Thursday, December 31, 2009

13. Completion vs. Consistency.

Received wisdom (or the wisdom that I’ve received, at any rate) dictates that in order to complete a task, you have to be consistent. You must set aside a regular time for a task and do a little every day in order to be successful. This year, I’ve discovered that this isn’t necessarily true. There’s nothing wrong with single-mindedly working on a task for hours at a time, a few times a week, when the fancy takes you – in a thoroughly inconsistent manner, so long as I get the task done.

Essentially, in most cases, consistent work isn’t all that important. What matters most is actually finishing the task, and that tends to require persistence, not consistency.

So, from here on out, consistency will generally be reserved for the tasks I don’t really like / struggle with, or for habits I need to develop. Otherwise, I’m focusing on sticking with completing any task I start, because I’m fed up with all of my unfinished projects. And the reason that I usually abandon them in the first place is because I get too caught up in the when and how often – in the insignificant details. So, in short, I’ve started to focus more on the big picture, and not leaving things unfinished.

12. Daring

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
-T. S. Eliot.

There are a lot of things that I’d like to do, plenty that I want to do, and many more things I’ve never even considered doing, simply because I’m either not prepared to take a risk, or I lack a sense of adventure, or I’m just a plain, old-fashioned, scaredy-cat.

The thing is, I wasn’t always like this. I used to have a great sense of adventure. If it sounded like it was fun, and not painful in any way (I'm really not big on pain), then I was up for it. Be it jumping in puddles on the way home (to the shock of passers-by – whom I was careful not to splash, just so you know), getting pink highlights, talking to strangers, or just trying something new, I was there. It was soooo done. But in the past couple of years, I’ve kinda toned down and I seem to have lost my sense of adventure. And I miss it. A lot.

And yes, in a lot of instances I looked rather crazy (what would you think if you saw a grown woman jumping in all the big puddles in a street?), and sometimes I looked just plain stupid (like the doughnut-eating competition. Which, to make matters worse, I lost.), and sometimes I actually looked pretty cool (the pink highlights were amazing). But I always, always, always had fun. I always wound up laughing – and never by myself. I chatted to people I would never have come into contact with otherwise, and really enjoyed talking to them.

This year I realised just how much I love all of that, and how I really don’t love sitting on the sidelines watching other people have fun. I’ve realised just how much I need to reconnect with the more adventurous spirit in me. It’s hard, though, now that I’ve got so used to playing it safe. But finishing uni has kinda given me an impetus to get back in touch with my more daring side.

More often that not, it’s not about creating or actively seeking new experiences, but about recognising the fun right in front of you and making the most of the opportunities you have.

And it’s not that I’m getting older and moving on to the next stage in my life. That’s different. That’s ok. I can live with getting older – it means I get to be a little more polished (sometimes), and believe me, that’s a nice change, from being the punky one. But it’s no reason not to have fun – and that’s what I feel I’m missing when I’m less daring.

I’ve grown this year in the simple realisation that I need to be more adventurous and take advantage of any opportunities that come my way. As a result I’ve started to take risks and am getting back to my old habit of being a bit more daring, because it’s truer to who I am.

11. Attitude / Perspective.

“Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.”
- Grandma Moses

I tend to get stuck in a rut in terms of my attitude towards, well, everything really. Too often I find myself asking, “what’s the point?” and, for me, that is a fatal question. It sends me on a downward spiral of negative thoughts, which leads to my old friend, procrastination, and then a general lack of productivity.

Many times in the past, I’ve read about choosing to be more positive, about how nobody can change my mood without my permission, about being more proactive, and whilst I agree with it all, I just haven’t really believed it enough to put it into practice.

Over the last few months, however, I am starting to be more proactive in terms of my mindset. There have been several occasions where someone/thing was really annoying me, but where that would usually turn me into a snarky b*tch (which, by the way, I do really well – I have it down to a fine art), I tried to ignore it, focusing instead on being determined to be happy. In all these instances, it’s paid off and I’ve felt much better about myself and the day as a result. It actually felt really… empowering, strangely enough.

This has prompted a little voice in my head to question my attitude to doing things (only very occasionally, mind you). Basically, it’s started a slight shift in my attitude and has called into question my sense of perspective on things, causing me to make some adjustments. It’s still a small change, but it’s definitely a positive one, as it affects so much else in my life.

10. Knitting

I learnt to knit when I was eight years old, and have re-learnt many times since then, but this year is really the first time I’ve actually followed a pattern, which – I’ve learnt the hard way – is crucial, if you want something functional, which my first ever completed project was not. What’s more, I’ve actually finished projects. Notice the ‘s’ at the end of ‘projects’ – I actually finished more than one thing! My aim is to be as good at knitting as Lisa, she's given me scarf-knitting envy. They are gorgeous. My accomplishements are a lot less impressive, but it's a start, and that's how I've grown this year: I've started!

I started off with this baby hat and then the matching booties to go with it:

Then I made two mobile phone cosies (one is actually supposed to be for a friend, but I’ve yet to give it to her. I might have to DHL it).

I love this button I found for the black one:

Last of all, I made this scarf, which I finished a few days ago and has prompted a request for a scarf from my brother:

And I think I might just oblige him.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

9. Hobbies

It’s rare that I make time for the things that I like to do, as I am usually so focused on all the things that I have to do. I have made considerable progress in that this year. As I’ve already mentioned in previous posts, I’ve started reading more, watching more films, exercising, knitting, writing and blogging – the last three of which I only started this year.

It’s been rather enlightening to discover that I can relax and unwind whilst still doing something. Usually, I relax and unwind by doing nothing. And then there’s the added bonus of finishing something, be it a book, a blog post, or whatever.

I’ve also learnt the amazing impact that giving value to an activity can have on prioritising it into my life. The more I value something, the more I regard it as something important to do, the more time I will find to actually do it. In fact, I find myself actively thinking about when I’m going to read a bit more of that book, or when I’m going to get a few more rows of knitting in, in the past I’ve only thought about work or university commitments in this way.

8. TV / Books

I channel flick, watch crap, and will want to watch something on TV even if there’s nothing on and so I usually end up watching reality TV for a few hours, wasting all that time.

Earlier in the year, in an effort to curb this, I bought myself a TV for my bedroom, with no TV or satellite channels whatsoever, and nicked the DVD player from downstairs. Now, when I want to watch something (especially at breakfast) I stick a DVD in and watch about 20-30 minutes (or however long I want/have time for) of a film that I love, from the comfort of my own bed. Invariably, it puts me in a great mood, and then I turn it off.

I watch actual TV (like from a satellite) downstairs, but only for the length of the programme that I particularly want to watch. The only things I tend to watch now are films I don’t own, or series that I really love, like CSI (Vegas and NY – don’t like Miami), House, Criminal Minds, etc. This has freed up a lot of time for me.

Personally, I don’t believe that the TV is anything other than a tool. I can use it to enrich my life (entertainment is enriching, right?), or I can abuse it and let it waste my life. This year I’ve really learnt to use it and, more importantly, the off-button.

Instead of watching so much TV, I’ve started to read more books. I also haven’t re-read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ (my favourite book in the English language) or ‘The Lord of the Rings’, which is a good thing, because it’s kind of boring reading the same book several times a year, especially if you don’t get something new from it. I’ve not read a huge amount because I am a slow and irregular reader, but it is a definite improvement. I used to read quite a lot of books (more than 4 a month), but for some reason I stopped doing that over the past few years. I am very glad that I’m getting back into it again.

7. Following My Heart & Standing My Ground

[NOTE: All the posts in this series have been written - they're either on my USB, or in my notebook, but between a dodgy internet connection, a suddenly hectic social life and a week of staying up late watching DVDs, they haven't been posted regularly. Ooops. They will however be posted eventually, because I've gone to all the trouble of writing them in the first place. :)]

At the beginning of this year, I was engaged and…, well, suffice to say that I am now neither married nor engaged. I called the whole thing off back in April because I knew in my heart that we weren’t right for each other, even though on paper it seemed great. It took a lot of guts, especially as we had been engaged for a few months, but I followed my heart and it really paid off. I am sooo grateful that I didn’t marry him, for both our sakes.

It really showed me the importance of following my heart, and standing my ground when I do. There have been a few other areas in my life where everyone keeps telling me that I don’t need to change/grow/improve, that I’m fine just the way I am, but my heart’s whispered otherwise. Areas including my weight (“You don’t need to lose weight!”), uni (“You’re smart! You’ll be fine, you shouldn’t work so hard.”) and my general lifestyle (“It’s normal for someone your age to stay up half the night and sleep all morning!”). Yeah, right. This year I’ve started to listen to my little ticker, rather than other peoples’ thoughts and I’ve had to really stand my ground to do so.

Honestly, I don’t think you can really follow your heart without also standing your ground. In order to do the former, you need to be able to say ‘no’, to walk away, to go against the flow and do your own thing, however hard it may be. I think that I’ve grown by recognising this and doing it more. In the past, I have always focused on following my heart, but then I live by other peoples’ schedules. This year I’ve learnt to say ‘no’ and I’ve come to realise that most people don’t have a problem with that. Those that do are simply not on the same wavelength as me, and that’s ok – it really doesn’t matter.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

6. Career/work

Because I graduated this year, these past six months are the first time that I have seriously thought about employment – real employment, not scanty, next-to-no-pay employment – and what I want to do with my life. Late, I know, but that’s because I procrastinate, and this is scary, so I procrastinated a lot. So now I’m poor.

I have learnt that I don’t really know what it is that I want to do for the rest of my life, nor do I know what area (teaching/translation/whatever) I want to aim for. More importantly, I’ve learnt that this is ok and I don’t need to start panicking about it. I don’t have to have all the answers now – they will come (eventually) with experience (I hope).

I have discovered that CVs are really, really, really hard to write, especially when
you don’t actually have any employment history to speak of.

I have realised that finding a job that I can/will do (without going crazy) is going to take a fair amount of time and research, but that this usually pays off in the end. I’ve also spent a lot of time thinking about what’s important to me in a job, and hopefully when my thoughts are more organised I’ll write a post on the topic.

Above all, I’ve learnt that I am utterly fed up of being a broke university student. I’ve done it for five years and I would like to grow out of this phase now, thank you.

5. Internet

[Note: this should have been posted yesterday, but for some reason we lost our internet connection for a day – I really don’t know why. Anyways, it’s back now, so I’m going to do a double post today to make up for the day lost.]

For the past few years, I’ve used the internet mainly to read celebrity gossip, research obscure papers for uni, read celebrity gossip, scan the latest news, read celebrity gossip, catch up on fashion/beauty trends/tips and read celebrity gossip. It was essentially my biggest time-wasting tool, and it usually made me feel kinda crappy.

This year I started to read blogs and discovered Google Reader (a little late off the mark, I know). I only tend to pick blogs that I gain something from, be it inspiration, motivation, ideas, or even just a different perspective. Because I’m gaining something, it’s not a waste of time.

Also, despite having started this blog ages ago, I’ve only really begun to use it this year – albeit in a sporadic, inconsistent manner. And I’ve really enjoyed it. Don’t get me wrong, I find it extremely difficult and having to do write regularly challenges my two greatest problem areas: consistency and writing. But I feel such a sense of accomplishment when I post on my blog, and it’s good – even therapeutic – to externalise some of my thoughts. It’s also been hugely educational – trying to find my own writing style, discovering what I can write about with passion and what I really can’t write about, using language in a new way… the list goes on.

In addition to blogging, I’ve been using the internet to learn about new things – things I wouldn’t actually be bothered to do any real research on, but as I’m online, I might as well. These things are usually utterly useless in my daily life (like how guide dogs for the blind are trained), but it’s nice to satisfy one’s curiosity about these things. I’ve also used it to stay in touch with friends by signing up to Facebook – although I’m not really in love with it anymore.

Monday, December 21, 2009

4. Religion / faith

[Note: these posts are organised from most obvious and easy to write about, to the least obvious and most difficult to write about. They are not ordered in priority, because to be honest they are all inter-connected. I would not have grown in terms of my education without perseverance and good health, for example.]

As a practising Muslim, my religion and faith are very important to me and yet this is the one area in which I am always dissatisfied. I could always have done more, been better, been more sincere. I always focus on my shortcomings, not my progress. But I can only determine how far I have to go, how I can actually improve, by acknowledging what I’m doing right. I am not writing this to become complacent in practising my religion, but to recognise the areas on which I can build upon.

I think that the main way in which I have grown this year is by incorporating faith in my daily activities. By this, I mean dedicating as much as possible (i.e. when I remember) of my day-to-day life to God. So for example, helping out with the dinner: I’ll do it with the intention of trying to please God, of trying to gain reward by dedicating it to God. In Islam, everything that you choose to dedicate to God counts as an act of worship, so long as you’re not doing anything harmful to yourself or others.

Also, I’ve revised more Quran this year than ever before. Muslim’s are strongly encouraged to memorise as much of the Quran as they can, to preserve it – the written word can be lost, but what is kept in the hearts of humanity will always be preserved.

I’ve also improved by doing some extra acts of worship, like saying extra prayers, etc. Although I admit, I’ve not been doing as much of this now as I was earlier in the year.

Most importantly, I feel that I’ve made an effort over the past year to become closer to my Creator and I feel a great sense of peace in my life as a result.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

3. Diligence and Perseverance

“The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they while their companions slept
Were toiling upward in the night.”
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

I’m a wimp. The minute the going gets tough or it’s just not fun anymore, I quit.

This year I’ve fought through that (in teeny, tiny, baby steps) and learnt to persevere: to suck it up from time to time and just keep going. This required a lot of diligence, and I’ve had to push myself to keep making an effort.

Honestly, it’s paid dividends. I’ve finished things I’d normally put off, I’ve passed exams I would have otherwise failed, I’ve achieved a lot – and more than that, I’ve had the kind of confidence that only comes from knowing that there’s nothing more you could have done, of knowing that I’ve done my best.

And that’s a very nice feeling indeed.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

2. Health

While taking care of one’s health sounds really obvious, and there is an abundance of information available on the ‘best’ way to do so, I’ve discovered just how much of a personal journey it is, and what that actually means. I always knew that it was a personal journey, but I thought that referred to the personal way in which a particular theory/plan/diet/routine/whatever is followed. It’s actually more personal than that. It’s a journey to discover what gives you vitality and not just a clean bill of health from a medical practitioner or a dress size. Through all the errors of the past few years in attempting to follow different plans, diets or theories with regards to both food and exercise, through all the years of out-of-control moods, excessive tiredness, difficulty sleeping, etc, etc, I have finally figured out what works for me.
I have finally learnt which foods are good for me – and which will send me on a rollercoaster ride. I have become more committed to getting more exercise. I (generally) am going to bed at a much more respectable hour, getting a good night’s rest, and then getting up at a decent time. I have lost around about 5lbs and have kept them off (without drastically changing my life) for a few months now. All this I have achieved by doing what is right for me.
I have also learnt that what works for me, will not work for everyone else – that all the pieces of ‘advice’ available are, in fact, just suggestions, which you can take or leave. I’m not saying that exercise and a healthy diet rich in all the nutrients necessary is not important – on the contrary, it’s absolutely crucial. What I am saying is that how you choose to get that exercise (running, aerobics classes, yoga, etc) and how you choose to eat a healthy diet is up to each individual.
Knowing this has completely changed my attitude to information on healthy eating and fitness. Before, I would just feel guilty about not doing whatever it was, or I would near kill myself trying. Now, I enjoy reading as much information as I can, because it’s not about what I should be doing, but rather about a different way of doing things – suggestions that I may or may not try, to stop things from getting boring.
Most importantly, I feel good, I feel strong, and I feel alive.

Friday, December 18, 2009

1. Education

This year I finally graduated university, at long, long last and then went on to gain entry to the post-graduate Masters’ course. (Yay – still ecstatic over that!) I discovered a whole new passion for my subject area and it’s been a huge motivator.

I’m now truly fluent in Arabic reading and writing and I can understand my lectures and actually take my own notes (instead of borrowing someone else's) now – none of which was true when I started university four years ago.

Now that I have finally caught up linguistically, I am able to achieve the kind of marks that I used to get when I was studying in Englis and am now on an equal footing with my peers, academically speaking. It is a truly wonderful and liberating feeling to know that I’m not going to suck at everything because of my language problem.

However, I believe that a person’s education is not measured merely by academic success (we’ve all met academic geniuses who turn out to be total idiots). I’ve also got back to reading and writing, as well as watching more documentaries and less crappy reality TV (although I still watch a lot of that too). Generally, I’ve been pushing my mind in new, informal ways: reading poetry, and classics, watching interesting things on Youtube, trying to seek out and be open to different ways, opinions, information, etc.

Annual Growth.

The idea for this is a series of posts by Lisa before Thanksgiving, in which she wrote about the 10 things for which she is most grateful. Taking her great idea and then tweaking it for my own purposes, I have decided to do a series of posts on how I think/feel that I’ve grown over the past year.

Today, Friday 18th December 2009, is the first day of the Islamic New Year (1431 – in case you were interested). It’s not actually a religious celebration, in fact, it’s not actually a celebration at all – it’s just a Bank Holiday throughout much of the Islamic world. So, for today and the next 13 days (until the Gregorian New Year on the 1st January), I have decided to blog about how I’ve grown these past twelve months, so as I can figure out what to work on in the coming year. After all, how can I move forward if I don’t know where I am right now?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It's raining!

I know that for most people in the Northern hemisphere there's been a lot of rain and cold weather, because it is, after all, winter. Duh. (Honestly, I can't believe it's mid-December already.) Some places have had freakishly cold weather - I was watching Euronews yesterday and was rather surprised to see that Spain has been snowed down. They've had temperatures of -2C, generally unheard of in the Mediterranean.

This is in Madrid.

Here, on the other hand, the weather has been pretty mild (bar one crappy, cold week at the end of November). Until yesterday, that is. Yesterday afternoon the heavens opened, the wind picked up and the cold set in (cold, by the way, is a completely relative concept) and Winter really started. It's been raining ever since.

It doesn't really bug me that much because a) I know that Algeria needs all the water it can get in the short winter months, b) it won't last long and c) the cold actually gives me a reason to wear my lovely, long, warm winter coat. Honestly, I love winterwear. I think it's from having lived in England.

And, of course, as I finish writing this, the rain has finally stopped, the wind has died down and the sun has come out.

And I can't believe that I've actually written a post about the weather.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A fresh start.

Having been sick for the past week or so, I decided (i.e.: was forced) to take a break from pretty much everything in my life: internet, exercise, uni, work, friends, everything. And to be honest, I’m actually feeling grateful for it. I’m not saying that I was grateful when I felt like death warmed up, because I really wasn’t. Nor was I grateful when I developed the world’s largest cold sore, but let’s not dwell on that. What I am grateful for is the time off from all the thinking and planning and worrying. See, that’s the great thing about being sick: all I could focus on is getting better.

So here I am now, back at uni with my first lesson teaching English on Wednesday. I feel like I’m getting a fresh start, simply because I had a week off between all the months of planning and the actual fruition and application of said plans. And this fresh start feeling has (mostly) removed the anxiety that I would normally feel. Instead, I’m excited to be back in action – yay!

Friday, November 20, 2009

One match. One goal. One helluva celebration.

N.B.: This is about football (a.k.a. soccer). I'm not a fan, but this was big. Just so you know.

Wednesday 18th November 2009: Play off match between Egypt and Algeria to qualify for the World Cup in South Africa next year. Egypt was by far the stronger team as they have more experience than the newly formed Algerian team, but the under-dogs had played remarkably well in their group matches, and had they not lost the last match they would have automatically qualified. To make it all more interesting, the last match - which Algeria lost - was against Egypt the previous Saturday. (The match, played in Cairo, was tense, with the home team needing 2 goals to get to the play off and they made it in the last 30seconds of the match with what turned out to be an off-side goal, which the referee didn't spot.)

The play off was held in Sudan and supporters from both countries raced to get there in the 3 days between the matches. Now, I live in Algeria, so I have no idea how the Egyptians did it, but I can tell you how the Algerians did.

Sunday, with just three days to go, Algerian supporters gathered in the capital Algiers and held an impromptu rally, requesting that the President of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, give them the airline tickets. Among the crowds' loud chants: 'Bouteflika, give us the tickets!'. Tickets to Khartoum cost 90,000DA (Algerian Dinars), which is more than 2months wages. The President knocked them back to a mere 20,000DA. Then Parliament went one step farther: they paid for all of the fans' tickets to Khartoum. In addition to this, visa requirements were dismissed. So, in just 3 days, thousands of Algerian fans took the five-hour flight across Africa to support their team.

The rest of the nation - and yes, I do mean ALL off the nation - decked themselves in the team colours (green/white), with loads of flag-themed accessories.

This is the Algerian flag, by the way.

Anyway, back to Wednesday night. I honestly couldn't stomach watching the match - I felt sick watching the last one, and I just couldn't face it again. Besides, pretty much the entire nation was watching - with TVs taken out into the streets for neighbours to watch together, and big screens put up in the major cities, so I knew that I'd find out the instant Algeria scored. And score they did. One goal towards the end of the first half. And that was it.

Algeria won and the entire nation erupted in cheers. Everyone spilled onto the streets celebrating the nation's first World Cup qualification in 24 years. I raced out with my family, to enjoy the celebrations, but I forgot to bring the camera! I did remember to bring my phone (thank God I also remembered the door keys!), but the photos aren't great quality.

Here they are anyway:

Notice the guy standing on the car window? Totally normal.

This crowd is nothing compared to those that gathered in the cities.

There were A LOT of flags around.

And there were loads of people on top of buses. It was ok, though, as they were (mostly) driving slow because of all the traffic.

It was a long night.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A work in progress: this blog's evolution thus far.

I started this blog over a year ago in a fit of pique. Some ex-pats who are good friends of mine were writing blogs about their lives here in Algeria, and whilst their experiences were absolutely true, I felt that they portrayed a very one-sided, and - if I may say so - largely inaccurate view of life here.

(I am not comfortable discussing my reasons for this point of view, so let's just say I have my justifications.)

Anyway, my initial intention in starting this blog was to write about my experiences of life here in Algeria, to present a different perspective. This is a second world country, and some aspects of life here can be tough, but it does have it's charms and attractions (which I'd like to write a post on at some point - God only knows when).

After my first few posts I realised that this blog was not going in the direction I had originally intended. I was writing about my life, not about my life in Algeria. So, I decided to kind of follow this new direction. I soon discovered that nothing is as boring as writing about than the same old same old. So I tried blogging about my religion, but that didn't work because I was writing far too much in one blogpost which I could not sustain for long and so I stopped blogging for a few months. Anything I wrote about after that was more about my goals and trying to get out of a rut, etc.

Then I read this post on Brazen Careerist, which prompted me to write this post here, and then I read this post by Amber, all of which had me obsessing on blog topics. I have reached the decision that I don't want a specific blog topic, as I don't really know what I want to focus on.

That said, I do want to write here regularly, and I know that I don't just want to write about me, but the narcissist in me finds that sooo much easier to write about.

I have therefore reached the conclusion that I am going to try to do the following:
  • post at least 3 times a week,
  • Set aside a certain amount of time each day to get in the habit of writing regularly,
  • research posts
  • read online newspapers and magazines for inspiration.

Here's to hoping I follow through.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Battle plan - what's next.

Having discovered that I passed the Master's entrance exam and will be enrolling in the course, which will probably start in early December (by my calculation - so I may be wrong), I have been really motivated to get back on track with, well, everything. Admittedly, I haven't actually done anything yet, but I know that if I want to study full-time, and work, and exercise, and have a social life, and keep up my hobbies, and try to do some evening classes I am going to have to get organised now. I need to start good habits and set my priorities - basically, figure out my battle plan - now.

And it is sooo energizing. As, of course, is the feel-good, on-cloud-nine feeling of actually having passed. :D

So, I'm blocking out time tomorrow afternoon to sit down and think it all through.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I. Am. Ecstatic.


I found out yesterday, and confirmed today, that I PASSED THE ENTRANCE EXAM FOR THE MASTERS DEGREE PROGRAM!!!

I'm going back to uni!

I'm still in a mild state of disbelief - I totally thought I'd failed, as I didn't do much revision for it, so this is completely shocking. I'm so looking forward to getting back to uni and cranking up the study, although I won't be starting back until December at the earliest. Who cares? I'm going back!!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

What they don't say about yoga.

Yesterday I decided to do an hour of 'Geri's Yoga' - a yoga video (yes, video, not dvd - there's nothing wrong with old school. Other than the fact that I can't skip to what I want, but whatever.) featuring Geri Halliwell and her slightly annoying? yoga instuctor Katy Appleton. There's also another person in it called Tina who demonstrates a lot of the beginner poses, so Geri can do all/most of the badass stuff.

I totally enjoyed it. Yoga is one of those things that I really enjoy, but I just don't prioritise. I'm the kind of person who finds a type of exercise/dvd that I really like and then does it, and only it, for a month or 3 until I get supremely bored and quit exercising all together. In an effort to prevent that from happening now, I am trying to vary my exercise routine and make it a bit more fun, so I'm trying out all of my workout videos/dvds to try to figure out how to incorporate them weekly. (I'm also looking to expand my collection - but that's another thing.)

Anyways, I'm getting off-topic here. As much as I loved the yoga yesterday and felt that it totally relaxed me, which was good because I was in such a foul mood, today I woke up aching all over. Seriously, I felt like I'd done a couple of rounds with Mike Tyson (without the ear pain). My shoulders ache, my arms ache and my thighs(!) ache (but not my abs - hmmmm). Honestly, I don't mind it - it kind of makes me feel like I did a real kick ass workout, even though it wasn't actually hard to do. Which is, of course, great.

But the thing is... everyone that recommends yoga, all the articles promoting its practice, all the books and dvds that teach it, not one of those that I've come across (and they are many) mention the soreness the next day. I mean, it's no big deal, it's just that when I decide to do carido or strength training I know to expect sore muscles the day after. I don't with yoga.

So now I know: Yoga hurts.

And now that I know this, I have found this article explaining that I may feel some soreness when I begin as I'm using my muscles and joints in new ways.
Duh Sarah!
But seriously, why didn't I figure this out before, and why isn't it mentioned more often?

Friday, November 6, 2009

A bad start, but a good end.

When I woke up this morning at 3:25am I automatically turned over to get back to sleep. Unfortunately my brain decided not to cooperate and instead began to run this really weird loop of worry about (and this is really sad, I know): how I was going to hem my sewing projects.

Honestly, that's why I couldn't go back to sleep.

By 5am I decided I would try to distract myself by watching a film - 'The Devil Wears Prada' was in my dvd player, so I hit play, confident that a bit of distraction would rest my mind and allow me to fall back to sleep.

It didn't work. By 5:30 I gave up and just got out of bed and decided to start my day. But, boy, was I in a foul mood. I prayed fajr (the dawn prayer) on time and I patted myself on the back mentally for doing something constructive. I then went downstairs, and saw the heap of washing up which my sister was supposed to have done last night.

Foul mood just got worse.

I decided to chill out a bit, have my brekkie, read my emails and check into google reader to read my blogs. After an hour I figured that just because I was having a bad day, it didn't mean everyone else had to have one too. I washed up for my mum's sake (I know how much she hates coming down to the washing up first thing in the morning) and felt really good afterwards, so I did some of Geri Yoga. By the end of it all I was so proud of myself for not letting my bad mood, or the bad start to my day, get the better of me.

I went on to have a really healthy lunch, and managed to avoid eating a single chip, even though I had to fry 3 basket loads for the rest of the family! So now I feel pretty smug. I've had a nap but have yet to do anything constructive with the sewing machine - mainly because I can't work out how to use it *blush*. My mum's going to give me a lesson shortly, I hope, and then I'm going to stitch together some pillows. I just hope that that'll give me the peace of mind with regards to hemming that might allow me to have a good night's rest.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


I'm still waiting for the results of my Masters' entrance exam, over 3 weeks later. It's started to get extremely frustrating. Although I'm certain that I've failed, I would still really like confirmation of that fact before I move on and start to fill up my time with other things. Other things like work.

I thoroughly enjoyed the recent teacher's training course I took (I will write up about it soon, I just have to organise my notes, etc) and I'm planning on starting to teach private classes. I'd also like to be able to go back to the Hopeland Institue (where I did my training) to participate in their ongoing teacher training development course as I would like to work with them some time in the future. But I don't feel like I can plan all of this until I have the exam results.

So I'm losing time, valuable time waiting for these results. I mean, it's November already! So I'm hoping to start moving on with other projects in the meantime, as well as to begin researching for lessons now, so that I'm not totally freaked/stessed out trying to prepare for lessons when I do start teaching.

After all, too much of human life is lost in waiting.

Photo: from icanread.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A marriage call.

Recently I received a text message from a friend acquaintance asking me if I was interested in a guy. She told me his age and that he looks ‘acceptable’ (I translated that from the message, I swear). I delayed replying to this message, as I felt it was a rather delicate issue, and that I should pray on it before informing her of my decision (a ‘no thank you’).

She phoned me the next day. Twice.

The first time was to inform me that, although he wasn’t a graduate, he was employed (a huge bonus over here) and that he was looking to marry someone who had a foreign passport, as he would like to travel abroad a bit and it would make things easier, although he doesn’t intend to actually live abroad.

Yeah. Right. Whatever. Anyone want to say the words ‘passport hunter’?

So I came up with the simple excuse that my dad does not approve of anyone who is not a foreign passport holder. Sorted, right? Wrong.

She goes on to tell me that he’s not like that at all, and then she tells me that he’s her BROTHER, which supremely pissed me off. Because obviously her brother is the best thing since sliced bread. They all are – it’s amazing how many age-appropriate, wonderful, good-looking, kind-hearted, strong, steady, hard-working, deep-thinking, make-Edward-Cullen-and-Mr.-Darcy-combined-seem-like-prats guys there are out there.

Really, it’s impressive.

Until you meet them.

Then you make yourself a huge mug of hot chocolate/tea grab loads of chocolate and biscuits and crap and watch your DVDs of Twilight and Pride and Prejudice (the Colin Firth version) back to back, because there is no hope/comparison.

I extricated myself from the predicament by telling her that I would pray on it and think about it. She then said that killer sentence that I hadn’t thought of yet (to busy trying to let her down gently): “I’d love to have you as a sister-in-law”.

Oh hell no.

Seriously, I’ve known this girl four years and I keep ‘losing her number’, and I could wind up being related to her? *i shudder*

Anyways, I kept my cool, told her I’d get back to her by Friday and managed to end the call.

Only she calls me a couple of hours later to ask if we could meet up in person to discuss this, as she feels that it would be best discussed face-to-face.

Abso-bloody-lutely not.

Not to mention a little too late.

I told her I was busy for the rest of the week (white lie) and that I didn’t know what I’d be doing next week and that I’d call her when I was done praying and thinking on it. I hung up again.

At this rate, the only thing I’ll be praying for will be the patience not to lay into the girl for bugging me out.

Why are people so persistent about something when you can’t tell them the real reason why you’re refusing them? (like: wannabe-sister-in-law stalkers are just as scary as all other stalkers and you freak me out, or: I don’t actually like your family, or: he looks like I could squish him with my little finger, or: he’s minging.)

And now, I’m going to have to phone her up and waste my phone credit to tell her what I could have told her tonight, except she wouldn’t have accepted it and would have gone on a long monologue about just how great he was, and hope to God that I don’t get the monologue next time either.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Last Wednesday I went to go stay with my gran sot that I could take a three-day teacher training course that ended on Saturday (Friday here is like Sunday in Europe and the US), then we had some friends over on Sunday, then I had to catch up with reading all my blogs yesterday and generally just bum around.

So now I need to get back on track in terms of my health and fitness goals, AND organise work (I can teach English as a foreign language, yay!) (privately), AND sort out my bloody CV, AND make the most of the sewing machine I borrowed over 4 months ago and have to return next Saturday, AND figure out this whole blogging thing and how it's gonna work for me, cos I want to start posting more often. I'd love to do NaBloPoMo, but obviously I missed the beginning of the month. I might well try it for the rest of the month anyway, we shall see.

Anyways, saw this on icanread and it so definitely applies to me:

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Forgiving my body.

I have been thinking recently about how much I complain about my body, and the fact that I tend to treat it a bit like a spoilt child. The reality, however, is that I put my body through a lot of stress and get annoyed when I get aches and pains from the resulting tiredness, so, really, I’m the spoilt brat.

In the past, I have persistently eaten rubbish, not worked out for extended periods, kept what could be best described as erratic sleeping habits, and then pushed my body to do whatever random workout program I want it to, fully expecting to be able to just do it. I have not listened to my body when it’s tried to tell me of problems (admittedly, I did actually listen, it was my doctor who didn’t, but then I should have been more assertive and insistent). This includes the knee pain I suffered as a result of flat feet and the hormonal imbalances I have experienced due to my mild insulin resistance (my body is not as sensitive to insulin as it should be).

In spite of all this, my body generally works pretty well. I am one of those blessed people who do not get sick very often, tend to maintain a healthy weight with relative ease and a good level of general fitness, despite doing nothing to deserve it. Yet I get frustrated and angry with my body for shortcomings, like how when I eat a high GI meal I need to sleep for two hours afterwards (seriously), if I don’t wear insoles in my trainers my knees start to hurt and my body likes to store fat around my middle like it’s some sort of security blanket.

I guess what I’m trying to say, is that if my body can forgive me all my shortcomings in how I treat it, then maybe it’s time I forgive my body for its shortcomings. No matter what, I will always have to work out regularly and eat low GI to feel well (it works best for me) and maybe it’s time I stopped being angry with my body for that and instead accept that it is doing the best it can, but that it needs me to be responsible and make an effort too.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Feeling disheartened

I'm feeling a little down at the moment. It just seems that, of all the things that I was planning on doing work-wise, none of those things are going to be at all possible. I already mentioned that I'm waiting for confirmation that I have failed my Masters entrance exam, and today I found out that I won't be getting a teaching job any time soon. The place is not looking for positions in the location near me, and as I have yet to get my driving license, I am very much restricted.

I've been meaning to get my license since I was old enough to, but, well... it just hasn't happened yet. Boy, do I regret it now.

I'm also concerned that the translation jobs are very competitive, and I don't seem to have the right credentials. Basically, it all feels a little hopeless at the moment.

Having said that, I'm not doing anything to maximise my chances of getting a job. I've thought of a few things, but I have yet to put them into action. Instead, I'm focusing on craft projects. Ahh, the art of procrastination: leave what you really have to do, for something that you feel that you have to do.

I'm also beginning to think about how I'm going to maintain my workout routine at a good intensity after I've finished the 30-Day Shred (I've reached the half way point, so I feel like it's sufficiently near to think about). I'd like to mix up workouts and do a variety of different programs, but I'm afraid that I might lose my rhythm if I do that.

So, my life at the moment is full of a lot of 'we'll see', which I guess, is not all that hopeless after all really.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Update on where I'm at / what I'm doing

Last Tuesday I took the entrance exam for the Masters course at university and, although the results are not in yet, I’m pretty sure I have failed. We had three exam papers: one I aced, one I did okish and one I flunked. Ironically, I failed the exam that I had most prepared for. Ah well, at least I tried, right? Oh, yeah, and I have no idea when the results will be made available, so that I may confirm my awful fail.

As for looking for any other jobs, I am afraid to admit that I have been a completely lazy cow. My excuse is that I am fasting (still!) and I just do not have the energy to keep going. The reality is that I managed to push myself until my exam, and now I am suffering from a little burnout.

I am still doing Jillian Michael’s 30-Day Shred workout DVD. I had just about mastered level 1 (and by ‘mastered’ I mean ‘managed to get myself through it without wanting to give up’) when the first 10 days were up, and it was time to start level 2. Oh my God, I cannot believe how hard I found it, especially the first couple of days. There was actually a point during my workout when I said (aloud): that woman’s crazy! It was during a move called Plank-Squats, which essentially involves getting into a plank position (similar to full push-up position, but with the arms shoulder-width apart and your bum up in the air) and then jumping your legs forwards and backwards whilst keeping them closed, balancing on your arms and trying to remember to breathe. Admittedly, it works a lot of muscles: abs, thighs, arms and shoulders, and probably others too, but these were the loudest complainers. After a couple of days, however, I managed to get the hang of doing it so that it didn’t sound as though I was going to go through the floor, which is something I am immensely proud of. In all honesty, I’m dreading level 3, but I’m also really, really, really looking forward to finishing the whole damn thing!

I am also trying to get back into crafting as I have completely abandoned my knitting since the summer. Also, I borrowed a sewing machine a few months ago from a very kind friend who was not going to be using it for a while, and have yet to use it myself. I haven’t actually used a sewing machine at all since I was about 14 – and then all that I ever made was scrunchies (the teacher wanted to start with something small). Therefore, if I can manage to use her sewing machine and actually make something it will be a minor miracle. But in order to sew anything, I will need fabric (yup, I still haven’t gotten around to getting that yet), which necessitates a shopping trip (yay!) into Algiers. I might take the opportunity to go and stay with my Gran for a night while I’m there too.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Are blogs without a central theme a waste of time?

Yesterday, I read a post over on Penelope Trunk’s blog Brazen Careerist entitled ‘Blogs without topics are a waste of time’, in which she explains that for a blog to be truly successful, as well as to really promote and develop a person’s writing skills, it must centre around a central theme. Her reasoning is understandable and makes complete sense: focusing on one topic forces a writer to be more creative in both how they approach their subject as well as in how they incorporate other themes in with their central focus. It also requires a writer to read around their chosen topic a lot, developing their knowledge of, and expertise in, that area. All of this is of course invaluable in the workforce and for those who wish to portray a particular digital persona (which is the focus of Trunk’s blog).

But what if you cannot choose one topic to blog about? What if you are unsure of the direction in which to pursue a career, or do not know which field to work in? What if you choose to blog as a hobby and not as a career-networking device? Moreover, what about all the successful blogs out there that do not seem to have any obvious central theme, other than the authors’ thoughts and experiences?

I have only just graduated this year and I have absolutely no idea whatsoever as to what I want to do concerning a career. Seriously, I’m at a total loss as to what field I would like to pursue (as this post confirms) and I do not want to limit myself to one central theme that I will then have to change and/or will restrict me at a later date.

Besides, what topic should I choose? My blog is called ‘Random Thoughts’ for a reason: my thoughts are random and I like the freedom to write about anything that concerns me at a particular time, without having to tie it in to a central theme, regardless of how much it would develop my writing skills. Therefore, if I were to pick a topic it would have to be sufficiently broad for me to sound-off on all of the issues I may wish to write about. I have considered focusing on the things that are important to me, such as my religion, health and fitness, cooking and crafting, career and education, travel, life in Algeria, etc, etc… but I feel that each of these topics would be far too restrictive. So I have considered broader, less concrete themes – such as self-motivation and will power – but in all honesty, I barely blog as it is, and such themes (which I could tie-in to pretty much everything) would also require some research. As well as the fact that I found this blog which covers the whole motivation issue better than I could.

Then again, who am I to argue? I have had this blog for over a year, and I am probably the most irregular blogger in all of blog-land. Almost all of the rest of her advice with regards blogging (write every single day for a few months before promoting your blog, using your real name, etc) is extremely helpful, and let’s face it: she knows what she’s doing, after all she does have over 40,000 subscribers.

So what is this blog to me? It is a chance for me to improve and practice my writing skills by writing on a regular basis. What I write about will vary and whether or not it is successful is not really the point. Besides surely success in blog-land is not unlike success in the real world – different people define it differently. Would it bother me if nobody ever read my blog? No, I really don’t think it would. This is a hobby and a tool in promoting my personal development, not a PR tool.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Procrastinating stresshead

Ok, so I've registered to enter the Masters entrance exam at uni. Now all I have to do is revise. Why didn't I revise all summer when I knew that there was a strong likelihood that I would be going in for this exam? Because I'm a first-class procrastinator. (Seriously, I'm real good at procrastinating. I have it down to a fine art. But that's a whole other blog post.) The net result of all that procrastination is that I am now trying to cram in all my revision. And there's a lot to revise.

A hell of a lot.

As a result I have become a stresshead. I've divised a nice, overly-ambitious study program that is going to kill me if I actually stick with (it involves giving up sleep, food, fun, socialising and everything else), and will stress me out no end if I don't. Basically, I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't.

You know what the best bit is? (This is good.) I'm gonna be fasting for the next few weeks. Yep, it's Ramadhan, take two (making up the days I missed due to lady-times, plus the six extra days of this month).

So, obviously, this is the best time to re-start my exercise program. I started the 30 Day Shred (again) today, and Oh My God it nearly killed me. This time, I'm fairly sure I'm not gonna last the full 30 Days. I'm just trying to get through these 13 days, and then I'll deal with everything else after that.

Does that count as procrastinating again?

Monday, September 28, 2009

My career and education options

After five years at university, I finally finished my degree last June. I’ve spent the summer bumming around, on holiday, enjoying myself and trying to figure out what to do with myself now. I’m very grateful for the fact that I live at home and don’t have to pay any bills and that my university education was free (Europe and America should pay attention to that detail); otherwise I would be in serious financial straits by now.

As it is, I am penniless with too much free time on my hands and I need to do something about it. My options are as follows:

1 – Masters degree: I can enrol in a Masters program at my old university. I have to take an entrance exam on the 13th of October and then it will depend on whether or not I am accepted.

2 – English teacher: I received a job offer at the beginning of the summer to work at a friend’s English Institute teaching foreign speakers. I don’t think that teaching is what I’m interested in, but, you never know, may be it could be a good thing. The experience would be valuable at any rate, and I would have to be trained up by them.

3 – Managing Translator: I’m not sure how to label this job, hence the not-very-obvious-or-descriptive title. Basically, I received a job offer from a friend who runs a translation company to organise and manage Arabic/French/English translations from here. I would have to hire a few translators and proofreaders, send them work and oversee it getting back to the clients. She would take care of the money side of things as well as advertising and be there to talk me through the whole thing. I think this is the most exciting and challenging offer I have – but the responsibility for someone (me) who has practically no experience in the business is insane. I know that she would support me and that she knows what she’s doing, but I’ve done so little translation work that I don’t feel like I know what I’m dealing with in the area. I need more experience in the industry at the basic translation level before I can progress to the business side of things.

4 – Translator: I’m thinking of sending my CV off to some publishing houses, especially the Islamic publishing houses and seeing if there are any translation jobs available that I could do from home, via internet (there’s no reason why not).

5 – Writing: Yeah, I’m thinking of writing as a career. I can’t believe that I’ve reached this decision as I have always been more of a science/maths person than a languages person and I made up my mind a long time ago that I don’t like writing. That said, I don’t dislike it and sometimes I actually do enjoy it. I’m not like my mum who actually finds writing relaxing, but it is something that I could do regularly. The only thing is I would have to practice more, develop my writing skills and try to become disciplined with it. And with my track record: that’s not very likely. But it is possible. This blog will be the true test of that.

I’ve decided to try almost everything. I am going to:
- take the Masters entrance exam,
- take the teaching job if it’s still available,
- ask my friend who offered me the whole managing translation job if she’ll hire me to do French-English translations and proofreading to gain some experience,
- Email my CV to some of the publishing houses and see what feedback I get.
- Try to maintain my blog regularly for the few months. If I manage that, and feel that my writing is somewhat improved, I may begin looking for some paid work online.

I’d also like to get my driving licence this year (that’s subject to getting a job) and maybe enrolling in some classes at the local Centre de Formation (technical college). I am thinking of doing one or all of the following: dressmaking, patisserie classes and – if they offer them – cooking classes, especially in French or Italian cuisine. I don’t like Algerian cuisine, so I would not be interested in anything like that. In addition, I may take up French in the New Year, who knows.

All summer I felt crippled by having so many options, not know which to take and being afraid of making the wrong choices, but now that I have been able to think about things and really consider them, I feel quite excited by my prospects. And dare I say optimistic too?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Eid Mubarak!

The new moon has been sighted so tomorrow is Eid ul-Fitr (The Festival of Breaking Fast), the first of the two Muslim festivals celebrated by all Muslims across the world. After having spent an entire month going without food and drink from sunrise to sunset, we celebrate God's Blessing and Mercy upon us for providing us with food and allowing us to eat whenever we want to for the rest of the year.

Less fortunate Muslims are not forgotten, and it is compulsory for those who can afford it, that the head of every Muslim household donates a certain amount of money/food for each member of his/her family to poorer families. It's basically a socially distributed tax, that people pay directly to those who need it most. If people don't know who to give it to, then they can donate it to a mosque which will then distribute it to those who need it most.

How Eid is celebrated varies from country to country - but one thing remains common to almost all Muslim societies: People Meet Up. In most Muslim societies this means going to see family and calling in on neighbours and catching up. In non-Muslim societies, where Muslims may or may not have family in the same country, Muslims often try to gather together, either informally (BBQs, dinner parties, etc) or more formally (arranged by/at a local mosque / community centre).

Presents may be exchanged - but it's not the main focus, is not very prevalent and they are usually given to kids from parents, etc.

Cakes, however, are a big deal. Seriously. It's now gone 2:30 am and I've just finished baking 41 butterfly cakes that are just awaiting cream tomorrow morning, I've made a rather large lemon merangue pie, and a really small (it was an experiment) fudge cake. My mum's made 40 mini trifles as well as 1 big one. Yesterday she made 6 plates of no-cook chocolate cake, and my sister baked 3 large chocolate cakes, one of which I've just coated in melted chocolate and doused in hundreds and thousands. In short: we've made a lot of cakes.

Tomorrow we're gonna head out to my Gran's at a ridiculous hour of the morning (7am) - bringing a load of cakes - meet up with most of my extended family there, have dinner, and then basically swap cakes with them all.
Then we'll go to my aunty's house and swap cakes with her. Then we'll come home and swap cakes with our neighbours.
Then we'll sit down and stuff our faces with, you guessed it, cakes. In fact in my family, the only proper meal we have on Eid day is the one at my Gran's. The rest is all just cake, sweets, biscuits, chocolate, crisps and other such crap - which, by the way, is a lovely way of celebrating the end of a month's fasting.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ramadan routine.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I have a problem with routines and sticking with them long-term. I know they help me to accomplish so much, but still I slack off, quit and then get down about it. It's very frustrating and kinda depressing. (Hey, maybe I have commitment issues... :D Seriously, I might have to look into the psychology of that.)

As annoying as that is, it's even worse when it comes at a time when I really need to commit to a steady plan in order to meet a deadline, or in the case of Ramadan, make the most of a short period of time. I've tried to get up early and pray Tarawih (night prayer) before fajr, but that's not worked for me for quite a while now, and that means that I've missed way to many precious nights of prayer. Last year this wasn't a problem as I went to the local mosque, but, as I mentioned here, then I tended to spend most of the prayer completely spaced out, which isn't really the spirit of things.

So it's now the last ten days of the month and I really need to change things up. I've decided to stay up a bit later and pray before going to bed. As in 2:30am later. I've done it tonight and it's worked out quite well for me, but I'm still behind. I want to pray with all the Quran I know in these last few days and so I'm praying 13 rakahs, in sets of 4 with witr by itself or tagged on, depending on how tired I am. Alhamdulillah, tonight was a success.

I hope I can keep it up.

In terms of my other goal of reading the entire Quran - I'm so behind it's embarrasing. Really, it's humiliating. But I haven't given up hope yet, Inshallah if I redouble my efforts I should be able to make it. Just.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Night prayer

The Prophet used to offer night prayers till his feet became swollen. Somebody said, to him, "Allah has forgiven you, your faults of the past and those to follow." On that, he said, "Shouldn't I be a thankful slave of Allah?"

Unfortunately I have totally screwed up my body clock - I'm staying up too late and getting up waaaaaaaay to late - and so for the past few nights I haven't prayed Taraweeh (I like to pray it in the morning before fajr and suhoor - I concentrate better, plus it's the best time of the night).

Inshallah I'm hoping to change that now - I've signed up for Ramadan reminders and I'm hoping they'll make a difference. The last ten days are coming up and I really need to get my backside in gear to make the most of it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ramadan photos

This is a bit late coming, but I've gathered some of my personal favourite Ramadhan pics from around the web (a la this blog post) here they are:

A man cleans a mosque in Pakistan as others read Qur'an.

A child holds sweets whilst reading the Qur'an in Amman.

A man takes a nap in a mosque in Kabul.

A man climbs a date palm in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to pick dates.

These photos were taken from the Boston Globe's website:

A Kenyan child reads Qur'an in Nairobi.

Iraqi baker prepares sweets.

Friday prayer in a mosque in Beijing.

A boy sleeps during Tarawih prayers at a mosque in Tripoli.

A boy selles dates in Amman.

A taxi driver gets a glass of apple juice in Kabul.

A Palestinian vendors prepare sweets.

Crescent moon behind King Hussein Bin Talal Mosque in Amman.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Ramadhan reminder from Ummah films

Here's my first Ramadhan reminder and it's from Baba Ali. Lets start the month off with a bit of humour eh?


Ramadhan is finally here - YAY!

I love Ramadhan. Absolutely LOVE it. I love everything about it: the cooking, the late nights, the stressed out people, the long night prayers, the hunger at lunch time, the thirst in the afternoon and above all the joy, the pure elation of that first sip of milk at sunset.

I love Ramadhan.

I love the atmosphere of being part of a nation across the globe united, all doing the same thing. Knowing that people from Kabul to California, from Stockholm to Sydney are all fasting from sun-up to sun-down, and trying to take advantage of the blessings of this month. Knowing that when I break my fast and feel that sense of accomplishment (a day without food and drink to please my Lord) others feel and know it too.

Being a part of a 14 hundred year tradition, taught by the prophet Muhammed (may Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him) makes me feel that - for once - I really am following in his footsteps. That I can be a good Muslimah. That I can do it!

So, yeah, I love Ramadhan.

And I would have written a Ramadhan post earlier except that: our internet connection is dodgy at best, I've been busy trying to adapt to the new Ramadhan routine and I didn't know what to write. You see, it's my ambition this month to try to keep up a Ramadhan reminder for myself, by blogging every day something to strengthen my faith.

I really want this Ramadhan to be my most successful so far. This is a month of worship where good deeds are worth more, and I want to make sure that I take full advantage of that. So having watched a very interesting program by Dr. Tariq Suidan (a Saudi Daee') last night about being defining your ambitions in life (and especially for the next life) and really going for it, I am going to list my Ramadhan goals:

- Read the entire Qur'an (it's on the list every year).

- Revise all the Qur'an that I have memorised

- Purify my intentions and make sure that when I'm cooking and cleaning I'm doing it to please God, therefore transforming it into a way of worship.

- Pray Tarawih myself at home (I normally go to the mosque, but the Imams aren't great so it works out as a bit of a waste of time - Inshallah I'll concentrate better praying myself).

- Fast without feasting. This is a big one. Every Ramadhan I put on weight. Why? Because when I break my fast I figure I've eaten nothing all day, therefore I can eat whatever I want and plenty of it. Alhamdulillah, last year wasn't bad, but Inshallah this year will be better.

I was also hoping that I would be able to workout this Ramadhan. That's really not happening. Uh-uh. There's no time. I have to read my Qur'an!

Ok, so I know that this isn't much of a reminder, but, it is in a way because it's to remind me of my goals this month. Inshallah, I'll get 29 or 30 posts in (I'll do multiple posts in a day when necessary) by the time the month is out. I'm a bit behind on my Qur'an, but Inshallah I'll catch up today.

Ramadhan Kareem!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Small victories

I’ve had a really great week. I’ve worked out 3 times, got up at 7ish (almost) every day and revised 12 pages of Qur’an (which is less than I would like, but that’s just me being too hard on myself). I wanted to do way more, but I had to remind myself that the only way I’m going to improve is by taking baby steps. I’m the kind of person who wants to change overnight, so I take too much on board, then I can’t maintain all the changes I’ve made, so I start to slack off, eventually quitting and feeling like a total failure. This last week, however, may just turn out to be the fresh start that I was hoping it would be. I’m feeling very positive – I’m just so proud of myself for actually getting up early!

I’ve also been keeping a food diary (although not counting calories just yet – I don’t want to depress myself with how much I’m overeating, as I’d just throw in the towel if I did) which has been quite an education. I’ve finally discovered the importance of a mid-morning snack, something I’d never understood before, mainly because I always got up late and therefore had breakfast mid-morning, doing away with the need for a snack. This week, however, I found that if I didn’t eat a snack I wound up eating twice as much for lunch. (Once the food’s made I really cannot stop myself eating more.) Something else I’ve learned from writing a food diary is that when I eat late at night, I get up in the mother of bad moods the next day, and I find it really hard to drag myself out of bed. I know this isn’t true of everybody, but I just can’t afford to eat late at night. My cut off time is 7-8pm, before then I’m fine.

I’ve also learned that, so long as I take a nap (40 minutes to an hour will do), I can manage on just 4 to 6 hours of sleep a night. That has been a revelation. What have I done with all the extra time? Zilch, really. I’m re-reading the Lord of the Rings and that’s about it. But boy, am I enjoying doing nothing.

Although, if I’m honest (which I will be), I think the reason that I’m only working on these three areas (sleep, Qur’an and exercise) is that in a week’s time I shall be going on holiday for a couple of weeks, then when I get back I’ll have about another week before it’s Ramadan, and, realistically, I have little actual hope that I will maintain these (or any) new changes during either my holiday or Ramadan.

However, a small part of me is secretly rooting for me to succeed with these particular changes right through these times. We’ll see.

For this coming week I intend to improve on my current little achievements, as I feel that the fact that I’m going away is no reason for me not to do so. That and the fact that I’ve really enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment this week and I want more! So, I’m intending to workout 5 or 6 days this week (I’d love to say 7, but I know that that would just be setting me up for failure), revise 28 pages of Qur’an, continue to get up at 7am, and to eat better (i.e. watch my portions, eat regularly and eat before 8pm).

I’ve got Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred, which everyone seems to be raving about (seriously, I’ve seen it praised up on so many blogs and websites it’s ridiculous) and that’s what I’ll be working on this week. I’m just going to get used to the moves, is what I’m telling myself. I’ll start it properly when I start eating right and have 30 days continuously at home. Do I sound like I’m procrastinating?

Friday, July 17, 2009


I came back yesterday from spending a couple of days at my grandmother’s place, where I took some of my younger siblings. I took them down to the beach, to a toy shop and let them stuff their faces with ice cream more than was probably healthy. Needless to say, they loved it. Plus, it was nice to spend some time with my gran and two aunts who were also there.

I came back a bit bored and with the realisation that in order to get more done in my life and actually achieve anything I’m going to have to do two things:

1) Develop a routine. The truth is: I’m scared of routines. I’m always afraid that if I get into a routine it’ll become routine – mindless and monotonous. I know (logically) that this wouldn’t be the case if the routine involved things I love (like exercising, reading, revising Qur’an) and that it would give me a sense of accomplishment every day.

2) Get up early. Every. Single. Day. I like the idea of being able to role out of bed at whatever hour pleases me and get everything I need done, but the reality is I get up too late to get anything done, never mind everything.

So, this week I intend to get up earlier, exercise 3 times (at least) and revise 10 pages of Qur’an. There are loads of other things I intend to do this week, but they’re all kinda mundane, like: finish the spring cleaning, decide on my next knitting project, upload photos to photobucket, blah, blah, blah.

My major tasks (read: time eaters) for this week are to stop by uni one day regarding some paperwork, go visit some family friends who’ve recently moved and I’ve also promised to take my little brothers for a day out buying DVDs. So if I can keep to my little routine I will be very impressed with myself.

Of course, whether or not the routine will last when I go on holiday in two weeks time (I’m guessing not) or even during Ramadan, which is little over a month away, remains to be seen.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Today was a friend's leaving do. She's going away to live in Egypt next week, so I won't be seeing her for a long time. Not that I used to see much of her before anyway. In fact, since we met about a year and a half ago, I don't think I've ever seen her since. And her phone wasn't working, and I don't have her email address, so I've had no contact with her since then. And yet, she's my friend. And I will always consider her to be my friend, because she's someone that I really like, I feel like I can be myself with her and because I just felt like I clicked with her. I like people like that.

I also met a load of new people. I'd heard of most of these new people from the net (from my mum's net-use) and it was nice to actually find out what they're really like.

And there were a load of people there that I know, including one whom I have not seen for years. Seriously, it's been like a decade. When I last saw her she was newly wed. Now, she has four kids. Some change, huh?

Friday, July 3, 2009


I've been blogging in my head for two days now. I've mentally written really witty, intellectual, deep, complaining and uplifting blogposts. None of which i can recall now.

I've got back into my knitting, again, and I'm really happy with my progress. I'm making a pair of booties (actually, I've already made them) and a beanie hat for my cousin's baby who is due to arrive in this world sometime in October.

I'm nearly finished this years marathon annual clean - I've been working in two hour stints on-and-off for about a month now, so it's high time I finish up. I consider this my favour to my mum for doing hardly anything during exam and research time at uni. Can't wait till I'm finally done though.

I've started to go to Islamic study circles once a week in a mosque, but they've been cancelled for the next two weeks, so that's that.

I've started revising my Qur'an: 5 pages a few times a week. Usually done whilst sitting on the terrace working on my tan - I love to multitask! So far I've revised 30pages, which is pretty good, I think. I'll probably have to reduce it when I get to parts that I've forgotten more than where I am now, but that'll be ok.

I intend (hah!) to start my exercise routine tomorrow. It will go hand in hand with waking up early. Mmmmm, we'll have to see about that one.

With regards to the whole marriage thing, I found this on icanread.

And with that I've finally learnt how to link to another page and stick in an image. It was really hard, not. So now I feel a little bit stupid that I didn't do this before, but still glad that I finally got it done. ;)

Monday, June 22, 2009

The problem with wanting to get married.

Ooooooooohhhhhhh. Where do I start? With the bloke? With my parents? With me? With everyone else?

I’ll start with me. I guess I’m what everyone calls a hopeless romantic. I truly believe that there is someone out there for me, that Allah knows who he his and will guide us together at the right time. I trust in Allah to show me who the right person is, and to make it easy for me when it is the right person. I trust Him 100% in this. I’m not going to lie, there are a lot of things where I should trust Allah more, but marriage is not one of them, for two reasons:

1) I went on Hajj when I was 18 and one of the things I prayed for really hard was a good, righteous husband who would be the joy of my life and I the joy of his. I have asked, the answer comes from Allah.
2) There really isn’t anything I can do about it. It really is in the hands of Allah. There is NOTHING I can do that will directly make a difference to my getting married to the right person.

Ok, so in all honesty, that last one’s not entirely true. I could improve myself. I mean, really, right now, I wouldn’t want to marry me. I’m a mess. I need to get my act together, especially in Islamic terms. I need to bring myself closer to Allah. But then that’s something I need to do regardless of whether or not I want to get married.

The next problem is my parents. I’ve always assumed – and you know what they say: to assume is to make an ass out of u and me – that my parents and I are on the same page with regards to this. We’re not. My mum and I are in the same chapter, but I’m not sure my dad’s even in the same book! We need to talk. I need to know that I have their 100% support in whatever decision I make… whether they like or agree with my decision or not.

The bloke isn’t really a problem… I’m just leaving him to the All-Wise. I’m human and I can’t worry about something I have zero control over. Done.

Everybody else, however, is a problem. An entire post of a problem, but basically it can be summed up in one word: pressure. Having been engaged for six months before, I know what I’m talking about. People have no idea of how the Islamic marriage system works (it’s way more complicated than the western single-meet someone-date-get engaged-married system) and so you say ‘engaged’ they think ‘wedding’ and ‘ooh lets re-enact the Spanish Inquisition and ask a gazillion questions’. ‘Engaged’, to them, means you know exactly what you’re doing, you’re madly in love and all you can think of is the guy, wedding stuff and living happily ever after. It doesn’t. BELIEVE me, it doesn’t.

Hence I no longer want to use the word ‘engaged’. It’s misleading. So, consulting my thesaurus, I’ve decided to change the word, for Islamic purposes of course, either to: ‘unavailable’, or to: ‘reserved’.

Hopefully, I’ll get around to explaining the Islamic marriage system soon. I just have to start writing…

P.S. This is not an entirely new thing in my life - my concentration on it since I've finally finished uni is what's new. However, the reason that I haven’t written about this before and why I won’t be writing about all about my experiences in this journey is that it's intensely personal and involves discussing things that I feel that I can only talk about if I’m not being judged. And this is neither the format nor the place for that.

I want to get married.

A simple sentence, that, ‘I want to get married’. And oh so complicated, difficult and, well, scary. I feel like I’m ready for it now, really ready for it. I’ve done everything I wanted to do before I get married – and I’m so grateful to Allah that I’ve been able to do that, that I am able to say that I have. And now it’s time to move on to the next phase of my life.

I want to build a life with someone else… I want a partner to share life with… I want someone I can have a family with… I want someone to love… I want someone to love me (other than my family).

But I’m not desperate. This is still quite new to me, and I’m enjoying being right here, right now. It’s fun being in a new phase and being able to explore that.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

2009 Resolutions:

Last year I didn’t make any resolutions at the beginning of the year as I normally do, my thinking being that I rarely complete even half of them and well before six months are up I’ve abandoned them altogether, only to be faced with a sense of failure at the end of the year, when I’m writing the next lot. So 2008 was my resolution free year, and I found that I really missed the sense of direction I had in previous years simply from listing the things that are important to me. Come 2009, resolutions was back, but with a twist.
This year I decided to make my resolutions very simple and indefinite. I divided up the areas of my life I wanted to work on and then listed what was important in those areas, with just one word. The idea is that I’ll gain the sense of direction from having priorities, but without the predefined boundaries of set goals. This way I can update my resolutions each month, or according to the kind of progress I’m making with them. So here are my 2009 resolutions, with short explanations of each item or area:

- Memorise
- Revise
- Ahkam

I want to learn the entire Qur’an, and I have no excuse really for not knowing more. Revision is obviously an important part of the learning process, and I need to really study the Ahkam, in order to recite it correctly.

- Pray
- Read
- Apply

I need to really focus on my prayers – improving my concentration and sincerity as well as reciting longer surahs, and praying more voluntary prayers. Reading will help develop my concentration in prayer, as well as the fact that I have advanced enough in my religion to be able to read and understand more complex subjects. Application will, I believe, naturally follow on from this.

- Skincare routine
- Sunscreen
- TV
- Fiber
- Sleep

My body is a mess. I’m a wreck. Really, I am. I have awful skin, which I did not expect to have in my twenties, and no skincare routine whatsoever. And it’s not gonna get any better as I get older, because I don’t use sunscreen, so I’m gonna wind up with leathery, extra-wrinkled skin. Not nice. The TV fits in with the health thing because I can use my workout videos, etc, and so will get back to the whole exercise thing again (the gym didn’t work out). Fiber is important in any diet, and if I eat more of it, I’ll be eating less junk. I hope. And sleep is all-important – I need a routine to get my body clock back in order.

- Work
- Attend
- Pass

this, I think is pretty obvious. I’m in my last year, I have a heap of research projects with my lecturers, tutors and myself rightly expecting a higher level of understanding and study. I also need to tighten up on attendance and, of course, pass.

- Email
- Fone
- See

I’m a lousy friend. Really lousy. It’s not that I don’t think of my friends, that I don’t care about them, or that I’m so busy that I don’t have the time for them, because I do, but I’m just too darn lazy! So I’m gonna email the ones abroad, fone the ones here that I don’t see often, and meet up with my friends that live within my area.

- Knitting
- Crochet
- Other

I love the sense of accomplishment from making something and actually finishing it. I can’t count the number of projects I’ve started over the years, and I can’t think of one that I actually finished. I’ve been able to knit since I was 7 and able to crochet (basic crochet – nothing fancy) since I was about 12 or 13. I’ve never ever made anything with those skills. I’d also like to do more sketching, photography – I love landscape photography! – baking, and other stuff I haven’t even thought of yet.

- License
- Internet
- Work
- Writing
- Money
- Travel

This category consists of the things that will generally improve the quality of my life. I need to get my driving license so that I can drive places I need to go to. I need to start using the internet more to my advantage, that includes everything from online banking, to looking up stuff I’m interested in, to blogging. Work is a fairly obvious improvement, especially as I’m graduating this year. Initially I’ll carry on working in translation, expanding my work load (and therefore pay check ;-p) and developing my skills. I’d like to start working on some other projects in other areas, and just figure out what I want to do with my life, career-wise. I’d also like to look into writing more, with a view to getting something published. I don’t know if I’ve got what it takes for this, but the only way to find out is to try. And I need to sort out my money. I need to start saving money (I fancy myself a little nest egg), as well as spending it better and sort out my banking. Travel is something I love, and for me it doesn’t necessarily mean leaving the country, or even this city. There’s so much to see and experience right here, for free, or for very little money. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to travel abroad, because I’d love to, but it’s not the only form of travel.

So there we have it: my resolutions for 2009. And the reason I’m only putting them in my blog now is that I’ve spent the last month testing them out to see if they’re any good, which they are.