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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Old Stuff

Today, I looked through the notebook that's been in my backpacks for, I think, a few years.

I found stuff I wrote in the period between August and December of last year. I keep telling myself that I should post them here, but it'll take a while to type them. They are mostly written in the fashion of diary entries. I only wrote them to write--as a form of practice.

At the last page of the notebook, I found this "shopping list". "Watch" here refers to "pocket watch". I get some absolutely ridiculous ideas sometimes. "Books" refers to a particular set of books, as I compiled a book-shopping list back then, and kept it in a file on OneNote.

Nonsense Verse - The Proposal Poem

At time, I wish you'd just say yes,
Other times I wish you'd tell me to beat it.
I know that this might not make sense,
But, trust me, I have some pretty good reasons.
While I can't promise you that I'll be the best,
I'll try my best to respect your feelings.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Real Love, Real Life - Part 2

"I love you," he started softly. "But you know I can't always show it. I'm busy a lot of the time; that's why I don't see you often. You know, sometimes I make a plan to surprise you. I buy flowers and chocolates, but can't make it, and end up eating the chocolates myself. You know I love you, right?"

"Will you please try to contain yourself when laughing in public? It's embarrassing. I know I told you I like it, but I don't."

"In the future, you know, you might notice that I'm ignoring you. That's only natural! It doesn't mean I don't love you; don't worry! Just leave me be. Don't nag me the way you do now. I might take it now, because it's a necessity to lie to one's fiancée sometimes. Later on, I might explode if you make me, so you better watch it. And please don't let your family visit us too often; I want to feel comfortable in my own home."

"Oh, and there's something I need to tell you," he said gravely. "Where I go, and whom I hang out with is my business and mine alone. I choose when to come back home, not you. On the other hand, I'm the man. You can't simply do anything without my permission. You know how these things work. So be a good obedient wife and everything will be OK. OK?"

"Remember the promise I made you to take you places around the world? That might not work, after all. Work is just too demanding these day, and I don't expect it to get any better."

"You know how you can make me happy?" he smiled idiotically. "Just keep taking care of your appearance. And smile when you see me. And don't forget to make me a good hot meal everyday!" he wagged a forefinger at her.

Mandatory Arrogance

A few months ago, we moved out (and then back in). The internet connection here is rubbish (as it was in our last apartment, by the way). I made many complaints to our internet provider, but to no avail. Eventually, I had to make a public complaint on Facebook so that they'd respond. Here's the "letter" I wrote them, and below it is the link to the original post on their page. (I had to sound mean for them to respond, I'm afraid.)

Dear Orange,
I dream of a solid internet connection...
In January of this year, I visited one of your centers to subscribe for a landline with an ADSL connection. (I wish I didn't.) The options we had were 8 and 16 Mbps. We chose the former.
When the technician came to our home to install the line, it transpired that the connection--alas--would be a very unstable one. Out of 8, I get 5 Mbps at best. Again, this is not always the case, I might get 0.5 Mbps any time of the day. However, the technician expressly told me from day one that our neighborhood is to have an "electronic cabinet" installed in a few months.
I was mistakenly optimistic as I observed--from our kitchen's balcony--the said cabinet being gradually installed and operated. Weeks have passed and our internet connection is still the same--unstable, and connected to the old clunker.
The electronic cabinet tantalizingly hums and whirs as I pass by it a few times a day. There's no denying that it's in due order. A few days ago, I saw one of the Orange technicians that drive Isuzu trucks skillfully connecting wires so as to switch certain lines from one cabinet to the other. I asked him whether he would eventually transfer all lines, to which he replied that no, I had to go to a customer service center and ask for a transfer. As if Orange don't know that their clients want the best service available. The technician had a hand-written list of certain numbers--those were the ones he was working on, he explained. I thanked him and went home with the intention of contacting Orange to state the obvious.
Today, I went to the Abdali center, and they told me that it's not in their power to do anything of the sort, and that I should contact tech support. This visit, of course, went to waste. Needless to say, I contacted tech support and sales on the phone a myriad of times in the course of my ordeal, and each referred me to the other. (I'd give Orange zero stars out of ten for customer service, thank you very much.)
Today, however, a helpful tech support lady answered my call. She told me that not much can be done; she wrote down a note informing her team leader of my hardship. What she told me and was of help is that our neighborhood gets only 2 Mbps--that's what the system says.
So I have two questions:
1. Why is it that, for a neighborhood that only supports up to 2 Mbps, a potential client is offered the speed of 16? (Offering "up to" 8 Mbps and informing the client what to really expect seems the fair thing to do.)
2. Since I've seen lines actually being transferred from the ancient cabinet to the state-of-the-art one, what should I do to obtain that privilege? (Customer service employees have told me that there's no such service as a transfer, but it seems that some people get it. Would you please explain?)
Not in the least bit yours,
Abdullah Khasawneh
PS: Please don't give me the generic response of "give us details of your problem and contact info". It's unconvincing, not mention extremely annoying and offensive to my supreme wits..

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Power of Words

What I've always wanted to say is that I don't always have something to say. Nor do I always make sense when I do. You know what they say: Not all Egyptians build pyramids. OK, I just made that up. And it bears no meaning, literal or otherwise.

What I'm trying to convey is that I'm kind of completely convinced that you don't always have to know what you're talking about. Because even if you do, others might not.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Review: الطنطورية

الطنطورية الطنطورية by رضوى عاشور
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

رواية دسمة حقا. اشتراها لي أخي بمناسبة "عيد ميلادي" قبل فترة، و كانت خيارا موفّقا بالفعل.

باختصار، هي قصة امرأة مِن مَن اضطروا لمغادرة قريتهم في فلسطين عام 1948 لينجوا من اليهود و مجازرهم. تتناول الرواية طبعا أحداثا تاريخية و شخصية تخص البطلة نفسها. أسلوب السرد جميل و انسيابي. أو قد يكون "مغصِّصا" في بعض الأحيان - حسب ما تحس به رقيّة.

كأردني، أعرف عن فلسطين و معاناة شعبها، و لكن مذكرات شخص ما جربها (و إن كان هذا "الشخص" خياليا أو حياته مبنية على قصص أناس كثر) كانت ذات وقع أقوى للتعبير عن كل ذلك. من الواضح طبعا أن القصة ذات طابع حزين جدا.

على كل حال، من التناقض المزعج أن بعض الشخصيات مثلا كان فدائيا في فترة من حياته، ثم يتفوه بكلام الكفر عند الغضب. لا تحتاج الرواية مثل هذا الكلام المستفز لتبدو "واقعية" أكثر.

View all my reviews

Monday, May 9, 2016

Abdullah's Travels

OK, I've only traveled once. It sounds better this way, though--like Gulliver's Travels. My mom read us an illustrated Ladybird edition of that story. But I digress...

It was in last November that I left the country for the first time ever. It wasn't exactly for pleasure, but we tried to have some fun. My sister had an exam of some sort, and I went with her. We had a few "adventures"--at least, that's what I consider them. I'll try to recite a few here.

Nary a Day Had Passed

I'm the kind of guy that keeps on criticizing the society in which I live. Not the sort you'd think would experience homesickness. Apparently I do.

When we first landed in Houston's airport, we had to locate the place where the inn's "shuttle bus" stops to pick up arrivals/guests. Being in a strange place, I didn't know where to go. My only hope was to find a receptionist. 

The first one we found was already "receiving" someone. I listened closely from afar. The guy's accent--he was Jordanian! I was sure of it, but you don't approach strangers in a foreign country and speak Arabic with them.

I asked him where I should go, and, while he spoke, I stole a glance at his employee card, hanging loosely from his neck. I only caught a glimpse of his last name, but it was all I needed. Najjar. Bingo!

"Are you from Jordan?" I asked excitedly. He replied in the positive. I quickly converted to Arabic, telling him that we, too, come thence.

When I think of it now, I know that our whole exchange had no meaning whatsoever. It just taught me that I might miss home. That's the only moral of this story. Oh, and I'm good at detecting accents.


The Bus Driver Who Joked

A few days after our arrival at the inn, I decided that I couldn't move from one place to another without a vehicle. I could've tried to learn the public transport routes, but it would've consumed even more  time. I only had five days left, and I was starving. 

I rented a car online. I had to go pick it up at the same airport at which we'd landed, again taking the shuttle. The driver this time was an African American man, probably in his thirties. He was one of the few friendly people we interacted with. I, Abdullah Khasawneh, shy as I am, could interact with him easily.

People often mistake my politeness for servility, but this guy didn't. When I told him where I needed to go and added something along the line of "if that's not too much trouble", he started to tell me how I should know that I deserve what I'm asking for.

"Think of yourself as a king," he said. "If you don't, then who'll think of you as a king?"

"My mom, I guess," I replied.

"Yeah," he went along, mimicking mothers "'eat your food, king!'" I chuckled.

After a while, he went on. "I like to tell people to treat the customer like a king. 'I could have you beheaded for disobeying the king', I'd say".

"Dude," I said. "I'm from the Middle East. This actually means something."

He started pounding on the steering wheel, and at the same time laughing audibly. And apologizing, of course. This was funny.

End of second story.


Of Sirens and Embarrassment

My uncle had lived almost forty years in the states. He has friends and acquaintances there. His friend's son lives in Houston, and so he told him about us. Told him to take care of us, show us around.

He came to our inn in the afternoon. He insisted that he drive us around, although I'd rented the car earlier in the day. He showed us the city (downtown), and took us to a mall and then a restaurant. Before the restaurant, he took us to his place.

As we were preparing to leave his apartment, and were about to exit the hallway to the garage, something caught my attention. Right next to the glass door, mounted on the wall, was a fire alarm switch. It said "PULL". So I pulled...

I have no idea why I did it. But the building was instantly flooded with the wailing of sirens. I felt horrible. What a stupid thing to do!

Our host, thank God, didn't show much anger. He dealt with the situation coolly. He sent us back to his place, guarded by his roommate, and explained the situation to the... I don't know. I guess firefighters showed up. He told them that my shirt or something caught the lever and so it got pulled accidentally. Or that I was leaning on the wall. Never mind.

His roommate told us that back in his college days, it was common--as a form of hazing--for people (fraternity juniors) to set off fire alarms just like I did. He was therefore used to it, and wasn't worried at all.

I shouldn't be telling you this, I guess. One of the stupidest things I've ever done.


We went to NASA's Space Center. It took us around an hour to go there, and we didn't spend much time in the place. It was nice, though. I can't write everything we did there here, partly because it's a lot, but also because I've forgot most of it. Maybe I'll post photos later on, if you promise not to mention the fire alarm incident to anybody.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Fun Facts About Me

A part of me still believes that I'll be a great detective one day. And, sometimes, a vigilante.

I'm a book sniffer.

I don't write for months, and then suddenly write oodles within a few days. The same applies to reading.

I act like a robot sometimes, but I do have feelings.

I hate it when someone calls me "doctor". Especially family.

Sometimes I feel that I'm invisible. And quite warrantably.

Like many human beings, I'm hypocritical at times.

I'm good at learning stuff. Especially languages.

I don't curse. It works!

Two months from now, I'll have finished my internship in sha' Allah. Congrats to me!

My mom used to call me "the senile baby".

I live with the presumption that, until proven otherwise, everybody hates me.

A Japanese lady once told me I act like Japanese people.

I can understand that we are all weak and that we sin. I just can't empathize with liars.

I like to think of myself as a football critic. I've always hated the game, and I criticize it constantly.

I don't mind being talked about "behind me back".

I adhere strictly to social abnorms.

I cannot walk slowly.

I have a fear of being loved. I also have a need to be loved.

Come to think about it, these "facts" are no fun at all.

Real Love, Real Life

"I love you," she started. "And I just want you to be yourself with me. Hmmm. Well, maybe you should change a thing or two. But I want you to be the same. I mean, you can stop picking your nose, right? It's gross! And please stop telling jokes to my dad. He doesn't like them. No-one does. I know I used to laugh at them, but that was six months ago. Oh, and what kind of guy doesn't bring gifts to his fiancée? I want a lot of stuff. Pink stuff. Let's agree to one gift a week, OK? OK.

"Remember how I used to call you crazy in a good sense? Now I can't stand your craziness. Grow up! No more frolicking. And stop complaining about your job; at least you have one. I'm not getting married to a spoiled child.

"Another thing." She was going faster now. "You have to accept me just the way I am. Never ask or expect me to change. You have no right to do that.

"Oh, and I want you to love me unconditionally. No matter what! When I'm being mean to you it means something wrong happened to me. (When you're being mean, you're simply a meanie.) I want you to listen to me complaining about everything, and then tell me everything will be all right. And when I yell at you that everything can't be all right, just tell me you love me and then shut up. I can't stand your lies. You're unbelievable! You know what? I'm not talking to you."

Introversion of Sorts

I've always been an introvert, and so my "time alone" is not something I would give up easily. I spend most of my time alone in my room, reading, aimlessly surfing the internet, or simply thinking. I also spend a lot of time in the bathroom, talking to myself and practicing languages and accents.

I wouldn't really call those my hide-outs. Whether it's my room, the car, or seat number 15 in the lecture hall; I always like to have my own private space. A space where I can be amidst people and at the same time be alone.

My hiding place is anywhere below the radar. Anywhere without humans, even when it's full of them.

I Wrote This On March 8

I awoke a bit early to watch a rerun of the Warriors vs. Lakers game from the night before. I have zero interest in sports--at least this kind of sports--so that was the first time I ever try that.

Immediately after the game, I was to find out that we were out of water. To get us back "in", I had to call the water company and politely ask them to send us enough water to fill our tanks to satiety. That call was made around noon.

The truck arrived in the late afternoon, and the sun set on full tanks and my wet feet. My first encounter of the day was towards its end.

Due to our lack of water, we had not made any food, and so I found myself compelled to leave home again to seek sustenance. My companions on this excursion were my brother and his cousin. He's also my cousin. We went to some newly-opened cheap fried-chicken restaurant that's famous in the north of the country. It was extremely not bad.

Now, these two encounters, I admit, are irrelevant; but they are nonetheless interrelated. Both had the same cause, and both ended with filling a container to capacity.

Trees and Memorees

If you were to pass through my grandfather's front gate, the first thing to meet your eyes would be the balcony where generations of the family spent quiet afternoons. Had you been there any time before 1994, your line of sight would've been obstructed by the huge apricot tree that dominated the garden, and the logs and branches of which were to spend nearly 5 years thereafter stacked against the western wall. I have a vague recollection of some unknown character taking a chainsaw to the poor thing.

That tree not only provided us with succulent produce, but also served as a "playground" for us grandchildren. My cousin tells anecdotes of climbing down the tree from the second floor whenever he was grounded. Another playing tree was the vine near the gate.

That one, like a snake, slithered on the ground, almost as if it had wanted kids to ride it as a pastime. The vine, alack, was also uprooted when it appeared to have given in to age.

The only surviving relic of a tree in that garden is the olive tree in the right corner, some of whose branches still extend out over the wall, blocking the way of anyone trying to make proper use of the sidewalk. It was under this tree that I would spend time alone, hiding from civilization while watching it through the lattice of green that was my all-year-long shield.

It's funny how I never think of all those trees today, even when I hurriedly walk into that garden on my occasional short visits to my uncle's...

Friday, May 6, 2016

Would you?

A few days ago, I watched a movie in which the main two characters undergo some sort of procedure to erase each other from each's mind (this sentence is really weak). I've wondered for years if there were something like that.

Although sometimes I wish it, I'm not really sure I'd do it. I'm not saying that I'd find it hard to part with my memories--and it is--but maybe we are who we are because of the experiences we go through. Even sad memories are part of us, although we can't always come to terms with that. Trauma shapes us.

The man in the movie eventually realizes that he doesn't want to go on with the procedure because as his memories are being erased, he comes to realize how much the lady means to him. But it's already too late.

There are years and people that I'd like to forget, but who would I become then? Which is more important: how I feel, or who I am? Does this actually make any sense?

Emotions are such strange things. So are memories. And thoughts. And me!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Yeah, I don't know what it means, either

I hadn't finished my coffee, and the rhymes started burstin'
No part of me is a poet, but I come up with verses
I have no control over this "caffeine coercion"
I rarely ever drink the thing, I have an aversion

I don't wanna be the person everybody is cursin'
I'm a really very quiet guy, sometimes even terse and
I'm often thought of as haughty and uptight, and worse things
But I don't really care at all about the aspersion
'Cause being open  and friendly isn't really the same as
Being honest and caring, intelligent and conversant
Perhaps I take it too far, I'm sometimes rehearsin'
Every single encounter, every conversation

You gotta be careful with people; you gotta be patient
You know that some people's standards are simply perverted
And then there are the precious ones who don't know their places
So choose your battles wisely if you care for your brain cells

All I really need is some form of compensation
So the only thing left for me is my introversion


These days I'm living either in the past, or in an impossible future...

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Social "Need Ya"

I've been getting sick and tired of Facebook lately. Not the website itself, but rather the people and their posts. It's becoming a place for hypocrisy and attention-seeking. OK, maybe it's always been like that, but it's getting unbearable for me. I think I'm on the brink of deactivating my profile.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Stink, Stank, Stunk

I stink...

I am sitting at my desk, waiting for our building's caretaker to come from his friend's so I can gain access to the boiler room to see what's gone wrong with our boiler. Until then, I stink.

We've only been in this apartment for about four months, and that thing is starting to play games. I am getting really tired of this stuff. I am sure it's going to be some very minor issue.

I am now reminded of a day a few weeks ago. It was a Sunday. I only remembered I'd forgot to apply the usual layer of deodorant to my armpits when I was already near the bus station, headed to my alma mater to attend a "semi-conference". I'm not saying I stank that day, nor did anyone imply it, but it just felt wrong. At the end of the day, I had a training session, which usually involves a lot of sweating, and even that was OK. I guess I overthink this stuff.

But now I'm even reminded of another period of my life. Back in my childhood, I stank. Like, it was my regular status. Was it my Brazil jersey that was made of nylon? Well, yes. But a few years before that I wasn't allowed to shower more than once a week--and with cold water for that matter. I don't want to think about that now, but it might have something to do with my current obsession. 

Kindness Again

I posted a few days ago about this. But that post was really about "unkindness", and this one is more positive in tone.

I'd like to talk here about people who actually appreciate politeness. I'll just give you the one example I can think of.

I was once driving to my uncle's. One of my maternal uncles, anyway, since they all lived in the same building. One of the streets I drive in on my way there is a very narrow two-way one with a few curves and side-streets. You have to be careful there, or you'll easily collide with someone. This is exactly what happened with me.

It was a very minor bump. I got too close to the car in front of me, and the lady and I kind of felt it. She got out of her car, so I was now sure I'd hit her. Of course the first thing I said was a sincere apology. (Believe me, others in my position would have gone berserk on the lady and tried to convince her it was her fault.) After checking out both cars, and seeing nothing was wrong with either, guess what she said! She thanked me. I have no idea why, but I was glad!

Looks like it pays sometimes to be nice. This happened more than a year ago (maybe even more than more than a year), and I don't recall any other similar instance.