It’s the first selfie I took a few days after arriving home from Qatar last summer. I was still jet lagged, silly excited yet overcome with emotions.
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!
Good Day Mr. Cadogan,
I hope this letter finds you doing well.
I’ve read the SF Gate article from this past summer on your efforts to recruit people to move and build a home in the town of Kaitangata (Clutha District, New Zealand). After researching a bit about the beautiful town and seeing the the need for a stronger population and the unemployment rate of two people, I just had to sit down and write this letter to you.
Has your town considered taking in some of the many highly educated and experienced individuals whom have found themselves in refugee camps in many parts of the Middle East and Europe?
I’m by no means middling in New Zealand’s immigration system nor do I understand how it works in such a situation. My country’s immigration system has failed the refugees with ignorant, discriminatory and Islamophobic politics.
I’m not asking you to solve the refugee crisis nor am I shaming you into taking refugees into your town. I’m just curious that a town in need of people has not pushed to take in people in need of a town.
I’m a product of immigrants, like many of my generation in America. My grandparents and parents immigrated from Egypt since the 1960s to California, New Jersey, North Carolina and New York. I have watched them work hard, pay their taxes, vote, speak out and volunteer to support the local communities. This is the same scenario with almost any other immigrant family from any part of the world.
No one takes welcoming, humane open arms for granted.
I’m sure this is what Kai is looking for. Amazing, hard working families going above and beyond because Kai welcomed them in with open arms after the suffering they have endured in the last several years.
Thank you for your time and God Bless.
Signed, Ms. Hala
I’m finally taking a legit vacation after two long years. Sure, I’ll be going home to San Francisco but through Italy and New York! Woohoo!
Thus throughout the summer, I’ll be broadcasting #MsHalaTravels live on Periscope. During the broadcast, my peeps can post questions, share the broadcasts and rewatch the broadcasts as many times as they’d like. I’ll do my best to repost the broadcasts right here on The Rants in a timely fashion.
Periscope handle is the same as Twitter, @MsHalaCo.
So if you’re curious about what it’s like to travel while Muslim, need some motivation to travel or just want to tag along for a fun summer adventure, be sure to catch me live on Periscope!
Disclaimer: There’s a 10 hours time difference between my hometown of San Francisco, California and Doha, Qatar; 9 hours between San Francisco and Italy; 3 hours between San Francisco and New York. Ah, time!
Sometimes it’s the little things in life that can make a huge difference in one’s day. As I sit here after hearing of the passing of the comedic legend Robin Willams, I’m not reminded of his movies or his stage performances. I’m reminded of an incident in my childhood.
After my parents divorce, my mother took a few dead end jobs to make ends meet. She landed a job at one of the Toys R Us shops in San Francisco. It wasn’t far from home and the schedule worked well for her as she was not only caring for us five kids, she had taken in my ill grandfather as well. It wasn’t much pay wise but it was a steady something a single mother could find until something better came along.
The first time Robin came to her register to purchase a few things, everyone was star struck, in awe at the local comedic celebrity amongst them. It didn’t phase my mother but she knew whom he was as we were huge fans of his. She remained professional and they had small talk about the day, the city and the items he was purchasing. Soon enough, whenever he frequented the shop, he always made his way to my mother’s register. She never asked for a picture or an autograph (this is way before social media mind you), she didn’t want to make him uncomfortable. He was one of her favorite customers and she knew this simple customer/cashier interaction was better than anything she would’ve asked of him. She would come home happy whenever he had visited and go one about how he was such a kind soul.
He will always be known to us San Franciscans as the local resident whom always gave back. He supported every cause that gave back to the city and it’s inhabitants. He started Comic Relief, performed many times over for charity and brought awareness to the many issues within our city as well as our nation.
Robin, thank you for making my single mother’s days at a dead end job eventful. Thank you for caring and making us care about our communities. Thank you for the laughs, the tears and the joy. You are already missed.
I’m obligated to include and share the below image in this post as someone whom has worked with individuals suffering all forms of mental illnesses, including depression.
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.
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!)
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 that 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 an 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?