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No “Occupied Palestinian Territories”

Categories: Midd Blogosphere
Маги Назер и приятели на празненството по случай отбелязването на международния ден на Йерусалим

Маги Назер и приятели на празненството по случай отбелязването на международния ден на Йерусалим

Today I attended the Celebration of the International Day of Jerusalem in Sofia which featured talks by the Palestinian and Iranian Embassadors in Bulgaria and other high profile individuals related to the politics of the Middle East. The talks all revolved aroun the current situation in Gaza and on the West Bank, so at the end I asked to adress the public and was actually given the floor without being on the schedule or even knowing the organizers in advance.
I shortly shared my impressions as an intern who has returned from Palestine just 3 days ago and I emphasised on how engaged the Palestinian youth is and how much perseverance despite all I’ve seen in the Palestinian people.
During the event we were also told that today the Bulgarian parliament (?) has accepted a change in the official protocal and will no more use the terms “Occupied Teritorries” in any of the country’s official corespondence. This is a little act of support, but it’s well meant, so it’s appreciated.
So, dear fellow Bulgarians, please, never use the term “Occupied Palestinian Territories”. It’s Palestine. : )


Sofia today

Categories: Midd Blogosphere
Sofia in its Majesty Photo credit: Strahil Vasilev

Sofia in its Majesty Photo credit: Strahil Vasilev

(First day back home after 2 months in Palestine)

I don’t know if it’s because I was in the Middle East for the past two months, so my perception is distorted, but I saw disproportionally many people hugging and kissing or both in Sofia today.

Needless to say, I’m very hopefull about the future of my Country Bulgaria : )

Spread this LOVE. please : ) The world needs it. We all do.

Sofia Photo Credit: Strahil Vasilev


My 21st Birthday in Palestine

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

In second grade I invited my classmates and friends from school to celebrate my birthday. My mom and I cooked all day and prepared a one-of-a-kind home-made Barbie-like cake with a real doll inside. It was perfect.

When nobody came I stayed at our apartment’s balcony hoping that people are just late, crying. The only kid who showed up was a girl I used to go to kindergarden with whom I had randomly met and invited the previous day. This girl, Lina Stankova, soon became my best friend and has been a best friend in the true meaning of the word ever since.

As I grew up I stopped being excited for birthdays. I think it was just less painful than expecting much and getting dissapointed, especially on the day the world tells you should be your one “special day”.

Of course, I have had great birthdays afterwards that I have shared with amazing friends.

This year, for the second time, I celebrated my birthday out of my homeland Bulgaria. And this time for the first time in a very long while I allowed myself to really be excited!

May be it’s the culture, or simply the people here, but I have felt so much loved and supported here that I have indeed grown to love this place as my second home which, by the way, it is supposed to be (my father is Palestinian). I’m also happy to say that I have found a place which I not only want to visit again, but to stay at (for a while) and work at.

on 8th of July, my birthday, I was nourished in the love of my students, my colleagues, my cousins, my friends and other beautiful people that I may not have yet had the chance to connect deeply. They all gathered and planned my celebration, gave me beautiful gifts, but most importantly granted me with their attention, their acknowledgement and unconditional positive regard.

I was so delighted to hear my cousin Dana Nazer say she saw the boys from my English classes walking around the Hebron Mall going inside all the women shops to search for a present for me!

Thank you all who were present with me yesterday and who thought of me from across continents! I am deeply touched and so HAPPY!

Happy birthday, Maggie Nazer!


Gender in Bulgaria (summary)

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Gender in Bulgaria at a glance- World Bank Report

Gender Pay GapI stumbled upon this super concise document produced by the World Bank in Bulgaria which takes a look at gender and the distribution of employment and education between the genders.

I’m not at all surprised with the findings that, indeed, there is gender balance in Bulgaria and while we have not yet had a woman President, women are somewhat well represented in Parliament (holding 25% of seats and making up for 19% of Ministers as of 2013).

Again, not surprisingly man and women’s occupation are distributed in a rather traditional manner, women holding above 50% of positions in Education and Health and men dominating the labor fields of engineering, manufacturing and construction.

This fact itself calls for further action in terms of diversifying the gender make up of these fields in order to cope with stereotypes coming from traditional thinking that create false beliefs and disallow young men and women to pursue any career interest.

It’s worth mentioning that the wage gap in Bulgaria (the difference between the salaries received by men and women) is lower than the average for the European Union member states and equals only 13%.

belgiq-integrira-romi-imigrantiThe document presents an interesting statistical comparison between Roma and non-Roma population in Bulgaria and points out at the perceivable gender imbalance  between men and women from the first group. Presumably due to culture differences in marriage, childbirth and other customs, in addition to societal expectations and/or discrimination Roma women are drastically less employed (26%) than non-Roma women (56%). Moreover, it is safe to assume that the occupations Roma women hold differ significantly in terms of specialization, quality of working conditions and wages provided.

The chart on the Roma population points at the significantly lower number of years of school attendance for Roma children and youth (7.1 for Roma men, 6.2 for Roma women, compared with 11.1/11.3 for the Non-Roma population). Interestingly, research on the attitudes of this group shows stronger patriarchal and heteronormative attitudes in the Roma community where 52% of men and 38% of women approve of instances of domestic violence towards women.

non-heteronormative martenitsi by Maria Vassileva FlicrThis document while useful with its conciseness leaves out underrepresented groups which don’t identify with their assigned gender (transgender) or have a different understanding on gender (whether genderqueer, genderfluid, etc.) and takes a look at Bulgarian society from the persistent and pervasive heteronormative perspective which creates gender outcasts and disallows the socially inclusive study of society that could really foster dialogue about gender.

It is important as we read and review documents on topics as gender which, indeed, have the potential to acquire mass public interest to introduce the modern language and concepts associated with the topic. Such un-intrusive informal education calls for respect and acknowledgement of the differences between people and creates opportunities for both individuals and society as a whole to self-actualize.

 

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My Freshman Hell

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

As I walked, biked and pushed myself over my limits for about 350 kilometres from Leon to Santiago de Compostella as I did Camino de Santiago, I learned what God truly meant to me.

I had always known that God was part of me and I was part of God. Pushing over the Spanish hills and mountains, sick, sweaty, challenged beyond my strength, I learned that God was at all time present in my life- I learned to see God in the eyes and faces of my fellow piligrims who offered me their water bottles, their words of motivation, their food or money. God for me, you know, is Love.

In 4 days I hitchhiked alone from Spain to Bulgaria.  I was alone and profoundly vulnerable, yet I felt no fear. I had unshakable trust in human beings. I knew my Love was my strength, my “weapon”; my tool for change, for advocacy, for exchange. And I was in a process of constant exchange of love, ideas, warmth and kindness which I knew transformed not only me.

There were some rear occasions when people tried to take advantage of my energy in ways I could not appreciate, yet I learned to accept and view them as simply instances of deprivation of what is so important for us, human beings- love and human connection. Nothing could hurt me. I was powerful in my vulnerability.

*

I came to college trusting that I had nothing to hide, trusting in the community I was being introduced to as I trusted the strangers I met on the highways across Europe, who often went out of their way to help me be safe, hitchiking.

I came to college in the United States of America to learn that women are, indeed, marginalized.

I learned that as a female writer tackling sexuality and polyamory I was inherently making myself a subject of discrimination and sexualization.

What’s worst I found out that people think it’s fair. If I can choose not to write about sexuality, yet I pick the alternative, than I must be searching for it…

There was this point in my second semester… I had even stopped writing my “Love and sexuality” column, which I otherwise saw as an opportunity to share my views and contribute for the diversity of alternatives, of ideas, of philosophies, and even educate, in a way.

My guy friends. My girlfriends. My gay friends. They just all wanted to explore their boundaries. With me. It was sickening.

The idea that people reduced me to just one array of my knowledge and experience was sickening.

It was sickening  to see how IT WASN’T ABOUT ME.

It was sickening to realize that in this environment I had to watch out for myself.

When instant gratification is the ultimate aim of a certain body of people, everything translates into sex. Kundalini becomes sex. Love distorts into sex. Intimacy, connection, all of that is lost for the sake of sex.

And yes, I am sex positive, but in my mind, in my life and in my writing sex is only one of many paths to human connection.

**

I learned that no one goes on dates in college and that if you are “lucky” to go out with someone, then the person will simply assume they have the right to your body by the end of the night as a prize for the extra effort to even take you out…

I learned that relationships are conditional. Relationships work as long as it’s fun, as long as you don’t have to work at it.

I remember being at New York, couchsurfing during Feb break, and just realizing how fearful I’ve become of truly expressing myself and expressing what I am and I’m not comfortable with out of pure fear not to lose any more people…

I learned that I’m “too much”.

And that the ideal relationship in college consist of no more than 3 things: partying, watching Netflix together and having sex.

I learned that both romantic partners and friends alike will not acknowledge my existence once the relationship transforms/ends. That it does not matter how much laughter, tears and secrets we’ve given to each other, people can treat you as an absolute stranger without a blink of the eye.

Do people forget THAT FAST?

HOW?

How do you sleep next to someone night after night and then treat them as shit?

How do you see your “best friend” you have pushed away and not at least tell them you appreciate them and your past even if you need something else at the moment?

How do you forget that there is another human being in front of you and that the Other is not an inanimate object, but a living being with emotions and feelings just like you?

In my freshman year at college I learned that no matter how present I am, I may still be invisible. That I can hold a “friend”‘s hand as she cries and tells me she’s all alone and I may still not exist.

I learned what it feels like to feel used. I genuinely care about people. I try my best to be available for people. I believe in the power of sharing. I believe human connection can heal even very deep wounds. But as I was listening to people and experiencing their pain with them, I found out people stopped asking: “How are you?”.

I told myself it was me. I must be presenting myself as “strong”, as not needing support. I probably just don’t give people an entry to myself, no matter how open and approachable I see myself, it probably just isn’t enough… But when after a terrible night I went to the counselling center feeling worse than I’ve ever felt (with all my past) and shared that with some people I believed I was connected to, there was nothing… NOTHING.

And we just kept on the conversation…

***

I have learned a lot in and out of the classroom this year, at college, in the United States of America.

And while I receive full financial aid and don’t really pay anything monetarily, my education is already overpriced.

I have lost so much over this year. It’s been a very high price.

I have not stopped trying to stay true to myself and Be love and Give love, no matter if there’s any return.

It’s been SO hurting. So difficult to see how nothing is working.

For me this is crucial. I learn through my relationships with people. I grow and transform through my putting my love into everything that is important to me.

I can not put aside my heart to educate my brain.

And If I waste my time writing this it is because, apart from helping me stay sane, I still hope there are people out there and on this campus who might share a similar vision with me for an education and a world that does not require you to be either happy or successful and that we can stay grounded in our humanity and make the extra effort to connect and build reationships based on honesty and love and consideration for the other.

 

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Destination Recreation: Christmas Tree Farms

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Destination Recreation: Christmas Tree Farms.

Here I am on the Vermont WCAX TV Channel Check out the vid and don’t mind my hair! MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – WCAX

Whether it’s already cut and waiting or still hiding in the field, a tree farm can hold that perfect centerpiece for your holiday living room.

And at Werner Tree Farm in Middlebury, they say picking out your own tree at a farm is a traditional Vermont Christmas experience.

“I think in Vermont people are more willing to go out take a walk and cut their own tree down and get their hands a little bit dirty,” says manager Amanda Werner.

Most people make it a family outing, she says, getting outdoors and spending time together.

“Part of that is being able to come out and walk around the grounds and look at the trees. A lot of people, even the ones that end up getting a pre-cut tree, like to walk through the fields,” she says.

One visitor to the farm is Maggie Nazer, an exchange student at Middlebury College. She says in Bulgaria they bought their trees from vendors on the street. This is her first time to a tree farm, and she has friends to help her.

The group is learning a few things in the field, such as why it’s important to know the height of your ceiling before you get to the farm.

“A standard ceiling is about eight feet tall which means you might have to make it a little bit shorter. If you do, I’d suggest doing it from the bottom so you keep the shape of the tree intact,” Werner advises.

A few minutes later, they spot the one. Nazer gets to cut it down.

“Wow it smells so good,” she says.

Once the tree is brought out of the field they put netting around it and then tie it down to the car. This tree is headed to the Middlebury campus, where students will make ornaments for it.

“It’s amazing. It’s so much fun. I think it’s great just having this ritual and really be able to feel the Christmas spirit,” says Nazer.

She’s one of many getting her tree here. The farm says they sold 1,200 last year and expect to do even more this year as demand increases.