free stats Carmen's Web: April 2007
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
What a kick-ass woman!!
Buthayna Nasser is awesome. You MUST watch this.

Thoughts shared by Carmen at 9:36 PM
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Sunday, April 15, 2007
Star-crossed lovers
And I thought my romance was complicated...
Star-crossed lovers quit West Bank
By Matthew Price
BBC News, Jerusalem

She is a 26-year-old Jewish Israeli. Her name is Jasmine Avissar. He is a 27-year-old Palestinian Muslim, Osama Zaatar. Jasmine and Osama's is a love story, and it tells you so much about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

They met when they worked at the same place in Jerusalem, and three years ago they got married. First they tried to live in Israel, but the Israeli authorities would not allow Osama to join his wife there. Then they tried living in the occupied West Bank, but some Palestinians made life difficult for them. Now they've given up and are moving to Europe.


"We ran out of choices of finding any solution to live in either Israel or Palestine," says Jasmine as she packs her bags. "We were naive and thought we could win this fight but we can't. So we have to go abroad and start a new life."

Jasmine already has permission to go. Osama hopes to follow her soon.

We go up onto the roof of their village home. The sunlight is so harsh you have to squint to look at the view. Stone walls hold earth terraces onto the hillsides, olive trees hundreds of years old are dotted across the landscape.

"I feel like a stranger here," says Osama. "Even in my homeland. This place is a holy land, but they're killing each other. It's like it's already a lost cause. Here there's no chance. I just want to start again."

Under investigation

They are an almost unique couple.

Neither Israeli nor Palestinian society has accepted their marriage.

On official Israeli documents, Jasmine tells me her marital status is described as "under investigation". "Our marriage was a human thing. We just fell in love," says Jasmine. "The society around us is making it political."

"I feel like a refugee. The moment I decided not to be part of the mainstream I was told that I was not a part of my country anymore," says Osama.

A taxi turns up, and Osama helps Jasmine with her bags. The drive takes them through occupied Palestinian lands. They pass a tall grey Israeli army watchtower. They drive through army checkpoints. Israel has been in control here for almost 40 years.

Given up

"Even here in Osama's homeland I am superior as an Israeli," says Jasmine, as she looks out the window. "It's easier for me to move around. The soldiers let me through checkpoints. They don't arrest me like they might arrest Osama."

Jasmine has given up on her own country.

"Jewish people were abused for thousands of years, but my nation has switched from being victims to being abusers. That's hard for me to acknowledge. The Jewish people are occupiers now, and we are racist."

The car arrives at a final checkpoint.

We stand next to it, and Osama tells me why he has also given up on his own people. "There were threats. People said if I brought my wife here we'd be in danger. Even my friends said that. They say I am a traitor."

"It makes me wonder whether I want to be a Palestinian any more. Some see me as some sort of Israeli envoy. It's a shit feeling."

Seeking safety

They turn and walk the short distance to the checkpoint that leads out of the West Bank and into Israel. They put down their bags, and hug one another. There's a short kiss.

I ask Osama what he hopes for from his new life.

"I want to be able to walk in the street and not be stopped by the Israeli army or police. I want to feel safe. I have never felt that."

Jasmine smiles. "I just want to be a normal couple, with normal problems about rent, and money. I don't want to have these huge gigantic problems interfering in our marriage."

Even now though they are not quite free.

Osama cannot go through the checkpoint with Jasmine. They don't know when he will be able to join her in Europe.

They are still a couple caught in the middle of the Israeli Palestinian conflict.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 8:31 PM
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Saturday, April 14, 2007
"Islam and Interfaith Marriage"
By Lisa Miller

April 9, 2007 issue - Unlike Judaism, Islam is passed down through the father. The Qur'an even grants a Muslim man permission to marry a Jewish or Christian woman, so long as she is chaste. "A believing maid is better than an idolatrous woman," the holy text says. Thus it was for centuries: Muslim men married other women of the Book, who were permitted to practice their own religion but were absorbed into their husband's family along with their Muslim children.

Fast-forward to modern-day America. An entire generation of American Muslims, whose parents emigrated here in the 1970s, is coming of age. They've been to elite colleges, they're in the professions and they're ready to settle down. And so the cycle of hand-wringing over intermarriage begins again. For assimilated Muslim men, intermarriage doesn't present too big a dilemma because the tradition endorses it. "I'm actually a big proponent of intermarriage," says Arsalan Iftikhar, national legal director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "I plan on marrying someone who does not look like me."

But American Muslim women face a thornier challenge: how to marry outside the faith and retain their Muslim identity without the sanction of Scripture or history. Daisy Khan, executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, has counseled at least 100 interfaith couples over the past few years and, in a growing number of cases, the Muslim partner is a woman. Like the Jews and Roman Catholics before them, all these couples have to balance their commitments to their families of origin against their new lives. "He likes bacon," says Shekaiba Bennett of her Lutheran-Jewish husband. "I told him he could have it outside the house." Bennett's son Strider Rumi, who is 3, celebrates the Muslim holidays, as well as Christmas and Passover. "We live in a global world and we're all interconnected," Bennett says. "The idea that Muslim women should only marry Muslim men is ridiculous. It's outdated."

More-traditional American Muslim women complain that they're losing their men, too—not to Christians and Jews (or even Hindus) but to Muslim brides summoned from abroad. "All the guys here can go back home and find a nice girl from India, simple and obedient," says Nadia Khan, a junior at Georgetown. Even in the most conservative circles, the collision of traditional religion with educated, independent women is bound to force a change.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 6:31 PM
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Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Egypt's Dr. Ruth
Here's how my mother gave me the sex talk:

I was sixteen, on the phone with my best friend (probably comparing notes about what happened on 90210), when my mom threw open my bedroom door, scowled at me for three seconds, and proclaimed, "sex is haram" before slamming the door.

I wasn't sure what to make of the episode. It was so random and just had no context.

I've never heard of Heba Kotb, but she will be on Nightline tonight to talk about one of my favorite topics: sex.

"Kotb is a devout Muslim who has one unique mission for the Arab world: have more sex."

Can't think of anything else I'd want to watch tonight!
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 10:09 PM
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"A Long Time Coming"
Got this e-mail from a friend last month announcing her engagement. I can only DREAM of writing an e-mail like this to my family and friends!!!


To my family and friends,

I would like to share some exciting news...last night Kristan (my boyfriend) and I got engaged to be married. About 30 of our friends were witnesses and helped us celebrate at the Shabu-Shabu restaurant.

We are going to have two small ceremonies. The first will be in Korea with our friends here; we are planning to exchange vows on March 24th at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple and then a party after. When we get back State-side we will be heading down to Kristan's brother's house in Mexico where we will be married in front of our friends and families (those of you that can make it.)

From there we will be honeymooning down through Central America and hopefully to South America. We plan on spending the summer back with our friends and family in the US and Canada. (Mostly mooching off their goodwill!)

Anyways, I love you all so much and we can't wait to see all of you soon!


Kristen and Kristan

Thoughts shared by Carmen at 9:44 PM
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Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Why you should always look your best
You never know when HBO is going to come knocking on the door.

A couple of weeks ago I had a particularly hard day at work. I've created a blog and a wiki for my class that seem to be taking up A LOT of my time. Integrating technology in the classroom is a great idea (makes for great learning), but it takes up SO MUCH time and gives you a lot of sleepless nights. I am, however, the technology trailblazer at my school, something that's made my principal quite happy with me.

I've impressed everyone with the technology I'm using. So much so that a prestigious university, who's working on a project with Spike Lee, invited me and a couple of my kids to a workshop a month ago that's using technology to teach democracy. It was an amazing workshop and my kids did a kick-ass job there.

So kick-ass that the producers decided to create a documentary about the project for HBO. They used a lot of clips that they filmed at the university, but also wanted to interview some of the teachers.

That brings us back to the horrible day at work. Little sleep, lots of work, and I had just finished teaching four classes in a row. After my last class I kicked those kids out as fast as I could and locked the door behind me. I ran to sit down. I had been standing for four hours straight and my back was about to give out on me. Other than waitressing, I can't imagine a job that forces you to stand for so long.

Five minutes after I sat down I heard a knocking on my door. Please don't let it be one of the kids, I prayed. They love to come and hang out in my classroom, but I was worn out and adolescent company was the last thing on my mind. I peeked through the panes to find one of the producers from the workshop standing outside the door with a camera and a tripod. I let him in and he asked if he could interview me for the documentary.

It was the worst possible time to do something like this. I was parched, my lips were chapped, I felt disheveled. My hair was up in a bun (the librarian look) and I looked my absolute worst. I told him that it was not really a good time, but he insisted. Can't have a documentary about teaching democracy using technology without the woman who's using this technology.

So I did it. And hoped that they'd just cut me out.

I just received an e-mail from the producer with a copy of the final cut and watched it. I look like ass!!! First of all, I'm not photogenic. Whatsoever. I've never photographed well and it's why I hide when I see someone with a camera. The librarian look, as well, apparently doesn't work for me. My lips also have this funny thing they do when I talk...they kind of curl up or curl to the sides. I've always hated it, though have been told that it's cute and sexy. But let me tell you, there is NOTHING cute and sexy about that friggin documentary!

Having said all that, I'm proud as hell of my work!!!! Not bad for a first year teacher, huh?!!
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 8:50 PM
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Saturday, April 07, 2007
Teaching Matters
I've been on vacation for the past week, with three more days of freedom to go before I return to work. I'm quite disappointed in myself that I didn't go anywhere. I tried, though. I tried to plan a trip but things just kept coming in the way. It seemed less stressful to just stay at home and mope. I think that's maybe something that I needed. To just be lazy and do things that don't require any type of thinking at all.

Teaching has taken a lot out of me. I knew becoming a high school teacher would be tough, but I never thought it would wear me out like this. You spend five days a week, six hours a day leading classes full of adolescents. You spend most of your day talking to teenagers, fighting with them, yelling at them, that by the time you get home you forget what it's like to talk to normal people.

I realized this past week how anti-social I've become since I started my job. It's just that when I finish a hard day's work, all I want to do is NOT talk. It becomes very difficult to keep friends this way and I think that's why I've lost so many. Sigh.

A couple of weeks ago my friend's husband sent me an e-mail with a job posting from Human Rights Watch. There was a position they'd just posted that was perfect for me, he said. I've got all the's what I went to grad school for. Researcher, women's issues, lots of traveling, prestigious job. My friend told him that I already had a job that I was happy in and his reply was, "teaching? Eh teaching? That's not a job. She should get a better job."

I hate it when people belittle educators. Teaching is a profession no one chooses apparently. It's a profession you're forced to take because you can't do anything else. Teachers have an easy life. We work from 9 to 3, report to no boss, and have "all that time off". What a J-O-B!

What nobody seems to understand is that we don't work from 9-3. We work from 9 to whenever bedtime is that day. Papers to grade, lessons to plan, new things to discover to try to bring to class. You think we teachers just walk into our classroom and do improv??? As pleasant as it may sound, there's NO WAY we can ever get away with that. Sure, the more years you teach, the more you're able to just "wing it" on some hangover days. But enter a battlefield without a strategy?? No teacher in the world would think of doing that.

Report to no boss? We've got to report to our principals, parents, and (most important of all) our students! You screw up in the class and you WILL be held accountable. Adults may let things slide, but kids will be constantly up your ass.

"All that time off" (ATTO)? Well you try teaching five classes a day, five days a week and see what happens to you. Just before vacation I was about to call one of my students a nasty bitch, fantasized about slamming one of my kids' head against the wall and watching his blood splatter, and prayed that another would fall into the subway tracks on the way home and become decapitated. I'm not exaggerating. These were the exact thoughts running through my mind. If we didn't have ATTO we'd either commit suicide or homicide, neither of which is a pretty good option.

Teaching is tough. And it's unappreciated. There are days when I just want to throw my chalk against the board and walk out of the classroom, never looking back. There are days when my students say such mean things that make me want to cry, days when I hate my life. Days when I come home and want to crawl into some little space where no one can find me.

I stay because I know that my work is making a difference. It has meaning. Value. I don't have to wait to see the product of my labor. We are the real superheroes! When one of my kids succeeds, my heart swells up. It's like watching your baby take its first steps.

I love my job, as difficult as it is. Going to Barcelona was truly a life-changing experience and the ripples of its effects continues till today. I wouldn't leave my job for the world. And if I complain about it too much, please remind me of this post!
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 9:59 PM
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Monday, April 02, 2007
I want to detach myself from the world, for just a little bit. I want to go somewhere where I can just lay and stare up at the sky. Doing nothing. I want a week with no cell phone, laptop, internet. No news of Iraq or a corrupt presidency. I don't want to know about protests in Egypt or exorbitant gas prices. I don't want to keep worrying about my parents, stressing over my relationship, or stress about my finances or current living situation. I don't want to think about the exes I've hurt or friends I've lost. I want to be free from all this. Because all the issues that keep gathering in my head are just about to drive me crazy.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 12:13 PM
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Best Friend recently returned from her year-long stint in Taiwan. I missed her immensely and am ecstatic that she's back, but I haven't really been able to express it really well. Or at least express it in the way she wishes I would.

I've never been an overly expressive woman. I hate confrontation and am much better on paper than I'll ever be in person. This is a result of all the moving I did between the ages of 4-8. From Egypt to Germany, where I didn't know the language, then from Germany to America, where AGAIN I didn't know the language. I remember sitting in classes with such a tightness in my stomach that I thought I would faint. I'd come home everyday with an excrutiating headache, the result of being bombarded with an alien language. By the time I finally learned English, I had spent too much time in deafening silence. I was never really able to communicate with people the way I wanted to. Talking has never really been my thing.

I've never told best friend, for example, that I love her even though (outside my family) she's the person who's been in my life the longest. She's loyal, she's true, and even through the arguments we've never said or done anything to hurt each other. Piss each other off, absolutely. But never, ever hurt each other.

She's been gone a year, but when I saw her last weekend I felt like she was gone for merely a day. We picked up right from where we left off and it was wonderful.

But I didn't greet her with the fanfare or excitement I know she was waiting for. So I don't think she's been able to adequately understand how happy I am to have her back.

I don't do fanfare. I'm very reserved. There was a time when I was in high school where best friend and I were very lovey-dovey. We wrote notes that we passed to each other between classes and I think I may have been more emotionally available or expressive than I am now. When I graduated high school and went through my own private hell I did close myself up and never opened up again.

I always assume the people in my life know how much I love them without me having to express it. I assume they know and don't have insecurities if I close up every once in a while and don't give them the kind of friendship they want. I always pray that they'll tap into the friendship reserve that we filled up together and realize how much I really do love them.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 12:10 PM
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Sunday, April 01, 2007
For Book Lovers Everywhere
I have approximately 400 books in my house. It drives my mother crazy because I don't have a library. The books are often scattered all over the place. Today I went to Borders and bought six new books (educators get a discount!!!!) The minute my mother saw the bag her voice went supersonic. Too many books, she yelled. They're all over the place.

I recently joined BookMooch. It's a book lover's delight. You give a book, you take a book. Of course, some of my books are in my permanent collection and I wouldn't part with them for the world, but others are gathering dust. What better way to get new books than by trading old ones!
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 8:31 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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