Saturday, May 31, 2014

Adventure Diary of a Muslim-American Hijabi, entry #7

Original entry on May 20, 2014

Last Thursday, after my parents read my 6th entry, my dad called me, very worried, to discuss alternative ways in which I could have handled the situation. I stepped outside of the coffee shop because, like a true Arab, I needed plenty of space to pace back and forth and throw around hand gestures as I calmly spoke to my dad over the phone.

While on the phone, I noticed this elderly women walking towards me. I kept trying to step aside thinking she needed to get into the shop behind me. Instead, she kept positioning herself in front of me. I instinctively expected the worst. From experience, I waited, thinking she was going to make some "not-so-nice" remark to me. Seeing me pause my end of the conversation, she waved her hand, motioning to what I was wearing.

Her: You look beautiful! That's very beautiful! You look lovely!
Me: Oh, thank you! You're so kind!
Her: The dress is beautiful!
Me: Thank you. You're so sweet.
Her: Where did you get it from?
Me: Oh, umm, JC Penny's.
Her: You bought this dress here??
Me: Yes.
Her: Here? In America?!
Me: Yes, in San Diego.
Her: Wow! I didn't know you could buy dresses like that here!
Me: Actually, all my dresses are from here.
Her: I thought it was from overseas.
Me: Nope.
Her: Well, it's beautiful. You look very beautiful.
Me: Thank you, ma'am. Have a wonderful day!

My dad had gone silent on the other side of the line.

"Sorry, this little old lady just walked up to me to compliment my dress."

My dad chuckled, "SubhanaAllah, there are wonderful people in this world. There are majaneen (crazy people), too. But, there are more kind people."

"Yes, AlhamduliAllah."

She was very sweet, but I still laugh at the thought that she thought it was near impossible to find my dress in the United States. I always get compliments on this specific maxi dress. It's my favorite. (Hint: It's the dress I'm wearing in my writer page profile picture.) 

To be honest, I don't think I could easily find a dress like this overseas. When I visited Palestine in 2012, all my family overseas were shocked that my entire wardrobe was all bought in the US. From long, flowing dresses to my long, loose shirts and not skinny jeans. All the malls I stepped into while overseas held tight clothing; I couldn't find a single item I would want to buy. The only items I came back with for myself and loved ones were the only non-tight abayas I could find and traditional Palestinian thobes.

What this lovely woman said made me think about one of the ways that I am stereotyped as a hijabi. Despite my personal view that the dress I was wearing screamed Western modern attire, she had just assumed that I must have bought it from overseas because I am a Muslim hijabi.

Stereotype or not, my heart swells with happiness when someone makes the decision to come up to speak to me about my hijab or way of dress, whether it may be compliment or ask questions. It just comes to show that not only is this world still filled with kind people willing to take action to learn something new, but that dressing "differently" holds its own kind of beauty. As long as I confidently dress the way I do for the sake of Allah swt, AlhamduliAllah.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Adventure Diary of a Muslim-American Hijabi, entry #6

Original entry on May 14, 2014

Driving can be dangerous. Driving while hijabi is it's own form of extreme danger.

About a year and a half ago, I was driving up to Los Angeles for one of my graduate school residencies. I'm not a fan of LA, but I was trying to get used to it. I was on the Interstate 405 North. Traffic was insane, as usual in LA. I was driving 5-10 MPH, if I was even moving. 

I remember I was bopping my head to some song when I glanced in my rearview mirror and noticed the driver in the car behind me was shaking his fist at his rearview mirror. His face was scrunched in anger, and I'm sure if I had paid more attention I would have seen the spit flying from his mouth with the intensity in which he was yelling. I turned my attention back to the traffic in front of me. We were beginning to inch forward a little less slowly. 

As the cars around me began driving, I realized that the car behind me had made it's way next to me. While my lane wasn't moving, his was. I realized then that he was holding up all the cars behind him because he was keeping pace with me. I stared at him, all while taking glances at the cars around him honking like crazy. It took me a moment to recognize that this was the same car that had cut me off a few times after I merged onto the 405. Seeing that his window facing mine was down, I kept my windows up but I turned down my music a little to confirm that he was yelling obscenities at me. I was able to drive a bit quicker, but this guy was keeping pace with me as cars moved from around him. 

I considered my options: what the hell was I supposed to do? Call the cops? And say what? "Hi, I'm on the 405 and this psycho is keeping pace with me. I can't see his license plate, but he's an old white guy in a very expensive car. He's wearing a suit. What's that? Oh, yea, I have no idea why he's doing this. Me? I'm Muslim. Hijabi, to be specific... Hello? What do I do?!!" Or, I could smile, wave, and pray to God that another safer option was ahead of me.

 I chose to smirk and drive off, placing myself on the other side of the freeway between two large cars. If anything, this experience cemented my hate of LA.

I share this story because it was one where I could have been in danger, but an hour ago, a car tried to drive me off the freeway... in San Diego. 

As I was driving to my current destination, I noticed this white soccer mom type van was driving circles around me in a box-like car waltz. He was literally boxing me in. I am always exceedingly aware of my surrounding while driving. 

When I started driving, back when I was a teen, my grandmother's advice was, "Drive like you're the only sane one on the street, and everyone else is insane!" 

I kept denying that this driver was driving around me on purpose, but after quite a few miles, I couldn't ignore it. I have been wanting to tint my car windows so that drivers can't look into my car while I'm driving. I checked my mirrors and could see this driver focused on me. I tried to slow down or speed up, anything to get around him and take the other side of the freeway, but he was vicious in his movements. I finally drove at his pace and looked straight at him, another old, white guy staring at me. Once again, I couldn't get a license plate. I could see my exit ahead and knew I needed to exit and merge onto the next freeway. I knew I needed to make the only logical choice, keep myself safe to also make sure there would be no horrendous consequences to anyone around me. Seeing an open opportunity of having no cars around us, I pretended to swerve as if I was going to hit him and he moved quickly. I exited, missing the sign on the end of the divider by an inch. All it would have taken was one second. I wasn't even speeding! 

In my head, I saw my car splitting down the middle and throwing my body straight into the middle of the freeway. My fast reflexes, steady driving, and strong brakes would not have saved me. I have no idea how I made it. It was Allah swt. Period. 

My first thought was,"Pray two rakaat shukoor (thanks) to Allah the moment you park!" My second thought was, "An entry on Facebook would be a good way to tell my parents I almost died tonight... and get my brother to look into tinting for my car." In all seriousness, AlhamduliAllah, I arrived safely.

The fact that my religion and choice to wear the hijab is what makes driving dangerous, not the usual reasons, is beyond ridiculous. Thank you, San Diego, for reminding me that ignorant scum reside everywhere. I still love you SD, even with your own psychos.

I will say that I drove the rest of the way to my destination smiling. It's moments like these that I recognize my strengths. Despite all the situations, some more dangerous or hurtful than others, I have been in specifically because I have made the choice to wear my religion visibly, I continue with my jihad (struggle) for the sake of Allah swt. To all my Muslim brothers and sisters, especially my hijabi sisters, stay safe out there on the streets.

If anything, as I writer, I love that Allah swt gives me the perfect experiences with which to write stories.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Adventure Diary of a Muslim-American Hijabi, entry #5

Original entry on April 19, 2014

I'm at one of my usual coffee shops, where all the baristas know me by name and have my orders memorized. I have the kind of relationship with baristas where going up to order coffee isn't as quick as it should be because we do things Arab style. Saying hello and goodbye is a 10 minute to three-hour affair. Even if I'm in a rush, we take some time to catch up before they ask for my order.

It's pretty empty today, which I love. When I ordered today, the barista at the cash register, as usual, didn't ask for my name. We were chatting, so I didn't notice if she actually wrote my name on the cup or not.

After going back to my seat for a few minutes, I hear:

Barista #1: "Venti, iced, soy, vanilla macchiato (yea, I felt like changing up my boring order)... for smiley-face!"
Barista #2: Smiley-face, your drink is on the bar.
Barista #3: (in a sing-song manner) Smiileeey-faace, oh Smiley! Your drink is ready.
All baristas: Smiley! Smiley! Smiley!

I am very accustomed to baristas being unable to pronounce my name, pronouncing it creatively, or just choosing not to write it on the cup instead of admitting they don't know how to spell it correctly, which is fine, as long as I get my drink.

After letting them have a bit of fun, I finally got up to retrieve my coffee.
I gave a WIDE smile, "Thank you!"
The barista that actually made my drink, "You are very welcome!"

I do tend to confuse baristas, especially when it's early in the morning, because I like going up to the counter with a huge smile on my face! Maybe I'll just start going by Smiley at coffee shops from now on.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Adventure Diary of a Muslim-American Hijabi, entry #4

Original entry on March 20, 2014

I have spent all day in a coffee shop working and catching up on many items that have needed my attention. The only downside of this is it's the first day of spring, I'm in La Jolla of all places, and I'm sitting behind a window. Surprisingly, I have only had one large soy iced caramel latte. What can I say, I was feeling adventurous.

Back to my story. I'm sitting in my usual spot at this coffee shop, Peet's Coffee and Tea, facing a window covered wall. I love this spot because I can focus on my work for hours and look up to see the outside world and people watch a little when in need of a break. I'm working intensely when two older ladies take a seat next to me. They are speaking in thick accents. I can't place their language, but it sounds beautiful. They smile and chat to each other excitedly. Right about now, my coffee has been finished for a while and I feel like getting something else because I know I'll be here for definitely a few more hours. My head is also unsurprisingly throbbing with the threat of a migraine looming into the night.

In between them sits a pink box. I watch as they leave it there and come back each with a small pot of hot water, two large mugs, and honey. They open a box to reveal a large piece of layered chocolate and vanilla cake to share, I presume.

Suddenly, I really want some hot tea, which surprises me. I always end my day with a hot dry mint tea and honey, but I have never bought tea outside of the house. (Tea is not to be confused with chai.) As I'm contemplating this move, my grandmother's voice jumps into my internal conversation and I hear her making my argument to myself:

"Shai??! Meen bidfa3 la shai bara il beit? Wallah basaweel7um a7la kassit shai fi dar! A7la kassit shai ma3 na3na3 wa 3assal kamaan. Balla 7al shai illi mafi ta3im. Isma3ee meeni, a7lalik ishtirilik a7we ma biti3rifi itsawee7a fil beit. Bas kamaan fish a7la min il a7we il 3arabiya. A7lalik itraw7ee wa tishrobilik ishi fi ta3im. Khudee7a mini."

(Translation: Tea??! Who pays for tea outside of the house? I swear, I'll make them the best cup of tea at home! The best cup of tea with mint and honey, too. Forget this tea that has no taste. Listen to me, it's better for you to buy coffee that you don't know how to make at home. But also there's nothing better than Arabic/Turkish coffee. It's best if you go home and have coffee that actually tastes good. Take it from me.)

I love my grandmother with my entire heart and soul. Therefore, I'm taking the advice I think she'd give me if she were here with me! Considering I make delicious coffee at home (just ask family and friends), I prefer the coffee shop atmosphere because I get a lot of work finished while outside of the house with no responsibilities or distractions.

You know what I can't make? Iced chai. Hot chai in a pot I can do. Iced never comes out as good as I want it... Chai it is!

Am I the only one who randomly hears their grandmother or parents' commentary in their head when making decisions? No? Just me? That explains a lot.