Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Book is done

As I sit at home sick, eating
tofita because I can't find mamba and drinking coke because I can't find Gatorade, it occurs to me that I haven't shared some important news. 

It's about that book. The one that started out as five thousand well paced words. That was neglected for almost a week of November. That book that was finally finished in some all night delirium in the middle of December. In proper Sumeera fashion, it was finished after the deadline. But it's done.

And by done, I mean I have surpassed the 50,000 words we were supposed to write and have most, if not all, of the plot and story down.

I haven't sat down and read the whole thing. At times I'll open up the document and read a few pages here and there. I stare at them, not sure who wrote them. Other pages stick out to me. I can remember exactly where I was sitting, the person it was that walked by and inspired that character or emotion. 

Do I love my book? I'm not sure. I love it because its my first. I love it because there are things in there that I really wanted to say and there are stories that I really wanted to tell. I love it because one of the characters was so hard to write and I stuck with her, trying to see the world as she would see it. I tried to write about her life tenderly even though I thought the life she chose was stupid. Do I love my book? In a slightly dysfunctional love kind of a way, I do. I really love it.

We got an email from Nano titled "An Year in Revisonland" encouraging us to start thinking about going back to our books. It said, "Because if our novels tumbled from our imaginations in tidy, ready-for-the-bookstores packages, we would be denied one of the greatest pleasures and challenges on the planet: Novel revision. Through rewriting, we get the opportunity to take the best parts of our books and build a truly awesome story around them. In doing so, we also get to improve our shortcomings as writers, and take November's sparky fling and turn it into something fiery and enduring."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Yoga sucks but it also kind of rules

(These are the three main teachers and the founders of my studio)

I used to think I had done bikram yoga. I was an idiot.

I recently had my first, actual bikram class. I think I died a few times during the workout. I want to chronicle how unbelievably hard and painful it was so I don't ever start deluding myself into thinking the last time I got in shape, it happened overnight by magic.

The first time I came to Turkey I lost a lot of weight. To the point that I actually thought I was too thin. I know. I too didn't think that was possible. Particularly for someone who is 5'1. After I became thin I started thinking mean things about people who complained about being fat. I thought shut up and stop eating so much. Why don't you go on a treadmill if your butt feels too big?

Having gone from being fat/chubby to being thin, I felt like I could hate on fat people legitimately. Kind of like when minorities say offensive things about their own.

And then I got fat again. I knew it was happening. I went home and studied for the bar. Eat, eat, eat. Fahad got married. Eat, cake, eat, ice cream, eat. Then Ramadan came. Starve, eat samosas, pakoras, anything, eat, eat. Then I was fat because of Ramadan so eat, eat, eat until I feel better. Then I was in London. Fried chicken for one pound everywhere. Eat, eat, eat. Then I went to Paris. Croissant perfection. Eat, eat. Belgium. Chocolates, eat, waffles, eat, eat. 

There were so many times I was eating so much that it physically hurt. You know that feeling, right? When you go to a restaurant or your mom's house? And you just gorge because the food is so damn good. I think we don't realize how much we do that until we actually start noting it. Or we overeat so much that our bodies become accustomed to it. The thing is, becoming fat doesn't really sneak up on you. (Unless you became fat in your early teens or before you really knew any better.) It is the result of many, many, many choices. Most of them involve not stopping eating when you are too full and not exercising even when you can feel that your body needs it.

I am not writing this because I think fat people are evil and thin people should rule the world. But I do realize that weight is an issue for a lot of people, both men and women and we don't have to hate ourselves over it. We can't constantly mistreat our bodies and then expect them to still shine for us. Our bodies are not trophy wives. They will not stay with us if we have affairs with ding dongs and ho hos. 

As I was standing in bikram with my newer, chubbier self, I felt each and every posture. My legs and arms were shaking for most of the workout. At one point I started rolling up my mat because I was the only one who couldn't do it right. I looked like such a fat rolly, polly idiot and I felt humiliated.

But I took a deep breath and thought it will be far worse if you walk out. How will you ever come to another class? My mom always says, you have to take that first step, and after that, the only ways you get to your goal is to continue, one slow step at a time.

So, I made a commitment to stay there. To not allow myself to leave just because I felt embarrassed. To not deny my body a chance to be something better just because it was 'hard.' I realize that the first time I got fit, part of it had to do with trying to eat a salad or something light for one of my meals, but a lot more had to do with simple things like only taking the stairs, taking walks when I was bored or going to yoga even when I didn't feel like it.

I remember that in almost every single yoga class, I swore it would be the last one. Yoga is so hard for me. The postures are hard, the insecurity of being the worst in the class is hard and focusing on one thing for 90 minutes is hard. And for those same reasons, I realize that it is really good for me and it is something I need to do.

Today, I can start to feel the toning in my shoulders and the firmness of my legs. I can feel the long line in the back of my spine and I feel good. I feel healthy and I feel strong.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The World Keeps Going Around

500 Days of Summer- 2 broccoli sprouts

Dear God. This movie was so bad. You like the Smiths? Me too! OMG. Fate! You are an unconventionally pretty girl that thinks I should be an architect? And you yell penis in a park? OMG. You are so eccentric and unique. Puke, puke, puke.

The movies take on love was idiotic. The characters are incredibly unsympathetic and you pray unbelievable because it makes me sad to think that people like that really exist.

I wouldn’t even recommend this movie as a ‘totally chill want nothing from a movie movie’ night. What were you thinking Joseph Gordon-Levitt? After seeing some of your recent GQ spreads I expected so much more from you!

Inglorious Bastards- 3 chocolate digestives

Fantastic! So well done, clever and engaging. Brad Pitt nailed his character and the scene in which they are in the basement bar draws you in so much that you completely forget the world around you. Isn’t that what we look for when we watch a movie??

This movie has humor, revenge, and a classic Quentin Tarantino ‘happy ending.’ Just when you think you can’t watch one more WWII movie, QT proves that you can.

My Sister’s Keeper- 3 potato boreks

After Hena saw this movie she started saying that I was Abigail Breslin’s twin. After watching it, I am sure that Hena was on some serious drugs when she saw the movie, but I am also sure that I would agree that it was a fantastic film.

It is a simple story. Really not much more than a lifetime movie with an all star cast. But that’s why these guys get the big bucks, no? Alec Baldwin and Breslin contribute significantly to the movie’s success but the casting across the board is on target. I question the inclusion of Cameron Diaz but even her one horrific outburst scene doesn’t ruin the movie.

I appreciate the moral dilemma the movie tackles and hope another movie will try to address it again, perhaps more successfully. The main theme of the movie hinges on the question of what right a person has to make choices about their own body and life. In this movie, that question takes a back seat to a more cliché story line that focuses on family dysfunction and giving Diaz too much screen time.

Even with that said, I cried throughout the movie. I thought of my own sister and how difficult it would be to see her go through something like that. The bravery it would take to do what Breslin’s character does. I clutched onto Feraz thanking God that despite our little hurdles of being apart, that he is in good health and that we have not been tested in such a difficult way.

I recommend watching this with someone you love, especially if you are feeling some distance between yourselves. It will glue you right back together!

Paranormal Activity – 1 gummy bear

After all the hype about this movie I was looking forward to being scared!

After eleven minutes into the movie I started wishing that something bad would happen to both people because they were so incredibly annoying. At this point I still thought the movie was real. It brought back flashbacks of Into the Wild where I kept thinking, do such stupid and pretentious people really exist? I even said to Feraz, this has to be real footage because there is no way you can act that annoying. In fact the movie would have actually been really scary if it was real.

Seeing that it wasn’t, it was a bit cumbersome to sit through a lot of it. I couldn’t understand how Micah could be so stupid as to keep trying to invoke the spirit. Are men really that pig headed and desperate to prove their manhood??  Why did Katie need his permission to call the demonologist? Are you more scared of your semi-retarded boyfriend or of a demon that can f*** you up?

I have to admit that the last three minutes were pretty redeeming and were pretty scary. Especially since I still thought the movie might be real footage. As scary movies go, it was better than most but that is just saying more about how bad most scary movies are than how good this one was.

Away We Go – 2 gummy bears

Feraz and I stopped watching this movie about five minutes into it because  it seemed so stupid. After Feraz left, I gave it another go and I think its safe to say that they packed the worst five minutes into the very beginning of the movie.

It wasn’t the greatest but as someone who has been a wandering nomad for what seems like my whole life, I could relate to the idea of searching for a place that you can call home. Er, something, something. I am sleepy now. Goodnight.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Santameera Clause

This past Thursday I was the Santa Clause at my work's holiday party.

It started innocently enough. Word around the office was that every year someone dressed up as Santa and handed out the Secret Santa presents at the holiday party and gave gifts to the kids. 

A person has some dreams in life. They write them down on a sheet of paper. And over the years, if they are lucky, they check them off one by one.

On Thursday I checked off one of my dreams.

But I have to say, playing Santa in my mind was very different than playing Santa in real life. Getting into the costume was much harder than expected. It was very hard to make everything look real but eventually I think we did a pretty job. 

The best part was the first moment I walked out. The kids went nuts. The first kid that saw me had an extremely excited look on his face. He grabbed his head. Turned in a circle as if he didn't know what to do and then ran into the hall to tell all the other kids, "Santa is here!!!"

I heard a stampede and suddenly a ton of expat kids were jumping around me. It was very exciting. For a few seconds. Then someone tried to pull off my beard. 

From that moment on there was a divide. The kids that believed (which diminished as they noticed my manicured nails and high heels) and the kids that were trying to figure out who I really was. 

One of the highlights was when one of the kids put up his hands when everyone was jumping on me and said, "Hey guys, have a little respect. This is Santa."

One woman came up to me and said, "There aren't many firsts these days but I'd have to say a Pakistani, Muslim, female Santa has got to be a first." 

This is honestly how much fun I have work at every day. I love my job. I had to cut it for propriety. Haha.

Little did I know that Phyllis was being a female Santa that same night!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Another New Home

I am in yet another new apartment. Moving day is always strange. You bring your familiar belongings and plop them all down in this foreign space which is supposed to be home.


I look around at my tiny apartment remembering that I agreed to live here for the month mostly out of desperation. Ugh. Although my friends in Istanbul have been incredibly great and insisted that I could stay with them until I found a place I really liked, I felt terrible imposing and also just wanted a place that was mine.


For that reason I also opted not to have a roommate this go. I have had incredibly good luck with my roommates. I have no particular horror stories to tell. But for the past few years I have always felt like an intruder in someone else’s space. I want a place where I can leave my clothes on the sofa if I feel like, where I can do the dishes on my own schedule, where I can wake up at 3 am and take a shower without feeling guilty. They are simple, stupid things but they are the desires that are born from constantly living with other people.


So, this will be the first time in my life that I will be living alone and tonight will be my first night alone in this apartment. Feraz helped me move in and get settled but he just left for the airport back to London. In all the months and years we have spent apart, you would think that time would make it easier to say goodbye. But each time it feels harder than the last. Each time I think, I can’t wait until it is the last time we have to be apart for so long. I think it is the strongest testament of love that a person who craves independence as much as I do just wants to settle down, wants someone who nags when I come home from work late and who’s schedule I have to consider when I make my plans.


But I digress. I came home just now and was met by my landlord. He is an overweight, mute man who smells like strong, strong onions mixed with body odor. Yesterday, he approached Feraz and I outside of our apartment and tried to speak to us. Of course he can only grunt and make broken sounds. He was able to communicate that he is basically mute and seemed to be implying that he is our landlord.


We were hesitant to let him in to the apartment because we had never met him before and the agent who I had rented from had said that she would personally introduce  me to the landlord. Feraz and I were unsure of what to do as this man kept making sounds and gesturing for us to let him into the building.


Finally, we asked him to use his keys to get into the apartment if he was the landlord. He couldn’t find any keys. Shady, shady we thought. But then he pulls out a showerhead attachment. That was his golden ticket. I knew that the landlord was supposed to come install that yesterday so I let him in.


He followed us into the apartment, breathing heavily the whole time. He sat down by the futon and with his overweight body and smelly odor and proceeded to breathe heavily all over my apartment. He then started taking out some extra dishes he brought. He unwrapped each one. One by one by one with his big clumsy hands.  Feraz and I looked at each other wondering if this was really happening.


The landlord then went into the bathroom to try to fix the showerhead but was unsuccessful. This whole time he is trying to talk to us which is just heartbreaking because there is no way in hell that we are going to be able to make out what he is saying. We keep shrugging our shoulders and responding bilimyorum which means I don’t know.


He finally leaves and Feraz says, “That has to be up there with one of the weirdest things that has ever happened to me.”


“Thank God you were with me at least,” I responded.


Imagine coming home in the dark to a huge man who can’t talk and insists on being let into your apartment. After I dropped Feraz off, I came back to the man waiting for me. He asked to be let upstairs and I let him in. Today, he brought me more dishes, which he also unwrapped one by one and some new towels. He is coming back in half an hour to fix the shower. I don’t think I will be requesting anymore repairs or things for the apartment…


Another new place, another new adventure.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Dogs and Domestic Violence

Last week as my friend’s and I were entering their apartment, a Turkish woman came screaming and ran past us into the apartment. At first we are not sure what was going on.


She told us that her sister’s husband was hurting her and there was a six- month old baby in the home. She was crying and shaking and totally out of it. We wanted to call the police but they don’t get involved in ‘private’ matters. We called the compound security and they assured us they would take care of it.


According to recent statistics, 4 out of every 10 married women in Turkey have been physically or sexually abused by their husbands. From the stories I hear, it seems that this is a gross underestimate. When we lived at our old apartment I remember hearing horrifying fights between a neighboring couple. When the fear seeps in under your door and into your night, should it still be a private matter? When you can almost feel the pain the woman must be going through, should you still not call the police?    


Two days later there are some beautiful purple orchids at the door. Attached is a note in poor handwriting saying, “I am very sorry to disturb you and your family on Saturday. It connected to alcohol. When my husband drunk to get angry. Thank you so much.”


When we read the note, I wanted to cry. Here, the woman who is already being abused feels the need to protect the image and reputation of her husband. She attributes the behavior to the alcohol instead of to her husband. She takes the blame by being the one to apologize for the disturbance. She thanks us for… what? Understanding? Not saying anything or calling the police? For not being upset with her?


The first issue here is the matter of domestic violence being a ‘private’ issue. The compound is hesitant to involve the police because these are their residents and more likely than not, the husband is paying the outrageous rent that comes with this address. Are they not getting involved to protect the sanctity of the family’s private sphere or to assure that they have a happy customer who can beat his wife with the protective shroud of the compound’s policy in place?


Do the police not get involved because they really feel this is a private matter? Or is it because most of these men who make up the police force have a vested interest in maintaining a status quo that permits the abuse and oppression of women? Or is it because the men who do want to speak up are afraid to do so in the face of their colleagues and a society who still quite openly subscribe to a machismo and misogynist culture.


No society should take the stand that domestic violence is a private matter. It never was and never should be The general safety of an individual is a responsibility that should be born by the whole of society.  In this instance, what happens in the private sphere significantly impacts the public sphere. Society’s that condone the abuse of women and allow children to be raised in such environments suffer economically, politically and on a multitude of other levels. Most importantly they carry the shame of these abused women. The blood of the women hurt by abusive men is on every member of society who turns a blind eye and keeps their mouth shut.


What can we do in this particular situation? We write a note that says “No problem at all. We just want you to know that our door is always open.” We make sure the husband doesn’t see it. But when the institutions in place don’t protect women, who do we call? What do we really do to help?


Last night I was taking the dog out for a walk and the elevator door was open. The sister and another man were there. The lady got really frightened and started screaming ‘I am scared of dogs.’ So I pull the dog close to me and say go ahead making room for them. They are over five feet away from me so they can easily pass, and the dog is being calm anyways so they have nothing to be scared of. This guy starts Screaming at me. He yells ‘Go away!! Get away!! GO GO GO!!” I thought he was going to hit me. His veins were popping out of his head. 


I was quite shaken by the incident but the thing that struck me the most was that this woman was willingly standing in the elevator with this seeming monster and she is more scared of a dog that has never done a thing to her. Who is the real beast anyway.

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