La France : Partie N° 3

This installment contains two journal entries because one is really short. Soooooo…

To continue L’s adventures in France…

26 août, 2006
10h43 à Maisons-Alfort

Emailed Césaire* this morning. I’m going to see if I can call him…


Went to the Musée Asiatique that Edouard recommended yesterday. It has some very nice things, but it’s SO BIG. Too big, really.

This morning I went with Margaux, Karima and Malaïka to the market. It was so cool! So much noise! I can’t describe it… I’ll have to go again. Then maybe I’ll be able to.

Righto. I really want to start speaking more French. I always do my best to initiate conversation in French, but somehow it usually drifts back to English. Maybe with the Perrots**…

Césaire said I probably won’t gain 50 lbs. “Maybe 20 – no more! You will diet when you get home.”


27 août, 2006
23h41 à Maisons-Alfort

Such an eventful day today. Best day yet.

Not at first, though. It wasn’t horrible by any means, but… whatever.

Margaux asked me to go to the bakery and buy 2 baguettes traditions, but I didn’t know where it was so she sent Karima with me. GOD, how awkward! There’s this awful language barrier between us, so we went the whole way in silence. Then at the… boulangerie… I didn’t know what to do (there were two lines or something) and it took a while to figure it out. On the way home Karima did say “T’en veux ?” Do you want some? But that’s… it.

The whole family had lunch together. At that point, I’d say the day improved largely. I really like Ophélie’s husband, Kamar. For lunch we had… oh! It was this dish with beef and olives and potatoes cooked in curry and coconut milk… yum. I tried this odd drink that was… minty, eucalyptus sort of thing. Not too good. There wasn’t any wine. Kamar is Muslim, so I presume he doesn’t drink. Ophélie doesn’t, as far as I can tell.

Margaux tells me that Marielle Masson*** called to ask if I could spend the afternoon and have dinner with them. So, between lunch and them coming, Margaux had me read Sleeping Beauty (in French, obviously) out loud for practice. It was nice of her to care, but it was embarrassing when Karima and Malaïka would listen – ESPECIALLY when I’d stumble over a word or mispronounce something.

They weren’t laughing or anything, but still…

When I’d finished, I ran upstairs to get ready – apply makeup and the like. Just as I was starting, Marielle and Lucas arrived so I had to hurry. It was okay, though, because they were showing Margaux Vincent’s blog. 

Once they had detached themselves from the computer, we did the whole French-kiss-near-the-cheek introduction thingy. Lucas does it oddly. Usually, the French just press their cheeks to each other and make a kissing noise, but he turns his had and actually kisses my cheeks. Weird.

Anyhow, we drove into Paris and picked up Paul who had been on a sailboat race, then we all hung out together as a “family.”

Oh my gosh – SO nice! I like them so much! We went for Chinese and I had THE most disgusting eggroll I had ever tasted in my life! I am serious, it tasted like vomit. But everything else was good. We went to their house – I saw my future bedroom – and we started watching a half-French, half-English movie called “Wanted.”

I’m really looking forward to my time with them. They’re my third host family, so it won’t be for a while. But I can’t wait!

*Césaire was an exchange student from France who was at my high school the year prior to me going on exchange. We became really good friends. We’re still in contact on facebook, but we haven’t talked in a while.

**The Perrots were my first official host family. Much more on them to come. They were on vacation when I first arrived. In India, as I recall.

***The Masson family was my third and final host family. Marielle was the mom, Paul was the dad. They had two sons: Vincent, who was in Texas on exchange at the time, and Lucas, the younger of the two.


War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!

Or, as Rev Dr Martin Luther Kind Jr more eloquently put it:

Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.

I can’t truly call myself a pacifist. I mean, I believe that peace is always a better answer, but would I injure someone in self-defense? Um, yes! Would I hurt someone who hurt my child? You betcha! But war?

I’ve always been against these wars that the US is involved in. I know there are a few dozen right now, but I’m going to zero in on the war in Iraq. When I was in seventh grade, I had a social studies teacher who got me all worried because the US hadn’t invaded Iraq at that point and he was telling us, “If we’re going to do it, now is the time because it’s winter now so the weather will be okay. In the summer it’ll be too hot!” And I was all “Goddamn! We better hurry up!”

But then I got smart. I took a step back and thought, “Why are we invading?”

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.

Aside from that brief moment I have never been for that war. Though the school system is not really designed to encourage critical thinking, between school, family life, discussions with friends and lots of reading, I was able to form my own opinions. War is bad. To the point, if not somewhat simplistic.

This was all before I was married to an Iraqi.

I haven’t been regaled with stories of “war times,” I haven’t been to Iraq, I haven’t even met most of my in-laws (yet!). But now love is involved and, even though I am just a naïve little American girl who doesn’t really know a damn thing about war (and I thank God for that privilege), it all feels so much more personal to me now.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

I used to think: how could we do this? This is an unjust war! And it is so transparent I can’t believe that anyone – myself included – ever fell for it for a moment. If it were about WMDs, why were none found? If it were about removing an unjust leader, why are we not in North Korea?

Those things stand. But now I wonder: how could we do this? Would someone ever consider my gentle father-in-law a threat? My mother-in-law who calls me her daughter? My aunties who have never met me, but who have taken me into the family as one of their own? What about my husband? My husband, who is such a kind soul. My husband, who, in spite of the stress of his job, says that being a doctor is still his ideal career because he loves helping people? My husband, who treats my son like his own, and who is called “Baba” in our house? I have brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nephews, cousins, uncles, aunts, a grandmother. They could have been considered an enemy? A target? Their lives could have been extinguished and excused as collateral damage?

I am just a naïve little American girl who doesn’t really know a damn thing about war, but the idea of this chills me.

The war in Iraq – like the war in Vietnam in Dr King’s time – was bad politics. It was a farce. It fueled the despicable war culture that so defines America now. But it was also bad on a personal level. Because it affected and continues to affect real, living, breathing, moving, loving human beings.

And so, if I may be so bold, I will wrap up with one final Dr King quote – one about the Vietnam War, but one that I believe is aptly applicable to the war in Iraq, as well as all other wars that the US is involved in.

God didn’t call America to do what she’s doing in the world now. God didn’t call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war as the war in Vietnam. And we are criminals in that war. We’ve committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I’m going to continue to say it. And we won’t stop it because of our pride and our arrogance as a nation.

I part now with the words that cross millions upon millions of Muslims’ lips every day: assalaam alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

May God’s peace, mercy, and blessings be upon you.

La France : Partie N° 2

Well, I have been woefully inactive due to woeful illness, but I guess any followers I have (and I have a handful now!!) can take that “I don’t know how often I’ll be posting” part of my blog description to heart.

Anyhow, I thought I might lure people back in by continuing what seems to be the most popular part of my blog: my France journals! So here we go.

25 août, 2006
23h24 à Maisons-Alfort

I have discovered why Margaux doesn’t have any cats to keep her company. She has a blanket in lieu of it. Honestly, l’après midi* I dozed off on my bed and when I awoke, I was covered in cat-hair-like-thingies.

Dieu merci** that I discovered I like tea. Tea is served several times a day. I even had some coffee this evening and it was drinkable.

We went into Paris today (!!!) with Ophélie’s two eldest daughters, Karima and Malaïka, and took a tourist boat ride, bâteau mouche. J’ai vu beaucoup de posters de Zidane ! Ouais !*** Besides having to pee the whole time, it was quite nice. Karima spoke to me of her own free will! (“L, tu veux ?”)

Oh, and this morning I met Karima and Malaïka’s father. He seemed like a very nice man.

Margaux and I were invited to dinner at her brother’s apartment this evening. Edouard and his wife Natalie. Natalie fixed a delicious North African dish with some sort of been that Edouard said I’d probably never touched before. 

Before dinner we had little shots of cognac, which I drank but didn’t like very much.

I listened devoutly as Margaux, Edouard, Natalie and their daughter spoke rapidly in French (about food, Edouard told me), but I understood little. Every now and again, Edouard would translate for me. 

I had a great time – Edouard was SO NICE. They said they’d see me Monday so I am quite looking forward to it. 

My only complaints thus far:

  • The stupid French keyboard is hard to get used to
  • Cat blanket
  • My bedroom floor hurts to walk on

And 1/2 complaint, 1/2 not: Margaux has spoken a lot of English to me. Half and half, for obvious reasons…

A last note: the Rotary said it wouldn’t be surprising for exchange students to gain 50lbs while on exchange… 50 POUNDS!!!!!!! No. Effing. Way.

I’ve been eating three meals in small portions. Margaux told Natalie: “Elle mange comme un oiseau.” She eats like a bird. 

*In the afternoon
**thank God
***I saw lots of Zidane posters! Yeah!

Winter in Oman

I am not proud enough to call myself a poet, nor do I really think that this is much of a poem. It just reads better in a poem-like format, rather than a paragraph of rambling descriptive sentences.

So, allow me to present…

Winter in Oman

Cool days in the shade on the beach
Long hours spent outside
Snow angels in the sand
Omanis dressed in scarves and coats
Foreigners in shorts and t-shirts
The parks are full, packed with families and soccer games made up of two dozen players
Walk through the games at your own risk
The air smells like summertime in Michigan
Meat grilling, farmers with trucks of fragrant fruits, flowers blooming along the sidewalks
The Gulf could almost be Lake Michigan
Instead of retreating behind closed doors, hiding away from the biting cold, the slick sidewalks, the powdery snow that is always so much nicer from within the warmth of a house
The days are spent in the sun, the cool breezes taking place of icy winds
Winter in Oman makes me never want to leave
But come summertime, Michigan will have the last laugh

Thank God

I’m standing in my bathroom, which is also my laundry room, taking clothes out of our semi-automatic washing machine and hanging them because we don’t have a dryer (no one here does, really). My head is pounding, I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, I have a weird ache in my belly.

And all I can think is, “Alhamdulillah. Thank God. Thank God that I am where I am. Thank God that my ex decided to divorce me. Thank God for my wonderful husband. Thank God for everything I have. I am so much better off than I ever have been.”

I am really, truly blessed. And I am really, truly happy.

A New Year…

I haven’t posted anything in a little while. It isn’t because my father-in-law is still here – he left nearly a week ago. It isn’t for lack of ideas – I have a long list of topics to write about, and I even have a draft that’s been in the works for a while now.

I don’t know. Nothing felt “right,” if that makes sense. And I know that when I force myself to write, it turns out like crap.

But still, I don’t want to abandon my blog. Sooooo…

Last year was the new year – shifting from 2013 to 2014. Now, 2013 was a pretty intense and crazy year for me. I mean, I got married and moved across the world to a country, a region I had never been before. And that’s just a tiny preview of my year.

My best friend, B, and I went through a lot in 2012 – not necessarily together, though we were together for a lot of it, just that we both, individually had a lot of crap going on. We both ruled 2012 as the worst (though her 2011 might have even been slightly more terrible, which it horrid because I was there to see her 2012 and we were both having a rough time). By the very end of 2012 – and I mean within the last week or two – things were starting to look up. She had had a life-changing revelation, which unfortunately came in following the death of a friend. I was beginning to recover from my divorce. And we vowed, together, that 2013 would be the best ever.

Sometimes it crazy that B and I are so close since our lives follow such incredibly different paths. She’s still back in the US, but is embarking on a life as a writer and traveler and finishing up her degree, looking at what to do for grad school. I am in Oman, happily settling into a domestic life after quitting school in 2012. (That is a long, annoying story.) In spite of differences in life goals and physical distance, we remain close. Like, obnoxiously close. We pretty much speak our own dialect of English to each other.

At the end of 2013, on Christmas Eve, we spoke on the phone and talked about the year we’d had. We vowed, again, to make 2014 even better.

To whoever, if anyone, is reading this, I wish you most sincerely a blessed and happy new year. May your 2014 be better than your 2013.

La France : Partie N° 1

So, if you read the about me page, you know that I spent 10 months in France when I was 17 years old. During this time I kept a journal, wrote to my sponsoring Rotary club regularly, and took lots of photos. I probably won’t publish everything, but I will occasionally adapt one of my journal entries for blog use. Today, as I have grabbed a moment of time (lol, not really, I’m just putting off doing the dishes/making lunch/making cookies), I shall post my very first France journal entry.

I will be giving the people from my French journal pseudonyms, so as to avoid confusion with a whole alphabet’s worth of initial letters floating around.

24 août, 2006
20h36 à Maisons-Alfort


C’est incroyable ! 

Margaux [host mom] was at the airport, as she promised she would be. When we found each other, she kissed me on the cheeks (French-style)… and promptly began speaking to me in English. I couldn’t decide (and still can’t) whether I like it or not.

Ooh! But it was super-sweet because she has one of those little Frenchie cars. My overweight luggage barely fit in.

We had several brief conversations on the way to Maisons-Alfort, switching between French and English.

Ahhh! This place is so cute! Straight from a freakin post card! 

Margaux fixed lunch and her daughter, Ophélie, and two of her daughters came over (they live in a house in the garden). Lunch was this disgusting ham, which I stomached a piece of because I put it on bread. But there was also a salad, which was delicious and some cake, which was surprisingly good.

The girls were quite outgoing until I addressed them or spoke French. Then they looked like regular kids, shy of older people addressing them.

They stayed over for a long time, watching this odd TV show they had on DVD. I watched as well for a while, trying to understand, but I got REALLY tired and so I got my 301 French Verbs book, thinking it was the TV making me tired. Nope. I went back upstairs for a few minutes later for a pencil in hopes that taking notes in my book would keep me awake. I ended up falling asleep. I woke up – I’m guessing 20 minutes later – and my door was close. I left with the pencil and saw Margaux making for my room with a blanket. 

“Oh, no, no!” she said. “You can sleep, you can sleep.”

But I told her I need to adjust to the time. 

Margaux had to leave to go to town hall for a while so I was alone with the girls. I feigned interest in my  French verbs but soon went to check my mail.

When I was through with that I went back to the living room, but the girls were leaving. So… I was all alone.

I went upstairs a while to write and listen to my iPod. But soon Margaux came back and we had tea and a long discussion, almost entirely in French. 

Ophélie came back, this time with her baby, Hania. We went for a walk around Maisons-Alfort and saw a few sights. 

When we came back I helped Margaux make dinner – a tart with tomatoes. she spread mustard over dough, then put sliced tomatoes, garlic and cheese over it. Delicious. We ate it with a salad and water and wine while watching the news. 

Almost immediately after dinner, I came up here – SO tired, but looking forward to day two.

A Bit of a Vocab Mix-Up

So, loyal followers (all five of you!), my father-in-law is coming to visit sometime within the next few days and so I have to get like REALLY busy making it look like I keep the house spotless at all times (lol, yeah right). As such, I won’t have much time to post, so I thought I’d just make a quickie…

There has been a mix-up in vocabulary that, as a Muslim, just gets under my skin!!!! All this talk of so-called “burqa bans” has led to a confusion of what a burqa actually is. (Just a side note: You do realize that in attempting to regulate what a woman can or cannot wear you are doing the exact same thing you claim that all those oppressive patriarchal countries do, right?) Honestly. The first time I heard of these “burqa bans” (France, I’m looking at you…) I was genuinely confused because I thought they were talking about an actual burqa. I was pretty sure that literally no women in France wore a burqa. So I just want to clear a few things up real quick for ya…

This is a burqa:

This is NOT a burqa:

Nor is this:


Nor is this:

Nor are any of these:

A burqa is a region-specific garment worn pretty much entirely by women in Afghanistan and a couple of bordering provinces in Pakistan. It is not a blanket term for all outfits that involve covering the face.

Is this a burqa?

The veil that some Muslim women wear to cover their face is called a niqab (not niquab). It comes in a variety of styles and can offer a range of coverage, leaving even the eyes covered, or revealing the entire upper half of the face. Some women in Oman have their niqabs all flashy and with makeup on and their hair all piled up under their scarves – while others wear a very simple style with no embellishments at all. A niqab, like any piece of clothing, can come in numerous styles with numerous fashion possibilities. But niqab and burqa are separate things. 

Not all Muslim women wear it. In fact, a minority do. And whether they do or not, quite frankly, is none of your business.

If you’re curious about why some Muslim women wear niqab, I suggest asking one who does. Most women, you will find, are very open to offering an explanation.

Lure Them in with Food: A Simple, Yummy Recipe

So, I figure, this is a new blog and I need some people interested. You know – liking my posts, commenting, following, subscribing, etc. And what better way to lure them in than with food? Then I realize, not everyone likes cooking! I mean, I love it. I just got annoyed with my husband this afternoon because he asked me not to make him lunch since I was fasting and he didn’t want to trouble me. (The nerve!) (But, in my defense, I get really irritable when fasting.)

So, I decided to post one of the simplest recipes I know. Even if you stink at cooking, you should be able to pull this off. It’s an easy, tasty, comforting dish.

I give you:

Herbed Chicken 

The materials you will need:

-Two cutting boards (one for chicken, one for veg)
-Two knives (one for chicken, one for veg)
-A sauce pan
-A wok
-A strainer
-A wooden spoon

Now, if you’re fancy and you have all those supplies, then that’s just fantastic for you. But if you are like me and you only have one cutting board, and no wok, you can make do by washing your cutting board thoroughly and using a high-rimmed pan or even a frying pan (though that can be tricky).

The ingredients you will need are:

~ 1 lb chicken breast
– 1 Tbsp oil (not olive oil)
~ 1-1/2 cups chopped mushrooms
~ 2 cups chopped tomatoes
~ 1/2 cup chopped onions
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1/2 tsp salt
~ 1/4 tsp pepper
~ 1/2 tsp dried basil
– Pasta

Please take note of the ~ sign, meaning approximately. I pretty much always use more onion and less mushroom. This isn’t baking. This isn’t chemistry. Do it to your taste.

Get a sauce pan of water on to boil as you’re beginning to cook.

You’ll start with cutting the chicken up into approximately 1-inch chunks, then heating up the oil in your wok and throwing the chicken in. Cook it until the outsides are white, but the pieces aren’t cooked all the way through.

Then you’ll take your mushrooms, tomatoes, onions and garlic…

And add them to the chicken. Mix them up and let them simmer, stirring every now and again. In the mean time, drop the pasta (I recommend spaghetti, but by no means does it have to be), then revisit your simmering chicken mixture. All you need to do is add the salt, pepper and basil and let it simmer some more. The tomatoes will begin to break down some, making it a little saucy, but not thick.

Taste a whole spoonful so you get a little of everything and you make sure you like the seasoning. Then, once it tastes good and the pasta is done, drain the pasta and toss it with the chicken and veg.

It’s very easy, very yummy, and nice and filling. I hope you enjoy!

I don't know what I'll blog about, how often I'll blog, or really why I'm blogging at all. But here it is: The Perpetual Expat