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I am so relieved to see the back of this year. It felt for a time like it would never come. This has been straight up one of the most difficult years of my life, if not thee most. Not the worst, mind, but the most difficult. Financially, emotionally, physically. Mostly emotionally.

We moved into the House of Doom right at the beginning of the year – that certainly got us off on the wrong footing. Senile barking dogs, mosquito infestations, unbearable breezeless heat, builders with man-sized speakers belting Jesus-themed country and western, the Loudest Van in the World that roared up the hill every a.m., the loopy man-obsessed drug-addicted Quebecois drama queens next door, insomnia, scheming sociopathic flatmates, inadvertently becoming the ‘party house’, the falling apart of friendships and relationships…

All that before we even got to the shooting incident, the ruination of my ankle (still quite ruined), further disintegration of House of Doom-based relationships, dwindling funds, and a whole swilling island full of crazed and broken souls, some of them my dear, dear friends and indeed an inadvertent boyfriend who I did my best to look after.

A broken heart (the most acutely painful to date), a deportation, the death of my grandmother, a sorry retreat to my sorry hometown, another half-broken heart, the death of a once-vivacious aunt, a forced return to retail (oh woe!), a royal fucking-over from Canadian Immigration, and yet another bit of heartache later, I thought 2011 had finally spat all it could at me. Until this week. A final twist of the knife had to be had…

It’s not just me though. This year has been a motherfucker for numerous friends. And people seem to have been dying off all over the place, almost as if they are getting out while they can; they sense the change coming… The world is revolving – revolution in the Arab world, the killing of Gaddafi, Bin Laden,  the death of Kim Jong Il; the continued economic decay of the United States and the European Union; the rebirth of powerful public dissent in the West as well – both civilised (the Occupy movement, especially in the States), and feral (the UK riots – see my earlier article); not to mention an onslaught of destructive climatic events – earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding…

It would be nice to think that this was just a blip, but I have the foreboding feeling that in 2012 it’s about to intensify… I don’t believe that the world is going to end on 21st December 2012, or that the aliens are going to come, and I certainly hope that the planets aren’t going to align and cause a freak gravitational event whereby we will all float up off the earth and explode (as Dado, my old boss, is expecting to happen)… I’m not prone to airy-fairy notions but I do think there may be something in this Mayan shit. Not that we are facing the End of Days, but an End of Days. Things are afoot. Things feel different. Change be a-coming…

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. In terms of the world order we’re about due a change, and if that makes our lives in the West more difficult, so be it. We reap what we sow. Hopefully our new condition will jolt our society out of its stupor (I like to think the signs are already showing).

On a personal level, I did say that though 2011 has been exceptionally difficult, it has been far from the worst year of my life. So many lessons learned and new things experienced and things figured out and falling into place and FUN had and god damn me for being sentimental but so many good good friends and, for the first time in my life, I have found myself looking to the future with something that is not fear.

Hello 2012…

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Every now and then, the BBC still gets something right.

 

Watching Syrian School on BBC 4 again last night, I was thrilled to see the documentary tear through Western stereotypes of Arab culture, especially when it comes to young women. Originally aired in 2010, and therefore filmed before the recent uprisings and turmoil, the series follows pupils in four different schools in the capital, Damascus.

The film makes valid reference to the lack of political freedom and the prevalence of propaganda in education, providing us with a glimpse of the climate before the protests began in January, as well as to the strict Muslim inclinations of some teachers and families. But more overwhelming is the predominance of strong, virulent teenage characters, girls in particular. Though some wear the hijab, many do not, and many that do pair it with Western-style clothing – it is a personal choice. We meet girls who throw discus, girls who play basketball and travel the country with their team, girls who vent at length and with confidence about the politics of their country and the wider world, girls who defy their teachers and parents to write and perform rap music about the Palestinian struggle, girls who write poems about love and read them aloud at competitions while their proud fathers watch on, not to mention the extravagant head of the Zaki Al-Harsuzi girls-only school, Mrs Amal Hassan, clad in knee-length skirts, shoulder-padded jackets, and fantastical make-up.

It made me happy and proud to see young women with their heads screwed on like that, fighting against cultural norms, striving to be top of their game, whatever that may be. And it made me sad to think of teenage girls in this country, afflicted by princess-itis, crushed by conformity, oblivious to the oppressive nature of the inane and superficial pop culture, living and dying by the sword of X-Factor…

Where are you, girls? Say something.

While the ongoing revolt in Syria is clearly justified after many years of political repression, the Ba’athist government was (is) a secular one. I hope that these girls’ freedom of expression can be maintained in whatever regime comes to bear.

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Watch last night’s episode of Syrian School on BBC iPlayer here (UK only, I’m afraid).

Find more information about the program, its contents, and the Syrian education system here.