Thursday, December 08, 2016

The Holiday Season

We're in the middle of the holiday season again, or, well, it was closer to the middle last week when I started writing this post. Anyway, I have always loved this time of the year—and I still do—even though it's a little different in the desert. For instance, with the call to prayer sounding out across the city, we went to the beach to go swimming last Friday morning, which is not a typically winter activity for us. In past years, it has been too cool to enjoy the beach, but this year has been an exception. Even though the holidays are a little different here, Angela and I still want to expose Vito to our traditions while he develops these new ones...

The holiday season really starts with Halloween on the last day of October. Many here in Qatar consider Halloween a forbidden celebration, but events still take place in the ex-pat communities. There is a certain amount of preparation involved in the requisite holiday costuming necessary for Halloween, so the hype actually begins a little before the end of the month. There are enough activities and parties, however, so that we don't miss the holiday's purer stateside version. Vito's school, The American School of Doha, usually holds a gigantic Halloween carnival complete with carnival games, haunted hallways and trick-or-treating (although it was cancelled this year due to construction on campus), but, in addition to what his school has established, for the past few years, Vito has also gone trick-or-treating in multiple compounds around Doha.

The next holiday is Thanksgiving, which arrives at the end of November. For the past five years, we have brined and baked a turkey, and invited guests to a Thanksgiving potluck dinner at our apartment. Thursday is the end of the work week here and, as most adults work during the day, we have started throwing our party on the day after Thanksgiving. Many of our guests are not American, so it has changed the flavor of the event, somewhat, but it has become a nice new tradition for us and for the few that have annually returned. The day after the party, we clean up the Thanksgiving mess, put the Christmas tree together and decorate for that holiday.

As usual, Christmas really throws its weight around at the end of December. Obviously, the Christmas emphasis is greatly reduced in this part of the world, but we do our best to celebrate. Last week, Angela and I strung a string of lights around our windows in the living room. As Angela is Italian and I am American, we have two slightly different ideas about how to celebrate Christmas, so navigating The expectations of The Befana, the family and Santa can be challenging. Christmas is always further complicated, because, once the semester ends, many teaching families leave to return to their native lands or to travel. It ends up shortening the time allotted for celebration considerably, because people have to get their social events arranged before people leave the city. We don't cut our own Christmas tree, either, as we used to do when Vito was a baby, but we have a little plastic Christmas tree to assemble that someone gave us when we first arrived here in Doha.

New Year's Eve caps off the holiday season on the last day of the year to ring in a new one, which closes out two full months of celebration-worthy occasions and chaos. Happy holidays!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving

thanks for living

thanks for divvying up your time to include some of mine

thanks for fine weather and friends
and enemies too and animals
and what begins and ends
and the rainbow that you might see at the heart of it

thanks for freeing what you love
for being above or below it or quite possibly
you don't know it
your first or last one
among stars
what's mine is ours

thanks for staying flowers or fading
and following the sun or the dark
hark! who cowers there
in some spark i loved

thanks for loving back or not
with your knack for nuance and niceties
you're easy to please
you tease sometimes
too much or too little

thanks for such-and-such
and hey-diddle-diddle
the cat and the fiddle
the cow jumped over the moon

thanks for too soon or late
two four six eight
who do we a-ppre-ci-ate

thanks for being great or green

thanks for making the scene
one you'll remember
be mine ember
i'm fine
you're so warm

thanks for charming me
indefinitely

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

In a Fog...

It has been a while since my last post, but so it goes...

I read a headline on Flipboard earlier this week about making time every day to write for fifteen minutes, but it took me all week to finally get started. When I sat down to write this morning, I answered an e-mail that had arrived some time ago, but it wasn't the type of writing that I had intended to do and it killed my fifteen minutes. Anyway, I'm going on my second fifteen minutes...

It has been foggy all week, but today it's not. The fog reminded me of living in California. When we first moved to Qatar and throughout, perhaps, our first two years here, the morning call to prayer, or Adhan, often woke up Vito in the morning. There's a mosque about one block from our compound, and the call to prayer, which is broadcast across the neighborhood, can be heard quite clearly from his bedroom. He seems to sleep through it now without difficulty.

About a week ago, however, there was an additional call to prayer or something of the sort--it didn't sound like the regular call to prayer. It woke Angela who emerged earlier than usual in the morning and commented on it. While we could not understand the broadcast, we assumed something out of the ordinary had happened.

Later that morning after arriving at the office and while standing in line at Starbucks, I asked a student about it. The student informed me that sometimes they have "extra credit" and that the Emir had prayed for rain. While not rain, the fog may be the closest we're getting to it for the time being...

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

il bruco mouve i piedini

il bruco mouve i piedini
(the caterpillar moves its little feet)

step over step
returning from market

there was no father or mother
no sisters or brothers
no aunts or uncles
no forty-two cousins to go fishing with

maybe’s going to die
chirped a bird

step over step
he ran as fast as his old legs could carry him
someone wants to harm my master
she thought

it’ll be safe to go to the river
said a cross squirrel

what’s’matter
asked a deer
popping corn in hot sand
with a stick

step over step
it was easy to get

--

My version of "The Decimator", Travis Macdonald's Impromptu #20 awaiting your curious discovery on The Found Poetry Review. In a few words, I transcribed source material from 10 books on my bookshelf and, after imposing Macdonald's erasure strategy, sculpted the above. I used books from my son Vito's bookshelf to limit my workload. Thanks, Asmaa Al-Qaysi, for that great idea!

Source material came from The American School of Doha's 2014-2015 Elementary Schools yearbook, Tabby McTat by Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler, Pimpa: Buongiorno, Prato!, Who Would Win? Alligator Vs. Python by Jerry Pallotta, The Story of Ping by Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese, The Popcorn Book by Tomie de Paola, "I Can't" Said the Ant by Polly Cameron, The Selfish Crocodile by Faustin Charles and Michael Terry, Tikki Tikki Tembo retold by Arlene Mosel and a Wilco Publishing House version of an Arabian Nights story, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

When Speaking of Translation

Ooh! It suits you. Naked.
It's you, mommy. Go, coral. No,
Go chill. Can I?

Homophonic translation from the Japanese haiku by Yosa Buson:

utsutsu naki
tsumami-gokoro no
kocho kana

And the real translation by Yuzuru Miura:

Butterfly in my hand--
As if it were a spirit
Unearthly, insubstantial

--

Inspired by Michael Leong's Impromptu #19 hosted by The Found Poetry Review.