Dust It Off

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You stumble upon an old picture
And it isn’t just a photograph
It is a reminder
that you haven’t made enough memories
with anyone else but him
And it hits you
Several months later
After you’ve said it wasnt working any more
After you’ve drowned your fears in tears
And you’ve vowed to your notebook that it will no more hold sad breakup poems
you still miss him

But you go on with life
You know, the way everyone says you’re supposed to
And you do all the things you’ve always wanted to do
Except not with him
Something happens and you think it is funny
But it is an inside joke no one else would get
You hold on to his gifts and his letters
But it is his voice that is skipping around in the back of your head
And your heart is a Pandora’s box
No one should open
Or your pain would engulf the whole world
No enough fake smiles could ever fix that
You are both mature enough not to block each other on social media
But your ego fills up the virtual space bet
Plus it is still awkward
You find that one poem you wrote about him
and you have been saving it because you wanted to gift it to him
Instead you recite it over a voicenote
with a voice muffled with tears
They are all the right words
To the right man
At the wrong time
Breakups aren’t what they seem
They aren’t clear-cut tragedies
Sometime you feel heart-broken about the heart you’ve broken
not out of sympathy
nor out of regret
but out of finally realizing the breakup

and The worse part about it
Is that both your hearts are broken
With a wound wide open
Even when you’re the one who walked away
You miss him when you shouldn’t
After you’ve been successful for so long
To push his memory away
Safely distant
But flirtatiously close
You miss him
When you’ve already convinced yourself
That you’ve made the right decision
You’ve done the right thing
It was best for the both of you
Even if it doesn’t feel like it
You miss him
When you realize months later
That you’re still not over him
And you probably wouldn’t be for a while

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Bad Immigrant

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Bad immigrant forgot his homeland

Bad immigrant bought a new land

Built a new house

Brought a new plasma tv and a full-automatic washing machine

With a heat drier

 

Bad immigrant forgot his mother tongue

Bought his mother new garb

Wrapped her in the blackness of his nights

Where are your colorful garments, mother?

She looks like “them” now

 

Bad immigrant speaks kinda funny

Walks a little different too

Words stuck somewhere in between

“we”, “us” and “they”

his foot steps had long-lost their way

 

Bad immigrant made new memories

He has new enemies

He got no friends

He still talks about football and politics

But he no longer enjoys late breakfasts

And he drinks his tea with less sugar now

 

Bad immigrant wants to get married

He has all the neighborhood girls in line

They hold the scent of his mother

under their tightly wrapped scarves

Their eyes fixed on the car keys in his hands

 

Bad immigrant has foreign pains

And a foreign name

That is easier for them to pronounce

Bad immigrant is not an expat or a citizen

Bad immigrant is a tourist in the homeland

Expat Depression and Repat Blues

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The first step is admitting that you are having a problem…

Quick wrap-up: I have moved to Sudan in October 2016, all by myself, to take a dream job and live independently.

I am finally past the honeymoon phase – two months of pure goodness – and things are starting to slip. The problem is that it took me a while to understand what is going on. The ingredients were just right for a perfect experience: I started brand-new somewhere completely new, doing a job that I love, feeling free and comfortable, living “alone” which is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I’m surrounded by great, fun people. But something is missing. Everything feels empty. I am happy but not content.
The first sign was realizing that I’m always try my best not to stay home alone at any cost. A problem I had never faced when I was back home. For some reason, I am trying to escape from myself and spending time alone became a serious fear. A fear that I would have time to think, and overthink, and panic, and open-up to myself. The problem is within.

I started reading articles online, talking to friends who recently moved abroad, all in a serious attempt to figure out what is this thing that is missing in my life. Most articles were extremely superficial to my case, talking about “missing your friends” and “culture shocks”. Which isn’t specifically addressing what I am going through – I miss my family, but it isn’t THAT depressing, and there are some “cultural” restrains that I am feeling, but overall I am not dying to leave, especially that I am surrounded by people who share similar backgrounds of living abroad, etc. Actually, I wouldn’t mind staying here for a while.

The typical “expat depression” diagnosis was not fulfilling at all; I don’t need to “learn the language” or “join a local organization for social activity” –  those are not my problems as a repat moving back home. I talked in previous articles about condescending familial acceptance, overtrusting, and not belonging. Mahmoud Darwish said it best when he said:

أنا من هناك… أنا من هنا
ولست هناك… ولست هنا
لي اسمان يلتقيان ويفترقان
ولي لغتان… نسيت بأيهما كنت أحلم
****
I am from there. I am from here
I am not there and I am not here
I have two names, which meet and part
and I have two languages… but I have forgotten which one I dream in

Two months into moving, and I don’t feel like I belong. I don’t feel like an alien either. My life feels like a deja vu, where everything is familiar but I don’t know anything about it. A step forward is that people aren’t expecting me to fit-in any more – which is comforting. But the worse part is that I just can’t find the fire in me any more. No enthusiasm, nothing at all. My days are all a blur of nothing and  I can feel myself slipping into indifference. Constantly trying to escape reality.

And maybe I am aware of all of that but I have no idea how to deal with it. Deep down, something is telling me to try and make the best out of this experience and this opportunity. But I just lost the will to do anything, even things I enjoyed doing in the past. Even things I was excited to try or experience. I am losing the me that I know, but I am losing it for nothing at all… for the unknown.

Coming Out

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Dear mother,

I know I will never have the guts to actually tell you this

And that is pretty ironic

Because I am sharing this with the whole virtual universe

But for the sake of my sanity

Let us just assume that you are here with me right now

And that you’re willing to hear me out… for a change

Because… I have something to tell you

 

I knew about it for sure when I was twenty years old

I tried to lie to myself about it

Shove it under the rug of “the socially inappropriate”

I tried to ignore it for a while, because it is a taboo

It is shameful

It is an illness…I am sick

But there are so much that I could hide in my closet

Before it all comes crashing over my head

 

Mom…

I have anxiety

I have had anxiety for years now

And I know I have been an A-star student all my life

And I seemed like I was always on top of my shit

But mom… I am struggling

Ya3ni ya mama, when I am having an anxiety attack

my whole universe seems to be ending

And it seems like there is nothing that I can do about it

And feeling helpless on of itself then drags me through hell’s fire

And my brain just starts eating itself inside out… for hours

And I get suicidal thoughts swirling in my head

Swinging the pendulum of self-doubt

 

and to you,

I just seem like I am laying on my bed…

 

So, no mama, I am not being “lazy”

Quite honestly,

Some days, putting a shirt on becomes an achievement

Because all I could think about is how staying alive is just draining all of my energy

And trust me

There are so many things “a little prayer” CANNOT fix

Like panic attacks, hyperventilation, numbing limbs and sweaty palms

Deadlines and Overthinking.

Overthinking. Overthinking.

 

Mommy, please don’t freak out

It is not me “straying from the path”

I can’t see a path

I look down at my palms

And I see my destiny sliding into an abyss

One minute I am walking down Confidence Street,

and the next paranoia hits me like a truck

Mom, I am gathering every grain of courage that the wind had ever brought to my door

To write this

And I am not worried about what other people would say

I am sick and tired of playing boogie-man, hide and seek with society

No one else matters

But you, momma…

You… love me

You loved me without knowing all of this about me

And right here, all of these are all the parts of me

Spread on my palms

Stretched out for you

Mom, does it change me?

Am I a different person because my demons sleep with me?

Can you blame me… for wanting to escape this distorted reality

Where everything around me, seems like it is out to get me?

mom , would you accept me?

Third Culture Kid’s Third Week in Sudan

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This is my third week in Sudan, and despite popular perception, I LOVE It.

Of course, I felt extremely overwhelmed at the sudden change in everything around me. I also tried explaining my sense of alienation to my teenage cousin who was so confused that it took my TWO whole weeks to feel overwhelmed.

But since I have promised to write about my experience, I feel like an important part of my own experience is writing about people around me, and how THEY reacted to me being here.

Generally, I was shocked at how fragile people expect me to be. How they try their best to make me feel “comfortable.” What they don’t understand is that: 1- Let us be rudely honest here: There is nothing you could probably do that could make life in Sudan as luxuriously comfortable as it was for me in the Gulf. I appreciate that you are trying though! But if you are going to be condescending about your “help”, then please keep it to yourself – I would probably survive without it. 2- I personally don’t think that I am as fragile as you might think; I might have never lived in Sudan, but I have been to “rough” places where I wasn’t “comfortable” at all.

Which brings me to the following realization: Some people in Sudan assume that Sudanese people living abroad have never faced a single difficulty in their life. They think we were born with a silver spoon in our mouths, and that we sleep in velvety bed sheets. Reality check: this is far from the truth, at least it is extremely far from my truth. It is true that I might have never had to wait for public transportation for hours under the scorching heat, I might have never been subject to police brutality . But that doesn’t mean that being an expat does not come with its own set of struggle and difficulties that are both associated with my status as an “alien” or “foreigner”, and also with the specific conditions of the country I lived in. Ironically, identity-related struggles are often mocked and are often viewed as “luxurious struggles”, despite the fact that the very people who undermine the struggles of Sudanese abroad are at the very center of our identity struggle. They are part of a socio-cultural system that makes us feel alienated in a country that is supposed to be our own. So I honestly find it quite absurd when people undermine your own difficulties because you haven’t been through the same sh** they went through. Life in Sudan may be difficult, but please quite stooping to the lowly “my-struggles-are-worse-than-yours” race.

I understand the frustration of being somewhere where you feel like your development is hindered – or even all together lacking – and that your life has simply been difficult all around; my residence permit probably offers some sort of safety net that I can go back to if sh** hit the fan here in Sudan, but I don’t understand why the very fact that I have a residence permit should be an inherent deterrent of coming to Sudan. Money isn’t everything. Not because I don’t care about being paid, but because if money is the only thing I’m getting our of a career, then I have no prospect and no hopes and no sense of development either. And no, I don’t wanna just get paid and buy a car and travel to Dubai on weekends. Here is the biggest surprise: I CARE about other things; such as my education and such as getting a sense of fulfillment out of my job. Go abroad and work a job you aren’t really passionate about: you will be stuck with a monthly salary and a bubble of comfort that you can’t even call home. Hint: it isn’t that great.

It is important to say that even in Khartoum, I might be living in the “better” side of the city, working in a prestigious office – but that doesn’t mean I am isolated from other day-to-day difficulties other people are complaining about. What is worse in my opinion is that I don’t belong to any of these “classes” or groups that I am surrounded with. I don’t belong to the western expats who I work with, and I don’t get along with the locals who think that I am stupid white-burdened orientalist who wants to come to “Africa” and help refugees. It all comes with having a multi-layer identity, where some of the layers seem to contradict or be mutually exclusive with each other. argh.

It is only the third week, and people are already betting on how many days I will survive. It sucks that people find it entertaining that someone might hate being home – it is even worse how bad they want me to hate being home. If I am to ever call it home.

But we are yet to see what the days are to bring. Cheers!

Migration to the Homeland

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I am moving to Sudan.

I have heard the “everyone-is-trying-to-get-out-of-there” statement about 9849753487984 times so far. My brother is betting that I won’t last a month. My dad is buying me endless supplies of bug repellants. My mom is extremely uncomfortable.

and I, am moving to Sudan.

I’ve made up my mind; I am moving with an open heart,  a cautious outlook, and a full-proof plan on how to keep my money safe and sound.
I have bought my groceries (let’s not get into the purchasing power of the Sudanese Pound) and I have packed my books.
Mom has made sure that my outfits are suitable for public display, and have filled my suitcase with gifts for people I don’t even know.

I am ready to leave the “luxury” of accessibility behind. More importantly, I am ready to question the sense of entitlement that comes with being a second-generation expat. I am ready for electricity cuts, water shortages, and overly-priced cafes. You know, the “normal” things that we take for granted here.

But I am not ready to face expectations of acceptable social behavior. I am not ready to deal with social hypocrisy and a society OBSESSED with sugar-coating everything.
I have no clue how bus lines work, or how much a 10 minutes trip in rickshaw is going to cost me. I do not know how I will deal with bureaucracy without letting it get to me. I also don’t know how to bribe.

For the first time, I am going to live in Sudan, and I am not sure if it has fully sunk-in yet. I mean, I KNOW I am moving, but everyone seems to say that there is this big bad thing in Sudan that they can’t articulate. But it doesn’t scare me or make me doubt my decision. So, if you plan on blabbing about how “terrible” Sudan is, please save your breath, I’ve probably heard it all – and I am aware I am not moving to a Scandinavian country: believe it or not, I do not have expectations.

But to tell you the truth, part of why I am “cool” about this whole moving thing, is because deep down I know I have a safety net: the option of “living” somewhere else, simply “moving back” to the place I consider home. It comes with being an expat with a valid residence permit.

So stay tuned to read more about my life in Sudan, and if you are around – let’s meet up! 🙂

Stereotypes of a Misunderstood Black Woman

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You shifted in your seat when I walked up to the stage.

Do I make you feel uncomfortable?

Does my accent have too many colors?

Does my face express ugly truths that you’ve been hiding for too long?

Does my tongue tell stories that aren’t good enough for your ears?

Are my pieces too-politically charged?

Does my outfit disappoint your mainstream sense of feminine fashion?

 

Did you label me yet?

 

Because I can see you roll your blind eyes like

“here. she. goes. again”

and I don’t know which “she” of me offends you the most

the liberal, the afro-centric, the feminist?

Did you find a category for me, yet?

 

I think you found three.

 

Angry. Black. Woman.

 

You low-key fear running into me.

You fear a discussion with me will get heated

And I’ll become… Angry

Black women have been silenced for years

With throats stuffed with obedience

And dignity sliced with disrespect

I reject being treated like a damn object – so don’t dare put me in a box

 

But if you must define me,

Then know that as an “angry black woman”

patriarchy has placed me in the bottom of the pyramid

With the other minorities,

crushed under the weight of racist misogyny

 

So, yes. I am angry.

 

I am angry

Because colonization has left me nothing from my ancient civilization, but a book that calls it “primitive”
A history of a whole nation, whited-out, and I have the white man to thank

I am angry

Because I can’t straighten my hair without wondering
If it is internalized self-hate or if I just want a different style

 

I am angry

Because I’m too black to be pretty, but black enough to be “exotic”
And I’m sick of women telling me to “clean up” my skin tone,
Yes. my skin is 27 shades of brown, but there is nothing “dirty” about that

 

I am angry

Because every time I talk about how much I love my stretch marks
Disgust stretch over their eyes, and their smiles shrink into shriveled knitted frowns
Like I’m supposed to be ashamed.
Like 10 years of self-hate weren’t enough suffering for me to go through.
Like loving my own, real, body is a bigger problem than having pop culture to hate everything that makes us look real.

 

I am angry

Because the strength of my arguments are questioned
when someone out there says I don’t “need” to be angry
Like the value of my emotions have to be validated by a third-party before they are deemed viable

 

I am Angry

I am Black

and I am a Woman

 

So judge me as you may,
categorize me to other-ize me, if it makes you feel better

But my blackness will haunt you,

my womanhood is my strength

and my anger is here to stay

Pedazos Rotos

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The title of this piece translates to “Broken Pieces”, which was inspired by the painting below, from “The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait.”

img_03641


 

I – am not a poet
Because poets have purpose
And I am often confused
And eaten by self-doubt

I – am not a poet
Because poets have a way with words
And my words are often lost on their way
And when they finally reach me
They are struck by a “writer’s block”

I – am not a poet
Because poems are often glorified
Tumblr-fied
Tweet-worthy
And my pieces are just provocative
semi-erotic
and often painful

I – am not a poet
Because I will never get published
I never follow the “ten rules to make you a better writer”
I never accept constructive criticism when it comes to self-expression
My poetic pieces are pieces of me
How dare anyone say they can be written “better”?!

I – am not a poet
Because I am all flaws I fail to own up to
And I always find other poems a tough act to follow
plus, the flow of my pieces is often broken
and the only thing keeping my lines together
Is grammatical mistakes
misplaced in random sentences

 

But I still write

 

I write for the African minds
The Arabized
The colonized
The ones who realized
That post-structuralism is irrelevant without our past
That racism still thrives post-independence
And that orientalism has been internalized, over the generations
We now like it when we get called “Exotic East Africans”

I write to fight the fake religious fanatics
And to shame the sham elections
We still want bread, freedom, and social justice
We also want stable electricity and cheaper gas, for a change

I write for the hijabi gone atheist
I write for the convert who found the light
I write for the non-hijabi Islamist
Slandered for not having a piece of cloth on her head
I write for the girls brainwashed to believe
that they are nothing but uteruses for future jehadies
and the girls beaten to believe
that domestic abuse is love and protection

I write for boys
Forced to fake machoism
Feminism is on your side when it isn’t misunderstood for misandry

I write for the men
Forgotten in medical records
The ones you never hear about
The ones raped and abused
But had to “man up” about it
Fold their pain and keep it in their back pockets

I write for the activists
Who were recognized after their death
But lived for years on the edge, with the rest of the forgotten
Martyrdom reduce their legacy to statues and street names

 

I write
To stretch my heart across pages
Of old memories and regrets

I write
To forgive and to forget
Those who never meant anything to me
Those who didn’t amount to a single line in my poetry
But still keep finding their way to me in late night lonesome

I write
To make a future home for my poems
In dusty shelves and abandoned drawers

 

I write
To blend in with the background

to be forgotten

 

Seasonal Depression

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On sunny days like today,

I wonder why you feel blue

Blue.

Like a summer’s morning sky

Like the open oceans under sunlight

I wonder why you can’t feel all colors of the rainbow that arches over our heads

You try to explain it to me,

But your words are clinging to your tongue

And I’m not patient enough to even notice that you’re trying

Crying – you were crying for help

But how could the eyes see when the mind is blind?

When the heart is tied

To the mirage of a perfect life it cannot find

 

On cloudy days like today,

Trees stand naked at the whims of wind

I wonder why you can’t feel green instead

Fall wraps earth from roots to the stem

You fall asleep more now

Actually, you often oversleep,

And I keep tugging at your blanket of emotions

I’m lonely, would you let me in?

But most nights you’re sleepless

Chasing demons of anxiety and fear off your bed

 

On rainy days like today,

You seem to be drowning your sorrow in your own tears

It is you who’s drowning from within

You don’t know how to swim

I feel you slipping through my hands

No matter how hard I lock my fingers

 

On days like today,

My faith swings back and forth

Your face is clouded with stress and suicidal thoughts

I’m scared of not knowing what to do

Paranoia nested in the creases of my skin

I’m even more scared of losing you

 

On days like today,

Depression wins.

Personal Directory

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How much heartache
could my heart take
if my heart could take heartbreak?

From the top of my head, I could count 7
7 times I gave up on love
7 men who broke my heart
7 minutes in Heaven
7 levels of Hell
7 heartbreaks that nested in my memory deeper than I could reach

One
was my childhood crush
The boy who made me blush
I used to brag about how handsome he is
I still do, to be honest
One was never really the one for me
He was the emotional abuse
The neglect, the sacrifice, the future potential
The one who took me for granted
The one I stayed up late to Skype with
The one I actually told my mom about
Dearest one,
Although we’ve managed to stay good friends after all,
You owe me for the five years of false hope and deep disappoinments
But I will settle for a sincere belated apology
and a promise that you won’t do your new girl wrong

Two
If I could, I would regret this one
But he held my awakening in the folds of his saggy jeans
and for that, I am grateful
Two was the no-strings-attached rebound
No phone calls, just texts
No dates, just sex
I hit rock bottom, and continued to fall
I thought we were friends with benifits
He thought I was just a booty-call
And in a scale from 1 to Disrespect
that was a perfect low

Three
I’ve never thought I was ugly
That was till I met him, of course
and he wasn’t the definition of good looks or anything
But he had this irresistible charm – to the 18 year old that I was
And then he said: “honestly, I don’t think thick black women are attractive at all…”
And I’m thick and black
Thick curves, thick hair
and skin dipped in melanin
That day was marked in the calendar of my memory
as the day one man made me question everything that I am
Just like that…

Four
was almost twice my age
I was his one-line-poems’ muse
I was his “I-wish-I-had-met-you-earlier”
I was his feel-good, feel-young, feel-free
He was wisdome and stories
He was all experiences and sweet tongue
He was late night coffe date in the football field
He was engaged.
and about to get married in June
And there was the phone call
That I didn’t know was going to be our last phone call
Because he promised to call me later
and later never came,
and closure was late
and there I was for months, feeling out of place
Like rose petals glued to the thorns of a dead lemon tree

Five
was the one who never happened
he was never my boyfriend, so he never became an ex
But the pain was there nonetheless
Five is pain
because he is wrapped in the unknown
“We would have been amazing”.. or would have we?
Was he going to be the one, or just a number to this poem?
Our so-called friendship is a dysfunctional relationship in denial
It is not about why we haven’t happened,
But why we never will…

Six
Was the damage beyond repair
The beauty of ugly memories
The sorrow guarding my happiness
He always beought out the best in me
and the worse – simultaneously
He was my very own dichotomy
The war to all my peace
The whole to my broken pieces
Opposites attract
Too hard and crash

Seven
Wanted love at his whims
He was the master of blame-games, mind-games, table-turning
He did it all
and in the shadows of this selfish lover I felt lonlier than when I was alone
He never knew how to love
and the truth, despite my denial, was that he never loved me

Seven.
Seven heartbreaks is what it takes
to learn how to act like you’ve got it all together
when you are all empty inside
I’ve let 7 men in
Somewhere between my flesh and my skin
and lovers become strangers
and I have 7 strangers who each has a piece of my heart