Category Archives: discipline

The Focus of Fun and the Fun of Focus


After a leisurely weekend in Cairo, where I did nothing but enjoying the good life, the inevitable had to happen: Returning to Alex where we’ve got the sea, far less pollution and far more provinciality. (Is that an actual word?) When I returned from my trip with Simone, coming back to Alex felt like returning to another country. It felt weird, like it often does when one returns from a journey, big or small. The world of chill, making your own plans, visiting new and familiar sites and meeting new people was no more and it was back to routine and discipline. Sort of. I felt revived and willing and able to squeeze the very best out of the remaining five weeks at uni. It took me a few days to get into gear and then the weekend came and we fi-na-ly went to Agami. Agami is just outside Alex and synonym to Alexandrian beach life. If I pretend that Dahab, where you go to for the chill and the action and not necessarily for the sandy beaches, doesn’t count the last time I’d been to the beach was a year ago when I went on a well deserved holiday to Morocco (good times!). Arriving at the stretch of beach where Alex’ finests get together- if you want to join this rather incestuous bunch on their sandy stretch you have to be a member or know someone who is- was quite a shock. Men in funky shorts- some fitter then others- ladies wearing bikinis, leering, pervy men are absent and you almost hear as much English as you hear Masree (Egyptian Arabic); It could have been any Mediterranean beach in Europe and yet this is the Middle East. A world away from my conservative, aspiring neighbourhood and yet only 20 minutes by car! And now I’ve become beach crazy. I want to go everyday. Who needs to learn more vocab and grammar rules when spring has arrived and there are only five weeks to enjoy the few good things Alex has to offer? And then after two weeks of social gatheringings, absence of academic focus and vision, that reaches beyond the fun that is to be had in the now, I started feeling restless. Although I still love-hate Arabic and I can effort to lose my academic focus as this year does not count towards my degree and I don’t even have to pass exams, I still want a First. I also recently developed a very clear idea of what I want to do when I grow up and living the good life can be rather distracting in achieving this. I just want to be this wunderkind; I get good grades with minimum effort, am completely focussed on what I want to achieve, I party like its 1999 and am feeling good ’cause who needs sleep. Hélas, I’m a lesser mortal , it’s seems that choices have to be made. Life can be so tough…


Groove is in the Heart


I don’t know what it is with me and February. I feel tired, need loads of sleep, I can’t focus and don’t feel very motivated. This all is pretty deadly for achieving the aim of deciphering the code called Modern Standard Arabic and obtaining other goals,  the achievable and the seemingly far fetched ones. February is the wake up call of the new year. You had your Eid, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, another Christmas (the Coptic one) and a birthday (mine). The festive season has come to an end and the euphoria of the dawn of a new year and decade has simmered down. Resolutions and the achievement of some goals are not being executed or are not entirely going to plan. That’s alright, it’s all cool. I mean, I’m a closet optimist: I plan and aim to achieve with optimum circumstances in mind; I never feel tired, why would I, so I can get up at 6 to do my yoga practice and to some writing or vocab learning. Mundane activities like doing one’s groceries shopping, cooking, enjoying some food , doing the laundry and cleaning one’s mansion only take a minimum amount of time,  really. I mean, who needs to eat, wear clean clothes or live in a clean house. Then there is the socializing and staying in touch with friends and family in distant lands. Who says debating the joys and nuisances of expat life or the place of religion in the modern world, writing a decent email or spending some quality time on skype take hours out of the day. Not me. But they do. And while one is enjoying oneself one is gliding further into the year, into the future and  goal posts are being moved.

And then there always seems to be time to dream about shaping the near and far future. Which places I will travel to this spring and summer, what I really want to do after graduating and whether I’ll remain a lone, lonesome cowgirl exploring the world and all its treasures or that I one day will lead a rather more conventional life. Dreaming about the future occurs almost everyday and it never seems to take up much time or effort. It never feels like I could have done something more useful instead. I like to dream about what can be. I find it an useful and even necessary exercise. I dream, I plan, I take action (sort of). Is that not what life is (partly) about? And let it be February. Let my action-taking be stagnant for a bit. Spring is coming. Temperatures are already rising and I bet my energy and motivation levels will do too ( I told you I’m a(n) (closet) optimist).

And happy Valentine’s day to all you lovers and loners. Keep on loving, keep on reading, keep on writing, keep on dreaming and keep on living life like groove is in the heart.


The Times They are a-changing


Everything is possible, always.

The year 2010, it has a magical ring to it. End of a decade or the start of a new one. As I mentioned previously, I’ve got good vibes about the year 2010. Maybe because I want it to be a good year, maybe because my vibes are very much in tune. Maybe it’s a combination of both. The older I get the more time tends to slip away into nothingness so I want to be (even more ;-)) efficient with my time. When it comes to learning Arabic I didn’t find 2009 and easy year. I reached a level within my studies where the more I (try to) know the more I realize how little I know and how much there is to learn. I hope in 2010 I will indeed (start) crack(ing) the code.

In the next year I want to travel a lot. See the rest of Egypt, the Middle East and perhaps other places if my schedule, my wallet and/or my good fortune allow it. I want to prepare for my life after graduation; more research, graduate fair here, presentation there and by summer/autumn 2010 start applying for those wonderfully competitive graduate schemes. And then, you can prepare and set goals but you never know what’s gonna happen and where you gonna end up.  All these so called graduate schemes and placements are developed by mainly large corporations and I’m not really a-large-corporation- kind-of fairy but then again I would love to work for the Beeb (who wouldn’t) and they are pretty massive I would say.

I hope in 2010 I’ll fi-na-lly find the key to unlimited power and energy and will fulfil my heart’s desire.

In 2010 I want to learn, love,  have fun and be happy and healthy. Quite a humble wish I would say…



I am wondering if I want too much out of life or that I am just not organized enough to do everything I want to do. I am here in Alexandria to crack the Arabic language. I see Arabic as a code.  And once you learn the alphabet you decipher it bit by bit. It has been a long road, I can tell you and I got still some way to go. My aim is to return to the UK speaking (Fus-ha) fluently. That is an ambitious goal. Is it too ambitious? Life is about a lot more than learning Arabic and I try the make good use of my time.  I want to keep up with my writing and I want to stay active.   I used to cycle a lot in London and do miss it.  So I want to join a gym and practice yoga which I can do at home. Until last week I practiced yoga  at least four times a week. I haven’t done anything for the last 10 days and have yet to join the gym. I also work from home for two London based companies, which takes an average of 15 hours a week of my time. Although I am the queen of Egypt I don’t have a housekeeper so I shop, clean and do the laundry. And then there are the social and cultural activities. I am in a foreign country after all and have to take excursions to other exotic places and mingle with my fellow and sister students, who are good people. Now, I could have a strict schedule in which my activities and duties are set out by the minute. But what is the fun in that. I am split between my head strong little self –it has been done before so I can do it too- and my more relaxed/ lazier/ less confident self who has to admit she is not wonder woman and should just enjoy the ride. Can’t I be wonder woman enjoying the ride?

How To Do One’s Thing


I do not believe that people are being born with or a lack of discipline. I believe discipline to be a state of mind that can be acquired. Although I am not sure if I am lazy by nature and taught myself to be fairly disciplined, since it seems that that is what brings you forward in life, or that I am very disciplined and have learnt to be lazy now and again, because laziness too is a state of mind.

After being disciplined and feeling rather stressed for the first weeks of the course I relaxed a bit and ‘treated’ myself to a lazy, leisurely weekend, which in our case consists of three days. I have always found it difficult to find a balance between work and play. I have the conviction that work should be play in the sense that one should enjoy ones work (or study or whatever). But I can’t help being fed up now and again with work, study ,or -even- too much play. On Friday I did absolutely nothing besides watching downloads, doing the laundry, eating and breathing. Saturday was Farah’s birthday. Farah is a half Egyptian half Scandinavian student from SOAS (School for African and Oriental Studies in London), who I know from the course, and we started her birthday celebrations with a luxurious breakfast at the six star Four Seasons Hotel in San Stefano. After that we were being driven an hour outside Alex to go to a private beach. The Northern coast all the way to Marsah Martrouh is filled with resorts, where Cairenes spend their summer. The private beach was a resort in the village of Sahl, where Farah’s aunt has got a summer house and her house is right at the beach. Because it is out of season we were the only ones at the beach with the exception of some fishermen in the far distance and the sea was of a Pacific-Ocean- blue colour. In the evening after dinner we went back to the Four Seasons’ to have drinks at their impressive beach club. Living the high life in Egypt is not as expensive as it is in London. The Sunday was meant for study and work but I didn’t do an awful lot of that. I went to the Library (Bibliotheca Alexandria) to see a film by Youssef Shaheen who used to be one of the greatest filmmakers of the Middle East. The film was in Egyptian Arabic with Farsi subtitles (It is the same script as Arabic but a very different language so they were of very little use). I heard from several people that they became proficient in Egyptian (Arabic) by watching an awful lot of Egyptians soaps and films so I might have started a beautiful and very useful habit.

In Lowlands Language we’ve got a saying; ‘The bow cannot always be tightened ‘. It means that efforts should be alternated with relaxation. I have found out by own experience and observations that the more one has to do the more efficient one becomes with ones time and completing ones tasks. The people who get the least done seem to be the people who have very little to do; they don’t work, study or have a daily occupation in any shape or form. Don’t people who are on top of their game make sacrifices? They don’t/ didn’t have a childhood, cannot socialize as much, do not have (as much )time for hobbies and interest. I wonder if they mind. A fellow student on the course started learning Arabic a year ago as an absolute beginner. He had classes for five, six hours a day five days a week and after class he did around five hours of homework. It has paid off; He is very proficient in Arabic although he admitted that he didn’t have much of a (social) life last year. I am very impressed with his accomplishment and I wonder if I could do it. I think I could do it but the question is if I could do it and be happy. Is the art of discipline working hard, staying focussed, making sacrifices and maybe feel miserable about it now and again but knowing that any future benefits will outweigh these sacrifices? Or just do your thing and do not think in terms of sacrifices? Some people seem to be able to do everything. Maybe they are super fairies and don’t sleep. I would love to be enlightened on their secrets. Maybe there is no secret. Maybe I and everybody else should Just Do Their Thing.