Back from a Dream Trip

It wasn’t hard to miss the difference in how Ettihad Airways treats customers bound for India or Pakistan vis-a-vis those for Western destinations.

Flying to Bangalore, India, my gate at the airport in Abu Dhabi was in a corner that could have passed off for an ill-maintained basement. There were no signs, directions or flight information except marked gate numbers. It was crowded. I had to ask cleaners for information or search around for staff who gave conflicting information about the assigned gate. I knew I was flying cattle-class.

Flying back to Washington from the same airport was needless to say, a pleasant experience with an ambience you would expect in a modern airport in an oil-rich Sheikhdom.

My time in India. The surprise I gave my folks when I showed up at their door with no prior warning or information, from thousands of miles away, was one of the happiest times of my life. India was just the way I had expected  – full of people with loving hearts and intrusive personal questions by strangers. Uncles and aunts trying to get me married. It seemed very expensive – from public transportation to restaurants to groceries. I didn’t do much sightseeing – all I wanted was to spend as much time as possible with the people I had missed so much. It was a wonderful experience  – a getaway that I needed in a place I wondered if I should call home.

In the few days before I left for India, I was stressed, dejected and sad. From a friend who hurt me a second time and wanted nothing to do with me. From stress about my career. From the relative loneliness in a new city even though I had made several friends. From pressure with decisions I had to make in personal life that would affect others. I was low on self-esteem and motivation.
And then Allah opened an opportunity for me. ‘Eid was only a couple of weeks away and I had a natural break at my job. It was perfect. I needed a break from everyday anarchy.. a holiday with those that love me unconditionally.

The three weeks after I returned were the best days I had in a very long time.


An Identity, A Citizen of the World

 I had never believed in the notion of “nation.” To me, it was an artificial creation of the 12th century – a vague concept of dividing people up using artificial borders, creating “nations” on a map, and then getting people who happened to be within them to be loyal to the “nation” they were accidentally born in; or the ones’ that decided and managed to make another such “nation” their home.  Cultural diversity in people naturally separated by geography, and interaction between them had made the world a beautiful place that it still is. Exploring the world’s infinite cultures and places excited me.  Only my finances stopped me from doing what I loved –  to travel the world and experience it for myself.

Reflecting on my birthday recently, I realized something – I had even more reason to support my stance against nationalism. Only this time, it was more emotional than logical. I felt as if I didn’t belong to any “nation” even if I wanted to. I had to consider myself a citizen of God’s world.
I had lived my life so far in three different countries. The country of my birth didn’t recognize me – I couldn’t enter it without a visa.
I moved to the country my parents were born and raised in. I spent years here, growing and loving being part of it, fighting off those that mocked and ridiculed me for my religion, and said I, by account of my religion, had no place in it. I didn’t have much in common with the majority of society around me – not in food, dress, mode of thinking. I was a minority. A minority within a minority.

I moved again, to where I am, now.  I wasn’t born here, or even raised here. I came in and had a mountain of immediate challenges to surmount, which I did, on my own. I hardened and grew into a young man, all by myself, working away toward an education and a career. I was fairly successful, and won admiration and praise. Everyone with a dream, passion and hard work succeeded here, or so goes the legend, and while it still is a work in progress – I am on my way to realize my great American dream, provided I don’t give up.

But through this journey, I turned towards religion. I changed my circle of friends in a big way. I now had a circle of friends that I shared my religion with; the majority of whom were from my ethnicity – brown, and originating from the Indian subcontinent. It helped me grow in my religion.

But then something else happened –  the country I am in, lived in, loved to be in, proud to be in, was active in, volunteered in, and had begun to feel part of, had some of its own, from this section of society, look down upon me for what was theirs by accident – to them, I was inferior because I didn’t spend more of my formative years in the country. If it wasn’t snide remarks, it was rejection coming from someone I had invested my heart and soul in, and wanted to be with.  It hurt. A lot. I was heartbroken, at times. It was replaced by resentment and anger in some instances.

I interpreted it to come from, among other reasons, an insecurity of their own place in the country. Or that, it was a result of becoming “brown sahibs,” where Western culture had imbibed in them a shame of their heritage and antagonism towards the culture of their parents, similar to erstwhile feelings of backwardness  compared to the white man in a previous era – essential tools that the West used to keep up their hegemony in colonial pursuits.  Or that, this insecurity in a lot of them was because they themselves were born outside the country, spent a majority of their short lives outside the country, but immigrated when they were still younger, and wanted to feel more American themselves.

Facing heartbreak from some of these people who I loved the most, and not having it returned, I tried to fall back to where I moved from, the country of my family and my ancestors. I stepped back into this world emotionally, to see if I could find my place here. It didn’t take me long to see we were different enough that I couldn’t just slide in. We wanted to talk about different things, liked to do different things, had vastly different worldviews. It was becoming a pain to fit in – both for the companions I sought, and me. Before long, I was rebuffed – that I no longer fit in, that I had changed too much.

Where would I go? Where would I feel at home? Do I make changes to my circles of friends, again, to find my place? I couldn’t fit in, I knew, among people who indulged in practices that I had come to abhor, due to my religion. I was left ‘nationless,’ emotionally.
But before long, I changed, defined and carved for myself a place in society. The earlier troubled thought of how I didn’t exactly fit in anywhere, gave way to acceptance of every little thing that is part of me, my past and excitement about my future. It was now comforting for me to know that I was different, and with more unique experiences than most other people. I didn’t have to conform, or belong.
I am still changing;  changing the people who are part of my life, slowly, but surely, with more and more people who value me, that also recognize my traits and accomplishments that I am proud of and that God Himself would approve of; who accept me with all my attributes, and most importantly, that would return me the care and affection I shower them with.

A Favorite Summer Memory from Childhood – RS Emeline (Blog Swap)

RS Emeline is a fellow member of the 20-Something Bloggers Community.  She is a fiction writer-a Fictzophrenic – and is working on two novels. She is a prolific blogger – check out her wonderful blog Fictzophrenic Musings.
 This post is courtesy an event 20sb Blog Swap #9  in  which bloggers were paired up to swap guest posts on a mutually finalized theme.

The summer day of July 18, 1995 was a changing point in my life.

My parents were outdated and boring, and when they spoke I listened with the thoroughness of youth.

The person I looked up to–worshiped might be closer to the truth, my middle sister, had just moved out… again. Off to start a new life with another new guy.

I felt cast aside and heartbroken.

I was thirteen and knew everything.

At the time, my father worked long hours across the Puget Sound at Intel, and my mother worked as a nurse for the Alzheimers’ ward of the local Assisted Living Center.

They were never around, and when they were–they weren’t.

At the time it didn’t bother me. My friends and I had freedom to do what we wanted, when we wanted, and we never had to clear it with our parents.

We were latchkey kids, and life was a constant adventure.

On this particular day, the sun was shining brightly, the sky a crisp blue dotted here and there by white billowy clouds.

The Pacific Northwest was having a heat wave, and the temperature was teasing eighty.

My friends and I hopped on the County Transit Bus headed toward the local ferry terminal. We were breaking the rules–heading across the inlet to the ‘shady’ town where the local Navy base was–and it made the trip even more exciting.

We flirted shamelessly with the ferry workers, practiced the skills we’d need in a few years when the boys we went to school with would finally realize how amazing we were, and laughed joyously as the wind blew our hair wildly around our faces.

When the tiny foot ferry– it couldn’t have been longer than twelve feet– rocked and bumped its way to the dock at the ferry terminal, we waved at the men who’d entertained us good naturedly, and hurried off.

It was time.

People crushed around us, rushing to and from the larger ferry docked in a slip further down the pier. The loud speaker warned passengers the next run to Seattle would be leaving in ten minutes.

The briny taste and smell of the Puget Sound wafted on the breeze, and we pushed and shoved our way into the transit terminal.

Thirty minutes later we walked out of the building, our stance a little straighter, our gait a little surer.

We were no longer kids.

The glossy ID in our hands assured us we’d left childhood behind.

We had the key to our future freedom.

We had… our official reduced fare transit IDs.

Sixteen years later, I still have that transit card–though it expired in 1998.

The girl looking out from the photo has a bad perm, twinkling eyes, and a huge grin.

That was the happiest day of my childhood.

I keep it as a reminder of youth, and the experiences–both good and bad– that came with it.

Washington State has long since been a speck in the distance of my rearview mirror, but the scent of ocean water, the crush of people, and the heat of the summer sun brings me right back to that rare warm day and the friends long since missing from my life.

It makes me smile.

Gender Relations – The Cultural Divide : Part I (Greetings between men and women )

 The Raison d’être for this blog, at least when I started off, was to dwell upon cultural divides and cultural differences that I have encountered between different societies that have made me who I am today – Saudi, Indian, British and American. One of the most distinguishing features in cultures is the way men and women interact with each other.

Among the things that fascinate me on this subject is the way men and women greet each other when they cross paths. Most Arabs (except perhaps the socially liberated ones’ like many Lebanese) show a lot of warmth when they meet – if two people greeting each other are of the same gender, they hug and kiss each others’ cheeks. If it is the opposite gender, they would barely notice each other and continue their way. In case of social gatherings, care is taken to make sure that there is no free mixing of people from the opposite genders, ruling out the possibility of awkward meeting of glances.

Indians shake hands when they meet – and hug each other on special occasions or when they are meeting after a long time – as long as they are from the same gender. Indians in India seem to be in a transient stage as they embrace Western culture that is more free as far as interacting with the opposite gender is concerned, while still influenced by their heyday which involved greeting the opposite gender with folded hands without ever touching them. As they deal with a heavy dose of Western influence via the Internet, movies and Television, they seek to interact more with the opposite gender and notice them more, but society as a whole still judges such actions negatively, which bogs them down. The resulting effect has been many of them indulging in a lot of interaction when there is no physical proximity – via text messages, social networking sites and chat clients, but when they come face to face, they are left shifting weight from foot to foot while staring at their own feet, if they do gather the courage of getting face to face at all.

Two Arab men kissing each others’ cheeks would be considered weird by most White

United States President Obama meets former Bri...

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Caucasians and African Americans – because they are usually seen doing the opposite – when two men greet each other, the most they would go up to is a handshake, but when a female is involved, a warm hug is quite common in non-professional gatherings. In fact, for example, when a male-female couple passes by another male, the female from the couple would hug the other male and shake his hands, and the guys would just shake each others’ hands but not hug each other. Such a difference in greeting gestures is not considered weird – two men expressing affection is. Indian males who are friends often grab each others’ hands and walk with arms around each others’ shoulders, and these actions would normally be considered weird and reserved only for people from the opposite genders by these cultures. The perception of homosexuality is indeed much stronger here. I pointed this out to a friend recently who concurred after recalling US President Obama hugging Mrs. Cameron, the British Prime Minister’s wife, while Obama and Mr. Cameron only had a handshake during Obama’s recent visit to the UK. As far as Muslims in the United States are concerned, interactions between the opposite genders is worthy of an article in itself . Watch out for the next post!

Old Rag Mountain Hike in Shenandoah National Park, VA – II

I have been pretty busy (read: only stressed out but not working as much ) as the semester draws to a close. A lot of my extra-curricular activities have been cut down, but the one opportunity that I did not/could not let go is hiking.
Only three weeks after my previous hiking trip, I went to another one – and for the second time in six months here –  the Old Rag Mountain Hiking trail in the Shenandoah National Park.

We were warned that though this is a popular hiking trail, it is tough and fraught with risks considering the number of search and rescue operations that authorities have made here, and that this hike is not for everyone.

I was almost like the tour guide to our group since apparently I was the only one in our group of 15 who had already been here before. The last time I was here was in late November last year when it was quite cold and the leaves were all shed after the Fall season.  I went again because it was with a different group of friends, I had a camera this time, and it was a different season. Oh, and I do not even have to share the frustration I had when the two close friends I was going with failed to get up and start on time to join the group. I went ahead without them in the end.

The hike was tough, 8.8  miles long, and took 7 hours to complete, though we really should have been done in 5-6 hours if not for the time we spent chilling at the summit and taking photographs. It was a circular trail that first went up to the summit and then back via another route to the parking lot. The hike up towards the summit was quite challenging at certain points and took the bulk of the time though it was only 3.5 miles to the top.
It was pretty much steep for about one and a half hours through the forest, and then, the challenging rocky part began which was where ALL the excitement really was. Many slipped and fell around me – people do not realize the power of their hands to climb rocks, squeeze between them or jump through them  and only try to find a firm footing for their feet as they go through the rocky part.
I hiked flawlessly without problems thanks to my previous experience, except for a small bruising near my knee from a rough rock and helped others too. I was thinking of myself as a pro but all of my pride crashed spectacularly when a fellow female hiker  let me know this was her 11th time here. She said she perfected the toughest section where you have to pull yourself up through a narrow gap between two rocks sometimes with the help of a rope only on the 7th or 8th time.

Like the last time, I again got to pray my afternoon and evening prayers on the summit and it was a really nice feeling to pray at 3,200ft above, on top of the world with the b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l valley in view, and in front of other hikers.

After enjoying the breeze, we started the hike back, taking more pictures along the way. One of us twisted her ankle and was in quite a pain which slowed us down.
When we finally did reach back to the parking lot, we waited for more than an hour for two of us who were still not back. It was getting scary now because it was getting dark and it could have been BIG problems if they were still holed up somewhere in the rocks or the forest in the dark. Were they lost ? were they hurt ? Are they alright ? Where could they be ? I overheard some people talking about the movie 127 hours.

A very nice family that had been camping there helped us search for them and we finally found them after an hour and a half in the dark. They were lost, had gone the wrong way and only realized that after an hour of hiking  in the wrong direction. It does not help at all, when there is zero reception on everyone’s cell phones.

Despite a body ache for the next three days, it was a memorable experience. I can’t wait for the next challenging hiking trip again which are anything but like the trails at The Great Falls, VA which are simply too easy.

Some 100+ pictures that I think are worth sharing here.

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“Desi Wedding Guide”

Desi (“They-see”; Indian/Pakistani origin ) marriages are a complicated thing, but the process is about to be more streamlined than ever. Now you know which path you are headed towards if you can find your place in the flow chart below.

(I don’ t really know who owns this picture to ask for permission , but I’m going to go ahead and share it here anyway. It’s going viral :-))

Winter trip to the UK and India

After a grueling Fall semester in school, I got to get away from this place for a five-week long holiday and visit friends and family in two countries – the United Kingdom and India.

People are often surprised when they hear about how much my family and my extended family is spread out over three continents. A few days before I left, one of my lab-mates expressed his awe at how much of the world people like me have got to see. I told him that going to and living in different parts of the world has widened my horizons,  and that people who haven’t lived in different places tend to have skewed understandings of other parts of the world. They tend to believe more in stereotypes and are easier to fall prey to propaganda about other nations and cultures. No, Muslims don’t actually worship a black box in the middle of the desert and don’t actually kiss the ground five times a day !
Well, this guy did not actually say that (Yusuf Estes did in one of his lectures ), but he did have some of the wrong but popular impressions about Arabs and the brown people, and he’s always been in the area between Indiana and the east coast.

After a Christmas day shutdown in London when I landed, I had little to do but sleep at a friend’s place.  It was just my poor luck that my next and final day in London was going to be a strike-day for the London underground metro workers and none of the tube trains would be working.  A Brit replied to a ranting me: “Welcome to London”.
Apparently, strikes are not too uncommon here.

I still enjoyed riding the jam-packed double decker buses for the first time, but long waiting times for buses, higher walking time  towards stops, and a very early sunset meant I could cover only so many places. Our group got to be at  The Tower bridge, London Bridge, the aquarium, London eye, Piccadilly Circus, Liverpool station, ice-skating near the London eye , Trafalgar Square in the dark,  London Central Mosque’s closed gates and Madamme Tousadd’s closed doors.  At least I could tame a huge lion and sit upon its back – so what if it was a statue in Trafalgar square and the pictures were crappy in the night ?

Generally overcast skies and dull weather had me humming “Welcome to Seattle” as my next few weeks were spent visiting relatives and friends in Manchester, Blackburn, Cardiff, Liverpool etc. interspersed with visits to local attractions in these cities, the best being the museums in Manchester. I would recommend the Nawab restaurant in downtown Manchester to anyone who wishes to have the best of desi food in the area.(UK for me).

Next stop, Bangalore, has always been my absolute favorite city in India despite my allergies, the pollution and the heavy traffic.  Mysore, an erstwhile royal city in the south also had a bunch of relatives I had to visit and was my next stop. The Mysore Palace was definitely a better structure than the more famed Buckingham palace.  A musical fountain show in Bangalore a few hours before I had to board my flight back home was my last stop and provided for my last few hours until a long time with  some of the most beloved people in my life.
Pending work at school was enough motivation for me to gather enough courage to control my emotions as I headed back home.

I arrived back to a warm welcome by the customs and border protection folks at the airport, who opened all my bags and searched every inch, all the while asking questions about the books (most of them on Islam) that I had bought during my trip.
Okay, it has been enough procrastinating. Heading back to my work now. I’ve added a few pictures from my trip below.

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Why I Deserve The Nobel Prize (via MirrorCracked)

The Nobel prizes are being given away. There was controversy when they gave the Nobel Peace Prize to a Chinese anti-government (and most probably supported by foreign powers who have no interest in China’s well-being)activist in jail.  Propaganda wars. China protested and cried foul. The western ‘democratic’ world had a mischievous smile :).

While, I am no fan of Communist-ic China, as I made clear in an earlier post , it is clear our western nations work in innovative ways against countries  which might pose problems to their hegemony,  all the while, using concepts of human rights and democracy and so on. All this, only when it suits them.

Like in Iran ( Lack of human/women’s rights, democracy/theocracy, fraud election, freedoms to protest etc ), Venezuela (same reasons ), Cuba, Palestine and so on.

But these noble ideals evaporate into thin air when violation of human rights and dictatorships suits them and their continued hegemony.  Examples –  Support and propping up of dictators and gross violators of human rights in many places like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and others.

What’s more, they even work against these ideals of democracy and human rights if it suits them so. Examples – , organizing velvet revolutions in pro-Russian countries like Ukraine, Georgia and so on to topple democratically elected governments that didn’t help in furthering their global control; not allowing a democratically elected organization in Palestine to run the country though they were elected in an internationally observed free and fair election (but I can agree with the reasoning here – that this organization resorts to terrorism of civilians of a rival country. It’s another matter that the rival country does the same against the people this organization claims to represent). Media propaganda campaigns against Russia, China and Iran are the norm too.

I would always want and prefer the freedoms of the west, but a total selfish colonialist mentality of considering only one’s own interests even if at the cost of others is what I detest.

Talking of nobel prizes, here’s a funny post by a person who explains why he should be awarded all the nobel prizes that are out there. A Nobel sweep !

Why I Deserve The Nobel Prize With a little less than three hours to go for the Nobel Prize 2010 Announcement Ceremony in Sweden, I have decided to enter the race in all the available categories. This post is meant to be read by the arbiters of the Swedish Royal Academy and I do hope that they don’t make the mistake of overlooking me and my remarkable achievements in this regard. I deserve the Nobel Prize for the following compelling reasons. I am an honest man and none of wh … Read More


Flipping the North Koreans off (via Iconic Photos)

A show of defiance ! The way rival countries play the propaganda game fascinates me.

When the Iranian scientist, apparently a nuclear scientist who had something to do with the Iranian nuclear program was abducted by the Americans with help from the Saudis when he was on a pilgrimage tour to Saudi Arabia, and then resurfaced online from the US, the Americans claimed that he had willingly defected to the US  ( via ABC news ). A slap in the face of the Iranians. The Iranians of course claimed that he was abducted and held against his will in the US as they tried to extract nuclear secrets out of this man.

Turns out that this is an old game with the US itself being at the receiving end in the cold war era. North Korea abducted US spies in the 1960s. And then North Korea played the same game the Americans did with the Iranian scientist – it tried to claim that the US spies willingly defected to it.  It released pictures and letters that proved this point, just as the US managed to release another video of the Iranian scientist talking about his defection to the US and working with them against Iran.

Of course, all these supposed defection ‘confessions’ were made under duress by the captives. But the US spies still tried to make a point – in many such propaganda pictures released by North Korea, they managed to raise their middle finger, trying to subtly send a message beyond what they were forced to say and appear as.

A fun read !

Flipping the North Koreans off Not many people visit North korea these days but if you are one of the lucky few, more likely than not you will be led through an official guided tour of USS Pueblo – an American Intelligence vessel captured in 1968 – which remains the only American vessel currently in captivity. The seizure of USS Pueblo is now one of the forgotten episodes of the Cold War. The U.S. claimed it was in the international waters, while the D.P.R.K. insisted that it … Read More

Washington DC for Sixth time in Nine Months.

One of my friends recently  remarked, “Hey, do visit your hometown too once in a while” .

Reason ? Another trip to DC (can you believe it?)  on the 23rd of April, my sixth in less than nine months.

I had to leave a day’s work and money to go to DC this time but I just wanted to be there, inside the Capitol Hill, and attend the Friday prayer services. The program was supposed to start at 11 AM but with the desi standard time that we follow on our clocks, we started out from home quite late, got  lost along the way and by the time we reached the Capitol, it was nearly 2 PM and we could see people coming out from the Jummah. The staff made us run around for some time but reluctantly let us in even though there was no way we could make it to the Jummah event. All the excitement that I was filled with was about praying Jummah inside the Capitol Hill and with that opportunity missed, I felt extremely disappointed with myself and my trip-mates, making no secret of my anger and frustration at them for having been cause of the delay. Once in, we luckily ran into the host of the program who was taking the other students on a guided tour inside the capitol hill. He let us in into his group and gave us passes to the gallery of the House of Representatives.  I could hardly enjoy this part as I was filled with guilt for having missed the Friday prayers and was repenting about not having stayed put in my hometown instead to attend Jummah when I was going to be too late here anyway. We were showed around a few places quite important/significant and historical  in the Capitol Hill – not that I paid any attention to what was being said by our guide, since I just didn’t feel it necessary to ‘know’ those things. The old supreme court, the library of congress, the offices of the leaders of the representatives, and so on were good places to see but we weren’t allowed to click any pictures here. After we came down to near the entry for the house of representatives gallery, we weren’t allowed by the security to go back up despite trying twice – I wanted to go back up and make amends for not taking enough pictures there earlier.

We finally went in to the gallery after a heavy security check, roamed around in the capitol for some more time and then took a long walk towards the Washington monument and the world war memorials taking a few pictures along the way near the museums too.Since one of my travel mates didn’t want to splurge a princely sum of two and a hald dollars on a metro train back to the union station from where we had to catch a train back to my place, we had to walk for as much as an hour and wait another hour in the historic union station for the train to come.  The trains were more like planes with their interiors, microphone announcements and at the stations with all the boarding gates. All in all, it was a good memorable trip that we made I thought, which could have been much better had we made it on time in the morning.  Leaving some pictures as I sign off for your viewing pleasure :)

Trip to New York City !

Just the second day after my last exam into the break and under intense pressure from friends, I got going for a trip to new york. The grades were yet to be announced and i was quite nervous, wanting to stick around at home until they are announced, lest there is something that comes up, but I finally fell in.
After 2 hours of total chaos (which is usually the case whenever I go anywhere :D ), I finally heaved a sigh of relief when the bus started.  To give you a sense, I hurried to finish work, ship a laptop by USPS -no, beg my friend to do it for me so I can get ready and catch the bus in time, friend finally agrees to do this for me, and then when this friend of mine calls me for the address to ship to- I am boarding the bus while the address is in my laptop locked in my bag-he called me earlier for the address than I thought he would-  it takes time to get on to the seat, open the laptop you know :P.  and as I am in the bus, can hear my friend constantly shouting at me for 10 minutes for wasting his time etc.. and then lo, there is no cash with any of us, so having to run to find an ATM. Yes, my trip started with an absolute bang :).
The journey of 4.5 hours was completed without we realizing it. Of course, there was the so- polite and the so-non-violent African American shouting barbs at my friend for constantly getting up from his seat behind him (!, wonder what his problem was ).
Soon, we found ourselves shivering outside JCPenny on 32nd and 11 right in Manhattan.
My friend from high school was there in 15 minutes, and then off we went to Times Square with one of us almost getting hit by the racing cabs there – no road rules seemed to apply in New York City, pedestrians cross roads at all points at will, the lights are just for a show  and cabs are driven wildly. After a munch at McDonalds there , I finally reach my friend’s house in NJ dead tired.
On Christmas day the next day, we started late, and went to all the free attractions nearby – the ferry to Stratten Island, the World trade center site, Macy’s, the Hudson, the Empire State, the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, one of the public programs for christmas, chinatown, the rockefeller park, the rockfeller center and  roamed the streets of Manhattan taking pictures all along. It was a lot of walking but was worth it. The day ended with me  having a video chat on Skype with my family right from Times Square using the free Wifi connection there, it was a wonderful experience. But the day started and ended with a lot of tension, I read an email from my professor before I started from NJ that I had a problem with the project I had submitted, and by the end, also got to know of a low score in the finals in another course reading my mail in Times Square. Though the fun from the trip was certainly diluted with all of these things, with some of my fears coming true and me regretting making this trip before the grades were out for sometime, looking back, I still feel it was worth it.
Back to NJ for the night, I made the necessary corrections to my project and finally shut the case. The grade was out in a little while, thankfully, it was not bad, but wasn’t good either, but way better than my expectations.
The next day, I was left all alone high and dry by my other friends visiting their relatives. I walked for a long time to attend the Friday prayers in one of the mosques I found after a long search in Manhattan. I prayed Asr, ate at the Halal delis in the streets twice, spent some more time in times square – atruly awesome place, visited the Tausad’s museum before boarding the bus back to Baltimore.
On the trip overall, it was extremely cold and windy -so much that I  couldn’t even remove the gloves to see the map, which was a pain. And New york was really dirty due to the snowstorm a few days earlier; all the streets/pavements were filled with black snow and it was not a good sight. Plus, the fun was obviously diluted what with the trip being before the nervous days before the grades were out.
But still, I was happy i made this trip – I had always wanted to visit New york and I could hardly believe I actually fulfilled one of my long-standing wishes :) I even banged my head to make sure I wasn’t dreaming . And NYC was awesome, the skyscrapers were a sight to watch, it was an awesome experience to roam the streets in Manhattan, the other places we visited were good too. I could see people from all over the world in the streets, a lot of them didn’t speak english.  It certainly was a great experience,but I don’t think I will make another trip here, as I am pretty much satiated  :)
Signing off, I am leaving a few pictures from the trip, and believe me, we took a lot of them :)