Sunday, July 29, 2012

strawberry fields forever

Flashback to Sweden!

So, I don't know if you all have been to Sweden, but if you have not, you should find a time to go (I'd heavily advise the summer). Why go? My main reason: strawberries.

Okay, so I went to meet Henrik's grandmother/see the land of his forebearers, but if I had known about the strawberries beforehand, I would have gone for them too. They are phenomenal. I'm a pretty big strawberry fan, as I buy them every week, but I don't know how I'll look at my California strawberries the same after my short, passionate affair with Sweden's. You know how most strawberries have a white bit inside that tastes like nothing? Well, Swedish ones don't⎯they're completely red all the way through, and you can practically feel the juice in them when you hold them. They are de-freaking-licious.

Henrik and I went strawberry picking with his grandmother one day. He used to go all the time, but I⎯being Arab and raised by strict city-folks⎯never had. So here's a glimpse of my first time strawberry picking! It was very enjoyable, both the picking and the gorging afterwards. :)

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Hello, my favorite folks!

I have been missing in action, more than I had anticipated (I hope you don't all think I'm an enormous flake!). Summer in Tunisia means I am with my family, all day every day, and it also means occasionally difficult internet and long stretches of beach time. This summer has an added layer of get-in-the-way-of-blogging, and that is Ramadan.

(Curious as to what it is? Read on for a brief explanation if you'd like!)

What is Ramadan? It is a holiday in Islam⎯or, more accurately, a holimonth. The Islamic calendar is a lunar one, which means our holidays shift over time. This is my first summer celebrating Ramadan in Tunisia, but it is certainly not my first Ramadan. During this month, Muslims fast⎯that is, refrain from eating, drinking, and sex⎯from dawn until sunset. It is a month of reflection and piousness. We avoid arguing and cursing, and try to do good things (like read the Qur'an or spend time with our family).

I have been fasting since I was about 7 or 8 years old. While many of my non-Muslim friends are shocked at my ability to keep away from grub for so long (and wonder, fairly, how I don't shrivel up without water), I enjoy fasting. Sure, it is not always the most fun to sit by with a grumbly tummy while your buddies are chowing on pizza⎯and I swear to you, there is a huge rise in free-food-availability during Ramadan, as in all of your colleagues decide Ramadan's the best time to bake brownies every single day when they never did before or your stingy friend finally offers to pay for lunch, like it's some horrible conspiracy or something (I ought to run a study)⎯but all the momentary agony aside, it's a fulfilling experience. I attribute my extraordinary self-restraint in other aspects of my life to years of controlling myself during Ramadan. I have a great amount of will-power. I also have a real appreciation for what I have been given in this life. Ramadan forces me to really acknowledge my privilege. The exhaustion I get after a day of not eating is the daily reality for many people all over the world. Not drinking water for a day makes me realize how lucky I am to be able to get clean water any time I'd like by just walking to the kitchen faucet. I promise you, you will never appreciate food as much as you do after a day of not eating. Everything tastes amazing. Fasting makes you appreciate the blessings you so often overlook.

Ramadan during the summer is an interesting experience. Because Ramadan moves, due to the lunar calendar, I have spent most of my Ramadans in the winter and fall. Fasting is much easier when sunset is at, like, 5. But Ramadan here is something special, even if the days are both longer and dryer. In the United States, Ramadan is a rather isolating time; it is difficult to be the only child not eating, when much of our American culture and daily life involves food (an example: I've had to fast on Thanksgiving). Ramadan in a Muslim country, however, is quite the opposite. When Henrik and I were teaching in Mali in the summer of 2010 (fun fact, that is where we met and started dating!), I was fasting for Ramadan. The tables were turned⎯my American colleagues and friends were the ones on the outside as the Malians and I bonded over our fasts. I enjoyed getting up early with the Peace Corps volunteer to eat breakfast in the dark. I enjoyed, too, the unity I felt as we all hungrily dug into our long-awaited dinners as the sun began its red descent into the horizon. This is how it is in Tunisia. While the majority of my family does not fast, some do, and the entire country is in "Ramadan-mode." You should see how empty the streets are once the Adhan rings out as the sun sets in the distance. Restaurants are closed. People understand why you are passed out in exhaustion at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. When you finally break your fast, there are congratulations and toasts and recognition for this beautiful, wonderful thing you have done. My fasts are not lonely here.

So, I apologize for my infrequent posts on my journey (which is in fact soon coming to an end). I have been fasting and it has completely wiped me out; I have been sleeping most of my afternoons away in an effort to ignore my headaches and thirst. When I finally am replenished, I am spending that time with my family.

Henrik and I leave here on Monday, when we will begin a 2-day journey back to Oakland. I have so many pictures to post, not counting the numerous rolls of film at the bottom of my backpack. On the way home, we'll stop in Nice and New York, and I'm not allowed to fast while traveling (I make it up after the end of Ramadan), so the way back should be enjoyable! Thank you all for your patience with me while I've been flitting around the globe. :)

Now⎯Instagram shots of my Tunisian Ramadan! :)

my favorite!

brikas! the best Tunisian Ramadan treat :)


mloukhiya, food for the best of occasions!

watching Tunisian Ramadan television (a soap opera type show called Maktoub)

Okay, now sleeping until dinner because I am totally wiped out. :P Hope you all are doing well!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Hello, my wonderful ones. :)

I have working Internet on my computer again finally! Before I start this post, I really want to thank all of you for the love and support you gave me on my last post. It was enormously important to me; I felt considerably less alone, and your kind words reminded me that not everybody is a racist old lady. ;) I really do appreciate all of your support, and sooooo.. read on and you'll see what I've got for you! :)

2 things to celebrate:

1. 100 Pages

You know how I said I was writing a lot this summer? Well, I've been writing a book. I've planned out the book meticulously since the age of 14 and decided I ought to just write the darn thing. And so I am. Last week, I reached 100 pages. I'm really proud of myself for pushing through and keeping to a schedule of writing every night. It feels good to watch my ideas grow into something substantial. Maybe one day, I'll be reading this thing to my own children. All I know is that I'm finally taking action on something I've always dreamed of, and I've made some significant progress! :D So, yay!

2. 100 Friends

104, to be exact! (Don't want to leave anybody out!) When I started this blog, I knew I did not want to push it for some sort of e-popularity contest or something; I wanted to post about things I liked, and I hoped that people that cared would find it interesting. I did not want to persuade people to come to my blog for hopes of building my numbers or something⎯that always seemed really weird to me, such a fascination with more, more, more. I celebrate the 104 of you not because I'm ticking off a checklist, but because I really, really like you guys and I am so glad you find me sort of okay as well! :) You all are so funny and clever and talented and I am honored that you occasionally spend some time checking out my life, because maybe that means I'm pretty special too. Basically, I dig you guys. Blog hug.

To celebrate these awesome things and you awesome people, I'm going to do a giveaway. Unfortunately, it will not be held until I get back because, being really honest, it is so hard to keep track of things while I'm traveling. But it will happen! So, yeah. :) Look for it in about 2 weeks! (Did I mention I dig you guys?)

I'm going to post asap about my travels and stuff (including lots of back log), so hopefully that is interesting in the meantime. :)

Monday, July 9, 2012

prejudice: muslim and dating

I was sick again today, but got a little better after taking some interesting advice. If you've been suffering from unexplained stomach pain, curb the citrus (and melon!) and drink red wine. No joke. Whatever it is that works in red wine is doing wonders for me. You all are unbelievably wonderful for leaving me such sweet comments; I felt like I was getting a big collective hug or something. :) How could I have been away from the blogosphere for so long?!

Illness and such aside, I had an unsettling experience today that brought up a whole lot of unpleasant memories. This is about to be a Serious Post, without pictures or outfits because I am frankly pretty upset and I don't know how I would illustrate that in pictures. I'm putting it beneath a cut because it's not the sort of thing I usually talk about, and I don't want to sully up everyone's summers with my complaints.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

travel woes

Hello dear, patient blog readers. I am not dead, though I currently feel like it.

One of my least favorite things about traveling has to be getting sick while on vacation. Without fail, my body always seems to cry out at some point with an unidentified ailment. Usually, it's pains of the stomach⎯more exaggerated kinds than my every-day American stomach pains, of which I have plenty. For as long as I can remember, I've had really bad, really unexplained stomach pain. Getting sick on vacation is even more miserable because you are someplace beautiful and you cannot enjoy it. Le sigh.

So I've been bedridden for all of today with a fever and bizarre pain, but I am in Henrik's beautiful summer home in a small village in Southern France. :) My life is pretty good, all things considered.

I have been without internet access for a while now, but I have it again for at least this next week, so I'm hoping to read some of your blogs after such a long hiatus. As for blogging on my end, I have taken a ton of pictures, but they've mostly been with my film camera and I have yet to develop the rolls. Hopefully you'll find it as exciting as I will once I get to get a look at those babies!

In the meantime, here are some Instagram shots. I took some videos while at the beach in Sweden and am working on making it into some sort of little movie. :) That should come fairly soon! If I stay sick, it will likely come very soon. ;P

Places I have been this week, some of which are pictured here:

  • Sweden
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Italy

at Tivoli, in Denmark!

quality Swedish card

Henrik's summer house

menu in Italy yesterday--check out the Pizza Pazza

What have you guys been up to? Any travel woes you'd like to commiserate with me about? ;)


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