Friday, December 26, 2008

Right here and right now!! pt. 3

The journey ends with us arriving in Mecca. While everyone else was straining at the windows trying to get a look...I was barely aware that we had arrived. I seriously needed to lie down fully stretched out and could think of nothing else I wanted or needed in life but a space large enough to do so. I dont really have any memories of our arrival in Mecca...I was in the middle seat and couldnt really see anything anyhow and it held no interest for me at that moment...I just couldnt bring myself to care that I had arrived in the holiest Muslim spot on the planet...a spot I had dreamed about for years...I just wanted a soft pillow and some quiet.

When we arrived at the hotel the lobby was a madhouse of people and luggage. It turns out our rooms werent ready yet and so all the luggage was piled up in a corner and my fellow bus travelers went off to perform Umrah...I collapsed on a couch in the lobby and Im unable to tell you what went on around me for the next 2 hours. I slept the sleep of the dead...dont ask me about my modesty...its possible something showed that shouldnt have etc...I didnt have the strength to care about such formalities. I discovered later that my son had stayed behind and "kept guard" over me. I also discovered that the cousin (brother to my friend) had also stayed behind to watch over me (as he would do for the remainder of the trip...and still does to this day) unofficial brother. He is one of the best men I have ever had the honour of knowing.

As soon as the first room was made available...Kaleefa (unofficial brother) made sure that I was escorted to it...and I crawled into a bed fit for a queen and slept a further 4 hours. My son stayed outside the door. Eventually Kaleefa had my son wake me up and said I needed to perform Umrah before the day was over since that is what I had come for...was in a state of ihram (I believe thats the word) as well as himself and my son. So I prepared myself and Kaleefa led us from the hotel. I anticipated a long walk to the Kabaa but it turns out our hotel was practically in the shadow of the mosque...we stepped out from the hotel and the mosque was right there on the doorstep pretty much. I was pretty shocked to say the least...but had to keep moving as Kaleefa was striding ahead...barely looking back...sigh. My son was helping me along but boy was I exhausted. I was already out of breath and we hadnt even got to the actual mosque yet.

Once we entered the doors (after passing security that made sure we didnt have cameras etc) (which was funny considering so many people were taking pics with their phones) I was amazed at just how long it took to get from the door area to the actual prayer areas and the Kabaa itself. The place was packed with people and Kaleefa was holding himself back Im sure to keep an eye on us...but he was still keeping up a good pace. I barely had time to register the beauty of the mosque and the cosmopolitan atmosphere...I was concentrating on not losing sight of him and not falling down as my abaya was too long and I was too tired to lift my feet properly.

When we finally reached the main area of the mosque that had the Kabaa...I just stood there in awe. To actually be face to face with something I had only ever seen on tv was surreal. People were bumping into me...voices all over the place...birds over head...sun name it...but none of it registered...I was in a state of awe...and wanting to enjoy it to the full. However, Kaleefa had other plans. He handed over a mobile phone to my son...gave us some instructions about how to deal with the to perform the Umrah itself...and what to do if we lost sight of him (which was a given of course). He instructed my son not to let go of me under any circumstances...and while I know my son would try his best...I had little hope in all that throng that he would manage it. (I was amazed later that he really did keep hold of me throughout...the multitudes of people seemed to have only one intent..pull us apart)

And off we went...we flowed into the crowd of people and immediately I felt like I had been there before...I felt a sense of deja vu so strong...I stopped in my steps to take it in...but of course you cant stop while circumventing the Kabaa lest you get run on we went.

I cant really tell you much about going round the Kabaa...I was concentrating too hard on not getting trampled by the crowd...I was much slower then most of them as I was plain exhausted. I sort of went into a robotic like step...while chanting the same words that Muslims through hundreds of years had gathered and chanted as well. I was also trying not to lose track of how many times we had went round the Kabaa...its kind of hard to keep a mental note of every side of the mosque looks pretty much the in a small corner of my mind I also chanted...3...3...3...or whatever circle we were on...and watched for the corner of the Kabaa that had the black stone as a marking spot. It took my son and I nearly 2 hours to do our circumventing...I found out later it took others just under and hour or so. I was tired...did I mention that?

When we finally finished Kaleefa was long gone so we made our way to Marwa and Safwa to begin our 7 trips back and forth. I spent a further hour and some shuffling back and forth between these two spots...trying to keep track and wondering when it would all be over. My son stayed with me for awhile but felt he should be jogging it like so many other men he left me with promises to find me when he was done....sure...ok...whatever (2...2...2...2). The hardest part of that particular trek was that at each end, the spot where you did a Uturn of sorts and headed back the other way...the ground was cemented with little bumpy protrusions. Im assuming so that people could get a grip with the toes and climb up the incline without slipping. What it meant for me and my very swollen sore feet was agony each time I reached one end and had to traverse this spot in order to begin the journey back. (3....ouch.....3....ouch....3.....oh my feet). (later many of the women asked me why I didnt allow my son to push me in a wheelchair like many others...but I felt that as long as I could actually still walk...I matter how long it took)

Finally....I was done...after what seemed to be years of shuffling, counting, agonizing and chanting...I was finished with my first Umrah. My son was nowhere to be seen so I weakly made my way to the side out of the way and waited for him to find me. Oh to get off my feet at last was heaven!!! even if it did take me 5 minutes to actually make my way down to the floor. I felt like I was 100 years old and couldnt imagine a time when I didnt feel like this. (I want my bed and I want it NOW!!!)

My son finally found me and he had Kaleefa with him. They needed to go shave their heads now as a final ritual....which meant I had to get up off the floor. With nothing to lean on to aid was an ordeal all by itself. My knees were ankles were hollering...and my feet had gone off on vacation apparently as Im sure I couldnt feel them. I realize that men are reluctant to touch females that are not related to them in the Muslim I was greatfully surprised when Kaleefa offered me a hand up, which I readily accepted. It still took me some time to gain my feet...and even then I wasnt sure I would stay upright...I was down to my last ounce of strength...and we still needed to get back to the room....OMG!!! OMG!!!! OMG!!!

I did manage to finally make it back to the find my room mates on the way out. Now that Umrah was out of the way...many were excited to start on the second most popular reason for coming to Mecca...Shopping!!! I was happy that the room would be quiet so I could sleep without the constant babble of chatter in the back ground. I crawled back into my lovely sweet smelling soft bed and slept without regaining conciousness until fajr prayer. The ladies were waking me to go down to the mosque for prayers...but my legs just wouldnt hold me properly. I was wiped out. They all left and I struggled to wash and perform my prayers and crawled back into bed once again. Where I would remain for much of the next 5 days.

*to be continued

Monday, December 22, 2008

Right here and right now!! pt. 2

(Taking up where I left off)...

Sitting down finally on the bus. I was exhausted by then and just wanted to lie down...but bus seats are not made for lying down thats for sure. It was about 10 minutes down the road when I realized there was no bathroom on that was about 10 seconds after that when I realized I was going to either embarrass myself in front of all these strangers (except for the 3 people I knew) or manage in some small way to control myself until the next stop. Thankfully my stomach had settled down...all though it was still hurting had nothing further to offer up to the "gods". My nether regions were a different story...they had plenty to complain about and werent shy to vocalize....(ahem...sorry).

As if not having a bathroom was not bad enough...the a.c. on the bus was not working properly. The darn thing was dripping in numerous places up and down the bus onto passengers. Before long there were a myriad of contraptions designed to send the dripping water somewhere else...usually on your neighbor. And to top it off...for some reason the floor of the bus was almost too hot to bear. Many of us removed our shoes for the long journey but ended up either putting them back on or placing a bag or something for our feet to rest on...otherwise they were toasted.

Since I was the last person on the bus...I got the "crap" seat. The very back of the bus has an entire row of seats that go all the way across. Two window seats and two center seats. I was in one of the center seats. So there I serious pain from vomiting...continuously cramping which meant I seriously needed a bathroom again (ASAP), my feet were being scorched, my head dripped on...and to make matters worse...because I was in the middle I couldnt lie against the window or even down in the I made most of that journey unable to even really relax because to do so would have probably meant falling asleep and falling over onto one of my seat partners. I also had a sneaky suspicion to fall asleep would have resulted in me losing control of my shaky bowels...ouch! No thank you.

Our first stop was for fajr prayers in a small town with a medium sized mosque. I was barely able to walk well enough to get off the bus. I found it strange that all though many of the women seemed sympathetic to my plight, enquiring as to my well being numerous times...none of them volunteered to switch seats with me to allow me maybe rest against the window...and none of them offered to help me from the bus or asked me if I needed anything from the cold store that everyone rushed too. As soon as everyone got son came back and helped me off then ran to bring me water etc.

As I hobbled my way towards the back of the mosque where I heard the bathrooms were I was finding it more difficult to "maintain control" at the thought that soon I wouldnt have too. However, once I came around the corner it was as if I had hit a wall...a powerfully putrid smelling wall. Many of the ladies were hanging around outside unwilling to enter...others were plugging their noses and going for it. I had no choice, so to speak, and stepped hesitantly in. Oh the horrors of what I faced. I have never seen such a filthy and disgusting bathroom in my life. The floor was unspeakable...the sinks and walls were likewise...and the toilets were just holes in the floor that were either overflowing...or looked almost too dangerous to even approach as you felt it might break away and you would end up somewhere under the dark recesses of the mosque. Under any other circumstances I would not even had thought twice about turning around and getting back on the bus and waiting for the next was that bad...but I was absolutely positive I would not make it to the next stop without dire I swallowed my disgust...lifted my abaya (way high) and found the least horrible cess pit of the lot.(it didnt win by much but it did have a workable lock). It was then I realized it had no kleenex...nothing to facilitate proper cleaning.(thankfully I had a bottle of water and some kleenex in my bag...all though the way I was feeling I would have had to have "gone" anyhow and cleaned up best I could) Sorry for the graphics people but it was that bad.

Navigating my way through the bathroom ordeal was exhausting and extremely frustrating. Several times I nearly fell into the muck...and when I reached out to grab something to save myself...I would end up grabbing something equally horrible...(shoot me now ...please). Ugh!! Eventually I noticed it had gotten very quiet and than realized I was the last one in the bathroom. When I exited the bathroom my son was anxiously waiting outside wondering if he should risk it and come inside and see if I was ok...everyone else had finished prayers and were headed back for the bus...and I was barely able to shuffle towards the mosque. Thankfully my friends brother was in charge of the crowd and made sure a headcount was done each time we got on and off...or I feel I might have been left behind..along with my son while he stood outside one bathroom or another waiting nervously for me.

Basically the rest of the trip to Mecca was just a repeat of that first bathroom water or very little...even the mosques themselves were generally unkempt and in need of a good cleaning. We even found a group of ladies smoking hubbly bubbly in one mosque...the smoke and stink was horrible. I find it very strange that Gods Houses are allowed to go unmaintained like that...what a horrible thing to greet Muslims at nearly every stop.

A side note here...I am allergic to some insects...ants being one of them. In one mosque there were very large, chunky black ants roaming all over the place...inside and out. I even seen them crawling over some of the ladies that were praying. My first instinct was to not pray as I was horrified at the thought of one of those goliaths biting me and me dying in the middle of nowhere in a dirty little mosque (not much better than in a bathroom on the bridge is it) but I was worried I wouldnt get the chance to perform this prayer before the next one was decided to take my chances. So I prayed as best I could (being exhausted and all) among the largest blackest ants Ive ever seen in my life. Im happy to say they did not bother me...thank you God.

I dont remember what town we stopped in in order for the men to don the white cloths and for the ladies to do their thing (I was basically a walking zombie by then) as most of that trip was just an exhaustive haze in which I was barely registering anything other than the need for a bathroom and desire to just sleep for a year or two...but we finally arrived among much excitement and flurry of activity. The bus was parked in a large parking lot sort of at the bottom of a hill...and the showers and mosque were on an upward slope...waaay up there. While everyone else hurried off...I leaned against my son and hobbled up this Mt Olympus that took me nearly 20 min to summit.

I found all the ladies cheerfully engaged in the pre Umrah ritual of showering and donning plain makeup...perfume or jewlery of any kind....then heading further up the hill to the mosque for the next prayer. I entered one of the shower stalls and was greeted with very very cold water and no hooks to hang my clothes from...not to mention I had forgotten my towel way back down the hill in the bus...try getting dressed again when your only tshirt dried and chattering so much from the cold your almost biting your tongue off (not to mention almost too tired to chatter). I was soooo dog tired that when a wasp flew into the shower stall I just blinked at it and wished it away rather than go into a "dont sting me Im allergic" panic and jump out of the shower naked as I might have done under other circumstances...he didnt like the cold water anymore than I did apparently as he flew back out the window just as quick.

It took me nearly 40 min to shower, change and trudge up the hill to the mosque and perform my prayers. Once in the mosque I needed the bathroom again and had to trudge back my thing...and trudge back up again. That added another 20 min and everyone else was back at the bus by then. My son was patiently waiting...and escorted me back aboard. I dont recall hearing anyone complain that I was "holding up" the rest of them...but then again I have to really pay attention to Arabic to understand it...and in my zombie like state I wasnt understanding any of who knows.

Next stop Mecca.

*to be continued

Friday, December 19, 2008

Right here and right now!!

Ive had a very stressful and hectic past few years...not many opportunities to claim that I was feeling "good"...feeling "right"...feeling "content and at peace" with myself and my life in general. Anyone that knows a little about my life from this blog will understand what Im talking about...but I dont want anyone to assume I havent had "some moments" too...some moments to just sit back and say "wow" or "cool"...or even "Im glad Im here... right here and right now"...doesnt happen often but it does happen...even to heres my "right here and right now" story. (beware...I do not know how to get to the point without wandering far afield now and've been warned)

Im going to write this in the present tense...all though it happened over two years ago...bear with me...Im like that.

Ive lived in Bahrain for 19 years now and Ive never been to Mecca...never been to Saudi for that matter. I have dreamed of going to Haj or Umrah for years but my husband has never even considered the possibility...there is always an excuse why we cant go. Its on my list of Things To Do...but also on my list of Things Im Not Likely To Ever Do As Long As Im Married To HIM!! That list is far longer than the first one...sigh!

My best friend came to me today and asked me something that I thought would never be spoken to me..."would you like to go to Umrah?" Excuse that a trick question? She explained that her cousin was organizing a group to travel together...and she also knew another lady that was willing to pay all expenses for someone to perform Umrah that had never gone before and couldnt afford it. That lady wondered if my best friend knew anyone that "fit the bill"...that bill fits me so was made for me!! She warned me though that nothing was for sure just yet...the bus was pretty full...they were not sure if there were two available seats left just son having to travel with me for mahrem purposes (never even considered asking my husband...I knew he would refuse...and I didnt want him raining on my spiritual parade). So I have been waiting for two days...not really holding my breath...but feeling breathless all the same.

Both my best friend and her cousin came to see me today...with huge grins on their would seem that I am Umrah bound...Im left quite be so close to something and not be able to actually see it or touch it...or experience, it is so much harder than to be on the other side of the world with an ocean or two between you...being close and yet so so much harder. For several moments Im not able to say anything...but they understand completely and just quietly celebrate with me.

OMG! Now I have just 2 days to prepare myself for my Spiritual Journey of a does one prepare for such a momentous moment? I have been dreaming about this every since I had reverted to a Muslim...but to be faced with the actuality of it was overwhelming...if you've ever felt like your floating...and about to throw up at the same time...its a little like that!

Well, Ive spent the last two days on a whirlwind of shopping for a suitcase, abaya and mentally preparing myself for what lays ahead....I keep thinking that Im in no way ready or even deserving to make such a trip...I mean really! is there like a Belief Meter or something at the border to indicate whether your actually spiritually deserving of entering Mecca? Im sure I would fail...positive...sigh! of course I have the sneaky feeling that there is some sort of divine intervention for such a bolt of lightening zapping me out of existence the moment I step foot on "hollowed" ground...(wondering what that feels like). Im definitely taking a chance kids need a mother...but the risk is well worth doubt.

It turns out that I am the only non-Bahraini travelling on this particular bus...and so apparently it would be easier for all concerned if I wasnt actually on the bus when it goes over the bridge and border...dont ask me why...Im just along for the ride. The plan is for my best friend and her husband to drive me and my son over the bridge...and then wait in the middle for the bus to come through. Everyone is thinking that the bus will be waiting for us...but it turns out that we will be waiting for the bus for nearly 3 hours (memo to bridge authority...there has got to be faster methods for getting people checked and through without waiting hours for the pleasure of entering or exiting Saudi...damn!).

I might mention that Im damn uncomfortable wearing this heavy abaya...I havent actually worn one in quite awhile...I usually wear long shirts etc...and this one is way too big for me...its dragging on the ground and falling over my shoulders even though its a snap on the shoulder type. Makes me want to pull some hair out the way I keep having to lift it up to keep from stepping on it...or pull it into place. Reminds me why I dont like wearing them in the first place....arrrgh! Oh how I wish an abaya wasnt a pre-requisite to entering Mecca...the things women have to wear to please men...uhm...I mean God.

Anyhow...while we are patiently waiting for the bus to get through...we decide to pass the time by eating a late lunch. We went to some place called Kudos, which Ive never been to before...and will likely never go to again. Bear with me...the next few paragraphs will not be pleasant for the faint of heart.

Half way through lunch I start feeling decidedly odd. Cant quite place it but I know something is "off" within me. At first I believed that my anemia was acting up and so my friends husband and my son raced on ahead to bring me back some folic acid. It generally perks me right up...if that was the problem...turns out it wasnt. My friend and I went to the nearby mosque and I laid down in the ladies section on the floor...with my head on her lap while she read Quran on me. My head was hurting and insides were churning and cramping...and before long I would be fairly sure I seen Death waving cheerily from the window of the mosque...ugh!

It took husband and son quite along time to return and in the meantime I was busy alternating between sitting on the toilet bowl or facing it...depending on what needed exiting at that particular moment. I felt like death warmed over and was sure I was going to die in a dirty bathroom on the bridge to Saudi...and never even getting to see the Kabaa after all my suffering...poor me! In the meantime my friend was panicking believing pretty much the same things...and calling her husband to come back ASAP and running back and forth to help me and to see if the bus had come through yet. I forgot to mention that her cousin (brother to the cousin that arranged this trip for me) (also might mention he is the Muslim man I admired in a previous post about Sunni and Shias marrying and he behaving as a true Muslim throughout...sorry...still having problems with linking). She was wanting her cousin to go on without me...I was that bad...but when he and the bus eventually did show up...his words were this..."if she is going to die...what better place to do it in for a Muslim then in Mecca?" Cant fight that logic...all though she did...but eventually I was on the bus...husband and son came back finally and son got on with me...his concern for me was so apparent...but he was forced to sit in the front with the men while the ladies sat in the back...but I could see his anxious face searching for me every now and then...and each time we made a stop...he was right there ready to do anything for me...I love my son!

Now, for anyone that has ever had food poisoning (Im assuming that is what it is) will know exactly what I was going through...but what you dont know is that our original bus was supposed to have a bathroom on it...turns out that one broke down and the one we now had did not have a bathroom...I did not know that when I got on there and we set off...not sure if the cousin considered this when he hustled me up the stairs...I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was unaware just how sick I was...and exactly what problem I had...but the next day and a half riding the bus all the way to Mecca was pure agony....and thats putting it lightly.

to be continued...

Sunday, December 14, 2008 number called is B12!

I generally like spending time with my and talking...the occasional afternoon spent fishing...but the line must be drawn somewhere...sometimes, against our better judgement, we agree to accompany someone somewhere even though our "little voice" tells us...not such a good idea. I give you Saturday night at the bingo hall...

Mom has had to deal with a lot of emotional garbage lately as anyone reading my blog when she invited me to play bingo to "forget our troubles for awhile" could I refuse? I havent played bingo in years but if memory serves me correctly it basically boils down to putting little markers on your card of numbers...make a line or cover everything and you have a bingo...and get the ultimate pleasure of shouting out BINGO!! so that everyone else knows you got one too...sounds simple...and the best can win money...Im there for you Mom!

Well, things didnt look too good right from the front door...the place was so full of smoke Im pretty sure I could have written my name in the air just by moving my arm in the appropriate directions...before the night was over Im fairly sure I inhaled a lifetimes worth of cigarette smoke and so cancer should be coming along nicely anytime soon...ugh! Ironically whenever anyone blew smoke in my direction...I replied by blowing it right back at them...and they had the nerve to look offended...WTF! (of course...being a child of my mother...I did not do this to my mom...she is my ride home after

So basically to start the night out you must stand in a very long line in order to purchase your books. Each book consists of a set of sheets of paper...colored coded for easy reference...and I, being a newbie and all, settle for just one book...while others I noticed had several books...all laid out on the table in front of them. Some people were gluing their books together...for what I dont know...and still others were already making daub marks on sheets even though we hadnt even started yet (had we?). I realized then that ink filled blotters were all the rage more little chips that were hard to pick up and even harder to keep on a card so that you kept forgetting which number it was meant to cover. Technology has even hit the bingo!

As we headed for my moms "spot" we had to snake our way through tables and chairs that barely left room to change your mind...much less squeeze through. I noticed as I was busy squeezing that many people seemed to have a system...or maybe what might be called a their spot. Some ladies had little animals or ornaments of sorts set up along the side...others had their little idols all around the keep the good luck mojo in...or the bad luck mojo out...not sure. I did find it somewhat amusing at the actual number of potential winners that seemed to believe their cards were winners all ready...and so kept a watchful eye against anyone that wanted to maybe sneak a peek. The easiest way to pick out these paranoids was to look pointedly at their cards for just a split second too long...and right away an arm came out to block your view...along with a look that surely had some black magic curse being whispered along with it. I decided the best option was to get to my seat without actually having eye contact with anyone along the way.... I do not need to add black magic curses to my dismal year now do I?

So, once your at your spot...apparently you set up shop by arranging your belongings...your good luck charms..your 10 different bottles of daubing ink...your 4 packs of cigs and overfilled ashtray...your dollars for future extra sheet buys along the way...and your paper bag that sits forlorn on the floor...ingesting all the broken dreams...I mean bingo game sheets that were losers. You also stake out exactly the same amount of space that everyone else has, roughly 2 square feet and God forbid if anyone should encroach your space with even a mere hint of an elbow. Im thinking there is great potential for violence...just going on the glares that are shot at anyone that passes the magic invisible boundary line.

There is a general air of fellowship right up until the moment the first ball is called for the first game...then all friendships are forgotten in the quest for the Big Payoff!!. Well, actually the first few games are regular bingos and so have small jackpots...but there are two blackouts which are the high jackpots...and thats what everyone comes for basically.

I dont know about you but when I was a kid a bingo consisted of 5 marked numbers in a line either up and down, across, or night of bingo and I can tell you its all a bit more complicated then that. There is actually a sheet given out that tells you what each color coded sheet represents and what type bingo you are required to get before shouting Bingo! So instead of straight forward bingo...there are triple reno's, which means you have to get three bingos on one sheet...and corners count....picture frame, 4 leaf clover...and so on...each sheet of squares of numbers requiring a different sort of bingo, so I, having one sheet of paper per bingo, had about 12 little individual squares of numbers that I had to quickly scan and mark and keep track of whether or not there were 3 bingos, one bingo...a picture frame...or whatever was required, on any given sheet. The Caller was way too fast in my opinion...and I was struggling to keep up...meanwhile women twice my age were daubing and gossiping and smoking without even pausing to catch their breath....and many of them had a table full of sheets...damn how did they do that? I would have been happy to have a side kick standing by to wipe my sweaty brow and give me a sip of water now and then...alas...I had to go it alone. Most of the time I had no freaking idea if I even came close to having one bingo much less 3 or eyes were too busy trying to come uncrossed.

Anyhow, as the night wore on I did come close 3 times...on the blackouts which are fairly straight forward...cover everything to win...and needing just one number to enable me to shout out Bingo!...but always lost out to some "lousy no account that surely did not deserve it as much as I did"...or so I heard so many other women grumbling each time someone else called out Bingo!...that and a few more harsh words that I wont bother to reprint here...who knew the Bingo world was so cutthroat and that "grandmothers" knew such language?

Now heres the truly funny part about the whole we played the last game...a blackout with a high pot...everyone started actually getting very ansy in their seats the closer we got to having a winner. I couldnt figure out exactly what the deal was...until my mother whispered to me..."be ready to go any minute now"...go where? What? I dont get it. Suddenly someone shouted BINGO! and before the actual bingo could be verified... hundreds of seats were being pushed back and about 5000 years worth of human life (did I mention at 40 I was among the youngest players there) were grabbing personal belongings...shrugging into jackets etc and headed for the carpark. I looked up just in time to see my recently smoking daubing mother on her way out the door with a shout over the shoulder to "hurry the hell up"...I hurried...what else could I do?

Out in the parking lot is was like a full blown police raid in progress with dozens of cars tearing out of the parking lot as if the Hounds of Hell were in hot pursuit...all that was missing were red flashing lights and someone shouting through a megaphone. Gone were the smiles and friendly chit chat from moments it was apparently every man and woman for themselves. It would surprise you to know just how fast...uhm...older people...can move. After barely reaching the car in time to snatch the door open and jump inside before my mother squealed tires and made a dash for the all dramatically calmed down as soon as we hit the main road. What exactly the rush was to get out of the parking lot was I do not know...apparently neither does anyone else...its just a Bingo ritual along with all the others I guess...if you didnt win...dont stick around to watch the winner gloat?

Days later Im still coughing up second hand smoke and trying to get the red ink out of my fingernails...not to mention still seeing blurred numbers swimming in front of my eyes...and heres mom calling to ask me if I want to go on the weekend...uhm....let me think about it mom and I'll get back to you on that one.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Jesus loves you....but Christians...thats something else entirely.

I realized Im deeply entrenched in Christian country in this short time Ive been in Texas...Ive been here before but never really paid attention because I was here visiting and didnt need to worry about the long run...the future so to speak. However...recently two things brought it to my attention just how Christian it is here...and its got me bent out of shape a bit.

Now I generally dont bother myself too much with what Christians think about Islam...most of the arguing I do concerning Islam is with other Muslims on whose thoughts I dont always agree with. I figure I had enough to keep me busy just trying to figure out a way for all Muslims to basically see eye to eye and agree on things that really concern us as Muslims...then to worry what Christians may or may not be getting up to for or against us. I guess that was an easy thing to do...ignore Christians...while I was living in a predominately Muslim country. Now that the tides have turned and Im surrounded by Christians...the not so important issue has suddenly come right up into my face...and Im bent out of shape as I said.

Yesterday my daughter came home from school with two little little stories in cartoon form. One was is basically about how all Muslims are going to burn in the fire because they follow an insane prophet that worshipped the moon and turned everyone away from Jesus Christ Our Lord and Savoir. The story showed how a typically irate mullah dude was praying and a Christian man and his son were observing him...the Christian man pointed out that the Muslim man was worshipping a false god and would expect Hell as his reward. The mullah guy over heard this comment and screamed the typical words of Jihad and "I will kill you...Islam is peaceful" etc at the poor Christian and his son. The Christian was calm and patient and went on to show the mullah the error of his ways and to relate the "true" story of Prophet Mohammed (sex fiend, insane, prone to extreme violence etc) to the unknowing and blindly lead mullah. Mullah guy was quickly convinced of the error of his ways and denounced Islam and slandered Prophet Mohammed and accepted Jesus as his savoir...and the world was right again. Another soul saved by the loving Christian heart.

The other story was about how all Muslims are terrorist wannabes and Christians particularly and the world in general need to see the coming disaster that is described as Muslims taking over the free world and forcing all of humanity to become either Muslims by force or slaves to Muslims. It described how Muslims that followed the doctrines of violence and blew up shit and killed people were in fact the "real Muslims" and those Muslims that lead peaceful lives were considered non practicing Muslims...or weak Muslims. It basically described Muslims in America similar to cockroaches...if you dont get rid of them when you first see will be impossible later on...and you will be over run with them.

I asked my daughter who gave them to her and did that person know she was a Muslim...she said a girl at school and..yes..pretty much everyone knew she was a she assumed the girl did too. But she also noted that she didnt really see anyone else with those two booklets...but didnt really look for them either...hmmm.

Also, last night I went to her school for teacher parent meetings and got to look around the school as well. While in the library I made it a point to check out the religous section. I was not really surprised to note that from the 15 or so books on Islam...12 of them were what I would consider in the same vein as the cartoon books. 4 of them were about Jihad. Of the 3 that might be considered middle of the road or more accurate in describing Islam etc...2 were from Karen Armstrong and one was from an author whose name I cant remember but know about him.

So here is my question to any would be Christians lurking on my blog...WTF! I realize freedom of speech and all that...but seriously...WTF! Where is the loving Christian heart that wants all children of God to go to heaven...where is brotherly/sisterly love that is the foundation of Christian spirit? Sounds like a bunch of shit when I read such slanderous made up BS like that. And handing it out to sweet of you to get that hate going at such a tender age.

But then I sit back and think about all the shit Ive read from Muslims going on about Christians in much the same light...all though I must declare I have never read or heard of a Muslim saying even a single bad word against Prophet Muslims are one jump ahead Christians in one small way...but what it all boils down to basically is...we hate you cause you dont believe like us...and you hate us cause we dont believe like you...and we raise our kids pretty much along those lines as well.

So this tells me one thing with absolute certainty..humanity isnt advancing one step further in the "cant we all just get along" race as long as we are so hell bent on making the "other" into monsters and hell dwellers. Just what God was going for when He started this whole "I will create humans to worship me"...the only things human beings seem to really worship is the idea that they and they alone have the right answer...therefore everyone else is... by default...wrong.

Im starting to view religion along the same lines as I do guns. A gun is just an object...a only becomes dangerous in the hands of something that can pull the trigger. Therefore...religions are in and of themselves harmless...but in the hands of trigger happy "religous folk" they are down right dangerous.

Welcome to long as your Christian...does that about sum it up?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Homeland Security my ass!...revisited

I was thinking about my previous post about my corrupt passport breezing through customs etc and subsequent scrutiny by dozens of pairs of eyes without so much as a raised eyebrow when I remembered a very different scene 6 years ago...after 9/11.

Picture Feb 2002 I went to visit my mother for the first time in many years...everyone was telling me to delay it for awhile because airport security etc was such a pain to endure...but I was really missing her and decided it was worth the pain. Not to mention there was still lots of fear over flying and people wondering if other planes would be targeted...I figured thats a useless 'what if" to worry about because if it turns out to be your plane...not a whole lot you can do about it (but then I have to mention the passengers that hijacked the hijackers on that 9/11 plane and died fighting...but they still died)...also I had to take advantage of the fact that my asshole husband was actually allowing me to visit my family finally....even the potential threat of terrorists wasnt about to keep me on the ground...and away I go...but not just 3 year old son as well.

So off the two of us went...had a really hectic flight over...with about a million and one security checks...with a very close look at off...the whole thing...but it was worth was the was worth it.

So we finally arrived in Texas and had a wonderful month long son got to meet his grandma and aunt for the first time and really had a good time. Coincidently my son's 4th bday was the same day as our unbeknownst to me my mother...his loving grandmother...slipped a little bday gift into our luggage...something she knew he loved and would have a good time with...however..she forgot to let me know what it the surprise was about to be on both of a heart stopping "Im about to go to jail here" kind of way...anyone getting a clue here?

So I got to the airport...checked on the problems. Sat down and arranged my son and I for the long trip ahead...just started to relax when I heard my name called out over the airplane soundsystem...anyone that has ever heard their name called out when you least expect it and in one of the few places you really dont want to hear it...then you know how I felt just then.

So person on the PA system told me to find the nearest steward/ess so I did...and the rest is...shall we say...a very gray hair inducing soon as they realized who I was they were all business. Now this was back in the day that I still wore the I have a feeling that that combined with my sons Arab name and passport (he did not have an american one at that time) had quite alot to do with the unfolding events...but Im only assuming here.

Anyhow...right away a very tall and large police/military type man with an even larger gun was stationed right behind me...if I had bad breath...he was close enough to smell was like that. Anyhow...I was escorted off the plane down the loading ramp followed closely by G I Joe and his entourage. He was damn near stepping on the backs of my shoes....thats how close he was. To say I was shaking in my shoes hardly describes my situation...all though my newly turned 4 year old son thought the "big gun" was cool and was busy asking G I Joe if he ever "shooted someone with it"....G I Joe just smiled...ouch! I was having the sinking feeling that if G I Joe hadnt actually "shooted" anyone yet...he might just be hoping today was the day he got to try out his nifty big gun...mommy!

So half way down the ramp there is a small enlarged area with a table...on the table was a box...the box was mine in which I had packed extras that didnt fit in my suitcase. It was sitting there unopened but might as well of had a spot light on it with a big flashing neon sign indicating this was the scene of the crime. Everyone hushed up and one man looked at me and asked "is this your box ma'am?" After swallowing repeatedly several times and wondering if there was any way I could deny ownership of the box because I all ready had a sinking suspicion whatever my mother put in the box was the cause of all this...I uttered in a squeaky voice..."yes".

"Did you pack the box yourself and has it been in your sight the whole time...?"...."Yes"...I squeaked again...but then realized my sister is the one that actually packed it as she is a demon when it comes to packing...she can get more into a box or suitcase then most people could on a good day. Anyhow...the man then said that they were going to open the box in front of me because something "suspicious" had showed up on the x-ray machine...what could I say...I demand the right to remain silent...and my box too?

So he cut the box open and I swear everyone was holding their breath...I know I was. My son was still seeing this all as fun time and was bouncing up and down and asking a million questions of G I Joe...who incidently had come to serious attention as the box was being opened. I cant swear to it but Im pretty darn sure his finger was on the trigger of his very big gun...ouch!

As the guy opened the box and started removing clothes etc...he broke the tense silence with a question..."did you really pack the box?"...I decided a confession was in order and admitted that my sister had actually been the "offender". He apparently was impressed with her skills and was sorry that he was undoing her good work...I thought that was rather kind of him...considering the circumstances.

Eventually he got down to the offending object...which turned out to be a pair of cap guns...those silver cowboy guns that go in a little gun belt and have been around for eons....that was my mothers bday gift to her grandson that loves guns so much. Thank you Mom! Everyone let out a collective sigh of relief...myself a little more deeply then anyone else...and G I Joe relaxed and stepped back and became Mr Charming. My son was still bouncing around and Mr Charming decided he could be nice to the 4 year old "terrorist wannabe" after all and bent down to impress him with the big gun...(my knees were just starting to stop knocking against each other so painfully...still thanking you mom).

Long story short...the guy tried very hard to pack the box back to its original impossible feat of lots and lots of tape had to suffice. Everyone started chatting and included me in the chat where as before I was pretty much ignored...being the "suspect" and all. I was given plenty of helpful advice on what not to pack in any future you have to tell me twice? And after everything was in ship shape I was escorted back to the plane with plenty of smiles and wishes for a comfortable if! Of course every single passenger I passed gave me the "what did you do to get taken off the plane...and even though you are let back
on...should we be prudent and get off ourselves...just to be safe?" It was a true walk of shame if ever I endured one...and I had nothing to be ashamed about...go figure.

So thats my other Homeland Security story...a little more of what I would have expected when travelling with an incomplete would think...right?

PS any guesses as to who the first person I called when I got home was and what words of greeting I had for betcha!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Another man's junk...?

There is a radio program every morning in which people can call in and advertise things they have for sale..or things they are looking for but cant find etc. It's called the Trading Post and has been a long standing tradition with wide spread appeal. You just never know what your going to hear on that program...everything from vehicles for sale to guns or horses etc...and one infamous program in which a lady was in urgent need of some 'sex toys"...she was adamant that they be "used" sex toys as she couldnt afford new ones...can anyone say 'eeeewwww"?

Anyhow...we've gotten on that program twice in the past week for personal was to advertise and see if there were any places for rent available as we are having no luck finding a place...everything is for sale...nothing much for rent. The second reason was to ask for free items for my mother as her house burned down and she lost everything...and we cant really afford to replace those things at this time. Now here's my beef...

I realize that most people will give something to someone they know is in need for purely good reasons...we donate items all the time whether it be just our lend a hand up to someone that could use one. Maybe even sometimes that thing you donate has some wear and tear...used old tv etc...but theres still some life and its still usable and the person receiving is thankful and grateful for the offering....and everything is good.

But why donate things that have really no shoes with holes in them...or a broken tv...or a torn up and stained mattress etc? It would seem that some people have taken the opportunity to unload some junk...and junk is what it is(the messages left on our phone about items that people want to donate just boggles the mind...not to mention the things that have actually been left for her in her yard)...onto my mother without a second thought as to how she will feel receiving all this "crap"...somethings should just go straight to the dump...and if your just too damn lazy to take it there yourself than call someone up to haul it away...but stop unloading on her. Her emotions are all over the place now and she doesnt need to feel responsible to get rid of other peoples trash...she is still cleaning up her own burned up life...she doesnt need to clean up someone else's too...sheesh!

Anyhow...there have been quite a few good people that have helped her in the kindest of ways so that all the lousy people that have "contributed" can be safely ignored as "exceptions" to the normal human condition to truly help those that need it. Most people are still good...thank God.