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.