Sunday, November 21, 2010

Friday, November 5, 2010

Book Reviews

Book#4: The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

I love the tone of this book. It is fun and exciting and sexy and made me want to keep reading. . Diaz's style is accessible and he never harps on any one character so long that you get tired. 

I love, love, love reading books about the Dominican. The country's history is so complex and heartbreaking. Julia Alvarez is one of my favorite authors and In the Time of Butterflies she recounts the brave story of the Mirabel sisters. They are often referenced here; their stories mentioned within the cruel context of the Dominican Dictator Trujillo. 

The story is told with the backdrop of a fuku or curse that has fallen on our protagonist's family and the zafa or counter-curse that he narrator is trying to use to rid the original fuku. Although this was the whole context of the book, I didn't like the consequence and felt that the characters, the story and the history in this book could have easily carried themselves without what I'm sure is a relevant part of the culture but came off as a bit of a gimmick. 

Rating: 7.1/10

Book #5: The House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III

I always feel a bit foolish when I am walking around reading a book that has an "Oprah's Book Club" label on it but the last time I was the library bookstore, I couldn't find many things I liked and ended up grabbing about five books from Oprah's selections so you have many book club reviews to look forward to.

Most people who saw me reading this book had seen the movie and had lots of good things to say about it, so if you are not much of a reader you may want to check that out instead.  It's been a long time since I've really just appreciated story telling. I loved how Dubus paints a story in which everyone is a villain and no one is a villain. He somehow captures that fine balance between the meaningfulness and meaninglessness of our choices. He demonstrates how the choices we make that change our life are often made uncertainly, without clarity or a definitiveness. But their consequences define us completely. They can lead to death or a life seemingly wasted as was the case with the characters in House of Sand and Fog.

So, despite what I am about to say, I really liked this book and would recommend it. 

The more I read fiction, the more I am beginning to see patterns in writing. Formulas seem apparent and even with the best of writing, there tends to come a point in the book, usually about three quarters in, when I want to throw it against the wall, find the author and yell at him/her because they have ruined a story I was really, really loving. 

I was afraid I was going to start skimming through the last pages of the book but Dubus finishes so strongly. In the last pages you can feel the tragedy wrapping around you and slowly bringing you down, forcing you to understand the intense sadness and emptiness in some lives. 

Great Read!!

Rating: 8.5/10

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Happiest Day of My Life

My mom always tells a story that both makes us laugh and horrifies us. It is about the happiest day of her life. She always starts off my making sure we know that she is not qualifying the story. She says, 'That happiest day of my life wasn't when I got married, or when I had my kids or when I came to America. Nope. It wasn't any of those days. The best day of my life was the day that I got my driver's license." She might clap her hands or be laughing when she recounts this story because that is how happy it makes her to think about it. She talks about the sense of freedom she had that day. Her whole life changed in a magical, beautiful way.

I never thought I would be able to look at my life and say there was one happiest day. How would I recognize it? What would it look like? Would it smell different? Would it have a special taste? I assumed the day would be full of signs, of laughter, of lots of big, crazy things, like that one scene in that terrible movie 500 Days of Summer when Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character is walking down the street with everyone singing and dancing and there is a blue cartoon bird over his shoulder.

My perfect day was nothing like that. It started at seven in the morning when I woke up after four hours of sleep in the horrible Crowne Plaza (Never stay at the Crowne Plaza in Albany! It was awful!). I went outside and the first drops of rain began to fall on a bitterly cold morning. I pulled my suit jacket close around me and did not get any warmer.

I walked as fast as I could to get to the meeting room where I would wait for almost three hours until they reached the Ys and I could give my interview. A few minutes later a piece of paper was signed declaring me to be of good moral character and qualifying me to take my oath of admission. And in those moments before I took my oath, I began to think of all the things I can never forget.

I will never forget that little village I came from. I will never forget all my family there and especially my parents who brought us to America so we could have a chance to be something. And not just something, they always supported me to be what it was that I wanted. And before my parent's boast that I am a lawyer, they say that I care about women's issues and one day I will help women all over the world.

I will never forget all the places I have traveled and all the faces I have seen. I will never forget all the little children and all those little eyes that hold dreams and potential and power, that if unleashed could change the world. If someone would just give them a chance. I will never forget that it is a simple twist of fate that separates them from me.

I will never forget that day in the fall of 2005 when a big envelope came from the University of Michigan and I knew that my life would change forever and I thanked God for this chance and I begged Him to never let me forget the feeling of gratitude I felt in that moment and to make me worthy of this blessing.

I asked the same of Him on Friday. As I took the oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and as I joined a profession I have dreamed of joining since I was a young child, as most people in the room looked bored or annoyed to have to take part in this arcane seeming ritual, I tried not to cry and I asked that I may be worthy of the blessing I am receiving and when I am working late nights and weekends I remember that this is not a burden but the fulfillment of a dream I have long wished to realize.

It is not the happiest day of my life only because of what happened in it, but because of what it represents about the roads that I have walked on and the hope it can bring for the roads I still have to travel. It is a day that helps me understand my mother's own happiest day. One that wasn't tied to marriage or family or expectations. It was a day that was her own and signified something about the roads on which she had traveled and still had yet to see. After all these years, I can finally understand that look on her face and the excitement with which she tells her story.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Nowhere Boy

The bus tour stopped for many awesome photo opportunities, such as this one.

Some things I wish I hadn't seen, like Strawberry Field which took some of the charm of the song away.

The tour gave us some insight into the childhoods and lives of the Beatles but it didn't begin to compare to the movie we just saw. Last night we went to see Nowere Boy - a great film that gives fans a look into the young life of John Lennon. Whether you are a Beatles fan or not, this is a great film to check out.

From the perspective of a fan it was interesting to see what may have made Lennon the way he was. From the perspective of a normal person navigating life, it was amazing to see the challenges and hardships Lennon had as a young kid. From the death of his favorite uncle, who was like his father, on his birthday to finding out his mom who had abandoned him had lived just down the street his whole life, we witness the personal turmoil that Lennon was enduring at the same time that he first fell in love with music.

A young McCartney and Harrison also appear in the film and one of the most moving scenes in the film takes place at Lennon's mom's wake ceremony. Lennon is struggling to deal with the unexpected death of his mother who he was just getting to know and he has a violent outburst and storms out of the wake. Paul runs after him outside and John punches him, knocking him down. Immediately recognizing his wrongdoing he helps Paul up and they break down crying- Paul having also recently lost his mother to cancer. The camera zooms out showing them standing in the middle of the street holding each other and crying. 

During that scene I am struck by the magnitude of their relationship. It was born when they were both so young and through that tragedy and so many others they were in each others lives. They rose to the top together, they were amazing collaborators  and then their relationship crumbled. At one point Paul wrote Too Many People in which he says "Too many waiting for that lucky break, That was your first mistake, You took your lucky break and broke it in two." John retaliated with How Do You Sleep in which he sings "The only thing you've done was Yesterday, and since you've gone you're just another day."

It's quite heartbreaking to think that they never had a chance to reconcile after watching the birth of their relationship in Nowhere Boy. I hope you'll go check it out and in the meantime, enjoy this video montage.

Friday, October 15, 2010

To the Lighthouse

Book #3: To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

This is considered one of the best novels of the 20th century by many critics so I feel like a bit of an idiot for not liking it more. Woolf is not one of my favorite feminist novelists but I find myself quoting her all the time. Her suicide note, which I know I have noted on here before, always breaks my heart. 

"I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can't concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don't think two people could have been happier 'til this terrible disease came. I can't fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can't even write this properly. I can't read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that — everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can't go on spoiling your life any longer. I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been. V"

I always read her work with this quote in mind and the awareness that I am reading someone who lived for her work and was a very conflicted individual. She has iconic lines such as "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself." or "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." It is hard not to want to love her work but I always struggle with her books. 

Part I of the novel draws you into the lives of the Ramsey's and their friends, particularly focusing on Mrs. Ramsey. You follow their lives for one afternoon and by the end you feel very, very close to some of the characters. But in Part II, without any warning, Mrs. Ramsey is killed off and the home that you spent the last 80 pages in has fallen into despair. I love how Woolf did this. It immediately had the effect of making me realize how brief and trivial life is. (Though I'm not sure this was Woolf's intention.) The tables she dusted, the home that she took such meticulous care of is gone. The woman that so many of the characters were mesmerized or tortured by is dead. 

Read If: You like really clever social commentaries. I love the passages in the book where Woolf has us listen in on the internal dialogue of several of the characters during dinner. It is so well done and probably not that far off from what happens at diner parties, even now. 

Don't Read If: You like stories that move along and don't have too much philosophical introspection. Although I read a lot, I am not the best reader. I often don't focus enough, so I depend on the author doing some of the work for me. For this book, I had to read the sparknotes after to understand what I was supposed to take away from it. 

Overall, I can easily see why this book received the acclaim that it did but it was just not for me. 

Rating: 6/10

Monday, October 4, 2010

Moving and Prejudice

"I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him." -Abe

A few weeks ago, Feraz and I went to DC to look for a place to live. I went in with a twenty-two point checklist that I have been drafting in my mind since I was six. I have always wanted my own home and although we are just renting, this is the first place I will ever live in that everything in it will be mine. The excitement levels were off the charts.

Soon after we arrived to DC, my twenty-point list was given a reality check akin to what someone might experience when entering the marriage market.

On the second day of searching for apartments, we found something that we liked right next to the JCC. There was no exposed brick, no loft, no modern kitchen... in fact it was a basement apartment. I cringed at the thought! But at the time, it was the best we had seen and we felt good as we drove to our next viewing.

Not knowing the streets of DC very well, I booked the next appointment in a place we probably wouldn't have ordinarily considered. As we drove past broken windows, boarded up buildings, out-of-business commercial properties and lots of people loitering outside, I groaned that we would have to keep the appointment but we should probably just consider the apartment we had already seen.

We arrived at the rowhouse which looked nice enough on the outside. But inside. My God, the inside was beautiful. Amazing hardwood floors throughout. A massive kitchen with an over sized oven. A dining room which I could put my beautiful green hutch in.

It was love. But like with the sissy desi kid who walks away from the one girl he ever really lowed because he knows his parents will never approve, I left the house not even considering it. I laughed to Feraz that we had a perfect location with the first place and a perfect apartment with this place- now we just had to find both things in one package. And by laughed, I mean I cried.

The next morning I woke up at the crack of dawn (being about 10 am for me) and did what any reasonable person would do. I called the Metropolitan Police Department. Lo and behold! There is a service, available here where you can find a crime map for any address in DC. The crime statistics for the address we were worried about were considerably lower than the other areas we were looking in like Chinatown and comparable to Dupont, which was originally our ideal location. After that, our decision was made and we never looked back.

Although we have made some progress, classism, racism and elitism still rule the day. I see it in many people in my profession and even in peers. I think as young professionals we all are so busy trying to look impressive, to have the right address, and to believe in some false sense of security that we shirk our responsibilities to our communities. This is especially relevant for us Michigan folk. Take Detroit for instance. It can be something glorious but we have to be the architects of that change. Recently some of my friends have moved to Detroit in an effort to do something about a problem most of us Michiganders just like to complain about. They have made a choice to be agents of change in that community. They have inspired me to do something in my new home. This is a city where people make a point to avoid certain streets but simultaneously complain about how gentrification is pushing poor people out. We lament that this is the capital of one of the greatest nations and to just look at it as we put on our suits and try not to make eye contact with anyone who might look poor.

I don't know how you reduce poverty, how you increase integration or generally make the world a better place. But I do know that if we are going to move forward as a civilization, we have to think deeply and we have to think honestly about what dictates the choices we make.

On that Wednesday morning, we made the decision to take the place in the neighborhood that initially almost made us turn our car right around. Having moved here, I know that we made the right choice.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Gender and Status Messages

If your husband makes dinner, takes care of the kids, does some cleaning in the house- that is NOT a reason to post a giddly schoolgirlish facebook status update. 

Do you ever wonder why women still have such a shitty lot when we make up half the population? I mean it makes sense in some parts of the world but in America women are as or more educated than men (more women earned phDs last year than men), have significant economic capital and live in a society where there is no real need to be attached to a man. (Although there is social pressure, most of it is self-imposed by women on themselves)

Yet, we make less money, have less prestige in the workforce and carry the majority of the burden of managing the home, even when we are working. Many women shirk promotions or leave their careers all together because they can no longer balance their work and personal responsibilities. 

When I look around at the couples in the South Asian community that I am part of, a fair deal of the women are now making more than their husbands. (Not because they are higher paid in their respective fields in comparison to men, but because they are in higher paying fields than their husbands.) But when it comes to one partner having to leave the work-force when it is time to have a family, it is the woman who does. Or both will continue to work and use a third party to help with child-rearing responsibilities. But what I don't see is men leaving their jobs, even in the cases that it makes economic sense to do so. 

I know women who LOVE being homemakers. I can completely understand that. In fact, I would love to be a homemaker one day. I think it is an admirable role in our society and I also think it can be a lot of fun for people who are suited for it.  So, this isn't an issue of men should be doing this, this and this and women should be princesses and not have any role. Every individual should play a meaningful part in society but to the extent possible, this role should not be externally determined. 

So, ladies before you post how awesome your husband is for making dinner, think of whether you want to to keep feeding a system in which men's participation in the private sphere is praised and continues to be seen as a one-off opposed to being just one more part of being equal partners in a relationship. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Don't Believe the Cynics

Today, I showed up to my hair appointment at Aveda in Ann Arbor and was soon told that there had been a scheduling mistake and they wouldn't be able to see me. I thought, oh bummer but didn't worry about it too much. The lady asked if I wanted to reschedule and I said I wasn't sure if I'd be able to fit it in but I'd let her know. She said, well whenever you come back we'll do your full service free of charge. Wow! Talk about customer service. I'll be back there tomorrow!

After the salon, Feraz and I headed over to an antique shop to browse around. I found the cutest sugar and creamer set. I quickly picked it up to go show Feraz and just as I was showing him how cool it was, the sugar holder fell from my hands and broke into many irreparable pieces. I panicked and looked up at the lady working at the store and said "I'll buy it!" She just laughed and insisted that we didn't need to buy it quickly whisking the damaged goods away so I wouldn't have to be reminded of my mistake. Every time I tried to apologize, she just laughed it off. 

I am constantly amazed by how beautiful life is. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Secret Life of Bees aka PUKEFEST

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

I had heard a lot of good things about this book and was excited to read it. As I started reading, I really didn’t see anything special about it and by the end I was downright annoyed at wasting my time. Part of the problem was that I only read about 70% of the book, often finding myself skimming over sickly sweet passages and sometimes even skipping pages all together because I couldn’t handle any more of the tiring prose. Part of me wants to say that I just couldn’t relate to the 14 year-old narrator but that isn’t fair to the many books with young narrators that I love such as A Wrinkle in Time or I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. As I was reading the book, I couldn’t quite figure out  why I disliked it so much but it became very clear to me when I went to the Amazon reviews for the book after reading it. I have quoted the review that most spoke to me below in the “Don’t Read If” section below. Overall this book seemed an insult to my intelligence and a fine example of poor writing and the commercialization of fiction.

Read If:
Even with all its faults I still think this is a good book for teenage girls. (as long as you explain to them this is not a good portrayal of life in the South during the 60s) Lily struggles with issues of abandonment, low self-esteem and loneliness which I think are very contemporary issues. She resolves these struggles by accepting that mothers come into our lives in many forms.
“If all you want from a novel is a simple, entertaining read with a happy ending, then please run --don't walk-- to buy The Secret Life of Bees.”

Don’t Read If:
“I cannot imagine African-American women having the slightest interest in this story. It is a white child's Uncle Remus fantasy, and it makes me sad that readers could possibly imagine it would be meaningful to women of color. Most would find it tiresome and even offensive.”
“This was South Carolina in the 1960's, how in the world would a white girl have lived with these black women for all that time? How would she have managed to drive around with a black boy and not be pulled over by the police or caused him to be strung up? How did these black women never say a thing to her about getting involved with him? They would have lived under Jim Crow for too many years to have not seen it as a safety issue. And how did these black women (and their female ancestors) manage to keep this land and honey business going, all the while selling to white people? No one ever came to harass them, used racial slurs, nothing? Where was that struggle? There were probably some places August couldn't have even walked the front door of, much less convinced to sell her products. It just became more and more ludicrous to me as the book went on. Scenes in the beginning of the book showed a small portion of what it was like to be black in the south, but in general there was a lack of racial awareness and seemingly a knowledge of history on Ms. Kidd's part that frustrated and angered me.”

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Discovering Saramago

I came across Blindness by Jose Saramago in a Turkish bookstore. It was on a table that hosted classics such as Crime and Punishment and Pride and Prejudice. I had read just about every book on this table but had never even heard of Blindness.
I usually only bought books from the used stands in Istanbul because full priced English books were so expensive. I was very hesitant to drop about 18 dollars for a book that I could probably buy on Amazon for 5. But deciding that 13 dollars was a fair price to pay for entertainment and enlightenment I went ahead and bought the book.
Jose Saramago is a celebrated Portugese writer who sadly died just a few months ago. He didn't publish his first novel until he was sixty and after that he wrote many works that were recognized for their brilliance all over the world.
Read if:
-You are interested in reading an author that shuns conventions. Saramago writes however he wants to (he uses commas instead of periods, uses run on sentences and paragraphs can go on for pages) and creates a world completely his own in Blindness. His characters aren't named and his writing is as much social commentary as it is anything else. 
-You like to think about what base human nature is and want one person's interpretation of that. 
Don’t read if:
-You don't like writers who go off on tangents.
-You are squeamish as there are some horrifying passages and Saramago forces us to accept what humans can and will do in desperate times. 
-You get obsessed over plot holes. If you hated Inception, you won't like this book.
Rating: 7.7/10

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Book Reviews!

So, last August I started with a goal of reading one autobiography a week and it evolved into something pretty different. I grew tired or reading autobiographies for a few reasons. When I'm traveling it is hard to find autobiographies I want to read and usually they are so big that they are a hassle to lug around. (I'm not sold on the kindle-like things business.) Also, since I was writing non-fiction, supposedly it is better to read other good non-fiction to help you become a better writer. It made sense so I decided to take that advice. Finally, I was just getting sick of reading people's life stories. I needed a change. Although I didn't stick to my initial goal in the end I read much more than I have in the last few years and have rekindled my love for reading.

And as cheesy as this will sound, and it will sound VERY cheesy, as many places as my travels took me this past year and a half, none compare to the places I visited through books. Books are really and truly a magical thing.  

Below is a recap of the books I read. In the beginning I was still expecting to write a review of what I'd read but as you'll see- that didn't happen. Disclaimer: Many of these reviews are not pretty.

12: This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzerald- 5/5
Although I have read this book many times, it is always worth another read. Who knows if we will ever see the likes of an Amory Blaine again in the literary world? According to Wikipedia, this book made Fitzgerald famous overnight. The initial printing sold out in three days and just ten days later he was married to the love he lost in the book!

It's interesting to read books that are memoirs veiled as novels. Whenever I sit down for the writing process I'm not sure how much I'm allowed to borrow from the real world. In one sense, it is all borrowed from the real world.

13: Russian Debutante's Handbook by Gary Shteyngart: 3.8/5 - I read this book at the recommendation of my friend Jordan and also because it was one of three books in his flat when I visited. It was entertaining and perfect accompaniment to a week in Belgium.

14:The Global Soul by Pico Iyer: 4.1/5 - There were so many passages from this book that I really loved or related to. The begining was full of fascinating tid bits but as the book wore on I wanted to take out an editing pen and cut out chapters all together.

The author is ethnically Indian, with a British accent, raised in the US and London and now living in Japan. All these various identity markers have left him feeling somewhat like he has no place in the world to call home and no sense of belonging.

Iyer discusses the dilemma of the global soul. He tells the stories of friends who fly over 150 days of the year, those who have won the ‘ultimate frequent flyer’ contest and are given one month of unlimited global travel.

Increasingly, we have friends like that. Friends who are never in one place, who travel all week long for work, who have offices scattered all over the world, for whom home because a word that invites a chuckle.

And perhaps more commonly we all have friends like Feraz, who was born of Indian parents in Wales, grew up in London, moved to the mid-west of the United States for half his life and now shares his time between London and Istanbul. (Strikingly similar to Iyer’s background except he now spends his time in Japan)

Iyer tells many stories that an immigrant can relate to. When you go back home and meet people that think that because you are American you are salvation in human form. That you can take them to America too. You nod your head in the beginning. Saying, insha’Allah, God willing, trying not to let your eyes cast with insinceeity betray you.

We create these extremely unnatural lives and then we have to go to extremes to compensate for them. We criss-cross across the world, we move and move until the idea of home is completely foreign.

15: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time: 4.4/5- good quick read. takes real skill to write a book from the perspective of the boy.

16: Running With the Family by Michael Ondaatje: 3.7/5- The memoir of the author of the English Patient. pretty well done.

17: Son of the Circus by John Irving- 4/5- really interesting look into India. didn't hate it as much as I dislike most south asian lit.

18. No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July- 4.5/5- great quick read with quirky stories.

19. Natasha and Other Stories by David Bezmozgis- 4/5- another great book of short stories

20. A Wrinkle in Time by Madelieine L'Engle- 5/5 - classic- no need to elaborate

21. Consider the Lobster and Other Essays by David Foster Wallace- 5/5- especially loved Up Simba- McCain rules!

22. Chekhov: Collected Works by Anton Chekhov- 5/5! my introduction to Chekhov- absolutely loved him- there is no short story writer that touches him today.

23. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitgerald- 5/5- i highly recommend reading old favorites or old things you were forced to read in high school. totally different experience this time around.

24. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky - 3.8/5- i liked it... but i didn't. took me ages to read.

25. In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan- 5/5- must read!!!! it should change the way you eat and approach food in the West

26. The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A tale of murder, madness and the love of words by Simon Winchester- 5/5! incredibly amazing to read about the great pains it took to create the first oxford english dictionary

27 El Diego: The Autobiography of the World's Greatest Footballer by Diego Maradona- 5/5- the title says it all doesn't it?

28. Bit of a Blur by Alex James- 5/5- quick read and an interesting look at the highs and lows of being a rockstar

29. Bliss: A Novel- O.Z. Livaneli- 5/5 - one of the best and most honest depictions of Istanbul I have read yet.

30. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath- 4.2/5- loved her biography and was a bit disappointed by this in comparison

31. Who Ate All the Pies? The Life and Times of Mick Quinn by Mick Quinn- 3.8/5- good read but really vulgar at times. made me kind of hate soccer at points

32. A Long Way Gone-Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah- 5/5- a great look into the war in Sierra Leone and the makings of a boy soldier

33. The Devil and Miss Prynn by Paulo Coelho- 3.6/5- my problem with Coelho is that he is too obvious. there seems to be no art to his writing.

34. The Zahir by Paulo Coelho- 3.4/5- eh- not a huge fan

35. The Eye by Vladamir Nabokov - 4/5 quick read- good read

36. The Life of Insects by Victor Pelevin and Andrew Bromfield- 3.5/5- loved it at parts but felt like i was pushing through a lot of it

37. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce: 1/5 only Joyce I've read so far- didn't like it

38. The Journals of Anais Nin: Volume 4 by Anais Nin: 5/5!! (Although at some points you think okkk i get it!)

39. Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell- still reading but won't likely finish now i have more access to books i really want to read

40. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez- 5/5- loved it.

41. 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: 5/5- what a great journey! 

42. Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West by Benazir Bhutto: 4.5/5- although i always talk about how much I can't stand the Bhuttos- every time i read one of Benazir's books, I have to give her mad intelligence props. 

43. Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins: 4.2/5- this book has its critics but still pretty bone chilling and interesting at points

There are some books I missed so I probably hit around 48 which was not too far off my goal but want to make sure to get to 50 this year. Also, this time I am keeping the categories open and want to be more consistent of writing my thoughts down afterwords. I hate the idea of reading without reflecting. It seems like half the fun of reading is gone then. I am at about four books for this year and hopefully I'll get to writing about them verrrry soon!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

On Dying and Living

In the earliest hours of this morning I learned one of my colleagues had to fly back to America because her sister who has cancer may be in the final stages. Today is her birthday. For the last week we have been talking about the party she was supposed to have tonight. Yesterday, another colleague and I went to choose her present and today none of that matters.

I am reminded of an email a good friend sent to me last year. It was the blog of her friend who was diagnosed with cancer at twenty-four, shortly after moving to Hong Kong where he was working in international finance. His story felt so close to home because I could identify with so many of his feelings and appreciate his anecdotes about Michigan from which he was an alumnus.

The other week I thought of all the stolen days and moments of our lives. The ones that are stolen by our anger, our impatience and the ugly parts of ourselves. The ones that we will look at when the end of our life is near and wish we could do over. When death is always around us, how are we still so careless with life?

When my friend sent me the link to the blog she wrote, "One of Naweed's last goals was to keep a blog that would inspire and motivate others to see the things that matter." Reading Naweed's blog taught me so much and helped me "see" in a way I could never have without him sharing his amazing story. May he rest in peace and may you too see the beauty and inspiration of his story.

Also, I hope you can keep my friend's sister and her family in your good thoughts and prayers.

Monday, July 12, 2010

World Cup Reflections

The streets of Istanbul were filled with the sound of vuvuzelas.. There were cheers and groups of people dancing and celebrating all down Istiklal. We watched the game in a bar in Nevizade, filled almost exclusively with our friends, among who there were just a few lone Dutch fans.

This was my first World Cup. I watched almost every game and went from supporting the US to Argentina and finally Spain. There were extreme highs like when the US qualified for the round of 16 at the 91st minute and extreme lows as watching Maradano and his crushed teams’ grief stricken faces as they saw their World Cup dreams die.

I celebrated this great event as I read articles about how the World Cup brought joy to the poorest of people, reading one poignant headline that said, “For the Poor, Soccer is Everything” and it made my heart happy that this wonderful challenge gave such joy to some people who had nothing. And then I hated the game when I read about over 300 incidents of domestic violence on the night of England’s defeat and later the murder allegations against the Brazilian goalie. I wondered what kind of values this testosterone filled sports was promoting.

South Africa brought pride to Africa by hosting an amazing World Cup. Their economy surely benefitted and a great sense of pride is surely felt by the South African people. And then there are the oft forgotten stories of all those that were displaced and ostracized because of the World Cup.
Finally there were the hopes of a country who is facing its worse economic crisis with one in five people out of a job and the hopes of a country who apprehensively waited as their national team took their third attempt at being world champions.

There will be players and coaches who will bury their World Cup dreams in 2010 and there will be those who have already began to think about 2014.

So, who is in for Brazil?!

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Life in Istanbul continues on. And I never stop feeling like I am living in some sort of beautiful dream. For the last five weeks we have had guests in the house and now that there is a short lull in visitors, there is time to breathe, reflect and feel that more personal connectedness with the city.

Most nights we take long, windy walks going down the same streets we have walked on hundreds of times now, each time still discovering something new but now with solid footing. I still feel slightly short of breath as I walk up the hill into the main square, I hold my nose as I pass the doner kebab stands (the dark meat never grew on me), and still laugh and smile at all the performers and the almost overwhelming sense that every type of humanity can be found on Istiklal.

It may be a bit preemptive but already I am missing this beautiful city. I find myself sitting at the kitchen table watching the endless stream of boats going by and coming to terms with the realization that like those boats I am just passing and soon these times in Istanbul will be a fond memory. I get scared by the notion that life might never be better than this. Not because this is not enough. This is everything I could hope for but that instead as life passes by, I will always be looking with eyes to the past towards some definition of perfection that has already been achieved but can't be duplicated.

But that is a negative way to look at things. Instead, I will aspire to be like Anais Nin who said, "I tend to feel negatively about nostalgia; I think we go back when we feel stunted in the present life. People who are nostalgic have known something good in the past and want to pick it up again;...I don't have that nostalgic craving. Each cycle of my life interested me equally, but I have no desire to go back to any of them."

Friday, July 2, 2010

Quarter-Final Predictions

Uruguay v. Ghana
I think every neutral wants Ghana to do well and give Africa something
to shout about by having a team in the World Cup semi-finals for the
first time. If you're not Uruguayan, you probably don't care what
happens to Uruguay and couldn't care less if they got knocked out
tomorrow. My heart wants Ghana to win, but my head says Uruguay are
just a little too good for the Africans. Uruguay are a well-organized
team and actually have the best World Cup record of any nation if you
take into account the size of their population, a paltry 3 million
people. They've won the World Cup twice, back in 1930 and 1950, but
haven't done better than the second round since 1970 until this years
competition. They're in the quarter-finals now, and you've got to
give them an edge over Ghana just based on pedigree alone. However,
Ghana are a dangerous team. They're strong, and fast, and have almost
boundless energy. Put that together with the support they'll get from
the fans in the stadium and you've got the makings of an upset.

Very tough to call taking everything into account. You've got to
fancy Ghana's chances though if the match goes it into extra-time
because of their phenomenal levels of stamina. I think they just
might squeeze past Uruguay in a tense match which will go down to the
wire. Host nations have a history of performing well in World Cups,
and Ghana's basically the host nation now with the support of the
entire continent behind them. Ghana wins.

Brazil v. Holland
Two giants of the game promise an attacking match with plenty of goals
to keep everyone happy. Everyone knows Brazil are the best, they've
won the World Cup 5 times and look set to make South Africa 2010 World
Cup #6. However, they've still got a couple of matches to play before
even getting to the final and this match-up against Holland isn't
gonna be a walk in the park. Holland have been unstoppable so far,
having won all of their matches both qualifying for, and at the actual
World Cup. Could they cause an upset and beat Brazil to make it to
the semi-finals?

Brazil don't play with the creativity and flair that we're used to
anymore. They still regularly win matches, but not with the panache
and style of yesteryear. Holland are chronic underachievers. They've
made it to the World Cup final twice, but lost both times to the host
nation. This might even turn out to be quite a stale match with both
sides canceling each other out. I'd like to see Holland advance, but
I just can't Brazil leaving the World Cup this early like in 2006.
Brazil wins.

Spain v. Paraguay
Easy win for Spain. Nuff said.

Argentina v. Germany

Oooh...I'm licking my lips at this one! Germany were hugely
impressive against England, demolishing us 4-1, and Argentina have
been the best team at the tournament so far, easily seeing off the
likes of Mexico to keep their 100% record intact. Although he hasn't
scored, Messi's been making some nice plays and everything's set up
for him to dominate during the closing stages of the tournament. As I
wrote previously though, the best thing about Argentina is Maradona.
I just love that guy! Check out the way he wears his suit, and the
faces he makes, and just how GOD DAMN COOL HE IS. I really hope
Argentina win the World Cup so I can see him going mental in the

Germany's young guns have proved to everyone that they're a force to
be reckoned with. They may not win the tournament this year, but they
will be hot as hell in future tournaments and will be very hard to
beat. One of their star performers has gotta be the Turk, Mesut Ozil.
You'll hear his name a lot in the coming years as he's bound to make
an impact in the Champions League sooner, rather than later. Germany
has the most diverse team at the World Cup with something like half
their team being dual nationals. England need to learn a thing or two
from them and start blooding some naturalized citizens in their team


Argentina wins in an entertaining match that'll be closer than you
think. As they proved against England, Germany are a real threat on
the counter-attack and Argentina will need to be wary of that danger
or face the consequences. Messi will shine, and Tevez will score.
Easy peasy.

Friday, June 25, 2010

History Repeating... and Not Repeating

USA vs. Ghana
The US have had a good tournament, just. If they hadn't scored that last-gasp winner against Algeria I wouldn't be writing that but they did, and now they're playing Ghana for a place in the World Cup quarter-finals. The real reason I think they've had a good tournament is because they've been playing well and deserved to top Group C ahead of England. No doubt many Americans will feel that they shouldn't find it too difficult to get past Ghana. However, they'd be forgetting that in the last World Cup Ghana beat them in the group stage and kicked them out in shame. Ghana are a strong, fast side which the US will find difficult to beat.

History repeats itself as Ghana again kicks the US out of the World Cup! By doing so, Ghana will become only the third African team to reach the World Cup quarter-finals following in the footsteps of Cameroon in 1990 and Senegal in 2002. This will go some way towards restoring some pride for the African teams which were expected to do better in this African World Cup.

England v. Germany
This is the big one, the biggest tie of the round, and it's going to be very, very close. With the way things have gone so far you'd have to think that Germany will take it. But England have been improving (they had to), and should give a good account of themselves. A lot of English fans are dreading this one because Germany always come out on top versus the English in major competitions. It's quite phenomenal really. But this is a one-off, and teams have to actually go out and win games if they want to go through. Winning on paper doesn't mean jack, just look at England in the group stage.

There are a number of factors which will play a part in deciding who eventually goes through. One of those is that bloody stupid ball, the Jabulani. The Germans have been playing with it in the Bundesliga, and so have a slight edge over the English who didn't see it until the World Cup. However, I don't think this will make a big difference as England have had plenty of time to get used to the ball now and should be able to control it at almost the same level as the Germans. It is not so inconceivable to see the English advancing when you look at this match in terms of the Bundesliga vs. the Premiership. German teams did better in Europe this year but on the whole, English teams do much better in Europe. If the English can bring the same verve and tenacity to this game that they did in their last match against Slovenia, then they should be able to take control of the game and win it.

England wins! This should happen in normal time but it might go to extra-time and penalties. Rooney's been negatively affected by the altitude so far, but he should be back to his best for this one. England play better in big games, and they don't get much bigger than this. It's the last World Cup for many English players and this will play a part in the passion, drive, and commitment that the English players will show to knock out the Germans. I'd rather England play well, and lose; than they play like crap, and go through. COMON ENGLAND!

PS: If it does go to penalties, the English have been talking about picking a side of the goal and not changing that decision when taking a penalty. If the Germans do their homework right, they should know what that side is. The goalie can then throw the penalty taker off by covering that side of the goal more than the other. Will the English penalty taker still choose to shoot in his original direction when he's at such a disadvantage?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

D-Day for Group C


England v. Slovenia: England are crap, very crap. So bad in fact, that I'd say they were involved in the worst match of the competition last time around when they drew 0-0 with Algeria. Slovenia on the other hand have been playing very well and should've beaten the US last time around when they went two goals up. So, everything points towards the Slovenians at least getting a draw and advancing to the next round. However, I just can't see England leaving South Africa this early in the competition. At some point they have to play better and get a result.

Verdict: England should come through with a win. I'm not sure if they'll play well, but they should just about do enough to make it through. The English heartache will have to wait for another day.

USA v. Algeria: Algeria still has a chance of advancing if they can beat the US so I don't think they're going to roll over without a fight here. Depending on how things go in the other match, the US really needs to win to be sure of qualification. This is gonna be a tense one. If the US can play like how they did in the second half of their last match the win is theirs. If it's anything less though, and if Algeria can somehow manage to up their game they might get eliminated.

Verdict: This is going to be really close and ultimately, the US will not be able to squeeze out the win that they need to advance. England will win the group by beating Slovenia, and Slovenia will qualify in second place. The US and Algeria are eliminated.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Proud to be an American

Yesterday was a day full of upsets. It started off with Germany losing 1-0 to Serbia. After thrashing Australia in their opening fixture, Germany had become many people's tournament favourites. They even missed a penalty which hardly ever happens.

Then came game #2 for the teams in Group C. The first match was the best of the tournament so far, the second the worst. Initially, the US started in the worst possible manner against Slovenia and were 2-0 down at the break. However, their manager had the balls to make a couple of changes at half time which paid dividends. The second half started with Landon Donovan in inspired form, scoring almost immediately. When that happened, you knew Slovenia were in trouble and the second half would be brilliant. Right after that goal, the US had a free kick which almost went in, that would've been some comeback with two goals in the first 5 minutes since the restart. Chance after chance came the US's way and Slovenia had to revert to a number of illegal challenges to stop the US scoring. They were handed 3 yellow cards in 6 minutes which meant that there could even be a sending off before the end of the match. That didn't happen, but the US did score, twice. 8 minutes from time the manager's son, Michael Bradley, finally got the goal that the US needed to stay in the World Cup. Can you imagine how his dad must have felt seeing that from the bench? Another 4 minutes later came another goal for the US. However the referee incorrectly ruled it offside and it was disallowed. If anything, the goal should've stood or the US should've been given a penalty as Slovenian players were holding back 3 Americans from scoring. The match finished 2-2.

There will be many Americans who'll feel the ref was paid or the game was fixed but wrong decisions are a part of the game in football unfortunately. There's no video replay so whatever the ref sees at the moment of play is the only thing he has to use to make a decision. Disallowing the last goal doesn't make any sense at all the more you see the replays. However, the US shouldn't have needed to score a third goal to beat Slovenia so you can also look at the poor US defending in the first half as the reason that this match slipped away from them. Whatever, the US still has a great chance of progressing provided there isn't another upset when they play Algeria in their last group match. England are in exactly the same position after their hugely disappointing 0-0 draw with Algeria later on in the same day. Both sides need to win their last group matches to be assured of qualification for the next round. Anything less than that will be a massive embarrassment, but at least the US will always have their match against Slovenia to look back upon and draw confidence from the way they fought back. They fought like bloody lions in the second half. Altidore in particular was a real handful, and gets the MOTM award for me. If he plays anything like this when he gets back to domestic football it'll be a real treat to watch.

I'm not gonna write much about England b/c I'm so disappointed with their performance yesterday. They're on the same number of points as the US but in terms of passion, they were worlds apart yesterday. Yesterday, the US team was hot as hell. If you're American, you can wave your flag with pride. The English on the other hand, must feel like burying their heads in the sand.

-MOTM in the England game should go to David James in goal. He was a commanding presence and didn't put a foot wrong. At least one person had a good match.

-The US match was the first one that I've noticed where you could actually hear fans chanting and the crowd reacting to goals. That place must have been full of American fans.

Friday, June 18, 2010

We Heart Argentina

Argentina will win the World Cup. There it is, that's my prediction.

After watching them annihilate a decent side yesterday, South Korea, they have to be one of the favourites and will probably top their group with a 100% record. South Korea are still likely to qualify for the second round which makes Argentina's demolition of them in the second half of their match all the more impressive. Messi was wicked, as expected, but the Argentinean forward line in general is hard to match, even by the Spanish. But the best thing about Argentina is their manager, Maradona.

MARADONA.IS.THE.MAN. Voted the best player in world ever by the public, he's now getting stuck into international management after going through an absolute nightmare trying to get Argentina into the World Cup. It's because of that nightmare qualifying campaign that many people doubt his abilities as a manager and wrote off Argentina as potential winners of the 2010 World Cup. Well he's proving them wrong now. I want Argentina to win this World Cup for his sake more than anyone else's since he was robbed at USA '94. However, should Argentina take the cup, it'll also prove to everyone that there is no doubt that Lionel Messi is the world's greatest footballing talent at this moment. Some people say you have to win a World Cup to be considered truly great (yes I'm talking about you Amir bhai) and I suppose they've got a point. Pele, Maradona, and Zidane have all got World Cups to their credit and I feel Messi should be placed in the same category as those players based on his career so far. Bad luck Rooney. You may be good, but you're not THAT good. Maybe England will win the World Cup with Rooney one day but that won't be this year. This year's all about Argentina.

Today's predictions:

England v. Algeria: I can't see this going any other way apart from an England win, and hopefully a comfortable win at that. Expect Gerrard to score again b/c he's wicked, and possibly Rooney as well (who also isn't bad ;).

Verdict: The English will think the World Cup is theirs for the taking with a 3-0 win.

USA v. Slovenia: The US is expected to win this one but right now Slovenia is topping the group after their win against Algeria. I don't think this'll be as easy as the US expect it to be and there could even be an upset in the cards with either a draw or a win for the Slovaks. I doubt Slovenia will win though since a loss would mean the US would be out of the World Cup and they will fight hard against that.

Verdict: Despite what I just wrote, the US should pick things up and squeeze through with a 1-0 win.

Sumeera picked Argentina for the World Cup before the tournament even started. Credit where credit is due, she beat me to it! We're gonna look really dumb now if Argentina flop.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

World Cup = Bore Cup

The opening round of the World Cup ended with a bang with Switzerland, a mediocre European team, beating the pre-tournament favourites, Spain. About bloody time. This World Cup has been really boring so far. Almost every match is low scoring with with the end result either being 0-0, 1-1, or 1-0. Maybe the shock of Spain's loss will liven things up a bit. I still fully expect Spain to qualify for the next round, and even win the World Cup, but they'll have to do a lot better to do that. This loss doesn't suddenly mean that Spain can't be considered serious contenders for the World Cup, it was after all only their second loss out of 37 matches - a run which started shortly after exiting the last World Cup in 2006. They'll probably make up for this loss with a huge win in their next match.

And with Spain's loss (or Switzerland's win), the first round of matches came to an end. Now the real fun begins...I hope! Things started promisingly last night with a 3-0 win for Uruguay over South Africa. This was the first match of the second round of matches of the opening group stage of the World Cup. Now the teams which disappointed in their first matches have to improve and get something from their second matches to qualify for the next round. I think teams were more afraid of losing than anything else in their opening fixtures which is why there were so many poor matches and draws. But with their second games, teams have to come out and play, take risks, score or be scored upon, to stay in the World Cup. BRING.IT.ONN!

Today's predictions:

Argentina vs. South Korea: Hopefully this'll be another win for El-Diego and his boys but it could also be a draw. Both teams won their first matches so they're the favourites from their group to move on.

Verdict: 1-0 to Argentina

France vs. Mexico: Both teams drew their opening fixtures so this is going to be another hard one to call. France are crap, and Mexico are looking a little shaky (but who hasn't?). I can't see France winning, which means it'll either be a win for Mexico or a draw. The safe bet would be a draw with the way things have been going so far.

Verdict: Draw

Saturday, June 12, 2010

England 1- USA 1

Guest Post by Feraz:

England had this match. We started off well and scored a goal almost immediately through Steven Gerrard in the 4th minute. It looked like it might turn out to be the rout that England's qualifying campaign had promised, where 3-0 score lines were a common occurrence. Gerrard was fantastic. Frequently getting past his marker and crossing dangerously from the right. But the US kept it tight, and then equalized in what was to be the defining moment of the match. The Fulham talisman, Dempsey, took a pot shot from just outside the penalty area. Green, the England goalie, had it covered, but let the ball bounce off his gloves and roll into the back of net. It was horrible. Each replay of the incident only made it look worse. One-all at the break.

The second half was pulsating. England dominated, for the most part, and the US was only saved by a combination of good goalkeeping and poor finishing. Chance after chance came England's way but the American goalie (who also plays in England) stood firm. Then came an awful moment when the US almost scored on the counter-attack. Altidore (yup, he plays in England as well) ran past Carragher and Green tipped his shot onto the post. Nice save Green, but I doubt it'll be enough to save you from the chop for the next match. And then it was over. I think everyone can agree that it was a good result for the US and a bad result for England. Then again, England are expected to win their next two matches so this draw doesn't really matter. Looking back, it's not surprising that the US managed to squeeze out a draw actually. So many US players play in England (for second-rate teams) that they're not gonna be intimidated by facing players like Gerrard and Rooney that they've already met in the English league. I still want the US to lose though, and lose badly. I hope the US doesn't even make it into the next round. I don't know what it is (jealousy perhaps?) and I don't care. I hope Algeria kick you out and you leave early yet again.

Some other thoughts:

-Rooney had a quiet game, and so did England not surprisingly

-King obviously shouldn't have played since he came off after 45 minutes. I'm not sure Carragher is a suitable replacement after seeing him get whipped by Altidore in the second half. Maybe Capello should try Warnock in the next match?

-Maybe England's poor performance is an indication of how important Barry is to the team. Hopefully his presence in the next game will make a big difference. Otherwise, give Joe Cole a chance please.

-MOTM: The Everton and US goalie Tim Howard

Today's prediction:
Australia vs. Germany: 1-0 to the Germans

Friday, June 11, 2010

World Cup Baby

As we all well know, the world cup is here. Feraz may be writing some posts about it but in the meantime I am going to post his predictions for tomorrow since he correctly predicted both today's matches.

England vs. USA: 2-1, England

Argentina vs. Nigeria: 2-0, Argentina

What are your predictions??

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


I can't believe it has been one year since this picture was taken!!It has been an amazing birthday already and probably the best birthday week in history. I will update on that later this week but for now here are pictures from Kenya and Scotland.

But before today was gone I wanted to thank you friends for making life so beautiful and entertaining and thank you God for letting me see another year.

Kenya Pictures

Scotland Pictures

Monday, May 31, 2010

Bob Dylan.

Some people complain that when they go see Dylan, he doesn't put on a show. I had heard that he has gotten old, that he should have stopped touring because his voice is gone and that going was a waste of money. I went into the show with somewhat low expectations but I had no reason to.

Some people complain that when they go see Dylan, he doesn't put on a show... When you are Bob Dylan, you don't need to.

Dylan is amazing. Full stop. He doesn't need lots of lights and costumes and theatrics because he has the music. His voice is rock solid. He gave a perfect performance tonight. I was blown away that a man who turned 69 last week can still bring it the way he did.

His songs are genius not only because of the melodies and brilliant lyrics but because they speak to something inside of you. They take you back to the first time you heard them and the thousands of times you heard them after. They tell stories that send chills through your bones and they make you believe that music is absolutely the best thing in the world.

It was an incredible feeling to be sitting in the amphitheater with the big Istanbul sky and seagulls swirling above, as we all sang along with Bob Dylan to Just Like a Woman... "But you break just like a little girll..."

Since there were no cameras or recording devices allowed in the venue, here is my only picture with Dylan. I still have a bit of afterglow!

Overall, I give the show an A++++++ but if onlllyyy he had played the times they are a-changing... i probably couldn't have handled it!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lamu, Kenya


I think Lonely Planet describes it with words like "paradise" or "magical" and says something along the lines of "You haven't been to Kenya until you have been to Lamu."

Lies. Lies. Lies.

If someone said to me: "Here is a cage full of mosquitos that are probably carrying yellow fever. Stand in here or go to Lamu." I would walk into the cage full of mosquitos.

Ok, fine. It wasn't that bad but it was a huge let down from everything I had heard it would be. The place has no cars so donkeys are used all over the island. Sound great, doesn't it? The only problem is that the town has a bunch of donkeys but no one to clean all the donkey crap. So, when you walk around you literally feel like you are swimming in donkey poo. But just in case I didn't really feel like I was swimming in donkey poo, it rained and poured for almost the entire time we were there. So, donkey poo was literally running by in rivers. My feet will never recover from those three days.

So, the place was really stinky. There was not much to do. The food was sub par. But before somebody calls the waaahmbulance, I'll talk about some of the good stuff there too.

A few magical things actually did happen during our few days there.

The first day we arrived, we walked around the town which actually does have some charm to it. There are lots of winding little alleys and the narrow roads give the place a very intimate feel. There were indeed women who floated by in full burqas and the little children everywhere were ridiculously cute. (Unfortunately, there is a three month residency requirement or I might have tried to adopt right then and there.) That night we hung out late at one of the cafes along the water. We were trying to wait out the rain but finally realized that we would have to head back to our hotel or we would be stuck there all night. When we first left, the rain was coming down pretty hard but not so hard that it would knock you over and soak you so thoroughly that water would end up in places you didn't even know existed.

Just a few minutes into our walk, the rain came down in watermelon size drops. I have not laughed and screamed so much for long as I can remember. Before we knew it the small alleys were overflowing with water. We rolled up our pants but it didn't matter, the rain had soaked us. Holding an umbrella was useless but we clung on anyways. Finally we ran under a small awning where a man was making kebabs. A small group of Kenyans were huddled underneath and they seemed to know that the rain wasn't going to let up, but they waited in the shelter anyway. It was one of those moments that I should have written about right away because it is already running away from me. All I remember is laughing and laughing. The night was so dark and through the lights of the street lamps, we could make out the sheets of water as they came down.

So, for every bad thing about Lamu, it was more than worth it for that. This was a rain like the rains I remember from being a young girl in Pakistan. I remember looking to my mom to see if it would be ok to run outside and before she had finished nodding her head, I would be out in our courtyard screaming so hard I could hardly breathe- choking on the rain because I was staring up at the sky laughing. I would feel like I was part of the earth and the rain and the mud and me were all one and the same thing.

I have searched for that feeling ever since and in this poo filled island, I found that magic again.

Next up, Diani beach. Featuring camel rides on the beach, finding treasures in deserted stores along the ocean, and even an appearance by some troublesome baboons!

Click here for a few photos from Lamu.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


It seems that the only flights that go to Nairobi arrive in the middle of the night and that was the case for us. After a pretty uneventful flight we arrived at 3:30 in the morning. Rebecca had arranged for a driver to pick us up at the airport and Munini was there with his Nadiya and Sumeera sign right as we exited the baggage claim. At one point, when he took a shortcut on some random side road we were very relieved that the driver was someone Rebeccah knew because if it had been anyone else, we would have been peeing our pants from being convinced that we were being kidnapped.

We arrived to the Slum Gardens (the UN intern housing used to be slums but now it is quite nice!) to poor Rebecca who had to be up in the middle of the night for our arrival. In case I don't mention it a hundred times in my discussion of this trip, Rebecca is the best friend ever. She told us everything we needed to know about being in Nairobi and brought us breakfast food for the morning and finally headed to bed after six even though she had work the next morning! What an all-star.
The next morning, the first thing we did was get a SIM for the phone so we would have a way to stay in touch with Rebecca. We had planned to meet her for lunch and headed over to the UN offices. We were in awe of how beautiful Naiorbi was. There were flowers I hadn't seen in any of the botanical gardens I had been to in the world. And after being in Cairo and Istanbul, Nadiya and I were blown away by all the green. We were in heaven!

The UN cafeteria is ridiculous. Ridiculously good. The offices are done so well and integrate all the greenery outside into the buildings. Nadiya and I spent a minute or two fantasizing about working at the UN in Nairobi. After lunch we went around and met some of Rebecca's co-workers and finally headed out.

Our next stop was to a Masaai Market which was amaazzing. We spent a good three hours or shopping and were able to get some amazing things. When we first walked in, we had to do our best not to drool so we wouldn't get totally ripped off on everything we planned to buy. Becs had told us that everything should cost around 2-300 shillings and that was a good guide. I think we got some good deals because we were so ruthless about sticking within that range for the smaller things.

Exhausted, we headed back to Rebeccas where she was having a barbeque with 20 or so friend which led to a nice evening tour outside chatting with lots of interesting people and eating barbecued pineapple. It was there that we heard many, many amazing things about Lamu. One guy said that once we got there, we would never, ever leave. Others said it was like paradise on Earth. The next morning at 8 am we would fly out to Lamu to see what all the hype was about. Would we love it? Would we hate it? Would we meet a man who had a lamb that followed him everywhere?? Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

oh yeah, this is a travel blog.

This Monday I returned from a ten day trip to Egypt and Kenya. I spent eight day in Kenya and two days in Egypt. Although I had been to Egypt for a few weeks before I considered my visit to Kenya as my first real time experiencing African culture and life.

The idea to go to Kenya came up a month or so ago in a discussion with my good friend Nadiya. We had both been independently toying with the idea of going but hadn't given it serious consideration. Once we found our that we both wanted to go, the plan was on. We started figuring out dates and places we wanted to visit. Our initial idea had been to spend about 17 days going through Kenya, Tanzania and Zanzibar. But both of us realized that wouldn't be do-able with our work schedules and for a moment we thought we would have to call the whole trip off.

After I came back from London, I was talking to my friend Rebecca from law school and found out that she was actually working at the UN in Nairobi. And just like that, our plan was back on! Nadiya and I booked our tickets to go to Kenya the following week!

I love to be spontaneous and do things last minute but if you are planning a trip to Africa, you may want to plan just a little more in advance! For one, we realized that we would need to get a yellow fever vaccine, which took 8 days to be effective. Oops. We also needed to get some other shots and get a hold of malaria pills, bug sprays, etc.

Luckily for us, Rebecca was a great help and saved us a lot of time researching what to do in Kenya and what things to be prepared for. Safety is a huge issue in Kenya and if it hadn't been for Rebecca's many reminders about hijackings and kidnappings in the country, we may not have been as cautious as we were.

So on Wednesday May 6th I boarded the plane for Cairo. Nadiya and I thought it would be fun to travel together so I met her in Cairo so we could take the flight to Nairobi together.

I arrived in Cairo in the middle of the night and Nadiya was there waiting at the airport. I wanted to jump up and down, I was so excited to see her after so long! We took the taxi to her place and stayed up talking until six or seven am. Poor Nadiya had to go into work and I proceeded to sleep until noon. When I woke up I was very hungry and realized that I knew nothing about the neighborhood I was in! Nadiya lives in what is like the suburbs of Cairo and I had no idea where to go for food! I looked around for a phone to call Nadiya at work but there was none. Oh well, I thought. How hard can it be to walk outside and get some food?

After four hours in the sweltering Cairo sun, and two hours of wandering around lost (I am pretty sure I could get lost in an empty box.) I finally found my way back to Nadiya's apartment. I had a pida and 1 litre of Diet Coke to show for my efforts. I promptly fell asleep after my adventure and woke up periodically to take a swig of coke and eat some bread.

Nadiya came home soon after and we laughed about the day. She had been trying to call all day but someone had unplugged her land line! We ordered in some food and started her packing for our big adventure. Tomorrow I'll continue with stories about our first day in Kenya!

(Disclaimer: I saw no pyramids on this trip. That is just a google image result for Cairo. :) )
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