Sunday, August 13, 2017

Ibin Batoota

 I am starting to feel like Ibin Batoota (he is someone we always use to refer to someone who travels a lot)...I'm Still traveling. I honestly can't wait to be home although it has been fun to travel and I have seen some amazing places and ate amazing food.

I am going to Utah on Wednesday and will be there until Friday (hopefully). I really hope I can be done on Friday so I can avoid some of the crazy traffic going to Rexburg. The eclipse is going to make Rexburg insane and traffic horrible. I am planning to get home as soon as possible and stay home until the whole thing is over. Will watch the eclipse from my back yard or something. People in town are renting their homes for $10,000 a night. I mean is that crazy or what?? I actually considered it, but then decided I may have to buy new furniture (after they steal it) and fix the damages the renters leave, so it is not worth it.

I was in Seattle for a few days visiting my nephew Rani. We had a lot of Middle-Eastern food, which was amazing. But, I would have to say restaurant food is not as good as home-made food. The best meal was prepared by Vera the last night I was there. Her Tabouleh was amazing and the BBQ meat and chicken were great. She also had an amazing 3 layer strawberry cake for desert. 

Sadly, we could not see nice views from the distances because of the fires they have had in the area. There was still smoke in the air.

We went to Pike Place and had Filipino food and French pastries. We went to the lake and took a jet ski all over the lake. I was scared about driving one, but it was easy. I parked it in the middle of the lake and went swimming. The water was amazingly clean and refreshing! As long as you avoid my nephew who constantly tries to get water all over you, it was a fun ride. It was a really big lake. I didn't think you could drive that far on a jet ski! The below pictures hopefully shows how big the lake is.

Lots of great seafood!

 The gum wall. So much gum stuck on this wall (and this is after it was just cleaned a short while ago). It is kind of disgusting, but kind of cool too...

We went to Susquehanna falls. It was so pretty there. The hike up was too exhausting because it was all up hill, but it was fun.


 Yesterday I arrived in Medford. I am visiting my Israeli friend here and we are giving a talk together tonight about peace in the Holy Land. It should be fun I think.

Isn't it great that friendship can exist between an Israeli and a Palestinian? There is still hope in the world. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

and the Baltimore adventure continues...

I got back from Baltimore on Thursday/Friday. My laptop came back to life...I'm grateful for the internet and instructions on how to bring a dead laptop back to life. I really thought I would lose all my documents, but luckily I didn't...

We had a great time in Baltimore, although I must say that I am glad to be back home. The hotel I stayed at was horrible. My brother fell on their uneven steps/pavement and badly hurt his hand.  My charging cable even got stolen from my room the last day and all they could say was 'sorry'.  I am glad 2 sigma was giving out free charging cables at the conference and I happened to grab one. My phone was completely dead and needed to be charged. I got a lot of free stuff, two t-shirts, flashlights, bags, notebooks...but honestly did not expect to get the Pillsbury dough-boy at the conference. Rida won a $150 gift certificate. I hoped to win the apple watch, but I guess it was not meant to be.
(with my brother Maher and nephew Peter)

We didn't go to the baseball game, but Ryan and Craig went. The team apparently won even though it rarely does.

We got free tickets to the aquarium. It was fun, but I was so tired at the end. They had a rain forest and some tropical areas and it was really nice. We got to see a silly dolphin show too. They kept scaring us from sitting in the 'splash zone' and I was thinking I would get wet...nothing...

The Jelly fish were the most interesting.  They even had a place where you can touch sea creatures (and jelly fish). The place was meant for kids I believe, but it was fun to touch them and pet them (ha ha).

Still not sure how the divers were swimming and feeding the fish with the sharks. But, I guess not all sharks are deadly...

This snake looked so relaxed. Even though I don't know quite how he got to this position.

 This huge turtle was missing a leg...but he seemed to enjoy swimming around...

We took a boat to Fort McHenry which is where the battle of 1812 happened and later was recognized for the place where the 'Star Spangled Banner' song was written which later became the US national anthem. I had to think for a minute about war because I really just don't get it. I don't know how people rejoice about victory and how they go fight and kill each other. War is something foreign to me. But, seeing the US flag high, which was the original flag then and had 15 stars only, helped me start to relate. 

It started to rain right as we got on the boat. It was interesting to see that much rain while we were on the water. We were lucky though as it stopped when we got off. We have come to realize that there is no such thing as light rain in Baltimore. When it rains, it pours.
 The best part of any trip to a big city is the food. Craig's rule, which I have adopted is to not eat anything you can find in Rexburg. We had lots of seafood, which was amazing. Baba gump restaurant and other places. Then we had different foods...
This is an Afghani restaurant where my brother Maher got us a good deal on a meal. Everything in Baltimore was expensive, so a cheap meal was like $20 or so. 

Craig dared Maher to buy a rose for $1 and he went and bargained with the guy and came back with a rose for Rida, who said this is the first time she gets a flower from Maher. (here is the rose)

 We also found a place which sells shawirma and falafel. It was actually good falafel which surprised me.

The last day, right before heading to the airport we went to the art museum. That last day was the longest day I have ever had because I got up, went to the conference, then we walked quite a while in the heat to get to the museum. It was a nice museum, but we didn't get to see much of and had to run to catch our flight.

I loved this quote by  Martin Luther at the museum which says: "This life is not health but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. This is not the end, but it is the road."

We made our flight, but had to sit on the plane for an hour because there was a thunder storm going on...we missed our connecting flight from SLC and were not sure what to do. We could rent a car and drive, but who would want to drive after such a long day (we would make it to SLC at 9 pm or so). 
We got there, and decided to run to the gate hoping our flight was magically delayed, but it was not. We decided to go to Pocatello and switched our flight to that one. We still had an hour and a half from there to Idaho falls where we left our car. We got to Pocatello hoping we would rent a car and drive to Idaho Falls, but the rental car agencies were closed when we get there and there were no cars available. This nice lady we met offered us a ride. She was heading to Idaho Falls too, so it worked out perfectly. I got home at 1:30 am (3:30 am Baltimore time). I still had to unpack...I was so tired...

I am heading to Utah on Tuesday to catch a flight to Seattle and then to Oregon. I still have not finished setting up my classes for fall and it feels like the vacation will be over when I return. Time sure flies when you are having fun!

Sunday, July 30, 2017


OK I know I promised everybody I would leave a good post this week since I didn't leave one last week. But my laptop as I mentioned decided to just die. I am trying to check the disk hoping to revive it. But so far I don't think it's working. I am glad that two months ago I decided I'm going to back up my files and I did. I only have two months worth of files to lose so it's not a big deal I guess. I guess I should've bought a new computer when I thought about it but I didn't.

 I am in Baltimore Maryland we just arrived yesterday. We are here to attend the joint statistical meeting. My brother Maher and his wife and my nephew are also coming. I will get to see them soon. 

On Monday I went camping with my friend Danae.  It was really fun and it was really beautiful weather for a little while and then it started hailing. Which was interesting but not too strange for Idaho. It just ruined our attempt to start a fire. But we did have a nice fire for a little while at least. 

My nephew Ashraf got engaged today.  Yet another life event I missing. Someday I'll be able to go home but right now I'm not sure when.

I will be heading to Oregon next week and also Seattle to visit my other nephew. I'm looking forward to that I think it will be great to see him I have not seen him in a long time.

 Today we went to church in Baltimore. It was kind of an interesting walk downtown. It makes me so grateful to live in Rexburg just because it feel safe when I walk down the street. I'm glad I have two guys with me to protect me, the two men from my department that are here with me for the conference. I would totally not feel comfortable walking down the streets on my own. The ward we went to was pretty amazing. Everybody was so friendly and nice. We even got to have some food with them after church.

There are so many people around the world that have hard lives. I have been contemplating about all the women in the world that are suffering especially. I have run into a lot of strong women in my life and I am often amazed at how much some women have to go through and yet remain strong and are the support of their families. I feel so blessed compared to so many others. 

This is the church building where we went to church. Sadly it won't let me post here. Writing a blog from my phone is definitely not the best way to write a blog. Anyway I will include the picture on Facebook. I really hope my computer comes back to life.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Semester is Over...YAY

I don't have something profound to say this week. It has been the longest week of the semester. I am so glad it is over. 
We have final exams on Monday and Tuesday and then we will be done. 
I am going to teach a new class in the fall, so I need to spend quite a bit of time preparing for it and building homeworks and quizzes and exams. I will be traveling during the 6-week break, but only briefly.

I had amazing students this semester, but sadly many of them are not doing well in the classes. I say they are amazing because I feel they try so hard. I had a student who came to my office almost every day and asked questions. Then at the end of the semester gave me these yummy coconut treats. If you never had those before you must try them. They are so good!

 My garden is not doing so great. I was hoping I would eat something from it before I went traveling this summer. I am worried it will die while I am gone. I did buy an auto watering system, but not quite sure if it will work or not.

My cucumber plant is half dead. I thought I would pick this one cucumber from it so that I would say that I at least ate something from it before it died. Well, it tasted horrible. I am not sure why...maybe it was the wrong kind of cucumber. Oh well, I guess I found out I am not a farmer.

 My tomatoes are in a better shape, but they are taking forever to ripen. I am finally beginning to see some red color in there. I guess they are still worried it may snow or something so they are not turning red. I just hope they taste better than my cucumber...otherwise I may give up on farming all together.

I made mansaf the other day. It was good...It has been a while since I made some because I ran out of lamb meat and I kept forgetting to buy some.
 I am heading to Utah for one day on Saturday. There are two friends of mine from Bethlehem who are going through the temple and getting sealed in the temple and I wanted to be there for that.

It was such a nice surprise to see one of my friends from back home today (Jenni) at church. I walked out of relief society (which I almost never do) to go to teachers' training. And there she was. It was so good to see her.

As for my green card application, the advertisement period is finally over! I don't have to print ads anymore, yay. My poor department head though still has to interview all the applicants and prove that I am more qualified.  I told him that at least now he knows what the process is like and knows to never do this again.  It has been such a long painful process for him especially. The next step will take about 4 months, then we can finally apply for the green card. I hope around January! After we apply, who knows how long it will be. 

My book is in the editing stage still, but it is mostly done. The cover is mostly done too and I am looking forward to seeing what the cover will look like.  

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Right to be Happy

There is one more week of classes left and the semester will be over. Because we got a short break between Winter and Spring semester, this seems like one long semester and it is going even slower at the end. I can't wait to be done!! I think my students feel the same way as well.

Last Tuesday we had a holiday. It was Independence day and everyone was gathering with family to celebrate. On Monday evening, I drove to Blackfoot and had dinner with a friend of mine from BYU. I had not seen her in a while so it was nice to spend time with her and with her family. They had a BBQ and the kids played with fireworks.

The sound of explosions make me jump each time. They are different than the sound of gun shots, but they are pretty similar. Something inside me aches every time I hear that sound. I know people are lighting fireworks to celebrate and I am trying really hard to have a good feeling when I hear them go off, but I can't help it. Every time I hear them I remember gun shots, missiles, rifles and pain.

Back home we heard those sounds a lot. Every gunshot meant someone was being shot, another injury or another death, another family suffering. Images of young men with bullet wounds come to my mind. Every time I hear a gunshot, I remember Moayad blood in the taxi I rode and picture him dead with his school bag still on his back.  Then I remember Salam's house.  The shattered glass in their kitchen window showing the place where the bullets fired by the Israeli settler entered their kitchen hitting 14-year old Salam in the head. I remember Isaac at Bethlehem University and the bullet wound in his head. I remember watching him die while hoping the Israeli soldiers would allow us to take him to a hospital.  Too much pain, too much to erase. I hate guns, I hate them because those weapons given to the State of Israel have often made my people suffer.

On Tuesday, July 4th the city of Rexburg does a parade. Feeling alone without family around I decided to go.  I stood and watched the floats throwing candy to the children.  The people on the float would throw the candy the the children would run with smiles on their faces to collect it. I felt how happy the children and everyone was. That feeling of happiness I saw around me was something I had never before felt in any setting. I experienced joy through living the gospel and peace, but that feeling of happiness was a bit strange. 

I have seen children in similar situations in Palestine, children who were celebrating, or playing or laughing...but that feeling was not there. That pure happiness was missing. Then I realized that we have grown up without it. Because many Palestinian children grew up hearing gun shots, and seeing pain and suffering it dimmed the happiness they could feel. I realized that some Palestinian children may not know how to be happy or what happiness feels like.

Believe it or not, I felt uncomfortable at the parade. As I stood there among happy people I felt out of place. I felt that I had no right, as a Palestinian, to be there. I had no right to be happy.  I can't describe that in words really. But, it was so uncomfortable that I simply decided to leave.

How sad it is that there are so many children in the world today who are denied of their right to be happy. They are abused, live in war torn countries, their safe home has been destroyed, or they lack the food necessary to survive.  I would like to believe that we have a Father in Heaven who loves those children and will someday embrace them and make them forget all the pain and suffering they had to see.  

We had a college social at the Rexburg water park. The math department won the pie eating contest. Way to go Craig!

Yesterday we went tubing down the river. This so far has been the second most relaxing thing I have ever done in my life. The first was being alone in a balloon hundreds of feet above ground. I really feel every Palestinian needs to float down the river for therapy from all the trauma and pain they have seen.
I look forward to taking my sisters down the river one day. There is something magical about being in the middle of a river, hearing only the sound of birds and the sound of the water. Feeling the cool water and the fresh air.


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Freedom through our Savior, Jesus Christ

I had a good week, it was really busy though. We have almost two weeks left until the end of the semester and I am getting more and more busy as time goes by.

I went camping with Danae and her family this weekend. We went to Riverside. It was really nice and peaceful other than a few noisy neighbors.  We went on a little hike, then stopped in the middle of the hike and hung our hammocks between trees and rested before we continued. Other than the bugs that were attacking us, it was really fun. We even scared the horses on the trail because they have never seen a hammock before. The wild flowers, lake and river were simply so beautiful.

I did sit in the hammock and grade my exam papers for a little while, but it was still good. I'd be so happy to work in such a place anytime.

We played games, built a fire at night and just enjoyed relaxing in nature.

 I love to put my feet in the river. It is really too cold, but so refreshing!

 The largest mushroom I have ever seen:

I bore my testimony at church today and said that I am grateful to be in a free country.  Living under occupation all my life, I see the difference. I hope that every American appreciates living in a place where they can travel freely and where their human rights can be preserved.  Everyone tells me why I am so anxious to obtain my US citizenship and I say that it is to experience freedom even to a some extent. I know that even as an American citizen born in Palestine I will still be treated differently, but I am willing to wait and go through all the messy process of obtaining a green card just so that I can get a taste of freedom.

I was reading in 2 Nephi 9 today. That is my favorite chapter because of the contrast in it between the Savior and Satan, between Heavenly Father's plan and Satan's plan... between Joy and misery, Peace and turmoil, light and darkness.

Satan takes away our freedom, he captivates us and binds us. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, suffered so that we can be delivered from death, from misery, and from darkness. When we follow the Savior, we are free for He set us free from sin through His atonement.  How grateful I am for Him and for His love. Living without freedom all my life, I have come to appreciate more the freedoms and peace our Savior provides us with.  His gospel and His path is always the path that will provide us with freedom, peace, light and eternal life.

Verses 19-22
 O the greatness of the mercy of our God, the Holy One of Israel! For he delivereth his saints from that awful monster the devil, and death, and hell, and that lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment.
And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.
And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before him at the great and judgment day.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Milk Cans and more

It has been a busy week for the first time this semester. I feel that my class load this semester is easy compared to last semester. I used to work every evening trying to get things done. This semester, however, I seem to have more free time.

The weather has been perfect (well it is getting a bit hot), but I'll take this weather over snow any day. I love sitting outside and enjoying the nice cool evenings. Somehow being outside reminds me of home (because we were in our garden a lot). I grew tomatoes and cucumbers inside because it kept getting down to freezing at night. I finally started having bugs and got so tired of having my huge tomato plants inside. I moved them outside. Sadly, they are not doing so well. My cucumber plants are almost dead. My tomato plants are kind of ok (some of them). I think I am giving up on gardening, it's just not for me. I will just go to the farmer's market and buy good produce instead of growing my own. I can't wait for those amazing tomatoes they have there. Mine are taking forever to get ripe anyway.

I am thinking of having a BBQ, but I think it is not worth it to do on my own. So, I'll have to invite some people over. Maybe sometime during the summer break. I bought a grill and have not used it yet. 

My book is in the editing stage. Things are moving forward, and I will be recording it (for an audio book) in August. I am excited to have it done...It was so funny to see my students excited about my book the other day. I was telling them a story during class and they all said: "You should write a book!" They were so happy when I told them my book will come out soon.

On Friday, we had a milk can dinner with all the singles in the area. The dinner was amazing, and I would have never thought of cooking that way. They stuck potatoes, corn, meat, vegetables inside a milk can and just cooked it. It was soooo good and tender.  (similar as below, but this picture is from online)

I was also surprised as to how big their yard was. They had swings, multiple slides, miniature golf, a zip line...etc right in their back yard.

There was a wheat field right next to their house and it reminded me so much of home...There is a wheat field right next to my house and I loved to see that. That is the advantage of living in a small town. You get to see more than just buildings.

My Sunday School lesson today was about the second coming of the Savior. I showed everyone a picture of the spot on the Mount of Olives from where people believe Christ rose to heaven.  

 The angels then declared to the disciples who were watching the Savior rise to heaven, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." (Acts 1: 11)

I reflect on the dream I had about the second coming and I can't wait to see the Savior again. I want to be worthy to stand before Him and be worthy to meet Him at that day. I look forward to having Him rule over the earth in Justice and love. Even though He was born in the most humble of circumstances in a stable, He was and still is the king of kings and Lord of Lords.