Thursday, August 31, 2006

have i got the cure for you!

Remember when Gwennie Paltrow showed up to that awards show in that back-less number that complimented the giant hickies on her back? Then America, fueled by the likes of People magazine and InTouch, began to buy their own hicky kits hoping it would make them pale and banal like Gwennie?

Essentially this is a watered-down version of what still exists in Yemen. Here goes:

1. I'm sick. So so sick. The medicine from the pharamcy doesn't work anymore because I've been popping prescription grade pills since the age of 15 for simple things like period cramps and swollen knees from you-know-what.
2. Oh, it hurts.
3. How did I forget? There's this woman who does bloodletting. Maybe she can help me!
4. I go to this house. This woman identifies my 'hot zones', cuts me 4-8 times in said zones, sticks a hollowed-out bulls horn on the cuts, places her mouth on the bulls horn, then sucks like any good Meatpacking trannie would.
5. The suction created inside this bulls horn (which I'm sure was sterilized) draws out the bad blood. 6. Wow, I feel better.

I've always known things like this exist out there. But its the fact that someone sucks through a bulls horn that really puts me over the edge. Glass, plastic, metal - fine. But an appendage from a dead animal?

I approached my other teacher (the one who hasn't totally gone off the deep-end as a result of his qat addiction and personal finance crises) about this practice.

He promptly showed me a scar from when he got cauterized!

Some ancient woman in his village branded his back because he was having pains in his abdomen. And it worked! Fuck yeah!

Just stick it in!

a plate of scabs

Sometimes I'm a bit harsh and calloused, but. . .

Since when was it okay to be served food at a restaurant by someone with a tube hanging out of their arm (of which was secured to said arm by a bloody concoction of gauze and surgical tape)?

No really, who approved this?

Who said, 'Hey man, you clearly have some sort of disease that could or could not be contagious. But who gives a fuck? You've got a killer ass and a million dollar smile! Welcome to the team, buddy!"?

Monday, August 28, 2006

i know, right?

I'm honest with my teachers. I'll pretty much say anything for the chance to speak Arabic.
So, I was telling my teacher (the one who asked me to suicide bomb) that I was out of money. Didn't have one rial on me.
I don't know how we got onto this topic.
But then he offered me money. I declined based on personal experience with borrowing and lending AND since I really didn't feel comfortable taking from him. I then proceeded to tell him about the miracle of ATM machines of which was new information for him.
After class, I proceeded to walk 25 minutes, with 8 million bags and a fan (since I was in the process of moving), to the only ATM that accepts my card. Of course, it was out of order. But luckily, I had my emergency $5 on me that the exchange-man scoffed at. I'm sorry, but you can't huff and puff about a $5 bill when the largest Yemeni note available is the equivalent of a $5 bill.
Then I hopped on the bus, paid the 10 cents I didn't have 5 minutes ago, and lived happily ever after.
I relayed this story to my teacher, but before I got the Happily Ever After portion, he said:
"I am very happy now."
"Why?"
"Because you got what you deserved."
"Why?"
"Because I know you are rich."
"Why?"
"Because I do. And now you see that you need to depend on people and that your plastic didn't solve everything."
"But I had emergency money on me
"Now I am sad"
I was more confused than enraged at this point and decided to think about this situation before I acted in an irrational manner.
I pondered. And then put my words into writing. Then I realized, 'Hey man, you're a fuckwit."
In my next class I carefully incorporated my thoughts into our conversation, as follows:
"I am going to Oman."
"You are rich."
"Why?"
"Oman is very expensive and you will spend $100 a night on hotel rooms."
(In my head: thanks for the segway!)
"You need to understand something. Yes, I have a lot of money. But why? Because of the exchange rate. Are you blaming me because your currency is weak and mine is strong? Do you realize that when I am in America I am the same as you? I am unable to buy everything I see. And, my family does not give me money in the way that Yemeni parents shower their children with cash. Every single dollar in my pocket is from my work. You, nor anyone else, will ever make me feel guilty about the money I have earned. So, if I want to travel, or buy new clothes, or take a taxi instead of a bus, this is my right."
He told me I used very good Arabic and nice sentences. Which made me feel like an all-star. But then he said, "It's only a joke." And that is when I decided to let the issue rest. How can you argue with people like this?
In happy news - all my visas went through! 3 months of travel ahead of me!

Monday, August 21, 2006

wood

This just in.

I asked my students to prepare a 5 minute presentation on something that interests them and will interest the other students while they read it to the class. But instead of them rambling shit off in poorly constructed English, I asked them to give me a copy first so that I can edit before the big debut.

You'd think what I received from my Palestinian student to be a joke, but it isn't.

So, there's something called the 'sunnah' - the teachings, actions, and beliefs of the Prophet Mohammed. Many Muslims live by the sunnah, since Mohammed is perfect, and they want to be perfect just like him.

And this is what my student wrote:

'The Miracles of the Quran and the Sunnah. Mohammed used toothpicks to clean his teeth. Now, there is scientific evidence that there is special matter in toothpicks that hurt bacteria. This is bacteria that is bad for your mouth. And Mohammed said we should sleep on our right side. And we sleep on our right side. Now, there is scientific evidence that sleeping on your right side has benefits. Thank God we are Muslims!'

Is it wrong to ask for a bibliography?

And PS - look around, nobody has teeth! What exactly are they picking at with these miracle-picks?

Clearly, I'm going a bit stir-crazy. I'll be out of here in 3 weeks. Fortunately, they sell Valium over-the-counter.

pop a cap in your ass

I am not going to lie. I have dabbled with the idea of converting (from nothing) to Islam. It seemed nice to have something to believe in. Sometimes a gets a bit tiring questioning everything. However, the longer I am here and the closer I get to people, the more I realize what Islam ACTUALLY means to Muslims.

Islam, of which the word 'peace' is derived, means 'submission to God'. Despite popular belive, it doesn't mean, 'submit to God by screaming God is Great before you shoot someone in the head'.

(Just like being Christian doesn't give you the right to throw bombs at abortion clinics)
(Just like being Jewish doesn't give you the right to re-inact the Holocaust on Muslims)

Maybe I'm naive, stupid, or give people too much credit when it comes to believing that most humans are good by nature/nurture, not because of spirituality.

It's like that time in Egypt when I was with a group of 18 complaining passengers and I allowed the Beduoins to sleep outside of camp since they asked. It was Ramadan and they had to wake up early to do their prayers and eat their food. I thought it was nice of them to think about the aural weaknesses of Westerners at 4:30am. So, why not? I certainly didn't want to be woken up by them. But the Beduoins never showed up in the morning and we had to carry our extra supplies of water, mattresses, and own belongings out of the desert and onto the tarmac where the bus was to pick us up. When I told this to my boss he asked, "Why did you trust them? Don't you know they lie?" Sorry, but my last experiences with them were fine - Muslim or not, forbidden actions or not.

So, when my teacher told me today that he truly hopes I see the light and convert to Islam, I wasn't that surprised. But when he told me that after my conversion, he wishes I would turn myself into a human bomb and blow myself up at the White House - I couldn't exactly stop from turning my smile upside-down.

This is only one instance of the inherent violence I am witnessing among Arab Muslims.

So, here's another. The logo for Hezbollah.

While I have to give props to the graphic artist that generated this, I also have to question - what the fuck?!

Hezbollah means 'Political Party of God'. Since when did the word 'God' have a semi-automatic weapon incorporated into it?

This is just a smattering of all the things I'm feeling at the moment. I love the region and I REALLY want to love the people, but its becoming increasingly difficult. I'm sick of people saying that terrorists aren't true Muslims, and then in the same breath say that they hate the Jews. So, I'm asking -- if anyone has any evidence that Islam today (not back in the day when it was invented) is NOT rooted in violence, hatred, and bloodshed, please show it to me. I'll mix a Pepsi One and Jameson while I wait.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

ashit

I moved this weekend to a new place since my school has raised the rent yet again, and the neighbors have taken a real dislike to the students and the school. I was in Old Sana'a which meant we got all of the old minds, old sensibilities, and old, crazy people. It's fine if the neighbors want to hold us to Muslim Yemeni standards - we're very adaptable. But, if the Yemenis aren't going to abide by their own rules, well then, I'll just have to see them in hell.

So, I'm in the school that I teach English at. Even though its free and close to both of my jobs, its not an ideal situation. All of the Yemenis moved out that I was hoping to practice my Arabic with. Now I'm living with Ashit. He's from India. I don't even want to waste my precious rials typing about what a shit Ashit is, but I have a few calories to burn.

Basically, he's all up in my shit. Okay, don't knock on my door, just come in - I can Pavlovian this behavior out of him. But the constant, "I saw on TV that America is like this and that" is getting on my nerves - especially since its directed at everyone's supposed wealth and promiscuity. Unfortunately boys and girls, I am the only real-life American Ashit will probably ever come into contact with, so therefore I'm the one that has to dispell all the unpleasant rumors about our fine, fine country.

I have felt very safe in Yemen for the past two and half months, but I have to say that living with Ashit, away from the crazy Old Town, and amongst a whole different breed of crazies . . . now I'm not feeling so at home. Especially since some crazy, old guy came around to our building while I was gone and threatened to break all of our windows, while babbling something about bitches and burkahs. Do you think he saw the porno I was filming in my room the other night?

It was really hot. Hot in the 'I've been huffing my own bean breath for the past 5 years underneath this polyster nonsense so baby I be needing a hot beef in injection STAT' kind of way.

I've since abandoned my plans for the big overland Yemen to Pakistan adventure since dealing with the Iranians is like being anally probed without a sufficient amount of Wet Platinum. So, I'll be going overland from Yemen to Dubai in 3 weeks, then flying to Syria (shout out to Nicky for coordinating my visa) to study a little bit there. I'll be living with a Syrian family (oy!). A bunch of my non-Yemeni Yemeni friends will be there, too. So it'll be a huge party during the fabulous month of Ramadan. I plan to visit Pakistan afterwards, but awaiting the visa for that one.

All the Yemenis have these really bizarre short, fat, stubby fingers and toes.

And PS - Nancy Ajram is safe. I just read an interview with her. Unlike her fierce Lebanese pop-singer friends who fled to Paris to have a fucking blast during the war, she stayed at home, watched Al Jeezera, wrote a song about the war of which is already on the air, and carefully washed the stitches from her last lift. Loves it. I wonder if her studio is a studio-cum-bomb shelter. But the bad news is that she cancelled all of her concerts.

My bitch, Nancy:

Monday, August 14, 2006

do i look like an x-man?

Yesterday I got a cup of bleach thrown on me at the gym. And then, upon leaving the gym, some snatch-face hit me with his car. I swear, for all the gormless staring these people do - do they actually SEE anything?!

Fine, stare! Just don't think I'm superman and will be able to withstand hazardous chemicals and felonies.

Seriously, gurl. Get with it.

Friday, August 11, 2006

um, yeah! hezbollah!

Like should I be scared as the dude next to me (who can probably read English) searches for Nasrallah pictures. As if all the posters and stickers they're selling on the street isn't enough? There's a low-quality video he's watching on shiaweb.org with George Bush labelled as a ''criminal president'' and carrying an RPG.

Anyway. I'm jumping on the bandwagon. I thought this picture was kind of fierce.


Oh, and they're re-instituting the Danish boycott in Yemen. You're supposed to look at the barcodes on all products and not buy anything that begins with 570 through 579. I'm giggling to myself about this..... this is a pretty detailed process that I honestly doubt many people will be able to grasp. Not that I think Arabs are stupid, but most can't read. And those that can't read are the ones that are the most fundamentalist. But if I've learned anything here, it's not to flush the toilet paper and not to question anything.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

be my guest, ya'll

Last night was a little special. At 9pm the square outside my building turned into a wedding party - live music, dancing with weapons, etc. I knew I wouldn't be sleeping for a while, so I ventured out to at least score a few choice photos. Everyone is very tuned into spotting white skin - its like a contest. Fortunately, little Mohammed spotted me first and dragged me to where my friends where (white friends that is).

See, since we're foreigners, we're guests. And if you're a guest, you need to be treated better than everyone else. So, where did I get seated? Next to the groom, his father, and their Kalashnikovs.

Loves it.

I ended up sticking around for an hour watching the men do a very complicated dance. If only they could apply the mental capacity it took to invent, memorize, and execute this Sparkle Motion-esque number to the state of Yemen - the country would probably be a thousand times better off than it actually is. But alas.

There was so much male-on-male sexual tension it was phenomenal. I felt like I should organize a giant circle jerk just to get it over with. But the eye-slits on the roof above probably would've had heart attacks. (There were a bunch of women on a roof adjacent to the square watching the action. The were very high up and wearing their burkahs - so all you could see were pale eyeslits against the black sky.)

Then the singer took a 5 minute break and put on some not-Nancy music. Some kid, aged 17 perhaps, got out in the middle of the crowd and did some ridiculous not-Nancy dance number that involved soccer-warm-up-moves and chest-shaking. I was seriously so embarassed for him that I couldn't even take a picture. Probably most disappointing for his loved-ones - now that he's proved to the entire quarter that he's a homo, he'll be impossible to marry off. Way to go gurl!

A few of the people standing with me were foreign ladies from my school. Okay, let's use the term 'ladies'loosely. Very loosely. First of all, women shouldn't be standing in a group of men as it is. Second of all, they shouldn't chew qat in front of a group of men. Third of all, they shouldn't perform blow-jobs, I mean, smoke cigarettes in front of men. Fourth of all, they shouldn't even consider dancing in the middle of a group of extremely horny, lonely men.

All of this was done and considered and this is when I left. If you want to confirm (since they already think) that you're a prositute, then go ahead. Be my guest. Combat the Western female stereotype with your hips. And don't come crying to me when they've all jizzed in your eye.

Friday, August 04, 2006

might as well just roll over and die

Instead of teaching my usual 2-hour beginner's English course, I was taken to the University of Sana'a by my boss. My task for the morning was to 'interview' 100 students in English. At first it was kind of fun, but it got real boring real fast asking the same questions and getting the same lame answers.

However, I got to speak to more Yemenis than probably any other foreigner in the history of Yemen. Results of my informal survey:

* First of all there were about 85% women in the class and only about 12% men. The rest were post-op trannies.
* The women were BY FAR better than the men
* Most of the men were very serious and had no idea what I was saying or what they were saying
* Some of the girls were giggle-factories, which I totally took advantage of and changed the topic to more fun things like shopping and Nancy Ajram

* Everyone understands the importance of English in getting a job in the future
* But, nobody knows what kind of job they want
* Majority of people would rather study than relax with their friends
* Only one of the guys had nice teeth. He was actually a pretty good package overall, except for the mild-cross-eyes
* Only 2 people asked me if I was Muslim and I promptly told them that that was a very rude question and that I was done talking to them
* Only 1 person asked me for a written recommendation to blow up, I mean, study in, America
* And nobody knows what they are doing tomorrow even though its Friday and the obvious answer is 'Go to the mosque'

Halas.

Now I am off to my teacher's house for another binge-fest.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

summer of almost-TFO

After a completely whoreanus yesterday - of me praying to God over a hepatitis bucket in a public bathroom that I'd just puke and feel better, my teacher telling me 'today your Arabic no good', getting in a fight with one of my students about the supposed mental inferiority of women, getting lost on a public bus for a full hour, eating a meal of salt, and getting caught in a torrential downpour - then, all of sudden, off in the distance, I heard Paris Hilton's single. It made me smile and do a little head bob in my 17th micro-mini-bus ride of the day.

Once I finally made it back home, some of us students went bowling at FUN CITY. Yeah! They played Nirvana, sold non-alcoholic beverages, and kept the lights real, real bright.

Just another retarded day in Yemen.