Monday, August 31, 2009

Masjids and Musallahs in Ramadan

I have never lived the sunni/shiite difference before. I only heard of it, or watched it as an unbiased spectator. When I was in school, I would only absorb the tensions or fury, the hopeful mediations or the call for unity by my friends who vocally proclaim that they are sunni or shiite, or the ones that want non of it and who proclaim: “I am Muslim. Period”.

But in a country such as Lebanon, this scene escalates and the division feels too real. I read books, too, about this situation. Although books kindle the mind, experience engraves the memory. And memory carves the soul eternally.

It is one thing to imagine divisions and wars in Islam when in Canada or America or any other “neutral/secular” state, getting it from books or TV or the media. It’s another thing to sit on this stage, down in a war-zone like Lebanon and to animate it all in your mind while everything around you reinforces division and war, yes, between sunnis and shiites. It’s no game. It’s too real.

In every country where there is co-existence, there is war. Where there is a masjid next to a church and a synagogue, there is also war. The people of the masjid fight between themselves, the people of the church fight between themselves, the people of the synagogue too, not every Jewish community is like the other. Therefore, where there are angels there are also people who want war. Never be naive about this.

I am at this Masjid you see in the photo back in Anjar, an area near Baalbeck, about an hour drive from Beirut. Baalbeck is a renowned shiite neighborhood in Lebanon. What I notice, instantly, is the soldier rhetoric. This region highlights the warrior/martyr/soldier spirit of Islam by commemorating it everywhere with huge billboards of soldiers born in this area and who died in resistance fighting. The color black is prominent.

As you see in the photo, the masjids look different than most of the ones in Beirut such as the Muhammad Al Amin masjid where I pray taraweeh during Ramadan. What is highlighted in Baalbeck’s masjids is ornamentation and decoration such as Arabic calligraphy on the walls. Other than Qur’anic verses, these writings are about martyrs. Or, about Hassan and Husseyn who are the relatives of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

In Ramadan, the shiite neighborhood breaks its fast after the ‘sunni’ neighborhoods by around 15 minutes at Maghreb.

In Ramadan the world turns in different rhythms depending on where you are in the world. And what's around you. And you are the product of your environment ...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Counting Blessings in Ramadan

In a strange chain of events I was reminded of a photo and then I stopped. To reflect.

I have traveled to Hawaii, Honolulu and to Lebanon in a period no longer than a year apart. Of the many bounties I have been offered throughout this year, this photo reminds me of a particular one.

When I was standing at Hanauma beach in Honolulu not too far from Waikiki, I remember clearly thinking, or even expressing to my sister who was with me for this week-long conference escapade, “no fair, I want to be in that water! I was raised on an island, in sea and ocean so every ounce of life in me wants to be in that water, like diving back body and soul into my childhood sensations under the sun immersed in the deep blue. No fair (pout)”.

About a year later, I’m in Lebanon. Not only do I swim in women-only beaches and take my liberty in every shape and form, but the sea I’m in is not just any sea. It’s the Mediterranean sea. It’s the one I grew up in.

Can we ever count the blessings of the Most Beautiful Allah? …

Reflect. When did you wish for something and He gave it to you? It's there. Just make the connection, then praise Allah with me ....



Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ramadan Sweetness

Sahteyn! :-) in Lebanese, which loosely translates into "enjoy!" I took this picture when I went to the sweet store I go to, called "Rif'at Al-Hallab". In Ramadan, this store's line up is to the door, subhanAllah.

My favorite dessert there is called "knafeh bil gibneh". Translation? ummmm... many calories? :)

PS: I prayed at Masjid Al Amin today too (alhamdullilah) ... with my rhinestone Abayah. Come on, I did say that one of my intentions for ramadan is to find a good masjid, and stay there. Keepin' my word ;)

My next blog entry, inshAllah, will be a video post showing one of the refugee camps I'm looking into.

Sweet salams,


Friday, August 28, 2009

When Wealth and Spiritual Experience Mix

As intended, I went to Masjid Al Amin and let me tell you about it before I … zzzzzzz go to sleep ;)

Is it wrong, people, to pray in a five star masjid?

I’m in the cab entering downtown from the bridge. We can hear the Qur’an being read on the speakers from the center of downtown where the Masjid is. Imagine that.

I’m out of the cab. I walk towards the masjid to the ladies entrance. At the door, a guard greets you and tells you, “this way, ma’am”.

As we go inside, you see a row of abayahs (as mentioned earlier), good quality, mind you, and a pair of hijab to go with it. There are about 30 or 40 of those lined up along with a drawer full of regular prayer outfits (the white ones) just in case more is needed.

On your right hand side is dark brown oak shelf for shoes. On your left, same thing.

I put on a black abayah – I choose a cute one with beads and rhinestone on the sleeves (so fly), I leave my slippers on the fine brown oak shoe-shelf and I head towards the elevator. Next to the elevator are two bathrooms and a wudhu (ablution) room.

Once upstairs, I step out of the elevator and I’m ushered by a woman who has a tag to show that she’s employed or volunteers there. She tells us, “this way, sisters”. We walk, fine queens that we are, and we enter the praying room. I mean hall. I mean gala. I mean soccer field that pretends to be a praying space. You dig? It. Was. Huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge.

If you look up, you see a chandelier that must have belonged to the Queen of England in prior days. Up ahead, at the very front of the praying space, is a flat screen TV, a gigantic one, to project the men’s praying area and the imam.

On your left hand side, over there, yes, is a floor-to-ceiling book shelf that has a gazillion Qur’ans, with their “book-stand”, you know, those wooden ones.

I stand, in my brand new rhinestone abayah, with my hand-picked Qur’an from the big brown book shelf, and I pray two ruk’as in respect for the masjid. I bow for sujood. What is that? That scent? Dalias? Gardenias? Flowers from the heavens? Whatever carpet deodorizer they used, it was so good I didn’t want to get up from sujood! Maybe crawl in a fetal position and take a nap. Better than the gym socks aroma elsewhere, you dig?

In this place, all I needed was a throne, a couple of diamond rings to go with my rhinestone abayah, a few good men to fan me with peacock feathers, and I’m rollin! :-) heheheh lol!!

No, seriously. Where were we? Oh, sujood. Yes, I’m done the two ruk’as. We now pray Isha. The reciter/imam, subhanAllah, has the most beautiful way of reading I’ve ever heard. So serene. So engaging. MashaAllah.

Now in my normal days, when in Canada, I like to pick up the Qur’an and read along with the reciter during taraweeh. It has many benefits, such as it keeps me focused, it improves my memory of the verses, and also, I improve my Arabic. After three ramadans, there was a notable improvement in my Arabic reading as well as comprehension of the classical Arabic language (fus-ha) that is used in the Qur’an.

I do the same at this masjid and the experience was glorious, especially since the reader/imam is so good at what he does.

At one time, after one taraweeh prayer was over, I decide to look behind me. I was standing in the second row. Notice that each row holds about 60 women. I didn’t think there was more than a row behind me. When I look back, the rows went as far as the exit door. In this soccer field praying room! There were hundreds of women in there. SubhanAllah. They must have all liked the abayahs (wink).

No, seriously, the imam prays 20 rak’as (prostrations) each night at the Taj Mahal. I mean masjid. He also prays salat al-witr, the closing prayer. People come and go depending on their own time convenience.

I’m done. I go to the elevator. I get to the bottom floor. I take off my abayah with the rhinestones. I hang it back up on the wall. I go to the brown oak shoe shelf. I take my slippers. I exit the door and the guard says, “assalamu alaikum sister, have a good night”.

I’m out into the real world. Sigh.

You bet I’m praying there again. And again. And again. Like?

In contrast to the masjid next to my house. It’s an ordinary masjid, no rhinestone abayahs, but see, the reader, astaghfirullah, he reads real quick. And he’s not reading the Qur’an from beginning to end so he can finish it at the end of Ramadan. He just picks random surahs, in no particular order. Like? I want to finish the Qur’an by the end of Ramadan. Just because it’s not a “five star” masjid, it doesn’t mean that it offers a more spiritual experience.

I think I can truthfully say that in this case, class/wealth/style/posh and spirituality do mix. And I’m witness to it. So is my rhinestone abayah :-)


Food For Thought: Don't Fast on this one


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

7th Day of Ramadan: I'll Pray Here

On Friday, inshAllah, I plan on going there, to the masjid in the picture, named Mohammad Al-Amin Masjid, the biggest in Beirut.

I've been to it before Ramadan. It's breath-taking. As I entered, there was a line of abayahs and scarves hung up in a row for women to wear in case they need one.

By the way, this masjid is smack next door to one of the largest churches in Beirut, like this:


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

First Days in Ramadan

Spent the past days in Tripoli, a city outside of Beirut. I was out on the balcony when it happened. I’m used to hearing the azan in Tripoli, but the first night in Ramadan was like this:

First, the “qari’” or the reciter from the Masjid starts reading verses from the Qur’an out loud on a microphone with speakers directed towards the center of the city. So, from my balcony, I hear the verses from the Qur’an. Beautiful. But. Wait a minute.

I can’t hear him properly, it’s as if there’s interference.

“Aunty, how come it sounds fuzzy?”

“See, what you’re hearing is not one but THREE speakers from three different masjids. One is straight ahead of you, up north. One is on your right, and another is on your left but they’re all hidden behind buildings”.

“Are they reading the same verses?”

“No, that’s why it sounds like Qur’an but you can’t make out the words”.

... :-) when the reading was over, the Maghreb Azan was on and this time it came from one Masjid. I looked at the balconies from buildings nearby. I could see people breaking their fast. Together. We all broke our fast together. One city. All listening to the same azan. We’re not checking our watches to make sure it’s time. There’s no doubt like that because the azan is our ‘watch/clock’.

When I came back to Beirut I had my first taraweeh prayer. There’s a masjid near my house. It was an adventure going there for the first time in Lebanon, first time fasting here, and first time praying taraweeh not with family in Tripoli, the South/camps, or in Canada.

There is a hadith that says, and I’m paraphrasing, the first part of Ramadan is mercy, the second part is forgiveness, and the last part is salvation from hellfire. For the first part, I sure felt the mercy. Alhamdullilah. I’m going to taraweeh again tonight, inshAllah.


Palestinians and Ramadan

I’m back from the photoshop lessons offered by the Norwegian Peoples Aid to the refugee camp students enrolled in the media and cultural association. I walk towards the center with the director of the cultural association who invited me to attend the lessons and to see how these sessions run, especially since I work with them when I give English lessons.

Him: “ you know, the question of Palestine is very complicated”

: “ what do you mean?”

: “for us NGOs who are not associated with any international organization like the UN or European aid, we have it hard”.

Me: “ I thought you have it easy because these international groups would die to collaborate with you local organizations, because you know more about your own problems”.

Him: “ha, you’d think ...”

Me: “yeah, don’t you?”

Him: “ see, it seems to me that funding comes ONLY AFTER the tragic fact. Meaning, only after a kid dies, or drops out of school, or a war breaks out, or our sewage system gives rise to an epidemic, only AFTER this tragic fact do these organizations rush to help us out.

What I want to do with my organization is to create preventative measures BEFORE the tragic fact. Like education and awareness.

I heard that some of these UN organizations kick out a teacher if he’s good, and if he teaches well. They want uneducated masses. The idea is as long as Palestinians suffer, there’s a market for these organizations. Because if we’re not suffering, who are these aid companies going to aid?

What will they tell their governments when they ask for huge lumps of money towards ‘aiding’ us, if we’re okay and well and educated? They’d be out of business.”

Me: “I see.”

Him: “ See, it’s Ramadan, and these kids, who are between the age of 14 and 20, come everyday and stay for two hours straight with no break working endlessly and tirelessly. Some of them come after work, others come from far distances. When class is over, some of them travel all the way home to make it for taraweeh prayers after breaking their fast, sometimes while still on the road. These are smart, dedicated kids and they won’t drop out, inshAllah. Tough luck for those aid companies”

... I smile. We continue walking. I attend the photoshop lesson. He’s right. These kids are smart, mashAllah ... and mostly, it’s very obvious that they want to learn.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

~~ Happy Ramadan!!! ~~

Sweeeeeet warm merciful Ramadan to you!!

With smiles and sunshine :-) .... umm, my intentions for Ramadan? To find a good masjid, and stay there. But, I'm starting with family in Tripoli. Which is a travel from Beirut. Then, I'll try to get to family at the camps, which is another travel from Tripoli aaaaaaaaallll the way to the South.

yeah ... umm here it comes again ~~ Happppppyyyyyyyyyyy Ramadan!!! ~~ :-)


Monday, August 17, 2009

Grief: Learn it

“You have no idea what your phone call means to me”.

This is what Firas’s father said to me when I called to give my condolences.

I discovered something about myself.

There are two true losses in my life: My father, and Firas. Because I did not grief properly over my father, I did not know how to grief properly over Firas. That is why I struggled painfully these days.

Who knew that grief over loved ones is a skill. A skill I’ve been introduced to, through Firas’s death, because of Allah’s mercy.

Now the lesson is learnt, Allah, take care of my boys, I’ll see you, daddy and Firas, when it’s my time, but now, I live.

Grief: learn it. In every tragedy of life made by the Hands of the Beautiful Creator is an angel waiting to touch you, thresh you hard and carve you like diamonds born from the depths of black dark coal.

Bismillah ar-rahman ar-raheem, to a new beginning,

:)... I'm smiling, again.



Thursday, August 13, 2009

To Allah we belong, to Him we return: Rest in Peace

To Allah we belong and to Him we shall return: Rest in Peace, Firas

I woke up. Like any other day. I go to my office and I decide to drop by the secretary for a morning chat. As I walk in she tells me: “did you read your email?” I tell her I’ve been escaping work-related emails all day yesterday. She tells me come here and read it. I do.

A campus wide email has been sent to announce the death of one of my students in a car accident while driving to Jordan to begin his summer vacation. He was 19. He died on Monday and the email went out later this week.

…. you know, he used to hate it when in the beginning of the term I would forget his name. I have two students named Firas so I would always forget which one he was. “Misssssss”, he’d say in a playful way, “you always forget my naaaaaame”, then he would put on a pout, jokingly.

The last time I saw him was ….different. He had come to my office to pick up his essay draft so he can correct his mistakes and write the final draft. There was a line-up outside my office and then it boiled down to him and another student. So he let the other student go ahead of him. He waited outside and the door was open.

He heard it all while I busted the chops of the other student who had cheated on his paper. I was rough, stern and especially unforgiving that day. I remember clearly my words to the other student: “You know, I don’t work hard at my job so you can go buy your essay off the streets. You want an 80? Everyone wants an 80 and 90 and 100! But you know what, I know other students who take the 60 and the 65 and accept it even though they feel they deserve more. Integrity. Honesty. This is what I teach you!”

I went on and on. Firas is not used to me being this way and when he walked in I could see his face a bit shaken up. So. I remember smiling at him. As if to say calm down little one, this is not about you. I remember his face until this moment as he was asking me questions about his essay. All diligent and dedicated.

When I read the email about his death at the secretary’s office, I ran down to my office. I cried while I hurriedly went through the piles of essays that the students handed in, hoping that maybe, just maybe, he handed his early so I can have it. Have Firas’s essay…. It wasn’t there. As I look into my folders, I see that I have no marked essay or quiz or draft of his. He was to hand them all in on Tuesday, the day after his accident.

Like dream and reality become one, I can still hear his voice and see his face. I have his emails, as recent as last Friday. “Miss”, he writes, “when can I come pick up my quiz?” …

Inna lillah wa inna ilayhee raj’oon … To Allah we belong and to Him we shall return.

Sometimes, one person’s tragedy is another person’s reminder. In some ways, and in a certain sense, Ramadan is coming, and I couldn’t have started in a better way. I’ve been shaken up hard by Firas’s passing away, and I’ve never prayed with so much heart right after I got the news.

Sometimes, it takes a good shake-up to place things into perspective and nothing like death can remind us more strongly of this.

As a teacher who sees her students every day of the week and is with them for hours and hours on end, watching them grow and push and strive and break boundaries or light up when they figure out something that’s hard, or shrink in frustration when they can’t understand something, and when I help them and they overcome the frustration – all this makes for a teacher-student bond that no words can describe.

Especially when the student is dedicated, creative and promising like Firas. I truly feel a loss. My duas during Ramadan inshAllah will be with Firas.

Many of us, like Firas, may not live to see this Ramadan, or the next one. Let us take nothing for granted.

While I sat in my office after getting the news, another student came in to drop off his essay.

Him: “Heyyyyyyy missss how are ya!”
Me: “I’m good, a bit sad too”.
Him: “why?”
Me: “Your classmate passed away, have you heard, Firas …”
Him: “I heard something but wasn’t sure who he was”
Me: “come on, he was in your class”
Him: “which one… is it the tall guy with spiky hair”
Me: “no he was dark skinned with short hair, he sat about two seats away from you”
Him: “oh yeah yeah yeah the guy who would always come to your office when I came, and he was tall and short haired and would come with his friend…. Oh my god, I can’t believe it’s him”.

This student, who did not know Firas, who had to remember how he looked like, ended up finding out who Firas’s brother is, got his phone number, and gave it to me so I can give my condolences by phone to Firas’s family in Jordan. Your classmate won’t forget who you are now, Firas ...

Please take a moment to make dua for my student, and then, please take this as a reminder of what we want to do with our lives while we’re still breathing.

Even though death is sudden, the impression we leave behind ripples through the days until eternity. May Allah swt forgive us all and guide us towards the best way to lead our lives. Ameen.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dreams and Visions. And Hijab

In many parts of the world people talk about visions and dreams. In the Middle East people call them “ru’yah”. The person who can “see” things about others, or can interpret dreams is called a “wahi”.

As well, in other parts of the world people speak of seeing things, sights, visions, perhaps even sensing the presence of inanimate objects. Even movies explore just how true dreams can be. I think of Neo and Trinity in The Matrix, or Adel Imam’s Egyptian movie on the Jinn, or even something as simple as Groundhog day.

There is a word about this too. Pre-recognition: the ability to see the future. Dreams are part of this definition.

I am not speaking of the Islamic correctness of all this. That’s another discussion for another day.

I’m just remembering. See, a dialog or communication happened today after which I started thinking about dreams. My dreams. My dream. There’s only one.

I don’t normally get visions. If I do, I don’t remember them. I certainly do not remember how I felt in a dream. In short: I’m not a dreamer.

Except for that one time in my entire life and I’ve lived longer than a quarter of a century. There is only one dream, with a vision, and I remembered it when I woke up.

I was 19 when I had the dream. I remember it like it happened last night.

In the dream, it was me and my mother alone. I was a little girl, must have been seven or eight. My mother was an adult. Around us were dark mountains, the sky was dark, and in between the mountains was a very wide sea of lava and volcanic liquid. Had no big waves and no raging volcanic activity boiling the lava. It was just there.

Me and my mother were standing at the very edge of the ground that was at sea-level with the lava. If you look ahead of my little shoes as I stand there you will see the lava a few inches ahead of me, kept away from me only by the fact that I was on the ground. Because I was a little short girl I felt so horrifyingly close to it.

The dream begins.

The scene is set. I am standing there holding my mother’s hands. I am panting. I’m breathing hard. I’m losing myself in fear. I’m crying while still holding my mother’s hand because I am very, very afraid. I cry: “mama I’m scared!”

She, on the other hand, is cool as a Sunday breeze. I feel her hand against my scared, sweaty, panicking hand. She is calm like a baby in sleep. She is smiling. Looking ahead. She tells me: “don’t worry. There’s nothing to be afraid of”. She continues to smile, looking straight ahead. Still holding my hand.

I cry. And cry. My heart beats hard. I’m hysterical almost in shock. I’m in horror as if I am a second away from burning alive.

Tears everywhere and I’m saying; “mama I’m scared, mama I’m scared!”

The contrast between my mother and I in the dream was like day and night.

I wake up.

I am in my room in bed. And I’m crying like a baby shaken all up inside gripped by a fear I’ve never felt before in my life. I run to my mother’s room. Crying. Out loud. Something my mother is not accustomed to since she knows her girl doesn’t cry easy.

I fall in my mother’s arms and ask her to hug me hard. Real close. Real tight. Remember: I’m normally a rough 19 year old who doesn’t cry. And certainly I do not ask for hugs. This surprised both of us. I was terrified.

I tell her my dream while I’m crying and crying. Even years later, when I tell the story to my friends I feel myself clearing my throat making sure not to slip and break into tears. It shakes me up still, years later, just remembering it.

Standing on that ground under the open sky inches away from the lava felt so real I could still feel my feet on that ground after I woke up. While awake, the same heart that was racing in the dream kept racing while I was up, like dream and reality became one.

This dream was one of the biggest reasons why I put on my hijab, by the way. When I was telling my story to my mother, I said to her; “when I looked up at you, mom, while I was crying hysterically in front of that lava feeling so afraid, small and tiny in such a big scary world…..I looked up at you and you had your hijab on”.

At that time, my mother had recently put on the hijab. In the dream, she didn’t look like the non-hijabi mother I grew up with as a child. She looked like the mother I came to know as an adult.

Yes, indeed. This is the only dream I remember in my life. The only one I had, really. And I tell it sometimes, here and there when the occasion arises, say when I’m in a conversation with a girl about the story of my hijab …


English Lesson

In refugee camp English class. I ask them to pair up. I give them role-play exercises.

Okay listen up. Here’s the scenario. One of you is a psychologist, the other is the client. You are at the clinic and the client is feeling very sad. Come up with a conversation about this.

They start working. They pair themselves up but the third group has one strong student in it with good vocabulary and the other with weak vocabulary.

I watch them as they practice: group one is loud and proud with drama, already devising a scene on acute sadness, whatever that is.

Group two is busy coming up with “big words” to beat group one. I sit there and watch while group three is kinda quiet in the corner there.

So. I start with group three.

“okay guys let’s get this show on the roadddd! Take one, scene one aaaaaaaand Action!!”

(she’s the stronger student in language skills): hello

(the weaker student in language skills): hello

Client: I am feeling sad because I can’t make friends in school. I moved to a new town and my neighbors are not friendly either. I’m only 13 and I feel so different both in school and in my neighborhood. These kids, they don’t act like kids. All they want to do is talk politics. I’m like why not talk about music.

: ummmm .... (pause)

Client: and I want to try to make friends. I like those that talk about normal kid stuff. Like sports, and make up and ...

: ...

Client: and then I want to go shopping but I have no-one to go with that’s sad and

Me: Okay. Let’s hear more from the psychologist, come on doctor.

: ....


We wait for him patiently and encouragingly so he can say something ... he looks around the class …looks at me. Then he looks at the client and says:

“clinic close now. Come tomorrow”.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Gone Swine Free to Jeita Cave

What's the best way to escape the flu? Good question.

I went to Jeita cave! This place is a wonder no words can describe. Maybe the pics up there and this wiki:

Jeita Cave on Wikipedia

The pictures aren't mine because they don't allow cameras in the cave. It supposedly erodes the minerals. Imagine my face as I gave up my camera to the security guard outside.

I pouted. I frowned. I asked questions like "one picture?" ... but subhanAllah, not having my camera forced me to focus on the beauty around me rather than make sure I got it all on camera. What a distraction that can be, eh?

I took the memory and the image with my eye's camera. And it is there for me to keep and tell to my kids when I grow old and grey :-)

I did enjoy the boat ride on the crystal blue water while dipping my hands in it as the boat sails on and the minerals shimmer like gold all around us. Magical.

PS: I think I'm swine free but just exhausted. Alhamdullilah with a cherry smile!!


Thursday, August 6, 2009


Yahoo baby boo I think I got the swine flu. If anything, you can hate me for the sik rhymes.

Nah like my student has it and he told me AFTER I marked his paper with all the germs lurking aaaaaalll over there looking at me and going, “give him an A or else!”

I’m told if I get the fever in two days I should go get checked for the oink, I meant swine, flu. I’m also told I could get quarantined until I get better in case I do have it. Can a girl get a breakkkk, I can't vacation in a hospitttttttal: girl got planz. sheeesh!

PS: me needs to put a wholesome “F” on the boy’s paper you know what I’m sayinnnnn :-)


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Journalism with a :-(

My sister will come in September to visit. By the way, it happened again :-). I finish emailing someone this message: “I’ve got no life until mid august when school’s out. Work and volunteering keep me tired. But there are rewards, for sure”.

Next email in my inbox, my sister. Click. It reads: “I want to say something. I’m totally over-worked, and it’s only August 4th!!!!”

Eeery spooky funky cool :-)

Anyway. The man says to me: “ you know how they say the road to hell is paved with good intentions? The opposite is true. The road to heaven is paved with bad intentions”.

He’s someone I wanted to interview, a war-child, lived in Beirut all his life. I say to him, “I feel like I’m using you. I don’t know if you want to tell your story to the world, to people you don’t know”.

Him: “Of course I do. As long as I get to say it. Not someone else says it for me”.

Me: “ It’s part of my research and work to do this. But I want you to be comfortable.”

On and on. Kept apologizing. Felt like I’m using him to forward my career. He’s had journalists/ngo workers/researchers come to him by the dozens from all over the world for interviews. He’s a “hot market commodity” it seems. I wonder. Did I go to him for the same reasons? Why do I feel so bad? Like a grimy rat digging up a good research topic. Yuk!

So he says to me, “the road to heaven is paved with bad intentions. Not to say you’re using me, but there’s nothing wrong with looking out for yourself, kid, that’s life”.

I feel like poop. Still. :-(

All I wanted was to help. To get him to say his story to the world so I can sit and watch him heal… :-(


Monday, August 3, 2009


“How old is this Palestinian boy?” She asks her friend, they sit sipping hot dark coffee under the Middle Eastern sun.

Some young students pass by wearing the khuffiyeh or the Palestinian scarf that’s black and white, now comes in many colors at the mall normally with a Che Guevara poster behind on the wall behind the manikin.

“21. He has organized protests in which hundreds have come to, he did this alone. He invited political speakers that are known nation-wide. Alone. He publishes in a local newspaper on the plight of the Palestinian people. Alone. He raises money when crisis hits in the camps such as during the Nahr El-Bared situation in which hundreds of Palestinians were displaced. Alone. He goes to camps regularly during the year and volunteers his help in all kinds of areas ranging from education to cleaning up houses. Alone.”

He passes by. Wearing the khuffiyeh. Real. Straight up man in there.

Tw.en.ty-Won. For real?

That khuffiyeh, makes sense on him.

She hears her friend talk. She looks up in the distant horizon: “woman, I can’t remember what I was doin’ when I was 21. Probably buying lip-gloss”.

Straight up. Makes you think, doesn’t it.