Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Damn the war for bringing all this back!

Worrying about Ennis and Juju, while sitting here alone in Fort Wayne, away from Moody and Tala and Sol, makes things even worse and makes the world feel more lonely... I feel more alone!

My mind was set that one day I will write about my previous marriage and divorce. I want to write it for my kids, the four of them, to know why and how it happened. I want to write about the choices I had and the decisions I had to make and made.

The last two weeks re-agitated many forgotten, unhealed wounds. It's as if I'm in the middle of the divorce again, facing the possibility of being separated from my children. Did I really forget the pain of separation? No, but life happens and keeps happening. Eventually one loses sight of the things that are not in focus.

Now, I ask myself: How could I write about all that happened back then? What I write will bring more pain, and will jeopardize some relations time managed to heal. I can't write about my ex-husband for he's the father of my children. I can't write about all the people that let me down when I needed them then--those that not only turned their backs on me, but helped separate me and the kids... Those are my parents, my sisters, my best friend--all of whom I still love. I don't want to hurt any of them anymore. How do I explain to my children that my family deserted me because I brought them shame by wanting to be a “divorced woman”?

Could I ever forget or forgive? No, but life goes on! What could bring back the forever-lost times for my children and me? Who could give them back to us? Maybe we will have time together again, but the bygone times will never be again!

The wounds are still alive; the pain is still alive; I still can't deal with it--I don't want to deal with it. So, I decided I will not write my story.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

My Babies

"I'm very worried about Ennis and Juju," Moody told me when I got home yesterday. Sol has told him and Tala about the war, explaining what war is and that their brother and sister are caught in it. Tala wants to "bring them to this world, our world!" She and Moody got all their stuffed animals down to the basement to help fight the war.

Ennis and Juju live in Baalbeck, in the Bekaa Valley, which is the capital for Hizbollah. It was inevitable the Israelis would bomb it; I was waiting for that. They did, many times, and the kids, along with other family members, have been on the road. They fled to one village, to come back to Baalbeck for another bombardment and flee again.

Juju's Grandma told me that Juju is very terrified and freaking out. Ennis told me that he liked to watch.

I have not started the naturalization process for the kids, because I need their father's consent. He would not agree to that; partly, in fear that I would take them away from him, and partly to punish me for getting out of the marriage. I have contacted the Congressman's office, Senator, and friends to try and get them deported. There isn't much hope for that since they are not US citizens or legal residents of the US. I was told that dependents of US citizens who don't fall in these two categories might be deported after all citizens and legal residents have been. I don't think that would happen. The first thing I will try to do when/if this war is over is to start their naturalization process. I hope the father will agree and put the kids' interest above all else.

I'm dead worried about them... What if the car they're traveling in got hit, what if he road they're on got hit, what if the house they're in got hit? Can't sleep, can't think of anything else... Every time I call, I expect no answer or to be told my worst fear. I wish they'd fled the country earlier. I wish there was a way in for me. I wish they do get out of there somehow, but how... there's no way out!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Shame on the World!

The Israeli's offensive in Lebanon hit 8 days now. Lebanese are paying a price for a decision they didn't make and do not own. Every day exposes the international community and the US administration for what they really are--impotent, racist criminals themselves. A nation is pleading for help and the whole world is turning their backs on them!

It's a shame to see what's happening in Lebanon, a country that suffered decades and decades of war and managed despite all that to rebuild and rise above all other countries in the region and the Arab world. I still ask, what's the point in destroying the best democracy in the region?

I happened to move to Lebanon in 1991, just at the end of the civil war. The ugliness of the war was everywhere, on the streets, the buildings, the infrastructure, and most prominent on the faces and morale of the people. You can rebuild a country, but can you restore morale?

The psychological damage of war is much more grave than the physical damage. People don't have the same view of life as those living in peaceful countries. Despair is part of who they are, living everyday as it comes, no guarantees, no worries about tomorrow. What a life and what a destruction of human life!

During my seven-year stay in Lebanon, I had witnessed many Israeli and non-Israeli attacks. I was astonished beyond comprehension by the reaction--or better yet, lack of it--of those around me treating it business as usual. I was horrified and scared like I've never been or could have ever imagined possible. The destruction, the ruins, tangible and intangible, were horrific! I have seen only a glimpse of the war, really, so imagine the scale of damage to those who lived through it for decades, the generations that were brought to life in the middle of it and knew no other way of life.

The current attacks on Lebanon brought all those feelings back; it's hard to explain what feelings war provokes in a person who lived through it, in it, to those who are watching from the outside. The best I can do is that a dark gloomy cloud engulfs you and all your senses, and you see things only through that dark cloud...

I left Lebanon after seven years, and it took me well over two years to recover the psychological damage and regain my sanity and my self. My two children, Ennis and Jenna, are still living in Lebanon. I could not take them with me because of the many restraints and inequality women still face in the Arab and Muslim world. Even though it is very clear to everyone involved that the children are better off leaving Lebanon--and they do have more than one place to go to--their wellbeing is not superordinate to those involved in making the decision on behalf of the kids. My heart goes out to them and I wish they don't have to witness and live a war... My hands are tied and my heart is knotted!

From Lebanon's The Daily Star:

Diplomats leave Lebanese civilians to pay for a decision they didn't make

Seven days into Israel's war on Lebanon, there is no hint of effective international diplomacy on the horizon. The Lebanese are being forced to accept that they are alone in the world, without a friend who can defend them against an undeserved onslaught. The Syrians, who many have argued share a healthy portion of blame for the current crisis in Lebanon, are too busy saving their own skins, threatening fierce reprisals if their nation comes under attack. The Iranians, also fingered in this latest wave of hostilities, are cozily sitting back and enjoying the luxury of sacrificing Lebanon and Hizbullah in their quest to sweeten a deal with the West over their nuclear program.

Saudi Arabia is abandoning its role as a regional peacemaker, placing all of the blame squarely upon Hizbullah and Iran, and expressing no hint of outrage over the collective punishment and destruction in Lebanon. They apparently have adopted the belief that the more than 220 innocent civilians killed are among the "elements" in Lebanon who are responsible for the current crisis.

Egypt, the home of an ineffective Arab League, which cannot even muster the diplomatic will to hold a summit, is busy scolding Hizbullah for its misdeeds. As Lebanon burns for a seventh straight day, we see no sense of urgency on the part of Egyptian leaders to convene emergency talks among regional heads of state.

Even in Israel, there is no sign of diplomatic efforts on the part of leading politicians. The rookie Israeli government - which has achieved record destruction at a scale and pace rarely seen, even in this part of the world - has stepped aside and let Israeli generals take the lead. They fail to see the irony in the fact that their commanders have been pounding the very army that they expect to impose order over Lebanese territory.

And the Europeans and the Americans are blindly following as the Israelis lead us all down a treacherous path. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, formerly an advocate for the Lebanese people, is still lingering in Washington, apparently reluctant to even try to come and resolve this conflict.

In these darkest of hours, with the skies of Lebanon and the brains of international leaders clouded by the haze of war, the Lebanese are desperately searching for an outstretched hand of diplomacy. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has pleaded with the world to stop Israel's "barbaric" attacks on the country. But the world has effectively abandoned the Lebanese people to their misery and turned a blind eye as they suffer the consequences of a decision that they themselves did not make. Instead of sending us their diplomats, the world is sending us its boats and buses for the refugees who hold foreign nationalities.

The Lebanese who don't hold dual citizenship have no choice but to hunker down in their basements and shelters and watch the return of an international war that has been played out again and again on their territory. This time, their beloved homeland has been chosen as a battleground in which the Israelis will brutalize the Lebanese in order to teach the Iranians a lesson on behalf of the West. The war-weary Lebanese have no choice but to pay the ultimate price and once again bear the brunt of the consequences of world diplomats' failure to resolve a crisis peacefully.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tala, the experimentalist

Hi, Mom. I just wanted to show you the results of my heat sensing experiment from last night. Right after Dad told me the red light on the cooktop means it's hot, I had to confirm it for myself; and sure enough, it was hot! Not a very "contherble" feeling. Now I also know what the word blister means.

I also drew this picture for you to mark the occasion.

Monday, July 10, 2006

July 4th weekend in Chicago

This year, the Fourth of July fell on Tuesday, and we decided to spend the long weekend in Chicago, visiting our friends: Magda Fehema and Tawfik Sharkasi. They are very dear friends, and we hadn't seen them since they moved back to Chicago. The kids and I got to Ft. Wayne on Friday, picked up Hannu and continued on Saturday. Chicago is a nice city, very nice in fact. But what made it especially nice for us was really the company of M&T. They'd lived in Chicago before coming to Columbus in the early 90's, then Egypt for a few years, then France, and now back. They have two children: Nahil, works and lives in the DC area. Adam just got his BS in Mech. Eng. at Virginia Tech, and planning on continuing for an MS degree.

M&T are very pleasantly engaging, their company is enriching and stress free. Tawfik is VP for Research & Development at Wrigley, and a food scientist by training. I learned a lot about food from him, as it relates to my field of materials science. Prepared foods are basically "engineered materials," so we always have interesting cross-disciplinary conversations, often yielding "exotic" examples for my junior phase transformations class. The food lecture seems to "stick" to my students memory better than anything else in that class! lol lol

Magda, on the other hand, is the co-founder of the Tibra Foundation. She is very caring and very active in her community. She volunteers and participates in activities for different causes. Recently, she has been teaching immigrants, Somalis and Hispanics I believe. She is also creative and artistic, like her brother Abdelmutalib, and Tawfik who designed the Libyana logo. In short, Magda is a wonderful, caring, and loving person—Moody is lucky to have her for a Godmother.

Our hosts also have a good taste in music, and they usually have something interesting to share. This time, it was a set of CDs featuring Sufi music and poetry-song improvisations by al-Kindi Ensemble of a Syrian band of musicians and singers, including a Sheikh Habboush and a French artist named Julian Weis. This is a fantastic double CD set, both musically and poetically. You know, those Sufi guys got that "don't take things literally" cover, so they can get away with saying all kinds of taboos in poetry-- I mean, anything!

We spent all of our time in downtown Chicago, got to walk to some of the city's points of interest, and took lots of pictures! Some highlights are shown here, and if you click on any image, you'll get to the full set, where you can pick and see larger copies. To start with, here is a view from M&T's apartment, which overlooks Navy Pier and the harbor on Lake Michigan. All the pictures below were taken within walking distance from here.

They call it "the Bean" for its shape, but to me it looks like a drop of mercury. The Millenium Park structure captures part of the city skyline in the left image, and if you hide the bottom of the image (everything from my head down) it looks like the city is inside a bubble. From the side, it looks more like a kidney bean lying on its clefted belly. I was especially impressed by the engineering of the whole reflective surface-- a completely seamless mirror, even on close examination.

At the Millenium Park, they also have two huge towers facing each other, and spraying water on ecstatic kids gathered underneath. The tower displays Chicago faces that stare and blink, smile... then pucker up and spew water out of their mouths. The kids (and some grownups) loved it! On the right of this picture is Moody, Tala in the center, running away frantically from the water spray.

A famous section of downtown Chicago is a stretch of Michigan Avenue called the Magnificent Mile, from the Chicago River to Lake Michigan. The name was coined in a major rebuilding campaign of the city back in the late 40's. Overlooking Wrigley Square on Michigan Avenue, there is the famous buildings of Wrigley, the white one on the left, and the Chicago Tribune on the right in the above picture. Both were actually built in the 1920's. Wrigley, of chewing gum fame, is a name that has a strong association with the city, including its baseball tradition at Wrigley Field.

On the face of the Tribune building there is an interesting collection of "implants," you might say. In the stones of the building there are lots of small inlaid pieces, brought from famous structures all around the world, including the Egyptian Pyramids, the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City, even the World Trade Center, and... there is a little piece of marble from the city of Libda (Leptis Magna) in Libya. This city, about 60 miles east of Tripoli on the Med, is the birth place of Septimus Severus, who grew up there, then moved to Rome, became a Roman Empiror ca. 200 AD, and died in York, England.

Since we were staying downtown, we had no worries about driving or parking. We just walked everywhere, then we walked everwhere else! When we went to the Magnificent Mile, it was more like the magnificent eight miles! We walked a lot, but thanks to Hana's forethought, we took the wagon with us. As you can see from the pictures, it was not only handy but downright cozy at times!

The Cultural Center is a beautiful old building that's open freely to the public, and offering art exhibits, music shows, majestic ball rooms for holding functions, etc. For example, the city's Arab American Council held a function in the room with the high Tiffany stained-glass dome. We saw an auto-art exhibit that was interesting. We also saw a nice exhibit of wild looking clothes for creatures you might meet on Star Wars or some such place. Still, really interesting stuff. Of course, there was the one exhibit that showed a little too much culture for kids, if you know what I mean. I knew the risk when we entered the room and saw a flat TV on a wall, displaying a video of a woman in her underwear, peeling a layer of transparent plastic off her skin, which made her look like she was peeling off her own skin. By the end of the loop around that room, I was kinda racing the kids past some of the stuff on the walls. Fortunately, and quite surprisingly, neither of the kids asked any thing. My worst fear was reverberating in my head: "What's that, Dad?" I just moved them faster after Hana and Magda busted out laughing behind us. Man, that was close! Too close! What was it, you ask? If you must know, I'd say I didn't read the name of that work, but I imagine it was something totally Sufi!

Chicago has a lot of interesting political history and a rich ethnic makeup. For example, when Pope John Paul visited Chicago, I heard it is the largest "Polish city" in the world, with a larger Polish community than any city in Poland itself! It is also the place where the building in the left picture used to house the Medinah Temple of the Nation of Islam organization. Now that building is a Bloomingdale department store. Life goes on. It reminds me of the old Syria Mosque building (that used to be?) in Pittsburgh, which was a theater when I lived there, both buildings displaying a decorative Islamic/Arabic saying, "la ghalib illa Allah" repeated. It means, "No conquerer but Allah," as opposed to Bloomingdale's, you see! The picture on the right is just some stately looking dudes in town, dressed in proper attire... They could also be a bunch of lonely Canadians! (H: Actually, they were in front of the Freedom Museum, in Michigan Ave., inviting passersby to visit the museum.)

On Monday night we caught the fireworks on the lake from a 2nd floor terrace. Seen here is Saida, a friend and neighbor of M&T, living in the same building. She is Moroccan-American, and a woman about town, active in a civic body that advises the mayor on diversity. She and Magda met at an Arab American Council function in the Tiffany domed room above, before they discovered they lived in the same vertical neghborhood. Saida kindly took the Kids one evening, so Magda and Tawfik could treat us to a fantastic dinner at one of Chicago's fusion cuisine restaurants. What a friend.

Our friends did not make couscous, no bazeen, and no macroona. They didn't slaughter any unsuspecting lambs in our honor, noooooo. But they did take us to a Thai-Hawaiian fusion restaurant. My appetizer foamed! I thought to myself, "I need a blindfold." lol lol. I think all the rest of the food was from this planet, though. Actually, the foam was a white chocolate emulsion, but the entire meal was really out of this world. Thank you, Magda and Tawfik. Thank you, Saida.

Ironically, we spent most of July 4th on the highway, driving back all the way to Columbus with a little break in Ft. Wayne. It was the day to unwind happily. Good times were had by all. Even the kids were quite relaxed and happy for several days. It was good for them to see Americans like them on the 4th of July.