Wednesday, September 05, 2007


to a new blog:

Bear with me, it is slow going.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The End*

It is morning. I am sitting on my bed, half-dressed, listening to
This American Life's 'The Center for Lessons Learned', which is about
the Army's attempts to understand post-conflict reconstruction.

I should be getting ready for breakfast but I can't.

I burst into tears when an Army guy said that the U.S. was surprised
when they saw how much work it actually took to reconstruct Kuwait
after the Gulf War.

These attempts, fumbling attempts really, that endanger everyone's
lives (mine, yours, some young soldier based a few hundred miles away
from where I'm sitting) are coming into play here.

The U.S. thought the victories in Afg and Iraq would be the end, but
it's not. It's the beginning. But why are things getting worse?

The end is often so clean and neat in novels but very rarely in real
life. Things seem to go on and on, interminably, one loose end
leading to another loose end.

I am hopeful sometimes but more often, I am struck by the lack of
hope. Of the lack of possibility to actually do something
meaningful. The unnecessary ego-filled roadblocks that thwart every
good impulse anyone has.

I don't want to be here anymore.

But I am, and things go on for me and for everyone else. People are
living their lives, amidst the stories of thieves and kidnappings of
business-owners, the random suicide blasts and the chaos that makes
more and more locals speak longingly of the suffocating order of the

* For more sunday scribblings:

Cult meeting in Kabul

No, I'm not talking about the Korean missionaries (that was a
tasteless joke, I know)...I'm talking about GTD.

I'm a GTD nerd. I want to write, "I'm fast becoming a GTD nerd..."
But I think my transformation is already complete with the
introduction of OmniFocus (still testing beta version) into my life.

I was happy with my 'Amish Hipster PDA' but struggling to cope with
dealing with work, volunteer and personal lists merging into one. It
was hard to figure out what to do first when I saw all of the to-do
items in one 'email list' but also hard to separate into different
sections in my little index card system. So I was intrigued when my
long lost GTD brother mentioned the OmniFocus program to me.

I mentioned GTD in passing to a colleague and had an 'Oh MAH GAWD, I
GTD brother. We both agreed that raving about GTD makes us sound like
lunatic cult members. Efficient but cult members nonetheless.

The OmniFocus program helps organize my 'next action' lists under
project titles. The projects can also be organized under a larger
section. I now have personal, volunteer and work sections. OF has a
'focus' button which allows me to only see the 'work' section. If
you're interested in testing out the test version, google omnifocus,
get on their list serve and they'll send you an invite. It's still a
work in progress but I'm happy with it so far. It's pretty neat to be
able to trust that everything important is already on a list, so I am
free to let my brain relax and think about whatever.

On a larger scale, the GTD system is not only helping me be more
organized, but it's freeing up some mental space for me to decide
what I enjoy and what want to do in the future. Also, it's been
difficult but for a number of reasons, I have cut out some major
commitments. I feel a little guilty about it, since I'm not doing
what others had planned for me... but I think it's the right
decision. Next time, I'll try to be better about saying no.

My next step is to be better about making my 'to-do' (or next action)
lists. Work is overwhelming but interesting. Perhaps I haven't done
a proper weekly review?

Anyway, I'm sure there is about one person out there who is
interested in my GTD process...

Back to Kabul, I'm in my room and it's super windy outside. I often
have trouble distinguishing between actual drama, indian tv shows
blaring and Afghans just being loud. I had a moment where I thought
that it was a riot...but it's just Afghans being loud and something
heavy flapping in the wind. I live close to the Kebob-feroshees
(Kebob-vendors) and there are street children out at all hours. Where
are your mommas?!

I had a lunch with a (kinda) local friend today and it made me feel
normal. We took a taxi, had lunch, laughed and went back to work.
Really nice.

I spent the evening coloring and listening to my podcasts. I love
having electricity. It makes such a difference, even if it's just for
5 hours a night. I can take a warm shower in the morning (totally
jinxed this, no shower this morning), charge up my cell phone, travel
speakers and even my laptop if I need to. I heart electricity.

My blog is pretty ugly right now, I think I might move to another
blog - I researched it and couldn't fix the layout.

I evil-eyed the electricity, it went out. Dangit.

South Korean $20 million for hostages:

Taliban get Chinese weapons

Hmm, wonder where they got the money to pay for those weapons?

Monday, September 03, 2007


Any advice on blogger vs. typepad vs wordpress?

My blog is acting funny and my IT expert (My cousin) couldn't fix it...which means that this a 'real' issue.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Not much, just a chance

*I have been writing these entries at night but posting them the next morning, if anyone notices the time difference...
I spent the night before holed up in my room, journaling and listening to Pema Chodron. I feel better now, not because I worked all the problems out, but because I let myself sit with the fear. It eased it a bit.

I am going to dinner with friends this evening and I think it'll be a nice change of pace.
There is so much suffering here. So it's frustrating when petty politics, arrogance and power struggles get in the way of actually doing something positive. 
It's not hopeless yet but it's not hopeful either. We're close to falling off of the tightrope. It'll either be a positive fall into a safety net that allows us to bounce back. Or it'll be a free fall onto the hard, unpaved, cratered road.
I wish I could convey how important it is to help Afghanistan. Afghans are not asking for anything special. Just for some chances. A chance to brag about how smart his daughter is because she's first in her class. A chance to take the family out to eat, or maybe to a picnic. A chance to take a long walk, stop and chat with a neighbor, before hurrying home because Tulsi is coming on. Not much, just some chances.


Monday, August 27, 2007

I get that sinking feeling

So, here I am, sitting on my bed, in my PJs at 7:45 pm. I'm listening
to the outside noise, that mix of traffic, helicopters, shouts and
the loud Indian music.

I remember watching a group of Afghan men dance on a street corner,
consumed with the sheer joy of being outside, safe and able to listen
to music. I haven't seen that in a while.

I need this quiet time (well, quiet-ish), but I still feel out of
balance. I don't have the energy to get up and just get my act
together (clean my room & etc). The electricity came on early today
(6 pm-ish), went out about 45 minutes later, came back on for about
15 minutes and then went out again. Good thing I stockpiled on candles.

I wish I could give you all details about my job (it's actually
pretty interesting) but anonymity is freedom, as AKA:OMG says.

But let's just say that I got a sinking feeling (wait, electricity
came back on again, whatever, I'm fine with sitting here in the
dark). Anyway, I got that sinking feeling at the end of the day. It
made me worried for my co-workers, for me and just generally for the
country. There are way too many scam artists in this country and
waaaay too many that are in power. I have to stop my fear from
paralyzing me and my work. I kind of just want to turn around and run
away. But I don't know where else I'd rather be? I've moved around
enough to know that neither a change of location nor keeping myself
so busy that I just come home to sleep will solve my problems. But
what will? What's the answer? Am I depressed? Well, yeah, maybe. If
you saw how bad this place has gotten – well, who wouldn't be depressed?

How will I know when to fight and when to leave?

Oh, and then I came home, spoke to a local relative who very kindly
asked me to not go out by myself (I used to go on long, rambling
walks 4 years ago), at least until I get used to being back. I wasn't
planning on it. But still. It's sad.

As Safrang and Frida said in the comments in the previous post, hope
becomes an act of courage here. But damn, it's hard.

*For more Sunday Scribbling, check out: http://

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Thinking, Good Buddy

Well, it's 3 hours later. After painting in my journal (my craft
bag was the best thing I brought over) and listening to my Pema
Chodron recording - in between mindless fantasies about Afghanistan
being a dust-less country and sillier fantasies about scoring the
winning goal in the Women's World Cup (don't make fun, you know it'd
be cool) - I feel a bit better. Well, I feel more wiling to sit with
the fear.

Pema Chodron, when explaining the need to practice kindness to
oneself, told the story of a person who says, 'Thinking, Good Buddy.'
when a thought pops up during meditation. Ever since I discovered
blogging by email, I've been mentally composing posts more often.
While it's good to think through topics and get feedback from
friends, it's also an easy way to avoid what is happening. So,
'Blogging, Good Buddy.'

The courage to hope.

The courage to face reality.

The courage to be kind.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Rocket Attack

Rocket attack. I slept through it.

I've figured out how to email my posts but that means no hyperlinking
and no tags.

I visited family and friends this Friday, my one day off. It was
probably the first day that I felt okay about being in Kabul. I don't
know why this transition is harder than the others.

Safrang wondered if being 'back in the belly of the beast' will
dampen my enthusiasm for blogging. I don't know. It's hard to
synthesize this country into edible blog posts that convey the
overwhelming sadness that the security situation is worse than before
or the fact that people are less hopeful than before. That said, if
the situation gets better and there is tangible progress - I think
the hope will be re-ignited. Here's for hope, right?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

This country

breaks my heart every day.

petty politics
pulling apart
my heart
into tiny pieces
of red tape

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Eagle has Landed

And by Eagle, I mean me.

I took a cold bucket-bath this morning. You see, when people say,
"We've got electricity now!" That doesn't mean 24 hour electricity.
It actually means, "We get electricity more than three times a
month!" I came in to work to find that my office isn't ready and
fended off the chatty security guard's overly personal questions
about my absence.

Aaah Kabul. I'm back.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Dear Diary

I am melodramatic. After writing one journal entry today and comparing it with a 1988 entry, I want you all to know that I am a melodramatic person with no sense of humor (at least in my diary entries). And just so y'all know, I'm an adult, I write in journals now. There is a big difference. I just don't know what that is just now.

August 18, 2007

I’m scared. Another kidnapping in Kabul of a German lady. I can’t rationalize that this won’t happen to me now. I don’t have security.

I’m afraid of getting sick again. I’m afraid of being anxious. And most of all, I’m afraid of bolting up in the morning, clutching my bed cover and waiting silently, scream caught in my throat, at the sound of another low-flying plane.

That is, after if I can manage to navigate my way out of the Kabul airport. I’m trying to think positive but oh, how I hate the Kabul airport. Hate.

Oh well, nothing to do but to deal with it. I should go back and listen to those Pema Chodron audiobooks that I downloaded and then forgot about.

I’m reading Frida’s blog as I write this. It seems that a big part of her year has been about learning to let go. I don’t know what my year has taught me, other than to acknowledge that I can’t do as much as I would like.

I’m tired of writing.

(heart) HiK (yes, I do sign off with a heart and my name)

A page from 1988 (errors and melodrama included). The friend I am referring to was 3 years older and had decided that I was too young to be her friend:

April 9, 1988

Dear Diary

I just thought of something, here I am in America and I want to go back to my homeland and I don’t know how it looks like. I also want to tell you something else, I broke up with E- she is not my friend anymore. I tore up her picture and I threw it away, my friendship goes with it. I just can’t help feeling sad about our broken friendship, but still it can’t be, our worlds our different. I mean I’m so young and she’s so different from me.

You know tomorrow morning at school Shamocka and Quang are going to put a Maxi-pad in the boys bathroom & they are going to put ketchup on it. I am going to be the look out. I’m kind of worried, I mean we could get a check ore even suspended! Oh no! I’m not.

I got to go now, it’s time to go to sleep.

First Initial and last name.
For more Sunday Scribbles, click on the link.

Friday, August 17, 2007



I'm packing.

Why do I have so many black jackets? Sure, they're cute and I need them. But now I'm on black jacket (and black pants) probation.

I have a feeling that I will look like Lucius Malfoy when I get there. Except not a Death Eater. Or blond.

Or maybe like Keanu Reeves in Matrix.

It's so hard to figure out clothing for Kabul. I'll discuss this once I figure out whether all my black pants need to go to Afg with me.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Way to go Democrats!

Congress Approves Surveillance Measures

I agree with the elevator repairman.

Pondering the hijab

Hey there, can we talk about the hijab?*

Yeah, I know. It’s late and it’s a sensitive topic. One where you say that it doesn’t matter and I say that it doesn’t but the fact that I don’t and you do, or you don’t and I might, or we both do but my clothes are tighter makes all the difference.

Listen, though – let’s try to talk about it anyway. Where should we start?

We’ve both been there, the middle-aged Afghan lady sneering at the younger veiled Afghan woman, “So, you’ve certainly wrapped yourself up, haven’t you?”
Should we talk about the middle-aged lady first? How she probably watched the headscarf come and go. Forced to take it off back in the day, forced to put it on again in Kabul after years of living in the US, perhaps enduring the barbs that all Afghan diaspora endure when coming back after our long absences.

Or about the younger, veiled woman? How she decided, on her own, that she wanted to wear the headscarf. And how she doesn’t wear it the ‘Afghan way’ or wear a burqa, but instead wraps her head in beautiful cloth, perfectly matching her lovely clothes? And that she has to endure the same barbs about not really being Afghan.

Or the elderly man who goes on and on about how LOVELY AND ANGELIC I look when I wear the hijab for prayers and MAYBE I SHOULD CONSIDER WEARING IT ALL THE TIME. Or maybe we can talk about the 13 year old who hollered, 'COVER COVER' as I walked into the masjid's basement (in the presence of young men who were watching and laughing)
I don't respond but this is mostly because my parents raised me right. Well, I did ask the little kid who he was talking to but he assured me that he wasn't talking to me. Hey, 13 year old, thanks for ruining the masjid experience for my non-Muslim friend, way to make dawa!
Or maybe the drunken homeless man that called you a terrorist on the side of the street?
I wanted to confront him but didn’t know how. I also didn’t want to get into a shouting match with a man who is drunk at 11 am and lounging by the paint store.

Or the niqabi** who looks down on the muhijaba*** in the long black coat who looks down on the muhijaba in the tight jeans and tight shirt who looks down on the uncovered Muslim girl?
Which makes me ask, when are we going to start looking at each other? Or around us?
Or can we talk about the Muslim guy who’s pretty awesome but scoffs at the sister in the matching veil and tight pants and tight shirt?
Brother, shouldn’t you be lowering your gaze anyway?
Or can we talk about the time that the feminist said that the veiled sisters are oppressed and were probably hiding bruises inflicted by their fathers/brothers/husbands?
You aren't helping.
Or the innocent question by the non-Muslim, “If you’re Muslim, why don’t you veil?”
Or maybe we can talk about – Well, you get the picture, right?

I won’t get in the technical, religious discussion because frankly, I just don’t know. I don’t know if it’s mandated in Islam. There are arguments on both sides. All I know that it is a deeply personal decision. A decision that reflects the spirituality, politics and specific situation of each individual Muslim woman.

One that is either vigorously supported (You’re a good Muslim, yay!) or just as adamantly opposed (how’re you going to find a husband, oh no?!) or just plain analyzed (damn, that’s awfully tight shirt for a veiled woman to wear).

KufiGirl does a much better job of discussing the hijab than I ever could.

Instead of attempting to replicate her work – I thought I’d try to give you a bit of my personal and still evolving attitude towards the veil.

I cover for my prayers because it’s how I was taught to do my prayers. When I do my ablutions and slip on my headscarf (with the balloons on it – my aunt made it for me when I was a teen), I have a sense of peace that I can rarely grasp anywhere else. The headscarf that I wear for prayers prepare me for my conversation with God. Where I pray for a vast multitude of things: patience, forgiveness, understanding, safety for my family, friends and myself, as well as thanks for this rich life I lead.

The hijab, when my bare feet are on the soft prayer rug, never feels constricting or repressive. It’s just another way to focus on my conversation with God.

I cover in Afghanistan for safety and also the general sense of ‘When in Rome...” I find that the headscarf allows me the comfort to walk around and also puts local Afghans at ease. The headscarf, however, makes non-Afghans (read, Internationals) uncomfortable to some extent and some have a harder time taking me seriously (I am not a translator for the white dude I accompanied). My head-scarf wearing also complicates matters because I take it off inside my office, put it on when I walk in the halls and then take it off in big conferences with internationals, sometimes.

Yeah, I don’t get it either but it makes me feel better, alright? The headscarf in Afghanistan irritates me when I get inordinately praised for it. Irritates me when I am scolded to just take the damn thing off. Irritates me how people change how they act, just by the sight of my headscarf. Of course, being told by a random passerby on Chicken Street that my coat is ‘too short’ irritates me the most BECAUSE DUDE, IT IS HOT AND I HAVE 4 LAYERS OF CLOTHES ON AND SHOULDN’T YOU LOWER YOUR GAZE SOMETIME?

Sorry, lost control. Anyway, it’s different for everyone, right?

I’ve considered veiling but wonder about my motivation. I consider the profound and the mundane: Whether it’s the right thing to do, would it make me a better Muslim? Would I be pretending that I am something that I’m not? I really like skirts and shorts (I do, I admit it!). Will I become sanctimonious and self-righteous when I put it on? Should I be a better person before I start wearing the headscarf?

But I also think about what an acquaintance once related to me. She said that a sheikh once told her, “Everyone focuses on the veil when really, its just one brick in the house of Islam.”

Then I think, how have I built up the rest of ‘my house’?

So, the answer is, I don’t know about the veil. I don’t think I ever really will.

But I do know that KufiGirl’s final point about the veil is the most important: ignoring the politics of the veiled/unveiled split in favor of interacting with the human being inside.

*I will be referring to the hijab as the headscarf or veil.

**A niqabi is a woman who wears the headscarf and also covers her face.

***A muhijaba is a woman who covers her hair with the headscarf.

Friday, August 03, 2007

8 things update

I was tagged by Frida to reveal 8 previously unrevealed things about myself. Since I like to share and talk too much, this will be difficult. So, I will use this as an opportunity to provide an update as well as illuminate the public about my mysterious existence...

1) Harry Potter. I took the exam and immediately purchased the final and 7th Harry Potter book. I jumped right in and emerged hours later, teary-eyed but satisfied. (Don’t worry, no spoilers here, I’m an obedient muggle.) My tears started when I read the dedication. I cry, it's what I do.

I used to work at a bookstore in college. When I asked a 10-year-old customer whether Harry Potter would be a good book to buy for my baby brother, the little kid launched into a detailed explanation about this kid, right? Who’s a wizard but doesn’t know it and he lives in a cupboard and then he finds out and it’s the best book ever.

Harry gave me a chance to bond with my brother, despite our big age difference and also allowed me to jump into a new world. Thanks Ms. Rowling.

2) Travel. I’m gearing up to go back to Kabul. I’m excited, hesitant and anxious. I have lots of other feelings but don’t feel like dealing with them right now. I’ve pulled out all the Kabul-specific clothes I’ve purchased over the past year on my bed. I’m trying to decide what else I need to buy. Or not. I’m feeling a bit weighed down by the amount of ‘stuff’ that I have. I also can’t remember what I have over there. Or what will be left, people like to help themselves to my stuff when I’m not there.

3) Ramazan. Speaking of Kabul, Ramazan is coming up. I’ve been told not to fast. Which is difficult, since you know I’ll be judged. Afghans love to judge. And I’m particularly susceptible to what other people think (it’s why Afghans like me!). And I want to fast (ahem, since last Ramazan was a spectacular failure). I feel like I need that particular brand of mental and physical rejuvenation that Ramazan gives me. We’ll see. I don’t want to get sick again.

4) Hissy fits and patience. I’ll be working really hard to be assertive but not aggressive. What is it about Afghanistan that allows me to have these tantrums? I’ll be honest, it’s a satisfying feeling: jumping into the self-righteous anger – but it is not nice and not productive. Does this happen to others who work in post-conflict countries? Or is it just Afghanistan that brings out the crazy?

5) Copying, I mean, being inspired by others. I’m a copycat. Frida says collage, I collage. Dr. Knit says knit, I order knitting for dummies (well, not yet but I am seriously considering it).

6) Family and friends, loneliness & time for myself. Jeez, I’m going to miss them. The transient nature of Kabul ensures that I won’t have all of my much-depended on friends when I get back (Bakhair), and I think that I will be lonely. I don’t want to be lonely. But. I also can’t keep up the hectic pace of socializing that I did last time. I hope to find space and time that will keep my calm, comfortable and allow me to think. I think my frantic pace was just another way of running away from my worries. I don’t know where I got this but I think that this is a particularly beautiful Bible verse:
"Stand in awe and sin not. Commune with your own heart, and in your chamber and be still. Selah." Psalm 4:4
7) Korean missionaries. I feel sorry for them and I don’t want to blame them. The Taliban should not have kidnapped them. Should not have killed the pastor, and my prayers go out to their families.

According to this article, they were here for a non-evangelical aid trip. Seriously? Is Kandahar an 'extreme' vacation for missionaries now?

I have a deep respect for social justice movements that are rooted in Christianity, as well as the humanitarian work of many Christian organizations. These missionaries make me angry though. The last time Christian South Koreans came to Kabul, they came for a rally. A rally. They put local Afghans at risk, local Afghans who do not have the ability to leave as easily as they did. It reminds me of those American missionaries who came during the Taliban years. The Taliban didn’t hurt them but the local Afghans who worked for them were taken away and never heard from again. The American missionaries, they wrote a book. Oooh, that’s helpful, thanks.

Afghanistan does not have the resources to protect actual humanitarian workers who are trying to help people – and look at all the work and resources that are going into saving these folks.

I hope the Korean missionaries come out okay. But then I hope they leave Afghanistan and don’t come back unless they are offering something other than their version of eternal salvation.

8) The passing of the Father of our nation. I have never been a royalist and have often been critical of hereditary leadership but I was sad to hear of his passing. I cannot judge him too harshly. Afghanistan, myself included, had so many expectations of him, so many hopes that he would fix the country somehow. It's alot to expect from just one person. I think he tried and I hope he rests in peace.

These Bones Are Not My Son.


Or perhaps they are. If not mine, they maybe these bones are someone’s daughter, father, mother...or any that make up the fabric of our lives.

I hesitated to write about this. The layers of Afghanistan’s wars and violence are so intermingled, so complicated and yes, so painful, that it is hard to pick one scab without ripping off all of the flesh completely.

I grew up on these stories. I met them again when I went back to Afghanistan. I hear them all the time.

His father was taken in the middle of the night, on his way home, at school, at work.

I remember waiting for my father, as I always did, by the front door. One day, I waited until the night came. He never came.

They won’t hold a funeral for him. They think he may be alive in Russia.

I waited by those prison doors until the last person walked out. He never came out. I went home. My young cousin, who had put on his blue suit and slicked his hair down in a wet part, didn’t wait for me to speak. He just started to cry.
15 rooms of dead bodies. Bound and gagged. Shot to death.

Each dead body holds years of quiet desperation. Of not knowing where he is, of not having a grave to weep over.

This is where justice comes in. The 15 rooms of dead bodies tell me that we need a functioning justice system. If punishment is necessary, let it be out in the open.

Maybe redressing old wrongs is too much to ask just now. Though I don’t know how to ask the families to forgive. Forgiveness will be the bravest act Afghans will ever attempt.

But stopping this from happening again, to stop secret killings, this is why the law exists. This is why we have a court system in the U.S., albeit imperfect.

This is why the Gitmo prison must be closed down and the prisoners transferred to the American justice system. I am not saying that the US has committed anything similar to the mass killings in Afghanistan. BUT, the level of secrecy around the ‘enemy’ prisoners is appalling.

If they committed a crime and must be punished – it should be out in the open. If the US has ‘security concerns,’ put reasonable safeguards in place.

The Gitmo situation frustrates me because the US is better than this. It may sound corny but I fervently believe in the US justice system. It’s hypocritical for the US to argue the ‘prisoner of war’ vs. ‘enemy combatant’ distinction. If the prisoners held at Gitmo are dangerous, let them go through a military tribunal (which has safeguards in place) but why create a separate system?

Every time I go back to Kabul, the need for justice is highlighted. We need more justice in this world, not less. This isn’t going to get anyone on our side.

*Picture taken from Yahoo! News Photo

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Birthday Post

I have written and re-written summaries of my 29th year and I bored myself (and I usually find myself fascinating).

The plodding battles with my health. Red blankets wrapped around my knees. Cups and cups of tea. Headaches, hives, dust, heat, cold. Doing the right thing and then wondering if it’s enough. Doing the wrong thing and hoping it wasn’t too bad. Failure.

Bouts of anger, disappointment and the feeling of standing still, when all I wanted was to move.


As I look forward to turning 30, this highly fraught age that is either highly despised or highly lauded, I realize that I only know one thing for sure:

I'm pretty friggin lucky.

Friends and family punctuated this busy year. The connections I’ve made throughout the world may pull sometimes. I’m always somewhere that some of my friends and family are not. Yet, everywhere I go, there seems to be someone welcoming me and handing me a cup of tea. That’s pretty cool, huh?

I’m thankful. I hope next year is the same (ahem, perhaps with less rocket blasts and health issues). Oh, and I'd like a sophisticated new short haircut that won't look like a mullet. And world peace. And to be on What Not To Wear (really, I'd like a shopping spree, 2 funny fashion consultants, Nick to cut my hair and Carmindy to do my make-up). That's it, that's all I want.

Here’s a nice quote to end my ‘birthday’ post:
She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see.
- Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

I will stop messing with my blog now

I promise.

Leave your feedback on the left side switch, picture and etc here...

Pimpin my friend's business

Saint Mary's Market

First, a disclaimer, this is my friend's business. Please be assured that I wouldn't give a positive review if I didn't actually like the products. Got it? Okay, let's carry on then.

As you all know, I love food. What you don't know is that I don't just love Afghan food. I love Jamaican food too.

Jamaican food brings back warm memories of going over my friend's house in high school and having dumplings (where's the dumpling & stew recipe?!), goat curry and my favorite, jerk chicken. Oh and Oxtail. That picture of the oxtail doesn't convey how good that stuff is. It's the perfect recipe for a cold winter evening. Well, as cold as it can get in the Deep South (shut up, we have blizzards sometimes).

Now I'm hungry (Could someone bring me some Ting?). PFR can attest to our giddy delight at finding Ting at the local supermarket in DC (I LOVE YOU TING).

Anyway, now that I'm grown and don't live 10 minutes away from my friend's house - I must make do with my own cooking. This is quite helpful in that regard and I plan on taking a bit of jerk seasoning to Kabul with me.

I've been meaning to do a write-up on it ever since I was given the Niyabingi Nettle & Rosemary soap as a gift. I love the rosemary and while the nettle was a little rough at first, it softened up when I ran the soap under water. It also served as a great exfoliant. I have super duper sensitive skin, ever since the medicine debacle of 2006, and this is one of the few soaps that doesn't irritate my skin. Oh yeah, the soaps are hand-made and organic.

That's the end of my unpaid advertisement. And now I'm really, really hungry.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Grand plans that dissolved into an update

I had grand plans for my next post. One is about the hijab and another is about color & race.

Y'all will just have to make do with this update-y post until about the end of the month. If I finish everything early (this would require magic), then I'll post.

I'm tired. I haven't prepared for the exam as well as I should have (I have a whole host of reasons, stuff I would've have chosen to do despite the slight panic I'm facing now). I have a paper to finish, family stuff to take care of, prepare for travel back to the watan (soon Inshallah!) and oh yeah, and I no longer have health insurance.

Umm, I really wasn't planning on complaining in this post. I planned to mention that I have finally accepted the HiK moniker that Q gave me. I noticed that LoA has titled the link to my blog as why fight it?

I've stopped dieting as it was ruining my quality of life. Y'all know I like to eat. According to the health charts, I'm at a healthy weight and don't need to lose I'm done with dieting. It's an early birthday present to myself.

So, until later, go read Afghanistanica and Dr. Rubin's new blog. Afghanistanica called him a 'super-academic' (and he's right). Oh, and if someone called me a super-academic, it would be on my business card immediately. Then I would refer to myself in the third person, "Well, as the Super-Academic mentioned in her previous post..." Perhaps this is why fame is eluding me, to keep me humble.

Oh, and since I seem to be anonymously sucking up, go get some Gulestan products. I use the
rose toner and it's wonderful.

You know what else I'd like to do? Revamp my blog completely. But that would cause my head to implode. I can't imagine that being a good thing.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Good news!

Alan Johnston is released!!!

News of global demonstrations in his support was a source of comfort to him, he said.

"There were demonstrations from Beijing to Buenos Aires, Beirut to London to Washington and you know I could feel how much the Palestinian people were feeling that this wasn't right and how much support there was for an end to my captivity," he said.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Attorney General woes

Public Health Ministry, AG bicker over employees' arrest
KABUL, June 28 -(Pajhwok Afghan News)-The arrest of two Public Health Ministry employees has sparked a row between two government organs here.

Abdullah Fahim, spokesman for the ministry, told Pajhwok Afghan News on Thursday the attorney-general had kept two ministry staffers in detention for five days without documentary proof of their involvement in any wrongdoing.

"The attorney-general's office (AGO) has kept the two detained despite bail bonds furnished by the ministry for their release," the spokesman claimed.

This act on the part of the top judicial officer has caused a rift between the ministry and the AGO, according to Fahim, who the blamed the AG for acting emotionally and against the law.

Ahmad Samir, secretary to the AG, said the bail application of the two ministry staffers had been referred to court. The employees, the secretary claimed, had misappropriated $70,000 from a project for the elimination of pye-dogs.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Y'all, I am wiped out.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

It's true, I do love systems


I drank the juice.*

Waaay back in the day, I found Hijabman’s post on GTD and immediately got excited. Y’all know how I love systems. I won't explain GTD exactly but just tell you about my experience with GTD.

I'm borrowing Hijabman's summary since it is more succinct than anything I could come up with:

Get everything out of your brain and organized into a system. If the system is good, you trust the system, and you don’t have to think about the bazillion things going through your head. This way you are more productive.

I put off the implementation but finally got around to it in April.

I collected. During the 'collection' phase, I gathered all my documents from all over the house and wrote down everything floating in my head on index cards. Each idea/task was on a separate index card. When I processed the idea/task, I just crossed it out and put the index card in my recycle bin. When I am feeling overwhelmed, I pull out my stack of already used index cards and re-use them.

I processed the information and then organized the information.

I set up the tickler file.

I started out with a notebook but have now settled on the ‘Amish Hipster PDA’ (index cards on a ring binder, with a pen attached). The index cards are split up into four sections:
  1. Daily Routines & Most Important Tasks to be done in one day
  2. To-Do, which is further broken down into sections: Calls; Emails; At Computer; Errands; Store/To-buy list
  3. Not tabbed but I took advantage of the already separate color index-cards to create a ‘Not-urgent’ section. This is also further broken down into the following sections: At computer (which has things like ‘research container system for recycling’) and; At home tasks (which has items such as ‘mend quilt’).
  4. Projects – This is a list of long-term projects that I’d like to do, some I'm actually doing and some I'm considering. I will probably put the inactive projects under a ‘someday/maybe’ pile.
I also have a small calendar that I use for appointments only (no tasks).

I’m really, really happy with GTD – even though I’m still trying to figure out how to incorporate ‘routines’ and big projects into the program. It's a work in progress but I am enjoying the results already. My email inboxes are almost always empty. I still have too much to do but I am closer to being able to say no to new projects. Before, I said yes to all interesting projects because I didn't realize how much work was involved. I plan on cutting out projects in the future.

If you want to try this out yourself, I suggest buying the book. The system can be implemented without it but I don't think I could do it without the book.

On a side note, don't go shopping before you've actually implemented this program. I read the book on and off for about a month, then it took a few months before I actually geared up and implemented the system. The book, a paper and a pen are enough.

Heck, you don't need the book right away either. It was helpful for me because I didn't quite understand GTD at first. DON'T buy a PDA, don't invest in software, just use what you have. Buying and setting up new gizmos is procrastination.

Hijabman has a good summary of GTD on his blog and subsequent posts that discuss his progress.

I think the best thing about GTD is that I get everything out of my head and in a centralized location. I get all the little ‘to-do’ lists that usually clutter up my little brain and make way for the more interesting things (to me, anyway) that floats around my brain. I also get the ideas out of my head and on a piece of paper. This way, I can decide whether I want to pursue it, keep it on file for later or just toss it.

This is still a work in progress for me – but I recommend it to others who aren't naturally organized or are just looking for a new organizational system.

I check these sites on a regular basis:
zenhabits - Start with this post first: Beginner's Guide to GTD
GTD forum

Go on, drink the juice.*

*I am hesitant about using this phrase because I googled it and it refers to the mass suicide from poisoned kool-aid. But let’s all just pretend that it’s light-hearted and just about my being really happy about GTD and not joining a cult, which I would never do because I have enough people telling me what to do.

Will Our Fun With the Attorney General Never End?

I am getting more irritated with the media. A few lines illuminating the actual situation in Afghanistan rather than playing right into the hands of the political agendas of these dudes on a power trip.

So, our favorite dude on a power trip, Attorney General Sabit, has announced that NATO has refused to help Afghanistan with fighting corruption (i.e., disarming private militias):
Afghans seek help on corruption

Of course, it doesn’t mention that Sabit only wants help disarming specific private militias. Y’know, the ones that aren’t affiliated with Hekmatyar (I need to add that this wiki article is completely biased).

Here’s a tip for journalists covering Afghan politics:

- Get on Dr. Rubin’s listserve
- Read Ahmed Rashid’s articles
- Read e-ariana or Afghanistan News Center to get a general sense of the news in Afghanistan

It's not that hard and you'll be doing exactly what the people of Afghanistan need rather than some dude on a power trip.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

35 Killed in Afghan Bus Bomb Attack

35 Killed in Afghan Bus Bomb Attack
An enormous bomb ripped through a police academy bus at Kabul's busiest transportation hub Sunday, killing at least 35 people in the deadliest insurgent attack in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

The thunderous explosion _ which sheared the metal sidings and roof off the bus, leaving only a charred skeleton _ represented a leap in scale from previous Taliban or al-Qaida bombings here, raising the specter of an increase in Iraq-style attacks in Afghanistan.
Stil waiting to hear my from my friends.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Afghan Engagement Parties

K: Did I tell you that I'm invited to an engagement party tonight? Any tips on what I'm supposed to do or not do?

Me: well, you're probably going to be bored. wear LOTS of makeup and the shiniest or fanciest outfit you have. Afghans like bling. pretend you are a jingle truck and adorn yourself accordingly.
smile alot, and say everything is beautiful, inshallah they will be happy and etc. oh and get a ride arranged, you may feel like going home early...blame jet lag.


Despite my attitude, K had a lovely time.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Adventures with the Attorney General

We've been having SO MUCH fun with the Attorney General in Afghanistan. There doesn't seem to be very much outcry in the U.S. but I think his case is an example of inept meddling and its repercussions.

President Karzai presented Abdul Jabar Sabet to the National Assembly for the Attorney General position earlier this year. He faced some opposition, since the post was promised to an Uzbek and he’s Pashtun but the National Assembly finally approved him.

Hmm, I wonder where he got the support? He doesn’t seem to be affiliated with any of the bigwigs. He did work for Gulbudin Hekmatyar at one point. But I’m sure that there is NO current connection, seeing that Hekmatyar is labeled as a ‘most wanted’ terrorist.

Oh, right, I see now where the support came from: was U.S. Justice Department advisors who helped promote Abdul Jabar Sabet to the office of Afghan Attorney General – a quid pro quo for Sabet giving the Guantanamo Bay detention centre the Afghan government’s seal of approval.
Still, Sabet started out strong, speaking out against corruption. He gained the endorsement of many – he spoke out so well and so strongly against corruption. Fearlessly and perhaps a bit bombastically stating that he’ll eradicate corruption wherever it is and whatever cost.

I was excited. It was awesome, this is what Afghanistan needs! Fight the man!

Oh, but wait.

Then, the Attorney General accused the airport police chief, General Amanullah Amerkhel of corruption. He threatened to arrest him and denounced him in public. But, by several accounts – he was actually doing a good job.

Amerkhel was later cleared of all wrongdoing but Sabet is still the Attorney General and obviously as busy as ever:

Afghan TV Station raided for inaccurately representing the Attorney Generals’ remarks
A statement issued by Tolo alleges that the raid was illegal because none of the 50 police presented a written court order or arrest warrant. It says that when asked to present such a document, a deputy district police commander simply scribbled a note on a piece of paper.

"The police beat us with the butts of Kalashnikovs and with the barrels of Kalashnikovs. And they punched us and kicked us," Ahmadzada said. "And...they took us and the other journalists to the attorney general's office."

Link to the video clips
Which all leads to this: Afghan Journalists Jailed

Y'know what makes me the angriest? The fact that the US supported Sabet in exchange for 'official' Afghan government approval of the Guantanamo detainees. This is not the assistance that Afghanistan needs. Is this supposed to make local Afghans trust the US? Is it supposed to make Americans believe in their government?

My friend once said, "It was terrible through all the wars, but the Taliban was the worst because we couldn't speak. We couldn't say what we wanted to say at all."

We are headed on the wrong path (Afghanistan: Latest Female Journalist's Slaying Highlights Plight).

Edited later to provide these links: Thugs attack, beat Afghan attorney-general and Top Afghan law officer assaulted

It's interesting, they make no mention of his recent clamping down on media rights, I would've thought that the author could insert a line saying something like, "Sabet is a controversial figure since he has attacked corruption but has also clamped down on media rights." I guess that isn't newsworthy.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Lurker Amnesty Day

Yes, people, it's Lurker Amnesty Day. Consider it the one day that my blog dictatorship becomes a democracy. Make your voice be won't even be deported!

I thought this was an original idea but when I googled 'Lurker Amnesty Day,' I saw this description: That is, lazy bloggers avoid posting original content...Well, then.

I've noticed that my readership is steadily increasing. The locations are quite diverse and I'm curious.

Go ahead, make up a nickname and say howdy, hey or maybe even hi. You can say what you want but here are some ideas: How'd you find me (but please keep my anonymity in mind)? Do you want me to discuss something in particular? Ask me a question if you like, I'll answer it.

Go on, you know you want to.

Monday, June 04, 2007

New pictures on the other blog. If you forgot the blog address, send me an email. And if you don't have my personal email address...sorry.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

I'm big in Dubai

This is why I've been getting so many visitors from Dubai. Welcome!

8 Things You Don’t Know About Me

You like me, you really like me!

Okay, probably not, but I got memed by Froog, which is flattering.

Unfortunately, I think that most friends know all of this (I talk too much) and the lurkers on this blog (we will be having a lurker amnesty day soon) probably don’t know anything about me at all.

At this time, I’d also like to give a shout-out to my cousins who chanced upon this blog and figured out my identity.

I accept the baton and here are my attempts at being interesting:

1) I was born during an earthquake. Whenever my parents tell me this story, my parents have this conversation:

Bobah: We didn’t tell your mother so she wouldn’t get scared.
Madar: I knew though, I could feel it.
Bobah: No, it was very mild, so you couldn’t.
Madar: I could.

And then I rarely hear the rest of the story because they continue in this fashion for a while. Actually, everyone probably knows this since this is my response to “Tell me something interesting about yourself.”

2) I was not an experienced traveler before going to Afghanistan for the first time in 2003. I was 2 when we left and I went back at 25. Prior to this jaunt to Kabul, I had been to Germany. In my trip to Germany, I visited family. In Germany, I was scared to go on the train by myself (I did, but I was very frightened). So then I decided to go to Afghanistan. By myself. Thank God for my uncles who met me at the airport.

3) I don’t know how to peel an apple.

4) I love soccer. I played when I was younger. I wasn’t very good but I loved it then and love it now. I forgot about it when I got too busy (I shake my fist at you LAW) but now I follow DC United again. I know random facts about DC United, the Women’s & Men’s US National Teams (past and present), thanks Soccer America subscriptions in the 90’s and blogs by soccer journalists now. I know who Cle Kooiman is.

5) I worked on an American Indian Reservation for a summer. It was my study abroad that was not abroad.

6) I have been telling people that I am 30 from the day I turned 29. I don’t know if I should go to 31 on my actual 30th birthday or just consider 29 as my practice lap at 30 and be 30. I just confused myself.

7) Yesterday, I chatted with a lady at a coffee shop. I asked if I she had enough room and should I move my stuff over? She assured me that she was fine. We chatted a bit more and she told me that I was lovely and obviously smart (I was studying & HA), but being lovely helps, doesn’t it? It was quite nice and an unexpected compliment. She left a short while later and as she packed up, she turned, handed me a yellow sheet of paper with a quote and three book recommendations.

I couldn't think of an 8th interesting thing about me. Oh wait, here we are:

8) I was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck. I wasn't breathing when I was born. Once, when my mom told me this story, she turned to me and said very seriously, "It's a good thing you're not an idiot."

I (re)tag OMG, the Constant Socialite, Dr. Shannon (can I link to your blog?) and PFR's family (can I link to y'all?). I'd tag Frida but she's busy being saucy.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The Stolen Child

I stepped into this novel and couldn't come out until I finished reading it.

The Stolen Child by Keith Donahue

It's the type of book that I am glad I didn't read as a child, or I'd constantly be on the look-out for hoblogins masquerading as children.

Umm, okay, I am doing that now.


I think I'll have to call this bootleg Sunday Scribbles. I thought it said 'Single' instead of 'Simple'. But my mind was already on the road with 'Single'...So here we are.

Okay, I accept that traditional Afghans get freaked out when you're 29 and unmarried. Look at it from their perspectives: At 29, you should be married with 3-4 (or 5,6,7,8) children. You're settled and comfortably enmeshed with the laughter, gossip, love, scandal and drama of an extended family. There isn't much you have to do except look for other single women to marry to your brothers, brothers-in-law or male cousins.

I accept it from Afghan-Americans. They want you settled (but with less children) so you can go through the same rigmarole as above. They want you to be part of their life.

To them I say, “Oh, it’s Qismat (God’s Will), Inshallah (God Willing), you know I like to travel.” and they fall back, satisfied that they brought it up, so at least I’m thinking about that quickly ticking clock. They’re more willing to accept it, thinking that I have one foot firmly planted in American culture.

But what's up with the non-Afghans? Why are y’all freaked out?

What am I supposed to say to them?

I had an interesting chat with an American man living in Dubai. We were flying on Ariana Airlines and discussing the country's progress. He showed me pictures of his family and we were discussing Dubai versus Las Vegas. Then, before he could stop himself, he says, "So why haven't you been married off yet."

What am I supposed to say?

This has happened before. It always makes me pause.

What do I say? Well, you see...My parents didn’t have an arranged marriage and they’ve always wanted me to focus on my studies. They didn’t get married until they were older. How do you explain such an integral part of your culture to those not of it? Those who have been exposed to more traditional Afghan culture assume that we’re all the same. How do I explain that the women of my family are generally strong? We carve our own path in life. How do I convey that within a culture, attitudes and mentalities vary widely from family to family? That, despite the slight angst of not seeing me married, they’re proud of me and content.

It’ll happen when it’s supposed to happen (and did you see so and so, she married him before she got to know him and NOW look at the shambles of their lives, she divorced him and didn’t return his mother’s jewelry. Now their families can’t socialize anymore and they had so much fun before.)

Or do they want to know that?

Or do they want to know each twist and turn of my life? That left turn I made back there, those months were I felt like I was standing still in the blistering summer sun, when really I was cooking up something new. Do they want to know about that march, which turned into a run and then into a stroll, leaving me standing where I am today?

Do they want to know about the months and years when Afghanistan beckoned me with black and white pictures, stories of wild roses growing on the family land, graves of elders? Or do they want to know about now, when maybe it’s Afghanistan beckoning me or maybe just my future?

Do they really want to know all that?

Because that’ll take a lot longer and you might as well brew up some tea and settle in on the couch, cuz y’all know I like to talk.

Is it just gentle curiosity?

Because, dammit, it’s rude.

A random American woman in Kabul announced in a room full of new acquaintances, “So, are you here to marry your cousin?”

I restrained myself from saying, “No, are YOU here to marry my cousin?”

Afghans, if it's a true curiousity and not malicious, at least try to corner you in moments when there aren’t that many present. They’ll wait a few months, after we’re friends, and start asking. I know now when to expect it and have a sweet reply (Unless they want to set me up with someone and that’s another post).

If Afghans trying to embarrass you with “Why are you still single” talk, it also doesn’t bother me as much. There are ways to deal with those folks (Say something noncommittal and bring up the good-for-nothing relative that they are ashamed of. Everyone has one and I generally don’t like to do this, as the person they’re ashamed of is probably pretty cool – but it works).

But with non-Afghans, it’s a blundering pounce, or maybe more like farting in a room of people.

Do you acknowledge it? Or try to hold your breath and go to the next room?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Souad Massi

That's right, it's another 'listen to Souad Massi' post.

You can listen to short samples of music through this website (a new website that I have discovered and love. You can get a free song a week!):

Bladi (My Country)...'in a time of war, what about the women, what about their children?'

Friday, May 25, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns

I bought it yesterday and finished it this morning. It was a fitful sleep, I knew I was too tired to read but I kept getting up and turning on the light to read just a bit more.

I read the first page in the car on the way to my class. I left the book in my car, knowing that I wouldn't concentrate if I had it near me. But I couldn't concentrate anyway. Then I drove home, cursing every green light for not being red so I can read just a few more pages.

Read it read it read it.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

I'll be honest, I didn't think he could. I didn't think he could tell the story of Afghan women.

But he did, he told the story of women, the ones who stayed and suffered, and he told it with compassion and without stripping them of their dignity, as so many other books have done (I'm looking at you, Bookseller of Kabul). And he told the story of Kabul, of the wars, of the humanity glittering underneath the years of war.

Uff, I'm starting to cry now.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

What I'm reading

I found this link from Kabul Kabul: Spy of the Heart

And have been reading it periodically, it's really lovely.
Getting to know myself better on this journey, I was surprised to find that I wasn’t easily swayed by threats of violence, or even, as in this case, tales of it that could yet be true. I peered into my conscience to carefully examine this bravery, and concluded that I didn’t, in fact, possess the bravery that I had read or heard about, the bravery of myth. Rather I found that I had rediscovered a kind of deep trust in the rightness of things. It was really a trust that things need to be what they are, and this included my own life and my future.

Good news?

Thank you to Frida for bringing this up: Good news? Taliban hint at release of abducted Afghans

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Relishing hot water

There are many things that make living in a third world country difficult. Dirty air, dirty water, dirty dirt.

I'm talking about the weary, 'I can't heat up another kettle of water to pour into the big yellow bucket to take a bucket bath but my bones ache at the prospect of another lukewarm bucket bath on a cold winter day,' tired. But this blog post (No Impact Man), reminded me of the sweetness of third world living.

Of being in the dark in a warm room, playing cards by the candle light, laughing and listening to the stories that make up Afghan lives. Of finding Nutella (NUTELLA, I LOVE YOU NUTELLA!) in Shar-e-nau and enjoying each nutty chocolatey spread on the still-hot Afghan bread every morning. And oh, my favorite, that first hot shower in a warm bathroom after months and months of tepid bucket baths.

It's the relishing that makes it special. The delicate awe of treasuring each hot droplet of water. Of being ushered out of the third-floor bathroom and onto the balcony, dressed in clean pajamas, wrapped up in towels, swathed in blankets and feeling the crisp clean air meeting my scrubbed clean face.

It's a wonder that makes my heart constrict now, the beauty, the stillness of enjoying water, enjoying the clean air and knowing right then that it was a blessing.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The re-shuffling has begun

Granted, it's not by President Karzai but by the Wolesi Jirga. It seems that the Wolesi Jirga is starting to grasp the amount of power it actually has in its hands. First the immunity law and now getting rid of Ministers:

Afghan Foreign Minister Spanta removed from office
Refugee Affairs Minister Akbar removed from office

We'll see who is presented to the National Assembly for approval next. My guess that President Karzai will not present anyone else for a while and the ousted Ministers will be 'acting' Ministers. Also, a new political party, called the United Front, headed largely by President Karzai-opponents (link to Safrang, who discussed the political party in-depth), has formed.

Which leads me to this article: Analysts Suggest Afghan Government Is Rocky. Dude, you are telling me.

The real question is, what do you want from the National Assembly? Do you want a functioning branch of the government that effectively represents the will of the people? Or do you want it to appease the mighty few through non-violent means? Right now, it looks like the latter. Either way, it is hindering human rights (see the media law), the international concepts of justice ( immunity law - though not as bad as originally feared) and international development.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see how this unfolds.

Books about Afghanistan

This was one of my side posts but I've cleaning house, ahem, blog.

West of Kabul, East of New York
by Mir Tamim Ansary: This is the first book about Afghanistan that explained what it's like to be bi-cultural. I felt pure joy and recognition when reading his book.

by M.E. Hirsch: How did she write such a true book and she's not Afghan? I think of her characters like they're my family. Oh, Mangal, Sarah and Tor.

The Great Game
by Peter Hopkirk: A historical analysis of the imperial game played in Afghanistan...dry but my first step in discovering my culture.

Torn Between Two Cultures
by Maryam Qudrat: A strong female voice, exploring being Afghan, female and Muslim in the U.S.

eturn, Afghanistan by Zalmai Ahad: Powerful, stark photographs, helped remind me why I love Afghanistan so much.

Kiterunner by Khaled Hosseini: I leapt into his book and came out in a fog. He drew me into his world so quickly and so completely that it was disconcerting to be out in reality.

Earth and Ashes
by Atiq Rahimi: Spare, strong and beautiful. I think of Dastiguir and weep. All of Afghanistan's suffering is in this spare book.

The Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear
by Atiq Rahimi: A gift from my cousin and his wife. Melancholy and sweet - he knows Afghanistan well.

The Storyteller's Daughter
by Saira Shah: She's brave, she started to explore Afghanistan at an age where I was just dreaming about it.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Ahmad Zahir Remix

Afghanistan & U.S. 2008 Elections

Got this e-mail, y'all do it too:

I noticed that neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama have anything on Afghanistan on their websites. I suggest that Americans interested in Afghanistan all go to their homepages and request that they provide their views on Afghanistan. I looked at the Republican G.O.P. website but couldn't find a 'contact us' page - if anyone has info on that, please let me know. They didn't have a tab devoted to Afghanistan either.

Also, if you are an American citizen, please register to vote (if you haven't already).

This shouldn't take more than 10 minutes and will show that Afghanistan is an still important issue.

Barack Obama's contact page:

Hillary Clinton's contact page:

Here is a sample script:

Dear Senator,

As a voting American, I am interested in learning about your views on Afghanistan. The reconstruction of Afghanistan is an important issue and one that should not be ignored. I look forward to hearing from you or finding a post on your website with your views on Afghanistan. Thank you for your time.

Ahmad Zahir & Elvis Mix

I love this. Love it. It makes me nostalgic for the past that my generation never experienced.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

self indulgent memes


After finding out about failing, I was stricken by a bad cold. I prefer to think that I did not react in true Afghan melodramatic fashion and fall ill upon hearing bad news.

I spent the first day (Monday) of my cold with a fever and body aches and still trying to study. I gave up. I worked on some of my volunteer work and slept.

The second day (Tuesday) I did exam-related work (travel arrangements, notarize the application & etc) and napped.

Today is Wednesday, and the coughing phase has begun. I’ve worked on my volunteer projects; debated using Vicks Vapor Rub (I did & it’s stinky); and am trying to drink orange juice, water with lime juice, and tea with honey and lime juice. Seriously, it’s all on my coffee table and waiting for me to get to chugging.

In light of my weakened state, I’m doing a meme.*

*I already started the meme before I realized that it’s more of an end of the year ‘meme’ but since we’re almost to the middle of 2007 and the end of the school year, I'm putting it up anyway. I've also realized that memes are incredibly self-indulgent and kinda boring.

40 things

1. What did you do in 2007 that you’d never done before?

I went to India.

2. Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Yes, I did and yes I will.

I do not cuss like a sailor. I still cuss but not as badly.

I’m not afraid of everything. It helps not being in Afghanistan but I’m not afraid of the dark though I still avoid scary movies.

I’m working on being present. I think that will take time.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes! This year has been so blessed. I can’t describe the happiness of seeing these little ones. It’s almost as if I’ve known them my entire life yet they are still joyful mysteries.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Sadly, yes.

5. What countries did you visit?

India as a visit. I meant to stay in Kabul longer but that’s been put off.

6. What would you like to have in 2008 that you lacked in 2007?

A steady job. Serenity. Being done done done with school.

7. What dates from 2007 will remain etched upon your memory?

I’m bad with dates. Plenty of memories though.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I made the decision to come back from Afg. for my health & studies. It was a grown-up decision that took prayer and reflection. I’m proud of it since my ego wanted to stay.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Eh, check the last two posts. But I think (if I handle this well) that I will be able to consider my reaction to this failure as an achievement (Inshallah).

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Ugh, yeah. I’m still recovering from my thryoid issues. I’m so happy that I’m feeling better (shukur) but getting back up to what I consider healthy is a difficult process.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

I dunno. One of my many purchases at Target?

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

My brother, who is turning out to be a good man (Mashallah and knock wood).

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

The Wolesi Jirga. Taliban. Former Mujahideen who have forgotten our hopes for them and have used the situation for their own gain.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Bills & Travel

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Seeing my family and friends. They always make me so happy.

16. What song/album will always remind you of 2007?

Hmm, a list of songs:
- Song #8: Ehsan Aman’s Echoes of the Past
- Thank you lord: Bob Marley
- Welcome to Jamrock: Damian Marley
- Aashiqam ba royath: Nashenas
- Guftam ke naro: Ahmad Zahir
- Africa Democratie: Ismael Lo
- Push the Button: Sugababes
- Get out the Map: Indigo Girls

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

happier or sadder? happier
thinner or fatter? fatter but healthier
richer or poorer? about the same in money

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

I wish I was happier with each stage of my year.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Procrastinate (I understand that I'm procrastinating now. Be quiet).

21. Who did you spend the most time on the phone with?

My mom

22. Did you fall in love in 2007?

Yes and no.

24. What was your favorite TV program?

"What not to wear" The U.S. and the British versions

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

No. I try not to hate anyone. Though I am often irritated.

26. What was the best book(s) you read?

A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear by Atiq Rahimi – if you don’t read it, you’ll be sad

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?


28. What did you want and get?

Better health & more serenity, shukur.

29. What did you want and not get?


30. What were your favorite films of this year?

Motherland Afghanistan and Postcards from Tora Bora.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I celebrated it with my friends and family in Kabul. I turned 29.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Passing the bar!

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2007?

It's more of a question than a concept: How can I wear culturally acceptable clothing in Afg and not look frumpy?

34. What kept you sane?

Family, journaling, reading and listening to music.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Nobody I can think of offhand.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?

More efficient aid to Afghanistan. Sovereignty issues.

37. Who did you miss?

My family & friends when I was in Kabul. My family & friends when I was in the U.S.

38. Who was the best new person you met?

Lots of people: Frida – though only through the internet; H & his wife; My co-workers: J, L, R & the rest of the crew.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2007.

Chill out and be thankful for the love that accompanies you through life.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year?

Not a song but here’s my favorite poem:

Speech to the Young: Speech to the Progress-Toward

Say to them,
say to the down-keepers,
the sun-slappers,
the self-soilers,
the harmony-hushers,
"even if you are not ready for day
it cannot always be night."
You will be right.
For that is the hard home-run.

Live not for battles won.
Live not for the-end-of-the-song.
Live in the along.

Gwendolyn Brooks

Monday, May 07, 2007

Thank you

Thanks for the kind comments/emails/phone calls. I've given myself another attitude check and will start studying in a few minutes. I'm trying to get on a schedule, so I will attempt to not get online until after 6 p.m. If you see me online, give me a swift kick.

Sunday, May 06, 2007


Well, I failed. Remember the exam that I was studying for? I’m using the link because I don’t want this blog to come up on any search engines under ‘failure’ and “B-- exam.’

I think I handled it well initially (the first 1-2 days, I found out on Thursday) but I told some members of my extended family last night. They were supportive but I guess having to say it again and out loud made the failure a reality. Initially, I gave the ‘It happened – I’m dealing with it – Success in life is defined by how one deals with adversity/failure’ speech but ugh, I’m tired and I’m grumpy and I feel dumb.

And I’m not looking forward to telling more people but I refuse to lie about it either.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

5 things

So, I wrote these in my journal after reading Frida's post (who got the idea from Laini). I didn't want to share it because, well, they're awfully personal. I think I'll save this as a draft and then decide whether to share it or not. I put the actual time-frame on it to make my goals a little more realistic. I tend to get ahead of myself.

A big Inshallah (God Willing) on all of this:

5 Months (April to September) -
  1. Working in Afghanistan
  2. Regularly doing 5 Prayers
  3. Regularly meditating and/or doing yoga
  4. Regularly working out
  5. Go on a fun vacation, preferably by myself
5 Years (29 years old to 34 years old) -
  1. Pay off ALL student loans
  2. Have a sizeable savings (enough not to be stressed)
  3. Get married & have a baby, or begin adoption process or steal cousin H's baby (what? He's already potty-trained!)
  4. Write a novel
  5. Travel to Mongolia, Patagonia and lots of other places
5 Decades (29 years old to 79 years old) -
  1. Be closely involved in a peaceful, joyful Afghanistan
  2. Write a collection of short stories in Dari
  3. Learn Pashto
  4. Own my home
  5. Travel to many countries
Oh, and I want to learn how to quilt. But that wasn't part of the original journal entry.

Inshallah, Inshallah, Inshallah

I have been writing a post in my head about how nice my family in California is and how much I appreciated M for taking me out and about but I haven't written it out yet. I guess I'm feeling writeative now.

Afghan Leader Says Working on Government Reshuffle

Afghan leader says working on government reshuffle

First Vice President Ahmad Zia Masood and several current and former cabinet members have formed a political party to push for the creation of a new post of prime minister, who would take some of the powers currently held by Karzai.

"The government as a whole should be reformed. Efforts are under way in this regard," Karzai told reporters when pressed for a reaction to the formation of the party and speculation he planned to sack the rebels.
I wonder what this means? If anything...

Moderate Islam vs. Fundamentalist Islam

Why I am not a moderate Muslim by Asma Khalid

There, the best speaker of the night was Abdullah Bin Bayyah, an elderly Mauritanian sheikh dressed in traditional white Arab garb, offset by a long grey beard. The words coming out of the sheikh's mouth - all in Arabic - were remarkably progressive. He confronted inaccurate assumptions about Islam, spoke of tolerance, and, in gentle admonishment, told fellow Muslims an unpleasant truth: "Perhaps much of this current crisis springs from us." He chastised Muslims for inadequately explaining their beliefs, thereby letting other, illiberal voices speak for them.

I was shocked by his blunt, albeit nuanced, analysis, given his traditional, religious appearance. And then I was troubled by my own reaction. To what extent had I, a hijabi (veil-wearing) Muslim woman pursuing Middle Eastern/Islamic studies, internalized the untruthful portrayals of my own fellow Muslims? For far too long, I had been offered a false snapshot of what Islamic orthodoxy really meant.

As the sheikh continued his address, he challenged Bin Laden's violent interpretation of jihad (holy struggle), citing Koranic verses and prophetic narrations. He referred to jihad as any "good action" and recounted a recent conversation with a non-Muslim lawyer who had asked if electing a respectable official would be considered jihad. The sheikh said he had answered "yes," since voting for someone who supports the truth and upholds justice is a good action.

I know I'm guilty of this. I often make the distinction between 'moderate/progressive' Muslims and 'fundamentalist' Muslims but what does this say about my own views of Islam?

I'm obviously not feeling very talkative/writeative* lately.

*Yes, I made up that word

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

On being Muslim in America

Really interesting series in the Washington Post.

Chat Transcript with Hadia Mubarak and Ingrid Mateson

What does it mean to be Muslim in America?

Assimilation is not a disappearing act - by Hadia Mubarak

The underlying problem, I believe, is with subconsciously defining Muslims as something other than American, because it forces Muslims to choose between their religion and nationality, which is antithetical to the American spirit of religious pluralism and tolerance.

The characterization of Muslim religiosity as somehow un-American is deeply racist and bigoted at its root, because it operates on the premise that American society is exclusively Judeo-Christian and thus, the outward manifestation of any other religion is un-American.

Why is it that when young Muslim girls decide to wear the hijab? asks a Washington Post editorial, then answers that they are choosing their “Islamic identity over their American one.” Yet when a young Baptist girl decides to attend Bible study classes and youth group, it is regarded as inherent part of American culture.

I heart Hadia Mubarak.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni's moving speech at today's service:

We are Virginia Tech.

We are sad today and we will be sad for quite awhile. WE are not moving on, we are embracing our mourning.

We are Virginia Tech.

We are strong enough to know when to cry and sad enough to know we must laugh again.

We are Virginia Tech.

We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did not deserve it but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS, but neither do the invisible children walking the night to avoid being captured by a rogue army. Neither does the baby elephant watching his community be devastated for ivory; neither does the Appalachian infant in the killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized. No one deserves a tragedy.

We are Virginia Tech. The Hokie Nation embraces our own with open heart and hands to those who offer their hearts and minds. We are strong and brave and innocent and unafraid. We are better than we think, not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imagination and the possibility we will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears, through all this sadness. We are the Hokies. We will prevail, we will prevail.

We are Virginia Tech. "

But by the end of the convocation -- after Virginia Tech English professor and poet Nikki Giovanni roused the gathering by declaring, "We are the Hokies! We will prevail!" -- students were on their feet chanting "Let's go Hokies!" to rhythmic applause.