Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Egypt in Tweets

Last night I went to sleep some time after hearing President Hosni Mubarak's speech to the Egyptian people (and to the world). I was laughing at him, and angry at him. Egypt's peaceful protestors want him to step down and yet he refuses and hangs on to any tiny bit of power he can have. He said he would not go up for re-election in September. The voices of many Egyptians do not want him until September; they want him gone now.

This morning I woke up to a tragedy. I stayed in bed for 3 hours, reading tweets that were scrolling quickly, almost too quickly for my big eyes to read. Then I watched footage on the live Al-Jazeera English stream on youtube all the way through brunch. I had to stop.

Here are some of the tweets I retweeted as I was reading this morning, from when I woke up to earlier in the day today. Some of them broke my heart, some of them made me laugh, and some of them made me want to scream:

@LaithyounisWhat kind of leader would set his country on fire just to remain for 7 more months?   

@ThemoornextdoorFriend in :"My friend just received orders from his state-wned company 2 go join pro-Mubarak protests" 

@ManalMy husband @ is now under attack by Mubarak thugs & some ppl dare to ask me to tone it down  

@monaeltahawyPlease I beg of you do not say "pro- protesters". They are thugs. Hired thugs. Say thugs!  

@AmiralxAre all those appeased by mubarak's speech enjoying the smooth transition? 

@SaudiwomanRT (translation) @ thugs were paid 500 Egyptian pounds from the national party treasury & this info from reliable source

@weddadyDear lord! RT @: omg I have someones child, I have a child. 2 yrs max, green eyes, says his name mahmoud. Tweet it for me” 

@weddadyCONFIRMED ON ALJAZ RT @: Hearing from different sources that  museum is under threat of going up in flames  

@nohaHMsafarTo those burning the museum; have u 4gotten where a lot of Egypt's $ comes from? TOURISM, u might as well crush the pyramids while ure @ it

@meedanjust talking with a journalist friend who was clubbed and beaten after three thugs heard him filing a story from his phone.  

@ethatkamalBab El Louq URGENTLY needs Alcohol, Betadine, Plastic gloves, garbage gloves, plastic dishes, cotton, antibiotics, painkillers. 0122406441

@TheTruthNetworkBREAKING [  ] Suha Al Naqqash - News anchor person at Al Nile news quits because of inaccurate news reporting

@monaeltahawyI salute the breathtaking courage of  who held strong in Sq vs 's revenge. U fought for all of .

@mariamali7Police are out in the checkpoints and are arresting people on their way home from the protests. Be careful! Please RT

@asa_wireObama-backed Mubarak terrorism.  

@DarthNaderNow I remember why I never watch Robert Gibbs or anyone from the Obama admin. for that matter. Cause I'm not masochistic.

@paulocoelho"The Alchemist" takes place in Egypt. I've been there 3 times, AND I talked to people. Tahrir Square is not a surprise


@NadiaE: I will not be intimidated by Mubarak thugs. Break my camera and my eyes will photograph. Cut my Internet connextn and i will use pen &paper

@halmustafa: RT @ajtalk: news of human shields moving to Tahrir Sq to protect protesters and no fire in Museum #jan25 #Egypt

I am rooting for the peaceful protestors who were attacked by thugs. I do not care if they genuinely want Mubarak or not (although I believe they are manipulated by Mubarak, myself), they are thugs who have injured over 400 people and killed a few (at least one, hard for me to confirm) as I type.

Twitter moves fast, dispensing news that is correct, incorrect, opinionated, biased, whatever - and I love it. I have never felt so connected and alive.

My heart goes out to those peaceful protestors who wanted change and took it into their own hands.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

With a Gun Held to my Head by Time

I don't know how long I will have internet for so I need to make this quick.

I stayed up very late last night talking to my best friend about various things: helping him with his resume, his cats, job applications, and a date he has coming up. Believe it or not, every single one of those things was emotional.

I also read more new about Tunisia, including some very emotional stories and blog post written by the internet's finest.

I was woken up around noon by the loud noises of visitors, the house, and my Dad taking my phone for reasons I didn't really think about.

I finally got up when my Mom told me that Mr. Mo, the man who has done our ironing for years, wanted to say goodbye because he needed to get back to work. I saw him and felt so horrible because I felt that I looked ungrateful; sleeping all day and staying up all night, not interacting with others. He apologised for waking me up and my heart hurt. He shouldn't apologise to me, I'm sorry. Hearing him say goodbye and telling me to listen to my parents was...not easy.

I found out why my Dad took my phone away and I haven't stopped crying since then. He was disconnecting it, so now my SIM card doesn't work. I was going to call Mr. F one last time from my phone, because God knows I won't be able to say goodbye properly in person.

I did not know this was going to be so difficult.

This is what happens when someone like me becomes too acquainted with a place. Leaving it is so difficult and when the day comes, I am a mess. I have a suitcase to repack, carry-ons to sort out, and other logistical things, but keeping a rational, controlled mind is very hard when you begin to truly understand and register that you are leaving a place behind and with it its people.

For people who have never had to move, wow, you are so lucky. Sure, you miss out on a life experience. I do not regret my life and the many times I have had to move, but this...this never gets easier. I am 21 years old and right now I know I feel the same way I did when I left every other place at those younger ages: Saudi, Oman, Mauritius... It never gets easier. I always feel a huge sense of loss and it tears me apart even if I have nothing left to live for here.

It is time for me to go and yet I would always love to have just a little more time. It's not possible. I have to leave. Having the internet and phone cut is what makes it harder. I feel like I am at a complete loss.

I don't have anything more to say right now. I want to leave, but I don't want to go through this either. This is so hard, for me and my family. Saying goodbye to this terrible place should be a good thing but it's not. Whether we liked it or not, Saudi was our home for many years. Leaving it permanently is leaving behind a friend. A friend who is insane and who needs a shitload of therapy, but a friend.

I also feel like this therapy-needing friend is a friend in need, but honestly, there are other people who can take care of it better. I just feel like I neglected my friend too much. Now that I realise it, how can I rectify this now that I am leaving? I can't. Tonight's my flight and that's how it goes.

This is how it goes. Every time, questions of how things could have been better, reflections on how it could have been worse.

Every time, tears of frustration and conflict because I do not know how to feel and I have never learnt ways of dealing with these feelings.

Every time, a huge loss.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Who Built the Garden of Eden?

As many of my readers are aware, the United States is usually described as a bastion of capitalism, a temple to consumerism, and the lovechild of money and greed. I tend to agree with all of that, but then I think of Saudi and realise that it could very well share the title of Lords of Wastefulness. Yes, the land of the free and the home of the brave has a lot in common with the Kingdom. But what I will talk about today is rather unique to Saudi Arabia. Similar things happen in the US, but this has a true Arabian Gulf flavour.

In a recent blog post, I briefly stated that I sometimes felt like I was walking through a waste here in Riyadh. I can only imagine that thousands of riyals are spent forcing plants to grow in this crazy desert. As I listen to the rain pounding outside, I can only imagine that these forced gardens are being destroyed while I type here. A lot of manual labour was just wasted; work done by expatriates from the Indian sub-continent no doubt on very little money or mercy at the hands of their employers.

This, to me, is the real shame. Saudi Arabia is a rich country, and whoever the hell wants to spend money on "beautifying" the country can do so if they please. I understand that this place is a brown, dead desert and seeing things like water features and green is a symbol of luxury. I can appreciate that to an extent, even though I'd like for the money to go to other things (like, for example, education). What I cannot forgive, and I hope I will never forget for the sake of the blood and sweat that went into the work, is seeing those people being shipped in from other countries. They are gardeners for random people who usually don't give a crap anyway.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? In rows of flowers to display the wealth of this oil Kingdom.

I feel like I could write about this every day, or every time I left my villa to waste some time. Time is something I have no problem wasting, but the people who have to work on floral patches such as the one you see above...their lives are wasted.

These are people that are shipped here with the hope that they can send money back home. Today, a man we have seen working for Granada Mall is finally going to be able to go back home to Bangladesh for a one month holiday. Who knows how many years he has had to work here in order to afford the vacation and to be allowed to do so. It was the best goodbye: it was our last trip to Granada as we are leaving, but we know that he is leaving too, if only temporarily. He is probably excited to see his family. He is one of the luckier ones for this fact alone.

Most of these people live in rooms where 6 or more people sleep practically on top of each other. There is a bus taking them to their work every morning. I saw that bus for the first time a couple of nights ago and my Dad called it "the jail bus." I didn't like hearing that, even though I knew the truth behind those words. They work during the day, and depending on the job they will be working at night, too. In my opinion, that might be better - if they don't work at night, they work in the hot sun - and I know that hot, hot sun. I have seen them sleep under the shade of the very trees they planted.

Two men planted the tree, another few dug that pit.

And these trees, are they for our benefit? For the benefit of us dependents and workers in this country who barely see directly outside of our villas? People don't like to go outside, here. I rarely go outside, no matter what the season, because of the weather and because there isn't much reason to.

The compound in which I live is not the most attractive and it has very little for entertainment. You get out of your villa for the gym, the pool, or for one of the stores. You go outside because you need to get to another building. If you have kids, you might use one of the playgrounds. If you are daring, either in the desert cold, a sandstorm, or blazing heat, you might play basketball or tennis. They recently covered the basketball court - but it isn't done just yet. Guess who is employed to do that work, too.

If the construction workers and gardeners working outside all day were given what they deserved, i.e. a steady pay and a decent contract with an honest boss, I would understand the need for them to work here and I would applaud their strength and bravery to leave their families behind to work in a land that is not familiar to them. It would be difficult, but worth it - right? There are many other issues, mostly psychological, that are up for discussion, but at least their basic human rights would be assured.

The plain truth is that all of these people, whether they come to work in construction, as maids, or whatever...they are lied to. They do not get those basic human rights and they are not treated well. Someone mentioned to me that these people don't get enough money to eat as much as they need to, for the work that they do. I absolutely believe it. On top of all this, they are not treated as equals by many Saudis and non-Saudis alike. One of the worst things I keep seeing is at Riyadh's airport.

Lines and lines of men, squatting on the ground, wait for instruction as their papers are scrutinised. The airport officials make them wait unnecessarily long. When they finally get through the lines, groups of these men are herded by a representative of whatever company is hiring them. They have no souls in their eyes. The desert is already being cruel to them, as I am usually reminded by my father while I am there that these men's passports will be taken and they will become slaves to their companies.

Look at this. This is what they do for us.

I don't want to see a beautiful patch of flowers and green in this compound. The thing is, people see this pretty landscape art on the way to whatever and then that's it. Even I forget that it is there for a while. The people who worked on it were probably treated moderately well for all I know, or they could have been treated horribly. All of that is behind closed doors and I'll probably never get the truth, anyway.

What I do know is that I forget them because I want to forget them sometimes. I must not forget that they were once there and that they have left something behind. That is a terrible thing to do, a wrong thing. That's kind of why I am not ashamed to write about this when I know I have mentioned it already. Now that I am leaving, this is the last chance I have to write about this while I am still here, in the middle of it.

Tomorrow night I leave behind a land of many things I love, but so many things I hate. I am leaving behind a country that treats people of certain races and nationalities as if they are dirt. I want to give this place and its fake landscapes the finger and say, "good riddance!" but that isn't going to make me happy. What I really want to do is say a big fuck you the people who make a living off of treating domestic workers, construction workers, janitors, etc. like they are nothing.

I have never had enough footing here to make any kind of difference. I am leaving here, heartbroken for leaving behind happy memories but also leaving behind so many people who I have seen in great need of justice. But who am I to do anything? I don't even know where I could start.

This is the last picture I am putting up for this post. It describes exactly what is going on here, in my mind and in this country. No matter how pretty the flowers look, there is a big ugly thing in the front that takes up most of the frame. It is an eyesore and you don't want it to be there, but it's there. The ugly piece, whatever it is, is the reality of those workers' lives. The gardens may be pretty and it takes away from the ugly dry brown of the sand, but it cannot save the fact that they were created by people who are treated as lesser beings. They work for nothing because they are not seen as having any value whatsoever.

Who built the Garden of Eden in Saudi Arabia? Most likely a man who doesn't see his family for years, smells the sweat of other men in the room as he sleeps (and he barely sleeps), and who does not eat more than one meal a day. He has sacrificed his time and energy so that your walk to the compound's bus stop was just a little less dusty-looking. Aren't you glad?

Isn't your life so much better now?


Friday, January 14, 2011

A Burdened Internet Family

I realise that I have mentioned my family in bits and pieces, but most of you really do not know them. Let me try and help you learn more about them, using the allegory of...the Internet.

I have two older sisters. My eldest sister is an extremely efficient search engine, like Google. Her talents lie in her resourcefulness. Ask her a question about anything, and she'll be able to find it. If she cannot find it herself (which is rare) she'll know exactly who to ask. She's a travel agent, a vacation planner, and job finder all in one. If you need something, she is definitely the person to ask, because she knows how to get all the information you need. If you are a Bourdieu person, she has much cultural and social capital!

My other sister is more like a site from the ICanHasCheezburger network. When she enters the room, she says "O HAI" and is always there with a piece of randomness to share - and she is always willing to share it with everyone! She is random, quirky, and popular. She is a social butterfly and enjoys meeting all kinds of new people wherever she goes. She is viral, like those LOLCats, EPIC FAILs, etc. as she involves herself with every person she gets in contact with. She'll pick up on what she think you'll like, and has something to make you laugh.

My parents are different. My Mom is a fiery ti piment as we say in Kreol, so I would say that she is a political opinion blog, with strongly worded critiques on current events. Despite her small size, she makes herself heard! She sticks by her beliefs and does not change her stance easily, asking many questions before either silencing you or finally acquiescing. She becomes impassioned very easily and can switch from sweet to spicy in a second! 

My Dad, on the other hand, is totally - if weren't a horribly cheesy site with terrible, terrible writers. The reason I say this is because my Dad is one of the biggest fanboys of all time. From H. P. Lovecraft to J. R. R. Tolkien, my father loves a certain fictional universe and fixates on it like any true nerd would. He may not actually write fanfiction, but he is a display of his fandoms and obsessions. I would also say he is a Wikipedia only for the fact that his memory contains a lot of data about the weirdest of things, however his information is mostly based on the things that he loves.

So there you have it. My family, in terms of the internet. I thought and thought about what site I could be, and well, I think I am Twitter. I'm no wealth of information, nothing like that, nor do I spew what other people tell me, but I am just a person who enjoys listening and reading what others have to say or show me. I'm a receiver of information that may be forgotten tomorrow, but a few noteworthy things might remain in my memory. I also tend to speak in short bursts (haha). But, well, how would I know? Maybe you would be a better judge.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Photography of Why

I noticed that it has been a while since I have put up some pictures. I am very selective and careful in what photographs I choose to show you, my dear readers, so I am usually extremely reluctant. However, the time feels right.

I have made a point to take pictures of the compound I've lived in every summer for about 3 years. Here are a few of the photos I have taken with some accompanying thoughts:

A view of construction in the distance. 2am
Since the start of this visit, I have been unable to sleep before at least 3am. There were a couple of nights where I took medication that forced me to sleep early, but I still woke up after 1 in the afternoon. One insomniac night I went outside to look at the stars. One thing you'll know about Riyadh is that you can barely see stars due to the insane amount of construction. Right outside my villa, this is what I see beyond the trees - lights upon lights on some skeleton of a building that has been in the process of being built for as long as I can remember. If I ever come back to Riyadh, I am sure new buildings will still be under construction, causing the power in villas to be cut and the noise pollution and sand to drive people to insanity.

View of sky from undulation in wall. Afternoon.
I used to make excuses during the day to go to the small supermarket in my compound because I was desperate to get outside the villa. I would go to buy cookies, gum, or anything else I could think of. On one such trip, I looked at the buildings and noticed that despite their lackluster architecture, I enjoyed running my hands over the texture of the walls and standing within the strange pits that are part of the design. I looked up at the sky and thought...what beautiful lines! What interesting juxtaposition of textures! This is the only way this brown, dirty-looking thing could look beautiful - and it did.

Greens. Afternoon, reaching sunset.
Randomly dispersed throughout the compound are beautifully planted trees and walkways. I have never seen anyone use them and on this late afternoon, I felt very weird walking through them. Aren't they made for walking through? Then again, this is a desert. I feel weird because I know lots of money was spent making a desert look green, and not just a desert, but this compound which doesn't even have that many people in it. Also, no one walks through it, as I said before. I, personally, do not enjoy walking through a waste. And that is exactly what it is.

An empty lot. Same late afternoon.
Once upon a time, there used to be red and orange crawltubes for children to play in. One of the only home videos we had included footage of my sisters crawling through them in the hot sun. Now, the little play area is gone and all that is left is this lot, which is next to the green of those trees I posted above. Who knows what they will end up doing with this - or if it will ever be looked at again. It's very The Dragon in My Dreams-esque to me; I don't really like looking at this empty lot. I saw the red and orange pieces dismantled a previous summer and it irked me even though I only remember watching the video of its existence. I don't remember actually playing in it.

When I take photos of anything and I look back at them, the most pleasure I get is remembering what is was like taking the photograph; where I was, who I was with, and what I remember of my thought process while aiming the shot.

The best photos are the ones that give me the most vivid ideas of what was going on in my mind. I can sometimes be proud of what the picture actually looks like in the end, but mostly, I like to remember why I took the photo in the first place. I guess this is why I enjoy conceptual art so much. As someone who desires to capture moments in time before I feel like they disappear forever, it is the abstract and not the physical that I need in order to fulfill my nostalgic desires.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Computer Games, Choices, and So On...

I sat down on my bed, my darling laptop in front of me, and I knew that I would be writing about video games today. I am no reviewer, nor have I ever tried. I like to analyse things, however. Sometimes, I even over-analyse! Here, let me show you...

There are many games on my computer that are left unfinished at the moment. This is due to a lack of time, but here in Riyadh, I have no excuse - especially now. All the cargo has been taken away, the house is practically empty and there is even less to do than before. My Dad and I are the only ones awake and I don't wish to disturb him because he's reading an autobiography on his Kindle. I know better than to detract attention away from a good read.

So, basically, I cannot count on anyone else to make my life fun for me. This would be a perfect opportunity to play a game! Now I need to look at my choices. The following games I have right now which are unplayed/unfinished are:

1. Prince of Persia
2. Fallout 2
3. Dragon Age
4. Plants vs. Zombies
5. Peggle Nights
6. Osmos
7. Cortex Command
8. Braid
9. Smuggle Truck (Beta)
10. Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition
11. Diablo II with the expansion pack
12. A House in California
13. Digital: A Love Story

HOLY MACKEREL! I have many games to choose from! Why aren't I playing any?

When you have many things to choose from, you tend to not choose anything. Well, okay, let me change that sentence, because not everyone has this issue. When I have many things to choose from, I tend to not choose anything. As much as I would enjoy playing a game, I just don't know where to start. Shall we try to narrow the list down together? Well, okay, how about you just read through my process?

First of all I am going to cut a few names from the list because I do not have a mouse and I would rather sit and play a game on my bed rather than at a desk anyway:

1. Prince of Persia
2. Fallout 2
3. Dragon Age
4. Plants vs. Zombies
5. Peggle Nights
6. Osmos
7. Cortex Command
8. Braid
9. Smuggle Truck (Beta)
10. Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition
11. Diablo II with the expansion pack
12. A House in California
13. Digital: A Love Story

Playing those games without an external mouse would be terrible for my already threatened hands!

Now, let's cut out games that I do not enjoy whatsoever or that I have played to the point where I just don't feel like it anymore. This requires very little thought!

1. Prince of Persia
2. Fallout 2
3. Dragon Age
4. Plants vs. Zombies
5. Peggle Nights
6. Osmos
7. Cortex Command
8. Braid
9. Smuggle Truck (Beta)
10. Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition
11. Diablo II with the expansion pack
12. A House in California
13. Digital: A Love Story

I almost crossed out Peggle Nights, but the truth is that it is a lot of fun when I am not exceedingly frustrated by it. I've been playing it in order to achieve Ace Scores on every screen and, well...I have not been successful. It is a challenge and objective I want to conquer, but recently I have not been playing well! Perhaps I need something different. Actually, let me cross out Plants vs. Zombies, too. Although I love playing Dr. Zomboss's Revenge over and over, how about I go for something new?

After crossing out those two, this is what I have right now:

1. Prince of Persia
2. Fallout 2
3. Dragon Age
4. Plants vs. Zombies
5. Peggle Nights
6. Osmos
7. Cortex Command
8. Braid
9. Smuggle Truck (Beta)
10. Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition
11. Diablo II with the expansion pack
12. A House in California
13. Digital: A Love Story

This looks much better now. Fallout 2 is a game I have played over and over and yet never been able to finish for many different reasons - a weak main character, stupid choices I cannot undo, or lack of time. Set in a post-apocalyptic US, I cannot help but see parallels to my own life and certain places I have visited. I wonder what other region has a slave trade (well, practically), bright lights in certain areas and complete desert in others, with strange "cults" along the way? When I think about Vault City and how insane it is to get in, get out, or become a Vault City citizen, I cannot help but chuckle and think of Saudi Arabia. With all of its bureaucracy and visa garbage, Vault City doesn't seem so exaggerated; like a caricature. Yes, I could play Fallout 2 here in this insane place. I'll probably find myself relating to it a little too much!

The Secret of Monkey Island is a fantastic game. I remember playing the original version years ago, in Mauritius, on my Mom's new Mac - the one she received from my Dad for their 25th wedding anniversary. Isn't that sweet? I think it is. Well, anyway, I've been wanting to play this game for a while. I love Dominic Armato's voice acting and I would love to hear it. I have to be honest with you though - the older point and click game system, with the different commands and so on, confuses the heck out of me. That's why I have been so hesitant to play it - I wonder if I can handle it and find it enjoyable now! Maybe it is worth trying, despite having been spoiled by the newer adventure game systems.

A House in California and Digital: A Love Story are two indie games I downloaded for free thanks to this. I've barely touched them since I downloaded them even though they look absolutely awesome. From what I understand, A House in California kind of uses the system I mentioned before of older point and click adventure games (think Sierra). The game is used as a story-telling medium and I think you are supposed to make each of the different characters remember things about their past. It's extremely intriguing and looks fantastic on screen. I haven't even opened Digital: A Love Story and only downloaded it because the interface looks really interesting; it's supposed to make you feel like you are using a computer from the 80s. That actually sounds pretty fun!

So what should I play, in the end? The list is narrowed, and the decision is made only slightly easier. 

1. Fallout 2
2. Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition
3. A House in California
4. Digital: A Love Story

I need to narrow it down more. So, what am I feeling? Maybe that will help me figure this out. I know right now that I would like to play something with some humour. I'm bored, and I need something entertaining, but not mindless. I'd like to be taken into a new world.

As cool as A House in California looks, I don't think I can deal with a game about memory. Right now, there is a theme of memories in everything I do and, well, I think I need a break.

Fallout 2 and Secret of Monkey Island are amazing games, but I know them too well. I need something new, and refreshing.

I guess my decision has been made. Digital: A Love Story, it is! It is now open, and the first thing I can say is...whoa. It looks fantastic, and the music is awesome and ambient. Let's hope the navigation and story is decent! If it isn't, well...I have a lot more to choose from.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Move It (On Up): A Basic Psychoanalysis

So today is moving day. The cargo dudes have come to take all of our boxes.

I've had to go through this many times but I cannot remember any of the previous instances. It's as if one day all of our boxes, filled with all of our treasures, just...went away. They always showed up in the next place and I never felt like I lost anything. I don't remember having to sort my things out, pack, or see the people pick up my boxes. It's all blank tape, all static in my head.

Whenever people have asked me if it is hard to move from one place to the next, I don't really have much to tell them. My shrugs make it seem to them like I have gotten used to it, or that I am not very effected by it. Maybe they think I enjoyed the process of entering a new life somewhere else, and that it is easy for me to let go of the place that I had lived in. That is definitely not the case.

I think my memory saves me from the difficulty of the moving situation. I believe that my brain forces painful thoughts into a place where it is hard for me to reach. I believe my body does it for my own safety, because it would be another set of Hellish memories for me to have to deal with.

Back in 2005 or 2006, during my International Baccalaureate years in Mauritius, I took Psychology and learned about that dreadful Freud character and his defense mechanisms. This is one of the few areas where I felt I could understand and relate to his theories, probably due to the fact that it could also be explained cognitively or biologically. Our bodies do what is best for us; what is necessary in order to survive.

In terms of Freud the Jerk's defense mechanisms, I am a subject of repression. I know this for a fact. Why else would there be gaps in time within my memory? Why is it that I do not remember things that I know, for a fact, happened?

When memories and moments of your life have been repressed, they don't just disappear. The thing is, they leave a footprint, and it's a pretty deep footprint in the sands of my mind. The events themselves may not stick, and it is difficult for me to retrieve them (if I would ever want to). However, they still effect me. The emotional imprint impacts things that I do in my everyday life.

This is why every time I need to pack things, I become the world's biggest procrastinator. I never, ever want to pack and I consider it to be tedious. Putting off the job for as long as I feel I can makes it disappear for a time, and I can remain comfortable. It was not until yesterday, the day before the movers came, that I could force myself to do what I needed to do to.

I don't only procrastinate during big moves from one country to the next. I procrastinate packing in general when it comes to packing things to go just about anywhere: when I have to leave for the summer, when I am going on a quick trip to visit family for a weekend, even to go to class that afternoon. I hate putting things in bags and suitcases and boxes. It becomes a stress every single time and I would rather do anything than put my things away.

I like my stuff out in the open. I like my clothes on a chair, not in a closet. I enjoy disorder, and I hate the idea of having multiple storage compartments in my room. My dream home and room doesn't include storage units. I seem to always forget them and now I am beginning to understand why. It isn't about having things on display - it's about keeping them out of containers. I don't want things enclosed. I even hate things like schedules and timetables, those metaphorical boxes that organise my time and life. They upset me more than I'd like to admit.

Could it be that all of these feelings, all of these preferences, stem from my trauma of having to leave one place? The ritual of putting things away to be shipped affected me enormously, and I know it. I know it even though I don't remember exactly why. This is the best explanation I have for it. Repression has shaped my life and has created behaviours that I barely think about. For many years, it has just been "my way" no procrastinate. I don't think that is a sufficient explanation anymore.

As much as it irritates me to say it, Freud had a few things right. He was awful to study and I'm glad I will never get to meet him during my lifetime (he'd be glad too, believe me) but he has given me the tools  to explain why I am the way I am. Maybe if I meet him in the glorious afterlife, my swears, punches and kicks won't be so harsh.

What I am doing right now, in some odd way, is making sure I don't forget what I am feeling and going through right now. I'm sure that over the next few months, once I have gone back to the US and started my grad school life again, I will not spend time thinking about my move and how it went. That will allow me to forget and I don't want that. I've even taken pictures of the chaos that existed in the villa with all of its boxes.

Yes, my brain is doing me a favour and hey brain, thanks, that's pretty cool. However, just this once, I want to keep this memory. I want to acknowledge that right now, I am unhappy and annoyed and stressed and I will continue to be until the movers are done and gone with our boxes.

Leaving this place is significant to me. I don't want to lose any of it.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

In the Name of Security, the Most Stifling, the Most Devastating

For the past few days, I have been hearing about the Ministry of Culture and Information here in Saudi and how a new law has been released. It restricts people living in Saudi, especially Saudis themselves, from writing whatever they want online. Saudi Jeans has a pretty good summary of the details.

Every time I have been to Saudi, I have seen censorship. In a sense, it was only a matter of time before the internet was targeted, too. People have already gotten in trouble for things they have done either on their computers or on their mobile phones, so this is just solidifying what certain groups here want to do: hold the Saudi population tightly in their grasp.

Of course, as with every form of censorship, it is done in the name of security. It is done for "protection." Already, several websites here are blocked for this very reason. Tell me, why does PostSecret need to be blocked? What harm is it truly causing me?

Really, guys? PostSecret?

PostSecret isn't the only blocked site, of course. Some sites I cannot get to are SomethingAwful, SpikeTV, Moviefone (not that I really need it), and ANY link that uses tinyurl. It's not just about annoyance - I can totally live without those sites! It is irritating but it also denies us a basic human right. I know people in the US are going to point the finger at me and shout "LIBERTARIAN!" when I say that the government doesn't need to police every damn thing I do on the internet, but seriously, the government does not need to police every damn thing we do on the internet. This isn't only about "protecting" me from what I see, either. This is also about "protecting" others from what I say. What we all have to say is so important, so valuable, that others are afraid of it.

There are so many countries who are trying to "protect" me from danger and "protect" others from me. They instill fear in others and create paranoia. All I have to do is think about international travel and I have plenty of examples of how so many people have been harassed - all in the name of security! Think about the TSA scandals we have been hearing about in the US lately. These cases display the mistreatment of so many people! I also remember hearing about how the Vagina Monologues was banned at a religious university. Apparently, it is to "protect" the students and preserve values. What it is doing instead is protecting a potential audience from hearing about the experience of women around the world. Apparently, hearing the voices of these woman is a security risk. It's completely out of hand, just like this law from the MOCI.

There is one thing that especially irks me. The new law states that Saudis cannot write blogs without prior registration, although foreigners can. The reason I wanted to start blogging in the first place was due to brilliant Saudi minds within Saudi who wrote about their experience. They are the ones who are more likely to write a knowledgeable post about the truth of what happens here. I have read many amazing blogs written by foreigners living here too, but why allow only one voice? This doesn't make sense! I guess the "protection" we are getting is from a certain type of truth; a whole group's reality - just like the banning of the Vagina Monologues.

There are many people tweeting, writing, and trying to fight this. I applaud them for their dedication to the right of free speech. To my friends reading this, I just want to make you more aware. Especially for those reading from countries where you can get everything from porn to news to celebrity gossip without a second thought; from countries where you can write a whole article about how your country's leader looks like an elephant or about how very ugly that girl in your calculus class is -  there's a world out there that doesn't make the same kind of sense.

Friday, January 7, 2011

How Bananagrams and Riyadh Saved my Family

I have been in Saudi for ~13 days now and this experience should have been Hell.

First of all, I am leaving a country I became a hermit in every summer since I started undergraduate university. I'm leaving people behind and seeing how my parents' departure is affecting people that they knew; people who cared for them.

Secondly, as we are moving out, I have to sort through all my things and pack them into boxes. I have absolutely hated packing ever since I was little and I find myself avoiding the task every time I have to do it. It stresses me out even thinking about putting things in boxes. I have been procrastinating since I got here and have made little progress. It doesn't take a leading psychoanalyst to tell you what's going on there!

Despite these things, it hasn't been Hell. It has been nowhere near the terrible experience I thought it was going to be. I am going to take a huge leap forward and say that this time in Saudi might be the best time I have ever had.

There is a sense of freedom in the house and everyone is much more lighthearted than usual.

There may be no TV and fewer trips outside the compound (or even outside the villa), but I rarely feel bored.

I may be waking up at 4pm or later every day but I never feel that the day is wasted.

You may see me online all the time, but this time I don't feel like it is taking me away from my family.

My best friend can account for the pure hatred and distaste that I feel for board games and the like. I also feel very uncomfortable in "family" situations, because I don't belong to the lovey-dovey family that kisses and hugs and wants to play board games together. I'm fine with both of those facts and cannot imagine my family life to be any other way. Isn't it ironic that it is in Riyadh where I actually find myself enjoying playing Bananagrams with my sister and Mom while my Dad listens to comedy music of the 60s (Allan Sherman's Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah to be exact)?

In person, I am kind of quiet and introverted. I sound like a stoner and usually have a very blank, unreadable stare on my face. I listen more than I talk, and when I do talk I tend to say awkward things or mix up words because I tend to think in several languages at once. I don't show my feelings. I don't think that my family realises that I'm having a good time here, but I really am. I cannot express it with my voice, but I think I can express it in writing. This is why, sometimes, I wish I could type everything!

I'm not super happy and jumping for joy about leaving Saudi, but I am not angry that we are moving out of here. I am starting a new chapter of my life, one which does not have Saudi as a base of operations. It's a confusing and stressful time. For once in my life, I don't see it as a new chapter in my life alone - I see it as a new chapter for the family. I never used to think in terms of family...

Riyadh has never been Hell for me, although it has been for other people and I am well aware of that. Riyadh is a strange, kind of crappy place. It is constantly under construction, it is sandy and dry, it is where bureaucracy is King and Queen, and it is segregated by gender. The most wonderful thing in the world is that it is the place where I found myself finally becoming closer to people who I have known my whole life. To explain how that worked out, I think I'd need to write a whole book.

I'll always be grateful to Riyadh. I'll always be grateful to Saudi. And now, I can say I will always be grateful for what it has done for me and my family.

[Dang, this kind of feels like a movie ending to a post. Does Pixar wanna pick this story up for a movie? They could turn my family and I into animals, or robots, or toys, whichever one they want (preferably robots)! I could deal with my life being turned into an animation. Pixar rocks.]

Friday, December 31, 2010


It is 22:10 here in Saudi. Some countries have already celebrated the new year of the Gregorian calendar and are thinking about what it will bring. While I am not a huge new year's eve person (I've never even been to a legit new year's party) I still like to reflect on things that have happened in my life.

The new year is a time of lists. Here are some lists for you and for me.

Part I: 2010 Past

1. I fell in love and out of love with the idea of love, not with any person in particular.

2. I listened to new music and old music that I had rediscovered. It brought me much happiness.
a. New music I enjoy: the soundtrack to How to Train Your Dragon and Shakira's Sale El Sol
b. Old music I enjoy again: the song Ammaneh by Diana Haddad and the soundtrack to Notre Dame de Paris (I downloaded it on iTunes yet again).

3. I started life as a grad student in Massachusetts, in a new apartment, new school, with people I had never met before. I have never been in a happier place in my life.

4. I found a new love: smoking.

5. I got a new pet fish named Sten, who I named after the Dragon Age calendar.

6. I made new friends on the internet and met a couple of them in person and greatly enjoyed their company.

7. I met some of the worst, chauvinistic men on the internet and in person I have ever met in my 21 years of life.

8. I got better grades than I have ever gotten since I started university schooling.

9. My weight went up and down like a mountain range, and slowly, I have become more comfortable with the fact.

10. I started this blog and rekindled my love for writing.

Part II: 2011 Future

1. I want to fall in love with love again.

2. I want to write more blog posts of higher quality.

3. I want to do better in my classes than I did in the previous semester, and push myself even harder.

4. I want to limit smoking to a community activity rather than a solo one.

5. I want to go on longer walks in new places.

6. I want to travel to new states within the US and, money permitting, to at least one new place outside of the US.

7. I want to make new friends and create joyful, beautiful memories with old friends.

8. I want to keep in touch with my family and keep those bonds strong with whomever it is possible.

9. I want to read more books and have my eyes opened over and over by new worlds I would never consider outside their pages.

10. I want to grow as a person and involve myself with others who I care about and who care about me, as I am nothing without the rest of the world.

Part III: Conclusion

This coming year is about keeping the positivity that grew in the year 2010 and also about destroying the negativity. Bad things should not cloud my life, nor should beautiful things bar the way to truth. I want to grasp reality. My search for knowledge needs to continue, as should my writing.

And it will, without a doubt.

Happy New Year, everyone!