Qatar, The Man Who Wears Too Much Cologne

Damnation. I have a Birkenstock tan on my feet. I self-consciously run into the swimming pool the moment I notice, pretending the floor is hot as I ooo-ahh my way into the cool water and give a pretend sigh of relief to the family staring at me. As usual, I am too busy being concerned about what other people think that I found myself making the same mistakes, and it was later that afternoon I realised I was once again negligent with the sunscreen. I cursed at myself as I visually toured my body in the bathroom mirror, peering over the tan lines that were all over me from my midriff to the sides of my neck. I look like a harpsichord!

Apart from the self-effacing critique worthy of any thespian tragedy, I will admit spending the incredibly hot day on Banana Island after a ridiculous fifteen hour flight from Melbourne to Doha was exactly what I needed. If it weren’t for the gruesome exhaustion, however, I would likely hate this place. The superficiality, the plastic plants, the buffet of cheesecakes made from artificial powder all of which I avoided. Resorts are not my thing, but maybe it is the type of place for families with children who can enjoy the recreational activities available, or the pretentious who want to relish in their wealth. It can cost a hefty amount to stay there, but luckily they offer day tickets for outsiders like me to visit and for 350 riyal, you can get a ferry to the island and some food and recreational vouchers.

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Magnificent Medieval Münster

“Ah, excuse me?” I said to the naked man who just walked into the sauna. He spins around, muttering “yes?” and I can see it from the corner of my eye swinging like a grandfather clock, despite trying to look away.

“Do you mind? Cover yourself up please, we are in a public place.”

He responded in bad English. “In Germany, we are no clothes in Sauna, yes?” He seemed genuinely surprised at my discomfort. The first live penis I have ever seen just happened in a sauna in Germany, so surprised was the least of my emotions.

I love saunas. I join gyms that I know has one just to gain access to it, but in Australia we wear swimsuits and cover ourselves with towels. It was pointless trying to make a point about decency, I was after all in his country, so I quickly got up and left, speed-walking back to my hotel room to have a cold shower. The male form is pretty disgusting, although this eighty-something year old man was probably not the best visual introduction to it.

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On Love, King Suleiman, and the Old City of Istanbul

“Mum, he doesn’t speak English?” I sent on WhatsApp with a confused 😕 emoji face. She is trying to set me up as I prepare for my visit to Turkey.

“Sorry,” she responded (#sorrynotsorry). She is desperate to see her youngest daughter marry. Both my parents live in Adana and for them, love is simple, practical. “You complicate everything!” she often says. “You look too deep and think too much!” She  has never understood me when I say I am searching for love, someone that I love and respect, which is a pretty challenging feat given that my standards are almost biblical.

Maybe she is right, that maybe I think too much, but it seems like all the men I meet are liars, superficial and vain, and if not, cowardly and afraid of going against the grain of social cliches, my pessimism only deepened by those who, after being viciously sexist or violent, insincerely apologise before going on to pretend that they are feminists and congratulating themselves as though they are good people. It feels as though I will never meet a man I respect.

I switch off my phone and place it in my bag as I arrange my luggage in the overhead lockers on the plane, on my way to Istanbul. I hate flying. Short flights. Long-haul flights. I quit my job recently because it required me to regularly travel across Australia. This flight was particularly bad, as though the unpleasant and exhausted flight attendants believed that ignoring your requests with an indifferent smile was equal to customer service and I spent half the time worried I might do something wrong that would permit their wrath. Read More

Belgian Chocolate… and other things

Worming my way through the crowds, the night now well and truly ready for the fireworks planned during the Flower Carpet festival. The theme? Mexico. The beautiful colours of yellow and orange light up the cobblestone centre of Grand-Place or Grote Markt in Brussels, where I had spent earlier that morning having breakfast observing the numerous trucks beeping in and out and unloading shipments of flowers.

I squirm my way past men holding their DSLRs and women tightly gripping the hands of their children, some holding beers and others eating. I look up at the City Hall balcony full of people, the building lit up with blue and green and pink and I don’t know how to get up there. They look unordinary; delegates, wealthy businessmen, women wearing gowns, that sort of thing, but the view from up there would be incredible. There is just too many people and I think that if the fireworks don’t start soon, I may want to head back out of the crowds and to the Le Comptoir de Mathilde for some Noix Noisettes, hot chocolate prepared in little square pieces with a spoon stuck inside that you simply dip into warm milk and mix so the chocolate melts into it. Read More

Tulip Country

“You like what you see?” he said, pressing down toward his crotch as the others laughed, all five of them now cornering us. They were drunk. Scottish men in Kilts touring Amsterdam for a football match and who thought that they can celebrate the win by visiting the Red Light District at the same time my friend from Canberra had asked me to join her.

“I told you I didn’t want to come here,” I whispered, feeling the tension quake through my veins, mostly from anger. People often think my hands shake from fear, but it is far from that, shuddering from the pressure of controlling and suppressing my indignation knowing that it might get me into more trouble. Read More

My Doco: As It Happened – Ongoing Stories of the Nakba

I am very excited to permanently add my first documentary to my blog. At the moment, I am a semi-finalist for three international film festival awards – two in The Netherlands and one in Italy – and have won a monthly award for best world cinema documentary! It is nice to be recognised, however small and new to filmmaking I am, but it is more about helping me send the message of these youngsters to as many people as I can.

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