Raising Kids in Abu Dhabi: Adolescent Boredom and Expanded World Views?

Raising Kids in Abu Dhabi: Adolescent Boredom and Expanded World Views?

“Abu Dhabi is a great place to raise kids,” said the repair guy in our New York apartment building, about a month before we shlepped ourselves and our two kids halfway around the world. “My brother and his family love it there,” he added.

His words surprised me. Everyone else we talked to worried about our safety; my father-in-law kept asking if we’d made our wills.

That was ten years ago. The repair guy was right. It is safe. I never lock my car; I leave my purse on the table in the coffee shop when I go to the bathroom.

We moved for what I thought would be a year of Big Adventure—but we’re still here and it has been, on balance, a great place to raise kids.

Or at least, that’s my perspective. My kids, who were 7 & 11 when we moved here, have a different view: it’s the most boring place; there’s nothing to do; it’s so hot. Maybe their dissatisfaction is age-appropriate: other than those kids who live in glittery cities like London, New York, Hong Kong, does any kid in the years just before university like where they live?

What I see and my kids can’t, because their ten years here is all they know, is that their center of gravity has been forever shifted. They’re mixed-race American kids who grew up in “Arabia” and went to a British-style school, which meant GCSEs and A-levels and needing boots to play football on a pitch (translation: cleats to play soccer on the field). A mishmash, in short. Not quite third-culture kids but not not third-culture kids.

It’s true that if you live in a big city in the US or Europe, you’re likely going to bump up against other cultures, ethnicities, and languages. As Westerners living in the non-West, though, the learning, or maybe the un-learning, comes from living as a guest, living in a place where yours is not the dominant experience.

Because they’ve grown up in this (boring) Muslim country, my kids are comfortable with practices that are still regarded with suspicion by far too many people in the US (and elsewhere). I remember a few years back when I was about to take a gaggle of boys to the waterpark. “Just a few minutes, Mom,” my son said. “T. is doing his prayers in the other room and then we can go.”

Living in a Muslim country also means adapting to religious holidays that appear according to the lunar calendar: the birthday of the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) had been marked on the school calendar as 19 October. . . and will now be celebrated on the 21st. Same with Ramadan: we know approximately when it will start, but the exact date depends on when the moon-sighting committee sees the new moon, which signals the start of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.

Granted, living here also means that when the school year started, my younger son had to dye his hair back to its normal dark brown after a summer of being a glorious silvery lavender, but I think that’s more to do with British prep-school fussiness than anything else. At the American school here, kids have hair in every shade of the rainbow. I reminded him that he’s graduating at the end of this year, and then he’s got an entire lifetime to experiment with wild hair color.

The UAE is a very young country in an ancient part of the world. For the entire decade that we’ve lived here, my kids have delighted in reminding me that I am older than the country, which really isn’t as funny as they think it is. What I hope is that by growing up in a country that is itself growing up, they’ve seen how change is possible: Abu Dhabi, for example, is in the midst of an ambitious plan to transform its economy away from reliance on fossil fuel (there are a lot of Teslas on the roads here). More importantly, they have grown up with the lived experience that the US is not the center of the world. Their adolescent boredom with Abu Dhabi seems to me a small price to pay for that awareness.

Mannahattamamma (UAE)

After twenty-plus years in Manhattan, Deborah Quinn and her family moved to Abu Dhabi (in the United Arab Emirates), where she spends a great deal of time driving her sons back and forth to soccer practice. She writes about travel, politics, feminism, education, and the absurdities of living in a place where temperatures regularly go above 110F.
Deborah can also be found on her blog, Mannahattamamma.

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Sustainable Development Goal #3: Let’s Keep HUMANITY Alive

Sustainable Development Goal #3: Let’s Keep HUMANITY Alive

I underwent breast surgery last Monday and, as a mother of four, aged 12 to 2, I was terrified. Terrified not to be able to make it, terrified to be left with terrible injuries, terrified of being left with a disability. This terror was because I live in one of the poorest countries of the world, Madagascar. Healthcare is not a priority here. I was maybe supposing that the surgeon and his team would not be as skilled as expected, or that we will have a power cut during the intervention (which is so frequent here), or that we will lack drugs and treatment after the surgery, or whatever challenges linked to a poor health sector.

But everything went well, and here I am to testify it.

I feel shameful for all these fears and feel grateful for the miracle of being alive. I had the chance to be in a private hospital. An old hospital where everyone is full of respect for the patients and where old machines are being maintained alive. Nonetheless, I feel lucky because I could afford the surgery and the treatment. I feel privileged to have a job even if I don’t have medical insurance, to pay for my healthcare. This is not the case for everyone and I bet this health scarcity also strikes elsewhere in the world. Every day, I hear a lot of horrible stories of mothers, who couldn’t give birth to their children safely. It was because they were located far from a medical center. I also hear stories of death, because they had no money at all.

In Madagascar, the ratio of physician to patient is one for thousands of people (if you are lucky).

In rural areas, you have to walk twenty kilometers (sometimes more) to reach the nearest health center. Here, a nurse, deprived of medical supplies and drugs will wait for you. You can lose your life for a small injury that can be treated in 10 minutes in developed countries. This is not fair, and I’m deeply introspecting about it while recovering from my wounds, in my privileged scarcity.

Then I remembered I had to write an article for the World Moms Network. I couldn’t do so in time, because of the above-mentioned reason. September 15th was International Democracy Day and I wanted to write about it. I also wanted to write about peace as September 21st was the International Day of Peace. But there won’t be any peace in the world as long as some men and women, of all ages, cannot afford decent healthcare. I feel that democracy is unreachable if you don’t have healthy bodies and minds able to claim for more justice, more accountability, and transparency. These big words will remain illusions if we don’t take care of the human part of the story first.

Therefore, I would like to dedicate this post to SDG #3.

To ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages is at the core of any struggle. I’m not only pledging for my country where only less than 15% of the national budget is dedicated to healthcare, even during the pandemic. I would love to see a worldwide move towards better healthcare for all. Let us build a world where we take care of everyone, no matter his/her age, origin, or finances. Among others, this dream implies providing access to medicines and vaccines for all. It means supporting the R&D of vaccines and medicines for all; increasing health financing and health workforce in developing countries. It needs political will and commitment and it needs the support of all stakeholders, at all levels.

But SDGs are also dependent on one another. And the attainment of SDG #3 also requests the achievement of all the 16 other ones. Abolish gender discrimination; Improve the skills of health workers – and this means, equal access to education for all and provide energy for hospitals to function properly. Make the 2030 agenda a top priority everywhere in the world and achieve it by all means. I’m surely not the one who thought of this in the first place. I don’t have any pretension to being the one who will unlock hearts and minds for better progress regarding SDGs. My personal situation is nothing compared to the world suffering, from wars, starvation, and all kinds of injustice. I’m just a worried mother who took conscience of the scarcity of life and who is wishing for the better.

Kudos to all health workers around the world; thank you for your commitment and dedication to serving humanity.

Kudos to all moms (and everyone) who are struggling somewhere. Hope lies in our hands, we all can act for things to improve. Heads up soldiers of good! 

Which SDG are you passionate about and why?

This is an original post for World Moms Network by our contributor in Madagascar, Ketakandriana Rafitoson.

Image credits: The Author and the #UNSDG website (used digitally based on their guidelines).

Advice for the First Bird Leaving the Nest

Advice for the First Bird Leaving the Nest

Years ago (many years but not many many), I headed to London to start University at the age of 18. Moving from Riyadh, where I was accustom to always asking permission from my parents before going out, having a chaperone with me in the car with the driver, and living my life as a little cog in a beautiful machine of family bonds and obligation for the priceless gift of a built-in support network.

Then suddenly I’m in London, freaking out at my sister for expecting me to take a cab home alone when I wanted to leave dinner early. It was a rude awakening, but I adapted quickly. It took one trip back home after feeling helplessly homesick to realize that home was there, very much the same as I had left it. And that was the beginning of my love story with London.

Today I look at Saud, my 18-year-old son, getting ready to go live in London, and I am sifting through my experiences to find some wisdom to give him. Some grain of truth that is still true today. Except I cannot find any that would be useful to him. 

Is it because he’s a boy/man?

Is it because he went to an American coed school and interacted with many different people from different backgrounds?

Is it because the world has become a fishbowl with the same exact references, musical preferences, and lingo?

If I knew then what I know now, it would be utterly useless as well. There is equally more and less to be scared of. Or just different things to be scared of. For me, as a parent, I mean. He has the baseless fearlessness any 18-year-old boy has, going into the world. 

I got married right out of University. And I had Saud before my first anniversary. 

Having him at the age of 23 means my memories, feelings, and experiences of those 4 years in London are clear in my mind.

Saud and his friend on graduation day

It also means that the lines blur in my head at times. Yes, I do know that I am preparing him for University, not myself. (My husband keeps reminding me.) But when I told my friend in London that I was feeling emotional about him leaving she said “because you’ll miss him? Or because you are jealous?”

And if I am being 100% honest, it is both. 

Before I go on, I am designating this as my safe space to say how I feel, not how I will act. So reading on, do not worry that I will a) hold Saud hostage in Riyadh or b) enroll in his University (I think he genuinely is a bit worried this will happen).

I will miss this cog in the machine of our family that will leave a space we will all have to move and adjust to fill. He has a significant function in this machine. I don’t want to get used to him not being here. When one of my children is away on a sleepover or such, there is something odd about the rest of us there without them, like a car missing one wheel. I don’t know if I want to get used to missing a wheel.

On the other hand, I cannot forget the feeling of walking into places full of people who have no idea who I am or who my parents are. 

The luxury of no one recognizing my name (because everyone knows everyone in Saudi) and asking, “How are you related to so and so?”

Or not having someone wall up to you to tell you they know your brother/sister/mother/cousin etc.

In London, you are just a person, in a class, with other people, and no one could care less. 

For a brief moment, you are just ‘you’. You are not everyone you represent (if you come from a community with big family trees and tribal roots you will understand where I am coming from).

What I also am, maybe, a bit envious of is University. I do want to do it all over again.

My son put so much more thought into it than I did and wants to go back in time and make better decisions.

Granted, we were of the first generation of women of our family who studied abroad. Actually, that’s not true… My mother studied in Switzerland, and we had many women graduate from world-leading universities for generations. But we were the first in our small community, I guess. 

There was not a calling behind me choosing my major. My sister went into “Visual Communications”, So I went into it because it looked fun.

I want a do-over. But with a time machine. I have no inclination to enroll, as a 41-year-old with a bunch of 18-year-olds. 

I want to share with you the advice I gave my son for his first time away from home and ask you to share with me your advice for him. Although some of mine are based on our culture and religion, it does not mean the principle behind it does not apply elsewhere. At the core, we all want and need the same things. To continue to pray on time and with intention*. It took me a while to figure out that praying is for my benefit. That I need to pray, not have to pray. We begin to ask our children to pray with us at 7 and are expected to pray consistently from 9. It doesn’t always become a habit at that age, but it’s something we all do at the same time every day, 5 times a day. Eventually, it’s a habit. But the beauty comes when you do it with intention. The benefit of habit is exercising your ability to consistently do something every day of your life. How would that work if you applied the same commitments to other areas of your life like exercising or reading or work? The spiritual benefit is standing between God’s hands every day, 5 times and day, and opening your heart to Him. To leave any situation that goes against his values. I remember clearly being in a specific situation where people acted in ways that went against my values. And I just sat there. I want him to have the strength to leave when he’s not comfortable. This is the only time in his life he will be held accountable to himself alone. Before this, he was held accountable by the teacher and us, his parents. After this, he will be held accountable at work. Now it’s entirely up to him what choices he makes. There is a beauty in that freedom but also a responsibility. I want him to revel in it and at the same time not take advantage of it. To keep his apartment clean! Mostly because I plan to come by as often as possible and because it’s good life skills. I think there is no better indication of adulthood than a person who can keep their space clean! 

And then my advice runs dry. 

I have volumes upon volumes of advice I learned when I was a teenager. And I unfortunately still have to give my daughter.

Such as how to hold her keys between her fingers so she can punch someone and make it hurt if she’s walking home alone. 

How to always have a friend tracking her location when she’s going home after dinner. 

How not to leave a drink on the table un-watched if she goes to the bathroom in a crowded restaurant. But this is a whole other article.

 What advice can you give my son before starting University this fall? 

*As Muslims, we pray 5 times a day. While abroad for study or for work in a situation that does not always accommodate, we can pray some of the prayers together at one time for convenience. Praying is the foundation of our religion. 

Mama B (Saudi Arabia)

Mama B’s a young mother of four beautiful children who leave her speechless in both, good ways and bad. She has been married for 9 years and has lived in London twice in her life. The first time was before marriage (for 4 years) and then again after marriage and kid number 2 (for almost 2 years). She is settled now in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (or as settled as one can be while renovating a house). Mama B loves writing and has been doing it since she could pick up a crayon. Then, for reasons beyond her comprehension, she did not study to become a writer, but instead took graphic design courses. Mama B writes about the challenges of raising children in this world, as it is, who are happy, confident, self reliant and productive without driving them (or herself) insane in the process. Mama B also sheds some light on the life of Saudi, Muslim children but does not claim to be the voice of all mothers or children in Saudi. Just her little "tribe." She has a huge, beautiful, loving family of brothers and sisters that make her feel like she wants to give her kids a huge, loving family of brothers and sisters, but then is snapped out of it by one of her three monkeys screaming “Ya Maamaa” (Ya being the arabic word for ‘hey’). You can find Mama B writing at her blog, Ya Maamaa . She's also on Twitter @YaMaamaa.

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What Our Words Can Do

What Our Words Can Do

What do you think about when you hear I am from Israel? 

(Don’t worry, I am not about to get into the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. But the fact that we go there, and not usually in a good way, is kind of my point – and what I am going to talk about.)

It is exciting and a real privilege to be part of an international community – it’s one of the blessings of our generation, the ease with which we can interact with anyone, anywhere in the world. But what is it that we will use this power for? What benefit can we create with this gift we have been given? 

I have started about 10 different articles – for this – my first communication with all of you amazing people – and none felt exactly right. I love writing humorous pieces or sharing little moments of my life, but I feel that I first want to share something else. This. 

Everywhere we turn, it feels polarities are gaining strength and becoming volatile. Either you are with us or against us. So often when people speak about a person with whom they don’t agree, it’s with vehemence, or even with hate. Sometimes it’s because those opinions themselves are so extreme that they feel anathema to the values which we hold dear. It’s not as easy as just to say – accept everyone when some of those opinions or thoughts feel so wrong – and harmful.  So that’s where we are today, and it sucks. 

I don’t think I really ever experienced anti-Semitism in my life. Except for once, when I was in middle or high school, someone dropped pennies in front of me, but I didn’t even know what it meant and the boy with me knew and started swearing at the perpetrators and I think at the time I was more shocked by the way he spoke. (Apparently, they throw it because Jews love money so if I bend down to pick it up then it shows how desperately greedy I am. Even if I pick it up to give it back, which is kind of what I was thinking of doing until I was told why they did that. I was incredulous. How could someone look at me and want to do that?) This year, in some liberal spaces, which is always where I have always felt most at home spiritually, I have seen such venomous anti-Semitism, towards me, that, although it did not insult me per se, I am old enough and maybe thick-skinned enough to not be personally insulted by keyboard warriors, but the hate, it shocked me to my core. And yes, I know the Israel issue isn’t necessarily anti-Semitism, but the conversations I am talking about were purely anti-Semitic. I have never felt anything like it. 

And let’s face it – if those people who spewed hate at me really wanted to change something – would their calling me names make me change my beliefs? Would their wishing me dead make me go away? None of this does anything but make us more extreme. “Ah, you hate me. Ok, then, I will go in my corner and hate you…! Do you say awful things about me? I will say worse things about you!” Kind of back to 2nd grade. But it’s human nature. It feels scary to be sidelined, maligned, misunderstood, lied about. It doesn’t make someone want to engage, love, understand – it makes them want to hide, defend, protect. And this is true for anyone: democrats arguing with republicans, socialists arguing with libertarians, conservatives arguing with progressive. The more we polarize, the more we hide in our corners and send daggers out, to protect ourselves. 

So where does that leave us? Good people of the world who want to change the energy? How can we create change in a real way, in a way that doesn’t disrespect anyone, that includes and connects rather than separates and polarizes?

There is one thing that I believe in with all my heart. It’s something that I spent years trying to implement and figure out. This thing is the power of our words. 

Photo by Jeremy Beck on Unsplash

Words create. In the Old Testament, we are told this straight out – with no filter – God spoke the world into being. And then, it continues to say something that we don’t always remember: that we were created in God’s image, and therefore, we also speak our worlds into being. And the Old Testament is only my most convenient source material for this information – it is everywhere, and not connected to one culture or another. I have encountered this theory, this knowing, in so many of the traditions and cultures I have become acquainted with in my life; the power of words to create is a universal belief. It’s a human power.

The way we talk about something absolutely affects what exists. I have known this for all of my life and still, I don’t always know how to implement it in real time. 

In a lot of our self-help seminars we talk about this. Many of us use these concepts to help ourselves change our lives. 

On a personal level, this means –

We can’t have what we don’t believe we can have. 

We can only create what we imagine. And once we imagine our dreams, we need to speak them into being. Think about your own life and you will see how true this is. The things that exist aren’t necessarily what you have wished for – but what you believe you could have and what you have spoken about – and then taken action on. The action is of course important. But the belief and the words always come first. 

And I always think – this is just as true on a societal level. We spend all our time in fighting injustice, angry at what’s wrong – but how much energy do we spend building what we want – with our words?  I do it myself. I get angry at a political leader – and rile against things that I think are harmful. But how much do I concentrate my thought power, my incredibly creative and powerful thought power, to imagine what I want into reality? Why don’t I use my words to talk about what I do want instead of complaining about what is wrong? What would my world look like if I did that religiously and with intent? 

There’s one more thing I want to talk about – it’s connected. I have a great friend. I genuinely love him dearly. (I was going to write “but” – but the proper term is “and”) – and we are diametrically opposed politically. I sometimes read what he writes on Facebook and I visibly cringe. I can’t understand how he thinks that way. I don’t like talking politics with him because I know we aren’t going to convince each other – but sometimes he really corners me into a conversation – and while I vehemently disagree with his conclusions – I discover that his reasoning is not as “evil” as I worried. He is not basing his ideas on a nasty world view but a difference of belief in how to achieve good for all. And so, in this, I discover that there may be a way forward – there is enough common ground to build a future. Because the result that we both want is a good future for all. We disagree – vehemently perhaps – at how to get there. 

There is a concept in Judaism (probably in other cultures too – I just don’t know it from elsewhere that says “dan lekav zechut” – when we are appraising people, we should judge favorably, we should expect that they have good reasons – try to see them in the best possible light. Now, this is hard to do – we get angry at the person who cut us off in the road and it’s hard to think – oh, he is probably running home to pick up his sick child from school. But that is the idea. To try and judge favorably. Even in the most unlikely situations. When someone writes awful things about me and my people – like really awful – don’t run into my corner and think – what an evil person. What a monster! But, turn it around. This person is speaking from the knowledge that they know and coming to harsh conclusions. This person is speaking from a place of trying to do good in the world – but they haven’t been able to see me. Now, this doesn’t mean I accept the bad but I use my energy to send love to this person – not to send hate. I don’t descend into the spiral of sending hate as a result of hate. Now when I say “I send”, this is of course a figure of speech. I should be writing – I try. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don’t. This is a work in progress. It’s where I am aiming. It is what I know to be the building blocks of crystallizing myself to transform my world. 

And so this is my practice, and I share it with you. This is what I work on in order to create a world that I want for my child. Using my words to create what I want and when I meet the opposite, “dana lekaf zechut” I do my best to send good energy and judge favorably. And in a place of conflict, I send my energy to creating the best possible result for all involved. I don’t waste time “knowing the answers” – but send my energy to creating peace and happiness for all sides and let God or the universe – whatever we believe in – take that energy and turn it into gold. 

The Pandemic, Traveling and the Power of NOW

The Pandemic, Traveling and the Power of NOW

World Moms Network changed my life.

The first time I traveled out of my country was in 2013. Jennifer Burden, Founder of World Moms Network, celebrated. She couldn’t stop talking about it on social media. I went to Chicago to collect the BlogHer International Activist Award on behalf of World Moms Network (at that time we were still World Moms Blog). That trip was life-changing.

Less than a year later, I went to Brazil on a reporting project, also representing World Moms Network [WMN]. It was my third time out of India. Jen sent me a card that said, “Report your heart out.” The words have stayed with me ever since and every trip after that continued to be life-changing. 

Now the world has changed and travel is restricted.

As I write this from India, we cannot travel to the next block or even the supermarket. So what of travels on planes or cars or trains, or even trucks? 

From an early age, my father used to take me on trips all over India, a few times every year. We used to attend a lot of the Heartfulness events, which happened all over India. I enjoyed not just the pleasure of a trip but also connecting heartfully with new people. Being part of events and celebrations, and networking with people for a purpose, for altruism, for serving humanity has always been part of my life. Perhaps being part of the World Moms Network, is a naturally joyful process because of that lifelong experience of trying newness, initiated by my father. 

So, traveling to the USA, or the UK or Brazil, and other countries was an extension of my childhood. The evolution of learning; the journey of growing as a person; the joy of seemingly tiny moments, continued.

Traveling is a privilege not a necessity.

Let me make a few things clear before I continue. First, I was not born into privilege but to a middle-class family. We saved money for our travels across India. That felt important to my father and as an extension to us. Second, now that we travel outside of India, we still save money, because that continues to be important to us as a family.

Also, I would like to point out, if you make intelligent financial decisions while planning travel, you can make it more affordable.

Also, for those who have challenging financial situations, I am not saying it is imperative for you to travel to find meaning in life. I would never say that. That would be thoughtless. I am not one to judge anyone. I am merely sharing my heart, my experiences, and my joys.

Adrianna and her son in Brazil

Traveling has made my heart softer.

Though not born into privilege, I lived in a very privileged atmosphere within my family, with all my needs fulfilled as well as some wants, and even a few luxuries. Though we were just a normal middle-class family, we were also content, satisfied, and always joyful – my father made sure of that. So, I have never had a need go unmet.

These days, every time I come across a mother in the slums, I am constantly reminded of Adrianna from Brazil, whom I met during one of the reporting trips. I wonder if all her 11 children are fed and receive an education. I wonder if she has a good job. I wonder if she is happy. I wonder if she had any more children. It makes me think of not only her but also about many other people Around the world.

I also think of Karma, the guide I met in Bhutan. He told us that, at the juncture of every Buddhist shrine, he is going to pray to Buddha so that he gets admitted to a university in Paris for his postgraduate degree in tourism. I wonder if he got in, and if he did, what is he doing now? And what happened to him when the world went into lockdown, with the tourist industry being the worst affected of all.

With Karma in Bhutan

Just before lockdown, my family and I traveled to Egypt. In Luxor, we met Abdul, our guide. He had just had a baby and was always impatiently (and endearingly) waiting for us to wrap up our day, so he could rush home to his wife and baby. Where are they now? How are they managing their livelihood? 

Traveling makes us think.

It expands our horizon; it helps create empathy; it has made me care more. I care for Abdul’s family. I care for Karma’s aspirations. I care for Adrianna and her babies. But I also know that my caring for them alone is not going to help them. A larger force is necessary for the world to get back to normal, to defeat that tiny microscopic invisible virus, now mutating into other variants. 

Traveling instills joy.

And now, not being able to travel, has made life very different. I look for joy in other things. I have discovered the joy of long walks. During the beginning of lockdown, there was just a ban on international and domestic travel but we could still move freely within the city and state. I used to go walking here in Chennai by the banks of the River Adyar. I spent nearly 2 hours every evening, walking beside the river. The narrow dirt road, the setting sun, the buffaloes bathing in the river, cranes and a few exotic seasonal birds hopping by to say hello, and me listening to my favorite Laurie Santos podcast. Now, even these are nostalgic these days.

Finding joy in other ways

On Thursdays, I would take my weekly WMN Editors’ call as I walked. Sometimes I would have just returned from my walk, with a fresh mind and joy in my heart, I would bond with my WMN girlfriends over a cup of hot ginger chai. On other days, I used to walk my feet off, and it felt good. Walking was my substitute to travel, it felt like trekking or hiking. But now, with my state entering complete lockdown, I miss my walks too. I miss the goats and buffaloes walking towards me and meeting occasional friends on the walking trail.

Lessons learned

One thing I have learned through all the travels, through all the walks, through all the lockdowns—which India is now so famous for—is to be in the HERE and NOW. To be present. The planning of the relaunch of the World Moms Network was the highest point in my life. I say the highest because I was at my lowest possible and it was these wonderful women from WMN who perked me up EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. That gift was the most important for me then. The relaunch? Yes, of course, now that Is also a gift but the invaluable presence of the planning phase was when I felt the greatest joy. 

Have you ever experienced the joy of a trek? I have. When we rowed the Phewa lake in Nepal and then trekked over a hilltop. We took breaks in between to drink chai from the village chai shops. When we finally reached the top of Peace Pagoda, it was like deja vu. I am sure you understand that. The joy of the journey of the NOW was the greatest. The sights and sounds and smells of the NOW were more precious than any future sightings of a heritage site. 

Traveling has made me appreciate the power of the now. 

But what of the NOW we are all going through? I will not be surprised if I feel nostalgic someday about the NOW of the pandemic. I already missed my girls last Thursday, when we did not meet (because of conflicts) for our editorial meeting. 

What else will I miss? Surely having my son around all the time. He is having a great time with two monitors attached to his laptop—one with online chess and the other with online school—as I holler in the background to close the chess window and focus on the school. I am sure I will feel lonely when he is back to full-time school and away from home for 8 hours. 

It is best to stay here and enjoy and be grateful for all that I have now.

Yes, I do miss traveling but I think I enjoy drinking chai every evening with my neighborhood girlfriends on the terrace of my house. And no trip can replace the soul-stirring conversation we have every day. 

Travelling gives me joy, zest, but this lockdown has given me so much rest too. It makes me take leaps of faith into the unknown. Lockdown has restored my faith in humanity too when I witness so many random acts of kindness between strangers. Travelling has made me realize that I know so little of this whole world and that there is so much more to know and experience and eat and see and do.

But this lockdown has also made me realize that I know so little of myself, of my family, of what we can do together when cooped up in a house for such a long time, of all the loves and joys we derive in each other’s company.

So, as I wait patiently, to start traveling again and to start walking beside the river again, I take a few deep breaths and let go…of myself, so I can enjoy the present and experience the joy of the NOW.

Purnima Ramakrishnan

Purnima Ramakrishnan is an UNCA award winning journalist and the recipient of the fellowship in Journalism by International Reporting Project, John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Her International reports from Brazil are found here . She is also the recipient of the BlogHer '13 International Activist Scholarship Award . She is a Senior Editor at World Moms Blog who writes passionately about social and other causes in India. Her parental journey is documented both here at World Moms Blog and also at her personal Blog, The Alchemist's Blog. She can be reached through this page . She also contributes to Huffington Post . Purnima was once a tech-savvy gal who lived in the corporate world of sleek vehicles and their electronics. She has a Master's degree in Electronics Engineering, but after working for 6 years as a Design Engineer, she decided to quit it all to become a Stay-At-Home-Mom to be with her son!   This smart mom was born and raised in India, and she has moved to live in coastal India with her husband, who is a physician, and her son who is in primary grade school.   She is a practitioner and trainer of Heartfulness Meditation.

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EGYPT: Discover More about Yourself by Stretching Your Comfort Zone

EGYPT: Discover More about Yourself by Stretching Your Comfort Zone

We all tend to stay in our comfort zone. It’s safer and more comfortable even if we are not totally satisfied with our lives. To make a change and discover more about our strengths we need to get out of our comfort zone, experience discomfort, and challenge ourselves.

Six years ago, I decided to start my own business expecting to earn more money. I took the challenge without enough knowledge about how to do it. I thought I will learn through the journey. Five years later I closed it out and stayed at home. I spent most of my savings, from my previous job as a software engineer, instead of earning money. I was frustrated and I preferred to stay in my comfort zone.

I spent almost a year and a half just thinking of how to restart working on my coaching career without taking any real steps to do it just because I felt safer in my comfort zone. I spent this time trying new things like learning drawing,  painting, and writing for self-discovery. I attended healing workshops and silence retreats as well. On the last retreat, I discovered why I am procrastinating to take the first step. I am fearful. I feared failure, critiques, competing, and not doing perfectly. I was so in pain with this discovery because I didn’t know how to deal with this fear feeling.

What was really surprising is that I got a phone call, from the local TV, asking me for an interview about how to deal with stress and anger,  I was kindly refusing such interviews for years because I never felt comfortable showing up on TV, but at that moment I realized that it is time to challenge myself. I said: “You will never achieve anything unless you take risks and challenge yourself. It is time to do it even it’s not perfect” and I did it. I got very positive feedback from my friends and relatives. A few days later I got another opportunity to give a talk at the Infinite Youth Africa Summit, a talk about self-discovery and self-motivation. In the beginning, I was so excited about the idea, I love sharing my knowledge and my journey of self-growth with others. Later on, when I started recording the video I realized that it was a big challenge because I didn’t speak English for years now. In addition, I had to translate the talk into French, which I didn’t speak for decades, but there was no way out. I gave my word and I have to complete the talk and the translation. It took me almost two weeks to do it; two so stressful weeks repeating the video recording to correct language mistakes and to speak more confidently. Now that I completed and delivered them on time I feel more confident, satisfied, and proud of my achievement. It is not perfect but it was the best I can do at that moment.

Done is better than perfect. Challenge yourself to discover more about your talents and capabilities. Don’t wait to do it perfectly just do your best and accept the result. It will make a big difference in your life.

You can sign up for the Infinite Youth Africa Summit here – www.heartfulness.africa/youth-summit

Nihad

Nihad is an Egyptian woman, who was born and has lived her whole life in Alexandria, Egypt. She says, “People who visited this city know how charming and beautiful this city is. Although I love every city in Egypt, Alexandria is the one I love the most.” She is a software engineer and has worked in the field for more than twenty years. But recently she quit her job, got a coaching certificate and she is now a self employed life and career coach. She says, “I believe that women in this era face big challenges and they are taking huge responsibilities. That's why I have chosen my niche -- women looking for happiness and satisfaction. I help and support them in making whatever change (career change, life change, behavior change, belief change…) they want to bring more satisfaction and happiness in their lives.” Nihad is a mother of two lovely boys, 15 and 9 years old. She states, “They are the most precious gifts I have ever had. I madly love them, and I consider them the main source of happiness in my life.” Our inspiring mother in Egypt can also be found at Aurora Beams Life Coaching.

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