Thursday, December 18, 2014

gulp

Well, it was only a matter of time. I'm getting married in less than 48 hours and I'm starting to feel all sorts of emotions.

The main one I'm feeling is a sudden rush/overwhelming need to ball my eyes out. This occurs most often while I'm driving my car and/or thinking about my family. My dad especially. It's starting to hit him that his youngest daughter, the baby of the family, is getting married(and moving out of the country in about a month). Of course I don't want to deprive him of his emotions/feelings about it, but I'll say this: even thinking about my dad crying makes me start to cry. And, apparently, so does simply typing it.

I have always had this overwhelming need to make sure my family knows I am okay. That I am tough and hard-working--a survivor, a fighter, and a good person. I am these things because of them. I've always said: if I had to live my life for my family, I would. In a nanosecond, I would do so without complaint. And while my heart is in the right place when I say that, it isn't what is right. The best/most right(and realistic) thing I can do is to live my life as fully as I can for myself. Doing so has been a tough lesson for me to absorb--it's taken me a long time to be comfortable living my life for me, and not feeling destroyed by guilt over it. It's always been my nature to put others first. Especially family.

I haven't been all that stressed out about this getting married thing--I'm marrying my best friend and I'm excited to go forward having many, many adventures together. Others immediately around me have been a bit stressed, and that in turn has made me more anxious. Up until today I was feeling very frustrated by that. I'm realizing that it's an emotional time for all of us, and being worried about minute details is part of that emotion. I need to practice patience with that. Everyone says your wedding "is all about you," and it is but it isn't. It seems to be about so many things...much more than I was prepared for. A lot of that is because of tradition. And I can make light of this event as much as I want...it's still a very big deal to get married. I was never a girl who dreamed of her wedding, or of getting married for that matter. But here I am days away hunched over a draft of my vows, trying not to cry when I think of my family.

Here I am, living my life for me.

Life is wonderful and strange and scary and never, ever like I thought it might be. I thought many things, but never these stacks on stacks of experiences, never all these lives I feel like I've lived thus far. Marrying my best friend and living overseas will most likely be my greatest adventure yet. I am so excited and so scared and we all know how brilliant that mixture can be. That combination is everything that life is made of.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

koshary/kushari/kosheri/



My favorite Egyptian dish(and the national dish of Egyypt). I want everyone to eat it. I want a circle of friends, some koshary, some shisha, and that's it.

Brown and yellow lentils. Chickpeas, rice, vermicelli, macaroni. Fried onions.

Oh but wait, there's more.




Tomato sauce. My favorite batch contains tomatoes, garlic, cumin, sugar. As long as vegetable oil is used, it's vegan. It's inexpensive and everywhere. A bowl of it will keep you full. Get it delivered, at a streetcar, in a restaurant. Highly recommend it with fresh mint lemonade.*

Top it off with dakka sauce, red chili and baharat and boy oh boy



Koshary is everything.







*That mint lemonade consists of lemons, fresh mint, and a simple syrup. Blend with ice cubes. So fresh so green. And she too is everything.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Three or four months ago, I deactivated my Facebook account.

In case you're wondering, here is what happens when you click on "deactivate my account:"

- a screen pops up asking ARE YOU SURE? at the top

- beneath the ARE YOU SURE? is written "Your friends will miss you..." and beneath this are random pictures of some of your Facebook friends. Just that last ditch effort to convince you, the de-activator, to stay. Because these randomly selected friends will miss you.

- if you are still sure, Facebook will then ask you why you are leaving. There are a few options to pick from, and then a blank box where you can type in your "other" answer. Important to note here that you, the de-activator, cannot continue unless you select one of the choices, and if you select other, then you must put something in that blank box(I was personally so annoyed at this point in deactivation that I stomp-typed "because I fucking want to" into the box, clicked ok, and never looked back).

That process alone lends good reason to getting rid of it altogether.

Getting rid of the book-of-face was a very good thing for me. Most of it had to do with my own personal growth--separating the healthy from unhealthy and limiting amounts of the latter as much as possible. At some point Facebook wasn't fun anymore. It grew into something other than staying in touch with friends. Every time I scrolled through it, I felt like each post was a person yelling until all the voices grew into one ugly mass of noise. People reposting articles they didn't even read past the headline. Realizing it was becoming difficult to converse in person without hearing "oh wait yeah I read about that on your Facebook" and somehow thinking that statement alone was enough to cover it. Or god forbid you missed something. Then the settings on the actual site itself would change every 30 days without warning. Things private were no longer private(though what really is if you're using the format to begin with). And gosh forbid you get curious about someone you kind of remember from 5th grade--you'll end up sucked into an hour long trail of who's-who from your past. Many things that bothered me about Facebook were restraint-related--I simply didn't have it. I found myself wanting to read all the opinions, especially the ones I didn't agree with. My lowest moment was when my abusive ex tried to friend me(I declined it, but not before seeing his face) and felt all that old hurt/fear/anger rise up in me again. Here again is the issue of restraint. It is unhealthy to identify the things that make you feel rotten yet continue to seek them out, as if being the cause somehow validates the rotten feeling. That can get very ugly rather quickly.

It was tough to let go of it, especially after leaving Pittsburgh. I knew shutting down my Facebook would mean losing touch with a lot of people, but I sent messages to just about everyone listing all methods by which they could find me and I felt like that was enough. Luckily there's email and I have friends that like to write letters. I have a box full of correspondence that I've added to for years and it's one of my most favorite things. These connections are becoming more and more precious to me, especially as I transition to a life overseas. That's the other nice thing about letting go of Facebook--I pick up a pen or the phone much more often(granted, it's still probably not often enough). I've found an unexpected bit of peace for myself. I'm more present in life and much less a voyeur.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

bits of egypt(soon to return)

I'm excited(and a bit nervous) to say I will be moving overseas in about 1 month, on or around January 15th. I will stay in Egypt with J until we officially move for his next post(shortly thereafter).

I'm looking forward to returning to one of the most beautiful and challenging places I've ever been.



I will most likely arrive sleep deprived, jet lagged, my guts in a knot and off to the left for days until I adjust. What a beautiful luxury, to wake up beside my love every morning, to walk through the streets as the call to prayer starts. It is always the voice of the mosque closest that you will notice first, and then the others echoing across the city. They come together and drift apart.



I love spending time on J's balcony. Wires hang low on the building, rooftops around me littered with satellite dishes. There is a busted green chair there, perpetually covered in a thin layer of dust(as most things are outdoors). Sometimes I will take the time to dust her off and other times I will carry out one of the heavy dining chairs to sit on instead. Here is where you will hear the call to prayers come and go, the incessant honking of traffic, the revving of motorbikes between double parked cars. In the courtyard below, cats will curl in the shade of plants or pick fights with each other. I will sit here peaceful, writing a bit while trying to completely convince myself that yes I am in fact there and not dreaming it.


me, forever on the balcony. photo by J



My first visit was around this time last year, during christmas and new years. We went to bed not long after midnight on new years eve(the sound of Egyptians singscreaming karaoke ushering us into slumber), but were awake again around 4am due to the neighbor's never-ending party a floor below. Techno at full volume, never-ending. J even went down to ask if he could knock it off, but it continued. Awake and annoyed, I suggested we go for a walk since there was little to do but grind our teeth over the bass beneath our feet. So we walked through early morning Zamalek, and the quiet was welcome. We walked to the Cairo Marriot and paid for their breakfast buffet. We stuffed ourselves on made-to-order omelettes, couscous and grilled vegetables. You could carve honey right off the comb at the bread station. Egyptians in the previous night's party clothes were seated at tables nearby. We felt handsomely rewarded for being driven out of the flat by techno music. We took our time walking back and when we returned there was nothing but beautiful silence below us.

Every arrival finds me determined to further prove myself in this unusual place. I practice arabic leading up to departure yet still find myself a bit shy to speak as much as I know. On my last trip, I paced and fretted for hours over what should've been a simple trip to Cairo Kitchen to get koshary. J was at work and I wanted the challenge of getting there solo. I studied the map and directions he sent me, feeling embarrassed I couldn't remember routes we've taken before. I am fairly awful at remembering direction. In Zamalek there are short cuts to everywhere, and together we often took them. All this to say I didn't make it there on my own, and silently kicked myself about it for days.



I love the Egyptian people. I love the way groups of teenagers will be leaning all over certain streets when school lets out. A moped might zip by, carrying three young children behind the driver. I love the random of taxi drivers and hearing "yah habibi" music floating through traffic. I love the sweet smell of shisha filling the air on Friday nights. The neon and music thump of a falluca floating by, kids climbing bridge girders across the Nile. Gin and tonics with journalists, coffee and soccer on a patio of rocks.

I'm thrilled to return and, for a short while, call her home.

cassingles

In junior high my mall store of choice for all my music needs was called Camelot:



I realize this picture is of an obviously closed/out of business Camelot, which is fitting. Camelot eventually became consolidated with other various mall music stores to form f.y.e. in 1998. RIP, Camelot.

Those were the days of buying cds trapped within their giant plastic rectangles, or cassette tapes shrink wrapped in neat stacks. Going to the mall was already an event--perusing each and every rack in Camelot was a bonus adventure all on its own. I remember my favorite area of the store--a wall near the register on the right side containing all of the latest radio singles. The cassingle collection. Behold:


of note: not my personal collection...this is just a picture I found on the internet

The cassingle aka cassette single was absolutely brilliant for the junior high kid experiencing let down and heartache for the first time. The tape consisted of a side A, which contained the main single/radio hit, and a side B, which would contain an instrumental version of the hit song on side A, or a b-side not-as-popular track from the same artist. That was it. This was a time when Mariah Carey, Bryan Adams, All 4 One and Color Me Badd thrived on the shelves. The cardboard sleeve holding the cassette would usually contain some unused image or artwork from the artist's album, or a movie poster shot if it was from a soundtrack. For $3 to $6 you had a song you could play and rewind over and over again to properly emote any/all adolescent angst.

Here is where I admit to buying Brian McKnight's "One Last Cry" as a cassingle in 6th/7th grade and playing it over and over again when the boy I liked kissed my best friend. I did the same thing with Janet Jackson's single "Again" and countless Boyz II Men tracks. Just me and the boom box, bulldozing through my bramble of emotions one rewind at a time. Things are quite, quite different now with our iTunes and spotify playlists and email mp3 attachments. You can still start the song over as much as you like, but I can't say it's quite the same. I'll always remember the sound of the tape spinning back onto its wheels and the thud signifying completion. The sinking of my young little heart would pause long enough for the song to begin again, and then continue its descent for the duration of melody.

RIP, cassingles. I think of you often.





ps: it looks like a lot of people now sell cassingles on ebay.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Amy Poehler wrote an amazing book called "Yes Please" and I highly recommend reading it. In a chapter called Time Travel, she gives some wisdom:

As I watched Patti perform I took a mental picture of the moment. I looked around and thought about my life. I felt grateful. I noticed every detail. That is the key to time travel. You can only move if you are actually in the moment. You have to be where you are to get where you need to go.

I wholeheartedly believe in this. I believe in mindfulness, and saturating oneself in the moment. There have been so many times in my life where I've been enjoying the hell out of myself or I've been feeling hurt beyond belief and a little voice says, stop here. Remember this. Remember this feeling. Remember the light or lack of it. Remember the hitched feeling in your chest. Or remember this music/this moment/these individuals on stage giving you their hearts. I have these things kept safe within me. Like that night in Canada or the Charles Bissell show or a group of young kids posing tough over a giant puddle after a hard rain. The moments I have lived are stuck to me as much as I am stuck to them.