Posts Tagged ‘home


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!


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.


girls, girls, girls

Yesterday while the sun was shining brightly in NY; we stayed in like cloistered nuns. It was a hair and nail day. So I’m sporting a shining head of two-inch shorter hair, buffed fingernails enough to make you put sunglasses on, and deep red toe nails to complement the henna the girls put on. No the picture posted is not my foot, but the design they replicated. Its a treat for my husband, like all Yemeni men, who loves to see his wife with lots of henna. I don’t do my hands and arms unless I am going to a wedding, its too distracting for people when I’m working. But the feet are another story.

We downloaded music to our iPods and iTouch, cooked some good old fashion ‘Con-Gri’ – Cuban styled white rice mixed with black bean with juicy T-bone steaks, tons of salad, and the ever present fried yellow plantains of the Caribbean. Yummy! We laughed, joking about things best not repeated in the general population, some serious ‘Dear Abby’ moments, and pampered ourselves as only women can. The day’s intention- a girls day in.

Caesar and hubby were banished from the house. Caesar actually got treated to a day out in the woods along with a few other dogs, whose male owners had also been banished, or temporarily abandoned for the charms and skills of hair stylists and nail gurus. All the guys congregated at the home of one colleague, no longer doctors of the day- but solo males in need of some validation bonding.

My boss would also find himself at his son’s mercy as his wife headed for her quarterly ritual; hair cut at the home of her only stylist for the past 20 years. Her stylist has worked from home for years, preferring to spend extra time doing a fabulous job while talking to the men and women sitting around the living/work area. The gathering is a lot like the ‘salon’ parties of the 19th century, where discussion went from a to z encyclopedic in volume. I have participated a few times, always arriving with Diana early to get my hair done first before the other male clients arrive. Then I can sit and enjoy the conversation over tea or coffee.

Our conversations back home were no less interesting. Its our bonding moment as women, friends, and caretakers. We’ll talk of the latest fashions, of the latest school or work politics, of the latest films and documentary, or of things that happened long ago. Oral tradition is important, yet we take so much of it for granted with our electronic devices. Days like these give us the opportunity. When friends come over for the day there are more funny, goofy moments where laughter out does serious talk. Today, the addition of my eldest daughter’s friend Nadia brought more melody. Together they treated me to both English and Arabic songs. Nadia, born and raised until she was ten in Saudi Arabia while her Filipino mom and Kenyan dad worked as nurses, has kept her Arabic in part to her life-long friendship with my daughter. My husband always chuckles when he hears Nadia and his daughter sing, saying ‘they were first on line when the voices were handed out’. He’s a pretty talented singer, not far behind on the line. My son on the other hand never got directions to the line, he’s so tone deaf even the shower can’t help…

Our world for the moment was within those walls of our apartment, feeling better every time we get a chance to do this. I guess I like those isolated moments because I can step outside any time I please. I know of many women who can’t – here and abroad. Back home in Yemen, we had many of these days, especially when the men would leave for the diwan in the afternoon. But its not quite the same even when our home affords us space and freedom of movement others below our property don’t have. The men leave but they are calling to find out what’s happening at home. I have one brother-in-law who is notorious for constantly calling – more to hear his wife’s lovely voice. Another one because he likes things so mapped out he can’t stand anything off schedule, hence the calling! My father-in-law who never goes, says that’s why he would rather stay even when he’s the one relegated to the far corners of the compound during the girlie moments. He doesn’t have to call . He knows what we are up to. My husband, when he goes to the diwans, never calls. Why should he, he once answered to the question. The women of his house have lives of their own, he doesn’t have to micro-manage.

Indeed, we “girlies” can take care of ourselves, thank you very much!


phone line switch

I have stated before how hair-raising calling Yemen can be. Nowadays it has gotten better. Yet scarcely five years ago you knew that calling during Ramadhan, any of the two ‘Eids and during bad weather were a hit and miss of universal proportions.

One such incident happened back in early 2004. Why do I remember the year? It almost ended my marriage.

My husband had to make an emergency trip just before the start of Ramadhan. His favorite sister (mine too) had been badly bitten by one of the male camels. It was a time when the camels were brought across from another mountain region. As is necessary you bring the females and calves first, then the males, keeping them as separate as possible. One of the young males was stabled at the house during the time the females were being transported. He was in a foul mood- he wanted out; he could smell females in the vicinity.

In comes my sister-in-law to feed him and her wrist becomes the appetizer. It was horrific!

My husband flew in about 24 hours later to find everyone crying, hair pulling, or arguing seemingly oblivious to the woman’s excruciating pain. He immediately put her into a jeep and headed for Sanaa a good 8 hours away. There were closer options, but the Missionary Doctor said, ‘don’t bother, go straight to Sanaa, they’ll have better equipment’.

Then the calls back and forth between us started. He was frustrated and angry at a number of medical personnel, not getting what he knew was needed to repair all the damage to her mangled wrist. I was frustrated for him and for my sister-in-law’s sake because the men that insisted on accompanying my husband were of no help, refusing to let another female of the family travel to care for her.

At one point, some two days into Ramadhan, I made the mistake of calling shortly after Dhurh. ‘All circuits are busy, please try your call again later’. I would then get intermittent access, but my husband could not be reached. I switched cards and called again. That’s when all hell broke loose.

I dialed one number, a woman answers the phone. I call the second number thinking I dialed incorrectly. The same woman answers the phone. I’m so surprised I dial a third time back to the first number, again the same woman! Now I’m angry, ready to shred my husband! Dialed a fourth time, back to number-two phone, again the same woman!

Being at work, I couldn’t go off and do a war dance. I had depleted the two cards I had. So I asked my secretary to go buy a third and different card. Every conceivable thought was running through my mind! Two different numbers, same woman didn’t bode well for my husband’s continued existence!

In the meantime in Yemen, my sister-in-law had deteriorated as people argued over her. Now that I think on it, we were all a pack of selfish fools!

When the card finally arrives, my boss walks in. He knows I have a crises back home, and wants to sit in on the call so he can advise my husband on what to do should he need the advice. I take a deep breath and call again. The same thing. But by this time the woman on the other end is also highly agitated. My boss, God bless him, motions me to keep her on the line while he calls the same number on his mobile. If the connection was true- then the call he was making would sound busy, or the woman would pick up on the other line.

The women… We were almost hollering at each other, when the line my boss is calling to gets picked up by my husband. In the background as my boss puts him on speaker are the sounds of a pack of men hollering at each other. It was not the background noise for the woman I had on the line.

My boss quickly announces towards the phone, ‘you better speak up now son, or forever hold you peace- the phones in Yemen are about to divorce you!’

At precisely that moment the woman and I both realized we had been victims of party lines- crossed at a moment we really didn’t need and would rather forget. We apologized to each other, mine being more so, because my calls started this whole mess. I explained what was happening and she, graciously, understood. ‘You don’t know how close my own husband has been to getting hit with a pot!’ She said almost with a chuckle. ‘I have never gotten so many weird calls as I have today!’

I’ll say!

The call with my husband progressed just fine, my boss taking control of the situation, giving me time to collect myself. When I finally spoke to my husband all the doctors had ‘marching orders’ from my boss the Grand Puba! With frayed nerves I asked my husband, ‘Do me a favor, let’s agree not to expect me to make calls into Yemen while its Ramadhan, at least not during the day! This has been a ‘talaq’ moment!!’


say what you need to say…

RIP Vero

Yesterday evening my colleagues and I attended the wake of the sister of another colleague to pay our respects. It was a packed house because Vero had only been 20 years old with many friends, active in her Church, beautiful, and full of life. But on late Thursday night she would accept an invitation that would change the lives of many and end hers forever.

She had been invited to a friend’s get-together and but by mid evening had wanted to leave in time to get home to finish off reading her notes for her tests at college the next day. No one had a car. She called another friend she knew was out about town. That friend said sure, but do you mind if on the way we pick up someone else that’s also stranded without a car?

Sure, no problem.

A half hour later her friend was in handcuffs, the other stranded fellow on the way to the hospital with a broken back- he would never walk again, and Vero- dead at the scene.

She never got to say goodbye to her parents, her siblings. She would never now take those tests she studied so hard for. Never again would she call her sisters for a Saturday round of hair and nail salons. She would never again sing in her Church choir nor read scriptures during service.

The reverend for her parish, spoke about saying those oh so many things you need to say to your loved ones. Say them now, every moment you get say ‘I Love You’, give praise, counsel, hugs, kisses. Laugh with them, cry along with them, and dry each others tears. He spoke of the words that now Vero would never utter, and asked the family to step into that void and speak those words to each other and to those who might never hear them from the ones they love because of life’s circumstance. He asked the family to believe in the power of love and its healing effect.

‘Say what you need to say’, John Mayers sings.

Will you say before its too late?


So who is it gonna be?

My daughters and my husband have a very special relationship. For each one of their births he was there to say “Marhaba” and whisper the Shahadah like he had done for his son. But the girls added another texture to his life. These were daddy’s girls. And boy did they wrap him around their tiny pinkies early on.  

Oh, don’t get me wrong- there have been a few door slamming sessions! Some “go to you room”, and the Yemeni silent treatment accompanied by the stare that says “now would be a good time for you to disappear”. You know, “Your lucky I love you so much, because right now I’m not liking you one bit” kind of moment…  

But on the whole they have great days. Always teasing each other, tickling, and general horsing around with lots of hugs and kisses. Today as I was sitting at the computer linked to my office, I hear them laughing hysterically in another room down the hall. A few mock screams of horror punctuating the words too far and too low to hear.  

They’re at it again, I think…  Another set of squeals, “Dad, you can’t be serious!”, “What? It’s perfectly acceptable!”  

A few minutes later they all barge into the room with another laptop in hand. They place it next to mine and point, “So! Who is it gonna be?”  


“Mom, we were hunting for the ideal men in our lives. Dad had some ideas of his own. So now you have to pick who is it gonna be!”  

I blink a few times before I dare look… I am staring at few rows of pictures…I take a deep breath about to answer…  

“Choose well ya habibti”. I don’t like that tone…  

I look again at the pictures. Look up at the expectant faces. Gauge the height of the floor to ceiling. The length of the desk to the door. Can I make it out the window? Nah, hijab will get caught on something – hung by indecision! I can’t breathe…  

Safest thing is to keep looking at the pictures. I strike a pensive pose. “Well let’s see…the prospects are – er, em, well interesting. And it all depends on where you are in you life at that moment.” Bull, I’m stalling…”I mean, every thing really…well is in the eye of the beholder.”  

“Yeah, yeah mom! We know all that! Just tell us who is it gonna be?”  

“Choose wisely habibti”… I still don’t like the tone of that…I’ve heard it before somewhere and the memory of it…well let’s not go there. Another deep breath…here we go…  

“Well since I’m suppose to be so “all American”, I think it best to Plead the Five on this one.” Chicken!!!  

So there you have it ladies and gentlemen…Who would you pick? Go ahead you’re all safe…Choose…  

Then I can always blame on it you!  

The nominees are…  

Victim # 1


Victim # 2


Victim # 3


Victim #4


Victim # 5


Victim # 6


Victim # 7


Victim # 8


Victim # 9


Victim # 10


Victim # 11


Victim # 12


Victim # 13


Victim # 14


Victim # 15


Victim # 16


spring cleaning…

So today we decided to tackle our Spring Cleaning to do list:

We tackled the closets-yep the hardest on our list… So we got up early had a good breakfast, assembled cleaning supplies, plaster (for those cracks in the walls- we live in a pre-WW I building- those closets are extremely high!), got large black garbage bags- and off we went.

Like an assembly line hubby on a ladder, me and one of the girls at the ready…

Can I say the contents of one closet alone filled the large foyer and the hallway! Dag we accummulate stuff!

But the rule was- you haven’t used in a season- it goes to the Flea Market (my mom has a booth at the local church where she sells every spring and summer) or the garbage!

When we were done with each closet- which took us about seven hours to sort, decide what stays what goes, break for lunch- we sat back satisfied at today’s accomplishments.

Things we found along the way:

The sets of baby clothes of each of the kids we had put aside for them. Sent my son a pic of his first sailor’s suit he wore at three months- he text back an LOL and said he had been destined for the Military before he knew he was actually alive!

Some souvenirs we had bought on our travels over the years that could now be mounted or stood up in the glass curios.

Supplies we had shoved in the closets sometime ago and in the daily rush completely forgot about.

Ten bags of clothes that we argued over, yet ended up in the bag after a comment “it doesn’t fit you anymore and you won’t lose the weight ever”; “who on God’s earth would wear such a thing now”; “when was the last time you even saw that, ten years ago”…

Hard choices- but truth be told they were just taking up space…

Tomorrow? The kitchen, and those drawers in every room, that’s what!

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