The Middle East, as you may be aware, has some amazing food. I’ll admit, I get sick of eating the same thing over and over, and right now, I pretty much can’t eat anymore felafel and hummus. But I have had some truly wonderful meals here, and most of them have been in someone’s home, in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, or even cooked out in a field. But if all else fails, there is really nothing quite like a bowl of fresh figs, ripe to bursting, still hot from the sun hitting the tree in a village in western Turkey.
In November, I visited Amsterdam for the first time – I had two nights there before heading to Münster for grad school, so I had a full day and some change to see the city. Continue Reading
I’m not the kind of person who travels 80% of the time for work, but living in Jordan and doing a master’s program in Germany, I do travel internationally several times a year. It’s great, but costs add up (which I know now, since I made a grown up budget in Excel today) – and one way to save yourself time and money and general frustration is to pack light. Says the girl who almost never succeeds at this.
One of my big goals this year is to not buy any clothes (or unnecessary home decor/trinkets) for at least six months. Right now, the only thing I can think of that I might need is a water-repellent/windbreaker jacket for working in the field and frequent travel. Realistically, I could probably go a year or more without new clothes; I’ve purged a lot and could probably get rid of more.
But, not wanting to get rid of a whole lot more just yet, I’ve pulled about half of my clothes out of circulation and put them in storage, so I have about 35 items in my wardrobe to wear currently, and I’m going to try hard not to add anything (even from existing clothes) to that until the end of March (unless summer arrives freakishly early, in which case, we’re all screwed). Yes, I am three years behind this trend, but this is me writing about a capsule wardrobe.
This New Year’s Eve was spent almost exactly the same as the previous year: me and Layth on the couch, under blankets, watching movies until we dozed off. Since he’s recovering from a cold, that means he was snoring by 8 pm.
But this time last year we were bracing ourselves for him moving to Saudi Arabia for work, which meant I’d be more or less on my own in Jordan. We dated long distance for a long time, but after a year or so when we hadn’t spent more than a few days apart, the distance was daunting. But we both knew it was the best thing to do. At first, I cried a lot and kept making coffee for two people in the morning instead of one, and cried over the wasted coffee.
But family invited me for lunches and sent me home with tupperwares of leftovers to make sure I wouldn’t starve, I still had my job and friends, and in mid-January, I brought a pet rabbit home to keep me company. Said rabbit is now best friends with my mother in law’s cat, and they hang out on the regular.
2017 took me to Jordan, Turkey (twice), the United States, Malaysia, the Netherlands, and Germany.
So, it’s been a while, and I’m not very good at blogging unless momentous life changes are taking place, or if travel is on the horizon – and both are true at the moment.
More on the life events later, but in less than three weeks me, Layth, and our friend Mohammed will be off to Malaysia for 10 days of city sightseeing, jungle trekking, beach time, and eating all the food. And we’ll all be coming in from different places: Amman, Riyadh, and Singapore.
So naturally, my backpack is nearly ready to go already – but this isn’t totally ridiculous given the amount of shooting and editing work I have to wrap up before I jet off and leave my laptop at home. And actually, since we did make our plans a bit last minute, we just barely made the cutoff to sign up for our trekking tour.
Ta da! The lightest I have ever packed – I get to automatically shed 20 pounds just by not carrying my computer and camera gear. I also have an awesome, giant purple Osprey Aura 65L pack, but I think I am gonna go with my smaller 40L backpack from REI. This one is solidly carry-on size, will keep me from bringing too much there, and will be easier to lug around for the hiking portions.
Windbreaker jacket (will wear on the plane)
Black cardigan (for cooler weather in the highlands/ covering up for mosques and temples)
2 pair cotton pants
1 pair Columbia pants for hiking (quick dry)
1 black knee-length dress (might wear with leggings)
1 pair cotton shorts
1 pair athletic shorts (not pictured; for sleeping and/or getting wet)
2 cotton t-shirts
1 athletic shirt (quick dry)
2 tank tops
1 scarf (for covering up in mosques and temples)
1 swimsuit (not pictured)
1 Turkish hamam towel (Layth decidedly does not believe in towels, so I’m not packing one for him)
1 REI quick dry travel towel
2 Buffs (one for me, one for Layth)
Bandages & basic first aid supplies
Glasses & Sunglasses (don’t want to deal with the extra liquid involved in carrying contact solution, keeping them sanitary, etc)
Umbrella (not pictured, stowed in the water bottle holder of the backpack)
4 pair socks
1 pair Merrell Tough Mudder trail running shoes (for hiking and such)
1 pair Crocs sandals (surprisingly comfy and lightweight – may look around for other sandals in KL)
Fujifilm X20 camera + charger and extra battery
Small crossbody purse
Canvas tote – extra space for souvenirs on the way home (yay Trader Joe’s)
Even looking at this now, there are more odds and ends I need to bring, which might push the bag to the limit, or force me to ditch a pair of pants or the cardigan or something. Then there’s all the toiletries (planning to pick up shampoo and soap there), migraine medicine, Cipro and water purifying tablets just in case…
But considering at any given time I’ll be wearing one of these pairs of pants, a shirt, and shoes, I think this’ll be ok.
My close friends have heard me talking about grad school for the last 2 or 3 years – and today I found out that I was accepted at University of Münster’s Visual Anthropology, Media and Documentary Practices MA program. I got the email while sitting outside at a cafe waiting for a friend, and while I sat there I just kept thinking “I want to remember how perfect my life is right now.” The program, for me, is the best of both worlds, combining #filmmaking with a solid social science background. I do 90% of the coursework online, which means my research and film projects can be done in #Jordan, and twice a year I travel to Germany for seminars. Last year I was accepted to a MA program and my potential adviser told me I had one of the strongest applications, yet I still would’ve come out with at least $60,000 more in student debt – and would’ve had to move back to the US. The fact that I can study this field I love without uprooting my life and career in #Amman (and sabotaging my marriage) and without taking on more debt feels too good to be true. I can’t wait to meet my cohort this fall, but right now I just feel incredibly #thankful for everything that brought me here, especially for Layth and his unending love and support. Now to pay tuition! #gradschool #whowantstoteachmegerman (at Amman, Jordan)
Run from what’s comfortable. Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.
Rumi (via banishingsoapboxes)
A quote for the coming year
I head back to Jordan on Tuesday after a pretty amazing three weeks in the US. Coming back to America less than two weeks after the election, I really didn’t know what climate we’d be walking into – in New York, in the south, and places in between. It was eye-opening for both of us, and Layth is much better at having civilized, reasonable political discussions with people who he disagrees with than I am. But more on that later.
We finally made it official by having a wedding party in Louisiana, and I was overwhelmed with how generous and welcoming my family was toward both of us. Continue Reading
For those of you asking: WHAT DO I DO NOW?
I know many of you are saddened by the results of the election. I also know that it can feel hopeless, depressing, and seriously bleak at a time like this. Internet activism is still in its infancy, and while venting your frustrations, anger, disbelief, and sadness can help you feel like your voice is being heard – I beg of you, channel all of those emotions into a tangible result. Now is not the time for complacency. The 47% of eligible voters who did not vote showed us that. Rather than channeling your energy into hatred, bashing of those who voted Trump, Johnson, or Stein, I’ve compiled a list of ways you can help, things you can do, and organizations that will need your help in the coming days, weeks, months, and years.
– Hillary has the popular vote. You can go to http://www.nationalpopularvote.comand ask your legislator to support the popular vote. There’s a script.
– If this election lit a fire in you to make something, create something, and you are looking for a forum for your voice check out Matter Studios at http://matter.com.
– If HRC’s historic campaign meant something to you, let her know.
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Post Office Box 5256
New York, NY 10185-5256
– If you are unsure of which organizations are going to need your help: Planned Parenthood, Everytown for Gun Safety, ACLU Nationwide, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Human Rights Campaign, Earthjustice, and the National Immigration Law Center are just a few. Sight Unseen has created a general fundraiser for all of the above organizations, where you can donate to them here: http://bit.ly/2eNvdFl
If you would rather focus your efforts on a specific organization that is close to your heart, you can visit and donate at the links listed below:
– Planned Parenthood: http://bit.ly/2fFyaZI
– Everytown for Gun Safety: http://every.tw/1OIuboW
– ACLU Nationwide: http://bit.ly/2fzeRir
– Southern Poverty Law Center: http://bit.ly/1uBqTeu
– Human Rights Campaign: http://bit.ly/1VOYrD8
– National Immigration Law Center: http://bit.ly/1Yyf2Oj
– Center for Reproductive Rights: http://bit.ly/2eFDFmG
– Center for Constitutional Rights: http://bit.ly/2eNM5fh
– Council on American Islamic Relations: http://bit.ly/2dG4vj7
– Common Cause: http://bit.ly/2emnWO6
– Climate Movement 350.org: http://bit.ly/2fUIC0I
– Citizens Climate Lobby: http://bit.ly/2fAxiDc
– NARAL Pro-Choice America: http://bit.ly/2emmFqh
– National Immigration Forum: http://bit.ly/2eFyeUW
– National Immigration Project: http://bit.ly/2fFwS0R
– National Women’s Law Centerr: http://bit.ly/2fAB2EN
– The Movement for Black Lives: http://bit.ly/2aHk3k8
– MALDEF (Latino Legal Voice/Rights): http://bit.ly/2fFh0cz
– Race Forward (Racial Justice): https://www.raceforward.org/donate
– UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency: http://bit.ly/2g1aMqe
– National LGBTQ Task Force: http://bit.ly/2fUNPWi
– She Should Run: http://bit.ly/2fFv6gl
If you believe your efforts would be better focused on a local level:
– Find your local representative. Call them. Volunteer for them. Write letters to them. http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
– Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer. Whether it’s Planned Parenthood, a local soup kitchen, your church, an after school program or otherwise – get involved. Young people especially need your hope, love, support and guidance right now. Mobilize your community to make change for the better.
If you are struggling, or know someone who is, reach out.
– The Trevor Project is free and confidential hotline geared towards LGBTQ youth: 866.488.7386
– The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is: 1-800-273-8255
If you are struggling, do not be afraid to show it. Lean on those you can count on. Let them lean on you. Here are some other random ways to cope:
– Practice Self Care (i.e. make yourself a cup of tea, meditate, take a bubble bath, read a book, watch something silly, go to the gym, go for a walk, light a candle, pray, etc.)
– Take a break from the media. It’s a lot to handle. There’s no shame in needing a break.
– Spend some time outside – it helps.
– Cancel your subscription to People magazine – just weeks after urging their reporter who was harassed by Trump to come forward with allegations – they have already begun pandering to the president-elect.
– If you are an artist, or feel like you need to express yourself in a way you haven’t before – pick up the paintbrush. Sit down at the piano. Pick up your pen. Audition for that play. Create the symphony. Choreograph the dance. Art and creativity are needed now more than ever.
– Stand up. If you see bullying happening – do not sit back and let it happen. Stand up. In the past 24 hours alone the stories of utter racism, xenophobia, and horrific incidences has been overwhelming, sad, and shocking. If you see someone spewing racist rhetoric, homophobic rhetoric, whether it be directed at someone in particular, or in the world – stand up. Sitting back and letting those people “do you” as the kids say is exactly what got us here in the first place. Intervene. Ask them politely to stop. Offer your services to whomever is on the receiving end.
– Remind your Muslim, immigrant, female, disabled, POC, LGBTQ, minority family and friends that you love them – you love them boldly. You love them proudly. You are with them, today and every day.
– Please stop joking about moving to Canada. Our apathy is what landed us here in the first place. Rather than threatening to leave the country – stay, and fight. We need everyone who has love in their hearts to stay, and fight. Change does not happen overnight. Change does not happen by purchasing property on the other side of the border. Change happens day by day.
– Surround yourself with good people. Good people can take you a long way in this world.
– Don’t forget, the race to the 2018 Elections BEGINS. NOW. The House, the Senate, and the White House are now Republican dominated for the first time since 1928. In other words: it ain’t good, y’all. Donate. Suit up. Consider a career in politics: https://democrats.org/, http://www.sheshouldrun.org/
– Let yourself grieve. You need to cry? Do it. (I’ve been crying solidly for the past 36 hours and I’m sure it’s not going to stop any time soon.) Grieve – but remember your strength. Take the time you need to recover, and then move to action.
– Protest. Protest racism, protest xenophobia, protest homophobia, protest negative rhetoric, protest inequality, protest ignorance, protest hate. Defy the odds. “Protest hate, but don’t become it.” Let me say that one more time for the folks in the back.
Protest hate. But do not become it.
In this daunting time in American history, I urge you to look into your hearts and find love. Let love fuel your fire in these coming days, weeks, months, and years – not hate. Rise up with love in your heart. Love one another. Be kind to one another.
Keep fighting the good fight.