Saturday, December 30, 2006

Adventure in the Bayou

I'll be heading to Louisiana, USA on 2nd January with Lehigh University's WinterServe group to work with Warren County Habitat for Humanity (HFH). We hope to build houses for the victims of Hurricane Katrina in Slidell. Read more about HFH in

What a way to start 2007: A new Spring semester at Lehigh, my next volunteer stint at St Luke's Hospital, the Fulbright enrichment program, the MCAT, the Grand Canyon beckons... and of course to kick it off, my adventure in the Bayou!

*A bayou is a small, slow-moving stream or creek. Bayous are usually located in low-lying areas, for example in the Mississippi River delta region of the southern USA. The word was first used by the French in Louisiana and is thought to originate from the Choctaw word "bayuk" which means "small stream".

Eid ul-Adha in Paris

Today is Eid ul-Adha (عيد الأضحى) or Eid-e Qurban in France. Eid ul-Adha is celebrated by Muslims worldwide as a commemoration of Prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son Ismael for Allah (God). Others celebrate Eid ul-Adha as it marks the end of the Pilgrimage or Hajj for the millions of Muslims who make the trip to Makkah each year.

I went to the Paris Mosque for Eid prayers with Marwan (poor Yannicque was sick). It was drizzling and the mosque was packed with people. I had to pray outside on the terrace, braving the wet floor and cold winds. As I was praying with all the sisters, tears flowed down my cheek, competing with my already wet face. I felt a deep humbleness as I prostrated on the floor. How truly blessed we all are; to be given the opportunity to experience life. As I looked around me, I saw faces of many cultures, but all speak the same language to God.

Alhamdulillah (Praises to Allah) for all the blessings and obstacles that we go through in life. I keep reminding myself to always be thankful. And one of the things I'm thankful for was being able to celebrate Eid across 3 continents. Each celebration may be different but the theme remains the same. We are one big Ummah (family) who should learn to love and live peacefully with one another.

Eid Mubarak. I seek forgiveness for all my shortcomings. All perfection belongs to Allah (God). All imperfections are mine solely.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Je t'aime Paris

As I walked down boulevard Gouvion St-Cyr, I couldn't help but smile. The familiar brasserie, the corner Tabac, the beautiful-lit streets, the Ferrari showroom (the F430 Spider taunts me everytime) beneath Yannicque's apartment, the ubiquitious Franprix... Why o why do I always return to Paris, the city where hearts often get broken?

Some of the reasons:
Monuments of Paris: Pictures say a thousand words.

Yannicque (Leila): My French sister whom I used to share an apartment with in the 17ieme arrondisment; with whom I shared many nights drinking tea and talking about politics, religion, love & life.
Marwan & Tijane: Yannicque's wonderful kids who let me practise my 'parenting' & babysiting skills. Precocious and adorable. I will take care of them anytime...
Sciences-Po Paris (ScPo): The university where Jacques Chirac, Dominicque Strauss-Kahn (DSK) & yours truly studied in. ScPo ignited my passion for learning and made me believe that nothing is impossible. Psst, did you know DSK contested for the French presidential election... but he lost. Quel dommage!
Dr (soon-to-be) Thomas Richard: Intelligent & kind classmate at ScPo qui etait mon bonheur a Paris; with whom I spent time studying and walking down the streets of Paris & Versailles. May he find love again...
Rachid - Performing the Hajj right now in Makkah. Alhamdulillah!
Marie-Christine - How can I forget your blind date with Dr Shahrul in London :p
Sebastien - Boleh? Boleh! Why did you move to Toulouse?
Camille - My beautiful ScPo friend... oh how we struggled during Econs lecture!
Etienne - The wrong Etienne who responded to my email but hey look how that turns out!
Amelie & Fabian - Paris is not the same sans toi :(
Dr Alain-Pierre Manine - I had a great 'blind date' with you! *wink... Thanks for cooking delicious Indian curry & making mint tea in the authentic Morrocan style
Anne-Cecile - The only girl I knew who rides a bicycle through the streets of Paris
Aurelien - Where are you, Tariq?
Dr (soon-to-be) Emmanuel Ruze - Whose kitchen in Versailles was our meeting point...
Dr (soon-to-be) Wassim Abou-Jaoude - Emril's Imperial College classmate. What a small world! Ah oui...'un de perdu, dix de retrouver'

Parting thoughts:
I never thought I'll say this but I miss writing Economics & Political Science essays in French! Give me those difficult books anytime...
Walking... just walking down the streets of Paris can be just as thrilling as the passionate French kiss.
I'm in love with the Harp. I want to play beautiful music for my future husband and lull him to sleep...

Ah Paris, I miss you already....

Glimpses of Paris

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

bld Gouvion St-Cyr, Paris

Hidayah & her Economics lecturer, Dominique Strauss-Kahn (former Minister of Finance of France) - photo taken in 2000

I'm heading home to Paris, the City of Angels, home of my French family (Yannicque, Marwan, Tijane) and wonderful friends from Sciences-Po days & France Telecom (grace a Rachid!)

The Fall semester is nearly over... phew! Forget the nerve-wrecking exams, forget the endless papers to write, forget driving in the cold Keystone state... I'm spending the winter break in magical Paris where love was found and lost...