Category Archives: Musings

anouar brahem and late night thoughts from 2012.

february 6, 2012, 23:23


love [romantic] is the last thing on my mind right now. i dont feel like i can really, truly, give anyone my all. i am too consumed with what is happening in this country. i am too consumed with giving my all to help it succeed. i am trying my absolute best to leave politics out of this entry. you have no idea how difficult it is. essentially though, i am a little bit ‘off’ in terms of my writing tonight. so many times i feel like just pulling out a pen and paper and writing my thoughts down. but its so difficult to do that here without getting stares left and right. then you don’t want to open up your bag on the metro ride, because you might get it snatched. afin de compte, each time i decide to sit down and make the time to write, i find nothing to write about. its a dilemma really that happens to me quite frequently. i do, however, know that i have a solid interest in documenting my life here in tunis. so i will tell you what i plan on doing with my day tomorrow, so that you have a small glimpse.

tomorrow, i should be waking up at around 8am, and if all goes to plan, head to the flea market a few blocks away. i am looking for a nice skirt or a funky dress. following my little flea market expedition, i should be heading straight to bardo (not sure whether by metro or taxi – ill figure it out). i will be meeting with sami hicheri, a member of the opengov initiative i have recently become involved in. we should be having some sort of coffee then making our way over to the constituent assembly. we will be meeting with some parliament members (around 7 of them) to discuss the concept of opengov with them. after that, i plan on having lunch with a friend. then i should be going home.

im listening to anouar brahem and his music is fatally inspirational. when i listen to it, i feel like i just want to sing. i just want to write. to laugh. to create. and only create under a tunisian sun. “ritek ma na3ref ween,” just came on. the anouar instrumental version. what passion, what beauty! the music skips around like a young child at play. the notes. the boy, barefoot and dressed in clothes that have a few holes in them, kicks around a ball in a run down neighborhood. the sun is setting… and his hair reflects a reddish hue. he smiles.

i connect with this land so much. no words can even try to emulate the feeling i get just reflecting on this connection. i connect with the natural aspects of it. the colors. ah, the colors. the colors of a small road in downtown tunis. at the corner of your eyes, you see hues of white, grey, and blue. sometimes beige if you’re in the medina. straight ahead, you see people – which is where all the color is anyway. you see black (lots of black, especially in the winter), yellow, and bright bright [shameless] red from the men’s chechiyas (my favorite). i never want to leave!

at the same time though, i sometimes feel a bit lost. i have yet to catch on with the culture here, and when im honest with myself, i feel a bit naive. but im trying to, and i think i have made some progress. truly, i have. in any case, i am well-liked and well-received by near everyone here. i just feel like a little kid sometimes who is discovering her world for the first time. remember how i mentioned the colors? well, i feel like im learning to appreciate each color in its own right all over again. blue, for instance. there is turquoise, royal, aqua, etc. there’s also sidi bou said blue, raf raf’s sea blue, old plastic tables blue, and old tunisian man’s shirt blue (the kind with the buttons). you know what it is? at the end of the day, i simply flow well with the atmosphere here. my soul is more at ease with its surroundings. maybe that’s it exactly. my soul has discovered its friends and loved ones on this land – not in the states. the souls living in the soil there have so much negative energy its toxic (native american souls who have suffered infinitely at the hands of bloody massacres carried out in the name of supposedly ‘god-given’ rights to expand – they will never forgive – i walk around with the intrusive, painful thought that beneath the soil lie these souls). the foundation of the united states of america is toxic. tunisia does not share that history. it has had its fair share of wars in the past, yes, but after all – my loved ones are not colonials. you know what? forget all the political stuff. its very simple: i am finding myself to be near and close to those dear to my soul. i am near my grandfather(s). i am near my role models – st. augustine and farhat hached. i am near the soul of Olive, Eucalyptus, Orange. i am near the meditarreanean’s exhalations… near the whispers of running my hands through soil. i am under a sky that st. augustine lived under. i am here.

here. ive missed you so much, tunisia. so, so, so incredibly much.

i am here.

lost, loved, happy, but after all, present.

Ghar el-Melah on a cruel (but kind) August afternoon.

Sufi Shrine
Ghar el-Melah, Tunisia

There was an inexplicable unity in all things I breathed, all things I saw. My eyes were hungry. My soul, thirsty. Climbing the hill as I fought the rays of the sun (which felt like invisible swords cutting through my body), I knew it would be worth it. From fire, to cool breeze. I would find it. I have to.

The weeds were long and the thorns poked at my legs, threatening greater action if I stepped any harder on the Earth. I complied and stepped lightly. Up, up. Beads of sweat formed on my neck, my forehead. A mini river was in the process of formation down the topography of my back. I was almost there.

Whenever I turned my head around, the sea greeted me with a gentle breeze. Go on, it seemed to say. Go on, perhaps you will find what you have been searching for. I doubted what the sea was telling me. As if Sea heard my thoughts, it gently echoed: Don’t worry. I will be here for you once you return. Go on.

I decided to trust the Sea’s words, and my leap of faith was rewarded in more ways than one.

I breathed in a sigh of relief. Slowly and tenderly stepping onto the first stone step, I looked up to marvel at what my eyes beheld. A large, white building, cool with the feeling of purity. So many rooms to explore, and an infinity of emotions to appreciate. I could hear some voices from inside, and the sound of water splashing onto soft pavement. I stepped in from heat, sun, torture. Dry, barren, cruel. I entered coolness, water, relief.

Walking ahead, I entered a dark room. The wrought iron windows allowed in the more benign of the sun’s rays. The nour created beautiful patterns that reflected on the water on the ground. Perched from the wall’s perimeters, a line of copper faucets. One woman was busy washing her face and arms as she muttered the name of the divine underneath her breath. She was cleansing her body before she engaged in prayer.

The voice of an older man was gracing the air as he read from the Qur’an in a room to my right. He was reading the words slowly, pronouncing each syllable delicately and carefully. He paused in between ayahs, or verses. In the silence between the verses, I listened intently to the sound of the breeze, which caressed each wall, each corner, as a whispered dedication caressing a lover. You could actually hear the gentleness and kindness that the breeze inflicted on the hearts of those present. Maybe it was the white walls – roughly cemented, the white paint the walls were drowned in reflected All. They reflected the intentions of those present.

They reflected tranquility and calm and in the midst of collective soul searching. My heart felt like a mess. Each heartbeat felt like a battle. Yet that day, I discovered that nirvana could only be found in those spaces in between each heartbeat. Between each verse. Between each battle.

Glancing ahead, I saw a young boy sitting on a step, underneath a wide arch, contemplating the encompassing sea. I felt like him and the Sea were one.

Perhaps the Sea thought of him, too.

As for me, I was just lost in the embrace of Ghar el-Melah.

Belonging Fully

When you have so many identities, sometimes you feel like you don’t belong fully to any of them. You just exist in a vacuum of bits and pieces of cultures, languages, customs, perspectives.

All my third culture folks (or fourth or fifth): you know what I mean, I’m sure. A minority within a minority, always. I am a woman, Tunisian, American, Mediterranean, African, Arab, Maghrebi, Muslim… The list goes on. I sometimes feel more Coloradan, other days more Arab. Some days I feel closer to the Palestinians, others to the Greeks. Other times to the Ghanaians. Depends on time and place – but I feel it all.

It has its pros and cons but the cons sting…

PS: third culture awesome people – where are you in my life?!


The note in between.

July 17, 2012

You never see a shooting star when you’re out there looking to catch it.

Twice in Lebanon. Once outside a church as I sat beneath a statue of Jesus, in the mountain town of Beit Mery. The second was under an anticipative sky in Beit Eddine, Shouf, as I was waiting for a jazz concert to begin filling me with oceans of joy.

The air smelt like blossoming jasmines and Anaïs perfume. Whatever it was, I knew the night was pregnant with possibility.

After the concert, we went to Deir el-Qamar, where we – albeit briefly – stargazed. Outside the Fakhreddine mosque, I understood why the town was called the Monastery of the Moon. The sky was clear and it was impossible to not feel humbled by it.

And sometimes, you carefully define and write down two musical notes just so you can accurately imagine the one note in between. Once you and another human being jointly discover that you imagined the same note, something Big is meant to happen. Something just as Big and infinite as that very same sky.

Why can’t I…?

I’m a “world changer,” you tell me. But why can’t I, instead, pick up an instrument I’m impassioned with and learn to live for myself and the instrument I play? My paintbrush, my piano. My pen and ink.

Who is ever pushing me to “change the world”? Isn’t loving the music your hands create itself a catalyzer in changing this world and rendering it fuller of compassion? Giving life meaning, then living that life with meaning?

No deadlines, no drafts, no meetings, no Skype calls: just learning at your own curious pace, while developing an increasingly intense longing for the divine through the creations you make.

Doesn’t that sound lovely? And can’t that change my world, and the world of those around me?

Olaf Hajek

Alcohol-free beer in Amman.

Over at the News Café in the Amman airport, I notice a funny looking bottle with an even funnier sounding name, chilling in the refrigerator. I thought to myself: If it’s a beer, why was it called Musa [Moses]? How ironic.

“What is Musa?” I unassumingly asked the young man behind the counter. He laughs, exchanges a few funny looks with the police officer behind me in line. I insist.

“What, what is it?”

“It’s called Misa.”

Shu, it’s a beer ya3ne?”

“Yes, beer but without alcohol.”

“Well then, that is not beer!”

“Do you want beer–”

“Oh no no–”

“Have some beer! We have Heineken, Stella…”

“La2 I’m good, honestly.”

He smiles.

“So where are you headed?”


“Beirut, allah yislam ahl Beirut…

He proceeds to ring up my green apple and sparkling water, and we part with smiles.

If only we contemplated the offerings…

That Mother Nature gives us. If we only took the time to appreciate that just brisk enough breeze that caresses our skin. If we only looked above at the infinite stars every night, or the ever noctilucent North Star. If we only we noticed the perfect patterns to be found in a trees trunk, or the volant butterfly that whispers right past us.

If only we looked, we saw, we listened and realized how much renewal and instauration that would bring us. With even a few seconds worth of a fleeting thought…

I think the world would be a better place.

to write (eloquently) in arabic.

To properly write in Arabic (in a semi-eloquent way), I need to first forget all my English.

Do you ever feel this way?

My mind just keeps making parallels that simply do not exist. While it’s a commendable biologically initiated effort, it’s annoying, and in some ways – counterproductive. Arabic has its own world, with its exclusive ways of spoken, and especially, written eloquence.

For example, the description: “bakiyan shakiyan”… The structure of the phrase is unlike anything in English. And it’s only written that way because it sounds eloquent. In English, you can say: crying and whining. The ‘and’ and ‘-ing’ endings strip it of any eloquence that can exist…

Time to temporarily forget English? Hm. I also just wish less people spoke English.