Sunday, December 15, 2013

Religions in React

Just read 'Hannes' for Hermann Hesse and it made me reflect on religion not only as the action, but the reaction. The response rather than initial statement. Sometimes that response is hope. Sometimes it is fear. At a utopian stage, it is an equilibrium of many answers. In Hannes, religion responds with hope to a city facing death and extinction, but that hope is too much. It is out of control. And because of it, people lose faith. It made me think of fear, hate, love, etc. Think of the reactiveness of religions to turmoil, and its impact on faith.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

You Know Who...

Something is seriously wrong with addressing the crowds wearing sunglasses. The whole point of facing the crowds in person (and on camera) is visual communication. Imagine a politician addressing the nation on radio, whispering, or omitting some alphabets.

Monday, August 12, 2013

How to Build a Country 101

Stand still. Establish your center of existence. Build a wall. A distant and very large wall. Imagine your fears. Your worst biggest darkest fears. Toss your fears beyond the wall. This is how you establish a country. How you become a citizen. How you unite with others not in your existence, but in fearing what lies beyond the wall.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Memory of Relationships--Broken

Does it ever seem like your life progresses thematically rather than by numbers?  Instead of growing by years, you encounter a growth spurt after series of observations and experiences that lead up to an understanding or a consensus on a particular issue in life.  For months or years you would fiddle with this issue and BOOM, one random day a green light inside that dark cave of yours blinks and you are ready to move on.

I had a BOOM moment last weekend.  And it was beautiful.  It felt like switching on the lights at a club packed with drunks, and sending everyone off to the streets.  There was an eventual sense of freshness, clarity, and freedom.  Pigging out on burgers at a forgotten corner in Brooklyn, I knew what the question has been for me these past years.  It was about ended relationships.

What do you do with relationships you leave behind? What happens to the feelings you have for someone when you move OUT of a relationship?  When you move INTO another relationship?  When you never really enter the relationship?  When you settle in with someone, or say marry them, how do you manage the relationships you both had?

A person’s emotional map is so complicated.  It is full of diverging and connecting lines.  It is fading on areas, certain and deliberate on others.  One person’s map is complicated enough, that becoming a couple is as overwhelming as affixing two maps together.  It is a job that takes two, and at times it may seem that ignoring the maps, deleting the history, and assuming that old relationships and feelings no longer exist is the easy way out.  Out of what?  

A friend of mine said the first time her husband proactively invited her ex over, she felt puzzled and confused.  Coming from a cultural context where ex-relationships shouldn’t have happened, she didn’t know how to read the gesture.  The experience was morally alarming for her.  Isn’t sitting with an ex taboo or something?  The memories they both shared?  The vulnerability they felt upon falling in love, and then parting?  The hopes they had for this relationship, the pain they felt for being let down?  More invitations followed, and my friend began to feel more at ease sitting with both her husband and ex.  Something inside her felt that she has recovered a great loss.  Her past reconnected with her present and she felt balanced and complete.  

Another friend of mine was at a party when her partner’s ex wanted to avenge herself.  In a cinematic spill of heart, the ex slammed my friend with a glass bottle leaving her completely bruised.  The story gets worse.  The ex wasn’t going anywhere; she lives close to my friend so the two kept bumping into each other at many social and community gathering.  It was ugly, the whole ‘live in an alternative reality and pretend she doesn’t exist’ kind of thing.  The pouts and curses my friend had to endure from the ex and her extended circle of friends.  At one point my friend had it.  She caught the ex in the washroom and said: listen, being a feminist and all I think our relationship as women shouldn’t be an afterword to a man, influenced by which side of this man we are standing on.  There was a long pause, then my friend extended her hand and said: Hi, my name is ‘bleep’ what’s yours?  The two laughed and haven’t held a grudge since then.

And there was this wedding that I attended for a couple that has been in and out of the relationship for ten years.  During these years, the couple broke up a number of times.  While on break ups, they hooked with other people and entered various relationships.  Some of these relationships were with people in their shared circles of friends.  It touched me deeply how inclusive their wedding was.  The couple celebrated their wedding with absolute openness.  They invited their friends, colleagues, and exes.  You could feel a certain bitter-sweet warmth seeping through the tables as the couples walked around posing with all their friends in group photos and reminiscing over past times.  Something about that connectedness felt completely liberating. 

Walking through the tables, the couple was not protective or fearful of the complications or imperfections of both their emotional maps.  They were trustful of the people and stories that have made them who they are.  I watched them and wondered how sad and stranded humans are when they allow their memories to be filled with broken steps.

Pigging out on food in that forgotten corner in Brooklyn, I watched people exiting clubs and bars in masses.  The distance between one person and another was close to zero.  Seeing them made me realize that when people are conglomerated the difference between the exes, lovers, and the jerks is meaningless.  Then it hit me.  This distance we try to measure ever so carefully between ourselves and past relationships.  This revision of our imperfect emotional maps in hope that they would be accepted.  This worry about keeping the past present and future separated in secure boxes.  It doesn’t make any sense!

There is so much happiness and liberty to be had by being whole and open within ourselves and to the outside world that something inside that dark cave of mine flashed.

A green light.

Monday, December 14, 2009


It continues to catch me off guard: how little respect is given to independence and choice in Saudi Arabia. How vulnerable the individuals are to the intrusion of others beyond their immediate family members on how they should dress, behave, and go about their daily life. When subjected to such intrusion, I try to read it as good will. At other times, I take it as opinion. Yet upon its recurence, I had to face myself with two things:

1- That I am irritable to interferrence relating to choice and family, and should be as upfront about it with as a person who is at liberty to voice their criticism or, worse, act upon it.
2- That the practice of interfering is the result of habit rather than an actual opinion, belief, bad intentions or even good will!

As much as there's cement on the houses of Saudi, as little personal walls there are to shield families and individuals from intruders. If we were to claim that the attempt to signal independence begins with children from as early as toddlers, who demand to choose their food and name the bad words, and that the demand for independence climaxes at teenagers who cave in with too much temperament--such a wholesome process cannot be fully realized in Saudi!

It is absolutely difficult for families to bear lending their name and "face" to children who would readily behave in unacceptable ways; ways which would put the family face to face with intruders? How can the flagship of the family be given to a child who is yet to do wrong before doing what is acceptable to the collective society? If the family holding up in the face of the winds does not approve with much of the choices a teenage is experamenting with, how could they defend or stand up to him to begin with?

The growth process for much of the individuals in Saudi, in my opinion, suffers from such consequences. Families cannot bear the intrusion involved with allowing their children to develop their independence. The range of developing independence, exploring choices, realization of right and wrong, shifts, as a result, from teenagehood to adulthood if not to the grave.

Communities in Saudi might still be at the very early stages of development. Not too long ago did families of three and four live under the same roof. Husbands, wives and children shared the same bedroom. A tribe of wives washed away the dishes and cooked shoulder to shoulder. Independence would have convincingly been a threat to the well-being of the community back then. If such a life-style continued up until the previous generation, how long will it take to erect walls for a nuclear-family, let alone..the individual?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Women NOT Allowed

Hope hurts. It grows on you like a forest. When sequences of events lead you to tweeze it out, you find that it has tangled up with your very own reasons for being. As you pull out hope, batches of your rooted emotions come tumbling down..

Hopelessness is safe. Hope is lethal.

Today I went for an audition for a comedy in Riyadh, announced publically via Facebook. It surprsied me that the audition was open, for both men and women. Furthermore, that as I confirmed (twice) and exchanged emails with the co-host, that the organizers seemed ready to handle such a breakthrough.

Streets of Riyadh weren't friendly as I headed towards the location of the audition. Signs promised for "the Ring Road" exit, then called the exit something else. The driver wasn't as helpful as I've hoped. In loops we went, he and I.

At last, I arrived at the location, doors seemed wide open. The security guards let me into the hotel. The receptionist pointed me in the direction of the hall where the audition and casting are held. I walked fast to catch up on my time-slot. While in the hallway, a billman stopped me. "No mam, you are not allowed on this floor. No women allowed."

Details accross the hall since then, don't matter. Apparently, some boys and girls kissed earlier at the entrance of the hotel, causing the management to take strict procedure. Namely: NO WOMEN ALLOWED. Why have the hosts not negotiated better with the hotel management? Why did they not have alternative plans to begin with, knowing how strict Riyadh is in terms of segregation? Why have they not contacted the FEW women who confirmed their attendance, conveying the change in plans, and saving face! Why have the organizers not been more apologetic towards the change in situation, instead of shamelessly admitting how women will have to pay the price on a distrubtive behavior that happened earlier?

As I exited the hotel, into the hot and sandy air of Riyadh it killed me that no one stood witness of this idiocity and disrespect. The date trees, metal cars and cement buildings stood still and uncaring.

I wanted to ask the man who so cooly sent me away, how he would feel if upon arrival in American soil, American Officials sent him back to Saudi Arabia without valid reasons. How would he feel, if they said that in a small and isolated room. If through the galss he could witness floods of immigrant and newcomers embracing the new land so easily. If the only compensation he got is the lame reason that he belonged to a Saudi Arabia.

Would this not hurt, the first, second and the tenth time it happens?!

I assume not. What would hurt, in truth, is hoping that this would stop. That things such as descrimination could so easily change. Today I hoped and this was wrong. It is probably best to believe that descrimination against, race, gender or faith would never change. To live in a remote state, while "others" fix the problem.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Queen and the Mistresses

Upon return from a training trip to Cairo, I found myself accompanied by a young Saudi (23) in the waiting lounge. Our conversation started when he asked me if departure times were set according to Saudi or Egyptian time.

The boy was from Jeddah, pursuing his Bachelor in Alexandria. Jeddah folks are known to be frequent travelers to Egypt, while people from Riyadh tend to either LOVE Egypt or HATE it. Our conversation fell into that category: how do you like the country, where to go and how to have fun.

He told me that Egypt is the type of place you want to visit with friends, but not family. When I asked him to elaborate, he mentioned that though he didn’t drink alcohol, he enjoyed going to bars and observing people. It is hard to do that with family. Family travel is restrictive and by travelling with friends to countries like Egypt one had the choice to go where he pleases.

As the conversation lost stamina, the boy surprised me by stating, “You must be one of those who want women to drive?” The question caught me off guard, because until then I was an avid listener to him—and quite impressed by his brightness and high spirits. On the other hand, his question –stated in the form of an accusation- struck me as shallow.

“Why?” I asked him, but he didn’t answer. Instead, he said told me how demoralizing it would be to allow women to drive.
“Why?” I asked again.
“It will only lead our sisters and daughters to ruin,” he said.
“Allowing women to drive is not the same as forcing them to drive, right?” I responded but he gave me no time.
“Don’t kid me, you will all want to drive and hit the streets as you please and there will be no way to control anything anymore.”

At this point I stopped taking the conversation seriously. I realized that I was talking to a boy who is recently learning to demand personal choice and has yet to learn that with personal choice comes the responsibility of accepting the choices of other people.

Unfortunately, however, if there’s a boy who is yet to learn—remains people who have grown and progressed on so many professional levels yet when it came to defining the world there was:
- Their controlled utopia – the tamed virtuous queen which they visit on intervals.
- Their wild ride – the mistresses.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Religiousness as an Empowerment to Saudi Women

My friend “Y” is married. Her husband likes her to completely cover in Riyadh: “abaya”, veil and face cover, and half cover in Dahran. To uncover her face in the company of friend “A” and “B” but never around "C". When travelling he wants her to completely uncover, except if there were relatives. He asks her to dress conservatively (eg. Long skirt) in the presence of her family in law, yet wears pants or non-conservative clothing in the presence of the families of friends “A”, “B” and “C”. He doesn’t want her to have any makeup on when outside the house, but to be fully made up once she’s in. He wants for her to attend morning courses so she would excel in English and Computers, yet not resume a job where she would put those skills to use. When he's out she may go out, but when he's in she should return. He wants her to have a kid this year and another next year, then to wait for three years until they have the third. He has every teeny bet of her life figured out for her.

My friend’s marital life is not unique to many women in Saudi, and I do not mean the issue of covering or uncovering, I mean the issue of being micromanaged: Do this now, that after five minutes, wear this here and wear that there. Such minute management isn’t denounced by the collective-mind but is often expected and thought to be an indicator of responsible parenting—yes parenting even to the wife. Some parts of Saudi even go the extreme of referring to the wife as “the dependent” or “the children”. For example, if someone were to ask the husband how his wife is doing, they would say, “How are the children (dependents)?” in spite of him being newly married and without kids.

Some wives adopt to this husband-wife relationship, especially in the first years of life where a wife readily translate micromanagement as “fatherly protection” or “jealousy of amor”, yet when the honey melts away many women begin to feel equal or competitive with their husbands and sensitized towards being bossed around. In this stage of the relationship, personality types will react differently either by adapting to the situation or changing it. But it is not easy to change the dynamics of a relationship after a respectable amount of years—sometimes kids!!

Since arriving in Riyadh I’ve been noticing a pattern amongst certain type of women who suddenly turned religious, some of which immediately transformed from being just another guest in someone’s house to women who sit at the head of a meeting to preach the word of God and tell the stories of the prophet and his companions; women who construct Qur’an recital centers. Nothing shocking or sudden happened to those women, they didn’t loose a loved one in an accident or undergone any trauma. What happened, then, that might’ve caused this massive change in behavior and character?

Many things could of course contribute to this change, but I believe the gains of a transformation often explain the initial calling that has caused it. Women whose religiousness brought power, leadership and stardom after being semi-absented, were probably yearning for what they have been lacking.

A famous ol' Kuwaiti play says, "when religion speaks, let all else munch on hay." And having God at their side, could finally allow those women a word over their husband, children and the greater society. If the husband asks them to uncover here, they tell him God said no. If he watches improper TV content they can condemn his acts and (maybe) slowly influence him. They could challenge tradition by quoting God, the prophet and history. They could silence much of society which would not yield and adhere to them before.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Who Needs Windows in Riyadh?

Imagine a residential building, a very tall one, with 200 windows.

An old, rusty building, with windows dark as cavities. While looking at it, notice the surprisingly white window. Focus on it until you realize, what you thought to be a white window is a satellite dish. The satellite dish is completely blocking the window. Zoom out and start noticing that on every other window of that building, there's a satellite instead.

If nobody is honking at you on King Fahad's Street of Riyadh, slow down and count the number of people to whom satellite dishes are neither a luxury nor a virtual reality, but rather--their ONLY ACTUAL WINDOW...

While returning home from work, today, it looked like 40% of the building's residence are turning to their t.v. for air. Gulping, I wondered if this number could be true to the rest of the city.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Riyadh HAS changed!

Since arriving in Riyadh, friends, relatives and acquaintances have been asking me “Do you think Riyadh has changed?” Every single time, their question reflects an anticipation of a positive answer. They eagerly await a “yes” so they’d start listing their own version of how much Riyadh has changed for them despite not having have left it. Riyadh is undergoing such rapid change, even people within are noticing.

My main concern about Riyadh, as I return to it this time with the eye of a settler is population density. It is turning into a city better suited for singles, couples who are bored with each other or foreigners/outsiders.

Singles in Riyadh are not expected to function as separate entities from the “head” of their family, thus are less obligated to respond to social events or initiate ones of their own. Couples who are bored with each other do not have to worry about missing out on each other’s lives while catching up on everybody else’s (men often seperate from women). And foreigners are saved from an existing, prolonged list of extended families and are free to keep a manageable number of acquaintances.

Despite the rise in competition amongst telecommunication providers and the availability of the latest communication devices to the people, physical presence is still required at most social obligations. Phone conversations, text messaging, emailing, etc, are not alternatives. They are ways to facilitate knowing about the “must be there” events.

More people are moving into Riyadh, let alone Riyadh wombs which are actively regenerating traffic. Additionally, marriages between young men and women are doing their share of introducing additional families to the pool of preexisting ones.

Attending to social obligations isn’t all that bad until one leaves their house into the densely populated city. For those who know Riyadh, it is almost impossible to go from one place to another without crowding up on a highway or a heavily used street. Therefore, the minute one digs their car into an iffy road, begins the math of calculating alternative ones (if there are any!) After Maghreb prayer, which is usually when all social activities begin, a single trip across town can take up the entire evening. If one is making several stops, going shopping or is planning to purchase gifts/sweets/flowers before the final destination not only is the evening gone to ashes—but patience and joy!

Riyadh is still pleasant in the generosity it bestows upon entrants to houses and events. There are still all the little delicacies it offers once you sit back with a group of people and engage in friendly conversations, or once you enter some of its beautifully constructed malls. However, up until you reach the point of settling somewhere, you would have undergone a strenuous duration of a human turned into a heavy vehicle running on four wheels and earnestly pushing against many obstacles. Time would have become your worst enemy. And all the little obligations (which could have meant something had they occurred in small portions) turn into an army of ants—no longer pleasant as they colonize a schedule which at some point in history carried your name.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Washington D.C: Gateway to Saudi!

Have been in Washington D.C for 3 days and will be there up until the 3rd of July. While roaming M St, NW and going to many touristic sites, I’m trying to refrain from making foolish generalizations, yet finding it incredibly difficult. My headlines are as follows:

Hubby, baby and I are subject to "random special screening" while flying to D.C. Well, usually only one of us is "chosen randomly", which makes sense! This time it is all three. All our luggage arrives at D.C with a tag that also indicates "random checking". Humph, I wish we had prettier underwear.

An African American barista at Starbucks shoves a drink my way asking, “This yours?” Her tone changes all of a sudden as she addresses someone else, “have a wonderful day mam.” I turn around at once to see the barista flashing a smile at another African American customer. I wonder, is there a white-black tension in D.C?

I give myself a scare while looking in the mirror. Two days of touring have turned me into burnt meat. From the other room hubby chuckles while mentioning that a friend of his on FB says “D.C is Riyad with trees.” I nod to my face.

When asking a security guard about the closest grocery shop, he looks troubled. “Oh mam, it’s too far to walk!”
“How far?” I ask.
He points to a bus stop across the street, “The bus should take you right over there.”
“But how far is it?” I insist.
“Eight blocks!”
I’m ticked, remembering word for word what a lady told me in Portland when I asked her about the closest Sushi. “Very close,” she said. “10, 11 blocks the most.”

When dining in an Italian Restaurant, stuffed with people, served 40% by Arab waiters, a cockroach teases our table. An appetizer arrives half cold. An entrée arrives as two parts: pasta soaked with tomato paste and mushrooms flowing in marsala sauce. They are supposed to be one dish, but I suppose the chef was too lazy to make plain pasta! Oh, the cockroach was done eating breadcrumbs by that time. I couldn’t find him. But I was hoping he isn’t climbing my leg.

Tourists everywhere. Tourists don’t care to make an impression. They don’t care to be polite. It isn’t their goddamn city!

Overcoming travel-constipation. Googling "constipated during " with google suggesting "during travel." Oh, well, not a classic case I guess! You name it, I've done it. Eating light, eating veggies, drinking lots of water, etc. Truth is, constipation isn't really the issue. My exit system gets lazy (no--dead!) when I'm overwhelmed by changes. This is final. Next time I travel, I'll start smart. Pill the night before hopping on that airplane.

Nobody is patting my back in D.C or summarizing their life on the lineup. Thought, with all the complaining, that I meant to say I hate it. Surprisingly, the busy, on the go folks suit my mood! It is sort of what Riyadh would have...

Tomorrow I visit Saudi Cultural Mission for the first time. Hope to finish up all pending business before returning home. Excited. Excited. Excited. Excited. Somebody please knock some sense into me because you never get THAT excited about something without turning into your own antagoniste.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Quirking in the Open

I have been tagged by Saudi Jeans & Hning.

My rules:
1. Link the person(s) who tagged you.
2. Mention the rules on your blog.
3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours.
4. Tag 6 following bloggers by linking them.
5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged bloggers’ blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged.

My 6 Quirks:
1. I cry over passing matters. When I do, I prefer to be in the hiding. Crying is like a secret to me. If you are not mom, dad or hubby, snooping into such an intimate secret will only endanger our relationship. So, if it’s cloudy, run away with all the love in your heart. * If I’m not crying, that means it is NOT passing and VERY VERY deep. The “uncried over” issues are what grant me my long-term decisions and the strength to achieve them. They are who I am today.
2. More than life itself, I value individuality. Whether you call it, advice, wisdom, judgments, emotional pressuring, preaching, it all means one thing to me: you think me an extension to your established righteous self. Under pretenses of love, you dismiss my mind & soul while turning me into your arm or a leg. Another part of your body. Whatever others may see you as; to me you are a slaughterer and I will protect myself from you accordingly.
3. I always wanted to be an actress and will always wish it. I tried to convince myself I won’t do, that I am stiffening up with the years and it will soon be too late, but it isn’t working. To some extent, I feel that most social encounters are professional acting done where “reality” ought to exist, that’s why I can pose boldly on stage and on camera-feeling that I am acting and honest about it!
4. Milestones such as marriage, child bearing, graduation, birthdays, moving out, etc-I am very strict about going through them with as less people as possible. Sharing an event that changes my life with a lot of people makes it as similar as drinking lots o' booze and fuzzing out the picture. When I cross the bridge I like to observe carefuly where it starts and ends, to explore my own feelings and fears and to connect particularly with the person(s) who are going through it with me.
5. I’m a frequent WC visitor. My tank fills up quickly.
6. I am earthy and sensual. That’s why I can tell you all the stories about how much you mean to me, but if you see me fidgeting around you and maintaining a physical distance, that means you are not in my comfort zone yet.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Women: Blocked on their Periods?

While conversing with a group of international students, a Saudi friend of mine explained why polygamy is allowed in Islam. His points were not the fruits of his own thoughts; they were taken from a list of apologies for polygamy, which were taught to us in religion classes in middle, high school and beyond. One of these points was, “A woman has her period once a month which would prevent a man from having sex for an average of 7 days.”

He was attacked right there and then by the girls and some boys who could not understand why sex should stop from the first drop of blood till the very last. “We could understand that heavy days are no fun, but if they guy and girl don’t mind it on the others, why not?”

A medical student added, “Especially in a monogamous relationship where there’s no fear of transmitting sexual diseases which may be helped by the excess of fluids! Other than that, medically there’s no harm in intercourse and many studies suggest that climaxing during the period eases off the abdominal pain because of the contractions in the area.”

My “unmarried” and bashful friend found himself dragged into a conversation to which he wasn’t rehearsed at all. Student of the sciences as he was, he found himself in a spot where he had to defend why sex is forbidden throughout the monthly period. He told them, he sort of thinks it is gross to involve with a girl during the red days, but hasn’t been in that situation-yet. Googling “sex during period” he was surprised to learn how controversial the subject is.

I was reminded by this story while reading anonymous’s comment dated June 12th. He says, “If the woman has menses, all the men are blocked.” And it struck me how accurate he was to choose “blocked” as a verb without a clear doer. Who’s blocking the woman on her period? The woman, the man or the Godly orders?

Islamically speaking, the blocking is first and foremost religious. That’s how it was taught in religion classes and why after I’d gotten access to all the womanly gossip by being married myself I got to hear newly weds admit in full shame that they “slipped” at some point or another and did it on "those days”. The slipping occurs either because the man was so interested, the girl didn’t mind or both parties felt shy to discuss “which day of the month it was” until it was too late to stop!

Researching the religious basis of the “blocking”, I found it in the
Quranic verse 2-222 meaning translated as, “They question thee (O Muhammad) concerning menstruation. Say: It is an illness, so let women alone at such times and go not in unto them till they are cleansed. And when they have purified themselves, then go in unto them as Allah hath enjoined upon you. Truly Allah loveth those who turn unto Him, and loveth those who have a care for cleanness.” Other translations describe menstruation as: illness, hurt, pollution and discomfort.

For the first time, I noticed how the speech is strictly directed to the men, while menstruation is fully womanish and the sex act involves both the man and the woman. So, I reread the Quranic verse above and wondered, does it block the woman on her period, or advise the men against being insensitive to their wives?

While Dad is Walking the Kids

When I first arrived in the States, I watched Latino dads push strollers, buy grocery and walk their plentiful kids with awe. Secretly, I blamed the lazy moms who didn’t do their share.

Somehow I lost the analysis of soft-hearted dads and spoiled moms in my closet of thoughts up until recently. While picking up E. from daycare, I always come across a Latino mom who rushes to pick her kids right at closing time, still in her “please come again” vest and nauseating frying odors. It took me two years to make that calculation: while a Latino dad walks his kids, a Latino mom might be frying someone else’s food and vice versa.

There’s always a combo of sophisticated motives as to why people act one way or the other, let alone why an entire race or a country function the way they do! It often takes us a long time to see the whole picture. Yet, when the whole picture clears up, we would have already moved on to a new and “fascinating” analysis without making the effort to update previous inaccurate ones. Our mindsets are forward-driven and there are hardly justifications strong enough to push backwards.

It’s not to say that realizations are always pleasant! Now, whenever I run into a restaurant for a quick bite I think that an entire family’s life might be switched around while I impatiently await my burger!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Truth is a Slave & Somebody Owns it!

A week ago, AngloGermanicAmerican thought this link would be of interest to me and was he right! It is a post by an “Independent Conservative” with the motto “Saying what needs to be said”.

Besides enabling me to view closely the religious basis on which some anti-homosexuals stand in the United States, the blogger’s dialogue with his commentators reveals yet again how conservatism as a trait stands in a disconnect from religion (or ideologies). Conservatives across the map might quote different religions contexts but remain indistinguishable from one another (in their tendencies).

In the link, Conservative chops off Anglo’s first comment, and explains his action by saying, “it's a very lengthy dissertation of what is already above and starts getting into more details that are unnecessary.” But despite the explanation, Conservative emails the “unnecessary” parts to “chosen” readers. He then moves to questioning Anglo’s “Christian-ness” asking him to provide valid proof, and from thereon the discussion turns to preaching. (There's the tendency to judge, control and silence a suspectable opponent.)

Without relying on a label, it is fairly easy for a Christian to visit a Christian site and recognize the conservatism of it the same way it is easy for a Muslim or a Jew to recognize the different ways their religion is interpreted or used by its followers. However, separating the trait from the faith becomes a challenge in cross-religious/nonreligious encounters. A problem further complicated by ownership of the truth and necessity for implementing it proving to be a core characteristic in the conservative trait.

I was reminded by this whole deal yesterday, as I read about the 9 “Islamists and tribal MPs” of the Kuwaiti Parliament who walked out of the room in a protest against two women ministers who do not cover their hair, claiming that “the two ministers violated a law that requires women to (abide by Islamic regulations while voting or contesting the elections.)”

Friday, May 30, 2008

I Have Committed My First!

Yep, it’s true. My first feature film screenplay is up and running on InkTip. If you are a producer/director/entertainment person, who is interested in a film about a single Saudi girl hitting rock bottom in the States, please check my “Untwisted” out. The logline goes “A Saudi student in the States has a month to pay off a huge debt, but can she do it legally?”

The screenplay is my thesis, with the defense scheduled for June 6th,
Diana Abu-Jaber (English, Writing) as head, Charles Deemer (English, Writing) and Karin Magaldi (Theater Arts) as members.

At first, I dreaded the idea of defense. However, after a student reading at
Black Fish Gallery in the Pearl District May 27th I viewed thesis defensing under a much positive light. Interacting with an audience which have spent considerable amount of time reading, understanding, analyzing and dissecting your work is not a bad idea!

Reading (fiction) to a group, on the other hand, merely allows for communicating a fragment of an intricate piece to an audience that attended out of politeness and good heart. Such audience can only smile at you while you read, chuckle on occasions and complement you with a pat as you exit. Reading nights have the ability to make you feel weird, because while they offer the immediacy of communication, they compensate the quality of it.

It is true as well, that I’m gaining a departure momentum with our dearest Toyota Avalon sold on the morning of June 27th, preceded by a month notice to the lease office. I am fragmented, horrified, happy, ecstatic, confused and everything else. But I know for certain that righ now I wish for nothing but to return to Saudi Arabia and WORK BABY WORK!

On a personal note, thanx
Murtadha for being my Saudi audience, documenting the event! Frogman, Trev, Ahmed, Arwa, Nouf Al-Wadi, Ayman Allam and Hadeel for being first to read and critique.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

How Can Families Improve the Now and Future of Maids & Drivers in Saudi?

A few years back, my family and I went to Indonesia for the holidays. My dad saw to it that we experienced the rural villages, hills and farms of Indonesia rather than the polished up touristic sights. With the primitive beauty of the villages came the rubbing against people who previously worked or have relatives who work as maids and drivers in Saudi Arabia. Many of the villagers were not happy with us, to say the least. They gossiped about us while trying to sell us things. Whether we chose to buy or not, the unspoken curses chilled us at the spine; damn you and your riches!

In that environment my dread of having maids multiplied by the hundreds. The maids and drivers were no longer a minority, they were a majority. They became the owners of the land and my family became the visitor, vulnerable at any moment to receiving punishment for any Asian helper who was treated harshly in Saudi. Those who worked and were treated fairly are not expected to be grateful because they received money for services they provided. But what about
the mistreated? Anger speaks with such an infectious energy that it becomes the only voice audible.

Three years married, most of it in pursuit of education abroad, I have not yet settled in my natural habitat, an owned villa in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In a couple of months, hubby and I will be returning home with a child. Going back, getting jobs and enrolling our child in school will naturally mean resuming our social role as a family that entertains relatives, in-laws and guests.

Beside the question of which job, preschool, furniture and car, there is the question about whether to hire a maid or not. With the amount of guests, dust, house size and the time spent at work, the answer is most probably yes; we will need help at home. If so,
what type of a maid should we hire? A fulltime (live in) or a part time (local)? Which nationality, age, religion?

From years of getting to know myself, I know two things: I cannot order people around, and I don’t feel comfortable living in the same house with a person who does not have the same rights I do. Having a maid could possibly weigh me with too much guilt that I begin to help the maid instead of accepting her help.

Choosing not to hire a maid will be a personal choice. However, if it were adopted by a large percentage of Saudis such a choice (might) not work for the (economic) benefit of countries which continue to export helpers. But are economic interests on the level of governments be sufficient enough reason for Saudi families to continue importing “Asian” helpers with a sound heart and conscience?

In accordance with the May 14th
Bloggers Unite for Human Rights, I would like to collaborate with you all in brain storming practical plans for improving the situation of maids and drivers in Saudi Arabia. Things that a common Saudi family can do to make the life of imported helpers better while they're in Saudi, and after they return home.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Confusing Rights with Pragmatism?

Saudi Family Faces Threats to Funding & Family is a story which ran two weeks ago by the Barometer about a Saudi family consisting of husband, wife, a 4 y.o. and a baby who is due soon. Shortly after the family arrived in Corvallis, Oregon, a physical quarrel took place between the husband and wife, resulting in the involvement of American authorities and a warning by the Saudi embassy to terminate the scholarship. The wife, who is the only one interviewed in the story, remains in the US while her husband returns home. She is requesting her “right” to pursue her scholarship, divorce her husband, keep her children and be allowed to work with her F1 visa so she can support her family. She is also seeking “asylum” from the American government.

Two days ago, the same story was forward to me by an American friend. She asked hubby and me if we and other Saudi students can support this family in a time of hardship. I read, and reread the story, without being able to make up my mind about it. It is clearly biased, and takes the stand point of the wife alone. We do not get to hear much about the husband who already left to Saudi Arabia, nor is the Embassy giving out any statements because the information they have, as they were quoted, is what the wife had told them.

I could not help but wonder, is the wife truly a victim here? Is she asking for her rights, or is she a pragmatist trying to get the benefit out of Saudi and American system both at the same time?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

When Rights Falter, Should Men & Women be Equal in Punishment?

A protest to the UN about polygamy in Saudi being fair to the society because it limits the number of wives to four, and obligates the man to support them all, got me thinking on the issue of adultery in Islam!

In the defense of Islam, a website lists many Pre-Islamic religions and cultures and how they punished such sin. It, then, concludes, “Unlike almost all pre-Islamic traditions, the Qur’an makes no distinction between men and women who commit heterosexual offences, neither in the degree of sin nor in the punishment.”

Furthermore, “Almost all pre-Islamic traditions are quite lenient to a man, married or unmarried, who has sexual intercourse with an unmarried woman. The Qur`an greatly strengthens the sanctity of marriage by making all heterosexual intercourse outside of marriage equally punishable.”

Yet I think the very weakness of adultery punishment in Islam is equality! If a married man and a married woman commit adultery, they are punished equally under the law of Islam. But should they?

Let us assume that both married parties committed adultery because they were not fulfilled in their marriages, under the law of Islam as is practiced today:

1- A man has a right to peruse 3 additional wives.

2- A man has a right to divorce his current wife.

3- A man has a right to remarry immediately after divorcing a wife.

4- A woman cannot pursue additional husbands.

5- A woman cannot easily divorce her current husband, she has to seek court, and some financial losses might be involved in the process as well as losing guardianship to kids of certain age.

6- A woman has to wait after being divorced, for a specified period of time.

If a men and women’s rights to marriage as well as within the marriage are not equal under the laws of Islam, why should their punishment in adultery be equal?