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