Category: Philosophy


From the title of this post, I hope it is evident that I will be discussing topics that normally do not go hand in hand but are the most prominent on my mind and in my life at the moment. Settle down and buckle in, there is a long journey ahead.

Chocolate is one of the most beloved treats in the world. It is used in a wide variety of baked goods and is often sold on its own. There are a plethora of powerful, rich corporations that benefit from the production and sale of chocolate. Almost 42% of the cacao beans that are used to create chocolate and its byproducts such as cocoa butter are harvested and refined on the Ivory Coast.

I recently saw a documentary, “The Dark Side of Chocolate,” that altered the way I view my favorite sweet. It is information I cannot blind myself to and feel compelled to share here, the only real platform I have. It may not be surprising to many of you but I honestly had no clue until I watched this horrific documentary.

The chocolate industry is built on the back of trafficked children who are enslaved on cacao plantations and made to produce all of the cocoa beans that are then processed for our pleasure. The companies in question do not directly own said plantations and therefore claim no responsibility for this horrifying reality. They wash their hands of it with legal jargon and loopholes aplenty. The Ivory Coast governments do nothing – they are happy to be bringing in and sharing in the revenues which are to effect of hundreds of Billions of dollars yearly. There is no major chocolate company Not involved in this industry somehow. In short, no one cares for the children, as young as 6 years old, kidnapped and trafficked across borders into lands where they do not know the language and will never earn money. They will often die at a very young age, only to be easily replaced by another trafficked child. The price of their life and unending servitude? 230 euros. That is what they are worth. 230 euros.

At some point in your life, you have to realize that if you are privileged enough, as the vast majority of people I know are, to make decisions about where you spend money and who you spend it on, your choices matter. Every time I have purchased a candy bar in the local grocery store, I have paid for child trafficking. Every time I have given into a craving for a chocolate cake, I have paid for someone to enslave a child. Every time I have casually bought chocolate for trick-or-treaters, I have put my convenience ahead of the reality that my money is going to slave owners.

This goes against Everything I stand for. To me, freedom is the same as breathing. It is a fundamental human right. What goes on in Cote d’Ivoire is not only reprehensible in every way, it is purely inhumane.

What was most frightening of all is that I was made to understand that this is now happening in Florida in the good old US of A. Children are being trafficked in from places like Haiti to work in sugar cane fields, just so you and I can buy a bag of sugar for a few cents cheaper than we would be able to otherwise.

The entire state of things sickens me. I am sure this is not a practice limited just to the chocolate and sugar and other food industries. It only makes sense that all of the myriad of products that we use and dispose of without a second thought were made via cheap labor in substandard conditions somewhere. There were likely child laborers (such as in the diamond industry) or underpaid and exhausted adult laborers (such as in China, India, the Phillipines) involved. Everything I own is likely made on the back of someone else’s misery.

This is all very disheartening and made me feel like the worst human being. How could I pay for these corporations to continue to inflict such unacceptable conditions just so I could get things cheaply and conveniently.

The answer is that I can’t do that any longer. And maybe, one by one, if fewer and fewer people partake in the unconscientious acts of behemoth corporations, if the revenue generated falls dramatically and can be directly traced back to their unethical actions, maybe these atrocities against humanity will decrease little by little. Maybe the human consciousness will finally make an ethical decision rather than a debased and greedy one.

I, too, work for one of the largest corporations on the planet. In fact, I work for one of the most vilified sectors of industry: oil & gas. Energy companies are never held in a positive light. They are always known for bringing jobs and generating money, but they are also always known to be destroyers of the environment. In this case, I am a part of the problem. However, I think many people forget that the revenues generated by these companies are not only used to further their oil production, a large part of their revenue goes directly into taxes, which are then used to fund many many projects that bring about a lot of change. These same companies have also heavily invested in alternate energy sources and are even now funding many scientists worldwide who are doing research on things like solar power and wind energy. These alternative energy sources generate what is referred to as ‘clean’ energy.

The fact of the matter, however, is that we as humanity have always adversely affected our environment. Every advance we have made has destroyed nature a little more. Every technological advance we now enjoy was built on the back of a behemoth like an energy company. Tech companies are just as shady as their energy counterparts. The conveniences we all enjoy, such as the internet, smartphones, cars, home delivery services and so much more are all dependent on energy generation and distribution. Without these companies people hate so much, we would have none of that. The things I’ve mentioned are only the tip of the ice berg. My point here is simple: do not judge a book by its cover. I had never thought of the chocolate industry as a monster before because of their many successful marketing campaigns for longer than I have been alive. I think energy companies should borrow the PR personnel from these chocolate companies – they are very good at their jobs.

In conjunction with terrible entities such as the chocolate conglomerates mentioned above, there are terrorists. Terrorists are very much like a vast corporation: they have an objective, they have personnel, they are involved in many different lines of business worldwide, and they have funding. People are investing funds into this business of terrorism and the extremist recruits are willing worker bees. Behind it all is their ideology of hate and lack of compassion. I have said it before and I will say it again for the people who seem not to realize this: Terrorism is not an act of faith or religion. It is hate in its purest, most animal form.

I am a Muslim American and I can guarantee you no one hates ISIS more than the rest of the Muslim community. People say that we don’t speak up about it but we do, we have, and we will continue to do so. I have personally done so on many occasions. I just have no power or prominence in this world. If I had it my way, no one would hurt anyone in the name of my faith, of which the literal meaning is Peace. These extremists love to conveniently forget how sacred human life is because aggression and anger are easier.

There are many instances in the recent past of unprovoked acts of terrorism. These were not all propagated by ISIS or its sympathizers. Terrorism is, Surprise!, not unique to those claiming to be Muslims. In the interest of clarity, I do not consider anyone who goes around senselessly taking innocent lives a Muslim. They are not even close to the definition of Muslim. They are monsters in human form. If I could wish death on all of them, I would. But I digress. Back to the fact that terrorism is in fact committed by a great many people who are not Muslim, are not of Arabic or South East Asian decent, and have no ties to ISIS.

The recent and devastating shooting in Las Vegas is one such example. The many shootings that have occurred before in schools, on college campuses, in work places, and even in movie theaters are other events that should be classified as terrorism. Just because the shooters were not Muslims, this does not make them ‘disturbed individuals.’ Their actions classify them as terrorists. One such example is the case of the Springfield Church shooter in Texas. He spent a year in Navy jail following a conviction in Navy court for continual abuse of his wife and infant son. However, he was allowed to buy a gun and then used it to take 26 lives. I am not opposed to the ownership of guns by private citizens but I do think that regulations regarding who can and cannot own a weapon are in need of heavy revision. Also, I think the term terrorism itself needs a revised definition. What this shooter and others like him have done is incite fear, terror, chaos and create a huge loss in communities. This is what terrorists do, albeit with a political agenda. Mass shooter is not a good enough term for persons of this nature.

Regardless, what happened in New York City recently gave me goosebumps and had me shivering in anger and fear. I felt such outrage and hatred towards the man that claims to be ISIS. He is the reason billions like me are vilified, have been shot at, bombed, run out of their homes and made into refugees, and are being ethnically cleansed in places like Myanmar. Yes, the killing of Rohingya Muslims is so conveniently forgotten. The world has turned its back on them. Nowhere is the horror people feel about the genocide of the Jews in Nazi Germany or the apartheid in South Africa. Nowhere is the sympathy expressed to the survivors of these awful events. No one weeps for the death of the Rohingya. No one even remembers the millions slaughtered when the British were forced out of India and India was split into Muslim and Hindu, Pakistani and Indian. Why? Because they don’t matter to the West.

I am terrified by the lack of empathy people have for others. I am convinced that there will come a time when my family and I will become the target of the many hate crimes already occurring in our country. The facts that I am a female, a Muslim and am not Caucasian are three strikes against me that I will have to carry forever. I have been shunned for it many times. Now, however, it is not a question of social ostracizing. It is a question of my physical well being itself. There are places like the Rothko Chapel where all are welcome but they are few and far between. Emotionally, most of the world is having to learn to cope with an extremely different reality than the one they were born into. However, there are certain groups being targeted more than others and I fear for the safety of them all. I also fear for the safety of first responders and police officers who are simply trying to do their jobs and end up being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I fear most for the most innocent and helpless of all – the children of this horribly unbalanced world. They are our future, but what kind of present are we handing them? What kind of options are we leaving for them to build a future in? I am afraid that the answer to those questions is vastly different depending on the race, place, and gender of the child. The socioeconomic collapses happening around the world are ensuring that the future generations are deprived of many freedoms and opportunities that I know I had as a child. Children are no longer free to run in the streets or play unsupervised. Child predators and gang violence have a large part to play in this in the more developed nations. In lesser developed nations, there are additional factors like political demonstrations, terrorist attacks, and child trafficking.

Children are abused horribly worldwide. Often, it is by the people who should be protecting them and teaching them to defend themselves. While I didn’t have the worst of any kind of child abuse, emotional and mental abuse is something I grew up with and dealt with on a daily basis. Several people I know have experienced extreme physical abuse at the hands of their parents or other authority figures. The practice is always propagated in the name of discipline and people don’t interfere because it isn’t their family and none of their business. However, from the point of view of someone who both went through a lifetime of scarring and watched others suffer the same or worse, I think that not speaking up or interfering is the same as being complicit. You are enabling the abusive behavior if you aren’t stopping it. Don’t get me wrong – sometimes physical discipline is necessary. However, there is a Big difference between discipline and abuse.

There were two new reports recently that really stuck out to me. I’m sure there are, unfortunately, hundreds of such instances every year but these are the ones I read about. One is a case where two drug addict parents neglected a 4 month old infant to the point that it lay dead in its own feces in a swing for a week before they decided to contact any authorities. They then claimed that the infant had died in the last few hours and they didn’t know how. Autopsy of the infant proved them liars. They also had an older child and I don’t even want to imagine the abuse that child has likely faced.

The second incident concerned an army officer, his wife who was the step-mother to his three children, and primarily his two older daughters. All children were beaten routinely. CPS has been called regarding the father’s abuse towards his children multiple times. There was a time when he hosed down his children, naked, in their yard in freezing weather with cold water as punishment. He made them eat cat feces and put it all over their faces another time. He also used dog shock collars and ‘switches’ on them. His wife encouraged all of this and even encouraged him to be more violent. CPS had closed his case as high risk.

First, how do you just close a case as high risk CPS? I get that you need more funding, but come on. Second, this man should have had his children taken long before they were. The man was finally arrested recently but has Still not been dishonorably discharged from the army.

What exactly are you doing Army and Navy? Please take care of your own so they don’t go off their rockers after you train them to Kill. Also, don’t hide it when they do go nuts. It doesn’t protect anyone. It just puts us all, and especially their families, at risk.

Another horrible common occurrence I keep having the displeasure to come across is animal cruelty in so many shapes and forms. Those shock collars I mentioned above are barbaric. As a proud parent of 3 cats, I cannot ever imagine abusing any of them ever. I don’t understand why people insist on having pets they cannot take care of. Some people, I’m convinced, simply have animals so they can feel in control and empowered. They hurt the poor animals just because they can. I have heard/read about instances where these animals are starved, never allowed to move from their enclosures and many times die horrible in horrible conditions. And that’s without starting on the animal farms out there. Let me tell you, those poor animals are facing some pretty stomach turning realities. I won’t link anything here. This is something I’ll let you discover in your own time. No, I’m not a vegan but I do try to eat less meat and most of it Halal – those animals have to be treated right or they won’t be Halal meat.

I am sometimes so envious of my parent’s generation. They had it all and all of the world was an adventure. There was still war and unrest and famine. But through it all, there was always Hope. I feel the world had forgotten that word for a long time. Mass media frenzies didn’t help  spread positive news, instead they furthered the culture of fear mongering, victim blaming, finger pointing and lack of exposure to anything good in the world. The beauty of the world, once so celebrated and forever captured in the classics, has been forgotten for so long. I am happy to say that devastating events like Hurricane Harvey have actually brought people closer. People are starting to Hope again and that gives me hope for the coming generations. I hope that is one thing they never lose – the ability to hope for the best while coping with the worst.

With that said, I think there are some things that really can bring a community together. Hurricane Harvey and all its destruction has brought one of the most diverse communities on the planet together, all working together to help each other. The Astros winning the World Series(!!!!!!!!) is definitely one of the most amazing things to have happened to Houston in a long time. Yes, we hosted the Super Bowl. Yes, the Houston Dynamo are also in the playoffs. But the Astros brought home the trophy baby! And I was one of those crazy people in line outside the Academy at 11 pm so that I could get a T-shirt RIGHT THEN. I didn’t get my goods and get home until almost 2 am. I, like many others, told my boss I couldn’t make it to work the next day. However, in that line, I bonded with my community a little. We all stood around hollering like crazy at any car that tooted at us and played “We are the Champions” real loud while driving by real slow. It was a party! I am so glad I got to experience that moment of community.

I was unable to attend the parade, sadly, but I definitely paraded around in my Astros gear (pun intended). Thank you Astros for giving us this win, we really needed it. Now, lets go Dynamo and maybe Rockets?

To continue in the vein of exciting events, I recently attended my very first book signing for “It Devours!” written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. With their second novel based in the Night Vale universe, the authors continued to delight readers like myself (and all the other fans packed in to Murder by the Book – excellent bookstore near Rice Village near Rice Village). The podcast is amazing (Welcome to Night Vale if you aren’t familiar with it) but so was being in the presence of the brilliant and eclectic minds that created it. The talk and the question and answer sessions were all pretty great. The moment I got to tell them I’m a big fan and get my book signed was AMAZING. I didn’t manage to get a picture but I’ll have that moment in my mind forever.

I felt the writing fire ignite within me after the Q&A session – they were just like me, working through ideas and seeing what stuck. It gave me hope that I will one day actually be able to complete my novel (wish me luck). I don’t know if anyone will ever read and enjoy it but I’m going to keep going. It’s the only thing you can do if you want to succeed.

In any case, thank  you for sticking around through this entire post. I know it was a lot of different topics but I intended for this blog to be a mono/dialogue between me and any potential readers. Feel free to post comments, disagree, praise, hate, love whatever I’ve written. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Until next time, be safe world. Be strong. Stand in Hope Together. Ciao!

 

 

There is nothing but hope for the future. After Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria drowning all of the South and Puerto Rico, half of North America being on fire and a devastating earthquake in Mexico, I have nothing but prayers for those effected and sympathy for anyone who survived but lost their loved ones and the lives they worked so hard to build. The terrorism rampant everywhere does nothing to help us move forward. It only serves to unite against a common enemy – senseless violence.

In connection to the natural disasters, I must commend the communities who rose up and helped one another in an unprecedented manner. Being in Houston amidst Harvey and then watching how people from all over came here just to help us out made me believe in humanity once more. People of every creed, race, color and gender, regardless of their differences, stood together and literally formed human chains in support of each other. The Cajun Navy was AMAZING as were all of our first responders. I thank you deeply for coming and helping the people of my community so selflessly and bravely. Most of all, thank you for saving lives (both human and animal) and giving us all Hope for the future.

This selfless spirit has been spreading worldwide. Houston and all those that came to lend us help have shown the world that we all Can and Do get along just fine. It is simply a few hundred voices in billions who would love to spread discord – they just manage to be heard more loudly at times because of the disaster that often accompanies their agendas. Though these disasters are devastating and continue to horrify with the extent of damage experienced, the results have been astoundingly positive everywhere. I am simply moved to tears at what people can accomplish when they see each other as simply human. The sympathy, empathy and simple humanity exhibited has been breathtaking.

I know that amongst all these monstrously unhappy worldwide events and unrest, my small battles aren’t even minutely important. At the same time, I believe each of us fights a million small battles each day. Many are fighting for survival itself in deplorable conditions. Many are even now awaiting rescue and trying to put their lives together. Many are left to survive without their loved ones at their sides.

My personal drama, in comparison, cannot even begin to compare. I am extremely Blessed to be untouched by this series of natural disasters thus far. I must expound on this for my own personal satisfaction and to relieve myself of emotions that have been making my heart heavy thus far. There are people I have loved but can no longer see myself walking with in life. I am glad they were here with me when it was the right time for them to be. I am also really happy they have exited my life, willingly or not, and taken their toxic influences with them. I couldn’t quite put it into words until now but I think these words below will suffice:

 

When you tell me you love me
You don’t really mean it
Your words are as empty
As cracks in old, worn stone

When you tell me you love me
You expect me to believe it
Though you never let anyone in
Far enough to call your own

When you tell me you love me
You’re trying to convince me
That a repetition of lies will
Somehow make them come true

When you tell me you love me
You just go through the motions
Forcing me to take false kindness
To you, ugly truth is overblown

When you tell me you love me
You leave me aching with a longing,
A wishing that someone
Really would want to call me their own

When you tell me you love me
But poison others towards me
While insisting on your innocence
You are a lying child, overgrown

When you tell me you love me
But you are only here to judge me
I tell you that love is an emotion
You have never felt or known

You tell me you love me
But you only love being loved
To  love, you must be selfless
But you haven’t a single selfless bone

You tell me you love me
But your words ring hollow
Leaving you unable to comprehend
Why your whims I do not follow

You tell me you love me
But my heart knows better
Than to trust a two-faced viper
With even a second more

When you tell me you love me
But are deaf to my feelings
I would rather you leave me
I am much better off alone

 
I have learned the hard way that there are many people out there that do not truly value sincerity and loyalty. They value nothing but, ultimately, themselves and their own petty self interests. They are also blind to the needs of others and feel resentful when forced to face their shortcomings. They refuse to see things in any light but their own. They are in denial about so many things, it is as though they have created some kind of utopia in their mind that no one else can access. Most frighteningly, they slow become the very people they profess to hate.

Such is the nature of life – it brings us lessons in the shape of people who are kind, who are dedicated, who betray, who lie, who are staunch supporters, who are two-faced frenemies, who become family, who stab you in the back, who break your heart, who mend that broken heart. Such is the passage of time – the highs and the lows are inevitable. Change is inevitable but it does not always have to be a crushing change, rather it can be the metamorphosis of the caterpillar to a butterfly. Pain is inevitable but it does not have to be pain without purpose. Growing pains are a thing to be celebrated and welcomed with open arms.  People coming through the journey of your life only to leave is also inevitable. The ones you need will be in your life at the time that is right for them.

There is not one Right way to do things – there are as many ways as there are people in this world (so approximately 7.6 billion views, give or take a few million). This doesn’t mean that I am saint enough or mature enough to simply accept them all with no debate. I would probably debate my stances rather hotly. What this Does mean is that I can respect you while disagreeing with you. What I cannot respect is someone who is duplicitous and will not respect my intelligence enough to be straightforward and true with me in return.

There are many things that can break a person into tiny little pieces that will never be put back together quite the same – human beings are much more fragile and complex that Humpty Dumpty unfortunately. We all experience loss of faith and hope at some point in our lives. In the face of untold evil both within and without, this loss seems quite inevitable. It is what you do after that initial break that truly defines who you are. The moments when you begin to question the fabric of the universe itself and if there was a maker and who that creator is, and the answers you arrive at after that, define you more than anything else. How you acquit yourself in the face of adversity and sometimes physical opposition defines who you are.

Amidst all the deaths, the chaos, the unrest, the bloodshed, the sheer arrogance of some to believe they are better than others for whatever XYZ reason, the complacency of most of the world population to do little more than nothing in the face of all of this (of whom I must admit I sadly belong), all the stars that are being born and dying, the waves of humanity arriving in and departing from this life, the joy of accomplishment and living, the shattering disappointment of failure and crushing weight of loneliness, there is One thing we cannot stand to lose – HOPE.

The past is done, unchangeable. The present is already here, we can only barely react to it. The future, however, is both our friend and capricious enemy. The only way to bring it to heel is to plan, to fail, and to learn. We must live in the moment while still hoping for a better tomorrow. We must make a way for this better tomorrow to happen. Sometimes that better tomorrow, that better us, requires a hard decision and a difficult parting of ways. Sometimes it is simply an opportunity to grow and become more, to find someone or something better suited to you.

Look at the glass and see it half full – all the world’s events and your own personal dramas will change into different scenarios before your eyes. Our perspectives hold the keys to our tomorrows. We have weathered many tragedies as a collective of humanity. I believe we will prevail again. Together, we must move forward while walking our own paths to our common end. Meandering or direct, easy or difficult, we must all support one another in moving forward. After all, there is nothing left but hope for the future.

Until next time, ciao!

 

I normally do not write political pieces out of fear that some Homeland security agent will decide I’m a threat to the country and make me disappear somewhere no one will ever find me again. In light of the current climate, however, I feel compelled to write about my experience of being an American Muslim female of Pakistani descent in a society that has branded everyone like me as a terrorist.

As an American, I am sad to say I am living through the kind of historic times I never thought I would have to live through. I have always been so proud of my country – the one that polices and guides the whole world, the one that has become the face of democracy, equality and freedom. I have always been so very secure in the knowledge that no matter what the rest of the world was like, I could always rely on my country to be the light in the dark, the world’s knight in shining armor, the army that stands between good and evil.

My pride and faith in this country have been shattered. My belief that America stood for ALL Americans is gone. My belief that the government is here to protect, serve and create order is gone. My hope that the children of tomorrow would grow up as free as possible of racial and religious prejudice has totally evaporated. This is definitely due to the fact that so many acts of terrorism have happened all around the world and have been performed by Islamic terrorists. But it is also because Western countries supplied that hate and the weapons to those terrorists in the first place.

Has anyone ever noticed how there is always more money for building weapons and walls and starting wars but never enough funding for medical care and educating the masses so that they actually understand the world better and can rise up against crooked politicians?

I have been on a roll with trying new things in the past few months. I have also touched base with the things I once loved to do and hadn’t done since my teens or childhood. But now, I am thinking of doing things that aren’t always shiny rainbows and happy unicorns. I am considering joining peaceful protests on the streets – the kind of thing I have never done. I am thinking about writing to my local representatives, senators, governor – all because I am enraged and terrified by the actions of the worst president the United States has ever known. I don’t care if you don’t share my opinion. This is going to continue to be my opinion as long as this man remains president of a country that wholeheartedly finds him absolutely repulsive in every way possible.

I am so very tired of people telling me it is going to be okay. I am tired of people telling me I don’t need to be afraid. I am tired of ‘alternative facts’ and men deciding what women can do with their bodies. I am tired of being profiled and degraded for my religion and the color of my skin. I am tired of being vilified by people who have never even known someone like me. I am tired of people who have never left their small town and seen anything beyond a few hundred miles of our country trying to control the millions of very different lives everyone across the world leads on the basis of their limited experience and willful ignorance.

I am tired of being treated  like a third class citizen because I wasn’t born with the ‘right’ skin color and the ‘right’ religion.

I am especially tired of being told to go back where I came from. How about all of you go back to Europe or Russia, too?

I am tired of domestic terrorism not being labelled as such – unless of course a Muslim person was involved.

A brand new mosque and a brand new, unopened Islamic center were burned down near me recently. To the ground. They took hundreds of thousand of dollars to build and years to make. But they were callously destroyed. Imagine if that happened to a church or synagogue – the world would be in an uproar about it. But mosques? No one cares. It’s not terrorism or a hate crime at all.

The western media doesn’t care about the ethnic cleansing of Burmese Muslims. Or the masses being wiped out in Arabic countries. Or the hundred of instances of terrorism committed against people in Muslim countries like Pakistan and Turkey by those same terrorists. No one in the Western world lifts a single finger against any of it. Nor do they acknowledge that their wars and greed for oil have incited much of these repercussions they now face or that Most of the people killed by terrorist attacks have been Muslims.

Do people think that Muslims just woke up one day and decided to be terrorists? Does no one ever wonder WHY they decided to kill themselves to incite terror and fear in others? Some of them are probably brainwashed and believe they are doing it in the way of God – they aren’t. Islam forbids this kind of evil. Most of them do these things either for the safety of their loved ones or out of hate for the people that never accepted them, always turned them away, looked down on them and treated them as lesser being because they were ‘savages’ – even though the western nations were the ones that invaded and made colonies everywhere. subjecting people to their whims and culminating in a massive slave trade as well as laying down the foundations for terrorist organizations, the effects of which we all continue to suffer from today.

Did slavery exist before all this? Most certainly. But was it so widely accepted and was it done on such a major scale? I don’t believe so. People still think they are so much better than others based on their skin tone. Why this is so, I don’t understand. We are all flesh and blood. We are all human beings who experience the same emotions and needs. Why anyone thinks they are superior to anyone else because of their skin tone is beyond me. Why anyone thinks their religion is superior to anyone else’s is beyond me too.

I still remember the Crusades and the Holocaust. Did the rest of the world forget?

Conquest and subjection of the losing populace are a repetition in human history that will never end. However, we no longer live in an age where you can make mountains of skulls and burn grand libraries to the ground and not have people rise up against you.

To those who think your race is what makes you superior, to those that think your faith is better than everyone else’s, to those that think your way of life is better than the rest of the world’s – NEWS FLASH: IT IS NOT. YOU ARE NO BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE. YOU ARE JUST AS SIGNIFICANT AND INSIGNICANT AS A BLADE OF GRASS IN A GIANT MEADOW.

To those that want to turn America in to the present day Nazi Germany, good luck. You will not win this war.

Forgive me for the rant, but I felt I would explode if I didn’t put my thoughts into words. In conclusion, the poem I wrote below explains my feelings most clearly:

American born
American raised
Proud not to be
Anti-any-race

Muslims banned
Mosques hazed
On what constitution
Is this based?

America – land of the free
Home of the brave
Why has fear
Become your face?

Good old days of
War, injustice, inequality
Will never return
For the crazed

This is democracy
This is freedom of speech
This is my country
Where my loyalty is based

I will not be silenced
I will not be controlled
I will rise above
The hatred in your soul

 

 

 

 

 

I know this post has been a long time coming and I apologize. I have just been really involved in personal issues and life in general. The recent election is something I’m not going to discuss in this post – I’m incredibly drained from the political and human drama of the moments. Instead, I’m going take this opportunity to talk about my recent trip to the Big Apple.

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned I went to Seattle and saw some amazing things in Washington and Vancouver, BC. I learned a lot from that trip and was delighted to reconnect with family I hadn’t seen in almost two decades. That trip wasn’t just about going away from Houston, it was about reconnecting to my roots – I spent several summers in Seattle as a child. However, this post is about my time in NYC and growing as a person through my experiences there (be prepared for a lot of pictures)!

A few weeks after returning home from Seattle, I visited New York City for the first time in my life. I was a little nervous before I left – I would be on my own in a strange and fantastic city and had no one there to help me out. However, the very thing I was afraid of turned out to be one of the best things about my trip. I absolutely loved exploring, getting lost in, and finding hidden treasures from losing my way in NYC. I rode the subway, the ferry and the bus. I once lost my way and ended up in Harlem at midnight. That resulted in me walking through Brooklyn streets at 2 am on my way back to my Air BnB and almost using my taser on someone that was approaching me threateningly. Hence, while there were moments of anxiety and frustration, there was so much More excitement and energy!

When you hear that New Yorkers are always on the go, you should believe it. People are always on their way to somewhere to do something. It doesn’t matter where you go, people are intent on accomplishing a goal, even if it is to spend an idyllic day in Central Park. That energy infected me too. In just three and a half days, I managed to visit the Empire State Building, Lady Liberty, New York Stock Exchange, Wall Street, the 9/11 Memorial, 5th Avenue, Times Square, Central Park, the MET, the MOMA, Brooklyn Bridge, Rockefeller Center, SoHo, Little Italy, Chinatown, and Grand Central Station. Each place was unique, exciting and thought-provoking. Some of the more iconic locations literally made me tear up with happiness.

One of the best things about NYC was the ease of access to everything one might need. It was great to be able to buy Halal food literally everywhere I went. It was really great being able to get basically anywhere with public transport at all hours of the day and night. I could buy anything I hadn’t brought with me at the countless little stores lining every street. And having street vendors made it easy to get nice things for a low price. In short, NYC surprised me by being so easy to navigate and being so convenient for someone a lone traveler in a strange environment. In retrospect, going there became a huge source of both confidence and self assurance for me. And it gave me the courage to go somewhere else shortly after, which I’ll be talking about in my next post (hint, it looks like a boot!).

Now to review all the amazing places I was lucky enough to visit:

I ended up at Wall Street by accident (took the wrong train) and had a surprisingly good time wandering around there on a holiday (it was Labor day). From there I walked to the majestic and awe-inspiring 9/11 Memorial grounds. I must also admit that I fell in love with the mall/train station adjacent to the Memorial. Being at the Memorial was a really surreal feeling for me, especially given the day I went there. The building itself is amazing enough but the names written on the walls surrounding what looks like a waterfall seen from above made me really grateful for the life I’ve been given. Here are some pictures I took to commemorate my visit there:

 

Following my time there, I decided to go to the Empire State Building. On the way, I got lost a couple of times and wandered through 5th Avenue as well as Korea town, but it was totally worth it. The mass of humanity in NYC is almost overwhelming, but at the same time it’s really wonderful to be around people from so many different places and no one gives your race or gender a second thought. In any case, I did reach the Empire State Building and enjoyed a fascinating view of New York City from up high. It looked more amazing the darker it got and I just have to share the view with all of you!

From there, I went where literally every tourist ever has gone before – Times Square! It was everything I’d ever seen on TV and more. The energy was unbelievable, there were countless street vendors and performers, and I doubt a single true New Yorker was in sight. Even so, it was a dream come true to be there and just enjoy the sights! I absolutely loved Broadway though I didn’t catch a show (I just don’t enjoy theater, I know blasphemy but what can I do?). It was a great way to wrap up my first day in NYC.

I started off the next day with going somewhere I had always dreamed of visiting – the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As an art and history buff, I absolutely loved the MET. If I had the time, I could go there every day all day for a week and still not see everything. Thus far, it is the most awe inspiring museum I have had the pleasure of visiting. There was too much I loved there but I’ll just share a few things that really stood out for me.

I know those are a lot of pictures, but I promise you that that these are only a small percent of the things on display at the MET. For anyone who loves art or history, this is a must see!

After spending the whole day at the MET, I decided to walk the Brooklyn Bridge and fell completely in love with it. The MET and the Brooklyn Bridge are easily my favorite places in NYC as of now. Walking across the Bridge was both amazing and unreal – it felt like I was in a different world for a little while. It’s one of the few things I would like to do again if I ever go back to NYC. Here are some views from the bridge.

Following that amazing experience, I went onto Rockefeller Center. It was a lesson in grandeur and tastefulness. I had an amazing time going to the top and seeing NYC from on high once more.

My adventure on the way back was quite interesting. I had an almost hour long conversation about spiritualism with a hotel employee on my way out of Rockefeller center, followed by an interesting shopping trip for a hoodie which resulted in a stranger offering to take me to dinner and drive me back to my Air BnB. Such an interesting evening.

I started out my next day in NYC by going on a free walking tour of Central Park – or rather a corner of it. The day started out extremely windy and cloudy so I was afraid it would be a disaster but it cleared up right on time for the tour. In fact, it got extremely warm during my time there. Following the tour, I took a brief walk around Central Park on my own and can safely say I completely loved it there, as is obvious from the following shots I took while there.

I didn’t stay as long as I would have liked as I had another significant trademark of the Big Apple left to see – Lady Liberty! I ended up riding the Staten Island Ferry to Staten Island and back in order to see Lady Liberty. I didn’t go to Liberty Island (it was closed) but I did get to see her! No good pictures of that adventure, sadly, but here is at least one of her and one of the NYC skyline as seen from my angle at the time (I love the NYC skyline, if that isn’t obvious yet lol).

Following my trip to see Lady Liberty, I had a disappointing and frustrating time walking around SoHo (I’m sure this is because I’m a clueless newb) and stopped by Little Italy to have some truly excellent pasta and also strolled through Chinatown – it didn’t feel like I was in the States anymore at that point with the shop owners yelling out their wares, everything written in Chinese and the kind of crowds you see on TV when they show you a shot of Hong Kong.

I concluded my day with a trip to see a place I have dreamed of seeing since I first saw Home Alone as a child – Grand Central Station! I’m not even going to  lie – I happy cried right before I took that selfie down there. It was just fantastic – the energy was unbelievable and it took my breath away. Totally a dream come true for me!

I was due to leave the next afternoon and head back home so I spent my morning at the Museum of Modern Art. I absolutely had to see the Starry Night that was on display at the MoMA at the time. In doing so, I also saw a very emotional series of stories told my illegal immigrants who left home to find refuge or a better life and ended up in different places in Europe and their lives after the fact. I also saw a series of documentary shorts about Napalm and the horror it rendered on so many people. It shook me deeply. However, many of the exhibitions there did not allow photography so I’ll just share what I was able to photograph.

They had a fairly cool sculpture garden that I took full advantage of after I had achieved my goal of seeing Van Gogh’s most amazing painting (IMO). This concluded my exploration of NYC but not the lessons I learned there.

On my way back to my Air BnB to pick up my luggage and head home, I fell hard on the concrete and scratched myself up. My Uber driver showed up shortly after so I couldn’t even clean up the blood properly. We then ran into some serious traffic followed by construction and road closures. I almost didn’t make it to my flight – or that would have been the case had the flight not been over booked and so full that they requested several passengers to check in their carry on luggage.

On the flight back, I sat next to an elderly couple from Pakistan whose daughter lives in Houston. We ended up talking the whole flight back and I had an amazing time learning all about them and their family. They even gave me some great advice – never stop learning and never give up! Find opportunity where people see only adversity. Life will inevitably be difficult and seriously traumatic events will occur. But that is never the end, unless you let it be. Hope springs eternal and as long as there is hope, there is a chance for success. They gave me so much love it caught me off guard. It was a truly singular experience and gave me so much hope for humanity.

Travel has taught me so much – independence (more than usual), ingenuity, the ability to adapt to unexpected situations, and patience. I’ve grown stronger from all of it.

My message today is simple – travel like your life depends on it. Save and travel, no matter what. You’ll have strange and uncomfortable experiences that will help you grow. You will have awe-inspiring, unforgettable experiences that will lift you up. And you will make fleeting but unforgettable connections with strangers that may become a great inspiration for you and may determine how you live the rest of your life.

More than anything, trust your instincts and never stop growing and learning. You will become stronger every time you learn more and see more. So, travel. And travel some more. I certainly plan to!

I know this has been a long post but I hope you enjoyed it and will look forward to the next one! Until next time, ciao!

 

 

 

A strong woman, they say
Forged in the fires of pain
Feeling the salt and blood of rivers
Flowing down the cracks in her skin
Through the warmth that keeps
Her living, slowly becoming her veins

A strong woman, they call her
As she picks herself up again and again
You, and you, and you, and you –
You who were supposed to be
Her brother, her lover, her protector, friend
Turned into the very vultures that
Attacked her even as she writhed in pain

A strong woman, they labeled me
This tired, brittle bag of bones
With each day, it becomes harder
Each trial making me more alone
I did all I imagined possible
But it was never enough to ensure
That I would never have to be strong enough
To weather all, steady as stone

A strong woman, I’m told
Is one like me, racing through
Typhoons, tidal waves, earthquakes
Even the deep dark of a black hole
As if nothing is of consequence
Like no matter how many meteorites strike me
I will simply go on, perfectly whole

A strong woman, I may have become
But with every step, every fall
My soul shattered into jagged glass
My feet slippery from bleeding with
Cuts made each time I broke
And break I did, losing another piece of me
Every time I had to forge myself anew

This strong, independent woman
Was wrung through every pain the world
Could imagine, first taking her innocence
Then her dignity, clipping her wings
To cage her when she would have flown
Slowly corrupting even her smile
Until all that remained was a shell

This strong woman became a hollow husk
A puppet on a string manipulated
By you, her protectors in name
But in truth, you were her jailers
The ones forever claiming you knew
What she could and could not do

This woman, before she was strong
Was in apathetic darkness years long
Eventually, she realized she would die
If she remained caged, unable to fly
So she broke free of her shackles
Finally roaring with rage
Daring the world to challenge
Her right to live, never again enslaved

This strong woman, she made
So many choices, both right and wrong
But she learned her own mind
She learned to stand strong
Believing she could shape her own life
Whether or not she ever came to belong

This strong woman slowly changed
From a girl into a woman older than her age
Along the way, she lost many people
She broke her heart, she failed her dreams
Some people abandoned her, some used her
But with every scar, she learned to go on

This strong woman, she survived
The rush of agony each time
Life taught, terrorized, traumatized
Each time, the dark rose to take over
She learned a new depth of light inside
Growing stronger with every passing night

This strong woman, who knew love once
Came to know betrayal
Came to know abandonment
Learned she could always fail
With every instance she chose perseverance
Her desire to Live grew stronger, she prevailed

A strong woman can never be weak
Even as you choke the life blood from her
No tear will fall from her eyes
No sign of pain will show through her mask
She will only scream silently, praying for help
She never gets an answer that
She didn’t have to create for herself

A strong woman should never be lonely
That is the mantra she repeats to herself
Every time she sees someone happy, whole
She wonders who her happiness stole
She became so strong that the weak majority
Became afraid and intimidated
Now she walks alone because
No one of equal strength walks nearby

A strong woman they call me
As if it was so easy to become me
As if I didn’t have to struggle down
Every path I chose for myself
As if every scar didn’t tell another
Festering, heartbreaking story
As if, somehow, this title I have earned
Were just a casual note in a Symphony

This strong woman, every time she starts anew
Digging out a new path, carving a new trail
Becomes a little stronger with each drop of pain
Becomes harder with every scorching flame
The pressure of hardship and expectations
Slowly turning her into a diamond untamed