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Ramble No. 7:

I’ve had an interesting life. Born in London, moving back to Yemen at a  very young age, travelling in between with mom home-schooling us half the year until it was time to learn Arabic grammar and algebra, that’s where she drew the line. Apparently we also adamantly insisted we have a more stable education so we can have time with regular friends. Also, I would tackle 6 months worth of homework within days. We settled in Yemen so we could attend regular schools and we would only visit England during the summers, some winters and any long holidays in between.

I remember not accepting it at first. It all seemed so backward compared to England. We lived in the capital, Sana’a in the North. Arguably, more backward than the rest of the country. The South was colonised by the British until about 30 years before I came into the world and when it was liberated, you could still see so many aspects of it remained. The north on the other hand was still somewhat tribal and traditional. I loved it nonetheless.

For one, Southerners tended to value education more and appreciated and respected women more. Over the years and being away from Yemen now, I do not agree with this. Out of my own experiences, I believe the North values women just the same, perhaps more than the South.

I wasn’t a conventional girl living in Yemen. I did not dress traditionally (or religiously) nor did I adhere to cultural norms. I was far too loud, I’ve always spoken my mind, most of my friends were boys (increasingly so as I grew up), I dated, I ventured where women did not do so and the list goes on. I was a rebel and I knew it, yet almost everyone I encountered showed me absolute respect. Sometimes they even voiced that they would not offend me due to my gender which seemed ironic to state as the reason but, obviously, irony is fine with me.

I loved Yemen, I still do and I know that even if the war doesn’t end during my life time, Yemen will always hold the biggest part of my heart. It shaped me into who I am today. It’s streets will always be the image I see in my head when I’m crossing any road. The hustle and bustle of Sana’a at midday is what I will yearn for no matter what city I’m in. Everytime I hear clanking metal I’ll flashback to the man banging a little wrench against the side of an empty gas canister, wheeling a barrow full them through neighbourhoods for anyone who needed to replace theirs because you needed one plugged into your stove to cook – no internal gas mains!

I spent countless days bored and staring at a wall while the electricity shut off. The length of time this happened shifted from day to day and when there was any political conflict or a plan to increase power charges on the public, these cuts seemed to last the entire day or days on end! Where there is no electricity, there is no hot water so we had to remember to keep the water heater on while we had power because the generators couldn’t power the heater and the rest of the house at the same time; TV or water heater, water pump or internet. We had to make little choices like these but in a house of more than 2 people, priorities seemed to conflict. After turning 15, priority was always Internet. Who needs a shower when you can troll online? Who needs the heater on when you can keep your laptop on your lap to keep you warm while you tweet absolute nonsense? It’s funny that no matter what part of the world you talk about, teenagers around 2006-2012 all have similar priorities.

But when the power was off for days at a time and diesel was a rarity; either no where to be found or too expensive for regular consumption, generators did not roar on throughout the day, instead, if you were lucky enough to get some diesel to run it then you switched it on to charge things up, maybe to get the water heater going or use the blender or shaver, etc. But you would spend the rest of the day with no power. Usually, this made the teens flock to cafes and restaurants because they could usually afford to keep their generators running, or they had two separate electricity lines running so that when the power went off on one grid, they switched to the other avoiding use of their generators until both grids are off which didn’t really happen until the recent political turmoil.

I still appreciate the times when the power went off and I’d spent all my allowance (or got grounded which I was quite often) so I’d have to stay home and figure out what to do. After a while, my mom would prefer us to have our friends over. She’d give us complete privacy to be stupid kids as we pleased and she did not limit the amount of people we could have over. If you’ve seen my social interactions post, you’ll know I wasn’t a loner, not at all. Even now when I speak with old friends, they’re surprised to hear I don’t go everywhere (or stay at home) with a bunch of people and I am instead often in my own company. After some time, my house became the hang out spot for very close friends (i.e. 20-40 people at any given time). We had fun, even if we did nothing but sit on the roof and watch the houses nearby, talk about ridiculous things, figure out each other’s lives, snack to no end and mostly, decide what to do when the power was back on!

I miss all these things but what I miss the most is the rainy season. Being a backward country, we didn’t really have a system to direct rainwater generally except through the old city. It was used as a road except when there was heavy rainfall which I absolutely loved. I understand a Westerner would describe such rainfall as a typhoon with the size of the raindrops and the temperature but it was just normal rain to us. I miss that. I miss actually getting drenched in that rain within seconds.

It was mostly made up of cobblestones but led off onto tarmac roads. I remember driving down there when I first learned how to drive and I was told to be very careful because it had started to rain and it was getting very slippery. The nostalgia is sometimes paralysing because it was a place so full of life and the memories are intense. Anytime of day, if I close my eyes, I can imagine being in any part of the city and I can hear the same sounds, cars honking their horns in traffic, people yelling random words across the road at each other because somehow they all knew each other. In a city filled with some 2-3 million people, it was strange that everytime you met someone new, you found out they grew up around your cousin or best friend. The smells (except in areas that lacked proper drainage!).

I miss it all. I miss the parts I was lucky enough to see and the parts I never got to. I hope the war doesn’t destroy much more because it was all so beautiful before it was torn to shreds.

*****None of the pictures are mine, sorry don’t know the sources but most can be found through a simply google search of the country.*****


We live in an Age of Enlightenment 

Ramble No. 4:

People have always found it strange that I enjoy learning. I enjoy absorbing new information. I enjoy learning new concepts. I enjoy reading about things that I don’t know and looking up things that make no sense to me.

We live in an age where information is a click away. If you don’t know something, you look it up and get so many different answers. You can get a short answer or a long answer that is detailed with links to further information all of which are only further clicks away. Most of us are glued to our phones or using them often . It’s part of life in this age so, why not learn new stuff?

Our brains were created to absorb information and use it, constantly. If we stop learning, it slowly starts to decay. There is just so much information out there that there is no way you wouldn’t find something that you, in particular, find interesting to learn about. Even if you don’t like reading, the same information can be available on videos or podcasts. Even memes an gifs now convey interesting information!

Next time you’re texting someone and they mention a word you’ve never heard or make a reference you don’t understand, just paste it into Google or whatever search engine you prefer. Not only will you learn something new, you can actually reply with something other than “What’s that?” which will definitely keep the conversation interesting and you might actually find it interesting yourself. You may also read/hear more about it and find more information.

We live in an age where ignorance has really become arrogance. It is normal that we are all ignorant of things we don’t know about obviously. But, it is another to remain ignorant when you are made aware of something. Even if it is not particularly something you enjoy, you can look it up just to find out what it is and go with the simpler definitions or illustrations. That way, the next time it’s mentioned, you aren’t sat clueless wondering how many more times it’ll be mentioned before you find out what it is. We all do it, at least every once in a while, just wonder. It’s normal. I think we’re all hardwired to be curious, some act on their intrigue and some don’t. I am amazed to find out that the amount of people deciding to learn and grow the amount of knowledge they hold is increasing. It’s a wonderful thing.

I used to be one of the people who, for most things, asked “What’s that?” or “what does that mean?” when I could have just as easily looked it up. Some of my interactions actually said “ever heard of Google?”. Now, I don’t mind answering people if they ask these questions because I do enjoy teaching people things they don’t know (as badly as I teach anything) because the sense of intrigue, the amazement in someone’s voice or on their face is in itself, fascinating. So whenever someone asks, I explain a little and if they seem interested, I do sometimes suggest that they look it up to “see what I mean” because I appreciate that I’m not the best with explanations (hence the numbered ramblings are titles to every post). Although, even if the explanation was good, looking it up does act as a visual aid.

Now that I’ve ranted enough about looking things up, lets do something else. Here are a few things that may be useful to learn:

  1. Get better at Excel!

Most of us will need to learn how to be good at this (in my case how to use it other than as a list) to be able to work most current jobs so why not give it a shot? It’s free and done by experts! If you’re thinking about, or starting to, work for yourself, this will definitely be useful to you.

2. Read faster!

If you’ve ever felt like your reading has slowed down, this can help. I’m dyslexic and this helped improve my reading so why not, right? It’s also free.

3. Learn a new language in your down time

This has got to be one of my personal favourites. I always found learning new languages interesting. When I was younger, I’d have happily learned more languages if there were teachers around to teach me but unfortunately, we did very basic French at school and I didn’t have the option of a private tutor to learn a third language. If I knew about Duolingo a few years ago, I’d be fluent in more than my two native languages at the moment! I started learning Spanish on it about a year ago. Just a few things when I’m going to bed (I end up dreaming of the words/phrases being learned).

Caveat: simply learning and practising on Duolingo will not make you a fluent speaker, you still need to practice it alongside other materials or with fluent speakers but it sure as hell will get you there! They’re adding new languages and improving the service constantly so it’s worth it.

4. Take better pictures

I think everyone would like to take better pictures! I’ve had a DSLR since I was about 16. I take decent pictures but I’ve always wanted to improve them so I tend to enjoy sites like this. Hopefully, I can improve before my trip this summer *fingers crossed I don’t fall into a lake*

There are so many things you can learn when you’re bored. There’s always something interesting that you do by giving it short bursts of time now and then. It isn’t an impossible or necessarily a difficult thing. Give it a shot and see how you get on.