Friday, 24 June 2016

A very positive approach to life

I guess the most logical thing to blog about today would be Brexit.
But, since everything that could be said has already been said over a million times all over social media, I am not going to say much about it. To be honest, I am confused why people reacted so passionately about it. Because, frankly, Europe is fucked. The UK is also fucked, whether it chose to remain or leave. The whole world is pretty much fucked, whichever way we go. So please, people! Stop with the melodrama!

My morning was screwed because Ikea was closed for their specific Ramadan hours. Of course, it was my fault, as I should have known better. I should have checked online before setting off. But I assumed, since all other shops are open in the morning, Ikea would be, too. But nope. They opened at 12am. ‘Listen’, a friend said when I told her I was never, ever!!!! going to Ikea again ‘My mother used to say…God took you in the opposite direction to save you from something worse.’

I personally think God could have taken me somewhere a bit closer and easier to get to, like Dar Al Salam. Somewhere that did not involve a painful drive up and down Al Shamal freeway. But fine, I understand what she was trying to say, as basically, behind the whole god saving you idea, there is the same principle as my own theory about our life in general.

So, when a good friend of mine was really upset about her marriage ending in a very sudden way, after many, many long years of what she thought was pretty stable and good…I tried to share my theory with her. I hoped it would help, even though not sure anything would right now.
Look, I said. Life, as Alanis Morissette once wisely pointed out, has its way of sneaking up on you. And, having reached middle age, I am beginning to realise that is definitely true. So, if you assume and expect that life will wait till you are relaxed, smug and comfortable, unsuspecting of anything nasty coming your way…and then sneak up out of nowhere, and take you roughly, without any will probably realise that your situation might not actually be that tragic.

Imagine how many awful things could happen to you if this had not! I said to her. Just think. Your husband wants to go separate ways. Fine, that of course, sucks. But if he had not, if he had been perfectly happy with his life with you, then something else would probably happen. Like he would, you know, die in a horrific car crash. Or, maybe he would stay alive, but- much worse!- become paralysed from waist down. And you are then stuck cleaning up his shit for the rest of your life. Or, both of you are blissfully happy, but then-BOOM! - You get cancer and die in three months. See what I mean? You just have to appreciate that, as we grow older, life will, at some point, sooner or later, present you with some nasty, unexpected shit. So maybe, as that friend of mine would put it, God took you the opposite way (in your case, away from your husband) to save you from something much worse.

I also recently came across a wonderful article about Buddhism. Sadly, I cannot remember where it was and what it was called to share it with you here. But the overall point it was making was about us all expecting to be constantly happy. We are born in this modern world with certain expectations about how we should live, and how things should go smoothly and beautifully. Yet that is, of course, impossible, because we are not in a Hollywood movie. So, what we need to learn to do is accept misfortunes and sad things that happen to us and learn to almost embrace them. And love the moments in between, when everything is good.

What this means is….Try and enjoy your life today, even with the shit that life has dealt you. I know it is not easy, with Brexit and all the rest, but just remember…Worse things happen at sea.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

About one burrito. And Soviet bananas. And happiness.

A few years ago, we were talking about a holiday that our friends had gone on with some other friends. 'They were disappointed', they said, laughing, 'as they just could not understand why every day had to be planned around where we were going for lunch and dinner!'

Ah, I said, next time you should go with us.

I don't ever underestimate the importance of food in my life. Food can make me happy. (and so can wine, but I will just focus on food for today...) But these days, with my obsession with getting fit, and trying to eat clean and healthy, low-carb food, I somehow forget how important it is to sometimes relax and just enjoy it- whatever you fancy eating at that moment in time.

Tuesday started badly. You see, the night before, because 5 years ago I had given birth to my wonderful baby girl, I decided that, despite it being a Monday night, I deserved to have a few drinks. I had to celebrate the whole nightmare  miracle of giving birth; as well as surviving the pool party with fifteen 5-year olds earlier that day.

So you imagine how painful Tuesday was, with waking up at 5:30 followed by school run and two hours of exercise classes. Being good, I had a protein shake straight after the weights class, as recommended. I then had two eggs. Still feeling pretty depressed, I thought I was going to cheer myself up with tofu crisps that my friend taught me how to make in the microwave. I had the whole pack of tofu. Some fruit. Some coffee. An awful lot of water. I could barely keep my eyes open. The day was dragging painfully slowly. At around 5:30pm my big girl was playing a flute solo at her summer recital at school.  I loved it, but in a melancholic way a very lethargic zombie would. 

' What’s for dinner? Husband whispered during a short break in the string concert performance, not much hope in his voice. He could see the state I was in.

Ha, I said. 'You probably did not expect this, but I have two nice sea breams that I am planning to bake with some vegetables'.

'OK', husband said, 'sounds good. But let’s take the kids to fast food place in Dar Salam (our local mall) as it will be pretty late by the time we are done here.'

Fast food.

Immediately, panic filled my brain. The fast food place to me in my then current state, suffering from hangover, exhausted from working out and still tasting tofu crisps in my mouth would be like a mug of steaming blood to a new vampire.

Of course, I thought to myself I did not have to eat. I could just feed the kids, and wait till we get home. And cook my healthy fish. 

On the way there, husband pointed out that my favourite Mexican place was, coincidentally, located just there, next to McDonald's. And that precise moment was the very moment my will power left me. I saw it go, I begged it to stay. But it just walked right out.

You have no idea, simply no idea what effect a burrito had on me that Tuesday evening. Have you ever seen sci-fi movies, where there is a robot, or an alien, or some other creature is lying there dead on the table; and then they pump some blue liquid in its veins and you can see it moving fast inside its body; and within seconds the eyes pop open? That was me.

Almost immediately I felt rejuvenated. Revived. Awake and so alive! And, most importantly, happy. Oh so deliriously happy! 'Nachos!' I growled, 'We need a plate of nachos, too! Now, now!!! '

Wow, I thought, looking around. Isn't life beautiful? Look at the crazy coloured pants on that woman's humongous arse! Hear that little spoilt brat driving his mother insane whining for a doughnut!  So much going on around me! So wonderful to be awake for it. 

Thinking about food and happiness, I also remembered the day my mother took me to Moscow. It was in the old Soviet times when we did not get any bananas in Baku. Difficult to imagine now, when bananas are everywhere. But in those days, we had to queue for a while to buy a couple of kilos of bananas. I came back to the hotel, and lay there on my bed, reading Sherlock Holmes novels, eating bananas. And you know what. I still think of that day as of one of the happiest days of my life.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

About sexual harassment. When you are in your 40's

Teacher: Explain the word 'harassment', please
Student: I once dated a girl. Her-ass-meant a lot to me.

I have had a fascinating couple of days. Which made me think about harassment. And before I continue, I want to clarify. I am not talking about any sort of serious sexual harassment. I am talking about the kind that we girls ( ladies?) all experience at some point in our lives. You know, getting hit on, getting chatted up by strangers, that kind of harassment.

You have got to trust me when I tell you that, growing up in Baku, in my days, we girls had to learn about harassment pretty early, and fast.

There were some basic rules. Don't smile at strangers or they follow you home. Don't let any man stand behind you in a over-crowded bus. Ideally, don't take an over-crowded bus at all. Don't look at any strangers, don't make eye contact. Don't enter elevators with strangers. Learn how to say NO! many, many many times, over and over again. Azeri men are relentless, always horny and never give up hope. Even when they look like apes. Especially, if they look like apes, I guess.

It was everywhere, and I meant everywhere. Being a young girl in Baku was stressful. Not only did you get harassed on the street, in a bus or by a taxi driver, I once had to change a dentist. Which was a shame, as finding a good dentist in Baku those days was hugely problematic, and this guy was great. Until he decided to put his hand on my thigh and ask seductively how my day was. To which I had to get up and leave, saying 'well, it was pretty good until now, asshole'.

Sadly, my maths teacher in high school- isn't life cruel and unfair??- never made any attempt to harass me. And oh, how I would have loved him to! Now, many years later, he found me on Facebook and sent a few flirty messages. Dude! I wanted to tell him….That train left your station about 20 years ago.  Isn't it ironic, as Alanis Morissette would point out.

Generally, I always managed OK and only had two properly unpleasant moments when I had to hit someone to send the message. Once with an elbow in the stomach,  and once with…hmm…a badminton racket. Which I strongly recommend, by the way, as a weapon. It works really well swung backwards, with the wooden edge across the face, should someone approach you and try to grab you from behind, uninvited.

Now, in my respectable middle age, I look back at what I thought was a peaceful childhood and teenage years and think wait a moment! That was kind of nasty, really.

So, as you probably imagine, I am well equipped by my what I thought was quite a sheltered growing up experience, to handle any basic form or harassment. And, isn't it ironic, how different your reaction is to people hitting on you when you are hmm…middle aged, as opposed to very young?

I used to be terrified when a stranger approached me and tried to chat me up! Terrified. Repulsed. Disturbed at the very least. Nowadays, I just find it hilarious.

At a big drunken expats party last weekend, a stranger tried to approach me. OMG, he said, are you real? You are too beautiful to be real! See what I mean? Hilarious.

And today, I had a funny episode with three local youths in an elevator. And I thought, oh wow. How cute are you? Babies. Just babies.

At first, I did not even realize they were addressing me, as one of them said "Hello! How are you?" But, nobody was actually looking at me. All three of them were staring intently into their mobile phones. I glanced up and thought I must have misheard and looked into my own phone-I had to look somewhere, too. It was a very small space with three young guys in thobes and myself.

'Excuse me?...' the other one suddenly said as his friends giggled nervously. 'Are you a student? '

Ha, I thought. That filler was money well spent after all.

We were in a lift of a medical centre, so perhaps he thought I was a student, which by the look of them, they might have been themselves. 'No', I said, laughing.
-Are you a teacher then?
-No, I said, getting bored.
-What are you???

What am I? I chose the easiest answer. 'I am a wife.' I said.

'You married?!!!!'! The braver youth slapped himself on the thighs in comic disappointment and addressed the skies: 'Ya Allah!'

And we all laughed, as the doors of the elevator opened and we walked out, in different directions.

Bless them, I thought. How different was that, compared to my young days when Azeri guys would try to make a pass at me. Is it simply my older age that makes me see these attempts as funny and not threatening or particularly offensive? Do these local guys, with their polite, funny, clumsy attempts at flirting appear so innocent to me because I am older and wiser now? Or are they indeed just much more polite than Azeri youths used to be in my days?

I guess, I will never know.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Singapore travel report.

I decided recently that I am becoming wiser. This, of course, is one of my many delusions, but I would like to think that it were possible.

You see, I suddenly resized that I started to prefer experiences to possessions. That, my friends, to an Azeri, is a huge, huge developmental step. As Azeri, I have been preconditioned to love (preferably expensive) things.

So anyway, instead of buying stuff, I told husband we should maybe go away more. And so, we went to visit good friends in Singapore over Easter.

I could go on about this trip forever. You see, when we went there first time, seven years ago, we were coming from the UK. And yes, of course it was great, and everything, but I was not seeing things like I saw them now. From our first visit, I could summarize my overall impression in two simple points:

  1.       The most amazing, fantastic, tastiest ever food. Everywhere.
  2.       The Zoo.

However, now, seven years later, everything was surprisingly different.

First of all, before I go into anything else, of course, was the green. Singapore is so wonderfully green! I loved, loved, loved the plants. And, in contrast to Doha, there was very little beige colour around. 

As for the rest…

We were extremely lucky. It helps when you are visiting someone who is local and our friends were able to show us things I am sure not every tourist gets to see when coming to Singapore. And those special, very local things were, of course, the most fascinating.

Like visiting my friend’s auntie’s house. The house that pretty much remained as it has always been, she said. Getting served a fruity drink (ch'ng t'ng) that reminded me a lot of the Russian kompot I used to drink as a child. And a stripy cake (Kueh Lapis). Looking at all the old family photographs, furniture and exotic trees in the garden was just…well, lovely. 

Or, one morning, we went to Petwalk in a Serangoon HDB estate for breakfast. It is a very simple, outdoors venue with local vendors serving standard cheap, delicious foods. In the midst of it, there were men, of various ages, mainly older, sitting around, socializing. They were there with their birds. The whole concept of men who are so into their birds that they spend hours sitting around discussing them was just alien to me. May I clarify that I am not talking about 'birds' as in girlfriends or wives. I am talking about real birds. Like, you know, canaries.

I got utterly bemused by this scene. There were possibly about thirty little wooden cages with small birds in them, hanging on hooks, off the wooden structure above, every hook with a number attached to it.

Why are they just sitting there with those birds? I asked and was told they bring them there to socialize and compete. Occasionally, an old man would walk up to a random cage, take it off its hook and hang up elsewhere. 

The whole process was so unusual that I could not stop watching it.

Socialize? I laughed.

'You know', our friend explained to me, 'they sit there, chat away…check out other birds in other cages, see who they might fancy…'

Yes, I said, but they can only see other birds but can’t actually, you know, get to know them closer? That’s a bit sad, isn’t it? For the birds?

Well, the friend said philosophically.- Isn’t it a metaphor for life? You live in your (mental) cage and fancy a bird in another cage?

Right, well…I thought, that's kind of deep, and a bit depressing for an early morning. Yet, you might say, it added a different, ancient Eastern wisdom dimension to this wonderfully weird custom. 

Singapore also had some impressive, awesome modern stuff. You know me, I am not that easily impressed. But this one particular arts exhibition…Was just superb, and by far the best exhibition I have ever been to in my life.  Combining art with science, turning your coloured picture into a 3D moving object on the big screen on the wall…It was all like stepping into the future. I mean just wow.

And of course, the Zoo, the Night Zoo, the Universal studios, and the S.E.A. aquarium…and amazing amazing restaurants, cocktail bars….

I thought I loved Singapore first time, but now? Now I fell in love with it, again, more so than before, on a whole different level. 

Finally, I learnt how to speak like a local. First of all, you have to add la at the end of everything. Second of all, those guys have this word basket. Which I presume, originates from a bastard? Or perhaps, not. Perhaps it is just my imagination. The beauty of it is that you can use it in every situation in life. 

Check it out:

Watch where you going, basket! 


How many times did I tell you, la!!! You are such a basket!

I am totally borrowing this word, la. 

Anyhow. This was my travel blog on Singapore. Hope you enjoyed it. 

Here are a few pictures. 



Sunday, 28 February 2016

About therapeutic qualities of Facebook.Yes, for real.

There are days when I simply love Facebook.

I know people often complain, and there have been numerous articles on the subject, about how unhappy they become from witnessing other people’s online happiness. Their glamorous dresses, their new cars, their paradise beach photos with bare toes and cocktails in front of endless white sands and turquoise blue seas…

However, there also are occasions when Facebook can make you feel better about yourself.

Like the other day. 

I saw a few photos posted by some guy I (barely) knew years ago. One of those Facebook friends who wasn’t really your friend in real life, you know. He was on holiday somewhere pretty. The whole thing looked perfect. The sea water was turquoise. The mountains in the background were green. The sand was white. Beach. Cocktails. You know, the whole lot.

I saw a photo of him with his very young children and thought he looked well. I knew the guy was roughly my age. The kids looked cute. And then, in another photo, I saw a picture of an older lady kissing one of his children. How nice, I thought. That’s sweet.  He obviously took his mother on holiday. A proud thought crossed my mind, along the lines of Azeris looking after their parents, taking them on expensive holidays, and all that.

There were a few other photos, with the old lady alone with the kids…and then suddenly, there was the last photo that looked a bit….strange. The guy was standing in the middle, kids on each side, with his arm wrapped around his mother’s waist. Proudly.

Wait a moment, I thought. Something is wrong here. This is a bit strange, even for an Azeri family. This is perhaps slightly, you know, incestuous.

And then, and I swear to you only then, it hit me. It was not his mother. It was his wife.

I checked and double-checked. I looked at his profile.

Yep, wife.

Bloody Nora! As my father in law would say.

Turquoise sea water….Beautiful beach…and a wife that looks like your mother.

I thought it would be a good idea to make an A1 size print of this photo and hang it on my wall. Maybe in the bathroom, where I stumble into in the morning feeling depressed  about the dark circles under my eyes and that aging face…Just at that precise moment all I need to do is glance at this photo, and it surely will put things into perspective.  It might be a better idea to have a few copies.  And when the visitors ask me why I have a large portrait of some strangers on my wall, I will just smile and tell them that those people mean a lot to me.

I am sorry that I cannot share those photos here, with all of you, so that you could benefit from them too. Could be wonderfully therapeutic for some of you. 

So what is the bottom line of this, you might ask. Besides me being a bitch, of course.
Well…The guy looked so happy in those photos. I mean, maybe he truly is. Maybe, as my husband would point out, she is a wonderful person and the guy loves her a lot. OK. I will try and believe that. Yet, it made me think about what we see on Facebook verses real life.  And it made me think of all those people I know who looked so blissfully happy on Facebook. Or rich. Or beautiful. Or just perfect in all those ways. It made me think of the roses and hearts and bunnies and white kittens…and the reality that was often so different. So really, if you do get upset by or jealous of something you have seen on Facebook, just remember…Most of it is just a pretty facade. You know, a bit like those buildings in Baku that are all cleaned up on the outside, but falling apart inside, with the lifts that stink of urine. 

Friday, 5 February 2016

Let him play that golf.

My friend was telling me about her late father. How much she missed him and what an amazing person he was. You know, she said, I will tell you this one short story about him, which would paint you the picture straight away. And it did. I knew immediately what she was talking about.

Look, she said, one night we had guests over at our house and one visitor accidentally dropped and broke a beautiful expensive crystal glass.
The guest was devastated, but my friend’s father picked up another glass: ‘What, this piece of junk? Is this what you are upset about?!’ And he chucked the second glass on the floor.

‘Every time I tell this story’, my friend said, ‘it gives me goose bumps. That’s what kind of person my father was. ‘

I know, I said. And I told her about my grandfather.

My grandfather was quite a famous actor and an opera singer in the old Soviet Baku. One night my mother, then a little girl, was woken up by a loud music and singing. A whole large group of Romani, or gypsies were in our 5th floor city apartment. After the play, at 2am in the morning, my grandfather showed up at home with a whole performing troupe of the Romani. The next morning my mother remembers having nothing to eat in the house, as everything was eaten and drunk with the gypsies.

Yes, my friend concluded. Those men like our grandfathers…that generation…They don’t make them like that anymore.

OK, I thought. Let’s be honest here, for a change. Aren’t we, the women, to blame somewhat for what is happening to our males?

I thought about the glasses story and how any of my married girlfriends would probably react, should their husbands decide to demonstrate the endless generosity of theirs by smashing our favourite expensive wine glasses. They, we, would go mental! Modern men simply can’t win this game. It is not possible.

We want them to be generous, yet we want them to be sensible. We want them to do crazy things for us, for love…yet we want them to protect our children and their future.

So we face a cataclysmic paradox here, girls. When single, we have certain expectations of our dates, and we often get attracted to men who are, in our eyes, are capable of all those things we get turned on by: passion, craziness for us, silly romantic gestures, etc etc. But then, we get married and suddenly, we don’t want them smashing our wine glasses and feeding a whole dancing troupe of Gypsies all the food our children were going to be fed for the next few days. Our expectations suddenly become very different. And so we try and change those men. Change all those traits we had once fallen in love with. We try and manage their craziness we used to think was charming. We, girls who were so impressed once before with careless romantic gestures, beat all that shit right out of our males. We stomp all over their passionate personalities, the personalities we had once found irresistible, to turn them into sensible providers. A friend of mine was telling me how impressed she was with someone we both knew who would not let her husband keep any of his salary. She is in charge of family finances, she decides what and when gets purchased.  Really? I thought…Really?  Is this what you think should happen? Is this what you think a prince from fairy tale would dream about when he proposed to his fucking Cinderella…(let alone Christian Gray if that’s your fantasy male)? Vanilla sex twice a month and his salary controlled?

Another friend of mine was pleased to announce that her husband, always a very keen golfer, finally realised that playing golf every weekend was not great for the family. He had to spend more time with the children and her, she said. So he gave up his favourite hobby. Great job. You just cut off a chunk of your man’s soul, as well as his balls. Well done, girlfriend. You obviously don’t need any of those anymore.

So what happens then? What happens to all those husbands we have so successfully pussy whipped for years?

Well, it is pretty predictable isn’t it. They either turn into pathetic, lethargic, fat sad bastards, growing ugly stupid beards to at least appear masculine, sitting on  sofas watching TV with empty eyes, dead inside…or they rebel. In many different ways, none of which you would appreciate.

So, maybe, and I am just wondering here..Maybe it is not that ‘they don’t make them like that’ anymore. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we try and work hard to re-make them into something we think we need, something the society expects, something that, at some point will become breathing, functioning, emotionless robots that we, ourselves, one day will suddenly find…boring.

You might be one of those women who always wanted a sensible, predictable, secure man to pay your bills. And that is OK. However, if at some point in your life you were attracted to something else in him, even if it does not seem very sensible right now… Please, please! allow him to retain at least a little bit of his craziness. Not just for him, but for you, too. I admire my friend’s father and his gesture with the wine glasses. And I love the Gypsies story my mother told me. And I do think they make them like that these days, too. Only we, women, must try and not destroy it all entirely with our primal need for security and predictability. Please, please, please…let him play that fucking golf.