Ahlan Wa Sahlan

Ahlan Wa Sahlan

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Zoos and Carousels

Are what every girl should have on her birthday. And awesome friends as well.

My birthday was one of those days where you get this pang of grief because you know that its eventually going to end. I had so much fun it was absurd and I'm certain that it was not the kind of birthday a 25 year old should have, you know, all respectable and whatnot.

It began kind of cold and grey when I went to meet the Divine Miss M, my cousin Oogie, her sister the Pampered Chef, and my Aunt and Uncle at the Como Zoo.Yes, the zoo. Miss M even brought me a pink fuzzy hat that said "Birthday Princess" on it and yes, I did wear it. It was entirely preposterous and thoroughly enjoyable, and I got quite a few funny stares, thumbs up, and compliments on it. I'm sure it looked especially dashing on top of a hijab.

First we walked around the Conservatory which has quite the collection of gorgeous spring flowers right now, and then we took a turn on the carousel. I will post pictures of this on my flickr account at some point. Afterwards my Aunt and Uncle and the Pampered Chef took their leave and headed out to their lake property in Wisconsin for the holiday weekend. Pitching a tent in the woods is definitely not my cup of tea, but the property is absolutely gorgeous. I'll post some of the pics I took there last fall on the aforementioned flickr account as well.

Afterwards the Divine Miss M, Oogie, and I set off to walk around the zoo and look at the animals and by this point the clouds had burned off and the sun was shining in full force. We molested the turtle statue at the front entrance and then set off to wreak havoc amongst the crowds. I took quite a few pictures of random animal behinds since that seemed to be the side most often pointed at me throughout the day. After a certain amount of buttock it just became a game.

I also wanted to ride some rides but when we got to "Como Town" we found out that they had revamped it into munchkin land with nary a ride big enough for adult-sized people. Instead we carpooled to Fridley in search of a carnival in which to make merry. We also had a horrible dinner at Olive Garden but were given free dessert to make up for it. In Northtown Mall's parking lot a very small carnival was running so we bought some tickets and lined up. My specific desire was to ride the Tilt-o-whirl and the Scrambler, but only the Scrambler was up. Only... it wasn't the normal fun Scrambler, it was the cracked-out version where the operator cranked it up to warp speed and you spent most of the ride holding on for dear life. I personally found myself wedged into an uncomfortable contorted position with Oogie unwillingly plastered to my right side. I emerged from it shaken, bruised, and unable to walk a straight line. Still today I have the most God-awful bruise across my stomach in the shape of the lap bar. Without the lap bar I probably would not have survived, however I'm certain that its not the goal of a carnival ride to cause bodily harm.

Needless to say we did not ride it again and instead used the rest of our tickets riding the Mega-Slide which was fun as we made it into a race.

It was a delightful day, made more so by the company of my two closest friends. The Divine Miss M again proved the inherent rightness of the nickname I gave her as she spent ridiculous amounts of money on me stating that its my birthday and I shouldn't have to pay for anything.

Thanks dearest.

It was a good birthday, alhumdulillah.

Am I really 25?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"Fitting In"

Why does anyone have to "fit in"? Aren't we, as a culture, striving to make a name for ourselves as individuals?

But beyond that even if we are not, why should I or anyone else attempt to fit into the tiny little box everyone else tries to put us in?

Recently my attention was brought to a post by Peaceful Muslimah in which she writes:

"I recently came across a discussion by an American muslimah living in the US lamenting her “homesickness” for an Arab country she visited. Another Muslimah
from that country questioned whether “homesickness” was the correct word/concept. This is just one particular thread but I have read many similar ones over the last year that express similar ideas. Many times Western Muslims glamorize the Arab world as a place where “real” Islam is practiced and often confuse Arab culture with Islamic mandates. I’ve written about this before with regard to converts taking Arab names, wearing Arab clothes and eating only Arab foods. I thought it might be interesting to share my perspective on the issue of Arabophilia."

Of course this is a reference to my post on missing Egypt.

Now I'm not even really upset and when I left a comment it was interpreted as being defensive, but honestly my only real issue with it is that she seems to have stuffed me into the same box as so many others who do legitimately romanticize the Middle East.

However I'm not one of them. I'm not going to Egypt to "get closer to God" or "become Arab" or even "find Islam."

I found Islam, and a more truer form at that, here in the US and I am content with it.

I'm content with who I am, I love to learn other cultures and I am certainly looking forward to getting to know Egyptian culture better but not with the intention of transforming myself into an Egyptian.

I am not obsessed with other, or otherness except in the form of discovering what the "other" believes and thinks and how they view the world. It's called discourse and its my absolute favorite thing in the world.

Today I was reading Artemisia Rants and I came across what I find to be the most brilliantly explained example of how I, myself, view the world and its "other" inhabitants (except in Artemisia's words):

". . . I can see past the surface appeal of this world of ‘otherness’ however, and I have never suggested that it is ‘better’! What interests me is the point where faith and culture meet. I am a strange creature in that I don’t really
trust anything. Only Allah. I can happily love people without trusting, I can
enjoy a culture without trusting, I can move between ideas without trusting.
This tasting of experiences from everwhre is interpreted as superficial, “not
knowing what I want”, but for me, the world is superficial. There are so many
ways of understanding everything. I draw the line at oppression and abuse that
can be quantified. This is where I will stand and judge.

Usually people want to rescue me from my “confusion”, situate me within a definite point of view. But they fail to recognize that I don’t want to be situated anywhere that is closed. My openness is what allows me to float. And I hope to move towards
Allah. I see though that at the moment I am drifting. I don’t need solidity in
my world view, but I need method."

I am not obsessed with "exotica," but I am obsessed with existentialism and I certainly refuse to be fit into a box or conform myself to wear the labels others would like to give me.

I have little to no desire to "fit in."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Random Wednesday x 2

Yea so I've gotten to the point that I don't care what my bosses think.

Its a very free feeling.

So let us commence with the usual randomness

* I need to start blogging about things I don't like because after I wrote about the "End the war in Iraq" car and homeless Santa Claus I haven't seen either one.

So in honor of my apparent ability to make things disappear solely through writing about them in my blog, here is a list of things I don't like:

- George W. Bush

- Gas prices that literally reach out and kick you in the gut (once they hit the price of $3.60 per gallon they just get so sassy)

- Soaring food prices and inflation (can I please have the strong dollar back?)

- Self-absorbed ass-hat patients with no common courtesy.

- Corrupt politicians and sectarian militias (*cough* Hezbollah *cough*)

- Earthquakes that kill thousands of people.

- Military juntas that don't give a damn about the people of their country.

- George W. Bush (just for added oomph)

Lets see how well that works.

* Speaking of the recent tragedies in Myanmar and China I was reading the newspaper during lunch last week and they wrote a sidebar listing weather tragedies that had happened over the past 30 years or so and I kid you not it went something like this:

China 2008: 10,000+ and still counting

Myanmar 2008: 30,000+ and still

Pakistan 2005: 75,000

Katrina 2005: 1,600

Indian Ocean Tsunami 2004: 225,000
I'm sorry, I know that Katrina hit close to home, but did you look to see how absurd it was to list Katrina RIGHT NEXT TO a tsunami that killed 225,000?

Reason #10,451 why I despise biased media.

* And speaking of biased media....

There is an Arabic charter school here in the Twin Cities called the Tarek Ibn Zayed Academy (TIZA) that one right-wing boot-licking reporter decided was a bit too Muslim-flavored for her taste. She wrote an article that she must have paid a 2nd grader to research for her about their apparent blurring between church and state which prompted lots of death threats and a government inquiry into the school.

The inquiry basically came up with nothing: only buses that didn't run until after the after-school programs were over- after-school programs which included a fee-based Islamic program or free boy/girl scouts- and something about teachers going to Friday prayer. The last one I'm not really understanding their issue on, but whatevs fundamentally they found nothing wrong with the school.

One of our local news stations sent a camera crew to the school which promptly began to film on school property without permission- illegally trespassing. The head of the school came out and tussled with the camera-man when they would not stop filming. And by tussle I mean pushed his camera down. Sure that was pretty stupid on his part, but the constant replay and incendiary phrasing of the media is starting to piss me off. They are portraying it like he was beating on the camera man who was completely innocent of wrong-doing, when in fact the police have said they were trespassing and may face legal charges.

Get over yourselves. The Star Tribune told it like it was and only used two sentences of a one-page article to do so.

Of course the Star Tribune is the same newspaper that wrote the ridiculous list I wrote about above. I guess you win some you lose some.

* This past weekend I was driving away from Oogie's house when I witnessed some straight up nature documentary stuff happening in the urban jungle. A huge black crow was trying to kill a poor defenseless baby bunny. It kept picking it up and dropping it and swooping to pick it up again before the Bunny Mom of the Year came racing to the babies rescue and chased the mean bird away. Little bunny foo-foo escaped scampering across the street in front of my car and disappeared into the underbrush while I watched in wonder.

1- who knew crows hunted meat? Not me.

2- who knew bunny mums were tough enough to chase off predators? Not me.

That kind of seems like getting your butt kicked by Gandhi.

* I got economically stimulated last week, how about everyone else? I was really surprised because from what I'd heard they were going by the last two digits of the SOC and mine are quite high. I thought I'd be in Egypt before I got stimulated. Alhumdulillah for everything.

* Its my birthday this week, I will be 1/4 of a century old, and I'm fairly certain I want to go to the zoo and ride some rides on my birthday.

Is this some sort of reversal? As I get older I get younger. Dunno, but inshAllah the weather should be beautiful.

I also want a hat with pink feathers that says "Birthday Girl."

Happy Birthday to me, happy birthday to me!

Ok so, since we missed Random Wednesday last week we should have double the randomness in the comments section.

You know you wanna, so get to it!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Following My Dreams


My path to Islam was long, long, long in coming and has been heavily influence by dreams that I believe with utmost certainty came directly from Allah.

I had been wanting to post about this and never found an opportunity, but now I have been prompted by a similar post by the Saudi Stepford Wife and an evening bout of insomnia.

Dreams are intensely personal and their meanings and symbols are often only intelligible to the dreamer. Why do I want to reveal something so personal? I want to demonstrate that a connection to God is possible and, in many ways, tangible.

My first dream about Islam actually came when I was twelve years old. I think I must explain that while I had a fairly multi-ethnic upbringing it was definitely mono-religious. The most religious variance I had seen was between my Non-denominational Christian mother and my Catholic Christian aunt and the most religious choice in my city was choosing churches. I had, to date, met only one girl who was Jewish and my knowledge of her religion extended mainly to the draedl that she brought to show and tell. Oh, and I read Anne Frank.

So to have the dream I had, with the detail that I had it in, meant it had to have come from a source other than experience.

In my dream I was standing in a perfectly square room lusciously carpeted with the pile all laying towards one direction. The walls were solid wood and unadorned except for one on my left side which was ornately carved into a screen of ivy and flowers, beyond which was another room that I knew was there without needing to have entered it. A room I knew was meant for women while I was rebelliously standing in the room meant for men with my head uncovered. I could feel the judging eyes of unseen peers upon me but I didn't care, what I was focusing my attention on was the overwhelming presence of God I felt. I could feel God's love for me and sadness at my choice to not cover my head. I could bear the judgement of the others but it was God's sadness that broke my heart.

All these years I can still feel those emotions and I can still see every detail of the dream. At twelve I didn't know what a headcovering was, nor what these odd rooms were, but it made a mark on me deeper than I will ever realize.

I also had a dream around the same time of french-kissing a dark-skinned man with what I would later realize was a sunnah beard. The fact of it is that the man in my dream looked remarkably like my husband- although I didn't know that yet. I remember the dream because 1- I had never french-kissed and the dream was incredibly vivid and tangible and 2- the man looked nothing like any men I had ever seen in my life. Why I was sent this dream I'm not entirely sure, except that it may have had something to do with recognizing my naseeb when I met him (alhumdulillah.)

My other two important dreams came after I was Muslim and in response to marriage istikhara I had been praying at the time. One was for a proposal I turned down and the other was for a proposal I accepted. And the reason that I am revealing both of them is because they have eerie similarities.

With the first dream I had been making istikhara for weeks and refusing to listen to what my heart was telling me the answer was. You know when you have one desire in your heart and you want your istikhara to back it up no matter what? Yeah. Like that, except God finally sat me down and gave me an irrefutable answer in the form of another vivid dream.

I was standing in a room getting ready for the wedding, in my wedding gown, with everyone waiting for me and all I had left were to put the gold bangles on. But they wouldn't stay on my wrists; I would slip them on and they would slide right off again and I began to get irrationally afraid, I felt there was no way I could get married without the bangles. I abandoned the effort and slipped out the door trying to find my way out but was discovered and brought to the auditorium where the wedding was to take place. The groom and the sheikh officiating were sitting and waiting for me on a platform at the top of a large flight of stairs (remember the stairs for future reference.) Feeling as if I were facing my doom I started up the stairs but as I ascended one by one my body began to get heavier and the effort to climb higher became greater until at the top I was climbing on my hands and knees, heaving my thousand-pound body up one stair at a time. When I got to the top and was about to take my seat next to the groom I panicked and, in a moment of distraction, made a break for it, racing down a back way and out the doors. My groom came after me and when I realized that there was no escape I collapsed into the grass and wished for oblivion. He came and laid down next to me as if we were jut companionably watching the clouds float by. Eventually I mentioned that we should probably go back and he just laughed and answered, "Why? We're already married." At which I felt like my life was over and the weight of the world was crushing my chest and then I woke up.

There was no misinterpreting that dream, but when I brought it to a local sheikh I found that in dreams bangles/bracelets are synonymous with religion. If the bangle is so tight you can't get it off it is a good sign meaning that it will be good for your religion, but if it won't stay on it means that which you were praying about is bad for your religion.

But I already knew it.

When it came to the decision to marry my husband I only made istikhara a few times but the dream I received in response was as obvious in its meaning as the other had been.

My dream began with me relaxing in an unending and perfect green field beneath an unblemished blue sky. Pretty much exactly the windows xp default wallpaper down to the giant hill, I kid you not. And this area I was contently chilling in was called Islam, as in thats what it was labeled on the map. Anyways, as I was hanging out I got a call from my family that my cousin (Oogie's older brother) had been killed on duty in Iraq and my family was in mourning. I knew I needed to be with them so I walked to the white marble wall that marked the border between Islam and Jahilya and hopped back into oblivion. In Jahilyah (its actual name in my dream) it was permanent dusk and there was no life, I immediately forgot about Islam and entered into a zombie-like state. I hooked up with my cousin (Oogie's younger sister) and began to go around with her from party to party. I never drank or partook in the sexual orgies and disgusting past times that marked everywhere I could see but I was a silent observer of it all. Eventually depression engulfed me and I left my cousin behind to wander looking for happiness (exactly like I had before I found Islam) until I realized that my phone had been incessantly ringing. I checked my voicemail and found messages from my husband-to-be saying that he knew I was not the person I had become, that what I was doing wasn't me, and that I needed to return. In that moment I remembered Islam and realized what spell I had been under and I set off back towards Islam. I came to the marble wall but getting back into Islam from Jahilya was going to be harder than leaving it had been. To leave I jumped a four-foot wall, but now between me and the wall, which had become now one hundred feet tall, was a gaping divide filled with hellfire. In order to cross the ravine and get over the wall I had to climb up a staircase of thin, razor-sharp silver wires. I dutifully began to climb and as I did the wires cut my hands and feet and I could look down straight into the hellfires and the demons waiting inside. But each step I climbed I shed my sins and my body became lighter until the wires no longer cut me and I felt as I were floating. I got to the top and rolled over to land back in Islam where my husband-to-be waited for me dressed in pristine white clothing. I clung to him crying about the terrible dream I had had about being stuck in Jahilya but he only brushed it away smiling with love into my face saying, "Don't worry habibty, it was only a dream. You are Muslim and you don't need to worry about a thing, its all over," and I woke up completely content.

From that moment I never feared the future with my now husband. I felt completely at peace with the decision to marry him and this peace has carried through to every part of our lives together.

God has granted me the supreme blessing of receiving my answers in such a concise manner. Not all istikhara is answered by dreams, not all of MY istikhara has been answered in dreams, but when it mattered I was given an answer there was no way I could deny.

Its been a long journey, but the blessings and rewards are great.

And I guess, if one is to believe my dream, Islam/Janna looks a lot like windows xp.

Also something I found out after I had that dream is that the soul must cross a bridge of razor thin wire between heaven and hell, each cut the soul receives removes a sin so by the time it reaches Janna it is pure.

I'm only reciting this from memory and not from an actual source as I find myself quite tired now and ready to go to bed.

To sleep, perchance to dream.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Wind Is Coming

I walked out of the store today into the fierce wind of a coming storm. I love these storms and these winds because they remind me of the beautiful, crazy, wild, and awesome thunderstorms of Minnesota summers. Hot afternoons broken by the relief of cool wind and rain, the smell of hot, wet asphalt, and the wild displays of lightening and ear-splitting thunder. They remind me of my childhood.

When the wind hit me this afternoon it brought to mind a poem I wrote many years ago which still remains a personal favorite:

The die is cast, the dead are born
Call out to the holy
The winds are

And I- I lie dead in a field of daisies
Kissing the sky
with an open mouth.
Swear love on the clouds as they pass the world by.
And I- I lie dead in the sky.

Wind, it brings change, destruction, devastation, renewal, it pushes the clouds, it moves the earth. When spring comes the wind churns the lakes to bring life back to the water.

In the movie Chocolat the wind keeps the protagonist moving from place to place like a vagabond.

The winds return, and I move. The wind and the storms remind me of home, of childhood, of that supreme peace that one remembers of days growing up. I will miss the miraculous thunderstorms of summer, I will miss the smell of fresh cut grass on saturday mornings and the purring of lawnmowers.

But thankfully I get to enjoy now: the beautiful afternoons of a flower-filled spring. And yes, the wind that comes before the afternoon thunderstorms and the sweet smell of hot wet asphalt.

The winds are returning and I will spread my wings and fly.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What, you want me to work?

Random Wednesday will be postponed due to work sucking.

Will resume when boss is not looking, or I have quit.

Whichever comes first.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

“Thank God our women are at home”

Excerpted from the NY Times piece on Saudi youth, the men specifically.

'Suddenly, the young men stopped focusing on their food. A woman had entered the restaurant, alone. She was completely draped in a black abaya, her face covered by a black veil, her hair and ears covered by a black cloth pulled tight.

“Look at the batman,” Nader said derisively, snickering.

Enad pretended to toss his burning cigarette at the woman, who by now had been seated at a table. The glaring young men unnerved her, as though her parents had caught her doing something wrong.

“She is alone, without a man,” Enad said, explaining why they were disgusted, not just with her, but with her male relatives, too, wherever they were.

When a man joined her at the table —
someone they assumed was her husband — she removed her face veil, which fueled
Enad and Nader’s hostility. They continued to make mocking hand gestures and
comments until the couple changed tables. Even then, the woman was so flustered
she held the cloth self-consciously over her face throughout her meal.

“Thank God our women are at home,” Enad said.'

Excuse me if I thought the purpose of HIJAB (not niqab) is to set Muslimahs apart and protect them from harassment. So how is it ok for a "Muslim" man to harass a hijabed Muslimah?

I also want to call particular attention to the fact that Enad is smoking a cigarette, and that at the beginning of the story Nader is planning to ask a front desk girl for her phone number.

While the Saudi culture may be the base of their problems, the youth are the perpetrators, particularly the MALE youth.

I'm not an expert on the KSA or Saudi culture, but I can tell you from my point of view and from my interaction with Saudis I have yet to meet a bigger bunch of hypocrites.

Of course not all Saudis are bad, but the extent to which I have seen this or similar interactions play out in real life and before my own eyes leads me to believe that it is indicative of the population as a whole with the exception being just a few.

But who is more damned? The perpetrators of the evil, or those who allow the evil to go unchecked?

The people of Salah (a'lehi wa salaam) were damned as a whole for not stopping the actions of a handful of men.

This type of shit is what makes me sick of a lot of "Muslims." This is why I stand in the crowd and scream about the difference between Islam-as-culture and Islam-as-religion.

There is a difference, and the culture of the KSA is the biggest, ugliest, slimiest example of it.

Here is the article about the Saudi female side, although you may need to register to read it.

And here is the article about youth in Egypt.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

My Laptop and I

have had a very close relationship since the beginning of the violence in Lebanon. And while I sit here and curse the American media firewall against all non-American news, I just want to show some undying love to the people who blog in English about the fighting for the non-Arabic speakers like me.

Charles Malik
and The Angry Arab News Service.

The latter which gave me my one and only moment of laughter during this horror:

Commenting on the Saudi propogranda war-
"AlArabiya TV rolls out advocates for Husni Mubarak and House of Saud and Hashemite Kingdom who state (without irony) that they are opposed to Hizbullah because the latter is not democratic."

I too wonder how they could say that with a straight face.

But what I want to know is why were the Sunni militia told to stand down? Whats the ultimate game here?

Charles Malik writes here that it is Syria backing Hezbollah with the plan of resuming control over Lebanese politics, hokay, and this seems to be a general consensus. As'ad Abukhalil (Angry Arab) wrote :

"You can't analyze the situation in the Middle East only in pure sectarian terms. For example: NBN TV (Nabih Birri TV) yesterday reported that `Adil `Abdul-Mahdi (a leader of the pro-US, pro-Iranian Badr sectarian militia which, among other crimes, largely orchestrated the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Iraq) called Nabih Birri (the leader of the Amal sectarian militia which led the war on the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, when Palestinian brothers and sisters were forced to eat rats to survive). So the leader of a militia that is implementing the US plan in Iraq, called and congratulated (?) the leader of the militia that is fighting the US plan in Lebanon?"

Which would lead one to believe that this may have been US-backed, but how in the hell could someone be "pro-US" AND "pro-Iranian" at the same time?

I spoke Thursday evening with the clerk of the Lebanese-owned cornerstore by my house who talked about Hezbollah being backed by Syria, or more specifically the pro-Alouwite (or shall I say Alouwite majority?) government in Syria and Iran. Which was news to me as I had largely ignored Syria and did not know the president is an Alouwite (shi'a for those who don't know what Alouwite is.. crazy ass shi'a.)

Anyways, so one could with confidence assume that Hezbollah, Amal, and the SSNP were backed by Syria and Iran (which Iran is so much of a given that I almost forgot to mention it,) but why US-backed?

And why were the Sunnis told to back down?

Abukhalil quoted from the NY Times,

""On Friday, numerous men in the Sunni neighborhood of Tarik Jadideh complained that they had been given instructions not to fight, and now felt humiliated. “Saad Hariri let us down,” said one young man in Tarik Jadideh, where the streets were still littered with broken glass on Friday, and blackened building facades bore witness to fierce battles the night before with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms. “We don’t want the Future Movement any more, or the whole Hariri family.” The man refused to give his name, because Mr. Hariri is such an important figure in the area. Another young man added: “What happened last night around midnight is that orders were given to desert our positions and go home.""

And Sandmonkey writes,

"I never thought that the Sunni neighborhoods would fall this quickly, nor that Hezbollah would control Beirut this easily. But here we are, and it all seems so…deliberate. Like M14 wanted this to happen. Like they wanted Hezbollah exposed. Their refusal to engage with the opposition fighters is making the latter look-and rightfully so- like thugs."

So who is playing who? Syria/Iran funds/arms the Shi'a militia with the idea of setting up a Shi'a-ruled puppet government (don't pay any attention to the sect behind the curtain...,) somehow with the backing of the US (never you mind the chest thumping the US has been doing about fighting Iran) and the Sunni officials tell the Sunni militia to back down and let Hezbollah make an ass of itself as the meanie on the playground.


So my take out of all of this is that Hezbollah tried to take over Lebanon but, without an enemy to fight, found no ground... what is keeping them from completely over-running the government offices and setting up shop?

And the humiliation the Sunnis have endured, was it a master strike in this political game of chess?

Politics... oh politics.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Boy Wednesdays come around fast

If only Friday afternoons came this quickly.

* So yesterday, I managed to get on the wrong bus.

Only me peoples, only me.

I left work like my tail was on fire and got to my bus stop earlier than normal so when I saw a bus for my route go past I ran to catch it delighted that I would get back to my car sooner. In the process of running (since it is apparent that I am unable to even walk and chew gum at the same time) I did not check to make certain it was the correct bus when I got on. I settled into the seat self-satisfied and called Rahma to apologize for blowing right past her on the street in persuit of said bus. At some point in our conversation I realized that either my bus driver had found a new, better, route to get back to the park and ride or I had managed to get myself on the wrong bus. Ending the call and inquiring of the gentleman sitting next to me I found, to my complete and utter chagrin, that it was in fact the latter and instead of heading towards my familiar east metro park and ride I found myself unceremoniously dumped on 252 and 694 in the far northwest metro.

In the pouring rain.

The Glorious Miss M, with whom I had a dinner date and was scurrying back to my car as quickly as I could for, came and picked my stranded a$$ up and we abandoned plans for delicious Pho Tai in favor of the fantabulous Afghani restaurant Crescent Moon, since we had so luckily found ourselves in that neck of the woods.

It was delightful, and semi-made up for my prodigeous blunder.

We also then went to JoAnn Fabrics to see if we could find resin and pendant frames in which we could create jewelry something like this and were informed, by the JoAnn CRAFT STORE(!!!) employee, that our project was "just too crafty." I didn't realize that was possible.

* There are a million Canadian Geese running around, and just yesterday I noticed that one pair is ahead of the game and already has a small brood of adorable goslings to look after. Aww.

And one goose this morning, possibly in an effort to look cool in front of his friends, decided to nonchalantly saunter across the road in front of me. Fortunately I break for living creatures because the way he stopped right in the middle to check out the very large vehicle moving quickly in his direction made me wonder if, for evolutionary purposes, it might be better to remove him from the gene pool.

I also get kind of emotional when I see dead Canadian geese on the road because they mate for life.

* There are always 'homeless' beggars standing with signs at the top of the off ramp my bus takes and more often than not it is one particular gentleman who looks just like Santa Claus, and when we passed him the other morning the thought popped into my head that if even Santa Claus is out of work then our economy really is f***d.

* When I was in Egypt last summer my husband and I were discussing superstitions in our respective cultures and I explained that Americans think the number 13 is unlucky so a lot of buildings, especially the old ones, will not have a thirteenth floor. It will always skip numbering from the twelfth to the fourteeth floor, which does not mean the floor is not the thirteenth floor, because sequentially it IS, but it will never be numbered 13. The building I work in is one of such buildings, we do not have a thirteenth floor, and we have gargoyles on the roof. Really ugly ones.

Anyone remember the Gargoyles cartoon from forever ago?

* I've been doing research on hypoglycemia and hyperinsulinism because I think I might have one or both. Anyone have these/ know anything about them?

* For awhile at this job I was one person doing the work of at least three. At the beginning of last week we got a second person from my temp agency and the clinic hired a new girl so for about a week and a half I wasn't running around like a chicken with my head cut off.

Then I come in today and find that they have ended the contract with the other temp girl for some completely unknown reason that probably stems from having their heads firmly lodged somewhere in their lower bowel system and here I am stuck doing the job of three people again because the new hire and her trainer enjoy shooting the breeze and hanging out more than they enjoy working.

I'm pissed. Its just not a good day today.

Since today seems to be my piss and moan day, feel free to do the same for yourself as needed in my comments.

Random Wednesday people, you only get it here.

Monday, May 5, 2008

A Weekend of Realizations

I had a lot of things that happened over the weekend, not necessarily bad but that had a lot of impact, and well were just really interesting.

For one this weekend was the Festival of Nations which is a yearly celebration of ethnic and cultural diversity, one that they have been doing for 76 years here in Minnesota. I think thats pretty awesome. I had missed the past two years because I was in Arizona (which definately does not have anything as cool as that) and I anticipate missing next year since I will most likely be in Egypt, so I was keen to go this year. On saturday I called Oogie and dragged her along with me, she of the white is right mentality. Ok, not exactly like that- she actually isn't racist at all, but I have to say I am probably the most "ethnic" of all of her friends and we happen to be of the same blood. Anyways, we had a really good time, I always enjoy hanging out with her, and what I really like is that she was completely game for me to drag her to something she'd never go to on her own, and she was open to having a good time. Sure she didn't try the koshari I got from the Egyptian food stall, but she did give the mango milkshake I got from the Indian food stall a whirl. She watched the ethnic dancing with me, and wandered the bazaar and we had a really good time. She even laughed at the arab guys who were giving us funny looks standing in the line for the shuttle.

After the Festival of Nations and Oogie had dropped me off at home, I headed over to my friend Nadeem's surprise birthday party. His wife Fatima had called me on Thursday to invite me and I was delighted. He turned the big 3-0 this year, so it was a pretty big occasion, however it was at his parents' house, the same parents who are not terribly happy with his choice of religion. Nadeem is a dutch South African convert who was quite instrumental in my own conversion. At the party he was made to stand up and give a speech naming everyone there, how he met them, and how long he has known them. When he got to me he stopped and thought and we both realized that it has been quite a LOT of years that we have known each other. He said 8 or 9 years, but just this morning I was pondering that, and it has not actually been quite that long because frankly I'm just not old enough to have known him that long. Ha. At the party we put the date at Halloween of 2000 but in actuality it was Halloween of 2002; I hadn't even graduated high school let alone moved to Saint Paul in 2000, so it is quite impossible. But I remember meeting him because of the circumstances surrounding us at the moment.

I had worked for almost a year before meeting him with his first wife Linda, a Saudi-American Muslim and the woman who brought him to Islam, so I knew OF Nadeem but had never actually met him. Earlier in the fall of that year they had decided to get married, without her father's permission or knowledge, her father being in Jeddah and not there to oversee her actions. Understandably her father was completely incensed and against the marriage, some may even argue that Islamically she could not marry without his consent, but there it was. Of course we were all on Linda's side while she went through the drama with her family, but we were all against the decision she made to return to Saudia at her father's request to "discuss" the situation. We all told her if she went back they would never let her leave, but she still went and they never let her leave again. Immediately upon her arrival she was brutally beaten by her father and locked in her room, her American passport was confiscated and burned and for thirteen weeks she was terrorized. Nadeem spent two years and thousands of dollars trying to get her home, but in the end her father won, he had a local sheikh dissolve her marriage on the account that she did it without his consent and married her off to one of her cousins.

It was a few weeks after Linda left that I met him, and after that we became really good friends. I remember that he and I would spend hours discussing Islam and why he had decided to become a Muslim, and because he himself had come from my same situation he knew the answers for the questions I was asking as he had asked the same ones himself. We had become close during his darkest times after his marriage ended, and the day I stood up at his wedding to Fatima and said my final "I told you that you would find love again" to him, I felt like he was my family. At the party it made me think and remember the long journey both he and I have been through and how thankful I am for him, for his gorgeous wife Fatima (who is mashAllah a very beautiful Sri Lankan) and for their adorable little girl.

Maybe it wasn't the eight or nine years that we both thought it was, but sure as hell feels like it.

Returning back to what is so significant about the party being at his parents' house is that they are very unhappy with his religious choices, so much so that they have forbidden him to mention it to any of their/his South African friends, and they are also not terribly fond of anyone who reminds them that their son happens to be a Muslim. Like a certain friend of his who wears hijab. But as uncomfortable as I thought it would be I actually spent a lovely time deep in discussion about Islam and culture, and the differences between, with a South African couple. They knew almost nothing about Islam so I got a wonderful chance to right some misconceptions that they had, and explain some confusing things they had learned previously. I always enjoy talking about Islam, but I especially enjoy talking about it with people who are highly educated, it means I can go more in depth into topics than I can with people who don't understand the difference between internal versus public portrayal. I had a wonderful time and went home content.

And then came Sunday, as is the usual sequence of events, and a family dinner for my mother's birthday. I've come to dread public events where my aunt will be, yes that aunt, who still won't even stand next to me in public. I was not feeling well and certainly not in the mood to deal with anything she might say to me so I was tense before I even arrived. Luckily the dinner went off without a hitch (alhumdulillah) and in fact that only religious reference she made was about her satisfaction that my mom is dating a Catholic guy and that she hoped my mom would go back to the Catholic church "where she belonged." Nothing was said to me about where I belong. We also sat at different ends of the table.

However nothing lasts forever, this coming Sunday- Mother's Day- the family will be getting together at my aunt's house.


The last place I want to find myself is on her home turf, and its REALLY unfortunate that I feel that way because I have always loved my aunt and been fairly close with her. She's never been my favorite person because she is so caustic, but I had never been on the receiving end of her wrath. Now I'm faced with the sincere desire to suddenly realize I have some other commitment on Sunday that means I can't go, but alas I cannot, nor would there be anything more important than a final Mother's Day with my mom and grandma before I leave. Instead I am stuck for the rest of this week dreading this coming Sunday and all it entails.

The other thing during the dinner I realized, and it probably is the hardest thing I'll have to deal with once I move to Egypt is my grandfather. He has Alzheimer's and Parkinson's and over the past one to two years has been rapidly degenerating to the point that he has a hard time getting up and walking by himself. He also has lost quite a bit of his mental capabilities and I'm worried that when I leave he may get to the point of no longer recognizing me when I come back. When I leave I may be saying goodbye to my grandfather forever and that scares me, and it hurts me.

I watched him slowly eating yesterday and he paused and looked up and caught my eye and smiled.

I don't want to say goodbye.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Da List

In honor of moving to Egypt I wanted to make some lists. A list of things I will miss about home, and things I'm looking forward to getting away from; and a list of things I'm looking forward to in Egypt, and things I am not looking forward to in Egypt.

Things I will miss are in green, things I will not miss are in red


1. I will miss my mom, my family, and my friends a lot.
1. I will not miss being badgered by various family members for becoming Muslim.

2. I will miss American food.
2. I will not miss all the preservatives/pestacides used in American food.

3. I will miss my car.
3. I will not miss paying gas prices.

4. I will miss hearing both of my languages spoken at all places around me.
4. I will not miss having people speak to me like I don't speak English because of my hijab.

5. I will miss having 200 random channels of English TV available and all the shows I am addicted to like the Medium, SVU, and Scrubs.
5. Actually there is nothing I will not miss about that.

6. I will miss being able to go out and drive around aimlessly like I do here when I'm really stressed or under pressure. I will also miss being able to get somewhere in a reasonable amount of time because no matter how much TCers like to complain about our traffic (especially since the 35W collapse) it doesn't hold a candle next to the hot mess of Cairo traffic.

7. I will not miss traffic cops catching people (occasionally me) for speeding.

8. I will miss Cub Foods.
8. I will not miss Cub Foods' produce.

9. I will miss my mattress. Lots. I mean a lot a lot.

10. I will miss the 4th of July fireworks and sitting on the grass with my favorite cousins.

11. I will miss my cousin Oogie (not her real name but a nickname we've called her since childhood) and sewing/watching movies/playing WOW/talking on the phone/going out to dinner/playing Wii bowling/playing zonk/playing hand and foot.... etc. And also her mom and dad who are some of my favorite people in the world. I know this counts as missing family, but she's like my best friend and deserves her own number.

12. I'll miss the births of a lot of my friends' babies (Carrie and Mer specifically).

13. I'll miss knowing my way around. Everything.

14. I'll miss being in control. HA! Thats gonna be a big one, I'm really going to miss being in control. Control of where I go, what I can do, what I can take care of, etc. Moving it Egypt is definately going to be a lesson in letting go.

15. I'm really just going to miss home.


1. I'm looking forward to being with my husband. I might mention that one a couple of times cuz I'm REALLY looking forward to that one.

2. I'm looking forward to seeing my neices and nephews and all of my in-laws cuz I really do love them.

3. I'm looking forward to learning Arabic.
3. I'm not looking forward to not understanding until I do.

4. I'm looking forward to warm winters.
4. But I'm definately not looking forward to the summer.

5. I'm looking forward to all the new experiences, new places to see, new people to meet.

6. I'm looking forward to being in a Muslim country. REALLY looking forward to that one.

7. I'm looking forward to having my own kitchen to cook food in and play house -this time for real- with my husband.
7. I'm terrified of actually having to prove I'm a good cook.

8. I'm looking forward to koshari and really good lebanese restaurants.
8. I'm not looking forward to any other Egyptian food. Ok maybe maashi.

9. I am looking forward to fresh produce that actually tastes like food. Oh and halal meat.
9. Not really looking forward to the less than FDA-standard sanitation involved with both of the above.

10. Not looking forward to Cairo traffic. But I am kind of excited to see people riding donkeys up 6 lane causeways again. It tickles me funnybone.

11. I'm looking forward to being in the desert again. I miss that about Arizona, I'm really a desert girl at heart.

12. I'm REALLY looking forward to Arabic music. Not even kidding. When I came back from Egypt last summer I avoided radio stations for about five months. Music here sucks.

13. I'm looking forward to actually having a house of my own. I've always either been in my mom's house, or a roomie, or in a dorm room, so I never got the chance to interior decorate at will.

14. I would love to work in Egypt and am looking forward to that opportunity (inshAllah). I hope that I am given one.

15. I'm not looking forward to garbage in the streets.

16. I'm not looking forward to corruption or the loss of my basic human rights.

17. I'm not looking forward to people honking their horns 24 hours a day.

18. But I am looking forward to the smiles and warmth of the Egyptian people.

19. The ADHAN!!!! I'm looking forward to always hearing that. (thanks DawnUK I forgot one of the most important ones.)

20. I am looking forward to a completely new way of life.

Feel free to add any advice and/or extras to the list, I may have left out some things.