Friday, October 14, 2016

My Son: Help From an Unexpected Source!

The past few months were the most difficult in my life. I I have lived through a lot in my life including witnessing the atrocities of the civil war in Lebanon, where women and girls were raped, living under Saddam’s Regime where the Iraqi police arrested my nine-year-old friend, surviving a suicide bomb attack on my life in which four of my bodyguards were killed. So what happened during these few month?
How I Looked, During, The Last Few Months

Monday, September 5, 2016

At The Art Center: One Isn’t Enough!

I met James at the Art Center in Pacific Grove where I volunteered; he was the Volunteer Coordinator. James was engaging, warm, and inclusive. He never forgot a name or a face. 

During the little breaks that volunteers enjoyed, James would come and start a deep and genuine conversation about feelings, dreams, experiences or interests. 

I enjoyed our conversations; James usually started the conversation by saying, “What’s going on?” “Everything,” I replied. Then, we would laugh together.

The Entrance of The Art Center

We talked about everything; my day, his day, his dogs, my cat, his motorcycle, my car, his family in Seattle, my son and his friends. 
I found myself volunteering more at the Art Center. 

If I came late 10 minutes or so, James would greet me saying, “Where were you? You had the heart to keep me waiting! How could you?” I would laugh and start helping him right away. 

At first, I didn’t take James comments to mean anything other than nice compliments coming from a nice man. But then James took it a step further by saying, “I can’t start working unless you are here with me. Don’t be late.” When I read a book  during my breaks, James commented, “ I am here now, put it aside.”  

His protective attitude escalated, if I “dared” to talk to any man, James would lash out at me. He didn’t care if someone was listening or watching.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Bill Took All The Colors With Him!

Today, I went to Carmel Coffee House, this coffee shop reminds of Italy a lot; the cozy outdoor seating area, the hanging flowers, and the small narrow bath that leads to the courtyard.
I ordered my soy latte and sat down near the jasmine tree. The fragrance of jasmine flowers made me think of Bill, although I think about him all the time.

Carmel Coffee House and Its Jasmine Tree 
Bill used to put a little jasmine flower in my curly hair each time we passed by a jasmine tree. The funny thing was I couldn’t see him taking one, to begin with, let alone attaching it to my hair. He used to put his arms around me whispering, “A little flower for my beloved flower.”
The Courtyard 

We met when I was translating for the U.S army in Iraq. I was a linguist and Bill was a Sargent with the Marines.

He used to show up, out of nowhere, each time I need help. My printer cartage was running low; he would come and make it work. He was the only one who could start my little green Jeep. It took him less than two weeks to tell me how he felt about me. It was during a Happy Hour, I passed by him as I was going to the ladies room; Bill stood in my way and hugged me in front of everyone. When he finally let go, he said “Don’t be late now,” I assured him, “No. I won’t.”

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A Date at 1833

“I am going to show you around the beautiful city of Monterey, where we are going to wine and dine together. Before we go, I have to warn you. I am a beautiful lady, stylish, and feisty. Some men find me intimidating! Don’t listen to them. They just don’t know how to impress a beautiful lady,” She said.
“I know how to impress a rare gem like you. You are delicate yet strong. I can tell. Where are you taking me? I will follow you to the end of the world,” He said; tall, handsome, with a captivating personality. 
“Impressive, you really know how to show admiration without submission! Well, this evening, I am taking you to 1833, located at 500 Hartnell St, in Monterey. The restaurant spreads over seven rooms. It is a two-story historical house. I like the romantic ambiance; the real candles add renaissance touch to the place, but then you look to your right and you see the contemporary bar that is lit. Sometimes, I like to sit outside around the outdoor fireplace,” She said.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Two Sides of the Same Coin: The Classic and Contemporary Man

Yesterday, I took my friend, Justin to lunch. We wanted to celebrate his last week in Monterey since Justin is visiting from New York. 

Justin is liberal with modern and progressive views.  He is your typical New Yorker; fancy, sophisticated, complicated, fun, energetic, inclusive and engaging. 
We headed to Ambrosia; an Indianan restaurant that offers a verity of vegetarian and meat-based dishes. The place is warm and cozy, the food is delicious, and the service is excellent.

“This is great! Excellent choice. I like this place.” Justin said.

“I am glad you like it. It is nothing like the fancy places you have in New York.” I replied
“I know. That is why I like it.” Justin said.

We decided to sit outside enjoying the beautiful weather: light ocean breezes, blue skies, and the sunshine.

I had the chicken curry and Justin had the Basmati rice and the curry vegetables. We were both served with the Indian Chai.

Justin had a hard time understanding the Indian accent of the server. When we started eating, Justin commented, “Misunderstanding his accent, misunderstanding women, what else could I miss?” Justin smiled but I felt he was uncomfortable.

“What is going on, Justin, women are giving you trouble?” I said.

“Not all women,” said Justin.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Plastic Ring VS The Diamond Ring: Small Things Matter.

Yesterday, I was heading to one of my favorite coffee shops;  East Village Coffee Lounge, to meet my friend, Alison.
I like that coffee shop because it is warm and inviting. The baristas there take their time to know you and strive to make you happy. I have to admit that I like the décor too: it is rustic chic. The stone fireplace adds an extra touch of elegance to the place.  
I entered the shop, chatted with Dylan, the barista, while he was making my velvety soy latte. My latte was ready in minutes. Dylan took the time to create a “ heart” shaped foam.

My Soy Latte

I sat on the red chair facing the fireplace thinking about what Alison would talk about. I haven’t seen her for a while; we were both busy.

Where Aly and I sat. 
“Here she comes”, I said greeting her. “ Hi Aly, I haven’t seen you for ages!” I followed
“ Yes, I  know. I have a lot to share. Wait. Let me get my Jasmine tea,” Aly replied. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Middle East Heroes

As I was surfing the web looking for op-eds discussing the Iraqi paradoxical situation, I came across a headline featuring my best friend’s name.  I immediately recalled our last heated discussion.
My friend and mentor, Ammar Al-Shahbander, asked me to go back to Iraq and work with him on promoting freedom of expression and empowering women. I declined; I didn’t want to go back.

I felt that I already jeopardized my safety and that of my family and friends. Ammar was disappointed. He said, “If you don’t go back and help, and I don’t go back and help, who is going to build the country?”  “I just can’t,” I replied.

I felt I couldn’t do it again to my son. Both of us suffered a lot.  Just like many Iraqis, we have been shot at, survived bomb attacks, threats, separated from each other, and lived in fear. Even though I wanted to help, I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. My mentor concluded the conversation with deep disappointment.
( Ammar's name  in Arabic calligraphy ) 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Search for Things Right in Front of You!

“Have you looked for something that is right in front of you? You searched high and low to find it while the object was in an obvious place,” My friend Nadia asked.

I knew Nadia from work. Both of us are linguists, but we work in different departments. 
“Many times, Nadia, I once spent half an hour searching for my glasses, only to be told that I was wearing them,” I replied.

“But why are you asking?” I followed
“You see, today at work my fellow linguists analyzed a text focusing only on direct meaning,” Nadia said.

“What’s wrong with that?” I asked.
“They overlooked the hidden message while it is right in front of their eyes! How could they?” Nadia said with frustration. 

“Did you try to bring it to their attention, perhaps, they missed it?” I said.
“You see, they shouldn’t miss it, to begin with. Using verbal nouns in criminal statement should have been analyzed and examined,” Nadia said
“In what way?” I asked.

“Mishka, you know verbal nouns mean that the action isn’t limited to time, which different a verbal noun from a verb. The verb has a tense, past, present, or future. But a verbal noun is limited to time. It is continuous,” Nadia explained.

“You were examining a criminal content?” I asked.
“Yes, using verbal nouns means the action will keep accruing which poses a higher level of threat,” Nadia explained.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Lottery: Reality VS Fiction

Yesterday, I read The Lottery; a short fiction written by Shirley Jackson. The story portrays a society gathering to play a game of lottery. Children run around collecting stones for a drawing to take place to see which woman would be stoned. No trial, no guilty verdict, just a sentence of death. In the story, men stride in as the shepherds and women reluctantly join as sheep to the slaughter.

In the end, Tessie, a mother, and wife is stoned to death by her community. Even Dave, her son, is given small pebbles to throw at his own mother. While the story is set in an American village, the symbolism of women’s suffering is universal.

Jackson presents a patriarchal society, where men come first as they converse with each other, but don’t include women in their discussions. Similarly, in peace processes women are left out, even though they didn’t wage the war. However, the warlords, all men, are seated at the negotiation table.  

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Price of Water

How can there be a connection between safe drinking water and insurgency? Is it possible?

On 24th of August of 2004, I survived a suicide bomb attack in which four of my bodyguards were killed. Mousab Al Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq at that time, claimed full responsibility and called me “the leader of the infidels.” Perhaps he was overestimating my capacity, I thought. After all, I was not working on security issues at all! In fact, I thought I was as far away from dealing with security issues as would be possible for a government minister. At least, that was what I thought.