Thursday, November 15, 2007
I just finished my first class for the day, and while waiting for the second class to begin, I thought of writing a post.
Last time I wrote that I was having troubles sleeping and that I wasn’t feeling sleepy at all times. Well, after some talks with other students in our graduate lounge, I found out that everyone else at graduate school is having the same problem, if not worse! A student told me that she actually can’t sleep at all because she doesn’t have time between doing all the assignments for classes and going to her job. So she only has a time for a short nap around 6 o’clock in the morning, and then she has to get up and go to work!
But believe it or not, after I knew that I wasn’t the only one in this situation I could sleep well now! I started by forcing myself to waking up early in the morning even when I have nothing to wake up for. By the end of the day I could manage to sleep. It’s been like this for a while now and it’s still working :) but I hope that this non-sleeping problem won’t come back with the end of the semester and the fast-approaching deadlines. I was having all those plans for Thanksgiving break but I had to cancel everything and just stay at home and work on my paper cuz of the deadlines. However, I managed to go on two nice trips to reboot and get ready for the heaving work, and above all, the thesis.
Well, I don’t know what to else to say for now, and there is not much time left for class. So I will go, hoping that I will find time to write a real and decent post with something interesting to say. I’m not checking the post, so I apologize for any typos or weird sentences that may occur.
P.S. Dad, I was so happy to read your comments on my post, and I hope that you will read this one too. Believe me; I even tried to count my books, not just sheep! But it’s ok for now :)
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Saturday, October 06, 2007
How comes whenever we search for pictures about Iraq or anything related to it all what we see are the pictures of death and blood? Where did the beautiful and happy pictures go? Or are they any?!
I was preparing a powerpoint presentation for a speech that I gave to a freshmen class at the university, and I wanted to tell the students about what they usually don’t see in media or anywhere else: the good side of Iraq. But all my tries went in vain when I tried to look for some photos of young happy people. Instead, all the photos that came up in the search were of dead shattered bodies, blood, torn clothes of people who withered after being thrown out on the side of the street, and destroyed neighborhood that once used to be happy.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Monday, September 03, 2007
Last year on this day, I arrived to the U.S. and I still remember every moment of this year in details as if I'm still living it now. I arrived on September 2nd, at 7:20 PM to Washington DC and I remember that I started to cry the moment I saw the trees and buildings from the plane's window not believing that I was finally here. I was supposed to catch a second flight on the same night but it was rescheduled, so I stayed in a hotel at the airport, and the moment I got there I looked for internet to send emails to my family and friends informing them of my safe arrival. The second morning I went to the airport and got the flight to Pittsburgh, and then I was supposed to get a bus to another town but it was Labor Day and the only transportation I could find was an expensive Taxi, so I took it and got to the town where the campus is but I still couldn't get there because of the holiday which was also a good thing for me since I needed to sleep so badly and I couldn't concentrate on anything anymore. It was the 3rd of September by then.
I got a room in a little motel that the university recommended for me before I arrived, and I remember that I slept till the next morning! I woke up for a while in the evening and I was hungry but I didn't go out to get some food because I was raining and I didn't know if there were restaurants near there because all I could see was a big Staples Store sign and huge parking lot. Well, later I knew that there was Walmart and a whole bunch of stores in that place :D
So, I got to campus the next morning and finished the paperwork and took the keys for my dorm apartment, and wrote that post from my roommate's laptop that was written in some funny forms other that English! The first two weeks were the hardest, but I remember that everything was getting easier for me (except classes!) and I was learning to do things easier and faster by then. The only thing I regret neglecting is the social life! I was scared of socializing with people that much and couldn't make friends quick which made it even harder for me during the first semester. I had big plans of traveling to some places during the winter break, but because of my lack of friends I had to stay in my apartment during the whole break all by myself, and it was very cold and snowy by then that it was so hard to go anywhere. And then came the New Year's Eve which I spent all by myself feeling lonely and not knowing what to do. And it was on that day that I swore not to stay alone on next New Year's Eve.
The first semester was over and the second one began with plans to move to a single room, make some friends, and participate in the university's activities. I achieved some of that during the second semester, went to Miami and Washington DC, and passed my classes well. But the friends I made went back to their countries after the semester was over as they were all exchange students for one semester. So I was back to point zero once again! I don't know what happened, but it was always easy for me to make friends when I was still in Baghdad, and whenever I think of it I can't find any explanation. I sit in class and see that students are talking with each other all the time about their lives and families and makes me think that they must know each other very well, but how do I do that. I do talk with my classmates but I still feel that it's just a formal conversation between people who are taking the same class. Is it because I am relatively younger than the other students that they think I'm just too young to talk to, or is it that I'm from Iraq and they don't know how I think of them and of their country that they are cautious of making friends with me, or is it just that I have to work harder to improve my social skills which seem to be deteriorating in order to make some friends? And above all that, the town I'm in is really boring and there is nothing to do at all! I thought of getting a job this semester just for the sake of socializing, but then I thought of all the reading and writing that I have to do for my courses. I mean the load of coursework is just so much that sometimes I can't even find enough time to finish it, and I'm starting with my thesis now which means that it will be even harder this semester.
I can't believe how many things can happen in one year, how many faces and names can one meet, how many new places to see and experiences to have. It's just amazing! Last year I wasn't sure if I was able to get to this stage, and now I look back at it and realize that I've learned a lot from this experience, from living by myself in a foreign country, and by depending completely on myself with everything I do. The simplest decision that I make takes a whole research and thinking from me because I am the only one who decides for me and it's my responsibility to keep my mind alert at all times, which, by the way, is not an easy task at all! Sometimes I get tired of this and wish if I have the chance to be lazy for one day and depend on someone to do everything for me, but I know I can't do that as long as I'm alone and away from home. Sorry, my brain, but I think that I need to keep you fully awake for another day! I came here with nothing but hopes, fears, expectations and a dream to make come true... oh, and two huge suitcases! :P And so far, nothing failed me at all.
Let's see where I will be writing the post next year on this time! What's after graduation is still a mystery for me.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Ok, let's talk about some things here... Why breaks have to be so boring?! I can't wait to get done with a semester or a course in order to enjoy the break, but once it's here I can't wait for it to be over! The problem is that I still don't have many friends, I do know so many people around here but when there is something to do nobody asks me to join, well that's IF there is something to do in this town. And now that it's summer time nobody is here and there are no activities whatsoever. I wake up everymorning and then go back to sleep waiting for my friend to call and wake me up again, then we go to the mall or somewhere else for a couple of hours. After that I go back to my apartment and watch TV or read a book, get online, go grocery shopping, walk for two hours at the campus's stadium, go back home and watch more TV and then sleep! There is a funny vedio clip that I once watched about this town that says all you can do here is watch some art and sleep, then watch art some more and SLEEP!! I'm looking up some trips but there is nothing for July so far.
Enough about this. Let's talk academics now! This is the first year in my life in which I take classes in summer, and I survived it. I decided to take only one course for June after I dropped the class for July deciding that I'm going to write a thesis and will not need a second summer course anymore. The course I took in June was a British literature class after 1660, and it was about Oscar Wilde, the New Woman at the fin de siecle. It was very interseting and I learned so much in just five weeks, wrote a paper on Bram Stoker's Dracula, and decided on my thesis topic which will be on Oscar Wilde.
In a way for me to have some fun, I participated in a program for issues on international education and I made a presenation about education in Iraq and I got to talk for two hours to the audience which was so COOL :D I was scared at the beginning of the thought that the materials I prepared might not be enough for the whole two hours, but everyone was so interested in asking many different questions about Iraq that I didn't have to use everything I prepared. The people who came to the presentation were all teachers from around the State and one of them invited me to her school which I thought was very nice, and the committe that prepared for the program said I was so good that they wrote me a letter for my department and the Fulbright :)
I finally went to the Niagara Falls last month, it was a quick trip but I had so much fun. The trip was arranged by the office of internation students at the university so we go to use the university's van to get there since there weren't many people, and all of us were graduate students in English Department. Oh, and I also went to an amusement park which was so much fun!
I moved off campus about a month and a half ago and I don't have roommates anymore. It feels different living off campus even though the apartment is just across the street from it, but I like it.
I'm still typing this without reading it, so I apologize for any mistakes that may occur.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Let's start from the beginning and list all the events and things that happened in this semester. In February, I went to Miami for four days on a Fulbright seminar for first year Fulbrighters. Of course everything was paid for :D which added more fun to the trip! I met more than one hunderd Fulbrighters from all around the world, people that I never thought of meeting one day. It was cool, and I enjoyed my time alot even though we had to stay inside the hotel for most of the time due to the heavy seminar schedule! But there was enough time to walk on the beach since the hotel itself was in South Beach facing the wonderful view of the ocean and the open sky. It was one of my little dreams that came true :) The hotel is called Miami Beach Resort and Spa, it wasn't the biggest hotel for sure but we envaded the whole place wearing our blue Fulbright T-Shirts with tages that have our names, U.S. university and country. One of the rooms that we had most of the seminar sessions at was called the Stars Room, or something like that ( I don't quite remember) and it was located on the 82nd floor. Later we were told that Frank Sinatra used to sing and have his concerts in this room!
I also went to a host-family dinner with other three Fulbrighters from Germany, Chile, and Indonesia. We were put into groups and each host chose one group to invite for dinner on our second day in Miami. My host was a man who is originally from Cuba and who invited four friends of his who were also from Cuba and Mexico who have been living in Miami for a very long time. The dinner was very good and we sat in the backyard which was facing the water and we saw small ships and boats passing by during the evening. And on our last night, everyone was invited to restaurant to celebrate the success and end of the seminar. We were told that the place was one of the famous restaurants in Miami, but at the time we got there we found out that it was actually something like a night club with a belly dancer and very loud Greek music!! Not everyone liked it, and many of the Fulbrighters preferred to stay outside talking with each other, although many more of them stayed in and enjoyed their time. Me and other two Iraqi Fulbrighters joined a fourth Iraqi Fulbrighter who studies in Miami and went to a mall and then to a small Middle Eastern restaurant for dinner. On the fourth day, the weather was getting very bad and started to rain, but it was also our time to get back to our campuses and studies after spending a wonderful time on Miami Beach. One of the things that I was surprised to know during the seminar was that Miami is one of the poorest cities in the United States and highly segregated in terms of wealth! I never thought it was actually a poor city at all, everything looked fabulous there with the beaches, palm trees, and high buildings and the lights. But then I understood that the majority of the people living there are immigrants who live in poverty and work hard to support their families in their new place.
And we also visited high schools during our stay as part of the activities during the seminar. We had to divide into groups and each group would visit the assigned high school. We entered some classrooms and started to talk with the students starting by introducing ourselves to talking about our countries, our studies and the scholarship, and we were also asked to encourage the students to consider applying for the Fulbright scholarship and talk about its benefits and all. Of course, being an Iraqi person in America, I got most of the questions from both the students and the teacher. But it was so much fun for me as it was the first time I get to a high school in America, and I wouldn't mind doing it again if I have the chance to.
In March, not much happened except the continuous study and moving to a single room in another residence hall on campus. I wanted a single room from the beginning but I couldn't get one when I first arrived because they were all taken and I was late. Work continued on Andy Warhol paper, with disinterest and difficulty some times! I started working on my other two papers by that time, one on Milton and Paradise Lost, and one on Frankenstein.
In April, I went on a university bus trip to Washington D.C. with my two Polish friends. I forgot to mention that at the beginning of the semester I got to meet many new friends, mostly international students who came here as exchange students for one semester. They all went back home now :( So, this D.C. trip was more fun and much better than my first trip! It was for one day but we got to see almost everything we wanted to. The first stop was the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The moment we got there I swore I could smell blood in the air!! I could never imagine that I would see real things from the Holocaust, and in that museum there were real and original objects that were used in some of the consentration camps in Poland and other places. I don't know, but it was very scary to walk among those things knowing that people died on them in a grotesque way! There were writings on the wall from the book Night that I read last year about one of the survivors in Aschwitz concenttration camp. No photographying was allowed inside the museum, so I couldn't take any pictures there. Our second stop was the White House. I was actually a bit disappointed when we got there because I thought we'd be able to see it on a closer range behind the black fence! But even with that far away look, it was pretty cool :D And then we walked to Veitnam Veterans Memorial, Veitnam's Women Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Cherry Blossoms festival, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, back to Washington Monument, and then to the Capitol building. The weather was extremely cloudy on that day but luckily it didn't rain until we got on the bus to get back home! By this time I bought a camcorder replacing the one I didn't bring with me from home to record everything and everywhere I go.
In May, two events happened on the first week of the month. The first one was a BBQ for international students celebrating the end of school year and the graduation of some of the students. The event took place in an off campus lodge located down a hill among huge trees. It was COOL! There weren't as many studnets as I expected it to be because it was the last week of the semester and many of us had exams and papers to work on, but I didn't want to miss the chance of relaxing and seeing a new place in the small town where I study. We played frisbee and broke some nails :P, and of course took many pictures. The second event was an American wedding of two of my friends here! Never did I think that I would have the chance of attending a wedding in the U.S.! It felt like I was in a movie, everything looked so neat and beautiful. Both the bride and the groom are in English department with me, but we've never been in the same class together. The girl is American and the guy is Syrian and they had both Arabic style wedding and American one, but I only attended the American one. I couldn't stay for the whole time cuz I had to get back and finish my papers, it was still the last week of the semester and time was running so fast, however, I enjoyed it alot.
A week after the semester was over, I went on a trip for four days to NYC with my two Polish friends. It was the first time for me there, and won't be the last for sure! I saw almost everything I wanted to see and walked everywhere from 9 in the morning till 10 at night! Well, this trip needs another post and will have so many pictures, and this post has been delayed for so long already and I want to publish it now after fighting with uploading the pictures! As for summer plans, I'm taking two summer classes, one at a time, and the first one will start on this coming monday and ends in the beginning of July, while the second class will start four days after the end of the first class, and end sometime in early August. I'm not going back home for the break because I can't. The Fulbright gave the Iraqi students a one-entry visa and it would take us up to six months if we have to apply for a new one! So I'm just staying here untill I graduate. More trips and events are coming ahead, along with much more studying and homework!!
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Saturday, March 31, 2007
Thursday, January 25, 2007
It was so much fun making it. Let's call him "Oscar"!! :)
Monday, January 22, 2007
Sunday, January 21, 2007
The first nine months of 2006 were miserable to me. I had to stay at home all the time and do nothing but waiting to get here. The waiting process was so long, hard and it got painful when I learned that at some point it became fruitless when I got dropped off the scholarship program. Two weeks later I was back, and a month and a half after that I came here. Again, for the first time in 2006 I traveled ALONE from Baghdad to Jordan to London and then to the U.S... I haven't even taken a taxi by myself before when I was home, and suddenly I had to cross the world to the other side all by myself. It was really scary, but luckily, everything went just as perfect. And in 2006 and for the first time as well I live alone. Well, I do have a roommate but she is not home most of the time, so I consider myself living alone. And it's NOT fun at all.
In those months, I used to spend my time on the internet blogging and doing many other things. I remember that I used to stay up till 3 or 4 AM, that when the electricity permitted, of course! In early 2006 I was speaking on a radio show for the first time. WNR called me on the phone twice and interviewed me about students' lives, universities and how things were at college before and after the war. And on March, I was interviewed again, but this time on NPR, for the third anniversary of the war. And the show was live on the radio. It was a great experience.
I wrote several articles for newspapers and magazines on 2003 like the diary project with NEON Magazine, Mother Jones Magazine. I wrote an article for a students editorial magazine based in London in June. I also wrote an article for a Brazilian magazine about youth in Iraq in February.
In 2006, I went to the movie theatre for the first time in my life. First time was in Jordan in July with Attawie, Anarki and The Kid. The movie was Pirates of the Caribbean II and it was so much fun. Attawie and I kept laughing at the movie for days after that. Second time was also in Jordan with my mother and sister, and we watched Superman Returns. Third time was here in the U.S., last week with my friend and her husband, and we watched Night at the Museum.
Also, for the first time in 2006, I used my passport and traveled outside Iraq. I spent a month in Jordan, met Attawie after about three years, met the bloggers for the first time and had so much fun. I played foosball for the first time in Jordan as well. Baghdad Treasure and I made a team and we were the ultimate losers in scoring against our team!!! I laugh so hard every time I see the photos of that day and remember. I said I would never play it again if it's going to be the same result every time! :P
In 2006 I became a student again and started the first step in my graduate studies. And that's one of the best things that happened to me in the last year.
And finally, the biggest event of the year is my arriving to the U.S.!! Almost five months have passed and I still feel like it's my first week here! Still no friends and lonely, but I hope it won't be this way for long!
Here are some of my new year's resolutions:
- Well, the first thing to do for this year is to study hard and keep on my grades or even better them.
- Participate in the universities activities. (I almost did nothing in the previous semester!). I actually started doing that during the last week; I signed up for the Host Family program for the international students. I guess that will be very interesting.
- Make friends. Sometimes it's so boring and lonely here!
- I've always thought of making a scrapbook, I think I will make one this year. Still didn't decide what the theme is for it though.
- Go on more trips and explore the surrounding area.
- Write more posts :)
- Keep on praying.
- And of course, lose some weight! :P This resolution is on almost everybody's list yet I don’t think anyone really works hard on it! LOL