College, Education, Feminism, Lifestyle, News, People, Politics, Women, Work

Deep Thoughts about the Presidential Election

Good afternoon, everybody except Pat McCrory:

I’m here with 18 deep thoughts about all three presidential debates and the general election, because sometimes 140 characters won’t cut it. Also I was on a flight during the debate, and I didn’t have the chance to grace the Internet with a live feed of my opinions, so here is my offering of afterthoughts:

  • University of Nevada at Las Vegas is the same institution where Tomi Lahren earned bachelor’s degrees in bigotry and yelling; so if that’s what you’re into, I have two words for you: “microphones” and “micro-aggressions.” They’re both real. Learn about them.
  • Heads: Hillary. Are we really using a coin toss to decide who leads a televised political discourse? Ohhhhhh, I get it; we’re just trying to emulate George Washington rolling over in his grave after warning against a two-party system. “I think they get the point,” his metallic profile screams as his forehead smacks the back of Martha Raddatz’s unwavering hand. Really, though—a coin toss seems to be pretty juvenile; what is this, a locker room? Oh wait.
  • Somewhere in America, Trump and Brock Turner are hanging out in a locker room, snapping a sweaty towel at some poor kid’s ass, while Pat McCrory waits by the door checking birth certificates and hall passes. This kind of behavior isn’t just an affront to women, or athletes, or coaches who have valiantly defended the sanctity of their locker rooms: it’s sexual harassment and a violation of civil rights. Billy Bush lost his job over it—why hasn’t Trump?
  • Politicians withdrew their support from Trump after the audio leak, citing legal relationships to women as their reasoning. Oh, so now you want to be a decent human being? Then just be one, regardless of whom files taxes as your dependent. Wake the hell up—you don’t need a wife or a kid or a sister to have a moral compass.
  • Hillary is literally me every time someone asks me a question they could have looked up. She is so over having to fact check everything for you. “Google Donald Trump Iraq.” Okay, okay, geez.
  • We never found all the remains of Malaysian Flight MH370, but CNN found living, breathing undecided voters? If the media is rigging the election (it’s not), it’s because CNN harbored them in an underground lab with no Wi-Fi, and then brought them above ground to ask pre-written questions at the second debate. How else would you explain that before election season, this was Ken Bone’s only tweet?

kenbonetweet

  • If you’re an uncommitted voter asking a question that you’ve practiced a zillion times in the mirror, how do you even stand the pressure? Do you picture everyone naked, or do you blackout, like in a high school project presentation? Need to know.
  • I do not envy the moderators in the slightest, but I do think they should teach a class on crisis communication, considering that’s where we are at this point in the campaign.
  • Clinton was just dubbed a nasty woman by someone who also claimed, “nobody respects women more than I do.” Not going to name names.
  • Three a.m. tweets follow the same rules as three a.m. drinks: nothing good can happen. Adults need curfews too.
  • Trump says Muslims have to fight Islamophobia themselves via “see something, say something,” which basically makes him an 8th grade gym teacher who says, “a little bullying is good for ya!”
  • Okay, let’s play charades: one word, six letters—it’s the largest city in Syria. Still no idea? Here’s a hint: Gary Johnson doesn’t know either. It’s Aleppo. If you don’t know, now you know, but you might still have an extremely minimal grasp on American foreign policy as it relates to one of the largest security threats and saturated discussions currently on the political stage. BFD, I didn’t know either, says every 39-year-old Facebook user from the safety of his mother’s basement. Yeah, well, you’re not on the ballot for POTUS.
  • What even is on the ballot? Progress and democracy, according to the latest Hillary ad featuring Obama as her BFFL. “There’s no such thing as a vote that doesn’t count,” says POTUS. Also, state and local elections are happening. Learn about them; vote for them—they influence a lot more of your day-to-day life than a president ever will (See also: Pat McCrory’s track record).
  • Alright, this post has been pretty anti-Trump, so for the sake of journalism, I’ll offer up a criticism to Queen Hillz: Stop giving in to Trump’s antics. You are better than this and you know it! You won’t get votes from slamming other candidates. That’s Twitter’s job, and they’re doing alright—the debate emoji even looks like a toilet. Keep doing the homework and winning the coin toss, but stay on the high road (and I’ll meet you there for #HillHal2032).
  • A lot of Americans don’t want to vote for either of these candidates, but they don’t realize that this is the most dangerous decision of all. You, one of the 324 million Americans can vote. You know who can’t? Prisoners, undocumented immigrants, refugees, unregistered voters. That’s a lot of people. You have a privilege. Use it.
  • Here is a list of things that are treated like partisan issues that should be bipartisan (aka: this shit matters; your political party doesn’t): women’s rights, child nutrition, affordable health care, safe housing, environmental sustainability, LGBTQ inclusivity, climate change, minority rights, homelessness, Black Lives Matter, maternal health, veteran suicide rates, the presidential election.
  • Trump won’t reveal whether he’ll accept the results of the election, which means he still thinks he’s on reality TV, and we’re all puppets at this point. Seriously though, what other choice does he have?

TL;DR: Vote for someone who cares about human quality of live.

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Why Your Criticism of Saint Teresa Doesn’t Matter

Let me start off by saying that I am not Catholic, and in no way am I commenting on practices validated by the Church. I have been to Mass exactly one time, and I was berated for trying to eat a package of Oreos out of my purse.

My experience with the Church has been minimal, and my behavior frowned upon, but I feel wildly compelled to discuss the backlash that ensued after Pope Francis canonized Mother Teresa on September 4, 2016.

The Pope, in an effort that may have unintentionally internationalized Labor Day, celebrated one of the most revered figures in human history, known universally for her influential labors of love.

Mother Teresa, who died in 1997, is now to be eternally remembered as Saint Teresaexcept for the 42,000 tweets (and counting!) that declared her a fraud. To them I say:

First of all, how dare you?

Critics are questioning the validity of her miracles, accumulation of funds, implementations of medical care, emphasis on human suffering and motivations for conversion. Do they not realize what the purpose of missionary work is? This is not news.

Getting canonized is no easy feat. Saint Teresa did not sit around posting indignant comments advocating for social justice; she physically did something about ita lot of things, in fact.

She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity; she made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crime of poverty they created,” said Pope Francis during her canonization.

Regardless of your agreements with the Church or her interpretation of Christianity, it is impossible to ignore her bravery, humility or perpetual state of service.

And yet, the Internet could only manage to focus on the controversy over whether she actually cured the cancer of a woman who claims to be the recipient of Saint Teresa’s famous miracle.

People are so quick to take down historical do-gooders: founding fathers who also owned slaves, the Gandhi everyone loves to hate. Yes, all of these humans had flaws, even when accounting for what practices were socially acceptable and which resources were publicly available during their lifetimes. However, they still created change, and left legacies that inspired humanitarian works well beyond the date of their death.

Your tweets cannot change this, which brings me to my second point:

Who the hell do you think you are?

We ask millennials this question a lot. And though the entire demographic lacks a cohesive answer, they are quick to organize a chorus of indignant complaints (see also: me, every time I have to do adult things like pay bills/reschedule canceled flights/etc). I’m not immune to the adversity of adulthood, but I recognize the appropriate time and place for respect and reveriei.e. the canonization of Mother Teresa.

Have we really settled on complaining as a coping mechanism? I would like to re-introduce a narrative that has plagued the self-worth of millennials across the world: this isn’t about you. If you are not the Pope, or a member of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints (that’s right, I googled Catholicism, and there definitely isn’t any literature prohibiting Oreos), then do yourself a favor and find a real hobbyrunning a Facebook discussion thread doesn’t count.

Just like many states require a primary form of photo ID to cast your vote, I hereby declare that you must present a solution if you’re going to cast your opinion (or at least that will be my first executive order when I am president in 2028). Sound unfair? You’re not the only ones to noticeget in line.

There is work to be done, but there is also limitless inspiration, not to mention proof that dedication pays off. Yes, this is a tall order, but if you’re reading this right now, you’re way ahead of the 781 million adults in the world who cannot read or write. You actually don’t have an excuse.

I’m not saying we have to pursue works that get us canonized. I’m telling you to pursue something that matters to you. Critics never die (seriously, Ann Coulter, take a hint), but good works can live forever.

No one can fault you for making an effort toward something you genuinely believe in.

Don’t have something that matters to you? You’re not looking hard enough. And if you can’t see beyond a person’s faults to the impact of her life’s work in charity and human relief, then you need to get your eyes checked.

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Feminism, Lifestyle, People, Relationships, Spirituality, Women, Work

The First Week of the Rest of My Life

On the first day of my first job in the first month of my post-college life, I arrived early. Those of you who know me well know that this is a huge feat. I’ve never been early anywhere, ever. If we agree on meeting at 9, you can just go ahead and plan for 9:05. I blame my chronic tardiness on my personality, my genetics (hi mom), my short stature that really just makes it hard to walk quickly, okay? Geez.

So there I was at 8:45 a.m. Not only was it new for me to arrive early, it was anxiety-inducing. I didn’t know what to do with myself for the fifteen minutes I spent waiting in the ninth floor lobby for someone from Corporate to lead me into an orientation room. I felt a tap on my shoulder; another new hire had entered the room; we introduced ourselves to each other.

More college grads trickled into the room before we were whisked into “The Rocketship,” a conference room at the top of the Metroplex, 2U Inc.’s headquarters. We learned about the company’s product, mission, tactics and goals. We were officially 2Utes.

As we were guided through the building, we received laptops, ID badges, and notepads before we found our desks. I was the only new hire in my department; I spent the rest of the day meeting others on my team, learning about different departments and trying to scribble important notes I could catch.

I took the metro home, where I arrived at my basement apartment and opened the door to a bedroom full of boxes I had yet to unpack. It was only 6:30 p.m., and I was exhausted. I heated up some enchiladas from the fridge, pushed the boxes off my bed, and settled under the covers to eat my leftovers while starting Season Four of Girls.

I wish that I could say I eventually got up and unpacked, that I introduced myself to the neighbors, that I did something even marginally productive, but I did not. Not even the next night.

On the second, third and fourth nights I continued in my newfound binging until I ran out of enchiladas and finished the entire series of Girls.

I bought a month-long MetroCard hours before I found out that my stop is closed for the rest of June due to construction.

I went for a run and got lost until I gave up and walked home.

I left my ID card at home and couldn’t use the bathroom unless someone swiped me back into the office.

* * *

My inescapable failure at the simplest parts of adulthood have me feeling like I left college before I was ready. How can I be ready for adult life if I can’t figure out how to set up the wifi? If I can’t muster the energy to introduce myself to people on my street? If I can’t eat something other than leftovers?

The truth is, I don’t want an adult life. I don’t want an adult apartment. I don’t want adult friends. I miss my life, my apartment, my friends. None of this feels like it’s mine. I imagine this trifecta as forever out of reach, just like the cabinet above my stove that I’ll never open because I don’t have a stool or a roommate who can reach it for me.

This is what I wanted all along, right? All the nights during college where I felt a need for something more than partying, than all-nighters in the library, than friends who are no longer even my acquaintances. I wanted this, but I only wanted the exciting parts – the fancy bars, the museums, the political centrifuge that is Capitol Hill. I just never thought about the loneliness, the responsibility, the distance from the people I love.

Just like my last post about people who do things before they are ready, I had to pep talk myself into accepting my situation the way it is.

I could have told myself “it is what it is, it will be what I make of it.” I could have repeated the serenity prayer until I reached some sort of intangible wisdom – that’s what happens, right? I could find a yoga class, I could restart Girls, I could buy a one-way ticket home.

But none of those things are going to help; I’m smart enough to know that.

* * *

Every time I get off the phone with my dad, he signs off with “be huge.” Not “see you soon,” or “take care,” because he knows I know those things. He also knows I need a reminder to “be huge.”

If you’re wondering what that means, think about a time you’ve felt small. Whether you put others’ needs before yours, or you didn’t voice your opinion, it’s likely that you let yourself behave in a way that made you small. Physically, spiritually, emotionally, we all do it.

Being huge is about fulfilling your needs, your desires, without letting friends or fears get in your way. Being huge means saying yes, it means showing up early, it means recognizing that you, your body and your mind are worth the effort.

Unlike the other remedies to self-doubt that focus on praying or planning or perceiving, “being huge” is all about being. It’s about mindful awareness of your daily activities, making choices that are good for you, and realizing that self-indulgence isn’t bad. It’s about accepting the bad thoughts, but not focusing on them.

Being huge is realizing that my parents are right more often than I’d like to admit, so I should go ahead and accept it now.

Being huge is doing the adult things anyway. And kicking ass at it.

Yeah, I’m going to get lost, I’m going to oversleep, I’m going to forget my ID badge. I can’t be good at all of the things. I’m young. We’re all young. We’re all getting lost and oversleeping and forgetting.

But I’m also going to walk to the market on the corner North Carolina Avenue and 11th and buy an expensive wedge of cheese and a bottle of wine because I’M AN ADULT, DAMMIT.

And then I’m going to sit in the park and toast myself for surviving the first week of adulthood even though I will probably also lock myself out of my apartment at some point this month.

So cheers to us. Cheers to the hustle. Cheers to being huge.

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Sorry Not Sorry: Why Women Need to Stop Apologizing

Five young women are standing at the front of my class, representing Michigan Governor Rick Snyder running a pseudo-press conference to answer questions about the toxic water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

For ten minutes, they have to answer to the rest of the class, which poses as hostile reporters unabashedly asking questions about the political scandal behind the crisis.

This is Crisis Communication.

The discussion intensifies as we, the reporters, accuse Governor Snyder’s communication team of being in cahoots with his corrupt politics.

I raise my hand to direct a question at one of the representatives who hasn’t yet spoken.

“The toxic water is primarily in neighborhoods of residents in racial minorities. Did Governor Snyder knowingly let conditions get so bad in those neighborhoods because he’s racist?”

She takes a deep breath, during which I whisper “sorry!” from the corner of my mouth.

The class chuckles. We’re all friends here, and we hate making each other take the heat.

She answers my question with poise despite the pressure, and moves on to the last few minutes of the simulation.

Our fearless professor takes the podium at the end of class while we pack up our books and laptops.

“Before you leave today,” she said, “I want to talk about something I heard during class.

From this point on, there are two words that are never welcome in my class again. They are ‘I’m sorry.’ I know you all like each other, and you empathize with those who are up at the podium, but what you don’t need to do is apologize for doing your job. Especially not for doing your job well.”

We are an entirely female class, not just because of the student gender ratio at UNC, not just because Public Relations is an increasingly female major, but because women are more likely to feel the need to take a class on crisis management than men. While more women than men enter the PR industry, it is still men who hold more of the upper-level management positions, and are more likely to be a spokesperson on behalf of an organization during a crisis.

Taking this class is part of how we change that.

Our professor continued, “In the real world, if a man had asked a hard-hitting question, he never would have apologized. He’s not worried about looking mean, or hurting feelings; he’s only concerned with getting the answers for the story. He cares about doing the job well. And so should you.

You are all women who are about to enter the professional world, and you don’t need to be sorry for how smart, and driven, and deliberate you are. Don’t apologize for doing your best. There’s no shame in it.

‘I’m sorry’ only puts you at a disadvantage. You don’t need that.”

The discussion over female apologies gleaned attention earlier in the year when comedian Amy Schumer included a sketch on her TV show, during which an all-female panel spent the entire time apologizing instead of highlighting their professional work. Editorials from Cosmopolitan and Refinery29 challenged women to count the number of times they apologize in a day at work. Gmail even offers a plug-in that prevents you from sending emails with the phrase “I’m sorry.” The point is, this isn’t news. We know we shouldn’t apologize so much.

So how do we stop?

The answer, in my opinion, lies much deeper than eliminating one phrase from our vocabulary.

In order to stop saying sorry, women have to stop being sorry.

It’s a huge change, but it can be done in small steps, provided that we make an active effort.

If you need a place to start, begin by helping others to be confident and self-assured. It’s contagious. The more you diminish others, the more they diminish themselves. The same is true for the reverse.

Apologizing is a symptom of feeling small. At work, at school, online, at home, it’s easy to compare yourself to others, or to put their needs ahead of yours. You’re not alone in this, but you are the only one who can change your disposition.

Be confident, be proud, be self-assured that you don’t need to start every sentence with an apology. Know that your ideas, your preferences, your emotions are uniquely yours, and that is reason enough to assert them without feeling timid.Take ownership of that.

Don’t be sorry. You can’t kick ass at your job and be sorry about it.

You have to choose.

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A Guide to Celebrating International Women’s Day

You’ve probably heard that tomorrow, March 8, is International Women’s Day, but have you ever actually celebrated it? How do you celebrate it anyway?

Maybe it’s like Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day; it’s surely highlighting a practice we should be observing on a daily basis. Maybe corporate America is going to profit from human tendencies to make up for what we forgot to do all year long. Except it’s not.

Drug stores haven’t preemptively arranged tables of commercialized gifts for the “special woman in your life.” The floral industry isn’t rushing to jack up the prices of rose bouquets. Children aren’t bringing their mothers breakfast in bed. There won’t be any clearance holiday items at the grocery store tomorrow.

No one is capitalizing off International Women’s Day. Not even women.

In 1908, the first International Women’s Day was observed as 15,000 women marched in the streets of New York City, demanding equal pay, better working conditions and voting rights. More than 100 years later, women still don’t have equal pay and recognition in the workplace.

What we do have, as women, is a day dedicated to our achievements, a recognition of our victories, a celebration of our centuries-long struggle to prove something we shouldn’t have to prove: International Women’s Day is observed in 27 countries around the world, and the United States even designates the entire month of March as Women’s History month.

So how are we using it?

The 2016 International Women’s Day campaign is centered on #GenderParity.

Why, you ask?

Despite the fact that women make up more than half of the human population, we still fail to account for a proportionate amount of political, social and economic power across the globe.

In 2014, the World Economic Forum predicted that actual gender equality would not be reached until 2095. A year later, they adjusted their estimation such that this golden year would not arrive until 2133. (a moment of silence, please)

If we can’t move toward equality faster than a glacial pace, let’s hope that some woman somewhere invents a cure for mortality.

If you’d like to see change from somewhere other than beyond the grave, consider taking any of these steps to celebrate the women in your life:

  1. Call your mom, or someone who has been a mother to you. Chances are, you didn’t get to where you are today without the help of at least one woman (ex: your birth).
  2. Vote! Women fought long and hard for the right to vote, so don’t let it go to waste! The more women vote, the better representation we will have in political office. Don’t know when your state’s primary is? Click here to find out!

Side note for any time-travelers who have come back specifically to 2016 to change whatever historical events are about to happen this year: please vote. Now is your time. We’re begging you.

  1. Be a leader! If you don’t like the leaders in your community, become a better one! Take a pledge, join a club, run for office, start a petition. Any leadership role is a step toward equal representation for women.
  2. Go global! Check out all the opportunities on the International Women’s Day website, or visit Now.org to find resources to support women in communities beyond American borders.
  3. Bask in female creativity! Women contribute socially, culturally, artistically, academically and professionally to the content we consume every day – cherish it! Go to an art gallery, read a book, watch a TedTalk, do something to foster appreciation for the work that women do every day.

The point is, there are an infinite number of ways to celebrate. However, the biggest obstacle to celebrating International Women’s Day is awareness. The best thing you can do to celebrate is starting a conversation. You might not know everything about the day, but you sure as hell know at least one woman. Show her some appreciation today! If you’re a woman, show yourself some appreciation! What better reason to treat yourself (all month long!)?

Did I miss something? Let me know how you’re celebrating International Women’s Day in the comments below!

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Formation: A Texas Bamma’s National Anthem

Shakespeare misspoke when he wrote, “All the world’s a stage.” What he meant, as we all acknowledged this weekend, is that all the world is actually Beyonce’s stage. As the most popular female performer alive, Beyonce took charge of the most watched televised event of the year by commanding the halftime stage with her brand new single, “Formation.”

She did it while paying homage to Michael Jackson’s Super Bowl performance of “We Are the World” in 1993. And she was inspired by more than just his military jacket.

Critiques and compliments have yet to hold a candle to her hit, through which she talks #BlackLivesMatter in a way that no artist ever has before. Katrina’s aftermath, slavery, Black Panthers, Reconstruction, Mardi Gras, MLK, the Civil Rights Era, Ferguson and more: she referenced it all along with her own struggles, her rise to fame, her unwavering ability to “slay”. And slay she did, by dropping the music video the day before, as a raw, yet eerily magical visual of the Black South, followed by a flawless performance during the game. The celebrated artist used the nation’s most popular venue to deliver the real national anthem, the single we never knew we always needed.

Bey knows that her life as a public figure renders commentary and criticism from all audiences, but her song reiterates the message she’s been putting out for decades: “I did not come to play with you hoes, I came to slay.” It’s her turn to speak, and she’s taking charge of it as an iconic force of political conversation.

She powerfully explains in her last lines, “you know you that bitch when you cause all this conversation,” which goes to show that she knows her platform even better than she knows her audience of 114 million viewers. She didn’t join the #BlackLivesMatter conversation just to get a word in, to get publicity, or to gain twitter followers. She contributed her thoughts so that America would listen.

That’s what music is for. Listening. Queen Bey exhibits that she’s done attending to the opinions of others, and she’s taking control of the narrative.

Formation isn’t free on Tidal because Bey felt charitable; she already pledged $1.5 million to the #BlackLivesMatter Foundation last week with her new campaign #BeyGOOD. Her single is streaming for free because she wants everyone to hear the message behind her lyrics: this conversation involves all of us.

So, get in formation, or get out.

Watch the video here:

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The Fast and the Furious: The Hanger of a Ramadan Rookie

The month of Ramadan has come to a close, and it’s safe to say that my initial effort to fast was completely dependent on a group mentality. The twelve students in my program attempted to fast on the first day, but have since dropped like the dozens of flies feasting on the garbage outside my kitchen window. Needless to say, the smells of the old medina made fasting a little easier.

Despite the decision of my classmates to eat meals at normal hours after the first day, I found comfort in the fasting companionship with my 13-year-old host-brother, Ameen. On the first day of Ramadan, I came home from school with hanger and a headache without my daily dose of caffeine. Ameen sauntered in and invited me to have a glass of tea, to which I replied, “no thanks, I’m fasting.”

“I’m fasting too!” he said, and proceeded to give me a high five before leaving the room.

This became our daily interaction as Ramadan progressed; we checked in on each other every night. “I fasted today!” he would say to me, and I replied with the same.

Next came our inevitable high-five, but it barely lasted more than a week, because I tapped out relatively early in the Ramadan game.

Iftar is the sunset meal that breaks the daily fast at 7:35 p.m. It is comprised of dozens of small plates, Arabic tapas if you will, traditionally begun with dates and milk, followed by small plates various types of food that depend on the geography, season, and preferences of the chef.

In my homestay, we typically had plates of salad, sautéed eggplant with tomatoes and jalapenos, croissants stuffed with spiced chicken and cheese, an vinegar-laden mixture of potatoes, peas, tuna and carrots, and a main dish cooked in a large tagine.

Tagines are comprised of two terra cotta pieces: a wide, rimmed plate and a tall cone with a hole at the top, which lets out a small portion of air while cooking. Every night, our mother cooked a different meal; I never ate the same tagine twice. Chicken with couscous, meatballs with eggs and tomato sauce, fried fish, lamb with rice and peas, I could go on and on.

I was amazed at my host mother’s ability to cook for hours in a kitchen with no air conditioning while fasting in 100-degree heat. Those who think men are stronger than women have never witnessed this month-long feat.

On day ten, I explained to my host-mother that the temperature for the following week was going to pass 105 degrees, but my elementary Arabic textbook hadn’t prepared me to convert temperatures into Celsius yet. She slapped her hands on the table in a way that made all the tea glasses shake as she looked up at the ceiling and yelled, “God help us, everyone is going to die!”

This went on for several minutes before I realized my mistake, and continued until I stood on the couch for enough Wi-Fi to convert the degrees on my phone.

It was about this time that I decided to stop fasting. Allah help me, I thought, I don’t want to die.

Since then, I have gotten in trouble twice for eating in public on accident. Because Morocco is a Muslim nation-state, it is illegal for citizens to eat in public during the month of fasting. Explaining to a local who berated me for drinking water on the sidewalk that I am not, in fact, Muslim or Moroccan caused more harm than good. I began the habit of drinking water in the confines of my bedroom.

During Ramadan, shops and restaurants are closed until after Iftar, so non-Muslims and non-Moroccans are still forced to cope with the hanger that comes from hours without food or water. Locals have figured out that the best way to beat the heat and hanger combo is to sleep all day until roughly 3 p.m.

A Moroccan siesta of sorts, this became my excuse to nap every day after school.

On the last day of Ramadan, I tried to nap for the few hours before Iftar. I awoke around 7:15 to the sound of thunder and people rushing about outside my window.

A blanket of clouds that had hovered above Fes throughout the day had turned into a dark, angry mess. I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing: thunder, lightning and heavy rain in the middle of Morocco.

Water poured down the outside of my open windowsill like a long-awaited blessing at the end of a hard month. I could see my host brothers splashing around in the street before their mother called them inside to help set the table.

I continued to watch the street with my face pressed to the iron window frame as mist rose from the hot street up to my parched skin.

Donkeys trotted by carrying makeshift palettes of gallons of water, splashing with every step in the cobblestone path. Children shouted as they finished their games of soccer in between women carrying huge trays of bread and cookies from our neighborhood’s public bakery. Groups of teenage girls hurried home through the rain with linked arms, whispering and stealing glances outside of their little circles of gossip.

By 7:25, people broke from a swift walk into a brisk jog, hoping to make it home in time to pray before dinner. I heard shouts of “Eid Mubarak!” as doors opened to let rain-soaked loved ones inside.

After a few more minutes went by, the streets were empty, except for the occasional tardy person, who ran as they held up their floor-length djellabas to keep from tripping.

At 7:33, our family was gathered around the table; each of them had finished their prayers and we were poised in eating position. It had been a very long last day.

We waited for the sound of distant cannons through the window of our medina home, which announced the official moment of dusk.

“Bismillah,” or “thanks be to God” echoed among our family members as we all reached for the plate of dates to break the very last fast together.

After 20 minutes of vigorous eating, the members of our household settled back into the couches as our hanger subsided, and I tried, for the 30th night in a row, to explain the American concept of a “food baby” to my host mother in Arabic.

For the 30th time, it still didn’t make any sense to her. “Americans are crazy,” she said.

I figured she was right, as I went out into the street to drink my water just because I knew that now, no one could stop me.

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