Sunday, December 31, 2006

Is it too early?

To start panicking about the bar? 'Cuz I am having a mild attack of hysteria. By mild, I mean that no one has physically been injured and no one has seen me crumple into a fetal position and cry.

You have all been warned (my horoscope):
Multiple facets are good when it comes to rare diamonds or people's personalities, but right now the many aspects of a project you're working on may be pushing you over the edge. So you might want to warn your friends and loved ones that they will probably be seeing a much more irritable you before this day is over. Of course, this is just a phase -- and in the end, it will serve as a wonderful reminder of the fact that most of the time, you love what you do.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Eid Mubarak

Eid Mubarak to everyone. May we all be granted with the serenity and strength to live lives of compassion and mercy.

I’ve been thinking about mercy for the past month or so. My friend led a Halaqah (circle of knowledge) when I was in Kabul and he imparted a message in the first Halaqah that has stayed with me.

It was a simple hadith but one that I needed to hear, in my hectic and grumpy life. This hadith is always the first hadith – not because of any rule – but because of choice. This hadith has been the first for centuries now. The hadith is:

Abdullah bin Umro bin Aas, may Allah be pleased with him, reports that the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, said,

Those who have mercy will receive the mercy of the Most Merciful. Have mercy on those who are on earth, the One in heavens will have mercy on you." (Tirmidhi).

Such a simple message but one that impacts everything in life. Mercy for everyone, not just other Muslims, mercy for all, not just humans.

So, shukur for the kindness I've received when I've needed it the most. Despite all my faults, I receive mercy and kindness. Shukur for my family, my friends, hot water, medicine, and the steady warmth of love and laughter that I continuously receive in life.

Eid Mubarak.

Taliban says Saddam's execution to intensify jihad

Taliban says Saddam's execution to intensify jihad
By Saeed Ali Achakzai December 30, 2006
SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A top commander of Afghanistan's Taliban said on Saturday that the execution of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein would galvanize Muslim opposition to the United States.

Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, a former Taliban defence minister and top insurgent commander, also said Saddam's execution on the Eid al-Adha Muslim festival -- marking the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca -- was a provocation.

"Saddam's hanging on the day of Eid is a challenge to Muslims," Obaidullah told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

"His death will boost the morale of Muslims. The jihad in Iraq will be intensified and attacks on invader forces will increase," he said. "Thousands of people will rise up with hatred for America."

The Taliban intensified their war against the Afghan government and the U.S., British and other Western troops supporting it this year.

That brought the most intense violence since U.S.-led troops ousted the hardline Islamists in 2001, and the Taliban have vowed to step up their campaign in the coming spring.

Obaidullah said U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair were fighting Muslims, and that is why Saddam was executed.

"Bush and Blair have launched a crusade against Muslims. Saddam was hanged because he was a Muslim, while slaves like Jalal Talabani in Iraq and Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan have been given power," he said.

"Muslims should not expect any good from these people," he said, referring to the Iraqi and Afghan presidents.

"Muslims should unite against the infidels, join the jihad and support the mujahideen because jihad has become an obligation for Muslims all over the world."

"God willing, both Afghanistan and Iraq will prove to be another Vietnam for America ... God willing, the invader forces in Afghanistan and Iraq will soon face defeat."

In Kabul, Karzai declined to comment on Saddam's execution, saying it was a matter for the government of Iraq and would have no impact on Afghanistan.

However, he too suggested the timing of the execution on the Eid holiday was wrong.

"Eid is a day of happiness, a day of goodness, a day of reconciliation, not a day of revenge," Karzai told reporters at his presidential palace.

(Additional reporting by Sayed Salahuddin in KABUL)

Friday, December 29, 2006

Hanging will bring only more bloodshed

It is not possible to run a democracy unless all factions are convinced that they can prosper even if the other side is in power. Iraq does not begin to reach that standard. Yet the Sunni minority is too big to be dispatched by a few years of Shia threats; that is a formula for a long, bloody, civil war.

On the eve of Eid...

they are executing Saddam Hussein on the eve of Eid?

Listen, I am no fan of Saddam Hussein. I wanted him to be brought to justice years ago, before September 11th. I worked with Kurdish refugees and the stories of the terrible things he inflicted on them are horrific. I still can't get the picture of a dead woman holding her baby out of my mind. She was going about her daily business when her entire village was gassed by Saddam Hussein's troops.

But seriously, on Eid, the holiday of peace and forgiveness? Who thinks this is a good idea? I'm afraid that they have turned him into something that he shouldn't ever have be - a martyr. I'm afraid that his death will turn into a symbol for those already feeling marginalized by the current state of affairs in Iraq.

Executions would not normally take place during the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, which begins for Sunnis at dawn this morning, and for Shias at dawn tomorrow. If Saddam’s execution is delayed beyond this morning, it will likely take place some time after sunrise on Thursday.

It's just...uff (Please be ready, this is a vent)

I'm way over the whole health thing. I am. I'm tired of aches and pains, cramps in my neck and legs in the middle of the night, sharp jabbing pain in the back of my head- headaches, sweaty palms (yes, sweaty palms - it makes it hard to type), sinus-like headaches, bad posture (I'm working on sitting up straight but it's hard to sit up straight), weak arms where it hurts to do basic yoga poses that I took for granted before and...and...I'm tired of dealing with it.

I really did think that starting the synthroid would fix everything. But eh, not so much. I feel better, not as cold all the time but head sometimes feels like it's going to collapse inwards and that's a bit grody.

I did yoga this morning and went for a run in the hopes that I won't cramp up tonight. Coming to the realization that I won't magically get better on my own, that I'll actually have to devote some time, energy and thought to my health is disconcerting.

I'm trying to be thankful but it's just a new feeling - to think about what I can do today and what I can't do.

Enough of that, I need to get over this 'why me?' crap. Why not me? I ran this morning and shukur, I have enough energy to do that. I couldn't even consider it 2 weeks ago. This headache will go away, Inshallah, and perhaps this is just a sign for me to slow down. At least I'm somewhere where I can slow down.

Yes, so sorry about that. Eid is tomorrow, Inshallah! An Early Eid Mubarak to everyone! I have a special Eid post planned but let's see if it gets written...

Monday, December 25, 2006

Souad Massi

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Right Frame of Mind

I'm using the table that PFR's grandfather made and facing the simple brown Afghan blanket (kesh) hung on the wall. Drinking my tea. Listening to Zap Mama. Surrounded by papers, pencils, pens and the little Zen garden that JC & the Dr gave to me.

Happy. I'm happy. Shukur.

Happy Holidays (A belated Happy Hanukkah also) to everyone.

Right then, back to work.

Friday, December 22, 2006

I am SUCH a copycat

I love this poem by Rumi, found it in Frida's Notebook. I needed this poem today. Thank you.

There is a community of the spirit.
Join it, and feel the delight
of walking in the noisy street,
and being the noise.

Drink all your passion,
and be a disgrace.

Close both eyes
to see with the other eye.

Open your hands,
if you want to be held.

Sit down in this circle.

Quit acting like a wolf, and feel
the shepherd's love filling you.

At night, your beloved wanders.
Don't accept consolations.

Close your mouth against food.
Taste the lover's mouth in yours.

You moan, "She left me." "He left me."
Twenty more will come.

Be empty of worrying.
Think of who created thought.

Why do you stay in prison
when the door is so wide open.

Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
Live in silence.

Flow down and down in always
widening rings of being.

Contrary to popular belief, I'm actually getting work done.


Brother Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) peforms live in the U.S. for the first time in 30 years!

Wooohoooohoooo! Wooohoooohooo!

Hear it here...


By the way, there was a suicide bombing in Kabul - no fatalities, shukur but I'm still anxiously waiting for word back from my friends. I'm hoping for their typical responses ("Really, where was the bombing?")

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Health update

After all that whining, I thought y'all would like to know that I'm feeling better. I had a terrible 2 weeks but this is the 4th day on my medicine and I'm feeling MUCH better (shukur!).

I still would like someone to bring me some tea though.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Must. Get. To. Work.

My 'real-life' friends know that I am quite good at googling. I also jump from topic to topic and am always interested in hearing stories. This is not the same as gossip, mind you, though I am sadly, often guilty of that, too. I like to hear stories about people. What they're doing. Where are they now?

Which makes for wonderful procrastination.

I've wondered what Zack's been up to since leaving Rage Against the Machine (some NSFW pictures in there). I remember watching a RATM video on MTV and thinking, who are Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu Jamal? And I remember the heady power of the music. The fact that they weren't talking about the same old booty-shake (though, y'all know that I still love the booty-shake).

They were unapologetically righteous and brave. Big stuff for me. It still is, it's hard to be brave. Especially now, when I think my phone is being tapped. Which sounds silly to admit. But well, all our phones sound funny, including cell phones. Literally sounds like someone is listening. I'd guess that they'd have better technology than that. I'm sure whoever is listening is bored out of their minds. Or chuckling when they hear what I am talking about.

Oh well, Zack, I hope this is true:
The crowd roared; Son del Centro played faster and faster. And all the while, de la Rocha smiled like the happiest man on Earth, a man at peace.
Sheesh, I need to get to work.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

New Year Resolutions

I have to start now or I won't do it.

1) Stop cussing like a sailor. It's getting worse and worse. I don't want my potty-mouth.
2) Stop being afraid of everything, such as scary movies, scary stories, mice, lizards, the basement, the bathroom at night, ghosts and jinn (well, I'll still be afraid of jinn).

I had some others but I forgot them.

Reform in Afghanistan...

Police reform, or lack thereof:

Report Faults Training of Afghan Police

Published: December 4, 2006

Five years after the fall of the Taliban, a joint report by the Pentagon and the State Department has found that the American-trained police force in Afghanistan is largely incapable of carrying out routine law enforcement work, and that managers of the $1.1 billion training program cannot say how many officers are actually on duty or where thousands of trucks and other equipment issued to police units have gone.

I'll try to get my head wrapped around this later, rather than just posting articles. I will say this, almost every interaction I've had with the police has been uncomfortable and usually frightening. Random stops at night where they ask 'where the vodka is' and 'is this guy your relative'. Frequent stops just to harass and ask for bribes. The police are a mess and one of the most obvious (and sore) points of reform failure. This just isn't international failure, mind you, it's failure on the Afghan side too. But damn, Dynacorp (they're the managers of the training program) ain't helping.

I agree with this - reforms are desperately needed. But with reforms comes angry warlords, how do we get rid of them without inciting further warfare? Or is that still a possibility? I'll have to do some research...I don't know the answer myself.

EU to intensify support to Afghanistan, Karzai urged to speed up reforms

The Associated Press
By Paul Ames

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - European Union leaders on Friday committed to stepping up support for Afghanistan but urged President Hamid Karzai's government to speed up the reforms needed to bring law and order to the country.

EU leaders said they were open to the possibility of sending a European police mission to Afghanistan to help expand the rule of law and train the local police and judiciary. "The EU stands ready to intensify its efforts," said a draft statement drawn up at an EU summit.

The EU is awaiting a report from a fact-finding mission that returned from Kabul on Wednesday before making any decision on the scale and scope of an EU police mission.

The bloc has been under pressure from NATO commanders to take on an increased civilian role, helping law enforcement in Afghanistan to back the 32,000-strong allied military mission that moved into the volatile southern and eastern parts of the country in recent months.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said late Thursday it was likely the EU would set up a police mission, and said some non-EU countries, including Canada and Norway, had expressed interest in joining such an operation.

In their draft statement, the leaders stressed the need for "a stronger focus on governance and the rule of law" to reinforce action in other areas where the EU is channeling aid, such as rural development and health.

The EU already is a key donor to Afghanistan, providing US$4.9 billion since 2002. The European Commission said this week it will continue to provide US$198 million a year through 2013.

Several international observers have pointed to the weakness of the Afghan police and judiciary as a major obstacle to efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.

A joint report this month by the inspector generals of the U.S. State and Defence departments concluded that the police force's readiness to carry out law enforcement duties is "far from adequate." It said officers are paid less than the Taliban militants they are fighting and many are open to bribery.

While reaffirming their support for the government, EU leaders warned that Afghanistan was "at a critical juncture," and had a strong message on the need for Karzai's administration to move forward on reform. "The Afghan government ... is invited to take further urgent, co-ordinated action," the draft statement said.

EU leaders were scheduled to formally adopt the statement later Friday.

They also urged Afghanistan and Pakistan to co-operate in combatting insecurity along their border, where both sides accuse the other of not doing enough to combat the Taliban.

The EU summit follows a meeting of NATO leaders two weeks ago in Latvia where they urged greater co-ordination among international organizations, Afghan authorities and neighbouring nations to dovetail civilian and military stabilization efforts.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Howling with Anger

Perhaps in coming years we will learn a little humility and patience about the efficacy of the wholesale export of Western democratic values and institutions into countries with very different social mores and political structures. Those Western exports have now beached on the shoals of reality from the Tigris to the Kabul River.
(from ‘Waltzing with Warlords’- still a good article)
Well-intentioned but this last paragraph makes me howl with anger. If only it was a ‘wholesale export of Western democratic values’. I think we’d be better off. How are secret prisons, Gitmo detainees with no access to Vienna Convention rights and brothels, ‘Western democratic values’?

In addition to that, I’m afraid when I travel, afraid when I talk on the phone, afraid when writing emails and afraid when writing this semi-anonymous blog that something will be mis-construed and my ass will be sent to Guantanamo.

What’s democratic about that?

The different social mores do not translate into ‘These brown people don’t understand democratic values – we should just accept their differences.’

I know what real western democratic values are, having been blessed to grow up in the U.S., it is allowing each individual to have a just peace, dignity, freedom and to participate in the discussions of our future as a whole. But that doesn't mean that others don't understand it too.

A just peace has no color, no language, no culture attached to it. Small children understand it, adults grasp it, women want it, men get it too. The key is that they may not want it for others, but they understand it. Granted, it's more nuanced that, women getting the short end of the equal rights stick but that can change with time, with Afghan women taking initiative. The majority of the population abide by it but there will always be people willing to take advantage of the vaccuum of power and capitalize, i.e. the warlords.

We, those on the U.S. side and the Afghan side, thought that the West would be able to stop the warlords, Prayed fervently that they would find a way to reign them in, one by one, allowing Afghans to start healing. I still think it’s possible, I have to.

But this talk about ‘western democratic values not fitting in the different social mores’. Ugh. That makes me cry right along with President Karzai.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Music Recommendations

I joined a gym. I went tonight, for the first time. I ran for 30 minutes but my lack of work-out music hampered my experience.

Any recommendations?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Goodbye Ninja Cake

Just wanted to share

I got this off of Shabana's blog and have been thinking about it since then. I also used it during my long long long plane trip over.

He says, when you have a trial to deal with, this is what you should do. You should say: “Allah, I know this trial is from You. And I know it is to teach me something. And it is to try me. And I will be patient on it. And I will be patient on it as long as You want me to be patient.” Shahidullah Faridi says, “Often, if this attitude is adopted, the challenge simply goes away.
I'm having hyperlinking issues:

I'm also trying out the labels thingie...but I'm not a complete convert yet. Any thoughts on labels? Do I have to go back and label everything?

I wish you strength

I chatted with a young girl about the bathroom situation in the Kabul Airport. One for women, two for men and no lights for the women!

On her way to the U.S. for the first time, she wore a light pink scarf that brought out the pink in her cheeks. Swathed in a another light orange scarf, the one with the embroidery that only older women wear, covered her almost commpletely – she fiddled with it as we spoke. Tears welled up periodically and I attempted to cheer her up about her big move to Afghanistan.

She was with her much shorter, much older new husband. Dressed in black, he kept a watchful eye on her as we made small talk. She was going to Fremont and I told her that she should go to the Masjid there, there would be plenty of ways to make friends.

He grilled me on the penalties I had to pay when I missed my flight because of snow last year and then turned his back towards me. I left them.

I saw her again later. She started to tear up and I made sympathetic small talk, volunteering my Khala to look for her in the masjid in Fremont and introduce her to others. Except for her new, short, old husband – she didn’t have any family at all in the U.S.

She looked at her husband who wasn’t paying attention, shook her head no quickly, and whispered, “He’s strict. Look at my clothes. He won’t let me out.” She adjusted her old lady scarf

I said, “Well, at the masjid?” She clucked no, looked over at him quickly, frightened.

He turned to talk to me, I tried to chat with him, to discuss family that I have in California and the only relative that he knew, he didn’t seem to like.

I smiled reassuringly at the girl, told her I’d be back later but decided against it – I don’t want to get him angry with her already.

There are thousands of stories like hers but it hurts each time.

Friday, December 08, 2006

True Bravery

On Display, The Fruits Of Afghan Altruism

The keyholders kept their mouths shut, even though the head watchman at the museum was tortured. The museum director, Omara Khan Massoudi, went without pay for 20 years and sold potatoes in the Kabul market to support his family.

"The guards at the palace who were tortured and Mr. Massoudi, they are the real heroes," Manhart said.

"With their knowledge, they could have taken objects to Europe and sold them for a very high price, but they didn't," Manhart added.

"The curators and keyholders were so intent on maintaining the country's cultural heritage," Hiebert said. "It's all due to the bravery of the Afghan people. I would love to know where that spirit comes from and how we could clone it."

Link to the full article in the Washington Post

It's not cloning that we need now, it's to foster the culture to let the best elements of Afghan nature to thrive. This is true ghairat.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Travel Delirium

I’ve hit the stage of travel delirium where the lights are too bright, my head hurts, I think I’m getting sick, my body aches and I am feeling quite vulnerable. I can’t make decisions to make myself more comfortable. I could’ve stopped, bought some toothpaste and a toothbrush, some pain medicine…It would’ve felt better than sitting here with cotton mouth in the bright industrial Frankfurt airport, waiting for my last leg of my trip to start.

Aaaah, travel.

5-6 hours in the Kabul waiting area, where I prided myself for not throwing a hissy fit or telling anyone I had cancer. All the flights in Kabul for about 3 days were cancelled because of snow, including mine the day before. I was lucky, I had an agency handling my plane tickets so they called to let me know when to get in to the airport. I got there at 3 pm…My flight left at 8 pm-ish…but others got there in the morning or early afternoon. It was cold, there was a lot of jostling around and hollering and being pushed to the front of the line out of turn by the agency representative (Yes, I know, it was terrible – I was that person)…but, well, it’s over.

I made friends with another person being assisted by the same agency, a kind older Afghan diaspora uncle who kept saying it’s a shame that his son isn’t older or he’d introduce us. I laughed and replied with the generic ‘Zinda boshen’ (Literally translated to ‘May you live’ – which sounds cryptic but it’s actually a noncommital You’re very kind).

‘Course, once I took my long cardigan off in Dubai, we had this conversation:

There’s lots of oil in Afghan food.
I guess so.
I guess you’ve gained weight there.
Actually, I gained more weight in the U.S.
I noticed that you’ve gained weight in your stomach. You should be careful, it ruins the figure.

Must I be mocked for being a strategic eater? Must I?

I’m too tired to laugh about it now. But I did when I ran into my another friend, who I hadn’t seen in over three years. And his response was, “No! Hey wait, are you tired? Your eyes look tired.”


It’s a good thing he treated me to cheesecake and tea in Frankfurt.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Happiness is...

Happiness is sitting on a brown couch, watching T.V., aching knees covered in a red comforter. Laughing and giggling with two close friends.

A very satisfying Friday. I spent the night at H’s. I slept in her warm warm bed while she slept on the floor (thanks girl), took a long, hot shower, we had breakfast and enjoyed a long leisurely brunch. It was a buffet and I ate more food enough to cover the cost.

Must I be mocked for being a strategic eater?

My cousin had a going away party for me. Actually, it was a 'Going Away Ninja' party because I leave and come back so often. I love my family and friends. I even had a 'Goodbye Ninja' cake.

Now I'm a Snowed In Ninja. Ah well, I'm not handling the plane reservations so I just relaxed all day and am chilling with my girl H and her bootleg internet.