Ramadan with Covid, Christmas without Snow

Ramadan with Covid, Christmas without Snow

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Ramadan like Christmas
Made with Canva. Food credit goes to Besma–Ramadan 2018 was lit.

Last Friday I jumped into a Zoom call with steaming-hot coffee. Steaming-hot coffee not even in a mug (I don’t have any of those), but in a glass cup that amplified the steam and pronounced the dark-chocolatey color to the other mini zoom boxes on the call. The other mini boxes holding approximately thirty people… most of whom were fasting. Two minutes later the coffee kicked in:

“OMG I’m so sorry and embarrassed! It’s the first day of Ramadan and here I am with my coffee. Please forgive me. Ramadan mabrouk to all who are celebrating!”- my Zoom message to the group.

work 5 minutes
Swap cereal for coffee, and that’s pretty much how it went down. P.C. goes to MEME.

A few smiled, giggled a bit, and nearly everyone replied, “No problem. Thank you! Happy Ramadan!” And I slowly pushed the steaming-hot coffee out of the frame. Karma served me stale coffee an hour later. It was well-deserved.

Although I’m continually impressed with anyone who eschews coffee, water, food, and cursing (!!) during daylight hours in Ramadan, I would not be half as gracious myself. My eyes would be cursing for me if I was in one of those mini boxes without morning coffee.

P.C. Goes to ABC.

It’s no secret as to why I would be so oblivious. I mean I have a hard time paying attention in the first place, and on top of that Covid19 has created a weird bubble that is my apartment. In previous years, I have gone to great lengths to participate in the holy month that transforms cities. In 2017 I fasted for the entire month (that’s my metaphorical Ramadan badge of honor). But Covid has me cooped up inside thinking it’s still February.

Actual footage of me attempting to fast. P.C. goes to Step Feed.

Yes Ramadan has arrived, but its magic needs to be declared as lost baggage for now. No breaking the fast with family and friends, no coffee with friends nor cultural events around the city leaves many people feeling robbed–and has got me feeling like I did back in December of 2016 and 2018 when I didn’t go home for Christmas.

And yes, many people recognize that everything I mentioned above is frivolous when it comes to the real meaning of Ramadan, but this is going to be that one annoying post that says Covid makes Ramadan a lot less magical.

I’ll own that as my perspective, and you can blame it on me being a non-Muslim foreigner if you would like. That being said, I’ve started to take baby steps to reclaim some magic. This afternoon while taking the trash out, I shouted Ramadan greetings to anyone who looked my way. Bechir–local store owner–laughed as usual. A “Chehia Tayeba” for you, and one for you, and one for you!

I throw open windows around 7pm to hear the cacophony of call to prayers, and have started scheduling virtual coffee dates for some Zoom-sponsored nightlife. My favorite strategy is eating copious amounts of brik. By the way, how much brik is too much brik? Asking for a friend.

Anyways, I said it was less magical– not unmagical. This lost baggage can be recovered.

sunset
The Ramadan dinner bell.

So before closing, join me in one big Ramadan mubarek saied!! For those celebrating, may you find the magic of Ramadan like Harry Potter discovering Hogwarts. For those who are not, but know someone who is, join me in another Ramadan karim!

Stay hydrated, friends!

Sign Off

How are you celebrating Ramadan during the times of Covid19? Let me know in the comments!

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Packing for the Trip (and on the Pounds)

Packing for the Trip (and on the Pounds)

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Chips Feature

My life usually follows the cycle of moving to a new country in the fall, hunkering down to work through the winter, and then emerging for damage control in the spring. Whether it be moving to Tunisia (again), setting up for grad school in Budapest, or attending Carleton back in the day–this pattern prevails.

Winter, for me, means moving mountains while not caring how many cookies or slices of pizza it takes to get the work done. Perhaps not the healthiest approach, but if you’ve ever tried to successfully complete a Master’s degree in 10 months… you know it’s one of very few options. 

Spring. Spring! Now that is my season to breath. Tunisian Arabic has a lovely expression for this: riguel omourek (Ree-gal oo-mour-ik). If Google offered a translation it would be, “take time to figure your shit out”. 

Hiking in Houaria, 2017
Spring hiking in Haouaria, 2017. P.C. goes to the fabulous Annie!

In Spring I usually ree-gal oo-mour-ee by counting the cookies and slices, swapping them for fruits and veggies, and taking walks to see the green. However, this year marks the second in a row in which my shit has not been properly sorted. I conceded 2019 to my thesis research, and Covid-19 swiped 2020’s window of opportunity. 

Long story short: I’m carrying 10 pounds from last year, 10 from this year, and in true overachieving fashion, working on the “Quarantine 15” for bonus points. My current solution to this body clutter is not buying an air conditioning unit in hopes of sweating the weight out this summer. Yalla!

Alright, I do realize that solution maybe far fetched and I just want you to know I really do have a plan that involves more salad, Yoga with Adriene, and  The Fitness Marshall. See below.

But that plan takes time and patience just like any shift, and Covid-19 isn’t going anywhere soon. I know this. I’m able to write it. However, I don’t always feel it. So when we all emerge from quarantine I know there will be times when I am teaching a class, or at a cafe with friends thinking, “Oh god! Do they know my pants are a little tight? Do my arms look too big in this shirt??”. 

This is my problem, and it’s not my problem. I am guilty for the extra cookies, but I’m not responsible for the social pressure that makes gaining two pounds feel like forty. I mentally fight this lack of wiggle room now, and I’ve always fought it. And if this is how judgements about a person continue to be made… perhaps I need to tattoo my CV across my forehead–because I will add and drop a few pounds to learn and explore.

Lizzo's Tiny Purse
Lizzo’s tiny purse “big enough to fit all the f@$!s” she gives. P.C. Insider.

Society and the media have become aware of this body image thing, yet we’ve still got a long way to go. Just like me and my grad school/winter/corona weight. So in the meantime, remember only make enough space in our mind for these worries as there is in Lizzo’s tiny purse. Focus on being healthy, not on meeting  expectations set by the media and industries. And by the way, following Celeste Barber on IG is a great way to start doing just that.

Stay safe and strong, friends!

barber corona
#Celestechallengeaccepted. P.C. goes to the Daily Mail.

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Finding Social Media’s Happy Side

Finding Social Media’s Happy Side

Celeste Koppe January 2020
P.C. goes to Canva.com.

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Dear lover of scrolling,

The experts tell you not to, but we all know they are robots. You can only truly implement their recommended dose if your internet is shittier than dial-up. And quarantine amplifies the dilemma–social media remains our only portal to the public sphere.

I get that. I’m no certified sociologist/psychologist/or “respectable” adult, but I do have some friend-to-friend advice. Maybe it’s not really about how much we use it, but how we use it?

what what
What do you think?

 

So you are telling me that social media is our quarantine town square, and you feel a bit drained from hanging out there. Maybe even a little empty. I hear you.

When you scroll, do you comment? Like actually put down some words on a friend’s post? Or are you trapped in a passive mode of sneaky observation? I’m all for snooping, but merely scrolling puts you back in the days of staring at your high school crush from across the cafeteria.

And these people are your friends! So instead of speeding past their pictures, stop for a second to say hello. A post is the opening of a conversation. We can’t just camp out in our own corners of the internet  while refusing to visit others. I don’t think that’s how social settings work in person, so get out there and engage.

pooh2
P.C. goes to Miss Doyle on Pinterest.

The past few weeks I’ve switched over to this mindset. Not only while scrolling, but also when posting. I’ve started to ask for pictures or opinions because I’m over the reaction buttons. Facebook, if you are listening: take. them. away.  Relying on them makes us lazy and kills our precious conversations.

Sure I still “like” things. I said I just started this habit so don’t tease me quite yet. And sometimes I don’t have much to say. Can we instead have an “I’m listening” button?

Of course we shouldn’t rely only on the big town square. It’s lovely to meet people there by chance, however life is not always one big party. Sometimes the parties are small! 😉

So don’t underestimate direct messaging or calls (whether it’s with one other person or five). Take the lead and plan a coffee date or ladies night today. Your friends will thank you for a much needed social interaction that is not a work meeting.

Zkk ]]]
P.C. goes to Irina. Thanks for the fun call ladies!

Needless to say, I do not recommend divorce nor temporary separation for your particular relationship(s) with social media. Perhaps you need to renew or rewrite your vows with these things in mind? If that is the case, please invite me to all seven of those vow renewals. I love wedding cake.

Sincerely,

Your Fellow Facebook Friend/Instagram Follower

See you on the socials, friends!

See you!

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Tricks of the “Poor”

Tricks of the “Poor”

don't let the money make you._
P.C. goes to flikr, quote is from our friend Macklemore.

September 23rd, 2016. Hector International Airport in Fargo, ND… the first and only time I paid for extra or overweight baggage at an airport. I swiped to exchange $250 for 18 pounds, most of which I probably never used. Not to mention, I did this on my way to work for a $450 monthly stipend over the course of the next two years. It was a wake-up call. 

Fast forward one year, and we’ll go on a tour of my room. I’m happy. I love my job, my roommates and friends, and I’ve figured out that limited budget. So I happily show you my mattress on the ground, next to which a pile of books sits directly on the floor. The suitcase in the corner is not tilted upright on its wheels in storage mode, but rather it’s laying flat on the ground. If you opened it, you’d see it’s not packed for the next trip but functioning as a drawer. 

cropped-937f093e-9269-42c0-9b19-931d179fb4f2-1.jpeg
View from that very room.

Last but not least, I’d show you the decoration. That’s right! Only one item of decor, being an empty Absolut Mango vodka bottle (that only sometimes had flowers in it). That sole decoration didn’t need help sprucing up the room. It was a one-vodka-bottle job. 

Yep, you could say I was a bit “poor”. And now that Covid19 has turned our working world on its head I’m going to tell you what I learned during that time.

All jokes aside, if your housing or meals are now compromised, message me immediately. I may not be able to help financially but we will work together to find an individual or organization that can.

So without further ado:

Tricks of the “Poor”

Celeste Koppe January 2020
Thrift finds Budapest. P.C. goes to Channy and Nate.
  1. Your car. Forget about it. Heck, sell the damn thing. Walk, bike, carpool, Lyft, borrow, and use public transportation. Your car is holding you back. When you drop your car, you add a free workout. You also help the environment. Yeah, gas is cheap now but car parts are not. And if it doesn’t work out, I’ll connect you with my dad who is a genius at buying used cars.
  2. Find your staple meal. This should be cheap food you like, and that you’ll eat often. The repetition avoids buying extra ingredients that eventually land in the trash. Mine is scrambled eggs, toast, and frozen veggies.
  3. Reduce toiletries. We are stuck inside anyways. Keep it to shampoo & conditioner, face wash, toothpaste, and deodorant. That cheap shampoo will also be your body wash for the time being.
  4. Visit the local library (virtually). Most have bestselling books and resources accessible on several devices. Minnesota peeps see LARL.
  5. Thrift shop. When things do open up, chances are this cramped budget will still be a thing. So when you go looking for a tank and shorts for the summer–go secondhand.
  6. Borrow with respect. I couldn’t have done anything in the past five years without my family and friends. Clothes, plane tickets, crashing at houses, and much much more. Some of these were gifts, some borrowed. The bottomline is: check your pride at the door. Ask for help with the utmost respect. And when it is given, do what you can to show appreciation. My personal favorite is mowing lawns and scrubbing toilets.
  7. “Make the money, don’t let the money make you.” As said by our friends Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Your income is not a reflection of your worth. If you are reading this furloughed, hours reduced or “let go” and feeling down, that’s not on you. That’s on a faulty system and set of societal beliefs poorly reacting to the current crisis. So wear those mismatched thrift shop finds proudly, because “Uncle Sam is my pimp when he puts me on his track”.

Finally, poor is put in quotations here for a couple of reasons. One, you should never seriously use it to refer to a person or group of people. I don’t think there is a great replacement, but “low-income” is a start. The former attaches the quality to people, the latter redirects to their situation.

Second, through all of this I am still extremely privileged. As mentioned above, many people have got my back. If that’s you I’m sending a million thank yous!! Also mentioned above, if you need someone who’s got yours, MESSAGE ME.

Hang in there, friends!

See you!

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Your Covid19 Escape Plan

Your Covid19 Escape Plan

Jailbreak

“But I wanna gooooooooooo!” 11 year-old Celeste complained to Grandma Kris. 

We were on a walk, and from her perspective probably killing many birds with one stone: 1.) getting her 5 foot, 140 pound grandkid to exercise and 2.) away from grandpa. Back then Gpa drove the getaway car to and from the donut shop, and was my partner in crime when eating bowls of Cheetos. 

“You’re mother would be worried sick!”, she, the best worry-er in town, explained. She nicely broke the news that I would not go on an overpriced trip to Australia that summer. I struggled to get through one week of summer camp, let alone an international trip with a group of strangers.

I didn’t physically leave the United States until 10 years later, and during that time I mastered the art of traveling through books (I also took up running to make room for Cheetos). So as promised, your escape plan is below. And if you really do need a getaway car… I’ll call grandpa up. He will be the guy waiting in a HAZMAT suit.

Americanah

Americanah: we are going to start off Twister-style here. Right foot goes on Nigeria, left on The States, and reach your right hand up to London. Now spin the wheel for Ngozi Adichie’s acute observations on what it’s like to move from Nigeria to the U.S. or U.K. in search of college and careers. This story gave me a book hangover–so much to think about and in need of more.

Istanbul by Pamuk
P.C. goes to Mr. Holroyd’s blog.

Istanbul: I never thought I could be moved by descriptions of furniture. But it happened, and I’m offering you this ticket to an earlier Istanbul. When my  trip to Turkey fell prey to cancelation in 2016 I bawled in my mom’s car all the way from Minnesota to Missouri. I blame Pamuk for the ugly cry-face I carried across state lines. His memoir of the city earned its place in my suitcase for many years, until I finally gifted it (perhaps grudgingly) away to a friend.

Winnie The Pooh

Winnie The Pooh: “I knew when I met you an adventure was going to happen.” Not one of us is too old to explore The One Hundred Acre Woods. So do yourself a favor and attend story time here before you sleep tonight.

At Home in the World
P.C. goes to The Book Castle.

At Home in the World: I have a great amount of respect for this book. She and her husband took their three kids on a world trip. So if you ever feel like “travel” is not for you because of the solo, young and privileged stereotype, pick up Oxenreider’s book. She tells us how to eat cheap in Hong Kong and the best way to react to your child vomiting on a crowded train.

Educated by Tara Westover

Educated: friends, Westover was able to sum up the essence of my history degree in one book. It’s a no brainer why this woman has a bucket of awards from this memoir. So if you’ve ever wondered about growing up in a Mormon fundamentalist family, or how to find the willpower to get your ass to the Ivy Leagues, then you know what to do.

Kristen Newman's Memoir
P.C. goes to The EveryGirl.

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding: if the French dude near you on the plane isn’t asking, “Ca va?” while you laugh-cry your way through a book, then try again with this memoir. Newman, a writer for “That 70’s Show” and “How I Met Your Mother”, shares her off-season scandals and adventures had in South America, Europe, and New Zealand with the same zesty humor of our favorite T.V. shows. Needless to say, I burned through this book before I reached my destination.

FINAL STEP: go get these (e)books! You are welcome to order from my online shop. And don’t share amongst yourselves because I don’t want to be responsible for your coughs 😉

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For Reals

Stay safe friends!

Gender Segregation, Trash

Gender Segregation, Trash

The other day I took the trash out for some shits and giggles. You see, because in Tunisia it’s typically the men who do this household chore. So I grabbed the black bag of despair from the kitchen and yelled to Youssef, “Let’s hit it.”

So the shits part comes from the garbage in my hand, and the giggles from heads turned as I walked to the neighborhood mini dump in broad daylight. I then waved happily to Bechir across the street–Bechir, the owner of the corner store who often hides the good chocolate until I stop by, probably thinks Americans are pretty freaking weird because of me.

 

We digress. Alright, I’m on my way to the grocery store thinking I left all the trash behind and found: not one, but two lines! One for men and one for women. WHY? JUST WHY? 

Yeah supermarket security couldn’t tell me why either. They said it’s an order from the Ministry and proceeded to make sure an even number of men and women were let into the store. 

So I stayed in the men’s line with Youssef. When people pointed and asked, “Why is she over there?”. The guard shrugged and said, “His wife wanted to wait with him.” Thank you supermarket security for officiating my abrupt wedding, but no, I stayed next to Youssef (not my husband) who was also peeved by the situation. Another Tunisian woman did the same. 

Reasons why their could/should be two lines: 

  1. Women shop for food and this is a better reason to shop.
  2. Women should not waste time away from the kitchen waiting in a line outside
  3. Women are too weak to wait as long as men. They should be let in faster.
  4. Women are more organized so they can get in and out quickly.
  5. Women are well behaved and will not cause trouble.
  6. Women are not there to buy alcohol. They are pure flowers. 
face 2
What the what??

I didn’t want to be an imperialist asshole so I asked around about what some Tunisians thought. They thought this extra line thing was garbage too. 

Tunisia is praised for being a leader when it comes to women’s rights in the Arab World. Here you will find hijabs, free flowing hair, maybe the occasional burqa, and my personal favorite: platinum blonde visible for miles.** Hair is important–just ask my mom. But professional inclusion and political representation is also important, so I would like to show you the new ten dinar bill

ten dinar bill
RIP Dr. Tawhida Ben Cheikh.

Right now the U.S. doesn’t have women represented on currency (due to the delay of our girl Harriet Tubman’s debut). If we are using this as a benchmark, perhaps Tunisians can show us a thing or two about gender and equity.

This all goes to show that, no thank you U.S. military of the early 2000s, Muslim women do not need saving. The badass mayors, CEOs, and doctors of the world who cover their hair will probably be better off without you and your invasions. And more specifically, no thank you supermarket security, the extra line is not justified by your desire to take advantage of corona privileges. 

However, women do need their rights respected. This extra grocery line has my undies in a bundle, but I’m sincerely upset about the expected rise of domestic abuse due to quarantine. There are actual posts circulating on Facebook of men celebrating the closure of courts and protective measures. 

With that in mind, this post is not so much about being annoyed at the supermarket, but more so about the balance of privilege and how that takes shape. A lot of us reading have more clay in this life-sized pottery class. Let’s sculpt something lovely, like respecting equal rights in little ways, as to not contribute to a culture in which gender determines safety in big ways.

 

**Women, and people in general, should be able to wear whatever they want. Hijab or bikini.

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