All about Acanit

Hi. I'm Acanit. Welcome to my very humble homepage. This is just a place for me to park my online persona while I recuperate from several years in Africa and a failed trans-Atlantic relationship.

Currently I reside in the United States where I begin work on a M.A. in Anthropology this fall. Check out the links below if you'd like to learn more about me.

Just the facts
The story of me
Resume (short form)
About my name

And you can always email me or . I don't bite. Much.

(All requests for cybersex will be cheerfully ignored. And please don't use me to practice your Arabic, I don't have the time or inclination to be your tutor.)

Just the facts

Age: 29
Sign: Scorpio
Height: 168 cm (5'6")
Weight: 52 kg (115 lbs)
Measurements: oh stop!
Eyes: brown
Hair: brown
Piercings: 4
Tattoos: none
Nationality: American
Ethnicity: Lebanese, Egyptian, Iranian, Italian, Dutch, some German too
Languages: English, Arabic, some French and Swahili, bits and pieces of various African languages
Marital Status: single
Children: someday, hopefully
Religion: lapsed Muslim
Politics: lefty and very Green

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The story of me

I was born two months premature on a dirt road outside of Kenjoti, Uganda on October 15, 1970. The delivery almost killed my mom, a strong-willed American flower child with an adventureous streak. She was on holiday with a friend, leaving behind my dad - a taciturn Lebanese - at the hotel in Butiaba where he was conducting some business. Mom had to be medivac'ed to the United States for ongoing medical care and was unable to have additional children, so I'm an only child.

I spent the next 16 years of my life in the United States, living in the smoggy sprawlfest known as Los Angeles. My parents split up when I was in junior high, which was hard to tell because Dad was traveling so much for his job with a global oil megacorporation. Eventually he came home less and less frequently until he never came home at all. That's when Mom explained to me what divorce meant.

Money became a constant struggle after they broke up. Mom sold the house and we began apartment-hopping from cheap place to cheaper place, while she held down two jobs and tried to save for my college education. I got a paper route to help out and graduated to fast food joints when I turned 15. I was supposed to put the money in my college fund, but I spent most of it on clothes and music and makeup. What can I say? It was high school. I had to fit in.

I think I was a painfully typical American teenager by my junior year of high school, which just goes to show that I had acculturated. I looked Lebanese-American, but I sure didn't feel Lebanese-American. I blame it on never seeing Dad anymore. At that point I'd basically forgotten how to speak Arabic and I'd lost touch with his Muslim faith (as had Mom, who returned to her Catholic roots). My whole life revolved around trying to fit in at my predominantly Latino high school, and my head was filled with the usual insecurities about body image and whether boys liked me and blah blah blah.

The summer before my senior year Mom unexpectedly moved us to Nairobi, Kenya. She had renewed an old friendship with Kate, a friend of hers from the Peace Corps, who married a wealthy English businessman with investments in Kenya. When Kate offered Mom a job with her husband's business and free use of their guest cottage, Mom jumped at the chance to return to Africa.

Thanks to Kate, we lived a life of expatriate luxury in one of Nairobi's gated districts. I attended an exclusive private school with all the rich expat kids, studied Latin, learned how to ride a horse and play the piano, attended cricket matches, dined at the club, and generally became a spoiled brat in record time. I'm still amazed at how insulated we were from ordinary Kenyans. I shudder at the irony that I had black friends when I was in the US....but not when I was in Africa.

My Merchant & Ivory life in Nairobi ended when I graduated, since my college fund was basically nonexistent. Dad offered to pay my tuition if I attended the American University of Beirut, his alma mater, where I could get a first-class education and rediscover my Lebanese roots at the same time. The four years I spent getting my B.A. in Anthropology in Beirut changed my life. I got to know Dad's family, re-learned Arabic, was exposed to a culturally diverse city of Muslims Christians and Jews (it reminded me of Los Angeles, actually), and gained an appreciation for the hardships of refugee populations.

Both my parents had returned to the US by the time I finished my degree. Dad was based in Washington DC, while Mom lived in San Diego, California with a boyfriend. Dad helped me get a job in Washington DC, where I pursued a fledgling career in Arab-American political affairs. There I made the biggest mistake of my life by falling madly in love with a Lebanese trade official assigned to the Lebanese Embassy, where I worked as a translator. He was married, 10 years older than me, and promptly replaced me with another mistress when I began pressuring him to leave his wife. Our affair was a waste of two perfectly good years.

Devastated, I left Washington and moved to San Diego to be with Mom. She was single again and didn't mind the company, not even when I moped around the house day and night. Eventually I took a research job with a local law firm, which turned out to be wonderful therapy. I also traveled through Mexico and was surprised at the parallels between that country and Lebanon, since much of Mexico's population is economic refugees from the rural hinterland.

Eventually I decided that I wanted to use my Anthro degree and multicultural experiences and work on behalf of refugee populations. I lucked out and got an internship in Paris at the OECD, which was a fantastic learning experience and provided me with a world of contacts. However, I quickly learned that my heart was with the refugees themselves. The bureaucratic and diplomatic games we played in the posh luxury of Paris reminded me too much of my sheltered life in Nairobi.

When my internship ended I joined one of Oxfam's community development efforts in East Africa. I wanted to experience life in the field and directly shape outcomes, as opposed to merely finance them. During the next two years I worked in Kenya and Uganda (and briefly in South Africa) on a variety of projects designed to improve the economic status of women in local economies--economic refugee prevention, basically. The projects had mixed results, but I truly loved getting to know the villagers and seeing the breathtaking expanses of rural East Africa, which is so beautiful it breaks your heart to leave.

Speaking of heartbreak, when I was in Kenya I began a relationship with Wayne, a young American doctor from Chicago who was administering an HIV awareness and prevention campaign for another relief organization. His project focused on prostitutes, many of whom were refugee women without other economic options. I helped Wayne and his staff collect data on sexual practices and risk issues by interviewing prostitutes in various large East African cities, especially Nairobi. He spent half his time in Africa and half his time in the US, where he had an ex-girlfriend. During one of his trips home he got back with her and they decided to marry. He broke the news to me in a satellite telephone call I took in the front seat of an old Land Rover, staring across the wheat fields of the Leroghi plateau.

I was totally burned out. I had seen enough people dying of AIDS. I was tired of narrow escapes from rape attempts while interviewing prostitutes or traveling alone by myself. I was frustrated by community development projects that seemed designed to hinder rural African women instead of help them. And I felt like I might never find a life partner and be able to start a family if I kept living such an itinerant existence in Africa. That's when I decided to return to the US.

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Resume (short form)

Oxfam America
Community Development Officer
East Africa

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
Paris, France

Reilly Gutierrez & Lowe P.A.
Research Assistant
San Diego, California

Embassy of Lebanon to the United States
Washington, DC

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
Press Assistant
Washington, DC

B.A. in Anthropology - American University of Beirut (Beirut, Lebanon), 1992
High School Accredation - Wellington School (Nairobi, Kenya), 1988

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About my name

Acanit means "hard times" in Ganda, one of the native languages of Uganda. It was the name given to me by Mom, since I was born in Uganda after a very hard labor in which she almost died of blood loss. Dad also gave me a name, Zakiyyah, which means "pure" in Arabic. (They had trouble agreeing on anything, if you couldn't tell.) I used Zakiyyah as my name throughout school and university, but after I returned to Africa I switched to Acanit, because it fit some of the harsh life circumstances I encountered in my work there.

Here's a name analysis of Acanit that I find to be a surprisingly accurate description of me (except for the health stuff):

Your first name of Acanit has given you a sociable, kind, and thoughtful nature. Your sensitivity and sympathy to the needs of people causes difficulty when you need to be individual and maintain control over your feelings. You can be easily hurt and emotionally upset and, because you become so closely involved with people, you can be unduly influenced by them, sometimes against your better judgment. You are inclined to put things off until forced to take action. You accomplish more working with people who encourage and inspire you, and particularly those who can give you confidence by laying out a step-by-step pattern for you. You do not take life too seriously, because you tend to live for the day. It is not typical of you to plan ahead, to think of the consequences of your actions, and to set meaningful objectives in your life. You are more likely to drift into experiences, benefitting from social contact and the attractiveness of your personality. You have felt insecure in learning and adapting to new things, and have struggled with lack of concentration and persistence to make a success of your efforts. In the health, you would experience skin conditions because of a rich diet, and also fluid problems affecting the glandular system and kidneys.

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Thanks to Naomi for the HTML!