Sunday, March 30, 2008

Husband & Wife Turned off the Lights!

Yep, we turned 'em off for not so common a reason this time:P Earth Hour: March 29th. 8-9. Actually, 8:30-9 because we completely forgot until Google Search turned black saying they turned theirs off, now it's our turn. Any updates out there. Who did, who didn't?

It was so cozy inside our little apartment. M, E, and I avoided looking each other at first because this was new, and interesting and-okay because we felt shy! Little E. kept saying "oh, no, oh, no, wha-hapen?" Then three of us tiptoed to the balcony and peeked through the glass, wondering if our neighbourhood went off too. Disconnected as we may have looked, we felt the presence of the entire west coast in our living room!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Exercising the "Right" Muscle

Two of my Saudi friends had responded to this post by uploading their pictures onto FB and providing me with a link. They told me, we’re doing so because we can. We just never thought about doing it until now!

Their response got me thinking on rights as a muscle that needs constant exercising or else it will weaken and diminish. It also got me to perceive rights as valuable items; once left unattended they become the property of someone else. They become a privilege that someone else, now with full ownership, may put a price tag on-or give away as charity!

This perception on rights applies even more strongly in societies where rights are scarce. When people are hungered by their lack of privileges, they are more likely to steal others’ rights, let alone take over ones which are left unattended.

The tragic aspect to losing rights is that it often triggers a chain reaction, especially if the loser is associated with members of a certain gender or ethnicity. E.g., if a woman loses her right to seek education abroad by not practicing it, other women could be affected by this. It might indicate that women are not keen on pursuing their education, thus it can be easily taken away from them. Once a fair number of women lose their right to pursue their education abroad, the ones who still keep their right to education abroad will be viewed as –hear this- ones who are privileged, and eventually, ones who stole property which does not belong to them!

The other downside to loss of rights is its recurrence. E.g., if a woman loses her right to education abroad, loses her right to choose her dress type, loses her right to choose her job, loses her right to marry out of love, loses her right to independency, etc. If she makes a pattern of loss, she allows for the creation of a pattern of theft. Pattern eventually turns into habit, habits into norm. Norms are rarely questionable. What is questionable is altering the norm.

A year has passed since my friends’ correspondence, a time in which many real Saudi female names and faces have come forth on FB as well as other social networks. Through that change, I’ve noticed how winning rights can make a pattern also, allowing for personal gains as well as gains of an entire gender or ethnic group.

In a society where rights are scarce, people should be more alert and protective over their rights. Sometimes they might even need to be fierce in winning some of their losses back. They need to also make a balance between discussing rights in theory, and putting them into actual practice so they are visual and touchable by the public.

Winning rights requires the belief that even when one is demanding things for themselves, nothing selfish can come out of this deed, because winning for the self is a step towards winning for the group. Once rights go back to their rightful owner, once everyone in the society stands right by what they own, those who find a lacking in their property can clearly see who it is that they need to put a fight with. Not the woman, not the shiit, not the sunni, not the sufi-someone else probably.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bone Crusher @ McDonald's

Just came back from McDonald’s play place, where I had a disturbing experience. A chubby 4 year old boy pushed my toddler to his back in the ball-area, and by the time I dug into the scene shouting “No, no, stop!” as firm as I could, the chubby boy was about to jump off the tube right on crying E.

The boy’s father caught up with me, shouting things in Russian. The boy grew frustrated. He started explaining things either in gibberish or Russian. I really don’t know. Then he found a girl in the tube, pinned her down and started pushing his body on top of her quite severely. She was older, though, and got away fast as she could.

Watching chubby boy, I put pieces of earlier incidents together. The mother, who was in the table next to us, was shaking her head since we arrived, like she was sad or distressed. The father who wore a Postal Service tag was calming her down. He looked tired from work, and she looked like she was blaming him for not being around. The chubby boy was continuously dug out of the play area by the father while throwing a fit. I had assumed that chubby boy was being bullied or that his parents were overly protective.

Staring into my toddler’s terrified eyes, I felt as confused as he is. With a shaky note, I looked chubby boy straight in the eyes and shouted “No jumping on other people!” Chubby boy looked equally terrified. His eyes were slightly dazed, while his attention shifted between me, his father and things happening around him. He, then, began shaking nervously and his father pulled him out.

My body heated up as many thoughts raced through my mind. I helped little E. up and didn’t know what to do. Chubby boy was NOT normal. He does not look like he’s bullying on purpose. However, his mood shifts and aggressive tendencies made him a danger to other kids. I sympathized with the parents who might be here, because they need their time out and away as much (and maybe more) than any other parent. Yet still, I could not act happy and forgiving either. Its just hard to say “Oh, I understand that your child was about to crush the bones of my son.” I could not report the incident either.

With shaky hands, I helped little E. slide one more time, so he wouldn’t feel defeated or develop fear of the play place. Once he came down, both a smile and tear on his face, I sang our way out the door. Neither the chubby boy, nor his parents looked like they were leaving soon. I walked home with unsettling feelings. Wondering if I had done the right thing…

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Bike Disease

“Alas, a Saudi guy on a bike!” Hubby exclaimed today. While crossing Broadway, we ran into a jolly Saudi who was cycling on a bike that seemed taken out of a caricature. As he zipped by us, all we could hear were crickety, crockety, clickety, clockety, sounds.

Not only did a Saudi guy go for a bike, he went for a very cheap bike, and that was a sight to celebrate.

The sky was foggy, the streets guilty with the usual rain, but the image of that guy brightened my vision. I wish I had a camera on me. I wish I could run after the guy to tell him how proud I am.

He might have chosen a cheap bike solely for financial reasons, but I don’t care. I care that he is literally down to earth and happy about it. That his smile is so contagious. That he is the perfect vehicle for spreading “the bike disease”!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Face Collectors

Stamp collectors, coin collectors, bug collectors, so why not face collectors too? Its only natural to want to collect humans. But Mr/Ms/Mrs face collector, next time you decide to add someone to your 500+ faces, please remeber to send them a message of self introduction. That's the thing about humans, they're complicated!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Reality Fiction

The “Memoire of a Liar” or “Fake Memoire” takes place once again through Love and Consequences, by Margaret (Peggy) Seltzer-Eugene, Oregon-who fabricated letters, brought people who impersonated fictitious characters to the publisher to prove her novel a real “memoire”.

Memoires, as stories of witness, are highly marketable in North America. I first learned this during book-marketing class, and later noticed how memoire writing classes fill up only a few days after registration is open and maintain a long waiting list.

Would this obsession prove true for the rest of the world, or is it American specific? I remember growing up in Saudi in a time where Saudi writers fought to establish a separation between themselves and their characters. “My characters do not express my opinion; they simply express the diversity of life.” But even still, readers readily believed the main character to be true to the author, especially as it embraces the forbidden.

I wonder if Saudis are equally obsessed with real stories. The book market in Saudi Arabia is still not well established, so I cannot use any figures as basis for an argument. Could the rise of demand on reality TV be an indication? Reality TV exposes “others” who live a fictitious life in a fictitious land, but could it be an early indication of a “reality fiction” crisis that is waiting to happen?

Thursday, March 6, 2008


Yesterday I went to school with a stack of papers that have been awaiting signature a tad too long. My grad advisor is abroad, and the department head agreed to sign on her behalf.

In PSU’s urban campus, I am closest to myself. The old buildings, damp pedestrian crossings, cafe’s, human and automobile traffic-the fusion of idealism with realism. There, as my shoulder brushes against someone else’s with both of us maintaining our separation, I settle deeper into my own skin.

Entering Neuberger Hall, I noticed immediately how especially tense I was. Not only have I had my papers ready four stories ahead of time, I had them stretched out as if the papers were on fire and I was afraid for my safety.

What is it, I thought during the elevator ride? What is it about acquiring signatures that scares me? The more I thought about it, the greater proof I found on how formal signatures freaked me out: signing checks, credit card receipts, contracts, and now my graduation papers as well as bi-arrangement forms.

From Neuberger Hall down to Unitus, and up to Smith Memorial, my heart banged so hard against my chest. Whenever a paper was signed and approved, I felt exceptionally grateful as if the other person was doing me a favor-an illegal favor! There was a definite sense of guilt from my side, like foul play was going on, and someone was about to find out!

I could not make out why I feel how I feel about formal signatures? Could it be due to my cultural background. In high school, college, work, official gov’t quarters, signatures were always related to someone doing me a favor. Someone allowing me a privilege that I am not eligible for, but it came as an act of kindness. Could the vague and undefined relationship between me as a citizen and as a female and the authority be the cause of how fearful I am when signing or acquiring signatures?