free stats Carmen's Web: September 2006
Saturday, September 30, 2006
A Day at the Mall
I don't know why I did it. On a Saturday. One should never go to a mall on a Saturday.

Fall is around the corner. Yesterday the weather plunged and the air is getting crispier. This is actually my favorite time of the year. I love New York in the Fall. It's during this time that I like to take out my Sex and the City DVDs (the last season), cuddle up on the sofa with some hot chocolate and enjoy.

I realized that I needed to go shopping for clothing and figured going to the mall would be a nice way to keep myself occupied while waiting for the sun to set. Stupid, stooooopid mistake. The mall was overrun by little people; teenagers who had nothing else to do but patrol and flirt. I've had my fill of teens this past week and being surrounded by them on my day off made me want to shoot myself in the head (no, I wanted to shoot THEM in the head).

Scene: The dressing room at Express
I'm in my booth trying on my clothing. The booth right next to mine is occupied by a 15-year old girl who's trying on size zero jeans. A couple of seconds later I hear her friends shouting for her outside. "A, where are you? Are you in here?", says one of them as she sticks her leg into my booth. If I had an ax I'd have chopped it off.

They finally found their friend and started screeching about how good she looked. Here's the convo:

Girl 1: "OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! You look SO good! Those jeans are so hot!"
Girl 2: "Oh my God she is so right! You look, like, really good in those jeans!"
Girl 3: "Really? You guys really think so?"
Girl 1: "Hell yeah! You look, like, a million cents!"
Girl 3: "Yeah, but my mother won't let me buy them. She's really strict about jeans."
Girl 2: "What do you mean? I mean, if she sees you in those jeans she'll say you look hot!"
Girl 3: "You don't know my mom. She's, like, really strict with jeans. These jeans are too tight. She's, like, the pants need to be loose."
Girl 1: "Yeah, but can't you just, like, wear a long shirt?"
Girl 3: "No, I can't. My mom will, like, kill me."
Girl 2: "Oh my God, you look so good though!"
Girl 1: "You should just buy them. You have $100. You HAVE to buy them. If your mom, like, says no I'll buy them off you."

The two girls leave Girl 3 to try on another pair of pants and come back within seconds.

Girl 2: "Let me see!"
Girl 3: "What do you think?"
Girl 1: "They're, like, good but the first ones were better."
Girl 2: "Guys, you know what? We should, like, do a photo shoot together!"
Girl 1: "Oh my God, that's such a great idea!!!"
Girl 3: "We could save our money and do a photo shoot! That would be so hot!"
Girl 1: "Oh my God guys, you know what we should, like, do??"
Girl 2: "What?"
Girl 1: "We should all have our sweet 16 together!!!!"
Girl 3: "Oh My God!!!! That's such a hot idea! We should SO, like, do that!"
Girl 1: "You know what? We should do it somewhere out of state!"
Girl 2: "Yeah, like my parents would ever let me do that! Where would we do it?"
Girl 1: "We should, like, do it in Florida!!!"
Girl 3: "How would we go to Florida? That would be, like, so expensive!"
Girl 1: "Well, my uncle has a plane!"
Girl 2: "Oh my God, how hot!"
Girl 3: "It's like my Super Sweet Sixteen!!!"
Girl 1: "Oh my God how do I sound! 'Like, my uncle has a plane!'"

Oh. My. God. I wanted to puncture my eardrums.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 3:31 PM
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For Francy
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 12:42 PM
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Precious Petals
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 11:37 AM
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Ramadan updates
I must have broken my fast thirty-seven times this past week. One really shouldn't be driving during this month. I become nasty, especially when people do stupid things (i.e. drive too slow, cross to slow, are too slow). I have a potty mouth, which is something I'm trying to work on, and know when to use it.

I don't think I'm going to last at my job. The kids are assholes (10:55am and I've already broken fast) and I have a horrible time at work. I spend the day trying to train them to become adults ("take your bookbags off, no calling each other stupid, don't slam that book into the desk, look at me when I'm talking, wake up, pay attention"). Uff. It's exhausting.

I spent ten minutes on Monday sitting on my desk, refusing to start teaching until every single last student took their bookbags off. One kid resisted for the ten minutes and probably thought I was going to start teaching anyway, but I held my ground. He took it off.

Tuesday was spent kicking the kids out of class (they entered like hyenas) and forcing them to enter it like civilized human beings.

Wednesday was a fire drill where I had to explain that a straight line means standing behind each other like civilized human beings.

Thursday was a four minute lecture on how distracting it is for a teacher to teach when students lay their heads on the desk, slouch in their chairs, and yawn like hippos. I had to explain the importance of sleep, breakfast, and sitting up straight.

By Friday I was crazed and fed up and spent the entire day losing my patience. "Do not talk to me if I'm speaking to another student, stop calling my name, ask your group leader, be quiet, do your work...." I couldn't take it anymore. I truly was nasty in class. Once I finished I ran out of that school, came home, and took a two hour nap.

I love teaching. I've been doing it for a while now and when I used to talk to people about my job they could seen the joy on my face. People would be jealous that I had a job I relished. I wake up dreading the work day. So I don't think I'm going to last.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 10:58 AM
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The Talk, part II
I drove with my boyfriend into the city last night so he could get an MRI on his knee. A couple of weeks ago he (thinking he was Jose Reyes) was playing softball and slid to home, injuring his knee. When we got to the office we couldn't find parking so I told him to go in and I'd wait in the car.

After about half an hour I found myself feening for some coffee so I started driving around in the hopes that there'd be a Starbucks around. I drove from 89th all the way to 108 and back to 80th and there was NO Starbucks to be found. There is a a Starbucks on every single block in New York City except when I need one apparently. After a day of fasting and dealing with abrasive adolescents I NEEEEEDED that coffee.

I found a Dunkin Donuts only to discover that I had no cash on me. So I started digging around the car hoping to find some change. What I found, instead, was an old letter sent to the BF by his ex last December. I looked at it for a second and wasn't sure whether to read it or not. I didn't want to invade his privacy but was deathly curious why she would write to him and why he would still have it in his car.

So I read the three page letter in which she told him how much he hurt her for walking away from the relationship and how she hasn't gotten over him. She wrote the letter as a form of "therapy", to get rid of the bad feelings and said she wasn't doing it to make him feel guilty.

I hated reading the letter. I had a severe physical reaction to it (palpitating heart, jittery hands) but was happy at least to read that she referred to me as his "greatest love" (at least I HOPE she was referring to me...).

(Two years ago the BF and I broke up. I had gotten fed up of his emotional constipation. It was the toughest decision I'd made and it broke my heart, but his aloofness made me miserable. A month or so later he started dating someone else and stayed with her for close to a year. Him and I had stopped talking, but when he learned that I was moving to Barcelona we started speaking again. He wanted to see me before I left but I had told him that if he were with someone else it wouldn't be a good idea. So we didn't see each other. A month later he came to visit me in Barcelona and told me that they had broken up.)

Besides reading another woman's words to the man I'm dating, what bothered me about the letter was all its Biblical references. She quoted from the Corinthians et al and it upset me because the BF is a fairly religious man. And comes from a family where everything is shared. I worry that in the future, if we do get married, this will become a problem. I can't share that part of his life with him. I've been to my fair share of churches (I went to Catholic school growing up) and I probably wouldn't mind going to church with him on Sundays if he wanted me to, but I can't give him that type of religion with the "Jesus saves" and all.

I didn't tell him that I read the letter and just went home when he finished his MRI. When I got home I got very frustrated and needed to make sure we were on the same page about our futures. I decided that I wasn't going to tell him about the letter. I didn't want him to think I was snooping and technically he didn't do anything wrong. After all, I was the one he wanted to be with.

So I called him up to continue our talk. I asked him what we were going to do about our futures. He said that I was going to write a best-seller and he was going to retire on the money it brought us. I asked him to get serious and told him we needed to talk about what we would do about our children.

Long conversation short he said he would want them baptized and would like for them to go to church with him every once in a while. I told him that I wouldn't want them getting confirmed or have a communion and after some thought he said that they could do that when they get older, if that's what they want to do.

I can see kids getting confused with that kind of arrangement. Church and mosque, Lent and Ramadan, but wouldn't it be great to be exposed to two different things? I mean, I suppose I'd rather have them have SOME religion rather than no religion. Then they can do what they want with it afterwards.

It's truly confusing in my head. I don't know if it's a good or even right arrangement, but what's the alternative?
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 9:59 AM
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Saturday, September 23, 2006
My first Ramadan
I was REALLY young when my parents allowed me to start fasting. I was five and we had just moved to Germany from Egypt a handful of months before Ramadan. My grandmother was visiting us (her first trip ever out of Egypt) and I was jealous that all the big people were fasting.

I whined for a week about being allowed to fast. They first told me that I didn't have to fast. I think they thought that would shut me up. When I kept insisting they told me I was too young and wouldn't be able to do it. Even back then I was rebel. I HATED being told that I couldn't do something because of my age or because I was a girl. So I continued whining until my mother finally had had enough and told me that I was only to fast till noon. Victory was mine!

So I started fasting. I'd wake up in the morning, kiss my grandmother goodbye, and head to kindergarden. During recess, when all the kids would eat, I'd be sitting by myself working on some arts and craft project. One day, my teacher (who had never had a Muslim student before)
asked me to explain to the class what it is that I was doing and we spent an entire afternoon talking about Ramadan. By the end of the day, all my classmates had given me some candy to break my fast with.

When I'd get home, my grandmother would stop whatever it was she was doing and take me into the kitchen. I'd sit at the table and ramble off about my day (I could talk my ass off) while she made her inimitable scrambled eggs. Till this day I can remember the aroma of that kitchen, the snaps and crackles that would pop into my ears when she cracked that egg into the buttered pan. She died just before I turned 20, a month before Ramadan of that year. Ramadan has never been the same without her.

Anyway, back to Germany.

One day in school I won some sort of prize. I can't remember what it was for and I probably would've forgotten all about it by now had it not been for the prize. For my win my teacher gave me chocolate popsicle. Ice cream! Didn't she know I was fasting??

I kept that popsicle, unopened, in my hand till I got home. When my mother picked me up and saw the ice cream melting all over my hand, she told me that I could eat it. I demanded to know the time and told her that I would not be eating that ice cream until noon. The walk home was messy. When we got home, I ran through the door to show my grandmother how I was able to fight temptation! The eggs tasted even better that afternoon.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 9:50 AM
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To Fast or Not To Fast
"So, are we fasting tomorrow?" It's past midnight and my brother and I are trying to decide whether to pig out before we go to sleep or if we're going to have another day of breakfast. We've received and made the obligatory phone calls to wish friends and family a happy Ramadan, but we're still not sure if the big day is tomorrow or Sunday. An uncle in Canada phoned in to say that his mosque in Toronto had not seen the moon but has decided to follow the announcement made from Mecca that the first day of Ramadan is tomorrow. A friend from Pakistan is not fasting tomorrow, however her cousin from India is fasting as I write this.

We go through this every year. Egypt sights the moon, Saudi Arabia doesn't. New York doesn't know whether to follow Cairo or Mecca and the population begins to form alliances based on their politics. Three years ago my brother, who lived in Boston, fasted a day earlier than we did in New York. Welcome to the Diasporan Ramadan.

"It's tomorrow," my brother calls out from his room. He's on the internet checking the ISNA and ICNA websites and I'm on the phone with the 96th Street Mosque. The mosque concurs; New York City Ramadan 2006 starts on September 23rd.

Happy Ramadan!
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 1:13 AM
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Thursday, September 21, 2006
Students and Teachers
I had a very bad altercation today with a student.

He's usually a model student and I've had a great relationship with him since we started school. For some reason today, though, he was being VERY resistant. He wouldn't do what I told him to do, he wouldn't participate with his group, and he openly defied me in class. I was confused and wasn't sure what to do because I had never had an issue with him before, but it got to a point where I HAD to do something lest the class start thinking I was wimp, so I sent him out to sit in the hall till he calmed down a bit, but the minute I did that he walked towards the gym. I yelled to him to come back and sit outside the classroom. He refused to do it. I was torn between disciplining him and actually continuing my teaching (thank God they were working on a project) so I spent a couple of extra seconds telling him that if I looked out the door and didn't find him there'd be hell to pay and went back into the class.

I was fuming when I went back in, but had a VERY disciplined class for the rest of the period. After the period ended I called him into the class and asked him why he was acting the way he was. He wouldn't answer me. I told him that he needed to talk to me and tell me what was wrong if I were to help him, but he didn't open his mouth. So I asked him to write me an essay about what it means to work in a group and why he wasn't doing his work today.

He left and I was just in a lousy mood for the rest of the day. The past two weeks have been absolutely draining. I'm used to teaching adults. I'm used to people who WANT to learn and enjoy learning. I'm not used to adolescents who are in the throes of puberty. Who you have to control.

I had a near panic attack on Saturday. I was extremely exhausted (hadn't slept all week), was dehydrated, and overworked. Around eight-ish I started getting this tightness in my chest and had trouble breathing. Tears started forming in my eyes and vertigo hit all of a sudden. The boyfriend and I were supposed to meet for dinner, but I didn't have the strength for it. He insisted that we meet so I could just vent, so I spent a good twenty minutes doing that in his car while he drove to the restaurant. By the time we got there I had let out my toxins and was able to spend a really nice evening in a GREAT restaurant with amazing food. I kinda calmed down the next day, but am still feeling a little overwhelmed.

So you can imagine how I felt when I had that incident with the student. I'm already beginning to doubt this particular career and can't seem to leave my work at work (I come home and continue working).

After I finished my day, I went to the teacher's lounge and bumped into the principal who said he wanted to talk to me. I walked into his office and he told me that he wanted to share something with me. He told me that my student had visited his office and seemed kind of upset. He sat down with him and asked him what was wrong, but the student wouldn't tell him. He asked him if he'd feel more comfortable writing down what was bothering him, so my student did that.

The principal told me that my student had written:

"I was having a really bad day because of problems outside school and I didn't pay attention in history class this afternoon. I didn't do the work and I really upset Miss S. I want to apologize to Miss S, but I'm shy".

It was so heart-warming that I wanted to search the kid out and give him a hug.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 6:17 PM
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Ever since Buffy went off the air, I've had a tough time devoting myself to television. (I know there'll be haters out there re: Buffy, but let me just say that Joss Whedon is a god and if you haven't watched "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", or "Angel", or "Firefly" you have NO IDEA what you've been missing from your life).

I've recently been addicted to "Nip/Tuck" and I can't understand why I didn't get into it when it first went on the air. That kinda saved me when my favorite shows went on their summer hiatus...I had three seasons to catch up on and plenty of time to do it.

My brother is on his way to his friend's restaurant right now to have dinner and told me in passing, "Oh, by the way, 'Grey's Anatomy' is on tonight." I was working on my lesson plans for tomorrow and immediately jumped for joy! I turned to my Tivo to make sure that it was going to be recorded (1. I HATE commercials, 2. never let it be known that Carmen picks pleasure over work) only to find out that tonight is also the season premier of "The Office", and "ER"!!!!!!!!! Thursday nights are good again!!!!

I find it really sad how excited I got over television shows just now, but am pleased nonetheless that my shows are coming back. Now I just have to wait for "Scrubs", "Big Love", and "Gilmore Girls" and I'm all set. Oh. And that shitty, addictive, son-of-a-bitch show called "Lost".
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 5:57 PM
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Arab-Americans make bad brides
A handful of years ago my crazy aunt and her oldest son paid my father a visit. I was living alone at the time and had the misfortune of visiting my parents on the same day. I remember how I wanted to hit my head against the wall when I opened the door and heard her voice making its way from the living room. It was too late to turn back and I was forced to spend an afternoon that, if God were just, would put me on the express lane to heaven's gates.

Auntie was there to get my father's advice (and money). Summertime was coming and she wanted to send her 22-year-old son to Egypt for vacation. She was hoping, as well, that he would find himself a bride, though she admitted that he was still young and had plenty of time. I rolled my eyes at her and asked her why she would want to send her son thousands of miles away to find a bride when there are plenty of women in America to marry.

"You want my son to marry an American!!! There's no way I'll ever let him marry an American!!"

Poor kid was sitting there, fidgeting in his seat, wishing his mother would turn mute.

I asked her what was wrong with Americans and she replied that Americans don't have any strong traditions.

"Ya3ni, if he marries an American woman, she won't let me live at their home. Then I'll be out in the streets?? No, no...he can't marry an American woman."

I was thinking in my head that no normal, sane woman would ever allow auntie to live in the same house. Arab or non.

Me: "Fine, he doesn't have to marry an American woman. There are a lot of Egyptians here, Arabs as well. Is that better?"

She replied that Arab-American women were even worse than American women because we KNOW our traditions, but don't follow them.

I got really angry at her for saying that and got even angrier when my father agreed. Apparently we're not marriage material because we're independent, don't take shit, and won't allow our mother-in-laws to live with us. We value our careers and won't cook for our husbands.

My father went further to say that if an Egyptian man would ask his advice about marriage, he would tell him to go back home to find a bride and bring her here.

Me: "So basically, you're condemning all of us Arab women here, is that it?"

Dad: "No. You can still get married."

Me: "How are we supposed to get married if you keep encouraging all the Arab men to go 'back home' to find someone? We can't marry the Arabs and you refuse to let us marry Americans. So what's the solution?"

Dad: "You [Arab-American chicks] should change. You need to know how to cook, how to maintain traditions. If you do that then you can get married."

Me: "Ma3lesh ya gama3a, but this is bullshit. What's you're saying is bullshit. Me personally, I won't change. And if an Arab-American woman asked my advice, I'd tell her NOT to change."

Auntie: "So you're never going to get married. Is that what you want?"

Me: "I can marry anyone I want."

Auntie: "Ya3ni eh you can marry whoever you want? Are you going to marry an American???!!!!!"

Me: "I can marry anyone I want."

Auntie: (to my father) "3agbak el kalam da?? You're going to let your daughter marry an American????"

Dad: "I've taught her right from wrong. She can do whatever she wants and marry anyone she wants. I can't control her life."

For a split second I felt like I was on top of the world. My father made me SO proud with that statement.

Auntie: "Ya3ni if she gets married to an American [and American here translates to non-Muslim] you'll throw her a wedding?"

Dad: "No"

Auntie: "Will you go to her wedding??"

Dad: "No."

And that was that. I told you, a split second of happiness, no more.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 4:35 PM
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Tuesday, September 19, 2006
American Muslim "Dating"
Would be such a funny article if it weren't so pathetic...

"It's Musliim Boy Meets Girl, but Don't Call It Dating"
NY Times

CHICAGO -- So here's the thing about speed dating for Muslims.

At a "matrimonial banquet," single Muslim American men spent seven minutes at each table, including the one at which Alia Abbas sat before moving on.

Many American Muslims - or at least those bent on maintaining certain conservative traditions - equate anything labeled "dating" with hellfire, no matter how short a time is involved. Hence the wildly popular speed dating sessions at the largest annual Muslim conference in North America were given an entirely more respectable label. They were called the "matrimonial banquet."

"If we called it speed dating, it will end up with real dating," said Shamshad Hussain, one of the organizers, grimacing.

Both the banquet earlier this month and various related seminars underscored the difficulty that some American Muslim families face in grappling with an issue on which many prefer not to assimilate. One seminar, called "Dating," promised attendees helpful hints for "Muslim families struggling to save their children from it."

The couple of hundred people attending the dating seminar burst out laughing when Imam Muhamed Magid of the Adams Center, a collective of seven mosques in Virginia, summed up the basic instructions that Muslim American parents give their adolescent children, particularly males: "Don't talk to the Muslim girls, ever, but you are going to marry them. As for the non-Muslim girls, talk to them, but don't ever bring one home."

"These kids grew up in America, where the social norm is that it is O.K. to date, that it is O.K. to have sex before marriage," Imam Magid said in an interview. "So the kids are caught between the ideal of their parents and the openness of the culture on this issue."

The questions raised at the seminar reflected just how pained many American Muslims are by the subject. One middle-aged man wondered if there was anything he could do now that his 32-year-old son had declared his intention of marrying a (shudder) Roman Catholic. A young man asked what might be considered going too far when courting a Muslim woman.

Panelists warned that even seemingly innocuous e-mail exchanges or online dating could topple one off the Islamic path if one lacked vigilance. "All of these are traps of the Devil to pull us in and we have no idea we are even going that way," said Ameena Jandali, the moderator of the dating seminar.

Hence the need to come up with acceptable alternatives in North America, particularly for families from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, where there is a long tradition of arranged marriages.

One panelist, Yasmeen Qadri, suggested that Muslim mothers across the continent band together in an organization called "Mothers Against Dating," modeled on Mothers Against Drunk Driving. If the term "arranged marriage" is too distasteful to the next generation, she said, then perhaps the practice could be Americanized simply by renaming it "assisted marriage," just like assisted living for the elderly.

"In the United States we can play with words however we want, but we are not trying to set aside our cultural values," said Mrs. Qadri, a professor of education.

Basically, for conservative Muslims, dating is a euphemism for premarital sex. Anyone who partakes risks being considered morally louche, with their marriage prospects dimming accordingly, particularly young women.

Mrs. Qadri and other panelists see a kind of hybrid version emerging in the United States, where the young do choose their own mates, but the parents are at least partly involved in the process in something like half the cases.

Having the families involved can help reduce the divorce rate, Imam Majid said, citing a recent informal study that indicated that one third of Muslim marriages in the United States end in divorce. It was still far too high, he noted, but lower than the overall American average. Intermarriages outside Islam occur, but remain relatively rare, he said.

Scores of parents showed up at the marriage banquet to chaperone their children. Many had gone through arranged marriages - meeting the bride or groom chosen by their parents sometimes as late as their wedding day and hoping for the best. They recognize that the tradition is untenable in the United States, but still want to influence the process.

The banquet is considered one preferable alternative to going online, although that too is becoming more common. The event was unquestionably one of the big draws at the Islamic Society of North America's annual convention, which attracted thousands of Muslims to Chicago over Labor Day weekend, with many participants bemoaning the relatively small pool of eligible candidates even in large cities.

There were two banquets, with a maximum 150 men and 150 women participating each day for $55 apiece. They sat 10 per table and the men rotated every seven minutes.

At the end there was an hourlong social hour that allowed participants time to collect e-mail addresses and telephone numbers over a pasta dinner with sodas. (Given the Muslim ban on alcohol, no one could soothe jumpy nerves with a drink.) Organizers said many of the women still asked men to approach their families first. Some families accept that the couple can then meet in public, some do not.

A few years ago the organizers were forced to establish a limit of one parent per participant and bar them from the tables until the social hour because so many interfered. Parents are now corralled along one edge of the reception hall, where they alternate between craning their necks to see who their adult children are meeting or horsetrading bios, photographs and telephone numbers among themselves.

Talking to the mothers - and participants with a parent usually take a mother - is like surveying members of the varsity suddenly confined to the bleachers.

"To know someone for seven minutes is not enough," scoffed Awila Siddique, 46, convinced she was making better contacts via the other mothers.

Mrs. Siddique said her shy, 20 year old daughter spent the hours leading up to the banquet crying that her father was forcing her to do something weird. "Back home in Pakistan, the families meet first," she said. "You are not marrying the guy only, but his whole family."

Samia Abbas, 59 and originally from Alexandria, Egypt, bustled out to the tables as soon as social hour was called to see whom her daughter Alia, 29, had met.

"I'm her mother so of course I'm looking for her husband," said Mrs. Abbas, ticking off the qualities she was looking for, including a good heart, handsome, as highly educated as her daughter and a good Muslim.

Did he have to be Egyptian?

"She's desperate for anyone!" laughed Alia, a vivacious technology manager for a New York firm, noting that the "Made in Egypt" stipulation had long since been cast overboard.

"Her cousin who is younger has babies now!" exclaimed the mother, dialing relatives on her cellphone to handicap potential candidates.

For doubters, organizers produced a success story, a strikingly good-looking pair of Chicago doctors who met at the banquet two years ago. Organizers boast of at least 25 marriages over the past six years.

Fatima Alim, 50, was disappointed when her son Suehaib, a 26-year-old pharmacist, did not meet anyone special on the first day. They had flown up from Houston especially for the event, and she figured chances were 50-50 that he would find a bride.

When she arrived in Texas as a 23-year-old in an arranged marriage, Mrs. Alim envied the girls around her, enthralled by their discussions about all the fun they were having with their boyfriends, she said, even if she was eventually shocked to learn how quickly they moved from one to the next and how easily they divorced. Still, she was determined that her children would chose their own spouses.

"We want a good, moderate Muslim girl, not a very, very modern girl," she said. "The family values are the one thing I like better back home. Divorces are high here because of the corruption, the intermingling with other men and other women."

For his part, Mr. Alim was resisting the strong suggestion from his parents that they switch tactics and start looking for a nice girl back in Pakistan. Many of the participants reject that approach, describing themselves as too Americanized — plus the visas required are far harder to obtain in the post-Sept. 11 world.

Mr. Alim said he still believed what he had been taught as a child, that sex outside marriage was among the gravest sins, but he wants to marry a fellow American Muslim no matter how hard she is to find.

"I think I can hold out a couple more years," he said in his soft Texas drawl with a boyish smile. "The sooner the better, but I think I can wait. By 30, hopefully, even if that is kind of late."
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 4:58 PM
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Monday, September 18, 2006
Let's Go Mets!!!!!!!!!!

We just clinched the division!!!!!
It would be AMAZING if the Mets won the World Series this year...nice 20 year anniversary and a great Ramadan treat.

And please, no comments about how baseball is the most boring sport. I don't wanna hear it. DON'T RAIN ON MY PARADE! In either case, you'll never know how exciting it can get until you hang out with some Dominicans who worship this game.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 10:49 PM
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Saturday, September 16, 2006
Happy Birthday Toots!!

Why I'm grateful to have Toots in my life:

1. He's always got my back.
I'm always highly susceptible to attacks for some reason, whether it's from family, friends, or strangers. You can always rely on Toots and his acerbity during these times. He'll rip through these people like it ain't no thang, but...

2. He won't fight my battles for me.
He'll defend me to no avail, but won't shelter me. He understands that I need to learn to work through my issues and that when you take away people's problems, you weaken their ability to overcome them.

3. He pushes me out of my comfort zone.
Carmen loves stability. When I was younger, we jumped from country to country, state to state, city to city and being all over the place instilled this need in me to want to plant down some roots and settle. Settle in a physical place and an emotional place. And so I have a tendency to stay in this "place" even if it's not good for me because I fear making dramatic changes. Toots recognizes this and will tell me things that I don't necessarily want to hear, but need to hear. He doesn't get too pushy about it, and even if I don't follow his direction he...

5. Doesn't give up on me.
I've known him for eleven years. I've been through a million and one ups and downs, nervous breakdowns, life drama and he continues to be consistently Toots. I've got three people in my life who I never have to worry about giving up on me (and I do a lot of stupid things that would warrant them to give up on me): Toots, Francy, and my brother. They're my best friends in the whole wide world.

6. He's got great taste in books.
Sometimes. He exposed me to certain books that have become the heart of my library, but this reputation will always be tainted by his suggestion to read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

7. His jokes are so unfunny, that they're funny.
In the eleven years I've known him, he's told me one funny joke. Out of THOUSANDS. THOUSANDS. The minute he says, "I've got a joke for you" I know that it's more likely that I roll my eyes than laugh. But it's nice to hear him laugh at his own jokes, which then makes it funny.

This list could go on and on, but to cut it short and spare him the emotional porn he's not fond of, let's just say that he's out of this world terrific and you'll never meet someone else like him.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 10:01 AM
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Thursday, September 14, 2006
Bag Tag

Got bag tagged by Twosret, so here it goes (clockwise starting with the bag):

1. HUGE Puma bag to carry all my teacher shit. I took everything out, but there was so much stuff that I threw it back in and simply took out my essentials. What you don't see (and is in the bag) are two world history books that I use to plan my lessons, my grade book, student homework, AND my laptop. It gets REALLY crowded in there.

2. Bath and Body Works Aromatherapy room spray, scent Jasmine Vanilla. Because B.O. is rampant in high school.

3. An antique MP3 player. (Can't live without my music) When iPods first came out, everyone and their mother had one and I wanted to be different. So I went with an I-River. It's a little bulky and I've had students tell me that I need to join the 21st century, but it gets the job done.

4. My car keys. It's got three keychains. One is a medallion of the Dominican Republic. Whenever I go to a car park, the attendants always get frustrated because they assume I'm Dominican and so when I don't answer them in Spanish they keep trying to figure out where I'm from.

The other keychains were given to me by my best friend a year or so after I first learned how to drive and got my license (which was at 23 or 24...I was a late bloomer). One says: "Cute but kinda evil", which I suppose is true. I'm not THAT evil though...The other reads: "If you don't like the way I drive then stay off the sidewalk", an homage to my road rage.

5. My house and school keys. Only one keychain there that I bought last year when I was in Spain. It's got a picture of a flamenco dancer named "Carmen". My poor friends get confused whenever they see it ("Are those your keys? Why does it say Carmen??") Got two house keys, three school keys (two for my classroom, one for the teacher's lounge) and my gym ID.

6. My Palm Zire that resembles an iPod. It's the most basic palm pilot, nothing spectacular, but it helps organize the thoughts in my head.

7. My phone. Never leave home without it. I DO remember a time when we all went without cellphones, but I can't for the life of me figure out how we managed.

8. A note from my boyfriend telling me that he loves me even though I'm broke. We used to work together in the same building (Empire State Building) for a year and one day I had left my wallet at home. It was an awful morning. I arrived at the subway station only to realize that I had no money. I had 75 cents to my name. Going back home was not an option. Missing work was not an option. So what did I do? I begged. I stopped straphangers and begged for another 75 cents. I went through fifteen people, lowered my price to a mere 25 cents, but no one helped :( Finally, a messenger from God in the form of a Haitian nurse gave me her last few coins. When I got to work, I called the BF and he gave me some money in an envelope with that note.

9. My journal. It keeps me entertained when I'm bored and need some reading material.

10. On top of the journal:

a. Vincent Longo eye concealer. THIS is a woman's best friend. When suffering from those bags (or luggage) under your eyes, this is the one thing that'll save your life and make you look alive. I don't use make-up, but I'll never leave home without this.

b. My flamenco bookmark. I try to read at least one book a month. I used to read one book a week, but time hasn't been my best friend recently.

c. My jump drive where I carry all my important files.

And last, but not least,

11. Tropic of Ruislip, the book I'm reading now. (Relax Toots, you'll get it back eventually, along with Mind Your Language).

I forgot my wallet at work and so that's why it's not featured here.

So I tag Cairogal, Francy, Hathor, and Gitana (decided to limit it to the ladies...sorry guys...)
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 5:20 PM
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Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Muslims in America
NPR has been airing a week-long series this week highlighting Muslim Americans post 9/11. It's really worth checking it out...
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 8:17 PM
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Tuesday, September 12, 2006
The Talk
The BF noticed that I wasn't in the best of moods last night. We've been together long enough to pick up on the subtle changes in our moods even if we're trying to hide it. He asked me repeatedly what was wrong, but I didn't want to talk about my insecurities so I told him I was fine and kept changing the topic.

He called me this afternoon from outside my house and told me to get dressed so we could go have a nice lunch. I HATE getting ready last minute like that. See, the thing with curly haired girls is that we need some time to get our tresses in order. We can't just pick up and leave like that.

So anyway, we go out for a lunch that was not so nice.* In between our complaints with the service and the food he continued asking me what was wrong and I told him that I wasn't comfortable talking about it now and that maybe we'd discuss it soon.

On our way home he stopped the car about a block from my house and asked me what I thought his intentions towards me were. I told him that I knew he loved me, but admitted that I didn't know what his intentions were. He then proceeded to tell me that he loved me very much and that he really wanted to marry me. That there was no one else he wanted to spend his future with, etc... (I'll spare you the sappy stuff). He apologized for not letting me know earlier and regretted that we keep tip-toeing around this. It was about time we talked about our futures.

Our major issue is our religions and my parents. He told me that his family might have some problems with it, especially if he can't get married in a Catholic church, but that it wouldn't be a big deal. He asked if I'd be willing to convert and I told him that any conversion that would be had, if it were necessary, would simply be me signing a paper so he could get married in a church if need be. But that I'd never be Catholic. Fair enough, he said.

He then asked me what would be needed in order to make the ramifications on my side less severe. I told him that in order for my parents to be okay with anything he'd need to convert, but that that's not something I want him to do. Other than conversion there's absolutely nothing that would make the fall-out with my parents avoidable.

I told him what I've always told him before; that they'd be disappointed, unhappy, and that there's a strong likelihood that they wouldn't join me in this part of my life. It would be a terrible time for me and if we were to go through with this he'd have to be very strong.

I hate that this is all so hard. I hate that I'm not even sure about what my parents would do. Part of me thinks (hopes?) that they'd be understanding and that they'd be happy for me, the other part (the one that actually lives on Earth, not in la-la land) knows the hell I'd go through. I don't want to disappoint them, I really wish I could make them happy and live the life within the framework they gave me. But I can't do it. I can't force myself to marry the nice Muslim man they wish I'd end up with.

We ended the conversation acknowledging the difficulties and talked very briefly about what we'd do with our children. He said he would want them to be baptized, I told him that sprinkles of water on a baby's head is not a big deal for me but that there's no way I could invite my parents to something like that. Can you imagine my Muslim parents in a church watching their Muslim-Christian grandchild get baptized????

*(Francy, remember that Italian restaurant next to Midway??? We found bugs in our food, what we ordered wasn't even edible, and the restaurant was full of Forest Hill's senior citizens...when did it get so bad????)
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 4:02 PM
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Sunday, September 10, 2006
Of children
When I was a teenager, I dreamed of having twelve children, then six, then two when I found learned what childbirth actually consisted of. As a teenager, it just seemed natural to want to have was simply part of life. The prospect of never having children (or having a husband) never crossed my mind back then.

One of the main reasons that I broke off my engagement when I was in Egypt was because I was afraid of how my children would turn out if I lived in Egypt. I had already been so detached from the country, the people, the traditions, that I was afraid that my own children would become strangers to me. That I wouldn't recognize them. That I wouldn't be able to relate to them in any way since I hated the country so much. I didn't know how I would be able to raise Egyptian children, children who'd probably know more Arabic than me and be part of a culture that had tortured me for years. I couldn't fathom the thought of restricting my kids' movements, especially my daughters. To know that they couldn't come and go as they pleased because of the constant street harassment. To know that I couldn't just put my kids in a stroller and walk them down the street bothered me. When I mentioned this to my would be in-laws they told me that that's what nadis (country clubs) were for. Yeah. I want to raise my children in country clubs.

So up till then I was still thinking that I'd have children, that it was still a natural thing that would have to come eventually. I never really thought about WHY I would want to have children.

Why do people have children? I can't really find a reason that, for me, isn't selfish. Kids fill a void, kids bring love and warmth, kids are companions, etc, etc. All these didn't seem like good enough reasons for me.

A couple of years ago my aunt was imploring me to get a move on it already and get married to have kids. She said that my kids would be spectacular and that she would love to meet them. I wasn't in the mood to have the whole marriage discussion, so I asked her to give me one good reason to have kids.

"Because God said so," she stated, and went further to quote the verse which basically tells us to go forth and multiply.

"That's not a good reason," came out of my mouth much quicker than I had anticipated and I was subjected to a 45 minute lecture on how everything God says and wants is a good reason.

I don't know what the appeal of having children is and I can't really think of a logical, intellectual, subjective reason to want to have one. What I do know, though, is that there's something that tugs at me everytime I'm around children nowadays. Especially girls. I see girls and I fall in love with them.

I went out with my boyfriend yesterday afternoon to his brother-in-law's surprise birthday party. I was the only woman there who did not have children or in the process of having children (his family is very fertile). I was surrounded by kids, mothers, and pregnant women and I felt like an odd woman out. If I were in my early 20s this feeling would never have happened; I know because I've always been surrounded by such creatures. For some reason though, recently, I've been very aware of my surroundings re: pregnancy and children.

I WOULD love to have a baby, but I'm not sure WHY I want one. I had a horrible time growing up. I'm surprised I got through it all and am somewhat sane still. Why bring a child into this world?

This question became increasingly more difficult to answer when I started dating non-Muslims and fell in love with a practicing Catholic. Getting together with him would be difficult, having children with him more so.

My boyfriend's niece is dating a Muslim and is getting serious about him. His mother doesn't want anything to do with a Catholic girl and her family is worried about what an interfaith marriage would look like. The guy's father told him that he can do whatever he wants and that he'd be supportive, but that the children would have to be Muslim. This issue of contention took months to resolve. The girl's father finally relented and decided that if his daughter really wants to marry this man that he'd be okay with the fact that his grandkids would be Muslim as long as his daughter doesn't lose her faith.

If kids didn't fall into the equation I doubt there would've been so many problems.

I have an Egyptian friend who's a product of an interfaith marriage and she mentioned something three years ago that has stuck in my mind since. She was telling me that her parents had been married for over three decades and still hold each other's hands when they sit together at home. That for her, that's the product of a good marriage.

I'm all over the place with this post. It's late, I'm under the influence, and I'm super tired.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 2:58 AM
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Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Welcome Toots!

Thoughts shared by Carmen at 5:36 PM
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Tuesday, September 05, 2006
First day of school went off without a hitch. Have great students for the most part and an unofficial poll has designated me as the "hottie teacher". I'm also the mean teacher for some reason, which I guess is a good thing since a healthy dose of fear will keep kids in check.

For some reason the students can't seem to pronounce my name, which is actually quite stupid because it's not difficult, so many have resorted to calling me Miss S. The odd thing is that the Arab kids can't even pronounce my name! I mean, they have NO excuse. I'm thinking it's because of the way I spell it, but still...NO EXCUSE that the Arabs can't get my name right.

I have a handful of Egyptian students in my classes. The principal decided to group all Arabic speaking kids in my section in case they needed a little extra translation help. One of them told me today that he likes "to blay ze guitar" and another told me that she "zbeek[s] three languages". The guitar blaying kid's mother came to the parent orientation this morning and harassed me for nearly fifteen minutes.

"Ya S, mish 3ayza awasiki be F. Da ebni, habibi", she said as she tousled his hair and licked her thumbs to smooth his eyebrows. (Can't do a direct translation right now cuz I'm suffering from a brain fart, but the main idea is that she was telling me to take care of her son, her love). Poor kid.

The rest of the day kinda rushed before my eyes after the parent orientation. Did well, even when I was informally observed by the principal (ON THE FIRST DAY!!!!)

So....good day. Nothing spectacular, but at least I've jumped into that pool of fear and got over it.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 5:35 PM
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Monday, September 04, 2006
I don't have time for a life crisis right now
First day of classes start tomorrow and yours truly is shitting bricks. I always get like this before a "performance" so I've kinda gotten used to it. Fear of the unknown is a pretty controlling fear, but is one that'll go away once you just jump into the pool. The first time I taught was HORRIFYING. I remember how badly I wished for the earth to just open up and swallow me whole.

I'm not a people person. My nature is such that solitary is what brings it peace. I'm more introspective than interpersonal. It's always bothered me, this fear of being around people and that's why I forced myself to go into teaching. Good thing too because apparently that's where my calling lay.

But my shot nerves right now have little to do with my anxiety for my new job and more to do with my recent trip to Chicago.

The boyfriend and I went to visit his niece and her family just outside Chicago this past weekend. I had a very nice, relaxing time and fell in love with their five year old daughter. I also actually enjoyed my time in the suburbs (she lives about an hour away from the city).

I had a very good time with the boyfriend, though realized on this trip that he's not an ideal travel partner. He's got no sense of adventure, does not enjoy exploring cities, and is a chronic complainer (though he limited the complaints on this trip--remind me to recount our Rome trip one day). I'm fine with all that. I wish he were a little different because I'm all about the travel (I suffer from wanderlust) but understand that compatible travel partners are difficult to come by.

The BF and I have come a long way. We've been together, on and off, for the past eight years and have had to jump over so many hurdles to get to where we are right now. We first had to deal with the fact that I was engaged when we met, our height issues (he's 5'7", I'm 5'10" without heels), his commitment phobia, our RELIGIONS, etc, etc.

We've been "good" for this past year. He finally got some of his shit together and we've been working at establishing a foundation where we can continue building our relationship, and have been doing fairly well. He's changed a lot and while the process has been much slower than it should be, I haven't jumped ship because I've been in love with him for so long and firmly believed that our story would have a happy ending one day.

I digress.

This past weekend, as I bonded with the five year old girl and watched the dynamics of his niece's family, I realized how BADLY I want to have a family of my own. And I don't mean that I just started hearing the ticking of my biological clock or have become infatuated with Bride magazine.

For the past, I would say, decade or so I've pushed my way out of my family. We were very close at one point, but once I realized that our relationship depended on my utmost submission to their will I just started breaking away. I would never be able to give them what they want; the Muslim marriage with the Muslim kids and the perpetuation of traditions.

So I've basically lived inside myself and have been missing my "family" for a very long time. When I see families, as dysfunctional as they may be, I feel a twinge of jealousy and a great deal of hate. I would never have wanted to start a family in my 20s...I can't see that I would've been able to contribute anything of substance in a family (with or without children) but I'm ready now to start one.

I'm 30 and I'm sick of the fact that I'm dating like I was 16. I speak to the boyfriend on the phone every day, we see each other often, but we always retreat to our own homes. It's frustrating. I just spent the past three nights with him and have to come home to sleep alone in my bed. It's great having your own space, and I'm glad I've had it, but I'm ready to move beyond it.

The crisis right now is stemming from the fact that the boyfriend and I have to get our acts together NOW or else this whole relationship must end. After we got back together last year, a part of me kept a wall up when it came to him because I didn't want to be vulnerable with him ever again. Everytime we broke up, it would take me (and my friends) a long, long time to put the pieces together again. And I thought I had this wall pretty well built. A couple of months ago Toots put his foot down and told me that I needed to take care of this relationship NOW. It needed to end and I needed to be the one who ended it. His reasoning was this: if the BF was the one who ended this relationship, I would be devastated. I told him that that wouldn't happen; that part of me is prepared if this relationship ever ended and he told me to be careful with this idea because that wall is not built as solidly as I think it is.

And I realized today how right he was. The wall isn't solid whatsoever. Even if it were I myself who ended this relationship now it would be devastating.

I love R. He's been the love of my life for as long as I can remember. (He's not the man of my dreams, but the love of my life. The man of my dreams wouldn't be embarrassed to buy me tampons). But part of me thinks, feels, knows that this is not going to last. And this realization, topped with the urge to have my own family, hit me really hard last night and its residuals carried over to today.

I so don't have the time for this right now. Nor do I have the energy.

Mi cama me llama (my bed calls). I have to be in school at 7am tomorrow and need all the sleep I can get. Pray that the kids don't overrun my class!
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 8:33 PM
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Who: Carmen

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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