Monday, 28 March 2011

Like a virgin....AGAIN!

Virginity…a women’s assertion of chastity and the family pride in many Muslim and some non-Muslim cultures.

This Chastity is becoming a liability and comes at a high price financially and psychologically for a lot of Muslim girls around the world. These girls who for the most part are educated, emancipated young women but still living under rigid family and religious rules that force them into taking desperate measures to conceal their non-virginity for fear of being outcast and in many cases fear for their lives.

The hymen reconstruction (Hymenorrhaphy) or revirginisation of women, a surgical procedure that is practiced by many gynaecologists throughout the world to reverse the actions and conceal the secret of so many desperate young women from their husbands to be, families and future families-in-law who put high pressure and a higher prize on this membrane that will go on to represent the pride of the whole family and the groom as they declare the bride a maiden with celebrations, firing of gunpowder and displaying the blood stained bed sheet from the wedding night.
Some of you might argue that such traditions are archaic and no long in practice but the truth is; they are very much alive and conventional in many parts of Africa; the Arab world, Sudan, and South Africa …et cetera

A practice of demanding virginity certificates is not rare in many Arab and /or Muslim cultures, girls as young as 13 can be suspected and made to take a spontaneous virginity test on the whim of one of her relatives who might have seen her talking to a young man outside of school or in other cases a man might demand this certificate prior to the marriage deal is closed. A very strict watch is placed upon the girls' virginity, especially after puberty and until the day she is married.

The concept of virginity and hymen protection engenders such pressure on women, from the mothers who are the guardians of the family’s honour and from the men in the family by a simple matter of imposing curfews and disallowing mixing with cousins and other males in the family or society, pressure from the future husband who puts such a prize on his future wife’s chastity that he would send her back to her family should she not be “intact”.
This pressure clashes with the pressure these same girls receive from their boyfriends, secret boyfriend nonetheless, to give in to their desires and consummate their relationship, any refusal or hesitation would be labelled “uncool” and cowardly pushing the girl to give up her most prized possession to this very same man who would later on demand virginity from her or any woman he intends to marry.

In this day and age, virgin girls are as common as the elves in Finland (a myth), in Algeria’s major cities, virginity doesn’t seem to be an issue anymore, for girls or for boys, the taboo attached to sexual intercourse seems to have been lifted and sex has become the new favourite past time for many Algerians as young as 16, virginity is no longer questionable or at least the loss of it not feared, this could be due to two reasons; emancipation of the new generation of young men and the hypocrisy around the one way virginity road has dissipated or the new age revirginisation methods have become mainstream and readily available to young women everywhere, across the Arab world and in Europe as well, especially in France and the UK where a large population of Muslims in Europe is concentrated, where routine Hymenorrhaphies(1) are performed on the NHS(2) to protect young British women from their religious families and prevent the so called “shotgun weddings” where the man is forced to marry the woman he “stole” virginity from.

Some might argue that these “repair” manoeuvres are nothing short of deceptive and in effect encourage Muslim women to be promiscuous and sexually active knowing that there is a remedy should they face a problem later in the future, but isn’t this very male behaviour what drives women to promiscuity and deception through their (men) hypocrisy and double standards of accepting promiscuity from men but not from women. After all pre-marital sex is disallowed for both men and women and in all known religions. 
If men’s virginity was not so ephemeral and unquestioned, If women’s virginity wasn’t so tangible and verifiable, how will men try to monitor it? And will it remain the taboo that it is in many cultures and countries around the world today?


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(1) The term comes from the Greek words hymen meaning membrane, and raphe meaning suture
(2) UK National Health Service

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

An after dark tale


Warning: to be read in a dramatic story tale tone - in the style of "the Lord of the Rings"

Once there was, once there wasn’t….a great old story tells of the djins that roam the streets at night, as the last ray of sunshine dims behind the horizon and the muezzin calls for Maghreb prayers, creatures unseen by human eyes rise to roam the earth, some look for sinners, some for the pious, and some observe, peeking into our hearts to see what lies within; our loves, our thoughts, our desires, our dreams and dark secrets but some of these djins seek to harm us, to drag us into sin and into harms path.

And so this story was told, from mother to daughter to granddaughter, women of the house do not go outside after dark dear, for who knows what lies in the darkness and in the dead of the night, Ins or Djin (1), friend or foe, and so from mother to daughter to granddaughter, women across the land of ElDjazair (2) grew fearful of the dark and became house bound after sunset.

Years and years later, a man came into the house “women are to stay indoors” he said, he professed gods commandment, Allah ordered men to be mindful of the women on this earth, for women are defenceless creatures, weak of body and mind; so from father to son to grandson, men forbad their wives, sisters and daughters from leaving the house for fear of the unknown and to protect the family, the clan and with it the kingdoms honour.  Women grew tired of these invisible shackles but could not break the mighty rule, for all the men of the kingdom would gather against any women who dares break the rules and venture out at night, she who dared was branded a women of the night and would remain unmarried and cast out of society.
But as women started to break the rules, and winter approached, as the daylight diminished and the nights grew longer, evil spread throughout the Kingdom, an evil seen by no one but men, heard of any old tales transmitted from mother to daughter to granddaughter, for who knows what evil lies in the dark.

Hundreds of years had passed, came the era of the fanaticism, man grew beards, they died with henna,  wore kamisses(3), women and girls wore veils and a new Islam spread like a new age religion, The masters of the land did not take kindly to this new power spreading across their kingdom; they called it terrorism; it spread across the lands and ignited the beacons of war, a civil war erupted, tearing this beautiful land apart, the Masters of the land fought a long and bloody battle to end the horrific curse that was upon them, this was at the great sorcerers’ hand, they called him Israel. A curfew was imposed on the kingdom, and father to daughter to son to granddaughter, were not to step outside after dark, for who knows who lies in the dark; militia or terrorist, djin or inns? Friend or foe?

Years have passed and the war has ended, the masters of the land regained control of their kingdom, people were content to resume their lives, peace was once again and the kingdoms dwellers ventured out into the open once more, walking and working the fields, swimming the warm lakes of this beautiful land, but upon the last ray of sunshine in the sky, the streets were barren again, the fields deserted, shops were shut and the lights dimmed, but a movement was rising within the kingdom, people started to brave the darkness and marvel the starry night skies, others were too afraid to break their ancestral traditions and went indoors in time with the chickens,  gathered around the fires telling the tale of the djins that roam the streets at night but  what lies in the dark but men himself.

The end.
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(1) Human or genie
(2) Algeria
(3) Kamiss –A traditional Islamic dress men traditionally wear to mosque or in religious days

Monday, 21 March 2011

Woman or werewolf

Today is the first day of spring, I bought a bunch of daffodils and as the flowers opened, spring came to my house, it felt so homely and bright, if only I could say the same about my mental state.
It was also full moon over the weekend, and as we all know lunar activity has an effect on people’s moods and is particularly linked to women’s hormonal levels hence the menstrual cycles are the same length as the lunar cycles, hence my foul mood throughout all of last week and even more so today.

If there was a barometer for how strange I feel today, It would indicate “werewolf”  for not only is it a full moon but my PMS (Pre-menstrual stress) is raging and has been for a week turning me into a chocolate eating, short fused werewolf of a women.

They said it was the largest moon (super moon) we’ve witnessed for over 18 years, as the moon was the closest it has been to the earth, this causes high tides, waves and other earthly phenomenon, if the almighty earth can be affected by this celestial body, how can we human pretend not to be.

Now, the coinciding of the spring with the full moon, gives you the Spring Equinox, which if I choose to be spiritual, is supposed to be a day of celestial powers for us humans and in particular women, enhances your fertility, heightens your senses and cleans your energy, in many Native American tribes, they had moon lodges where women would gather, since most women menstruated at the same time, have you noticed how close women (sisters, good friends, house sharers) menstruate in synchronicity, women at time of a full moon are supposed to hold strong energy and vibrations, in modern day we call that hormonal rage.

I choose not to be mystical about this beautiful natural phenomenon and will shrug it off as a bad week with hormonal imbalances, ghastly mood swings and a diminished sense of humour.

Enjoy the spring

Friday, 18 March 2011

Who are ya! who are ya!

My identity seems to have been subject to several debates and speculations lately, some reported to me by close friends and some witnessed by myself, can’t hide my amusement.
Who is this DZ-chick?
Who does she think she is?
She has a chip on her shoulders
I think I know her
She's probably not even Algerian
I discovered this cool blog, she reminds me of you - is it you?
She writes like that girl I know…but it can’t be here, her English isn’t that good!

So much time spent trying to unveil my identity whilst you could be joining in the discussions, pondering the seeds I am planting and taboos I might be breaking, which have clearly touched a nerve with you, I am not pretending to have an original thought as we all know you cant have one anymore, they've all been claimed.
Some have tried to decipher my IP address and tracking the geographical references in my blog and compare notes, what are you going to achieve by divulging the truth about my identity; Anonymity is the last great luxury in this modern age and I intend to keep mine.

Why write anonymously or under a pseudonym? Well to start it’s really because I am a guy not a girl ….No I am really a women, I suffer from PMS, have a squeaky voice and cry for no reason.
I did some research lately and found a number of very active Algerian bloggers out there on the blogsphere (which sites you’ll find at the bottom of the blog), Almost all writing anonymously, makes me wonder what the reasons are for this…
 As an Algerian female blogger, I understand a blogger wants to keep her anonymity because outspoken women are not very popular in the world much less in Algeria.

Writing anonymously helps you be more objective as well as subjective when you need to be, which in my blog is often, you can be controversial and offensive and tackle very sensitive subjects and social taboos, you feel free as a writer to let your fingers unreservedly type away whilst your ideas flow, the anonymity shields you as a blogger from personal attacks and judgements, whereas when/if people know you personally or your name, they can practically know anything about you thanks to Google, and will without a doubt use that against you and will affect the way they read your texts.  Reading the blog becomes tainted with personal images the reader has of the author and the message becomes polluted if not lost. Of course the reader is free to interpret what he reads according to his own beliefs, ideals and experiences, but the message of the author becomes weak and inefective.  Disagreements, criticism and judgement will not faze you as an anonymous writer; anonymity helps keep you on track i.e. keep writing

I can see my blog posted on many facebook pages and profiles- thank you for spreading the word, I read people’s comments, some in agreement most in disagreement, asking each other what Dz-chick means and what is this Dz-Chick talking about?

You have been thinking about it, but I had the guts to put it out there, to start a dialogue on some touchy subjects and other social taboos.  
These curious critics stay at a distance, point and disagree. I invite you to come and debate, ask questions and dismantle my "theories", I am not an expert in sociology but I am great at observing and analysing and enjoy writing about it, so if you have contributions to make or questions to ask…To your keyboards

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Where is the Algerian Niff

A friend of mine remarked, “You have a lot of Algerian friends haven’t you?”
Stunned by this statement I wondered: is there something wrong with having friends from your own country?
She argues it is essential for integration to immerse oneself in the culture of the host country in order to grasp the true meaning of the local culture, traditions and mindset, improve the language and feel at home.
I personally have finished my integration phase in early 2004 if not earlier, thereafter I started meeting fellow Algerians at work or through other friends or social networking circles and for me that is not trying to “stick to my own” but a rich and valuable addition to the array of nationalities in my friends list.

Why is this new trend I am noticing, knowing or hanging out with fellow Algerians is considered “ghettoism” or self inflicted segregation. Not all Algerians in the UK hang out in Finsbury park, they don’t all have 3 credit cards with 3 different names, 3 passports with 3 different colours stacked under the mattress, an Algerian passport that expired in 1999 and stories for the grandchildren about crossing 2 seas on a barge, evidently, or there will be no Algerians reading this blog.

“I want to end up with an Algerian, I even have plans to move back to Algeria
This was considered the statement of the year, male friends understand and are probably relieved that I want one of theirs or maybe they’re indifferent, girlfriends with few exceptions are astounded and do not understand why I want to move back to Algeria and even less why I want to end up with an Algerian, as though my choice was inferior  and  will interfere with our friendship, will make me beneath them somehow because they choose a Lebanese or Palestinian because it’s the new trend, I feel our friendship questioned because of my poor choice and low standards.

“Why are you talking in Arabic, we only speak in French” says my friends sister who’s visiting from Algeria, I say visiting but I mean taking up residency although a 4 months visit is relatively short for Algerians, the average visit is between 6 to 12 months.  After a surprised exchanged look with my friend, didn’t know what to say, a few stunned silent seconds later I muttered “we miss speaking in Arabic I guess” and French has lost its appeal with us, apart from the few words that we just cannot find synonyms for in Arabic, like “ca va” and such..  why should I speak in French to my fellow Algerians in England? I would rather speak in English. English is more neutral a language for Algerians here in the UK, speaking French makes people uncomfortable, not all Algerians master the French language and this is quite a complex ridden area as it brings back into the equation the correlation between the social status and the use of the French language.

“I feel am working for an Arab bank” my French colleague said, listening to my phone conversation in Arabic. If I was speaking in Spanish would he have had the feeling of working for a Spanish bank? highly unlikely. If I speak in Arabic, French colleagues look at me as though I infringed a law, an unspoken law, my French-Algerian colleagues laugh awkwardly and prompt me to whisper as though we’re plotting something against the universe.
Why such discomfiture around Arabic? Is it due to the fact it is the language of the Quran? And thus the language of Islamist Terrorists? We all already know that anybody reading in Arabic on the train is considered suspect, God forbid you write in Arabic, that is clearly witchcraft.

The stigma attached to the Arabic language is such that it deters people from using it in public. What's next?
This islamophobia, arabophibia or xenophobia, is pushing people to deny or hide their origins, religions and culture, so in effect it hinders integration.

I am Algerian, Muslim and I speak Arabic, it also happens that I speak French and English, I might change continents, countries and passports but I will never change who I am. A true Algerian and proud of it.

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 Algerian Niff – niff is arabic for nose, the Algerian niff implies the Algerian pride

Thursday, 10 March 2011

In the mind of a Londoner

I had to drag myself out of bed this morning (a reoccurring theme), killed the snooz button and was about to oversleep if it wasn't for my upstairs neighbour who came to the rescue, whose routine I now know by heart, jumping into the shower, flushing toilet, shaving and my favourite; running in his shoes on his wooden floors.
In Algeria you don’t always need an alarm; you wake to the sound of the Muezzin calling for prayers, usually way earlier than you'd like to or to the guy shouting batata batata (1) from his Peugeot 404.
Because I never prepare my next-day-outfit, several minutes are spent deciding what attire will make me look like I didn’t fall out of bed and actually thought this through. From the window, it looks sunny,  which of course means it’s also freezing because you know you can never have both in England.

Walking to the station, my nipples drilling holes into my jumper, I have the feeling people are racing me there, the competition is kiling me. At the station, after a few crammed trains I manage to get into a corner of a train carriage, the day I’d get a seat I would do a “ma3rouf”(2), but I am grateful still, grateful that the train doesn’t smell of ammonia and bad breath, grateful for the cute guy who shuffled about a quarter of an inch to allow me to hold the handlebar so I don’t fall on top of the obviously expecting women standing next to me who nobody notices for fear of having to give up their seat, I am grateful for my book “Le Chuchoteur” I am reading in French this fortnight, I find switching between English and French fun – just that! Other armours or commuting material Londoners use include: newspapers, IPods, Ipad, amazon kindles, Smartphones (silently please) and game consoles; we are all plugged into a device or escaping in a story.

After 20 minutes and what feels like a 100 stops (actual number of stops 9) not that I ever looked up from my book, but I got elbowed and shoved so many times, and the range of perfumes and bad colognes that overpowered the carriage couldn’t have been from the few people I noticed when I first got into the carriage and scrutinised the dwellers because that is what you do no? You analyse your carriage when getting on, some you acknowledge, some you look away from and some you decide were crazy and must avoid their eyes. So I get off the first train and start quietly shuffling in ridiculous baby steps with the rest of the herd trying to make our way to the next line for yet another joy ride.
The walk takes about 10 minutes because some “tourist” doesn’t know his way around the underground and has to walk back and another is standing in the middle of the herds path studying a tube map, I hear tatting, flabbergasted looks exchanged between commuters, whinges and deep breathing all emanating from frustration. Walk like you drive, don’t cut corners and stay in your lane.

London commuters have a certain rhythm and speed that is quite scary to outsiders, we all walk in synch with a goal, we don’t stop for anything, we avoid obstacles but don’t stop a bit like the daily tube marathon, we know all the shortcuts that get us to our platform the fastest;
When I approach my platform I veer like a road rage driver and sprint to my spot, a guy is standing there, I look at him in disgust, he doesn’t understand he’s standing in “my place”, the spot I meticulously calculated over time and established its strategic location that gets me to my exit within 2 seconds. It’s mine get off mate.

Busker playing way too upbeat a tune for a Wednesday morning, it's interfering with my grumpiness, stop it for gods sake stop it or I might actually smile, train approaching the platform after a very outrageously long 3 minutes, the guy standing in my platform spot is shuffling already, getting ready to pounce and in bad form gets in before passengers get off, at this point I want to take him to court for breaking underground rule including minding the gap, when I finally manage to get on the train, I shove my bag in his face and mutter “sorry”

He’s onto me, he knows I hate him already so he stays away from me, girls can be very scary on the tube, we wear stilettos and can make a scene particularly if hormonal, which let's face it ladies it is about 19 days out of 30.

Five stations later, train alights at my stop; I get off first because my face was cleaning the glass door and start running up the escalator (on the left hand side naturally) pacing myself for a whole days' work, I feel I have been through war and welcome a day in the office with joy, I walk away happy to be alive and off the train of death, only to find the whole office outside for a false fire alert and start shuffling again trying to get into the building with the rest of the herd.

07h35: alarm goes off again, I overslept, realise it was all a bad dream! Good lord I have to go through all of that again!
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(1) potatoes potatoes…farmers selling local produce from their trucks
(2) charity – usually couscous or a meal to be given to all neighbours or to the mosque etc
Picture from Zimbio.com ©

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Happy International Women’s day

What’s that you say? International women’s day? A day of general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women and celebration for women's economic, political and social achievements.

In Algeria this day is celebrated like a national holiday…Ah that’s right it is in fact a national holiday, working women get half day holiday and gifts and flowers are bestowed upon them at work.

Festivities everywhere “Bonne fete Madame” you hear, coffees are offered free, women are dressed up in their best matching outfits and men on their best behaviour, making sure they wish all passing women a happy women’s day enjoying the fact that women are in such a good mood being fussed over they can’t not answer such a greeting, thus giving them (men) an excuse to pester them (women).

In Europe and the rest of the world, it’s just another day in the office, nobody has even heard of this, no flowers in the office or free coffees at Starbucks. I am left with questions why? How can a nation that is so “reverential” of women does not mark the International day of women.

I guess it is because to a cetain extent it's women’s day everyday here (not literally), whereas in developing cultures, women are shafted, treated as second class citizens and bullied all year around and so when women’s day arrives, they (men) feel guilty and in an attempt to wipe clean the years’ misdoings they celebrate the women for half a day, of course its straight back to normal the next day and until the next womens day in 2012.
Also probably worth knowing that most of the nations that partake in these celebrations are ex communist, socialite countries, other western cultures don’t feel they have to give the women a special day and this for me asserts our gender equality.

The hypocrisy of this day knows no bound; to start the gifts bestowed on the women of Algeria consist mainly of gender specific equipment such as home making and kitchen utensils for baking and blending as if women shouldn’t have any other hobbies but baking and kitchen related activities, furthermore if a woman is respected in a society she would not need a special day however nice that might be.

I find the whole concept condescending, sexist and chauvinistic as though men are throwing us a bone for all the efforts we did or just to keep us off their backs.

So gentlemen; take your special woman’s day and shove it.

Monday, 7 March 2011

34 and guess what??? ….still single

I thought by the time I hit 34, I would have to re-consider this blogs title or something will happen to render it redundant...how could I remain single for 5 years, I mean I am fit, I don’t resemble the elephant man, I have above average intelligence, am not a total freak and above all I look 25 not 34 (jealous?)

Since I can only take so much rejection, I have decided to remain single by choice now rather than by infliction, unless a miracle occurs and lets face it…miracles don’t happen to cynical people or for that matter to anyone.

So for my 34th Birthday, I celebrated by protesting, a non-celebration celebration, who wants to celebrate turning 34 anyway? I worked late and as a treat for my surviving 34 years in this world I took myself home to Algeria for a long weekend. Of course it rained the whole time and if it wasn’t for all the Algerians and the incessant sound of car horns I would have thought I was still in London…LOL yeah right!

By force of habit I always ask for a Café Latté and I always get the same puzzled looks; café weshnou (1)? After that reaction I don’t dare ask if they have skimmed milk, so I have the Algerian version which is Café crème or a nous-nous café(2) at Sidi Yaya…where else.  So a few of those lovely beverages, several hours in traffic, many pointless police check-points, and 4 days later I was back in London pondering the course of my life here, its all about work, gym, music, friends, good wine sorry I mean gazouz (3) and obviously maintaining celibacy, so far it has been a blast.

I met someone on the flight over to Algeria last week, of course he wasn’t my type, he was the type of guy I would make quite obviously sure that everybody knew he wasn’t my boyfriend by probably giving him a few pats on the back, laughing out loud and wear my hair crazy but purely based on curiosity I ended up giving him my number and accepted to go on a date with him – Ah the things you do in the name of research.
I could read him like an open book, admitting I was 34, I could see him running a movie in his minds eye “she must be promiscuous, drinks, is far too independent and most probably desperate which spells easy lay for him or must not marry” I too have had a vision of how this is going to develop, its probably too soon to tell but in my head it goes something like this:

Me: I don’t think this is going to work, let’s just keep it here and no I don’t want to remain friends
Him: “Profanities”…Algerian girls are the all same; I am going to marry a European
Me:
Him: Yeah you have nothing to say…”profanities”… “more profanities”…you’ll never get married, nobody will marry you…”profanities”…BAYRA(4)

So there you have it.

Another friend (5) said Dz-Chick I am going to introduce you to a friend of mine but he is very very fussy, and he may not like you …not like me? Have you seen me?  Lol Best comedy moment ever…ah how I laughed, turns out he was right his friend didn’t like me based on his pre-judgement of my facebook profile. I could picture him going through my photo albums making mental notes – “Do not introduce to parents” “must not marry” “do not start”.

So this shows my “friends” feeble attempt at setting me up was mediocre, miscalculated or just plain spiteful because he couldn’t have me himself (in the past).  Why try to set up two people you know certain of not reaching a meagre 30% match. May I remind you that my criteria is not just Algerian, there is a list which I would like to point out, it includes not resembling the elephant man or being diagnosed with deep paranoia psychosis.

I don’t know who is giving 34 a bad reputation but just because women get older, it doesn’t make them desperate, au contraire; it makes us choosy, knowledgeable and sure. Have you not heard that women are like wine they get better with age?(6)

So another year has gone by and I am still here writing my “single women” blog – don’t you just love consistency?

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 (1) what?
 (2) half-half = referring to "half coffee and half milk" drink
(3)   Gazouz –  Soft/ Fizzy drink
(4)   Old maid – old spinster
(5)   He’s not a friend
(6)   A women must have come up with that

Saturday, 5 March 2011

The Algerian Dream

Sidi Yaya (1) - I think Irban Irban covered most of EVERYTHING that is not right about that place. But I will try to add some facts, Sidi Yahya is the new boulevard to be and to be seen in, it became according to my brother a new “SOUK” Car Souk that is. Where people who want to sell their cars hitch up in their new rides and park them up to be drooled over and priced, I fear the same approach is used for women, women are drooled over and priced for the most part of the “ladies” (I used the term Ladies very loosely here) are there to hook up with some rich “beggar”(2) whom upon getting his hand on his inheritance told his family to jog on, promptly selling the cows, estate and lands in the country to purchase a large 4x4 and a villa in Algiers so he can live the Algerian dream. HA!
Sidi Yaya where everything is overpriced but undisputed, where else are you going to go for coffee, meeting friends or work lunch, no need to point out the average if not poor quality of the food and coffee served, appalling service, rude waiters, mind you, you would be served about a whole 20 minutes faster with a hint of a smile if you were Kabyle, because as you know ALL catering hospitality/catering staff are berber, funny story really, this is purely geographical as the Hospitality Institute is situated in Tizi Ouzou(3).

Moving on, so, le Shopping in Algiers, unless you’re talking about food shopping in the nice fresh markets then there is no shopping as we know it here in the UK or at least not to the same standards.

I always wonder what I would do if I were to go back to live in Algeria, I would miss Broccoli, apparently it used to exist but they dont cultivate it anymore! That’s it. I would miss Salmon so much, this might be news to you but Salmon doesn’t swim in the Med, its too warm I was told condescendingly by someone who knows better because Algerians always know better especially when they dont, so I asked him if he’d ever heard of importing? There’s a business idea for me when I go back, cultivate broccoli and import Salmon, I reckon I’ll make a fortune.
Other non available items or available in a STANDARD form are: Tampons, well they are sold but all of the same size! I choose not to go into this subject and it goes the same for buying them.

Perfumes, fashion and shoes, well as Algeria doesn’t really produce anything wearable or remotely fashionable, Algerians buy their fashion from Europe, we are a nation of fashion lovers, a bit like the Italians, more than the French in the way we match our outfits and colour code everything we wear (I say we but I really mean they). I often get the: you’re wearing red shoes with a brown bag?
Me: Yes and what of it…you’re wearing a Levis 501(*)! And that’s enough said.

As far as le shopping is concerned: Though some big chains have infiltrated the Algerian market they remain above the buying power of the average Algerian, people still prefer their local boutiques which sell items from H&M, Zara and other European high street shops at exorbitant prices, a pair of shoes could be priced at £100! The average Algerian MAKES £100 a month! You have 1 second to do the maths.

All that said, I am contemplating the idea of moving back to Algeria, maybe I could buy an allotment and farm broccoli and Brussels sprouts (also non existent in Algeria), start a business to import fresh or frozen salmon and in my spare time blog about it from Sidi Yaya and report my attempt at living the Algerian Dream.
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(1) Sidi Yahya – Boulverad des champs Elyses d’Alger
(2) Sort of a sugar dady
(3) Berber Capital pronounced Tizi Wozou
(*) Levis 501: Algerian trademark – An Algerian sans Levis is pas normal

Friday, 4 March 2011

What the F are you looking at?

On my first year in London, as I walked down the streets something was always amiss, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, after a free make-up session at the Mac counter and a change into a newly purchased outfit, looking good I thought, strutting my stuff down the street it suddenly hit me. There was nobody checking me out, nobody whistling at me or complimenting me on my look or hurling abuse as I was accustomed to back in Algeria. I felt unspecial

After a few days and many years in the UK, I wonder how I ever withstood the male attention bestowed upon us females in Algeria. It is to say the least overwhelming, omnipresent, aggressive, flattering and chauvinistically sexist all at the same time.

It seems in England you get more attention from females than males, women look at each other, they eye each other up, scrutinise fashion sense, pick up make-up and style tips, sometimes they even stop you to ask you where you bought your coat from. Male attention however is harder to come by, the few times you probably were the subject of male attention or flattery is when you get stolen looks from fellow passengers on the trains but they swiftly look away when found out or maybe after dark and a few pints that allow our English friends to relax a little and loose their inhibitions sadly along with their senses, speech and bladder control in some cases.

In Algeria however, you are the centre of attention of many conversations, groups and  bystanders and by  bystanders I mean Hettiste (1) who casually hurl abuse at you because you are wearing something too short, too baggy or not at their “taste”, a Hettiste could flatter you with “AHHH Yal khshina”(2) (now I got this one when I had put on weight - refer to my previous blogs for details) , you could also get the usual “Bonjour” (3) which is really a trap if you don’t answer you feel bad as he was only being polite and if you answer you’ll never get rid of him, other new ways of flirting a l’algerienne are to casually slip into the conversation what car he drives, where he lives or what his mother does for a living!!! YEAH I am well impressed because your mother is a teacher or because you don’t live with your parents, well you’re 35, if you’re still living with mummy I would be concerned.

The thing about the Algerian way of approaching girls is its very direct, very Mediterranean, I saw it again in Spain, Italy and Turkey, a direct and clear approach, there is no doubt about the agenda, he wants to have you and in some cases he would quite clearly tell you what he would do to you should he get his hands on you – No thanks, other discreet and polite men just notice you but play the “game” by looking uninterested especially if he knows he’s good looking, you just hope when he opens his mouth he’s not going to have a high pitched voice, have bad teeth or ask you “Ca va” at least 6 times in a 5 minutes conversation.

The attention and constant stares can make you skip a step and fall, feel awkward but at the same they make you feel special and beautiful, however when you notice the subject of this attention and how it ranges from very attractive/out of their league to down right nasty you question they even have taste or if they should be a reliable judge for your gorgeousness.

We are now accustomed to walking down the street in London, merging into the crowds and acknowledge the attention we get in the same way we receive it – discreetly and I guess that when back back home and getting a lot of loud and unwanted attention, we just take it on the chin, smile if we will and take it as a compliment.

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(1)   – Hettiste: Derived from the term Heet which means Wall, so a Hettiste is someone who stands by the wall and watches people walk by (because he has nothing better to do)
(2)   Yal Khshina – basically calling me fat…and desiring my curves I guess.
(3)   Bonjour – Bonjour

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