Sunday, July 29, 2007

Youtube and politics

When the democratic debate was first aired I was off running errands and I missed it. Today, I had a chance to catch a rerun of it. CNN picked a couple dozen youtube questions and posed them to the candidates. It was interesting to note that even with the new format the candidates still dodged the questions with the best of them and used their pre-prepared answers. Yea I am against the war and I have done this and that to forward my agenda. Obaka and Clinton who I thought would wow me bored me with their cookie cutter answers. I am not sure what the youtube questions were supposed to do. Maybe the context of where and by whom the questions were asked was supposed to shake the composed demeanor of the candidates? Alas, the candidates were not shaken they just found a way to talk in circles and still smile balefully at the camera. I was impressed by Edwards and the way he handled himself, he was a pleasant surprise. What about the question asking Clinton how she would handle herself with Arabic and Islamic states that view women as second class citizens. I didn't see any candidate trying to correct that thinking by stating its not an Islamic belief that women are second class. Benazir Bhutto was a Pakistani Prime Minister and a woman at that. The question was posed by a guy in the US army (stationed in Japan). Yea some Arabic states have an inferior view of women but that should be distinguished from Islamic beliefs. Misconceptions that were further reinforced by Clinton answering the question without correcting it. I was positively disgusted. 9/17 I believe is the Republicans chance to answer Youtube questions so if you have something to ask the Republican candidates post your Q's on Youtube. I would definitely like to see questions regarding immigration restrictions and patriotic act among others.

Bang Bang Bang!

Everyone thought I had gone bonkers when I set out for my boss' farm in Wisconsin to go shooting. I had never shot a gun in my life, but for the past year I got interested in the sport. My boss offered to teach me if I wanted. Two weeks ago when I asked him when he was available for my first lesson he raised his eyebrows in surprise. Off course he had just called me an infidel to get a raise out of me, so maybe he was wary of my request. Anyway, Friday I stood on top of grassy knoll with a homemade target in-front of me. He walked me through gun safety till I automatically put the safety on everytime I stopped shotting and never had my finger on the trigger. My first shot was 2 & 1/2 inches from the center of my target. My hand shook as I steadied the .22 against my shoulder. The gunpowder smell wafted off from the opening where the spent shell popped out. My heart was beating frenziedly and my palms felt wet against the rifle butt. The next 14 shots were off the mark as I got more nervous. He reloaded the gun and told me to breath out as I squeezed the trigger. For the next 30 mins he coached me on targeting and as I got better with the home-made target, he moved me up to skeets. After a couple times missing the skeet entirely, he brought out the sig sauer. He walked me through loading the clip and placing my hands around it. He mentioned the fact it had a recoil that might throw me off but till I shot it I didn't realize how strong of a recoil he was talking about. My hand jerked back almost close to my face and my nervousness returned. I went through a couple rounds with the sig but it felt bulky in my tiny hands and I seemed to shoot lower than the target. I went back to the .22 and this time I shot the skeet accurately and my coach praised my good shot. For the next 20 mins we basically traded shots, him with the sig and I with the .22 . I got to say that I can see why people love shooting. It will take me a while to go to another practice trip but I definitely think I will be doing it till I get good at it. Why? I am not planning to be in a safe environment .i.e US after I graduate. Since, Inshallah I will be going back to Africa I want to be able to protect myself if I feel threatened. Idealistically, the situation should never arise but its better to be safe than sorry. I didn't like the feel of the sig but I could see myself with a walther PPK. Happy Shooting.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Shady Business Practices

I have a bug in my bonnet the last couple days and its over shady business practices. I decided I was going to write about my experience with this business as a warning for those who live in the Midwest area. It is a Somali owned travel agency. It is located in downtown Minneapolis around 9th street. My first brush with them was through a cousin of mine. We were catching up about life and I asked him when his wife was coming back to the US. At once he got angry and started about a travel agent he used to get his wife a round trip ticket from US to Kenya and back. On the day of her return flight, she was informed at the airport that there was no booking for her ticket. She had three days to get back before school opens for her children and her vacation time ran out. It was summer and most of the flights were booked solid. My poor cousin was livid to hear that the travel agency had taken payment from him but had not bothered to pay for the return portion of the ticket. Apparently they put a hold on a ticket and print out the itinerary for you. This hold is valid for a couple days I think and you leave thinking that you have everything sorted out. They don't make the payment in time and the ticket gets dropped and they have to scramble to find you another ticket. I sympathized with him because he spent his nights online looking for a return ticket for his wife.

Winter came and I had completely forgotten about my cousin and the travel agency. I got the opportunity to fly to visit my great grandma and grandma. I was so excited. My friend in North Carolina recommended his brother in Rochester. He was doing me a favor and hooking me up with what he thought would be a pleasant experience. I am all for putting money back in our community and making it flourish. I rarely eat at other places other than Arabic/Indian/Somali/Mexican, but I digress. Long story short I got shuffled from Rochester to Al-Amin travel in Minneapolis. I was on my wits end by that time because I had been given an itinerary four diff times. The trip was to be paid for by mom's business. At first they said fine and came by and took a photocopy of the card plus the ID of the business manager. Two days later they call me and say that Northwest don't take third party credit cards for passengers. What? Thats unlikely because I have bought tickets for people before and I never had a problem. So I called Northwest and they confirmed that if they didn't take third party credit cards they would have a hard time with parents shuffling the kids back for Christmas breaks and stuff. I called them back and told them what Northwest said, there was a mumble and then the stubborn somaliness reared its head. Before I lost my temper, I just asked him how much the ticket went up since this whole thing started. From $1600 to $2100. I bit back a curse that was fighting its way up my throat. I told him I would be by to pick up my tickets and would bring cash. Nearly in tears due to frustrations, I called my cousin and while he calmed me down he listened to me. He asked me the agency's name and I told him. I laughed! "Didn't I tell you my experience and here you are doing the same thing." I was confused at first then I remembered his problem last summer. I could have hit my head on the steering wheel. There was nothing to do now, because there ere less weeks left in my vacation and my grand-ma was waiting. I got the cash and went to the agency. Hands akimbo, I asked him to verify every flight of mine right then and there. For the international flight I got paper tickets for departure but not arrival. He explained that on my flight back Kenya Airway will provide the return tickets. I gave him my "I don't take BS and if you screw me over, you wish you had died" look. Leaning over the table and place my fingers on them, I told him I didn't want to have problems on my way back otherwise they will have more than they have bargained for. He got up and went to get me the tickets only to come back to say the printer is broken and can I come back later to pick them up. Do I look like I don't have anything better to do? Can you drop them off at my moms? Sure. I had barely taken two steps outside when my cell rang and my mom was pissed cause I used this travel agency when I could have used hers. I told her I didn't have any control they shuffled me from Rochester to here. She said she ran into the owner and he told her about me and my flight times.

Fast forward now. My brother in law is in the same predicament. I really could care less but its my sister who is suffering. He is supposed to be back from Somalia yesterday but they screwed up his tickets. I called the agency to ask them if there was something they could do. The guy was rude to me purporting that he couldn't divulge any passenger information to me. I wasn't asking for his stupid information. You have him on leash and you seem to be playing games. You are upsetting my sister and in turn in upsets me. If she calls you is there any way you can help her? The same stupid answer. He knew who I was. He knew who I was calling about. Something sparked in my memory. I remembered how my mom found out I was using his travel agency. "You didn't seem to be so concerned about that when you told my mom about my flights last winter.How come the double standard?" He kept silent then told me if I have a problem to call my brother in law. By that time I was seeing red. My sister keeps asking me everyday if there is something I can do. That in it of itself is another drama but all experiences with this agency seem to reinforce the idea that some people are not there to provide a service for their community but rather are there to take advantage of them. I asked around and there are many bad things said about their business practices yet I have never seen a review against them. They have the perfect location to look decent and legit but there is no doubt in my mind that this is a shady operation at best. I am sure if Northwest knew they said that about their business they would have something to say about that. Don't let this happen to you. I have decided when it comes to traveling I am sticking to my online sources.

The End of HP

I finally emerged from under the covers of my copy of Harry Potter yesterday morning. I was wondering when I will be done with the book since I never got any luxury time during the whole weekend. I passed the book to my younger sister and she seems to have burrowed her head deeper than I did in the book. Anyway unlike many Harry Potter fans I read two versions of the Deathly Hallows and I dare say I like the unreleased version. My theory is that it was leaked from the publishers while it was going through its first edit. My proof? Parenthesized notes under certain chapters with the suggestions.

The first edit seems to be more action packed than the book itself. Harry seems to be a rogue and it worked on him and he also displayed human-like qualities like finally letting Ginny into his life instead of playing the noble prat. The order of the Phoenix weren't killed in obscure deaths either but were given the spotlight when their time came and finally Harry was the one who killed Snape (deservedly so). Anyway, I told my friend I would print her a couple pages and if she was interested she can read this book too. The night of the book release I went with her to Barnes and Noble at midnight, her to pick up her reserved copy and I just needed some coffee and an excuse to get out of my house. I couldn't believe the place was that packed. The people who had reserved their books had to get wrist bands and wait for some guy standing on a table with a bull horn to call their number out. The others who didn't reserve books had to wait until the first batch had gotten their books. I drank my coffee bemused at this whole circus knowing I will pick up my reserved copy sometime in the afternoon tomorrow when the rush had died down. Needless to say I met and saw some characters while I waited for my friend to get her book. When #447 was called I sighed with relief and walked toward the exit, my friend clutching her book to her chest like it would run away.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Potter Mania.

I confess I am a POTTER HEAD. July 11th has been marked on my calender for close to a year and sure enough on July 9th I was weighing options on if I should buy my tickets early. I worked during the day and at 5:30pm I was on pins and needles. I picked up my cuzs and a friend as we drove to the IMAX theatre in AppleValley. We got there an hour early and as we approached the entrance I noticed a sign posted "SOLD OUT". My mouth agape, I turned to my friend and admonished her for considering me daft when I suggested to buy tickets on Monday. We drove back towards our regular movie house and got into a show that was pretty much packed with adults rather than kids. The movie was brilliant I tell ya! It started out slow but it got exciting as my butt got numb. Definitely go check it out at your local movie house and bring the kiddies with you if you feel self conscious. Next Saturday the last book comes out. I will Inshallah be posting my version of the last page which is professed to be 300 words long and ending with the word scar. If you are a POTTER HEAD, join me in welcoming the finale the HARRY POTTER by taking the challenge. Write your version of the last page of the HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY GALLOWS, leave a message on my page and I will be thrilled to read it.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

4th July

So 4th of July was preplanned for me. I had errands to run in the morning and in the evening I was going to take the kids to Valleyfair. Its sort of a ritual for me because I get to spend some time with them without getting a sore voice. Last year I forewent the ritual because a week later I was taking them to Six Flags. Anywho, the gang and I pack lunch and drinks for the trip. I took my camera cause my cuzs from Sweden were visiting and I wanted to chronicle their time in the US. Since its been a couple years, I didn't have a clear picture of what I would see, but nothing could prepare me for that day. From the ticket booth to inside the park I saw a bunch of loitering somalis. Young boys who did nothing but stare at people entering. They even tried to hustle me by offering me a discount for a bit of money. Next was the amount of young girls walking around in skimpy outfits with guys hanging on their arms. A decade ago when I moved to MN, I went to valleyfair annually. The atmosphere was different then. You saw proper young ladies with their family dressed decently. Now, instead of family it was boyfriends. As I was standing in line with my siblings, I looked across the queue and noticed a group of rowdy somali guys and girls. Next to us were two African American women. They looked at the group then looked at us, then back at the loud talking group. One of them started a sentence, "I thought they were supposed to be dressed **mumble mumble**." She had noticed me looking at her. She smiled at me and turned towards her friend. I could feel my face getting red but I wasn't entirely sure if I was mad at the group of somalis or at the expectation to be the same.

I normally don't care what other do or wear but lately I get irritated at the direction our youth seems to be taking. I have to check my sister's attire as they step out the door. No jeans , no revealing, plunging neckline and no tight clothing. Is decency a lost art or am I old fashioned? Whatever the case, I have gotten into the habit of keeping my siblings away from the "dhocil" generation and I would rather they stay home and keep each other company!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Progression into Depression

Priya stood by the glassy lake and watched her breath cloud up into the air. There was no wind tonight and the moon was non-existent, casting the surroundings in shadows. For a stranger this scene would be foreboding, but for Priya it was comforting. She knelt down by the lake's edge and touched its chilly surface with her fingers. Her eyes followed the ripples as they extended outwards. The circles got bigger and bigger till they disappeared into the blackness of the night. Priya wasn't here by choice, at least not by personal choice. She was here because circumstances mitigated by fate lead her here. It lead her to the scene of the suicide. She recalled the red rimmed eyes and the hiccupy cries. She recalled the hastened footfalls and the whispered nuances. She recalled the cold, soft sheets and the stark walls, but most of all she recalled the heartache and the pain. Priya reached into her back-pack and drew out an object. Her long fingers caressed it as she hummed a tune. It was eerie considering the time of night but Priya knew she was alone. She nimbly stepped into the lake, shocking her body with the cold temperature. The water made its way up her body as she progressed towards the center of the lake. The water lapped at her thighs, then her hands, then her waist and slowly reached her chest. Priya started gasping for air. The cold was slowly seeping into her body and then the tremors begun. She had to be careful. Priya looked around her surroundings. Yes, this was the place. She closed her eyes and said a silent prayer. She lifted the object unto the surface of the lake and laid it there to float. It was beautiful. Its pristine hue contrasted sharply with the black surface of the lake. This was the day and the place of her death, and Priya's heart grieved once more for her best friend, Sonia. Priya turned around to head for shore and as her feet found the gravel, she turned back to watch the white rose bob in and out of the water.