Archive for the 'life' Category

08
Oct
10

Yemen Impressions: Shop ’til you drop… in an understated way

Yemeni are shopping… Oh you mean there are two upheavals going on!? Yemeni are also getting married, having babies, driving newer cars (bought in “dibei”), and if they have the mula attached to their household name then they are decorating…but in an understated way… Tariq Ali said there was wealth in Yemen but subtle in its use and careful in its presentation…

Says who!? Well the amount of department stores being built and used daily until the wee hours of the night, for one. Or better yet, the quality of the products being bought- take a stroll around “Turkish City” the Better Homes & Gardens Yemeni equivalent to Crate & Barrel, Bed-Bath-& Beyond, Macy’s, and Ikea rolled into one with a touch of Linens & Things, Sears, Spiegel and Home Depot/Loews… This store says “I know what I want and where it goes”…did I tell you that the female shoppers outweigh the male ones? In Yemen?! No!!! Yep…

So something is changing… I see it in the homes I visited in Sana’a – there is a distinction rising and its pretty interesting…

Guess its not all bazooka toting Houtis- by the way didn’t see one- the Houti nor the bazooka!

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07
Oct
10

Yemen Impressions: satellite dishes and hindi soaps

I got a chance to catch up on all my Hindi soaps- and as usual got the whole womenfolk of the household hooked! Never mind they couldn’t understand a word- the facial expressions and background music spoke volumes in any language. Those cliff hangers and “twists” are uniquely Indian! In addition, I was able to literally roll in unmitigated laughter, watching my mother-in-law duke it out with the villains of the movie Akkbar or screech with the unknown Bhool!

We drooled over the saris and the jewelry- always a favorite pastime of Arab women- gold!!!

And best of all we tried out some of the recipes from the cooking masters- I believe they have programmed in the up-coming Indian Master Chef challenge- no translation necessary…my brother-in-laws are more than happy with that last bit… Food is a good paver…

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

06
Oct
10

Yemen Impressions: Saudi Airlines- a fiasco if Yemen is your destination

The odyssey of travel via Saudi Arabian airlines has certain demands

Pack light,
Be ready to change flights like you change your underwear,
Fight for your flights- [rights];
Take a whoppie cushion- your butt cheeks will thank you;
Be aware that its pilots can’t always land in Yemen- rain or shine;
Don’t travel with them during Ramadhan- you’ll think strategic planning wasn’t part of universal business lore;
Give your office, patients, clients a two week window for your return- when I wrote this note (it was Friday the 13th- they’re not superstitious right?) our flight had been cancelled twice in four days; eating up our one-week window down to nothing- a formal letter of apology from them was requested since we wouldn’t get home in time.

For an airline that had been known for its shining stars, even Yemania Airlines could teach them a thing or two- because them stars are a tad beyond tarnished.

Its back to flying via Emirates or its sister company- or anything -but not Saudi.

Oh and if you happen to be flying INTO Yemen via Saudi Airlines- cover your eye, nose, and mouth- they fumigate you like a pack of roaches… Darndest thing ever!

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

23
Jun
10

going home

So everything set. The tickets bought. The bags packed. All the conditions set by my healthcare providers, met.

We are going home for an extended stay during the summer months. We will celebrate our anniversary where we first met and married.

We have tickets for the shortest route possible with as many accommodations as our wallets will allow.

My daughters will stay in NY because both have classes and summer jobs to maintain. Each has a few heavy duty state-board exams that must be completed by August 1st. So vacation for them will be, well, limited to say the least. My son has been stationed on the Pacific side so he will not be here to keep an eye on things. The girls are a solid pair- they’ll do what needs to get done with flying colors, as usual.

Since I may not be in ‘internet’ range (my blackberry has its moments when taken overseas), I may not be able to answer your comments if you have never posted before. All other friends will find they will not be under ‘moderation’ mode. The first chance I get, or firm signal to hit the peaks of Yemen, I will post some updates. Maybe even some pictures.

I thank a very special people who, a few months ago, eased my anxieties about this voyage for two very different reasons. You know who you are- I send you tons of warm hugs and kisses. Thank you again for everything. You are the best!

So my friends, without further ado, we head for the airport in the early morning, and venture into a land I love and by turns want to pummel its oddities. Wish me luck, I’m going to need it. Pray and make Dua, for those are of utmost importance to my continued well being- Allah will reward you. Insha’Allah.

Ma’salaama -Have a great summer!
Inal

13
Jun
10

Weekend stuff…

I would call it the end of the Yemeni world before the desert starts

Our trip is getting closer, and the shopping of essentials has started. And I do mean essentials because the luggage business at the airports is not worth excess baggage. Unfortunately one can’t take gifts like we used to do for everyone…now we have to wait to get to our destination to buy things that are needed for each of the family members. We looked into sending a box via cargo but there was no guarantee it would arrive during our stay, much less with the holiday season a skip and a hop away.

We have clothes back home that we always leave behind for us to use, especially if the trip is short or unexpected. In this case, we are extremely glad we don’t have to take things other than the usual toiletries, and other personal items…Fast check in on this end, quick exit on the other end.

For a moment there we thought we would not be able to go; but we have been assured through various official means that it will be fine for us to travel. Especially since I am not seen as a foreigner; just another Yemeni. Until I open my big mouth that is, my accent gives me away- its Jordanian so it sticks out. But then I am not much of a talker when out in public in Yemen.

I did however get some nice sun-dresses, and Indian skirts with Kurtas. At home in the compound I can wear whatever I want, and outsiders won’t even know. Only when I venture out of the compound am I obligated to use the hijab and abaya if trekking about the mountain (I have a few abayas that were modified to give me more leg room to hike; and of course the niqab if I am going to public areas. Those being few, as women in the area where we are going do not go to the market, banks, or things of that nature- only see them in the hospital or clinic. And that, believe it or not, is fine by me. I do enough errands here in NY to want a break from them. I gladly relinquish the chores!!! Ok, so I am hankering for some TLC and pampering of the queenly type…for me that is a true vacation…mind you vacation is the objective!

At work things, as usual, are intense with the Care Management System implementation/operationalization- And as project manager for it- I am working to line all the duckies so everyone can “do” while I am away. And because in the mountains the internet is non-existent, I won’t be able to get in contact with the office via email- only phone…I’m sure at least one or two calls from the office will surface. But I’d gladly not have them call.

My daughters are staying behind- both have a lot on their plates- both have classes, volunteering work, and regular paid work. So their summer is jam-packed. My son, on his way to his new post as he informed us today. That will mean another few years without seeing him. But we are all used to it by now!

This weekend American Bedu posted a beautiful article on her experience with the American Cancer Society’s recent event in her area. It is truly wonderful to see children involved in activities that are positive to them and to the recipients. I know that all the Cancer Warriors were beaming with pride and joy! You go girl, my Pink Warrior! It does however sadden me that other places, as referred to in Bedu’s blog, like in Saudi Arabia children are stupefied- what else can you call it when they can’t think on their own, can’t enjoy any games or activities, can’t even volunteer their time for kid causes that are necessarily society’s causes!? Someone please tell me what is so wrong in showing kids how to get along, how not to point or ridicule others, how to behave in polite society, how to be productive human beings, how to be better Muslims…Yes, better Muslims- who care and do for their brethren regardless of where they are, what nationality or ethnic group!!! Better Muslims who are so comfortable in their own skins that they have no need to blame outside sources (the only source really is the infamous Wild, Wild West- big time Boogey Man) and confident in their deen. Why can’t Saudi children, teens , and young adults be part of environmental causes, science projects, social issues? Why must their lives revolve around sex?! I mean really! Every waking moment, every movement, every thought gravitates on sexual, sensual, libertine thoughts?! That is major brainwashing of humans. Most kids won’t associate anything with sex until you put it in their minds.

No teenager is going to experiment until you put up every barrier. And no young adult will go to extremes that are dangerous for their health and survival, until you castigate them for being normal humans- drifting and drag racing are products of frustration and anger. And if I take the numbers of accidents in Saudi Arabia occurring everyday, which statistics from Saudi show are the highest in the world- well then that is major pent up anger and frustration.

And what is the solution? To further restrict them, to further inhibit them, to further castigate them, to brush it under a plush rug of silence and stoic denial… Some Islam that is…Its not the Islam I have known for three decades. Its just Saudi Islam. I just shake my head in disappointment to see such a rich country, with such rich heritage bury it in the sand… What a waste of good human potential.

08
Jun
10

Today…

Today I called in for a mental health day. I worked until late last night; and I woke up feeling like a steam-roller had been flattening the living daylights out of me…my boss said-“Girl, relax and get some vitamin D- its beautiful outside.”

Therefore, I took the dog, my laptop, my specs, some munchies, and headed for the park. Caesar and I have been sunning ourselves all day… Well actually he has, I have kept to the bench under a tree! Watching some online videos from Link TV- a channel that in my house we see more often than not, because of the variety of programming it offers. I have posted a link in my Alternative Views on Life blog roll among the projects I belong to- Global Oneness Project and HelpOthers.Org…

I recently read an Op-ed from Arab News, courtesy of a link from Susie of Arabia…thanks Susie! This piece is an article on the Youth in Saudi Arabia- and I honestly agreed with him whole-heartedly. However, what always disappoints me are some of the comments that pop up in response to what needs to change – and how it needs to change in Saudi Arabia. I truly have an issue in seeing people reduce everything to sex and the mixing of the sexes…and of calling for even stricter rules that are already agonizingly harsh on the youth of Saudi Arabia.

When the author asks the youth to be educated in the sciences, in philosophy, in the arts – the responses of some were to spill the beans, again to put more weight on what the West has done wrong to justify why they need to live caged. However, historically Arabs and Muslims broadly have made magnificent contributions not only to their societies, but also to the world. When I look at the abstract art, the calligraphy, the geometric art for which is specifically an Arab art-form that has been spread across the world- I wonder why some people would find objection in teaching the Saudi youth to find their roots in these art forms and revive it to the next level? Even photography of the abstract is something that many artists do with success, as well as film- Check these video trailers Susie of Arabia posted in her blog showing the awesome creativity of Saudis.

So why go back to the tired old argument of sex and the mixing of the sexes? Can’t they get past it? Are they so sexually induced in mind and body that everything has to end there? Why would philosophy be haraam, why is thinking so reviled? Why is there so much emphasis on regulating every single aspect of life to the point that there is no living, only existing?

I guess because I don’t believe in such close-minded, locked, and caged needs-which I find it so hard to comprehend. As a Muslim – which many will find some fault in my ways because of the influence of Buddhism has in my life- I believe Allah SWT gave us a clearer message than we currently live out today. We are His creation, and as such, we are to be of service to humanity only for His Sake. Do I as a person find contradiction in believing in Allah SWT with basic Buddhist tenets? NO! Why? Because what I have taken from the teachings of Buddhism is the understanding that we as Allah’s creation are all interconnected. This is demonstrated in how we feel the pain of a child not our own. In how we can empathize with those friends, and people we don’t even know personally in their time of need; in how we can love another not of our family.

I have learned and kept alive in my life the command to seek knowledge and universal wisdom that I can apply in my life, and I marvel at the beauty of Allah SWT’s creation. In nature Allah SWT shows us what power created this universe that shines at night, makes waves of electric forces in the night sky, that shows us the remarkable creatures that swim, walk, fly in our world whose sole purpose in life is to BE. They ARE just, as Allah SWT has decreed. In oneness, they live in natural balance.

Only humans have decided, with the intelligence Allah SWT gave us, to use it to separate ourselves from creation. We want to stand apart; we want to put up walls, rules, regulations that keep us from being the humans that are interconnected at the biological level with the rest of creation. Why? Some will say because their religion states it- that they are different. In what way? All religions teach that we come from a creational power greater than us. So we have in common the thoughts and ideas that a force created us…in that alone there is oneness. Some will say that only with strict rules can we be perfect. Well I am sorry to tell you, that if the force that created us wanted us to be perfect we would not have been called humans. To want to reach perfection is to want to be Allah- and that can never be. We don’t have the power to do one inth of what that power can create. What we have is what Allah gave us, not a bit more.

So in our pursuit of perfection, we become ever more separated from each other by putting up the barriers of race, gender, social status, particular religious beliefs. We hate, we disparage, we divide, we one up each other. And we create a tension that is not natural. There is nothing natural, in the case of Muslims; of killing the mind- making us auto bots that do in prescribed steps to further avoid us from challenging the unnaturalness of those steps. There is nothing natural in people believing they are in different categories, when Allah SWT explicitly states we are all equal. We have put fear in all our hearts so that fear can rule us. But isn’t it Allah SWT that rules us? Where does this fear come from? From knowing ourselves imperfect and not admitting it? Our being is, to state Buddhism, is perfect as it was created. Not that we are perfect beings, but that our BEING is perfect. Allah SWT created us to be humans. So why do we want to be something more than what we were created to be. Why do some want to attain demi-god status through ritual perfections, rituals that we created to make us stand apart. Not higher, just apart.

Believing that you should castigate yourself and others because you believe you need to be a perfect being, not a human, is ridiculous! We have been given the gift of discernment for a reason. Do you know why? Have you sat in a quiet place to see your place in Creation? Have you analyzed what your life means in the fabric of Creation? What is it that you need to do to be human? Not just a member of a religious group- as a member of Creation.

When I see across the world ideas of human endeavors that seek to bring us closer to one another regardless of our particular belief systems, and other human embellishments, I feel that life is more than we want to make it out to be. Yes there is hunger, wars. But we made these things, and honestly we are all responsible at the individual level. Because we don’t believe our blood is one. We don’t see how our human features are replicated across continents… Take a few days and look at people’s hands and feet. I mean really look at them, and you will find in people who are not in the most remote a part of your family to have hands and feet you recognize as the hands and feet of a family member. Voices that you hear that remind you of someone who is a family member. No matter what ‘race’ you will find features that are known to you personally. The color of the eyes, the sweep of a brow, the dimple, the walk, the laugh… That demonstrates our interconnectedness. We have come from one single place- the genetic markers that make us human.

So why does the Saudi youth have to suffer discrimination? They are all connected by the very fact of their humanity! They breathe, feel, think (though the “powers that be” would want to take that off the list), aspire, and dream… yearning is not a sin. To yearn for the space to live out our humanity is not wrong; it doesn’t go against our principles as Muslims. But from reading the few comments on that Op-ed you would think that mere existence is all you have a right to. Because when you turn off the gift of intelligence, of expression- you reject what Allah SWT gave us in Creation. NOW THAT IS A DAMN SHAME!

02
Jun
10

my love affair with India…

My Hindu friends tell me that I must have been an Indian in a previous incarnation. Why? Well I truly enjoy Indian culture- its food, its internal variety of people, customs and languages; its social values, even the way that they keep their tradition (parampara, I believe is the word) and their religion in most everything they do. Also I have come to understand how Indians absorb others and give it their “twist” making everything they accept truly theirs. It becomes Indian. A very unique characteristic.

Like any society, there are pros and cons, but when you concentrate on the positives you tend to learn a lot. And if you are secure in who you are you will learn even more.

Believe me, many people wonder at my fascination; I can’t explain it. This fascination propelled me to try to learn to speak the language when I started watching Hindi Films, and later Hindi television. Why? Well, I’m a ‘cultural mutt’. I no longer have what some might categorize as a ‘pure blood-line’. And that alone allows me to explore and absorb. I can be very Spanish, very Arab, and very ‘American’ while still feeling completely at ease among a group of very religious and proper Hindu ladies. I have learned of the many similarities we share regardless of culture, religion, or even language.

The women I have sat with to embroider, have taught me about saris, about their views on marriage, child rearing, work, widowhood, and divorce. Their opinions about religious practices have taught me a valuable lesson. Beyond all the barriers we may put up out of fear or ignorance, or arrogance we are all human; feel the same emotions, and our thoughts are really very similar if we are willing to just talk. Simple conversations without the ‘mine is better than yours’ or the ‘I know more than you’- when we suspend these, the world opens up to us.

The other day I went to a Sisters’ Prayer Circle. All the attendants but two were Pakistani; myself and another Turkish muslimah married to a Pakistani completed the group. I enjoyed myself tremendously. One, because I have enough grasp of the language to participate in all the conversations. The other, because all these women, professionals in their own rights, brought ‘something’ to the event. They were all able to suspend judgments and honestly be present in the moment.

One of the social high points after readings from the Qur’an and prayers was, of course, home-made Pakistani food- the hostess is an absolutely, excellent cook! We gathered around to talk about social issues. Two of those present spoke of the work they are doing to bring to the US Afghan women’s art work and crafts- namely purses as part of a cooperative that started in Dubai, where one of them had been living for the past four years. We talked about marriage, about baby names-laughing about some of the oddest names out there. We talked of fashion, as two of the women are designers; one part time (she is also full time in investment banking) and the other who has an established and very well known International line. I have seen her work at the Kingfisher ‘Fashion Week’ events televised from India. That led us to Indian Fashion. Most of us agreed we had a penchant for Rajput era embroidery, beading, and quilting- I absolutely love the ‘coats’ worn over tight white pants and bejeweled nagras. And what’s Indian fashion without saris! The hostess remarked that I was the only non-Indian woman she had ever met that only used one pin in her sari. That called for a demonstration, the hostess bringing out a few saris in brocades, antique, and the modern tie die versions. So there I was teaching grown-up Pakistani women how to wear the various styles of saris I like- with only one broach pin! We all giggled over the fact that the older ‘aunties’ would be very angry with them, and probably shame them a bit because they had been ‘out-sari’d’ by a non-Indian!

I guess when you feel comfortable in any culture and learn while you experience it, you become a Global Citizen. My aim is to go through cultures assimilating the best of each, absorbing it, making those good parts a part of me.

A lot like being Indian…




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