is out in the house where we are staying.  Which means I’m writing this before I get into the office so I can upload it once there.  This is worth mentioning because right now it’s 4am on Saturday our time.  Which means I’m WIDE AWAKE seeing as it’s 3:30pm Friday in Los Angeles.  …. I fear for 4p Kabul Time today.  This should be funny. I think.  Or, maybe not.

Here’s a recap since I was last connected to the rest of the world.

MSP
TOTAL BLUR.  My flight from Chicago was delayed so I had to have one of those men with the golf carts radio to the flight to wait and whisk me across the terminal so I didn’t miss my flight to Amsterdam.  When I say blur, it literally was a blur.

However, once on the plane the flight to Amsterdam was lovely.  I had the best seat mate ever.  We talked politics, France, America, education, healthcare, cancer, women’s rights…. We both knew when to leave the other alone to sleep/watch a movie.  I think that was my favorite leg.

AMS
Got in to Amsterdam.  Sleepy.  Hungry.  7 hours of time to kill.  What a beautiful airport!  Amazing little pods to sleep in, a kid’s zone, plenty of television, restaurants…  If I had to be trapped in the airport of one of the most beautiful cities in the world, unable to experience the city’s charms, I guess this would be the only way to take a stab at making up for it.  Thank you Amsterdam for understanding that. Sadly, the internet WiFi was not free as was promised on my boarding pass.  I did figure out a way to purchase some and hopped on Skype to chat with a friend.  That was nice.

………………………….<><><><><>………………………..

This ends the “nice” portion of my journey.  At this point, I’m a day in traveling, and since I’m unable to really get REM sleep in public/on planes, I’m in a bit of a daze.  I’m excited, so I think so what normally would have wiped me out I think I was able to get over.

On the plane I was seated in the “baby” row. Anyone who knows me understands how torturous the idea of this would be.  iCried on the inside.  WHY ME?  And of course, the woman next to me and her whiny son were the epitome of flustered, overwhelmed, self unaware, and unapologetic.  The mother and father next to her was about as nice as one can be when traveling with a baby.  Unlike the other one, they had toys, food, blankets, and knew to get up and do a couple laps around the plane with their bundle of joy.  The woman next to me even had the audacity to:
1- get up and go for a walk herself while her son screamed in the bassinet.
2 – use my pocket so that I couldn’t put my things in it.
3 – place her items on my tray so I couldn’t put mine away
4 – she was also chubby.  so me chubby + HER more than me chubby + big headed baby = no room.  BOOOOOOOO.  I tried to sleep, couldn’t, so I read.  And tried to mentally slip away.

This lady nagged the flight attendant so much she got a very strong tongue lashing from the Dutch flight attendant.  Sigh.  And of course, I was physically in the middle of this argument.  WHY ME?

DXB
We land and it’s show time for me.  I had a 3 hour layover.  However, I also had to make it through customs, get my 4 million bags from baggage claim, go back through to the other side of the airport and check in to the next airline.

I get my bags which were big and heavy, and embarrassing.  Load them alone, struggling for every step as I make it across the whole airport to this little airline.  It was awful.  Cursing the whole way, not one supposedly stronger, wiser and more efficient male offered to lend a hand to hold a door open or something.  I was pushed aside, laughed at, or simply ignored.  I’m not a helpless woman.  I don’t mind doing for me on my own,  but SHEESH.

Anyways, I make it to my airline.  I’m on the only flight they’ve got.  All I see in big red letters is: CANCELLED.  Again, iCry on the inside.  I go through security anyways.  In this airport, you go through the security bag scanner thingamabob with all your bags BEFORE you check in or even make it to the ticket counter.  So exhausted me gets all my bags through the security to the utter disdain of their version of TSA.  Why, I don’t know.  Until I get into the ticketing area.

What looks to be the ENTIRE COUNTRY OF CAMEROON is in this tiny ticketing area.  I don’t know what the story was, but it looked like the whole country and all its belongings they scooped from travels in Europe were there too.  I could not even make it in any direction without bumping into a cart, a box, a booty or an ankle.  I knew enough French to get by but MAN OH MAN.  I get it. I’m supposed to be from Cameroon too.  Great.

At the counter, they explain to me that they’re going to now check me in to this other regional airline that actually leaves 30 mins earlier than my scheduled flight.  Okay – this means now, I’ve got a little over an hour to make the flight.

But wait.  I have to go to this OTHER counter, across the sea of Cameroon, to actually actually check these bags and pay for them.  iCry on the inside.  again.

Now at the excess baggage desk, I learn, amongst other things that they don’t take credit cards.  I must pay in cash.  I’ve got some Euros and some dollars, but not quite enough to pay the whole fee.  Guess what else?  There’s no ATM in the ticketing area or the surrounding gate area.  I’ve got to cross the Cameroon sea AGAIN go OUT OF SECURITY, and come back.  !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I do this.  I grit my teeth and do this.  I should probably skip the whole story of me, lucky to DXB for free WiFi, having to hop online, chat with a friend in Oakland to call my mother in Gary,  to tell the bank to allow me to use my card in the UAE, because of course, it wouldn’t work (because of course, my wonderful EVO phone doesn’t work there either).  Sigh.  I can’t leave out the part where I was scolded by a room of short giggling men about how if I don’t stop playing games on my computer, I’m going to miss my flight.  😦

I somehow, miraculously make it back through security, back to the excess baggage desk with 15 minutes before my flight leaves.  I cut the line, slam my money down and get my boarding pass.

I RUN.  RUN. RUN. with my carry on and computer again back across what felt like the entire airport.  Nobody mentioned that the gate was a good 20 mins away from ticketing.  Just as I get tot he door of the gate, I can see the plan taxing away.

😦  😦  😦

at this point, I am to tired to iCry.  its’ 3am in Dubai.  The ticket office to my original airline doesn’t open until 9a.  oh joy.  At this point, I decide to try to sleep.  Only, there’s really nowhere to do this.  Folks are using the space between the chairs and the railing to lie down, but knowing me, that wasn’t really gonna work.

I get coffee.  I wait.  I Skype home to my friends, graze through Facebook, and try to reach my mother.  Sadly, DXB has arbitrarily blocked access to various sites.  I am able to work around them to find a way to put money on my Skype to call landlines.  However, they’ve blocked the ability to actually TALK.  So, the free chat version will have to do – only, at this point I’ve not yet actually spoken to my mother to let her know I’m alive, I’m safe, and I’m pissed.

I email her, explain the situation, and she eventually responds back.  Yay.   I decide that perhaps, it would be a good idea to throw on hijab.  I wanted to see if I was treated any differently.  I made my transformation.

From this point forward, no Western man knew how to take me.  My American accent didn’t help.  They were either hostile, confused, or had looks of pity.  Western women would smile a lot and say hello.  That was nice.

When 9a eventually rolled around, I learned that 1- They’d have me on the next flight out but 2 – it didn’t matter that I already paid for my bags.  I’d have to REPAY because the money I fought so hard to pay went to that other airline.  Too bad for me.  The nice Australian man, Egyptian man, and “otheridon’tknowwhathewas” man all pitched in and tried to help me fight the woman at the ticket counter over this.  The Australian man even offered to “check” my bag for me.  No dice.  They did however mention that my argument with the woman was an amazing American sight to  behold.  Aside from my loud, “you don’t cross Gary, Indiana,” bossy lady tone, that I made points (such as WHAT KIND OF CUSTOMER SERVICE IS THIS!?!?!)  that were purely American in spirit and carry no weight anywhere else in the world.  Nice try.

LOL. oh well.

On the plane, let’s just say that 85% of the people on there were war profiteers.   They REALLY did not like me, Ms. Hijabi.  Again, my “Hey!  What’s up!?!” offerings did not wipe the look of scorn from their face.  I never once got a hello back.

I didn’t sleep.  I rode with dry eyes.  Landed in Kabul.  Finally.

O

M

G

I was bumrushed by men shorter than me – grabbing me.  I read enough blogs beforehand to know that they all wanted to carry my bags for me.  Nice, but it also means that they want to be well papered in American dollars in the end.  I’d given what I would have used on them to the fine folks at the Sea of Cameroon.  So, instead I turned on the muslimah at this point.  I knew that women weren’t really to associate with men, so I did what was customary hand gestures to let them know they were violating me.  They were a little confused because I didn’t have a maharam.  But, the greater offense, they knew was to violate me.

Um.  It worked!  They backed off!  YAY!

Once the bags rolled around I found a black dude who was prolly military.  I told him look – I know I have on hijab, but I’m really just a regular black girl who needs some help with her bags.  Will you 1 – fend me off from these dudes who want money and 2- just help me get my bags onto this wobbling cart.

The Southern accent I heard in return assured me  YES, no prob.  I got you.

Well, he did “help” but was outta there the moment my bags were on.  No prob.  All I had to do was make it through customs.  Oh wait.  This means unloading and reloading these bags again.

And of course the ONE moment I faltered with my bags, the little men returned.  Sigh.  I would have let them help me willingly and openly if it weren’t for the fact that  I knew it would mean I’d have to pay them.   But, my bags were too much for the rickety floor.  I had to let him help me make it a pretty good distance to where my team was meeting me to pick me up.

Luckily, my team paid him, laughed at me and all my bags, and we were off.

Welcome to Kabul.  FINALLY!!! Whew!  I guess I’ll save the rest of this adventure for tomorrow.  It does not end here.  No, no, it certainly does not.

so, it looks like tonight’s my last day here in indiana before heading out on my grand adventure.

Niki, go conquer the world! hmmm. okay. i guess.

i bought luggage to replace the boxes i was using instead.  i skyped a good friend.  i went outside and tried to make a snowman (failed).  i hugged my grandmother, but carefully so as not to touch her sensitive post-op chest.  talked politics with my father.  i reprimanded my cat for scratching my mother’s favorite chair.  all done with a weird anxiousness that’s hard to describe.  i can’t even quite explain what i’m so nervous about.

true – there are the usual suspects – the war, will folks like me, the students, will i be effective…. all valid fears.  but really, none of that really shakes me when i think about it.  maybe its a sum of it all.  the unknown.  hoping for expectations to be delivered.  simply surviving the trek.

at this point, i’ve read countless blogs written by western men and women of several different backgrounds and missions who have spent time there.  as with anything, there are a multitude of opinions.  but.  all these voices-  as far as i could tell – were all white westerners.  kind of made me reconsider what it means to be “western.”  i mean, i know i’m american – but… am i really western?  i suppose so.  that i (my ancestors) was stolen from far away lands and made to be forced labor gives me an awkward relationship with that phrase.  western.  but then, if not western then what?  i’m not really african.  my bloodline says so, but physically, i can’t point to one country/tribe/tongue/family and say that’s ME – that’s MINE.  so, i think like many african americans, we’re kind of in a strange limbo land.  i know, most other americans don’t quite understand that.  they don’t get that there’s an unspoken sadness & anger related to our limbo land ancestry. so, when i go to foreign lands as a … a “westerner” – it kind of leaves this weird residue on my lips.  it could be the implied colonial/imperialism… perhaps.  it could just be the way on one hand there’s this odd aura of superiority.  the way “we” do things… or… hmm.  again, so many feelings i haven’t quite figured out the words to use to describe.  i hope this experience may lend a hand in that way.

so, as i venture out into the cold, hard world – what does that mean for me?  how will i relate (or not) to those around me? perhaps i’ll identify with some reality the kids face in a way i’d never even considered.  this will be interesting.  i have so much to learn.  i can’t wait to drink it all in.  it’s almost as if what i’m there to teach is secondary.  i’m excited and nervous.  and i suppose that’s ok too.  i’m a black girl from america traveling to a conflict-zone by non-military choice.  i wonder how many of us are there like that?  i wonder so many many things.

Off to see the other side of the world tomorrow.  What a traveling day it will be!

Written by Niki