Friday, December 31, 2010


It is 22:10 here in Saudi. Some countries have already celebrated the new year of the Gregorian calendar and are thinking about what it will bring. While I am not a huge new year's eve person (I've never even been to a legit new year's party) I still like to reflect on things that have happened in my life.

The new year is a time of lists. Here are some lists for you and for me.

Part I: 2010 Past

1. I fell in love and out of love with the idea of love, not with any person in particular.

2. I listened to new music and old music that I had rediscovered. It brought me much happiness.
a. New music I enjoy: the soundtrack to How to Train Your Dragon and Shakira's Sale El Sol
b. Old music I enjoy again: the song Ammaneh by Diana Haddad and the soundtrack to Notre Dame de Paris (I downloaded it on iTunes yet again).

3. I started life as a grad student in Massachusetts, in a new apartment, new school, with people I had never met before. I have never been in a happier place in my life.

4. I found a new love: smoking.

5. I got a new pet fish named Sten, who I named after the Dragon Age calendar.

6. I made new friends on the internet and met a couple of them in person and greatly enjoyed their company.

7. I met some of the worst, chauvinistic men on the internet and in person I have ever met in my 21 years of life.

8. I got better grades than I have ever gotten since I started university schooling.

9. My weight went up and down like a mountain range, and slowly, I have become more comfortable with the fact.

10. I started this blog and rekindled my love for writing.

Part II: 2011 Future

1. I want to fall in love with love again.

2. I want to write more blog posts of higher quality.

3. I want to do better in my classes than I did in the previous semester, and push myself even harder.

4. I want to limit smoking to a community activity rather than a solo one.

5. I want to go on longer walks in new places.

6. I want to travel to new states within the US and, money permitting, to at least one new place outside of the US.

7. I want to make new friends and create joyful, beautiful memories with old friends.

8. I want to keep in touch with my family and keep those bonds strong with whomever it is possible.

9. I want to read more books and have my eyes opened over and over by new worlds I would never consider outside their pages.

10. I want to grow as a person and involve myself with others who I care about and who care about me, as I am nothing without the rest of the world.

Part III: Conclusion

This coming year is about keeping the positivity that grew in the year 2010 and also about destroying the negativity. Bad things should not cloud my life, nor should beautiful things bar the way to truth. I want to grasp reality. My search for knowledge needs to continue, as should my writing.

And it will, without a doubt.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

By the fig and the zeitoun; by Mount Sinai; and this city of security...

This was written in Frankfurt airport. Due to the internet being full of rubbish there, I could only publish it on the site later. As this entry is with respect to a dream of mine, I have a dream - that one day, travellers will be able to use the internet in Frankfurt airport. Amen.

On my flight from the USA's Boston to Germany's Frankfurt, I reread Zeitoun by Dave Eggers in its entirety. I have never read anything by him before, and he has now become my idol. I want to do what he did with Zeitoun; it's my biggest dream. 

What a beautiful book! What I love most about it is Egger's style of storytelling. It has great emotion, but the words don't necessarily shove you in one direction. It sounds like someone has described the facts, and the facts speak for themselves. 

I can never be Eggers because I am not him. However, his writing in Zeitoun opened my eyes to a new direction I could take my writing. If I want to write memoirs, or write biographies, I might want to take some inspiration from Eggers and his approach. I know it is hard for me to separate myself from writing, and sometimes I like injecting myself into the narration, but Egger's style has taught me that sometimes words do all the work. I want my words to work more like his, but still be true to who I am.

I am very impressed and fascinated with Eggers' fountain of research. He interviewed so many different people and gives us rich data to process. I wonder how his interviews with Kathy and Abdulrahman went, how they were conducted. He must have asked great questions to allow such great information to pour out. I can feel that he picked up on important subtleties in each person's character - Zeitoun's stubbornness, Kathy's fiery spirit, etc. I wonder how his editing went, too - there are so many anecdotes within the writing that add layers of intensity and a breadth of knowledge about the people involved. How can one possibly choose which ones work best? He did an amazing job.

Eggers is obviously a journalist, one can see it in his style, but that did not make the story dry by any means. In fact, he allowed the heart of the story to beat within Zeitoun's pages. I admire Eggers so much right now for this. His writing is subtle and extremely effective. He didn't need to use fancy flashing lights and colours; as I said before: his words did it all. 

When I read a book twice, the first time is usually enjoyable (unless its really bad) and it is actually the second time that really allows me to give an opinion. Either the book shows its flaws, or it becomes even better and shows complexities I did not notice before. Zeitoun was the latter, and more. The second time I read it, I felt the presence of the people Eggers wrote about. It was like we were acquaintances before, but now, we were close friends. I knew Kathy, Abdulrahman, their children, Ahmed, Todd, Yuko…I was even more connected. I cried more on the plane than I did reading it in the sanctity of my Massachusetts room. My emotions towards the characters intensified.

When I get to Riyadh, I am going to shove Zeitoun into my Mom's face and ask her to read it. It's an amazing book, and I know she'll like it. I would love everyone to read it, to feel the devastation, horror, and love that Eggers placed within his words; the emotions that were dominating the story of Zeitoun and his family.  People need to read and understand as much as they can about what happened. I think it's incredibly important.

I have another, more personal use for Zeitoun. From now on, when people ask me what I dream of doing, I'm going to say: "I want to write memoirs, or biographies. Have you ever read Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers? I want to do what he did there. You should read it. It's brilliant."