Monday, March 26, 2012

A Night at Chilli's

Last night I went out to dinner with Bridgette and the girls as a sort of farewell thing. I don't usually go into the whole girls-night-out-group-photo thing because its kind of lame kida, especially stopping someone and asking them to take our photo. Anyway, our waiter was some short Egyptian dude with curly hair whom the Maître de was openly giving a hard time, and telling him off in front of the customers. He told us that if we need anything please call Hassan, and don't tell whats-his-face who's in charge. He was the typical annoying, fake-smile, enjoy-your-time waiter and I more or less didn't like him. I mean, I didn't not-like him, he just irritated me. Anyway, for the first time in history, they actually got my order right and it arrived with everyone else's, however I think the chicken was a tad under cooked and didn't finish it (I was too full anyway). And then, the girls asked Hassan to take our picture.
I have a Canon DSLR which I think is pretty easy to use, but which surpisingly most people I know don't know how to. The concept of focusing by pressing halfway down is confusing, apparently, and people tend to just aim and shoot, giving a typical bad quality to the picture. They don't know how to look through the view lense. And, most people don't know where the shutter release button is and I have to keep pointing it out. That very evening one of the girls who tried to use it had to be shown. So naturally, when I (reluctantly) gave the camera to Hassan, I first changed the setting so that the view would be on the screen and he wouldn't have to look for it, and then pointed out the button for him to use. I was surprised that a) he immediately looked through the lens and ignored the screen, b) he gave me this strange look and said 'akeed' when I pointed out the button for him, and c) he held that camera like a pro. And then he asked me to turn on the flash, and took the best picture anyone (else) has ever taken with it.
I am ashamed and embarassed. Its not that he's a waiter; I have nothing against waiters. I just assumed from his flustered and simple-looking demeanor that he was, well- simple, let's say. And since my doctor and nurse friends almost always don't know how to use my camera, I never thought the waiter would. The waiter who was being bullied by the Maître de. Did he own a similar camera himself? That would be difficult to picture because I'm sure it costs more than what he gets paid in a month. Did he own one in the past? Maybe in some previous life time where he could easily afford one and persue a hobby/career of professional photography before falling on hard times and having to come to the Gulf and work in a crappy restaurant where the head waiter treated you like dirt?
Whatever the reason, the thing that stands out most and is poking me in the side from that evening is the waiter whom I openly insulted by pointing out the shutter release button on a DSLR camera, which, apparently, is the easiest thing in the world to find.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mama

Dear Mama
I shouldn’t be waiting for Mother’s Day to say all this, but, being the thankless children
that we are, I did. I cannot begin to imagine the nightmare of motherhood that
you had lived with 6 children, one of which was myself. An ugly child, a loud-mouthed
and rebellious teenager, and moody, nagging, volatile and hot tempered woman. I
think you get extra points just for putting up with all that. Though not a
mother yet myself (and at the rate I’m going will probably never be one), I have
seen enough of this life to at least imagine how difficult it all is, and that
it never ends. However, I don’t ever remember you complaining about it. I don’t
remember hearing an insulting word from you before, or any indication that you
had any regrets about anything related to us. Yes, there was discipline (and a
lot of it), but nothing demeaning. What I remember of you, and will always
remember, is your intelligence and sense of humour and adventure, your respect
and dignity, your innocence and lost-little-girl look when it comes to our
ridiculous Sudanese womanly traditions, and your never ending hard work and motivation
despite everything. And what I remember most, and will always remember, is your
continuous and unconditional love and support. Through the worst days of my
life, battling an impending depression, you were the best friend and guidance
that I had. And regardless of all the backtalk and the lashing out from me, you
always had something good to say somehow. I regret that I had to go through so
much and sink so low to realise that I didn’t have to look far at all to find
the one person who would stand by no matter what, regardless of my
imperfections.
On this day, and on every day, I wish you all the best that life has to offer. I wish you
continuous success to add to your already impressive successes; I wish you
health and a long, prosperous life; I wish you the joyful company of the man we
all love until the end of all our days; I wish you finally avenge yourself
against everyone who has wronged you. And I wish you what I am sure you will
have in the end: paradise unlimited, acceptance, and everlasting rest. I hope I
can be just half the mother to my children that you have been to us. And I hope,
desperately, that someday I will make you proud of me.
Thank you Mama for being my friend. I love
you.

Reem

Sunday, March 18, 2012

To South Sudan or not to South Sudan: that is the question


I’m confused. I’m
sitting at home watching the news and eating lunch (2 rare occurrences in
themselves), on my favourite channel Alshurooq when out comes the news that
South and North Sudan have agreed that nationals of each state should be
allowed ‘freedom of residence and movement, as well as freedom to undertake
economic activity and to acquire and dispose of property,’ (Coastweek.com). That,
along with the border demarcation (I don’t even know what happened with that
issue, I was too busy picking my jaw up from off the ground), were apparently
the result of weeks of negotiations. Then came a few interviews with people on
the street, most of whom echoed the exact same question going through my head
at that minute: didn’t these people choose to separate and have nothing more
to do with us? I thought the secession meant that the South packs its things
and leaves. After all, almost 90% of them voted for just exactly that. Furthermore,
all through this referendum and secession drama I had read article after
article and watched interview after interview with Southerners who talked about
how mean and cruel Northerners were, how they were slammed with racist comments
and had such a hard time getting employment and education opportunities. One guy
on the BBC radio talked about how even the kumsari on the bus wouldn’t give him
back his change or would charge him extra, or some other ridiculous claim. I say
ridiculous because, especially on the bus, I would see Southerners who would
only get up from their seat if the elderly man or woman standing up was
Southerner as well. The TV portrayed people with all their life’s belongings in
a small sack, sitting on a boat travelling down the river to the homes they
left behind decades ago, and how they had suffered at the hands of the North
more than all that the war had ravaged and put them through.
I was dead
against this separation, for many reasons. I studied in Juba University and had
Southern friends (shout out to Ruot G. Teny!) and teachers. This whole secession
thing didn’t make sense to me, and I hated how many Northerners were happy ‘those
people were finally leaving’, to put it lightly. But I was shocked at how happy
and relieved the South was when the referendum was held and the inevitable
agreement of separation was announced. I couldn’t understand, at first, why are
they so happy? Is it because they’ve finally gotten away from what’s-his-face
and his goons in the NCP? I’m sure I’d be just as happy. Is it because now they
have all the Western support and can finally make something of their country? Naïve,
but actually Western backing is what people need these days. Or is it because
they just simply want nothing more to do with us? They want a country to call
their own where no one calls them slaves or punishes them for wearing something
considered inappropriate regardless of their beliefs? Where no one pushes racist
slogans in their faces and looks down on them as a third class citizen? And
where they’re not forced to share the word ‘home’ with people who are, let’s
face it, so different! Are we really that bad? In that case, maybe the
secession was a good thing. And I honestly wish them all the best with their
new country.
Whatever the
reason, the referendum was held and everyone voted for secession, i.e. a
different country. So it makes sense that, since you want a different country
then you relinquish all supposed rights you had in the country you chose to
separate from. And how come all these agreements were going in one direction
only, i.e. South? Only the Southerners were entitled to the referendum; no one
asked me if I wanted 40% of my country taken away. If it was so normal, why doesn’t
everyone just take their home state and separate? Mosh albalad ma 7agat zol? Secession
meant ‘oil goes South’, to put it plainly (Sudanese memes!), a cause of many
Southerners to celebrate sticking it to the North’s and the sudden financial crisis, since our beloved government had
made sure they destroyed every other resource we have. It meant new fighting
over the water, with the South twisting the North’s arm since technically they
can turn the tap whichever way they want. It meant collaboration with states
such as Israel; a personal choice but definitely not excluding affecting the
North. And now this? You’re the ones who wanted to leave, why should you have
the same rights as citizens in the country that allegedly treated you like
dirt? If living and owning land in the North was so important, why secede in
the first place? Why not just stay wu khalas?
This is not a
hate post, and I am not against the South getting all they deserve and making a
life for themselves after so many years of war and destruction. Bt that war
claimed thousands of lives, including my uncle’s, and to simply break away
feels like a disrespect to his memory and what he and so many others like him
died for. However, I think that a decision as big as this, with the after effects
of throwing mud in the North’s face whether or not it was deserved, means that
people should live with the consequences they chose with that decision. And more
importantly, I am not one of those hypocrites who had no interest whatsoever in
Southerners or anything to do with them, but suddenly discovered how ‘important
and special’ they are and how much they love South Sudan and how much they will
miss them, and how ugly to map of Sudan looks now, etc. just around the time of
the referendum. I respect their autonomy and it genuinely pains me that things
had to end up this way, and that now me and Rout talk to each other from
different sides of a border and each have a different passport colour. But. In a nutshell: mosh into algolto ma 3ayzeen
ma3ana?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Le Divorce

Apparently, a divorce is the thing to get these days. Everyone’s getting it, so why not us? And, it’s so easy to get that there’s no minimum requirement: you could be married 6 months, 6 years, 6 minutes, doesn’t matter. In the past 2 years I have heard of around 10 weddings of close friends and family. And I have heard of 5 divorces or so. That’s 50%. As in, get 2 weddings and guarantee 1 divorce free. I mean,
seriously? Were ALL those weddings rushed into and inappropriate? Were all those couples of unequal ‘prospects’ and just didn’t get along? And what about
the kids? Where do they go? It’s a joke.
Everyone talks
about marriage being so much responsibility and that people have to work extra
hard and not raise their expectations too much. And yet, people insist on doing
whatever it takes to get married, men AND women. To be honest, when I think of
marriage I think of the tiyab and henna, the ‘social status’, and of course I think
of finally having children (if I’m lucky enough not to have some hidden illness
causing recurrent miscarriages or ectopics like MANY people I know) to dress up
and hug and say YA WALAD HASA BAJEEB ALMOFRAKA to. However, common sense says
marriage is about so much more than that. It’s about morning breath and taking
out the garbage. It’s about bills and social events you don’t want to go to and
people showing up uninvited for lunch when you’re fridge is so empty you could
park a car in it. It’s about not being able to travel to that conference in
Singapore because what’s-his-name can’t come along because he has to work and
you leaving him alone for a week is impossible. Or because the kids have no one
to watch them while you’re gone. Whatever the reason, it’s an uncomfortable
situation to be in for all sides. However, since people have been insane enough
to get themselves into this situation in the first place, then why oh why don’t
you stick to that decision and work it out?! I cannot understand what could be
so impossible to work out that you didn’t know from the beginning? That’s the
key word: KNOW about from the beginning. You didn’t know he drinks? You didn’t know
she dresses the way she does? You didn’t know his family looks down on yours? You
didn’t know she doesn’t want children? People of experience will tell you that
will never know what you ended up with until you both live under the same ceiling.
That is totally true. But actually, you don’t have to make it to that ceiling sometimes,
because God gave us a golden time period called an ENGAGEMENT where people ‘get
to know each other’ within limits. Yes, people, engagements were not invented
by the West, Islam had it all along. Therefore, rushing into a 3agid because
its ‘right’ and so that ‘alnas takhod ra7ata’ is NOT the way to go with this,
ESPECIALLY if the day of the 3agid is actually the first day that 3arees has
actually stepped foot into the house!
Anyway, being
the ultimate byrex I of course have no experience to say much about the topic
of divorce. I would just like to say that people should think very carefully
before getting married in the first place, and to ASK for crying out loud about
this person you are going to be with for the rest of your life, and ask about
their family, because actually when people tell you that this person is dishonest
and disrespectful to his/her co-workers or neighbours, chances are 100% that
he/she will be the same to you. And when people tell you that this family is
known for maltreating their women and walking all over them, it’s you who’s
going to be in that situation! And please oh please, stop talking about how
people change after marriage, because they DON’T. People don’t stop drinking or
lying after marriage, and their bad taste in clothes doesn’t change much either,
so if that thing that’s nagging at you now is bothering you, don’t count on the
fact that it will disappear later. That’s just stupid.
Having talked about ‘responsibility’ and sticking to ones decisions, one must admit that there are some issues that are unforgiveable and that most of the time are really undetectable before marriage, e.g. verbal and physical abuse. I have to give it to one divorcee who stood her ground for almost 10 years before finally giving up and walking out on an abusive husband and family. I wouldn’t have lasted for one minute. I would’ve given that slap right back to him, packed my bags and gotten OUT of there and never looked back. Ta'6rabni ana? Yi'6rabak inshallah 3izra2el gol ameen.
*The koosha is the couch on the stage where the bride and groom sit on their wedding day. They can be quite expensive. Incidentally, koosha also refers to large piles of garbage. Interesting, eh?