The day is particularly bright this Saturday morning in December, 2008, where global warming has done a great job in shifting the monsoon seasons and making it erratic. We're lucky today; ribbons of sunlight resting comfortably on my audience's faces.

The MC presents the purpose of today's, and my mind struggles to understand the polite Acehnese language he employs.

(they trust the Acehnese language. Indonesian is the language of the tyrant, which is the only language that I know in this setting.)

My turn now.
I take a deep breath. Stand up. Look at the crowd and smile wide.
And every word is completely wiped out of my mind.

*********

This is part of my job: saying a speech in front of 50+ people from logical/fluid memory. The presentation didn't get better from that point forward. My frozen mind made twists and bends to bring some sense into the gobbledygook that my mouth forced out to the audience.

In response, the audience shifted, looked amongst themselves, and giggled.
(Giggled?!)

Whatever I said through the decades that I felt passing as I stood there, didn't give the impression that this is an NGO that's been running for years in 20 different countries. Whatever kindly words that the audience said to me afterwards, no matter how well received the program was in their community, no matter how uplifting EnglishButler and Chewbacca's words were afterwards, didn't – couldn't – lift me out of the funk that I was in.

I'm such a sorry excuse for a public speaker.

To me, public speaking is a no-no zone; it has always been my worst and unlikely social glitch. No matter how crystal clear are my ideas, no matter how well prepared I am before the event, as much self-talk, writing and rewriting that I do before an event like this, I always fuck up.

And it’s an embarrassment by 50folds when you do it in front of people you're trying to impress, especially when you're supposed to be good at it. Why should I have to go through this? Why do I have to embarrass myself like this?

Tell me, how many times do you have introduce and embarrass yourself in front of anyone before you actually quit trying? Once? Twice? 10 times?

How about in front of 50+ people?

How about "Never" for an answer?

Not good enough. I'm supposed to do this for a good half-a-dozens of times.

*********
I met RC few days later. He's one of those reformed Acehnese folks who is both book and street smart; a person who has been through formal higher-education while still saving himself from the ruins of becoming a nerd like me. I admired him immediately for the qualities that he had, and the thoughts and past and stories that his the smallness of his physique couldn't have expressed.

He carried a Tsunami story on his shoulders.

It's inevitable to meet a living Acehnese who doesn't have a tsunami or conflict story. Either that they've lost someone in that dreadful morning of December, 2004, have been in the company of so many ghosts, or have heard the echoes of armed-combat ramming on their front doors.

No Acehnese, living in their ancestral land, is spared from such stories.
No matter how many stories I've heard, no matter how different the versions are, no matter how long it has been since, stories of loss and death and mindlessness never fail to remind me – every time they are repeated – of how incomprehensible the life that we have to survive or lose.

How does it feel not to have parents? How does it feel to lose your entire family, your home, your heritage, and everything that provides you with identity and recognition, all at once?

Like you can never imagine it.

No matter how big a heart you have, no matter how courageous you are, the immensity of these kinds of experiences are bound to cause massive dents on your entire perception of life and beyond.

How many times do you need to experience a war, a tsunami, the loss of a parent or child, to understand the extreme and tragic brevity that's called life?

Once.

And that is more than enough.

*********

So I sit back this December morning, and compare my notes with the people I've been working and living with. Over and over again I'm taken aback by my lack of experience and sensibility. Something is always terribly missing in my professional and public conduct. Something that doesn't seem problematic for both RC and EnglishButler.

What was it in their upbringing and background that made them become the men that they are now? Of all the qualities that I don't have, it's their purposefulness and clarity of goals that I envy the most.

Does it really need a tsunami to make a person to grow up?

Does it really require a proper marriage, a good kick of a childbirth, for the spoiled brat that I am to finally "get it"?

Does it really require a dangerous and close encounter with immortality for a person understand? What if that experience never happens? What if all of our experiences never reach the level of extremity that could make us "get it"? Do we remain insensible and thoughtlessly flowing through life?

Why do I, with my given level of intelligence, just can't get it? Why does it feel like, the more people I meet, the more I know and go through, is the more obtuse I am?

Maybe I should just give up on learning…or trying to learn, pack up and just be the spoiled brat that my presumably bitchassfuckingrich family has been nagging me to accept and become.

Maybe I've been stubbornly avoiding the life and learning that has been there all this time, just because it comes in a package sealed with the Kingdom's emblem.
Maybe some people are just designed to go through just one massive and staggering experience to actually get it.

And maybe, just maybe, some fools are meant to go through a number of experiences, for a number of times, that are smaller scale in immensity, just because they're so obtuse to get it if it had only happened once, no matter how extreme.

Maybe some fools are supposed to live with and annoy the hell out of an English Butler, work with and amongst Acehnese folks in Aceh, to have a lesson or two sink in after repeating it – how many? – half-a-dozen of times.

*********

Once upon a time in this passing week, in a land where conflicts and natural catastrophes were once the topic that people started their conversations with, I sit in front of a crowd of 20+ people.

My notes laid comfortably in front of me. RC on my side and the English Butler's eyes within my view.

The MC has given his opening speech, welcomed everyone and placed the silence in my lap. It's my turn to break it.

I take my breath, whisper "Bismillah…", and smile to the audience.

And words flow out of my mouth in clear, audible intonations.

*********

So, how many times did it take?

Not once. Not twice or half-a-dozen of times.

Just thrice.

And there's no such thing as "enough" in learning.
Photo by:Gary Wade.

Everyday, there is one more parent in the world praying for their sons to be delivered from harm. May your parents' prayers be granted, and you shall never meet me. Amen.
I have not written in such a long time that I feel that I need to reintroduce myself here.

So, hello, reader. My name is Alia Makki, and my internet alter-ego is Hning Swara. The reason why I'm better known as Hning is because I used to be shy about my identity, when the main reason I was online was to flaunt my antisocial behavior and flirt with mortality, leading to paranoid explosion of hurting my family's reputation.

Nowadays, I'm still antisocial, just less flaunty about it because I'm too busy to care what strangers think about me. Besides, my family know me pretty well, and I'm don't need to test their love anymore. At least not by acting out on them.

I've been wondering why I work and think and go through such experiences that nobody else needs to go through to validate their existence, which led me to the discovery of "Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder", or ADHD for short, and explained a whole lot about why I keep losing things, can't stay focused for more than 2 minutes at a time, have so many checklists, am a compulsive writer, am severely underachieving, can't finish projects, and can't hold jobs, places, men or memories without writing it all down. Writing it all down. Like this.

[fukc with self-diagnosis! –intentional misspelling there]

And that's why I'm blogging again.

That's why you're reading this. Because I'm trying to explain myself again. To you.

Writing is a method of self-talk; a way of practicing presenting bad news to loved ones that you disagree/have ADHD/plan to get married to somebody who nobody likes/retire among goats and buffaloes in a farm while writing yet another list of things that you're about to do.
You'd see me writing when I feel that hell is about to break loose and that all the pillars that hold the world upright – even Sandaran Hati* - are about to abandon me.

You know that moment when you look up and see the sky shake with storm and fury? When you realize and brace yourself for whatever is coming ahead of you and there's nothing else that you can do but breathe through it all?

And you wonder how come He's just grinning at you from beyond the clouds.

------------------------------------------------

Sandaran Hati: the nickname means: "Where the heart rests."

I can't get over it...I've repeated this for the umpteenth time, and i'm
just gonna repeat it again now. So there.
I'm so proud.

So very proud.

>From: "anggi makki" < Anggi@*****.com>
>To: Hning@xxxxxxx.com
>Subject: kita di koran
>Date: Thu, 30 Aug 2007 11:12:39 +0000
>
>ini kitA mba di koran :) makasih ya mba. mba ya2 ati2 disitu.baca ayat
>kuris kmn2. love you mba :)
>

Translation:
"This is us on the newspaper. Thanks sis.
Take care of yourself. Always read Ayat al-Kursi.
Love you, "

I Miss My Mom
I came home from work the other evening, just like every evening in the last year, to an empty house. The darkness immediately swallowed my voice, as I find no one to speak to about my day, about my work, about the little disasters I’ve caused and seen happen around me. Little stories that would have brightened up my mother’s face had she heard them; because I have a poet’s cynicism in my narrations and nothing can jumpstart my mother’s laughter – for an entire semester – like my stories.

But my stories don’t have that kind of effect on my mother anymore. She doesn’t smile to me like she used to. She doesn’t brighten with stories anymore. Not even a bit.

So I hold back from telling stories to her. Then I held back from telling stories to you, too. I really don’t have much left to say, really. I’ve been offline a little too long. Been fighting for a cause that nobody really understands. Been fighting for causes that I don’t welcome anymore. I grew up and stopped believing in so many things. We grew up, and we realized that the world, wherever we go, still treats us just as half-heartedly.

"Yet, it feels okay, everything feels really okay, because that’s just the way the world makes sense and remains meaningless."

I Miss Writing Well
That’s how I’d usually write a regular post, in a normal day. I bring up the stimulant, tell you about the tiny little details, and then ask you questions about meaning. “What would you like to know? Whom do you miss the most? What scares you? What would you like to embrace? What do you believe in? What are you living for?”

Blogging has been a great source for that kind of relief. That someone out there knows about my whereabouts on a postly-basis. That someone out there is also searching for some meaning in all of this dementedness. The thought struck a goldmine of addictive relief: I became addicted to the meaninglessness presented in my writings. “Let’s burn some rubber! Raise some hell! Imprint an exotic tattoo on every inch that goddamned ivory called skin! The fuck with living!”

And it grew lame. After half a year in Aceh, after half my life spent on screaming like that, I realize that my writings have lost its thoughtfulness, my thoughts lost in the fake hostility, feeding the fake-hostile demon called anger that I pet and caress every time my fake-pride needs a fake-boost.

[Besides, spending 3-dollars-an-hour on internet connection when your entire income is just 20-dollars-a-day is just plain ridiculous. I do have to pay the not-very-fake rent, you know?]

I Miss Thinking Straight
So, maybe this when the questions are completed. I’ve asked everything that I can ask. I’ve drowned in so much longing that there’s not a crease of longing that I do not yet recognize. And it prevails. I still long for the gone, whether I am here or there, with or without you. The effect that questioning life and longing, can no longer give the relieving effect it used to have for each other; when longing relieved life and life relieved longing.

What’s left right now is just to stop writing for a good while, straighten up, and go – through the sun, through the city, through broken chains and empty hopes, through the darkness of the human mind – to work.

This is me bidding you, my reader, farewell and a very long good night. Because, tomorrow, I need to work some mud on my clean shirt, spit some blood and quit being such an intellectual pussy. This is the time to start another argument with my peers, to soak in the rain, to ache to the bones, and soil every neat reservation with the essence of human struggle in its purest form.

And maybe, just maybe, someday shall come a page written so differently, so longed for.

...I came home from work the other day, just like everyday in the last year, to find my mother pouring her attention to the hand-stitched fabric in her hands, and the soft sound of the TV in front of her, both watching after her during my absence.

“Hey, mom, I’m home,” I gently say.

She picks her head up, and looks at me the way I’ve always waited for her to. Her face brightens the room at the mere sight of me, “Hello, child, how’s your day?”

“I missed you."
Work
This is the kind of behavior that would stir His Royal Majesty King Shreedip’s violent disapproval had he seen it executed under his watch.
WARNING: Disturbing images ahead. Under no circumstances should you or anyone else try to inflict the same reputation and safety risks below.

Sitting in pickup truck tub in the middle of the day, for thirty minutes, from a place called Alue Raya to Meulaboh.

[Yes, Alue Raya and Meulaboh are still in Aceh.]
[Yes, Aceh is still in Indonesia.]
[And yes, Sumatra and Bali Islands are parts of Indonesia too.]


Heck, if my entire life were to be spent on rebelling against everything common and normal, this was just one of those quirks that I JUST HAD TO DO.

*****
Okay, so new my job occasionally raises questions on safety regulations (among other questionable things). But it’s not the worst job in the world, really.

I get to implement my dirty ideas on changing attitudes on village communities, and then watch how these ideas affect the lives of others.

I don’t really need verbal languages to enjoy this job, but some local words might help in setting the ground rules on the games that we play,
(…child…play…do you remember the last time you played as a child?)

Actually huge part of my working hours is spent on planning and playing games with a LOT of children.

[Yeah, children; children of conflict, of colossal natural disasters, children with a lot of issues, children who might grow up becoming like me…]



You know,
I don’t really know about other people’s children or childhood,
I don’t know if this job is worthwhile or doing any good in improving the life qualities of our tiny little beneficiaries,
I don’t even know if this job is doing anything else other than making me lose weight and develop an uncomely skin tan.

(I can feel my arms and thighs and stomach muscle tighten, I can feel my lungs open wider with every inhale, and my skin, now as dark as skin should be in the summer)

What I do know is that nowadays, ever since I started doing this job, I’ve been able to crash in my sponge-bed and fall into some serious deep sleep without the help of booze or my funny-little-bit-illegal cigarettes.

Now, that's worthwhile...

He said this in a matter-of-factly tone, “The company that was sponsoring you has folded, so basically you’re an illegal alien here,”

My voice trembled, “What am I supposed to do?”

“Don’t cry, it’s alright, I’ll cover for you until your current working visa actually expires. But make sure you have a new sponsor by Eid,”

“Isn’t there an easier way to do this?”

“Marry an Indonesian,” he rolled his eyes, “or have so much money to buy the Indonesian Law.”

You see,  some currencies are so universal that you can count on and use them anywhere.
Like most of my posts here, this on is also going to be an extremely ego-centric post.

My house in Jakarta is located in one of those homey areas, where families still gather on the weekends for football matches and everybody knows everybody else because the walls are so thin and the fences are so low.

So with the cheers from the crowd watching the football match on the field opposite our residence, proudly sporting my BINGO shirt, and glowing with shameless post-orgasmic joy, I walk into my own house.

It only took 30-minutes, from the moment I waltz myself in, for the house to tremble in rage and find me hollering marching stomping out of it, still looking like a full-blown war deserter: oversized backpack, sling camera bag, cheap slippers, bruised pride and wholesome discontentment.

The front gate swings open and slams closed to these:
“YOU’RE GOING BACK TO JEDDAH WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT!”
“NOT UNTIL ONE OF US IS DEAD, MAMA!”


Peachy, ain’t it?

***

Every household has its methods of disaster management.
GH2 had its quirks. RmhTbt has its shakes. And I have mine:
  1. Tell everyone that you’re pissed, thus are prone to induce even more harm to yourself. The sooner someone accompanies you, the less harm you may induce.
  2. Procure one or all of the following: something sweet, something to read, something to write on.
  3. Sit somewhere safe, and shut up until your brain regains its normal temperature, your face and eyes its normal color, and smoke stops from coming out of your ears.
TIP: Repeating Goosfrabaaaa…is only going to remind you of the Anger Management movie and piss you off even more.

***
The welcoming ritual between me and mama wouldn’t have occurred if I hadn’t told her that I’m considering switching into Indonesian citizenship, living in Indonesia for the rest of my life, and actually loving it.

The welcoming ritual wouldn’t have occurred if our conversation didn’t reach the more substantial elements of our relationships. So sticking to cooking, sewing, and hair/skin maintenance would have been better topics to tread on carefully.

The welcoming ritual wouldn’t have occurred if I weren’t so desperate to show her of all the things that’s been making me tick and click in the last 5 months in Aceh.

Why do I still tell my mama about things that I know she just can’t understand?
Because I still long for her approval.

Why do I still need my mama’s approval?
Because I don’t really believe in the things that I’m doing is worthwhile.

Why don’t I believe that what I’m doing is worthwhile?
Because I’m doing it out of vengeance.

Why am I vengeful?
Because I’m unable to forgive.

There, the entire purpose of living in Amman, in Aceh, in Jakarta, heavy drinking, highway riding, promiscuity, psychology degree, knowledge and keen sense for power, is just to avenge the people who refused to love me for what I am.

Allow me to rephrase that,
All the explosive decisions I’ve made are just to make up for my inability to really accept and forgive myself the way I am.

Look at it this way, if I really believe in what I’m doing, if I really believe that the purpose of living is for God and self-actualization, heck, I wouldn’t have such hard time trying to convince anyone about anything.

Life really isn’t about proving anything to anyone.
Life’s so much larger than that.
And if I, up until now, still want to prove anything to anyone, myself included, then all the good that I’ve done hasn’t been worthwhile, and all the bad I’ve done hasn’t fulfilled anything but that.

(stuffing out my cigarette, chugging in that last shot of Acehnese coffee, and taking a deep breath)

You know something,
With this much of fresh anger, I’m not ready to forgive my mother.
Not yet.

But I know how to get there.
And I’m writing it down here so that if I forget, someone out there will remind me of it.

I’ll tell you when I do get there; get to the part where I am able to forgive my mother.

By that time, I would have been able to forgive myself, and you, and everyone else.

You’ll see it in the voice that I write with.
Come to think of it, maybe when that happens, I won’t need to write anything here anymore.

And you’ll just have to be happy for me.
Sue

She was the first person in Meulaboh who asked about my Southerner’s accent, “Why you talk like that?”
She was my first friend in Aceh,
She’s the only person I’ve known to be so passionate about Yoga,

…she makes a pretty model, sweat and odd poses included…

Few days ago, she sent me a message from Nias,
“I’m having some serious pork BBQ for dinner tonight,”
I thought, this is the second time that she’s mentioned eating pork to us,

So I said to her,
“I’ll remember you every time I cook, just like how you’ll remember us every time you have pork. It’s nice the way we carry each other around in our daily habits, wherever we go.”

This is why nothing in the world, not even death, can separate you from the ones you love.

So remember them well.
We were running out of private places to hangout.
I can’t stand crowds, and he don’t want the word to spread.
(It’s incredible how such a small community can be so desperate for ANYTHING to burn)

So he took me in his car to a very deserted area in the middle of a pitch black palm field.
He parked his car in front of an uninhabited house, and looked at me, “You’re sure about this?”
“Doubtless,” I grinned.

He got out of the car and came to my side, opening the door and sat himself in my place as I crossed over to the driver’s seat.
I buckle my seatbelt and remind him to buckle his.
I adjust my seat, the mirrors…
…release the hand break, pick up the clutch, press the accelerator…and d.r.i.v.e.

***

After a while, he broke the silence, “You really like driving, don’t you?”
“What made you say that?”
“Your face. It’s glowing with pleasure.”

[I’m not yet allowed to drive beyond gear-2, especially in these narrow, rural roads. I don’t mind; it’s his car, it’s his classes and he’s my tutor. The only thing that mattered is that I can drive.]

I asked him to light me a cigarette. The car slightly swerved as I picked it up from his hand, and I apologized.

“It’s fine; you’re controls are improving,” he took a drag from his own cigarette, and exhaled his thoughts, “why driving?”

“For the sense of competence,” I paused to concentrate when a truck passed by our car. “Baba still drives himself on 8-hour journeys from Jakarta to his village in the Middle-of-Another-Nowhere. And on these trips, I’ve never been able to say, ‘take a break and let me drive for you, Baba,’ and actually mean it, when I really, really do want to mean it."

I took a deep sigh, threw the cigarette out of the window and continued,
"There’s a distinct sense of satisfaction; when you can tell your dad to sit back and enjoy the ride for once in a while.”

I must've looked really sad when I said this, because I felt a pat on my head, hearing him say, “I make sure you will.”
He’s one person who knows a thing or two about unreturned favors to parents.

Yeah, we’re working on it.

Budi likes to play with hair: He grew up sleeping by his mother, holding the thick of her hair in his hand.

Sometimes at work, when I’m not looking, he pulls gently tugs my ponytail on his way out. It surprised me the first time he did it. Later on, when I knew why, it just filled me with fleeting warmth.

Yesterday, our friend and colleague - Gadis - joined us on our smokers' table, each of us exhausted with all the closing chaos that we’ve been bearing in the last week.

I asked Budi, out of the blue and after so many hair tugs, “so the longer the hair, is the more you like it?”
He grinned. “Very much,”
But Gadis was appalled, “Eeeewwwww! That’s gross! My husband says it gets in his nose if it’s unshaven!”

The silence that followed, and complete shock on our faces made her realize what a misunderstanding this had been.

She detached her head from her neck, stuffing it in her backpack from utter embarrassment, and against our explosive laughter, we heard her mumble, “I really, reaaaaally need to go back and see my husband. I’m not thinking straight anymore.”

This post should’ve been titled: Desperate Relocated Staff.
The Kind of Album You'd Wanna Show Mom...

...to convince her that what you're doing it worth while even though it doesn't include marrying a Saudi or making the kind of money that would buy you a crib in Hamra in Jeddah.

These photographs were taken on the field, in one of the closest refugee barracks for the tsunami victims. We were there for evaluation and...picture whoring.

Read on if you wanna know my impression on this experience:
We had an appointment with the female BINGO beneficiaries in a barrack residential area nearby; just to ask them how the BINGO has performed in the last 2 years of service.

Interview contents aside, it's amazing how these human beings are capable of surviving on such meager conditions. The latrines are all public, water runs only between 7 and 8 in the morning, and sources of income is extremely difficult to find.

It's equally amazing how children manage to make the best out of this. Children still have room to play and interract with the enviroment, each other, and their inner selves.

This pretty much confirms tells you to never lose my inner child through hardship.
Play safe, folks.

The first time I told mom I wanted to live in Indonesia, she told me that I couldn’t afford living like an Indonesian.

With my fairytale upbringing, there’s no way I could live on grassroots.

No way could I stuff myself in rickshaws in sardine-can-typed buses when my brothers each have luxury cars by the dozens.

No way could a Saudi be living on a stipend of Rp3Million (that’s just $300 to you, including rent and utility) a month when my brother can make and spend SR30’000 in a day.

No way could a girl from Dar Al-Hanan could wear the same clothes for more than 5 years when it’s a brand new SR500 thobe for the boys every month.

No way could the owner of a four-poster bed could live in a 3x4 house and be happy sharing it with a cat and dog when the boys sleep and dine and entertain (oh, how the word seems to unfamiliar to me right now) in a 7-bedroom-9-bathroom showcase villa.

No way could I use a river (right in the open fuckinit! WOooOHOooO!) as my squat-toilet when the boys shit on marble and wipe with currencies.

If you haven’t noticed, I come from a bitchassfucking rich family by Indonesian standards. The RichDadPoorDad boys kept reminding me that, “Life is complicated with money, but it’s more complicated without it,” when I told him that I don’t like money because my arithmetic abilities sucked-disastrously.


How could your life not be so complicated if your freedom is bound to so much money-accessed locks?

How could you enjoy walking yourself to work when you’ve been floating over smooth asphalt, snuggled in so much leather?

How could you be silenced with the singing of croaking frogs and chattering crickets when the only music you hear were produced in studiorooms?

You can’t hear if you never listen.
I love you…
You can’t travel when you don’t have anywhere to go to.
Home.
You can’t want it if you don’t need it.
Bling.
You can’t get it if you don’t touch it with your heart.
Knowledge.


Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a mall-firefly. It’s every so often that I find my eyes glued on something begging to be bought. But with the grass tucked in my hair, I smell the fragrance that hushes the freedom of contentedness, “Do you need it, or do you want it?”

What’s your spellbound curse? How do you break it?
ًLunch.

I always enjoy lunch with him for the conversations that we have.
This was one of my favorites.

He said, “Why are pigs haram?”
I said, “Because it’s not clean, and our religion likes cleanliness. A lot.”

“Why is it unclean?”
“Because pigs don’t sweat. They don’t have perspiration glands. So all of the dirty stuff that’s supposed to be excreted from the body as sweat, are actually mounded under the skin as fat, a.k.a lard; the thing that makes New Orleans dishes so tasty. It’s actually the same thing that makes canine snouts unclean, because that’s the ‘sweat’ orifice.”

“So why can’t we eat dogs? If it’s just the saliva and snout that’s unclean, why can’t we eat the rest of it?”
“Because dogs are carnivores.”

“So?”
“Carnivores eat raw meat. Raw meat contains blood. Blood is unclean because of all the medical reasons why you can’t just transmit blood between people without testing it first.”

“But we eat poultry! Poultry eat worms and bugs!”
“And worms and bugs don’t bleed the way a prey would when hunted by carnivores.”

His reaction was so cute.
First he made a nod/shrug.
Then he mumbled “makes-sense-to-me-and-this-I-can-buy.”
Then he finished his lunch thinking about Saksang.

*Note: Saksang is an Indonesian dish, consisting of pork meat, cooked in pig blood.

Four thousand years ago, father Abraham asked for a child. All the powerful man that he was, all the grace and wondrous man that God made him, all the promises that God had given him in this life and the next, he still longed for a child of his own.

And children he was granted.

Few hundred years later, after years of oppression, the children of Israel were offered infinite power over mankind. (They goofed up the offer). And as father Moses spoke, their legacy was carved onto stone and marble and gold.

Next came Jesus with a program that spoke of kindness and sacrifice. His objectives were designed to fit the needs that his countrymen needed to direct their attention to.

Then, at last, came the prophet who was given a program, a work plan, that was so universal and inclusive that it was supposed to fit every one, from his kind and none, in his lifetime and beyond, until the dead are risen and mortality ends.

If this latest and most updated religion is supposed to fit all of the children of Adam who came in the prophet's generation and beyond, through hundreds and thousands of generations of mortals, how can it not be designed to fit the needs and requirements and flaws and stupidities of all of its so-called believers and followers?

How can this religion, with its so-well-promoted inclusiveness, not include the saints and sinners, men and women, and the whole-nine-yards, if it’s not already tailored to fit everyone?

It is my naive assumption that this is a fit-for-all religion, which concluded its entire curriculum with the simplest and most common of all senses:
لها ما كسبت و عليها ما اكتسبت.

Child, you’re held accountable to everything that you do.

Similar Posts on Prophets:


My marriage ended a year ago today,
And today, for the first time, I put a price tag on my body.

I’m exhilarated.
This is insane.
Turns out that having a price tag makes it easier to afford what the heart cannot buy.

What's your worth?
******

This post scared me. I'll never do this again. Shit.
Anger.

Let me remind you of how that felt.
I grew up beaten.
I was beaten until a lip broke, a surgery required, or a patch of ivory-skin turning deep purple.
I was the subject of anger for the longest time.
The beating stopped when one day I placed a knife up my neck.
“Let me just save you the effort.”

What’s incredible about undiluted fury is that, when it comes, death becomes such a peaceful option.
People dream…
…of distant places…

…of impossible probabilities…

…of little perfections…

…of unspoken words…

…of undone stories…

…and we all, one day, wake up to just one more disappointing morning.

Why live?

(Because you can still love.)

Ohshurrup!
Ode.

After months of hanging around the Saudi Blogosphere, I’m starting to get the feeling that, hey, maybe I’m not the only one in the resistance against superficiality and shallow materialism.

(Right, so I’m kinda slow, but I’ve been in Aceh!!)

Reading on,
I find creatively capable people who would dare to take that step out of anonymity and address themselves as real people and not just internet synonyms. I find people still longing for freedom and fighting against the same judgmental and rigid stupidity that the Anonymous (Who-Keeps-Telling-Us-That-We-Are-Oh-So-UnIslamic) is representing. I found people capable of saying words like freedom and open-mindedness and America without affiliating the words with Kafir, or “Sharameet”, or Kentucky Fried Chicken.

These are the kinds of people I’d hang on to if I ever had to go back to Saudi. With them around, I’d know that as long as their hearts remain in and for the country, Saudi Arabia isn’t just another sample hole from hell. These people have all the might and strength to keep the country cultural and truthful and opinionated.

To all the Saudis bloggers and artists and wishful thinkers, you’re as good a reason that we’d still consider ourselves, and be proud to be, Saudis for.

God bless you,

******

No, mom! I’m not going back just yet!

Money.I'm in a slight financial jam.

There are a number of ways to fix this, even though most of them are a bit complicated; since I live in the middle of financial-nowhere.
I can just call the folks in Jakarta, Riyadh, Jeddah for some extra cash...
I can just directly ask any of my friends here for a loan...


Then I thought..."Heck, if I don't have it, then I don't need it."

Problem solved.

Didn't I tell you that it doesn't take money to impress me?

Coming to One Year.


I’m approaching the one-year commemoration of the end of my marriage, and I was actually getting excited about it.

I thought that it’s because my social frame is so fucked up that I could get so excited over something as depressing as that.

Then something that my brother said reminded me of the real reason to why I’m so excited about the approach of May.

No, it’s not my father’s birthday, which is on the 2nd of May.

Neither is Valin’s birthday, on the 12th of May, could get me as pumped up and excited about the entire month. (Although I always blow a candle and sing the birthday song every year this date passes – for you, Valin.)

The fact that I left the Hamra house on the 14th of May, and saw Jai the last time on the 23rd of May of 2006, aren’t sufficient reasons for me to feel so celebrative about the month of May.

Yes, that’s the word, “celebrative”.

I’m celebrating my departure from one country, and arriving in another.

I’m celebrating the actualization to my definitions of freedom.

I’m celebrating the realization of my lonely ideals.

In one year of living in Indonesia, I’ve done so many things that I’ve only longed for in the other gender-biased country.

  1. I’ve walked to and from work on a daily basis.
  2. I’ve managed to live on $10 a week, $40 a month, budget.
  3. I’ve lived and established a small network in Aceh.
  4. I’ve taught English to full-grown adults.
  5. I’ve kept a Labrador.
  6. I’ve traveled on motorbike, becak, bajaj and every other public transportation more often than in a car.
  7. I’ve been to Medan and Gumati.
  8. I’ve owned three cameras: one SLR and two pockets.
  9. I’ve been to Takengon with 13 other people I’m not related to by blood.
  10. I’ve been kicked out by my landlady.
  11. I’ve spent long nights; fueled just by conversation, coffee and cigarettes.
  12. I’ve ridden a motorbike wearing high-heals and skirt.
  13. I’ve been inspired to write more than I’ve ever bothered to write.
  14. I’ve been called pretty so often that it’s not even nice to hear anymore.
  15. I’ve been in a situation where losing the man I love is preferable than being married to him.
  16. I’ve bought my first bottle of alcohol. And the second. And third. And so on.
  17. I’ve been more promiscuous than I’ve ever been in the last 6 years.
  18. I’ve lost all the things that I thought were essential to my sanity, and realized that even without them, I’m fine.
  19. I’ve tested every principal in my belief system and realized that they’re fine too.
  20. And this is the best: I have never savored the absence of Anger for as long as I have in the last year.


With such deep feelings for freedom, and the satisfaction for self-actualization (yes, you fool, fucking up and making mistakes are part of self actualization), what in the world would make me, ever, want to go back to where I hated myself so much that I would marry Jai?


Mother, Father, Brothers, do you have to be so blind, or cruel, or selfish to still expect me going back to where you live?

GuestHouse II Emergency Procedure:


In case of electricity outage, call the logistician to come immediately to confirm the following observation:



1) Resident I is found brushing her teeth and resuming her candlelit dinner,

2) Resident II is bathing and carrying complicated conversations from inside the bathroom

3) Resident III is being her usually autistic self and is taking photographs in pitch-black darkness, while at the same time laughing hysterically,

If the observations above have been clearly noted, suggested action plan is to immediately stop wasting your time in this nuthouse and leave.

Follow-up Procedure: Have the Expatriate Resident from further Indonesian-Insanity by sending her to Banda by closest Monday.


What’s the inside joke in your house?

I took that picture, and saw a beautiful moment.


Everyone was tired and hungry.

Everyone’s relieved to be seated in front of food again.

Everyone’s waiting for that first warm bite of dinner in the cold mountainous climate.

Everyone was happy to be there.

Someone suggested to offer prayer.
“Ladies and gentlemen, let us offer thanks to the Lord who has brought us here together tonight. Allahumma barik lana feema razaqtana, wa qina azaab an-naar. Amen.”

“Amen,” said three or four members of the congregation.
“Amen? You mean that’s it? That’s all the prayer you’re gonna offer?” said one member.
“Well, now you know how Saudis pray, don’t ya?” said the only atheist, before digging into his spoonful of rice.

Amen to that.



It was the third and last long-weekend of the month.
Most of the Demi-Gods in the office were spreading into oblivion.
And His Royal Majesty King of the Logistic Kingdom was restless.
So out of the blue, he just said: “Let’s go to Takengon.”

And thirteen other fools agreed to escort him through his momentary insanity.

The next morning, they gathered at the office,

Had their communal breakfast together,
Then drove for about five hours,
Through thirteen vomit/pee stops later,


To arrive in a town in the middle of Aceh, called Takengon


When so many people are forced to spend that much of time together, they usually find out new things about each other.


Most of which nobody wants to know about.

Such as the English teacher who’s still on her childish ideas of fun, Or His Royal Majesty’s tendencies to abuse her,
Or the Communal-Father’s longing to fly.
Nevertheless, on the way back,
All fourteen, street-dancing, fools, six hotel bedrooms, and two ford explorer cars agreed on one thing:

“No regrets. We’ve had a lifetime’s worth of fun.”

The End.
Mother. I laid down beside her; gazing with intent curiosity. She was applying her morning cream, a minuscule part of her daily regiment of self-maintenance.

"Why do you always pull so much effort on your appearances?" I asked.

She said, "What's wrong with pulling an effort to age gracefully?"

I thought, "Well, it's not working. You're not aging gracefully at all. But majestically. Aristocratically."

كفـرت بجنسـيـتي و ألحدت بالوطـن
تجردت عن الهويـة و الاسـم و العنوان
هـأنا ذا: متغـطرس بدائـي و إصراري
أقر بكفري و إلحادي عن دولتي و لا أبالي
أشهــد أن لا حياة لمن لا يؤمن بالحرية
و أشهد أن وطني مجمد في جبل من حديد
فيا وطني،
تقبلي مني عناد, و تقبلي مني إنــكار
إنني بما بين ترابك و سماؤك خائن غدار

It took me just half-an-hour to write that poem. It took me a week of reluctance to publish it in this blog. I saw a YouTube clip of Zaynab Hifni talking about our country (yes, yours and mine and hers),
and these words just popped out of my head in Arabic. I know it’s very badly written (can’t be a great writer in ALL my languages, can I?), but you get my point.

(I imagine you shaking your head after reading that poem,
saying something like:
"يا بنت الحلال, اعقلي")
…Chingku, chances, children, chips, pens, patience, pain, prayers, principles, pardons, passion, clothes, convenience, confidence, country, control, companionship, curiosity, care, cameras, kisses, faithfulness, friendship, friends, Flexi phone, dollars, dogs, diamonds, diaries, Dubai, …
How much more to lose until the past ceases from recognizing the present?
…Valin, virginity, beliefs, recipes, jobs, 081510894035, grandmother, Gandhi, Rini, Titi, trust, tokens, beautiful books, borrowed things, Jai, headphones, houses, homes, honesty, opportunities, open doors, underwear, Uki, earrings, in laws, accounts, access, Amman, memories, men, words, watches, wirids, lucidity, liking, love, leniency, trust, sobriety, secrets…
“We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we're not alone.” ~ Orson Welles

I sleep in the oddest places; like the living room couch, the floor beside my bed, and Meulaboh (with all other attributes in mind, being Saudi and well off and high-maintenance, this IS considered an odd place).

I sleep in the oddest fashion. The bedroom door open. The television blaring. The lights all turned on or completely turned off. And there are some weird sleeping settings that I shouldn’t mention here, considering the professional and personal life I’d put in demise if mentioned so publicly like this.

And I do sleep weird. I talk and balk and bark in my sleep. I practice karate in my sleep. And the dreams…oh, man, the dreams…

People were starting to give me the odd look for my public sleeping habits. So last night, I tried to sleep like a normal person. I had my warm milk. Closed the bedroom door. Said my prayers. And tucked my self in bed, under the blankets.

And stayed awake for hours until I had to go to work the morning after.

[The thing with intentionally trying to sleep is that we are also intentionally trying to trust the darkness of the unknown. The act of sleep is the act of letting go of your worries and fear and love and longing. Who – in their sane mind – would do that?]

I tell the people who wonder about my sleeping habits (I guess they’ve become bizarre enough to raise their own inquisitions), that I like to listen to the acoustics. Sleeping with the bedroom door wide open, sleeping in the middle of the big empty house, sleeping with the television and radio blaring, are just indications to how much I love to listen.

Listening provides control over what I know and don’t know happening around me.

Yeah, right.

I keep a tight grip around the acoustics that surround me only because I’m so scared that if I miss one note, one tinker, or one sigh, the rest of the world would move on without me.

I don’t know. Nowadays, the sounds that I hold my breath for are laden with so much bad news. The sound of the biometric door turning, the sound of the elevator arriving on my floor, the sound of the first greeting and salaam…they’re all just a way of releasing the false note:
  • Are you staying?
  • Are you going to hold me?
  • Am I not going to sleep alone again tonight?
  • Am I going to wake up with you on the other side of the bed?

[That’s why trying to sleep like a normal person, tucked in bed and under the blankets, got me insomnia. Because like hell do I trust the darkness and the unknown realms of sleep. Like hell do I feel all right sleeping alone.]

The best sleep I’ve ever had were the ones where I went to be and got up “not-alone”. Do you remember what those were like? When you stirred to consciousness with someone keeping the other side of the bed within your reach? When you woke up to a kiss on your nape, with a tightened hug, or a languid lovemaking to freshen you up?

More than missing going to bed with you, I miss waking up with you.

Don’t you?

I remember last year’s academy awards: In front of the conjugal bed, half dressed, already late for school (I was teaching then), and Reese Witherspoon was holding back tears and accepting a little gold statue.

Few minutes later, when I finally managed to turn the television off, feeling sleek and cool in my fresh clothes and Omnia BVLGARY floating around like fairy dust, the biometric door tinkered and slid, the cats bid me farewell, and I knocked on the neighbour’s door.

And he was there.

His face always lights up when he sees me in these hours.

I sat down by his table.

[There’s always that moment of measuring between us, wondering what one was going to say to the next. Whether or not it was safe enough to say anything at all.]

If things went well between us, just for this moment, we can both manage through the rest of the day fine.

Come to think about it, he committed himself to be there every morning, just for the five minutes of exchanged kindly words and pleasantries.

I have to give him that much.

…what’ve you been doing all night?…
…did you sleep well?…
…are you going to be alright?…
…what’re are you going to be doing today?…
…have you eaten anything?…
…can we have lunch together today?…
…have a nice day, you…
…(a careful kiss on the lips, a calculated embrace)…
…I love you…

I'm always, always grateful that I got out of this one in one piece.
 
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