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If I had a Pound, (Euro or Dollar) for every time someone asked me ‘Why Aren’t You Married’, I would have a hefty retirement fund!
It has reached a point where, I wonder if this is all people have to worry about?! I meet people for the first time and naturally they’ll ask if you have a significant other, but they shouldn’t feel the need to lecture me on ‘Why I Should, Have One’. Even some of the doctors I’ve had consultations with seem to be more concerned about my marital status than my ailments. I appreciate the fact that close friends and some family members want to see me settled down and happy. What I don’t like is those whom I hardly know appoint themselves to play match maker with determination. (What do they get out of it? Is there some jackpot or prize you get if your match is a good one?)
Let me clarify, once and for all to those who are adamant to find me a significant other (based on THEIR wrong criteria to find me a ‘PERFECT’ match) and to those who can not get their head around the idea of me flying solo. I have great respect for marriage and all that is stands for. I do think it is a beautiful thing to be able to live ones life with another and share the burdens and happiness that come their way together as a team and to justify their union and love by having children, so their family tree can continue to blossom and grow. HOWEVER, I DO NOT believe that I should marry for the sake of being married. Just so that I can have a wedding band placed upon my ring finger along with a nice big sparkly one, have a big party and not be alone! If I want to wear a ring, I’ll go buy one. If I want a party, by GEORGE I shall throw one! If I’m lonely, I can go out to social events mingle with people, invite people over or go visit family or friends.
Marriage is a commitment that I would take seriously and I would want it to be forever, (not to use as an escape to move out of my parent’s home. Which doesn’t apply to me because I don’t live with them anyway). I do not want to marry the first person that comes knocking at my parent’s door asking for my hand, especially if he knows nothing about me, my family or upbringing.
In the past I have had mothers of sons and men see me walk into a store or driving my car and find out who I am through 6 degrees of separation, get my parent’s home number and call my father up and ask for my hand in marriage without ever having spoken a word to me! The last time someone did that my father took great pleasure in telling the caller that I had recently just been released from a mental institution, (NOT TRUE OF COURSE) and that he was a garbage collector. I found it extremely funny, while the person on the other end of the line was not as amused!
I want to marry someone who understands how my mind works (well, to some degree), who appreciates and understand my mixed ethnicity/cultural heritage (and doesn’t want me to change who I am or make me choose one culture over another), has similar characteristic traits, shares some of my dreams/interests, is a bit adventurous, likes to play sports and can deal with my loony family and relatives! He must speak ENGLISH quite well, (if he can speak more languages, excellent! but he has to be able to communicate with the Irish Clan), likes to hold intellectual conversations, reads, well-traveled, has a playful side, very good sense of humor and doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty, because I won’t be the only one doing all the hard labor around the house and changing dirty diapers. Oh an most importantly is financially independent from his family.
Marriage to me is a partnership, where two people promise to look after one another and share everything. I am not the type to marry and be told to stay home, not work, cook/clean all day long, have children and raise them alone. While hubbiness goes to work, comes home, eats, naps, showers, changes and goes out and socialize with his friends. (If that’s what I wanted, I would go for Don Draker, from MAD MEN). That is a recipe for my misery and driving me to the brink of insanity ! So, those kind of guys need to be taken off your must introduce her to him lists! That is if you really do have my happiness and best interest at heart.
If you’re miserable in your life and want company… then please don’t set me up with anyone.
If a guy comes from a well-known, respectable, rich family it DOES NOT automatically make him a nice guy and my dream man! Money is great to have, but it isn’t a recipe for a successful marriage. The person’s personality, ethics, morals, values, mentality are things that I find more important than the wrist watch he wears, car he drives, his home address and the size of his PARENT’S bank account.
‘Friends’ of mine, (who have now been demoted to mere acquaintances) wanted to introduce me to a guy who was VERY wealthy and was quite liberal. Now, I am not one to judge a book by its cover, but why would anyone want to introduce a 20 something year old girl (my age at the time), to a guy in his mid 40s who is extremely over weight, has lost half of his teeth, from lack of dental hygiene (due to excessive smoking and drinking) and has little social etiquette? Clearly these people didn’t take the time to know me or to choose wisely either.
I have met, socialized and been out with several guys who fall into this category. I have to say a small minority of them have been raised to be gentlemen of great integrity and are very decent men. While others have been toads dressed like princes.
Players and Cheaters… What can I say? I have been played and burned by both. Not the most pleasant of experiences and I have learned from my mistakes and have grown wiser and stronger because of it. These two are like trying to domesticate a tiger!! Woman can not ‘change’ or ‘reform’ them. They have to sincerely want to and they have to be the ones to take the steps. If/when they are ready, I’ll gladly give them consideration, until then, I’ll Pass, Thanks.
Just because a guy lives abroad and holds a foreign passport like I do, doesn’t mean it’s a match made in heaven! The same goes if he’s of mixed ethnicity too.
So, to sum it all up. I would much rather be single and continue to work on improving upon myself and experience what life has to offer than jump into a marriage with someone who is not compatible with me (and vice versa). I don’t want to be put in a situation where I marry someone and find out 2 kids later, that I can’t stand being around him and be forced to make a decision to either stay in the marriage to keep the family together while I am secretly miserable and hide my pain behind my smiles as a sacrifice for their happiness or break up a family and watch the children go through pain I could have had a hand in preventing.
So, That is WHY, I am not rushing to the altar to get married. Let me live and let live!
If you find someone who meets MOST of the criteria I am looking for then we can talk. If not, DON’T even think about it!
The day I decide to tie the knot and take the plunge and say; I DO. I’ll let you know. Until then, no one should lose any sleep over me being happily single!
I am going to be completely honest with myself and whoever else is reading. For the past few years I have been dealing with lots of changes, recovering from heart breaks, disappointments, injuries to both feet, physio therapy and lack of confidence in my appearance. So, I took to self-medicating myself by eating my way to almost 90KG!! For a person of my height (5’4’’) and build that is OBESE! I had always been fit and somewhere along the way I lost myself…
With my sister’s wedding in April, I didn’t want to be the frumpy maid of honor on the video or in pictures. So, my new year’s resolution to myself was to get back in shape and to drop the pounds. So, I purchased an elliptical bike and took all my Mum’s Slim Fast shakes and stuck to it for four months. I am proud to say I lost 10Kg (22Ibs)! I felt lighter, more energetic and for the first time in a long time I felt a bit attractive. I looked healthier and the best I had in years. I must confess that my Gillian self-made boot camp didn’t continue past the wedding. Why, you might ask? Well, in the months that followed I was not only working full-time, but I was studying for my Masters comprehensive exam and finishing the academic year and writing up report cards. However, I was still wise in my food choices but my exercising went to pot!
Now, that I am on summer vacation I have no reason or excuses for not exercising. So, I stepped up to the plate and got back in to swimming after decades of not training. I am not going to lie, it was far from being easy, I started swimming at the beginning of July and I could barely complete two laps without gasping for air! Panting after only swimming two laps scared me. There is a history of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart problems in my family and I didn’t want to fall victim to that if I could have a hand in preventing it. I went to a sports shop and bought two kinds of kicking boards to help me get back in shape, one to hold on to for just leg movements and the other one prevents me from using my legs and forces me to use just my arms. The first week was a killer and my shoulders and arms were killing me! It had been over a decade since I had actually used all the muscles in my arms. By the second week I could feel my strokes getting stronger and my stamina improving too. By the end of July I was able to swim 50 laps none stop!! I am so proud of myself for persevering!
I have gotten on the scale at home a few times and the scale hasn’t budged, which is very frustrating! I eat lots of fruit, vegetables, yogurt, and grilled meat. I have cut out juice and soft drinks but I do drink LOTS OF WATER! I do occasionally indulge in a bar of chocolate or ice cream.
With Ramadan being here I thought this would be a perfect time to get my healthy eating habits back on track and get back on the Slim Fast regiment as well as swimming! I can tell you that after swimming laps without having had breakfast, by the time I’m done, I am HUNGRY and could eat a horse! By Iftar time, (the meal we eat at sunset after a day of fasting) I am more thirsty than I am hungry and when I’m eating I try my very best to watch my portion control and not to eat too many carbs.
So, why Megan Fox? You can’t deny it; she does have a killer body! My target is to try to get myself back in to tip-top shape and looking as HOT as Megan Fox (not like Megan Fox, if that was my ultimate goal then I would have paid for cosmetic surgery) I need to fight my way back to bring ‘ME’ back. Justin Timberlake’s song ‘Bring Sexy Back’ is my theme song to keep going!
So, what’s my ultimate goal? I am presently stuck at 75 Kg I would love to lose between 10-15kg. I want to see my body toned, the flabby stomach reduced and my thighs slimmer. I have no set time for wanting to reach this but if I can reach it by December or by April! I am not going to rush the process, I want to do it at my bodies pace and healthily.
August 4th 2011- I was able to swim 70 laps none stop, alternating between different swimming boards and just swimming.
I will keep you posted on my progress over the coming weeks and months.
August 16th 2011- I finally was able to swim 80 laps, alternating between swimming boards. The scale is being discouraging and the needle isn’t pointing south, it’s actually stuck on 75Kg, which isn’t reflecting what I’m seeing in the mirror. However, I tried on a cocktail dress I bought 2 years ago and I FINALLY fit in to it! I don’t have to worry about a protruding tummy or love handles coming over the sides of the dress! I still have a stomach but it has shrunk a great deal and so have the unwanted ripples. I have till the 24th of August to reach my target of 100 laps, then I need to find a pool in the Heliopolis area of Cairo where I feel comfortable swimming for the next 3 months to keep on going with my efforts until the weather turns colder, then I may take up plates or yoga! If not that then back to Salsa dancing !
August 18th 2011, My goal was to increase my stamina and grow stronger, so that I could swim at least 100 laps before I head back to Cairo, to start the academic year of 2011/2012. There was an element of doubt in my mind, but I did as Dori in ‘Finding Nemo’ did and just kept on swimming. I am not going to lie, I use different swimming apparatus to help strengthen my arms and legs. I am proud to say that I didn’t’ just reach my target I exceeded it! I swam 110 laps in a 20 meter pool, none stop for 2 hours, alternating between swimming and using the different apparatus, without stopping once! I have to say, I feel lighter, fitter and toned. I can now look at myself in the mirror without having a deep cringe on my face! I just have to keep the momentum going once I’m back at work ! (fingers crossed)
Thursday, November 10th, 2011; It has been over 2 months since I last up dated you with my progress since I started work. I wish I could say that my exercise routine has been great, when the fact remains it has been none existent. Up on starting my new position at my place of employment I had hoped to be able to use the pool to keep up with my swimming but the building in which the pool is situated was declared unsafe and won’t be functional till January (fingers crossed), my work keeps me on my feet till 4pm and by the time I get home I am too tired to lift a finger. I have been trying my darndest to watch what I consume and I had been doing very well up until 2 weeks ago when I had a MAD CRAVING FOR CARBS and Chocolate!! The cravings are subsiding and I am getting back in to my healthy habits of eating and eating more fruit and vegetables. I have made a conscious decision to make more of an effort to stop working late every day and to go to an exercise or dance class at least twice a week.
Saturday, November 12th; I am ready to get back on track to reach my goal weight and shape! I know that the final 10-15Kg are going to be the hardest to lose and I am going to have days where I would threaten to throw in the towel and just indulge in calorie and sugary sin, but I am at an age now, where I really need to treat my body as a temple and look after it as best as I can, because although in my mind I’m still a wee lass, my body is reflecting a different image. So, I am going to bring this mission to a new level; It is now Operation Megan Mila Kunis Fox (2 HOT women, with attitude). When I posted my intentions on my status a friend of mine commented and said; “Call it operation N E. You will be a healthy weight that will make you look your best.” She does have a point, But I know I will never look like those two ladies, but I can be my own bombshell, which is what I am striving for… The real name of the mission is ‘Improve My Health’, but I think the one I go by sounds much cooler! I start exercising tomorrow morning… I’ll keep you posted on how I do this week, keep reading!
November 22nd 2011; So, almost 2 weeks after Eid, I feel a difference in my figure! I had started an exercise routine and was doing well but report cards completely messed that up! I have been so stressed about them that I hardly slept. I went 4 days without sleeping and I am still recovering from the effects. I started back on SlimFast, which seems to be a bit of a waste of formula considering that my appetite has shrunk to less than the normal calorie in take a person should take. I think the break up I recently went through also contributed to my disinterest in nourishment too… . The current situation in the country, has just added to my worries and stress level and I can’t think of exercising to be honest. I should use my elliptical bike to tear myself away from twitter, the net and TV just to keep the blood circulating! I’ll let you know if I am able to get myself out of this slump… stay safe, stay healthy.
March 3rd, 2011:
It has been almost 4 months since I last updated my blog or my progress on my mission to regain control of my life again and get healthy. The slump that I faced back in November passed thankfully and I am back on track. I signed up for Zumba classes twice a week and was getting really in to them. I just LOVE latin beats and moves, that’s the way I enjoy exercising and let me tell you I didn’t hold back! After each class I felt rejuvenated and PUMPED! I would leave happy and my endorphins would be KICK’N! Unfortunately the instructor suffered some health problems and was instructed to take to her bed. So, a colleague at work, suggest that we walk around the track on the days that we would have been taking Zumba classes just to keep in the spirit of exercising. After hearing what happened to the female UN employee a few weeks ago, along with people trying to kidnap children out of their mother’s arms in cars, I decided to add self-defence classes to my regiment! For 2 reasons, it’s not just about the grueling boot camp style work out, it’s also the knowledge and skill that I would need to defend myself that I am enjoying. The great thing about the walking and the self-defense classes is that they are all at where I work, so I can take my workout gear with me and not slack off, everything is right there and I don’t have the excuse of being too tired after a long day at work or having to endure a long ride home.
In addition to working out regularly I am also watching what I eat at home, at work and when I go out to restaurants. I try to make healthy choices! Lots of Vegetables/Fruit for fiber and vitamins, protein (mainly grilled chicken or fish, occasionally I’ll crave red meat) and I try to minimize my carb in take, but if I have a craving for it, it’s usually brown pasta! As for my love of sweets…I have been fairly good, but it isn’t easy to walk away from chocolate (cake, candy, ice-cream), so I allow myself some indulgence every once in a while.
In January at the school I work at, the idea of having a Biggest Loser challenge to help those drop the holiday pounds was brough up. I signed up for it. I weighed in at 77KG (12KG away from my goal weight), the second week of the way in I had dropped to 75.5KG!! (I have no idea how I did that!!) The weeks that followed were very discouraging I plateaued and lost nothing. 2 weeks ago I finally lost a quarter of KG! I am trying not to let this minor hiccup damped my spirit, but it is disheartening! I haven’t taken a picture of myself recently, but as soon as I do, I will post it!
June 28th, 2012 ; The Biggest Loser Competition was nowhere near as challenging as the TV series. I wish Bob or Gillian had been included in the package. It just wasn’t enough to motivate me and although I didn’t win, that hasn’t stopped me from continuing to eat healthy. I have to admit the last two months of work, I stopped exercising and that’s when I lost my will power and let myself go slightly. The stress of work and deadlines had gotten to me and I began to indulge in many guilty pleasures, (I just can’t resist Ice Cream and French Fries, just not served or eaten together). I got on the scale last week and I expected to read that I had put on a few Kg, but to my surprise, I had only put on 1Kg. That extra Kg, did feel like a lot more. It made me feel bloated, heavy and it really added extra strain on my joints. Now that School is out for the summer, I am seizing this opportunity to do what I did last summer and that is swim and work out daily. For the past 5 days (so far), I have been watching my daily in take and I am pleased to say that I haven’t had a single carbonated drink, juice box, or anything with refined sugar! I am feeling a lot lighter, healthier and energetic. I wake up early in the morning and use the Ab Master that my parents have been using as a laundry rack and the Elliptical Bike which is used as a towel drier. Later in the morning, if the club that I swim at isn’t being used as a venue for an event, I go and swim/exercise in the pool for 3-4 hours. Where I do laps, use different boards to strengthen my arms/legs and do some resistant exercises with my Mum. I had expected to be out of shape and back at square one again, where I could barly do 2 laps without gasping for air, but my exercising throughout the year, has helped. I was able to do 10 laps none stop, before I took a break. A big improvement from last year! I am hoping that by keeping this up for the next 3 weeks, I will be trimmer as well as toned before leaving to go on my summer holiday to England and Ireland to visit my family and attend a cousin’s wedding.
August 11th 2012; From June 23rd- July 16th I kissed soft drinks goodbye and took up drinking water like my life depended on it. I have only had 2 soft drinks since then because I had an upset stomach. I can honestly tell you that it does make a world of difference. I feel the difference in my skin as well as my body. For food, I would eat healthy and regularly and not eat passed 8pm. For exercise, I needed to intensify it to make up for the months I had fallen off the wagon, so I put myself through my own self inflicted boot camp. I would wake up early and do several sets of crunches, sit ups, jumping jacks and use the toning elasticized bands and get on the elliptical bike for at least one hour. Then I would go to the pool for 2-3 hours almost daily. I was pleased to see that I hadn’t lost all the strength and stamina I had gained the previous summer, but I wasn’t able to complete 100 laps at the get go either. I kept pushing myself like this until my mother and I were due to leave on vacation. By the time I left, I could see traces of the ‘old’ me in the mirror, my waist line was shrinking, my arms were getting toned and my stomach was getting flatter and my appetite for junk food and sweet treats was also diminishing. I have to admit that I was worried that I would pile it all back on again while I was away, but to my surprise I was quite sensible in my food choices. I made a conscience effort to make sure I drank water, ate decent sized portions of vegetables and fruit and I didn’t feel bloated when I got back. I didn’t ‘exercise’ but I did do a lot of walking in London and in Ireland. While I was away I summoned enough courage to get up on to a scale that tells you not only your weight but how much body fat you have. I am happy to say that i am now down to 40% body fat and I have 13 Kilos to lose to reach my ideal weight! (this will be the hardest to lose, but I will by hook or by crook, within this year or the next!)
Having returned, I can’t seem to get the momentum going, the temperature is not encouraging and they have heated the pool! (Don’t ask! I’m still trying to figure out why ANYONE would heat the pool in August in Egypt! It is a conundrum, that I can not fathom!) The heated pool makes me feel heavier and really knocks the breath out of me. I can’t do two laps without panting. The water is supposed to help cool your body down, but this does the complete opposite, it overheats it. The temperature outside of the pool is cooler than being in the water! I have 3 wedding to go to in the next 4 weeks, so I am being very tough on myself. I have come a long way from where I began and I don’t want to roll backwards. When I’m back at work, I think that I will go back to self-defense classes as well as re-learn how to Salsa and take up a form of Yoga, once I have been to an Orthapedic Surgeon to make sure the pains that I have been getting in my hip and feet are nothing to worry about. As always, I will keep you posted on my progress, till then; Drop it like it’s hot!
My before and after pictures thus far…
- October 21st 2011 dressed for a friend’s wedding
I have heard time and time again how are people to know what you want if you don’t speak up and ask for it. I have to be totally honest, I can’t argue with that. As much as I would like people to be able to read my thoughts as well as understand the workings of my very odd and somewhat complicated mind, they can’t, so, I have no choice but to speak up and ask for what I want. In Paulo Coelho’s book ‘The Alchemist’ and Rhonda Byrne’s, best-selling book that tells of “The Secret’ they say that ‘The Universe Is Conspiring To Work In Your Favor’ you just need to ask for what you want in a positive way and the universe will work its magic and in time, it will have it sent to you when every thing is aligned and it’s meant to be yours. ( I even have a few vison/dream boards to help me visualise what I want)
I have to admit that it has worked in my favor many times from the smallest thing like a parking spot to the job I have been dreaming of! Each time I receive what ever it is I have asked for, I make sure that I express my sincere gratitude for receiving what has been granted. Having said that there are 2 things I am still waiting on… 1) my books to be published and 2) to meet or be introduced to my life partner. In the past I have had the worst luck when it comes to romance! I’ve seen and experienced so much I would have the right to swear off men completely but I still have hope and a little faith left that I will get it right the next time. Although the experiences I have gone through have been enough to turn ones blood cold and cause great heartache, I have learned a valuable lesson from each and every one of them. I have learned to recognize those who are genuine in their affections and those who are only around for a bit of fun and to pass the time until another damsel catches their eye. The genuine ones are becoming fewer these days and are rare to find.
So, if all I have to do is ask, then so be it; I have a lot to gain and nothing to lose by simply asking politely
Dear Universe grant me the following if you please;
I would be eternally gratefully if you could orchestrate for an honest, reputable and professional illustrator and publishing house to show interest in my children’s books and offer me a book deal. I would like to be able to share the Egyptian culture that is part of my heritage with the rest of the world and show it through the eyes and lives of the characters in my books. With that a small handsome fortune that will assist me in taking care and looking after my parents.
My parent’s are comforted with the fact that their youngest daughter has found the man she wishes to spend the rest of her life with. They would also like to see me settled too while they are still able to dance to a beat. The man I am looking for first and foremost must be single and eligible! He has to be one of good family values, he needs to have sterling manners socially and at the table, he needs to be a man of intellect, one who is comfortable in his own skin and whom can speak and read Arabic and English very well (if he can speak more than 2 languages that is a plus). He must possess a sense of humour and finds enjoyment in music, movies and dancing. He needs to be responsible, respectable and successful at his job. He needs to be a man who is honest, genuine, kind, faithful, understanding, flexible and generous emotionally as well as financially.A man who is willing to help out around the house and have a hand in raising our children. I need a man who can appreciate me for who I am and who can understand my multicultural background as well as my liberal way of thinking and living. A man who is ready to settle down and have a family and to be a partner in the marriage as well as a good father. If this man could be of mixed ethnicity, tall, with broad shoulders, fit physic, good-looking, have nice teeth, nice hands, nails and feet, with warm smiling eyes and good health, I would be very thankful.
Please grant my sister and her husband a healthy, happy and prosperous life together. May they always be blessed.
Please grant my parents health, laughter, joy, love and sound minds in the years that are to come.
Please help the people of Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and Syria find the strength to regain control of their country and take back their identities. Guide them to a brighter, happier, prouder and prosperous future.
As you know universe, I love food! The tantalizing flavours and their many combinations are delicious. I have been successful these past few months in controlling myself and I am very proud and pleased with my accomplishments thus far, but if you could continue to help fuel my will power to reach my target weight and the image that I am aiming to achieve that would be grand!
Please continue to guide me a long life’s path and shine your light down on it to help me see the way, continue to show me the signs that I need to take note of so that I may continue on the course that I’m meant to take.
Universe, I would like to thank you for the small and big opportunities that you have brought my way. My life and career has been blossoming and moving in the direction that I had and continue to visualise for myself. I have been able to pay for my teaching certificate and masters without any financial aid or assistance. I have earned a reputation as an active, caring, creative and animated teacher. You have brought people of great value and friendship in to my life and have blessed me with a loving and caring family. I have grown to be a strong opinionated independent woman. You have opened the door for me in the field of writing and I have had many articles published in magazines. The list is endless and I am humbled by your generosity, thank you.
N.B The Image for my blog post was found at; http://www.photography-match.com/wallpapers/6862_digital_universe_189/
I feel like a fish out of water! I can’t believe it has been over a month since I have posted anything. I have been caught up in whirl wind of events. Let’s see what, have I been up to?
I started one of my final Masters courses last month and I have 3 more weeks to go before it comes to an end! It’s a bitter sweat feeling. I am bitter because it’s taking up so much of my time and when I’m sat with my face glued to my lap top reading the material required for completing my course work, my friends are out enjoying themselves, while I have to force myself to be disciplined and get on with my work and convince myself that it will all be worth it in the end! The sweet sensation is knowing at the end of the journey, the money I saved up to be able to complete this and endless hours of writing, researching and reading I would have earned the title of ‘Master’ and the salary increase is always an added bonus too.
On top of that my sister FINALLY got engaged! So, in the midst of my studies, there was a lot of planning, drama and celebrating. I am really happy and thrilled for her, because the groom to be is a really nice guy and he is going to be like the big brother I never had, but always wanted!
I recently had to bid farewell and good luck to a dear friend of mine. He has been offered a position in the UAE and I’m feeling a bit lost without him. He was my confident and sounding board. I’m finding it rather difficult having to come to terms with the idea that I can’t just pick up the phone and call him when ever I like, or arrange to meet up for lunch to vent or to get some sound advice. I have to text, email or Skype now to keep in touch. I know everything I’m mentioning is quite selfish. I am genuinely happy that he is starting a new adventure in the chapter of his life, but apart of me wishes that I was one of the characters in that new adventurous journey.
I can’t remember if I had previously mentioned this but, I was approached by an editor, who is launching a new magazine in Cairo, he had been reading and following my blog and thought I had an interesting perspective of what life in Cairo/Egypt is like from a half Egyptian, half Western point of view and would like me to write a column every month! So, look out for ‘Nadia, In The City’! The Magazine that is set to launch in November is called ‘Moments, Life Style Magazine’, keep a look out for it at a news stand near you!
In addition to all of that I am working full-time! The school year has finally kicked off and my new students have now been with me for the past 4 weeks. I have to say that I it’s good being back in the classroom. I don’t know what it is about being in a classroom, but to me it feels like it’s my stage or domain, where I can make magic happen. This year’s batch of second graders are a handful! They are very opinionated, have fascinating characters and are full of ENERGY!! To keep up with them, I have to get up earlier than usual and do at least half an hour on my elliptical bike to get my endorphins jumped started for a day of teaching!
There are times when I just need to drop everything I’m doing and have some ‘ME’ time. Which either means getting out of Cairo and going up to Alexandria and visiting my family OR doing something fun and joining ‘Weekend Trip’ for an adventures day of fun and some times spontaneity. The owner of Holiday tours and co-founder of ‘Weekend Trips’, Yehia El Decken, has asked me to blog about EVERY ‘weekend trip’, I go on with his team. So, you’ll be reading a lot about my adventures with them this year.
My romantic life you ask? Emmmm…..Well, what do you think? Do you honestly think with all that I’m juggling right now, I have time for a romantic interlude!??! I will say this though, since I’ve started focusing on myself and looking after myself more, I seem to have re-ignited ‘The Old Me’, which is attracting some attention. Other than that…there is nothing to report!
How about you? What have you been up to?
BE WARNED, THIS IS A LONG POST.
I have seen the “Marriages from around the World” segment on OPRAH twice now. I have to say that I am happy that Egypt was represented but I think that one of the Egyptian representatives, Heba, an interior designer in Cairo, didn’t paint a clear picture of what life is really like here in Egypt, While Inji the journalist was more realistic.
There were a few things that really ruffled my feathers when I watched the show the first time and the rerun. I took notes when I watched the show the second time around so that I could remember the points that I wanted to refer to. (I can be such a nerd at times!)
I- Safety for Women
When Nana, the Danish representative asked Heba if Egypt is a safe place and she answered, ‘Yes, it is very safe” I couldn’t help but cackle in disbelief.
If I was to compare Egypt to Iraq, Afghanistan or Harlem, then I would whole heartedly agree, but if I was to compare it from where Nana is from, the answer would be ‘NO’!
I don’t know the women in that interview but from the way they held themselves and the way that they spoke I think it is safe to guess that they aren’t considered ‘common folk’; they are higher up the ladder than most of the population of Egypt. I am also willing to wager that most of them rarely walk the streets of Cairo and commute 96% of the time in their privately owned cars.
I walk both in Cairo and in Alexandria and I can tell you that it is a man’s country. If a woman is or isn’t veiled but looks nice, 99 times out of 100, you will either hear a crude comment or be harassed in some shape or form.
Let me give you an example of a well know incident that happened in Cairo about three years ago. It was during Eid El Fitr, (the celebration after the holy month of Ramadan, where Muslims fast) and in down town Cairo a mob of men had been to see one of the newly released Egyptian movies and they were wired! They were so tightly strung that they attacked innocent women who just happened to be passing by the cinema at that time. How bad the attack was, the news papers didn’t report. A taxi driver tried to save one of the women by pulling her in to his cab and driving away but the mob jumped the car and proceeded to attack them both. Not long after the incident and the story came to light, Imam’s in mosques didn’t condemn the mobs behavior, but they blamed the women who were innocently minding their own business!
A more recent story was published in The Community Times magazine about two girls who almost got harassed after one of the matches played by Egypt and Algeria. They had to seek refuge in a shop until the group of men gave up waiting.
These two examples are extreme cases of what may happen here in Egypt. It is more likely to happen to natives than it would be a tourist or a foreigner living here because they know that the police and the embassies would get involved.
So, I have to say that Nana’s intuition was spot on.
She probably felt even more insecure because she’s fair skinned and a blond.
What happens abroad happens here to, but it is kept very quiet.
If anyone wants to dispute this then, I am willing to provide examples from my own personal experience as well as examples that have happened to people I know.
A word to the wise;
The best way to avoid situations like these is to dress modestly, not to walk in dodgy streets alone, it is best to have a couple of male friends with you when you are out walking, try your best not to be out walking on your own late at night and never sit next to a taxi driver.
II – Conservativeness and the veil.
I loved Nana’s observation of how some of the veiled women were dressed ‘women who are covered and walking around in tight clothing and make up, it makes it very contradicting”
I personally think Nana hit the nail on the head. There are lots of contradictions in our expectations of behavior and society and for an outsider to notice it should ring some alarm bells.
I can’t tell you how many times I have been absolutely gob smacked by the double standards that exist here.
I have seen veiled women at night clubs, drinking Stella (local beer), dating men and holding hands and some times going further than second base (if they are religious and conservative this is a big NO! NO!), go into a changing room and come out wearing a bikini in front of men in public! Who are they fooling might I ask?
Granted, some girls have been forced by their families to wear a scarf on their head, so I can understand them rebelling behind their parents backs, (I’m not saying I agree with it, I’m just stating I understand it), but what excuse do grown women who made the choice have?
I have the utmost respect for the women who chose to wear the veil as a devotion to their religion and their beliefs. It is admirable when I see women who are doing it for the RIGHT reasons. It takes a lot of will power and devotion to be able to wear it.
III- Tension between veiled and non veiled women
If memory serves me correctly Oprah asked if there was tension between the veiled and non veiled women. Nana who hadn’t been here very long said she did sense it.
Again, I would have to agree.
When I first moved to Egypt in the early 90s the ratio of veiled to non veiled women was below par. There were hardly any menaqaabeen (completely veiled with only their eyes showing). It’s with in the past decade that more and more women are veiling. Some of it has to do with many Egyptians returning from the Gulf States and bringing their new-found religious beliefs that they picked up from there, back to Egypt. The second is it is the fashion, “everyone is doing it so, I better do it too so people don’t think any less of me”. The third has to do with the economic situation in the country, when the poor get poorer and the middle class is heading towards extinction many people turn to religion for solace and comfort.
My sister and I are unveiled and we have experienced quite a few things in recent years.
We would step out of our apartment building and some times a men who would happen to be walking past our building door would swerve away, turning his head in the opposite direction, whilst uttering ‘Astaghfar Allah’ which is a term said when asking God for forgiveness’ and all because our hair is showing!
(for further translation of the phrase go to the following link, http://shiastrength.blogspot.com/2010/04/shiastrength-superiority-of-astaghfar.html)
My Mum would get the same reaction too when she used to take a taxi home from work. The cab driver would utter it under his breath when she got in and out of the car.
I remember a second incident that I found quite amusing. We were at a beach resort just outside of Alexandria. The place I’m referring to is Agami, it’s a well-known place where many people go to vacation by the beach for the summer months and people walk around in their shorts, t-shirts, swim wear and summer attire. Anyway my sister and were heading home after picking up some groceries for our Mum when this woman who was very conservatively dressed comes rushing up to my sister and I and tells us that we should be ashamed of ourselves and that we should cover up and veil. She made us feel like we were walking around naked, when we were in our mid-thigh shorts and T-shirt at a beach resort.
Some times at traffic lights there will be people handing out fliers or pamphlets that promote veiling ‘Naam lil Hijab’ which means ‘Yes, to veiling’.
My sister and I usually don’t wear any religious jewelry so people automatically assume that because we are not veiled then we must be Christian.
So, the answer is Yes, There is more pressure for women to veil today than 20 years ago.
IV- Marriages and Divorces
I wrote a post not too long ago about middle and upper class marriages in Egypt and I was recently contacted by a male reader who was able to identify himself with what I had written. Most middle and upper class marriages are based on business arrangements, (please note that I said, most and NOT all).
Marriages can also be formed as an escape from living with their parents and wanting freedom from all of their rules and expectations. Which is another myth, because their life won’t be about going out all the time and having fun, it’s about responsibilities, working and taking after the home. It can often be leaving regarded as leaving one dictating house hold for another, (demanding and controlling husband/wife).
Marriages solely to cure sexual frustration are another popular reason for getting married.
The fairy tale that has been repeated over and over again from one generation to the next about how marriage is a wonderful thing and that the girl will be the lady of her own home and can do as she likes is a sugar-coated illusion of what reality is. These girls by their late teens (17 on wards) are keeping their eyes open like a hawk for an eligible bachelor. When the wedding and honeymoon is over reality sinks in and the fights begin.
There are arranged marriages, where someone would suggest that perhaps two people would make a good union. So, a meeting with the two individuals is set, either at a neutral party’s home, where the individuals can meet under the watchful eye of their parents. A few meetings may follow so that they can get to know one another better, if a match is made then an engagement will ensue and wedding plans begin. One on one dating will not be prohibited there will be a chaperone with the couple when ever they meet or go out. This happens with more conservative and religious families.
Then there are marriages based on all the right things, finding a partner to be with because they are happy with them for who they are.
When the marriages are based on all the wrong reasons, how can you not expect the divorce rate not to be high here? During my Grandmother’s era it was almost on heard of and for a couple to divorce was a rare occurrence. Now it’s has become the norm.
I have a lot more to say about the topics mentioned in the segment but if I don’t stop my ramblings now, I would go on and on forever!
I will right more about at a later date in time.
* I have debated for days wether to post this or not and I finally decided… If I’m going to take writing seriously, I should be open to both positive and negative feed back.
(This is all based on what I have personally seen and experienced, no formal study has been conducted)
Where do I begin?
I was out last week with a High School friend catching up and having dinner, when out of the blue he started venting about how he doesn’t think he could ever marry a spoilt Egyptian girl. Once the flood gates were opened there was no stopping him. I was amused and relieved that someone else shared my opinion and I actually agree with everything he had to say.
*N.B* Please keep in mind that I am not generalizing, there are many who are not like the people we are referring to. As always there are many exceptions to the rules.
Let me try and paint you a picture of the kind of people he was referring to;
First the Egyptian Woman,
The majority of Middle Class and rich Egyptian girls (with exceptions of course) who are pampered and spoilt. They have never had to wash a glass, make themselves something to eat, wash laundry, fill a dish washer, go grocery shopping, wipe a counter, make their bed or vacuum their bedroom floor. They have everything done for them and handed to them on a silver platter. They wake up when most of us have been up for a few hours and are already at work. They spend most of the day on the phone and worrying about their physical appearance and if their clothes are in fashion. Their sole purpose in life seems to be finding a husband and the richer the better. Once that has been accomplished their next job is to produce a son and heir to the fortune. To make sure her husband isn’t going to be snatched away from her, she hires nannies and maids to look after the children and the house while she is hooked on to her husband’s arm all the time looking like a glamorous Barbie doll.
The Egyptian Man;
The men of most of the wealthy families are just as bad. They work for Daddy’s company, they are late arriving to work and early to leave. They drive around in a full option expensive car bought for them after graduating from University, wear the latest Rolex, talk on the most expensive phone on the market and can only be seen in designer clothing. After a couple of hours of showing his face at the office he either goes home for lunch and a nap or heads to the gym to work out and fraternize with people from his social circle and frame of thought, (That’s what he gets paid to do) .Then later goes out clubbing or to an ‘ehwa’ (cafe). They spoil their girlfriends with gifts and expensive dinners and outings and control them from whom they speak to, where they go and what they can wear.
Why do most of these people get married in Egypt? Well there are a few reasons why.
1- The women think that if they get married they will be free of their parents control and can run their households they way they want. Plus their mother’s have painted a fairytale image of what married life is like. They fail to mention that being married takes hard work and it’s a partnership. All they focus on is the wedding day party not what comes after it. To shatter their dreams even more, they dont’ work, so their parents give them an allowance, so financially they are still under their control.
2- The Gents like most look for a Stepford looking wife, who will be nice to parade around on their arm. Another reason why they chose to get married is because as my friend so aptly put it, they are ‘horny’.
3- Most of the time, it’s a business arrangement between to families to increase their wealth and form a partnership. It’s very reminiscent of the royals and forming alliances through matrimony.
THE ENGAGEMENT & WEDDING
When a couple decides to get engaged this is no simple affair, both families become involved. The grooms family have to formally go to the brides house and ask for her hand in marriage. If the father of the bride agrees then the business talks begin. These discussions revolve around ; how simple or big of an engagement party there will be, the price range or how many carats the shabka they expect the daughter to have (3 rings, wedding band, diamond solitaire and diamond eternity ring), the size and location of the apartment or villa, Mahr is how much the grooms family is willing to pay to decorate the home along with all the electronics, how much the bride’s family need to pay to furnish the house, when and where the wedding will be and how big the wedding party will be and finally the wedding dress (the groom has to pay for that too). If everything is settled then they read the FATIHA a soura, (verse) from the Quraan (the holy book in Islam) that indictates they are promised to one another. From there is ‘TELBEES EL DIBEL’, the wearing of the rings or bands to indicate they are officially engaged. Then there is the KATB EL KITAB, (literal translation is signing of the book) which is signing of the mariage certificate where the couple become legally husband and wife, but are not allowed to live with one another until after the wedding celebration.
A lot of these marriages from what my friend and I have seen don’t end blissfully. Many get divorced a couple of months after their honeymoon. Why ? because the men want a modern-day thinking wife but who will behave like the traditional woman, stay home, cook clean and look after their children. While the princesses don’t know how to do that and he women expect to be waited on hand and foot and cajoled and adored all the time.
The marriages that don’t end in divorce; the wife either accompanies her husband on all his business trips and social outings to ensure that her man is steered clear from temptation or she leads a life of high society socializing, while the children are left at home and raised by the Philippino Nannies and chauffeured around by their drivers. Their children are starved for their parents quality time, discipline and affection but instead of getting that time they are compensated with ‘things’. Hence the Breeding of more spoilt brats!
These children grow very dependent on the help and have everything done for them! They don’t even get up to go to the kitchen to get their own glass of water, they holler for the hired help to come, take their order and then bring it to them. They aren’t taught how to tie their own shoe laces, pack their own school bags, tidy up their rooms and to put their dirty clothes in a hamper. To teach these children to be responsible falls on the shoulders of their teachers.
It’s a vicious cycle and it needs to be corrected before the damage is irreversible.
‘Do you know what I have a big problem with? Having to get the girl diamond rings with my father’s money, that is so wrong, it should be what I am able to afford’ my friend complained.
Another friend of mine was in the midst of getting engaged and told the brides family that he would be able to purchase 1.5 carat pure diamond ring with a certificate. Her family didn’t approve they wanted a 3 carat ring so that she wouldn’t have a ring of less value than her sisters. When he said he couldn’t they said if it wasn’t a pure ring and if it had some faults in it that would be ok, just as long as it was a 3 karat ring. He said he wouldn’t be able to marry her.
(here are two guys who think the same way)
My friend that I had dinner with also expressed that he doesn’t want to be married or live with someone who can’t look herself. He would like to have someone to share the house hold responsibilities with and not have a live in maid who will do everything! ‘ I don’t mind someone coming to help 2-3 days a week, that is fine but not have someone at your beck and call 24 hours a day.’
Another thing that he can’t stand are the girls getting all dressed up and parading around in heels with a face full of make up just to go to the mall, cinema and the sporting club. ‘What’s wrong with flats and dressing casually?’
‘My kids will be disciplined and taught to tidy up their rooms, make their beds and put their clothes away. When they are old enough they will have weekend and summer jobs so that they know the value of hard-earned money. I don’t want lazy ass kids’
I text him to tell him he had inspired me to write this, in his response he laughed and said he has more venting to do.
I would like to be with or marry a man who can take care of himself and who can stand on his own two feet without hanging on to his parent’s coat tails. I would hate to be under the dictatorship of his or my family for being dependent on them financially. I admire and respect men who work hard, earns their own money and is ambitious ESPECIALLY if he is from a wealthy family. To see him work hard at his trade like he needs the money, when he actually doesn’t gives me a strange sense of peace. If a man can cook, do laundry and clean occasionally without running back home to mummy, that would be an added bonus that I would be VERY grateful for. Alas, I have had no luck thus far and still remain an independent bachelorette. A 32-year-old female who is single in the Middle East means that she has past her expiry date.
Plus being an independent career driven, free thinking female doesn’t go down very well with most of the men here. Why you ask? Well, It’s because they know that I am not a puppet and if they try to pull my strings and force me to do their bidding, they know damn well that I will not put up with it.
I will remain a spinster until I find someone worthy of my time, companionship and my affections.
So, I was recently introduced to an eligible bachelor. (Other than eating and football (soccer), setting people up and playing match maker is a favorite pastime in Egypt).
The person, who recommended me to him, doesn’t know me very well. If she had, she would have for seen this as being a disaster right from the get go! She had spoken with one of her friends about me and showed him some of my pictures on facebook. He liked what he saw, so he took the initiative to contact me. (A brave move on his part, I have to say. Think about it. What would you say to someone you have never met and doesn’t even know of your existence?) He sent me a private message on facebook telling me about his company and the trips that they do. He had been told that I enjoy hiking and camping and that’s what his company organizes. I was quite shocked to find that my acquaintance, had told him about me. So, I politely thanked him for getting in touch but told him that I couldn’t join any of his expeditions at the moment due to injuries in both my feet, (Tendonitis of the Achilles tendon….VERY PAINFUL) but I would keep it in mind once I have made a full recovery.
When I saw the person who had told the eligible bachelor about me and asked who the hell is he…her exact words were, ‘Nadia, he’s such a nice guy and he likes the out doors, he’s one of my best friends dooosy, 3ala shan khatri doosy’ (go for it, for my sake go for it). I was stunned!!! My thoughts were (you sneaky cow! you’re trying to set me up! How do you know what kind of guy I like or even want? I know it was done in the best of interest and with good intentions)
Anyhow… the bachelor wrote back. I had left an opening and an unintentional invitation for him to start conversing with me. (WOMEN ARE SUCH SUCKERS AT TIMES).The more we communicated the more I found myself interested and curious by the mystery person who I was chatting with. I didn’t make things easy for him. I didn’t add him to my friends list for 2-3 weeks. I wouldn’t give him my number. The more I got to know him through our chats, the more I thought he was a nice guy and eventually was able to figure out what kind of person he is. He is a pure-blooded Egyptian man, who is more conservative and religious than my father is. It is something that I am desperately trying to steer clear off. So, I took Steve Harvey’s advice and was just up front and honest. I told him that I wear a swim suite on the beach and at the pool, I dance salsa, I go to places where alcohol is served, I’m not religious, I celebrate Christmas and Easter and most of my friends are guys. (Most, if not ALL conservative fellows would not approve of the above one bit). Oh, and most importantly, I am not willing to change or give any of that up. It’s who I am. I was sure that I had cooked his goose and would never hear from him again.
WRONG!!! He knew that I was returning from my Eid holiday in Alexandria and wanted to pick me up from the station. I told him that I didn’t want him to and that it wasn’t the place I would want to meet someone for the first time. He took no heed of my words and was at the station to pick me up. I couldn’t just have him drop me and leave, that would have been VERY rude. My parents didn’t raise me like that. (On reflection maybe that’s what I should have done).
We went for a bite to eat (no where fancy…it was like a take out store, you order your falafel sandwiches and leave) and then we went to Costa Coffee. We talked a little bit and then he dropped me home. When I was getting ready to leave to go upstairs and change to go out to the Canadian Embassy party he wanted me to call my friends and ask them not to pick me up so that he could take me. I said I couldn’t do that because we had arranged that we would all go together. So, he then asked me to go upstairs change and come back down and wait with him until they came to pick me up, (WEIRD!). I said no, I needed to unpack and get ready. An hour later he was still downstairs. I had a feeling he might be too, so I wasn’t conservative in the way I dressed. (Hoping to make him cringe and run in the opposite direction begging ALLAH to save him from a wicked temptress!).
I go to the party and have a great time, on the way back to Heliopolis I get a text message from I’m asking about restaurant to eat at in Alexandria and if he could pick me up from the Embassy party. I told him of one of my favorite restaurants to go to in Alexandria and that group of people he was taking there the following day on a tour would like it and that I was back in Heliopolis with my friends. Only to get another text message later to ask if he could pick me up from where we were hanging out, by then I was home. He then called to ask me to come down and go out with him at midnight! ‘NO, I AND I NEED TO SLEEP’.
Once he returned from his trip on Friday he sent me a message to ask if I was awake. I didn’t respond. He then sent another message a half hour later to ask me if he could take me out for breakfast. I didn’t respond till the following morning where I politely declined in a text message. That didn’t stop him from trying to see me later that day, offering to take me shopping, drive me to the physio therapist and in the end I agreed he could pick me up from my friends surprise birthday party. Not knowing he was going to kidnap me and take me across the city to have his car washed. While we sat at a cafe near where the car was being washed, I was finally able put a finger on who he reminded me of, My X boyfriend! The way he talked, his looks, facial expressions and hand gestures. I flat-out told him that hoping it would be the kiss of death and a major turn off … BUT NO, that didn’t seem to even bother him in the least. It was there I just flat-out asked him, ‘knowing what you know about whom I am and what I’m like, do you see anything happening between us?’
His answer stunned me ‘No, we are very different socially and in many other ways. The moment you were honest on one of our on-line chats, I knew that nothing could become of this.”
So…If he knows th can’at this can’t work out why pursue it, why would he even want to meet me? Am I a challenge to him?
I have to be totally honest with my self I have been enjoying that attention and being desired. It will be three years since my last relationship and 6 months since I last dated someone. I don’t want to lead him on, that is just cruel and I also don’t want my loneliness and need for TLC to get the best of me either.
I saw him a few times after that. During our outings, I found him to be handsome as well as charming, funny, family oriented, caring, and kind and behaved like a true gentleman. On one of our outings he actually asked me if I would consider ‘changing’, (not wearing swimsuits, not wearing revealing clothing (short sleeve t-shirts, strappy dresses, not going where alcohol is served…etc)) and that if I learned more about my religion that I may grow to accept it and like it. (Obviously he doesn’t know me very well. I had been on a journey of self discovery for a few years and I am FINALLY happy and comfortable in my own skin and with the person I have become and the person I am working towards becoming, why would I give up everything I have worked so hard to sort out at a whim for someone who doesn’t understand that?) I simply replied that I wasn’t willing to change who I was, my family, friends or my social life and I could NEVER ask someone to change who they were no matter what. Either I like them for who they are and accept them for what they are or I don’t. I have no right to ask them to change for me to suite who I am.
If he wasn’t too conservative for me as well as my family and social circle of friends, I most probably wouldn’t even think twice, I would take a leap of faith. Maybe I’m CRAZY but I really want a guy who can relate and understand my Middle Eastern and Western Roots and doesn’t mind that I am culturally and ethnically screwed up. I also want someone who will be able to get along with my family and friends without worrying about conflict of ideas.
I am who I am. A person needs to accept me for who I am with the good, the bad and the quirks. Another thing that makes us so different is our desires. I am motivated, driven and inspired to move forward and finish my Masters Degree in Education and continue with my pursuit of becoming a children’s book author, (yes, I want to be rich, but have money earned from my hard work), earning enough money to be able to put my children through an ivy league school and University, take care of my parents if I have to and I would like to own property (both here and abroad), While he isn’t interested in money that way. (call me an elitist or a snob, I don’t care)
One of my friends thinks I should give him a shot, while I don’t. I think I’d be giving too much of myself. The Core of Whom I Am Will Not Change.
After having said ALL that, he still wants to see me! I have to say… he is very persistent.
5 hours after having published this on-line, He had called me 4 times that day, I had been busy so I hadn’t picked up and on the fourth call I answered and decided that the law had to be laid down. We were both very sincere and frank with one another. He said that he wouldn’t want to be the reason for me regretting ‘THE COMPROMISES’, changes I would make for him ( If I was to do so). (commendable and galant in my opinion).
We FINALLY concluded that ‘we’ are not best suited for one another and that it can not work out. He did make me promise that I would not write him off completely and to keep in touch from time to time and if I should ever decide to change my ways to give him a call.
I’m very grateful that it ended amicably and not in a mud slinging match.
A song that I find very fitting to this situation is the song ‘I think I Better Leave Right Now’. If You don’t know it, click on the link and watch it on youtube.
Stay Strong and NEVER GIVE UP WHO YOU ARE FOR SOMEONE….UNLESS YOU WANT TO CHANGE WHO YOU ARE, FOR YOU.
Published in the September 2009 issue of (in)sight Magazine.
It Isn’t Always Easy Being A TCK.
By Nadia M. El Abdin
For Karim and others like us.
I’m sure you are wondering what the TCK stands for. I will tell you shortly but first let me tell you what inspired me to write this piece.
On several occasions during my weekend visits to Alexandria to visit my family, I have bumped into a young university student who like me is of mixed ethnicity. The topic of conversation during our random meetings, while out with our mothers assisting them with their weekend grocery shopping always revolved around how my sister and I coped with being of a mélange cultural heritage. These conversations brought back so many memories for me and It became clear that this young man was going through some, if not the same dilemma’s I had experienced not too long ago.
I write this piece for Karim and others out there who may be experiencing the same internal turmoil that their Parents, Teachers and Friends may not be able to relate to. I hope to shed some light on their situation and give them comfort in knowing that they are not alone.
TCK stands for’ Third Cultural Kids’.
FaceBook Group description and definition of a TCK:
You’ve heard this ‘textbook’ definition of a TCK before: “A third culture kid is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside their parents’ culture. The third culture kid builds relationships to all the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the third culture kid’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of the same background, other TCKs.”
I personally prefer to describe and differentiate TCK’s in to two categories. Children raised away from their parents place of origin for most or all of their childhood. People who would fit under this category would be diplomat kids, army brats, children whose parent’s work for companies that are constantly relocating and moving them from state to state, province to province or from one continent to another.
Another form of TCK would be children born into mixed marriages. For example, having an American father and a German mother. The culture inside the home would be a mix of both creating a third culture.
I fit under both categories. My mother is Irish and Catholic and my Father is Egyptian and Muslim. I was born in Canada and spent most of my childhood in Saudi Arabia where my father lectured. We lived on a compound with expatriates from all corners of the globe and attended mainly International Schools with students and teachers from diverse backgrounds.
It was during my young adolescence that other children teased and bullied me for being different. My first memory was of two young American boys, whose parents’ were friends with mine tormented me every day on the school bus because my Dad was Egyptian and would pinch me and spit at me. As you can imagine, I dreaded the morning and afternoon bus rides. I then went to an ‘Arabic’ speaking school so that I could learn the language, my religion and more about my culture. There some of the students and teachers openly made my life miserable by telling me that my mother was a ‘Kaafira”, (non believer) and that she was destined to spend an eternity in hell. The teacher’s would have a great time using me as a human target too by throwing their office supplies at me or pulling my hair out. I developed a distrust for teachers and a dislike for my Middle Eastern roots. On reflection I supposed it is safe to conclude that is where my cultural dilemma began. During my early teenage years my family moved to Egypt, where I am still residing. My sister and I were raised as Muslims and yet our house hold had a combination of both cultural traditions, values and morals. All of the things I have mentioned are factors which have contributed towards me being a TCK.
I am not an expert in the area and I can’t speak for everyone, but I can share my own personal experiences with how I grew to accept myself for who I am and what I have, In the hopes that I may be able to help someone else come to terms with their situation.
Being of mixed ethnicity for some people can be a difficult thing to deal with. Sometimes an internal conflict or clash between the two cultures takes place and your brain starts to question which side of the cultural pendulum you belong to. The trigger for this sudden cultural identity crisis, maybe due to external pressures of one of the cultures or the butting heads of the method their parents were trying to raise them .
As a child growing up, I was made to feel as though I was different by outside influences. At the time I didn’t have the vocabulary to express my feelings accurately or the knowledge to help me comprehend what it was I was going through. Sometimes I felt like one of the X-Men comic characters, I looked like everyone else on the outside but felt different on the inside, minus the super powers of course. I could get along with both Western and Middle Easterners and understood their cultural ethics. I was comfortable in the company of both and yet genetically although I belonged to both groups, I never really felt as though I fully belonged to either. I felt like an alien or a mutant among my own kin. There were moments when my cultural pendulum would swing back and forth between the two cultures and there were moments where it would remain motionless.
The times when my pendulum would be swinging and leaning towards the ‘Western’ side and my frame of mind and thinking process was all western I would often feel guilty for neglecting the ‘Middle Eastern’ side. The vice versa, of that was true too. At one given time I had consciously decided to disown one of my cultural heritages, the constant swinging back and forth between the two was getting to be too much for me. When I attempted to do that I felt as though I had amputated a part of my identity and lost a piece of myself and that I was no longer a complete person. I tried talking to my parent’s about it and they just thought I was still adjusting to the move and the new school. The school I was in at the time everyone was of the same nationality, so I couldn’t talk to my fellow peers either.
The turning point came when my mother had read an article about TCKs’ in Egypt Today (an Egyptian magazine, printed in English). The instant she had finished reading it she brought it to me and to this day I can remember her exact words ‘Is this you?’ I read the article and I cannot begin to describe the sense of relief and comfort that swept over me. The relief that someone else out there understood what I was going through and the comfort in knowing that I was not alone in the world was reassuring! I felt as though a dark cloud had been lifted.
When I had identified what I was and what I was experiencing, the road to acceptance began. The journey ahead was long, winding and turbulent. The pendulum continued to swing back and forth, it didn’t bother me as much as it had previously because I knew I wasn’t a candidate for the insane asylum. As time went on, I became more open about what I was and when I met other people who were like me, I wouldn’t shy away from asking them about how they dealt with being of mixed ethnicity. Some of the people I spoke to didn’t have the same experiences I did because their parents had decided to raise them as just one nationality, while others could related to how I felt and what I was going through. I continued to research articles and read books written about TCKs and with every word I read and conversation I had the more convinced I became that there is no easy, right or wrong way of being a TCK.
With my new-found knowledge, I slowly began to build confidence and become comfortable in my own skin and embracing being different. This didn’t go down well with lots of people because they believed that my father’s roots should be the dominate one. So, a lot of my friends changed, I decided that if people can’t accept me for who I am then they never liked me in the first place. The people whom I was most comfortable with seemed to be those who were very similar to me or who had lived abroad for a few years and had returned to Egypt to finish off their schooling. I noticed that we seemed to attract each other like magnets and have that “click” factor.
I have met other TCKs who couldn’t cope with being both, so they chose a culture to be their dominant one because it’s just easier for them to deal with. Is it wrong? I don’t think so. Why? Well, everyone deals with it differently and the best way to cope with being a TCK is whatever gives you peace of mind.
Personally, I have embraced my mixed heritage and decided that it is more a blessing than it is a curse. The advantages of being mixed, (in my opinion) is quite beneficial. We have the experience as well as the knowledge and understanding of different cultures, which makes us great teachers, leaders and cultural diplomats. It is people like us who can change the negative ideas and images people have about ‘Westerners’ being drunk, ignorant with high sex drives or ‘Middle Easterners’ who are extremists and trigger happy terrorists. We are also rich in heritage and can adapt and blend in to any environment we are thrown in to, we are like human chameleons. We have respect and appreciation for other Peoples beliefs, traditions and we often adopt some of their cultural traits and incorporate them in to who we are, which I believe makes us even richer. My group of friends and I have been dubbed ‘The Little United Nations’ because with our nationalities combined we could form our own U.N council.
My pendulum doesn’t swing as vigorously as it used to. However, It isn’t always smooth sailing. There are occasions where it sways back and forth and that can be due to temporary insecurities or something that is going on in my life, like when dealing with people who can’t think outside of the box and can only see one side of the coin or meeting a gentleman whom I may be attracted to, but find that it isn’t easy getting along with him because he doesn’t understand or accept my mixed heritage and mentality thus causing the pendulum to sway from one side to the other. Most of the time it is motionless and secure.
Now when I’m asked ‘where are you from?” I can’t help but smile because the answer for most is short and sweet and I know that when I respond to the question that I will tweak their curiosity and a conversation will start-up. (As it did with Chris Cuomo, one of the hosts of Good Morning America. (Yes, he’s just as good-looking in person as he is on T.V!)) With pride and patriotism I confidently answer; “I’m Canadian, Egyptian, Irish.” Without the three I just wouldn’t be me.
If you are in need of further explanation and want to learn more about TCKs, you can do a search on-line and numerous websites will pop up, you could go to your local books store and pick up a book titled “Third Cultural Kids”, The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds” by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken
Requested and Reserved for a future issue of (in)sight Magazine
When ever I am at a wedding a social gathering where my parent’s friend are present or seeing parents of former students one of the first question they always ask me is ‘eh inti lisa matgawizteesh?’ (you still haven’t gotten married yet?) Frankly I’m tired of it !
Here I am a three decades plus one year young female who still hasn’t managed to nab herself a fish of any status or size. Here in Egypt it is considered close to tragic! I should have hooked a fish by my second year of university and been wed not long after graduation and been with child returning from the honeymoon. Being a single female at this age leaves some people to conclude one of two things. One, that there is something wrong with me if an eligible bachelor hasn’t claimed me for his own and Two, (my favorite) I’ve passed my expiry date.
My response to that is as follows; The reason I haven’t been picked off the shelf is because I am such a rare piece that the average Joe doesn’t know how to appreciate me. I am a woman of rare substance, intellect and culture and men fear what is unfamiliar and unknown to them. Very few are man enough to step up to the plate to take a risk of actually looking past my physical appearance and getting to know what goes on in my cranium and those that do peek underneath the silky blondish brown wavy hair that sprouts from my head and falls upon my shoulders are more than often scared away because they know that I can not be their puppet and I have a mind of my own.
I won’t settle for being a prize that he shows off and parades around by his side like a Barbie doll at weddings and other social engagements. I want more and I demand to be treated as an intelligent equal of great worth.
If there is a man who is unafraid of venturing in to the un known and would take a risk to get to know me through intellectual conversation and is capable of winning my respect, trust and lastly my affections he will be far richer than any king that we have come to know. The riches that I will bring to the table of the relationship are far more valuable than gold, gems and land put together.
As for the question of my expiration, well, I beg to differ. With time, comes knowledge, skill and aging. The perfect process to make a bottle of mixed ethnic wine. I consider myself the wine of the universe. I age like a fine wine and improve with each passing day and year. So, I just keep getting better and better!