Monday, September 29, 2014

The greater good

Sometimes I think my whole life has been planned already and all elements and events seem to be working to get me to the path that will lead me to the greatest amount of happiness and joy. Sadly, this is hard to see when I am busy climbing hills and walking on rocky paths towards that final destination of happiness. I know that all things are possible with God, but I can't help but get discouraged at times. I am working on finding hope and strength though.

The Single's branch in Manhattan wanted to organize a fireside for me so I can speak. It was such a short notice as I was in NY a very short time. To get more people, we turned it to a stake fireside. We had maybe 50-60 was a short notice and it was a weekday. It turned out to be good and I met a lot of people. 
After the talk I was interviewed by someone who was doing a story about some ads in the NYC subway. Apparently, 10 ads are going to be placed in the subway against Islam. I didn't know that! It is sad really because people are seeing horrible acts being committed and blaming Islam for them. While there are millions and millions of good Muslims, how can we generalize what one small group is doing? Sad! Muslims are good, I have many friends who are Muslims and they are all amazing. I hope we all try to get the facts before judging and criticizing others. I admire this person for trying to get some counter voices against these ads.

As for the test I came here to take, in case you all were wondering, I failed. So, at least for now I won't be living in NYC. I am still looking for jobs, so if you hear of any jobs for statisticians, let me know.  Again, I am thinking failing this test is another thing that may end up to be a blessing although it is hard to see right now. The test was not hard, just really strange.  As my friend said about me: "You Sahar are so smart and could pass any test, even a test given by NASA, so the only reason you failed this test is that it was not meant to be." (wish I had half that confidence in myself)

I left New York on Saturday and came to Ohio to visit my brother Maher. Friday night, the airline emailed me and said my flight to Ohio was cancelled. Then later they said they re-booked me for Sunday (with a 24 hour lay over in Chicago). Apparently flights in Chicago have been delayed due to a fire and some other events. After convincing the lady that I HAD to be there on Saturday, she got me a nice 2 hour flight straight from NYC to Dayton, Ohio. With only 5 of us on the flight, it was simply perfect. So glad the original flight was cancelled!  (We have a saying in Arabic: do not hate something for it may turn out to be for your good).

I went to Church yesterday in Beavercreek and took my brother Maher with me (he's never been to an LDS church service). He was shocked that there were that may Mormons in his small town! I bore my testimony and of course many came up to talk to me afterwards including a woman who said her husband was a Palestinian member of the church.  The missionaries knocked at my brother's house a few months ago and one of the missionaries was actually a Palestinian man from Ramallah. I don't think things happen by chance. My brother is not interested in the church, but I still think it was cool. I wish he got the name of the missionary!! 

On Saturday, we walked around the mall and the park.  I met my nephew's fiance, Amanda who seems to be really nice. We had a nice lunch (all you can eat) and were so full we could hardly move. The fortune cookie at the Chinese restaurant was perfect for me: 

At the outdoor mall, we found a bunch of $5 off coupons for one of the stores and spent some time trying to buy things that were close to $5. I ended up with the best deal and bought something for exactly $5 so I paid nothing (it was free). 
On Sunday after church, we went to my niece's daughter's birthday. We were running from the bees all through the party, but it was fun. Then went to my niece's house and she gave me a tour of her big house and beautiful yard. We then had a BBQ last night at my brother's house... 

I've been blessed with good weather here and in NY. Things are going well...
I arrive in Utah on Saturday...I don't know how long I will be there, I have not had time to think about it yet. But, I know that I need to go to Utah for a while..We will see what will happen next.

I may be looking to buy a cheap car there, if any of you know of one, let me know.  I will get a phone when I get to Utah. Right now I still have my magic jack which sort of works inside where I have wireless. (the Utah number)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

New York

I am sorry I have limited internet access while here in New York, so I have not been responding well to emails and did not post anything on my blog.

I took the test on Tuesday and I am still waiting for the results. I should know the result by the end of this week I hope. The test was simply strange, I don't know how else to describe it. Since it was a lot of situational judgment, I have no idea how I did. I know I did well on the numerical part except that my computer froze and so I missed the last three questions. Other than that I am sure I got all those right. In the other two sections I did not do so well. So, we will have to wait and see. I have an interview on Tuesday as well so we will see how that goes. As much as I hate New York I am beginning to think that I could actually live here. I hope I get this job.

While here I am staying with a family I know from church. They have been so kind to host me while here. They have 6 kids, so most of the time I am playing with kids, but it has been fun. Here is a picture of the kids right before they opened the presents I got them:

My friend who lives in Washington DC came to see me and it has been fun to see her and tour New York City with her. Here are some pictures I took in New York.

At the 9/11 memorial site (where the twin towers were before the planes hit them). They have really nice big fountains there...

We took a ferry to Staten Island (it was free) and we got to see the statue of liberty. Last time I was in New York, we did the express tour and only saw the Statue of Liberty from a really far place.

We also drove to Coney Island. We were told they have really good hotdogs there (Nathan's). Sadly, all the rides were closed. But, we got to walk on the beach and eat really greasy really bad for us hotdogs from Nathan's (who in the world is Nathan anyway?). The Island itself seems creepy. It seemed a bit deserted and had lots of statues and pictures of this spooky clown. They really could film a horror film there!

Someone I know in NY arranged for me to give a talk while here. It ended up spreading and became a stake wide thing. So, Thursday at 7 pm I am giving a fireside at the Lincoln center (at the temple site). It has been short notice for everyone, so we will see how many show up.

Church was really amazing here today. I got to go to primary with my friend and she taught the children a really fun song. The kids that they think are not reverent here are probably considered angels in Bethlehem. Despite that I still miss my primary kids in Bethlehem.

After church we went to my friend's parents' house for dinner. His mom prepared an amazing Japanese dish for us. She was so kind to prepare lots of English deserts and treats especially for me (they were just in England). It made me miss England...They live on the 34th floor in Manhattan and the view from their apartment is simply amazing. I spent a lot of time on the balcony enjoying the view even though it was an overcast day and not very clear. Here is the view:


I still don't have a plan of what I will do. If I pass the test I need to go back to Palestine to get a work visa (I can only get it there). If I fail, I am going to stay for a couple of months to look for work. I cancelled my return home ticket. I am going to visit my brother in Ohio this weekend. After that, I have no clue...This week I should find out what my plan is and I will let you know.

On Friday I got to go to the New York Temple. It is strange because most temples have large areas around them full of trees and flowers. This one is right down town, but it is at least convenient to get to. Despite the busy streets outside you could not hear anything from inside. It was so peaceful and beautiful inside. I love the temple.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


I am in the Amman airport. I left home yesterday in order to go to NYC to take the test. The trip in the bridge was not bad. Other than the fact that the new suitcase I got died half way through. It broke and did not even make it through the bridge crossing. Few bags actually do make it as they throw them in and out of busses so many times. But I had hoped mine would last ONE trip. I bought tape and taped it so my clothes don't fall off. I hope it lasts till NY. 

I think I hurt my shoulder carrying the bags. I hope I won't have to do a lot more lifting. I didn't sleep last night. I woke up at two and never could go back to sleep. Maybe I'll be tired so I can sleep on the flight. 

You know you would think after so many years of flying humans would invent an easier way to travel long distances! Like beds or faster planes. It is not like we are not paying enough money. 

As I fly to London for a stop it feels so familiar. It reminds me of leaving in January 2013 for my mission. I can't wait to land on British soil. I miss England so much. I wish I had a longer layover and could run and visit the mission office or the temple. 

This post is short. I will write more this week after I take the test and let you know my plans. 

Monday, September 8, 2014


I echo the words someone once said: "All people have a homeland to live in, but our homeland lives in us."

I have been going through things and organizing getting ready to leave. So many memories, so many things that I have collected over the years. Even if I end up moving to the United States, I can't take everything with me. I can't even take a small portion of my stuff. I keep thinking, if I can take everything with me then I can feel at home there...But, I know there is no place like home. Despite the bad situation here, the conflict and hardships it will always be home. I can't take all my stuff, but I can take all the memories and keep my homeland living in me. Wherever I go, my identity as a Palestinian will never go away. This identity that many have tried to erase. Many keep saying "There was never a Palestine." But, what they say does not matter because my country is engraved in my heart and nothing will take it away.

I have been going through some documents trying to scan them and keep copies so I don't have to take the originals with me. I have 3 birth certificates. One issued from Jordan (because the West Bank was under Jordanian Rule before Israel occupied it), One issued by the Israeli government (because I was born after the 1967 war when Israel occupied the West Bank), and one issued by the Palestinian authority (because they now control all the interior affairs for the Palestinians).  My parents' birth certificates, however, were issued by "the Government of Palestine"...The Palestine that does not exist anymore.

It is funny actually...Because all of my three birth certificates are wrong. They all say I was born in Beit Sahour, when in fact I was born in Jerusalem. Jerusalem, my home town that I am not allowed to visit anymore.

The Bethlehem Branch is planning a farewell dinner for me on Saturday. It's not quite a farewell yet though I hope...I am hoping to pass the test and get the job in NYC in which case I will need to come back here to get the visa. These are two long trips to the United States.  My hip pain has been better with the medication, but I still can't sit for more than an hour except on specific couches. Aside from the plane ride, I have not worked for 8 months and I don't know what it is going to be like to get back to work. I don't know if I can survive sitting for 8 hours every day! 

I am going to miss teaching primary (I teach the kids in my church each Sabbath). We have amazing kids in our Church Branch and I have no doubt that some of them will be leaders in the church one day.  It is such an honor to see the kids look up to me as an example.  Their parents tell me "she wanted to wear a skirt to church today like Sahar"...and I can see them doing something in sacrament then looking to me for approval/disapproval (after weeks of working on reverence). It is so cute...

After all the strange testimonies we have heard from little kids in our Branch, we had a few this week that were simply perfect. For example, from a 4 year old: "I know Jesus Loves all of us. He does not love just me, he loves you and you and everyone."
I worry as the kids won't have a teacher that can speak Arabic. But, they will have amazing people that love them and care for them.

It is getting late and I don't have much news to share...I may just bore you to death. Good night everyone...

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Leaving Palestine

I totally forgot to post something this week. Not like any of you check anymore, how many noticed?

Things have been well, but busy.  I have decided to move to the US to try and find a job. I leave pretty soon and am trying to pack and get tickets and tie up loose ends. I have been facing a few closed doors regarding jobs and then a possibility came up and I may end up moving to NYC! There is a possible job there, but it is not certain yet. If you would ask me about my least favorite place in the US, I would say it was NYC. I had a bad experience there once, years ago...but, things change and who knows I may enjoy living there. I am taking a test on Tuesday, Sept 16th and a lot depends on the results of that test. I need to pass the test to qualify for the job. In any case, if this works out I'll start working pretty soon and move there. 

Things have been boiling around the Middle East with ISIS becoming stronger and with other tension rising in the area. I really don't know what will happen in the future, but it does not look good. I love my country, but right now I want to seek opportunities somewhere else. 

Last week I started the 'bucket of ice' challenge. It was mostly a personal thing. I tried to either help someone every day or post something positive on Facebook instead. I was trying to start something that would add goodness and light to world instead of the evil and darkness which is spreading. Amazingly enough, as soon as I resolved to do that, I suddenly became so busy doing good things. I have been finding people out of the blue asking for help. It has been great, but exhausting. My body simply does not function very well anymore...

Last Saturday was the busiest day I have ever had (and it was the Sabbath!). I don't know why they call it a day of rest! It took the workers all day Friday to finish putting the tile up in the branch building. I had to go put water on the concrete early Saturday morning.  My friend from Nablus was visiting on Friday and I showed them around Bethlehem so I did not have time to go up to the church and clean after the workers were done. I had to do the cleaning on the Sabbath (could not have a church full of mud, and dirt when members came to worship). After cleaning, my friend wanted me to go check on her husband who was sick which I did. 
I took my friends from Nablus to see my brother's museum and then drove them to the taxi stop so they can go to Hebron. On the road I found a woman who was standing in the heat and looked like she was there a while. I asked her if she needed a ride. She said: "Why? do you know me?" I said, "No, but it looked like you could use a ride." I drove her to where she was going and on the road she started to tell me who she was and her story.  She said that a man killed himself in the Bethlehem area and that she was that man's mother. We don't have suicides here that often, so it was a rare chance that I picked up this particular woman.  She showed me pictures of her son and told me why she thinks he killed himself. She was devastated and sad...
Anyway, I had a talk and a lesson to prepare. Needless to say, I did not get to do much preparing, I ran out of time. I barely had time to shower and get to church. We have a problem with reverence in our branch and my talk was about reverence.  It was really difficult to watch the kids and parents do the opposite of what I was telling them to do (right then and there).  After sacrament, we had a combined Primary/Sunday School using my unprepared primary lesson...After church I took a friend's kids to a birthday party and helped with the preparation and serving during the party. I got home when a friend called me over skype and wanted to discuss a gospel principles lesson (I have been teaching lessons to a family over skype). Since it is hard to get a hold of them, I decided to go ahead and give the lesson. It was a good day despite the fact that I was completely dead by the end =)

I have been spending some time fixing up the Bethlehem Branch building. These are things that have been waiting for a while and I just never got to them. So, I had a fence made, had tile put on the outside, the inside painted...I also washed the curtains, and did some cleaning. I am having some soil brought in to make the outside look a bit better.  I should have taken a before and after picture! We'll have the members plant some flowers or plants outside once it is all done...I am tired! I have had to stay at the building for 8 hours on some days so I can be with the workers as they worked...but hopefully it will all be done today.

I finally gave up and took my laptop to be fixed. I was worried it would cost a lot of money to fix it, so I thought I would just sell it and buy a new one. Yesterday I went and picked it up and it is fixed. How much did they charge? $6!! really that was it...yay.

My mother has been complaining about me leaving and moving to the US. She, of course, wants me to stay here to keep her company. I feel bad leaving her, but she is really doing ok physically. I convinced her that I will find a husband in NY and will get married...was I convincing her or myself? Would really like to get married, but don't know if it will happen anytime soon. At least I will have more chances of finding an LDS man in NY than I would here.