Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Sandman

While we were on vacation in Jordan, we took the kids to Kan Zaman (Which translates to Once Upon a Time) to watch the Sandman design his fragile amazing glass bottles with the most beautiful colored sand (some dyed and some natural) eat some traditional food, sit on Bedouin coaches and listen to Arabic music. 

At the Sandman, every glass bottle was blown by a glass artist  at that place and I so wanted to the kids to watch him doing his thing but unfortunately for them and I, they were renovating and relocating the whole workshop that we were unable to watch such an amazing skill. 

Luckily for us though, the talented Sandman was there.  He was amazingly patient with the kids showing them every step carefully for them to see how he made the camels and the hills. The kids were glued to his side watching his every move.

I tried to snap pictures of every step he took and I hope that you will be able to see how he did it.

Depending on whether the customer would like a name on the bottle, the Sandman draws (upside down) the name with glue from a syringe. He then puts some black sand and shakes the bottle for the sand to stick to the glue and the customer would see the word clearly.

Then he pours in some sand on the bottom of the glass and some black sand to form two small bumps... he then pushes some black sand with a pin like tool to form the camel legs.


Can you see the legs of the camel?

The camel starts to emerge once the Sandman pours a little more black sand on top to finish off the hump, the neck and the head.  He pushes the sand and plays with it from side to side until he creates the rest of the animal.  I still could not figure out exactly how he did it but he had such quick and gentle hands that made it look so easy.

He moved the bottle from side to side when he poured the sand for the hills... but that is all I know...

I have no idea how in the world he did it... but notice the sun, the streaks in the mountains... and the distant bird on the left hand side close to the sun.

The last step is to stop the sand from escaping... he puts a piece of play-dough thing that hardens later keeping the sand bottle the way it is for years. 

I asked the Sandman about the person who taught him this skill and whether it ran in the family... or if it was a family business... He told me that his whole family was skilled and creative but they all did other things.... he taught himself how to do such a beautiful thing with much observation and practice.

The kids were not the only ones who enjoyed watching this talented man... I was too... I had always loved watching such work... Everywhere you go in Jordan, be it to Petra, Jerash or Aqaba, you would find a few men or women sitting around making those beautiful sand bottles. 

There are other types of sand drawings... the carpet is one of my favorite but the Sandman said that it takes him much longer to make and if I had time, he could show me... unfortunately, the food had arrived, we had to eat and get going before my daughter felt tired.

Here are the kids watching the Sandman's every move.... I ended up  making two for my son and daughter with their names in Arabic and English... and also taking some gifts for our friends back in Bangkok.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A New Page


Yesterday, was my first day at a new school. It was orientation week and only the new teachers were there along with the administrators. It took us around an hour and a half by taxi to get to where we were supposed to be.


I must admit that I did not mind spending those hours with my kids in the taxi as it provided me with a way out... a way to release and stop thinking about the mixed feelings I was experiencing starting a new page in my life. I spent the long drive reading about exotic animals with my son and giggling at my daughter's goofiness. I reached the school premises and immediately felt a soothing wave  of calmness wash over me... I could do this!

Thankfully, my kids provided me with a way away of my nervous thoughts... like walking a path through a peaceful forest.

I reached the school and felt at ease with everyone... cracking jokes... I was chilled... relaxed... asking people questions about their lives... where they have been and what they were doing with their lives up until that point.... I must admit, again, that establishing connections with like minded people... people who were going through a new experience just like myself, provided me with a sense of relief... I am not in this boat alone... I figured that they might be just as nervous or excited as I was... 

Finding some common ground between people helps to establish connections and relieve whatever stress one might be going through.... I believe that is one reason why I find blogging so inviting... a tool to relieve my stress... I like finding common interests... experiences...and much more with people around the world... makes the world feel like a whole lot smaller... it provides me with a better image of the world than those pasted on the front cover of a newspaper or on breaking news on TV.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My Mama's Creativity

Since I can remember, my mother has always taken some course or another during my childhood that enhanced her creative side. Our house was always filled with things that she had made and helped bring on the idea that not everything in our home should be bought. 

I will list the courses that I remember;
1. Ikebana, Japanese flower arrangement.
2. Dough Flowers.
3. Silk Flowers.
4. Batik
5. Silk Painting

On top of all this, she made some woolen carpet hangings and had known how to embroider, be it regular needle work or Palestinian... My mother, bless her soul, made sure to teach me how to do it as well. I remember my first piece was that of a lion and it took ages for me to finished it... I was not much into needle work and it did not spark my interest but she  believed that every person needs to learn or have a hobby that would keep them busy while growing up.  I used to give up easily... or work on it a little to appease my mother and then leave it for  a few days... I know now that I have the patience to see a piece through till the end but that kind of patience needed much training at that age.

Never once, during my time growing up, did I see my mother sit in front of the TV without something between her hands. She had to be doing something. I smile remembering this as I sit in front of the TV either zonked or with my computer for extra entertainment. 

My mother now fills her time making Palestinian embroidered Aba'as, which are worn over clothes, shawls and scarves. They take months to finish as they are embroidered on material made from camel hair and then another few months for my mom to place the beads on them. She has made a small business of selling them and each one of her creations is more beautiful than the other. Whenever she brings out one of them to show me, I stand in awe of her talent, impeccable sense of color and design. She is truly my inspiration even though my grandmother is just as inspirational as my mother. 

You see... my mother's creative sense was handed down to her from my Tata who still embroiders till now at 92 years old... but I will address this generation of embroiderers in a later post. As my later post revealed (People Who Helped Shape Me Part II), my grandmother handmade her piano seat, made designs on them by burning leather and adding metal work to them during her life in Palestine and so it is no wonder that my mother is so much into Arts and Crafts. 

My beloved mother taught me how to fill my time with creative activities and even though I am not as talented as she is, I enjoy sharing such activities with my children. I believe that creativity frees the soul and provides me with so much joy. When I finish anything, I feel a sense of accomplishment, however, I need to take on one thing... my Tata and mother's ethics when creating such pieces. My Tata and mother will pull out every stitch they made, no matter how far they have gone and how much time it has taken them, if they found one single small mistake in the pieces they had created.... they follow the Prophet Mohammad's teaching, "If you do anything, do it well and perfect it." I am like this with my work as a teacher, but need to pay more attention to details when I fabric paint. 

Following are pictures of some of my mother's pieces of work....
This is one of my mother's needle work pieces... I love it and call it Tree of Life. I remember that it took her forever to finish it and that she could not hang it until my parents moved into their new apartment. I am not sure what the stitch is called but it is definitely not the cross stitch which she uses for the Palestinian embroidery ... it is only one half of it.... I think it is called a half stitch.

The above two are the usual American bought needle work. I remember her using a round wooden circle to tighten the material to be able to embroider.I remember her not liking the type of cat that was sitting on top of the quilt... so she decided to change it and just extend the quilt. Some of the fern leaves in this one are actually protruding from the canvas.

The above two are the carpets she made using a tool which pulled the woolen thread through the canvas. I loved helping her with this one.My favorite part of the carpet are the sheep... they are so fluffy and cute!

One of her many silk paintings... she made this into a pillow... others she framed as pictures.

The above two are examples of her Palestinian embroidery... my sister is wearing the Aba'a. It is embroidered on Iraqi material, called Najafi, made from camel hair. She brought together my father's background together with her own. I remember going to Syria with her to buy them from a Syrian merchant and he had bags and bags of beautifully colored material.
Making this takes months as they have to embroider on a white canvas that is attached to the black Najafi material and after they embroider each section or part of the Aba'as separately, they had to pull the white canvas threads one by one from underneath each stick so that it would appear on the black... There are many different colors of the material and so many designs that my mother put together.... 
After this whole fiasco... she places the beads which takes hours up on hours of work.

A few of her earliest creations... not the kids (My brother and my baby cousin at the time) ... but the white and yellow daisy flowers on the white table... these are made from dough which she made from bread mixed with glue I think.... The yellow crochetted piece is made by my paternal grandfather who taught herself this hobby. 
In the background you can see a green Gardenia tree which she made from material she cut into leaves, ironed the streaks on them and did the same with the white flowers... it stayed in our house for years... unfortunately the color of the paint faded.... 
You can also see a part of the dough sunflowers in the frame in the background... these were my favorite.

These flowers arranged in Ikebana style  are made from silk... I remember her finding the piece of wood she arranged them on lying on the Dead Sea Beach. 

 Footnote: Some of the pictures are old and are pictures of old pictures...

Friday, July 8, 2011

Saying Goodbye

It is always difficult to say goodbye. I never liked saying it out loud as the instant I feel that I will be leaving a place or someone behind, the tears flood to my eyes and they start falling down my cheeks as rivers.

Today is my last day at my current school and I am finding it difficult to hold back my tears. I know that the past two years have not been the easiest of rides but it sure was a great learning experience and I have learned so much from so many people, from the students and teachers I work with to the ground staff who help clean my classroom.  

I will be starting a new page at a big new school with new systems, teachers and students in two weeks. Everything will be new and I know that I will look back at the two years that I have had at my current school and miss its coziness and atmosphere. I will miss the lovely students, the dedicated teachers and the friendly ground staff. I am grateful for the lessons they all taught me.

People build connections and it is difficult to know that there is a slight chance that I will never see those people again. Try as I might to meet up with them from time to time it never compares to seeing them everyday.

I remember once receiving this email about people coming into your life… in summary it went like this…. whether they come in for a minute, week, month or year, they did that for a reason…

I truly believe that… I believe that every person whom I came in contact with these past two years have come into my life for a reason and if I took the time to think of it, I will figure out why they did so and what they taught me in the process.

One thing for sure though… I know that one of these lessons is that I should always hold my reactions and wait for some time before writing an email or giving my opinion. I need to let my emotions settle before saying anything… I need to think about how I feel… think about the situation when I am calm, composed and my emotions are not raging. This way, I will be able to look at a situation from different angles and then make a rational judgment.

I am leaving this school with some tears in my eyes but a big smile on my face hoping that my next school will offer me similar connections and learning opportunities ! 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Three Fingers

Have you ever thought about how diverse and yet similar cultures are in this world? Have you ever thought how they express similar ideas with a few variations? It is fascinating…
Many cultures have similar quotes that all mean the same thing, for example, “The straw that broke the camel’s back” is an Arabic proverb but there are variations to it in different writings and cultures; Charles Dickens used this “As the last straw breaks the laden camel’s back” and Thomas Fuller used this “’Tis the last feather that breaks the horse’s back.”
They all have similar connotations even though they are worded differently.
Another example is signing the number 3: Do you…
1.      Hold out your middle three fingers while your thumb holds down the little finger?
2.      Hold out your thumb, index and middle finger while your other two fingers are tucked in?
3.      Hold out your middle, forth and little finger while holding down your index finger with your thumb?

How do you sign the number 3? Is it any one of those ways?

They all mean the same thing even though there are variations on how to show it.
This makes me wonder about all the other ideas, issues or views that we all share in this world but think of them from a different angle or use diverse strategies to tackle them.
If we all shared the same goal but had various ways of achieving it, why can’t we all just come together, get along and share our ideas? I find it an advantage to the human race that we all have different ways of dealing with issues… We can all be a part of a thinking tank… people have different experiences and these can always be taken as valued contributions to solving problems…. There is no ONE absolute solution to a problem.  
It is like putting different kids in a group and watching them work together collaboratively to solve a problem… a common goal.  
We expect our kids to get along… come up with a solution… a compromise… a middle ground so that everyone in the group could contribute to achieve a target… a goal… feel a sense of belonging… and therefore be truly satisfied and content.
Why on earth is it difficult for all the adults in the countries of this world to think of themselves as part of a group to solve our common problems?
I know that the UN was established to do this but sometimes it does not seem like many countries pay much attention to its efforts…. For example, countries veto resolutions that, in my opinion, should not be vetoed. They disregard UN resolutions and think that they could carry on doing whatever it is that they want to do because no one can stop them (Please, bare in mind, I am not pointing fingers at any ONE country… they all do it).
I believe that we could learn from children and how they interact and come together to find a joint solution… yes… granted, they fight sometimes but in the end when they are guided well, they come together… They have different ways of expressing their views… different ways to show them but they share the same purpose…. the same end goal!
Signing 3… is signing 3… We all know that it is 3 and we all know its meaning no matter which way we do it… so let us come together and share the different ways we sign 3.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sons of Guns

There are plenty of inspirational people whom I would love to hear and know more about in this world and therefore, I am a little surprised to see an advertisement about this man and his daughter who make weapons and boast about it. It is a kind of reality show where weapons of any kind are made and then tried out on open land or inanimate objects or this is what the snippets revealed.
It is on one of my favorite channels, The Discovery Channel, which has so many shows about nature, destruction and, in my opinion, positive eye-opening programs. It builds awareness about what goes on in the world around us and many of my entries are inspired by these programs.
So you can imagine my surprise when I first saw the advert on Sons of Guns; a show which, to me, looked so negative and defeated the purpose of the channel. The advert showed people firing these artilleries, hand grenades with launchers and all sorts of unrecognizable weapons into the bush. It oozed violence, emanated negative vibes and brought shivers down my spine.  
Do we really need such programs at our day and time to be shown in such a positive way? The man and his daughter seemed extremely proud of making those weapons… weapons that are used to kill any possible living thing and create such damage and destruction to any place they hit or land on. We have so much destruction and death caused by such evil contraptions, we honestly do not need more invented and improved on. I know I am being unrealistic, and I know that sometimes I am a dreamer… but shouldn’t we destroy these man-made-evil toys and focus on inventing ‘contraptions’ that could  build  the world instead of destroy it?

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Distorted Image

A colleague and I were discussing his friend's fear and despise of Muslims and Islam, and how he made sweeping ignorant comments about it showing me how little he knew about Mohammad, the religion and its teachings. This led me to look up some unbiased information about this issue.

I found this Youtube video, below, to include a summary of everything that I had pent up inside with regards to Islam and how it has become misunderstood by both its fanatic followers as well as non-followers around the world.

I do not usually like to talk about one specific religion as I find all of them equally intriguing and wonderful. I have had the privilege of reading a few holy books other than the Quran such as The Torah and The Bible and I have come to respect all religions that guide people to the right path and encourage them to embrace humanity. The only issue that hurts me to my core being is the fact that they each take a different corner of a fighting ring even though they all call for a similar goal in life.

I find that the true Islam, and the message of the Prophet Mohammad, has come to be misunderstood by millions due to the atrocities that have been erroneously committed in its name and the image of women in those regions.

I believe with all my heart that the Prophet had good intentions, was the first feminist in a region that practiced female infanticide, a socialist who loved to build a community to get rid of tribal brawls and a humanist who asked people to take care of and not spoil our Earth and to treat everyone equally and with respect. He loathed violence (as I do) and was forced into it for survival’s sake but always made sure to lay ground rules for combat; no killing of women, old people, and children, no cutting of trees or destroying homes and no killing of any man with no arms or who is not on the battle field ready to attack.

 I love his teachings as I do Jesus’, Moses’ and many others such as Lord Buddha and I believe he was a reformist like no other Arab was during that era.

 I do not wish to go into much detail about what I think as my views might be taken as tainted and biased since I have an Arab and Muslim background. Therefore, I am relying on this documentary by the History Channel to relay my thoughts and views. They have eloquently echoed my beliefs and views on the whole issue.