Happy Halloween

Come Fall, after the buzz of the first weeks of school follows the excitement of what character you are going to be for Halloween. It’s a fun, festive holiday that allows you to unleash your creative brain outside of its daily cubicle. This year, this oh-so-fun (kind of slutty) holiday conveniently fell in the middle of the week–hence my costume was: a tired as @!#$ student health professional. Hair in a bun, glasses, sweats, semester’s worth of papers in my bag and a packet of notes in my hand– if you’re not studying or reading drug related material, you are wasting your time. 

Growing up, Halloween was such an awesome time because it was like the whole world playing dress-up– it wasn’t just you on a Saturday afternoon wearing your mothers entire makeup collection on your face and dangly pearls. 

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My grandma, on the other hand, was not too keen on this holiday. We wouldn’t dress up as zombies or ghosts or anything; we were always princesses or cute witches. But still, she would disagree mainly because the holiday is viewed as kind of making fun of the deceased. During the month of October where we celebrate our second Eid (not the one where we fast), we make this desert called saamanak. It’s basically from wheat grass and the process is quite tedious. When this desert is made, it isn’t your normal 4-6 people serving, you typically make so much that you give some to your neighbors, relatives and friends, AND have left some for your own family.

I thought it was interesting when someone brought it up and asked me, “Hey, do Muslims celebrate Halloween? Like are you allowed to? I mean, it’s just candy.” I mean, yes we can go trick or treating and give out candy to trick-or-treaters but we have to be respectful of the dead. It’s not about the candy, it’s more about not frolicking and partying in costumes that represent the dead and instead praying for them. 

Since I’m older now I see what my grandma was talking about. By dressing up in costumes of ghosts, ghouls and masks with bloody or scarred faces it is like we are making fun of them and as Muslims we should be praying for them instead of partaking in what my grandma calls it “horse-play”. 

 Anyways, it’s not like people dress up as witches and zombies anymore these days, it’s more like dressing up as celebrities and an excuse to dress more towards the wild side. 

So there ya go, a little tid-bit/fun fact of Muslim’s and Halloween. Hope you guys are having fun and are safe on this Hallow’s Eve!

 

Peace & Love,

 

Bena…

There Are Parents, And Then There Are GRANDparents

Grandparents…grraaand…parents. They are grand, they are superior than your parents. What makes them grand? The way they greet you when you walk in the room, the way they look at you- with pride on their smiley lips like they could not contain themselves. It is cute, it is wonderful, it is sweet. September 8th was the day where you baked or cooked something for your Grandma or Grandpa, it was indeed Grandparent’s Day. 

My grandma once told me that the relationship of a grandmother to her grandchild is a sweet one, sweeter than with her own child.

“Okay, so imagine I am the peach, the peach pit is your mother, and that sweet little nut inside the peachpit..you know once you crack it open? That sweet, precious little thing? That’s you.”

I wanted to cry a little when she said that. ‘Oh my gosh..that’s like the cutest thing to say’, I thought. Heh…I’m kinda tearing up now as I’m typing this.

They can’t get mad at you; at least, not for long. They get over it and are just plain happy that you remembered to call them and ask how they were doing or something. I feel like every Sunday should be Grandparent’s Day. It’s not enough to just have it once in an entire year. Especially considering how lonely they get at their age? Most likely they are retired, bored, mostly sitting at home with nothing to do. And by just stopping by or calling in to say ‘hi’ I can make her day? Put a smile on her face that easily? Well, that’s nothing! Considering she was there to talk to me and cheer me up when I got in trouble, or when she would get on my side of the argument and told my mom to let me get that toy– arguing ‘she’s only 8 once!”.  

Grandparents give us special treatment all the time, let us return the favor..not only on that one September sunday, but all the Sundays to come. 

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^taken on Grandma’s Day 

Peace & Love,

Bena…

Four Seasons

 

ImageI never really liked when someone asked me what my favorite season was. I had always felt inclined to answer the season in which I was born in, but winter was not my favorite. Then I began to think and thought summer for sure– but wait! It gets too hot, and oy the mosquitos! Okay no…spring! Ah yes! But wait..oy the rain and cold/hot weather changes, nah…okay, fall? Kinda gets a little gloomy during that time. So that’s it? Nah..there has got to be a middle. And so I pondered on this thought and came up with this: as corny, cheesy, and cliched this my sound–every season has its beauty and part of the adventure is finding tranquility and finding yourself in each season. I believe we learn from our mistakes and part of this process is fixing our mistakes, therefore, we find ourselves changing, growing, and molding our personalities. Knowing who you are is a beautiful thing, because you realize your potential, your uniqueness, and how special you are. Summer. Despite the loud and bright images that usually come to mind at the thought of summer, I often associate it with deep thinking, tranquillity, and a time to reflect. I mean think about it, if you are a teen and you have just graduated, you are probably spending your last moments with your high school buddies before college begins and you drift off. You begin to realize how time has a way of escaping so fast you did not even see it. People go on vacations, some pick up more hours because they no longer have school, people get busier–with life, family, work, themselves, and then you reflect–think about yourself, what YOU have done so far. Think about the crazy year you have had and come to the realization that damn it! you need a vacation too! As you drift off to paradise, you relax, unwind, and rewire your brain, you breathe as if you are an advanced yoga instructor. You foreshadow the year ahead and what you liked or did not like about it and how you will go about to change it. You make dreams, you make plans, you get carried away from the hype of all the excitement around you. Barbeques are happening, people sipping a little too much of that “happy” drink and you all dream, which can be a beautiful beautiful thing. But then instead of tears of joy you might cry the other tears once summer comes to an end because you failed to fulfill your dreams or worse–you did not even get close…they were just dreams and no action. BUT reflect and DO. Do dream because THAT is your VISION, and do DO because that is your destiny, that is your life. See the beauty of summer and you will see the beauty in you.

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Peace & Love,

Bena…

Afghan New Year

Hello! It has been so long since I have written a blog post and I almost forgot how to begin. A month ago, I finished taking my last few finals. I was so thrilled to have finished the semester but did not feel the weight off my shoulders entirely because I needed to know my grades! After I found out my grades, it still took a few days for me to realize..I’m free?… It just had not hit me yet, I guess. But now…I’m BAAAACKKK!!!

And I want to make a fresh start…literally. With the start of a new season (no not Summer…yet!), especially Spring, one often imagines telling themselves, “new season, new me, spring cleaning, the flowers are in full bloom and I too shall bloom and blossom into something new and wonderful.” Well, new season, new wardrobe, new…year? Yup! The first day of Spring, March 20th not only marked the start of a beautiful new season but also a healthy and prosperous New Year for Afghans. My mother would always tell me how the start of the New Year in Afghanistan was often symbolized by the blooming of the arghawan tree.

Arghawan Tree

Similarly to how there is a Chinese New Year, an Afghan New Year also exists. Not to mention, there are several other countries who celebrate the New Year such as Iran, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and some other Central Asian countries. Note: not all Persians/Iranians, Turkish people, etc. celebrate the New Year, only because it is mostly a Muslim thing and not all Iranians are Muslims, Judaism also exists. Similarly in Turkey, there are Christians who don’t celebrate or recognize the start of Spring as the New Year–only the Muslims in Turkey.

Traditions:

The evening before the first day of Spring, we prepare the haft mewa –which literally translates to seven fruits. We take dry fruits such as green and red raisins, almonds, pistachio, walnuts, dried apricots, and Russian olives (the fruit/nut from the oleaster tree) and we soak it in a bowl filled with filtered water and leave it in the refrigerator.

The next day which is the first day of Spring, as you awake to the birds chirping and the morning dew or shabnam on the grass, the first thing you have is some haft mewa to start off the New Year on a fresh and sweet note.

Haft Mewa

My mother always says during Naw Roz to have some haft mewa to energize your brain and soul. Come to think of it…she spoke the truth. I like to think of the fruits symbolizing special meanings. For instance, the almonds and walnuts sharpens one’s mind making it fresh and energized for the New Year; the raisins provide antioxidants thereby providing strength and immunity, start the New Year off with a smile–let the sweet taste of dried apricots remind you about the sweet times in life, and the pistachios are like sparkling gems sprinkled in to foreshadow prosperity for the upcoming New Year.

haft mewa

Peace & Love,

~Bena…

My Very First Blog Award, Thank You!

When I first began blogging, I recall scrolling through countless of blogs and seeing many of them with these amazing awards! 

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“Wow, what an accomplishment, must be nice to have that”, I would wonder.

And now, I have one myself! Thank you all for your support and kind words, and thank you Ruby (http://yourinnerfeathersbyruby.wordpress.com) for awarding me with the Versatile Blog Award. If you have not received this award already I would have definitely awarded you with this award.

Here are the rules for accepting the award:

  • Display the awards certificate on your website
  • Announce your win with a post and include a link to the kind person who presented you with the award
  •  Present up to 15 awards to deserving bloggers
  •  Create a post linking to them & drop them a comment letting them know!
  •  Post 7 interesting facts about yourself!

The awards go to *drumroll*

  1. http://alarnarosegray.com/
  2. http://aleafinspringtime.wordpress.com/  
  3. http://abitcoquettish.wordpress.com/
  4. ayooutloud.wordpress.com
  5. http://styleguidenow.wordpress.com
  6. http://boldmode.wordpress.com/
  7. subtlekate.wordpress.com
  8. http://atasteofmorning.com/
  9. http://chrisman2college.com/
  10. http://mselenalevontraveling.com/
  11. http://breakroomstories.com/
  12. http://www.clotildajamcracker.com/
  13. http://fashionforlunch.wordpress.com/
  14. http://poshtoganache.wordpress.com
  15. http://faestwistandtango.wordpress.com/

And now 7 random facts about myself:

  1. I speak Farsi fluently
  2. I dyed my hair only once
  3. I am IN LOVE with Hello Kitty
  4. I do not like working out in the gym
  5. I like watching old movies
  6. Cupcakes…‘nuff said
  7. I like the royal gowns the Queens used to wear centuries ago

Have a wonderful weekend!!

 

Peace & Love,

Bena…

Pretty Pink Pout

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MAC- Pink Nouveau

I bought a pretty bright pink lipstick that I absolutely love

But I’m not going to wear it now, I have a few things I need to take care of

Before I wear it I need to get my braces taken off

Before I wear it I need to get a pink lip pencil, not purple or mauve

Before I wear it I need to get the perfect pink lipgloss to match

And I’ll also wait until there’s a good lip balm I can catch

 

Well, the only thing you will catch are cobwebs, because if you wait until you are ready, you will forever wait.

There will always be “if’s” and “but’s” in life. Life is an obstacle and you have to look pretty while jumping the hoops. I realized I can not keep telling myself I will do something if x or y happens because then I will lose that moment. If you love something or want to do something, just do it! Because in the grand scheme of things, you will be glad you did.

Plus, we have one life to live, do not live it with regret. I understand it is easier said than done, but realizing to seize the moment even with something as small as wearing your pink lipstick, can help you realize bigger and more exciting plans! So carpe diem!

I’m not going to wait around until I have flawless skin or higher cheekbones to sport my bright pink pout, because let’s face it…I will grow older and it may not suit me later on and it might be out of style ;)

 

Peace & Love,

Bena…

Why Do Afghan Men Wear “Eyeliner”?

When I tell people where my parents are from I always get the same response: “Oh, but you don’t look Afghan”, and then I just smile awkwardly and nod like “yup, that is my ethnicity…no, no I am not joking.”

This makes me curious as to how others expect Afghans to look like and the image they have in their minds. So I pretended that I wanted to know a little more about Afghans and a little more about their culture–I went to Google. As I started my search, one of the suggestions in the dropbox stated “why do Afghan men wear eyeliner?”. To be honest when I read that suggestion, I chuckled a little.

What? Haha, eyeliner?! 

I imagined a young teenage girl having seen Afghan men on the news with eyes smokier than hers and wondered “why do they wear makeup?”. Well my dear, do not fret, he did not copy your Covergirl look.

You see, it is not eyeliner…it is surma, pronounced suur-mah. It is like this coal/rich-black color powder that you apply, with the stick provided, inside your eye. It sounds complicated but it really is not. It is made from special rocks and minerals which are believed to improve vision (there is also a religious component to surma). Surma has been used for centuries and is found in many Central Asian and Middle-Eastern countries.

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Many mothers apply surma to their newborns so that they have strong vision and because religiously it is good, many young preteen/teen girls apply it to look pretty since it so closely resembles eyeliner, and then there is the men. The majority of males who you see wearing surma tend to be from the village area; you would not see men from the city or urban areas wearing surma. The only reasons men from the villages wear it is in order to have strong/good vision and because religiously, it is considered good. Which is why if you see Afghan people on the news, for instance, not a lot of them are wearing glasses. This natural product has been used for centuries and has minerals that improve eyesight.

Along with health benefits, there is also a religious aspect attached to wearing surma. It is known to be religiously beneficial when worn on Friday night. Similar to how Sunday is the Holy Day for Catholics, Friday is to Muslims. On Fridays, it is believed that if you wear perfume and surma then God will be watching you. Not that the Afghan people do not wear perfume regularly, but on Friday’s it is considered to be more significant, religiously.

So to sum up on this surma “timeline”, almost everyone in Afghanistan wears surma because of the health and religious benefits, BUT at around age six or seven the males who live in the city stop wearing surma. On the other hand, the men who live off in far away villages continue to wear it.

So before you call child protective services on these people on how they put eyeliner on their young children, remember, it is not eyeliner; on the contrary, it is part of our culture.

Here I am as a baby wearing surma:

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I do not know why I look so surprised, guess I was channeling the Gerber baby ;)

 

Peace & Love,

Bena…

The Royal..erm.. Afghan Treatment

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Just three days ago it was International Women’s Day. I was looking forward to this day since last year! I told myself that I would do something big next year, but alas, things happen over time, and we forget. I almost forgot it was our big day until a witty young lady in my class told the professor, “I think all the women in the room should be given an extra five points since we just spent our time taking an exam during our special day…”. International Women’s Day is a wonderful holiday since, unlike Mother’s Day, it celebrates all women! It is a day to acknowledge the power and strength of women. 

This day reminded me of a little story I wanted to share with you guys. 

There were these two men–an Englishman and an Afghan man. The Englishman visited the Afghan man’s house one day and realized that his wife didn’t shake his hand or welcome the Englishman with a kiss on the cheek, but rather, said hello with a nod and a smile. He was always curious as to why Afghan women dressed modestly and were so conservative. This finally prompted him to ask the Afghan man, “How come your women cover themselves up?” The Afghan man smiled and took two pieces of chocolate. He unwrapped one and left the other wrapped and threw them on the plate in front of him.

“Which would you prefer?” 

“The wrapped one, of course!” 

“Okay then,” the Afghan man replied, “that is why our women dress modestly”

“Alright, so then answer me this, how come they don’t greet and shake hands with other men?”

“Well, do you shake the Queen’s hand?”

“No! She is the Queen of England”

“So then? Same applies for our women– we treat them like Queens; they don’t shake hands with just anyone.”

Afghan or not, all women are special, all are powerful, all are Queens at heart.

And no, unfortunately, we did not get those extra five points.

 

Peace & love,

Bena…

 

New Week, New Thoughts, New Love

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As I began my Monday morning in class, I had a mini panic attack as I wrote down the date. Wow…my favorite month is almost coming to an end. And more importantly, have I even written a single post this month? The semester started recently and you can only imagine how busy I have been– but still, that is no excuse. You will be happy to know that I have set up a blogging schedule that I will hopefully stick to! Okay so enough of my excuses, let’s cut to the chase. I have been thinking of this post ever since the idea hit me when I was studying for my microbiology exam on February 13th! I will confess that I do not regret delaying this post only because if I wrote it the day I thought of it, it would have been a cocktail of incoherence and microbiology terminology. Okay, here goes: 

“That’s what happens when you vaccinate, your body makes memory cells so next time your body sense the infection, your body will give an amplified response and the infection will not stand a chance.”

Ah-ha! I got it! No, not the lecture material, I got an idea*lightbulb moment*. Valentine’s Day– a day of love, but can also be a depressing one for some unfortunate souls. Those who got their heart broken, were deceived, dumped, lied to, cheated on…erm..I’ll stop there (if it makes you feel any better, I am single as well). Anyways, as I was listening to my lecture recording, it hit me. If at any point in your life you have gone through a rough relationship or spent the best years of your life on that heartless soul, do not beat yourself up about it; don’t regret it. As a matter of fact, think of that person as your vaccine–your shot. It hurt right? Made you cry huh? But hey you know what? It made you stronger; you are now immune against jerks and d-bags. You are better. Your body was going along its merry way and thought it was protected; must have thought “hmm, nah, won’t happen to me”–but then it comes. That heartless person attacks you like a virus and you did not even see it coming. It’s okay…happens to the best of us. But after you are done fighting off that virus or infection, your body knows–you know. It is built in your memory; your memory cells recognized the virus, that parasite, and will prepare the next time it encounters that germ. You will have made antibodies, you will be strong, you will know. Infection was not strong enough to kill ya, but what does not kill you can only make you stronger. 

Enjoy the remainder of February; I know I sure will and will continue to carry the lovey dovey-ness even after the 28th. I simply can not help it–I am a girly girl and a month where the colors pink and red are celebrated…well, I could not have asked for anything better; although, a box of Ferrero Rocher would simply be heavenly.

 

Peace & LOVE,

~Bena…

Live, Laugh, Love, blah blah blah

Friend: I’m thinking of a quote..do you have any good quotes?

Me: why, for what?

F: I wanna put a quote for this picture..love without thinking..wait that’s not it..there was this quote that went like “lie without depending, love without spending and…” ARGHH so aggravated I can’t think..wait hold on..I gotta think

That was one of the rare moments I have seen her think that hard..I thought she was trying to figure out a calculus problem, but she was looking for a nice meaningful quote to place as a caption under her picture on Facebook. 

“Oh I got it! It goes like ‘live without pretending, love without depending, listen without defending, speak without offending!”

Me:  Yeah.. that’s real good, maybe you should follow it too.

It’s interesting how these young kids search and scour through the internet for meaningful, thoughtful quotes about life, love, and finding oneself however they don’t understand it. They only read it but they do not understand it! They put these amazing quotes and sayings by famous and influential people to show their Facebook buddies that they think like that as well. It’s all about showing others how “smart” and “witty” you are, when in reality YOU don’t understand how to apply that meaningful quote into your own life. 

Most teens nowadays only see the surface, of anything, in this case let’s say a quote. They read the quote and they think, “wow I like that yeah that’s good…”  Why? Because they think to themselves, “that’s how I wanna live my life, yeah that’s the way I should live it and hey, that’s what I’m gonna make people think…that I live the good life.”

I feel bad for the preteens and teens of this generation and the one to come because  they are missing out on the true meaning of life. Do kids really live like there’s no tomorrow? I mean most of them put the cliched “live, laugh, love” on their info or description box but do they really? No. I doubt it. Their not living since they are constantly on their Facebooks or texting, they don’t laugh because they don’t wanna look stupid (and if they do it’s one of those shallow or fake laughs); and they think they love but they don’t really–because in order to love, you have to live and if being on your phone all day instead of talking to real people around you is considered living then your not loving either. 

Instead of quoting Gandhi on FB and leaving it at that, why not take a step further and actually do what you say? If you put a “Be the change you want to see in the world” quote and not do anything about it then your only depriving yourself of the life you really/secretly wanna live. The youth of today has to realize that if they follow their inspirations from their idols or their influential people then they will realize how rewarding it is to be yourself rather than showing what you can be. Live your life, seriously.

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Peace & Love,

~Bena…