Category Archives: San Francisco Bay Area

Picture of the Day

Throwback Thursday to accidentally on purpose finding sweetness at a classic spot in Burlingame. Royal Donut has been around longer than many of the eateries on famed Burlingame Avenue. Grab yourself a chocolate old-fashioned today!

Living the Confused Expatriate Life

Note: After writing this difficult rant, I was hesitant to publish it publically. I decided to keep this rant private and only after four years, to share it publically.

Living the Confused Expatriate Life
Part 4 of a Few… The In Between
By: Ms. Hala

Ever have a feeling you couldn’t figure out, understand or map out? And when you do, a bit of guilt creeps up on you? This is the feeling I have right now as I fly back to Doha from San Francisco.

My two weeks home after a year away had brought up a lot of mixed feelings and emotions I’m having a hard time figuring out. I couldn’t wait to go home, my happy place. I purchased my tickets so in advance just to be sure I was going to be home in time for Eid ElFitr.

It was absolutely amazing to once again break my fast with my family after two and a half Ramadans spent either in Egypt or Qatar. Eid was a spectacular holiday weekend, from the prayers to the nice get-togethers allowing me to see family and friends I hadn’t seen since I moved to Qatar.

However, this trip made me realize that I’m now in the in between.

I was back in my city, my town, my home yet felt odd and a bit out of place. A lot of things changed in the last year and being that I wasn’t part of that change brought upon this odd feeling within me. Every day I heard a story or two about this and that happening during my time away.

I was received at the airport by my sleepy nephew whom smiled the entire time. Didn’t cry once when I held him for the first time and kept him in my arms for hours. I swear, this child’s presence made it easy on me when I found out that I no longer had two happy cats waiting for me at home.

My boys got sick a while after I moved and it was decided that they should be given to a vet for better care. I was upset, even wept because a part of me had hoped that I’d come to find everything as I had left it, the normality of coming home to kitties greeting me at the door like I had never left.

Some found my hurt over my lost kitties amusing while others sympathized with me. Those that found it amusing didn’t understand how I expected things to stay the same for a year.  Those that sympathized were once in my shoes, came back home to find that things had changed too. Based on the illness my family described to me, I now have a sinking feeling that one or both my kitties may have passed away. I just don’t have the heart to call the vet and find out.

Aside from this sad news, I did having a good break. I stayed home the first few days with a lot of mixed emotions to deal with but happy to be home, nonetheless. I watched everyone sleep, go to work and go about their day. I cared for my nephew and watched him laugh, cry, enjoy his bottle and sleep like an angel. This child is such a blessing to our family, especially to me. With little Salem around, my mother had officially stopped asking me to make her a grandmother (that year at least).

Two weeks flew by like a mere few minutes. A long happy flight brought me to San Francisco and a longer somber flight is bringing me back to Doha. Before my departure, everyone felt the need to ask when I was moving back home. I had already survived a year as a confused expatriate and I’ve committed to another year when my contract either ends or is renewed.

A part of me wants to stay longer as there is more to discover in this part of the world. A part of me wants to go home

I’m now in the in between.

Confused yet focused. Lost yet in place. Determined yet unmotivated. Strong yet weak.

Public Response to Lacy Morris’ Huffington Post Article

If most of you have this odd love/hate relationship with the Huffington Post as yours truly, I’m sure most of you read Lacy Morris’ latest article in HP’s Travel, 30 Things Travelers Must See and Do Before They’re 30. Aside from making me feel slightly under accomplished at 31 (Thanks a lot Lacy), I felt the urge to share  my comments publicly for each of the listed items Lacy listed. I’ll only post the list (bolded) but you can click here to read Lacy’s full article.

1. Jump off something.
Right after you Lacy!!

2. See one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Accomplished! =) I’m from the great city of San Francisco so I’ve been blessed to have enjoyed some of the modern wonders like the Golden Gate Bridge amongst others on a regular basis, Alhamdulillah. (I miss you SF!) When I was 19 years old, I worked two jobs (yes that’s 2 jobs, 7 days a week!) to save and pay for my Mama and I to go to Egypt in April of 2001 where I experienced the longest surviving wonder of the world, the Pyramids of Giza. I went again in 2011 after the revolution and experienced history in the making… another world wonder in my book.

3. Party in Las Vegas.
Unless you’re paying for it Lacy, I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on a slice of Sin City.

4. Take a vacation that isn’t Spring Break.
Accomplished! Never did a Spring Break type deal so my trip to Egypt (see number 2) counts.

5. Attend at least one large celebration.
Accomplished! Every year I attend Ramadan gatherings and Eid prayers. Trust me, it’s a fabulous celebration with clothed, sober people! I invite you Lacy to join us in SF when I return for a visit from Qatar to celebrate Eid! (You’re also welcome to experience Qatar and add it to your list!)

OnTheBeach
Enjoying San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, covered up, in 2009.

6. Hit up a nude beach. I laughed to tears at this number! One, I’m from San Francisco, home of Baker Beach and never even considered checking that nudity out. Two, I’m a happily covered-up Muslim so the idea of going out without my hijab, let alone naked is extremely laughable.

7. Spend several days with only what will fit in a backpack. Lacy, let’s hear about your days with only what will fit in your backpack.

8. Swim in the ocean.
I can’t swim but I’ve visited several beaches during my travels so… semi-accomplished!

9. Sleep somewhere where you have to light a fire to stay warm.
Lacy, YOU sleep somewhere where you have to light a fire to stay warm!

10. Do some sort of adrenaline sport.
I moved to another country at 30 on my own dime… doesn’t that count Lacy?

11. Hit up one of the Caribbean islands.
Are you going to pay for Lacy? If so, let’s go and it can be “31 things I can do before I’m 32!”

12. Take one ultimate road trip.
Accomplished! I’ve done several road trips from SF to LA and back, the last one being when I was 29.  When I was 24, along with my Mama and sister, we road tripped from NY to the Carolinas and back. I do not recommend anyone to do that drive… ever!

13. Go somewhere alone.
Accomplished! My first flight alone was a training in Michigan at 20 then getting paid through my freelance work throughout California and parts of the US before I traveled and moved to the Middle East. I emphasize that those trips within the US were paid for by a third party otherwise I wouldn’t have ever been able to afford it as a college student. I doubt anyone under 30 can travel alone without a friend who can at least help split the costs of hotels and food.

14. Take a train somewhere.
I’d like to take the Trans-Siberian Railway (across Russia) like in Paulo Coelho’s Aleph. Let’s go Lacy, your treat! 😉

15. Go to a music festival.
I love music and have organized a few concerts but I’ve had dumb drunk people ruin one too many shows for me. You want me to go to a  music festival where drunkenness is encouraged? No thanks!

16. Have one iconic Americana experience.
I’m a Muslim Arab American whom has traveled through USA airports… if that ain’t enough “Americana” experience then what the hell is?

17. Go to at least one of the Smithsonian museums.
Now that’s on my list but I haven’t set a age deadline for it.

18. Summit a mountain.
San Francisco Twin Peaks, that should count… and I know how to get myself back down too!

19. Be able to name your top five dream vacations.
Wait, I thought this was a list of travel experiences we should have accomplished before 30, not draft them out. I’m confused Lacy…

20. See a game at a classic ballpark.
San Francisco turned the classic Candlestick Park into Monster Park (a football field) before I could afford to start going to cheer on my world champs, the SF Giants.

21. Visit a neighbor to our north or south.
Yea I would’ve, really, but no one wanted to pay for it.

22. Do something so adventurous that it requires a doctor’s visit.
Accomplished! Took my Hep C shots at 19 before my trip to Egypt. (How sad is that?)

23. Save pennies to go somewhere you really want to go.
FYI Lacy, it cost more than 200 pennies to go down the street.

24. Go to New York City.
Semi-Accomplished! I have family in New Jersey and NY’s Staten Island so we’ve done the ferry rides and walked some parts of Manhattan. I have yet to stand in the middle of Time Square or eat from NY’s famed Halal Food Trucks/Carts. I did bus it between Brooklyn and Staten Island, but no subway rides.

25. Sleep under the stars.
Never done it but during trips to NJ, my grandparents had a nice front lawn where we gathered during those hot summer nights over good conversation and star gazed before the mosquitoes kicked us out.

26. Eat an iconic city meal.
I’m from San Francisco… all the iconic meals come to us damn it!

27. Know all of the best places to take tourists in your home city.
Accomplished! One place tourists should go to in San Francisco aside from the 49 mile scenic drive is a small lovely corner in the heart of the city called Maiden Lane where some really nice spots to eat are located! You’re welcome Lacy!!

28. Have one close encounter with a wild animal.
I have three brothers, one sister and 3 cats split between two countries… that’s enough wild animal encounters for me.

29. Do something you can’t tell your parents about.
No comment… my Mama reads this! =P

30. Know a dance well enough that you could keep up with the locals.
Accomplished! When I was in fifth grade, I was part of the cultural dance troupe where I learned Chinese Ribbon Dancing, Irish Celtic Step Dance and traditional East African Tribal Dances to name a few… I still carry and remember everything I learned in that troupe to this day… best year of my elementary life!

8 1/2 (maybe 9) out of 30… not bad, huh Lacy?

Alice Nashashibi… an Arab American Icon

Today, I read one of the most saddest emails I could’ve read… Ms. Alice Nashashibi of San Francisco had passed away.

Ms. Nashashibi is one of the main pillars of existence for the Arab Cultural and Community Center (ACCC). Since it’s doors first opened, she had been an active and supportive community member. She never missed an event, no matter how big or small. In my years working and volunteering at the ACCC, she was always there! Every meeting, every get together, every banquet, ever festival… I simply couldn’t imagine the image of an event without the presence and contributions of Ms. Nashashibi. 

She supported every community member, made an effort to always greet everyone in the room and had a contagious, beautiful smile. She had a wonderful presence that will surely be deeply missed.

In my eyes, Ms. Nashashibi is an icon of what we Arab Americans aspire to be in our communities across the country.

Thank you Alice… as always, for everything!

 

If you are in the Bay Area, services for Alice Nashashibi will be held this weekend as follows:

Sunday, March 3rd: Viewing at Duggans in Daly City from 3 to 9 pm with an open forum starting at 7pm for community members to share their thoughts.

Monday, March 4th: Funeral Mass starting at 12pm at the St. Thomas Moore Church in San Francisco. There will be an evening reception from 6-9pm at her home.

May she rest in God’s eternal peace… Ameen.

Closer To The Dream

When I was a young girl, a part of me always wished there was a place where I could be with other young Muslims. Please don’t get me wrong, I loved most of my time in school with extremely diverse surroundings, but I always found myself to be the only Muslim in the room. There was a handful of occasions where I was bullied for being the only Muslim, looking weird and being just plain different.

Thus a part of that young girl always yearned to be in a place where people prayed like her, understood her love for Hijab and helped her learn the Holy Quran. A place where a Muslim girl who looked weird and was just plain different was embraced. That place did not exist in this young girls time.

some of my silly students!
some of my silly students!

I was finishing up grad school when I first came across the San Francisco Islamic School (SFIS) a few years ago. That’s when the young girl within me smiled from ear to ear! It wasn’t long before I joined as a volunteer teacher myself and having one of the most amazing experiences of my life! I looked forward to planning my lesson plans every week, waking up early Sunday mornings and seeing my students gather at Mercy High School where SFIS was welcomed.

This non-profit educational initiative, started by a handful of community members, meet every Sunday in San Francisco where a diverse group of students from all parts of the Bay Area gathered to learn the Arabic Language, the Holy Quran and Islamic studies. From a handful of students to the creation of a waiting list, the demand has grown bigger than ever imagined.

The SFIS Family

As of today, SFIS has become more than a Sunday school with…

  • A weekly structured coursework of the above mentioned areas
  • Multiple field-trips and activities on a regular basis
  • Daily tutoring and mentoring programs for all subjects
  • Adult education courses and seminars focusing on Islam, health and family well-being

Realizing the need for a full-time Islamic faith based school in San Francisco, board members worked tirelessly for years to develop a successful strategic plan. From becoming accredited by the education department to finding a suitable place to call home, the plan is now in motion.

We are now closer to the dream!

An offer on a beautiful facility on the borders of San Francisco and Daly City has been made. This is a prime location making it accessible to students from both within and outside San Francisco. It houses eight decent sized classrooms, offices, a full functioning kitchen, an auditorium, a cafeteria… the works! SFIS’ offer has been accepted and now a down payment is to be made to secure this home for SFIS.

Support the First Full-Time Islamic School in San Francisco TODAY!

Seeing SFIS be closer to the dream while being so far away has been difficult for me on a personal level. What can I do to support the cause aside from catching a glimpse via social media of the amazing work the volunteers have been doing towards this campaign? The best thing I can do to contribute is to reach out to you as I’ve done in the past. Your contribution of any size is not only tax-deductible but counts towards your zakat. Your contributions of both funds and time to help support this campaign and SFIS as an organization makes all the difference in one person’s educational experience!

I urge you to not only donate, but to visit SFIS, talk to the volunteers and see for yourself the work that’s being done. Visit SFIS’ Indiegogo’s page today to  learn more, view pictures, stay informed of the latest announcements of the campaign and of course, to donate. =)

I promise you, your contribution of any form to SFIS will make at least one young girl smile from ear to ear.

San Francisco Elections – My Who, What & Why Votes!

I always get excited when I receive my absentee ballot in the mail! This years ballot for the City of San Francisco is quite intersting that I can’t pick just one or two initiatives to write about as I usually do. From the intense mayoral race to some of these propositions, it’s certainly an interesting election this year for San Francisco! This year is also the first year San Francisco is going on a ranking voting system similar to what Oakland used during it’s last election. You don’t have to vote for a 2nd or 3rd choice but it is recommended when we have so many candidates running in the same race.

Regardless of your thoughts, political party or voting decision, I urge you to go out and VOTE this November!! Seriously, if you aren’t going to vote, keep your mouth shut! Don’t complain, don’t whine and don’t wish for things to happen in your local community if you are not going to take the most basic initiative towards making a change! We need to remind ourselves of how many people have struggled and died for us to have this right today and those who are continuing the fight for this same right everywhere else across the globe.

San Francisco Mayor
1st Choice: Leland Yee
2nd Choice: David Chiu
3rd Choice: John Avalos

Since Gavin Newsom has left his mayoral seat, things have changed. A new leadership is needed to not only bring this city back up but to help usher in some major improvements. With that said, I’m confident in Leland Yee‘s expertise and commitment to the city he has served for over 20 years. I know he doesn’t have the most perfect political history but it takes a strong candidate to admit when he’s made bad calls and good calls. Yee is one of those candidates. Its also very rare to have someone who has been raised in San Francisco and serve it politically for as long as Yee has.

I’m also choosing David Chiu and John Avalos as my 2nd and 3rd choice respectively based on their work in the city in the last few years as well as their clean and positive campaigning. All three candidates support the Occupy San Francisco movement unlike Mayor Ed Lee who’s response isn’t helping his mayoral bid one bit.

San Francisco Sheriff
1st Choice: Ross Mirkarimi
2nd Choice: Paul Miyamota
3rd Choice: Chris Cunnie

Ross Mirkarimi gets my vote with his experience and decent work history as a San Francisco supervisor. Miyamota and Cunnie have my 2nd and 3rd choice respectively for their experience as well.

San Francisco District Attorney
1st Choice: Sharmin Bock

Does George Gascon really think he has a chance after his failed SFPD Chief tenure? I don’t know much about the other candidates to decide on a 2nd and 3rd choice but Sharmin Bock‘s work in Alameda is what’s encouraging my vote.

Proposition A – School Bonds

As someone who has attended San Francisco public schools from kindergarten through high school, I know what it is like to be in a good functioning campus and to be in one that isn’t. By the time I graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School, the renovations that took place throughout my time there was complete. The campus looked and felt beautiful that I was actually envious of those enjoying it. Public schools are losing students in large part due to low enrollment, budget cuts to programs, large classrooms and parents taking their children out of what they feel is a failing public school system.

With that said, I vote NO on this proposition because  this is the third time this proposition has been put forth after it was passed the first two times in 2003 and 2006! I’m assuming little was done with it those funds thus finding this proposition unnecessary. Funds can be brought forth through the rental of the many empty facilities currently in the city. I believe there is at least five to ten facilities available for rent, not including those for sale, including two right here in my district. Plus, the ridiculous salaries some of these administrators get versus what the teachers who are barely making it could use a revision.

Proposition B – Road Repaving and Street Safety Bonds

This proposition is decently drafted to help bring continued improvement throughout the city. It’s a long term investment in city improvements and local job creation without raising taxes. My neighborhood was recently repaved, alongside new medians, pothole fixes and greenery which has made it simply beautiful. I feel a YES will help bring these same improvements to all of San Francisco.

Proposition C – City Pension and Health Care Benefits
Proposition D – City Pension Benefits

Personally, the unions have drained many cities across this nation including San Francisco with some of these ridiculously drafted pension plans. Many of these city employees are making a lot of money and being paid almost as much after they’ve left or retired from their jobs with very little contribution towards their pensions. Remember Bell City a couple years back? I’m all for a good pension and health care plan for our hard working employees but it shouldn’t continuously raise my taxes to cover these costs and put my city in debt.

Proposition C was drafted poorly by Mayor Ed Lee and approved to be on the ballot unanimously by the Board of Supervisors… bad move! While Proposition D was being drafted by Public Defender Jeff Adachi, Lee went ahead and made a deal with a few unions to exempt them from these changes should Proposition D pass over C… terrible move!

In my opinion, Proposition D is better drafted, better suited and will save the city a good $70-$80 million in the next fiscal year versus Proposition C which would only save the city approximately$40-$50 million. Proposition C gets a NO and Proposition D gets a YES from me.

Proposition E – Amending or Repealing Legislative Initiative Ordinances and Declarations of Policy

Dear Board of Supervisors, Don’t amend my vote! Should think twice about any initiative before you place it on the ballot just like the citizens do before they go out gathering signatures for theirs. Voting NO!

Proposition F – Campaign Consultant Ordinance

This law is not only stupid to begin with but this proposition doesn’t help make it any better… NO.

Proposition G – Sales Tax

Ummm… NO! The city already pays an arm and a leg for many of these community policing and safety programs to feel the need to increase my taxes to continue funding for them!

Proposition H – School District Student Assignment

When I was in middle school, my family moved from the Mission district to the Sunset district. I ended up going to three different middle schools because of SFUSD’s odd placement policies. It’s completely absurd and messed up to this day. My younger siblings didn’t get to go to the same high school as I did due to those same ridiculous placement and waiting list policies. I think the whole thing needs to be rewritten but I’m voting YES so that in the mean time, this will help the students in the next school year.

Absentee ballot sealed and sent! Your thoughts are welcomed.

Steve Jobs… Not An Obituary

Steve Jobs… Not An Obituary
By Ms. Hala
 

I am not the biggest fan of Apple products. I refuse to purchase the iPod, the iPhone or the iPad (but debating spending so much on a MacBook). I am the biggest fan of Steve Jobs. Why? Simply because he was to a great extent a business mogul, something I aspire to be one day.

Jobs will forever be remembered as the powerhouse behind Apple, the inventor of many life changing technologies and the reason many of today’s biggest tech companies are even in existence. He will be remembered for his failures before his successes.

I personally remember him for being able to smoothly rise up after each failure. Remember when Apple Computers dropped him in 1985? He rose up, dusted himself off and started all over. He launched NeXT Computers and later Pixar Animation Studios before returning again to Apple Computers in 1996 after the acquisition of NeXT Computers. Apple Computers then simply became Apple Inc. thanks to Jobs innovation and creativity beyond just computer design, including having his name on over 300 patents for the company.

The rest is history.

Seeing that everyone is discussing it on Facebook and Twitter, I wanted to be clear that as a Muslim Arab American, I don’t pride or care that Jobs biological father was a Muslim Arab. Why? It’s because I’m a firm believer that parents are those who raised, not those who birthed! Had Jobs unwed parents not given him up for adoption soon after his birth, would he have become the person he was? Would Apple have existed? Would any of these innovative technologies existed? I personally doubt it as I know Jobs had always been grateful to his family for their love and support.

I have to say, I’m blessed to have the love and support of my family, especially my mother. She’s the reason that I fell head over heals in love with computers. When I was in 5th grade, she signed me up for an after school computer class to learn how to type and navigate a computer. That class was in a small room of IBM PCs. Then when I was in 6th grade, my mother made sure that one of the classes I was taking was a computer class. It was there that I typed and sent my first email to a pen-pal. That class was in a small room of Apple MacIntoshes.

It was those simple courses that got me to type up to 65 wpm by the time I was a freshman at Abraham Lincoln High School. Most of my time in high school, I was using Apple Mac computers while using PCs at home. It was my experience using both Macs and PCs that got me some decent office jobs while other teens my age were working at fastfood restaurants. By the time I went to college, I had decided to be a computer science major, being in love with computers whilst inspired by the work of many innovators, including Steve Jobs.

Every time I started work on a project, hit a bump in the road and failed, I remember Jobs. I took my time to get up, go over what just happened, discuss with close people in my life, learn from them and be inspired as I planned my next steps. In 2003, Jobs talked about how great things in business were not done by one person, but were done by a team. That inspired me when I started freelancing two years later. I tackled a couple of projects with a team of like minded individuals rather then on my own. Honestly, it was much easier to get up after tripping over a bump in the road when a someone was there with their hand reached out to me.

As the world looks back at Jobs life, I realize how much in awe I was of him all these years. I started writing this post because I wanted to point out that as someone who is in awe of Jobs, there is one thing I dislike about his business. I’m sure you all know that the headquarters of Apple is in Cupertino, California but that doesn’t mean that’s where all the great gadgets are made. AlJazeera recently brought to light that most of Apple’s products such as the iPhone and the iPad are made in Foxconn manufacturing plants in China. Foxconn is secretly known as a sweatshop; with bad working environments, terrible treatment of employees and a company with an extensive record of employee suicides!

Watch AlJazeera English’s iProtest

I’m sure it’s not all Jobs doing alone, but being the CEO of Apple, I’m sure he has some kind of hand in it. As much as I agree with his message that one is to do something that will change the lives of others, I don’t agree that that should be done at the expense of others. As I was writing this post, Micheal Moore tweeted, “Devices made in sweatshops. We all use them. We use them at times for the greater good. Don’t think about where they come from.”

I do hope that the massive publicity of Jobs death today will bring awareness and much needed change to how Apple makes your next generation iPod, iPhone and iPad. I also hope that it continues to put us in awe of his determination, creativity and vision.

Rest in Peace Steve Jobs.