Friday, March 23, 2007

Happy First, Hannu (after forty)!

Hana A. Naas

Born: Wednesday, 23 March 1966, Tripoli, Libya.

Yep, Hannu is now officially in her forties, plural, not just forty! From all of us: Happy birthday, Hannu! We love you always.

This is also a good opportunity for some catching up and updating. Today completes Hannu's third week at work, and the fourth week of having the nanny with the kids. Things are finally starting to settle down around here, just as they start revving up again for the next cycle. Spring quarter starts Monday, and the kids soccer/T-ball pre-season practices already started.

Hannu started work on the last week of classes, so it was a little bit of a rcoky start. Having finals and starting a new job is quite stressful, no doubt! On school days, Hana has to get up at 5:30 am, drive almost an hour to work, then drive straight to school, and ultimately get home after 8 pm for a quick bite before our special time of G&G--gurma and green tea. Incidentally, one side benefit of entering a new environment is getting new gurma material. We can give all the bloggers a break now, lol lol. Hana and I both have low blood pressure, and she thinks it has to do with our regular drinking of green tea. I tell her it's not the tea, it's the gurma ya Hannu! :)))

In a tornado some things get picked up, and others get dropped. On week two of having the nanny, Ahmed decided to drop her cell phone in the fish bowl so Gus the fish can talk to him. The next day, Tala decided Gus needed to have a little refreshment, so she got the lemon juice bottle and gave him a few squirts. Luckily Alecja was nearby and got to Gus before he turned into Sushi. So, on some level Hana's transition seemed like a gradual change, but I knew better than anyone that it wasn't just another step. I wanted to write about it on Hannu's first day at work, but I wasn't quite ready... Then I had drafted a post that talked a little bit about Hana's professional background, only to see her beat me to the punch. But there are still some things to say...

When we first got married, Hana did not have any desire to get a job, even though she had worked before and actually had done quite well. Her last job before coming to the US had been the one in Greece, which she already wrote about but left out something interesting, which I'll tell you because it relates to how proud I am of my wife. While in Greece, Hana's family friend and Lebanon neighbor, Uncle Lameen took her to meet an interesting guy. Good old Uncle Elio (or maybe Elihu) is a Greek guy, born and raised in Benghazi, then forced to leave when it was fashionable for Arab dictators to dress like Nazis and oppress! In Elio's case, they could take the boy out of the country, but they couldn't take the country out of the boy. Elio is 'Ayyel Blad, a Benghazi homeboy all the way. Hana said, at dinner, Elio was chatting with Uncle Lameen about old acquaintances in a perfect Benghazi accent, as though he'd never left, remembering gurma details a Libyan, OK? "Aaah, so and so married the son of such and such, had many kids, and her step-cousin from her mother's side was caught selling moonshine in Birka,..." Old Elio left a strong impression on Hannu because of the genuine pride he showed when he found out she was hired from Benghazi to help the Greeks on a technical problem. "'Allimeehum!" he would say emphatically (teach them!), "Warreehum!" (show them!). I don't think he'd ever met her before, but she probably represented every curly haired, chubby little girl in the Benghazi he loved and never lost. Oh, what he might say now!

After having the kids and staying home a while, Hannu (Ms. zerbaza) started to change her mind about working. A little over two years ago, we decided she would go to graduate school, get a degree and enter the job market. She wasn't sure at first what she wanted to study, especially since her BS degree was in computer science and she had really drifted away from the technical side and more into the management side. Of course, I knew from day one :-) her real passion was project management, even though I didn't push her one way or the other. I also knew that she could compete at the highest level in any graduate business school. At first, Hana was a little cautious, maybe a little apprehensive or scared even, and she needed to take little reassurance steps. So she started taking evening continuing education classes for warm up. She took French, then some business communications classes, and she had a great time. She was ready and felt ready then. She started her evening MBA program almost two years ago, and she will graduate in August, right around Tala's birthday. What a life lesson for Tala and Ahmed. I hope they always remember, Mom finished her degree just as they were starting their schooling. I could talk to them until I am blue in the face about determination, the desire to learn and grow, independence, self regeneration, etc. Or I could say, look at Mom!

I wouldn't say it's been an easy ride, but it has been a good ride. I generally like to see the process of learning and personal growth around me, that's why I like teaching. But seeing growth in the ones you love is a whole 'nother' thing all together. I never had a shred of doubt. Hannu is an A student in a ranked, fiercely competitive program. She has been active in and out of the classroom, awarded one competitive scholarship, currently in the running for a Pace Setter Award, and the Fisher School's magazine wants to run a piece on her. If you think I'm proud, you're damn right I am, but not at all surprised! I knew from day one, :-) and I know there is a lot more to come.

A couple weeks ago, the Libyan government decided to weather balloon a ban on women under 40 from traveling without a chaperon. They have since reversed their apparent position, but not before a lot of public reaction to the move, both for and against. Now, most publicized actions of the Libyan government are orchestrated acts for pure publicity, nothing else, and this whole affair may be no exception. But it still brought out some of the caveman mentality that still permeates Libyan culture. Another reason for suspecting the whole affair is that the law and practice of banning women from traveling solo is really nothing new. Of course, there has never been a law banning young males from traveling abroad and doing as they please, or for some of them, doing as much as they can afford in the red light districtis of Valetta, Cairo or Timbuktu. That's why some people say the travel ban is designed to "protect" women, meaning protect them from the kind of behavior that they accept for men. I'll be damned! Do they know that a virtue untested is a weak virtue? Do they know the meaning and taste of being an independent, self-made, self-respecting individual? They really don't know because their life experience never taught them the difference between a dependant and an equal partner. That also means, they never experienced true love, the one that comes by choice not through need, dependency or circumstance. That's the reality of the crippling mud that Libyan women must wade through to get a taste of self realization. Therefore, today, kiss a Libyan woman near you! And to every one who strives toward higher and higher levels of self respect, starting with my Hannu, say after me: 'Allimeehum, Warreehum!


  1. Dear Sol, and Hannu, first a very big happy birthday to Hannu, and second a big thanks for Sol for being a great and loving husband, you are both a wonderful example of commitment and great achievment, and finally allow me to say to you guys 'I love you...' Ghazi

  2. hey,

    and this is the secand big huge ( HAPPY BIRTH DAY Hannu)
    just remember that, for ever and for always, i'll love you.

    urs, Scarlet

  3. A very Happy Birthday ya Hannu :o)
    with best wishes to you all

  4. Ehem...

    Sol, I don't expect less than what you wrote and what you do to us all, but nonetheless, it touches me deeply and I'm glad I have you! OK, enough before I start weeping :)

    Ghazi, thank you, dear. We were very touched by your comment. You are one of a kind; may you have the partner that Sol and I have in each other. It sure is wonderful to have you on the blog sphere and to have your blog--it's a fav and I'm a fan. It would be a delight to meet you in person!

    Habhooba ya habooba. Thank you for the wish... I love you sweetie!

    AL, Thank you! You're very kind and thoughtful.

  5. Wishing you a belated birthday, dearest Hana. You are a very lucky lady to have such a loving husband and 4 wonderful children who love you. You are truly blessed.

  6. Here is wishing you a happy birthday... I could have sworn your last one was only a half a year ago. Hope you enjoyed it.

  7. Thanks, Nikki and Azzam. Azzam, are you saying I'm gowing older fast?

  8. Happy Birthday Hannu! Many happen returns inshallah. That picture of you and Sol is so cute :)

    Bless you.