Monday, April 26, 2004

the problem lies elsewhere, always, of course

My friend, H, is a Cuban-American convert to Islam. His roommate is an international student from Saudi Arabia. They're both good-natured and funny, and most of the time they get along really well, but once in a while they'll burst out with the arguing and aggravate each other to no end. A few evenings ago, for example, they had a tense disagreement about some irrelevant issue.

H is a softy whose conscience eats away at him whenever someone is upset with him, even if it wasn't his fault in the first place. So he approached the roommate and apologized for whatever he had said in anger the other night. He then looked expectantly at the other boy, anticipating some sort of reciprocal acknowledgement or apology. Instead, his roommate stared back belligerently and retorted, "So. What do you want me to say?"

H's theory is that the roommate has never in his life been expected to apologize for anything wrong he may have said or done, and so the concept of apologizing is foreign to him. I responded that while apologizing takes strength, humility, and courage, the notion is not a given in every society. I think the ability to apologize varies based on one's culture and upbringing. I, for example, hate apologizing or otherwise admitting I'm wrong. This may be due to my strong-willed, temperamental, stubborn Pukhtun roots. Or it may be due to the fact that I'm the rebel child of the family, and conformity has never been my strong suit, even when it comes to admitting another person's viewpoint may have some merit. Or the fact that, when I was a child, my father used to impatiently tell me to stop crying, because crying was a sign of weakness, and so I've come to associate crying - and by default, apologizing - with weakness, and who the hell wants to be weak anyway? Or it could even be because there is no specific phrase in my Hindku dialect that one could use to say in a straightforward, uncomplicated manner, "I am sorry."

Is the ability to apologize with ease based on one's culture and upbringing?


Random conversational tangents are always welcome, as usual.


bombs and butterflies

Spoken word poetry should speak to the heart and soul. Or, at least, that's how I take it. Check out these beautiful people -

Calligraphy of Thought [Not a part of the above spoken-word event, but they still come first in my book.]
Mango Tribe
Lady Wonders of 8th Wonder
Freedom Writers

Take the time to read through the websites above. And if any of these groups are performing at a location near you - go.


umbrella terms

My response to being called desi, the word for people from the South Asian subcontinent:
"I may qualify, but I don't identify."

On the other hand, if you were to refer to me as a Pakistani (American) Muslim, we shouldn't have any problems.

The end.


nerd boy extraordinaire

H is devastated to hear I didn't get a job I recently applied for, one where we would have been working together, thus ensuring that I could stop calling him and leaving threatening voicemails asking where he is and why he hides from his friends. He takes the news personally, even though I'm smiling and telling him I'm actually relieved, because it means I won't have to work on weekends and holidays after all.

"But I would have worked all those shifts for you!" he protests.

"Dude, really, you don't need those extra shifts. And, trust me, I'm glad I didn't get it after all."

"I'm so mad at her!" he exclaims, stomping around like a little kid about to throw a temper tantrum. "I put in a good word for you. I said all these nice things. And then she didn't even hire you!"

"Don't worry about it, really. It's not important anymore."

"She and I are gonna have a little talk," he says mutinously.

"Calm down, child," I say in amusement.

He rubs his hands across his jaw and chin, patting the neat little beard that just recently was a goatee. "Fine. Now I'm going to grow my beard extra-bushy, just to spite her," he says of his supervisor, as I collapse in laughter.

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Monday, April 19, 2004

my favorite geranium man

Daddy-o: Yasminay, you want to see a rainbow?
Yasmine: Sure. Where's it at?
Daddy-o: Look in that direction, over by that tree. ::sprays the hose so that the water catches the sunlight:: Do you see it??
Yasmine: aww, that's beautiful, Daddy. Thank you.
Daddy-o: You're very welcome. ::sniffs:: Why do you smell like cigarettes?
Yasmine: Uhh, I was smoking it up while you all were busy gardening out here.
Daddy-o: ::narrows his eyes, whether as a threat or in confusion, I don't know::
Yasmine: ::hastily backtracks:: Just kidding. Actually, I left the English muffins in the toaster for too long. As in, way, way too long.

Yasmine: I can't believe you two have been married for thirty years.
Daddy-o: It's because your mother makes better coffee than anyone.
Yasmine: Mm-hmm. I think Ummy married you just 'cause you plant pretty flowers.
Daddy-o: Oh, of course. And I plant them all for her, you know.

Daddy-o: ::waves a snail back-and-forth in front of my face:: Ooooooh...
Yasmine: Uh, Daddy, I'm not the screaming kind, you know.
Daddy-o: ::visibly disappointed:: You think maybe it'll work on [ths sister] instead?
Yasmine: Hey, it's always worth a try.

Daddy-o: I think your mother and I should move back to Vancouver when I retire. We'll live there for a while, and then move back to the village.
Yasmine: Oh yeah? Sounds like a pretty good plan to me.
Daddy-o: Yasminay, you guys should look into getting Canadian citizenship again.
Yasmine: Yeah, I checked it out last summer, but then I got all confused and let it go.
Daddy-o: Americans are so stuffy. Not the people - the people are wonderful - but the government. Canada is more progressive and multicultural.
Yasmine: Mm-hmm.
Daddy-o: And, plus, Canada has a prettier flag. With a maple leaf. Get it? Leaves? Gardening?
Yasmine: Ohh, Daddy.


Saturday, April 17, 2004

and words can never really help you say/what you want them to anyway

I had an idea for a Women of Color Conference workshop that involves a film, followed by discussion. The film is entitled The Way Home, and I saw it over a year ago, so the details are somewhat fuzzy, but I think it just might work.

All I actually wanted was to hear feedback on my workshop design, but the program coordinator considered our circle of a dozen and said, "Some of you haven't had to deal with a difficult workshop participant before. How would you handle a situation where someone was extremely vocal about his or her perspectives and beliefs, and didn't want to listen to anyone else's thoughts?"

We decided to try it out.

C, a Latina female, was designated "Maria," the difficult workshop participant, while two others were assigned to be facilitators. The rest of us were to play regular workshop participants.

Having forgotten much of the film's detailed dialogue, I made an unsteady attempt to start off the discussion by vaguely remarking that, as a Muslim, I felt I could identify with some of the experiences and stereotypes discussed by the Arab American women in the video. "Maria" raised her eyebrows disdainfully and said, "What stereotypes? I've never heard of any Arab or Muslim stereotypes."

"Just because you're ignorant of them doesn't mean the stereotypes don't exist," I retorted.

She waved her hand dismissively and changed tactics. "I don't feel my ethnic group was properly represented in this film. After all, the stereotypes and experiences of my people are harsher and much more hurtful than anything experienced by any of you. Any of you!" She tossed her head and stared around the circle defiantly.

I narrowed my eyes. "What makes you think you have the right to validate your experiences at the expense of negating mine?" I shot back hotly, and it all went downhill from there. For nearly two hours.

C slipped into her role so effortlessly that it was almost too easy to forget this was a practice session, that each of us was supposed to be playing a role, that each scornful remark C made in her role as "Maria" does not reflect any view she personally holds. It sounds ludicrous, but I felt betrayed, sitting across from this girl I thought I knew well enough, hearing her dismiss my experiences, thoughts, and feelings as irrelevant, imaginary, unimportant. She may have been playing a role, but the resentment I felt was very real.

I've been intensively trained in workshop facilitation, cross-cultural communication, leadership skills, diversity issues, all that fun stuff. I think I'm good at it, and I know I'm getting better. But for once, I was in the position of a participant and not a facilitator. It was almost exhilarating, ignoring the ground rules - especially: This is a dialogue, not a debate and Listen to others with respect - and forging ahead, making my sarcastic retorts in response to "Maria's" sneering generalizations. I wanted to wipe that smirk off her face oh so badly, to hurt her just as much as I was feeling hurt by her sweeping statements and cold indifference, to attack her just as I was personally feeling attacked.

Simply put, I was pissed off. It's a good thing she was sitting across the circle, otherwise I was so angry that I felt like, in the words of a colleague, "reaching over and strangling her with her own hair."

I'm still wondering why I was so impatient at her attitude and annoyed with her comments, why it was so difficult for me to sit back and let her finish so much as a sentence without making aggressive statements of my own. Perhaps I expect my own generation, especially the university students I interact with on a daily basis, to be more open-minded and knowledgeable than other strangers I've come across, and this exercise made it frighteningly obvious that I can't always trust myself to be calm and coherent in situations where others are ignorant about who I am and what I stand for.

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Thursday, April 15, 2004

just say no to déjà vu

So guess what. They changed the curve again. AGAIN! Cal-Trans, you're killing me here. Holy freakin' smoley, have pity on this Commuter Child Extraordinaire.


by default

S: Yeah, so you two sorta look alike, you know?
Somayya: :sarcastic: Yeah, I wonder why.
Yasmine: No way.
S: Yeah, isn't that funny?
Yasmine: Very.
A: :to S: You do know they're cousins, right?
S: Oh my God, are you serious?
Somayya: Wait, you really didn't know?
Yasmine: You've known us for a year. How could you not know this?
S: Why didn't someone tell me?!
Yasmine: :dies laughing:

[Later] -

S2: Hey, so I saw your cousin's article in Awaaz!
Yasmine: Yeah, she had a poem in there.
S2: No, no, it was an article.
Yasmine: Umm, I submitted an article. And, yeah, we both have poems printed in there.
S2: I thought she wrote an article.
Yasmine: :raises eyebrow: Please don't tell me you've gotten our names confused.
S2: No! I know you're Yasmine!
Yasmine: Mm-hmm.
S2: Right?

(This is the same girl who, at our initial meeting a year ago, told me I was "the first un-fake Muslim she had met on this campus." Flattering, but I'm not quite sure how to accept compliments from the ditziest Muslim I've ever met, complete with the annoying Valley-girl speech patterns. Can someone, like, please press the "mute" button already? And now I'm being mean and I should shut up. Okay, bye.)


Friday, April 09, 2004

bits and pieces

So the only reason I've been neglecting this place is because when it comes down to a choice between sleeping and updating my weblog, trust me, I would much rather sleep.

Anyway, I was informed by various unreliable sources last weekend that my writing style is intimidating, that I'm "detached" from my weblog, that I'm giving everyone a complex about writing and standards and heavy words, and that I need to sit back and chill out and discuss my non-existent soap-opera-drama life in more detail. Seeing as how I have neither hilarious nor profound stories to share at the moment, this sort of criticism is gratifying, because it means I don't need to have any coherent structure for the following post.

As our friend explained his weblog, "My life is as dry as bath soap in its packet. But I pretend like it's the ending sequence of some Bollywood flick."

Good enough for me. So here's my recent drama-queen life, in all its boredom-inducing glory:

- I don't like raw red bell peppers. I definitely don't like yams. And I promise I will stop talking about vegetables for now.

- My friend N dragged me to the drugstore yesterday so she could pick out some hair dye. Her hair is dark brown, and she wanted to dye it deep black. She asked for my opinion, and I said, Whatever. So she browsed the aisles while I grimaced at the cover of Ladies Home Journal and People magazine and whined, "Are you done yet?" I personally recommended the orange or purple hair colors, but she didn't take my advice into account. Then again, would you trust the opinion of a girl whose hair you've never seen? Besides, the short, seldom-brushed wannabe-rocker hair I'm sporting these days isn't exactly a favorable model of the perfect girly hairstyle anyway.

- I need to turn in my application for this year's Women of Color Conference. I'm thinking of designing a workshop for it, too, but we'll see how that works out.

- Yesterday morning's Philosophy 15 (Bioethics) lecture was torture. I ended up sitting next to a guy who wouldn't stop biting his nails for the entire ninety minutes, and in front of another guy who didn't think anything of subjecting the entire class to his perpetual nose-blowing. I'm surprised he didn't rupture his eardrums with that amount of pressure. And the professor was magically sporting a golden tan she didn't have the day before. I bet you anything it came out of a bottle. I sat there thinking, Someone get me out of here already!

- My Psychology 130 professor is cool. He's young, Indian, with a Ph.D. and no accent. This makes communication so much easier. He tells us cute stories about his daughter, a toddler who falls asleep every night listening to techno music.

- Speaking of South Asian, I'm only one of two or three in my Asian American studies class. I have never before been so aware of my Pakistani-ness.

- Muslim misfits at the MSA meeting. Love the alliteration. 'Nuff said.

- Last night, I was IM'ed by someone I had almost forgotten about and whom I haven’t spoken to in two and a half years. Interesting conversation. I was chided for being rude, though I prefer to think of it as straightforwardness. If nothing else, the conversation reinforced the fact that I'm just as stubborn and hard-headed now as I was when I was twenty. Good for me and my Pukhtun genes.

- I love Berkeley.

- Parking at Berkeley is not so cool though. I'm talking about university parking lots. At my university, students can often be found speeding down to end of parking lots, hopefully asking the people passing by, "Are you leaving?", cutting each other off for spaces. At Cal, the students wait patiently in a line for parking. Berkeley, of all places! Holy freakin' smoley, what is that all about? I'm so disappointed in Cal. I couldn't understand why everyone was parked in a line, why the people in front of me weren't moving their cars, so finally I maneuvered out of the line and prepared to make my way through the lot in search of potential spaces. Two seconds later, the parking lot attendant stopped me and pointedly asked, "Are you leaving the parking lot?" I guess the kindergarten rule still holds true: Cutting in line is cheating.

- I love it when people I barely know, who were introduced to me months ago, remember my name and shout it from far away. What's even more awesome is when they pronounce it correctly, too. Automatic rockstar status right there, I say.

- Chocolate milkshakes from In 'N' Out make my evenings beautiful.

- This morning, I sat next to a girl who had once spoken of me to someone else as having "the most fucked up attitude she had ever seen." [Not while I was there, of course.]
Hearing of it later, I remember laughing, "But I love my fucked up attitude!"
She acts like we're still great friends, and I act nice to her, because that's just me. Such is life, and that's the way this wheel keeps working now.

- This post is making me sound like I have issues with everyone and their momma. I promise, my life is really not this dramatic.

- I grew up watching mainly He-Man and G.I. Joe. What's up with all the boy cartoons? And I wanted to be MacGuyver, but then decided marrying him when I grew up would be the next best thing.

- I think my family is making a hobby out of changing wireless phone plans every few months. This time, we've switched from Cingular to T-Mobile. According to T-Mobile, they'll ensure we keep the same cell phone numbers, reimburse us for any expenses incurred with Cingular until our account with the latter is completely cancelled, and we can even buy the unlock codes for our phones off eBay and keep using the same phones with T-Mobile. Anyone know anything about that unlock code business? I need to return my ugly trial-period Nokia phone to T-Mobile and request another one anyway, since Nokias don't do jack for me. All I can say is, if this turns into a repeat of last September's experience, I'm going to laugh hysterically and thrown my phone away. Please, no cell phone is worth that much hassle.

- Speaking of phones, I received a call this morning from a girl with a San Francisco area code, asking, "Is Andy there?"
"Sorry, you have the wrong number," I answered.
"Oh. Is this 925-___-____?"
Funny thing is, that is my number. Andy, whoever you are, you missed out, buddy boy. The next time you write down your phone number for a girl, try to make it legible. Or enunciate when you speak. Whatever works.

- I'm registered for twenty units this quarter. Man, oh man.

- I'm so behind in replying to emails, it's not even funny. Actually, it never was funny, but that's besides the point. If I owe you an email, I'm sorry. You're a rockstar, and I'm just a lazy girl with no excuse.

- It's probably a good thing that I'm taking a psychology course on human memory, because my memory just plain sucks these days. I used to be so good at remembering faces and names. This especially came in handy during my high school work on the journalism and yearbook staffs. Once I started college, however, it all went downhill – faces were easy to remember, but not names. I've been trying to make a conscious effort to improve recently. The result: I now remember names, and not faces. Wonderful. For example, I've had the following names stuck in my head all week: Claudia, Bessy, Aaron, Mena. The problem is, I keep forgetting who these people are. Clearly, I have issues.

- Gas prices are currently at $2.17/gallon. It cost me $30 to fill up my tank yesterday. Good Lord.

- Because I am so easily amused, I couldn't stop laughing yesterday when L accidentally answered a question with the word "coronary" instead of "coroner."
"You mean, like the artery?" I asked, before dissolving into laughter.
Later, out in the parking lot, as I was busy making fun of L, H said, "Oh, come on, if you spoke four languages…!"
"Oh, come on," I mimicked, "I could speak four languages if I tried. You gotta admit, that was still hella funny."
We walked to our cars, staggering under the weight of shared laughter. Good times.

- New philosophy: Good friends are those who let you make fun of them and don't care.

- I don't mind not knowing where I'm going, so much as I hate being lost. Those are two different things, somehow.

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Friday, April 02, 2004

every time that i see your face,/i wonder what lies beneath your smile

I miss my cute little preschool kids.

And I miss Dennis the Menace, too.

I was reminded of both this afternoon because I stopped by D's apartment to say hello and was pleasantly surprised to find myself greeted with such unrestrained joy. I'm always amazed when people tell me they miss me. I suppose it's a self-defense mechanism - a remnant of all those years of moving often as I was growing up - that I still manage to have moments of aloofness and reserve when it comes to friendship, even with those people I'm otherwise very close to.

"I've been looking around for your birthday present!" D announced excitedly.
"What? Why? My birthday was a month ago, woman. And, anyway, I don't need a birthday present."
"No, no, don't worry, I'm getting you something. But it has to be something that just screams out 'Yaz!' to me. I haven’t found anything like that yet, but you'll be getting it sometime soon."

"And we need to see each other more often this quarter," she continued.
"Maybe lunch or dinner," I suggested. I'm easy to please - for me, hanging out with friends is all about the food experience.
"Yeah," she nodded, then grinned widely. "And we can spend some swing time together, too!"

Later, during the drive home, I stopped at a market to buy some fruits and vegetables for my mother. Which brings up a few points:

- There's yellow squash, and there's zucchini. My family refers to zucchini as "green squash." After all, once you cook them, both yellow squash and zucchini taste the same to me. Don't tell me it's just because I have indiscriminating taste buds. I'll have you know that my taste buds are very discriminating. That’s why I dislike squash intensely, and I don't even care what color it is.

- My family calls cilantro "green coriander" instead. As opposed to ground coriander, ya know.

- What genius decided that turnips and sweet potatoes are two different vegetables? Radishes, turnips, and sweet potatoes all they taste the same, once cooked. And I dislike them even more than I dislike squash.
The boy at the register laughed at my huge bundles of cilantro. "You sure don't mess around, do you?" he remarked. Three bunches for ninety-nine cents. How ever could I resist?

"Are you going to need some help out?" he asked courteously.
I glanced at my purchases and shook my head. "No, thanks, I'm fine."
He didn't so much as blink, but instead turned to page someone over the intercom to help me carry out the five bags full of groceries that I quite obviously would not have been able to manage on my own.
I'm too stubborn to admit when I need help. I'd call it a matter of pride, but maybe it's just stupidity.

Getting back into the hang of commuting during the past week has been slightly exhausting, but it was easier today. I drove home squinting against the fading sunlight, placidly munching on an ice cream bar and listening to India.Arie and Nickelback. The latter always makes me smile, bringing to mind as it does a good friend.

Speaking of driving - For the person who stopped by my weblog while searching for information on "driving barefoot," you've come to the right place. I'm glad to know you were able to read my thoughts on the matter. Please don't drive barefoot. It annoys me, and that should be sufficient reason to refrain from it.

As for the person who searched for "dilemmas faced by a person who wasn't able to manage the time," you're at the right place, too, buddy. Now if only I could make a career out of wasting time.

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