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.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Part XIX. The life of a student

Depending on where you end up, your life as a student will differ from a place to another. Even in a place like America, such life will also be different from one person to another. Mine probably was very similar to many who came from the same background I came from.

There were three types student lives in my opinion. One represented those who came from a rich family, where they owned cars and nice apartments in downtown. Another is those poor students who dad sold his land to be able to send his son/daughter to study abroad. And the typical one is that of those who simply worked and studied on their own.

When I set foot in America, I had a decent support from my family. Lets just say that I didn’t have to work, but still, was living a simple life. But the environment I came to contained students who were working 50 hours, and studying. I was a little odd amongst them. And as peer pressure grew, I started following their life style.

We were four student living in one apartment that was located on top of a gay bar. All three were always at work, but I was alone in the apartment. That was ok anyway. It gave me the excuse to just walk in the street and know America. This life didn’t last too long of course as my dad was pushing me toward living in the dorm. So 4 months after I came to America, I moved to the dorm.

My life in the dorm was an interesting one that didn’t last too long. I now live in a building that contained boys and girls. The smell of alcohol was pretty strong. It was normal to see a boy and a girl expressing love in front of others. Again, I came from a society that didn’t have such views in public. Of course that also made me go crazy for such view that must have felt good for them, but for me as I was shy of girls.

I moved out of the dorm, against my dad’s will, and lived with another student who came from Kuwait. He was Palestinian. We were both not studying like students. This is was my first encounter with drugs “marijuana”. He would light one and smoke it while I watched him. It smelled pretty bad. I came so close to trying it, but pulled back very quickly. This was something I didn’t want to do, and luckily, never did in my entire life. Instead, I relied on alcohol to enjoy myself. I eventually moved out when he stole some money from me.

I then hooked up with 2 palestinians, and a Jordanian living in an apartment. It was 2 bedrooms. This was probably the best roommates I ever had, and this lasted for almost a year. They were poor, simple, and did study. The two Palestinian muslims were drinkers, yet, the Christian Jordanian was not. So we were 3 muslims and a Christian. It was an interesting life I think. We had lots of fun as a group. We cooked meals like home, and we took cloths to the laundry place just like families. Our group grew bigger as we started connecting with others like our own “kind”. On weekends, we would gather, almost 10 of us, and get in one of the apartments, and cook big meal. Try to visualize this with me. On one weekend, we decided to cook a “magloobah”. So we got the chicken, the rice and the needed vegetables. We prepared the ingredients and fried the vegetables as well as the chicken, then got one of those big cooking pots, and simply cooked. It smelled good. When the meal was done, it was time to flip the pot upside down on a big dish. We discovered that we don’t have a big dish. So, the only option was to simply take the food directly from the pot. But we wanted it to be a truly “magloobah” and that means it has to be flipped on a big pan. That’s when the engineering minds started to think. So, we got a roll of aluminum foil, and as you know, it is about 40 cm wide rolls or that sort. We cut pieces, laid them next to each other, connected the sheets, and now we have an aluminum foil sheet that is about 1 by 1 meters. We flipped the pot on this sheet, and simply gathered around and started eating.

Cooking was a quiet experience for us. Strange meals started to appear, depending on what was available. We cooked on weekends, while dined out on weekdays. I remember the time when I tried to cook pasta. I placed the pasta in cold water, and started cooking. But the pasta was almost melting, and the color was changing. A quick call to mom and I knew that I made a mistake. Or the time when we tried to make stuffed cabbage. The cabbage wouldn’t hold on, and the rice was going allover the pot. We ended up eating something that tasted like stuffed cabbage, but didn’t quiet look like one. Heck, we even did a whole roasted lamb that really came out pretty good. So that helped me to enjoy cooking, as well as eating. I had to learn how to cook. Or else, I would melt in the hamburger world, which becomes boring after few weeks.

I didn’t know how to drive, so one of my friends showed me how to drive. He had a stick shift car. It all started when he wanted to sell it, so I bought it for $300. Now I have a car, but don’t know how to drive. It was a 1976 Honda civic, which meant that it was 15 years old. So I learned how to drive, finally, and after 3 trials, I got my drivers license. It was my beautiful car, although one light was only working, and 3 months later, the first gear was broken, so I had to start on the second gear. Still, I enjoyed driving it, and did put up with flippers flying toward me from the passing cars. It broke on me a year later, but do have good memories in that car. My second car was a trans-am that looked like the knight rider car. That only lasted less than a year after I made the mistake of letting friends to borrow it. I went through other cars that last for few months, and so on.

Then there are those bad times, where I was hurt pretty bad financially. Days when I gather coins and go to the corner supermarket and buy a can of corned beef for $2 and a loaf of bread for a dollar. That would last me all day. Or when I was beaten pretty bad when I was walking from school toward the bus station at 8 pm in a snowy night. Although I gave them my money and watch, still, those bastard enjoyed beating me up. A scar that is under my chin is still a reminder for that night.

It was very difficult to obtain good friends in America, especially amongst students. There is a hefty price to pay to be able to screen good friends from bad ones. Some stole from others, and some snitched on others to immigration or to teachers. But it was the price to pay. One day, I lend a friend some money, not much, but it was a good amount. He promised to pay me back in 2 weeks once he gets paid. Well, 2 weeks go bye, and others follow, and I never seen the money. I then was in a very bad financial situation where I seriously didn’t have money to eat. We couldn’t get credit cards back then as students. So I was with friends in this Arabic social club. I managed to get a free cup of tea there when one of my friends offered me one. Of course no one knew I didn’t have not one cent in my pocket, nor the bank account. Then this friend shows up, and I felt relief that finally, I’ll dine in a restaurant tonight. I approached him, and he told me that he didn’t have any money yet. I went back feeling depressed that how can I be that poor, and I used to live in a fancy life in the UAE. I borrowed, and this was the first time I ever borrow money, from a friend of mine. Eventually, some friends knew of this, and they were angry at that guy. They then took me to show me how he was spending some time with his girlfriend in a restaurant. I rushed there, and saw him. I went to his table, and was really angry. He knew what was going on, and he quickly said “hey dude, I was looking fro you, I have your money now”. He was scared because he saw two guys with me, and he saw me very angry. That’s when I did something stupid. I told him that I didn’t need the money anyway, and he can keep it, but I wanted something else, and will get it. I knocked him off his chair, and swore to him that I’ll take his girl from him, while she was looking at me with a scared look. My friends rushed me out of the restaurant before the owner catches us. At any rate, he managed few weeks later to beat me up when I was caught alone. He was a big guy, and I was always tiny, and one on one, he would beat me up easily, and he did.

Bad decisions are a constant haunting for students in America. I came close to death twice in my life. Opps, let me change that to three please. I was working one day in a store, and this dude comes in, with a knife and demands the money. I hated the store owner, and wanted to give all the money for the guy. But my pride and foolishness was overwhelming. The guy comes around the counter, and sticks a knife on my back, that was sharp enough to hurt. He didn’t stab me, but just held the knife too tight on me. I tell you, this was scary for me. Maybe it wasn’t close to death, but to me, this was the first time I felt like that. Anyway, and after I opened the register for him, he knocked me on the floor, and stepped on my back threatening not to move, while he took the money. The second time was when I bought a gun. Don’t ask me why, it was just a cool thing. So I got the gun, and went to the basement of the house we were living in, and placed a can of Pepsi, then stood few feet away, and shot the gun. It felt good, but I missed the can of pop, even from such short distance. I tried again, and managed to hit the can. It felt good, so I started shooting my little 380 gun (it was small) until I heard a noise right next to my ear. It felt strange and felt like the sound of bullets in a western movie, but this was very close. Then I felt a little pain on my right ear. I go upstairs and see little bruise on my right ear. It was very red, and seems that the bullet slightly hit my ear. That’s when I knew I was so stupid to try a gun in a basement. The third one was when I was working the night shift and had to take pills that kept me awake. Then I felt nausea and fell down. The owner took me to the hospital, and discovered that the pills that I was taking were causing irregularity in the blood flow from the heart.

I can describe the life of a student in more details, but it will take so many pages to show what students go through. I saw many friends go through harsh times, and I wish I can talk about them, but can’t for their own privacy.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Part XVIII My dad and I

I know I know….smoking is a bad habit, but this is how it started. The strongest encounter with my dad was around smoking of course. When I was 16 years old, I started smoking, only to impress girls and fit in with the kids I wanted to fit in with. So I gave in to pressure and started my journey with Marlboro lights. The way we would walk in the park, with cigarettes hanging out of our mouths, and walking by the girls was a quiet experience. They liked it for it was a cool thing back then. A kid who smoked was a tough wise kid that feared nothing. I guess when you gamble with being caught smoking by dad or mom was indeed a fearful thing. So yes, I was the wise guy..or should I say the wise kid amongst a group of “cool kids”. That worked nice so the girls were impressed and you could hear their giggles as soon as we walked by, out of their “impressed” status. Yes, they were impressed by our group.

However, the price of being the “cool kid” was hefty. My dad was known to be a “gunaholic”. In addition, I hated the shoes that the army was issuing to them. I mean it hurts for crying out loud. Oh well…my coolness was about to take a toll on me. So I was walking like a rooster amongst the hens, and the cigarette was hanging out of my mouth as if I was Clint eastwood saying “hey punk, are you feeling lucky today?” or maybe Robert Dinero and his famous line “hey you…are you talking to me?”. Then suddenly, I saw a friend of my father who was walking the opposite direction, and he saw me smoking. I started remembering the shoes that my father wears, and started praying that he doesn’t tell my father about what he just saw. I quiet frankly saw my life in front of me, right there, and felt that My god was punishing me for the past 10 minutes when I was flirting with my chemistry’s teacher who was the most beautiful woman I saw, up to that time of course. I guess God is watching me and the time has come for punishment. Still, I had a slight glimpse of hope that either this guy didn’t see me, or he may have felt petty and not told my father.

So I go home shaken as if I was hit by a lightening. Dad was asking me “are you ok?” and I answered him yeah sure dad..everything is fine. Now, my dad is the kind of father that wasn’t rough on me, and the last time he laid a hand on me was when I was about 13 years old when I cursed God in front of him, after he cursed God. He slapped me on my face that I felt my head turned around few turns. When I questioned him for why he hit me, he yelled and said I only curse God in this house, not anyone else” Of course I wasn’t convinced, but it’s ok, he is a changed man now and went to haj a couple of time. So anyway, few days later, I was walking home after a soccer game (we called it football of course) and as I walked in the house, is saw my mom shivering and telling me to get out of the house. I panicked and got scared. Then I see my dad screaming at me from the hallway and cursing me with every bad words that you could think of. Then he goes to his room, and I see him coming out with his favorite UAE army issued gun, and he runs toward me. I ran out as soon as I could, and was still running in the street. I looked back and saw my dad with his gun running after me. Now this is a funny seen, but I guarantee to you, I almost peed my pants that day. He was screaming at me saying he was going to shove the gun up my… get the story anyway. I ran to the mosque, and stayed there. He was not around. He must have gone back to the house. Still, I was in no way to go back home like this. I know my father, and he is..well, was a crazy man, specially with a gun in his hand.

I called my uncle and begged him to do something about it for I was about to lose my life for a damn cigarette. Just around 10 or maybe 11 pm, my uncle comes to the mosque and picks me up. I got in the car with him after he assured me that he calmed my dad down and he was not going to shoot me. He was laughing when he said that, but I wasn’t. So I walk into the house, and I see my dad so angry screaming at me why would I smoke. I just didn’t answer. I couldn’t anyway even if I tried to. Then he gets up, as I was turning around to go to my room, and I feel this big painful kick on my behind. Quickly, I knew that my father feared army issued shoe has struck my behind. It was so painful that makes the pain of hemorrhoid looks like a vacation from pain. Ouch…it was a very painful one. Oh well, at least it felt better than a bullet into my behind.

15 years later, I asked my dad “hey dad, were you really going to shoot me that day?”. He paused..and said “well, you were bad that day” and that’s when the thought of my father being a crazy man was assured in my mind. He would’ve done it, maybe shooting my leg, I don’t know. All I know is that I’m 37 years old now, and until today, I can never smoke in front of my father. He smells me, and he knows I smoke, and he told me one day to go ahead and smoke, but no way, I’m serious, I can never smoke in front of my dad. But this is for another reason of course. He gave up smoking when I was 13 years old for us as I found out later. I respect him so much that I just can’t break his heart and have him see me smoking, even if he felt I was smoking. Beside, the shoe mark on my behind is still showing. Ok, fine, I was exaggerating a little about the shoe mark but I respect him that I just don’t see myself lighting a cigarette in front of him.

Today, and in my own home, and as my parents are visiting me in the states, I sneak upstairs to the master bath, and open the window, and turn on the venting fan, and smoke my cigarette. Could’ve been an army shoe trauma, I don’t know, but this is what’s happening.

Girls were another reason that got me in trouble with my dad. There was this girl, and she was my age, 17 years old back then. I didn’t like her at all for I was in love with another girls. So at any rate, she calls my house, and speaks to my oldest sister begging her to have me call her. My sister would tell her to forget about it. So few days later, I see this girl coming to my house, with two guys, whom I found out later to be her dad and uncle. So they walk in, introduced themselves and sat. My dad didn’t know what was going on, but I got a clue. So I went back to my room thinking of what these guys want? Then my dad calls me, and that’s when I saw my life again in front of. I walked in the room, and he told me to sit down. Then the girl claimed that I was bothering her over the phone and was flirting with her. Of course I denied strongly, but my dad was yelling at me to shut up and not to raise my voice in the room. So the girl and her dad went on and on about this story of theirs. Luckily, my dad asked “what have you got to say about this?” I said “ask my sister and she will tell you who was bugging who, and beside, I would never flirt with a girl, that is the girlfriend of my friend” Now, keep in mind that “girlfriend” is different than the today’s common term. That’s when the girl started crying, and my dad yelling and I’m screaming “ask my sister, she called our home two days ago dad, and I refused to talk to her” Before they could ask my sister, the visitors decided to walk outside the house, and I could tell that I have won my first battle, but still, could see the flames coming out of my fathers eyes. He asked me later to be honest with him, and I swore to him that she was the one was bugging our house.

Or the time when my sister decided to go out with her friends, wearing a skirt that was above the knees, and a shirt that was too tight. I behaved like the man of the house and demanded that she changes into a more decent outfit. Then my dad comes running, and pushing me outside her room telling me “when I die, you decide what she wears, but today, she is going out like this, take it or leave it”. Of course I took it. He trusted my sisters so much for he knew what kind of girls they are. He always believed in giving them the freedom they wished for, but within the honor of the family, and they proved to be up for the task. Heck, if you think I was tough, wait till I start talking about my sisters and what they did to guys who tried to flirt with them. Maybe in another chapter.

Although I had a strong relationship with my dad (believe me I did), he managed to make me run outside the home for few hours on few occasions. Like the time when I stole his car when he was a sleep for test drive, and instead of putting the gear on reverse, it was on first, and hit the house. I didn’t even get it outside the parking garage. I ran away quickly anyway, and came back later.

Nevertheless, he had lots of positive effect on me. He trusted me, even when I was 17 and a half years old when he threw me in abu-dhabi airport to travel to America. He knew I was responsible in the house, and when he left for extended time, he would tell the whole house that I am the man now. Even today, I look up to him, and he trusts me very nicely. Sure he was tough, but I tell you, what he did to his country and his family by far surpasses any negatives he may have. Funny I’m writing these words, and my dad is sitting in the end of the room watching aljazeera TV. I would smile while writing these words, and taking a quick look at my dad’s face, and remember the “good old day”. So if you’ll execuse me for now, I need to sneak upstairs to the bathroom so I can smoke a cigarette and come back to start working on my next chapter.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Chapters from an Immigrant's life, Part XVII. Bad boy nerd

Ok..some may think that I am a nerd, or a geek. Sometimes I wish I was, and sometimes I thank God that I’m not. I was pretty smart during highs cool, except , the last 6 months in my senior year in UAE. I used to be in the lead in all my subjects, except Arabic and Islamic religion classes. I was caught cheating in an exam in the Islamic religion class, and I barely passed those two subjects. Of course I never studied chemistry before the exam as I was ok in this subject. Got in trouble few times and had to bring my father to school to bail me out. I was responsible of firing our chemistry high school teacher by inserting adult rated videos in his office, and reported him to the administration. Needless to say I was the one who used to tie the garbage canisters to our physics teacher and was the one who inflated the tires of the car of our religion teacher. I hope they are not reading this of course.

During my first year in the states, I was a smart student and surprisingly, got A’s in my classes. One class I remember was the “jaz’ course, where I would walk through the disks in the final and cheat off the other students. I never studied jaz and never liked it. But later, I fell in love with Luis Armstrong and …whats the guys name that composed “sketches of spain”. Oh well, I forgot him, but did like Jaz because of those two composers. I did good in my social studies course and wrote a paper that is still in the library at the college I was going to.

I of course performed very well in my chemistry class that my teacher was making me grade the other students homework and papers. The guy was a womanizer, and maybe that’s how I became one. He loved his female students, and I did too. I even fell in love with my qualitative analysis chemistry teacher, although she was married, but I just loved her. So yes I was a good student…but not to the level of being nerd.

Now, being a trouble maker my life, I did things that will guarantee that I will never enter the hall of fame of nerds. There was a challenge one day. The word “challenge” is my weak spot as I always say “I’m in” before even hearing what the challenge may be. At any way, I lost the bet, and now I had to pay the price of my gamble. The punishment was to run butt naked from the college of engineering, all the way to the BA college. This is about 300 feet only. At 3 am exactly, 2 guys and myself stripped down inside the college of engineering, and ran out of the door to run to the BA college. To our surprise, there were other students who were informed of the run, and were waiting to see or take pictures. As soon as I ran through the door, I saw people screaming and laughing at us. Boys and girls, heck even a homeless man chased us on the street whistling at us. I just wanted to get to the BA college and put on my cloths again. Finally I got there, only to find the campus police waiting for us there. This is not a good day for me I whispered to myself. Anyway, we got in trouble and given warning.

In my organic chemistry I class, there were more than 100 students, and as usual, probably two thirds were girls. So, I and a group of arab students (we were 4 total) made up signs with numbers from 0 to 10, and sat outside the door. Every girl student going in, was rated as we raised those banners with numbers. Sometimes we get “screw u ### hole, what a jerk” and sometimes we get “you guys are cool”. One time I was slapped with a purse by this gorgeous girl, but I didn’t care, it was well worth it. It’s not like I was sleeping with those girls, no way, but it was meant for fun by flirting with them innocently (turned violently in the case of flying purse of course)

The best story that I remember was in organic chemistry lab. The experiment was extraction caffeine from tea. I did the experimenst and it was great. I then wrote the lab report, only I missed the word “caffeine” and spelled instead as “caffeine). I got 8/10 of course because every wrong answer will also subtract one of the correct ones. I was angry, and argued with the teacher screaming that of course I meant caffeine. He never gave in, and as usual, I lost the battle.

In my physics lab, I did wonders. Pointing the laser at the teachers back, and put gum on a Chinese student chair (he was way too smart and that troubled me). In the chemistry lab, I was able to make a quick reaction to produce HS gas. Hs gas is the bad smell from sewer. I did it easily (very basic reaction) and quickly dispersed the vial on the lab bench away from mine. The teacher smelled it and the whole class was almost puking. Of course they never knew who did it, but I tell you, I almost puked with the class. It was fun though. In my transport phenomena chemical engineering class, there was a student who was sleeping in the class. Then suddenly, he farted, and the whole class started laughing. But there was this vietnamees student who I never liked anyway, and he was laughing loudly. I cashed on the opportunity and started yelling at him to shut up so I can concentrate on the class material. I just wanted to pick a fight with the guy. He cursed at me in class, and the teacher was sitting down doing nothing. I got up, went straight to him and pushed him with my right foot off his chair till he fell. I was expecting the teacher to kick me out, but he was busy laughing at the whole thing. He started screaming like a cat and I sat back down while the class was clapping their hand for what I did, they hated him too.

Of course I was not that nice all the time. I was once given a B for a class that I knew I deserved an A, and the exams proved it, yet the teacher (Turkish female) didn’t like me and still gave me a B. I complained of course and pursued her for a year till she was kicked out of the chemical engineering department. I miss those days where I stayed in the lounge at school for 4 days sleeping there and eating pizza. I miss my fights with the chair of the department who was racist against arabs. I missed the time when I was helping this knock out girl in my class hoping to get her to hang out with me, and when she didn’t, I neglected her in the final where she flunked the class. Or the time when I fought with a Chinese TA for my “heat transfere” class and he kicked my ass of course. Or when I stole the “American history final exam” from the teachers office, made copies, and helped others ace the test.

I missed all those moments. I look back and would love to bring them days back, for really I was a good student, but with bad behavior. I wasn’t alone of course, many others were like that, and I seemed to go with the flow. School years were my best years and so many stories that I went through but lack the time and space to write about them.