Monday, December 25, 2006

Chapter XXVI. In the mosque

It was natural that I would look for a mosque close by for social interaction with people of the same faith as mine. To me, a mosque was not just a place for worship, but rather a social hang out as well. When I started to go back to my religion, sort of a born again mulsim, I chose the mosque that was closest to my home. I was still single back then. The grand mosque of Cleveland was my choice. It was the biggest mosque in north east ohio. It was well designed and very clean. The community was almost split half and half between arabs and non-arabs. Most of the arabs were from Palestinian origins. It was natural since the Arabic community was mainly Palestinians in Cleveland.

In the beginning, I would go to the mosque on weekends (and Friday prayer) especially in Ramadan. Many families would cook home cooking food and bring to the mosque for those who don’t have access to such food (like students). It was fun where we would eat then maybe sit down and talk about islam or any social issue that relates to the community. However, it was not always healthy environment. The arab muslim community still have racist behavior against non-arabs (like Pakistanis…etc). But most notable, was the racism against blacks. It was kind of silly (and sad) when you hear comments like “abeed” which means slaves in English. This was a common term used by arab muslims when referring to black muslims. It was also disturbing when the Islamic school charges high fees for tuitions where poor black muslims couldn’t afford it. And when the Eid calibrations happens, and the community decides on an activity for the Eid, they choose an activity where the fees are $50 per person. Hence, rarely you could find black muslim family attending such celebration. Was it intentionally organized? Maybe, but I do recall hearn some arab muslims saying that they won’t allow their kids to attend a celebration where blacks go too. Things that make you wonder how some think.

Then there is this power struggle inside the mosque between arabs and non-arabs. Ultimately, a group of arabs decided to start their own mosque, and they did. It was about 15 miles away and you would rarely see non-arabs there. It was too obvious. Some blacks too aligned themselves with mosques in the east side of Cleveland where most of the African American community live. Such struggle also affected the decision as to when announce important dates like Eid or Ramadan. I remember one year in the early 2000’s when the muslim community started fasting on 3 different days.

Sometimes, visiting the mosque was a challenge. A challenge to restrain yourself from reacting to the ignorance. One day, a friend of mind wanted to invite others for food in the grand mosque because his wife just gave birth to a baby girl. So I went there. I sat outside with group of people who talked only about business. Suddenly, one took playing cards from his pocket and now they started a game. I was just sitting down watching in internal anger. Then, the prayer call started and I went inside for prayer. There were only 20 to 30 people praying. But the faces are not the same as those outside. I then went back outside only to see the majority of the people there are still there playing cards or watching the game. I just wondered how those guys couldn’t at least ptay for 5 minutes then go back and play. Or even try to hide their idiotic behavior by not at leat playing cards on the door of the mosque. It was simply pathetic. To me, it was ok for others not to pray (kind of), but at least don’t exhibit such behavior.

One day, and during the last days of Ramadan, and while the imam was persuading the faithful ones to pay their zakat, an Egyptian man burst in the mosque and lashed out on the imam. This was in the far west side of clevaland in a small town called Lorain. I started going to that mosque after I married and bought a house closer to that area. At any rate, this Egyptian man was angry at the imam for suggesting $10 dollars per person as a zakat to be paid for the poor ones. This man wanted the zakat to be paid as “food of the land”, and not as money because 1400 years ago, that was the norm. The imam was kindly trying to persuade this man that there was a fatwa indeed allowing zakat to be paid as money because some families need milk and medicine instead of a pile of sacks of potatoes. In the end, the Egyptian man screamed at the imam saying ‘I swear by Allah that if given the chance, I will kill you for changing the rule of Allah” and he walked away. The imam was in total silence for what he just saw and heard. Sadly, you may have a community of 100 families, and all it take is just one man to ruin it for all.

To give you another example, I was at school on one Friday, and it was time for prayers. So we went to one room in the library building to attend the prayer. We were about 40 students give or take. While I was sitting down, I saw a Lebanese female student. I know her pretty good. But this is the first time that I se her praying. She was wearing a jeans and a tshirt. As I understood later, this was her first attempt to pray for she was thinking about wearing the veil and starting prayer. So she was dressed in a jeans and a modest veil. Suddenly, our visiting imam (he was either Palestinian or Jordanian..don’t know) looked at her and asked her to leave because she wasn’t dressed for prayer. She asked if she can at least stay and hear the lecture without praying. He became angry and demanded her to leave for her presence in this area was not healthy for others. Suddenly, she started crying and walked out. A group of muslims (including myself) stood up and screamed at the imam for turning away a muslim who is eager to pray, and we walked away and had our own prayer, and included the girl with us and anyone walked out.

Islam in America is very tricky. The imams here don’t get approval for their lectures and hence, are not monitored by any authority that makes sure that the lecture is within Islamic teachings. This becomes very dangerous into turning some people to terrorists, or even causing the wrong “islam” being practiced. Whos to say that a self-imposed imam will abide by the real Islamic teachings? What about his followers? For that reason, mosques became heavily infiltrated by the counter terrorism authorities and personals, and that made it difficult for others to feel secure or safe from either fanatics, or the hands of the FBI that sometimes blindly put people in jails for long period of times.

Today, I go to the mosque close by my work and would pray and leave very soon after fearing any negative interactions. I wish I can join in social activities for the mosque, but with all honesty, it’s very difficult for me to keep my mouth shut upon hearing the different versions of islam depending on who is lecturing or talking. Eid was announced a month ago to be next week Sunday, yet , everyone else is saying it will be Saturday. Who is right? I don’t know, but I’m following Saudi Arabia these days. But before I leave you now, I have to tell you this little story. During one Ramadan, we had 2 vistors from out of town who stopped by for “taraweeh” prayers. At any rate, the imam finished praying the first 6, and he then started reciting some supplications and he was doing it almost like a song or “nasheed”. The two guys stood up, and told him that he is wrong and leading others astray, and declared that his prayer was wrong, and waked out angrily. Maybe his prayers were wrong, and maybe not. But this was no way a way to help someone corrects an action. Anyway, I’ll talk to you tomorrow, and it may be my last chapter in my life, and will go back to normal posts again. For those who are counting, this was chapter 26. I want to make my next chapter about freedom of expression in the united states as I feel so strong about such concept. Let me know what else you wish me to talk about. Have a great holiday and enjoy your time off work/school….etc.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A strange trip

and I think I even got molisted in it. You can close your jaws now. I know that hearing that from a 37 years old man is a bit disturbing. This is how it started. 8 days ago, I was flying on a business trip to boston. We have a plant there (special plant but can't give you details what they make). So, I am up at 5 am to catch my flight at 7:30. My beloved wife made me a quck cup of coffee, and a kiss "see ya later" and I was in my car by 6:00 am. The airport is about 24 miles away so it took me about 30 minutes to get there. Parked my car and took the shuttle to the terminal. 6:15 now and I need to hurry up.

So I take my last cigarrette before entering the terminal, and go straight to the gate. But before the gate, I have to go through security. So I took my shoes off, belt, keys, ring, watch, and my jacket. Walked to the explosive dtection device..and...beeb beeb beeb. Suddenly, all eyes were looking at me. Heck, some even stood there watching me. The dude said "ok we have an alarm here, step to this side please and someone will be with you shortly" So i did. I saw a cute looking girl searching a woman in the search area. She said "I'll be with you in few minutes sir". Thats ok anyway, everyone is now looking at this ugly arab guy waiting to be searched. no problem at all.

5 minutes go by, and she leaves the area. then I saw this freaky looking guy (actually, too soft to be a man). He told me "please step in here sir" with a soft tone. Damn it bo3bo3, we were building hopes on the cute girl now see who we have to put up with I said to myself. Made me take my wallet, and spread my legs (don't get any ideas please :) ) and said "I'm going to pat search you". So he starts searching..down to my legas..all the way up to my shoulder..then back down again, then on my back down to my feet..then ..then..then...the damn thing is taking too long. I started to suspect what this guy wants. I've been searched before as I fly at least once a month anyway, but this is no ordinary search.

I sat down afterwards and he said "why did the machine beeb?". Duh me. I told him "I don't know, I didn't make the machine, but maybe there were traces of chemicals since I work in a chemical plant" He didn't like my answer, so he signaled to hi guys. Two guys started interegating me, and 8 minutes later, they let me go after they saw my low level security clearance. Ran to my gate so fast cause i heard my name in the intercom. Got there and went to detroit. Our travel agent gave me 45 minutes only between flights, and I had to run from gate A22 to gate C4 in McCenmara terminal. If you know the terminal, you'll know that it will take you about 25 min running (incluiding riding the train) between the 2 gates. No smoking yet. anyway, got to boston and did my work.

On the way back, the NWA agent told me that my reservation is taking me from boston-detroit-pittsburg. Ok ma'am why the hell would I wanna go to pittsburg if my home is indy? She said she can get me flight from pittsburg to indy and I'll get home at midnight. It was 4 pm at that time. I said "No No No ma'am, I don't wanna zigzag between the states to get to indy, just fix it". So she did and I got to detroit. the flight was late as usual, and it was raining. Now I had to run from C4 to A22 and barely made my connection. No smoking yet. The flight to indy was only 48 minutes but was the worset flight i ever had. The plane was shaking sideways and people were screaming. A dude next to me going home from college was scared. I just wanted to smoke a damn cigarrete so freakin bad. I got to indy picked my car and drove home. Kissed my wife and junior and straight to bed.

Poetry moment

Just want to post some poems I wrote over the past weeks for a change. I have developed this love toward gothic poetry and started to try and express some poems. In the same time, I also wrote love poems which reflects an opposite picture of what you will see here. Here are few examples of gothic poems I wrote some time ago and recently.

How dare you

How dare you judge me
But your own actions, you can’t see
Driven by my faults and mistakes
And one look at yourself is all what it takes

You cast all these stones upon me
These sins I have commited are not all I see
You try to deny your past and present
You pretend it didn’t happen, but it is so evident

Accusations and harsh words burn like the sun
And deep inside you know what you have done
For once, open your eyes and shut your mouth
Your actions is what this is about, stop your wrath

Different from mine they may well be
But they are similar do you see
Your labeling me harshly with disgrace
And your own actions you can’t face

How dare you judge me
And pretend to be someone you can’t be
Seek inside your soul and you shall see
That you are just another copy of me

AAA 12/20/06

I hate you

I hate you..and everything about you
this poem is for you

All you ever did is making me cry
Hating what I have done…
that’s no lie

Wishing to slaughter my emotions
Drowning them like a sinking ship….
in the oceans

Watching them diminish slowly
to the unknown
Your death….I shall never postpone

I despise you, and everything about you
these words are for you

I am not your toy, nor was created for your joy
My feelings were never made for you ……
to destroy

I know…I really know what you’re doing
I see…I see what, in your heart,
…You are brewing

A fool, to hurt, torture, and to use as a clown
But today, I see, I hear, and I’ll never again….

AAA 9/6/06


I'm trapped here in a life I can't understand
forced to live the so called way while hands are bind

nothing I think of or do can ever be right
from the eyes of those who believe God is their sight

I'm here to live happy not to fulfill someone else's need
so why must I endure all this pain, agony and greed

I'm ripped apart with every stereotype and neglect
just because I don't fit in to what they think is correct

but I shall end this torture and not be attacked
for I am me and nothing shall make this heart cracked

So I'll break their chains and take their weapon
they can't control me and trap me into this prison

AAA 8/7/06

Lonley Illusions

So many intersections I have passed
So many bridges to cross, gotta hold fast
I am lost and can't seem to find my way
As I run passed the forest, in dismay

Loneliness lives inside me, and more
I can see it, feel it, the agony , a burning sore
So many miles to walk…. where do I begin
To express my hopes and my dreams within

I am lost, don't have a clear destination
I need to regain strength, and find salvation
Thoughts, constantly spinning in my head
Trying to determine what’s really, for me, ahead

It is cold and wet, yet again, today
The rain is falling, the sun is far away
Thinking deeply, of life ….and be deaf,
Insignificant to anyone …..except myself.

Loneliness is not a curse nor is it a regret,
It is a time of seclusion, when I forget
Not meant to be shared, nor even understood
My only salvation, from realty, if I just could

So yes, I’m truly stuck, in within
Where could I start, or just begin
But myself I promised, never to write again
About loneliness, for it too much of a pain

Tomorrow, a new page, new sight
Of love, pleasure, and no longer fight
With white doves flying, and trees so tall
I no longer, to loneliness, shall ever fall

AAA 6/24/06

I am who I am

I am who I am, greatness in me
I've become an exaggerated part …
of my individuality
Trying to think weird thoughts
and getting mad at my simplicity

I've become a joke to me
Lost my real self,
For me
And for someone else

Now it all coming back.. you see
So farewell to you..and me
Farewell to what once the center…
Of insanity
Setting the sail, and looking back
Trying to once again, let go my mentality

I walked through the shadows of insanity
Slipping slowly by those never before seen me
Declared the ghost....master of abnormality
Smiling constantly at those who lynched me

Optimistic, but realistic while hope is still in me
my pains don't run that deep, no more
Just an ecstasy
For I see the way, back to my realty
As I waive my hand to you, and to me

You haven't really got any clue about me
What it all means to you, is not the same
To me
Slip sliding away, turning my back on me
Slip sliding away, the long waited journey

AAA 6/7/06

Unholly Warrior (a bet disturbing, read with caution)

My soul is the blood of life, as I fall
I sleep in blood that I keep thinking of
My hunger and desires, for no one at all
Death is hell and i do not desire love.

If love is to be desired, than what I wish for?
If not, than when, might I ask, do I wish for hope?
As I hold the sword of death, I seek you no more
Eternal happiness, through darkness, I shall cope

I cannot speak nor do I really dare
to express truely how I sincerely feel
For those that take of my words I can't spare
Those that I have loved, I can no more conceal

There maybe no importance in my words
I will not desire anything that will expire
And allow me to send the flying birds
I cannot trespass on that unholly fire.

My heart stained by love from the past
That keeps reminding me of the darkened soul
Though I tried to extinguish the fire fast
But the flames kept growing higher as I fall

To you I seek an everlasting peace
A blow, or anything that would ease
This torture inside me, that won't decease
Damn you I am calling on you......please

I can see the end, the moment of time
When I hold on this sharp knife of mine
And as I look at it's beauty, such a shrine
And hold it high above, seeking my own devine

As it enters the heart, I feel the dying fire
The peace at last, for this freaky soul
Twisting and tearing apart and lefting me higher
From this doomed body once and for all

Oh sweet one I need you now as before
Free me from this miserabe desire
Revive me....I seek me no more
I feel this heart is getting dryer and dryer

As I depart ...finally from this body of the weak
I look down on what was nothing but a freak
Blood is flowing and from me it'll never again leak
As I haunt all those, who of me made this freak

Shine and rise oh great soldier of death
Fasten your sharp knife and after who have sailed
To flow the rivers of blood..with your mighty breath
Now it's my turn to seek, those me have failed

With one blow, your head is to fly
And your flesh I shall eat, don't ask why
As I cut through your veins and hear you cry
Questioning my action, how dare you, just die

Feed me off those who set my own fire
And watched me agonize and me, neglect
Today I revenge, with your skull lefted higher
on my spear..a warrior who came back to collect

AAA 6/4/06

Dark Tears

I feel fatigued, tired and in so much despair
My heart beats miserably, wrecked beyond repair
I wish I could go to sleep, and never ever awake,
But I've always known; life is never ours to take.

If it was all up to me, I'd want to die while a sleep,
There's no one to stop me and the cut is already too deep
I could slit my throat, and no-one would even care,
But I know deep inside of me that I wouldn't dare

Sitting up all night, alone in my room
Shaky and weeping, imagining doom
Nothing here to distract my mind, my fears.
There's no-one around, to even dry my tears.

So as I held the blade, feeling my veins
A cry from within, screaming, please refrain
I looked around and no one do I see
Yet, somehow, my soul decided to once again, be.

AAA 12/5/05

Monday, December 18, 2006

Chapter XXV. The coffee shop

Immigrants here in the states tend to hang out in places where their own “people” are around. There is little italy in the east side of Cleveland where Italians hang out and you could see the restaurants and the café’s. Little china is another one and so was little greek in the near west side by the orthodox church. As for arabs, there were few hang outs. One was “beit hanina” where Palestinians from that village have a social club and a wedding hall. Weddings take place in there. I went to a couple of weddings, and quit frankly, they were mistakes. I never wanted to go, but the guys insisted that I go. It’s not because I didn’t like to be around my own “people” but I just get the sad feeling of back home during weddings. Keep in mind that I was also single at that time, and for a single man, that was harsh I guess.

In those weddings, there are few things that makes you want to pull your hair. Maybe that’s how I lost my hair after all. Ok I can’t blame it all on the weddings, my dad’s genes has something to do with losing hair too. In one night, I went to a wedding. I didn’t know any of the families, or anyone. I just went out for fun that’s all. To my surprise, I saw strange things. I have never seen gold in my entire life as I saw that day. One lady was walking (and I don’t know how she could) with a necklace..wait..not just a necklace, but to describe it..ok..imagine those rose necklace that you get when you go to Hawaii, well, it was all gold. Probably 5 kg of gold around her neck. Other women had such fashion in the wedding too. Do I sound envying? Maybe. But the fact of the matter is I never seen gold in my life as I saw that day. Then they started giving money. So, there was the big guy, the kahuna of the family, and he took the microphone and started mentioning names and amounts. So and so has given $1000. The thing kept going on. Then he demanded that all dancers leave the dance floor, and started talking about how he was close to death and had a stroke, and god saved him. He then said that he wanted to thank God, so everyone leave the floor, except his sister so and so so he can dance with her. Frankly, it was pathetic. I thought he was going to donate money for charity.

As I got up to go to the men’s room to wash for the prayer, I saw kids fighting and cursing in a language I could only hear in the show soprano’s. At any rate, few of us started praying on the side while the music kept going on and the dance was still active. Not that I mind, but I wished that we could’ve found a different spot to pray. I couldn’t wait too long there, and went home. I just didn’t feel comfortable, you know, single in a wedding is not a good thing I guess.

Then I discovered the coffee shop. I used to smoke shisha so it was the perfect place for me. One night, I went to the coffee shop on lorain road, and sat outside by myself. I could hear guys playing cards and again cursing at each others. They cursed God, sisters, mothers and fathers. Yet, they were all smiling. I loved that place as long as I kept my ears shut. I would go there, sit alone, smoke the shisha and sip my tea and go home. I just needed an hour alone with my shisha, that’s all. On occasions, I meet guys and sit with them, but I never get to meet them again. Rarely that I see the dude again. But the hour was enough time to vent problems and harships. One guy in particular sticks in my mind. He was a Palestinian muslim who was married to a Christian Palestinian. They divorced few months after marriage and his mother in law took their child and baptized him and sent the video to him to torture him. I don’t have anything against my fellow Christian arabs at all, on the contrary, I enjoy their company a lot. But this incident sticks in my mind because I could see a guy crying without tears at all.

Another old man, a Jordanian Christian, whom I enjoyed so much. I saw him 3 times. He reminded me of home. He left his family back in Jordan and came to the states to work and support his family. You’ll be amazed of how torture this man went through. He invited me to the new years party at the Arabic church on West 117th street about 15 miles south of lorain road. Can’t remember the street name but it was known. We had good food and a nice music. Saw lots of people that made me feel home some how. But again, his story sticks to my mind. Oh..and the story of the Palestinian student who was hooked on drugs and his dad came to take him back to Jordan. This was devastating for all who knew the guy.

A fight broke out one time between some Jordanians and Palestinians guys in the coffee shop. I witnessed the fight while I was smoking my shisha. Simply pathetic. The two Palestinian/American guys went to Jordan last year and they were humiliated at the airport. It seems that they, as I heard early that night, threw their US passports at the guy who worked the airport passport booth. He didn’t like their attitude so he called security and it seems that the two guys were humiliated. In the coffee shop, they were cursing Jordan and all Jordanians. Couple of Jordanians didn’t like what they heard and that’s how the fight broke. Chairs were flying and shisha were breaking in the air. The police came and took all to the station. Yep…it was pathetic in all means.

Before the coffee shop opened, there was a night club owned by a guy from beit hanina. It was for arabs of course. So when I used to drink, I went to that place. There was a good singer, his last name was “haddad”, a Jordanian. He has a lovely voice and he would sing for Palestinians/Lebanese/Jordanians/you name it. I sat at the bar having my drink, and suddenly, a fight broke loose. It seems that a guy was hitting on someone’s wife. So they fought and knifes appeared and someone was cut. The police came and it was not a pleasant sight. Another night, I over heard someone discussing the details of how they would implant someone in jail to kill the killer of his brother. There was some money discussion. I don’t know the outcome, but the brother seemed to be pushing to kill hi brother’s killer in jail. Arabs drink pretty wild when they do and I do remember on a couple of occasions that I took some guys home because the owner, who was a friend of mine, asked me to take them home and don’t let them drive. Thanks God I am done with that stuff now.

Taking you back to the coffee shop, it was a nice place to be for someone like me. I got to hear omm kulthoom singing while I smoke my shisha. I loved the atmosphere. It meant home for me. I could hear stories of back home from guys who just came back from a visit. I got to kill time as I really needed to murder time in some instances. But it had it’s negatives of course as I mentioned above. I came to realize that arab hang outs are tricky ones. One needs to make a hang out for each religion, each country background, and each age group. Mixing all the above together spells troubles.

Then I decided to join the mosque, and that will be very exciting. Arab mosques in America are not fun either as I well show in the next post very soon. But right now, I had a long drive from Indiana to TN and feel exhausted. But since I’m staying for 4 days here in TN, I’ll have all the time to write while stuck between my beloved four walls that toughed me all about life and the importance of isolation while sipping coffee and smoking my camel’s light cigarette. See you soon.

Who are you?

Sometimes, it’s difficult to understand who you really are. Seriously, you seem to know who you want to be, or who you were, but when it comes to today, you struggle to understand who you truly are. They say that admitting realty is half the way, but you still need to go all the way. So who are you?

Funny that you go through a past that is full of so joyful memories, yet, it is also full of painful ones. You think that you are better off by pulling the plug of those sad memories. I admit it that sometimes, I wish I can somehow plug my brain to some kind of machine and do a partial formatting to get rid of those bad memories. But what we fail to understand is that those sad memories are an essential part of who we are. Who are you?

Forget about describing who you wish to be some day, or what you want to be. Just focus on analyzing yourself in the current situation. You may laugh at this, but I sometimes sit down and start this debate with myself. True I have hard time convincing myself of what my aim is, but it’s worth the troubles, believe me. Crazy? I may be, but I know that I give so much importance to know who truly I am. So who are you?

Those nights I may stay awake thinking of things that can only make me feel sad or maybe shed a drop of tears…or two. Or those days I start day dreaming about a certain day in history that involved me. In the end, I came to realize who I am. Maybe not the full picture, but a close one. It’s like writing a resume or some kind of a description about yourself, with it’s positives or even negatives, it doesn’t matter at all. Do you really know who you are?

A flirter, but never intended to hurt anyone? Maybe. A very sensitive man who is pretending to be the macho of all men? Again maybe. It just takes lots of guts to confront yourself and demand from it to come out lifting that mask you may like to wear all the times. It ain’t easy giving up the mask. It’s like having two choices, one that show you naked and transparent, or another with colorful clothes that makes others say “wow…that’s cool and pretty” It just not easy. One should weigh the positives as well as the negatives of such naked body. Are you ready to be naked in front of others? Do you know who you are?

But clothes are important to portray a certain image of ourselves. Being naked is like being vulnerable to others. I gotta say that I am never a big fan of this nudist movements, but with all honesty, I am a fan of the nudity of the soul. Never mind about those clothes, just attempt to confront yourself, and demand to know the truth. Maybe you know the truth, but you are not brave enough to admit it. Who know. I don’t. Who the heck are you?

I love fun, and social life, but feel isolated. I love the bar atmosphere, but not a drinker and hate the smell of alcohol. I love humor and consider myself to be good at putting a smile on others, but can’t tell a joke. I am a strong man, who developed a certain personality, but very weak and would produce tears for the simplest reason. I love love itself, but seem to be lost with expressing with words. I…well…I am attemting to be naked, but it doesn’t seem to work at all, for my nakedness will cause so much….lets say mess to me and to others. Do I fear the accusations and the looks of others? NO. Do I care about who others see my nakedness? NO….But I seem to be so attached to the clothes and the mask that I’m having a hard time letting go. Can you let go?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Part XXIV. Family Guy

I guess I’m not done bragging about myself, am I? Bear with me a moment for only very few things in my life that I can brag about, and this is one of them. There will be more time for lynching myself for errors and mistakes, but for now, I need to feel good about myself. Especially that I’m now stuck in the airplane while they fix the captain seat after it got broke. God I hate Detroit. Anyway, lets go on shall we.

I was brought up amongst 7 other brothers and sisters of mine. We were four x four, and it seems that my dad has discovered the secret of manipulating the child’s sex. Ok ok..he didn’t. We were always trained to listen to dad and mom, and never question any “command”. Yes they were commands and I think my dad thought that his house is an extension to his office. We would only start eating dinner after he takes the first bite. No TV when he took his afternoon nap. Those of us who stayed late at night, we would hear it pretty harshly. Some of the punishment was TV time deprivation. Allowance was another tool in his arsenals of punishments. But needless to say, he did have a system and he was tough in implementing it (except the youngest one, he always got away with it).

Early in my childhood, I was known to be a trouble maker. Some of the incidents are embarrassing, but oh well, it can’t get worse can it now. I am told that at the age of 5 years old, my mom punishment me very harsh. She caught me naked with a girl and trying to get her naked. Now before you think this or that, keep in mind that the mind of a 5 years old is not capable of such wicked thoughts. I’m sure there was something else in my mind at that time, and I doubt it was related to “sex” again due to the impossibility of a 5 years old boy thinking about such stuff.

In some cases, I was punished for putting my youngest brother in the freezer and told him not to get out until we count to 100. I was lucky that my parents came early that night and saved him. Of course I got punishment in the story I told earlier when I was chasing my sister with dad’s gun. So yes, I got in trouble when I was growing up. Troubles that included “un-allowed” interaction with the Pilipino maid, or driving my dad’s car. Many instances, but for the most part, my parents depended on me heavily when they were hone out of the house. I took care of my brothers and sisters (with the exception of the freezer thingie).

I’m the oldest amongst my brothers and sisters, and according to the constitution of my family, I was second in command. My brothers and sisters knew that and they followed the rules. I got to plan for any fun in the house while my parents were away. I took care of the kitchen planning, trips, who collects woods and who starts skewing lamb on skewers. I planned for the Eid schedule for them, where to go, and who goes where. I can’t say I was a dictator, but I was learning from dad. So there were regulations in the house. When I was around 14, I started taking care of breakfast. Every morning, I would get up before them, and would start the breakfast. Cheese, eggs, and sometimes, cereal. I made the milk (you do remember Nido, the dried milk), and made the tea. I would then wake them up, and get the teat to my parents while we had breakfast.

I then started saving my allowance to get the little ones candy and toys. I was 15 and my youngest brother was 2 years old. There was a specific chocolates that had a picture of a lion on it, and he loved it so much. My 4 years old sister loved twix. I managed to save my allowance so every Thursday, they would wait for me on the balcony and as soon as they see me, they would rush to the door to get their candies for the weekend.

Ok, they just announced that they fixed the captain seat so I have to shut down now, and will continue once the airplane on the air. Ciao

Back again, finally. Just because we were growing up in the UAE, people quickly assumed that we are sissy kids. Kids who are hooked on kitkat or twix. Maybe we had chocolates, but we as kids went through life, just like other kids. We didn’t have all what we wished for, again just like all kids. To me, being the oldest son, made me feel responsible somehow. Weather it was about taking care of the little ones, or the big ones, I tried to me the family guy as much as possible.

I gotta admit it that from the first day I left home, to the states, I felt like someone who was simply pulled away from his family. Suddenly, I’m not that captain anymore. It may sound silly, but I started thinking a lot of times if my brothers were getting breakfast or not. Who now brings the candy for the two youngest ones? Who helps dad going to the market? Why does this and this and some of that? I felt with a big void after I left them. Now, tea doesn’t taste the same, nor milk. Breakfast…stopped in my life for it lost it’s meaning. It kind affected me so much that even when my brother grew and became 13 years old, I would ask him on the phone if he wanted me to bring him candy. Those of us, who left little brothers and sisters behind, know that the thought of them growing up was never in our minds.

So, as a natural reaction, I carried this behavior with me. I was in charge of cooking for the guys. No, they didn’t make me wear a French maid outfits, but they did enjoy my cooking. But before I could make good food, I had to practice, and they all agreed to be my genie pigs. I remember one time we wanted to make “maglooba” (or ma’looba as some may prefer to call it). I instructed one my roommates, who was from gaza, to buy the needed mterial. Cauliflower, potato’s, rice, and beef. We didn’t know about the lamb yet in America. So the dude came back with all the stuff. I started frying the vegetables (potato, cauliflower), and during that, the meat was cooking. The meat was done, and to be honest, it looked funny. I asked my roommate if he got the right meat, and he said yes. But the meat looks different. So I pulled the package from the trash, and there it was, pork. So we ended up substituting the meat with 3 cans of tuna. Honestly, it tasted …well..really ok, and we liked it.

We were creative in cooking, and we seemed to wanna learn so much. One time, I was sitting with two roommates of mine, well..semi-drunk, and we said “how about a stuffed lamb?”. As soon as my roommate said that, I looked at him and smiled. It was the challenge now, and must do it. So we called all those who were interested in the stuffed lamb. The turnaround was 9 guys. Not bad. So we bought all the needed material, and decided that we make it in our apartment. We didn’t have any recipe at all. But we did well. It was one of my roommates and I who took charge in the cooking. The remaining 7 were to split the cost on all seven of them, which was not even 120 dollars total. We spiced up the lamb, stuffed it with cooked rice mixed with ground beef, and we poked the lamb so many pokes and stuffed every poke with garlic. We marinated it with yogurt and spices, then wrapped it all around and put it in the oven. The guys gathered and it was a great gathering. We enjoyed it.

There were times where we didn’t succeed in such work. The time where we tried to make stuffed cabbage and the damn cabbage didn’t want to role easily. I discovered that I needed to boiled it with water first. Or when we tried to make mlookheyyeh and the whole thing fell apart. We were luckier on the falafel side after the second try. That paid real good in the end. I mean there were students who relied on junk food, and there were others who put on the kitchen gear (not the French maid outfit) and started learning.

On occasions, even after we got married and started out own families, we would get together and bring back the good old days of single life days. Well, except the drinking side, some of us remain drinking and some gave it up. I can say that this family guy business has affected how I look at things related to responsibility. Today, if my wife or junior wanted any piece of cloth, I would not hesitate to buy it as soon as possible. But if there was something I liked for myself, I would think so many times before buying it. Maybe this is not related here, and maybe yes, but what I’m trying to say is it is so easy to convince myself to buy things for them, and is so difficult to convince myself with my buying needs. Makes sense? I guess not. Oh well. Gotta leave now, we are few minutes away from Boston. See you around.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Chapter XXIII, Part three

It’s a guy thing. If you give every woman a dollar for every time she hears that, she’ll be a rich woman. After all, I’m an arab typical male/man/husband. Guilty as charged, yes sir/ma’am. The funny or sad thing is that this mentality carries on anywhere you go. Whether in America or Jordan, an arab man will always be an arab man. So I’m not stand up here and defend the action of an arab immigrant man, but rather will present them hoping that it makes an woman smile, and a man thinking “dude…you have given out the secret”.

On one day, we were invited to a her friends house. She had this Jordanian friend and she wanted to introduce me to her husband. I went along her plans of course. Now, I was brought up in a mansaf infested home. A home where mansaf has a rituals. It has to be made the right way, or else, I start to hallucinate. So we walked in their home and ..uhhhhh..the aroma of jameed and mansaf is filling the house. I knew I was going to be good friends with this guy. The two ladies started the conversation and we got involved. He was a Christian Jordanian man. A very nice man I shall add. So we talked about the usual arab topics; food, politics, and how we value the super bowl commercials. Then came the time for the seductive mansaf to kick in and we sat on the table. I suddenly saw spoons and plates. I panicked, but quickly gave up to the looks of my wife daring me to open my mouth so she can hit me with her purse. I remember her purse, and no I will not want to be hit by it again. So I shut up. I gave him the benefit of the doubt that they may have thought I eat mansaf out from the plate and with a spoon. Then I saw the mansaf..but..but..wait a minute..what is that? White meat? Chicken? Now I lost it. And just as I was to open my mouth, she pinched me in my leg. Ouch..that hurt. I looked at her, and she looked at me begging me to keep my mouth shut.

How can withstand seeing mansaf with a plate..and a spoon laying next to it? If my dad ever found out that I ate mansaf with chicken, he will send my cousins to assassinate me. What to do now? I wanted to scream, but knew if I did that, I’ll end up sleeping in the garage. So I decided to shut up tearing inside, eating chicken mansaf. I went through hell before, but this was a different hell. I couldn’t wait till I got back to my house.

My wife is a peaceful lady, but she is Jordanian too (well, off Palestinian origins like me). When I married her, many of my friends advised me to look for a veiled muslim woman. I was smarter and searched for a good quality woman. So one time, we went to the mosque for a social gathering. My wife wasn’t praying at that time, and she wasn’t wearing veils. The usual jeans and the t-shirt. So we walked into the mosque, and she grabbed a hold of a veil from the mosque and simply placed it on her head. Her hair was showing of course. I was sitting with the guys. Then the time to go home came, and we got in our car. She started complaining about this Syrian woman who refused to shake my wife’s hands in the mosque. I told her relax honey, this is how people act in the states. The funny thing is that my wife never forgot this story as you’ll find out soon.

2 years into our marriage, she asked me “would you want me to be veiled?” I said “it’s all up to you for your doing it to God not me, and you’ll always be you regardless if you wear veil or not”. So she decided to wear the veil. And we were invited to a birthday party, and the Syrian woman was there. Now, I know my wife real good, and as I said, she is peaceful, but she is an arab woman after all. So she goes and sit down without shaking the hands of that woman. I was watching of course for I knew that my wife will do something. Then the Syrian woman approached my wife and I could hear her congratulating my wife on the veil. My wife was smiling at her, but I knew these smiles real good. They are the smiles before the storm, believe me I know you arab ladies. Then the Syrian woman said “I’m glad that you wore the veil, because I honestly didn’t shake your hands because of the lack of veil”. Here, I looked around searching for a place to hide behind. My wife told her “aren’t you ashamed of your self? How can you reflect a good image of muslims? If you thought I was wrong by not wearing the veil, you should’ve tried to talk to me, but to do what you did, that was a shame”. I laughed so loud, and I saw my wife getting up and coming to me asking if it’s time to go home or not. Now, to all of you, this may sound like a question. But to me, it wasn’t. It was a command “you either get your behind up now and take me home, or I will start a fight that you will not be happy about” So we got up and execused ourselves and drove home.

Or the time when I acted so stupid..just for a box of chocolates. So it was her birthday…and just like all arab men, I forgot about it. I walked home, and she was sitting down. I sat down, and said “the food honey?” She started crying and here I knew I was in trouble. To make a story short….she was mad at me for forgetting her birthday. I got mad at her for getting mad. She said “not even a cheap box of chocolates/”. I got up and started eating by myself, and that box of chocolates caused me 3 weeks of no chocolates. Till today, I refuse to bring the chocolates….it’s a guy thing.

So now she needs a driver’s license. I started training her on how to drive. Bad idea because I am a lousy driver, and I get angry a lot. After few trials, I called my friend and he started teaching her driving. On the test day, I took her, and in the car, was comforting her preparing her to fail. “honey, it’s ok if you fail from the first or second trial..look at me, it took me 3 trials to get my license. We went into the place and her turn came. A guy approached her and said “bring your car around”. So she did. Junior was only 7 months old. So I started thinking about how to comfort her when she comes back with the failing results. 30 minutes later, she came. I stood up and prepared myself for the lines I was memorizing the past 30 minutes. I said “lets go honey, we’ll talk about it in the car”. She said “no, I need to have my picture taken..I passed”. What? No way. A side of me wanted to yell at the tester for passing her. How can she be better than me? Again, it’s a guy thing.

Back in 2005, and when she was in amman, I decided to buy her anew minivan. So 3 days before she was to arrive to Detroit airport, I bought this brand new minivan with DVD player and all kind of options. When I picked her up from the airport, she was happy to see the new car. 2 days later, she hit the garage with it. Minimum damage but was enough to hold it against her for eternity. A guy thing of course.

It was difficult for us to make friends. I was very picky, and so was she. We hade our great Christian Jordanian friends., A Syrian couple and 2 palestinian families. We were hanging out together always. Friends were a rare thing to find in America. We needed people that we can communicate with, and feel comfortable around. But then she started making friendship with Americans. This was nice because it will allow her to pick up the accent. So suddenly, she started going out to the mall with her friends. Then to the hangout, the secret woman’s place of the olive garden in Westlake ohio. That proved to be a good step for her.

I wish I can talk more about the behavior of married arab men, but I fear the guys will take revenge against me. But it’s a fact, that arab wives put up so much with our behavior. We could be living in the states for 20 years and it would mean nothing. We still don’t know the value of the cheap box of chocolates, or the simple “I love you” statement. We think that the twins in the bud light commercial is what women should look like, but in the end of the day, we go wild if we see our wives dressed up openly in the public. Damn…now that I’m stuck in some hotel room in Cincinnati hundreds of miles away from her, I feel the need to call her before I go to bed…again. So if you’ll excuse me, I need to leave now. Hope she is still awake now.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Chapter XXIII, Part two

I tried to spend as much time as possible with her before my departure back to the states. 4 nights before my departure, I asked her dad to allow his daughter to go out with me. He screamed at me of course rejecting the idea. I tried with my mom to talk to her mom, and that didn’t work good. Then my wife asked her brother to interfere, and he did. After all, he studied in the west and was a little more open. So he spoke to his father and somehow the father agreed on the condition that all 3 of my sisters are present. I’ll take that anyway. So, we picked her up from her home around 4 pm, and went to our house. My brother was driving us. We went to our home first, and spent some time together. At 7 pm, she called her dad informing him that we are going out.

So on the road to “reem elbawaady”, her phone rings every 25 to 30 minutes, which was ok with me after all. We got there, and me and two sisters, along with my wife walked in. My older sister couldn’t make it with us. We sat down and ordered food and a shisha for me. My sisters then asked to set in a different table, and we were ok. I wanted to be alone with her anyway. As I was sitting down, a man approached my sisters table, and was talking to them. I prepared myself to get in a fight with that guy. But one of my sisters signaled me to sit down, so I did while starring at their table. The guy was talking to my middle sister, who then got up, and pushed the guy while screaming at him. I then sat down enjoying the scene of my sisters handling the guy. One of the waiters then came over and pulled the guy outside. I tell you, my sisters are very tough when it comes to guys trying to bug them, so I didn’t worry. I then got up and went to the bathroom. There, there was a guy who approached me asking how much do I charge for the girls. He must have thought that I was a “girls handler” as they refer to it. That’s when I lost it and started beating the guy in the bathroom. As he got out, I chased him kicking, and one of his friends came to rescue him. He managed to hit me very hard, but luckily, a couple of waiters came to rescue me. When they asked about what happened, I told them exactly what happened and how I can not enjoy a dinner with my family, so they took care of the guy pretty good.

So I sat back down, and managed to have her wipe a couple of blood drops off my mouth. That was a great feeling. The problem is the blood was the results of me biting my tongue while I was talking and getting punched by the guy’s friend. Embarrassing to bleed for a silly cause during a fight. Finished the dinner and the shisha, and went outside walking as we phoned my brother to come and pick us up. It was a nice walk where we chatted about everything that could relate to our life. My brother then showed up, and we all got home around 9 pm. Had a cup of tea then dropped her at her home.

In my final day in amman, I wanted her to come with me to the airport. This was a tough task. I mean we had to work pretty hard to convince her dad to let her go out with us in an evening. Imagine me asking him to let her spend the night since my flight was at 4 am on KLM back to the states. But I wanted it so bad. I wanted to be like those lovers in the movies (sure..go ahead you can laugh) where she would waive goodbye to me and I do the same. It’s like as if I was a child day dreaming. I fought hard to get her to spend the night. My whole family and so her step mom and brothers tried hard with the dad. In the end, he caved in to pressure and allowed that to happen on the condition that her step mom spends the night too. In the end, it happened. Her step mom came to me at around 5 pm asking me not to forget the traditions and never do anything that is not from our traditions. I promised them. We sat outside by the fig tree in the back yard of my dad’s home, and we talked and talked, laughed, dreamed together, and planned our future together. Sadly, when you are enjoying your time, time seems to go too fast. Before we know it, my brother comes to us telling us it’s time to go to the airport. So at 1 am, we drove to amman international airport, and I had my brother and sister with me along with my wife to be. After checking in, we sat and had some refreshments. Then the time came for my departure. After hugging and kissing my sister and brother, it was time to tell her goodbye. So I extended my hand to shake, although I wanted to hug her so bad. We did marry in the court, and it wouldn’t be a sin. But the words of her step mom were still ringing. So I extended my hand, and she looked at me with a sad look. But couldn’t hold off, so I ended up hugging her a goodbye hug. It may have lasted for a minute or so, and never wanted to let go. Then I went up the stairs in the airport, and looked back at her. I guess my dream came true as she was waiving goodbye, just like the movies.

The first thing I did upon my arrival, is calling her. I started calling her every week, at her work. Sometimes I call her house, and after 30 minutes on the phone, I hear her step mom yelling from a distance asking her to hang up the phone and save the money for our home instead of wasting it on phone calls. Then we started chatting on msn and I started to act and look like a teenager in love. Not a whole lot happened in the 1 months between the two trips to amman, but I finally managed to go to amman after we finished the US immigration work for her to join me. It’s now time for the wedding.

So we had our wedding in amman. I had only 2 week vacation, and we needed to act fast. The wedding was arranged. Then her dad suggests to have a separated wedding parties, one for women and one for men. I honestly didn’t care either way. My family didn’t like the idea. Eventually, we ended up having a separate wedding parties. If you ever go to an “all guys” wedding party, it looks like a funeral. Guys sitting down sipping coffee or cold drinks while talking about…again politics in Jordan. The funny thing is I was sitting along side my wife, in the women’s section. As if I wasn’t considered a guy anyway. Oh yes, I saw girls dancing, so why the wedding was a separate one? Oh well, it happened, and I enjoyed it.

Then it was over. Now, I have made so many bad decisions in my life, but that night was probably the worst. You see, my wedding was 3 nights before our trip back to the states. I wanted to stay in a hotel those 3 nights. My dad and mom raised hell and they swore that they won’t attend the wedding unless I staid those nights in my parents home. Now, visualize with me the following. Two newly wed people, in their first night, and spending it in my parent’s home. Nevertheless, they had their way and I stayed with them those 3 nights. Do I need to go in details here? One side of me itching for a yes answer, and it is wining the battle. Lets see how far my other side can withstand this details. The first morning, I walked outside the room, and there she was standing waiting by the door. It was my mother, and she quickly rushed in. I held her telling her “yo mom..where you goin?”. She pushed me aside and went inside and closed the door. Oh my God, where am I? Then I walked and there were my sisters giggling and my father giving me the look of “how did it go?”. Ok..ok no more details, but I tell you, those 3 nights were really a nightmare.

We then flew to the states. Aaaah finally we are going to be home alone with no hassles or troubles. She was still scared and shy. Of course, she was crying now that she is away from her family. How can anyone have a honeymoon like that? Regardless, we managed to live life and be happy when we could, and be sad when we had to. But life in the states, for two people, living together in home, is not that easy in the beginning. And just like all marriages, it was rough in the beginning. I mean we are talking about 2 strangers getting together under one roof, in one room, on one bed. So yes we did have problems early one. She liked this, and I liked that. She cooked this and I loved to eat that. She used this and I wanted her to use that. Yes, we had our disagreements early on. Just like the time when we……ok..I’ll stop for now and continue in another time. My fingers are getting tired and I can hear her calling me to have dinner now. True that I love you, but I love dinner more. See you tomorrow.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Part XXIII. Marriage in the USA

Just like any single man, I wanted to live with a companion, a soul mate, a partner in life. The search was not easy due to different factors. Factors such as finding the a mate who is culturally compatible to me. Religion is also another factor, if not the most important one. Finding the right woman was a big task for me, for it is a big investment for life. This is not a short term deal. I know I may be wrong describing marriage as an investment or deal, but the fact of the mater is it is an important decision in life.

However, it’s a pretty difficult scenario I was put in. Being the “bad boy” I was made it difficult to find trust in women. Regardless if this was my fault or anyone else, it was just difficult. I’ve seen women who were never honest with their husbands, and I’ve seen women who were so eager to live the sinful life. That played negatively toward my search for the right woman that I can trust and feel good with. You see, once you live a life like mine, and once you see the type of women I’ve seen in my life, you would have difficulties to convince yourself that men out there are not as evil as you are, and the same is for women. So how can you establish the level of trust in the other gender after coming off such a life? I know it was not their fault, and the fault is mostly mine, but how can you overlook that past?

The search started early when I was still studying. I knew this nice girl, she was 18 years old. Well, if you lived with arabs in the states you would find that a large chunk of them try to marry their daughters at an early age to protect themselves from the social “seductive” nature of the west. So at any rate, she was 18 years old and just finished high school. She was beautiful, and from a well known family from Palestine. I knew her dad (who loved drinking and gambling at that time) and he was a very nice person. Her mom was wonderful. I knew the family via my interaction in the arab community. Her mom loved me to the point that she was sending home cooked meals to the gas station I was working in. She would send her husband and kids (the 18 years old daughter and the 12 years old son) where they would even spend some time with me. I needed that for it made me feel like home, somehow. I felt that the mother loved me to be a son in law. It was difficult to find a “nice” guy like me with a degree to marry their daughter, and they didn’t have relatives in the city they were living in.

I started liking the daughter. On occasions, I would drive in my day off to their home and spend some time there. Relationship got better where I would take the girl and her brother to the park, and even the movie theater. Now, I wouldn’t trust anyone with a guy like me, but I valued this family so much that I drew the line between me and getting to do anything with the girl, and was very cautious to protect their honor as if it was my own honor. Thank God I did good in this category. Then I decided to propose to the family and ask for their daughter to be my wife. I asked the girl first and she was very ok with the idea. I then went to her dad where he worked and asked him for his daughter. He was very happy, and later, the mother was too.

However, there was a voice in the back of my mind bugging me about the idea. What if this girl was like the rest of the arab girls I knew? So I decided to do my own investigation and started watching the girl. I discovered things that made me quickly change my mind. I told the dad that I can’t marry now and will need to pursue my second degree before thinking of marriage. He was ok with that, and when another man proposed to his daughter a year later, he asked me, and I told him that I am still not ready for marriage. That ended peacefully.

My second trial was not even that good. Without lots of details, I liked this Palestinian girl. I knew her brother very good, and knew the family. I proposed and everyone was happy. Except the girl. In my first visit, she sounded very interested since she knew me for over 3 years from the interaction with her brother. But somehow, she rejected me. However, her brother and father tried to pressure her. I knew that because the brother told me that she is not accepting yet, and he needs to spend more time to convince her. Because I liked her, I agreed. But then, I realized that I was making a big mistake and can not accept to force myself on any girl. Like I said earlier, this is a long term investment. How can I live with someone that doesn’t love me. That’s when I quickly went back to the brother and told him to forget about it, it’s not a big deal. I still know the girl and her brother till today, and both are wonderful people.

My third trial was a very interesting one and should make you laugh. A friend of mine, from the local mosque, told me about this girl. She was beautiful and very religious. Her dad deceased long ago. I was coming out off two failed attempts within a year and was not ready for a third one that soon. He told me that her mom wants to meet me. I declined of course because this is not the way things should go. Heck, I didn’t even see or meet the girl yet. In one night at the mosque, he came rushing to me and said that her mom is her and she just wants to talk to me. I was angry at such approach, but didn’t want to embarrass him in front of the mother, so I accepted on the condition of him iterating to the mother that this is just friendly meeting that is not related to marriage at all. He agreed of course.

So I sat down waiting for the mother. She came in the room, and my friend was there too. The mother’s sister was present too. After the normal “hey how you doin” intro, the mother started asking me questions about me. After every question, I would look at my friend with a look of “whats going on here?”. I decided to just answer all questions for the sake of my friends who was begging me with his looks not to act like the normal “trouble maker” mentality that I have developed over the years. Then the questions were starting to become funnier. Comments like “we rejected a man because he refused to spend $12,000 extra on the type of meals for the wedding”. Put it this way, she asked me about 5 questions about me, then she shifted to ask about my dad. His work, how much land he owns, where he worked, if he owned houses or not, his citizenship, and so many questions that relates to the wealth of my father. I really tried very hard to refrain myself from laughing in the “meeting” and did very good except when she said “oh, your dad worked in the UAE army, that’s good, they make lots of money in the UAE”. I just couldn’t hold myself, and laughed a little. She then said “ok, I’ll let you know”. “let me know what ma’am? I didn’t even see the girl yet” I said. She replied saying “we’ll see God’s willing”. She left the meeting and I was so angry. I felt humiliated, and sat down putting my hands on my head of the humility. My friend apologized to me, and I yelled at him for putting me in this situation. I didn’t propose yet. I didn’t even talk about marriage. I told him “listen man, please tell her that I’m not interested all” He calmed me down and said he will not pursue this further.

So two weeks later, I see the same woman, and she asks me when will I come and visit them. I was again shocked and told her that whatever God wants, will happen. I asked my friend if he told the woman about my decision yet, and he said “yes and swore to me”. But seems the mother wanted to pursue this. So I went back to the woman and told her “seems that God doesn’t want this marriage to happen”. The sad thing is I never got to see her daughter yet. Maybe the daughter is very nice, but I tell you, with a mother in law like that, even satan will refuse to become her son in law.

That’s when I decided that I can never marry from the states. In the same time frame, my mom told me that “my current wife” was still available. I knew the girl when I was visiting Jordan. I quickly told mom to ask her if she would be interested, and she was indeed interested. So I decided to go to Jordan and see her. Upon my arrival, my brother in law has prepared a list of potential “candidates” for marriage. I was brought up in America of course, and that concept just didn’t click in my mind. The list contained Christians and a 17 years old girl. I told him that I was here for one person only, but he told me to give it a shot and see a couple of other women for marriage, just like everyone “else” in Jordan. I honestly didn’t like the idea, but went through with it just to see how the system works. I agreed to see 2 girls in amman, just to understand this traditional marriage and how it works, and to get my brother of law off my back. It’s kind of funny somehow. In one instance, I sat down with a well educated 23 years old woman (I was 30 back then) who was brought up in kuwait. Very educated and modest woman. We sat down for a couple of hours. I had so much enjoying this meeting. We were sitting in a room, with the door open, and her mom was looking at us across the open door from the other room. She can see, but can’t hear what we say. I asked this girl honestly if she see’s herself marrying this way. She said that she fought against seeing me, but her family pressured her, and she was apologetic for saying that. She also said that she doesn’t see herself marrying me. I smiled and told her that I had to come here too, and we both agreed to talk about college matters instead of marriage just to finish the visit. We smiled and we laughed, and it was a very friendly and happy meeting. We both knew that we won’t get married, and we both agreed it was the right thing to do. Maybe that’s why it was a happy meeting.

After we left, my sister and brother in law were happy saying that I was laughing loud, and so did she, and that’s an indication that things are great. I told them the story, and told my brother in law that I won’t see any other girl. I now dedicated myself to meet my real future wife.

Her family knew, and my whole family knew that she would be the greatest fit for me. So I went there home for the first time, and we sat down and talked for many days. She would sneak out with my sister, and I get to meet them in a restaurant. I sometimes went to her work, and spent some time after work with her. I liked her so much, and she seemed happy with my presence. However, I needed to come clean with her. I decided to gamble and tell her about my past. One side of me didn’t want to lose her, but the winner side wanted to be as honest as possible with her. I told her everything about my past and how bad I was. I prepared myself for rejection too. She was sad for hearing what I told her, and she requested couple of days to think about it. Two days went by and I didn’t hear from her. I was sad to lose her, but I just needed to let her know everything. Then few days later, she called and approved me to formally propose after I gave her assurance that the past was gone.

I decided to propose and get engaged. So, like any typical Jordanian or Palestinian family, my father asked to meet them, and they planned for a specific day. On that day, I saw so many relatives of mine that I never seen before. We sat down in their garden, and then their family members started to appear one after another. I have never seen more guns in one room, than that day. So as the usual…my dad asked for their daughter, and her father (God rest his sole) agreed, pending the girl’s approval, but wasn’t too happy. He asked for 2 days to consult his daughter, and after the two days, he agreed. The funny thing is when we went back two days after the initial meeting; he requested to talk to me alone. We excused ourselves from my dad, and walked around the house. His words were exactly “listen, I don’t like you, but I respect your father and family. I know that all you punks in the states do drink and sleep with other women, but because of your dad, and the fact that my daughter agreed, I’ll approve this wedding, but rest assure that if you ever do something that will hurt my daughter, I will fly to the states, and shove a gun up your…and shot you”. I somehow never thought of his words and told him “don’t worry dad, I’ll be fine and your daughter will be fine”.

We had our small engagement party and it was fun. I never seen a more beautiful woman than her that night in my life. I was on top of the world, and don’t recall I was ever happier than that night. Then the time for departure came…..and that’s in the next chapter.

Sunday, November 26, 2006 arab american engineers organization


Last night, as I was sitting down sipping my weekend night coffee, I got a call. It was from an engineer whom I knew some time ago. He is an arab civil engineer in southern USA. After a short chat, he described to me this organization for arab engineers in the USA. It’s called arab American association of engineers and architects. It’s head quarters are in Chicago. I got excited about the idea and told him to have them call me, for I’m very interested.

This morning, I got a call from a local computer science newly graduate arab engineer. She is local here, and works for a big firm. We chatted and I liked the idea so much. This coming Saturday, they are having a meeting in Indianapolis to initiate a local chapter.

To be honest with you, I was always looking to be active in my technical field, but with an ethnic touch. I always search for arabs, in every conference I go to, because I’d like to be always in contact with my likes. Well, I mean on the technical arena, not the weird bo3bo3 behavior. So yes, I’m excited for this.

For those who are interested check them out:

I’m looking forward to it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Chapter XXII. My parents


My dad was born in 1939 to in Jordan. He started his career as an army soldier. The way this career started was when he was 18 years old, and doing great at school. Sometime in late fifties, the Jordanian army opened the door for recruits to join the military college. My dad rushed to the center, but it was too late as they closed the gates on any new candidates. Being a persistent teenager, he jumped over the fence, and eventually, was caught by the military police. They were to kick him out of the center, but he was making lots of noises, and refused to leave. He was beaten, and was pushed toward the gate. He then demanded to see the king. Of course, they laughed at him, and thought he was a crazy teenager. He kept screaming and demanding to see the king. Suddenly, the head of the camp heard this noise and came out to see what was going on. He asked my dad “and why do you want to see the king”. His answer was that he wanted to complain that those soldiers are preventing him from doing his duty. After few laughs from the soldiers, they allowed him to pursue the testing station, after explaining to him that king doesn’t live in the camp. Ultimately, he passed the tests, and proved to be a very good candidate.

He started the ranks in the military college in Jordan. He graduated there, and finished his masters, and was assigned to teach there. He was amongst the first year graduates from the college, and was sent to Egypt and then a year in sand hurst in England. Trips to Pakistan, Oman, and France then followed in the next 2 years. Then he met my mom (his cousin) and decided to start a family. Of course back then, it was different. My mom was only 16 when she married my father, who was 29 years old at that time.

Having a dad who spent all his career in the army gives you a first look witness account of what happened in Jordan in that troubled era. In the 1967 war, he was stationed in Nablus, and the orders came to withdraw as fast as possible. My mom was always making fun of my dad that he is being faster during withdrawal, than offensive move. So, he was a platoon leader there. His platoon was composed of around 30 tanks and vehicles. My dad decided to sit on top of the first tank since he knew the area very well, and wanted to speed up the withdrawal to protect his soldiers. The officers asked him to join him in their vehicle, but he declined. The column was withdrawing fast in a narrow route between Nablus and the bridge. Then suddenly, the israeli’s spotted the retreating column and pinned it down. They first shot the leading vehicle, to block the route for the remaining ones. The tank was hit directly, and my father flew off the tank, semi-unconscious. He laid there motionless, and in shock. The israeli’s then hit the last vehicle in the column, to pin all remaining vehicles in between. Then, they started killing Jordanian soldiers with machine guns and tank shells. It’s a little disturbing to see your soldiers die one after one, screaming for names of fellow comrades, and trying to fight back.. The driver of my dad’s regular vehicle was taking cover. He was a Christian Jordanian who knew dad very well of course. He saw my dad laying in blood, so he tried to rush to him. My dad waived to him not to do that and keep under cover. The driver refused, and rushed to my dad, who was lying by a tree, to help him out of the field. Then my dad saw a direct bullet hit the driver. This was very disturbing to my dad for he loved this guy so much.

At any rate, the israeli’s managed to kill all, more than 110 soldiers, but only two remained alive. Few Palestinian farmers saw what happened and after the battle was over, they came to help all who needed help. They spotted two alive soldiers, injured, and they hid them from the israeli’s. The news traveled to Jordan, and my mom was told that her husband-to-be was killed in action. My uncle worked in the medics for the army, and he confirmed that the whole battalion was destroyed. The Palestinian farmers managed to sneak the two soldiers back to Jordan, and again, my uncle drove home as fast as possible and said to the family “the son of the……is still alive”. Suddenly, sadness turned into happiness in a time where all news were very sad. This story is well documented amongst those who served in the Jordanian army, and amongst who served in 1967, so if you know one that served in 1967, ask him about that specific battalion, and share your sadness for the fallen heroes of that war.

In late 1968, the battle of karaama happened. My dad was stationed near “salt” city. The news came from the bridge that the israeli’s are gathering. The orders were “stay in positions”. The Israeli army moved in, and 12 jordanian soldiers were massacred. The Israeli troops circled around to meet by a valley near salt city. There was a Jordanian group of soldiers (around 20) on a hill, and they too got massacred. Till today, on that hill, there is a grave for one of the greatest heroes in that war. I can’t remember his name, but the grave is well marked. The Jordanian army communicated to the PLO fightrers that the israeli’s are advancing very fast toward their positions. They withdrew to karamah, and here, luck plays a favorable side with the PLO fighters. During their retreat to a specific area, there was an Israeli unit that was airborne to that same spot, by accident. The fighters hammered the unit, and killed most of it’s soldiers. The Jordanian artillery, where my father was stationed, decided to take action. They hammered the Israeli units who were gathering near salt city, and they pinned them very hard. Lots of heroic stories in that day. The israeli’s didn’t know what to do, and they too started retreating to the bridge. But the Jordanian artillery never stopped the pressure, and the israeli’s lost a lot of lives then. The orders came from amman to not to give up the fight, now the army commanders saw the taste of victory. The PLO fighters were then hammered by the israeli’s, and the Jordanian artillery intervened and lifted the pressure off of the PLO. In the end, the heroic decisions of the small units commanders were the decisive reason for such sweet victory. True that the leadership of the army was slow in reacting to the great advances of the Jordanian army, but in the end, all were in the same page.

Then came the 1970’s era. The PLO fighters were stationed everywhere in amman. Some atrocities were committed near salt city and “ajloun” by the fighters. Many disturbances were reported. That led to the late king Hussain, to issue his famous 10 points peace plan with the fighters. That fell apart too. The Jordanian soldiers, including my dad, hung bra’s on the guns of their tanks and artillery machines. That was a sig of distress within the army units. There was a fear within the army of a civil war inside the army itself. The army leadership demanded from the late king to put a stop to this, before the army splits into 2, and hell break loos,e in a nice way of course. I can’t remember, but was told that in 1970, my dad would come home bleeding where he just passed a security check point that belonged to the PFLP. They beat him up, made him undress of his army uniform, and urinated on it. He was a high ranking officer in the army, and a liked scholar at the military college back then. Heck, just before that incident, he graduated a man named “Muhammad saeed elbaady” from the UAE, who few years later became the commander of the armed forces in the UAE. During the same period, the Pakistani president, “daya alhaq” was also studying on the hands of my dad, before he became the Pakistani president.

The Jordanian army decided to move in, and they moved in swiftly against positions of the PLO fighters. When they retreated to “jarash”, my dad was the head of the artillery unit there, and was partnered with a man from the tribe of ‘alrousan” and another man from the sharkas ethnicity. Again, they received news that 3 farmers were massacred in their farm in the road leading from amman to jarash, by the PLO fighters. The orders then came to pursue the PLO fighters, and in jarash, the artillery units hit hard. In one interesting incident during the Jarash battle, there was a group of Jordanian civilians of Bani hasan (if I remember correctly) who were angered by the killing of the farmers, and they decided to move to jarash not knowing whats going on. The artillery shells fell on that group too. It was an ugly war fueled by anger and by the desire to capture on the opportunity and hit the PLO before they could regroup. In addition, news from the north were not good where they spotted Syrian tanks crossing the borders to irbid and ramtha, so the Jordanian army needed a win to increase the moral of the soldiers and continue pressure.

After the war ended, my dad retreated back to his house in zarqa. Few weeks later, 3 PLO fighters were hiding, and as soon as they saw my dad’s car pull in, they started shooting. The driver of the car was killed, and my dad escaped toward the house to get his rifle, not depending only on his gun. The PLO fighters pursued him, and they got a hold of him. As they demanded that he kneels on his knees so they can shoot him in the head, my mom was crying begging the fighters to let him live. I was 3 years old then, and can’t remember a thing. Luckily, one of the PLO fighters paused a little and demanded that they throw my mom and me into a room and not to let us watch them kill my father. A Jordanian soldiers was watching whats happening from the rooftop of a close by house. He must have called for help from any soldier who was nearby. Bullets started hitting our house, and they managed to shoot one of the fighters, and my dad quickly rushed to his gun and started shooting, inside the house. The remaining two fighters were killed, and until today, a bullet scar in my dad’s left foot, as well the bullet ridilled home is still a witness and a reminder for my dad. He refused to rent the home out, and refused to cover the bullet holes.

In 1974, Muhammad saedd albaady phoned my dad and offered him to come to the UAE and train the artillery. He followed that option, and went to the UAE. Well known officers like “ereikaat” and “ka’abneh” followed a year later. That’s when my life in the UAE started. Again, he was in the armed forces, and he was the second in command in the UAE artillery forces, after “Muhammad sa’eed suhail”. We lived in the city of al-ain, naturally, because that’s where the armed forces camps are located by the mountain of hefeet.

Looking back at the circumstances where I grew made me wonder. I grew up away from my father, or in fact, he lived away from us. I got to spend time with him only in the UAE away from the pressure of wars and civil disturbances. He was a tough man, and I think still is. Tough enough that I am not daring to smoke cigarettes in front of him, now that I’m 37 years old.

My mom was born in 1951, and she was my dad’s cousin. Her mother was a Lebanese. Somehow, her father and mother got to know each others, and decided to marry. By the age of 16, she married my father. This was common, to have a 29 years old man marrying a 16 years old girl. At the age of 18, she gave birth to me, and was forced to live in an era where she had to grow fast and adapt to the situation quickly. Stories like how she walked 4 KM from our home toward an army camp in zarqa city to get water during the civil war. I may not have lots of stories about mom to share, but I’ll try and list some.

She was a quiet woman who was heavily dependent on my father for leading the ship. She is a sweet, and very forgiving. Although back in her times, she was dragged to the mini skirt and the funky looking hair style, but she managed to become more conservative down the road. As usual, she had to breast feed me, and I seem not to have enough. I was jumping on every woman who visited us to feed, and that embarrassed my mom. She was tiny, and didn’t have enough milk, I guess. So I had to look for other “sources”, and my guess, is that I can not marry any girl who grew in our street, for chances are she is my sister via nursing.

Just like my father, she was also a sharp shooter. He was good with guns, and she was good with shoes. I was a bad boy in my early age, and mothers had only one weapon, the shoe they wear. So I remember that I did something bad one day, and ran away from mom. There is a stair that leads from the house down to the street. I was running, and looking back at mom, who was holding her shoe, and she looked like as an army engineer calculating the wind speed and the angle. Suddenly, I saw the shoe flies from her hand, I looked forward and ran faster, but was hit with a direct hit on my head. I was probably 5 years old then. Ouch, it was a painful one.

One time, I stole my dad’s gun, and was chasing my little sister. I was six, and she was 2. I pulled on the trigger so hard, but the gun just didn’t go off. My dad’s gun never had a safety on, because of the era of that time. My mom saw this, and she quickly jumped on me, and put the gun away. All I could remember that day are two things: one is that my sister was lucky that day, and two is that I was beaten so bad that I think I have witnessed all means of torture that the british army left in Jordan. Thinking about gives me the chills now.

Since I love food, which is not a surprise by now, I used to hang around my mother in the kitchen. I learned how to cook at an early age, and became my brothers and sisters “keeper”. Every school morning, I would get up, make milk, and tea, then make breakfast for my brothers and sisters, before they get up to school. The dinner was always made by my mom and I together. One time I really cried so hard, is when I left to the USA, and my mom told me that since my departure, my brothers and sisters are not eating breakfast, in the same fun way when I was there. I missed those days. Oh well, time moves fast anyway.

In times where we anger our dad, and he starts yelling on us, or physically beating us, she would stand in the middle, and she gets beaten too, and my dad demands that she moves, and she refuses at all, absorbing all the beating. But back then, married couples easily get over such incidents and they start smiling together as if nothing happened.

Making my happy was very easy. All she wanted are good grades for us, and to see us building our own lives. Yet, small things seem to leave good impressions on her face. I one time bought her a cheap ring, was about 20 dollars, and in my first year in the states. I sent it to her with a friend, and until today, that’s her favorite ring. She knows it’s cheap, but she loved anything that her kids buy her.

She is a simple woman, who, at her age, doesn’t know lots of things out there. It’s funny to hear both my parents talk about politics, especially concerning the Palestinian issue. She feels that Hamas is the long waited salaheddin, and of course my dad thinks any PLO or Palestinian leadership, are different faces for the same coin, and that all are corrupt and a curse on the Palestinian people. Or when my dad gets in the kitchen and my moms begs him to get out. Oh well, age does get to you after a while.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Chapter XXI. The Canadian maple tree

One cold late fall morning (could’ve been middle December) , sometime in 2004, I left my house around 7:30 am to go to work. It was snowing that day, not a whole lot, but probably an inch or two have already accumulated on the ground. So I drove my very short drive, a 1.2 miles, from home to work. I parked my car in the employee parking lot, and walked out of the car. As I was slowly walking toward the entrance, I noticed a tree. It was a Canadian maple tree. It looked so beautiful, so colorful, and so big. I smiled at such tree, as I learned to remember the almighty God whenever I see his beautiful creation. I could see colors like red and orange, and many other fascinating colors. As I walked beside the tree, I stopped for few seconds to fascinate my eyes with such view. Then I walked toward the entrance and got to my disk.

Like many of us show off engineers, we spend 30 minutes in the morning sipping coffee and yack about last night’s sports events. I remember that it was a basketball game talk, which I’m not that into anyway. The reason I remember that, is because as I was waiting my turn to get to the coffee station, there were two ladies who were getting coffee. Typically, and out of courtesy, we would pour our coffee in the cup, and move over to the “sugar and cream” station, about 5 feet away on the bench. The two (they were HR “people”) poured their coffee, and simply took control of the coffee station and instead of moving over to the sugar/cream station, they started bringing sugar and cream to the coffee filling area. It was frustrating for me, and few other guys. Maybe because I had a negative encounter with one of the ladies in a previous day, I don’t know. And for those who would typically jump on me at this time screaming in my face “you are an anti-feminist”, I say, chill my friends, you’d need bigger material for your arguments against my views toward women. So finally, I managed to get my coffee and go back to my office.

It was about 8:10 am by now, and I started sipping coffee. Then suddenly, and as I was looking at my calendar to chick for today’s tasks, the vision of the tree popped in my head. This is December, and yet, there is a tree that has leaves on? I started asking myself. I quickly walked out toward the parking lot, and stood in front of the tree. I looked around at all the trees, and all had no leaves. But this one….still has leaves, and very colorful and beautiful. I just couldn’t believe it. There were lots of tree around our chemical plant, and all were without leaves. Something weird about this tree. I loved it beyond belief. It stood the test of harsh weather, and snow, and still held on to it’s leaves. That tree reminded me of patience, love, commitment, and withstanding the harsh nature. But the one important thing that popped real good in my head, was..simply, my home, Jordan.

I walked back to my office, and started thinking about Jordan. So much for a productive day at work, for whenever I get into this mode, I simply produce zero. And as usual, before those who are waiting to lynch me for any simple mistake I may commit, I need to remind them that I used to put between 55 and more hours every week, and even on weekends too. Yet, I only get paid for 40 hours since I’m a salaried employee, so again, chill my friends (yep, I am beginning to sound defensive a lot these days, thanks to the very few). So I spent the day reflecting on Jordan.

Somehow, I felt that the tree represented my home, Jordan, and it also reflected my sadness of homesickness that haunts me regularly. To me, this tree is Jordan, holding on to it’s people, beloved sons and daughters, for as long as it could. Or maybe those leaves are the people of Jordan holding on so tight to their mother tree, withstanding snow and rain, not wishing to let go. I feel it’s mutual love between the leaves and the mother tree. It tries to make them beautiful, so colorful. It spreads them out so each can get a share of sun and light. It cries whenever a leaf drops or flies away. It never let go, unless, the leaf simply decides to go away.

And the leaves, they make the mother tree so beautiful. They feed such beautiful tree. They protect it and they make it grow. They try as hard as possible to hold on. But when the time comes, and the leaves fall on the ground, and if you can look at the two, you probably would realize how sad this scenery is. Leaves under mother tree on the ground, refusing to go away, even when they were detached from home. A naked, and maybe ugly, tree, that is looking down for it’s leaves seeking an answer for what have happened.

I was born in Jordan and had to leave home and went to UAE when I was 7 years old. From that exact day, till today, I have been in Jordan for a total of less than 2 years. I am 37 years old now, and if you do the math, you’ll realize that I spent 24 days a year, on average, in my homeland. I never got to taste what homeland means. Sure I loved the UAE, and had my best years (11 years) there, but it wasn’t home. Sure I spent 19 years in the states, but still, I can’t feel that it’s home. But when I went back to Jordan in 1997, I felt of a pleasure I never felt before. I tasted what it looked like to be in a place that you call “home”. People like me (not as weird as me), and language like mine. Ethics closer to mine, and culture that is truly mine.

I sometimes wonder why can’t leaves stick to mother tree, and never depart. I’m sure life would taste different for both. Some may argue with me, and they have a valid argument, that the departure of leaves in realty, represents death, and the need of new generations to carry on and protect, love, and belong to the same mother tree that will always be there. I recognize that, and I do agree. But to me, and at that moment, the connection just happened, and regardless if it was a weak connection, but it was a one that made me feel good, and sad.

Every summer, and upon hearing the news of uncle so and so are coming from Saudi Arabia, or aunt so is coming from milano, every story like that, stirs anger and sadness in me. Every summer, when amman’s streets become congested by foreigners, and inhabitance alike, I start wondering as when my time will come and be a part of such gathering. Every time me and my wife go to greet someone who just came back from amman, I get into an argument with my wife for I never want to go. Yet, she wins the argument all the times (did I mention that my wife is from Nablus?). Every time I taste a pastry that just came from amman, I get into my pre-determined isolation mode. Why do I have to suffer?
I am a strong man, and went through many hardships, just like all men and women in the world. I do have a great control on the way I express my emotions. I cry a lot, but always internally, not allowing others to sense my tears. Call it male ego, or what have you, but every man knows what I’m talking about. Yet, I am yet to control the flow of tears upon hearing the words of God, or upon remembering home. No comparison between the two of course, for the words of God are far superior to any emotional effect of any other thing. I am dead serious, that I have a weakness of controlling my tears in those situations. Oh well, every man has a weakness, and to make myself feel better, I did see a man cries when he saw the movie “Philadelphia”.

So here I am, yet another summer passed, while I spend it in the good old US of A. Living a haunted summer where I have dreams of being in mecca street, by “abu jbaara” famous falafel stand. Or sitting on a chair in a coffee shop listening to great music, and the voices of happy, and angry, Jordanians discussing politics and how Italy should have won world cup this year. Or maybe walking by the busy street (forgot the name) where there is a small old mall, or shopping center composed of 4 floors, and by a famous shawarma restaurant. God I wish I can remember the name of that street. It’s sad when you can’t even remember common street names of home. Or the constant nightmare that I keep getting at least once every month, where I’m sitting down on my favorite spot in tabarboor, overlooking a couple of military camps, and on occasions, seeing shepherds with their sheep roaming the beautiful desert of Jordan. Oh well, they say no pain, no gain, and sometimes, the more painful it is, the more sweet it will be upon the long awaited meeting time.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Part XX. Dude, you have an accent

Being a foreigner, it was automatically that I’ll have some kind of heavy accent. You could tell who is an arab and who is an Indian or from any other parts of the world. That causes some kind of fear of being in front of an audience, even if that was in the supermarket. Hence, every student was faced with this fear, and every student was faced with a situation where he or she had to speak to an audience, in English.

The first time I had to speak to an audience, I made a mess. It was in my social science class, where my teacher asked me to stand up and talk about my paper. Well, I knew I was in trouble when I said “yes sir” and she quickly laughed with the class and told me “you mean yes ma’am”. Boy, this was not going to be a good day. I started talking, and I could tell that many people didn’t understand what the heck I was talking about. I could see the looks on their faces trying hard to make sense of what I’m saying. I slowed down a little, and I now sound like one of those arabs on CNN trying to express their opinion about an issue.

I was shy and tried as much as possible to avoid my public interaction in class. One day, my history teacher told me to work hard on my speech abilities for my English not only sucked in writing, but also in oral presentation. I was saddened by those coments for I thought all those teenage years listening to zeppelin and Michael Jackson should have helped me mastering the English language. Well, they didn’t. Class after class, I started to understand my difficulties in the language.

Then came my time where I had to present my graduation project to representative of 2 companies and an audience of students. Oh my God, what a bad experience that was. I kept my voice down, a natural reaction to the lack of self confidence in my ability to speak the language. I relied on the slides to express my views, but my advisor kept alerting me to use the face to face communication and stop relying on reading directly from slides.

In my masters thesis defense, I had other types of problems, but somehow related to the language. The teachers were grilling me harshly on my findings, and they were not happy with my conclusions. My advisor was an Iranian who was anything but supportive. I felt strong about my conclusions, but they were hammering me on them. The fact that the findings don’t fall in the current chemical industry environment of management, gave them a tool to ask harsh questions. 3 hours later, most were convinced that it could work in the chemical industry. You see, I was proposing using a japaneese manufacturing management technique, to be used in the chemical industry. It’s related the use of kanbans and kaizens, a batch type process operational techniques, in a chemical environment that relies heavily on continuous processes. The representative of the company that I was working on as the model of experiment was happy and seemed to be very excited about the idea. The teachers were not. Eventually, I got out of it with the least damages.

During my work years, I started to write technical papers and present them in front of scientific audience. The audience is different this time. They are people from the industry and they know exactly what you are talking about. They came to hear your ideas, because they know so much about them, and they will ask you every detail question, to squeeze as much information as possible. I had to do something about my lack of self confidence in my English language. Well, I heard one time on a show that the best way to escape such fear, is by pretending that the audience is full of naked people. Crazy? Strange? I know. I tried it, and it had two different effect on me, depending on who was asking me the questions. So I needed something else.

I spoke to my manager at work about my fears. He told me that I should feel better than anyone in the audience, because I’m able to speak two different languages, English and Arabic. That helped me a lot. I felt that I was indeed better than them. I’m trying to express my ideas in a language that is not my mother language. Let’s see if they could do that in a language that is not English. So yes, I finally was able to overcome such fear, and today, I speak in front of audience on monthly basis.

The one thing I could not overcome, is spelling. It got me in trouble many times. One day, my wife was traveling to Jordan. It’s been 6 weeks then since I saw her. I wrote a report, and sent it to so many people in the company. The report goes like “Sex phenomena’s were recorded…”. It was supposed to be “six” instead of sex. So, few minutes later, emails started hitting me back with mockery and fun. They were teasing me, but was funny too. Some replies were like ‘seems your wife’s departure is affecting you” with a nice smile in the end. Until today, I owe so much to Microsoft spell checker, and without Bill gates, I would’ve probably landed a job cleaning bathrooms in a train station.

So yes, all students, and foreigners, do face such dilemma when it comes to expressing their views in English. I see many Indians, and many eastern Europeans struggling with the language. It’s difficult on us foreigners, because we fear that we make a mistake, in front of everyone. But I think if we look at it’s positive, it will be easier cookie to handle.