Category Archives: Rockstar and Crescent

Kindness erases a city of strangers

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In Chicago: What separates us?, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

This is a story about the afternoon I went to Target. And no, it is not about how I walked in to return a few items and buy some placemats and a pack of nails to hammer into the walls for my latest creative project, and somehow, inexplicably, walked out with $130 worth of purchases. Instead, it is a story about what I was wearing.

It was a rainy afternoon, so this is what I was wearing: a dress, a coat, pants rolled above my ankles (I am short, most of my pants are too-long, and I am constantly, accidentally walking into puddles), and — instead of my usual headwrap — a beanie smushed over my hair, with my bangs brushed to the side. Inside Target, as I picked up the items on my mental shopping-list, got sidetracked by yet more items, and zig-zagged my way across the store, I ran into half-a-dozen different Muslim women wearing headscarves. “Wow, there are a lot of hijabis in this city!” I exclaimed inwardly in surprise. Outwardly, I smiled brightly and exclaimed, “Assalamu alaikum [Peace be upon you]!”

And every single woman, without fail, replied very quietly and with a guarded expression, “Wa alaikum assalam [And upon you be peace].”

What surprised me was not the fact that the women didn’t guess on their own that I am Muslim. That’s understandable, given that we often use visual aids as a way of categorizing people, and so a woman like me, who was not wearing an obvious form of hijab, would not have automatically been recognized as Muslim. Rather, what surprised me was: 1. The confusion on each and every single woman’s face when I said, “Assalamu alaikum” (Why? Do they think only hijabis are “Muslim enough” to say salaam?), and 2. The lack of smiles in response to mine (Am I scary? Do they consider it a personal affront that I wasn’t wearing “proper” hijab that day yet deigned to say salaam? Are people in my city simply unhappy people who hate smiling?).

I gave the first few women the benefit of the doubt: Maybe they were disgruntled about the cold and rainy weather, perhaps they were sick, maybe they were preoccupied with their children, perhaps they’d had a terrible day. Maybe no one wants to see a happy, smiling girl on a crappy day when you want to stab everyone; it just makes you crankier. I tried not to overthink the whole thing too much — I didn’t want to feel defensive, blow things out of proportion, or over-analyze something that was possibly just a trivial, mundane interaction. But by the end of my Target shopping experience, when I’d run into no less than seven different hijab-wearing Muslimahs in various parts of the store, ranging from the makeup aisle to the office supplies to the home decor to the checkout line, I found myself rattled by the lack of smiles in response to my cheery, “Assalamu alaikum!”

Months ago, a Muslim woman I know posted the following facebook status, a beautiful little story that I’ve remembered all this time:

“An elderly lady kept smiling at me at Trader Joe’s. Every time we made eye contact, she grinned from ear to ear. Now I understand why the Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him] said, ‘Even a smile is charity.’ I feel like someone just gave me a million bucks for free.”

Smiles are a classy and dignified form of acknowledgment. There is a simple power inherent in them. A smile doesn’t have to mean, “I recognize that we are the same.” It could simply mean, “I acknowledge that we share this world, and I notice that we have crossed paths today for this millisecond, even thought we don’t know each other and may never see each other again.”

Each time I briefly interacted with yet another headscarf-wearing Muslimah who didn’t smile back at me, I walked away extra-conscious of my pants rolled above my ankles, my bangs brushing out from under my hat. They should see me on other days, when I wear sweaters with elbow-length sleeves or roll up my pants to my knees at the beach. Sometimes, when taking the garbage out to the chute at the end of the hallway of my apartment building, I even walk down the hall with my hair completely uncovered. The Target interactions made me feel defensive, even when there was no need to feel so.

In a sociopolitical climate in which many Muslims are wary of possible stereotyping and ignorance and hate from those who are Not Like Us, I have surprisingly found that the least understanding actually comes from my own family and other Muslims: “Why do you wear your scarf that way?” pointedly and repeatedly ask my aunts, and my cousins’ wives, and now even my tiny nieces & nephews. “Why is your neck showing!?” ask others.

“To annoy you,” I’ve come to retort. (It sounds even ruder in Hindko, which affords me brief moments of spiteful satisfaction.)

I tried to pep-talk myself out of hurt and exasperation. Perhaps all the unhappy Muslimahs in my city had chosen to visit Target that day; there must be other, nicer ones around somewhere. Or maybe I was just taking all this too personally, anyway. The lack of smiles didn’t equate to judgment; it just mean they were confused about how to categorize me. We’re human, we categorize people; it’s what we do.

On my way out of Target, I stopped briefly at the indoor coffeeshop to order a hot chocolate. Standing in line in front of me were two children, a boy and girl aged 5-7, along with their father. The little boy wore a bright-blue hearing aid in each ear. I surreptitiously glanced at him a few times as the line moved progressively forward; finally, as the little boy turned towards me, I smiled at him and said, “I like your hearing aids!”

“Thank you,” he mumbled shyly.

“Mine are red!” I said, and lifted my beanie above one of my ears. He smiled a tiny smile and nodded, his sister glanced at me curiously, and the father, in the midst of ordering their drinks, turned and smiled widely at me. That gesture of sharing my own hearing aids would have been nearly impossible on any other day, with my tightly-pinned headwrap usually covering my ears.

And so, on an evening in which the lack of smiles from my fellow Muslimahs felt like a stinging rebuke, I found that my spontaneous act of sharing something I rarely discuss in public, the acknowledgment of that personal condition and experience, and the family’s smile in return acted as a balm, soothing the bruise of non-acknowledgment from those whom I’d expected to feel most relatable to.

Who cares about headscarves and cranky Muslims? If I can get a smile out of a little boy over the fact that our collective ears all run on Duracell batteries, that’s good enough for me.

Once home, mulling all this over in my head, I realized this was not a story about what I was wearing (then again, perhaps it was, but I choose not to classify it as such). Rather, this was a story about open-heartedness. I remembered something I always try to live by: Other people have a choice in what they wear at home and when they go out into the world — their solemnity, their joy, their judgment, their truth, their sneers, their laughter, their lack of smiles. I can’t force people to smile, if they don’t at all feel inclined to do so (and, let’s face it, I have little patience for coaxing them).

But I, too, have a choice — to bring my heart in full force, wherever I may go.

Even if it’s just to Target, for a pack of nails.

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In Chicago: What connects us?, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth enters our hearts

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Re-upholstered dining chairs at the PirateHouse, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
utters itself. So, a woman will lift
her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.
- from “Prayer,” by Carol Ann Duffy

In mid-July, home for the weekend at my parents’, I spent an entire Sunday helping my mother re-upholster our dining chairs. She regaled me with stories as we worked together, but her efforts at entertainment still didn’t make it the smoothest or lightest of projects. There were moments during the re-upholstering when I grew impatient at her stubbornness to fix things that couldn’t be fixed; moments when I was annoyed at the time-consuming task of ensuring the corners of each piece of fabric were perfectly folded without creases; moments I snapped at my mother and then was upset with myself.

By the end of the day, my hand was so sore from wielding the staple gun that I could barely fold my fingers into a fist. “Show me your hand,” said my mother, reaching out with hers. She took my hand into hers, pressed it lightly, and — since she’s been suffering from some minor health problems lately — I thought she was about to make me note yet again how hot or dry or arthritic her hands were in comparison to mine. Instead, she unexpected brought my hand closer and pressed a kiss into the center of my palm. “Make sure you rub lotion on it tonight,” she said, “and take some Tylenol.”

In the weeks that followed, long after the soreness had faded, my fingertips remained chapped and peeling. My nails were chipped, and my skin was rough to the touch. My ummy’s simple, tender gesture made me think more deeply of hands, and how easily I take them for granted. Just as for many other families, hands are the touchstone of my family’s heritage, used for the holy triumvirate of food, work, and prayer. I am most reminded of this during Ramadan.

Munching on deliciously cold cubes and slices of fresh fruit during our pre-dawn suhoor meal the other morning, my father told the story of how, as a child, he was accustomed to eating roti, Pakistani flatbread, wrapped around pieces of cantaloupe and melon. And some days, the bread served as wrapper for slices of raw onions instead. For those who were poor, onions were an inexpensive substitute for a full-fledged meal. His mother used to say, “Pyaaz ey tha niyaaz ey” — onions are an offering from God, a blessing, and worthy of gratitude. With her hands, she prepared special meals for my father, her only child — makkai ni roti thay saron na saag (cornbread with mustard greens), parathhay dripping with oil instead of butter, because they couldn’t afford real butter (ironic, because they owned cows and sold milk and butter, but needed the money too much to keep any of the dairy products for themselves). I think of my patient, self-sacrificing grandfather, whose work-hardened hands toiled in the family fields every day, working alone because my grandmother insisted that their son, my father, attend school and become educated rather than being relegated to a lifetime of harsh physical labor.

My mother’s stories, too, are about hands: her mother, a seamstress for the entire neighborhood; her brother, who hauled rocks in a tile factory until his hands were raw and bloody; her father, who drove horse-carts and then, blind in his old age, must have had to acclimate himself to knowing things by touch rather than sight in his last years.

The morning of my father’s onion stories, I stood with both my parents for the post-suhoor prayer of intention for the coming day’s fast. We huddled together, hands cupped closely so that each touched the other’s hands, loudly reciting the du’a: “Wa bisawmi ghadinn nawaiytu min shahri Ramadan: I intend to keep the fast today in the month of Ramadan.” I was reminded of my childhood, when my siblings and I would join our hands together and then pile our hands over our dad’s, much like those Russian dolls, one stacked inside the other, big to small, culminating in the tiniest one inside. A pile of hands, joined in du’a.

One of my earliest memories is of the 3 of us reciting du’a with our father; I remember looking down at our hands and marveling how like a bowl each pair of hands seemed. Then I looked up and asked, “Daddy, why do we make our hands like bowls when we do du’a?” He opened his mouth to reply but, before he could speak, I answered my own question with childish eagerness, “Oh! I know! It’s so when Allah sends us blessings, they fly right down into the bowl so we can catch them easily and not lose them!” I don’t remember my father’s reply — he probably laughed and agreed with my explanation. But even now, every time I join my hands together in supplication, I still recall the excitement with which I processed that childhood epiphany: hands as bowls, fashioned to receive blessings from God.

One of my favorite lines of writing about hands and prayers comes from G. Willow Wilson’s essay for the New York Times, “Engagement in Cairo”:

“It’s a strange feeling, praying into your hands, filling the air between them with words. We think of divinity as something infinitely big, but it is also infinitely small — the condensation of your breath on your palms, the ridges in your fingertips, the warm space between your shoulder and the shoulder next to you.”

I think of all the hands I know: My father, who cradles geraniums and endlessly waters his vegetable garden, and asks for my help in creating constellations of criss-crossing strings to support the bougainvillea vines outside our front door. My sister, who uses paint to create masterpieces that spill warmth and vibrance into every home. My brother, who gestures widely and theatrically, whether on the stage or at the dinner table. My brother-in-law and my mother, who chop ingredients and mix spices and remove lids from pots to smell the fragrance of home-cooked food that fills our hearts as well as our stomachs. My friends, who hold and nurture babies, perform research experiments, highfive me, diagnose and soothe patients, hold me close on the rare occasions I cry.

And my hands? I’m not quite sure yet what they do. They write a lot (although not as often as they should) in precise, swooping (sometime angular and stabby) lines. They have taken photographs that I frame and proudly display on my walls. They type fast, and insist on correcting spelling mistakes that others would gloss over. They carry the to-do lists I scribble on my skin with permanent markers, and just recently made strawberry shortcake from scratch for the very first time. They know how to wield a staple gun, and caulk cracks in the walls, and hang paintings with the symmetrical, measurements-obsessed accuracy I inherited from my father. On the eve of my sister’s wedding, nearly two years ago, my hands helped hers in hemming silky Pakistani outfits by hand, when the sewing machine stopped working. I knew even then that that would be the sort of moment I would remember forever, once the hustle and bustle of wedding ceremonies and receptions had died down: our eyes tired, our hearts a little aggravated at this inconvenience, but our hands focused on carefully stitching wedding outfits in the middle of the night.

Y laughed at me last summer, “I’ve never seen a human being so intrigued by their own knuckles!” (This may or may not have been after I threatened to stab him with my sharp knuckles.) Actually, I’m most intrigued by my hands as a whole. They are, after all, the same hands that rested on my knees during prayers when I lived in Pakistan. So many things have changed about me in the seventeen years since, but my hands have remained the same: brown skin; raised, blue veins; short nails; light scars; and well, yes, sharp, bony knuckles. Every single time I look upon my hands in prayer, my mind rushes back to those prayers during hot summer afternoons and lantern-lit nights in the village. It comforts me to know they are still the same hands — if I could pray that way then, I still have it within me to pray like that now.

More than anything else, I associate my hands with prayer — which makes it all the more frustrating when I fall short in reaching out to and communicating with God. My prayers are both inward meditations and verbal invocations, often brief and spontaneous. But while I’ve been good about praying for others, I generally shy away from praying for myself. My hands, like the rest of me, are proud and strong and independent. I hate asking for assistance, whether carrying boxes up multiple flights of stairs or lugging groceries in from the car or asking God for favors.

So, while I try to keep God at the center of most of my actions and decisions, and while I like to think I am good at prayers thanking Him for all the blessings I have, I find myself lacking in other types of prayers, namely, those asking for help. Perhaps I over-think it (am I too arrogant, in believing it’s not necessary to ask because God will grant me what I wish for, anyway? Or am I too humble, in feeling I’m not worthy of making requests?). Perhaps I forget that God loves being asked for help, and that I should be humble enough to ask more often. I read somewhere once that Mahatma Gandhi had said prayer is a longing of the soul, a daily admission of one’s weakness. This is something I need to remember.

In these few remaining and most blessed days of Ramadan, I intend to use my hands for asking more for myself.

When He gives, He shows you His kindness; when He deprives, He shows you His power. And in all that, He is making Himself known to you and coming to you with His gentleness. [...] When he loosens your tongue with a request, then know that He wants to give you something.
- from “The Hikam” by Ibn Ata’illah

So in the morning when I’m waitin’/for the sun to rise

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Tangier, Morocco, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

Those of you who don’t follow my Rockstar Links & Things over at tumblr (and why do you not?, is the question) are missing out on some lovely reminiscing going on today, so I thought I’d cross-post for you here.

If you click here, you can hear the Adhan [Islamic call to prayer] as recited by Yusuf Islam, a.k.a. Cat Stevens. Someone named aberjona posted it to tumblr with the following comment:

Awoke to this this morning. If I lived closer to the mosque I might feel differently at 5 am, but echoing over the wet rooftops, this sounds divine. Especially when I consider what other sounds Brooklyn manages to produce—anywhere, anytime.

bagcoffee responded with:

Atlantic Ave is one of the strangest and most amazing places in Brooklyn, if not just in downtown Brooklyn. It’s not just the ever-present Muslim community who populate the shops, sidewalks, and mosque. It’s the mix of everything and the ‘if you’re not paying attention you’ll miss it’ environments of city. When the mosque broadcasts the call to prayer, everything just stops and you remember your in a city that’s not just full of your expectations and experiences. There is something here that’s bigger than you. It’s bigger than your selfish desire.

I don’t think you can say you’ve lived in Brooklyn (or at least visited) and not heard the call to prayer at least once. It’s something stirring and more moving than anything else you can conceive of in this city.

And lawful:

Living in Egypt this becomes almost background noise, but sitting at the Pyramids at sunset and listening to it spread across Cairo and Giza was amazing. Same effect sitting on the walls of old Jerusalem on a Friday as the western part of the city starts to go silent and the Azhan starts to rouse the eastern.

Okay, now I’m homesick.

And I chimed in:

you all made me smile so much with your comments/reflections on the adhan. thank you. =)

even my little village in pakistan, where i lived for 18 months as a teenager, was filled with a dozen different mosques, and 5 times a day the call to prayer would come at you from all the corners of the village and reverberate throughout the neighborhoods. it was beautiful. when i visited morocco a few months ago, it was the same way, and i felt homesick all over again, too.

And writinggirl2writingwoman:

when i first converted, i lived in a city with a decent Muslim population and the adhan was called and could be heard in the houses. it was so beautiful and wonderful to me. i miss being surrounded by Muslims, not only for the loss of hearing the adhan (well, okay, i have it on my computer but that’s just not the same) but for so many reasons. the adhan exemplifies that brother/sisterhood to me, calling everyone to the prayer where we are all equal and stand & bow together before our Lord. i think of the story of Bilal, the first one to hold the job of making the call to prayer, and i can imagine what it must have been like in Medina as the “new” Muslims gathered together.

Fes, Morocco
Fes, Morocco, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

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.”

[+]

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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

“Things that will get me disinherited in short order”

I posted the following link/letter to tumblr a few days ago, via Anjum and Preeti. You should be adding our tumblr feeds to your RSS reader of choice (because we are awesome, clearly), but, in case you neglect to do so, here is the awesomest email ever, in its rocking entirety, written by Karion. All my Rockstar Links & Things are posted over to tumblr these days, but I feel this deserves to be shared here, too – and totally merits a smashing HIGHFIVE.

[+]

preetalina: And I say it as a simple American. :)

anjum: That email? Thank you. I say that as an American, & as a Muslim.

robot-heart: cvxn:karion:

Some context: my mother forwarded an email that had the “Obama is a secret Muslim, look at all his Mulsim friends, also a terrorist in his spare time” type of crap. I kind of lost my shit and sent the following – as a reply all (everyone in her address book).

Maybe this is difficult to see from your perspective. Let me give it to you from your kids.

This email is bullshit – all of the claims are demonstrably false and all are just a thinly veiled racist slur against Obama. Fifteen minutes of independent research will tell you that. The argument that “this is the other side” is downright pathetic, for if this is what ‘the other side’ has to offer, it is nothing more than racist, hateful, fear-mongering bullshit.

But from our family’s perspective, it is much worse that you are passing this shit around. You and Dad have lived in Muslim countries for almost all of your 30 years abroad. In that time, you have not been persecuted, harassed, harmed or otherwise molested for being American or being Christian. To the contrary, you have prospered. You have been able to worship in countries that DON’T have a free exercise of religion clause, and you have been able to do that without any harassment. Do you not realize that you have been a foreigner in these countries and been permitted to live as Americans do? With little regard to the local culture and customs and laws?

So when you pass along these utterly bullshit, racist, fear-mongering emails, you are kind of thumbing your nose at all of that and playing into the worst part of our country. You are spreading the “fear the Muslim” thing, even though Obama isn’t Muslim and even if he was, you both know better. You have lived it. You have lived with Muslims for nearly three decades. You haven’t been burned at the stake for being Christian. Dad hasn’t lost his job because of an infidel. Your house wasn’t burned down for Christmas lights. You have been privileged to live a Christian life in some of the most Muslim countries in the world and no one has harassed you for it.

Why on earth you cannot take your “Christian” message of tolerance and your 30 years of experience and not call bullshit on this type of political rumor is completely beyond me. It is, quite frankly, horrifying. How did your four kids learn this and you didn’t? How did we all learn to independently research and inform ourselves while our parents forward these junk, bullshit emails? How is it that we can all see this for the ignorance that it is, and yet our parents, who are supposed to know better, don’t?

Look, I can understand Dad’s support for McCain, given the Naval Academy thing, although I suspect if Dad actually read about McCain’s time at the Naval Academy, he would be pretty disgusted. I see no similarities between McCain and Dad whatsoever, and I am really proud of that. I doubt you’ll read this, as it is longer than a People think piece, but you should read this article in Rolling Stone. It is remarkably well-sourced, but it is also ten pages. That is longer than the attention span of most people who forward these kinds of emails:

Make-Believe Maverick: A closer look at the life and career of John McCain reveals a disturbing record of recklessness and dishonesty”

Mostly, I just wish the two of you would actually use some of your experiences over the past 30 years and speak up. I am not saying support Obama, but just think critically, and denounce the kind of bullshit that you are forwarding. Write an email denouncing Obama using objective facts if you are so inclined. But don’t be part of the ignorant class. Your kids expect so much more of you.