free stats Carmen's Web: September 2007
Monday, September 24, 2007
Headaches and Bicycles
I was plagued with a killer headache yesterday. It hit around noon and kept getting worse and worse as the minutes passed. It pounded behind my eyes. I couldn't sit, couldn't sleep, couldn't read, couldn't watch TV. All I did for five hours was lay on my couch waiting for iftar. I couldn't stand myself. The pain was so excruciating and I couldn't do a single thing about it. I considered breaking my fast but was convinced that doing so wasn't really going to help with the headache. It was here and was here to stay.

I broke fast with a veggie burger and some oven-baked fries. I finished half the sandwich before feeling quite sick. I ate a little more only for some nourishment. It made no difference how much I ate because exactly 20 minutes later I ran into the bathroom and threw it all up. I felt horrible. I hadn't felt this way since Barcelona. I sat on the bathroom floor for about ten minutes, throwing up, crying, feeling sorry for myself. It's amazing how much like a kid you feel when you get sick. For a split second I was transformed into the little five year old girl who vomited all over her mother's clothes after her first plane trip and cried for hours.

Damn headache. I wish I could say it went away after I threw up, but it didn't. It kept me up till 3 in the morning. I didn't manage to eat anything afterwards either and so I spent quite some time contemplating whether to fast today or not. Part of me, the stubborn part that thinks it's invincible, insisted on fasting. I've never been sick enough to not fast. What is this? A friggin headache was going to make me break my record? The other half, the rational one, understood that there would be no possible way to fast today without causing some serious damage to my body. After all, I had thrown up everything that I ate. Not only would I be starving, but I was risking getting that headache again.

So I didn't fast. I woke up in the morning with the headache and couldn't go through that pain again. It's still lingering right now as I write this, but I managed to hold it at bay throughout the day.

Lunchtime felt like an inquisition. I had all my colleagues' eyes on me as I was heating up my food. "What's going on? Is Ramadan over?"

"No, I'm sick today."

Ten minutes later. "What happened? Is Ramadan over?"

"No, I'm sick."

Five minutes after that I was asked the same question once again so I decided to go into the schoolyard to eat in peace.

No such thing.

I sat on the bench for about a minute and a half before one of my Pakistani students came running up to me.

"MISS!!!!!!! YOU'RE EATING!!!!!??"

"Uh, huh," I mumbled as I stuffed the Pad Thai into my mouth. (Trader Joe's, Toots...they make a mean Pad Thai!!)

"But Miss, it's Ramadan!!"

"S, are you fasting??"


"Don't 'ummm' me. It's a yes or no question."

"Well, no Miss, but it's because...." He went on and on about some basketball game he likes to play during lunch and when he sweats he gets tired and thirsty and so...blah blah blah. I wasn't really paying attention. I've learned how to selectively ignore my students when they're spouting out bullshit.

"Miss, are you on your bicycle??" he asked sheepishly. Bicycle??? He saw me sitting on the bench. What the hell was this about a bicycle?

"S, what are you going on about? What bicycle? Didn't I tell you to think before you speak?? Do you have any idea the kind of impression you give to people when you do that diarrhea talk??"

"I'm being serious Miss!!! You know, in Islam, when a woman is on her bicycle she doesn't have to fast."

Bicycle? What the hell was this idiot talking about? And what kind of Islam are they teaching him??

He kept going on about the bicycle before I finally shooed him away. We get 40 minutes for lunch and I had a class to teach afterwards. Miss needed her quiet time.

Ten minutes later he comes to me with his science notebook. "LOOK!! IT SAYS CYCLE! A WOMAN GETS HER CYCLE EVERY MONTH! And so when a woman is on her cycle she doesn't have to fast."

My kids provide much entertainment.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 9:57 PM
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Saturday, September 22, 2007
Reaching Out for Familiarity
Ramadan has been really lonely for me this year. Really, really lonely. It's the first time I've been observing it alone. My brother went to San Francisco this past week and so without him acting as a buffer between my mother and I I've simply avoided going home. Poor brother. He's stuck in the middle trying to make sure mother and daughter continue to have some form of communication though being used as the messenger is aggravating him.

He's also now bearing the brunt of religious "advice" from my mother and my aunt, both of whom consistently stuff holiness down his throat since I'm now a heathen. Before he left for San Fran he got trapped into a nearly 45 minute conversation via Skype with my aunt who informed him that his fast would be invalidated if he went to San Francisco since he was going to be staying with a female friend. She spent 30 minutes trying to convince him not to go, or to at least stay at a hotel, 5 minutes telling him that she would ask the sheikh if it would be permissible for him to stay with a woman even if she was just a friend, and 10 minutes chastising him for choosing to become an anesthesiologist rather than a surgeon. Fun times.

Anywho, lonely Ramadan. I come home from work every day, watch whatever Netflix movie has arrived in the mail, killing the two hours till sunset. A couple of minutes before sunset I turn to the Arabic channel so I'd be able to hear the adan, heat up my food, drink my amarredin, eat, drink tea, sit and watch TV for the rest of the night. It's boring. It's lonely. It's so lonely that at times I open my window as I'm sipping my tea just to listen to my next door neighbors. They're an older Egyptian couple, which means their conversation is quite audible to anyone living on planet earth. I like listening to their ART. Everyday she serves him his tea and he's always complaining that it doesn't have enough sugar. I think she does it to fuck with him. They provide really fun entertainment.

Last night I strolled down Steinway Street, aka "Little Egypt", where middle-aged men had comfortably plumped themselves outside the coffee shops. They puffed on their shishas while drinking their tea and engaging in idle talk. One man, as large as a truck, complained that his wife was making him fat as he stuffed basboosa into his mouth. As I walked I passed a man fervently walking to the mosque, eyes fixated heavily to the ground. He was on a mission; the man was going to pray and no beauty was going to distract him. (Steinway is also home to Latino hang-outs and the Latinas can be quite distracting, particularly on a warm Friday night)

I loved walking down the street. Loved seeing the lanterns hung outside all the shops and for a moment wished I were closer (close) to the Egyptian community. To listen to the jokes, to hear the language, be part of the sarcasm. I wish they weren't so judgmental, so hard, so righteous. I don't know how or when I detached myself from the community, but this detachment is beginning to have a strong effect on me. It's throwing me off-balance and perhaps that's why I was drawn to Steinway last night.

Before I headed back home I went into a deli to buy some fuul. I've been feening for it recently, and for some good konafa, and decided it was about time I satisfy my cravings. There were a couple of teenage girls in there, in really cool higab. They couldn't have been more than 14. Let me tell you, they were LOUD. At one point, one turned to her friend to show her the title of a CD. "Yo, take a look at this CD! It's called "Turkeylicious" son! Son, ain't this great son!!!?"

The girls were infectious. I loved how comfortably they existed in both their worlds - the traditional Arab one and the ghetto New York one.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 1:05 PM
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Monday, September 17, 2007
Just wasting time...
It's 6:03pm. I've got another 61 minutes to kill before eating. I finished all my lesson planning at school, I've cleaned my place, I've done some yoga, I've prepared my plate (it's sitting in the microwave), and now I've got nothing to do with myself.

So I moved out last month. After dealing with my mother's nasty, dirty looks (seriously, if looks could kill...) and her passive aggressivness I decided to pick up and leave. I did a lot to try to break the ice before I moved on but the woman wouldn't budge. She wants to stay angry. She doesn't know how else to act. And it became increasingly frustrating to deal with a woman who didn't know how to be an adult.

One afternoon I went to a mosque downtown to attend Friday prayers. It was a Sufi mosque led by an imam who I would constantly "run into" when doing some research online. Somehow all roads led to him and I wanted very much to go to his mosque. Unfortunately, he was in Malaysia on business that day but his mentee led a beautiful prayer. It was a mixed-sex mosque and I have never felt as comfortable around other Muslims in prayer. The men didn't bother the women, didn't pretend like we didn't exist. It was a beautiful moment and even though I feel awkward praying in general, that day I felt connected to something.

I went home that afternoon and found my mother sitting on the porch. I dragged her in the house and told her how much I loved her. I told her I had just come from the mosque and was filled with love for her. I want to fix our relationship, I said, a relationship that has been broken for decades. I told her I'd stop seeing R till we fixed "us", that for me the most important thing right now was us. She was a little resistant at first but then seemed to melt. She said that she wanted that fix us. We stopped talking because guests came in, but I was hopeful, positive, and optimistic. I thought that it was going to be the beginning of a new relationship.

The next day, she ignored me.

The day after that, she ignored me some more. It was as if I hadn't even said anything. I waited for two weeks before finally asking her how long she was going to keep the silent treatment up and she said, "till I know what you're going to do with R".

I exploded. What the fuck was the point of approaching her and asking to fix our relationship? I wanted us to talk about how we could overcome our negative past, but she still just wanted me to "come to my senses" and leave R.

I walked out on her when she said that and immediately starting looking for a place.

I am now the proud resident of Basil's former place. And I'm loving it. I love my neighborhood. I LOVE LOVE LOVE my apartment. It's beautiful. It's cozy. It's intimate. I come home and I feel at peace.

I've felt much better since I've moved out. I haven't spoken to my mother much and I know that's wrong. I shouldn't give up, but the summer killed me. I need some time away from her. It hurts me when I think that we're never going to have a decent relationship again (if ever we had one) but I don't want to worry about that anymore.

6:28. Time moves awfully slow when you're waiting............
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 6:01 PM
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Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Ramadan 26
I've been spoiled the past couple of years, Ramadan hitting us during the winter months when the sun set at the wonderfully decent time of 5pm (4 for my brother up in Maine). Ramadaning in winter is always a treat. It's too cold to get too dehydrated and it's just a matter of trekking through the afternoon hours before reward hits you. Even teaching didn't seem that tough last year. Sure I spent the whole day talking (drying up my mouth in the process), but I survived.

But now the sun is choosing to set at 7pm. And I know that's not horrible. I mean, my parents, when they first moved to Germany, fasted till nearly 11pm one Ramadan. So I know 7pm is cupcakes. But it's still no fun.

Ramadan is going to be different and difficult for me this year for many reasons. For starters, I eat when I'm stressed. Comfort food allows me to focus on something other than my problems. You know how people drink away their problems? Well, I don't drink so I needed to find another vice. And let's just say I've gained about fifteen pounds over the summer.

I don't just eat. I binge. My father once caught me doing this. He was shocked by the amount of food on my plate one evening. He was thrown over the edge when, after polishing a plate that would have fed at least three people, I went for seconds.

I feel disgusted with myself after I eat like this. Physically and emotionally disgusted. I get so full that I can't even breathe. Emotionally I'm grossed out at my inability to abstain from making myself feel like this. But when I eat, I'm not thinking about my family problems. I'm not worried about future. And so although I feel disgusted, it at least takes my mind off my bigger issues.

I'm hoping Ramadan this year helps me nip this addiction in the bud. Sure there'll be chances to binge at night, but I'm hoping to keep myself occupied enough to keep me from doing this.

My binging isn't the only reason Ramadan will be different for me this year. This will be my 26th year fasting. I've been fasting religiously since I was five. Never once cheated, never swallowed water by "accident", never took a day off when I was sick. This will, however, be the first year I fast as a doubter.

I've become disenchanted with religion. All religions. Religion makes people judgmental and cruel. Instead of bringing people together, it tears them apart. Mine is better than yours, mine is truer than yours. If you don't follow my way then I can't know you. This is what religion does. It makes one self-righteous. It makes people fight over stupid ideologies.

And yes, I know I'm brining my own baggage into this. My mother still doesn't want to talk to me because she thinks I'm a heretic and my aunt has joined the bandwagon. Auntie continues to bully me into believing in her way. It is religion that is making them do this and it disgusts me.

I'm a doubter. I don't doubt that there's a Creator. I'd like to think that there's something out there, but I firmly believe that no one has gotten "it" right. And in the process of insisting that there is only one truth, we all lose out.

I'm not sure how this is going to affect my Ramadan at all. In all honesty I don't think it'll have much of an effect. I never fasted just because I thought it was religiously required. I did do it to please God, but I also did it because it made me a better person. It showed me that I COULD discipline myself if I wanted to. It forced me to refocus my life, if even just for a month. It slowed me down and I liked it. Still like it. I look forward to Ramadan with much fervor and although being without food or water makes me cranky and irritable, it's also uplifting and centering.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 9:29 PM
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Who: Carmen

xx-something egyptia-yorker who's spent over half her life stuck in two worlds not of her own making. unable and unwilling to fully embrace one identity over the other, she created (is trying to create) her own place in the world where people love each other unconditionally, irrespective of artificial boundaries, and where dancing merengue is as necessary to life as breathing air.

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