Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Having recently devoured Sarah Turnbull's Almost French in a mere three days; this book was an utmost pleasureable experience - I laughed aloud to the point of crying uncontrollably on the bus back from NYC this weekend - she brings to life so many universal experiences of an expat in a country where the language spoken is not your native tongue. She spins stories of going mute rather than doing a disservice to whatever topic it is that you just cant defend in a foreign language, slapping you in the face with the reality that your personality changes when you live in a foreign country; at home you can be funny, outgoing, and incessantly sociable but plucked up and spat back out in un pays etranger: you are now quiet, SHY even, and well lets face it - boring. This is hard to face and even harder to overcome. Living abroad is a constant effort - being truly open to understanding that things just are because its different - is an effort. In one sense, everything is "normal" - it has its place in its own culture, history, and location. It can be explained, whether or not you agree - and more often than not - its works.

I also found myself shaking my head violently in agreement to the notion that once you leave home; something is always missing and it will be forever bittersweet. You always miss somewhere, someone, something even - and you become the mathematical formula of many things added to many other things, sometimes divided by a factor - or multiplied by another factor (even subtracting a few qualities, likes... to create, to equate to - a new you, a different you. Its then up to you how these mesh together.

Every experience changes us - sometimes we want to retreat back to the former, but when we visit it - we realize it no longer looks the same: as we now no longer are the same. I've always loved the saying that you dont step in the same river twice. Life changes you - if you let it is what most people say - rather I think life changes you - if you have the courage to admit that it does.

Friday, July 18, 2008


I read the above article this morning and was instantly flustered, frustrated and angered. This is a sophisticated and complex issue and I do not pretend to have the answers. I do however, have opinions on the subject.

I think that nationality cannot be denied to someone because of a piece of cloth. For a laic state, the burqa can be nothing more than a piece of cloth - as religion does not play a role in the French state. Where religion does not play a role - it should have no INFLUENCE.

The main problem with the burqa I think is that you can see it - from far, far away. What does the French state truly not want to see - women in a state of submission to their husbands or the ever changing demographical makeup of the French society? What "French, republican" values does the burqa truly go against? If it has to ro with religion I think that this is unfair and religion plays no part in this laic state - therefore should have no bearing on nationality. The decision makers only knew of this women's religious stance because they could SEE the burqa - they are not allowed, legally, to ask. So if they legally cannot "know" - how can this play a role in the ruling?

I see that the issue is more complicated than that - if someone's rights are being violated or subjugated - shouldnt the state protect an individual's rights? Wouldnt it do that for a child? Yes - but this is not a child, this is a full-grown woman. Is she being then treated like a child or someone who cant or isnt autonomous?

The greatest problem I see is that in the fight for equality and women's rights - we are still telling women what to do instead of allowing them to make their own choices. Do they have those proper vehicles to make those choices? That is a different question alltogether. By denying this women French citizenship because she wears a burqa and is therefore deemed subservient to her husband - do we empower her? Do we treat her equally? No, we dont.

I remember flying back to NY from Paris one time and being sat next to a man of the muslim faith - he and I chatted most of the flight and discussed islam and different cultures. He asked me to think about one point - in western culture, the hijab and the burqa and often seen as "shocking" as a "shocking way to treat women" - but he asked me to think about how it must feel for someone who comes to the "west" for the first time and either on a kiosk on the street or in a magazine store sees, openly, pictures of naked women, of women in subservient sexual positions out in the open. Isnt this too shocking? How do we describe this treatment of women? It is not to say that either is right, or better - but we cant forget that our norms and ideas are not relevant or even "normal" somewhere else.