Birthday Reflections

If you know me well then you know I am the least celebratory person you will meet. If it wasn’t for my family reminding me every year, I would probably try to forget my birthday. I do however like to make a lot self reflection around my birthday in order to tune into what I have learned that whole year. Last year I wrote a post, “30 things I’ve learned in 30 years“. This year I have been doing deep reflection on building a better character.

One bad habit that I’ve been trying to tackle on, is stopping victimizing everything bad that has happened in my life. Putting my trust in God that everything happens for a reason and that better days will come. Complaining all the time can actually affect your mood and how people perceive you. I know this sounds very dramatic but I had the constant thought of wondering if people would miss me if I would die. I felt that I am always victimizing myself and complaining that people did not find me pleasant.

I realized my first bad characteristic was not listening to others and including myself and my heart. I have been practicing self pity for so long to the point that my problems were more important than other people’s problems. I stopped listening to advise because I always had excuses and the problem never arose from me but others. Consequently, I became a selfish person not realizing that other people might be needing help, or wanting to help and saw things differently. With that I have to stop assuming that I know the reasons to people’s actions and instead have conversations where I would be actively listening whereby my thoughts can be changed if that person is proven to be right or has defended their actions justly.

Another very important characteristic that I want to work on is being kind. I am generally a kind person and do not mean to harm or hurt anyone as most people I believe are. My concern however, is whether or not I am striving to be the most kind person I can be. My answer is a big fat NO. I mean kind to the point of getting out of your way to help others, to putting for 110% effort in exhorting kindness. I believe this type of kindness is revolutionary, it moves mountains it fights wars and unites us as humans. Most people say that you have to be kind to yourself before you can show kindness towards others. I have tried that approached and for 31 years I have not succeed. This year, I will do the opposite, I will be kind to others first, especially to my kids before I show kindness towards myself and see if that has some sort of fulfillment. Sort of like, trying to eat healthy will lead you to a more active lifestyle approach, rather than trying to have an active lifestyle will lead to eating healthy. Am I making any sense?

My biggest characteristic strength happens to be my biggest weaknessas well. One of the things I am secretly very good at is reading people and their intentions. I am very good at reading and understanding people but that can have its off sets as well. Reading people comes from high sensibility and vulnerability where I can easily empathize with anyone and deeply visualize their emotions. This strength is not something I can explain or show off on my resume but it’s something that I secretly know about myself. This is also why I very sensitive around people that I am not fond off and can be shaken by the environment around me. I realize that I have to stop internalizing and overthinking everything that I caught on about a person or environment and let it go. Knowing that people and cultures are what they are and I just have to accept it for what is it and nothing more. Instead use my strength and turn it to something positive, like helping people in need.

Now, I know it sounds as if I tackled all these characteristics but the truth is I am not even 1% close to where I want to be. This post is more of a reminder to continue to actively change. Even one action towards change can make a huge difference in our character. Also, the people that always telling us that we should change are the same people who will never see our good deeds and are quick to point their fingers when we fail. It is important to change for ourselves and not for others and never give up even if we fail a thousand times.

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Language Barrier

Learning a whole new language can be pretty intimidating and challenging. For some people learning a new language is not a choice, some times it can be a means for survival. Moving to a whole new country is frightining having to adapt to a new lifestyle and culture not to mention the feeling of being lost and not being able to understand basic information.

My first encounter with a new language was when I moved to the USA at 13 years of age. Although I had my rough and shaky moments with the language, it didn’t take long for me to learn it. However, as I grew older, I took for granted my new founded language and dismissed the challenges that many in the USA have with it, especially with older people. There were many people who had spent decades living in the USA and still were not able to speak English and I could grasp my mind around that.

Until now, living in Egypt for almost 2 years and my Arabic is, I will put into words of one of my students, ” You don’t speak Arabic, you speak broken”. It’s common to think that learning a new language is the only challenge that one might have. But we are totally wrong, here are some of the challenges I’ve faced from having to learn a new language.

  • You are not yourself anymore! You are not able to make a joke, have deep intellectual conversation and express your feelings.
  • You might take certain facial expression, intonation or even some misunderstood meaning offensive. Often times when people asked me to repeat what I have said, I take it personally, as i they are mocking my Arabic, don’t ask me why that is but it happens all the time.
  • It can impact yourself esteem. When, I first started learning Arabic, I was so enthusiastic and proud of myself but as time went by there was an incident, where one person was being aggressive towards me and I was not able to defend myself, leaving me to feel useless in that situation.
  • Not everyone is nice to you during your learning journey. Many people don’t understand that you are not a local and can unintentionally contribute towards your insecurity with the language.
  • You feel isolated and incarcerated. What I mean by isolation is that you might have people around you but you are not able to make a deep connection because you can’t talk about your values, mission and build a common bond.
  • Incarcerated by your thoughts not being able to be express the right way. Sometimes you want to engage in political or philosophical topics but you can’t because your vocabulary in the new language does not allow you to.
  • Some times you just feel plain stupid. Yes, you might carry even a PhD degree but in a new language you might talk like a 3-year-old.
  • If you are in a room and everyone is talking in a foreign language at some point, you will think they are talking about you making you feel uncomfortable all the time
  • It is possible to spent years in a county and not speak the language. I used to think of this as something strange but now it’s happening to me. I try as much as possible to go places where I know someone will speak English or try to avoid situations where I would have to come out of my comfortable zone.

However, these struggles don’t even compare with the enormous amount of blessings and experiences that you will have by moving to whole different country and learning a language completely out of your comfortable zone. If I could give you advice if you are in the same situation as I am, would be to open your mind and try to be as unbiased as possible with a new culture. Don’t compare your culture with another one, just take the new culture for what it is. Try to use as much as you know from the new language in your daily life to build fluency and confidence. You will gain an enormous amount of knowledge that no books or school can provide you with.

I am not writing this post to discourage you from learning a new language or even moving to a new country. The purpose of this post is to first letting you know that if you are struggling with moving to a new country or learning a new languages and do experience some of these feelings then you are not alone. Also, another reason for this post is letting you know how some people might be feeling learning a new language that we might take for granted and how they are coping with having to move to a new country. I certainly didn’t pay much attention to this phenomenon until I myself walked in these shoes.

Let me know if you are leaving in a new country completely different from your norm. If so, do you have some struggles and what are some of them? Are you learning a new language and what is it? Comment bellow if you  have some tips for learning a new language or coping with a new culture.

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Ramadan Series-Day 18

I found this article bellow from Egypt-business.com and had to share it.

How does Ramadan affect Egyptian economy?

Market hype, gigantic TV Series budgets and EGP30 billion spent on food has prompted people to call for cutting down luxuries during the holy month.

Digital and traditional media are busy with calls for cutting down the purchase of luxury goods during Ramadan in an attempt to save foreign currency.

Ramadan is a high season for importing goods especially food commodities. This year merchants reported less imports as they predicted low consumption rates due to lower pound value and rising prices.

It is clear Ramadan has a different nature than the rest of the year, but in what arenas does it affect Egypt’s economy? The answer is fourfold.

1- Business:

In most public and private enterprises the working hours are reduced by (a maximum of) two hours during Ramadan. Managers also reported low productivity rates of employees that reaches between 30-35% besides many companies postponing events and decisions till after the holy month.

Trading in the stock markets typically slows down during Ramadan as the trading hours are usually reduced by one hour.

2- The Market:

Unlike business, the market gets a boost during Ramadan especially the food division.

Ramadan in Egypt is highly characterized by higher consumption of food products leading to higher prices and higher profit margins for merchants. It is true that high consumption can lead to economic growth, however it’s a short term/seasonal growth in this case.

A study by the Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC) affiliated with the cabinet had stated that the average Egyptian family spending on food is EGP 200 billion per year, 30 billion of these are during Ramadan. Leading to recording 70% more consumption than any other month.

Restaurants and Cafes report an average of 80% increase in their customers, especially these that offer entertainment.

In April CBE assigned $120 million for importing food products to prepare for Ramadan.

3- TV Series and Advertising:

As the Hollywood of the Middle East, Egypt is known for exporting series and the peak of series’ production is none but Ramadan. Critics claimed that this year’s productions exceeded 70 series and shows with a budget that surpassed EGP 2.5 billion.

4- Charity:
Ramadan also represents the peak season for charity organizations as after the whole month it declines again. Banks have already started since May preparing for receiving donations. 57357 Hospital, Magdy Yacoub foundation, Misr Al-Khair, Egypt’s Food Bank and many others are among the most famous charities receiving donations in Ramadan.