Love & Lunacy on the Nile: Girl Power!

I love this Nile River life of feluccas, temples, and interconnecting villages and canals.

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I love running along the Nile and through the villages. My Egyptian name is Sama. It means “sky.” Children run along with me, yelling, “Sama! Sama!” It’s a lovely sound and puts a big smile on my face. I look to the blue above me. At night, wispy clouds have covered the sky and the big yellow moon has seemed more mysterious than ever as it slides in and out of the shadows. I love the skies of Luxor.

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But I can’t just live here. I have to contribute and be a part of the community! So, I brought a boxing bag and set it up on my terrace.

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Now I teach boxing to young people. I have a twelve year old girl who is amazing. It’s her parents’ wish for her to be well educated and go to college. Her father is very proud that she is learning boxing. She gets it better than any of my male students–she can remember combinations and she naturally breaths right. I also have an eighteen year old young man who is on the Luxor villages soccer team. He wants to get in the best shape he can because he wants to apply to be a police officer. Main thing, give me strong abs, he says!

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My boxing student, Iya, and her little brother.

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My boxing student, Osama. 

I feel like I’m doing my little bit to bring power to young girls here and show boys that girls are equal. Life still goes on in these villages as it has for hundreds of years. But change is coming, and I contribute to the most positive aspects of that change.

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Love & Lunacy on the Nile: Jellabiya Time

A Visit to the Tailor

When I was in Egypt at age ten, that would be in 1967, my siblings and I found the clothes men wore to be very funny. They looked like pajamas to us, long striped cotton garments,. Women were covered from head to toe, all in black.

In the villages of Luxor, most people still wear traditional jellabiyas and I don’t find them funny anymore. I love them! They are the most practical apparel a person can wear here. I am plagued by mosquitoes and the jellabiya covers my entire body. I can sit comfortable with my feet up on the sofa, like most people do here. Air flows freely through the light material, keeping a person, if not cool, at least cooler than one would be in tight-fitting clothing.

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I had a jellabiya made by the ladies of the village, who are experts in making them for women. Then, I decided to try the tailor who makes them for the men. I wanted to see if there was a difference in quality and style. I love the light and shadows, the colors, sights and sounds of these streets.

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The gentleman was a little freaked out by my request but he rose to the occasion. I am excited to see what my two jellabiyas will look like.

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I still find the women in their black clothing a little sinister, I must admit. At night they appear to be as dark spirits gliding silently along the ground. This place is filled with magic and graceful beauty.

 

Luxor Life

Today early morning, I run through the village my regular route to the Nile. People cry, “Very good, sport!” with a thumb’s up. A boy on a donkey runs beside me for a bit. Past the awakening shops to a place in the shade where sweet Turkish coffee awaits me, along with a breakfast of eggs and mashed peanuts with butter, made fresh in the village, bread, cilantro and flafel. The boiled eggs come from one man and are taken to the man who sells peanuts from a small cart, where he mixes the eggs with the crushed peanuts. This man has been selling peanuts from the cart since forever. This is life.

How I Packed Up and Took Off to See the World

Check out the link to my essay on how I freed myself of extra baggage and took off traveling two years ago to find inspiration for my writing. Thank you Amy Oestreicher!

“It doesn’t matter if I am in a café in Phoenix, wrapped in blankets on a freezing night in the Sahara Desert, or writing with a view of Arenal volcano, four fans on full blast to keep the sweat from landing on my computer. I could be in a penthouse suite overlooking the Bosporus, or on a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard, or maybe a train across India (a goal of mine). Each space has an atmosphere that speaks to my spirit and sparks my imagination. Each view, whether dark or light, colorful or noisy, joins together to become an added layer in my life.

The shrinking of my possessions has meant the growing of my freedom. The giving up of a static living space has opened a door to the universe. I am not bound by one location, one thought or one experience. My feet move in any direction I point them, light and free. ”

Love My Detour!

INTO THE WORLD_LI

For All the Girls on the Schoolyard

Beautiful morning, out running the streets of Phoenix, fantasizing about the Zombie Apocalypse because those wide, eerily empty and silent streets always make me imagine hordes of zombies are about to burst around a corner (I love my imagination).

Anyway, as I ended with some jump squats, two men on bicycles, decked out in bright blue helmets and tight spandex outfits that showed off their paunches, whizzed by yelling “ribbit, ribbit!” and laughing obnoxiously.

Suddenly, instead of the Zombie Apocalypse, I was someplace far worse: back on the schoolyard with all those entitled boys, and me wanting to join in the dodge ball, basketball, and handball games and them pushing me out.

“Why can’t I play?”

“Cuz you’re a girl.”

I pushed back and got in those games, and I was as good and most times better than those boys. It makes me mad to this day that I had to “prove” myself. In fact, I realize now that they were intimidated by me. I was taller than all of them. Maybe not always as strong, but a whole lot more focused and generally more coordinated. There were a couple of boys who gave me respect, but even they never gave up the distinction that I was a girl in a boy’s game. I got made fun of constantly. I was called all kinds of derogatory terms, but the one I remember is “Mommy Long Legs” which I would now consider a compliment, but they didn’t mean it that way.

The school bully was named Bill. I know it sounds cliché, but that was really his name. Even more cliché, he had a blond buzz cut, was meaty, and turned pink under the hot sun. Bill would stand at the end of the street, just beyond the school, and demand money from everyone who needed to walk home that way. In the private world of children, where real monsters are always more prolific and scarier than imagined ones, no one said anything to the clueless adults about this.

I never gave Bill a penny. It was one of those important life lessons where I learned how to get out of a sticky situation by using my  brain and not giving in to fear. Bill was lazy and hid his own fear inside his big body, preying on the weak. Except that he was really weaker than everyone else. I always managed to talk my way around Bill, confusing him with language, until before he knew it, I was gone.

You learn to pick your battles.

As for the incident this morning, if I’d been a hefty guy doing those jump squats, or if a guy had been jumping with me, not a peep would have come out of those smirking, lily-white mouths.

I envisioned chasing after them, pulling them off their bikes and grounding their smirking mugs into the pavement. Making them apologize, not to me because what do I care, I’m a fighter who can well defend myself, but to all the little girls they must have intimidated on the schoolyard and then the women in the workplace and just generally in everyday life that they must somehow feel they have the right to lord it over.

Ah, the satisfaction of making them grovel.

I used to train with some British Kyokushin men who would come to Los Angeles every summer. I was the only women “allowed” to train with them. These guys were tough, seemingly oblivious to pain. The workouts were grueling, probably the hardest I’ve ever experienced. That’s why I liked them. It was freeing to train like that, to have all thought of differences in sex or ability fall away. I do remember one time when the guy who led the class, a scrappy fellow with a heavy cockney accent, tough as nails, half my height, yelled out, “Come on, don’t fucking hit like a bunch of girls!”

I was right in the front row, in the middle. No one reacted, I didn’t think anyone but me  realized he had made a faux pas. But then, maybe to them I wasn’t a “girl.” But then, what was I? Should I have taken it as a compliment that they didn’t put me in that category? Of course not. Still, I didn’t say anything. I didn’t throw a fit, demand an apology, or walk out in a huff. I just kept on training.

Again, you pick your battles. I was already doing something that most women never get the chance to experience. My actions spoke for me because afterwards, a couple of the men came up to me and apologized, explaining their fearless leader came from a rough background and wasn’t all that educated in proper etiquette.

“He didn’t mean it that way.”

I didn’t want to say, “What way?” I just left it at that.

As I did with the twerps on the bikes. I didn’t attack. I continued to jump my way home. Ribbit, ribbit….

And then, I did the same I did with Bill. I used my brain and wrote these words.

A CHALLENGING LIFE? THAT MEANS YOU ARE REALLY LIVING!

So… life is challenging. I am caring for my granddaughter who is now almost 3, and have been for the past year, and off and on before that. Travel is on the horizon in the fall and to some pretty exciting places032. 036My manuscript Letters from Purgatory is with my editor and I am working on illustrations for a children’s book and a childhood memoir, Into the World. Everyday day we make choices about which direction we will go and every step we take reinforces whether we go towards our higher purpose or away from it. Self-discipline is the key. It doesn’t matter how we “feel” about it. Emotions will lead us astray. Whether we feel depressed or happy, excited or bored, it doesn’t matter. We train ourselves to follow through with what we know we need to do in order to reach our goals. I have lived my life with the highest standard of achievement. That doesn’t mean I always reach that goal and that isn’t what matters. What matters is that we do our best. At the moment, my life is extremely challenging (when has it not been). Getting out of the house to train in the morning is a big achievement because I care for my 2 year old granddaughter. Training with Fernando (Zig Zag) keeps me strong. I love this little guy lol! Then, today I taught a Spin class at noon which was cool. Then, I came home and cared for my granddaughter and I worked on my writing, which required great focus because of my granddaughter wanting my attention. This little girl already knows how to do push ups and yoga moves and punching and kicking and so much more. Soccer will be her summer fun! I draw on the self-discipline I have developed over many years, from when I first gave birth to my daughter in London (in the same hospital and on the same weekend as Prince William was born!) and I had to illustrate books with her there, playing beside me while I met my deadlines. There are no excuses for slacking off and not achieving what you want to accomplish. You simply do what you have to do. Then, tonight, I went and taught my class at Tarzana Boxing at 5:30. Teaching this class always gives me back my energy and my inspiration. Thank you to all of my students who come to train. I appreciate every one of you and love teaching this class! You make my day! On Wednesday nights I also go to train with Joseph Ojomoh from 7:30 to 9 pm. I do this because his class on Wednesday nights is a killer and it pushes me hard. Now, at 11:30 pm, it is time to work a little more, get a little further, make another dream come true. I am thankful I had parents who set a high standard for me and I respected them, although I didn’t always agree with their point of view. I have done my best to set a high standard for my children. We all decide in the end what we will do with the opportunities that have been given to us. I hope that at the end of my days, what will be remembered of me will be the difference that I made in the lives of the people around me. Hey Thor Skancke, shout out to you too. You have helped me with my training in so many positive ways and I have enjoyed seeing how you have grown over the years.