Don’t date a girl who travels

“She’s the one with the messy unkempt hair colored by the sun. Her skin is now far from fair like it once was. Not even sun kissed. It’s burnt with multiple tan lines, wounds and bites here and there. But for every flaw on her skin, she has an interesting story to tell.

Don’t date a girl who travels. She is hard to please. The usual dinner-movie date at the mall will suck the life out of her. Her soul craves for new experiences and adventures. She will be unimpressed with your new car and your expensive watch. She would rather climb a rock or jump out of an airplane than hear you brag about it.” – Read more at the source


Geek trumps ‘normal’

Being a geek is not just about consuming entertainment, but education and drive.

For instance, the literature I read around Lord of the Rings during the few years I was crazy about it was eye-opening, Middle Earth gave me a burning interest in hiking and maps. The Little Prince made me fall in love with the western desert, and fennec foxes; helped me appreciate heartbreak and loneliness, if that makes any sense at all. Neil Gaiman transformed the idea of “storytelling” into living, breathing characters, set in ridiculous, dreamy worlds, and it helped me appreciate the power of stories, making me want to tell my own. El Mariachi and Once Upon A Time in Mexico, sent me on a small quest to learn more about movie making, reading here and there, and even taking courses in filmmaking myself, which in turn made me fall in love with film art even more. X-Files, Lois Lane of Superman and Moshira Mahfouz of Malaf Al-Mustaqbal played a part in my choice to pursue investigative journalism. Karate Kid, and Batman Begins, and anime, encouraged me to dive head first into the Shaolin adventure, despite how eccentric it seemed to everyone around me. Harry Potter nerd-years introduced me to a great deal of literature and lore on magic, and the occult (not exactly in relation to HP, and that’s the beauty of it. It makes you go out and research other things, similar things).

And now being obsessed with Supernatural, and favorite character Dean Winchester, I’m re-discovering classic rock, and falling in love with muscle cars, and reading more about those.

Supernatural art
Supernatural art

Sure, I’ll never actually be Batman, I don’t have the money (or the batcave) to back that up. But Catwoman is not rich. And many superheroes are journalists, who have to make ends meet by working day jobs and so spend most of their time asking questions and conducting research anyway. Superman anyone? Spiderman? Both work at newspapers. (And mind you, Batman and Flash dated reporters before). So there, perhaps I’m not so far off.

I often find myself thinking of situations from the perspective of my favorite characters, just to get a fresh angle and feel less pressured. When the going gets rough, sometimes I say to myself “what would Starbuck [BSG] do?” or “what would Dean do?,” and it helps. You find a degree of courage, borrowed from a fictional character, but practically very real.

When I’m alone and afraid sometimes, I remind myself of cat lore, I relax and know that my cats will protect me, and that my large Gandalf action figure will not let anything evil pass. Its powers are derived from my own faith in it. And yes, it does make me sleep better at night knowing that despite the very disturbing notion that Stephen King’s Pennywise “It” the dancing clown could be out there, here or in a parallel universe, that if he is, he’s still a shapeshifter that I can end with a stab of solid silver or a whif from my asmtha spray inhaler if I stand up and be brave about it. When I feel misunderstood or outnumbered, it’s reassuring to know that my gold-haired friend, the prince from Asteroid B6-12 whose life revolves around three volcanoes, the drawing of a sheep and a flower (that is at once unique, and common), probably gets how I feel.

The world becomes less daunting.

A geek’s mind is an interesting mind, and the stories are like sacred texts for the religious. It’s not just about entertainment, but faith. A la Life of Pi, ours is the better story (it being fictional is irrelevant).

There are so many things that I read about, learned about that are outside my general interests and even my comfort zone thanks to a measure of geekery, and excitement about fantasy, sci-fiction worlds, and being part of cults around films or TV shows, etc. The charm of books, comics and movies extend beyond the last page and the end credits into the real world. And that’s when most of the fun happens.

A fascination with these worlds have sent me tumbling into new territories, got me talking to different kinds of people all over, meeting kindred spirits — experiences I’m eternally grateful for.

And yes, I get made fun of for being a “bit over the top” by my more moderate “balanced” friends who act their age (which I don’t even know what it means), and there are always snide remarks about how “when Pakinam gets into something, she goes crazy” … like it’s an illness (and maybe it is, some sort of a bug). My new goals in life range from wanting to teach myself car mechanics to learning Latin and finally attending Comic Con in New York (and I know it should be something more like, “settling down” as a married friend recently reminded me, “You’re not going to stay young forever. Don’t you want to have your own family?” Sure, I do. But, but–how does being passionate about things contradict that? I mean sure, to many all-Egyptian 30-something guys I sound a little crazy, messy even, perhaps “not marriage material” but, erm, *sigh*–anyway). Sometimes the friendly sneers can get annoying.

But truth be told, I wouldn’t give any of that up for anything. And being crazy, and having a family one day and “acting my age,” are not mutually exclusive.

And sure, I’m a nerd. But no one so far has successfully curbed my enthusiasm by exclaiming distastefully that “I get into things a bit too much” or by reminding me I’m not 15. So maybe try another tactic, friend? In fact, I’m starting to think it’s a gift that I can manage to do that afterall. That being a girl, living on this side of the planet, in the Arab world, during times of conflict, in this monotone culture, and at this age, I can still get super excited about Sandman or the new Star Wars movie in the making like I’m 12.

Yeah, sure, it’d be interesting to be less weird, or come back to Earth from time to time. But hey, a lot of people do that anyway. I’m sure one less soul, whose head is in the clouds, won’t hurt the statistics. And I guess no one would really get the appeal of living in other worlds, and not just in the head, unless they tried it.

So there, thank you, nerd/geek culture, for making me less boring.

Star Wars Scripture


Meditations: Lennon, Guevara, Socrates

If we look at religions as mythical stories, or at least made-up stories meant to awe and inspire on the journey to understanding man himself, purpose and the Universe around us …

… then the story of Jesus appeals to the most romantic, emotional among the seekers. Those who gravitate towards it are like the hippies of the believers crowd if you will. Love and peace y’all … #Lennon

… the story of Muhammed appeals to the underdogs and the idealists, those seeking revolution and community. Justice, equality, fraternity, etc. They’re the communists of the believers in a manner of speaking. All for one, one for all … #Guevara

… the story of Buddha, however, is for the intellectuals. Those who have seen the world, and found nothing but emptiness, so they turned inwards. They’re on top of Maslow’s pyramid. Detached, slightly, and wanting answers to the big questions (it’s usually for those who don’t have to worry about putting food on the table, or maneuvering daily hassles). They’re the big thinkers. Why are we here? Who made the world? … #Socrates

Fluff, Les élus

The Philosophy of Touch

Before beginning this course, little did I know that massage – a form of physical therapy to improve health — is about communication, listening and getting feedback. Like personal relationships, a dance routine, or teamwork, it’s a two-way process in the sense that making it work is as much about the practitioner or therapist as it is about the patient or the receiver of the treatment.

Before using our hands, Gabriele Habashi, a reputed Cairo-based massage therapist and owner of Horizon center in Zamalek, Cairo, talked about privacy, trust, pain, skin memory and how considerate a masseur should be toward the people who allow him or her to touch their skin.

In the waiting room of the center, a friend and I sat cross-legged on the floor, which was dotted with warm-colored mats and large pillows. We were wide-eyed as we were given an elaborate introduction to the psychology of the body, its anatomy and its natural detoxification system. We sipped on hot aromatic tea, snacked on chocolate wafers, grapes and dates as Ms. Habashi spoke of the body’s stronger and softer parts, and invited us to experience the levels of self-awareness that go into the act [and art] of touching.

We were asked to explore different inanimate objects, like shiny smooth balls and stones, and to experiment with sinking in and “sinking up” with our weight against a door frame, to get the sense of what it means to have our own input in the process of touching. “We can communicate with an inner layer by knowing that there’s an inner layer. As important as technique is awareness. Touch different surfaces, and ask yourself, ‘does it become softer?’ Dwell on the depth of the touch,” she said.

“In our treatment, we deal with different layers of muscles and different types of tissue. You have to respect the tissue, be curious and open, not use a single approach to treat different muscles and tissues,” she added. “Sometimes, you have to stop applying pressure and wait. Stretch, caress, or stroke gently instead.”

Cupping a stone in the palm of my hand, I began to envision its anatomy — there are different densities and qualities to the things we touch and for all that comes in contact with our fingertips, and in turn our sensory receptors. An elaborate knowledge of surfaces is what an aspiring masseuse should start with.

Whether you’re doing it for fun, to treat a friend, a family member or your romantic partner to a sensuous massage, or as a prerequisite to rigorous training and certification, the journey begins with being aware of the feedback the surface you’re touching is giving you, and in your ability to have “maximum contact” with that surface.

“Am I aware of the feedback the skin gives me? Is the neck or back trusting or cringing away from me? Do I like touching it? How am I meeting the surface?”

As I meditated on these questions, I took in the sweet gentle smell that filled the center. I was told later that the relaxing aroma was of essential oils, pure naturally extracted oils that Gabriele revealed she used in both candle diffusers and in her homemade massage oils.

The atmosphere of the center was warm and serene, and it mirrored the temperament of the woman who was telling us about the philosophy behind a massage treatment. “One has to adore the moment,” she said at some point (reminding me that zen and stillness lie at the root of perfecting any technique). A mother of two, Gabriele is 48 years old, but easily looks like a woman in her late thirties — another aspect that made me trust her teachings; she obviously led a mindful, healthy lifestyle.

Before we began, she asked me and my friend (the only participants in this session) to sign a contract that confirmed we were taking this workshop “out of the best intentions,” that our touch is “non-committal” and that we respect the privacy of fellow participants. People come in with their scars, sensitivities and their own emotional and mental baggage about their bodies, and a masseur [or a course participant] should respect that, and keep any private information to themselves.

She explained that our skin has a memory; and that includes memory of abuse, and trauma. I probed deeper into the subject, inquiring if rape, school bullying, incest, or physical abuse can affect how people respond to a massage, or to others touching them, and Gabriele said that the “skin can get stiff as a result of being hit for instance. It can become resistant. Therapy can help the body get rid of persistent trauma, or trigger it if the person is treating you in a way you don’t like or if the massage is done by a person you don’t like.”

Gabriele makes no promises as to whether or not a massage can “heal” traumatic experiences. But she explained that regular massage treatment can help an abused or traumatized skin (in the psychological sense) to relax.

“The body has acquired patterns over the years and has learned certain reflexes that come out as a result of distrusting people, for instance. It’s that subconscious pattern that dictates movements, and it becomes apparent in the way we hold ourselves. Under stress, we fall back into our old patterns, and stress can feel like bullying. For a person who was bullied in school, stress feels like they’re back in there.” she said. “A good massage addresses these patterns, lets you reconsider old patterns, helps you let go of them, consciously.”

Once we started using our hands, and learning how to prop up a client for massage, the real challenge of the course began. The quality of your posture as a masseuse, how you carry your own weight, your mood and how clear your mind is are all parts of the equation.

Asking people to give you feedback during the massage is also valuable to the quality of the interaction; it helps you find out whether it is hurtful, nice or, for instance, ticklish. Making sure your client or your friend is comfortable, not too warm or too cold, and that their body is supported well is important.

“Before you touch, check the health history of the person. Check out their pain points. Hygiene is an important point, and it goes both ways,” Gabriele said.

Before beginning a massage, make sure your clothes and your surroundings are clean. Wipe away sweat from your client’s or your friend’s skin with a wet cloth if you have to. “If you’re going to touch feet, have them wash their feet,” she said.

You have to feel good about touching them, and not cringe away, feel disgusted or uncomfortable. “Treat yourself while treating others. Make sure you’re giving yourself a good time,” advised Gabriele.

When exploring skin, move your hands and fingers over protrusions, feel the hollows, buffers, the thresholds between bones, stay with “knots,” stiff tissue and muscle spasms, help the skin stretch until it eases in. “If I feel a lump here, is it better to wait on this spot, until the lump is more defined? Perhaps if I wait it will go away,” she said.

It’s not just technical, it’s a “feelings” affair– any “blockage” is sensed not seen.

In the first session, we were being trained on massaging fully clothed clients (and we were ourselves). Naturally, the practical part of the course is best illustrated by the instructor herself face-to-face as she guides you through the optimal use of your hands, and as she corrects and hones your posture, as well as that of your (imaginary) client. You slowly learn to become comfortable with using your hands, and making choices as you feel the skin: should you touch it with your whole hand, your palms, or your fingertips?

Before we left, we were briefed on the next part of the course in which we will learn about massage with oil. The instructor explained that you can easily make your massage oil at home, and that most ready-made massage oils bring together basic ingredients, like edible oil and essential oils, but could contain synthetically produced materials. “Olive oil, extra natural virgin oil, is beautiful for the skin. Cold-pressed sunflower oil, peanut oil, and almond oil are also good options. And you can get them anywhere. You can add a scent to it by adding a few drops of essential oils to the edible oil.”

Gabriele asked us to always check the properties of essential oils before using them. “For instance, geranium is a very relaxing oil, it’s good for the soul, but it’s sweet, so a man might not like it. Mint and eucalyptus can cause rashes for some people.”

The first session of the course left me in wonder — I reflected on our senses, how we use them (or not) and how much body and mind are connected, not just in receiving, but in giving.

The instructor kindly lent me and my friend two books to exchange and practice with until we meet again. I took home the “The Power of Touch,” which had a thorough explanation of the different types of essential oils (for calming, soothing tight muscles, warming, balancing or reinvigorating) and was full of visual instructions on how to self-massage and provide healing full-body treatments for others.

The course, which I highly recommend to readers, left me eager for more. The instructor also offers post-training consultations, and perhaps re-takes if need be, if one would like to revisit the technique, which I find very useful.

Skin can be powerful, in how it aches, relaxes, resists, surrenders and relays information about our past, present and deepest fears. I believe that repeated close encounters with it will add more to me than just skill.

Massage expert and reflexologist Gabriele Habashi gives massage treatments, and introductory courses in her center “Horizon” in Zamalek. For more details, and a price list, email her atele@horizon-healing.com. The same centre also offers Reiki “energy healing” training, Trager, which is a bodywork that raises body awareness, in addition to other courses like weight management with a nutritional expert. 

Original article published by Egypt Today Specials can be read here: http://specials.egypttoday.com/wellbeing/massage-the-philosophy-of-touch/


Apologies …

… for falling off the grid recently. I have no excuse. But I must confess I have been turning more to writing letters to beings above and on the Earth, some of them dear friends, others are gods, and this has distracted me from the Watchtower (i.e. this blog). I promise to be less sporadic and more prolific. And in the course of the next few days, I will collect some material from personal emails, and anecdotes from trips to the desert, and turn them into proper posts that I can share.

Thank you for reading, and happy 2011. Two-thousand-and-Ten was nothing short of dreamy and beautiful, despite loss, deep pains and a set of troubles. It has taught me much. I have learned that the desert casts enchanting spells on gullible travelers, that words can break your bones if you let them, people can move on but sometimes they don’t, love is just around the corner but only if you’re ready, personalities (and body weight) are not set in stone and both can be lost for the good, friendships can be resurrected, fears squished and buried deep, that some bridges need to be burned to the ground, a listening ear is precious, that the past no matter how pretty can get boring, karma works, some hurts persist, the Universe listens, authority figures are always flawed, the essential is invisible to the eye and that you become responsible forever for what you tame. And oh, fennec foxes can get too friendly — but that was just plain fun to learn.

For 2011, I have decided that this Calvin Coolidge quote is my new year’s resolution: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Listening to: Songs from a time well past and gone
Mood: Hopeful
Wants from the Universe: Strength. And the courage to feel and act upon intuition and feeling. Love. Light. To hear the voice of God. The door that opens when others are closed. Peace of mind. More helpful hands for my projects. More luck. Also, and while we’re at it, an iPad and a Kindle.

Buffers, Fluff

وظيفة خالية: محترف تحرش

“Overheard on the Radio” — Check this out: Amr El Beleidy (@beleidy) and I (@pakinamamer) came across this one. Amr, of course (THE GUY!) thought that every girl is finding it more and more difficult to get married these days, “and for a good reason” so this makes sense (the audacity). He said, and yes I’m quoting: “Times are getting tougher. The demands on the current social situation are very difficult to satisfy, and a decent guy is not exactly round every corner. And sometimes people need to find something here are there that makes it easier to stand the difficult times, and this person – whether they’re joking or not- is trying to give people that.”

Personally …

I think this is mad! It’s either unmarried Egyptian girls are getting too desperate, or unemployment makes people truly creative.

Now listen …

I will reveal the channel later.

© 2010 Along The Watchtower

Fluff, Les élus

Face your cat: Lessons from the animal world

What I noticed about my cat is that when she fears something or someone, she never gives them her back. When she’s afraid, she turns around to face exactly what scares her, always keeping her eyes on it with unwavering attention and vigilance. Sometimes in her watchfulness, you can see that she’s ready to pounce. In other times, she can’t be more relaxed. When what she fears moves away, she immediately lies on her side and even sometimes falls into a slumber.

I think cats take the saying “Face your fears” a bit too literally. But what I love about that is the fact that the confrontation doesn’t always have to be tense. More often than not it’s cool and effortless.

Listening to: Pirate Jenny, Nina Simone
Mood: sleepy, relaxed, light
Wants from the universe: more weight loss, dark chocolate 70% Cocoa, nice sandals, a good trip next weekend, blissful sleep and a raise. Also Happiness. Unconditional.

Fluff, Les élus

The Aviators

Saint-Ex or The Little Prince, he came from another planet and owned a flower, which he didn't know how to love.

Since sleep hasn’t come yet and it’s almost 3:30 am (I have to be up by 9:00!!), I decided to pay a tribute to some of my favourite men: all aviators, all a bit cuckoo in the head with an affinity for suffering, open air, impressing people and breaking the hearts of those they love.

Howard Huges: His life was portrayed in the film The Aviator, he was played by Leo Dicaprio
Eyes: intelligent and deadly

I don’t know why but I have a soft spot for eccentric men who are both imaginative and destructive, sensitive and cruel, detached from reality and frightfully intelligent, enigmatic and obsessive, charming and eternally depressed, proud and secretly self-hating, ridiculously successful and hopelessly lonely (at least in their heads), creative and nocturnal, sentimental and vindictive, spiritual and selfish. Those men that are touched by madness and melancholia, which show in their eyes (I think psychologists have given this type of men a name now. Manic-depressive or people with borderline personality disorder). And yes, I’m sober and well aware of what I’m writing here. And time proves again and again that I somehow get attracted to (or intrigued by), in fiction, history or real life, these types of men. Foolish of me. They’re the best and worst, in so many ways. And I’m like a butterfly, I seek the light even if it kills me (or perhaps precisely because it carries the promise of death, the big adventure, that I willingly fly towards it). Perhaps one day I’ll grow up, and learn to like nice decent men who say lovey-dovey stuff and read books to blind children in their spare time (aww, I’m touched by this image now, perhaps I’m growing up already!) While I’m at it, I decided to attach pictures of my favourite male look: Can you guess? Well you don’t have to. The pictures are right here … Listening to: the sound of silence, Mood: Sentimental, Romantic, Dreamy

Pilot Fashion: Nothing looks sexier on men than brown aviator jackets
Aviator look from Zara
Both nerdy and "pilot-y". It's perfect!
Desert explorer, pilot, and the chronically lonely Almasy as portrayed by Ralph Fiennes in The English Patient. My Favorite quote from the movie, said by Almasy, "How can you ever smile, as if your life hadn't capsized?"