I’ve learned to numb myself to most of the horrible news we hear almost everyday now. I try to avoid the details and only have a general idea of the goings-on. I convince myself that these events, no matter how frequent, are really only rare. It’s only because we’ve become hyper-connected that we hear about every bad thing in the world. I tell myself that bad things have been happening in the world since the world began, but that good things and good people are what make up the majority on this planet. I tell myself that the voice of evil is just very loud while the voice of good is apparently meek, otherwise we’d all have a very different perception of our world.
I watch the news, find out about the terror attacks, the wars, and the dirty politicians and pretend that I can still live a good life without having to deal with all that. If I told myself otherwise, I’d just feel so helpless. No. I already feel helpless in a way. I’d feel too helpless.
I can numb myself to the news. I’ve been fortunate enough for most of the bad stuff to be at least an arm’s-length away from me that I can I just get on with things.
I can numb myself to the news. But I am completely incapable of numbing myself to the hatred, intolerance, bigotry and encouragement of or incitement to violence I now often see from people I think of being “just like you and me”. There seems to be so much of it and it’s everywhere. Social media has opened up doors to what’s really going on in the minds of people. It’s like it’s opened the floodgates that previously held in check all the crazy thoughts people hold inside and try not to let out in public.
There’s so much hatred. There’s so much anger.
There is a context to the hatred and anger. They aren’t borne of nothing. But that hatred and anger aren’t solving the world’s problems. They are fuel to the fire. Why can’t people see that? (more…)
Only recently did I realize that it’s a country I love to hate. I have a lot of baggage with Saudi Arabia and I so wanted to remain angry at it. But even as I got on my first flight back to the country in around 15 years, I found myself unable to quell the little bit of mounting excitement that I felt about going back.
I first went to Saudi Arabia in the 70s. I went to the 7th and 8th grades there. Before that we lived in the US. We returned afterwards to the States but went back to Saudi Arabia, where I spent my last year of schooling (11th grade) before I went off to university in Cairo, Egypt. My father remained for most of the rest of his life. He only left when his health no longer allowed him to continue teaching at university, many years after the typical retirement age.
My story with Saudi Arabia is complicated. I think I actually liked it as a young girl. During my younger years, I thrived on change. I’ve never been able to relate to children or their parents who worry about changing schools and leaving friends behind. My way of thinking was that my friends would remain my friends for life, no matter where I ended up in the world. Moving somewhere else only meant that I got to make even more friends.
Saudi Arabia was so different from anything I ever knew. But it was an adventure. (more…)
I don’t think anyone who hasn’t been in the same position realizes just how much people give up to immigrate to another country. Sometimes, perhaps always, even immigrants take years before they realize how much they’ve given up.
People immigrate for so many different reasons. Some immigrate for a better education for themselves or for their children. Others immigrate for economic reasons. Others leave their countries as a result of political conflict, insecurity or war. Yet others may just need a new beginning.
Whatever the reason, I’m willing to guess there’s a certain amount of trauma involved in uprooting oneself to try to settle down somewhere that could be significantly different from what one has known.
I know I have been traumatized by the circumstances in Egypt post-revolution and by my decision to leave and try to settle in the UK.
It’s now been five years since I’ve started going back and forth between the two countries and two-and-a-half since I officially started settling in the UK. Only a few weeks ago my husband said something about one day settling down in Egypt again. My response was visceral: “I never ever ever want to live in that country again.”
After spending last month in Egypt, I think my relationship with my country may slowly be on the mend. (more…)
What is it about human beings and all our contradictions?
I’ve been feeling a bit mellow the past few days. A bit itchy. Yes. Mellow AND itchy. I feel down. I don’t want to do anything. But I’m really really itching for an adventure.
Just now, after flicking through my Facebook feed, I thought, “All I want to do is to go somewhere where I can completely distance myself from other human beings.” Yet only 30 minutes earlier I told my husband, “I need to get out and go somewhere where there are other human beings.”
Yesterday I was watching Come Dine With Me on TV. One of the contestants lived in a beautiful old home in the English countryside. She had her own lake in her back garden. So I thought, “I’d love to have a grand old house in the English countryside with my own lake.” The reality is that when my husband and I got serious about buying a larger home, I ended up feeling completely overwhelmed, I couldn’t find anything that lived up to the much smaller house we currently have, and I was the one who decided that we’re fine just where we are. So it was mission abort.
I love beautiful things. I love walking through the shops and looking at all the wondrous things that have been created by my fellow man. Then I look at the price tag and realize there was no way on earth I’d be willing to spend that kind of money on something no matter how nice it was. (more…)
In a few days time, a full year will have passed since I fell from my bike and dislocated my shoulder on a short training trip in Belgium. The following months were awful: I had chronic pain and rather than heal, my shoulder got worse. Eventually I was told that I had frozen shoulder. It was affecting everything. No matter how close I held my shoulder to my body, running led to shoulder pain so I had to stop. Cycling and swimming were out of the question. I couldn’t even drive. I was saved by a shoulder operation to break away the scar tissue that had formed inside my joint, preventing it from moving. Then I had to deal with weeks on end of real, chronic pain and physiotherapy. But I was determined to get better and to keep as much of the range in my shoulder joint as possible. That meant persevering with the painful, daily exercises.
The operation was in January this year. Since then, I did lots of training and participated in three triathlons, two of them Olympic-distance. I probably reached the fittest I had ever been. I recall saying the exact same thing just after I dislocated my shoulder and feeling utterly distressed because of all the fitness I would lose for lack of continuity in training. It’s different now. I’ve had a knee injury since the beginning of August and a shin splint just wanting to make a guest appearance on the Nadia show. Both of them have meant that I had to become very conservative in my training and when that didn’t make them go away, I stopped running, cycling and any gym-related work that put pressure/stress on my knee.
Now, that shoulder that kept me from doing anything at all not so long ago is one of the few things that’s allowing me to keep active. (more…)
As horrible as this may sound, today (and sometimes other days) I blame my father.
I blame my father for what often seems to me an illogical attachment to country and people.
I blame my father for instilling in me (I’m certain it was deliberate) a very strong sense of national identity, long before I ever even visited the country.
I’ve been reading a book about Argentina’s desaparecidos – the thousands who disappeared during the country’s military rule from 1976 to 1983. It’s a heart-wrenching narrative of real events through fictional characters. And it pains me to my very core that I can relate in some ways to the events and the characters in this book.
I don’t know if I’ll ever come to terms with what has happened in Egypt in the past few years. I’m one of the extremely fortunate who have managed to come out of it unscathed, if not for an expected amount of post-traumatic stress disorder. My family is all safe for now. The vast majority of my friends are also safe, although I have a few who are very dear to me who are in jail; one with a death sentence on his head.
So many of my friends have left the country, a few literally fleeing it. I left for many reasons, mainly because of my personal family circumstances. But underneath those obvious reasons I know that part of me just can’t deal with what Egypt has become. And another small part of me fears it.
It pains me to have the luxury of sitting comfortably in a nice little house in northern England, drinking my tea and blogging about my all-so-important feelings, while there are so many people back home in Egypt who want to leave but can’t – either because they don’t have the means or because they are literally incarcerated. But because I’m the center of my own world, what probably pains me even more is that I am this fortunate yet I still have an illogical longing and pain for a country and a people now so far away. (more…)
It’s 6:20 in the morning. It’s still dark outside. I’ve already had my usual breakfast – porridge with raisins – and I’m leisurely drinking my tea to get my single caffeine fix of the day. Soon, I’ll be getting dressed to go to the gym where I’ll head first to the pool for an 800 meter swim and then to the gym floor where my personal trainer will pulverize my legs and get my heart pumping at supersonic speeds. Then, and this is the trick, I have to find enough energy to get through a shitload of a workday.
I love a challenge. It’s my love for challenges that drives so much of the choices I’ve made in the past eight years. Participating in a triathlon is challenging. But it comes nowhere near as challenging as the lonely, boring and tiresome months upon months of training that precede it. I don’t love the training. I do love challenging myself to become hard-core. Going out for a two-to-three hour bike ride or a one-to-two hour run in the freezing rain is hard-core. It takes a tremendous amount of mental strength to get up extra early in the morning, already tired from yesterday’s training, and jump into a cold lake or even a warm swimming pool. It takes lots of mistakes and injuries to start figuring out when your body really needs a rest or you’ll just end up hurting yourself AGAIN or if you’re just being a wimp and get your sorry ass out there and just do it!
It all started in 2013. I was training for a hike in the Andes in Peru. Then, while on a visit back home
At the end of my last Olympic triathlon this past August, I began feeling a minor knee pain. But by golly it felt great to sprint past a young, good-looking guy to cross the finish line!
in Cairo, I over-enthusiastically joined a group of runners on a 16km run. That day, I got the knee pain. Not long afterwards, I went on a hike in the Sinai mountains. I came down the mountain limping.
It was shortly after that when I got back to the UK that I started visiting a physiotherapist and discovered there was a world of knowledge I was unaware of in the field of sport. Six years of medical training and several years of dabbling in a variety of workouts and sports did not mean I had a grip on what I needed to do to get fit, keep fit, prevent injuries and deal with them when they came.
That was when I first really understood what iliotibial band syndrome was. Later, as I started training earnestly for a marathon, I discovered shin splints. Not that I hadn’t had them before, mind you. I just hadn’t realized what that pain in my lower leg was before.
But it was really only after I dislocated my shoulder after a fall from my bike while touring in Belgium that I slowly began to put together my full “athlete’s support team”. (more…)
“What do you think of America, Mom?” a young man with Down’s syndrome asked his mother, the waitress who was serving us in the now almost-empty restaurant. “I think America is in a terrible place, sweetie,” she responded. My ears perked. I wondered if she might be upset about the economy. Maybe she didn’t like one or both of the presidential candidates. Perhaps she felt America was becoming increasingly racist. “We’ve left God. ‘One nation under God’. That’s what it’s supposed to be. But now we’re just one nation.”
I felt uncomfortable. My husband and I were the only two people left in the restaurant located in a small town in Illinois with a population less than 9,000. We were blatantly foreign, my husband speaking with his Scottish accent and both of us walking around while holding iPads, kindles and a man bag. I had just asked the waitress’s daughter if the red things in the mashed potatoes were bacon bits, because if they were, I couldn’t eat it. She told me they were potato skins.
Had the mama waitress answered her son so loudly in order to make a point? Or maybe I had become hypersensitized to America’s God-speak and it was starting to get on my nerves.
It’s everywhere. The Bibles in every single hotel room, the signs in front of churches telling me I needed saving, the four older creationists sitting with big posters at the start of a trail in the Smoky Mountains, the country singers ending their show in Nashville with a gospel song, the tour guide announcing all kinds of religion existed in Nashville: Methodists, Baptists, Catholics…you name it! (more…)
The pictures from today’s triathlon haven’t come out yet, so here’s one from my last triathlon.
It feels GREAT.
Today I finished my 2nd Olympic triathlon (1500m swim, 40km cycle, 10km run) and I SMASHED it.
I only started doing triathlons last spring. I never would have even considered doing them had I not watched my husband do one the year before. Before that, I thought people who did triathlons must be MAD. When I saw my husband do one, I thought, “That looks like so much fun!” I was very anxious before my first sprint triathlon last spring (400m swim, 20km cycle, 5km run). But the moment I got out of the water (it was a pool swim), I was absolutely loving it! It was like I had finally found my sport.
I did a few sprints last spring/summer and then another sprint at the beginning of June this year. That June one was when I did my first open water (lake) swim. I cried on the way there because I was so anxious about swimming in a lake and not having a pool wall to touch every 30-50 meters (depending on the pool size). It wasn’t easy at all and I had to breaststroke through much of it. But since then I joined the local triathlon club and started going to their weekly lake swims. I hate the cold water but I’m now perfectly fine with the continuous swim. It can still be a bit of a mind-fuck. I get REALLY bored. I don’t always see the buoys. The sun sometimes blinds me and I have no idea if I’m going in the right direction. But I get it done without crying.
I did my first Olympic triathlon this past July, almost immediately after Ramadan. I only signed up for it about a week before the race. I trained throughout Ramadan despite the fasting, but not with a triathlon in mind. I was training only to maintain fitness. Luckily, the distances I was trying to maintain for swimming and running were close to Olympic triathlon distances. I was only doing half the cycle distances while fasting because more than 20km while fasting is too much of a challenge. I did everything possible to take in enough calories and fluids when I broke my fast every day. But by the end of the month, I’ll have to admit I was a bit depleted. I still did my first Olympic triathlon very shortly after. And I did really really well compared to my abilities.
But today, TODAY, dude, I completely smashed through all my own expectations. (more…)