Sunday, September 28, 2003

tales from the kitchen (a.k.a. the chicken wars)

My dad, baffled, a week ago: Yasminay, how can you be my daughter, and not know how to multi-task?
Me: I’m sorry, but I just think there’s just something wrong with the idea of cooking chicken and eating ice cream at the same time.

This was after he came home from the grocery store and gleefully presented me with a little pint of ice cream, my very own ice cream. I was washing dishes at the time, up to my elbows in soapsuds as the daddy-o shoved the carton of ice cream in my face and crowed, “Look what I brought for you!”

After I had laughed and explained that I was quite obviously washing dishes at the moment, and no, I did not want to eat my ice cream until after I had finished washing dishes, and no, I did not think it was possible to wash dishes and eat ice cream at the same time, the daddy-o shook his head sadly and carefully put the ice cream away in the fridge. “Ten minutes, Yasminay!” he warned me. “Eat it soon, or it’ll melt!” I glanced at the piles of dishes, sighed, and, true to fashion, soon forgot all about the ice cream. (Remembering to eat is not one of my strong suits, as you may recall.)

An hour later, the daddy-o wandered by again while I was cooking chicken for dinner, and after a few pointed questions and comments about my having not eaten the ice cream yet, the above conversation ensured.

Which reminds me, this post is supposed to be about chicken, not ice cream. Okay. Please pause this weblog entry while I scramble to recover my train of thought.

Umm. Chicken. I like chicken. A lot.

However, my sister and I were, just a couple days ago, accused of being “soo non-desi.” I’m assuming this is supposed to be an insult, regardless of the fact that we’ve never in our lives referred to ourselves by the term “desi” in the first place. And this coming from a guy who, a few minutes after he called us “non-desi,” laughingly admitted, “Well, they call me Halfghan.” Yes, so the “non-desi” comment stemmed from the fact that I had some issues differentiating between the chicken curry, chicken tikka masala, tandoori chicken, and karahi chicken menu items at Berkeley’s Naan ‘n’ Curry restaurant, and also because, unlike the abovementioned Afghan brother (one of the most desi non-desi people I’ve ever met), neither my sister nor I was all that impressed by the movie Devdas. The fact that he willingly sat down to watch the movie with his grandmother, and enjoyed it enough to rave about it to us and be personally affronted when we didn’t share his enthusiasm, was enough to make me laugh for several minutes though. Hecka cute.

Oh, yeah, chicken. Sorry, I keep getting sidetracked.

My point was, I like chicken. And I cook some pretty damn good chicken, if I do say so myself, even if I may not know a specific name for the type. It’s just chicken, for goodness sake. And it tastes awesome, alhamdulillah. So who cares what it's called. Hey, even one of my aunts told me last week that she liked the chicken I had cooked that weekend. My jaw almost dropped, because I’m the rebel child of the family and, more often than not, my relatives are far more concerned with pointing out things I do or say that they consider wrong or strange than they are with actually patting me on the back. She even repeated the compliment when I saw her a few days ago. And asked me for the recipe. Whoa.

She laughed when I told her there’s no recipe, that it tastes different everytime. S’the truth, yo. She asked what I put in it. I hesitated. “Umm…everything?”

This weekend, I was one of several women in the kitchen, including my cousin and her three sisters-in-law. And this is the part I refer to as the “chicken wars,” because, dang, I nearly had to shove people out of my way in order to cook my chicken properly.

Let me explain this, in no uncertain terms: Any attempts on your part, no matter how apparently good-intentioned and helpful, to stir my chicken or add spices to my chicken or to otherwise even so much as breathe near my pot of simmering chicken will result in you getting perhaps even more hurt than you would if you were to call me “Jasmin.” And as you all should know by now, that is quite a lot of hurting, yo. Are we clear on this?

They rolled up their sleeves and got to work in the kitchen as soon as they arrived, one cooking ground beef, another, vegetables, yet another, rice, a fourth, making salad. “So,” they asked, peering curiously into my pot, empty but for onions and tomatoes and bell peppers and a little bit of olive oil, “What’s going to be cooked in this one?”

“This is where I’m going to cook my chicken,” I answered possessively, emphatically. I don’t know if they got the point, though, because for the next hour or two I had to maintain a constant watch over my chicken. Someone kept stirring it, even when no stirring was required. Someone else wanted to keep the lid on. Yet another one kept asking me what I had put in it, questioning my use of certain spices and ingredients, the cut of the chicken, the heat level of the stove. Once, I turned around from washing my hands at the sink just in time to catch one of the girls about to pour some water into my chicken. I lunged at the stove. “No, no, no!” I said, panicked. “No water!” She stared at me wide-eyed, whether because of my alarm or my forceful demand or because she finally realized she might be in serious danger of being attacked by me, I have no idea.

Don’t you dare touch my chicken, okay?
Thank you.

And you know what, I never did get to eat that ice cream. To be honest, I forgot all about it. And now I just went and checked both the fridge and the freezer, but it’s gone.

Someone ate my ice cream.
I can’t believe this.

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Saturday, September 27, 2003

randomness, to make up for the insanely long posts down there

“So,” asks a girl who’s known me on an acquaintance level for a year by now, “do you go by Yasmine or Jasmin?”

I raise an eyebrow (I do a lot of this, in case you haven’t noticed). “Let me put it this way,” I say. “You call me Jasmin, and you will get hurt.”

She blinks a few times, then giggles nervously. “Don’t you think that’s a little extreme?”

“No,” I say. “I really don’t.”


Wednesday, September 24, 2003

(This one is for LA, who emailed me recently to say she had thought of me while cell-phone shopping, and who struggles far more than I could ever even know. Much love, peace, and strength to you, always.)

“given a chance to truly express yourself, you can change the world.” (well, so says the box, at least.)

Sometime last week, my dad decided to switch wireless plans, and went out and splurged on brand-new, shiny cell phones for Shereen and me. “It’s cute,” I said, inspecting it dubiously. New cell phones never inspire much excitement in me the first time around. Not before I've tried them out myself, that is. And sure enough, I wandered around the courtyard sing-songing, “I can’t hearrrrrr youuuu,” to Shereen, who stood inside and dialed my new number, her own cell phone held to her ear.

So I went on a mission a few days ago. To the wireless store. To fulfill my dad’s expectations that I will indeed find Perfect Cell Phone Number Three on my own, and to get my fourth wireless number in three years. Such drama. Trust me, you don’t even know.

I’m probably somewhat of a disgrace to deaf and hard-of-hearing people. (Not that I know any others in real life.) But I don’t know sign language, although my lip-reading skills rock das Haus, thank you very much. I barely, vaguely know what a TTY device is. I absolutely refuse to use a T-coil loop and headset with my cell phone. And my idea of “hearing aid compatible” varies widely from that of cell phone manufacturers, I’ve discovered.

“What do you mean your phone’s not hearing aid compatible?” asked the girl at the wireless store, when I went back to return the phone my dad bought me. “It should be.” She showed me the top of the box. “See? It says ‘TTY compatible.’ It should be working just fine.”

I sighed. “Well, it’s not, because I don’t use a TTY device. I just switch my hearing aid to the T-coil setting, hold a phone up to my ear, and talk. And I can’t do that with this one, because all I hear is a rushing sound.”

She called over a co-worker for advice. He suggested the T-coil loop and headset because those would allow better volume control, an idea that may have some merit, but which I flat-out dismissed as “too much of a process.” For your information, I have three earrings and a hearing aid in each ear, not to mention my head-wrap and outer scarf, and glasses/sunglasses if I choose to wear them, rare as those moments are. My poor ears. There’s no room around there for headsets and things, geez. The guy’s trippin’.

“Trial and error then,” he advised. “It’s messy, but it works.” He shrugged nonchalantly, and walked off whistling. I rolled my eyes at his retreating back, and turned my attention to the cell phones the girl brought out for me to try.

Basically, I sat there with my regular cell phone in one hand, switched off, and called my voicemail from the endless phones she handed me to try out. If I could hear my voicemail greeting nice and clear, then good. If not, the trial phone was relegated to the “doesn’t-work” pile. And let me tell you, there didn’t seem to be anything but the “doesn’t-work” pile.

Did you know Siemens is one of the best-known manufacturers of hearing aids? I learned this when I was eight years old, and I didn’t realize until quite recently that they make cell phones as well. And I’d like to know why their cell phones don’t work with my hearing aids; I really would. Especially since their phones look so slick. How wrong is that.

“That must be so frustrating,” said the girl carefully, neutrally, watching my face as I sat there, my eyebrow raised impatiently, listening to endless repetitions of my own voicemail greeting, shaking my head and passing the phones back to her, only to pick up the next one. I wasn’t sure if she was referring to the lengthy process involved in my picking out a cell phone, or if she meant hearing loss in general, but I decided to go with the latter. “Not really,” I answered simply. “I forget about it most of the time.” And I do. I don’t know if she quite believed me though.

The co-worker dude stopped by later to check up on how we were doing. He seemed to be shocked at the ever-growing pile of “not-working” phones, and my casual manner of testing them. “You guys,” he drawled, “I don't believe this. Come on, have you even thought of using the volume button on the side of the phone?” The girl looked sheepish, but I didn’t like that condescending tone I detected. Hell, I didn’t particularly like him at all. “What, you seriously believe that wasn't the first thing I thought of?” I snapped. He shrugged and wandered away again.

Would you believe that after going through a towering piles of at least two dozen phones, there were only two that worked? It came down to this and this. Even then, I was so obsessive-compulsive, and so used to failure by then, that I had to re-try each of them several times, just to make sure. I can’t even begin to tell you how unbelievably tired I am of hearing my own voice say, This is Yasmine. Leave a message and I’ll get back to you. Maybe I should record a new voicemail greeting. Something mean-spirited and along the lines of, Stop calling me, dammit. Leave me alone. Hang up. Go away. My friends would absolutely love it, I know. It's just the kind of thing they've learned to expect from me. But my daddy-o calls me quite often from the road, too, and ends up leaving hilarious rambling mushy lovely messages for me, and he just won’t be amused. Darn.

So the wonderfully patient girl (bless her) gave me more information about the two phones that worked. And I came home and thought it over for a couple days, and then went back last night to actually buy one of them. The girl was gone, but I took a seat, leaned my elbows on the counter, and explained my situation to a nice helpful guy working there. He stared at me, baffled. I raised an eyebrow in amused expectation. When people stare so bewilderedly, so confusedly, they are about to say something hilarious. This I have always found to be true. In this case, he waved his hands around in the air and stuttered, “But…but you’re hearing me perfectly fine right now.” I laughed. “The power of hearing aids,” I said, somewhat sardonically. I then played some eeni-meeni-minee-mo (not really), and came home with this phone after all. (I laugh everytime I look at it. It's so...flat!)

And then Shereen and I played around with ring-tones, and that probably requires a whole separate post of its own.

[Now go read LA’s post, because it’s so sad and beautiful and eye-opening that I’ve had it stuck in my head all day.]


Tuesday, September 23, 2003

jazak’Allah khayr for the memories

- of my primary email account, which must have broken any and all existing records in going over the maximum limit dozens of times over the past few months, and my cell phone bill, which should make me cringe when it arrives any day now.

- of a mother who may not have understood, and a father who did, but both of whom dealt with our event-consumed lives and the constant skipping of household chores with grace and humor, and didn’t lecture us (too much).

- of driving up to Sacramento the day before the event, to pick up some supplies for tabling. I hadn’t counted on the fact that there would be stop-and-go traffic at 3 in the afternoon, that the heat would be so oppressive, that it’d take me over two hours to get there (as opposed to the usual one hour). In the end, though, Somayya and I wandered around Wishing Well like gleeful children in a candy store, laughing our asses off at the decorations and masks and hats and fake boas, ultimately buying cheap tablecloths and tickets and, yes, candy!

- of buying last-minute posterboard, pens, masking tape, and markers from OfficeMax the day of. (Note to self: Next time, do this beforehand, yo.)

- of driving over to UC Berkeley with Somayya and L, listening to Somayya, sitting on the backseat, flipping through my pile of childrens books and reading them in her best imitation of a South Asian accent: “‘Papa,’ said Monica to her father, ‘please get the moon for me.” (“Oh!” cried Somayya as an aside, still immersed in her fobby accent, “this is a pop-up book!”) “My God,” said L derisively, the non-desi girl who speaks English, Arabic, and French fluently, “I can do a better desi accent than that,” and proceeded to illustrate with gusto.

- of the mass chaos and confusion and nearly unbearable sound levels that awaited me when I entered Wheeler Hall, of giving the merchants and organizations instructions about where they could table, of dealing with people who didn’t understand why they weren’t allowed to table in the lobby, of S who advised, “If they give you attitude, stand your ground.”

- of finally picking up our copies of the Burda, and the many, many thoughts of Seher that ran through my mind throughout the day. Remember when you read my post and emailed us to recommend the Burda as soothing? You were so right. Jazak’Allah, woman. You rock for reals.

- of the ten vendors/merchants and the twenty-two organizations who tabled, who with their mere presence lent our event an air of expertise and professionalism. And, from amongst these people, the many who came up to me and said, “Ahh, so you’re Yasmine! It’s good to finally meet you.”

- of the cute little old couple I saw, wandering around inside Wheeler Hall, holding hands, smiling serenely.

- of sitting down to listen to the speeches and performances, only to sprint back up the aisle and out the doors whenever my cell phone vibrated with calls from fellow organizers.

- of praying Dhuhr with Somayya in a peaceful little alcove (actually a side entrance for some campus building), and later praying ‘Isha shoulder-to-shoulder, along with literally hundreds of others, on a field close by Wheeler, the grass tickling our noses and foreheads during sajdah, looking upwards while making du’a to see the Campanile (the campus tower) beautifully lit up against the dark sky.

- of the countless guys and girls, strangers many of them, who came up to me, hands held out in appeal, pleading, “I want to help. Please. Give me something to do.”

- of constantly being mistaken for my sister. No, we don’t look anything alike.

- of listening to Ali Shayan say, “You have four scholars living amongst you: Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Amir Abdul Malik Ali, Ustadh Suhaib Webb, Imam Zaid Shakir. I’m only here for one short day, and I’m running around like crazy trying to figure out how I can meet all these people in the span of one day, whereas you all have the opportunity to see them every single day,” and realizing that we truly do take our proximity to these people of knowledge for granted.

- of staring mesmerized (more like, gawking outright) at the sign language interpreter at the front of the room, a woman who calmly and competently displayed her fluency in that mysterious language made up of fluid gestures.

- of the deaf brother tabling for the UC Berkeley MSA, who asked me if I know sign language. No, I don’t, though I’ve been talking about learning for years.

- of listening to Dr. Sapphire Ahmed say emphatically, “Don’t ever ever let anyone judge you,” and looking around me, over a sea of faces, seeing people nodding their heads in agreement, knowing that that remark had hit close to home for many.

- of brother W, who must have changed his clothes at least three times that day, finally ending up in traditional clothing, including a mirrored and intricately-embroidered black-and-silver Afghan vest that brought back memories of our own childhood. “Hey, we used to have black-and-gold vests like that,” Somayya told him. “I don’t wear gold,” he said disdainfully. “Stop hatin’,” she reproved, while he countered that silver could be paired and matched with more items of clothing than gold. And he’s accused us of stealing his style. The nerve. All I know is, he was much easier to find when he was wearing the red t-shirt.

- of racing down to a drugstore just after they had closed up and locked their doors for the day, and the owner who smiled and let us in when we pleaded we had just stopped by for one item.

- of wandering over to the student store for water bottles and getting sidetracked by other things: “Blue slurpees!” I gasped theatrically. Too bad the blue raspberry slurpee machine was running way slow, and it would have taken me days to fill up a cup. I settled for lime, while Somayya artistically layered her cup with lemon, blue raspberry, and lime. Grand.

- of listening to the Arabic qasidahs near the end of the day, SA and I leaning our heads together and whispering the words along with the performers.

- of the hundreds upon hundreds of people who turned out for the event. We stopped formal registration procedures after the first 800 or so people, yet there were hundreds more milling around, crowds and clusters of diverse folk united by faith in One.

- of the three people who made shahadah. Subhan’Allah. May they always be blessed.

- of L again, who had the strength of spirit to give a plateful of food to a homeless man, one of sadly oh so, so many, sitting against a light pole on Berkeley’s Telegraph Ave.

- of our dinner two days later with Dr. Sapphire Ahmed, discussing with her politics and religion, medicine and activism. And, after dropping her off, conversing with the Pukhtun traffic control guy at Oakland Airport.

- of the follow-up emails from attendees, organizations, merchants, fellow organizers, congratulating us on a job well-done. Alhamdulillah. And the numerous requests for a video tape of the event. Heck, I want one, too.

People – merchants, organizations, attendees – have asked who was behind all this; what was the “big organization” behind the event. “There isn’t any,” we replied. Although the event was held on the UC Berkeley campus, it was not a UC Berkeley-related event. And although a few Bay Area masajid have pledged to help with our budget issues and out-of-pocket costs, it was not a masjid-sponsored event either.

It’s just us, a group of mostly college students in the East Bay, trying to figure out ways of livin’ it right.


Friday, September 19, 2003

one more day til d-day

Wish you all lived in the Bay.
Website's still pretty rough, but at this point I don't think it really matters. Read the bios. Interesting stuff.

Did I realize the overwhelming amount of work this was going to be when I agreed, months back, to help organize this? I don't think so. But alhamdulillah, I'm flattered I got to help out, and it's been rewarding so far, despite the constant stress. Seher, you have my massive respect for pulling this off last year, woman. And I owe you emails. Good Lord, I owe everyone and their momma emails. Starting next week, insha'Allah.

Please make du'a for us, that we pull this off with the best of intentions, that all we do is for the sake of Allah swt, that we fulfull our goals for this event, insha'Allah. May Allah bless us all with knowledge of the deen, purify our intentions, and guide us in all actions, so that everything we do is for Him alone. Ameen.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

(good Lord, this is a freakin’ long post. You all asked for it though. Stop nagging me now. And, just so you know, guilt trips don’t work. The end.)

and here we go again

I was still eleven years old when we moved away from the Bay Area, and I promised myself that when I grew up and had children of my own, we’d always live in one place. I promised myself that they wouldn’t have to deal with the self-consciousness, the uncertainties, the resentment that constant moving presented, all those things that I struggled with during those years away.

I remember that, for my twelfth birthday, three weeks later and in our new house, I received a copy of Willa Cather’s O Pioneers! from Somayya, a comic book from her brother, and a dollar bill from a younger cousin. A whole entire dollar seemed so much back in those days, when we siblings used to pool all our change together to buy Snickers bars and acidly sour, mouth burning Goosebump gumballs from the little market on the corner. Even a mere dollar was enough to make us feel wealthy.

But what I remember most about that first year away from the Bay Area is how bitter and resentful I was. It’s not that I appreciated the Bay Area and my hometown for what they were. The “big picture” was of no concern to me. I was far too busy being heartbroken over the fact that I was leaving behind my childhood home, the half-acre yard and winding brick walkways, the prickly rosebushes and a fig tree with comforting branches that enveloped, the lines of silvery smooth eucalyptus trees soaring to huge heights. My brother and sister and I used to roll down the lawn, hold mock sword-fights, push one another along the walkways in a wheelbarrow, and preside over picnics consisting of chunks of cheese and unripe fruit. We built tree houses, foot-raced across the lawn, ran away from home more times than we can recall, and between us went through more broken bones, concussions, and bruises than an entire football team. And this was long before my father’s geranium madness started; back then, he focused mainly on the roses.

I hated leaving my home, and I hated my new house, too. But just when I learned to reconcile myself, to accept the new place as “home,” to at first grudgingly and then more readily appreciate the sparks of beauty I found even there, we moved again. And again. And a couple times more.

Five moves in five years, and we ultimately came full circle, back to my childhood home and the memories it cradled. And once I was back, I recalled all those years of fervent late-night prayers to God, all those years of pleas that seemed to fall on deaf ears, if God has ears, that is. And I promised myself that I wouldn’t take this place for granted again. In the past five years I’ve been back, though, I’ve taken it for granted time and again. You'd think I would know better by now. Sometimes I think of those old “MY-children-will-never-EVER-have-to-move” promises and smile indulgently, because the truth is that all those moves were good for me. I like the person I’ve become since then, and so I refuse to think of them as lost years. Change is good. So is progress. But the thing is, I can afford to be philosophical about it now. After all, I moved back, didn’t I? If I hadn’t, some part of me would have remained bitter and resentful.

Which is why it still surprises me that I can so easily take all this for granted.

Last Friday, I drove around town and asked for boxes from various stores and shops. My dad picked up some more on his way home from work. I stared at those piles of boxes stacked in the entryway, and felt the familiar sense of panic. One of those oh my God, here we go again feelings. And on Saturday, the packing started all over again.

The books were the first to go. I packed them slowly, carefully, gently, like fragile objects that merit special treatment. There were the five shelves worth of books from the bookcase itself, then the piles of more books along the floor and underneath my bed and even inside the dresser drawers. Down came the artwork, the posters, the paintings, the framed photographs. The garbage bag kept growing. You’d think that, after so many experiences with moving, I’d have toned down my possessions to only those which are the most important. But no, I’m still a pack-rat. A sentimental and nostalgic fool, that’s me. I found empty moving boxes, stashed away in some storage space, labeled Yasmine’s box in my fourteen-year-old handwriting, and more labeled the same from the year I was seventeen. I used them again, and the feeling of déjà vu increased steadily. I discovered the identification tags at the bottom of my hearing aid containers are still labeled with my address from eight years ago. Mind boggling, indeed.

What made it all bearable was the presence of the relatives who came to help out. Especially the cousins. Not only did these three crazy teenage boys strip the walls bare, shove the furniture around, and affably carry boxes at my brusque command, they also gobbled down endless platefuls of pasta, platters of sourdough bread, hunks of chocolate fudge cake, and cans of Pepsi as if there were no tomorrow. And they made me laugh. When I asked one of them to carry a box for me, he leaned close into my face and crowed, “How ‘bout noo, you dirty Dutch bastard?” in perfect Austin Powers imitation. I couldn’t help but crack up. Needless to say, he took advantage of my amusement to repeat the same line about a bajillion more times at random intervals throughout the day. And like the easily amused crackhead that I am, I laughed every time. Later, I asked them to move my mattress and bed frame, and returned to find them wrestling across the mattress, pummeling the bejesus out of each other with taunts of “What now? What now, huh?” Craziness galore.

And I guess it’s telling that I’ve been sleeping on bare mattresses for the past four nights, yet my books were the first things unpacked. I walked into this unfamiliar new room and saw all the boxes stacked haphazardly, and my heart did this nervous little trippy dance, you know the kind I mean? But then my gaze zoomed in on the boxes of books, and I thought, Okay, I can do this after all. Because, more than anything, it’s the books that have always remained familiar to me, wherever I moved. Therein lies my stability. As long as I have those, I’m all set. After all, I was the eleven-year-old kid who showed up at her new school lugging around a one-thousand-page hard-cover copy of David Copperfield, still on loan from my Bay Area library. My new sixth-grade teacher was so intrigued that she piled on the books, mainly the classics, but others as well. George Orwell’s Animal Farm was one of ‘em, I recall.

So I sat there on the ground, facing an empty bookcase, and tried to make sense of all my books. There’s so damn many of them, especially since I went through so many different phases in terms of reading. There’s the novels and poetry anthologies and short story collections, all in Urdu and German, from back in the day when I read those languages as fluently and voraciously as I read English. There’s at least a dozen more anthologies and poetry collections in English. There’s authors I have multiple books of: Robert Fulghum, Daphne du Maurier, M.M. Kaye, J.D. Salinger, Franz Kafka, Anne Rivers Siddons, Nathaniel Hawthorne and more. Tennesee Williams’s plays and Jorge Luis Borges’s short stories lumped right in there with Anne of Green Gables and the Bronte sisters. Kipling next to Jane Austen, Rainer Maria Rilke (in German and English) next to various Norton Anthologies, Emily Dickinson next to Homer’s The Odyssey. Shakespeare and Nancy Drew, Hemingway and Melville, Sinclair Lewis and Oscar Wilde, and Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift From the Sea. Chicken Soup books, Maya Angelou, and books that were required reading for various university classes, on multiculturalism and gender and selfhood, which I found too interesting to sell back. And biographies and autobiographies, and books underscoring my long-ago fascination with the Jewish Holocaust, Anne Boleyn, and the American Civil War. And dozens more, probably, but I really should stop cataloguing.

Such an insane mix, which is why I sat there the first day and blankly stared at all the books, not sure where to start. Help came in the form of Shereen, who advised me to shelve all the books alphabetically (alphabetically! good Lord), and laughed, “You know what, your dream house is going to have a library.” “No,” I corrected, “my dream house is going to BE a library.” “With an internet connection,” she added. Of course, of course. But seriously, I’m so attached to all these books that I almost protested when Shereen made off with my German dictionary and determinedly shelved it into the reference bookcase. I did follow her orders though and shelved the rest of ‘em alphabetically, but it looks all wrong. It’s impossible to fit them all in one bookcase anyway, which is why they’re currently stacked not only vertically, but also horizontally along the shelves. As soon as I get another bookcase, I’m dumping them all out and starting all over.

And for godssake, it’s just that I’ve moved into a brand-new room we've just added on to our existing home, down the hall and across to the other end of the house, a room almost twice as large as my old one, and the hustle and bustle over the weekend was because we decided to repaint the entire house while we were at it. No big deal, right? It's not a new house. It's the same home I grew up in. But every morning I wake up with the panicked oh my God, not again feeling, my eyes straining to trace familiar patterns on the ceiling. Instead of a window that looks out to the sky and the lemon tree, I now have two windows, one looking onto the beautifully-stained red-orange fence, the other with an unobstructed view of the orange tree in the courtyard, the one that grows so quickly and hugely that it must be on steroids.

And the boxes. Good Lord, the boxes are still here and there and everywhere, and seeing them doesn’t help one bit, but I’m just too damn lazy to clear ‘em out, not to mention the fact that all the other rooms are still half empty because most of their corresponding furniture is in my new room. Déjà vu mostly sucks, and you heard it here first. Although my clothes are hung in the closet, for the most part I’m still literally living out of boxes. I still don’t know where most of my things are. Everything is a guessing game, sort of a moving-day version of the annoying cell phone Can you hear me now? repetition, only this version is more like, Is it in this one? or in this one? or this one? or maybe not? dammit, where’s my miracle-bubble bottle? But at least I don’t have to look for my toothbrush.

And everyday brings a repeat of the same gut-wrenching test: Can I make it from here to there without tripping? Can I make it across the whole entire room without falling flat on my face? Is it possible to remove one box without bringing down an avalanche of five more?

The answer, of course, is, No.
If I could, then I would.

But because I can’t make it to my German dictionary without scraping my knuckles and bruising my shins, I shall have to give up that attempt in favor of, which tells me that the correct way to authoritatively call out, “Release my camel!” auf Deutsch is, Geb mein Kamel frei!

So there you have it.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2003

duh. (and your brain stops working when you pull all-nighters.)

Yasmine: i'm so bitter
S: and why is that?
Yasmine: i hate writing papers
Yasmine: it’s so stupid
Yasmine: they should have a major that’s all about drawing crayon pictures
Yasmine: the crayola major!
S: lol
S: it’s called art class
Yasmine: oh yeah


Monday, September 08, 2003

the road goes ever on and on/down from the door where it began…

Once in a while, I feel like doing something random. As the family’s resident Rebel Child Extraordinaire, I do have an image to uphold, ya know. So today, because I had somehow managed to leave home earlier than usual, I decided to kill time by exiting the freeway about fifteen miles into my drive. I stopped at a drive-thru and ordered french fries and a drink (it was only 8 a.m., and I doubt fries constitute regular breakfast fare for many people—including myself—yet the girl at the drive-thru didn’t so much as blink when she passed me my order), then impulsively turned onto the road running parallel to the freeway, instead of hitting the freeway itself.

One of the things I love most about the Bay Area is our hills and mountains. And although most peoples’ jaws literally drop in shock when they learn that I commute 120 miles a day, I love the drive simply because of the scenery. Three years worth of commuting to and from college haven’t even come close to killing my appreciation for the Bay Area’s winding roads and rolling hills, and there have been many days when I’ve wished I could just get off the freeway and drive along the roads parallel to the freeway instead.

So I did that today. The two lanes that comprise what is known as Lopes Road are narrow, and although they flow in the general direction of north and south, just as Interstate-680 does, they are situated in the hills themselves, high above the freeway, twisting and turning far more than the freeway does. I steered my car along the meandering road, one hand on the steering wheel, the other anchoring my drink (I had ordered a medium, and was surprised to get one that looked like a large; it refused to fit in my cup-holder. At this rate, I’m scared to envision what an extra-large must look like). After a few minutes, I removed my sunglasses and tossed them onto the passenger seat, because, as Waleed once wisely commented, “the world is dazzling enough.” And indeed it is. The skies were clear blue, and sunshine danced across the hills and spilled in through my car's open moonroof. A couple times, I turned off the main road to check out the lanes curving further into the hills, laughing inwardly at my deliberate refusal to acknowledge the “Private Property; No Trespassing” and “Beware of Dog” signs.

I didn’t see more than three cars on the road the entire time, two whizzing by in the opposite direction and one speeding down the road far ahead of me. I stopped the car once to take a photograph of my favorite curve of hillside (yes, I have a favorite. shut up), leaving the car door open and the car idling as I got out and aimed my camera. I stood ankle-deep amongst the golden California poppies at the side of the road, squinting, turning the camera this way and that, zooming in and out, while an apt Switchfoot song blasted from my speakers (It's a long way from the moon up to the sun/It's a longer ahead of me, the road that I've begun/Stop to think of all the time I've lost/Start to think of all the bridges that I've burned, that must be crossed…). I paused once more at the top of a rise to take a photo of the marshland, dotted with red and yellow and green, at the other side of the freeway. Lord knows how they turned out. I should probably invest in a digital camera.

Although I amusedly, self-deprecatingly, refer to my commute as my “thinking time,” it is just that. It’s my chance to get away from the world for a bit, to daily analyze my goals and priorities. When it comes to life, I have tendencies to just “go with the flow,” and that’s not necessarily a good thing, simply because going with the flow sometimes results in merely standing still. Lately, I feel as if I’ve been stuck in what I call a “limbo stage,” those intermediate states of uncertainty that everyone finds exasperating, frustrating. But it’s all good, because all my limbo stages in the past have always resulted in some form of personal growth. And that’s all I ultimately need.

I have 200 pages of reading to finish by tonight, a paper due Wednesday, final exams on Thursday. I should be researching grad schools, filling out applications, preparing for the GRE...and fiddling around with my fall quarter schedule, because I’m a genius and I’ve somehow managed to register for classes conducted at the same time as both my internships.

But it’s good to get away once in a while. So here’s to limbo stages and random drives, California poppies and Bay Area mountains, sunshine and french fries.

[Yes, I’m in love with mountains. Here’s some photographs from the East Bay, where I live—no, I didn’t take them, though. Beautiful, see? Alhamdulillah.]


Sunday, September 07, 2003

my daddy, the geranium man

J: come back!!!
Auto response from Yasmine: i say everyone should have a cool father who has awesome ideas like, "Let's go have a picnic on the lawn!" ;-)
J: oh man, that dad is cool
J: is he yours?


Friday, September 05, 2003

surah ya-seen days

I know you probably have a “Surah Ya-Seen day” once in a while, too. You may call it something else, but I bet it’s still comparable to mine. Perhaps yours is known as “The Day from Hell” instead. I've always called mine “Surah Ya-Seen days” simply because it makes me feel less pissed off that way.

Surah Ya-Seen days usually occur the day after an all-nighter. The level of stress and annoyance varies, depending on whether I have a paper due that day, or a midterm or final exam to take.

Yesterday was a great example of a Surah Ya-Seen day: I was up the night before, skimming through three cultural anthro books in preparation for a seven-page paper due yesterday (which, incidentally, I hadn’t started at the time), and racking my brain for the perfect thesis sentence. I had great quotes, a reference sheet in progress, a slick intro, and a very nice conclusion to boot, but did I have a thesis? Of course not. Come seven a.m., I tried to eat breakfast, and discovered that chewing took far too much effort. Sat there in exhaustion and stared at Shereen and our ummy for a bit, before deciding I had better get a move on. Running late, needed gas, and thus gave myself an annoyed lecture for not stopping to fill up my tank the night before, when I had had plenty of time. (I talk to myself a lot, in case you didn’t know. No, I don’t move my lips.) And still no thesis.

Once in the car, I listened to two tracks of my favorite mix CD, then impatiently stabbed at the "on" button for the radio. Listening to Michelle Branch scream out, “Are You Happy Now?” irritated me yet further, because I had already pretty much figured out I wasn’t happy at the moment, thank you very much. And I generally like cloudy days in September. But not on Surah Ya-Seen days, which is why I narrowed my eyes up at the sky in my best impression of a “Don’t you dare” look. I was actually talking to the sky, but God ultimately took pity on me and decided rain wasn’t a good idea that day after all. And I realized that my latest favorite juice (strawberry-raspberry) tastes like medicine if you drink it right after brushing your teeth. Wonderful. And everyone and their momma was driving much too slowly for my taste.

So yeah, music never works for me on Surah Ya-Seen days. Instead, I scrabbled around and came up with my favorite Surah Ya-Seen tape (recited by Shaykh Ali Abdur-Rahman Al-Hudhaify—masha'Allah, the most beautiful recitation I've heard so far), and turned it up real loud. I turned it down real quick though, as soon as I remembered I still needed to brainstorm a thesis sentence. But it was good background sound while I struggled to concentrate and mentally string together the perfect set of words.

The computer labs on campus were already full, but I finally found myself a computer. My finger raced to type up the sentences I dimly remembered from my drive. I was abrupt and visibly impatient with the guy from my anthro class who asked to borrow my mini-stapler. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that he was printing out his anthro paper while I was still barely had a thesis. Plus, he almost stole my reference sheet, which printed out at the same time as his paper. “Hey, that’s mine,” I said, while he backed up a step and stared at me warily. Somehow, I’m always mean to people on Surah Ya-Seen days. I should wear a bright “Stay Clear” warning sign, no?

I rushed to my first class, only to find that we were watching a video (something about the relationship between advertising and personhood) instead of having a lecture. Shoulda just stayed in the computer lab, dammit, I muttered (mentally), and settled down to writing transition sentences for each paragraph of my paper while the video played. (Did you know that “we value humans less if we’re surrounded by objective representations of them”? Yes, well, now you know.)

Rushed to another computer lab after class. Stood in line for almost fifteen minutes, wondering impatiently why everyone and their momma always seems to have papers due right about the same time I do. Finally, I was at the head of the line, and the girl behind me asked, “Do you want that computer over there?”, gesturing vaguely. I thought she was pointing at a Mac, so I declined. Only after she passed by me did I realize I had just turned down a PC. Thus followed yet another mental lecture, which was enough to keep me busy while I waited ten more minutes for a free computer. After typing up four pages, I had to switch labs, so I wandered all the way across campus. Logged into the computer, busted out with my disk, and realized I hadn’t saved my paper and related files onto the disk. I'm pretty sure I stopped breathing for a second. I stared at the screen in horror, then put my head down in my hands, scrubbed at my face, and mumbled, “What the hell is wrong with you?” (Only, I didn’t use “hell,” but a much more profane—and less profound—word. So much for that no-cussing rule I started last Ramadan. I was doing so well, too. Sort of.) So I had to run all the way across campus, figure out which computer I had been using, walk up to the girl there, and say, “Excuse me, I’m sorry, but…” She gave me a weird look (probably thinking, “What’s up with this freak?”), but let me take over her computer for a sec. And, yes, thank goodness, all my files were still there on the hard drive. Good one, genius. Ran back across campus. Skipped my second class and worked on the damn paper some more.

I was majorly hungry throughout the day, but I had to ignore that. I missed lunch with friends at the best sandwich place in the whole entire world (no, I’m serious. It’s that good).

What’s even sadder, I missed a chance to see Dennis again. (I hear he’s been asking about me.)

Emailed my paper out to the TA at exactly 4:50 p.m.

Then I stopped by a convenience store to pick up some juice before hitting the freeway to head home. On my way to the register, I found out that Pringles now come in colors like “Ragin’ Red” and “Electric Blue.” Not the canisters; the chips themselves. I stared. I blinked a few times. I stood in the aisle, and laughed and laughed. The owner/manager dude worriedly asked me if I was alright. “Yes, thank you,” I said, and grinned all the way up to the register.

I smirked all the way home. And even though I found out, halfway through my drive, that the screws on my favorite (and only) pair of sunglasses—yes, the little, rectangular, yellow-orange gradient ones—are loose, rendering them unfit to wear until I fix the problem, and even though that meant I had to drive the remaining thirty miles with the sun in my face, it was okay. Because I was listening to Surah Ya-Seen again, and laughing about those Pringles that somehow managed to make up for the whole jacked-up day.

Es ist die Wahrheit: Pringles rocken das Haus. And alhamdulillah for all the things that make us laugh, no matter how silly—especially on Surah Ya-Seen days.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2003

i should write one of these

Yes, I’ve been busy sleeping my life away lately, and yes, my comments link is on crack. But it’s okay. We can deal, right? Here, read this…something I found off a cool website. A beautiful piece of writing that I wanted to share, and I have been granted kind permission to do so.

“Letter to God,” by Javed Memon, from
Assalamu alaikum God. Ha, not that you need the peace, you already have infinite amounts. And a sense of humor that I probably couldn't even comprehend.

Its about 2 am, Thursday night… there should be a lunar eclipse tonight. Unfortunately I can't see it from my balcony anymore. The room is warm, the fan made this clicking sound… I turned it off. The room is warm, like I said, enough to make me feel like I need a cold shower-- you know, where I just feel sticky all over.

I'm hungry, but not enough to warrant eating anything but some chocolate. Perhaps I'll make some iced Turkish-apple-tea. That would definitely hit the spot, more so than this orange powder drink crap.

I just wanted to say thank you. Most of all, I would like to thank you for my ability to feel your presence. The feeling that I describe as the wind chimes... the feeling I talk and write about so much that people make fun of me for it. I still don't feel like I've done it justice. The cool wind chimes tingling all through out my body, reminding me of my soul's urge to return back to you after this is all over. The feeling of cold ginger ale being poured inside my body, reminding me of what I need to do in this life. That one feeling is the culmination.. that one sixth sense.. is where all of my emotions find their base.. or at least until my environment, or my own intellect twists them around.. I do admit that it happens at times.

I also wanted to say thank you for the people you have allowed me to meet in the past, in the present, and in the future. They will have all touched me in ways I cannot even begin to describe. From the one or two instant messages that people label as insignificant, to the all-night conversations about life. The man who sells me fuul and ta'amiya, the woman at the kushari place on Muhammad mahmoud street, [oh, there is that feeling…. Mmmm], the people who smile at me, who share with me parts of their life.. they are all there.. reminding me of You.

And my brain. And my circumstances, and the resources available at my disposal, and the music that inspires, and my ability to dance [even though it may not be pretty] to release all of this energy I have sometimes. And for the message. The simple, easy to understand message that blows my mind because it’s so simple. How I wish more of my fellow people realized its wisdom.

Haahahaha, and that feeling I get when I have my legs up like this while I'm typing up a letter…. The pins and needles.. letting me know that I need to unclamp my blood vessels and feed the cells down at the tips of my toes.

Oh God, help me and strengthen me---to be one of your beloved servants. I will begin to strive. I want to strive. I have been striving, but not nearly as hard as I should be. Please, continue to give me reminders. I know sometimes I can be a fool, and love what is not the best for me. But I know I am changing, and I know I can change more. And if You will, I will change the world.

So much more than Love [this aching in my chest can't just be love],


Monday, September 01, 2003

must-see muslim tv?

I've known about this for quite a while already, but it was still heartening to see Saturday's edition of a local newspaper carrying a front-page article titled, "Must-See Muslim TV?" about several Bay Area residents' idea to "start the country's first Muslim-themed cable channel."

Read more about the project at They need 10,000 subscribers in order to convince the American media to carry the Muslim TV channel on their system.
"Bridges TV will be launched in two phases. The Phase-1 launch in Summer 2004 will cover both the United States and Canada. The channel will be launched on satellite nationally and on cable in top 20 television markets – New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Washington DC and fifteen more. Gradually, we will expand to cable nationally. The channel will expand to U.K. in Summer 2006."

Check it out, and spread the word.