Monday, July 11, 2016

Maria in Wonderland

I used to be much more muchier, I was more confident in my skin. I was a character full of confidence, smart and successful in my studies, reaching every expectation I set for myself. My mind used to burst with colourful ideas just like my ever so colourful outfits. I was borderline clown, peacock, parrot. I was an eclectic mix of ideas and creative thoughts. I shined like the sequence in my top, reflecting positivity. I was a burst of glitter and confetti always surprising myself with what I could do an achieve. The idea of failing was never really a fear, I tried new things as random as high jump and when I realised I’m not good enough; laughed and tried something new. My attitude towards life was refreshing and learning from my past self is never a bad idea.

I partially lost my muchness when I got my first D after 9 years of being a straight A student, I did get up and get an A but it was the beginning of going down the rabbit hole. I’ve lost my muchness when I started doubting myself. I lost it when I didn’t score my expected 36 in IB. I lost my muchness when I didn’t fight to get up after failing to meet my expectations. I lost my muchness when I left my curiosity at the back of a dusty closet.

I’m now down the rabbit hole, I’m now in Wonderland. I somehow made it down (or up, whichever way you look at it) still sane but with lots of bruises. I’m still not sure how I made it but it seems that people are proud of where I am at this point in my life. I still haven’t opened my eyes wide enough to realise where I am. It is now my job to make the most out of it. To enjoy tea parties and fight the enemies. To regain my muchness that I’ve lost while I still have time.

It’s about time to be the flamingo that sets everything straight.
Hi Omaima!

Thursday, July 07, 2016

With love, the peaceful and caring one

Dear Homo sapiens,

That is Latin for “wise person”. We all fall in the trap of generalising and believing stereotypes, and it’s very important to realise what we’re stepping into. I’ve heard enough “Americans are ignorant”, “Muslim women are oppressed”, “Germans are rude” and the classic “Muslims are terrorists”. Whatever experience you’ve had, please don’t become another statistic.

We live in a time where, generally, Muslims are linked to ISIS when, in fact, the majority of Muslims are against what ISIS are doing. So it’s sad, hurtful and scary to know when an innocent Muslim Arab wearing his traditional attire got detained in Ohio because a hotel clerk suspected he has links to ISIS. I understand the need to keep people safe from terrorist attacks but it’s also not fair for Arabs to lose their identity in fear of being mistaken to be a terrorist. When Emirati officials encouraged Emiratis not to wear their traditional attire when abroad, it really bothered me and I’m sure many have thought the same way.

My parents are traditional Omanis. They are proud of their origin, nationality, culture and religion. My father is the most peaceful man I have ever met. He always dresses in his white Omani dishdasha and cream musar that matches his white beard and whiter heart. My dad is a walking symbol of peace and I would hate for him to be mistaken for a terrorist. My mother is the most caring woman I have ever met. My mother loves turquoise and purple, when she’s abroad she wears hijabs and jilbabs in these colours. I would hate for her to be mistaken for a terrorist. I’m Muslim and studying in London, while I dress like anyone on the streets of London, I have an extra piece of fabric that covers my hair. I’m peaceful and caring, you can say it’s genetic. I’d hate to be mistaken for a terrorist.

Hiding our identity as Muslim Arabs will not make the world a more peaceful place. Let’s sit and talk, my father’s white beard and white attire is not scary, my mom’s colourful conservative clothes are not scary, my hijab is not scary.

With love,
The peaceful and caring one.

P.S: I was inspired to write this letter because of Moosa Al Lawati’s blog post. You can find it here

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Documenting My Life | June

June felt like a day at the theme park, you're glad the day is over because you're tired but sad that all the fun is over. June was a crazy rollercoaster, one of those that leaves you sick by the end of it but full of adrenaline. The type that leaves you disoriented yet alert. With it done, you feel like you can ride any crazy rollercoaster out there.

On the 1st of June, I went with Mariam and her family to watch Charlie and The Chocolate Factory musical one that I really wanted to watch for a long time now. I didn't like the songs and the acting much but the set was beautiful and as creative as Roald Dahl created it for us.

On the 4th I went to Manchester to attend the Coldplay concert, an experience I never had before. It was more than just listening to my favourite band singing live, it was the atmosphere, the people and the colours. And above all it was a test of courage to do things on my own, a reminder to experience things for the first time. I sang along to my favourite songs, watched as the people sang along and as Chris Martin appreciated the crowd. I stupidly threw away my ticket but I'd rather not remember that.

I presented my mid-project presentation on the 8th and I'm somehow satisfied with the way I presented but I thought I did better. I wouldn't have done as good without the help of the team, their support and giving me a chance to practice in front of them. They made sure I'm prepared well enough for it. I was confident enough to present without the aid of notes, with a good pace and without forgetting what to say. Now that it's out of the way, I find myself more relaxed and able to enjoy my time. I also finished my lab work and started working on my thesis, being able to fully focus on it a while before submission makes me less anxious.

I'm surrounded by great people and it makes me appreciate them even more. When days at the write up area seem longer than normal, they make it more bearable. Everyone is nice, making sure to ask how everyone is doing. Matt telling me about his hiking experience and Manisha asking how my fasting is going. Tina always making sure I'm well, Noeline leaving a piece of cake she baked for me to have after iftar and Silvia asking when I'm done with fasting so we can go back to having lunch together again. I'm surrounded by a lovely bunch.

I don't always get a chance to spend some quality time with my brothers and I really love when we randomly get the chance to sit together for a few hours discussing random topics. Mohammed came over for a weekend and we managed to talk about books and politics, family and studies. Messing around with snapchat filters and just enjoying our time. I really hope my siblings and I get the chance to travel all together this August.

Spending the weekend with a relative we once upon a time were really close with feels good. It feels weird at the same time that she has kids at the age when I was closest to them. We had iftar together, reminisced about the old days and spent time with the kids and the random things they come up with. I enjoyed my time more than I thought I would.

I got a thank you this month when I least expected it. It left a smile for a while and made me more aware to genuinely thank people when I get the chance to. Thank you!

June ended on a bad note and I'm still trying to recover from it. We rely on technology to preserve our memories forgetting that the only things that last are those that are physically existing. A few days ago, my memory failed me and I couldn't remember my phone's passcode. I ended up trying way too many times to the point where my phone got disabled. I had to restore my phone to factory settings and with it I lost letters I've written, memories I kept and pictures I thought I'll keep forever.

June is over now, it gave me memories and took some away but I still have time to make more memories. I still have time to better document my year in London and I think I have an idea.

July, bring it on.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Dear 26

Dear 26,

I thought I’ve really realised and grasped the idea that time will never wait for me to get my s*** together. It won’t wait for me to settle and find time to start on the things I have dreamed to achieve. I try to remind myself about it whenever I remember, but still. I hope you’ve worked up our relationship with time, that we are now best friends and in good terms. That we have worked out the perfect schedule to do everything we want to.

I’m going to ask you my current favourite question: when was the last time you did something for the first time? And I really hope for the sake of both of us and our future selves that your answer is quite recent. I hope you won’t have to think for too long like I have been doing for the past few months. Yours truly at 23 did something for the first time on June 4th 2016. Exactly 20 days ago. I went to a concert and I’ve chosen the perfect show to go to, Coldplay. I’m glad there was someone around to push me to do it. To get out of my comfort zone of not wanting to do things alone. Going to this concert alone was exactly what I needed to remind myself how good it feels to do things for the first time.

For your own good, aim to try something new every single day. It might seem too much and very far fetched but you owe it to yourself to live this one life to the fullest. Find those closest to you and make sure to tell them your plan, for them to constantly remind and encourage you to work on it. And as you continue to try new things, make sure you constantly document them in whatever way you think is most suitable. Take pictures like your 16 year old self; take pictures of your food, the shops, the places around you, people you meet and people you find interesting, pictures of cobbled streets and sand dunes. Take pictures of the entire experience. Write like your 23 year old self; journal as much as you can, write letters to your future self, write letters to your friends and family, document your travels and encounters, make up stories about people in the mall or at the grocery store. Document your life with pictures and words, they will one day make the book of your life. Make sure you live a life worth reading about.

Stay true to yourself, do things that makes you happy and never stop learning. In 2 years time, when you read this I hope you make me proud.

Eagerly wishing for a life full of new experiences,

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Perfectly Planned

One of the things I find satisfying is a fully planned day, one that I know what to expect from it. One that keeps me occupied without it being stressful. I hate days that go to waste, without me doing anything productive. Although I hate routines, I like for my days to have have some kind of structure and a purpose. The purpose can be something as simple as just finding time to unwind and relax or read a book or something a bit more like running errands.

I appreciate a little bit of time having breakfast without rushing to get somewhere. An ideal breakfast will have both sweet and savory options to satisfy all taste buds. I enjoy it when I get time to have a cup of hot coffee with a side of reading and I love it even more when there is someone around for me to then discuss what I read with. I like following it with 20 minutes or so of uninterrupted writing time, I feel most inspired after a day that started as I expected it to and with some intellectual conversations. I don’t like moving from whatever comfortable spot I’m in until I’m ready. Once all of that is done, I’m ready to face the world with a big smile.

I love to have an hour of afternoon tea with a cup of tea and delicious snacks. It’s the ideal way to recharge and feel happy. It probably has to do with the memories I associate with tea time growing up, I’m not sure, I just know that it makes me happy. Some interesting talks come up during this time, random and out of the blue. Some topics are more dense, they make you think hard,  they give you a headache. I sometimes take my tea time seriously and I think I should everyday.

I don’t like loud evenings with a lot of plans and people. Evenings are meant to be quiet, with minimal noise unless it’s a small family gathering (and by family I mean those who you’re comfortable to be around them). Evenings are a time to catch up with my father after a long day of barely seeing him. A time to make sure one last time that my mother is alright. It’s a time to catch up with TV shows or more reading.

This post makes me and my days sound very boring, very structured, overly planned. But believe me I love spontaneous days just as much. I love last minute plans that turn out to be one of the best things I’ve done in a while. I appreciate my days in any way as long as at the end of the day I’m satisfied with the way I spent them.

P.S: This happens less often that it does

Monday, June 20, 2016

For Mom & Dad

I come from a family that doesn’t believe in celebrating mother’s day let alone father’s day. When everyone in my class got excited about what card to make or what gift to get, I sat there knowing my parents will appreciate whatever I give them but also a talk accompanying it that everyday should be mother’s day and we shouldn’t restrict it to one day a year. Father’s day, for some reason, was never celebrated. And my father is definitely not one to celebrate anything like that. Yesterday was father’s day and the only reason I knew about is because of the pictures and comments, tweets and facebook updates that comes with every celebration out there.

Does my father deserve a thoughtful post.? Definitely. Does my mother deserve one? Even more. Why don’t I do it? Because I know words will fail me and I hate failing. I’ve attempted to write about them a few times and I still don’t seem to find the right words to use to make it clear how great they have been and continue to be. Those who know me well and been following me, on whatever social media I attempt to use, know how much I attempt to write about my father. I find it much easier to mention him in a post, write a couple of words or a few sentences. The big hands that hold my face, that could make me cry and stops me from it. The unexpected calls, the thoughtful messages, the hugs and small talks. He might not like how my independent thoughts are forming, the way I interpret things and my actions after it. But I try believing that somewhere deep inside he’s proud of the person I have become.  

Looking back at it, it seems like I have never posted about my mother the same way I do about my father. It might seem like I don’t appreciate what she has done for us even though she was the one that was always there, the one that did a bigger part of the parenting, the one that made sure we do our homework and study. My mom has always been there and the reason why I can’t seem to find the write words is because she has done so much. Pushed me beyond my limits. And probably the reason why I’ll be finishing an MSc from Imperial College. My mom shared moments of grief for a few seconds with me, acknowledged my sadness when we were all going through hard times, but right after the few seconds she’ll be back to the strong woman I have always known her to be. Being strong for all of us. My mom doesn't like my short temper, my continuous anger when things don't work out the way I want them to. She doesn't like my thoughts that go against her beliefs and what she thinks is the right way to deal with things. But I know she loves me and I know she wants what's best for me.

I haven’t attempted to write about this before, the day she arrived from Germany after my grandmother’s beautiful soul left us. I saw as my sister left the car and quickly enter the house. Waited for my mother to come out, frozen in my spot. I saw her as she scanned the place looking for me. I wanted to run to her but it felt like the force of gravity right under my feet was too strong to let me move. I heard her as she said Bunayyati and opened her arms wide enough to engulf me in the biggest hug around my skinny body. She whispered that she’s proud of me and then she was gone to the group of people that filled the house, the people that were there to show their support and share her grief.

Both my parents are loved and respected by many. They have both come a long way. They’ve learned as we grew up. Made sure we seize every chance we’re offered. Taught us to respect time and appreciate what we have. They made sure and continue to make sure that we get the best education out there. And now with the youngest sibling being done with his undergrad degree and soon to start his master’s, I know their dreams are almost fulfilled.

Friday, June 17, 2016

My Little Bookshop Dream

I’d be lying if I said I’ve never considered writing as a career. To be a journalist in some newspaper or magazine, and maybe someday have a magazine dedicated to the latest news on science from the Middle East. I’d be lying if I said I never imagined a life surrounded by letters, words, sentences, paragraphs, articles, books, books and more books. To be able to write something people could easily relate to, recommend to others and quote in their day-to-day life.  But both of us know that I don’t have it in me, and I’m not saying it looking for attention from someone to tell me I’m wrong and I should give it a shot. A writing career is not meant to be for me.

I try to compensate the writing dream with bookshops. Stretching my dreams far enough to owning my own little one. And maybe another day in that dream’s future, a publishing firm. One that publishes the pretty book covers our creative minds want to own. I’ve thought about the atmosphere, the way the place will smell. The free coffee while looking for your perfect book. I’ve imagined traveling east and west in search for the perfect books to grace my bookshelf and the shelves of my future bookshop and eventually yours.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever take the leap to open my little perfect bookshop. To make all the daydreaming a reality. To unwind by spending my time away from the lab, away from research and diagnostics, sorting books on shelves, curating the perfect book settings as it’s an art one must learn to master. And while I wait for you (whoever you are) to come and look for your next book, I’ll leave you to it, reading my own book till you’re ready to ask for help. I’ll try and recommend a book for you and I’ll wait for you to come over another day and discuss it with me while sipping out perfect cup of coffee.