Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Testosterone Factor

A transsexual is being interviewed on National Public Radio, born with female organs but male genes, he/she is being transformed in body back to male, While undergoing all the treatments, he/she was given a massive dose of testosterone. The interviewer asks if he/she noticed any difference before/after testosterone.

The guest laughed. S/he said an emphatic “Yes!” and went on to say that before testosterone, she was always attracted to women and would think like “let’s sit down and get to know each other over a cup of coffee or go to a movie or something” and after testosterone is was like s/he couldn’t stop thinking about sex, sex, sex and when s/he would see a woman, any woman, the first thought would be graphically sexual. S/he says she sees women totally differently now. (ROFL)

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October 20, 2006 Posted by | Family Issues, News, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 3 Comments

“We Don’t Judge You By Our Standards”

It’s never a good thing when a sentence starts with “we don’t judge you by our standards.” You know that whatever comes next isn’t going to be good.

It was our favorite time during Arabic studies. We were sitting around in the majlis room, sprawled against the cushions. We had finished all the lessons of the day, practiced new verbs, done all the dialogues to death, and we had a few minutes left before classes ended. Our teachers were really special women, and during these last minutes it was always question time, when we could ask them anything, anything, and they would answer, even if sometimes to laugh and tell us it was none of our business. We had so many questions!

“When we go downtown, ” I had started, “we have a good time. We laugh and we talk and chat among ourselves as we shop. But when we see local women shopping, we see you in groups, but you aren’t laughing or chatting. Is there some prohibition against it?”

There was a long silence. I really liked this teacher, and she really liked me. I knew, as the silence dragged on, she was seeking for a way to be kind. Finally, she spoke.

“You know, we understand you have other ways, not our ways. We don’t judge you by our standards. . .” and she gave a little sigh.

“In our culture, for a woman to laugh out loud in public . . .it would be taken as lack of self control. People could criticize. It could keep a young woman from making a good marriage.”

You could hear the collective gasp. Although it was said with great kindness, it was a serious blow.

When you are first learning a new language, and a new culture, it can be intimidating, but mostly, if it is well taught, it is fun, exciting, and stimulating to be mastering a new skill. The women at this language center went to a lot of trouble to insure that we were entertained while we were learning. They taught us Ramadan customs, they prepared an Iftar supper for us, they brought in all their jewelry and produced a bride. They henna’d our hands, and poured us tiny cups of qa’wa and chai with milk and spices. They took us on field trips. They treated us like sisters, or daughters. They were so kind, and babied us along as we struggled with the new language.

I give this teacher a lot of credit. She could have finessed the question, but she didn’t. She considered her answer, she knew it could offend us. And she chose to answer us honestly, trusting we would deal with it.

I had a physical reaction. I wanted so badly to “get” Arabic, to understand all the customs . . . but to give up laughter? I went through all the stages of grief, staying longest with denial and anger. I thought of all the times I headed for the souks in a gaggle of laughing women, and I felt ignorant, and ashamed, and also angry. It was a real struggle for me, a blow to my pride, an embarrassment. I felt sick to my stomach, and stayed depressed for a couple weeks. I didn’t want to change. I didn’t want to have to give up laughter.

And then one day, somehow, it stopped mattering so much. Time did its work. Life went on. The teacher kept teaching, we kept learning. I no longer go downtown in groups of more than three, and we keep our voices down. We’re still our loud, noisy selves most of the time, among ourselves, but in public – we don’t want to be thought of as women who lack self-control.

October 20, 2006 Posted by | Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Middle East, Relationships, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 9 Comments

First Accident

Today I saw my first accident since I left Kuwait. I heard a loud “THWOMP” but I thought it was just someone closing their trunk loudly. It wasn’t until two minutes later, when the two fire trucks and a police car arrived that I realized there had been an accident – in the parking lot.

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October 20, 2006 Posted by | Lumix, Photos, Travel | 3 Comments

Start Your Day with a Grin

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October 20, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments