Monday, December 01, 2008

Sleet in Baghdad

The hubby sent me these pics from a recent sleet storm in Baghdad. Quite interesting.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Pops is Heading to Hajj

After 63 years of living, 33 years of living in America, years and years of watching his teenage son and daughter head to the Holy Land before him, and years of me praying and praying for him being able to make it to Mecca, Baba is finally heading out in a couple of days inshaAllah. Thank you , O God.
I'm so happy for you dear baba, may you make it through the rituals safely and come back in excellent health, and may you be healed of your ailment.


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Touchy Thought

So, I've been thinking this thought for a long time now, but it's not really an important thought, nor one that will result in anything fruitful, so I hesitate to write it down.
I have never been so proud in my life, nor felt so much like I belonged to this country, as I did on the night of November 4th, 2008, when Barack Obama was overwhelmingly voted in as the new president of this great nation.
I did not believe it possible that majority white, small town, elderly America was ready to vote in a black man, where a short 40 years ago, it fought to keep the black man from the ballot. But I am so proud that there is a new generation that has overwhelmingly overcome this issue. I am so happy.
But then I think to myself, if Barack had 'really' been a black man, had been black from his mother and his father, would he have been so easy to vote in? If he looked like the African American next door, would white America, Latino America, female America, been ready for him?
I fear that this is an almost dangerous, worthless question to bring up, but it sometimes stirs in my mind.
U S A!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Now For Some Deeper Thought

So, I'm still riding on a cloud, but I do want to think about this issue on a deeper level. In my thirty years of living, and my twelve years of voting, I have never seen such euphoria over a candidate and president-elect. I have never seen such an election. I have never seen such a turnout. I have never seen my state of Virginia with the possiblity of 'switching sides', from Republican to Democrat. And I have never seen such a strong victory for a presidential candidate.
But all that happened, and the streets of American are jubilant, and one year ago, I did not think this was possible. I did not think that America, small town America, white America, older American, was ready to elect a black president. I hoped, but I said, no way. And now, I'm so happy that America proved me wrong, and put a black man in the White House.

Now, I want to understand why my country is soooooo unbelievable excited about this? On my Facebook account, last night around midnight, when McCain conceded and gave his speech, and when Obama gave his victory speech, Facebook was alive. Unbelievably alive with tens and tens of people declaring their absolute EUPHORIA and excitement at Obama's win. People were euphoric, jubliant, unbelievably happy, and every other synonym out there. Why this amount of feeling?
For me, I think that it's a translation of 'minority' people's happiness at finding 'one of them' elected into the strongest position of leadership in the modern world. A feeling of happiness at finding that America truly represents you. That you really belong, now matter what you look like, no matter what your name sounds like. Its a pride in knowing that a large number of Americans share this view, and have overcome their prejudices and stereotypes of just a few decades ago.
Its excitement at seeing a younger, more diverse spirit leading this nation.
For me, I am so proud of America right now. Proud of it for overcoming so much, and showing us what it is capable of.
And for me, I really hope that Obama does not disappoint. I hope that he leads this nation to justice and equality for all, and that he stays away from aggression, wherever it may be. I hope that he does not become just another one of them presidents.
And finally, I really do salute John McCain on his work and his speech last night. It was chivalrous, and I hope he rests after his long years of service.

GOOOBAMA! Long Live Justice, Equality and all this is good in this world!

So Proud to Be An American

On this day, watching Obama's acceptance speech, I am so proud. I am so proud of America to have overcome its prejudices, and biases and hatred and to have voted into power the first black president of the United States of America.
May God give him the clarity of mind to make the right decisions, and to help fix everything that is America.

I am so proud to be an American.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

SUVs and Attitude

There's something I distinctly do not like about SUVs. And yet, I have recently joined this ostentatious, take-over-the-road car club. Only because I abhorred the idea of getting a minivan at the time, though since then, I've kind of wished I had considered it... (don't tell the hubby).

We were recently involved in a small car accident, hit by a 2008 Lexus sedan from the back, while stopped at a traffic light. Our bumper was cracked and scratched, our spare tire fell out the bottom of the car, and the left muffler was a bit bent. Nothing major alhamdulillah. But the poor old lady's car was pretty much screwed up. Her hood went up 1/3 of the way, her radiator was leaking fluid and her lights were crushed. She had to be towed out of there.

Everyone told me, you should be thankful, you're in a big, safe car. Otherwise, you might have been hurt more. But all I could think of was, if we had a smaller car, that lady's new Lexus would not have been destroyed.
It's this big consumerist mentality that really bothers me; this American attitude that says, 'You be safe, and who cares if the world around you goes to pieces.' I can't stand that attitude, I can't stand that SUV -buying/driving mentality.
And yet I drive around my first brand-new car, a Mazda CX-9. But in my defense, I must say, it's a space issue. :)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

You Sound Tired, Hubby

My hubby called me last night a little bit earlier than our usual call time, and sounded really tired.
"I had a tough day today, Fatima." A thousand pictures flew through my mind, and I was happy that I was talking to him directly, that I could hear his voice and be reassured of his presence.
"What happened?"
One of his colleagues had been targeted when someone booby-trapped his car. On his way to work, it blew up and he was taken to Yarmouk Hospital. My husband and co-workers went and picked him up and transferred him to Ibn Sina hospital for better care. The poor man lost both his legs, and my husband was there to see a friend go through this, was there to transport him in his state of agony and pain. And I can only imagine how difficult it was for hubby; for him to admit to me that he'd had a tough day was a big deal.
On another note, another one of his colleagues had faced the same situation a few weeks ago. Apparently strategy has changed for these chaos-mongers and instead of kidnapping and ransoming/murdering folk, they just booby-trap their cars. But I must say, these incidents have lessened greatly in the last year, but these last couple of months have spiked a bit. Allah al-Hafith.

Update: Yesterday, hubby was describing to me a little of what he saw a few days ago with his friend, 'I'. He told me he was there with him before the surgery took place, and 'I' was conscious throughout the whole ordeal. (warning: graphic description): He told me he saw a bone sticking out on one leg, with no muscle/meat on it. The right foot looked ok, so he asked the doctor if they could save that one. The doctor picked it up, and the only thing keeping the foot attached was a bit of skin. Hubby was telling me who gruesome and horrible that scene was, but he stayed by his conscious friend's side through out it. The guy has had his leg surgery/amputations done, and now, doctors are working on extracting shrapnel from his eye. May we never see such a fate with our loved ones.

Reality Check

A few months ago, my husband was visiting us from Baghdad and we were chatting with his newly married sister. She was telling us about the coolest present she had received for her marriage, and it was a gift certificate to ride a hot air balloon, or skydive or some other 'extreme sport (extreme in my book, at least. :))

So, we were just going back and forth about which sport we'd choose if we had the choice, and my husband mentioned he'd definitely go for sky-diving. "At least there's a use to it."
I was like, "What in the world use is there to sky-diving?" And then it hit me. Hubby was seriously tied to his life in Baghdad, and I had forgotten the daily realities he lived through. He rides helicopters sometimes, and private planes, and they definitely have enemies. So for him, an sport activity of this kind could one day come in handy as a life-saving exercise. And he wasn't thinking too far into the future either.
Reality check indeed.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Iraqis and Facebook

Not a scientific article, by any means, but I find it increasingly interesting how fast the Facebook phenomenon is spreading worldwide. My (egyptian) cousins in Egypt are avid Facebookers, adding every application and friend they can find. And for me, that was the best thing I've gotten out of joining Facebook, keeping in touch on a 'regular' basis with my kid cousins.
And now, I've noticed that Iraqis are increasingly joining the world of Facebook! It's not as widespread in Iraq as it is in the rest of the Arab world, but it is slowly gaining in popularity. From my husband's account, I see a good number of his colleagues and former co-workers adding him as Facebook friends. And one of my buddies from Iraq added me recently.
What I've noticed is that a number of Iraqi Facebookers are now ex-patriots or 'refugees' to a degree, i.e. they've left Iraq and that's how they got introduced to FB. And from those still inside Iraq, they're youngish (20's-30's), educated and have 'int'l' friends (Americans, etc) or found out about FB from friends and family forced out of Iraq.
Just a peak through my narrow glimpse into this worldwide phenomenon.

(btw: i'm not yet ready to give out my Facebook name. :) sorry folks!)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Living on in Our Hearts and Prayers...

One year ago today, a young man was the last one to leave his house. He had said his good byes to his parents, siblings and cousin as they headed out before him. Little did they know that it was their last time to see each other.
One year ago today, Bilal headed out to university to take a final exam. He hadn't been to university most of the semester because of the threats, but today he was called in for an exam.
One year ago today, Bilal was chased down in front of university by armed, masked men in cars.
One year ago today, Bilal dropped his school notebook as he ran away from his kidnappers.
One year ago today, Bilal made three desperate calls for help from his cell phone, while running away from these men in black.
One year ago today, Bilal's 10 year old brother answered the phone to a panting Bilal screaming, 'They got me, they kidnapped me... Let me go.... Let me goooo....'.
One year ago today, the university population stood and watched a young man kidnapped and taken to an almost certain death...
One year ago today, I heard the news of Bilal's kidnapping in my husband's silent voice...

May you rest in mercy and peace ya Bilal, and may your mother's, father's, sisters' and brothers' hearts start to find some healing...

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A Visitor, Outlandish, and Other Things...

The girls and I are enjoying a few days with my hubby on a much needed vacation for him.
And here's a quick post of ten things about myself for my blogger friend, Karin, who tagged me a while back. :) (as personal as i can get on this page).

  1. I'm a youth worker in my part of the world. Have been since I was a teenager, and missed it sorely in Baghdad. Thankfully I'm back at it.
  2. I majored in Biology at university, graduated with honors. :) Never was sure exactly what I wanted to do, until today. :)
  3. I'm very close to my siblings and my husband's siblings. I have two brothers and four sisters, and I'm the second child/first daughter.
  4. I've lived in Texas, Chicago and Northern Virginia/DC metropolitan area, my home for the last 19/20 years (since I was an 8 year old). I love Va! And as a true northern Virginian, I have to point out that that there's Virginia, and then there's northern Virginia. Very different.
  5. I did an intensive study abroad in Egypt for one year (before Baghdad), where we studied Arabic sciences and Islamic sciences with teachers one on one. It was a treasure of a time. I loved my parents' homeland, its' constantly busy streets, its' kind-hearted people, its' fun, its... but discovered I still missed home (US).
  6. I voted for Bush in 2000 and lived to regret it time and again.
  7. I believe that their is a purpose to our existence, and it is our responsibility to look inside and find our inner soul and connect with our Creator.
  8. My father is living with cancer. He was diagnosed a year and a half ago with non-Hodgkins' lymphoma which has spread to his bone marrow, and is thus lymphatic leukemia. It's non-aggressive, so he's not receiving any treatments (just routinely following up with his doctor). Please keep him in your prayers. He's a great man who *usually* listens to the voice of reason when we talk to him. :) I love him for that amongst everything else. He's hoping to make Hajj for the first time this next year, so make dua'a for him!
  9. I had a hard time living in Baghdad, every day there was my struggle in life. But I feel like my life was super enriched by that experience, and I would have loved it more had I known there was an end in sight. :) Until today, there is no end in sight to my hubby's being there, so I may be going back some day.
  10. And finally, I have a major plug for an event that will interest ANYONE and EVERYONE out there. :) The music group Outlandish is touring the US this summer, and MAS Youth is holding a talent competition, Voices for Change. The winner of that competition (spoken word, poetry, song, etc), will open for Outlandish on their tour. This Voices for Change tour is a unique talent show seeking to bring positive, healthy change to the entertainment industry of today. JOIN the talent search NOW! OR BUY YOUR TICKETS FOR A CONCERT NEAR YOU (Chicago, Dallas, LA, NY, Tampa, Detroit).

Friday, March 28, 2008

Turned Out Well, alhamdulillah

I woke up to a text and voice message on my cell phone from my hubby this morning. "I'm fine, alhamdulillah, just in case you hear anything."
So, of course I ran to read the news online and see what close call he had avoided. Mortars landed near where he works, and a couple of people died, about nine were injured. Thankfully, my husband is safe, all praise to God.
It's weird because almost exactly a year ago, the same thing happened, with my husband waking me up in the morning with a phone call, letting me know he was ok, just in case I heard the news. When it happened last year, it took me a couple of days to sink in how close he had been. The roof actually fell in where he worked last year, and there was a lot of smoke and debris, but he and his co-workers were able to make it out in one piece. His accident last year left me with a weird feeling, and a song he used to play as his ring tone farshi al turab kept on replaying in mind. I felt something weird those days, and a week later, Bilal was kidnapped.
Just need to record these days down for a hopefully brighter future, where I can look back on these times with my family and say 'Thank you God for letting us out of it safe and sound."
I always hope that is the case...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

All Roads Lead to Baghdad

Today marks my husband and I's seventh anniversary.
When we were in Baghdad, and mentioned this date to our aunt, she'd proudly remind us that this was the date she gave birth to her beloved son, Bilal. Bilal was born 22 years ago, but he has now become a statistic in this war, one of the hundreds of thousands killed since Saddam was overthrown 5 years ago.
So for me, even when I remember the happiest moments of my life, I am reminded of the misery that has become Baghdad.
Rahmatullahi alayka ya Bilal. For his story, click here.

For an analysis of today's Baghdad, read my husband's post, '5 years.'

Saturday, March 22, 2008

5 years!

This month marks the 5th anniversary of the War on Iraq and incidentally it is also our 7th anniversary as a couple. I remember back in 2003 telling Fatima that it would only be 6 months and then we would re-evaluate the situation and make decisions accordingly. I remember insisting on not living in the IZ because I said that if we were there to serve the Iraqi people we have to live among them. Sadly...instead of still living in my house and being proud to be working for Iraq I am now a resident of the Rasheed Hotel and only travel out with armed guards. People talk about the situation improving but I want to mention a few things aside from the media pronouncements. In reality there is a growing problem that is not being addressed. It was evident during the recent visit of President Ahmedinajad and how he was received and the way he announced his visit weeks in advance and toured Baghdad in stark comparison to how VP Cheney and any other US official comes. When Ahmedinajad was here Baghdad was eerily quiet while when VP Cheney was here bombs and mortars were going off. It was also evident when the Iraqi delegation was the only delegation that refused to stand with its Arab neighbors in condemning Iran for occupying the three Emirate Islands. It is evident in our trade relations with Iran as compared to every other country including the US.

I ask myself the question sometime, was it worth it for the United States? The blood and treasure spilled and spent and yet instead of Iraq standing with the US on basic policies it has turned to Iran on every aspect of governance and economy. This is a more fundamental issue than when and should US troops leave Iraq. The answer should be that now that the US has done all of this what does the US want to accomplish and is it working towards that goal or simply calming the situation to placate an anxious and angry US population during an election year. Unfortunately, the one player who has gained the most at the expense of the US and Iraq is Iran, yet interestingly enough either people here fail to see it or fail to do anything about it.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Uncanny II

I had written in the past about supposed coincidences in Iraq's affairs, well, it has happened yet again. Is it not interesting that suddenly this week bombings and violence have suddenly jumped?! The interesting thing associated with this is that negotiations between the United States and Iraq started this week on a long-term agreement. It just so happens that violence suddenly increases when this starts...uncanny!! It is unfortunate that other nations continue to feel that they have a right to meddle in Iraq's affairs and use Iraq as a place to settle scores. The sad fact is that innocent civilians always pay the price.

On another note, someone asked a while back what it would take for Iraqis to put aside their sub-identities and become Iraqis. The answer is simple, leave Iraqis alone...let Iraqis settle issues between themselves without Iranian, Syrian, and other outside influence and Iraqis will once again bring their nation together.

Finally, people are talking about the decrease in violence as if it is something that is here to stay. Unfortunately the present peace is very fragile because the root causes of violence have yet to be resolved. Militias still infiltrate the Iraqi security and civilian institutions, citizens who have stood up to Alqaeda are being refused entry into Iraq's security services, and true powersharing in governance has yet to happen. These things are the root solutions to many of Iraq's issues and though they may sound easy to resolve, we don't yet have true statesmen who are willing to hold Iraq above their narrow partisan interests to make the difficult decisions.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Babies in Baghdad Part I: A Gun in Every Home

I haven't been blogging in a long time mainly because my life situation has changed. I don't live in Baghdad anymore, and blogging was mainly a means for me to record this surreal life that I was leading and, later, to connect with people outside my Baghdad family. I have since grown to *love* blogging, but I can't get myself to record my thoughts here, b/c they aren't 'thoughts from Baghdad' anymore. But I love the Iraqi blogging world too much to start a whole new blog, so I decided that I'm going to start blogging in retrospect, and just recording any thoughts I might be having, ranging mostly from parenting, to parenting, to the three years I lived in Baghdad. It really is unbelievable how those three relatively 'short' years have come to color my life so much, but they really have.
I lived in Baghdad for three years, post-Saddam, and was a mommy for one of those three years. The other day I was thinking about how much my oldest daughter has grown since those days she was running around our house in Baghdad, getting into cupboards, climbing hard marble stairs with really wide railings, and adjusting to the lights turning on and off every few hours.
And then I remembered something about our home in Baghdad, and I thanked God I was out of that situation. My husband and I slept with a loaded gun near his head every night.
He would come home from work every day, go upstairs, change out of his work clothes, and leave his gun on the headboard of our bed. When Sumy started walking on tables, and eventually walking on her own, I lived in eternal fear of that gun. But guns are a fact of life in Baghdad. Since no law was out there protecting us, we had to take matters into our own hands.
We lived with the fear of militias driving up in the middle of the night to our street and rounding up our men. My husband would stay up on certain nights which were 'high alert' nights, and act like he was reading, when in reality he was keeping his ears open to any unusual activity in our part of the world.
And when he went to work, that loaded gun would go with him, again, to protect him. But he didn't leave me home alone. No he didn't, thoughtful husband of mine. He left another little tiny gun at home with me, as if I would ever use it to protect myself. Man, until now, I'm still freaked out by the thought of those guns. Thank God we never had to use them. Though once in the middle of the night, I couldn't sleep, so I very quietly crept out of our bedroom. And in the act of trying not to open the creaking door too much, I knocked over a mirror, which fell on the marble floor and broke. I guess I freaked the living lights out of my sleeping husband, who later told me he reached for his gun.
I was having a conversation with a friend of mine the other day, a friend who is very critical of my husband's presence/work in Baghdad. She told me, "I want to live your husband's life. He's like a Rambo, running around with a gun and bodyguards (he doesn't have bodyguards, but he does have a driver). I was like, 'running around with a gun?! Is that what qualifies him for leading an 'exciting'/Rambo-style life? EVERYONE in Baghdad has a gun in their house, rich or poor. It's just a matter of life, or death...". Unfortunately.
All I can say is, thank God I'm out of a situation where my daughters would have had to live in the same house with guns.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

One Year Older

My baby turned one two days ago. Time flies! Here's a pic of her with my older daughter taken a couple of months ago.
I celebrated by introducing honey on top of her waffle, and she celebrated by tossing her peas and pasta over the side of the high chair. It missed the rug I have under her chair; I miscalculated the trajectory of her throw. O, the joys of being a mommy!
Things are going well, we're still missing baba, who's in Baghdad at the moment. Any prospects of him settling here or me settling there? Not at the moment, but we *hope* for an end in sight.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Hello There

:) I'm alive, alhamdulillah. :)