As I mentioned in my previous post about getting back to Malaysia during Covid, even vaccinated travelers have to quarantine. Luckily, the quarantine period is …
Adventures in renting abroad
Expat Life in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)— An Update
I’m surprised how much I love this city. After I arrived mid-May, Damian and I moved to a cute serviced apartment in District 2. We loved …
TBT: The Ghost of Ramadan Past
Recently I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic for my Middle Eastern adventures, learning Arabic, and gorging on Ramadan sweets. I stumbled across all these old photos from Morocco and decided that’s where we should start.
What is Ramadan?
First, for those who don’t know, Ramadan is a month of fasting. Muslims do not eat, drink, or smoke between sunrise and sunset. Obviously, there are many variables and exceptions which I’m not going to get into.
If you are not Muslim, no one expects you to participate. Of course, different countries have different rules. In the UAE, for example, you can get a ticket for drinking water in public even as a foreigner. Whereas in Lebanon, tons of people smoke and drink on the street all day long.
Moroccan Culture Shock
I’ve traveled to Morocco twice. In 2010, a mere 20-year-old, I arrived with no idea what Ramadan was and little knowledge of the Middle East (or the world).
The first time I heard the zowaka (the early morning city alert that fasting was beginning again for the day), I sat straight up in bed thinking there was an air strike.
It was the first time I ever experienced culture shock. I’m glad I did though, because I’ve managed myself quite well in a host of countries since.
Morocco Part II: Culture “oops”
I returned to Morocco in July 2013 for a one-month Arabic course. I stayed with a Berber woman in Tetouan and her family. She didn’t speak any English or French so we essentially became pro pantomimes in this month.
The family was incredibly good to me. I cringe thinking about how little clothing I walked around in. It was hot. I was 23. I was whole-heartedly feminist despite the cultural consequences. And I saw no problem with what I was wearing.
I see the problem now. There’s pushing the limits and then there is just blatantly ignoring them. Part of traveling is realizing when you make a travel “oops” and try to never do it again.
The family never said anything. Even when I paraded down the hall in the middle of the night in shorty shorts and a tank top to use the bathroom (cringe).
They still invited me every evening for Iftar (the first meal of the day after sunset). In Morocco, this means lots of dates and harira, a lentil and tomato soup.
For some, fasting means waking up early, going to work or school, and carrying on the entire day as normal (without food or drink). Of course, there are others who try to sleep the day away.
The best part of Ramadan is how alive everything becomes at night. From sundown until sunup everyone is gathering on the street, having a mint tea, eating, and enjoying themselves. It’s really like a month-long party.
So here’s to all my friends celebrating Ramadan and to everyone else who indulged in my bout of nostalgia. I’m definitely feeling the “itch” to get back to the Middle East. Maybe next Ramadan.
Life in Argentina
I moved to Argentina a month and a half ago and haven’t been very good at updating my blog. Most of this is due to the fact that my online business is going incredibly well. Who knew remote freelance writing and editing could be so lucrative? Being able to create my own hours and rates provides me with the independence I need, but it also motivates me to the point that I’ve tucked away some of my other goals. I’ve barely done any personal writing, nor have I studied for any of the exams I’m planning to take in a few months.
But life in Argentina is easy. I have a co-working space called Urban Station where I spend the majority of my time. This is mostly due to unlimited free coffee and croissants. I also have a gym in order to balance out my croissant addiction.
I have Spanish lessons 6 hours/week with a private teacher. Spanish grammar is incredibly easy compared to Arabic or Hindi. The language is so much like French that its not much of a struggle to read. However, with any language, its taking time to commit everything to memory and to get used to speaking and listening to the accent. Especially since Argentinian is different than other Spanish. The double ‘L’ seen in pollo and calle is pronouned “sh” instead of “y” which confuses me sometimes.
I moved into my apartment a month ago which I share a love-hate relationship with. It’s a pretty cool place, located in a courtyard in one of the more “happening” areas of Buenos Aires. I have my own loft, with a bedroom upstairs, and couch, table, and tiny kitchen downstairs. I share the courtyard with 3 Guatemalans, 2 French people, 2 Brazilians and there is an upstairs unit which is, ironically, housing a friend of mine from college that I met here by coincidence.
I like the apartment and all the people, but the issue arises in the fact that most are university students and it’s a bit of a party house. The walls are paper thin so this means if I have to wake up early for work, or want a quiet night at home to be an abuela— no such luck. My earplugs are only so good.
Actually, the level of partying is downright impressive. Two weekends ago my neighbor started the party at 1am. I left for the gym the next morning around 10am and he was still belting Mulan songs in Spanish.
de alguna manera haré de ti un hombre.
I returned around 2pm to change and the music and alcohol were still flowing freely. At 6pm he came over and invited me to a bar. He finally passed out at 1am the next night.
This morning I woke up around 10am to someone sobbing in the courtyard.
Aside from the crying, it’s a fun place when I want to party. Everyone is very friendly and I love meeting new people. But it is taking its toll on my energy levels. So I’ve decided I will move for sure. The apartment upstairs becomes available June 1st so I’m planning to take that.
That is, if I decided to stay in Argentina. It’s getting cold here and I’m starting to rethink my decision. I’ve met some really cool people here, but I don’t feel emotionally attached the the city like I did Chandigarh or Beirut or Budapest. I still have five months left on my Indian visa and I’m tempted to try living in Mumbai for a few months and return to Argentina in October once it is warmer. Or, I’ve considered going somewhere else in South America with better weather until the winter passes. Maybe Brazil or Colombia.
What do you guys think? I’ve attached a poll for your thoughts
“This is where the prisoners waited before they went to the execution spot?” I asked again, hoping I misheard. “Yep.”