Introducing Mr. Abez
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Introducing Mr. Abez
So we're back from the UAE. I got:
Saturday, February 19, 2005
tee. hee.We're off to the Rainbow Steak House for a partee shartee. Biryani is being served. If you know what I mean. wink wink.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
ambienceToday is our third day in the UAE and to be honest, I’ve spent most of it sleeping. I just woke up from my second nap today (the first was an hour, this one was three) and I have to say, man, I needed that. As far as desert countries are concerned, this one is a bit cold right now, and after coming over on a cold Gulf Airways flight and then stepping into the cool weather, I’ve lost my voice and I’m developing a cough. :( I’m also battling chronic sleep deprivation. I was up all night before we came, I slept three or four hours the first night, and three or four hours last night. I’ve been keeping up my will to vacation with frequent and powerful naps, without which, I found I kept mislocating the elevator. I would be standing in front of the elevator then everything would start spinning and the elevator would be listing steadily to the left. The fridge was eluding me too, veering off the right when I approached it. I need all my concentration in order to successfully use such badly behaved appliances, hence- the naps.
It’s 4:50 pm and I woke up about ten minutes ago. The view from outside of our window is of a nice market area with shops of rugs on floors with hookahs spread between the patrons, strange boutiques, and the occasional upscale perfume shop. (The sandal wood and itar and some lovely thing called ‘Oud’ had snuck out of the door to tease us before we even got to the shop.) Also, we found a Baskin Robbins. That was a good and lovely thing, especially since the guy working there spoke Urdu. In spite of living abroad, I’ve never actually traveled to a country where I couldn’t speak to the shopkeepers, and after trying out my broken, nay, positively defunct Arabic out on other people, I was ready to hug the nice Indian man with the ice-cream scoop when he said he spoke my language. Hallelujah. We ordered a triple sundae and three spoons.
We ate ice-cream until we found it difficult to walk back home. We spent 20 dirham. I don’t yet have an andaaza (a proper idea?) about what the value of a dirham is. I know it’s 16 rupees, but things are priced differently here. A small bottle of water was one dirham, and that’s cool, but the ice-cream sundae was 20 dirham, and that either means that water is very cheap or ice-cream is very expensive. I’m not sure yet.
In the boutiques we wandered through, the average price for a dress was about 600 dirham. Walking through Marina Mall, we saw a phone that was priced at 5000 dirham. I’m all confused about the money here. Like Pakistan, different denominations are not only different colors, but they’re different sizes, and a handful of change involves a red, blue, green, and purply bits of paper in all different sizes that make me think of playing Monopoly. With Bedouins.
The people walking the streets seem like a very wide mixture of humankind, there are of course, the Arab men in their gleaming white thobes (Thobe: the shirt that never ends!) and the Arab women in their gorgeous black abayahs and then there are Phillipinos who work in the shops, and they’re dressed like Americans. And the waitresses at the Steak House last night were in vests and short skirts, which was very weird initially. And the man who stamped our passports at customs was a deep and lovely black, and instead of the African accent I was expecting, his mouth issued forth rapid-fire Arabic. It was almost as weird as seeing that Chinese guy who sings ghazal in Urdu. Yes, he’s real. Does anyone else know who I'm talking about here?
Well, everyone else here is dead asleep, since naps seem to be catching, so I’m going to sneak over to the refrigerator and see if I can find the leftovers from dinner last night at the Rainbow Steakhouse. We’ll have some pictures soon, InshaAllah, right after I wake up and go take some, haha.
Peace & Shawarma Grease,
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
uae a-ok!UAE Vignettes:
This morning in the airport lounge, I went to do wudu for Fajr. As I walked into the bathroom and began my religious splishy-splash, I noticed a Pakistani woman come in behind me. She was dressed in a fancy green shalwar-qameez and she had a little girl, maybe one and a half years old, trailing behind her. I noticed, in the huge full-length, wall-long mirror, that instead of going to the bathroom, the woman began looking around the bathroom sneakily. You can always tell when someone’s trying to be sneaky. The effort it takes in trying to seem nonchalant is always a dead give away. She was definitely trying to be sneaky. First, she set her bag down on the counter, but when she turned and saw that she would be visible from the lounge when the bathroom door opened, she picked her bag up and carried it into the corner of the bathroom, directly behind me. She set her bag on the floor and began to rummage around in it with her back to me. Then she suddenly turned towards me with a cigarette dangling from her mouth. She lit it and sucked down on it like it was the very breath of life.
Walking down the aisle of the plane mid-flight, I heard a man’s cell-phone go off. He had no plans on answering it, apparently, so it rang a few times and attracted the attention of the petite stewardess walking in front of me with a pot of coffee. I swear, she went razor-back. If you have a dog, then you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, then a dog going razor-back is the snarling, teeth-baring, fur-standing-up precursor to attack. The stewardess, she went razor back, and reversed up the aisle to where the man was watching the phone ring. She said, ‘Excuse me sir, cell phone should be off.’ The man picked up his phone and, looking superciliously through the stewardess but not at her, dropped it into his pocket without turning it off. The stewardess repeated (as she bared her fangs) “Sir, your phone.” The man looked at her as if seeing her for the first time and took the phone out of his pocket. “My phone?” he asked innocently. She snatched it from his hand, turned it off, and gave it back. That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for the rest of us who can’t believe it when people refuse to turn their phones off and seem to harbor secret plans of wanting the plane’s equipment to go loopy and make us land nose-first in the ocean. Ha!
Afghanistan is wrinkly. Seen from above, it is a reasonable facsimile of chocolate frosting that’s recently been whipped. It has folds and crisp, sharp edges from where the beaters were taken out and left stiff ridges. It looks distinctly… tasty. Now you know why they’re fighting so hard for it. I’d battle for Chocolate Frosting Land too.
Abu Dhabi is a big golf course; a very green and lovely one with more palm trees on the sides of the roads alone than Pakistan has within its national borders. One of these days, I’m going to roll my sleeves up and try to climb one. When no one’s looking at me. As I scale greenery on the side of the road. (You! Stop looking!)
The Kitchen is its own country. The apartment of our lovely and amazing hosts has a kitchen that’s bigger than my bedroom. I’m not joking. It’s huge. I’ve never seen so much counter space and so many cabinets at one time! Living in Pakistan, where kitchens are the size of walk-in closets, my sense of kitchen space has been warped. Back home I’m used to being able to work the stove, the microwave, the blender, and the kitchen sink without moving from my central position.
At the Moment: It’s time for lunch, I heard the ding! of the microwave and I can smell parathas frying. Pity me for messing my stomach up the day before coming, my lunch will consist mainly of yogurt and fruit, but you know what, I put a serious dent in the fig population that used to inhabit the coffee table. Best. Figs. Ever. Excuse me, I think I may have missed a few.
Monday, February 14, 2005
the part of the roller coaster where you go upUm, I haven't had lunch yet and I still have clothes at the tailors. Two, they're at two different tailors. Chai is on the way to wine and dine us at Chez Daddy. While out, I'll harass my tailor. (Riaz Saab, barai mahrbani, is ki daman pay double siali marna, varna ajeeb lagay ga!) My tailor and I have an interesting relationship. I give him clothes, he does weird things with them. I take the clothes back to be fixed, and we have communication problems. In the end, after two or three return trips and confused bi-lingual exchanges about what's wrong with the shirt, things are fixed, eventually, and we all live happily ever after. Sort of. Well, about 40% of what we give him lives quietly in the back of my closet and sees very little use (five inch cuffs, come on!) but still. He's a willing a polite man. And he always does things in a rush for us, which may be part of the problem, but anyway. I have to get dressed and go eat tikkas. InshaAllah next time I blog will be from the Yoo-Ay-EEEEEEE!
one, two, package my shoe...*phew*
2 am and now I get to sit down. But only for a bit. I have to pack my shoes. Yes, I'm packing two days in advance. Yes, my shoes are in little plastic bags. Yes, I'm weird like that. But I'm really excited! Wheee!
Saturday, February 12, 2005
intermissionThe time is 4:42. It's t-minus 78 minutes until guests arrive tonight, but we can't be cooking or cleaning because someone (acutally, 12 someones) has rather unexpectedly showed up to view the house. They're getting the tour upstairs while we, the scullions, hide downstairs with flour on our shirts, food waiting in the oven and visions of sugar in our tea. Owlie did try to throw some sugar into my tea just as we were running away (that would be just as the people were arriving) but most of it missed and landed on the counter. She squirted some milk in the direction of my teacup too, but that landed in a pile of grated carrots.
As bad as the tea is, I'm enjoying this little break. Parties are really the most fun for the guests, the hosts have to set up and clean up, both before and after. But that's ok. I wouldn't be minding it at all if we would just get back to setting up and cleaning! Everything is on hold because there are seven men in the living room negotiating details of the house sale. There were five women too, but I think they've gone back to the car (or cars?) to wait.
Well, the only consolation is that all my guests are friends, only a few are real adults, and none of them will mind if we put them to slave labor just to get the last minute preparations done. My mother, in fact, recommends that all the decorating for a party be left undone, so that the first guests to arrive have something to do while you're still slaving away in the kitchen. I think I'm going to take a roll of crepe paper and some tape upstairs. Somewhere, we have tin-foil fish (Undersea Journalism Club Party: 2000) and possibly a few grass skirts. Voila! Instant fun!
Ok, it's now 4:52 and they're still here. Hmmph. Owlie gave up and went to take a shower. I'm going to pray Asr and go through my extensive and stylish wardrobe (oops, am I lying again?) to see what I haven't worn to three other parties this year already and maybe, just maybe, I'll iron it. Decisions, decisions. :p
Friday, February 11, 2005
Friday, Friday Friday!So here's my big Friday blog: we're going to the UAE! Yay! My 'rents are going to the UAE to check out property and new acquisitions and they're taking us along! Shopping, baybee! I'm going to stuff myself on cream cheese and shawarma and stuff! Stuff! They didn't want to take us, and I started having flashbacks of 1993 when my father and brother went for a three-day tour of Jordan and Petra (first class) without taking anyone else along. They came back with only stories of the amazing stone city they had seen, much to our chagrin. (my dad went to Petra and all I got was this lousy t-shirt?)
So yes, after much negotiation and daughterly whining (daddy, you never take us anywhere!) Owlie and I have our tickets booked along with our parents' and we're all excited. It's nice that we get to look around the UAE before actually moving there too, because as much as I like surprises, I'd prefer that a permanent move to a new country have as few as possible. If it's searingly hot, I want to know that before I bring my sweaters next time, and if they don't really have belly-dancing scorpions, then I'm just going to have to take some from here. Be prepared! that's the boy scout motto. I may never have been a boy scout, but I met a girl scout once, and she tasted like cookies. I digress.
As crazy as this sounds, this is my first real vacation, ever. Yes, I've been down on weekend trips to grandma's house and summer trips to Pakistan and summer trips from Pakistan back to the US, and once I spent four days in Jackson Hole, but that was for a conference. I also got to spend a weekend in Alexandria (not Egypt, Virginia) but I have never been anywhere that wasn't the US or Pakistan. Hey man, this time we're even staying in a hotel and buying things like shiny hijab pins and halva and maybe even a sand dune. I like sand dunes, I'll get one and my golden mole can live in it.
So yeah, I'm going to Dubai! I'm going to Dubai! Woohoo!
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
www.khamush.comWho was he that said
The immortal spirit is dead,
Or how dared he say
Hope's sun hath passed away?
An enemy of the sun,
Standing his roof upon,
Bound up both his eyes
And cried: 'Lo, the sun dies!'
Also folks, Hemmie is doing research for homework and needs you to answer some romantic questions. *wiggle eyebrows* See her survey here.
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
my little brother the lethal weaponSo today I had my first karate lesson. Hi-YA! In case you're wondering, I never found a female martial arts instructor, but I do have the next best thing. Or at least a somewhat good thing. Ok, I have an instructor who makes fun of my coordination. He elbowed me in the head. I kicked him in the butt when he wasn't looking. He delivered the lesson while halfway watching the Discovery Channel and halfway leaning on Owlie's chair. He taught me the three basic blocks and then told me to practice and stop looking like such a girl. He made me do all of them ten times (my shoulders hurt) and I have another class the day after tomorrow. My little brother, the accidental teacher.
He's not a trained instructor, but he's the only instructor I have, and I happily submit to the good-natured abuse in exchange for martial arts training. *insert Bruce-Lee noise here* So maybe after a few lessons I'll be a deadly weapon and I can break people over my knee without breaking a sweat. Or, at least be able to block them in three different ways...
So yeah, I'm sore, but I'm slightly more skilled. I get a day off from martial arts tomorrow, because I have to hop on the elliptical trainer and then lift weights. Am I boasting? A little, but I need something to show for this pain, and like the lizard who jumped from the high iroko tree, I will praise myself if no one else does. *flex* *yelp!*
Aaaaaaaaaaarrrgh... yeah, that's it for my blog. I'm sore all over, and my little brother is a funny teacher. Yay!
Sunday, February 06, 2005
mind your p's and q's?There are times and places in life where you need to be on your best behavior, and there are times and places where it's better if you're not. Take, for example, Crayon's house. That is not a place for your best behavior.
Am I déclassé? Maybe, but so far, Crayon doesn't mind, and I love that about her. When I drop into her house I don't have to worry about what I'm wearing, about whether she might want to see me, or whether there will be anything to do, because Crayon is awesome. She couldn't care less if I showed up in my pajamas, she's always up for a 'natter and a cup of tea' and I enjoy her company immensely. Sometimes we play Scrabble, but to me, Scrabble is pretence- it's just an excuse for sitting and talking. I couldn't care less if we played Scrabble or not, I am content to lay on the floor and bother the Wombat. That's quality time I say, quality time!
And that, my dears, is my excuse for this evening. We showed up at Crayon's with a basket of laundry. We used her washing machine, we raided her freezer, we made fish-sticks and we roasted our cold toes by the heater. After all, what are real friends for? *muahz!*
Saturday, February 05, 2005
Despite all my rage: happy rat in a cheerful cage.In somewhat obscure and indirect reference to what I'm about to blog about, I'm going to type out a passage from Slaughterhouse-Five.
The Englishman got up in the stage, and he rapped on the arm of the throne with a swagger stick, called, "Lads, lads, lads- can I have your attention please?" And so on.
What the Englishman said about survival was this: "If you stop taking pride in your appearance, you will very soon die" He said that he had seen several men die in the following way: "They ceased to stand up straight, then ceased to wash or shave, then ceased to get out of bed, then ceased to talk, then died. There is this much to be said for it; it is evidently a very easy and painless way to go." So it goes.
Although I'm not the most enthusiastic of fans for the book, this passage from Slaughterhouse-Five is one that stuck in my mind and hasn't been dislodged since. I like to think that if I were a prisoner of war, like the protagonist Billy Pilgrim, I would be more like the English prisoners than the American ones. While the British prisoners sang manly songs, kept their prison camp clean and treated their imprisonment as a difficult but somewhat jolly camping trip, the American soldiers kicked over the latrine buckets, fought with each other, and made others as miserable as they were.
At this point you might wonder whether I have plans for being a POW. (prisoner of war) I'll tell you a little secret- I'm already one. There are strict rules, my freedom is limited and death could approach me at any time.
True, my house is not patrolled by armed German soldiers, at least not most of the time, and the one dog here isn't trained to hunt down and maul escapees, but sometimes, this place is full of unruly Americans, just like Billy Pilgrim's camp. We fight and bicker, we mope and rage against the boundaries that hold us and the limitations imposed on our lives. We're more like sulky, belligerent children than soldiers, if you ask me. We see our time here as a waste, an irritating, exasperating waste that makes us want to kick over the latrine buckets and punch the next non-com we see.
We waste a lot of our time and energy on being angry, and then we don’t have any left for the effort to live happily. We're tired and bruised from fighting with each other and exhausted from the constant effort that constant rage requires. We can't be happy because we're just too busy being mad. And then we wonder whose fault it is. Stupid non-coms…
I'm not the only crazy one here, and whether or not you realize it, you're a POW too. You're trapped in this world, you're limited by the circumstances around you and the only way out of this place is in a body bag. You can sulk around if you want to, you can complain about how you can't do this and no one will let you do that. You can beat your head against the boundary walls until you're bloody, but you know it's not going to help. You could grow quietly miserable, you could waste your time languishing, staring out into space and pushing your food around your plate for no reason. You could grow tired and old and die long before your body does. Go on, resign yourself to misery. After all, you are in prison, even if it is the length and breadth of the entire earth, and you are stuck here, and no one will give you what you want. Go on, it's not like you can do anything to make yourself happy. Oh no. Let us all lay down and die.
Or hey, here's an idea- we could use the prison bunks for doing chin-ups. We could talk to the other inmates and get to know them. We could take life's lemons (and barbwire, and latrine buckets) and turn them into lemon meringue pie and lemon pie squares and of course, lemonade. We can turn our limitations into challenges, turn our adversaries into worthy opponents instead, and look for ways around the brick walls instead of just banging our heads against them.
It's true, no matter what you do you'll still be a prisoner, and you'll still be stuck here until Someone says otherwise, but you decide how to serve your time. That, Momma dearest, is why I am a happy camper. Now if you'll excuse me, the other men are putting on Hamlet in the mess hall and I'm playing the lead.
Friday, February 04, 2005
up, up away in my beautiful balloonWent out for dinner with my momma and the giant little brother. My little brother stole a balloon for me. Granted, it had been floating on the restaurant ceiling for over an hour with no one to claim it, and the kid who let it go probably left a long while ago, but still. After all, my brother had gotten up to get the balloon when he saw a toddler reaching ineffectually for it. The kid was obviously about seven feet too short to get to the balloon. My little brother, being extremely NOT little, easily reached up and took the balloon by the string. Then he offered it to the kid, who gave him a look of shock and started walking away backwards. And that's when I got the balloon instead.
I tried to think guilty thoughts about having the balloon when the kid wanted it, but the kid passed on it after all. Inside I was going, wheeee! I have a ballooooon, I have a balloooooon! But outside I wore a serious and hopefully dignified face as I walked out of the restaurant with the cheerful orange orb floating behind me.
I took it home and drew a happy face on it. Then I tied it to a dead 9-v battery and placed in center stage on the dining table. Sometime during the night the balloon lost its will to float. It was dozing peacefully on the table, and I hadn't the heart to get rid of it, so it was moved to the buffet. Shortly after lunch the balloon made a come-back, and someone hit me in the nose with it. And then someone else squirted me with diet 7-up from an erupting bottle, but that's a different story.
It's been a while since I've had a balloon. I've recently purchased balloons, but I usually gave them to Owlie with breadsticks or cupcakes tied on the ends. No one ever got me a balloon, not beyond the high school years, and certainly no one tied anything edible to it, which, if you ask me, is a pretty brilliant idea. Why put corn dogs on sticks when you can tie them to balloons? I'd buy that for a dollar! A floating basket of fries? Amazing.
This random blog brought to you by the Kabul Restaurant; good food, surly service, free balloons.
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
curse you, and your beard too.There's a lot I want to write about, things I want to say but don't know how to properly introduce into the paragraph. How do you go about deciding whether or not you're Islamic enough? How do you decide whether or not your life and time have been a waste?
I recently met someone who takes their Islam very seriously, and to be honest, I find it intimidating. It makes me somewhat uneasy when I mentally compare my level of knowledge to theirs, and measuring up short makes me feel, well… short.
Alright, so the metaphor here isn't perfect, as physical growth is limited by genetics and spiritual growth is limited only by your will. Being 5'5," I'm always in the middle of things and don't really mind. Being a somewhat practicing Muslim, I've fallen into complacency about my spiritual height. I hang out with people all of the same height, and in the absence of taller people, we tend to forget that we're average at best.
So I met a person spiritually taller than me, and it was unsettling for a while. They went and raised the bar. (Curse you. Yes, you.) And now the low standards to which I measured myself are back in proper perspective. Low is once again low, and it makes me feel bad.
I tried to blame this on the other person at first (only a little, and that I blame on shaitan) but I have to properly put the blame on myself. Why was my bar so low? It used to be higher, when did I let it slip a few notches? And why am I so uncomfortable discussing religion with them? Is it because they're too tall? Or is it because I'm too short? Can I ever be comfortable in their presence?
*looks around room*
No, I can't, and to be honest, I never should. Comfort is complacency, complacency is stagnation, stagnation is the antithesis to spiritual growth. If I want to get any taller, I need to let myself see my shortness first, because if I refuse to see it, how will I see the need to grow? Sure, it's easier just to stay put, to stay the same comfortable height and do the same comfortable things, but I'll never get anywhere that way. The wisest men know they are sinners, the worst sinners think they're wise. It may be hutzbah to call myself wise enough to see my sins, but God forbid I revel in my wisdom and overlook my sins.
So I curse you. Yes, you, for poking me out of hibernation, for waking me from the Lotus Eater's sleep and pushing me into brighter light. I curse you, and I thank you. And even if you should move on to higher places and better things, I will remember the reminder. I will not defend my height. I will instead work on growing. I won't work on being comfortable with the subject, because comfort is a prerequisite to falling asleep again. Go on and annoy the heck out of me. I want you to.
Tuesday, February 01, 2005