Sunday, May 27, 2012

I am leaving.... on a school trip! (sung to the music of "I am leaving on a jet plane!"
My dear readers,

I will be leaving on a school trip tomorrow evening which will take me away for around 5 days. It is a trip I was looking forward to a year ago when I found out that my new school will be sending me one. I was looking forward to having some time on my own, doing what I love to do best; hiking and exploring... being plain adventurous... seeing the world around me from a whole new light... feeling nature envelop me with its light arms. I missed it! The smell of it.... the feel of it... the excitement of it.

I am still looking forward to it but I will be missing what was the biggest part of the greatness of it all; my family, my husband and my children. My husband and I were camping, climbing and white water rafting together from an early start to our relationship. He used to hike, camp, cross country skii and mountain bike in Canada before he met me and I was hiking deserts and wadis, camping, climbing, abseiling and scuba diving before I met him.... we found each other and the rest is still happening.

Mina hasn't camped YET and Jad has been used to camping since he was a year old in the deserts of Jordan and the hills of Dana. So my husband and I are looking forward to this summer when we introduce both our kids to camping in the forests of Canada and Mina to the rose red sands of  Jordan's Wadi Rum.

So... I know that I will miss them dearly but I am looking at the positive side of this trip; finding myself again and then sharing me with my family. And on a slightly selfish note, it will provide me with an incentive to revisit my fit and energetic side.... a new outlook on life. 

So I will leave you with this my friends... it is something that I shared on my Facebook. 

It is not money or power that brings a man happiness, but the power of Love in all its shapes and glory; the love of patience, the love of sharing, the love of giving and forgiving, the love of compassion, the love of humbleness and modesty, the love of each other and family and the love of balance and moderation.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Creativity with Condoms

A post I could not resist writing about and sharing pictures of. Yup... you read the name of the restaurant correct. I had visited this restaurant on Soi 12 in Bangkok with a good friend two years ago and last night I decided to take my girl friend from Jordan for a few giggles and some good food as well. I had not told her what to expect when I shared the name of the restaurant with her. She kind of figured out that cabbages meant food but was puzzled about the second name.

A statue dressed in condoms greeted us and then after that... colorful condoms were everywhere. It did not matter which way we turned, we saw ornaments made of condoms; light fixtures, notice boards, and table tops. 

The statue at the entrance.
Light fixture

Notice board
 The gift shop at the entrance of the restaurant had everything from notebooks, to mugs and t-shirts with quirky pictures and statements on them such as," Our food is guaranteed not to cause pregnancy" and another with the Olympic five rings in condoms and "United colors of condoms" written beneath it. It helped to make the topic of safe sex and condoms seem so natural for a woman who is somewhat prudish and who was brought up in a culture that put sex in the taboo section of Life.

Table top

Light fixture
It was a fun night and we certainly had a a few giggles when they placed a small condom packet in front of each of us as a souvenir at the end of our meal.

Now... Why, you may ask, are there condoms everywhere? Why base a restaurant on something so ' private' as that? Well... it is to build awareness of safe sex, pregnancy and AIDS. You see, all proceeds from this restaurant and gift shop go to the Population & Community Development Association (PDA) program in Thailand which is a sex education/AIDS prevention organization. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Positive Vibes

Have you ever woken up thinking that today will be a good day? Something inside tells you that you must take on an offer because it will prove to be a good decision and one which you will enjoy? Have you thought about all the obstacles that might be in the way of a good thing and were on the verge of losing interest or feel lazy about facing them?

Yesterday, was one of those days when I knew that everything will fall into place no matter how many obstacles or inconveniences I must go through in order to get to my destination.I was about to lose interest and did not want to go through the hassle of it all but something kept urging me to do it. Many times, I wanted to pick up the phone and apologize, but that tiny voice kept on going.

You see, my family and I were invited to some friends' house. Obstacle number one was that they lived down in the center of Bangkok on one of the busiest roads; a road we take every working day. This road takes us around 30 minutes to get to and with traffic an hour or more. Second obstacle was that my husband did not want to take that long trip with us and preferred to stay put. 

I knew this would be something that is good to do for the kids as they would have friends their own age and from their school to play with.I did not want to make the trip on my own though and neither did I want to take a taxi. I never traveled down town unless it was to school and now I would have to venture out and try and find their place without a navigator by my side and with two kids in the back.

So, to cement my decision, my daughter and I baked a cake. Now, I had no excuse. Now I HAD to go as there was no way I wanted to keep a cake in my fridge after eating an entire pan of brownies the night before.... Yes, you read that right... an ENTIRE pan! 

After we iced the cake, I realized that I had made a big mistake. I iced it before reaching my friends' house!!! How in the world will I drive all the way there with an iced cake? Let me elaborate here....EVERYTHING melts in the heat of Thailand. What was I to do? 

I decided to start the car up, five minutes before we headed out and put the aircon on to cool it. I then place the chocolate iced cake on the front seat facing 3 of the vents on it. The kids had blankets to keep them warm so it worked out ok.

After getting lost and taking a wrong turn into a tight alley which made it difficult to turn back, we made it to my friends' house. From that moment on, magic started to happen. My daughter who never liked wearing floaters and swimming on her own without clinging to me, ventured out on her own several times after watching the other two 3 year old girls do it. She was so excited to experience such freedom and I was so proud of her. At one point I said, "Mina, you are swimming sweetie!" When she replied, "I am not swimming Mama, I am floating!"

My son, had an awesome time with a new friend who goes to the same school and in the same grade but in a different section. They got along very well; swam and sat on the same sunbed together, laughed and were playing beautifully. Now, he has a new friend to get to know during snack and lunch time and it puts me at ease about him getting by socially.

My friend's daughter who did not like pizza and whose mom had cooked her some chicken with peas and rice, chose to try a pizza when she saw all the other children happily munching on theirs. She even had two pieces.

Everything fell into place and we really had an awesome afternoon. Positive energy and vibes were surrounding all of us and everyone just clicked. We left their warm house at a good hour and reached home just in time to put the kids to bed.

I am glad I took the decision to make that trip. It sure was worth it. I will be listening to my inner voice more often now. I bet she has much more wisdom to share with me.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Hunger for Justice

I didn’t want to use this blog to share political views and I will keep my promise. This post is not about politics as much as it is about justice and the need for humans to feel that they own and deserve it.   

Every living creature on this Earth of ours deserves to live. Animals have rights and there are organizations that work hard to build awareness and protect these beautiful beasts. Forests and their trees have the right not to be butchered but protected as they are considered to be the lungs of the earth. We (men, women and children) have the right to be treated as human beings and not as a population number which can be erased by the end bit of the pencil that logged in our birth. 

If we have rights, and we would do anything to keep a hold on and protect them, then how come we turn our backs when others have to fight for theirs? We all deserve to have the same rights as everyone else on this planet. Every living thing is connected in this web of life. If one delicate silky thread is severed, it would affect the whole net and it might fall apart forcing us to start all over again. The developed countries pride themselves on fighting for, developing and improving Human Rights across the world and yet one silky link has been ignored due to their regional significance. 

Why do we turn a blind eye to the biggest Hunger Strike in the history of mankind? This prisoners’ hunger strike is a non-violent protest that has been sweeping across the oppressed Palestinian population and which has barely made news even though it has been going on for more than 76 days. 

As we speak, there are more than 2000 Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike pleading for their rights and their freedom. They have been held on ‘suspicious’ charges and have not had a trial or seen the insides of a court. They are protesting extended solitary confinement actions, the ban on their families to visit them as well as the sanctions that prohibit studies in prison and the acquisition of any books and writing materials. They are joined in hunger by many Palestinian civilians who are taking action against humiliation, oppression and the lack of basic human rights. 

It is time the World stopped sheltering oppressors of ALL kind.

This is to remember the following freedom protesters and the thousands of others whose lives have been lost in the wind as dandelion seeds.

Bilal Thiab ... 76 Days
Thaer Halahleh ... 76 Days
Hassan Safadi ... 70 Days
Omar Abu Shallal ... 68 Days
Mohammedd Al-Taj ... 60 Days
Mahmoud Sarsak ... 54 Days
Faris Al-Natur ... 47 Days
Ja'far Ezz Al-Din ... 53 Days
Abdallah Al-Barghouthi 32 Days
more than 2000 prisoners .... 27 Days

Monday, May 7, 2012

Riding the Wave

The past week has not been the easiest of weeks but I am totally surfing the rough wave. I guess one has to go through difficult phases in his or her everyday life to be able to enjoy and appreciate the days when everything goes smoothly. I believe that one does not go through life without a glitch or a bump in the road ever. How will we learn how to be strong and face those obstacles if everything is handed to us on a silver platter or is resolved for us? CUUUUUT.... HOLD ON a second.... Why not? Why can't we have everything go smoothly for the rest of our lives??? Why can't we have a magic wand that with a flick of a wrist would make everything fairytale fantastic? 

Why do I have to remind myself that I will always find a person or a situation that demands my patience and therefore have to let things go? Why do I have to remind myself over and over again to think and to hold back my tongue for fear of stirring up more trouble for myself and others? Why can't I say, "Stop shooting off your mouth and be a little more considerate and respectful to the person standing in front of you?" or "Stop your childish behavior and act as an adult!"?

I guess life is not a fairytale for anyone even for the rich and famous who can buy whatever they want. I must admit that I do not understand everything about life but one thing I know... it is not fair. I am born into a privileged family and have a roof over my head, a supportive family and healthy kids. 

Putting that into perspective, my struggles are minor superficial wounds that wouldn't leave any scares to cry about compared to the many out there who have absolutely nothing to cry about... at least I have a job that brings in the bread and support my family.The saying "That which does not kill you only makes you stronger" always rings in my ears whenever something unpleasant unexpectedly pops up, my professional reasoning is questioned and described as emotive, when I am faced with judgmental comments that imply something about me which are untrue or get into an argument with a friend. 

After I vent a little to those who support me,I have to let things go and accept that it is what it is. I just need to ride the wave as I am confident that it will soon hit the beach and flatten out.I just need to believe and take a deep breath. I need to repeat to myself that I am one of the lucky ones and to millions of unfortunate people out there, I am living a fairy tale.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Hot Service Day

The staff housing that needed reparations. If you look carefully you would be able to see the water marks on the wall (it is where the beige line ends at the top)

On Sunday, I had the privileged of joining a group of students and staff members on a service day to help reconstruct a staff house that has been damaged by the floods and do some landscaping to plant some colorful trees for a school. 

The vibrant colored slides, swings and see-saws that welcomed us when we first drove in, and which we helped pay for, were already set up by the company that delivered them. It was so wonderful to see them cemented in the sandy ground, looking cheery underneath the sun enjoying the few children who were playing on them. The smiles and laughter of two local children played on the strings of our students' youthful hearts and, despite their sizes, they jumped on the equipment to try them out.

We then met the principal of the school who was very appreciative of our eagerness to help and start working. He guided us to the staff house that was run down and needed reparations. We were shocked to learn that the water during the floods had reached the second floor and we were able to see the water marks on the walls which towered above us. 

We divided ourselves into two groups; one that started working on patching the second floor of the staff housing and the others that started work on digging the ground for planting. I went with the second group even though in my heart I so wanted to bang the 'crap' out of nails. Little did I know that the work involved in landscaping and digging would take much more effort than just banging some nails into a floor. 

Patching and repairing the wooden floors in the staff housing.

The ground was as hard as rock under the burning sun and it took so much energy and patience just to dig a few inches. We later poured some water to soften the ground but it was still very hard to dig. To cut a loooong story short, we finally began to make headway but by that time I was beginning to feel a little dizzy. I kept pushing myself for another thirty minutes but then my hands started to shake. I reluctantly took a break only because I did not want to faint and cause everyone to leave their work to attend to me. I made my way to a shaded area where I found five other students resting. I drank a bottle of Gatorade and placed some ice on my neck just to cool down a few degrees. That day was a particularly hot day and all those who worked on landscaping felt the heat being emitted from everywhere. 

After 15 minutes, when my shaking hands were under control, I made my way to the staff housing to help out and stay under the shade but continue supporting. Now THAT was fun. I got more satisfaction hitting that nail on the head than digging up the ground for planting. My enthusiasm did not last as I only had four nails to hit and everything was done by that time. The carpenter in charge did not want us to help out with the windows or the side paneling as it took professionals to do it.

We all had to make our way back to the landscaping group and continue digging. 

After an hour, we finished the job and started our long journey back to school. I was grateful that after 12 hours of being away, I made it home just in time for my kids' shower and bed time story.