Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Persevere and Prosper


We all started with high hopes for ourselves. We had plans, aspirations, and dreams for our future. And then life happened. Each and every one of us has a broken part deep inside their soul now. But, we all persevered.

We learned happiness is not the destination but the journey and no one but yourself can make you happy. This put each and every one of us on a different journey to figure out how we can make ourselves happy. It took courage to embark on these journeys and we weren’t fearless. In fact, scared shitless, we started the search to find ourselves. Because nothing could be scarier than a life that wasn’t lived truly and to be true to yourself first you need to know yourself.

Some of us changed cities some changed countries. Some didn't move more than an inch but we all left some things behind. We left unrealized dreams behind to realize new ones. 

We learned to walk away from toxic habits, partners, and jobs. Determined to fail again but fail better next time, we embraced our failures which are our greatest teachers. To fail more meant to learn more. To learn more was to live better.  Ultimately, we learned to forgive ourselves for the mistakes we've made. 

Some of us learned to meditate some of us knew all along how to listen to their mind, body, and soul. We became our own teachers, doctors, and saviors. We knew no one could save ourselves but us. 

We learned to make an effort to understand others, where they come from why they think the way they think. We opened ourselves to all the colors of this world. We learned everyone had a role to play in their own story and it wasn't our place to judge their performance. Afterall, we were neither the judge nor the jury. We learned to evaluate an instance with its circumstances. Because circumstances mattered.   

Some of us became alone some became lonely. Lonesome wasn't something new for some of us and loneliness broke some of us. But eventually, we all learned to stand tall. One by one we learned not to sell ourselves short because it was all that we had. Life chewed us up and spat us out. Then we pulled ourselves together and got up, again. After a decade of practice, we started to build resilience. 

We discovered hard truths about ourselves. Someone said "If the truth hurts, you ain't living right." so we had to find the strength in ourselves to change. Facing our demons wasn't easy, let alone slaying them. When our inability to change hit us like a ton of bricks, the pain and misery lit a fire. And then the phoenix was born again from its ashes.  


Saturday, 14 July 2018

Would You Survive for Yourself?




Her zaman biraz dark bir insan oldum ben. Mood swinglerim Disneyland’deki en kral roller coaster’a tas cikartirdi. Depresif oldugum zamanlarda sarkazm ve dark espiri anlayisimla goz doldururdum. Sonra, hayatin anlamini yitirdigi bir donemim oldu. Firtinali bir denizde beni alabora etmeye calisan dalgalara benzetiyordum yasamayi.  O zaman ogrendim ‘depresyon’ kelimesinin gercek anlamini. Oyle umarsizca agza sakiz edilecek bir kelime olmadigini gordum. O halet-i ruhiyeye adim adim nasil girdigimi yillar sonra anladim ama hala nasil ciktigimi tam olarak bilemiyorum. Ki cikisimin da yillar surdugunu dusunursek, tek soyleyebilecegim bende derin izler biraktigi.

Disardan bakinca depresyondan cikmis gibi gozuktugum ama icten ice dustugum yerden ayaga kalkmadigimi, sadece dizlerimin uzerinde duracak kadar dogruldugumu bildigim bir donemde hayat karsima bir firsat cikardi. Kimisi buna ilahi mudahele der, kimisi sans, kimisi alin yazisi.. Bence aslinda hayat siklikla karsimiza boyle firsatlar cikariyor. Sadece, bizi guven alanimizdan cikaracak kararlar vermedigimiz icin, oncesinde sunulan secimlerin ‘firsat’ oldugunu goremiyoruz. 

Isin guzel tarafi, insan kendine deger veren, cesur hareketler yaptiginda evren hareketi alkisliyor. Exponential geri donusleri oluyor. Gercekten isteyince insanin yapamayacagi bir sey yok. Ama istemesi zor iste.. Iyilesmeyi istemek, degismeyi istemek, kendini sevip kendin icin dogru olani istemek bunlar yer cekimine karsi gelmek kadar zor seyler. Insan beyni ‘bahane/sebep’ yaratmak istediginde o kadar yaratici ve inandirici olabiliyor ki cogu zaman kendimizi duygularimizin esiri, aliskanliklarimizin kolesi veya talihsizliklerin kurbani olarak tanimlamakta hic zorlanmiyoruz.

Bekara koca bosamasi kolay demeyin. Bir kere cesaret gosterip kendin icin dogru karari aldiginda sihirli degnek degmiscesi yoluna girmiyor insanin hayati. Asil is zaten dogru karari aldiktan sonra basiretli davranmakta. Bu karari her gun tekrar tekrar almak gerekiyor. Her gun tekrar tekrar kabuk baglamak uzere olan yarayi kanatircasina, konfor saglayan efsundan kurtulmak ve zor olan adimi atmak lazim. Bunun icin de tek bir motivasyon var; kendinle barismak, kendini sevmek ve kendine deger vermek. Baskasi icin yasanmiyor hayat. Bir is, bir es, para veya nufuz/guc insana her gun tekrar tekrar dogru kararlari almasi icin gerekli motivasyonu saglayamiyor.   

Izledigim bir dizide iki karakter arasinda su konusma gectiginde cok etkilenmistim:
+ Would you die for me?
- I’ll survive for you.

Ben kendim icin ‘survive’ ettim. Would you survive for yourself?

Insan davranislarina soyle bir alici gozuyle baktiginda paternlerini rahatlikla gorebiliyor ama onlarla yuzlesmesi cok rahatsiz edici. Herkesin kendi kendine zarar veren davranis secimi baska. Kimi madde bagimlisi, kimi yemek, kimi alisveris. Kimi evli bir adama asik, kimi kendine asla hak ettigi degeri vermeyecek birine, kimi baskasina asik birine.  Hikayeler farkli olsa da olaylarin akisi da ayni cozum yolu da. Hepimiz kendimize itiraf etmek istemesek de zarar veren davranislarimizin farkindayiz. Zihinlerimizin kiliflar uretmesine izin veriyoruz. Kendimiz icin daha iyisini istemeden bu donguden cikmamiz mumkun degil.

We all need to love ourselves.
We all need to know our self worth.
We all need to survive for ourselves.



   

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Travel Often Getting Lost Will Help You Find Yourself: Honeymooning @ the Down Under


Australia has a fascinating nature, a very relaxed lifestyle and a heartbreaking history.
The sunshine state Queensland mesmerizes you with the mighty rainforest meeting the ocean.  It’s so exotic that feels like a movie set.  People move at a much slower pace, no wonder they have a special hand gesture for ‘being chill/relaxed’. 



When you look behind the veil, a bloody destructive history lies. On the way to the world’s oldest rainforest, Daintree, the road is covered with sugar cane farms on both sides. The railway is built crosstown to carry the harvest to the port. From an industrial perspective they did a great job, however, they became one of the largest exporters of sugar by cutting down the rainforest, destroying wildlife and basically killing the indigenous population. Now, you can pet the exotic animals at the zoo and meet a couple of indigenous people at the Mossman Gorge Centre at a fee. It’s baffling how they are profit from ecotourism after committing genocide on so many levels (plants, animals, people). The most heartbreaking moment was when the indigenous guy was preaching friendship and unity. Aussies have killed 99% of his community, invaded their homes and forced the remaining of their people to assimilate but he has to preach peace and coexistence because he doesn't have any other choice. It's applaudable how well he is coping with his circumstances considering many before him couldn’t.


From the book Homo Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari:



“Avrupalı yerleşimciler yerlileri önce adanın zengin bölgelerinden uzaklaştırdılar, sonra da kalan yabani arazileri bile ele geçirip yerlileri sistematik olarak avlayarak öldürdüler. Hayatta kalan çok az sayıda insan da dini bir toplama kampına doluşturuldu, burada iyi niyetli ama açık görüşlü olmayan misyonerler, onları modern dünyanın anlayışı doğrultusunda eğitmeye çalıştı. Tazmanyalılar okumaya ve yazmaya, Hristiyanlığı öğrenmeye, elbise dikmek ve çiftçilik gibi pek çok “üretken beceri” edinmeye zorlandılar; ama hepsine direndiler. Daha da melankolik bir hâle bürünerek çocuk sahibi olmayı bıraktılar, hayata ilgileri tükendi, nihayet bilim ve ilerlemeye dayalı modern dünyadan tek kaçış yolunu seçtiler: ölüm.”        






Throughout our trip, we were very lucky to have marvelous guides/instructors. They made the experience 100% better. Our guide to the Daintree rainforest taught us that tea tree oil is a great mosquito repellent. Indigenous people used to burn tea tree wood chips to protect themselves from mosquitos and other bugs. He also taught us that indigenous people used to use acoustics to communicate within the jungle. They would hit the tree trunk and warn tribe members of dangers approaching. Our rafting instructor, who previously was a plumber, was like a naughty child. He reinforced us to splash water on other boats and laugh our hearts out. The free lesson on worker unions was a bonus. Our diving instructor was determined to make every single one in the group gives him a smile. He even made the sea-sick girl laugh a little. I love that type of people who make it their mission to have fun and let everyone enjoy the ride. He was Dutch but he knew some Turkish swear words and he didn’t hesitate to use them recreationally. I don’t think we’ve laughed any harder than this while being cursed =)


The tourist brochures say “it’s an unspoiled tropical paradise” but the Great Barrier Reef would beg to differ. On the way to the reef, they told everyone they will give special body suits which are 100% UV protective so there is no need to put on sunscreen. They emphasized the adverse effects of sunscreen on the reef. Poor guys can’t get enough sun because of the layer of sunscreen covering the sea top which comes off of people’s skin while swimming. Everyone was there to see the coral reef before it died altogether but some people still managed to be dickheads and kept applying sunscreen on the way. It convinced me that even God’s heaven would be spoilt once homo sapiens entered into it. 


On this trip, we also learned that after sugar cane and ecotourism Australia's third biggest income source was Opal. We were looking at opal jewelry at a shop where the salesclerk was from South America. She joked with us about how early Aussies go to bed at night. It got me thinking all night... Days are longer and harder on the poorer side of the world. Shopping malls are open until 10 or 11 PM whereas in Sydney late night shopping is only on Thursday and until 9 PM. It's like a joke!   
The Australian government rules over a massive land populated by very few people. They have a great social government. The concepts of government housing and unemployment salary are taken to a whole another level. There are government houses with an ocean view for God’s sake! Work-life balance is better than most countries. Government healthcare, education, and transportation services are better than what is available in Turkey in the private sector. I couldn’t help myself but be jealous of the Aussies’ privileges.  However, it’s funny how they ignore the fact that European settlers basically invaded this land, massacred its people and has been exploiting its resources for generations. So, I wonder how they can live with themselves as they are denying immigrants from the Middle East or South East Asia entry into their country. The land and the resources are not rightfully theirs, to begin with, and they themselves are immigrants but they have no concept of empathy. It’s just shameful.  





Being born in the right place at the right time might grant you privileges but the question is whether you share them with others or be a selfish child. It's about having a conscious and empathizing with the less fortunate ones. Greed is a powerful thing but we must train our minds and educate our kids to find some peace and happiness in this world.  

Monday, 12 March 2018

Kendinize Hatirlatin


Pazarlama konseptinin nasil isledigini ilk ogrendigimde ‘mesaj frekansi’ baslikli bir bolumu okuyordum kitaptan. Bu konseptin ilk uygulamasini gordugumde bir ilac firmasinda calisiyordum ve mumessillerin ayni doktoru her hafta tekrar tekrar ziyaret etmesinin etkinliginin tartisildigi bir toplantidaydim. Uzerinden 10 sene gectikten sonra goruyorum ki tekrar pazarlamanin temeli.

Insan kendine de bazi seyleri tekrar etmeli, hatirlatmali. Zamanin ve sagligin hayatimizdaki tartismasiz EN onemli iki unsur oldugu ortada. Ama cogu zaman bunun farkinda degilmiscesine hareket ediyoruz. Icten ici onemini bildigimiz bu iki unsuru gunluk hayatta bircok alanda kolaylikla yadsiyoruz. Bu hataya her dustugumuzde kendimize hatirlatmalar yapmak lazim. Herseyin basi farkindalik, onun yolu da mesaj tekrarindan geciyor. 

Is gunu diye tanimlanan sey 8 saatten basliyor, yolda gecen zaman, uzayan mesailer ve ‘cok acil’ baslikli emaillerle nerden baksan 10-12 saati bulup insanin gununun de enerjisinin de yarisini yiyor. 24 saatin 6-8 saatinde uyuyan ortalama bir bunyenin herseyden cok yaptigi tek sey ‘is’ oluyor gunun sonunda. Peki adi “is” olan birseyden zevk almak ne derece mumkun? Ben sahsen zevk almayi gectim, sinir bozmasin yeter dedigim bir evredeyim.

Her ne kadar kendi tutkusunu paraya donusturmeyi basaran ufak bir kitle olsa da cogunlugun becerebildigi/yatkin oldugu bir konuda beraber calistigi insanlara ragmen akil ve vucut sagligini koruyarak para kazandigi seye “is” dendigini dusunuyorum. Siz olsaniz 3 yasindaki bir cocuga nasil aciklardiniz isinizi? Bu tanim isten gelenlerin neden bitkin, ise gidenlerin neden mutsuz ve isten telefon gelenlerin neden gergin oldugunu kolaylikla aciklardi. 

“Yonetmek” kelimesi cok derin bir kelime aslinda. Ilk isimde ‘abi’ konumundaki bir yonetici bana ‘is hayatinin %50si mudurunu yonetmektir’ dediginde daha 22 yasindaydim. Is hayatinda mutlu olabilmek icin ayni anda ‘insanlari yonetmeyi’, ‘kendinizin ve baskalarinin beklentilerini yonetmeyi’, ‘zamani yonetmeyi’ ve ‘sinirlerinizi yonetmeyi’ ogrenmeniz gerektigini anlamam nerden baksaniz bir 10 senemi aldi. Yasadigimiz cagda herseyin mumkun oldugunu ancak zaman, para ve insan kaynaklarinin kisitli olmasindan oturu ideal senaryolarin asla mumkun olmadigini iddirak ettigimde yasadigim hayal kirikligini bilemezsiniz. Ulkenin en iyi okullarina bile gitseniz, bunlari ogretmiyorlar iste. Kimse demiyor ki yonetmek bu kadar kolay basarilan bir sey olsaydi zaten uzerine para vermezlerdi. O nedenle, kariyerimin bu orta seker seviyesine geldigi su yillarda anliyorum ki ameliyatla sinirlerinizi ve duygularinizi aldirmadiginiz surece is hayatinda mutlu olabilmenizin pek mumkun degil.

Genel olarak “calisana kendini degersiz hissettirmek” diye bir kavram var, her is verenin/mudurun bir fiil gerceklestirdigi ancak iscileri tarafindan bununla itham edildiklerinde ‘Cem Yilmaz’in Hangi Don?’ skecindeki bir ifadeye burunup inkar ettikleri. Beklenti yonetimi iste burada devreye giriyor. Verimli bir calisan, canla basla calisip gercek anlamda en degerli varligi olan zamanini adadigi isinde, paydaslarindan da ayni ozveriyi bekliyor, takdir edilmek istiyor, ongorulemeyen bir sorun ciktiginda cani gonulden uzuluyor, fikirleri dinlenmediginde demotive oluyor. Bakin verimli bir calisan ne kadar da cok beklenti icerisinde. Haliyle, hayal kirikligina ugramasi da bir o kadar kolay. Patronlar da kraldan kralci mudurler de calisanlarin beklentilerini yonetme konusunda buyuk bir basariyla eksik kaliyorlar cunku birinin emeklerini hor gorup ‘ne var canim, maasini aliyor bu is icin’ demek empati yapmaktan cok daha kolay. 

Urun satis fiyati uretim maliyetine bakilarak belirleniyor. Maaslar da benzer bir karlilik denklemine gore belirleniyor. Isveren calisanin emeginin ederini urettigi urunu musteriye satarken edecegi kara ve pazar dinamiklerine gore hesapliyor. Peki, calisan zamaninin karsiligini neye gore hesapliyor? Bazen maas tatli geliyor, yenilen yemeklerin tadi cikilan tatillerin keyfine karisip katlaniyor. Bazen de dunyalari verseler az geliyor cunku akil sagliginin ve sevdiklerinizle gecirilen zamanin parasal denkligini hesaplamak mumkun olmuyor. Yani, insan en degerli varliklarini bazen yok pahasina satiyor.

Tabi bu durumun cozumu madem kiymetimizi bilmiyorlar biz de calismayiz kole gibi diyerek proleterya ayaklanmasi baslatmak degil. Kapitalist duzen ayni bir kanser hucresi gibi vucudun her organina (her is koluna) yayildigindan kesip atmakcare degil. Care kendine dogru hatirlatmalari dogru zamanlarda yapmakta, care pazarlamada!

Isin her daim birilerine gore ‘acil’ olmasindan, beraber calistiginiz insanlarin ‘ego’larindan ve hakkinizin yenmesinden ve emeginizin degersizlestirilmesinden nefes alamaz hale geldiginizde sakin kalip duygu durumunuzu kontrol altina almaya calismalisiniz. Bu da ancak kendinizi o durumdan cikarttiginizda mumkun olabilir. Konusarak bir yere varamayacaginizi anladiginizda, baska bir zaman yeniden konusmak uzere tartismayi sonlandirin. Birini ikna etmekle egosunu yenmek arasindaki farkina varin. Her is acil oldugunda bir oncelik siralamasi belirleyin ve paydaslarinizla uzerinde anlasin. O anin icinde hersey COK uzerinize geldiginde sartlari yeniden degerlendirin. Olaylarla araniza biraz mesafe koydugunuzda, alginizdaki yakin korlugunun siz de farkina varacaksiniz. Hicbir is ne o kadar acil, ne o kadar onemli ne de sagliginizdan degerli. Ne almak icin ne harcadiginizi bir kez daha dusunun. Maasiniz ne kadar yuksek olursa olsun zaman satin alamaz. Belki saglik sigortasi satin alir ama yine de sagligi satin alamaz. 

Kendinize zamaninizi neden bu isyerine verdiginizi sorun ve cevap size yeterli gelmiyorsa, degistirin. En nihayetinde agaclari bile kokunden sokup baska yere tasiyabiliyorlar. Siz de sartlarinizi degistirebilirsiniz. En degerli varliklarinizi bozuk para gibi harcayip sonra da kurban psikolojisine girmenin alemi yok. Sikayet etmek, aglamak veya sinir harbi gecirmek sizi sadece isten sogutup depresyona girme ihtimalinizi arttirir. Kendinize bunu yapanin isinizin veya is paydaslarinizin degil siz oldugunuzun farkina varin. 
Mevcut isinizde hapis olmadiginizi, ve secim hakkiniz oldugunu kendinize hatirlatin.  



Saturday, 21 October 2017

Bir Farkındalık Anı Olarak Düğüning



Yillar gecse de bazi seylerin ayni kalacagini bilmek insanin icini isitan bir duygu ❤️

Dostluklarin yillar icinde nasil gelistigini dusunup geldikleri noktanin insanin yüzünde kocaman bir gülümseme yaratmasi mutlulugun tarifi gibi bir sey 💜

Kalbinin en derinlerinde de sevdigin insanlarin da seni bir o kadar sevdigini bilerek yola çikmak, bir sonraki vuslati özlemle beklemeye baslamak, sweet & sour bir mutluluk 🖤

(Nothings gonna change my love for you  playing in the background)

Varolusumuzun amacini anlamak ve hayatimizi anlamlandirmak icin bilinçli ve bilinçsiz bir cok sekilde çaba gösteriyoruz. "The moment of realization" diye adlandirabilecegimiz anlar oluyor, hayata anlam katan birlikteliklerin agizda 'sweet bir tatse' biraktigi anlar onlar. Insan zamanda asili kalmak istiyor. You want to cherish that moment, let it sink in, wrap it tight and save it forever 💕

Çok sükür Allah'a, bize böyle anlari tüm derinlikleriyle anlamlandiracak farkindaligi verip bir de üzerine minnos enstantanelerle (ie. dügün) taçlandirdigi için 🙏🏻

Bir baska "moment of realization" da evlendigi zaman oluyor insana. Bir kadin soyadi degistigi zaman hem ayni hem de farkli bir insan mi olur? Hazir apartmana ek kat çikmak gibi oluyormus. Hem sen sensin, hem de senden daha büyük daha baska bir entity'sin artik 💑  30 yillik hayatini anlamli kilan ailen ve dostlarindan baska bir ailen ve bir dostun daha var artik ♥️ Hayatinin nasil da zenginlestigini görüp Allah'a binlerce kez sükretmek az bile kaliyor(!)

Oyle bir sevgiyle doldu ki içim bu Türkiye seyahatim boyunca, humanist yanim kabardi; tüm insanogluyla ayni yaratan tarafindan bu dünyaya, burayi daha yasanilir bir yer haline getirmek icin geldigimizi düsünmeye basladim. Sevgi gercekten içimizde 😃  Bakarsan bag oluyor bakmazsan dag.

Insanin potansiyalini realize etmesinin altinda yatan birkac faktör varmis. En basinda birilerinin ona sevmeyi ogretmesi geliyor. Kendini sevmeyi sonra da baskalarini sevmeyi. Baskalarini sevmek kolay da kendini sevmek zor zanaat. Kendini sevdikce, Allah da seni seviyor. Sen kendini/kendi iyiligini düsünerek aksiyon aldikca, evren de hareketi alkisliyor 👏🏻

Kendini bir defa sevmek de yetmiyor, herseye ragmen her zaman kendini sevmek lazim. Ne hayattan ne kendinden umidi kesmemek, yenilgiyi kabullenmemek, cabuk yilmamak lazim. Her yenilgide kendini dustugun yerden kaldirmayi sonra da tekrar denemek icin kendi kendini motive etmeyi ogrenmesi lazim insanin. Baska turlu ne basarili ne de mutlu olunmuyor. 

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Encrypting Religious Scripture Within The Right Context

It is a tricky task to understand religious scripture. The ancient words have a tendency to get a variety of meanings as years pass by. That's why there is a huge discussion around who Mary Magdalene really was. Was she mentally disabled, a prostitute, wife of Jesus or the best follower of Jesus? In order to understand a religious text, one must know the history and also the context in which these scripts were written in. 

There are several points of dispute when interpreting the Quran. For instance, 'some' clerics interpret the famous Nisa 34 verse of Quran as follows:
When a married couple goes through problems in their relationship, they should talk to each other. If that doesn't work, separate your rooms. If this doesn't work either, the man can pound up the woman a little. If the problems persist, they should seek to consult from outside - like the elderly whom would be listened to by both the man and the wife. If you still can't find any solution then get a divorce.

The translation of the word "darabe" constitutes the basis of the argument which says "The Quran lets men beat their wives" however there is so much lost in translation. The word 'darabe' has 17 different meanings one of which is a 'temporary separation'. This meaning, temporary separation, is also used in verse Nisa 101. 

One should also know the context in which Nisa 34 was sent to Prophet Mohammed. It is said that a group of women has gathered around the prophet's house and they complained about their husbands' violence. In protest, they stayed at the masjid that night refusing to go back home to their husbands. In the morning the prophet calls for the husbands and comes down on them for beating their wives.  Following this incident, the verse Nisa 34 was sent. 

So, what does logic suggest when interpreting this verse? Beat your wives or separate houses for a while? 

Nisa 34 actually reads as follows;
Step 1: Try talking to each other. 
Step 2: Try separating your rooms for a while
Step 3: Try separating your houses for a while
Step 4: Seek outside counsel 
Step 5: Get a divorce     

Another point of dispute is around the hijab, the women's dress code. There are many verses in Quran that dictate Muslims of both genders to be modest in their dress and behavior. There are 3 verses in particular which directly talks about how women should cover themselves. These are particularly vague verses leaving a lot for interpretation and stirring a lot of dispute. 

Samina Ali summarizes it quite well in her TED Talk. 


Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Qatar Chronicles: Year in Review



1 year ago when I came to Doha I was full of hope and excitement. Being an expat was a dream I had since college. It sounded so cool to experience new cultures and learn new ways of doing business while teaching my ways to co-workers from strictly different backgrounds. It almost sounded like a paid vacation! It's a vacation alright but for a very different reason. 


In Qatar you don't get to experience the Qatari culture because they are so secluded, you rather experience a mixture of Arab, Indian and Filipino culture. Everyone is deliberately rude. Everyone reflects their frustration and disappointment at all times. Except for the waiters and waitresses who greet you in the fakest manner possible. You know when people are on a diet, they give themselves a cheat day on the weekends as if the calories don't count. People here are always on a cheat day. Due to the lack of entertainment activities, people just eat out their boredom.    


There is no middle ground. Things are either very luxurious and expensive or very low quality and still expensive. This holds true for housing, food, clothing and anything else you can think of. It also applies for the talent. As if someone handpicked the least educated and least open to growth people from each country and assembled a team of ultimate failures. There are of course some super smart, well-educated people but they get frustrated quickly and leave at the first chance. 


Personally, I feel like I have trapped myself here. I'm dating someone who has been happily living here for 11 years and has no intention to leave. My job is boring and frustrating but the pay is good so are the hours. Unless the circumstances push me, I don't see myself making a change and spoil my comfort.  


At work, I basically am a one-man-show; I write ad copies and press releases, I develop media plans, communication strategies, and event ideas but I always finish by 6 pm. So, I really cannot complain. But its one hell of a lonely office. I'm used to having good friends at work who make the office homier thus turn the long hours of overtime into long hours of fun. Now, I don't even have 1 person to talk to. It only engages in necessary conversations regarding the work. Sitting silently all day on your desk is a very suffocating task for me.


There is a big difference between friends and acquaintances. The biggest problem with my expat experience is that I have quite a few acquaintances but I don't have many friends. So, it's been a very lonely year for me. I literally spent 1/3 of my year on Facetime talking to my real friends in Turkey. Though its hard to sustain that long-distance relationship. You just miss out on too many things in their life and its impossible for them to fathom yours. This isolation is going to drive me crazy at some point.           

       
So, the desert sucks. It's dusty, boring and lonely. My only consolation is that my partner is my best friend and it's a good thing to have since we are hoping to spend a lifetime together. Ohh, and he is funny. 





Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Travel Often Getting Lost Will Help You Find Yourself: D for Dubai

The city has a soul. It's imported, its a bit artificial but nevertheless it has a soul (unlike Doha). It's like California on steroids or rather I should say California dipped in gold.

The best word to describe Dubai would be flamboyant.
  
As you walk from the beach to inland, the two-storey villas turn into 50+ storey skyscrapers, palm trees turn into dazzling facade lighting decorations and the chill attitude turns into swagger.      

They basically decorated the desert with skyscrapers, including the world's tallest building, and adorned them with led lights. The lighting show of the Burj Khalifa and the adjacent dancing fountain are lovely tourist attractions. After a long shopping day at the Dubai Mall, having dinner at one of the restaurants by the pool while watching these shows is the very definition of 'touristing in Dubai'. Though I have to admit, the blinding lights of the city are probably bad for the environment and a squandering of resources. But, no one feels bad about their lavish lifestyle in this region. They had too much too quickly so they just don't care. Sigh..petrol money..sigh.  

Ohh the captivating murals!

JBR is much like Santa Monica's oceanfront walk. Slightly shorter beach walk accompanied by various restaurants, shops, kids' play areas and a small pop up market, all of which over headed by colorful murals. It's very lively and busy at all times.     










D for Dubai


A little bit obvious and maybe a little too ostentatious but they know how to carve the letter D.  The word 'man-made' is taken to a whole another level. Man-made island in the shape of a palm tree or a man-made Venice-like canal city..You name it, they made it. 




They have 24-lane wide highways whereas in Turkey we still have max 4 lanes in major highways. Nevertheless, the traffic is hectic at peak hour. 

They have built way too many entertainment complexes and tourist attractions. You gotta give credit where credit is due. They had a vision and the money to implement it so they turned a piece of barren land into a commercial hub. 


They brought the whole world to the desert. There is an indoor botanical garden. There is a mall with a ski slope inside. - How intriguing! People'd pay just to say "I skied and saw penguins in the middle of the desert." - There is a giant aquarium in another mall, right around the corner from the giant waterfall with cool sculptures. The variety of the fish and underwater plants in this aquarium is stunning. A visit to the mall turns into watching NatGeo. 


There is a game center which is like a sci-fi movie came true. The experience lives up to the tagline; "Live the game". The virtual reality glasses provide an immersive experience which is the dream of every gamer. From the design of the floor stickers to the graffiti on the walls, from the zombie-themed male and female icons on the restroom doors to the fastrack access named "hackers entrance" everything was well thought out, impeccable.






Last but not least, all service personnel, from the waiter at the Buddha Bar to the attendant at the IMG Worlds of Adventure park, had a big smile on their faces and genuinely wanted to help. They turned every interaction into a heartwarming memory. They have been trained well on how to serve and they didn't hate their jobs (unlike most people in Qatar) so it was positively reflected in their work as well as the tips they got.   


Overall, Dubai was like a hidden gem or an oasis in the Arabian desert. I've already started planning my next trip! 



Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Be A Badass Pollyanna


When I first moved to Qatar as a single woman who doesn't speak a word of Arabic, I took a chance on myself. Being an expat sounded so promising, full of opportunities to explore and develop both personally and professionally, that I didn't mind being in the middle of the Arabian desert. Since I've survived some pretty messed up shit before I figured I should be able to adapt to the Bedouin desert lifestyle. In the end, how hard can it be? That was the wrong question to ask. I should have asked, "Will I be able to live with myself once I adapt?".

This country makes you racist, sexist, ageist and bitter. 

The other day I found myself thinking a candidate with a newborn is not suitable for a social media position which would require her to control social media platforms after hours and on the weekends. All one needs is a smartphone with a good internet connection but you also need to be vigilant and eager to be online-all-the-time. I didn't think a 30-year-old woman with a baby is up to this challenge thus doesn't deserve to be given a chance. I wanted a young, single person possibly a fresh college graduate who grew up with social media (thus a natural user) and has no apparent ties (thus more flexible to be used and abused by the corporate slavery system).  

I also wanted someone non-Lebanese because you know "the Lebanese way", they tell you a story but the facts are quite different and they give you a million excuses to justify themselves even though deep down they know they aren't right. They also have that "I'm too good for this" attitude, they're not open to change as if they are already perfect.

Ohh, also I wanted a female candidate who is 'presentable' and relatively submissive since the position is embedded in the client's office. We need someone who can be cute and can ask for things so nicely that people would volunteer to make it happen.We need someone who won't get into a quarrel with the client, won't get tired of receiving contradictory orders and rebel. And you know boys..They don't take the path of least resistance, ever. A male candidate will reprehend the client for their impossible requests by day two and we will lose the client by the end of the week.   

Shufti? I've managed to be a racist, sexist and ageist all wrapped in one. Actually, when I first moved to Qatar and made my very first friends I criticized them for their racist/sexist/ageist comments. They've told me "give it 6 months and you'll catch up". I'm reporting from month 11; I've surpassed all expectations :/   

Don't forget the 'bitterness'. Merriam and Webster dictionary defines the word 'bitter' as "expressive of severe pain, grief or regret" or alternatively as "harshly reproachful, marked by cynicism and rancor". Yeap, that sums up mine and everyone else's feelings towards Qatar. 

I wasn't expecting rose gardens coming here but my almost 1 year in Qatar was full of disappointments. My job description was bogus along with the client portfolio. Whoever I tell this gives the same reaction; "Ohh, I experienced the exact same thing". They lie to get you to move to Qatar. They knowingly make promises that they cannot deliver and they are not a tiny bit ashamed of it. It starts with the driver who promises to pick you up at 8 o'clock and ends with your supplier who is bounded by a legal contract to deliver the goods on Monday. Neither of them delivers what they promised and there is nothing you can do about it. You won't find a better driver or a supplier and your next job will not be as promised during the interviews. You need to assume that most of the people you meet here will be dishonest, no one will tell you the truth or talk straight with you. 

This is how Qatar works. Everyone is here to make a quick buck and go back home. It's like everyone is intentionally doing a lousy job. They lie, they cheat, they deceive and they are incapable of shame. So, you need to assume the worst, lower your expectations and learn not to dwell on the things you cannot change. Let the sense of resentment settle in and then try seeing the bright side which is the ridiculous amount of salary you're being paid. There is no tax in this country because living in the desert with these people is tax itself. 

So, moving to the Arabian Gulf means constantly breathing a/c air, eating unhealthy, working for a job you never intended and dealing with lazy, dishonest people. You can choose to focus on the downsides and make your life even more miserable than it already is or you can learn a lesson or two from Eleanor Porter's Pollyanna. When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will. You need to make a conscious effort to focus on the good. Play the "Glad Game" and find something to be glad about in every situation. It's the key to survival. 

Qatar is one of the safest countries with extremely low crime rates and rare (almost none) terrorist attacks. You're getting paid more than your mother and father combined. As a millennial, you can afford to have avocado for breakfast, lunch, and dinner whereas most of the millennials living with their parent because they cannot afford to live alone. It's almost always sunny and around 25oC and when it's not (when it's 45oC) you have a/c everywhere. And, there is always Facetime and occasional cheap flight tickets home.


Every day, every interaction is a battle between Pollyanna and my inner Queen of Misery. I am learning to count my blessings and stay positive in the face of adversity. I am super grateful for the values that are instilled in me by my family, the "can do" attitude I have been passed on by the women in my family and the incredible education I received through my family's money. 


I am determined to stay true to my core values and give this 30-year-old new mother a chance on this position. Even though chances are she's going to quit this job in 3 months and I'll have to look for a new candidate I still have to give her an equal chance. Maybe, she'll surprise me by abolishing my new biases that I developed in Qatar. After all, I have to practice what I preach otherwise I am no different than the chauvinists I often criticize.


Sunday, 16 October 2016

Lessons from an Outsider

Being an outsider is challenging but rewarding at the same time. It’s true what Eckhart Tolle has said; it makes life difficult, but it also places you at an advantage as far as enlightenment is concerned. It teaches you a lot about what’s important in life and how you can navigate through the obstacles put in your way. It first puts you down, to the rock bottom, and then you develop certain coping mechanisms and ultimately grow as a person. So, basically it’s a blessing in disguise.

It’s not the first time I’m being an outsider but it surely is the most  conspicuous of all the times I’ve been an alien. Being a single, non-Arabic speaking, non-hijab-wearing Muslim, expat woman in the Gulf is awfully different than being the new kid in a private school or the young management trainee in a company where everyone has at least 7-10 years of tenure. It has nuisances in so many different levels but having a vagina complicates your life far more than vocabulary, faith and culture combined. 


Being a woman in the work place is tough, regardless of the geography. Being an ‘outsider’ is the one thing all working women have in common. Regardless of race, religion or social class it’s enough to be a woman in order to be judged and found ‘inadequate’ by men. Even Queen Victoria  had to prove her worth every single day as a young female monarch in the 19th century UK. She is now the symbol of great expansion of British Empire but she has gone through the same struggles modern women are going through. So, we can confidently say mankind has failed to accomplish adequate progress towards gender equality in the past century. 


Gender equality is almost non-existent in the Gulf. Not only we are paid less but also perceived as ‘lost causes’ since we are meant to get married, have kids – maybe follow our husbands to different countries –  and ultimately be mediocre employees. Being a highly educated woman with aspirations is perceived a passing fancy since your priorities will change soon after your marital status changes. In the eyes of the male-dominant senior management, having a career and having a family are two mutually exclusive things that a woman has to choose from. 



The annoying thing is people have the audacity to tell their sexist views right to your face. I’m sure men all over the world think like that to a certain extend but in the Gulf, they proudly share their views with you. On any given Sunday, you can receive advice from your manager, something along the lines of “Once you have kids, your productivity at the office will significantly decrease so you should work extra hard to climb up the leader as quickly as possible before you get pregnant” or your co-worker can make a comment like “Sometimes I wish gets married and becomes a housewife so we can have some peace of mind.” You just need to learn to let certain things go and choose your battles wisely.


Other than being perceived as an incubator, we are also a distraction, a temptation for our male co-workers. Using bikini models to sell sports cars is a widely accepted industry practice and we all have to accept the fact that straight men have trouble seeing anything (soul, mind etc.) beyond the female body. That’s why all the Abrahamic religions have rules on women’s attire and behavior in public.  There are people here who get aroused because you wear high heels or laugh or wear your hair a certain way (ie. pony tail). - Bear in mind, in Qatar, expat women has to wear clothes that cover from the shoulders to below the knee. 

Anything and everything you do can be deemed as flirtation and anything and everything you wear can arouse a co-worker. So, modesty has a completely different meaning in this region. Some people are basically stuck in the 19th century and they’re not so eager to catch up with the rest of the world. Meanwhile in Cannes, advertising campaigns to raise awareness on gender equality being awarded Glass Lions, the women of this region find pride in their seclusion. They think the best thing a woman can achieve is to lead a wholesome life which requires wearing an abaya while they judge anyone who does not comply with the same level of  purdah  a symbol of sin and a treat to their families. When you're surrounded with men who get aroused by the sound of your heels, you understand why the women think that way. - not that you agree with them but you come to see their reasons.

So,  every day is a battle in Qatar which is fought in many fronts. But as they say, what doesn't kill you gives you a number of coping mechanisms. You learn to hear the bullshit but not listen to it. You learn to accept the facts - it's a fact that gender equality is a global problem but it's a bigger one in this region- and then tailor your expectations accordingly. You cannot change the world views of people. You can be the best version of yourself just for your benefit - not to prove yourself to anyone - and some people will recognize the fault in their ways and some people will still never perceive your true value. Acceptance of the facts will make you a more tranquil person.  

Most ambitious women stay here for a couple of years to save some money and move to more open-minded parts of the world in order to be perceived as worthy as their male counterparts. Maybe, I'll call it quits like the rest of them or I'll persevere. Time will tell. Until then, the only way to survive is to make peace with your reality, choose your battles wisely and put a brave face on.