Friday, February 24, 2006

i love this

Thursday, February 23, 2006

foreign language

i need to get more comfortable with html, i think. not that i want to design websites- i definitely don't - but i want to be able to at least change the two i have, when i want to.

so i'm going to start a new blog and experiment with the template. i will still post to this one, of course- but expect to see it change a little bit, here and there, as i figure out what i'm doing.

i've made a few minor tweaks, not that easy to notice but see if you do... and notice my footnote!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

was constantinople

sometimes i can't believe not only the places i've been, but the way i used to write- this piece reads like a conversation at certain points:

(written Sunday, March 11, 2001)

hello, all! well, we got back from turkey yesterday and school started today. i must say i'm not that happy to be back ;) i think it's funny that whenever we get back from a break all of the teachers start counting the weeks until the next one. (the countdown begins- seven weeks.)

istanbul was awesome- it wasn't quite what i was expecting as far as the scenery went, actually. i thought there would be more rolling-green nature, but what i found instead was just as good. istanbul has such a sense of history- everywhere we went we saw architecture with roman influence and greek influence- it's a muslim country and totally festooned with masjids, but the architecture even on the masjids is a little bit of this, a little bit of that. there's a monument called hagia sophia which was a church during constantine's rule and was then converted into a masjid. now it's not used as anything but a monument for tourists to visit, but it was actually one of the most intriguing places we visited in istanbul. traces of its life as a church as still totally visible, as well as the islamic touches put on later. for example, high up, right under the dome, there is a mosaic of the virgin mary. on either side of this mosaic are two huge round discs, one bearing the name "mohammed" and the other "Allah". how strange this was! the entire building is dichotomous that way.

speaking of the masjids, i've gotten used to seeing one around ever corner, living in cairo. however the style of the masjids in istanbul was so different- the main focus is the enormous dome, and they're all built grandly with the minarets looking like huge spikes guarding the building. much heavier-looking and darker than the light-colored, cleaner lines that i'm used to, but no less awe-inspiring. the famous masjid in istanbul is the sultanahmet, or blue mosque. it was definitely grand. and blue.

our first morning in istanbul we were sitting in a restaurant which had a panoramic view of the sea and literally right above our heads was one of the darkest, clearest rainbows i've ever seen! we felt like it was welcoming us to the city- it was wonderful. the whole morning felt surreal since it was raining and hailing, and there were storm clouds that came and went as we ate breakfast. it was such a change, and a nice one at that.

one of the days we were there we visited the oriental museum (i don't know why they've named it the oriental museum, really. it's all pre-islamic art and craft from all over the arabian peninsula.)- this museum was great. they had the tiled lion procession that used to lead to the gates of babylon. they had strange trolls that used to guard the entrance to a hittite palace. my favorite was the actual agreement drawn up between the egyptians and the hittites after the battle of kadesh- i just taught this battle to my third graders and now i was looking at the actual treaty, all yellowed and crinkly and eaten.

another museum, one in the topkapi palace, featured the sword, bow and arrow, footprint, tooth, and even beard hairs of mohammed. this was really really incredible. and a little disconcerting. i just kept wondering if it was all real but based on ottoman history it makes sense that they were able to obtain all of that. so they have mohammed's DNA? what a frightening thought. the covered bazaar in istanbul was great- a lot of the goods are similar to the ones in egypt, but i've never seen entire stores devoted to evil-eye protection. these dark blue and aqua colored circles with a white spot in the middle are called "nazar bongok" and are meant to ward off the evil eye as well as bring good luck.

oh, and we saw some belly dancing ;) this was pretty interesting, but what i liked best were the two men with their arms over their heads, with a huge "hat" pulled over their heads and arms down to their shoulders. then their chests (covered by skin-colored cloth) were decorated like faces and they wore normal pants. the pants had fake arms attached at the hip, so that the men basically looked like huge walking rag dolls. this was one of the weirdest things i've ever seen- and i've never laughed harder. oh, what a riot.ah, and yes, we ate some turkish delight. my favorite food was actually the manti- turkish food is all about yogurt and this manti stuff is incredible. i also saw he-man dubbed in turkish! this nearly ruined my vacation since from that point on i was preoccupied with trying to remember the little red wizard guy's name. starts with an O.

we met some fun people but the best was the waiter at one of the restaurants- he spoke every imaginable language and used this talent to harass ever passerby ;) it was amusing. we convinced him we were italian and then had to change our story when he started speaking to us in italian. so then i told him i was persian (ha! he didn't speak that ;)

our last day in istanbul we took a ferry ride on the bosphorus. and shopped like maniacs ;) ahh, the luxury of going to a mall and buying shoes.

in all istanbul was a great time- i actually learned a lot from the museums, which i wasn't expecting. and i can say tesukkerler like a native ;)


if ever, god forbid, there was a fire, i would run around yanking pictures out of frames and stuffing them into my pocket, and a blank book that angie gave me that i have since filled with very important things- on the pages of the book are quotes and phrases that i have come across in poems or books or everyday life, that i find beautiful and wonderful and that always leave me in awe of the world we humans have spun for ourselves- in the back of the book, in an envelope, are some of the most important letters i have ever received.

some of these letters are just a couple of sentences in an email that i printed and cut out- some of them are bona fide letters. a couple of them are cards. one of them is a tiny folded note. whatever the form, they are lines that people wrote to me that i can read over and over and still be struck with how lucky i am.

they are from different people- a couple of emails from my dad, a letter and a wonderful poem from taher, super-brief notes from my brother, a heartfelt paragraph from alison, etc etc etc. things that stand out from the other thousands of emails and notes in my life because they are so stunningly full of love. for me. makes me feel lucky.

it's a no-brainer. i have read a lot of books in my life, but this is the one i would choose if i had to choose one.

Monday, February 20, 2006


last week i was offered a position as spokesperson for a certain organization, which would entail going on shows such as the o'reilly factor and other news shows, and talking about politics. it would mean being in front of the camera all the time.

an amazing offer, but it isn't really my thing. so i declined. and yet the whole conversation, the offer itself, came about in such a random way. if broadcast journalism was my thing, it would have been a dream come true.

i still think about that conversation and feel amazed at the offer. i didn't tell anyone about it, at the time, except my parents, taher and my brother.

i definitely believe more in the idea of right place, right time than i ever did before.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Women in Islam

today our chicago talebaat-ul-kulliyah held the first of its Women in Islam series, with a panel discussion. our six panelists were all around the same age, but had widely differing perspectives regarding the balance of family, career and religion in a bohra woman's life.

it was, in my opinion, fascinating. i think we pulled it off beautifully, although with a better idea of what works and what doesn't for next time as well. the six panelists were in disagreement most of the time, and that was interesting- in the end, it became clear that everyone achieves balance- everyone finds that harmony between life's top priorities- and yet it means something very, very different to every woman.

i feel energized by today's successful event. i feel that we learned something about some people who, in daily life, we never ever question further than "how are you". we found out what their priorities are, what they value and how they value it. we found out a lot about each other, i think, and we let the conversation get to a level where people were putting a lot of honesty and feeling into what they were revealing.

i feel the potential of talebaat, i feel the potential of our relationships with one another. after the seminar my friends and i had lunch with some of the younger girls- girls who we are friendly with but do not know - and in the spirit of today's getting-to-know-you vibe, i felt the potential of so many new relationships.

there are so many things that i feel will come out of today.

Friday, February 17, 2006

find a job you love...

i am embarking on a project with my friend helen- helen is an artist in all media- she draws, paints, weaves, even sculpts. right now, she is making homemade paper and painting on it, and she is producing things that i find beautiful and inspiring.

i was on the phone with her a while ago, and she told me she thought we should collaborate- she wanted to create cards and paintings and have me put words to them- a phrase, a quote, a paragraph, whatever that painting called for.

of course i agreed, because this is the kind of creative project that i am hungry for - i love my work and am happier with my writing-life than i have ever been before, but it is still nice to have a project to work on that is so purely artistic.

a couple of days ago, helen sent me a package filled to the brim with things she's been working on, and a host of other things that she sent me for inspiration. and a wedding present :) it was a great package, as packages from helen always are. and now i have all these interesting pieces of media spread around me and i can't wait to begin finding the perfect words.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

yawme ashara

tonight i felt:


and this is one of my most barakati moharamm-ul-haram ten days ever. i heard things in vaaz and allowed them to sink in completely- i listened and learned and made neeyats i have not bothered to make before. i made a neeyat for the new year (the hijri one ten days ago) that i would wake up for fajr, and with taher's help, i have done that. i made a neeyat that i would pray Qur'an every day and i have done that. i made several neeyats and khuda ta'Allah tawfik apay, yari apay, i will continue to fulfill those neeyats.

i have so many emotions running through me tonight- but these are the only words i am going to write.

good night. i, like the other thousands of mumineen in america, am off to bed where i will sleep like a log.