Archive 2012 Part 2

JJune 2013

You Should………………………

Posted by dshalabi in 04. May, 2012, under society, people, and life in Amman

Some phrases come with a very definitive message, or an immediate call to action. One such example is the phrase “you should”. Once we hear the words “you should” placed before any action or choice, we find ourselves judging our lives.

This is no fault within us, but rather a fault within the words themselves, as the phrase “You should” comes with the hidden message that whatever you are doing now , or thinking now is incorrect and that you must instantly adapt to the action or thought that comes after it.

For example, if you hear the words “You should start taking yourself more seriously”, this instantly means that you are not taking yourself seriously now. “You should have been promoted by now” instantly means that for some fault of your own, you have not been promoted, and that you must instantly seek that promotion. “You should lose weight” means that you are fat , and “You should have told me ” means that you must apologize instantly for not telling.

But, who exactly decides what we should or shouldn’t do. “I should” or ” you should” do something or act a certain way according to whom? . Last week, for example, I posted an event on Facebook regarding a project I have been working on. The minute the event was online, I got an interesting phone call from a colleague who said” You should have told me before posting it”. Now, which “should” holds a heavier weight here? Is it the colleagues phrase “You should have told me” or my personal belief that “I should not have told her”?

Both statements involve the word should , so we could go on in circles arguing what I should or should not have done. According to this colleague “I should ” have told her because she believes she is in charge regardless of her absence all year long. According to me, I really believe that ” I should not have” told her because she was absent all year and her presence or lack of it is the same to me. Some people will believe I am at fault others will believe she is.

This conflict arises from a simple facebook event posting, but imagine how many similar conflicts arise in our day to day lives, for bigger and more pressing issues. For example my parents probably think that “I should be married ” by now while I think that “I should not be married unless I meet someone who understands me”. My boss probably thinks “I should put more heart and soul in my job” while I think” I have given it everything I’ve got and that I should find something new that I am more passionate about”. My fellow Toastmaster club members think that “I as a club president, should be nicer in my SMS” while I think” I really should not be nicer after practically begging someone to do their job “. So we can go on for decades discussing what we as people should or shouldn’t do. But, no matter how hard we try, we will always find people who disagree with what we are doing and these people too will come to us with more “you should” statements.

Therefore, pleasing others by doing the things we “should do” and thinking the things we “should think” is a lost cause. To make life less complicated, the only “you should” one should listen to is the one coming from within. It comes from your inner voice and says “You should be happy”, and what makes you happy is different to what makes me happy. It is the voice saying “You should be at peace with yourself and your choices” and what makes me at peace is different then what makes you at peace.

However, we can’t be hard on ourselves for living in this world, i.e. a tricky world filled with choices. And, within our tricky world, it is only natural for us as people to listen to all the “You should’s” we hear for direction . But yet, we often forget to listen to ourselves.

So, to make things simple I decided on adopting a few “you should’s” of my own these are “You should stop listening to them”, and “You should only listen to you”, oh and I forgot two more “They should deal with it”, “They should not judge me’

Inflated Egos, and Toastmasters

Posted by dshalabi in 13. May, 2012, under society, people, and life in Amman

A few years ago, I aspired to be a motivational speaker. I wanted to be one of those people who could silence a crowd with words.

I wanted to speak like Martian Luther King, Barak Obama, Bill Clinton, Jamal Abdul Nasser, and everyone else who had a way with words. I wanted to move people, to make them adopt a new thought, a new dream, or a desire to be better. I wanted my words to have impact. After all, that is what a motivational speaker does right? He/she uses life experiences to inspire and positively affect others right?

With that idea in mind, I decided to take Toastmasters seriously. I joined Toastmasters  in Jordan. At first it was only something I did for fun but then I loved it, stayed in it, and moved up with it.

I will never deny the fact that the Toastmasters of Jordan have given me a lot over the years. They taught me a great deal about myself and my abilities. Without their guidance I wouldn’t be where I am today. They gave me confidence, and they allowed me to feel the glory and power of motivation throughout the times I spoke under their umbrella.

They have made me feel special on several occasions. For example, when my fellow club members clapped after my speeches, I believed that what I said had impact. When a stranger once come up to me and asked me to mentor him, I believed that what I said must have been good. I especially felt great this year when I won two contests on the national level in Jordan. But today, my feelings on the issue change, as I realize that I am not particularly special, not particularly a great speaker, or not particularly out of the ordinary.

Sadly I simply realized that Jordan Toastmasters is an organization that inflates egos while teaching public speaking, and leadership. It allows people to believe they are more special than they actually are.

I see now and through the titles that some members attach to themselves who the world does and doesn’t consider a success, or who the world does or doesn’t consider a motivational speaker, or a trainer, or an inspirer. And sadly not everyone who claims he/she is any of the above has truth in the claim.

This is the logical explanation, but in Jordan I sadly realized that getting such titles is not at all attributed to doing something special. It is simply and disappointingly attributed to only saying that you do something special.

Like anything else in this country, Toastmasters Jordan is infested with image seeking people, people who lack the core values of the organization but yet are enjoying its success. Several incidents make me believe so, including the lack of team support for members who win in a national competition and are supposed to move on to represent Jordan regionally, the lack of team spirit from a team that is supposed to be working for you, the lack of respect the normal member gets while someone else who just seems more influential gets all the respect from the world.

See, whether we like it or not, Toastmasters does introduce us to a full community of aspiring speakers. Some call themselves trainers even if no one attends their course,. Some call themselves entrepreneurs even if their company is closing own, and some call themselves presidents , vice presidents, and governors, while they don’t seem to do their work.

You hear those speakers in meetings, and you think they do have room for improvement , and they acknowledge these needs in front of fellow members.

But then, outside the meeting you see those same aspiring speakers nominated to speak in public events. You read their bios only to think that they have resolved all public speaking problems they have. Titles like “ Motivational Speaker”, “NGO Founder”, “Vice President”, “President”, and “Governor” placed before their name and if you know them personally, you may think to yourself if only the world saw them in meetings.

But let’s face It, the world does not care to know the truth. The world is only interested in reading what it reads without seeking to look beyond the words.

This realization brings me to ask if such people are successful? Is inflating one’s ego regardless of whether or not it is based on fact a shortcut to success. Sadly in our society it could very well be, because people can say they are successful and the world will believe that they are.

According to this definition, anyone with an inflated ego is successful. Anyone who memorized a few big words to say in a speech is successful, and anyone who learned to attach him/herself to a few international organizations is successful, and anyone who knows how to smile and get an applause out of a huge audience is successful.

So, if our aim is just to make the world see us as successful regardless of whether or not we actually are, then let us all speak of our success even if it is pack of lies. Let us all go to National Speaking events and festivals and speak of our achievements even if they are not achievements at all. Let us steal the spotlight and take credit for other people’s hard work. Let the world think we are great achievers while those who know us, are laughing at the world and at us in the background. If this is success then we can all be easily successful.

The world can continue to fall under the echoes of our empty pointless words.

Sadly, I say this today and I say that It is such people that make me reconsider ever wanting to continue my public speaking journey. If Toastmasters is about egos, if motivational speaking is about having an arrogance, and if success is something blindly given to anyone to have an ego, then I don’t want to be associated with such success. I used to want to work to be a WC but now, I realize that it is nothing more than a title and anyone with an ego will be supported by Jordan to get it. This is not the success I want.

You see to me, real success is about being honest with yourself and it only comes when you put your head on the pillow at night, and in the few seconds before you fall asleep you say to yourself “Wow I did something good today”. That to me and only that is real success. The rest is empty, pointless, ego filled words. Words that pollute the whole mission of Toastmaster, the people of Toastmasters, while real gems fall under the stampede.

Toastmasters has many great members who will never shine because of others who will never allow them to. This note is not something negative about Toastmasters International since as an idea Toastmasters International is great. It is about the people who plute it with their inabilety to play fair.


Posted by dshalabi in 19. Apr, 2012, under society, people, and life in Amman

Dala3 is  a purely Arabic term that refers to the extreme felinity of a woman. It is basically a term that refers to women being weak, soft spoken, dependent, and extremely delicate in their actions.

As pathetic as the term sounds, some girls find it desirable. They even ask the world around them if they have what it takes to be worthy of the “Dala3” title. They make extra efforts to be associated with the term, so that they even make the men around them do the simplest of tasks for them, even if such tasks are as simple as finding a cab, lifting a bag, opening a window, or going to the supermarket.

So why is it that girls love to look so helpless. At some point I used to think that such was the desirable trait amongst men. And, given that we come from a society where marriage is the prime aim of a good number of women, I used to think that they put on the pathetic helpless “Dala3”  title to become more marketable as future wives to all looking men.

I even asked some male friends if this is the case, but most of them replied that in fact girls look cheap and stupid if they put on the “dala3” act way too much.

So is it possible that men and women are each speaking a different language.? While girls put on the “Dala3” just as a means to catch men, are men in fact running away from this “Dala3” act?

Ultimately I think men and women want something real, so I would say to the girls stop putting on the act and men stop pretending you are really into the act.

Sooner or later your realities will come out. The extra feminine pathetic girl will eventually get angry and show her ability to fight, and the brain seeking man will eventually tell the pathetic girl that he wants her to wake up.  So girls be girls and boys be boys, with no acts, no pretence, and no assumption that you know what the other person is really looking for.

 And Girls knock off the “Dala3” after all cat fights were created by women, and the term “Mean Girls” didn’t come out of no where. And men, stop being cheap, you know it is all a game. Take it from a woman

Who Are Your Real Friends?

Posted by dshalabi in 23. Apr, 2012, under society, people, and life in Amman

Over a year ago a person whom I thought was a really good friend of mine decided to stop talking to me over a Facebook status. I am really not kidding; this person simply decided that a status on a social network was a deal breaker, a reason worthy of breaking all ties with another person. If you are wondering what that fatal status was, I can honestly tell you that I really don’t remember but I do remember that it didn’t contain any obscene language simply because I am not a person who uses obscene language in my day to day life.

   Back then, the incident really shocked me. In fact it deeply upset me, even depressed me since I was really unable to get over the fact that anyone would end a friendship over something so trivial.  I even blamed myself for some time, thinking that it was my fault  or that there was something wrong with me.  

 But, now over a year later, I realize that  the fault was not really mine. I simply made a small gesture that may have irritated the person in front of me. And, the possibility of anyone  messing up with anyone else is one that is quite large. After all we are all people, and we make mistakes.

 I do admit that I was however at fault within one aspect of the whole situation. You see, like most people in our community, my judgment was off in my consideration of friends. Simply, this lack of vision forced me to make bad choices regarding who I interact with and how. This incident simply reflects one of several bad choices I made and it will probably be a prelude to other bad choices I will make in the future.

 I think our main problem as people is that we open ourselves up to about anyone we see. We seek company and we fear being lonely. This natural need  for interaction makes us use the term “friend” quite loosely. We simply think that anyone we see , we go out with, or talk to on the phone even if it is occasionally is our friend, and because we simply assume that all the above are our friends we openly give our trust and commitments to the friendship blindly.

 But, are these people really our friends or are they just people we know.? I think that what distinguishes a friend from a mere acquaintance are two very basic attributes namely: forgiveness and allowance.

 Your acquaintance may enjoy your company, laugh with you, and think you are really cool, but make a mistake with that person and he/she would erase you from their books forever. The acquaintance seeks your company provided you are happy, entertaining, and complying, and provided you don’t ask for favors, and that you have a plan for an outing that is fun all the time. Most importantly for this person to seek your company,  you should never have problems and you should never need to talk.   

 Your friend, however, is very different in nature from the acquaintance. He/she is the person who understands that you are human and that you make mistakes sometimes. He/she is also very aware that sometimes you suck as a person but yet despite your shortcomings he/she believes that the idea of the friendship is not an issue worth questioning. He/she doesn’t accept discussing the end of the friendship or even consider waiting for an apology from you. “You are friends anyway” is the general idea .

Your friend calls you regardless of whether or not you  have a plan for an outing or you don’t. His/her conversations don’t start with did you, or why didn’t you, or  you should. They start with “How are you”, And, the list goes on to forgiving your idiotic actions, your dorky behavior, and accepting your explanations.

 So within this definition let us ask ourselves this, how many real friends do we have ?  How many people  accept us for who we are the way we are. I assure you that if you were to go through your friend list on Facebook and  or your phonebook, you will see that out of the hundreds of people there a few who fit this description. These few are your friends.

 The rest are fun acquaintances. They are the people who block you for not showing up on time, for a status, or for simply running out of fun ideas, or worse than that for simply being in a bad mood.

 I have been thinking about this issue for sometimes now, and I found that my real friends are a few. But anyway who cares. At least they are real. 

 Why bring this up now, I don’t know maybe I am having one of those dramatic days, and most probably I’ll be back to my obnoxious sarcastic loud mouth self tomorrow.  Food for thought right ?

Guys will be Guys !

Posted by dshalabi in 25. Apr, 2012, under society, people, and life in Amman

I arrived home yesterday, only to find that our living room was full of men. These men were all watching TV with full concentration. I said hello, and yet none of them even bothered themselves to look in my direction. Instead they all mumbled something that sounded like  a “Hello”  and they went back to watching the TV screen. As they were busy munching on chips and nuts, I glanced at the screen and I saw that a soccer game was on. I knew the drill. I just ignored them and I went inside to watch a movie on my laptop, and for the rest of the evening I continued to hear the occasional cheer, grunt, or shout from the living room.

You see, I grew up in a family of hard-core soccer fans. My Dad and my brother have been avid supporters of the Arsenal team, Real Madrid Team, and other teams within the Italian league, Greek league, German league, and more.  During the World Cup they support Brazil with their hearts and souls and when none of these teams are playing they are sure to watch any other game that happens to be on TV.

Ever since I can remember, I always found men’s bonding with the game fascinating. I found it admirable how they are willing to sit in a group for hours after a soccer game simply to analyze the play by play of each player.  They even talk about the team members as if they are members of their own family. They believe that the team’s victory was their victory and the team’s defeat was their personal defeat. Ask a guy what the score was and he would say “We won 3 to 0” as if he himself was on the field playing or he would say “We didn’t make it this time” with genuine disappointment.

Ask a guy what team he supports and he would even adopt their nationality. He would say something like “I am Spanish” or “I am German” or “I am Italian” forgetting that he himself is not Spanish , Italian, or German, but rather he is a Jordanian supporting the Spanish , German, or Italian team.

Another thing I always found charming is a guy’s inflated level of confidence while watching the game. He would be in his jeans  and T-shirt, or his Pajamas, in his own living room at the time of the game, and yet he would be screaming at the TV screen to tell  the player what to do. It is not uncommon to hear a guy shooting “pass the ball to the right you idiot “ to some player. He may even take the role of the referee from the comfort of his own home as he shouts to the TV “It’s a foul, you dork”, and depending how  big the group is, the obscenities may become even more creative as the night goes by.

If a guy’s team loses, he blames it on the referee. In my home I heard my brother once say, “The referee didn’t want our team to win”.

The night of the game is the night of the game. Meaning that if the men in your family are like the men in mine, this is the night where you can kiss the TV goodbye,  and you wouldn’t dare make plans on that night that involves them.

 After all, men will be men, and their commitment to the “game” is always charming. Let us learn from it and really commit to other aspects of our life.

When Women Switch Accents, Faster than they Switch TV Channels!

Posted by dshalabi in 26. Apr, 2012, under society, people, and life in Amman

Some Jordanian girls have the impeccable ability to switch their accents from Jordanian to Lebanese quite quickly. they display this talent  especially when they are in the presence of a handsome man.

I saw this happen right before my eyes just last night. You see, I was waiting to get into a theater event, when I saw a veiled girl in front of me at the door. Of course, she was wearing a hijab in the modern sense, namely, a hijab paired with full make up, and an outfit that leaves very little to the imagination.

She caught my attention because she was shouting at the  top of her voice. She was really letting the security guards and ushers have it, simply because they was not letting her in .They were politely asking her to wait a few minutes, but enviously her time is money, and a few minutes was more than she can stand . Like a lot of other women in the crowd, she started pleading with them to let her in, simply stating that they should at least let the girls in first. I just have to stop here and say that this request represents the common case of gender schizophrenia that most Jordanian women suffer from whereby on the one hand they ask for gender equality and yet on the other hand, they  turn around and ask for special treatment.

When her request was politely refused by the ushers, the woman took the crowded situation as a perfect opportunity to start complaining about the Jordanian community and how we as Jordanians are uncivilized. She was doing that in quite a loud voice, and of course in a clear Jordanian accent.

After around 10 minutes, the security guards opened the door to the entire community, thus allowing us to take our seats inside the theater.  When I took my seat, I looked to find that the same woman was in front of me, and sitting next to her was a guy who in normal standards is quite  good looking. Throughout the evening, I couldn’t help but hear parts of their conversation, and during the parts of the conversation that I heard, that same woman sounded like a completely different person. Her voice was distinctly softer and her accent was distinctly Lebanese.  It was as if the girl came with a remote control and someone had just changed the channels.

As is the common trend in our community, she even garnished parts of her conversation with a few English words here and there . Of course these English words were said with “ps” replaced by “bs” i.e.the words  il beable, il barts were used instead of the words instead of the people and the parts.  While batting her eyelids and smiling she even mentioned to the guy that her work is really in demand, and that several foreign agencies were waiting for her to accept their offer. She also told him that she is flexible in life and working hours, and I couldn’t help but see that he was melting as she spoke.

While I was listening, I couldn’t help but wonder if the guy heard this same girl outside. I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone communicating with her for more than an evening will see her switch the channel.

I wonder why women do that. Is it that our accent so hideous, or it is that our women are so lacking in confidence so that they can’t be themselves? After all, faking is a big problem because no one can fake his or her personality forever. The truth will come out sooner or later.

So let us cut the faking short . To be honest,. Girls snap out of it, you don’t sound Lebanese you just sound pathetic. If anyone feels they have to fake so much just to impress someone, then that someone really isn’t worth it.

Wake up ladies and gentlemen, be yourself.

Guys these women are fake

Fake Girls you are just pathetic.

March 2012

Intee Bint, Madam, wila A’anis ?

Posted by dshalabi in 11. Mar, 2012, under society, people, and life in Amman

I have been living through this repeated incident where strangers just assume I am married and they call me “Madam”. In cafes across the city, I have gotten accustomed to waiters coming up to me and asking me “Madam what would you like to drink ?”. And, when the cab driver is not too busy hitting on me, staring at me in the rear view mirror, or too engaged in telling me about his heroic adventures in the USA or the Gulf, he will ask me “Madam where would you like to go”. The shopkeeper would say “Madam how can I help you?”, and the stranger on the phone would ask me how old I was and then surrender to calling me “Madam” as he/she tries to sell me something I don’t want.

It is as if people just assume that any woman above a certain age is married and is a “Madam”.

Now, when I find myself confronted with such a phrase, I realize that I have one of two choices. Either, I correct the speaker’s information and I say “I am not a Madam”, or I ignore the statement while letting him/her continue the conversation assuming I am a married “Madam”.

Now option one, would only set me up for a long Q&A session as to why I am not married till now, and option two will make this assumption live on forever.

This issue may be a linguistic one, one that lies in the way we express ourselves in our community.

In all fairness, I must say that I do come across people who do not wish to assume that a mature woman is a madam. So, to negate the assumption they would ask me if I were a “Bint”(Girl) or a “Madam”(Married woman).

Now if I reply that I am not married, thus avoiding either title, then the speaker would instantly categorize me as a “Bint” which translates into a “Girl”, not a lady, but rather a female child.

But, if we think about this for a second we would realize that our language is telling us that if we are not married then we are little girls regardless of age. If you, like me, refuse to be called a “Bint” then you have the option of being described as an “A’nis or 3anis’, a rejected spinster instead. We have no linguistic representation for intelligent, single older women.Now before we blame the language let us remember that language is only the making of societies. If our society had a place for these women, wouldn’t the language have been changed to include a word for them? Does our society have a place for them?

The truth is that this society is one that doesn’t have a place for such women. Although the outlook is slowly but gradually changing, a good portion of the community regards women as worthy of a title associated with maturity after they are married. It only assumes they are happy and not spinsters when and if they marry, and it only assumes they are not girls when they get married. Language can only change when the society at large changes so in a society that didn’t fully change it is no wonder such terms are used.

Until our community regards us as neither of the three above, I choose to ignore those calling me “Madam” or bint. After all, what we are or are not is something that comes from within, and when a good number of us stop taking such terms to define us, then people will stop using them.

So, next time someone asks you if you are a “Madam” or “Bint” what would you answer? Think about it.

Talked Into Not Falling

Posted by dshalabi in 16. Mar, 2012, under society, people, and life in Amman

Last week one of my students at Gaza Camp told me about his tragic love story, a story similar to that lived by anyone his age “16” . It was a tale of one sided infatuation, a tale of a guy who loved a girl who simply didn’t love him back.

After speaking in great detail about how he got over the emotional heartbreak, a female student in the class asked him how he would react if his sister told him about her love story. The young man paused for a few seconds and then he said “I know men’s intentions and I know our society and how they think, that is simply why I wouldn’t allow my sister to love.”To him , love was emotional, but to his sister, love is an issue she should be granted permission to experience.

Now, many of us, would like to think that this form of thinking is directly linked to age, but in reality it isn’t, as it is not uncommon to meet a man in his 60’s who would proudly claim that his daughter is not permitted to love.

Others would like to think that this thought is linked to conservative upbringing, but unfortunately, this is not the case either, as women from different walks of life have had to lie about the fact that their fiancé knew them before asking for their hand in marriage. They would sit before their fathers and say “I only saw him once or twice and he liked me”, because the words “We were dating” would cause war in the household. A guy actually asking for the girl’s hand in marriage wouldn’t negate the interrogation as to when, where, why, and how they met.

So, one could argue that our society is built so that it makes love a mess of mixed messages fueled by parental misguidance.

You see, young men and women get their first taste of misguidance when their parents sit them down for “The talk” at the age of 13 . At that age, the guys get a different version of “The talk” than the girls. They are often told that they should pursue any girl they have a crush on, while the girls are told that they are too young to love and that they should play hard to get. After hearing these two very different talks, the guys and girls miraculously get through their teenage years, with the girls avoiding any guy who could be interested in them and the guys living through one rejection after the next.

Right before these same guys and girls, go to university, or college, the parents sit them down to give them the second edition of the “The Talk”. In the second edition of “The Talk” the guys are told that they should focus on their future, and that pursuing women is not an option unless it isn’t serious, while the girls, on the other hand, are told not to consider getting into a relationship with any guy who isn’t serious. Let us remember that the a guy is considered serous only when he comes to the girl’s father to ask for her hand in marriage.

Now some guys and girls ignore the talk and they do fall in love for years before the guy comes to the girl’s parents and asks for her hand. In such situations, the girl blatantly lies to her father and mother as she informs them that she never spoke to him except once or twice.

However, a greater portion of young guys and girls , don’t meet the love of their life at university, because in reality, no guy could be ready at that age and girls wouldn’t talk to guys who couldn’t marry them. Remember, all guys and girls had listened to the “Talk” and those who ignored the talk are fewer in number to those who didn’t.

Now, after graduation, these same guys and girls get the third edition of the “The Talk”, where the girl is told that she has to pursue a guy for marriage, and that she has to play all tricks possible to make him come over to her house. These tricks include being hard to get, refusing to go out on a date alone, always looking her best, being polite, never fighting before he shows up to meet her father, not appearing needy etc.

In the third edition of the talk, the guy, is also told that he too should pursue marriage, but that the girl he should marry should be one he didn’t date. This girl should be younger than him because God Forbid she might look older and greyer than him, she should be fertile, and she should be conservative, preferably she should be a girl chosen by his mother.

Some girls are better game players than others, and so they get the guy to come to their house and ask for their hand. Because, they are better game players than others, they know how to make the guys’ moms overlook the fact that they didn’t choose them. Some guys choose not to listen and so they end up choosing as opposed to their moms.

Those who succeed at playing by these rules and those who choose to ignore them get married and those who don’t often remain single.

Those who are single get the fourth edition of the talk, where they are told they did something wrong and that they didn’t try hard enough to meet anyone. In reality the only thing they did wrong is that they allowed themselves to be submissive. They were submissive enough to allow themselves to listen to all these misguiding talks that put rules for one of life’s most basic emotions “love”.

In the end,the only mistake anyone can ever make is to think that there is a formula for success at love or that there is a time limit for this love to happen.

I think that the time has come for us to stop talking, stop listening, stop categorizing, and start falling !

Why Should I ?

Posted by dshalabi in 22. Mar, 2012, under society, people, and life in Amman

We had an interesting talk with a journalist ,last night, during which she asked us “Why we are so interested in our little educational project in Gaza Camp”. She asked us what the difference was between our project and the many other projects carried out by the UNRWA ? She also said that education wasn’t really our problem to solve and that it was the problem of the Ministry of Education. She also pointed out that it was the job of the parents of our students to follow up on their kids education at home.

Like so many people, including some of the people who are supposed to support us in our mother organization, she asked us why we work for Jerash Gaza Camp when there are other things we should do for other people in other places She asked.”What are you going to achieve out of it anyway ?”, and you know what,she is right in asking these questions.

Just to make things clear for you dear readers, our young modest 34 week old Teaching Project at Gaza Camp really isn’t any different from many other projects carried out around the world, and to those wondering about the exact numbers related to our project, I can tell you that in 34 weeks our team has grown to encompass around 7 to 9 volunteers only . This team only teaches a total of 50 students . So, yes it isn’t a huge number at all, in fact it is a very modest number. The journalist is in fact spot-on when she says that there are other places that need help too, and she is right to say that in an ideal world education is the problem of the Ministry of Education. She isn’t wrong in her observations nor are the people who refuse to support us.

So, now that we have established that she and the people who are saying we should work on something else are right, I ask where do we go from here? Should we just give up, kill the project, and seek something else somewhere else? Should we just ignore the 50 we have started to help out in order to go somewhere where we can help 1000 more . Maybe then, we can get more support , more media hype, and more pictures in the paper, on TV, and on Facebook. Maybe then the media and  this journalist would think that our project is important , maybe important enough for us to get sponsorship even. If we get sponsorship, maybe the mother organization would help out more, because at the end of the day, it seems that helping is all about the number of people helped right ?

But wait, maybe the issue of how, who, and where we help isn’t about the number ,because according to this journalist, it is the Ministry of Education’s problem not ours, so why even look to help the 50, the 100, or the 1000,or even 10,000. Let us just sit at home and let the ministry do its job. But then again, maybe the journalist meant that we don’t need to work on education and we need to work on something else. Did she mean that? i am not sure really, because according to her theory, working on something else is also pointless because every  ministry is responsible for something, the ministries should do their work. The Ministry of Irrigation should work on the water problem, not us, and the Ministry of the Environment should work on making the country a greener place not us. Similarly,  the Ministry of Finance should solve our Economic crises, and the Ministry of Housing should house the homeless. So, according to this theory, we don’t have to do anything, none of the above is our problem it is theirs.

Other people have asked, why they should give up their weekends and go to Gaza Camp in Jerash, and to those people I say of course you don’t have to. No one can make you, and by all means, no one wants you to do something you don’t want to do. Guess what, no one really has to go. So, since we have established that we  all don’t have to go, let us give up on the 50 students we have started to help, and I assure you that life will go on for those kids.

They will simply wait for us for a few Saturdays, and then they will realize we are not coming and forget us as the months go by . We will be just another disappointment to them, and they will be part of the poor community they have always been part of right? 50 is not a big number, and really we don’t have to make a difference unless it is huge and on the front page of all the papers. right?

So, I ask again, given that this project is like many other projects that solve a small problem for a small number of students and this problem isn’t our problem, why do we go every Saturday? Why do I go every Saturday? Why do I pay for it myself? I know I asked myself that question so many times, Because again it is not an important project worth supporting, and until we get funding, it is self funded. So, why am I making this project my problem?

I wonder, if it is the kid who finally learned how to tell me about his day in English. Or, if it is the twins who learned that begging for money is not a solution and that they should actually come to class, try and get an education, and then try to make something out of their lives that are making it my problem ?

Do I feel I have to go for my 15 year old student who is finally realizing that there is more to life than trying to find a guy with a Jordanian passport to marry her, or do I have to go for the student’s mom, who asked me just yesterday if I would accept her in my class even if she doesn’t know how to read ? Is this cause for the students who finally learned to raise their hands before yelling out an answer ? Or, is it for my adult students who learned to try and think for themselves and try to predict? Is it for my adult students who are just now learning to get over their shyness and speak in public and express their opinions? I really wonder are they making have to go.

Do I really have to go for these people honestly, who are only part of the small group of 50 people, when in reality I can sit at home and wait for the Ministry of Education to solve their problems? Do I really have to go for this small group which is in a camp like other camps ? Do I really have to lead this project which is like other projects, when I can neglect these people and just wait for a bigger group of people to come somewhere else for me to help? The answer is, I don’t have to help these people at all, but I want to.

I want to because I think that helping 50 is better than helping nobody. I want to because I refuse to pin a social problem on one entity when it is everyone’s problem. Maybe just maybe I want to because I believe that I and the other small group of volunteers, are helping 50 and with funding we can help more, and maybe just maybe, when people stop giving up on things , then they can make a difference. Maybe there are people helping 10 people somewhere else, and another group of people helping 5 in a third area, and another helping 1000 someplace far away, and maybe more and more people exist who believe in doing something not nothing.

So yes, I assure you that, 50 is not a huge number, our project is not a special one, and maybe it is not filling the papers, like others, but that doesn’t make it an unimportant or useless one.

So remember, if you support us, if we support us, we are helping 50 people. It is better than helping nobody. Remember, if we get more support, we can help more than 50 and maybe our project will actually help more people. So, if you are wondering why I have to work for this project, I am saying I don’t have to at all. I want to!

I want to because doing a small modest project is better than sitting around in meeting rooms to make theories about bigger and better projects someplace else without them coming to life. Our students are 50 today but maybe with more help, and less passiveness they can be more

February 2012

Valentine’s Day

Posted by dshalabi in 14. Feb, 2012, under society, people, and life in Amman

Well it is that blessed day of the year again where the single feel more single than ever before and the couples feel obliged to overspend and over indulge. Whether it’s in the heart shaped cushions, red roses, red sweatshirts, or big red teddy bears, everything about this day just has to be oversized, overpriced, or over expressive. It is as if the world is struck by love vomit and those who don’t have a loved one to puke emotional outbursts are left out.

But unlike last year and the many years before I came to this day feeling emotionally armed. I decided that this day will be like any other day. As this year unlike other periods in my life, I realized that I am not interested in anyone, I don’t have a crush on anyone, and no one has any sort of crush on me. I even made a deal with a colleague of mine to stay late in the office if need be, so that she can leave on time to go out with her significant other.

To add more normality to the day, I even planned a bowling outing with a group of friends so as to have fun. I chose bowling because I figured anyone remotely romantic will not see a love connection between a bowling ball, a bowling alley, and bowling pin.

I went to work not even recognizing this obnoxious holiday, and with every sms promoting love songs, love quotes, or gifts, I laughed.

The flowers, the teddy bears, and the gestures of fake love happening around me meant nothing, as I always opted for something real and if it wasn’t real I wasn’t going to want it anyway.

With this positive strategy, 5:00 pm rolled around. So, I switched off my computer, freshened up, and was on my way out the office door and to the bowling alley. By that point of the day, I was expecting around five people to show up, others declined my invitation, and a good number of invitees went into the customary coma where they were above answering with a yes or a no. But five was a good number, and to hell with everyone else, I thought.

While I was in the cab I decided to check my Facebook through my mobile, and I found while I was on my way to the bowling alley that almost everyone who said they were coming canceled with the exception of one. I felt that my plans not to feel like a loser failed, but then I decided not to blame this day. These people made me a loser not this day.

I started to wonder, when Facebook became the major tool of communication, and did these people “Friends” plan to make me just sit there and wait for them. I thought to myself “what If I had not checked my account during that time. I may have just sat there alone waiting while those people didn’t even think it is important enough to send an sms or make a phone call and say they were not coming”.

My verbal diarrhea got the best of me and yes I gave those people a piece of my mind the “Dana” way with no regards to class, politeness, or any social rule, simply because I felt that they were impolite to me. One of them replied , “it was not in my hands, I had to cancel today”, only for me to later find out that the group decided not to show up because they decided to have other plans someplace else. You see, Facebook happy people tend to say too much about themselves on their pages.

To make matters worse, my phone battery died two minutes later. So, I found that I had to actually go to the alley for the sake of the one person who was going to show up. I sat there and waited for 40 minutes, and with each second passing I felt I hate this day even more. I tried to charge my phone but they didn’t have chargers. I tried to go to a hotel business center but they didn’t have chargers either. I realized that I really needed to call this one person to see if she was coming or not and yet I couldn’t leave the area in case she came and found nobody there.

But after the passing of 10 more minutes, I decided to leave, I went to a close-by mobile store and charged the phone finally. I then called my friend and apparently she was running late. I got two messages from one of my friends who canceled saying “He will plan another event and tell me about it”, by then I was angry and said “I don’t care what you do or what you plan, I don’t want to come”. He then said to forget today and to make it pass, but by then I decided to stop replying from fear of the verbal poison that might come out of my mouth.

You see, we come from a society where it is ok to ditch people and make them wait for you, but if the person you ditched is angry at you or says their true feelings about the issue then he/she is rude. I always found that funny, where it is not rude to offend people but it is rude if you say you are offended. Knowing this fact, I refrained from replying any further, from fear of saying something “Rude”.

20 more minutes later, My friend did show up finally and we went to have dinner. While we were at the dinner table, more valentine day reminders were thrown in our face. One guy after the other came to sell us over priced red flowers, as if the sight of two young ladies having dinner with each other on Valentine ’s Day isn’t enough of an indication that they are single?

After dinner, we met more friends for coffee and we had fun. By the time I went home, I was in a better mood. But leave it to my Facebook account , to turn my mood around again, as I opened it only to find that people who ditched us were out having coffee, which if anything meant we were not worth the respect. I found a message from another person saying they will go out tomorrow and I should join, followed by more pointless messages. But let us say these people did me a favor I was too angry with them to remember being angry at the day itself.

So with such events happening such people, and such ideals, for a minute I wondered was it actually this day or was I having some really bad luck. I decided that option two was probably the more accurate one . Our society makes this day repulsive, but once again I had a bad day not a bad Valentine’s Day, a day that was not going so great but then it turned around with friends and then  annoying once again. This could have happened any other day,

But anyway in case there is some cosmic message attached to the event’s of the day, I say once again DAMN VALENTINE’s DAY

Politics and Intellect

Posted by dshalabi in 17. Feb, 2012, under society, people, and life in Amman

Yesterday evening while I was having dinner with friends, we came to discussing my all time favorite topic “People and their behavior”. Within this conversation, one of my friends asked “Why do people feel that they need to discuss politics these days”. Jogging my memory to various conversations that happened in front of me over the last few months, I realized that she was absolutely right. A high percentage of people feel that they need to discuss politics anywhere and all the time. Better still; these people feel that they actually need to have a strong political belief that they whole heartedly adopt and campaign for.

It is more common than not to hear someone randomly say “I am liberal thinker”, “I am a conservative thinker”, “I am a leftist”, or “I am an Islamist” without even being asked. I can bet that some people would secretly hope that the conversation ends there because they wouldn’t even know how to explain why they are any of these things. Others, on the other hand, don’t allow the conversation to end there. They go on to give a long speech about why they are “Leftists”, “Conservatives”, “Liberal thinkers”, or anything else.

Everyone seems to love politics to the point where anyone could randomly come up to you and ask “So what is your stance on the teacher’s strike happening in Jordan” , “What do you think of the economic situation in Jordan”, “What do you think of the Jordanian government’s policy” etc. without this even being part of the conversation.

It is these people that I feel like telling that “I really didn’t know I had to study, before meeting you”, and if you venture out to tell these very people that you are not really into politics, they would instantly say “How can you not be into politics, it affects everything in our lives”, or my other all time favorite response is “You are smart, you really should care about politics”, as if the attributes of intelligence and lack of political interest could never ever be combined.

Within our politics loving society, you will also be sure to come across people who love to display their interest in politics on their social network pages. Their status reflects whatever is going on in the news. Their tweets reflect their views on whatever is going on in the news, and their posts are but the very articles that are about what goes on in the news.

So what is this interest in politics really about?

I personally believe the interest in politics is only about intellect. And this is because; we come from a society where politics is automatically associated with being intellectual. In Jordan, it is not uncommon to see educated people discussing politics over casual dinners. You see students discussing politics, the minute they want to impress someone. And, the person listening would surely be impressed thus instantly labeling the student a smart individual.

Whether we like it or not, we are programmed to believe that anyone interested in fashion is shallower than anyone interested in politics. Anyone who watches a TV series is more superficial than someone who spends all hours of the day watching the news. We are told that if we don’t have a strong political belief, then we are simply unaware, even if we do read the paper everyday.

If we only read the paper then we have tunnel vision, because we don’t flip from one news channel to the next on a minute by minute basis, we simply don’t know every detail about the political issues affecting the world.

So within the framework we have created for ourselves we have made politics the meter of how smart we are as individuals. And people all want to be smart. It is natural for them to feel that they need to have a strong political belief, simply to fit the measure of intelligence created by our all judging society. They are made to feel guilty in a time of war, if they switch from the news channel to watch something else.

So to those seeking the association of intellect to politics I ask, how intellectual are you really if you just recite political vomit without actually knowing what it means? And, how intellectual are you if you say you are a believer in one policy over the other if you did not actually read everything and I mean everything about it? How intellectual are you if you just memorized what is in the paper to re-tell it to people who probably read it before? And, how intellectual are you if you think that everyone who doesn’t agree with you is not intellectual?

At the end of the day, not saying anything political at all is a lot smarter than saying something that politically makes doesn’t make sense, or something that seems fake, sounds fake, and is a fake reflection of your real self.

However, I have to say this, we do live in a region fueled with political turmoil, and yes we are drawn to have political beliefs. In fact as people with minds we should have opinions, but before reciting these opinions in any setting, why don’t we make sure that we actually understand what we are saying. Better still, why don’t we make sure that believe what we are saying. That, in my opinion, is real intellect.

Fake it or leave it !

Posted by dshalabi in 21. Feb, 2012, under society, people, and life in Amman

Karma woke up on a particular morning that was just like every other morning of the week. But on this particular cold morning, she woke up only after setting the alarm clock to snooze four times. When she finally got out of bed, she realized that she had less than half an hour to get ready for work. So, she showered at record breaking speed, put on some clothes, brushed her hair, made a sandwich for work, and then she rushed out of her home.

After waiting in the street for 10 minutes, she got into a cab, and waited diligently for the driver to set the meter. While he was doing that and simultaneously staring at her in the rear view mirror , she tried to organize her job list in her head. Choosing to ignore the cab driver’s sleazily looks, she took out of her purse a note pad and she jotted down the things she had to get done. While she was doing that, it suddenly dawned on her that on this particular day, that was like any other day, she actually had nothing to look forward to on her list.

Although she was a successful magazine editor on paper, she found that in reality, her job was not as glamorous as it seemed. It was not as creative as it seemed. In fact, she often felt that she was governed by what the advertisers wanted her print in her magazine, and she was also manipulated by what the magazine owner wanted the look and feel of the magazine to be.

Even when she did interview a public figure for any of her pieces, she was governed by what he/she will allow her to mention in the article. Despite the envy of her friends, her job was in fact soulless to her. If anything, this job had even taught her not have any sort of feelings towards any article published in her name.

Passing the same buildings, seeing the same people at the red light, and turning the same round about, she finally arrived to her office complex.

In the elevator she saw the same people she saw every morning. She wished them a good day and the people who usually replied to her wished her the same and the people who usually ignored her didn’t, just as they didn’t reply every day. She then walked into her office, switched on her computer, and then rushed into the kitchen to make coffee.

There, she saw two girls from another department going over every detail of the office outing from the night before. They saw her nodded to her and she nodded back. Then one of them asked. “Why didn’t you come last night?” . Karma replied “I am sorry, I had plans”. What she did want to tell them was that the office party was the last place she would want to be in. She wonted to tell them “Oh please, as if you want me to be there” , but instead, she stuck to her diplomatic answer.

The other girl replied “You always have plans, with those weird things you go to”. Karma smiled made her coffee and walked away, sure that the girls where whispering about her as she left. At her desk, she wondered what were the “weird things” the girl was referring to . Were the charity events she does weird, or the book club she was in weird, or was it that her friends were weird? You see, outside work Karma had a decent number of friends, she just didn’t have that many in the work place.

She just preferred the outings with friends to the outings with colleagues, as those were often spent passing fake smiles and fake compliments.

Within the open office space she shared with twenty other people, one of her colleagues was telling another colleague about a guy she had a crush on. The two were whispering but everything they said was easily heard.

A male colleague was announcing a play by play of the football match that was aired on TV. And, two other female colleagues ran to the boss’s office with muffins, making sure to tell him how they saw the muffins in the store and they remembered that they were his favorite. Another colleague, was telling her friend about a movie she saw, making sure to recount everything the lead actor said, as if she was out to prove the authenticity of the cinema experience. And in the middle of this commotion, Karma decided to check her email and actually finish her work early .

Her boss walked up to her desk and congratulated her on a job well done on the article submitted the night before, but then he asked her to follow him to his office. As she was getting up, one of her colleagues said “It’s either a raise or you are fired” and the rest of the team laughed.

Sitting in his chair, the boss asked her to sit down. So she did. Then he asked her “Why are you not involved in the team ?” . Karma said “I am involved in the team on a professional level”. He then asked “Why didn’t you come to the office gathering, or why don’t you come to any gathering come to think of it?”. Karma replied “I have to be honest with you, I don’t really enjoy my colleagues’ company”. “You don’t seem to understand magazine culture?” he replied. “They seem tough but they are nice people”. “I am sure they are, but we don’t share the same interests” Karma replied and paused as her boss nodded. “Look sir, are you not happy with my work? I do my work well. I just prefer not to be involved in the personal lives of people, nor do I want them to be involved in my personal life” she said.

“But it is a full package, you need to have that “It” personality to move up here. Please get more involved because we like your work and we want you to fit in”.”I will see what I can do sir” Karma said right before she excused herself and left.

For the remainder of the day she sat at her desk and she thought of what the boss had said. She thought of the idea of fitting in. She wondered if fitting in was simply the equivalent of being fake? Was it the idea of pretending to be interested in the people around you and their pointless stories that were the attributes of understanding a work culture? She wondered when fitting in personally became just as important to fitting in professionally? Then it hit her that in the corrupt corporate structure of today likes and dislikes played an important role in one’s career. The boss had to actually like the person as it was not enough for him/her to like their work. The colleagues had to like the person as it was not enough for them to work. She looked around her and saw that the people in high positions were actually the people the boss liked.

But, she also saw that she didn’t really like the boss, the job, or the people, and that she had actually become accustomed to being sedated from any form of emotion or passion at work.

She realized that she was faced with a choice. To get ahead she either had to be fake, buy the muffins, talk about the things her colleagues wonted her to talk about, or she had to move out. It was a question of fake it or leave it?

You see Karma’s story is the story of so many people in the work force today. It is the story, of anyone going through the motions and not really caring about the job. It is a story of job being a paycheck and nothing more. It is a story of 8 hours spent, to live a life that begins anytime after the 8 hour working day. Few people have the guts to leave it so they fake it, and faking it applies to everything in life. After all, were Karma’s colleagues really into the magazine culture or were they faking it, to get ahead? Was she in the magazine culture, or was she faking it to get her paycheck? Seeing that reality, understanding that fact, Karma found that hated her colleagues less. She felt that something just had to change but she didn’t know what it was.

So, if you are in Karma’s place what would you do? Would you fake it or leave it? What would you change ? That is the question.

Thinking on Paper: Are We Really Writers?

Posted by dshalabi in 24. Feb, 2012, under society, people, and life in Amman

Yesterday, during a birthday gathering I was invited to, one of the girls sitting at our table announced to a guy that she writes. He asked her where she published her work and she replied that she published her work on Facebook. “I will tag you next time I write something” she said, right before she went on to tell him that she writes about everything except politics.

Now, I am not in a position to say anything about this girl’s work, since I haven’t read more than one or two pieces written by her a very long time ago. Nor, am I in an elevated rank within the literary world to discuss the quality of her writing. For all I know, her work could be the next breakthrough in the world of literature or it could be the exact opposite of that. The quality and nature of the writing itself is not under discussion in this particular post.

But, regardless of what her writing is or isn’t, I must say that I found myself admiring her guts. I found myself saluting the fact that she connected herself to something I have always wonted to attribute myself to ever since I was in the third grade, “She writes, thus she is a writer”. I found that she had made her publications on Facebook worthy of granting her the title of someone who writes, while I, a copywriter by profession, a blogger for fun, and  a dreamer of getting recognized as a writer had never had the guts to blatantly call myself one.

I even remember that in one Toastmaster meeting a colleague introduced me as a “A famous writer on the internet” and I laughed and told him that ,that title was too big for me. That day, I even started my speech by saying that the word famous is an overstatement, since I only have a modest blog which my friends like.  So going back to the statement I heared yesterday, I must say that it really got me to ask myself this: who really decides if we are writers, artists, singers, or actors?

Are these all designations we simply give to ourselves so that the world around us believes us and eventually sees us within these roles, or do we wait until people see us and recognize us as artists, writers, singers, or actors?

You see, this incident got me looking at all the blogs I know of, and it made me realize that in some cases their owners are recognized simply because, like this girl, they really had the guts to put themselves out there, and really call themselves writers, and really behave as if they are writers.

While other bloggers like me, have waited to simply be recognized.

But then , I also remembered the struggles of writers like Shakespeare,  Earnest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, and  Nagib Mahfouz. These people were all not recognized as writers until their work spoke for them. I remembered Mat Daymen and Ben Aflec, and how their Academy Award winning screenplay “Good Will Hunting” was brushed aside for years before somebody believed in it, and made them the icons they are today.

So remembering those people and remembering others like this girl at the birthday party, the people posting photos on Facebook, the political analysts on twitter, and the random bloggers, who allow themselves the titles of writers, analysts, or artists, I ask the world this, am I writer simply because I wont to be or am I a dreamer until someone recognizes my writing and then gives me my break? Who really decides these things, me or the world?


This blog post is not to belittle anyone who believes in their work, like I said these people earn my admiration.

For the Love of Gossip

Posted by dshalabi in 28. Feb, 2012, under society, people, and life in Amman

Some people are more entertaining than TV itself. They are more active than mercury. They are louder than a horn, and their presence is brighter than the sun. They are not in the event , but rather they are the event. In the work place they seem to have the hardest job, as they act as if the whole organization would fall to pieces should they leave. They learned that people hear and they believe. So, they make sure to talk of action, to be active in their words, rather than being active in their work to move ahead.

Despite the workload they have no problem advertizing, they always seem to have time to gather the inside scoop on company regulations. They always speak of being busy, stressed, or overloaded; yet they always know the management’s biggest secrets. They know of any new company policy before it is even publicized and they are well aware of any office romance way before it is public news. They have learned to talk, and people have learned to talk back, and It could be that they are only busy talking.

These people enjoy baring bad news for the sake of a dramatic reaction. They always have to tell their colleagues that there is a huge workload ahead, leaving the rest of the team to wonder why they know of the huge load before everyone else. If a colleague has plans, such people will look at them hatefully right before explaining that this is not a good time for them to have plans, since the administration is looking watchfully at all employees. Such people are walking melodramas; in fact let us refer to them here as walking melodramas.

If the boss is in a bad mood, the walking melodrama, walks into the boss’s office, has a talk with the boss, then comes out to tell everyone on the team to be kind to the boss because he/she has a family problem, a managerial problem, or because he/she is giving out warnings.

The walking melodrama has full knowledge of who is getting a raise before everyone else. He/se knows who is expecting a promotion, and is sure to take everyone individually aside to tell them of the news right before saying that they should keep it a secret.

This person has the greatest level of intelligence amongst all his/her colleagues. He/she made the realization early on in life that people in fact like to gossip. He/she is well aware of the public’s love of the untold story, so he/she goes on a mission to find that untold story. He/she understands that the boss loves to hear about the conversations made about the company, the management, and the complaints, so the Melodrama befriends him/her to transmit the story in return of the untold story that would get the team’s love. In return for the untold story, the boss gives the melodrama the raise while he/she claims to work hard to justify it. The team looks up to the melodrama out of respect for his/her knowledge and the cycle goes on.

So, to cut a long story short, gossip may be a force worth looking into to push a career forward. You spell it, you bag it. Let’s face it, we all love gossip, we feel privileged to know what others don’t know, and that is why we listen, and that is how we push melodramas to continue their existence.

 Don’t fake it, I am sure you are reading this article and nodding. You are nodding simply because you love gossip too.

January 2012

Contagious Syndromes of Communication

Posted by dshalabi in 11. Jan, 2012, under society, people, and life in Amman

It is only in a few places around the world that one comes across the contagious syndromes of lack of communication, and Jordan just happens to be one of these places.

The most common of the syndromes is the SMS Coma, which is an epidemic that hits a lot of people when confronted with an SMS that reads “Can you please confirm”. Upon reading such an SMS it is as if the reader’s fingers become paralyzed so that he/she can not reply anymore with a simple yes or no. Other phrases that aggravate the problem are “When”, “What time”, “Where?”, and basically any SMS phrase that requires a reply from the recipient.

At first, the sender may think that there is something wrong with the recipient. He. she may get genuinely worried after the 48 hours of dead silence . This genuine concern may prompt the sender to send an SMS that says “Are you ok?”. This SMS usually gets responded to with the words “Yes, but I am busy” or “Yes, but I didn’t see your SMS before” which is funny when you consider that anyone with a phone will most probably have used it at least one time per day and he/she must have at least seen he SMS alert on the screen if they didn’t hear it as well .

This reply cures the person from the SMS Coma syndrome, but it makes him/her catch a new syndrome known as the “Dumb Excuse Syndrome”. This dumb excuse syndrome causes the person to send dumb replies like the ones stated above, i.e. replies that are hard to believe. When seeing or hearing such a reply you, the sender of the concerned SMS, may have two choices, either you play dumb and say something like “Oh, good luck with your work then” or you could ask the logical question” You mean to tell me, you were so busy that you didn’t look at your mobile for the last two days”. Or “You didn’t see the SMS? seriously ”.

The danger in making a reply that is stating the obvious is that it makes you eligible for the titles “Bad Attitude”, “The Voice of Doom”, and if you are a girl, you can even be called a “Mean Bitch”. So, with this realization most of us opt for option one, i.e., not saying anything and just playing dumb. If you find yourself in such a position, you don’t realize what you are in for.

You don’t realize that at that particular time the act of just playing dumb gives rise to a third syndrome, This is the “I just don’t have to show up even if I confirmed epidemic”.

This epidemic involves someone confirming their attendance to an event, you even paying in advance for their attendance and them just not showing up on the day. You call them while waiting for them and they don’t even bother to pick up, better still after a few calls, the phone can no longer be reached until the evening, and at that point you get a simple SMS saying “Sorry I couldn’t come today, something came up”. The word “something” here can range from something as urgent as a “Death in the family” to something as stupid as “a sneeze in the morning”. If you ask what that something is , the person forgets that they ditched you in the morning, disrespected you, made you wait for them, and they become all ethical on you by saying “It is personal, I don’t need to discuss my personal life”. You probably want to tell them “And, I don’t want you wasting my personal time with your personal issues,” , but you most probably opt to stay quiet so as not to be called a person with “Bad attitude”, “A Mean Bitch” etc.

I am not embellishing here someone once canceled on me in the last second, and I mean the last second after I paid and everything, because they had a headache.

And, finally there is also a syndrome called “The I am so cheap” syndrome, where a pretty girl says something to a guy and he decides to cancel an event, step on his friends, embarrass his friends, and even make a fool out of them just to score points. If someone is being cheap on you, again you are confronted with a choice either you speak up and say “Stop bein cheap, you have plans with so and so” or you swallow it and move on.

So, If you are wondering why such traits are popular, well the answer is simple. They are popular because people are too polite to speak up. They are polite to speak up when someone ignores their call, their sms, and so they continue to be polite when someone doesn’t show up after they said they will and after people have paid for their attendance. They assume that people will continue to be polite when they keep them waiting, and when someone is not polite and he/she asks for their right for respect the accusations of aggressiveness, bitchiness, and rudeness come out.

In case you are wondering, yes all the above syndromes show disrespect to others, so maybe just maybe if we all speak up we can change such habits to the better.

We Don’t Know Them

Posted by dshalabi in 15. Jan, 2012, under society, people, and life in Amman

Yesterday, at our regular weekly class at Jerash Gaza Camp, we had a smaller number of attendance than usual, as it raining heavily and most of our students found it hard to arrive to class.

Seeing that we were only ten, we decided to have an informal lesson where we gave ourselves the opportunity to really talk and try to understand our kids more.

At one point in the conversation, we got to talking to our kids about their schools and their classes. Some kids spoke about their favorite subjects, their worst teachers, and their friends, and the conversation was fun, as it simply showed how they were excited about life.

Suddenly however, the whole direction of the conversation changed when one girl told us how her older sister, a shy girl sitting with us, was not going back to school after the winter break.

We, the volunteers, jumped on the girl and started telling her why it was important to go back to school. We, took on the roles of sociologists where some of us told her that school is important. Some told her that without an education she won’t have enough chances in life, and others told her that she needs an education in order for her to be a good mother. There was this other group of volunteers who told her that she needs to continue her education in order for her to figure out what she wants to do with her life.

Meanwhile , the other kids got on the girl’s case too. Some told us that she failed and that she didn’t want to repeat the 7th grade again. Others told us that she was lazy and that she just got bored from the whole schooling scene.

Despite the heartfelt advice given from the volunteers and aside from the allegations made against her by the other students there, the girl remained silent. She just nodded silently as she left the world to speak to her, at her, and on her behalf.

Then, one volunteer saw that the girl was too shy to talk, so she decided to take her out of the interrogation ring to have a heart to heart talk with her in private., and it was away from the crowds, the spotlight, and endless questioning, that the girl finally spoke up. She confide it in the volunteer that she was leaving school to take care of the house since her father was ill and her mother needed to take care of him. The family had no income. So it was impossible to get outside help.

It was only upon hearing her excuse that I realized how little we really know about these people. Sure we make the effort to volunteer every week, and sure the kids look forward to seeing us. But , no matter how hard we have been trying, we do still speak a different language, a language through which we want the people of that camp to think, judge, and evaluate life on our terms. To us, education is a must and we simply want them to think the same .

But, is it fair for us to expect them to think the same way we do when to them food is not a given, clothing is not a given, and a steady monthly income isn’t always available.

While to us, a girl leaving school in 7th grade is a huge mistake, to the people of this camp, maybe school is a waste of time when money is scarce, the prospects of getting jobs or entering universities is limited and where poverty leads to more poverty instigated by little or no national rights. Maybe she thinks that getting an education would lead her to nowhere when the fact that her family has no money comes in the way.

Upon hearing her excuse, we tried to resolve the issue by arranging for her to have afternoon classes instead of morning classes so that she can take care of the house and continue her education, and till this day we are still waiting for word.

However, to me, I feel that a bigger task is at hand. We need to start thinking on their terms, speaking their language, and we should stop hoping that our Amman standards are applicable in a place where the basics of life are not really available.

Yesterday was an eye opening experience for me, an experience that showed how much I don’t know., and how much we all should get a grip on reality before hoping for a change.

Want to learn about this reality go to

Messed-Up by Lyrics !

Posted by dshalabi in 18. Jan, 2012, under society, people, and life in Amman

The new heroic Arabic songs are out and people are listening to them with enthusiasm. In one of these new singles, that are really all the craze these days, the singer claims that he will walk barefoot in a path filled with snakes and that he will kill the historic worrier Antar and give his love Antar’s head just to win her heart, while in another new famous Arabic song the singer claims that he will turn his heart into a plane and that he will make that plane fly over a neighborhood just to see why his love is confused. A third heroic singer claims that if his love hates the color of the sky he will simply change it, and my personal favorite is the classic song in which the singer wants to pull a star out of the sky and put his love in it.

Upon hearing such songs, I couldn’t help but wonder if there is a woman on the face of this earth who really wants a guy to do any of these things for her ? Wouldn’t it be easier for the person planning to walk in a path filled with snakes to just ask his loved one for her heart? After all, what good is he if a piousness snake fatally stung him in the process?. On another note, unless his loved one is a vampire, butcher, or cannibal, I don’t think she would be too thrilled to have Antar’s head anywhere near her.

Similarly, the other guy hoping for a miraculous metamorphosis needs a lot of luck for any change to happen to his heart’s abilities. In fact, he has more chances of success if he just asked his love why she is confused instead of just waiting for his heart to fly over to her. And, the third guy who promises to change the color of the sky if his love doesn’t like it should be promising something more doable like being faithful, being gentle, or doing anything that his human capacity permits. And finally, the fourth guy who is planning to pull a star out of the sky should really ask if his love is seriously interested in sitting in it before he goes through all the effort.

Female Arabic singers are not any less dramatic. One singer swears that she will beg for her loves heart from God, while she also claims in another song that she can’t sleep unless she is next to her love. So not only is she pathetically desperate , but she is putting herself up for a severe case of insomnia.

English song lyrics are emotionally explosive, as one singer says the words “Every time you touch me I become a hero” leaving you just to wonder what kind of touch is this person hoping for? Other heartbroken singers, turn so desperate, so that they say pathetic things like “Wherever you are whatever you do I will be right hear waiting for you” When hearing such a song, are we seriously supposed to believe that anyone in their right mind would be that passive when the normal scenario is to live with a broken heart and move on?

In other songs singers say extreme phrases like “I want to lay you down in a bed of roses” , “You’re too good to be true”, and “You say it best when you say nothing at all”, when in real life such praises and promises are too big for them to even be believed. If a guy makes any of the above claims to me, I would honestly laugh and say “, I don’t want to die and I don’t want you to lie me down in a bed of roses, I am not too good to be true I am normal, and you will never understand me if I say nothing at all because men and women hardly understand each other when talking so how are they supposed to understand when one says nothing at all to the other? ”.

It is only upon hearing such songs that one understands why so much is expected from the emotion of love. Our media hypes up this emotion so much so that most of our songs make it this magnificent feeling that inspires us do things that are out of the ordinary, . In reality, this can’t possibly be real. If it was then no one would still be single.

In reality love itself is blameless. It is a normal human emotion like hate, anger, happiness, and confusion. It does not make anyone a hero, nor does it make someone do anything out of the ordinary.

It is phrases like these that we hear in our songs that make us see the people we love as being flawless, and we even become We even are horrified at the simplest human mistakes they make.

We secretly believe that they will do the extraordinary for us when in reality they are normal people who are only capable of doing normal likable, dis-likable, obnoxious, cute, and rude acts. So, next time you feel disappointed by your love or if you are ever expecting him or her to act perfectly and to make you happy all the time it just means that you have been listening to too many songs.

At the end of day people will always be people. Just because you love them that doesn’t automatically make them heroes, nor does it make them flawless . They mess up just like the rest of the planet, no one is killing themselves for anyone else. . After all , no one can possibly be a love song.

Decoding Arab Moms

Posted by dshalabi in 24. Jan, 2012, under society, people, and life in Amman

Arab moms are the best; they think their sons and daughters are kids no matter how old they are. They feel the need to monitor their actions and yet they are embarrassed of themselves for doing so. They hide their tendencies by making remarks and asking questions with hidden meanings, but with time the game gets too old and you are able to understand what they really mean. The most common mommy remarks used in this part of the world are:

1:It’s Raining Outside : This is a sentence often said by mothers to their sons or daughters regardless of their age. It is often used in instances when the mother see the son or daughter dressed to leave the house in rainy weather. The sentence is often accompanied by a stern look , a frown, and a sharp voice that has the underlying message. The underlying message is “Leave the house and you are in trouble”.

2: You’re leaving now? This is the question asked by moms in a calm pitiful sympathetic tone, it is one that isn’t as innocent as it sounds. If you are hit by it on your way out, you are trapped. There is no right answer to it. If you say yes, you will be hit with a speech about how late it is and how no decent person is out in this hour. If you are too old for this speech you will be caught in a guilt trip where the mother says “If you want to go, go” innocently. Don’t take this submissive attitude seriously because if you do go out, you will get a lecture about your lack of consideration when you get back. If you say “You are right, I won’t leave” your mom will feel guilty and she will spend the whole night telling you that she only said what she did for your own good. So, if you do plan to leave the house at a late hour, do try sneaking out to avoid any of these scenarios.

3:Where is that nice outfit I bought you? : This is another question that isn’t as innocent as it sounds. It is usually asked while you are at the door on your way out. If your mom is asking you that, it means that she hates what you are wearing . If you are a girl, it means that what you are wearing is too tight, or too short, or too revealing. If you are a guy , it means that you should go and wear a suit and tie. If you say that the outfit she bought is in the cupboard, you will be indirectly told that it is so much nicer for the given occasion and if you don’t run to change into it you will break her heart. If you say you don’t know where it is, your mom will make you feel so guilty by saying “I buy stuff you never wear”. So again, if you are hit by this question, run.

4: Have you eaten?: Beware , if you answer this question with a yes, your mom is sure to make you feel guilty by saying “I wonder who I cook for, if all of you eat outside”. If you tell her “Don’t cook”, she will say “I don’t want you eating junk food” right before she looks at you and says “You will gain weight because they add extra hormones in the food they sell at restaurants”. So take my advice, even if you have eaten outside squeeze in one or two bites of your mom’s cooking when you get back home, just to avoid the interrogation.

5: Don’t Forget the Tupperware: I can’t stress the importance of the Tupperware, if you do take your mom’s cooking with you to work or university, be sure to bring the Tupperware you packed the food in home with you. All moms around the world believe that the Tupperware is their most important possession and you not bringing it home is a personal insult to her. Buying a new one doesn’t get you off the hook. The Tupperware you forgot just has to always be the most important one she owns. It is a container worth fighting over to her. You forgetting it is a lack of consideration to her feelings and her belongings. The minute you realize that you forgot it in the office, be prepared to go back in the middle of the night to get it. If not, be prepared to hear about your carelessness for months to follow.

6: What happened to the nice gentleman/lady you used to talk to ?
This is another question that isn’t as innocent as it seems. It is a question mothers ask their single sons and daughters a few days after their birthday. They strike you with it when you least expect It, usually when you are watching a movie. The question means, “You have grown a year older, you need to start considering your marriage prospects”. It is your mom’s way of saying that you should start making moves on the nice “Gentleman/lady” to take him/her out of the friend zone. If you say ,”We are just friends” she will say “No man and woman are just friends’ love always starts with friendship”. If you say “We are no longer talking” she will say “surely any misunderstanding could be fixed.”. If you say, “I don’t know, we haven’t spoken in ages” she will say, give them a call. This question is her way of voicing her concern regarding the fact that you are not married.

7: You don’t have to if you don’t want to: This statement is usually told to the son or daughter who is of an older age. It is the mother’s way of saying “I can’t force you to do anything, but I will make your evening very uncomfortable if you don’t do what I want”.

8: I don’t want a gift this Mother’s Day : Don’t believe this statement, your mother always wants a gift on Mother’s Day, but she also wants the gift to come from your heart. She will make your life very difficult if you don’t get her a gift. She will remind you that she carried you nine months in her stomach, and she will tell you how she spent the years of her youth raising you feeding you , and clothing you. Don’t go there, get her a big gift.

9: We don’t talk anymore: This is a statement mothers make when they feel that you have friends and a social life that makes you unavailable to listen to them 24 hours a day. It is intended to make you feel sorry you leave them alone in the house.

10: You work too much: This is not a statement of concern but rather a reminder that you are spending less time with your mom. It translates into “You are not spending time with me”

11: Your Dad took one look at me and he chaised me for years before I said yes: This is your mom’s way of saying she was young and beautiful and desirable but she was not cheap and no decent girl should even look at the guy she is interested in . It is her way of making sure you behave.

These are the most common statements said by moms around the Arab world. They are intended to show you how much your mother cares about you. Mom’s do care, they just have a strange way of showing it. So don’t get annoyed just let them do their thing, smile, and move along.

We all got to love our moms


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