Wednesday, October 12, 2011

In today's news...

I must be honest, I don't usually follow the news much. I have my reasons. First of all, I've seen the way the Middle East (among other topics) is typically portrayed in western media, and I've seen for myself that many such portrayals tend to be exaggerated and/or biased.

Secondly, I find that the news tends to be terribly impersonal and without feeling. I care too much about people for that. When a disaster happens, such as a city being bombed or destroyed by some natural phenomenon, the first thing I want to know is what are the survivors really going through? How many children now don't have homes? or parents? What about the widower who will now drink his coffee alone every morning? How are the now-single mothers going to take care of their children? I once heard someone say that one death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic. I don't think that way, and I hope I never do. I care about the individual tragedies, whether one or one million. So whenever I do watch any news, I add my own feelings by asking myself questions. 

In today's news, I happened to hear about an Iranian actress, Marzieh Vafamehr, who was recently sentenced to a year in prison and 90 lashes for appearing in a film (My Tehran For Sale) about government censorship in Iran. The following is my chain of questions:
Where is Marzieh right now?
What is she thinking? Is she afraid?
Did she have any idea what the consequences of this film might be?
Was it worth it?
What if that was me?
Would I survive 90 lashes?
What would 90 lashes do to my body?
Does she have a  family?
I wish I could hug her and tell her 'well done!'
I wish to God I could help her.

But the news report I read didn't ask or answer any of these questions. Why not? How might people think differently if they were given the full story each time they watched the news? What might happen if we all started to ask our own questions about what the media feeds us?
Thank you Marzieh. I hope your suffering is not in vain.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What mean domestic?

In one of my classes today I gave a conversation activity. The students were supposed to ask eachother questions using a certain grammar topic. During conversation, one question that came up was, 'What pets did you used to have when you were a child?' And the conversation continued as follows:

Mahmoud: 'Teacher, what mean "pets"?'
Me: 'It's an animal you keep--'
Mahmoud: 'Ah, camel!'
Me: 'Heh, well--'
Omar: 'Teacher, what is a pet?'
Mahmoud: 'Like animal in your house, cat, dog, camel...'
Me: 'Do you keep a camel in your house?'
Saleh: 'Teacher, can I say falcon is a pet?'
Me: 'Yes, Saleh, you can say a falcon is a pet.'
Saleh: 'Ok. I have a falcon.'
Me: silently laughing to myself...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Today Ray and I decided to go biking and rollerblading--he bikes, I rollerblade. As we were leaving the house, he realized that his tires were a bit low on air, so we decided to go to the nearest ADNOC station to fill up. It's very close to our house. Since it was rush hour the gas station was completely packed. Ray and I maneuvered through the crowded parking lot to the air pump. While Ray was filling up, I glanced across the street.

Now this is the street we live on. It is also the street where Ray and his family lived for about 14 years. The building where Ray and his family lived is in the process of being demolished. We pass this building regularly and every time the demolition makes further progress, but for some reason I really noticed it today. While Ray was pumping air, I was looking at his old home being destroyed.

Buildings here are demolished all the time. I just taught the word 'demolish' to a group of students the other day because in this city it's such a common word. demolish transitive verb: 1a:tear down, raze b: to break to pieces : smash 2a: to do away with : destroy b: to strip of any pretense of merit or credence.
Once Ray finished getting air we stood together staring up at his former home, counting the floors, trying to figure out which pulverised rooms used to hold our memories. I spent a lot of time with him in that house. Now it looks like a life-sized dollhouse, half open for the world to see inside.
"I think that was your front door."
"No, that's the door to the kitchen."
"Your sister's bedroom is gone."
"I can still see a bit of my parents' room."

How strange it is to stand across the street and peer into a place that used to contain your life. People used to sleep there, eat there, make love there, laugh, cry, dream, grow, live. Soon it will no longer exist. The house that I see in the playback of my mind will be an empty lot.
I wonder where all the neighbors went.
I wonder what they'll build on the empty space.

Monday, September 5, 2011

My Summer Vacation

I am back. Yes, I took a vacation. A long, much needed vacation from work, from the UAE, from this blog, from email, from facebook, and all the pressures of adult life. Here are some things that I did on my vacation:

  • Slept in...everyday.
  • Saw almost every member of my family that I know of and some that I didn't know.
  • Played hide-and-seek in my grandma's house with my nephews instead of hanging out with the grown-ups.
  • Took a nap.
  • Watched cartoons.
  • Went to the zoo.
  • Built towers out of blocks with my nephews.
  • Tried to catch lizards (failed), fed ducks and ponies, and cuddled with a puppy.
  • Spent an entire day getting dirty, four-wheeling through 'swamps' (yes, I'm from the South).
  • Spent HOURS shopping with my sister.
  • Kept my mobile phone turned off for more than a month.
  • Rarely remembered what day it was and didn't plan my day according to a clock.
It was a good vacation. I think I mentioned in a previous post that I hadn't been back to the States in over a year, the longest I've ever been away. Before I left, I decided I was going to just chill, to not allow myself to be stressed about anything, to let myself remember what it was like to be a kid again. I think that descision, combined with my being gone for so long, helped me to see so many things differently. Instead of feeling awkward and out of place among other Americans, instead of judging American ignorance and materialism, I found myself enjoying its freedom. I saw that it actually is a fun and beautiful country, something I hadn't noticed in a very long time. As I let myself become a child again, a teenager again, I let myself become me again, and I realized that I'm fun and beautiful too.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Wow, I didn't realize it had been so long since I last posted--almost a full month! Our internet got shut off for a while (funny how that happens when you forget to pay the bill for six months:-P) and then I just got really busy with work. Today, though I've had a million things to do, I've managed to let myself think that the work will get taken care of in its own time.

Ray and I are leaving for the U.S. this week and we'll be gone for all of Ramadan. It's Ray's first time going to the States. I haven't been back for a year now.

I've been so excited, possibly the most excited I've ever been about anything. I'm finally going to get to show Ray all the places where I grew up and experience with him so many things that are normal for me that he's never done. Like hiking through a forest, fourwheeling, WhiteWater, and Wal-mart.

But I have to be honest. I'm a little afraid too. Maybe even more than a little. As I said, I haven't been back in a year.

Though it's never strange for me to be with my family, it's always strange to be back in the U.S. In Marietta. In my house. It's not my house anymore. I hear many people here in AD talk about 'going home' for the summer. I wonder if they feel the same way as I do. A little bit homeless.

Between 2006 and 2007 I spent maybe a couple of months in the States. Most of my time was spent between Haiti and Abu Dhabi. The times that I was in the U.S. were very strange. Shopping malls made me nervous and I found that I no longer knew how to talk to people who spoke English. I felt like a foreigner. Like my home was no longer my home. I think I realized then that my sense of home that I had always felt through my childhood and young adult years was gone.

Since I moved to AD in 2008, every time I've gone back to the States for a visit I've found this feeling of homelessness is stronger. I see that Life has gone on without me, and that sense of rest and relief that one associates with 'going home' seems to taunt me from some place that no longer exists. My haven, my own little corner of the world...I don't have one. Yes, this thought does make me cry sometimes. Because sometimes I'm tired, or afraid, and I just wish I could run home, but I don't know where that is.

I have some thoughts that comfort me though: I know I'm not alone. I know there are other people who feel the same. And through history, there have been some amazing people who also had no homes. Secondly, I know I'm living the life I chose, the life God planned for me. If I had stayed in my old life in the U.S., I would have always wondered what could have been.

Deep down inside me, I know the rest and relief of 'home' I'm looking for don't exist in a geographical location. I may not know exactly how to find them, but I'll keep searching. Who knows, maybe my home will find me. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Faith Shared

Yesterday, June 26th, churches and other religious centers all over America participated in an event called "Faith Shared". Maybe you've heard about this. During this event, people gathered together from multiple different religions, particularly Christians and Muslims, and held interfaith services. The point of these events was to show religious tolerance and to let the world know that the large majority of Americans are not all bent on burning the Quran. You can find further information about this event here.

Personally, from the information I read on the event's website, I thought it seemed to have the potential to be positive. However, the way I first heard about it was anything but. Being in the Middle East, I rely on the <sarcasm coming up> dependable source of facebook status updates to bring me the most important news from the USA. I stumbled upon a status update that criticised the Faith Shared event, claiming that one of its leaders was being influenced by the spirit of the anti-christ and that the event's purpose was to promote a new religion: Chrislam. I googled this term, which I had never previously heard, (and which was nowhere to be found on the Faith Shared website) and I found other websites that had similar viewpoints.

I will let you draw your own conclusions about the Faith Shared event. My main concern is the sense of fear that so many people seem to be caught up in. I can understand that Faith Shared could cause some people to question the boundaries of their faith and to be concerned about whether or not it may compromise their beliefs. However, I believe there is no compromise of faith worse than fear. It causes us to exaggerate, to be suspicious and inhumane. At the same time, I don't believe that tolerance is enough to combat this fear. The only way to live in uncompromised faith and reject fear is to love proactively.

Feed a homeless person. Say hello to your Muslim neighbors and share a cup of tea. Pray sincerely. You get the idea. It's all proactive love and there is no compromise in that. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Women. Drivers. Ninjas.

I have some students whose faces I have never seen. They are women, and they cover their faces, all but their eyes, with a veil. I've realized recently that my relationship with these women is a little different from my relationship with other students. I recognize them by their eyes, tone of voice, and most of all personality. One student, whom I'll call Fatima, is one of the most beautiful women I've never seen. She's bold, outspoken, and hardworking. Anytime I give some assignment in class, she takes charge. She laughs easily and smiles with her eyes. I've found that most of my veiled students have similar personalities; their hearts are bright and visible, even if their faces aren't.

When I recently read about Saudi women defying the driving ban, I thought of Fatima. Though women are free to drive in the UAE, she's exactly the kind of woman who would buck the system. I'm sure these ladies who are driving around Saudi Arabia are probably also just as sassy, and just as beautiful. This will probably sound terrible, but I've sometimes heard young people refer to veiled women as 'Ninjas'. You can figure out why. I think though that this term might be appropriate for these heroic women drivers. They really are fighting for something.

Whether it's my rebellious nature or my love of justice and equality that makes me excited by these women's defiance, I don't know. But I'm proud of them and I'm praying for them.