Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Orientation Day One


Day two in Tunisia has gone swimmingly. We woke up, enjoyed a delicious breakfast in our hotel courtyard, which looks like this :

Breakfast, like every Tunisian meal (and snacks) includes baguettes. Afterwards, we headed down towards the SIT office where we began orientation. We also got to meet our host families today, enjoy lunch at a hip café, go for a few more walks through Sidi Bou Said, and enjoyed some delicious Tunisian fish. I'm looking forward to moving into my host family's house this weekend. My host family speaks mostly Arabic, thought one of my sisters knows some English. Other highlights included an outrageously beautiful thunderstorm (we saw the lightning from across the Mediterranean). Here are a few more pictures!

We also learned a few more words in Tounsi (Tunisian Arabic) today. Here's a sampling of some of them:

3aychek; Thank you!
La beis: How are you? (response: alhamdulillah, same as in Oman)
Bursha bursha: a lot




I arrived this morning in Tunis. Although I'm thoroughly jet lagged, I want to post a quick update as to how things are going. I had a long layover in Istanbul, and got to go out and explore (and find some delicious food!)

Then I was off to Tunis, where I landed this morning! I met up with my cohort, which once again is quite small--there are eight of us. We arrived at our hotel, went for a walk to the beach together, and now are about to head off to dinner and to start our orientation to the Tunisian life. I'll post more later when I'm less jet lagged, but here are some pictures!

Part of Ben Ali's former villa, which is now owned by the Tunisian state. 
Sidi Bou Said (aka Sidi Bou), where our program is based. 
Walking through Sidi Bou to our hotel!

A few lovely hotel pictures!

Our walk down the hill...
To the beach!

So far, Tunisia is absolutely lovely and I'm thrilled to be here!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tunisia and a New Title!

Dear Readers,

Three years has passed since I've posted on this blog, and now that I'm on the cusp of a new international adventure--Tunisia!--I decided to come back online to post again. The blog looks pretty different from before; the most obvious change being the new title. Adventures of a Muscat-teer was a brilliantly punny title, but it doesn't fit with my future travels. On This Earth (على هذه الأرض) is taken from the brilliant poem by Mahmoud Darwish, "We Have on This Earth What Makes Life Worth Living." I've included the Arabic and English (translated by Darryl Li) versions below.
على هذه الأرض ما يستحق الحياة: تردد إبريل، رائحة الخبزِ
في الفجر، آراء امرأة في الرجال، كتابات أسخيليوس ، أول
الحب، عشب على حجرٍ، أمهاتٌ تقفن على خيط ناي، وخوف
الغزاة من الذكرياتْ.
على هذه الأرض ما يستحق الحياةْ: نهايةُ أيلولَ، سيّدةٌ تترُكُ
الأربعين بكامل مشمشها، ساعة الشمس في السجن، غيمٌ يُقلّدُ
سِرباً من الكائنات، هتافاتُ شعب لمن يصعدون إلى حتفهم
باسمين، وخوفُ الطغاة من الأغنياتْ.
على هذه الأرض ما يستحقّ الحياةْ: على هذه الأرض سيدةُ
الأرض، أم البدايات أم النهايات. كانت تسمى فلسطين. صارتْ
تسمى فلسطين. سيدتي: أستحق، لأنك سيدتي، أستحق الحياة
We have on this earth what makes life worth living
the aroma of bread at dawn
a woman’s opinion of men
the works of Aeschylus
the beginnings of love
grass on a stone
mothers who live on a flute’s sigh
and the invaders’ fear of memories
we have on this earth what makes life worth living
the waning days of dawn
a woman leaving forty in full blossom
the hour of sunlight in prison
a cloud resembling a pack of creatures
the applause of a people for those who face their end with a smile
and the tyrants’ fear of songs
we have on this earth what makes life worth living
on this earth, the lady of earth
the mother of all beginnings
the mother of all endings
she was called Palestine
she came to be called Palestine
o lady, because you are my lady
I am worthy of life
Darwish is an incredible poet and I have found so much meaning in his works both in their original Arabic and in translations over the past few years. 

I will be spending this fall semester on a study abroad program run by SIT in Tunis studying the Arab Spring and its impact on Tunisian society. My goals for this program are significant--I hope to improve my knowledge of Arabic, both in terms of continuing my study of Modern Standard and in terms of picking up a new dialect. I plan to increase my practical and empathetic knowledge of contemporary Arab history, particularly as relating to the Arab Spring. I remember reading about the events in Tunisia, hearing the anger and frustration people had toward their government. Four years after the revolution, I want to learn about the deep effects which the Jasmine Revolution had on the people of Tunisia. Through my program, I will be able to partake in a one-month Independent Study Project exploring in depth this question. During my first two years of college, I have been lucky to study, from an academic perspective, much of what I learned about Islam practically in Oman. I'm hoping that my time in Tunisia will be an experience for me to continue adding to my multi-layered understanding of Islam historically and contemporarily. Tunisia is also of particular interest to me for its position in the Mediterranean, as the home of the ancient city of Carthage, of its place in global politics. A combination of practical, hands-on education and the incredibly complex recent history of Tunisia makes me excited for this next chapter. 

These academic goals for my Tunisia are overshadowed by my continuing desire to form relationships internationally. The friendships and family relationships I formed while in Oman still are with me in so many ways. Tunisia will present me with many opportunities to meet the wonderful human beings of the world. It is my firm belief that through relationships with people from a wide variety of backgrounds we are strengthened and built into better, more complex people.

Thanks for coming with me on this next adventure!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Six Months Later

Six months ago today, I got on an airplane from my home to come home.

Since I returned, everything has changed and everything is the same. When I left Oman, I was positive that I would spend my senior year hiding away, just biding my time until I could go off to college. I was determined to have a miserable time, to scrape by until I could go on to bigger and better things. Somehow, the opposite has happened. This year, I've developed relationships with my friends in Beloit that shock me by their depth. I was told that I would probably not relate with my old friends, but that has been entirely inaccurate.

I didn't plan for any of this to happen. But it did. This reminds me of my whole year abroad, the shock at the emotions, the joy and sorrow and stress. Oman was entirely unprecedented, but so has been my senior year. I came home expecting solitude, and have found incredible friendship, and with one special person, even romance. My return has shocked me in how absolutely wonderful it has been. I've found that my friends--old and new--are just like me. I had many of them over just a few nights ago for a night of heavy drinking--of tea, that is! My Senior year is thus far a roaring success socially. I'm still excited for college, but I'm also just loving my life in the moment. 

That's not to say that I don't miss Oman. It's on my mind constantly, and the lessons I've learned from it are continually with me. Some days there is nothing I want to do more than cry over the loss of my parallel life, that is continually slipping away from me. I'm losing my Arabic skills rapidly, I've lost the 30 pounds of excess "love" that I gained, and I find that the pain I feel over missing everything is less acute. It still hits in waves, but they rarely come.

I feel like I've reached a point in this readjustment process in which I can merge my Omani life with my American one. I wore my jalabiyya for one of my senior pictures and had an Eid party this fall. Little strands of my Omani life are most certainly still a part of who I am now. 

I will never forget, but it's my time to move on.



Thursday, July 19, 2012

Closure, If you want to call it that

Hi, everyone.

First, an apology. For not blogging at the end of my trip (I was quite busy with a trip to Dubai and my goodbyes), and for not blogging since I've returned home--which was one month ago today, June 19th.

I don't have the words to articulate how I'm feeling. Oman was such an exciting time for me. My preparations, travel, and time there thrilled me to the core. I expected that my return home would be anti-climactic, that I would go into a bit of a depressed stupor. But the truth is that the exact opposite has happened. So far, I've been thriving at home. I'm enjoying time with my family and friends, I'm enjoying all of my summer activities--college visits and applications, volunteer work on a political campaign, reconnecting with old friends from all over the region--I'm enjoying the little things I'd taken for granted. And so, no, I'm not particularly homesick for Oman. I had expected to go into a shell upon my return, and perhaps that expectancy is exactly what has thus far driven me to enjoy my return--and perhaps, a bit, to push away memories in order to avoid feeling too depressed. That's not to say that I don't miss Oman. I wouldn't say that I'm actively homesick, but perhaps I have a bit of an ache that wonders What if? What if I was still there? But in life we all have to face the truth, and because of that, I'm still just plugging away at life, moving forward.

Optimism is the best way for me to move on with my life. My life should not be apathetic. And so I've taken it upon myself to enjoy my life and to fill it with meaningful work. Oman meant so much to me, and that will not change. But there are other opportunities for me to undertake, and other things that will excite me. So here I go, rushing off into the future, prepared by all that I learned about myself in the past year.

So, here's to embracing the most amazing year of my life, and here's to all of the magnificent future events.

Cheers, and thanks to all of you for following my blog and accompanying me on this journey. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Step Up Oman

I went to a charity event yesterday called Step Up Oman. If you have seen the Step Up movies, it basically was a competition like that. Anyways, it was organized by a group associated with AMIDEAST so we went along to help/ enjoy.

It was a pretty neat event, and kudos to the girls who organized it! The money they gained was designated to helping to train a family of 12 to lift themselves from poverty. The family won't directly be given the funds, but will instead be given things like English classes.

In case you're not aware of exactly what Step Up is, it basically is a really hyped-up dance contest. There are a large number of teenagers (in this case all boys) who come to dance. They all do flips and jumps and occasionally slide for a few meters on their heads. The last one was especially impressive!

I've also been, unfortunately, saying many goodbyes to people. Yesterday was the end of school, so I said goodbye to many teachers and friends. Also, we had our YES Abroad end-of-the-year dinner, which was indeed bittersweet. 

Next week I'm off to Dubai for three days as long as I get my road permit on time! Very excited about that!

Saturday, June 2, 2012



First, gah, I have posted far too little lately. That is for a fairly wide variety of reasons: studying for exams, trying to soak up the last 16 days in Oman (sob!), studying for exams, trying to be like Matilda and use my brainpower to kill the evil, noisy birds that enjoy roosting on my windowsill, studying for exams, saying goodbye to my classmates, studying for exams, wearing an abaya to the American school and my Arabic class (it’s great how people try to figure it out: Bailey usually can pull off being Omani but when I rock it I look like a white kid playing around, which I guess is what I am. It’s wicked fun though.), studying for exams, buying presents for all of you lovely people back in the States, surviving 50˚ C weather (122+ F!!) studying for exams, and so much more!

Oh, and did I mention that it’s exam week? Exams here are a lot different than back in the USA, because here they are a complete overview of everything that has been learned in the semester. In the States, that’s true for some of my classes, but not all. In fact, it’s more common in the USA for my final to be a vocab test followed by a party, because the majority of the summative grading happens in unit tests and projects. Here, it’s the opposite: quizzes, essays, and projects are cumulatively worth 30-40% of the grade and the other 60-70% is based solely on exam results, hence the need to study extensively. Rather than pacing throughout the year, school here is more based on cramming at the end. I’m unresolved as to which system I prefer.

As I said, I’ve got a mere 16 days and left here, which is near insanity, if you ask me. This year has zipped by, and I’ve said it a million times but I’ll say it again. THIS YEAR HAS GONE TOO QUICKLY!

In re the birds on my windowsill, they are killer. I’m fairly sure they have the same amount of decibels as a loud rock concert. There was first only one, but then he found a friend. I was talking to Bailey on the phone, and she could hear them through the phone very loudly!

My classmates, who are in grade 12, had their last day of school last Tuesday. They take their exams at the Ministry of Education as opposed to the school because they will get their diplomas this year. Because I’m not getting a diploma, I have to take mine at school. It was metaphorically heartbreaking to have to leave them, and I hope to see them again before I leave!

For our last day of Arabic class, Noah wore a dishdasha and Bailey and I wore abayas (Jaira was sick, meskina!). And then there was the adventure of Bailey and I at the American school, also in abayas, to return some books to the library there.

Not a group wedding, btw. 

And yes, it is indeed 50 degrees Celsius. I would have thought that what would surprise me was the fact that I could live in that and not die, but not so! It honestly does not bother me too much. Of course, it’s hot and I get sweaty and such, but it’s not totally unbearable. This is coming from a girl who feels overly warm when it hits 80 every year. I guess it’s the same as how I learn to deal with the frigid January weather of the upper Midwest.

Annnd, to close up and make up for the lack of blog posts, here are some more pictures from our trip to Salalah!