Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Traveling is not easy these days

oh boy. My flight from indianapolis got cancelled as I was sitting in the plane. So I got out and scrambeled to get another flight to cleveland. I finally found one that goes through cicinatti. I got it and went through security. I only had 2o minutes beofre my flight. They stamped my tickets with "extra security". So I was searched and grilled in questions while I hear my name on the intercom. I finally managed to catch my flight..barely. The next day, I flew back home to indianapolis. The airport was almost closed because it was snowing bad as u'll see in the picture. Finally made it through after spending 40 minutes "deicing" the plane to prevent it from crashing because of ice. I'm home now..but I just sometimes think how on earth I manage to be able to make it home.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The long waited Battle

Finally…the wait is over. It’s been more than 3 months since I enjoyed a good home cooking mansaf. Today, I announce that I am a happy man. Finally…my wife and mom decided to please me by making me the happiest man alive.

Three months since I sat down face to face with mansaf. Day after day…I hinted and gave signals, but no one was paying attention. But the wait is over, and I stood face to face starring at the mansaf loaded with sweet looking lamb, and pine and almond nuts giving this master piece the greatest work of art.

Face to face..it was a war in which a sole survivor has to emerge. This house was too big for both of us, and one had to go. It was a war of survival, and I fought it well. Slowely, one by one started withdrawing from the battle field. Mom, then wife, and finally my dad withdrew from the field. Suddenly, I saw myself alone with almost half of the big sweet mansaf tray still intact. But it has to go, or else, I will lose the fight. I kept fighting, and taking casualties as I felt my stomach was begging me to stop.

The heat of the battle was burning up. Two big chunks of meat are still trying to fight my trained forces of WFD (weapons of food destruction). With one blow, the first of the remaining meat chunks was annihilated. Then my forward forces isolated and siege the last enemy combatant hiding behind a small hill of rice. My forced advanced and took heavy casualties again, and captured the last enemy combatant. Take no prisoners was the goal of this battle. Dad, Mom, and wife were shocked watching the battle from a distance fearing for their own safety. They called for a cease fire and pledged to the UN community to interfere. But this was the long waited war and the last thing I needed is UN observers. So I finished the enemy..to the last drop of rice and emerged the sole winner of this fierce battle.

Finally…I’m a happy man. I call on all men to withstand their grounds and fight their own battles with a mighty force. Don’t give up your fight. I urge you not to. Long live the revolution and God helps us all.

Monday, January 15, 2007

I hate Chicago..seriously I do

Ok, so I was sitting down in my office going through tremendous emails and suddenly, my boss walks in. “Can you do me a favor please?” he asked. I answered yes sure..whats up? “I have a meeting tomorrow in Chicago, but I can’t attend, can you go there in my place?’. I answered “you ###%^$ and %$#%^^% why the $#$#@@# do this to me” inside my head. But my mouth failed me and said “of course, count on me”. Damn bo3bo3..when will you ever learn how to say NO? So I arranged for the quick short trip knowing that I’ll hate every moment in it.

I got in my car and started driving to Chicago (around 190 miles from Indy). My coworker told me earlier to watch out for ice for the conditions are bad in chicago. I was just pissed off at my self. So I drove..20 miles..and it was raining..then 80 miles later and around Gary, Indiana, the snow rain started to look like snow, and the roads were ugly. I knew my day wasn’t got any better. I stopped for my red bull booster and went back on the road. The roads started to look uglier. Finally, I was on I-80. Constructions and trucks. At any rate, I called my wife asking if she wants anything from Chicago. She said bread/hummus, foul, cheese, ……..” Oh my God, now I have to stop on my way at “alrasheed stores”. So I stopped to get the stuff she asked for. No, I don’t follow her orders and she is not controlling me..but we both agreed that her opinion is what counts always .

I also decided to stop at the Nile restaurant for a falafel sandwich. I just love their falafel. Then drove to the hotel, about 15 miles north of O’hare on I-294. Only to discover that this hotel has decided to go smoke-free 2 months ago. Can my day get any worse than this? Oh yes it can. I’m looking from my window now and all I see is snow. Tomorrow’s drive to the meeting will be as ugly as it can get.

I hate Chicago so much. I end up staying 30 miles from downtown, and I a hotel that I can’t smoke in, and surrounded by snow. God, take me out of this misery…I hate Chicago.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The final chapter...freedom of expression

Those of us who were born in the Middle East, know for a fact that freedom of expression is a fantasy, a dream that never came true and doesn’t seem to in the near future. Governments never allowed it and the people themselves never bothered to obtain such privilege. I always heard that focusing on how to provide for the family is more important than complaining about governments or religious intolerance. Give me bread, not the right to speak was the norm back then. True there were lots of “revolutionary” movements, but all were politically motivated. The movement for internal change was taking the back seat always due to the focus on the Arabic situation on the political map.

When I immigrated to the States, I started seeing signs of freedom of expression. Although I was slow keeping up with the changes around me, but I tried to cope with such great change. Early nineties witnessed the first gulf war. We went out for a demonstration against the gulf war. This was the first time I ever go out in a demonstration. I didn’t need to cover my face nor I needed to fear baton waving security personals. It was a great feeling to be able to express your approval/disapproval with anything on mind. The uprising in the Palestinian territories was another example. Suddenly, I felt that I’m tasting something I didn’t know how it could ever taste have I stayed in the middle east.

I do realize that the foreign policy of the united states is full of flaws and injustice, but the fact that you, as a citizen, can express your disapproval with such policies is a great thing to have. I now realize the value of freedom of expression. And that somehow affected me when dealing with others. You can actually stage a demonstration and draw a funny picture of the president of the USA, in front of the lawn of the white house. Comparing such scenery with what you see on arab TV of arab demonstrators makes you see the two extremes. But the greatest lesson I learned was that freedom of expression has two sides. Just as you want to have the freedom to express, you must give such freedom to others.

One demonstration sticks in my mind was during the Palestinian uprising, and in front of a synagogue in east Cleveland. We were around 40 or 50 demonstrators. There were swat teams and police force that could’ve been larger than us. They pointed out where we can demonstrate and where we can not cross. They were holding the riot gear, and some even climbed on the roof of the synagogue with rifles to prevent any deviation. As expected, a group of jewish demonstrators also staged an opposing demonstration, and there was an area of about 10 feet separating the two groups. In this area, there were cops to prevent anyone from crossing their designated area. It was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration, but it turned a little ugly at the end. One jewish demonstrator crossed the the line and got close to our area shouting anti arab slogans. One of the cops got a hold of the guy and pushed him back harshly. A couple of jewish demonstrators ran toward us and they spitted at some of us so close before the cops could react. During that, one arab dude slapped the face of one of the two guys so hard that he fell, but by that time, police was concentrating on that small area and they prevented any further problems. We then went home after we expressed our voices against the Israeli occupation.

I participated in many demonstrations in down town Cleveland and few outside such as NY and DC. Just like most arabs here, we enjoyed such feeling of being able to express our views. Again, freedom of expression comes in two sides. During one demonstration in downtown Cleveland, the KKK were staging a demonstration in the late nineties. Many ethnic groups, including arabs, gathered along side the African American American community and staged an anti-demonstration to the KKK. For the first time I hear people yelling at us calling us names and demanding that the country be purified from any “colored” skin that is not Arian. I hated hearing those calls, but I realized that freedom of expression is far more than expressing your own views.

I was listening to the radio one day and I suddenly heard a speech. I can’t remember who the speaker was but it was a guy during the sixties about freedom of expression. The meaning of it is that when you as an African American, accepts the rights of a white angry man to burn a cross in his private property, that’s a freedom of expression. Just as you wish to scream for your right for equal opportunity in employment, education, and treatment. I tell you, the speech moved me so much that it changed how I view things. I, as a muslim, must accept the right of anyone saying that I, again as a muslim, bear an evil religion. He has the right to demand my deportation for no reason. He has the right to say whatever he wants to say about me, and I have to accept that. Only then, I can demand my right for freedom of religious practicing, freedom of wearing any cloths I wish, and freedom to speak my own language. Wait a minute bo3bo3, that means you also have to accept the fact that they have designated a part of the beach in Cleveland to be a topless beach. Ok..I mixed up here. But that’s the beauty of it. It’s to respect the others right to express, even in dress code, in the same manner that you demand acceptance from others.

Sadly, and being born in a middle eastern society, you would get conflicting reaction. If you try to adopt freedom of expression when dealing with others from the middle east, you would always run into a wall of rejection. This is so obvious in forums that have members from both camps. The mentality of such rejection is very strong. I could accept easily someone who attacks my religion or ethnic background, provided that it remains in the dialogue phase and never evolves into a violent behavior. Would it hurt me hearing someone attacking my prophet or religion? Absolutely yes. But I can not deny their rights to express freely their opinions. I’m seeing this always here and on other websites of course. But to me, I adore the concept of freedom of expression, even if that meant for others to call me a camel jockey or an arab hillbilly. It takes so much effort to practice how to freely express your views, but it takes twice as much to accept that others have the same right.

This closes my experience being an immigrant to the west. I tried to shed light to what an immigrant encounters, and what typical reaction he/she may have. With this, I knew I was gambling. I decided to strip almost naked so others see me through my mask and cloths, and I knew that it could generate animosity or rejection toward me. But to be honest with you, I came to the conclusion long time ago that this is who am I, and you could hate me or respect me based on whether you judge me relative to my past or today. It did back fire on me on few occasions, but believe me, I never cared. I am who I am, and what made me today, is what happened to me in the past up until yesterday. I shared so much details of my private life, and conveyed the details straight from the heart to portray exactly how I felt, regardless if it was a wrong or a right feeling. I hurt others and others hurt me. I loved others and others loved me. It’s life, and admitting such life is half way to the “solution” provided that there is a problem at any rate. Some of the actions I did in the past may seem to be unjustified and unforgiven, and I agree. But I don’t want to lie, so I’ll tell you this. As long as I have the respect of my family, that’s all what counts. Thank you very much for reading and I hope it left a positive impression on some of you. I also hope that these chapters have helped some to avoid the pitfalls that I have fallen into, for they now see the result and what could it do to the soul. My deepest apologies if my words have hurt some of you, for the intention was all the time a good intention. I’ll see you around.