Category Archives: NineToFive outside the 925

Let’s go to sleep in Paris, & wake up in Tokyo/Then we can land in the motherland

The better to stab you with
The better to stab you with, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

My colleague ducks his head through the doorway this evening on his way out of work and calls out, “Bye, Jasmin!”

“You call me that again, and we are not going to be friends anymore,” I mutter sourly, without turning my eyes away from the computer screen.

His long-legged stride has already carried him halfway down the hall, but he hears me, and turns around to come back laughing. “Alright. Alright, Yasmine. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“FINE,” I say.

The office slowly empties out, but I stay on for another two hours, working on an East Coast project so that the folks there can look at it first thing in the morning. It doesn’t hurt that my PC refuses to get with the Daylight Savings drama and switch forward one hour to the new time, instead obstinately changing back to the old time whenever I’m not looking. As a girl who is slightly obsessed with time and dates and documentation, I find this frustrating.

The PC tells me I’m an hour behind, the East Coast project makes me coordinate everything three hours ahead, and when I finally switch off the lights and lock the door and make my way down three flights of stairs, it’s still daylight outside. It’s highly disconcerting, the fact that it’s not dark anymore when I leave work. But the daylight makes it feel like there are more hours in the day, and I don’t mind this sort of trickery so much.

Outside the office, I pass a man I’ve seen before. He’s old and friendly and always nods politely when we cross paths. Today he smiles and says hello.

“Hi,” I say. “How are you?”

“There are 86,400 seconds in one day,” he says. “I just keep reminding myself to breathe through them all.”

I laugh. “That’s a good way to go.”

He peers at me closely. “Are you Pakistani?” he asks, and I blink, surprised. “Yes. And very few people manage to get that right on the first try!”

He leans in, asks in a confidential tone of voice, “How’s the situation over there?”

I pause, then shrug exaggeratedly. “Honestly, I don’t think the situation’s so great anywhere these days.”

He nods. “Just like here.”

“Exactly.”

[+]

85160097_a434c15242.jpg
Up the hill to home, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

I exited the train at my stop 40 minutes later, and the first thing I saw when I stepped onto the escalator and glanced to my right was the moon, hanging like white disk over Mt. Diablo.

I immediately thought of S, our personal superman, whose four-year-old text message is still saved in my phone: Look at the moon tonight, it looks hella beautiful.

In Eboo Patel’s Acts of Faith, he writes about his wife, who belongs to “a brand of Sufi Islam” whose adherents stop to recite the Shahadah, the Islamic declaration of belief, when they see the moon. I remember reading that passage last week and realizing how long it’s been since I’ve even looked at the moon in a spiritual context. When I was little, our mother would gather us to her and have us peer out at the moon through our dining room windows, or herd us out onto the front porch, where we would raise our hands in prayer for the new moon.

When I lived in Pakistan as a teenager, our bebe (paternal grandmother) did the same in the courtyard of our village home. We stood outside one night when my father was briefly visiting from America; male voices drifted out the behtuk door while she and I stood out in the veyra. Bebe prayed in loudly mumbled whispers, and, when we had concluded by saying “Ameen” and passing our hands over our faces, she fondly relayed stories of my father as a child growing up in the very same house – stories my father would, as usual, later discount as Bebe‘s exaggeration and natural flair for storytelling.

[+]

brick courtyard at Casa420
Brick courtyard at Casa420, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

The moon leads me all the way home, where I pull into the driveway and then turn around to park in my usual spot along our street without sidewalks, careful not to scrape my car against the low brick walls dividing the road from our side yard. I never forget to mention the bricks when giving people directions to our home: Continue for about half a mile on the narrow, winding road. Make a left up the hill, and we’re house number 420 on the left-hand side, the white house with all the red brick-work in front. More often than not, they ignore my directions in favor of commenting on my address instead: “420?! No way!” they laugh.

My parking spot is on a slope, and this is the home where, when I returned as a teenager, I first learned how to parallel park on a hill, using “Up, up, and away,” as my mantra, a line that I remembered easily only because it tied right back to Superman, whose comic books and television shows I grew up with, even during those 18 months in Pakistan. Turn your wheels away from the curb when parking uphill. Turn them towards the curb when downhill. Looking back through my review mirror, I see the moon behind me now.

[+]

california is the center of the WORLD
California is the center of the WORLD, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

Over dinner, we discuss moving – as we have been discussing for the past two months. And while part of me is wary yet resigned, another part of me is intrigued by the idea of change. I wouldn’t be my father’s daughter, if it were otherwise. And it is endearing, watching their excitement, hearing the energetic rise and fall of their voices as my mother dreams out loud of a fireplace and new kitchen cabinets and the daddy-o maps out decks and balconies and french-doors. Where we live now is my first home, our favorite home, but even still I’m amazed that Phase2 of our lives here has lasted so long. It’s been 10.5 years since our grand return, and don’t think the daddy-o’s nomadic tendencies haven’t been asserting themselves for a while now.

I have spent a lifetime stuttering when asked the “Where are you from?” question, only because my life has been comprised of shifting roads, different rooms, varying walls and windows. The people I have loved and lost – and found again, or ignored – are manifold. I resurrect old email threads only to unrepentantly archive them without answering the pleasantly surprised recipients, and wince through international phone calls, and let my blank gaze coldly skitter past unexpectedly familiar faces in shopping malls or coffeeshops or on BART platforms, choosing to ignore those people for whom I can’t find words anymore – or those to whom I’d never had much to say in the first place.

Houses may shift and the view outside my windows may change and my question to people may always be a confused, “Where do I know you from?”, but I soothe myself with the fact that the moon will always be there, that I have a good memory – an “uncanny” one, even, I’ve been told – for faces and dates and details, that the sunshine falls the same everywhere, that I can raise my hands in prayer wherever I go.

But the East Bay is not the South Bay is not the North Bay is not the Peninsula is not the City. One can drive for an hour over half a dozen different interstates and highways and still be in the San Francisco Bay Area – and yet not feel at home in one part even while another part is familiar and comforting.

Regardless of its myriad geographies and communities, California as a whole is my favorite, though, and I am lucky to live here, and to not be asked to give this up.

[+]

supplication in sanfrancisco
Supplication in San Francisco, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

Monday, 16 March 2009

I finished writing the bulk of this post in a coffeeshop in Sacramento, 75 miles from home. At one point, I looked up to see a girl I remembered from one of the high schools I had attended. Her blonde hair was now reddish-pink and her name didn’t come to mind right away, but I recognized the smile and the laugh and the slightly awkward knobby-kneed coltishness. I didn’t say hello. A few hours later, driving down H Street back towards 80 West, a man jogging along the sidewalk reminded me of a boy with whom I’d gone to school – but which city, and which of the seven schools I’ve attended, I had absolutely no idea.

On the way home, my sister and I stopped in the university town where we’d lived as teenagers, and where I’d returned for my undergrad. “Dude, I haven’t been back in years,” I said, as we exited the freeway.

“And how does it feel?” teased the sister.

“I’ll let you know when we drive through the streets.”

On a mission to “stop by the new masjid” before heading back to the Bay, our jaws collectively dropped when we drove down the main street and saw the new Islamic center. Inside and outside, it was beautiful, with an inspiring attention to detail. “This place must have been designed by engineers from the University,” I joked, referring to an event we had attended a couple of days before, at which the MC had deadpanned, “This program was put together by two engineers, so it’s going to run like clockwork.”

There was a blue dome. And small blue square tiles embedded in the entry areas, and the eight-pointed Islamic star integrated into the design, and lovely chandeliers and soft, light-blue carpeting. We couldn’t stop smiling. “We used to attend Sunday school at this masjid when we lived here,” my sister said to the president of the Islamic center, who noticed us wandering around the building and unlocked the doors for us.

“When was that?”

“’95 through ’98,” I said, and he smiled and asked what our parents’ names were. When we told him our father’s name, he nodded in recognition, although I don’t think he remembered the face to go with it.

There were yellow flip-flops waiting to welcome me when we slipped inside the marbled, clean and shiny women’s bathroom to make ablutions for the afternoon prayer. And when we stood shoulder-to-shoulder for Asr salah, my sister pointed out that, as travelers, we could technically pray the amended two cycles of prayer. The prayer of the traveler is allowed to be shortened.

“I’m praying the full four,” I said. “It feels like home.”

On the way out, we marveled again at the lights, the tiles, the shelves, the careful neatness with which everything was allocated a place.

“It gives me hope,” said my sister as we were driving away, “to know that there are people who pay attention to beauty and detail.”

Down the street was the Victorian house in which we had lived during those three years – the one with the bay windows. We drove by slowly. “It’s still gray and white!” I exclaimed. The brick walkways and geraniums have been replaced by grass, of which I highly approve. Ten years later after we left, the back deck is still the one we built, and the wrought-iron railing by the kitchen door is the same, as is the old, detached garage, and the city fire station directly across the street.

But not everything has remained unchanged. “Remember that tree the city planted for us?” I asked. “Is that the one?” I gestured towards a tall, sturdy tree at the side of the house.

“The city didn’t plant that,” said my sister. “We did.”

“Well, remember how it was all tiny and scrawny? And look at it now. It’s huge!”

[+]

new paths & pathfinding
Stick to the new: New paths & pathfinding, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

I can never manage to tell people “where I’m from,” which is probably also why I never have a good answer for where I’m going. And more than any other word or concept, the idea of “home” has always tripped me up and stopped me in my tracks – and intrigued me the most.

There is nowhere to go. Everything is perfect, says one part of me.

The other says, Everywhere you go will be somewhere you’ve never been.

And if there is one thing I’ve learned from a lifetime of being the daughter of a man with nomadic tendencies, a man who so nonchalantly embraces change as “adventure,” it is this: The end is just the beginning, and every point in between.

At least 86,400 points, come to think of it, on any given day.

“I have homes everywhere, many I have not seen yet. That’s perhaps why I am restless. I haven’t seen all my homes.”
- John Steinbeck

By the way/I saw your friends today and they all said you’re great

tangerines
Tangerines!, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

Hi, is this thing still on?

I know. It’s been a long while.

Owl has tried shaming me with harassment tactics, and H (“Yasmin Without an E”) has probably resignedly reverted to reading about immunoglobulins, and Baji’s still holding out hope, and Hashim has given up altogether.

I like when I beat Hashim in things, so I’d say this is as good a time as any to make a grand return.

Not to mention the fact that M wrote on my facebook wall a few weeks ago,

“My son, Ilyas, would like me to convey this message to you:
Update the weblog, or the highfives will stop. I kid not.”

Now that is the sort of threat that makes me quake in my stabbingdagger-pointed shoes. I hope you all are taking notes and picking up lessons from M here. No more highfives from adorablicious toddlers?! That would be just blasphemy.

Hashim accused me a few weeks ago of being “clearly in blog violation.” This, coming from the dude who professes to neither understand nor read weblogs. This is why it’s even more mind-boggling that he apparently subscribes to the RSS feed for my tumblr, mistook it for my real-deal weblog, and observed a while back,

“It looks like all you are doing is copy/pasting stuff from others. You do realize if that’s what I wanted to view, I’d RSS their sites instead. I think you are failing to understand how this is supposed to work.”

Point duly noted. I’m trying to relearn “how this is supposed to work.” Shall we try again?

Here are some updates from my end:

There are tangerine peels in my jacket pocket, and half-a-dozen tangerines piled on a corner of my desk. This is because I’m coming down with a cold, and need all the Vitamin C I can get. Standing on the train platform this morning, I soaked up the (unexpected) sunshine, and munched on tangerines from my backyard, in the hope that they’d bring back my usual 8-year-old boy with a stuffy nose voice (as opposed to the 13-year-old boy undergoing puberty who swallowed gravel voice I currently possess).

I’ve also just finished eating a red velvet cupcake with cream-cheese frosting and I do believe it was amazing.

I’m almost done reading Eboo Patel’s Acts of Faith. He’s a rockstar, and he gives smashing highfives, and he writes beautifully – whether in his book, or his essays on activism, cooperation, and pluralism over at the WashingtonPost. (He’s also an extremely articulate speaker.) A couple of weeks ago, I was amused one morning to find that while I was immersed in Reza Aslan’s No god but God, the woman sitting next to me on the train was reading Infidel, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

I turned 28 on March 1st, and I still feel like I’m really just 8 years old. It being a Sunday, I celebrated at home with my family and a dozen or so of my closest friends. After an entire year away, the Lovely L Lady was back in town for the week, which offered up just the perfect excuse to gather together the All-Star Crackstar Squad and celebrate with our full entourage. Two items of note on the menu deserve a super-special shout-out: We had 1. CHAPLI KABOB! and 2. CUPCAKES! In fact, the following conversation with the parents ensued when I’d returned from grocery-shopping the evening before:

Ummy: Cake mix? You’re going to make your own cake for your birthday?
Yasmine: No, actually, I’m going to make cupcakes.
Ummy: You don’t want to just buy a cake?
Daddy-o: Cupcakes? Cupcakes are for CHILDREN.
Yasmine: Exactly!

My cousins made me a colorful rockstar guitar for my birthday, out of cardstock and construction paper and GLITTER and ribbons and photographs. Did I mention lots of glitter? It’s AMAA-ZING, and makes me laugh so much.

I work in Berkeley now, and take BART (the train) to and from work everyday. Those of you who know me as the self-professed Commuter Child Extraordinaire will understand why my (still new-seeming) train commute makes me so gleeful. I don’t have to waste time in traffic! I read books again! (See above.) Life is so much less draining this way. And the office is right downtown, a mere block away from Gelateria Naia, which means I could run down the street and grab gelato every single freakin’ day, if I felt so compelled. (I do not feel compelled to do so every single day, for the record, but it’s nice to have that option.)

And my colleagues call me “Rockstar” every day. This is even better than nice.

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I’m sure there must be other things I could continue rambling on about, but I can’t think of them at the moment. As Hanife commented so well recently, “The whole world has changed since you last wrote here…” It has, hasn’t it? I have lots to say about the world, too, but I’ll get to that later.

Meanwhile, let’s hear from you, Rockstars Who are Reading This. Any news, dramas, plans, updates you want to let me in on? How are you, and how goes the life, and what are you up to these days?

And we all went to heaven in a little rowboat

Carefree at the fake beach in Emeryville
Carefree at the fake beach in Emeryville, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

and i wonder if everything i do
i do instead
of something i want to do more
the question fills my head
i know that there’s no grand plan here
this is just the way it goes
and when everything else seems unclear
i guess at least i know

i do it for the joy it brings…
- Joyful Girl (Ani DiFranco)

[+]

Last Friday through Sunday, I did the following (in no particular order):

1. Made new friends to love

2. Tried to calmly answer some rude man’s antagonistic question wherein he asked me for “statistics regarding Muslim women who are subjugated” while I was innocuously standing in line to order a grilled cheese sandwich with a side of french fries. One of the new friends asked me later, “Do you get that a lot?”

3. Went to Baker Beach with the new friends, and walked in the waves and the sand

4. Realized that one end of Baker Beach has nudists – and not just any end, but the end closest to the most gorgeous views of the Golden Gate bridge, dammit!

5. Remembered that this is the year I was supposed to learn how to swim. (There are still a few months left to summer! I can do it!)

6. Moderated the opening plenary at a conference in San Francisco, and realized how much I missed the work I used to do (although not the workplace itself)

7. Magically, did not trip in my high heels at said conference

8. Unleashed The Yasmine vocabulary (“Stalking, stabbing, & crack”) on a few unsuspecting conference-goers

9. Referenced biking-related videos in conversation, and made folks laugh: 123

10. Took photos of San Francisco’s gorgeous St. Ignatius Church. Then, my camera battery suddenly died on me, and I decided it was a sign to sit down and meditate and converse with God for a bit

Arches (ii)

Saint Ignatius Church - San Francisco

Dome

11. Scraped a few layers of skin off the sides of my thumbs, and now I can’t bend them enough to text-message properly. This is blasphemy.

12. Listened to the rockstar T tease me about my lack of timeliness in replying to emails, and laughed when he added, “If I had sent a text message, you probably would have replied immediately!”

13. Explained approximately 4,975,332 times how I do the headwrap

14. Realized while looking in the mirror that I inadvertently give the wrong answer when asked about the length of my hair. It’s not almost to my elbows; it’s actually just past my shoulders.

15. Watched one of my new friends shuffle through the CDs in my car and pronounce them quite an eclectic mix

16. Had gelato in Berkeley with My Favorite & Most Rockstarish Married Couple ever, Ayesha and Faraz (okay, actually, they totally tie with Baji and TP), and discovered my new favorite flavor: Lemon Creme. And my other new favorite flavor: Milk & Honey. (“Look, Ayesha!” I crowed. “We can get a free preview of heaven!”) The latter flavor is in honor of the upcoming San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.

17. Reunited with several friends; one of them, much to my amusement, acted as “my one-man cheering squad” whenever I walked into a room – “Yaz-MEEEEEEEN!” – which totally made me feel like a rockstar. (I have a feeling we need to work on his pronunciation, though.)

18. Took photos at a tiny beach I randomly stumbled upon in Emeryville:

Slanted shards

Stabbing weapons at the beach!

Kryptonite

19. Also unleashed my fake Desi [South Asian] accent on unsuspecting non-Desi folks who weren’t sure quite what hit ‘em – and who then asked me to explain the intricacies of Desi accents and give a few examples (which I did later in the afternoon when one man mentioned he’d be flying back out of the Bay that evening for work, and I queried, “Vat is dis vork of vich you esspeak?! Ve are ROCKSTARS!”, resulting in much laughter from the rest of the group)

20. Smiled when a friend slung his arm across my shoulders and said to me, “I am so glad that you’re here.”

21. Highfived a rabbi

I’m so tired, I’m so tired/I wish I was the moon tonight

Orange you glad the sunshine waited for you?
Sunshine-y orange, to cheer me up on rainy days like today, by yaznotjaz

Sometimes when I am bored or tired or stressed, I hit “compose” on a new email window and type nonsense. Like this one at work today:

This is one example of the ways in which we can collaborate on projects based around shared issues and common concerns. There are a multitude of ways in which we can work together to further the scope of such efforts across the Bay Area. This decreases significant misunderstandings and combines our emerging efforts with existing ones, so as not to ‘reinvent the wheel.’ What is wonderful to witness is the emergence of a new movement that finalizes the —

What the hell that means, I have absolutely no idea. It’s not supposed to make sense. It’s a complete free-flow thing, so get off me.

Today was a typical Monday – the kind of day that makes you disgusted that the week has only just begun, with no end in sight. I’m still trying to catch up on the hundreds of work-related emails that piled up while I was off on vacation, gallivanting around in the cold [more photos to add, and I will write about the trip, too, I promise], so I rescheduled this morning’s meeting to tomorrow instead, and breathed a sigh of relief. And then I remembered a conference call I have on Wednesday. I don’t understand why we can’t just conduct business through text-messaging, dammit. Is that really too much to ask?

These days are all about drama and stress, but it shall all be over by early January. Or, at least, that’s the way it plays out in my head. For some reason, Desi music cheers me up, so I was good to go after a lunch break spent listening to Kawan, Ali Zafar’s Sajania, Do Anjaane Ajnabi [from the Vivah soundtrack], and this one, which I know only as Track05. Anyone familiar with who that is? [I'm the only person I know who is so "Ehh, vatewer" about YouTube; I rarely ever click over to the website when people share links with me, and I can't believe I just spent so much time looking up all those songs for you all. Geez freakin' louise, yaars.]

Speaking of lunch, I bought a sandwich from the deli at the grocery store (and two jars of gelatin-free marshmallow cream! and cinnamon rolls with frosting!) and then, after waiting in line for an interminable amount of time while impatiently shuffling my feet, I realized that I had already paid for my items. I’m losing it, yaars. LOSING IT.

I came back to the office to find a package from someone I had met at a conference in Chicago, back in October. He sent me dark roast Ugandan coffee, organic and fair trade – “Not Just a Cup, But a Just Cup” – from the Thanksgiving Coffee Company. They are rockstars, and you should buy coffee from them. I love the wonderfully-written, conversational bio of the CEO, Paul Katzeff, here [you have to keep clicking through; there are several pages]. The coffee they sent me is called Mirembe Kawomera:

Mirembe Kawomera (mir´em bay cow o mare´a) means “delicious peace” in the Ugandan language Luganda. It is the name of a Ugandan cooperative of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian coffee farmers.

You can read more about the coffee cooperative on their own website, where Paul also shares the story of how the Thanksgiving Coffee Company agreed to become the buyer/roaster for Mirembe Kawomera:

I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I was the recipient of this call because 40 coffee roasters heard this story and declined to purchase before tasting samples. They were focusing on the product so they missed the story. For me the story was inspiring at minimum. People of faith finding hope through coffee. Choosing cooperation in a world torn up by intolerance. I said, “OK, I’ll buy it.” “How many sacks do you want?” she asked. I could hear in her voice her plea, her compassion, her fear, her innocence, and her dedication, all born from what was much much more than the experience of the starry-eyed girl I had assumed she was when I first picked up the phone.
[...]
On the plane I remember thinking how 40 coffee roasters had to miss the significance of what these people had done and were doing in order for Thanksgiving Coffee to get this opportunity to support what in our time could become one of the greatest stories ever told – and through the selling of the coffee, to strengthen and build a cooperative that could become a shining light of beauty for all to see and be inspired by.

On July 12, 2005 the coffee arrived in the US after six weeks “on the water.” An arrival sample was sent to us. We “cupped it” and it is good, real good, and it fills my heart with hope.

Did I mention you should support this effort? Buy some coffee, rockstars.

[+]

Update: I asked a friend, who knows his Desi songs, about the Track05 referenced above. Because he likes to push his luck in not getting fired from work, he downloaded the song right then and there, and checked it out for me. Verdict: “It’s a remix of Channa Ve, sung by Kunal Ganjawala, but originally a Pakistani song.” So, there you have it. Get yer own YouTube links!

I don’t know why I say the things I say, but I say them anyway

Let's go home
Let’s go home, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

By Tuesday or so, I had already realized this week needed to be over. My GMail status:

Dear God: Please make it be Saturday already, because this week kind of sucks. Thank you.
Love, Yasminay

The responses were hilarious:

Anjum, channeling God:

Dear Yasminay,
*sigh*, I get this request every week from you.
and every week from about 64% of the world.
If I jump to Saturday for you,
what about when Anjum here (who is channeling Me) asks for teh same thing?
*the (yes, God makes typos.)
So Yasminay
all I can do is give you a big hug
and perhaps some chocolate
and that should keep you going til Saturday.
chin up, buddy boy.
Love, God.


ZMan, channeling God’s executive assistant:

Z: God doesn’t care about your week, okay
he told me he doesn’t
Yasminay: hahaha shut up!
Z: you’re actually telling God to shut up
which he clearly doesn’t have to do
he could make you shut up if he wanted
like in the matrix
just delete your mouth

HijabMan, with prayers of his own:

Dear God: Please let yasminay send me some questions
before saturday
so i have something to write about
thanks,
love
HM :)

And, in sort of related conversation with Z again:

Z: you know what i was just thinking
it’s really good that I have internet here
and it’s working (most of the time)
’cause a lot of my studying is online
makes me realize that God’s not such a bad guy after all
Yasminay: god is awesome
clearly
Z: in fact God is pretty freakin sweet
Yasminay: i got my new darren hayes cds from amazon
and there’s a song called ‘conversation with god’
i like!
Z: is there a lot of cussing?
Yasminay: not that i heard
hahaha
clearly, that’s not your or my conversation
Z: f*ck no it isn’t

The things He has to put up with from us… Good thing God has a sense of humor.