free stats Carmen's Web: August 2006
Thursday, August 31, 2006
American Bullshit
WARNING
***Explicit Language Ahead***

I've tried all the methods I usually use when my blood gets so steamed because someone says or does something SO stupid, but none of it has worked so far. So I decided to fuck it, I will express my anger and frustration.

A lot of people commented on the Arabic t-shirt post and I would say that maybe three or four were NOT insulting. The rest indicated a level of fucking arrogance and stupidity that simply reaffirms the international notion that Americans are nothing but self-righteous pricks.

Here's one of the things I discerned from the comments: we "Muslims" need to watch ourselves. We need to make sure we don't agitate the poor, scared average American. Watch what you wear, watch how you act, watch what you say. What a load of fucking bullshit. Are you Americans so fucking stupid that you can't distinguish between a "threat" and (for lack of a better word) normality??? What a bunch of backward folk then!

So let's see...Arabs (AKA Muslims and anyone who "looks" Arab, such as the Sikhs or the Pakistanis, because, after all, very few Americans know the difference) are a threat. African Americans are a threat too...maybe not to Homeland Security, but I'm POSITIVE that those of you who are afraid of the Arabs are afraid of the Black man as well. The Spics, of course, are a threat. You all who wrote about it not being a time to be self-expressive are the same exact people who have allowed the current administration to hijack our rights. Thanks. Thanks a lot for that.

Here's an idea: why don't we send all the Arabs back home, get rid of the black people, and evict the Hispanics (they're right across the border...not a big deal, the rest can swim to their respective countries). We get rid of the sand-niggers, the niggers, and the spics and maybe THEN you won't feel so threatened when you're in an airport or grocery store or filling up your cars with gas. Oh...and let's not forget to eliminate the fags. America for righteous Americans only!

What a load of fucking shit.

We "Muslims" (thanks for grouping all of us together whoever commented that we all come from violent nations) are not responsible for condemning every single act committed by a bunch of crazy folk. It's not our fucking responsibility. I didn't see one fucking White American apologize for Oklahoma City or Colombine. You weren't made to feel a collective sense of guilt. Why are you trying to make US feel like we're responsible for every psycho?? What the fuck??

I've got too much work to do to spend another second writing this post, but I will leave you with this. I'm going to Chicago for the upcoming three-day weekend and I'm wearing all the Arabic gear that I can. It's too bad I'm not veiled.

We will not be fucking silent.

Oh, and no backlash against Arabs after 9/11?? Are you fucking serious?????????????????????????????????
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 5:30 PM
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Wednesday, August 30, 2006
RIP Naguib Mahfouz
December 11, 1911 - August 30, 2006



I discovered Egypt when I discovered Naguib Mahfouz.

I was only four when I left Cairo and the only Egypt I knew while growing up was the one I remembered from my childhood. It consisted of my wonderful grandparents and sweet, albeit dysfunctional, aunts and uncles. As I grew up in the diaspora, Dalida was added, followed by Om Kolthoum, Abdel-Halim Hafez, Farid El Atrache, Shadia, and all the honeyed black-and-white movies where men ruled and women struggled, but happy endings always prevailed. The nuances of Egyptian society were always kept from me because there were no nuances to talk about. Egypt was perfect and I was constantly reminded of this by my parents and extended family. Circumstances beyond our control forced us to leave Her, Om El Donya (Mother of the World). And while we were here, in the West, we were to take only the good (education, technological advances, medicine) and leave the bad (everything else).

I wasn't allowed to identity myself as an American or be a part of "America", whatever that entailed. Once, when I was 12, I won a trivia contest in Sharm. I was very proud of myself. When the quizmaster asked me where I was from, I said, "ana min Amrika" (I'm from America). My aunt immediately shot me a look. It was confusing; on the one hand, I was actually living in America, but NOT living in America. As a matter of fact, I didn't even become a citizen until I was 20. I was very happy with my green card and green Egyptian passport. It was only when I realized how much hell I'd have to go through when I traveled abroad that I decided that becoming an American citizen might actually be perk.

Sometime in high school, a copy of "Miramar" managed to find its way into my possessions. What a book! I couldn't stop reading it. It was the first time I had seen internal pain and the human struggle written with such elegance, yet was horrified to see a depiction of Egyptian society that I was told never existed.

Years later when I attended AUC I was supposed to meet him at a book reading of some sorts. It was the day he was stabbed by some bastard fundamentalists, and so I missed my chance. That he didn't allow the fundamentalists to break his spirit, though, served as probably one of the most important lessons of my life.

As Basil said, if ever a life was well lived...
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 9:27 AM
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Arabic t-shirts need not fly

Because, of course, if you were a terrorist and were made to change your shirt your sinister plot would be immediately thwarted.

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"I grew up and spent all my life living under authoritarian regimes. and i know that these things happen. But I'm shocked that they happened to me here, in the U.S. Especially that I moved from Iraq because of the war that was waged in Iraq under titles like democracy and freedom."

Raed Jarrar's Story -

***To order a shirt write to: wewillnotbesilent@gmail.com***

"I went to JFK in the morning to catch my Jet Blue plane to California. I reached Terminal 6 at around 7:15 am, was issued a boarding pass, and checked all my bags in, and then walked to the security checkpoint. For the first time in my life, I was taken to a secondary search . My shoes were searched, and I was asked for my boarding pass and ID. After passing the security, I walked to check where gate 16 was, then I went to get something to eat. I got some cheese and grapes with some orange juice and I went back to Gate 16 and sat down in the boarding area enjoying my breakfast and some sunshine.

At around 8:30, two men approached me while I was checking my phone. One of them asked me if I had a minute and he showed me his badge, I said: "sure". We walked some few steps and stood in front of the boarding counter where I found out that they were accompanied by another person, a woman from Jet Blue.

One of the two men who approached me first, Inspector Harris, asked for my id card and boarding pass. I gave him my boarding pass and driver's license. He said "people are feeling offended because of your t-shirt". I looked at my t-shirt: I was wearing my shirt which states in both Arabic and English "we will not be silent". You can take a look at it in this picture taken during our Jordan meetings with Iraqi MPs.



I said "I am very sorry if I offended anyone, I didnt know that this t-shirt will be offensive". He asked me if I had any other T-shirts to put on, and I told him that I had checked in all of my bags and I asked him "why do you want me to take off my t-shirt? Isn't it my constitutional right to express myself in this way?" The second man in a greenish suit interfered and said "people here in the US don't understand these things about constitutional rights". So I answered him "I live in the US, and I understand it is my right to wear this t-shirt".

Then I once again asked the three of them : "How come you are asking me to change my t-shirt? Isn't this my constitutional right to wear it? I am ready to change it if you tell me why I should. Do you have an order against Arabic t-shirts? Is there such a law against Arabic script?" so inspector Harris answered "you can't wear a t-shirt with Arabic script and come to an airport. It is like wearing a t-shirt that reads "I am a robber" and going to a bank". I said "but the message on my t-shirt is not offensive, it just says "we will not be silent". I got this t-shirt from Washington DC. There are more than a 1000 t-shirts printed with the same slogan. You can google them or email them at wewillnotbesilent@gmail.com . It is printed in many other languages: Arabic, Farsi, Spanish, English, etc."

Inspector Harris said: "We cant make sure that your t-shirt means we will not be silent, we don't have a translator. Maybe it means something else". I said: "But as you can see, the statement is in both Arabic and English". He said "maybe it is not the same message". So based on the fact that Jet Blue doesn't have a translator, anything in Arabic is suspicious because maybe it'll mean something bad!

Meanwhile, a third man walked in our direction. He stood with us without introducing himself, and he looked at inspector Harris's notes and asks him: "is that his information?", inspector Harris answered "yes". The third man, Mr. Harmon, asks inspector Harris : "can I copy this information?", and inspector Harris says "yes, sure".

Inspector Harris said: "You don't have to take of your t-shirt, just put it on inside-out". I refused to put on my shirt inside-out. So the woman interfered and said "let's reach a compromise. I will buy you a new t-shirt and you can put it on on top of this one". I said "I want to keep this t-shirt on". Both inspector Harris and Mr. Harmon said "No, we can't let you get on that airplane with your t-shirt". I said "I am ready to put on another t-shirt if you tell me what is the law that requires such a thing. I want to talk to your supervisor".

Inspector Harris said "You don't have to talk to anyone. Many people called and complained about your t-shirt. Jetblue customers were calling before you reached the checkpoint, and costumers called when you were waiting here in the boarding area".

It was then that I realized that my t-shirt was the reason why I had been taken to the secondary checking.
I asked the four people again to let me talk to any supervisor, and they refused.

The Jet Blue woman was asking me again to end this problem by just putting on a new t-shirt, and I felt threatened by Mr. Harmon's remarks as in "Let's end this the nice way". Taking in consideration what happens to other Arabs and Muslims in US airports, and realizing that I will miss my flight unless I covered the Arabic script on my t-shirt as I was told by the four agents, I asked the Jet Blue woman to buy me a t-shirt and I said "I don't want to miss my flight."

She asked, what kind of t-shirts do you like. Should I get you an "I heart new york t-shirt?". So Mr. Harmon said "No, we shouldn't ask him to go from one extreme to another". I asked Mr. Harmon why does he assume I hate New York if I had some Arabic script on my t-shirt, but he didn't answer.

The woman went away for 3 minutes, and she came back with a gray t-shirt reading "new york". I put the t-shirt on and removed the price tag. I told the four people who were involved in the conversation: "I feel very sad that my personal freedom was taken away like this. I grew up under authoritarian governments in the Middle East, and one of the reasons I chose to move to the US was that I don't want an officer to make me change my t-shirt. I will pursue this incident today through a Constitutional rights organization, and I am sure we will meet soon". Everyone said okay and left, and I went back to my seat.

At 8:50 I was called again by a fourth young man, standing with the same jetblue woman. He asked for my boarding pass, so I gave it to him, and stood in front of the boarding counter. I asked the woman: "is everything okay?", she responded: "Yes, sure. We just have to change your seat". I said: "but I want this seat, that's why I chose it online 4 weeks ago", the fourth man said " there is a lady with a toddler sitting there. We need the seat."

Then they re-issued me a small boarding pass for seat 24a, instead of seat 3a. They said that I can go to the airplane now. I was the first person who entered the airplane, and I was really annoyed about being assigned this seat in the back of the airplane too. It smelled like the bathrooms, which is why I had originally chosen a seat which would be far from that area.

It sucks to be an Arab/Muslim living in the US these days. When you go to the middle east, you are a US tax-payer destroying people's houses with your money, and when you come back to the US, you are a suspected terrorist and plane hijacker."
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 8:53 AM
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Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Jitters and tangents
The jitters are here. In exactly six days I will be in charge of 72 adolescents who speak little or no English.

I start my new job next Tuesday. I'm extremely excited to be part of this pioneering venture. My school is a year old, it's a Gates funded school (which basically means dear Bill Gates gives us anything we want), and I'm basically heading the social studies department. I'm mentally prepared. I've taken a million courses, online and off, I've attended three professional development workshops, and I've been attending the school for the past two weeks designing and developing the curriculum.

I think the main problem is that there's been TOO much preparation time. My brain's overloaded already. I'm excited as hell, but my nerves are beginning to get the better of me. I haven't slept a wink for the past five days, my hands shake all the time, I can't seem to concentrate, and I'm also falling into a depressive slump which I hope is just related to PMS and the unceasing stress.

I came home today with an iBook that the school gave me for the year. My father was jealous and tried to steal it from me (since I have the same exact iBook). He then told me that I'm very lucky to have this job. I've got a great principal, wonderful co-workers, a 20 minute commute, a small classroom (maximum 20 students in my class), and can basically order anything I want for my classroom without dealing with any bureaucracy. I'm in a college-prep school, which basically means I don't have to deal with the typical horror otherwise known as the rebellious high school student. This is the job of my dreams and it all seems perfect.

I unequivocally deserve it, though. This has been a long journey and I've worked extremely hard to get to where I am. I had to overcome a lot of personal issues as well and in the past year I've come a long way, baby.

The other day I came home in a grouchy mood. I get that way when I'm hungry or tired, and on that particular day I was both. My father kissed me hello and asked me how life was. I replied by saying life was so-so, nothing exciting.

"Why are you saying that? You should be happy".

"Why should I be happy? It's been a long day, I'm tired, I don't even want to begin to tell you the people I had to deal with today. Nothing's good right now. I'm just done."

"You should be happy that God gave you the perfect job. Isn't that something to be happy about?"

I mumbled under my breath that it wasn't God who gave me the job; that He had nothing to do with it. My father didn't hear my heretical statement and asked me to repeat what I said. I quickly asked him what time the Ahly game was, which served as the perfect means to change the subject . He completely forgot what we had been discussing. No need for the parents to think their daughter has completely lost her faith.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 10:39 PM
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Sunday, August 27, 2006
Random conversation

The kids next door were role playing the other day in the backyard. L is 4, going on 5, and her brother S is 3. They're highly intelligent, quick thinking kids who are perfectly bilingual in Arabic and English, with a vocabulary so rich that it's astounding. It's too bad they're not being introduced to a third language at this age; at the rate their cognitive development is growing it'd be easy for them to absorb a third one.

So they're role playing in the backyard...L is the mother and S is the son. They must have been reenacting tea time because she was offering him sugar and treats.

L: 3ayez sugar? (You want sugar?)
S: Yes, I want sukar (I want sugar).
L: Here you go S. S, S, what am I doing now?
S: I don't know L, what are you doing?
L: I'm drinking sagayer right now.
S: Ana kaman. Ana kaman am drinking sagayer.

There's no way I can translate that to an English speaker in a way to make it comprehensible, and it's been such a long week that I won't even try right now.

When I was younger and forbidden from wearing makeup, I cried to my grandmother once that it was unfair.

"Ana 3ayza albess rouge kaman!" I screamed through my tears. She immediately laughed at me, which made me cry even more.

But nothing was funnier than my cousin H who, in a conversation with my father, translated "old man" to "ragel adeem".
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 8:06 PM
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Wednesday, August 23, 2006
NYC Hearts Beirut
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 8:32 PM
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Dysfunctional Family Outings
Last weekend was my uncle's birthday and I thought it would be a nice treat to take the entire family out for dinner. I had been working a lot this past week and spent very little time with the visiting family from Toronto.

The tough part was deciding where to go. It would be nine of us, seven (alleged) adults and two kids. Our usual outings often consist of visits to the Cheesecake Factory or TGIF (remember, there's a devil's spawn in our midst...we've got to make sure we're in a place that doesn't frown upon the devil's mischief--one day I took them all to an Indian restaurant and had to hide my flushed face because the spawn kept whining about how much it smelled) but I wasn't in the mood for for those big-portioned family places. I assumed that since we were all adults and that the spawn had grown up a year or two, maybe we were ready for something more refined.

With the assumption that all would behave accordingly, I took my family to a quaint French restaurant at the tip of Long Island City. There's an amazing pier there with a view of the city that's to die for, and I thought it would be nice to take a walk afterwards and just chill for a little bit.

Getting nine Egyptians to be ready at a certain time is close to an impossible feat. We were supposed to leave at 7pm but didn't even get into the cars till 8. Thankfully, this restaurant is fairly empty on Saturday evenings so by the time we got there we were actually able to find tables to accommodate our herd.

The waitress came to our table and gave us menus. One of the things I was worried about was my father's fastidious appetite; the man HATES eating outside the house and very rarely (if ever) eats food cooked by anyone other than my mom. So I was surprised and actually quite touched when, after receiving his menu, he looked at me and said, "Ya S, you did a really great job. This is a wonderful restaurant!"

Beaming, I told him that I would never take him anywhere that wasn't great.

My mother smiled at me and said, "Enti mish fahma. Howa mish beyekalam 3al makan, howa asdo haga tania khales."
(You don't understand. He's not talking about the place, he means something completely different).

I was a little confused until my uncle started smiling and all of them started staring at the waitress.

Goodness. I don't want my father to check women out in front of me. I don't want my father to mention checking women out in front of me. I don't want my mother to play along. It's just too much for my brain to handle.

I sighed and told the gentleman to behave, which they did. Until she came again to take our drink orders. Shameless.

It took us nearly twenty minutes to finally decide on what we wanted to eat. The kids were unhappy that the place didn't serve any burgers or chicken fingers, the adults kept complaining about the menu being limited:

"There's no spaghetti? What kind of place doesn't have spaghetti? How can there be no pasta? EVERY restaurant serves spaghetti!"


To which I replied, "Do you want to eat spaghetti?"

"No, but it should at least be on the menu."

Fuck.

My father was the first to decide on something, spicy sausage sandwich. "You can't have that", I said. "Sausage is pork".

Uncle: "Not all sausage is pork".

Me: "Maybe in Egypt or Arab restaurants. But I guarantee you that this sausage is pork".

Uncle: "La'a ya S. Hat shoofee" (No S, you'll see).

He calls the waitress over and asks her if the sausage on the menu is pork. She stares at him, confused. "Sausage is pork sir".

Uncle: "No, not all sausage is pork".

Fuck me. What was so wrong with TGIF???

Waitress: "The sausage sandwich you're talking about, sir, is pork".

Uncle: "Ah. Well, what about this sandwich. Is this sausage pork?"

He pointed at a sandwich whose listed ingredient was LAMB sausage.

Waitress (confused look still on her face): "No, sir. That sandwich has LAMB sausage."

Uncle: "Ah, ok. Very good."

Waitress: "Would you like to order that sandwich?"

Uncle: "No, thank you."

I looked at the waitress and asked her to give us another second and demanded that people make decisions.

In the end, my father ordered the chicken special and everyone else ordered either omelettes or crepes, with the exception of the kids who got the french fries.

When we finished our dinner (which managed to pass without any embarrassing incidents) my mother, my uncle's wife, and the kids went to stand outside while my brother got the check. The waitress came with the check and was clearly flirting with my brother. I told my father he was out of luck, that only my brother was getting any play tonight. Then I mentioned how everytime we go out, the ladies are always flirting with my brother and he's always flirting back. We went to Starbucks earlier that day and the minute we walked in the barista was all giggly. "You're back!" hee hee hee. Gross.

My father proudly sat up in his seat and said, "My son!"

Me: "Your son what? What are you so happy about?"

Dad: "My son beyet3akes!" (My son's getting flirted with!)

Me: "Um, okay. Next time we go out I will make sure to flirt with the waiter and I would LOVE to see you react the same way."

Dad: "No, no, it's different."

Me: "No, there's no difference."

My uncle starts laughing and jumps in with, "es'alee ba'alo kam sana bara Misr" (ask him how long he's been out of Egypt). Would LOVE to see how he reacts when his spawn starts talking about boys.

My father then maintains that that doesn't matter at all, "el basic yefdal el basic" (The basic stays basic).

Me: "What 'basic' exactly are you talking about?? Because if you apply one set of rules to him and one to me, then there is no basic. Watch it old man. That double-standard used to work when I was younger, but it don't work anymore."

My father sighed that sigh he always does whenever he thinks I'm about to become polemic. My brother pays the check and we quickly make our way out.

Although the pier was only four blocks away, no one wanted to walk. So we get in the car, drive to the pier, and stop the cars. They're in love with the view. I ask them if they'd like to get out of the cars and sit by the boardwalk. No one wanted to. I asked them what they wanted to do. They wanted to just go home. And pass by McDonald's.

Family time is always fun.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 7:57 AM
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Saturday, August 19, 2006
Just doing my part to improve relations between Muslims and Jews
I have done the impossible. I have achieved what millions of statemen have been unable to achieve for CENTURIES. I have finally found a way for Muslims and Jews to find a common ground, and get along. Now if the Christians would just find fault with me, I will be able to complete the trifecta, and the world will finally find that elusive peace.

I've been taking post-graduate classes in education and psychology for the past couple of weeks for my New York State Teaching Certification. Interesting classes for the most part, though I can't say much for the majority of the people that I've met. No biggie...every field has its share of imbeciles and like Toots always says, "Carmen, you're not marrying them. Besides, when you see people like that, you can rest assured that you'll always have work!"

Today our groups had to make oral presentations in class. After my group made our presentation, the professor gave us a break and I ran to Dunkin Donuts to satisfy my daily craving for Early Grey tea. On my way back in the lobby I heard one of the Hasidic girls in my class talking about me to her friend who's in another class.

"....yeah, that tall girl in my class, the one with the curly hair [I'm the only tall girl in the entire school, so I know I didn't misinterpret who they were talking about]. The shirts she wears! They're so tight! Did you see what she was wearing today? Her tits are practically hanging out! I just don't need to see that much."

As I passed by her she saw me and turned around, changing the subject quickly.

Now, just for clarification, my tits were not hanging out of my shirt today. My tits never hang out of any shirt I wear, I can assure you that.

I chose to ignore her comments because a). today was the last day of class, b). she has a history of being a dickhead, and c). I was afraid that I was going to do something extremely nasty to her which she would immediately claim as an anti-Semitic; a hate crime of the biggest proportions (she's Hasidic and has to cover her hair. She does this by wearing wigs. My first reaction was to pull it off).

What the fuck is it with these women? These women who hold traditional religious beliefs that force them to dress a certain way and find fault with anyone who doesn't conform to those standards? What is so wrong with you that you feel threatened by my breasts? Do you see me walking around criticizing the fact that you have to wear a wig because your religion considers a married woman's hair shameful?

(On a side-note, I've never really understood that about the Hasidic tradition. If a woman's hair is considered shameful, wouldn't it be better for you to veil rather than wear wigs, which probably look ten times better than your real hair anyway? Aren't you still bringing attention to yourself??)

Anyway, I went back to my seat, fuming. Hasidic girl walks in, has the nerve to look at me up and down, and sits down in the front row.

I read once that Salah El Din's scribe in the 12th century used to drink a cup of water before reacting to something that made him angry. In my classes over the summer, I learned that drinking a cup of water helps hydrate your myelin sheath, which makes it easier for you to think clearly. In non-scientific terms, water helps cool your blood. This is one of the techniques I taught my ADD cousin, and I've been using it before I react to anything. It's been working pretty well.

Anyway, the next presentation had a veiled Pakistani Muslim woman in the group. Ever since 9/11, whenever I see a veiled woman, I turn immediately into Carmen, Defender of the Veiled Woman. I start scanning the area for people who may make this woman uncomfortable by their stares or comments, ready to put them in their place at a moment's notice. I know it's not my job to defend people, but it's an innate thing. Comes from being the first-born...we're always ready to protect people.

So throughout this entire class I was doing just that with that girl. The Hasidic girl stared at her funny one day but didn't do it again, so I let it go.

In the middle of their presentation, Pakistani girl starts critiquing one of the standardized assesments schools give to ESL students. She claimed the tests could sometimes be culturally biased and pointed to a previous question that was given in the form a picture. In this picture, a boy is running after a dog on a leash. The student's job at this point is to write a handful of sentences describing the scene.

As a former ESL teacher, I couldn't really see what was so wrong with this picture and then Pakistani girl led me to the light.

In the Islamic religion, she said, dogs are considered sinful animals and a Muslim should never come into contact with one. If he does, he has to redo his ablutions (fair enough, though I doubt anyone in class knew what ablutions were). It is sinful to have a dog in one's house, and for that reason children grow up to be afraid of dogs. That kind of question on a test would be unfair for a Muslim student since he'll probably be paralyzed with fear and wouldn't be able to answer it. (Come on! You've got to give Muslims more credit than that!). When asked why dogs were considered sinful, she said it was written in Koran that they were dirty animals.

Now, I know that everyone every once in a while is entitled to bullshit a little. And it's okay to bullshit; I do it all the time. But if there's one thing I hate in life, it's misinformation.

I raised my hand, even though we weren't supposed to interrupt the flow of the presentations.

"I'm sorry, what you're saying is completely incorrect. Dogs are not dirty animals and there's NOTHING in the Koran that mentions dogs as being dirty."

"Yes, there is."

"NO there's not. Dogs are mentioned in the Koran a handful of times and none of those times are dogs mentioned to be dirty."

She stumbled over her words a little and then said, "Well, Muslims think dogs are dirty and cannot be in the house."

"No, not all Muslims think dogs are impure, and those who do aren't up on their reading. It's a false hadith that mentions dogs to be dirty, spread by an effeminate man who was afraid of dogs himself".

To which she replied, "Muslims DO think that dogs are impure."

"NOT ALL OF THEM. I, for example, don't."

"Well, what kind of Muslim are you? Look at what you're wearing."

If this were a movie, this is the part where you would start hearing the crickets chirping because of the eternal silence that had just befallen. The entire class let out a gasp, then waited for me to react. Even the professor was stricken dumb.

I looked at Pakistani girl, who was being looked at by Hasidic girl with pride. Here's one woman who covers her hair with a veil, another with a wig, united for a split second in what would probably be the only moment in their lives. Religiousity sure is a bitch.

I sipped my tea and told her, "go ahead with your presentation please" and another member from her group quickly began talking in an effort to defuse the situation. This battle surely wasn't worth fighting. Besides, once a person stoops down to personal attacks, you know that they're not really intelligent creatures and there's no way to talk to them.

But I will say this. Drop me and my tits off to the Middle East and I will solve this crisis for you in no time. Who would've ever known that this was the secret to World Peace?
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 2:24 AM
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Sunday, August 13, 2006
HAPPY BIRTHDAY FRANCY!
When I was living in Egypt, I would visit New York during the summers the minute AUC let out. I would take the 12 hour direct flight, crying babies and all, to arrive in JFK early, EARLY in the morning. My mother or my brother would pick me up and on the way home we'd stop by my father's job so I could surprise him (we have a habit in our family not to tell each other when we're coming to visit...we just show up). A drive to McDonald's drive-through for some pancakes and hash browns would complete the ritual.

The minute I got home the only thing I wanted to do was take a nap. I knew it would be an impossible feat because the minute my best friend caught whiff of my presence in the country, she would make her way towards my house. Unable to keep my eyes open, I'd jump into bed and pray that I'd get at least thirty minutes of slumber. Sometimes I'd be lucky and get a decent amount of sleep but I'd always be awoken the same way; she would creep into my room, sit on my bed, and whisper "wakey, wakey". I HATE being hungry, and I HATE waking up. I'd try to throw her out of the room, but she wouldn't move off the bed until my eyes were open and I looked like I was halfway up.

I met my best friend when I was 16. We both attended the same high school and became friends rather quickly.

I was incredibly jealous of her when we first met. She's drop-dead gorgeous; tall, slender, and eyes the color of green that doesn't exist in nature. The closest celebrity she resembles, just to paint a mental picture in your head, is Nicole Kidman.

But that's not why I was jealous. The guy that was charming me was apparently trying to charm her (and a batch of other girls) at the same time time. He had already ensnared me and when I saw him attempt to flirt with her it nearly drove me mad. I say attempt because he got NOWHERE with her. I had awful taste in men, to be explored later on. She, at that age, had much more sophisticated taste.

One day, asshole David came to school with an injured bird in his palm that he had found out by the school gates. He was showing it to Francy outside class when I walked by. It was the first time she paid him any kind of attention. She had, and still has, an incredible love for animals. When she had to give her dog Kiki up for adoption a couple of years ago she cried longer and harder than any spurned love affair she ever had.

As I went to say hi to asshole David, he introduced me to Francy. We said hello and went our way. A couple of days later we happened to walk out of school at the same time and took our journey home together. She gave me her number and told me to call her, which I never did. A week later she yelled at me for not calling and made me promise to call her over the weekend.

It's been history since.

When I graduated college I was packed off to Egypt and was separated from her for the first time. It was awful. I missed her enormously and waited anxiously for the summers so we could hang out again. Last year she packed herself off to Taiwan to start a new journey in life. We haven't seen each other since December.

I hate it. Her dream has always been to live abroad and write her book and so I suppose it's okay that she's gone. But it doesn't mean I have to be happy about it.

Today is her 30th birthday and although she thinks 30 is old, I'm here to tell her that this is the beginning of an amazing new chapter in life!!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY FRANCY!

Thoughts shared by Carmen at 3:52 PM
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The Devil's Spawn, part deux
So yesterday you were introduced briefly to my lovely ten year old cousin. Today we will delve further into the life of this possessed child.

So, my uncle is driving home from the airport with the spawn sitting in the back with me. She keeps talking non-stop about everything under the sun. At one point she looks at my legs and touches my fishnet stockings. "I really like this," she says as she takes one of her little fingers, puts them inbetween the holes, and totally destroys the stockings by ripping them. Great. She looks a little worried, almost sure that she's about to get a yelling, but I tell her that everything can be replaced but she just has to be careful about playing with things.

The first couple of weeks were actually quite fun. She was a handful and we would fight everyday (one day she got so angry that she spat on the floor...a gesture that was supposed to indicate her spitting on me), but I was enjoying Toronto, the weather, and being happily unemployed. I tried again to explain to her parents that the spawn needed help, real help, but they wouldn't listen to me.

One day, the son of a close family friend came to visit Toronto. He was studying in some god-forsaken university somewhere in Canada and wanted to escape for a little bit. Very attractive boy, half Italian, half Egyptian (the Italian side the dominant one). 19, rower (he actually got a scholarship at his school for rowing...that's how they snatched him from AUC), TALL (6 feet 6 inches). If I hadn't watched him grow up all these years and if I were a pervert, I would've had a lot of fun with that boy!

Anyway, he's visiting Toronto...I take him around the city, we catch up. Later on we return to my uncle's house for dinner where he meets, for the first time, the spawn. The spawn falls in love at first sight and is all over him, being extremely nice. He can't understand why everyone complains about her so much and is being very friendly with her. Fine. As long as she's behaving, let her do whatever she wants.

After dinner we go to sit in the living room. Gorgeous guy and I decide to exchange phone numbers and e-mails in case he ever plans on visiting New York. I take out some paper, write my info, and give it to gorgeous guy. While he's writing down his info, spawn comes and sits on my legs. Then, without any provocation, without ANY warning, I see a little fist come towards my face and BAM!! THE LITTLE SHIT PUNCHES ME OUT! PUNCHES ME OUT!!! Not a girly slap in the face, a real, bonafide, punch in the face. I froze for a second. My first reaction was to pick her up and slam her body to the ground, but I knew that wasn't a viable option. Still sitting on my lap, we stared each other down while I waited for my blood to stop boiling. I then took her off my lap and told her not to talk to me ever again. Now, this all took place in the time span of, I guess, ten seconds but it was the longest ten seconds of my life. Gorgeous guy wasn't sure what to do, my uncle only saw the bit of me pushing his daughter off. Spawn runs off to the staircase and hides there, still fuming.

Later I learned that I was punched for "flirting" with her crush. According to Spawn, I was making kissy faces at gorgeous guy and usurping her place in his world. I was also belittling and making fun of her. All this because of an e-mail exchange.

Her parents forced her to apologize, but she did it with rolling eyes, so I never accepted the apology. Yes, she was eight at the time and I should be an adult, but I was not going to enable this child to continue this kind of behavior. If everyone else didn't care and can't see what's happening, I wasn't going to be part of it.

Last summer when they came to visit, she was acting out again. I had just walked into the living room and told her to relax. She stopped was she was doing, stared at me, put her hand on her hip, and menacingly said, "Do you remember what happened last year???" THE LITTLE SHIT WAS THREATENING ME!!!!!!!!!!!! I was caught so off guard that I was stricken dumb. I mumbled something about something and walked off. That night, I had a dream that she snuck into my room with a sharp knife and slit my throat. I couldn't scream, couldn't throw anything against the wall to call for help.

Since I've been working on a post-graduate degree in Education, I've taken a handful of classes on child psychology and have now diagnosed my cousin as having Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). I'm not being facetious. She exhibits all the symptoms and the reason she's so out of control is because the common disciplinary measures that all parents use with their kids cannot work on an ADD child.

I decided yesterday to try to some of the behavorial modification techniques that I learned on the spawn. And you know what? They worked! It was AMAZING. I took her out for two hours. We went to the bookstore, the diner, a clothing store, and as I manipulated her behavior I was amazed at what a completely different person she became. The ADD child, for example, CANNOT sit still. They simply can't. Their brain is all over the place. And so instead of yelling at her to sit in her seat at the diner, I let her get up, look at the books she bought, throw something out in the garbage, basically take a break from the sitting still.

Don't get me wrong. She's still a little shitface. But at least I've figured out a way to deal with her.

As we were walking home, she held my hand and said, "I'm very, very sorry."

Shit, I thought...we just had a great morning. What in the world could she have done?

"What are you sorry for?"

"I'm sorry for punching you last year [it was actually two years ago]. You remember when I punched you?"

"Yeah, I remember. I was very upset."

"Well, I'm really sorry."
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 9:10 AM
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Saturday, August 12, 2006
The Devil's Spawn, part 1
My uncle and the fam drove in last night from Toronto to visit us for two weeks. It's a yearly summer thing they do; financial constraints coupled with a lack of adventure keep them from planning real vacations. If I were living in Canada, I'd be back and forth from Cuba every weekend.

Anyway, I've always had a problem with his daughter, AKA "the devil's spawn" (TDS). She wasn't a planned baby and both parents were in their early 40s when they had her ten years ago. She was a gorgeous baby. Absolutely gorgeous. A baby that took your breath away. Even now...she's an amazingly, beautiful girl. Out-of-this-world-knock-out.

But there was something always off, even at a very young age. When she was only two, I saw a manipulative side of her that people insisted was part of the normal stages of development. I protested and pointed out that there was something clearly wrong with her; SO WRONG that she might need outside help, but was shot down with the "you don't have any children, you don't know what you're talking about".

The Devil's Spawn continued to grow and her behavior became more and more outlandish. She exhibited all the normal misbehavioral problems associated with her age (acting out, defiance, etc), but had an underlying vindictive, malicious rage that made the demon-ridden Regan in "The Exorcist" look like cherub. Everyone else still kept insisting that she's going through her stages. Her parents continued to discipline her when she misbehaved (which was around every 23 seconds), but it's obvious that they have no idea what they're doing. I explained to them again that maybe a therapist may do her good, but no one listened.

They come here every summer, and every summer I have a problem with the girl. One summer my best friend suggested that I kill the spawn with kindness and I laugh in her face. "Spawns don't respond to kindness", I say. She comes over one day to try her technique. When she saw what she was dealing with, she ate her words. And suggested a psychiatric evaluation.

At 28 I quit a job that made me want to inflict pain upon myself and went to Toronto for a month to spend some time away from here. I had been promising to visit my uncle for years and figured it would be the best time to do it. TDS picks me up from the airport with her father and within ten seconds I'm ready to be back on the plane.

"S," the squeeky voice asks, "are you married?"

"No."

"How old are you?"

"28."

The look of shock and horror on the cute little girl's face was just too much.

"You're so........OLD."

"Thanks."

"Do you ever want to get married?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Cuz."

"Well, don't you want to have children?"

At this point I contemplated telling her, in front of her father, that you don't need to be married to have children, but that was going to open a Pandora's Box that I didn't want to deal with. I reminded myself that I was visiting for a month and a comment like that would be the beginning of a thirty day religious intervention, in the form of lectures, Koranic readings, hadith explorations, and pre-recorded Amr Khaled programs.

"No, I don't want to have children."

"Well, I want to get married immediately."

"Why? Why do you want to get married?"

"Because when I'm married no one will be able to hit me and if I have children I can hit them."

Ouch. How can you not feel bad for a child when you hear something like that? She's a problem child, more than a handful And her parents discipline her by a). yelling, b). hitting, c). filling her with religious mores. (Don't worry, not excessive hitting. I can't blame them for the most part. I get so angry with her sometimes that I want to beat her senselessly, but I know better).

They think a combination of these behavioral modification strategies will create a decent and outstanding child and are CONVINCED that when she gets older, she'll be a much nicer person. "The religion alone, S, will change her". Yeah. Right.

TDS can recite the fatha and a handful of ayas with her eyes closed, on demand. Like a caged animal at the zoo, her parents put her on display whenever she's around Muslim adults so she can do her recitation, which is always followed by over the top adulation and, in some cases, candy and money. TDS always manages to get herself out of trouble by reciting a verse or two. Whenever I try to point out that mere repetition, without any kind of understanding about what one is saying, is useless, they ask me how many verses I know and tell me to keep quiet. When TDS gets an A+ in the Islamic class she takes every Sunday, the world celebrates. When she gets a D in Math, she's told it doesn't matter.

One of my biggest concerns is what will happen to her when she hits her teenage years. I've warned her parents; warned them that they're in for the biggest challenge of their lives, but they're convinced she'll outgrow her behavior with the help of the Koran. I ask them what will happen when she turns 16 (and I was very generous with that age...it will probably be younger than that) and wants to start dating.

"EH?! MAFEESH HAGA ESMAHA DATING!"

"I know, I get that your rules will prohibit her from dating, but she's going to start to want to play with the boys really soon, and with her behavior the way it is now, she's going to rebel in a way that will break both of you."

Again I was told that I have no idea what I was saying and I gave up the discussion with them.

In my next post I'll tell you what happened with TDS on that Toronto trip that made me stop speaking to her for two years.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 12:58 PM
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Thursday, August 10, 2006
Oral Contraceptives
This post is about birth control. Since my virtue has already been compromised, I have decided that I will no longer worry so much about what will disturb certain Muslim sensibilities and write about whatever I want. I have also decided to change my blogger name to "Carmen", my alter-ego.

Anyway, if you're not interested in details about birth control, you may want to skip this post.
______________________________________________________

A couple of months ago my gynecologist suggested that I go on birth control. I've always had pretty bad periods; cramps, etc. She said that birth control would alleviate some of the problems. I explained to her my fear of cancer (I am DEATHLY afraid of cancer) and she told me that I shouldn't worry. After talking with her and getting second opinions (from other doctors and, of course, Google), we decided that I would go on birth control.

The stumbling block taken care of, the decision on what kind of birth control to take had to be made. And it was not easy! Who knew there were so many choices out there?

First thing my gyno suggested was the NuvaRing. The ring is about two inches in diameter. You insert the ring into your vagina once a month and when 21 days are completed, you remove the ring to have your period. After seven days you insert another ring. Apparently it stays there, you don't feel it, and it doesn't disturb your life in any way. My gyno showed me a sample and told me that she'd used it before and didn't even realize it was in there. For me, it was just a freaky notion and told her I wasn't too comfortable with that.

The patch didn't really appeal to me either...it was expensive and the side-effects seemed too much to have to deal with.

We went through the different kinds of pills on the market. There's Seasonale, a pill that allows you to have your period four times a year. When I first heard about it I was a little skeptical. How safe is it, really, to get your period only four times a year? It didn't sound healthy. I was told that it was perfectly safe and normal not to bleed every month.

So why are all both control pills designed for a woman to bleed every month?

Because when they first developed oral contraceptives, they chose a regimen of 21 active pills, followed by 7 hormone-free pills to mimic the average menstrual cycle. It was believed that this would be perceived as more "natural", thereby making the new product more acceptable for women, AND the Roman Catholic Church, which the developers were trying to appease.

I was fascinated by the thought of not getting my period every month. But then I learned about the side effects (breakthrough bleeding) AND the cost (around $600).

So that was a no go.

Finally we decided on a low-dose pill, fairly new on the market, will get my period three days a month. Not too bad. It's still pricey, but I'm hoping once I get health insurance it'll be covered.

I didn't start taking the pill till last month (after my last rage episode). I was reluctant to start. I was afraid of the side-effects and was worried that I wouldn't remember to take it at the same time everyday. The first week was fairly okay...I forgot to take it at the same time twice. I used to take it around lunch time, but when I started feeling sick to my stomach I thought it might be better to take it in the evening, so I switched to that.

The pill hasn't been as bad as I thought it would be. The first couple of weeks were rough; I was nauseous, my head felt somewhat heavy, and I started feeling bloated. Within a week, however, my breasts grew so much that I've had people ask me if I were pregnant. The boobies have gotten more attention than they've ever had. I've always been big, but damn.

The one thing my boyfriend likes the most? The lack of PMS. I just got my period a couple of days ago and didn't bite his head off!!!

I'm not sure how I feel about being on the pill though. I mean, I hated my PMS, both the physical and emotional roller-coaster sides of it. But it kinda had me attached to my body, you know?
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 8:39 PM
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Monday, August 07, 2006
The Bane of the Muslim Woman
I knew it would happen eventually. I'm surprised it didn't happen earlier.

I've always been reluctant to blog. I first started blogging when I went to Spain last year to keep my friends abreast with my comings and goings. When I returned to New York, I stopped writing because I didn't want to share too much of myself. I was afraid of getting criticized, judged, and attacked, which always seems to happen when a Muslim woman dares to step out of bounds. It's damaging, this psychological warfare, and I've never really been equipped to deal with it.

I love who I am. It's taken me quite a bit of time to reconcile all the facets of my different identities into this one ever-changing hybrid conglomerate. It was not an easy task, one made even harder by being a Muslim woman. I alone (well, together with all other Muslim women) carry the burden of representing the Islamic community, a role we never chose to adopt, but one that was forced down our throats from the moment we were conceived.

There are a million blogs on the internet. There are over 130 posts on my blog. My previous entry was about my deep fear of reptiles, yet the only thing one reader managed to discern was how I disgraced the Islamic community by flaunting my sexual escapades.

So, S, who cares? What's one anonymous comment?

It's not about one comment. It's about the fucking mindset, the double-standard mindset, that continues to exist. If I were a Muslim man writing about a night of debauchery, my virtue would not have been attacked.

A couple of years ago I wrote an article on a progressive Muslim website about some issues I was having with my non-Muslim boyfriend. It was about a REAL problem, about our interfaith conflict. There was no mention of sex, no mention of any kind of physical intimacy. Just my confusion. I can't begin to tell you the kinds of comments I received. I was called a whore, a traitor to Islam. I was accused of flaunting my sins and was damned to hell by a number of commentators.

The comments were completely irrelevant to my article and pushed me away. Discouraged, I avoided (and continue to avoid) an Islamic community that harshly judges and attacks rather than listens.

There will be no hijacking of this blog. Get it? I will not engage in any kind of dialogue with anyone who does not possess the skills to be able to carry a fruitful one. You can hold any opinion you want, but if you cannot state your case persuasively and resort to personal attacks and judgments, go elsewhere.

I am NOT a spokesman for Muslim women. I do not represent anyone or anything. If there are Muslim women out there who want to represent an Islam that is congruent with the traditional role as defined by certain individuals (such as anon in my previous post) please leave your name and number in the comments section. I'm sure someone will get back to you soon.

For everyone else, unless you're providing me with pleasure, get your head out from between my thighs. Your honor does not lie there.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 4:47 PM
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Sunday, August 06, 2006
I've got no luv for animals
My parents emigrated from Egypt to Germany when I was four years old. We lived in Germany for four years before making our way to America. While in Germany, we had our families come and visit us. It made the separation a little more bearable.

Two years into Germany, my mother took my brother and I to Egypt for the summer. I was very excited to see my grandparents, who had been the loves of my life. My first night in Egypt was very disorienting. I threw up (a mixture of the heat and vertigo), freaked out at the amount of flies at the airport that just wouldn't leave me alone, and screamed like a banshee when I saw my first ever bors* chillin' on the ceiling in my bedroom.

* (A pinkish/beige lizard that crawls on walls and ceilings in desert climates. They come in different sizes and make a clickish kind of sound. To this day, when I hear that click, and I've heard it only once in Aswan since, I freeze up and run to the nearest exit).

I came from Germany, where the only insects or lizards I saw were of the cartoon variety. To be six and wake up to a lizard just hanging out on top of you, unaffected by your screams, was horrifying.

My grandmother came flying into the room when she heard my screams, followed by my mother, aunt, and uncle who all laughed when they realized what it was I was screaming about. I felt like I was stuck in a nightmare; here I am, a six year old girl, scared shitless. And what does my family do? Laugh! (They did the same thing when I was scared by the family dog, and this is where my fear of dogs, regardless of size, comes from).

My grandfather, the most handsome man in the world, ran into the room, took me in his arms and calmed me down enough to tell me that the lizards can't hurt me. They may be all around, but he promised they'd never fall on me or crawl on me. I couldn't really be calmed, so he went into his room and took out his BB gun. We went back to my room and he shot the bors down. The rest of the summer was spent with me screaming and he coming to my rescue.

Fast forward two decades later.

I'm on vacation in the Dominican Republic with my boyfriend. We're staying at a quaint hotel in the mountains, one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. It had been a hot day and the cool AC in the room felt like heaven. I jump in to take a quick shower while they boyfriend gets a drink at the bar. He comes back into the room dripping with sweat and jumps in the shower himself. While unpacking, I see something moving from the corner of my eye. It's a lizard! Green one, big, long one and I do the only thing I can do when I see animals that scare the shit out of me; I scream like a banshee. I jump on the bed, only to jump back off it. What if there were lizards in the bed?? I continue screaming, imploring my boyfriend to rescue me. He at this point runs out of the shower, soapy and wet, ready to knock someone out. When he saw that I was in one piece and that no one was in the room attacking or raping me, his eyes followed my pointing finger. When he saw that I was screaming about the lizard he gave me a look that I will never forget.

I didn't care. I demanded he get rid of the lizard. He managed to chase it out the window and went back to the shower without saying another word to me. Later, when we were checking out, he told me that a glass was missing from the window and he didn't tell me because he knew I would demand to move to another room. I had been sleeping in a room for two days with broken glass that would've let a lot more lizards in. It was then that I gave HIM a look he'll never forget.

I have NO idea what I would do if I saw this in my room.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 10:20 AM
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Friday, August 04, 2006
The Guilt Factor
Riding the heat wave in comfort for the past couple of days has been one of the most guilty experiences of my life. As I've mentioned, I've had the week off, which means I don't need to move around too much. Although I'm conserving (haven't turned my AC on except when I sleep, and then for only two hours) I've been lounging in my basement which is pretty cool (temperature wise), especially with a fan on. I've had ice cold bottles of water by my side, movies galore, and thankfully have been living in a neighborhood that Con Edison has deemed worthy enough not to be interrupted by blackouts (or brownouts. Have you ever heard of brownouts???? I hadn't until this recent heat wave).

God forbid we get a blackout and it becomes unbearably uncomfortable. You know what we can do? We can get our asses in our car and drive around till we find a hotel with an AC. Two nights ago, when a neighborhood in Harlem lost electricity, the city hired a bus as a cooling center for the neighborhood and that's where the kids and the old folks slept that evening.

My guilt stems from the fact that as I'm living in comfort here and complaining about the burdensome heat wave, an entire country is being massacred. People are losing their homes, their families, their way of life. And I'm here watching movies, helping my friend pick up bongos (Toots bought bongos yesterday...they're AWESOME! With my guiras we can start a band in no time!), and ordering food to be delivered to my doorstep cuz I'm too lazy to cook anything.

It's normal, no? Normal to complain about your circumstances, find displeasure in certain things in your life, but it all just seems to superficial right now. Perusing the different blogs, I've found that I'm not the only one who feels guilt at this time. People are feeling guilty for enjoying the most trivial things in their life. They're feeling bad for writing about anything that doesn't have to do with the destruction of Lebanon. It's as if we don't have the right to continue living the way we did. We're not allowed, anymore, to write about the mundane details of our lives.

I admit, I feel stupid for writing about the heat wave. And guilty for not being able to do something significantly for the people of Lebanon other than the handful of donations I've sent and the weekly candlelight vigils our local Lebanese community holds.

One is not indifferent to the hell the Lebanese are experiencing just because one writes about an oppressive heat wave, or any other "trivial" matter. Easy to say, but I just wish I could stop feeling guilty for enjoying the little bits and pieces of life.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 8:52 AM
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Thursday, August 03, 2006
Still heat waving



Thoughts shared by Carmen at 8:54 PM
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Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Heat Waves

The mayor last night declared a heat emergency for New York City over the next two days. Forecasters called the heat expected in NYC "dangerous".

I can't stand NYC heat. It gets almost hard to breathe sometimes. I went out with Toots last night in an attempt to attend the Arab-American comedy show and nearly died. (We didn't end up seeing it...the line was so long that we ended up just going home; but not before I my eyes caught sight of the most gorgeous woman in the world. She was perfect and I couldn't stop staring at her. Toots missed her because he was too busy trying to be funny to the crowd).

I'm on vacation this week and normally I'd be extremely happy that I have the week off, but remember...my aunt is still here. Not sure which is the lesser of two evils: the unbearable, scorching sun or the unbearable, scorching aunt.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 9:19 AM
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Who: Carmen

Mini-Bio:
xx-something egyptia-yorker who's spent over half her life stuck in two worlds not of her own making. unable and unwilling to fully embrace one identity over the other, she created (is trying to create) her own place in the world where people love each other unconditionally, irrespective of artificial boundaries, and where dancing merengue is as necessary to life as breathing air.

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