BEST WRITING STORIES WE LIVE BY
ABOUT THE COVER PHOTO You see, there were times when I could not believe I can achieve anything; times when I felt vulnerable and uncertain. Growing up, it always bothered me to not be able to express my feelings, and unfortunately, photography is all about expressing yourself. No matter how much I loved taking photos of everything around me, making excuses always seemed like an easier way than picking up my camera. Yet, one person kept pushing me forward and asked me to believe in myself. One day, I decided to give it a try hoping my fear of failure does not take over. I wandered around the alleyways of Souq Waqif looking for a story to tell. I wanted it to portray how I felt: trust, support, and guidance. I waited patiently for the right scene to show up, and there it was. Now I say it confidently, I owe you this one my friend. And many more to come. â€”Mowad Alaradi
Dear Readers, Welcome to the fifth annual volume of Best Writing, the anthology of student writing first published by Texas A&M University at Qatar in 2014. We invite you to explore the stories, poems, essays, reports, and reflections in this book, composed by our undergraduate engineering students—or “poet-engineers” as we like to refer to them. In addition to pursuing expertise in their respective majors (petroleum, mechanical, chemical, or electrical and computer engineering), these poet-engineers understand the power of writing and care deeply about finding the right word at the right time for the right audience, which today includes you! We are pleased that Best Writing has found an audience over the years among students, staff, and faculty at Texas A&M at Qatar, but we are overjoyed at its broader reach. Our previous volumes have been disseminated to Qatar National Library, to Qatar’s Ministry of Education, to our sister branch campuses in Education City, and to members of the Texas A&M Joint Advisory Board when they visit from our main campus in College Station. Many more copies of Best Writing have traveled the world, building bridges between current and former students, between students’ families and their university experiences, and between the Texas A&M at Qatar community and the global Aggie family. With around 500 currently enrolled students, 1000 former students, 200 staff, and nearly 100 faculty members, together we form one Aggie community at Texas A&M at Qatar. Since its inception, the Best Writing Series has sought to include the diverse views of the members of this community, so we were pleased to include a few pieces sprinkled throughout this volume that were written by staff members at Texas A&M at Qatar. Our fifth volume takes even greater strides towards celebrating this diversity by publishing more submissions on sensitive subjects whose authors wish to remain anonymous. This year’s volume is subtitled “The Stories We Live By,” borrowed from an oft quoted passage by Nigerian storyteller Ben Okri. In words both plainspoken and beautiful, Okri counsels, “We live by stories, we also live in them. One way or another we are living the stories planted in us early or along the way, or we are also living the stories we planted—knowingly or unknowingly—in ourselves” (1997, p.46.). The pieces you read in this volume represent stories our authors live by. Some of these stories can be traced to the identities our students hold on to from high school; some stories originate from treasured—and sometimes pressure-filled—family legacies. Still others are stories of struggle and growth as students matriculate from first year to second, and seniors reflect on how they were deeply changed by their university experiences (see Chapter 9’s stories from the Class of 2018). Okri audaciously claims that “If we change the stories we live by, quite possibly we change our lives” (1997, p.46). Many of the pieces in Best Writing 2018 reveal students grappling with difficult issues, subjects, or decisions, thus ii
demonstrating their courage, talent, and resilience in the telling of their stories as they try to make sense of their lived experiences. Many of the pieces in this volume reveal students “in medias res”—in the midst of things as they reflect on their pasts and ponder their futures. Education evokes change, and the changes that our students go through both before and during their time at university is apparent just by skimming the Table of Contents. For example, one piece has the words metamorphosis and transformation in its title. (p. 69). Several titles are in the form of a question: “Why?” (p. 37, p. 39, p. 111 and p. 231). Some pieces in this volume involve a reconsideration of the past, such as “Reading Gave Birth to My Curiosity” (p. 77) and “Once We Were the Best” (p. 199); other pieces look forward such as “Future Tense” (p. 59) and “Finding Utopia” (p. 241). The nine chapters in this volume are loosely arranged around topics or themes, but if you read each piece closely, you might find an underlying story that drives a student to succeed, such as “I struggled but did not give up,” “I will not let my family down,” or “I will become the engineer my nation needs.” The Best Writing series itself has a story, too. It probably has more than one story by now, but its fifth anniversary is a good time to tell its origin story. Best Writing almost didn’t come into existence because the founder lived by these two stories: 1. It is better to fly under the radar than bring attention to yourself; and 2. You should never ask for money (even though she knew that all good ideas eventually require money to fund them!) However, as an English teacher she had witnessed the powerful writing and storytelling that her engineering students were capable of, and it seemed selfish not to try to find an audience beyond the classroom for these students’ pieces. It would simplify this origin story—and maybe even make the founder sound courageous—to claim that the desire to find a larger audience for her students’ writing superseded her personal story that she was shy and her core belief that it was safer to hide. But the truth is that Best Writing would probably still be an idea if not for the encouragement of a mentor. Dr. Troy Bickham, Program Chair of Liberal Arts from 2012 to 2015, recognized the potential of the project and also its founder’s need for prodding. From his guidance in drafting the first grant to fund the project to his unwavering support throughout his tenure in Qatar, Dr. Bickham championed Best Writing from the beginning. Without Dr. Bickham’s guidance and mentorship, Best Writing might still be a seed that hadn’t yet been planted. Alongside our Texas A&M at Qatar students (who have also been strong supporters of Best Writing), this fifth volume is dedicated to him. Stories are gifts, both to the teller and the listener. Stories help us discover new things about ourselves and our world; their threads connect us to one another and to generations of storytellers in the past. There is a quiet power in giving voice to our own stories as well as bearing witness to the stories of others. As you read the stories in this volume, we think you will see the truth of this saying from “storycatcher” Brian Doyle: “Stories change lives; stories save lives; they crack open hearts; they open minds” (2016, p.150). iii
We hope that the Best Writing series continues for at least another five years, sustaining the stories that need to be told and then, of course, sharing them with you. Until next year, Mysti Rudd & Amy Hodges, co-editors References Doyle, B. (2016). Martin marten: A novel. New York, NY: Picador Okri, B. (1997). A way of being free. London: Phoenix House
What Best Writing Means To Me When Mysti Rudd suggested to me that we launch a student writing anthology so many years ago (I was chair for the Liberal Arts Program at the time.), I had two initial reactions. The first was that she was not making a suggestion; it was more of an accusation along the lines of “Why do we not have this for our students?.” The second was an instantaneous fondness of the concept. A publication that showcased and celebrated student writing would be a boon for Liberal Arts at Texas A&M at Qatar, which had historically struggled a bit to demonstrate its relevance to engineering education. An anthology demonstrating that our students’ talents and skills went beyond tackling divergence theorems, Lagrangian mechanics, and adiabatic irreversible compression would be a welcome addition, as it would further underline the comprehensive approach to engineering education that had made Texas A&M a world leader. After all, within a few years of graduation, engineers spent much of their day writing—emails, reports, presentations—and those who write well, excel. While Best Writing met all of those expectations, it also greatly exceeded them in unexpected ways. When I teach a class, I determine to a large extent its content insofar as I decide what topics we will cover most intensely and how students will be assessed. Although I may be under the illusion of giving students a choice when I allow them to select their topics for an essay or presentation, they still must work within the broader subject of the course: American history (probably not a subject upon which they would happily write in their free time). For me, reading Best Writing has been the privilege of knowing my students better. The topics they choose and the mediums of expression—short stories, poetry, photography—all offer personal insights that I might not otherwise gain, because, unlike in my class, students published in Best Writing are selecting both what they want to communicate and how they want to convey it. Although I have worn many hats in my career in higher education, I am first and foremost a historian. As a historian, I have come to recognize that Best Writing is an artifact that records our students’ perspectives at particular moments in their lives. The pages document a student’s veneration of her great-grandfather, cultural criticism and pride, and the excitement of traveling to a foreign country. They also express certain constants—that students’ intellectual growth at university is profound and that every generation has anxieties about the future. Taken as a collection, as I do by displaying the volumes together on a shelf in my home, Best Writing is a literary history of Texas A&M at Qatar and the students who pass through its hallways. I hope that students and colleagues—past, present, and future—will use Best Writing for the purposes of remembering and reflecting upon these times and people, and, for those reasons, cherish it. —Dr. Troy Bickham v
Notes from Longstanding Members of the Best, Best Writing Committee on the Occasion of Publishing the 5th Volume in the Series: Ghada Al-Haroon (student representative) It all started in the beginning of my sophomore year, when I was approached by Dr.Mysti to join the Best Writing committee. Like every student who just started taking their major courses, I was hesitant to join as I did not know how it would pan out when I already had a heavy university schedule. Nevertheless, I decided to go for it because of my passion for reading and writing. So, throughout the three years I served on the committee, I had the opportunity to read and assess other peopleâ€™s writings, and what captivated me even more, aside of my passion for reading, is that I was reading pieces from people who are walking around me on campus every day. It was really interesting to get to know about their pasts and learn from their personal experiences. With time I got the hang of it and I grew closer with the members of the committee. There was always this strong bond between all the committee members which translated into very successful events and publications. As a recent graduate, I now realize how glad I am for not opting out, as being on the Best Writing Committee gave me the opportunity to work on something I love and not lose my passion for reading in between all the numbers and equations. All I can say is that I was lucky enough to be a part of it. Finally, I would like to thank all the committee members, both past and present for the great time I shared with them in addition to their support as they made me feel like a valued member and for considering my opinions to represent the students. Kelly Wilson (staff representative) Wow. Five Years. Five Editions. Five Launch Parties. And multiples of five committee meetings. As a member of the Best Writing Committee, I get to read inspiring and imaginative stories, be witness to the process of turning a class assignment into a published piece, and participate in selecting distinguished readers for the annual fall launch party. Iâ€™m honored to be a part of this fantastic project that highlights the creative minds and determined hearts of our students. With this fifth edition, we have established a tradition at Texas A&M University at Qatar and I look forward to what stories are yet to be told that will find their way onto the pages of Best Writing 2019.
Why I Read by Deanna Rasmussen (faculty representative) Every year there are more than a few submissions to Best Writing called “Why I Write.” After five years of serving on the Best Writing Committee and reading endless versions of “Why I Write,” I decided I wasn’t having any more of it. I wasn’t going to read another piece called “Why I Write,” and I said so to Dr. Mysti. But I wasn’t entirely resolute in my decision. Because every year, even though there are going to be submissions called “Why I Write,” they are not the same piece of writing. They are all different because they’ve been written by individuals with individual journeys and experiences with writing. And I’m reminded of how I may be older and jaded, but I can still catch some of the excitement a student feels sharing the discovery of the power of writing for the first time. And that is Why I Read.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The editors of this volume, Dr. Amy Hodges and Dr. Mysti Rudd, wish to acknowledge all of the students and staff who submitted their writing for review. Without all of your contributions, the fifth volume of Best Writing by Texas A&M at Qatar would not exist, and we honor the courage required to share your writing with the world. We are grateful for the time and energy dedicated to this series by the Best Writing Committee, made up of the following students, staff, and faculty: Aalaa Abdallah, Class of 2019 Erlinda Caerlang Deanna Rasmussen Ghada Al-Haroon, Class of 2018 Vanessa Lina Olena Snitko Abdulla Al-Tamimi, Class of 2020 Shauna Loej Sherry Ward Midhat Javiad, Class of 2020 Sahar Mari Kelly Wilson Nadim Wahbeh, Class of 2019 Saly Awadh Dania Jalees Thanks for attending our many meetings and reviewing all the pieces submitted. We would also like to acknowledge the talented student photographers who provided photos for the cover and chapter dividers of this volume: Aalaa Abdallah, Class of 2019 “Stories of Caring for Communities” Mowad Alaradi, Class of 2019 “Cover photo” and “Stories that Make Us Stronger” Fatima Al-Janahi, Class of 2020 “Stories that Stir the Imagination” Dana AlYafei, Class of 2021 “Stories that Build Hope” Maryam El-Emadi, Class of 2020 “Stories Fashioned from Art” and “Stories that Tailor Situations” Kenana Dalle, Class of 2020 “Stories that Weather Storms” Husnain Manzoor, Class of 2018 “Stories that Link Us to Each Other” Saad Moazam, Class of 2019 “Stories that Take Us Places” and “Class of 2018” We offer our thanks to the members of the Best Writing Photo Committee, recruited and headed by Sahar Mari: Dr. Othmane Bouhali, Omar El Hassan, Brenda Mooney, Rosalie Nickles, Dr. Albertus Retnanto, Rommel Yrac, and Dr. Nouf N. Khashman from Qatar National Library. Thank you for selecting this year’s wonderful cover photo! A special thanks to Sahar Mari and Beth Caerlang for organizing all the submissions this year and to graphic designer Salma Hamouda for sharing her expertise with us for the second year in a row! Design and layout by Salma Hamouda ix
DEDICATION To Troy Bickham— for believing in the power of writing and the talents of our students. And to all courageous writers— may you find yourselves through the stories you tell.
TABLE OF CONTENTS 2
Ghadeer Al-Haddad, Memories from Main Campus
Chapter 1: Stories that Build Hope 8 Jude Aloudeh, My Legacy 12 Hayfaa Ghaith Al-Kuwari, Living with Disability in Qatar 16 Nicholas Gregory Gutierrez, Dear High School Graduate Self 18 Shurouq Bader Al Siddiqi, Scars of the Past 24 Ghassan Ahmed El Jichi, Dear Mother 28 Nancy Abraham, Blue Bird 32 Ghaith Glaied, Future … Chapter 2: Stories that Tailor Solutions 36 Rahul Balamurugan, Why I Write 38 Abdulla Mohammed Al Tamimi, Why All This? 40 Ali Al Haddad, Full Mind but a Blank Page 44 Zeina Barghouti, My Relationship with Writing 46 Anjum Susan John, H-empathy 50 Elizabeth Jijy Abraham, Monya Al-Muhannadi, Mohammed Hassan, The Wonderful World of Miles Kimball’s Technical Communication 58 Fatimah Khan, Future Tense 62 Shaji Neenu, A New Canvas Chapter 3: Stories Fashioned from Art 66 Vanessa Lina, The Writer Within 68 Binish Hussain, Metamorphosis: My Transformation through Reading 72 Safin Hossain Bayes, An Engineering Student vs. All of History 76 Fatima Jaafar Al Khuzaei, Reading Gave Birth to My Curiosity 80 Aalaa Abdallah, The Human Engineer 84 Shaikha Ahmed Al-Darwish, Reading Runs in My Family 88 Abdullah Mohammed Yousuf, The Universal Tools of a Liberal Arts Education 92 Aisha Hussain, The Lost Boys Chapter 4: Stories that Make Us Stronger 98 Erlinda “Beth” Caerlang, The Laborer is Worthy of His Hire 102 Mohamed Hazem Hussein, Dear Daddy 106 Anonymous, Loss 110 Anonymous, Why Isn’t He Here Anymore? 114 Anonymous, 8th of October, 6:49 p.m. 120 Anonymous, Because of You 124 Mahmoud El Raei, Should’ve Known It Was the Last Time xii
Chapter 5: Stories of Caring for Communities 130 Binish Hussain, Opening Doors 134 Amna Mahanna Al Sulaiti, Learning Environment: Littering and Its Effect on the TAMUQ Community 142 Maha Sultan Al Sheeb, My Mum’s Feeling 146 Nour Zeid, The Qatar Blockade: A Rhetorical Analysis of Message and Audience 154 Ahmed Al-Ali, The Detriments of Domesticating Big Cats 160 Syeda Manahil Akhter, Abdullah Yousuf, Aalaa Abdallah, and Nasser Al-Thani, Proposal for an Alternative Joint Design in a Do-It-Yourself Well-Digging Kit Chapter 6: Stories that Take Us Places 176 Rinith Rheghunath, I Write Because It Gives Me Power 178 Shauna Marie Loej, Souvenirs 182 Saleh Ahmad Hussein, Shining in My Darkest Moments 190 Aisha Al-Margozi, The Small Yellow Classroom 194 Haseeb Sharif Bajwa, My Purpose of Existence 196 Aisha Al-Margozi, The Longest Night of My Life 198 Ghassan Marwan Saad, Once We Were the Best Chapter 7: Stories that Weather Storms 204 John Crisme, Sanctuary 208 Fatimah Khan, My Head is a Battlefield 212 Aalaa Abdallah, The Eternal Internal Battle 216 Anonymous, Side Kicks 220 Mohamed Hazem Hussein, Sticks & Stones 224 Anonymous, Labels 228 Anonymous, Losing Faith 230 Anonymous, Why Am I Here? 234 Fatima Jaafar Al Khuzaei, The Stream of My Consciousness 236 Anonymous, Bonsai Chapter 8: Stories that Stir the Imagination 240 Dana Khalid AlYafei, Finding Utopia 248 Saeed Ali Binnoora, The Twilight Shore 252 Anonymous, M.A.D. – Mutually Assured Destruction 256 Njoud Ahmed Al Emadi, True Side 262 Ahmed Al-Nowfal Al-Tamimi, (The Grave) التابوت Chapter 9: Stories that Link Us to Each Other 268 Mohamed Al Balushi, The Hardest Battle Sometimes is the One Within 272 Shaikha Saad Al-Qahtani, Dear Dr. Bouhali 276 Anonymous, Dear Student 280 Asfandhyar Yoosufani, First Week in TAMUQ 284 Ghadeer Al-Haddad, Getting Away xiii
Memories from Main Campus Written below are instances from my experience studying abroad at College Station. It was an experience full of stories, happy, and difficult moments which I’m sharing part of with you. I used to write the special moments or situations in my diary to keep and reflect on. Therefore, written below are pieces from my diary and some that I had to recall. Before Departure I had never had this feeling of wanting to do something and not do it at the same time. Feeling excited but afraid. Afraid of what will be coming, of the unknown, yet excited to discover it and live it. In one day, everything will change, the place I’m in, the people I’m with, and even I will change. I will have to change in order to adapt, not completely but for some things only. When the day came to travel, I felt sick all the time and I couldn’t eat anything. I had mixed feelings, feeling happy, excited, overwhelmed, sad, crazy and impatient. I didn’t know if I packed everything I needed or not, I didn’t know how things would be tomorrow, but despite that I still wanted to do it. Check-in I was sitting near our gate and the woman next to me asked where to get water. I didn’t know and I wanted water too so I told her, “Let’s go and check.” I walked and she followed me. I left her as I saw a coffee shop where I ordered water and hot milk. At that moment I felt I am alone, and I liked the feeling. I went back and the woman pointed for me to sit next to her. She kept talking on the phone, and I drank the hot milk. The gate opened and we boarded the airplane. On the airplane, in the seat next to me was a very big purple unicorn; it was so cute and made me feel happy. Houston Airport When we arrived at Houston airport, and while I was trying to get the required documents from my suit case, Colby told me, “Welcome to America.” After we all passed the immigration, one person took longer in there. While waiting for him, a woman who apparently works for the airlines came to me and asked why I’m here and why we are waiting. Then, she told me to take care of myself and gave me a fruit bar to eat. I was really hungry at that time because I didn’t eat on the airplane and so I ate it right away. When we left the airport, it was dark but Houston looked so alive with the lights of small stores and restaurants. I was so happy being at Houston and excited as well. College Station The next day early morning we drove to College Station. We arrived at The Gardens, where our apartments were located. College Station looked similar to Houston, but it was different with the Aggie spirit all over the place. I liked the green landscape, the big trees, and the cloudy sky. The sun touching my face once and hiding from me another. At night, the moon was so bright and 3
big in the sky. The campus was full of people walking or riding, the squirrels running around, and the beautiful ancient buildings. Everything seemed bigger compared to our campus in Qatar: the buildings, the classes, the buses, and the number of students. Tea with Milk During our first days at College Station there was always something missing! When we went to visit the MSC building, I was excited to order tea with milk from the coffee shop there. We didn’t have a kettle in our apartment, not even sugar. The lady working there gave me a cold milk bottle with an empty cup and told me to fill it. I didn’t want a cold milk but I thought fine at least I will get a hot tea. However, when I went to fill the cup with tea I realized it was ice tea and the lady told me that this is the only tea they have. I wonder what she was thinking of me ordering cold milk and ice tea together. Anyways, I took coffee instead. Accommodation The world is much bigger than what you see, and it is much better than what you expect. I feel there is a lot to explore. I feel it is not only me but others and at the same time it is only me. I feel more independent, comfortable, safe and I feel it is becoming like my second home. Sometimes I hate waiting and that I can’t see or talk to whoever whenever I want. Many things bother me like the time difference, the differences and the similarities that are hard to find or understand, the adaptation that should happen, and the cold weather. But I like merging with the crowd of people, to walk with lots of people, and to get crowded in the bus so the place feels warmer. I like that we have different destinations but walk in the same way. Everything here looks different. Our Qatar campus seems an extension of the main campus but with its own identity, environment, and culture. Life is more simple; it teaches you to be free, to try to change, to get used to scarcity and things running out, to be satisfied with the little, and to have to wait longer. History Class This was the biggest class I ever had with more than 180 students in a lecture room. The room had four doors since it was so big. The building was ancient but had a warm feeling. At the beginning, I felt really lost in this class. We had to read four books and take notes during the lecture. I was amazed how the professor managed the class; I liked her power and energy. It was about Texas history, and I liked the stories we read and how passionate the professor was. Why I’m Here Today I felt I really need to know the answer for this question or find it. These days I’m feeling more homesick; I feel I want to go back to Qatar. Definitely I’m not here to study only because I can do that in my home country. There are some words that are still ringing back and forth in my mind when Katya told 4
me, “It is all about your attitude.” And Khadija told me, “You will be fine” and “You’ll learn to cook.” Dr. Nancy told me, “I’m proud of you that you made it to Texas.” And Colby kept asking me, “Do you want to go to Greece?” I’m here for myself, to be away and search for a new way of living. I want to be independent, stronger, and understand things better. I want to grow, to forget, to get lost, to find myself, and to discover new things. Every day I feel I learn a new lesson and discover new things. I liked how different people are, and to accept and understand that. I did things I didn’t imagine I would do like travelling alone, visiting Disney World, and running a 5K. I had to learn to do other things like laundry or shopping in a grocery. Last Night at College Station I began to believe that it is not important where you are, but the land with its opportunities and experiences that provide for you that is more valued. Today is the last day before we travel back, although some students extended their stay. Katya told me about an Aggie Ring party; they call it a Ring Dunk. Berkley wanted to spend the day with us going around College Station. Therefore, we decided to go to the cinema and watch Beauty and the Beast. After that, we went driving around College Station, and Berkley told us about some of the stories like the woman who lives under the bridge and the people who buy a street and name it and take care of it. Then we went to a restaurant where Berkley’s friend was competing in a spicy chicken wings challenge. While leaving the restaurant, a girl we met there sat on her knees and prayed for us to be protected and arrive home safe.
Ghadeer Al-Haddad, chemical engineering major, graduated May 2018. 5
Stories that Build Hope
Photo by Dana AlYafei, Class of 2021
My dad often says, “Each person has pillars, and those pillars define what is important to you and what you are trying to achieve in this world. If you don’t have these pillars, then you will be walking around the world with no purpose, honey.” These words echo at the back of my mind because of their importance and the significance my dad placed on them. He repeatedly explains that these pillars are representations of the core values of any individual.
My Legacy There is a legacy behind my burning desire to help others. I have always looked up to my dad. He is one of my idols, so as a little girl I always tried to imitate him from the way he talks to the way he treats people. I remember when I was five, my dad answered the phone saying, “Hello, Nash speaking.” For an entire month after that I would answer any phone call from any phone saying, “Hello, Jude speaking.” I genuinely don’t understand the reason behind my infatuation with that sentence other than my dad used it. My dad has tried to instill in my siblings and me the importance of helping others and how beneficial it is to us as individuals and the community as whole. It’s only until a few years later that I realized there is a legacy behind this need to give back and take care of people. My grandfather, may he rest in peace, used to be a big advocate of helping others and encouraging that kind of mentality. Being the eldest child in the family, I have always had the urge to take care of my siblings, from small things like reading them bed time stories to helping them in their studies. I remember at the age of fourteen I walked into my dad’s room while he was having a very heated conversation on the phone. At first, I didn’t know the reason behind the stress he was displaying. I had never seen it before. My dad is the kind of man who keeps calm. Even at the tragic death of my aunt’s husband, he was able to keep his composure and control the situation. I am pretty sure the astonishment displayed on my face was apparent. After realizing that I was in the room, he pointed towards the door, indicating that he wanted me to leave. He is always like that, trying to protect my siblings and me from the ‘bad’ in the world. Even when he is stressed, he does not display how he is feeling. I always found that astonishing. His ability to control his emotions is an incredible quality that I have tried to acquire from him for a few years now. Later on that day he told me to leave the room, my dad called me back to his room. I knew straight away that he wanted to discuss what I saw, probably to explain why he was so aggravated. I could never forget the solemn expression on my dad’s face; it screamed exhaustion and dejection as he explained the family situation to me, in which he was trying to resolve the complication between two of my aunts who were not on talking terms because of an insignificant fight that drove a wedge between them that lasted a couple of weeks. Family is very important to my dad, so such situations make him very exasperated. It goes against his pillars and the values that were inscribed in him from a young age by my grandfather. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to meet my grandfather. He had passed away before I was born. He was a family man caring about each family member; whether older or younger, he took care of them. However, he also made sure everyone in the community around him was happy. He would spare at least an hour a day just to talk to the neighbors and make sure everyone is doing okay. That idea alone gave him enough joy that he didn’t need anything in return. He was a caretaker, and he passed on these values to my dad who passed them on to me. 9
Even though I never met him, stories retold to me by various family members allowed me to feel like I almost know him. I remember the first story I was ever told of my grandfather when I was seven, and all of my dad’s family were sitting in the living room of my aunt’s house. There were over thirty people there with everyone talking, laughing and eating when suddenly my cousin asks my aunt, “Why does Grandfather look like he’s rising from the dead in this picture?” pointing to the portrait on the wall. After that, the whole room erupted into a fit of laughs. Looking at the photo, I could easily see why my cousin would say such a thing. It was a black and white picture of my granddad, with a black background. What made it really creepy though, is the fact there was light shining from behind my grandpa in the background of the picture. It really looked like the photo was pulled out from a horror movie. After everyone calmed down, my eldest aunt asked all the adults to leave the room because she wanted to talk to us kids alone. So we all huddled around my aunt, restlessly and apprehensively waiting for the story because hers were always the best. “Once upon time, there was a man living in a small village in Kuwait. He had just graduated from a public high school and was looking forward to pursuing a degree in business. However, because of economic issues in the family, either he or his brother had to give up at least two years of their college life to help support the family. The man decided that his older brother should be able to procure his university degree and that he himself will help the family. The man believed because his brother had only a couple of years in university he should have the opportunity to complete it. Guess who that man was? Your Grandfather.” I was struck in awe after that moment. I found it extraordinary that someone could be this much of a giver. My seven-year-old self was so astonished at the selflessness of my grandfather that I didn’t move from my position for the next few minutes. I knew how important university education is. I have overheard it by different family members throughout the years. So for someone to give that up for someone else is legendary; my grandfather is legendary. The ideals passed through my family from generation to the next molded me to the person I am today. I hope one day I can have stories worthy of being retold to my children and grandchildren. My greatest desire is to be able to maintain this legacy, my legacy.
Jude Aloudeh is a Palestinian electrical engineering student at Texas A&M at Qatar. 10
Everyone has a dream. And itâ€™s not easy to achieve that dream because of the difficulties. When an obstacle is there, it doesnâ€™t mean that we get weak and forget about our goals. Passing through difficulties requires huge effort and strong desire to overcome obstacles. Sooner or later you will achieve what you want. but you need patience and passion. There are some stories that are worth telling to people and one of them is about N.K. I interviewed her for my English assignment, and I felt that I needed to master this assignment to get an A in that course. While I was doing it, I realized how her life is inspiring so I thought of submitting this to the Best Writing for people to read.
Living with Disability in Qatar Qatari N.K. was born normally as any other kid, but it happened that she had to face something that her parents never thought of. In the 1970s poliomyelitis (or polio, an infectious disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system) was widely spread among children in the world. At the age of two, N.K. was supposed to have the polio vaccine, but she didn’t because her parents didn’t have enough knowledge about the disease. At that time, she got very sick and her temperature increased significantly. At the beginning they thought it was a normal fever; however, it didn’t drop back to its normal range. She was then diagnosed with polio. The disease caused her bones to weaken until she was unable to carry her whole body. She was supposed to go to school, but she couldn’t. She went to various doctors and hospitals in Qatar, Lebanon, London and India to help her feel better. She had to do several surgeries for her legs to recover. They gave her a device weighing four kilos with a shape similar to normal shoes to help her walk short distances. From the time she was diagnosed with polio until the age of eight, she was abroad doing surgeries. I asked her about her feelings at that time. She answered that it was so hard to wake up every day in the hospital room feeling the pain and not knowing the reason because she was young and this was complicated to her. Time went on and N.K went to school. She used a wheelchair or the device easily, and this was not an obstacle to her. She continued to study until she graduated from high school. She said the only problem that occurred when she was in high school was that her class was on the second floor. She made a request for changing her class to the first floor, but the principal refused by saying that she can’t take any responsibility for disabled people. This was the first real difficulty that she faced, and so she had to move to another school. However, this was not the only problem that she faced in her life. In Qatar University she studied Sociology where some of her professors said to her that if she can’t walk then she can’t do the same things as other students. In her studies she wanted to prove the opposite, that she can help and give people what they need even though she can’t walk. One of the physical challenges that she faced in university is the distance; she needed to walk long distances from one building to another as there were no buses. Also, course registration was located on the campus itself not online as nowadays, so she had to do it all by herself. But her passion to complete her studies was stronger than any problem that could stop her. It took her about five years to graduate from the university because she stopped one year to donate her kidney to her father. When N.K. finished university in 1996, she applied for a job, but they told her that they were not accepting people with disabilities, and this was shocking for her. Despite the fact that she couldn’t walk, she could do everything else as she 13
was not mentally disabled and her job didn’t require her to walk. But how could they judge her just because of her appearance? They wanted someone who is flawless, but there is no one who is flawless! Today, she works at the Ministry of Administrative Development Labor and Social Affairs as a social expert where she has worked since 2001. During the conversation, she said, “ Now I’m helping others who are in the same situation as mine or even in another way.” For example, she helps orphans and divorced or widowed women get their rights. She tries her best to give them what they need, because one day she was in their place and needed help like them. However, people in the community sometimes do things that they are not really supposed to do. In some situations, they use the car parking reserved for disabled people, or even use the disabled toilets which is of course illegal. The government pays attention to this and puts penalties on those who violate the laws. In addition to that, people sometimes stare at her and act mean towards her as if she chose to have this disability. She mentioned as well the conditions of some buildings which are not supplied with the equipment that makes life easier for people with disabilities. Despite these difficulties, N.K. is considered to be a remarkable employee. She has participated in multiple events to represent disabled people in Qatar like the one which was held in Oman in 2012, and she has worked on improving the website of the ministry. In 2014 she received a letter of appreciation for all of her work and effort that showed significant impact towards the Qatari community. One of her hobbies is drawing, and she has tried to improve her skills by taking courses. She is also hoping to convince the government to make the streets and buildings a better place for people who are disabled in one way or another. People often are supportive and like to help individuals reach their goals. But the idea of considering people with disability as people who can’t do anything, or even trying to make them feel bad about themselves is something that we need to think more about. While I was talking with N.K., I found the way she was telling me her story to be unique; her voice was strong as if she was telling me the story of someone else. I’m really happy and proud about the work she has done for herself. Although life was harsh to her at some points, she was able to persevere with few emotional and physical effects. We should all follow N.K’s example as she overcame the difficulties because of her strong desire to achieve her goals.
Hayfaa Al-Kuwari is an electrical engineering sophomore at Texas A&M at Qatar. She believes that passion never fails and hard work pays off one day. 14
NICHOLAS GREGORY GUTIERREZ
In my English 104 class, every student creates a process portfolio containing all of our writing pieces. Among the papers written inside the portfolio, my instructor wanted what she called a wildcard, which could be anything we wanted. After brainstorming topics about the wildcard, I thought I would write a poem (for an easy grade, to be honest), then I would draw a picture to go with it. I decided not to do that because I wanted to make it meaningful to me, so I thought of something else. I got the idea from me thinking about wanting to go back and change things I did or didnâ€™t do, so I wrote a letter to myself. The author is my present self, while the person it is addressed to is myself when I had just graduated high school. I am proud of what I wrote and I put so much thought into what I was writing to myself, as if it would actually change the outcome of my life. After ending it, I think it made me realize what I am doing wrong and how I should change my habits. I wrote this after being sent an email from the financial aid office that my application was denied, and I was under the impression it was due to my GPA. I was devastated, and it was a wake up call for me, so I thought of things I would have done differently. I wanted to give myself in the past advice on what may happen in the future without giving too much away, if that makes sense. I wanted it to be like this letter would reach me, so I imagined myself back then and now writing and reading it. This really helped with my situation and gave me the motivation and courage I was desperately lacking. Writing this was very emotional and at times I re-read it and wished I had really received this. So with that, I can honestly say that it has changed who I am and who I want to become. 16
Dear High School Graduate Self, You have a lot ahead of you, and although I can’t tell you exactly what to do about what may or may not happen, I can tell you to just trust yourself. Actually, more than just trust yourself. Act how you know you should, because I know damn well you know how. Your summer is about making life changing decisions. Deep down in your heart, you know what you want, so reach out and make it happen. You have a second chance, and that doesn’t come around all the time, so I suggest you take advantage. I know you made the right choice already and you won’t regret it one bit, because well, I haven’t yet. Just a heads up, you are going to be challenged for the first time, just in case you are still ignorant to how college education works. Your professors, every single one of them, want you to succeed and they know what’s best for you, so just trust their process and show them you’re putting in effort. Motivation for some comes easy, but for others like yourself, it needs a little kickstart. So, from time to time just look around when you are walking. Look at your surroundings. Look how far you’ve come. Back home, your family is waiting for your return, and they are as proud of you as I am. Think back when you were in elementary school, and you “graduated” to middle school. I remember almost perfectly; it felt like something inside changed, more mature yet still extremely childish. You knew back then what your dream college would be, you knew with all of your heart. Maroon, Aggie, A&M, that’s all you wanted for your future. So look around. Look at the posters on the walls. Look at your email address. Look at what your classmates wear every spirit Thursday. You made it. It won’t sink in the first week or the second, but one day, you will see what I mean, and you will smile uncontrollably while walking down the hallway because anywhere you look, it’s “Texas A&M University.” So work for it, prove that you belong there. Just remember how far you have come. Here’s a news flash for you just in case you didn’t know: everyone has had times where they feel like giving up, where they feel so overwhelmed, or where they have fallen. Remember what your uncle said, “If you ask anyone if they ever doubted themselves in college and they say no, then they are lying.” So with that I say, remember that there are others who have come before you and have probably faced exactly what you’re going to. You may fall, you may find courage to get up, and guess what? Life is going to knock you back down. Gain the courage to once again, stand back up and rub the dust off your jeans, because in the end, you will be glad you did. With much love and strength, Future Self Nicholas Gutierrez was born in San Antonio, Texas, and never expected to be so far away from home. His whole family are fans of Texas A&M, and naturally, that is where he always wanted to study. Coming to Qatar was one of the biggest and best decisions of his life so far as he has learned much about himself, the culture surrounding him, and of course, his studies. He is looking forward to future semesters studying in Qatar and is eager to earn his Aggie Ring. 17
SHUROUQ BADER AL SIDDIQI
Through this essay, I learned how to share my personal experience in such a way that helps the readers to have some visualization. This is the longest essay I have ever written and the most edited essay I have ever completed. I was feeling so proud of myself while writing it because this essay describes one of the unforgettable moments in my life. When I see this whole piece of writing, I can see my burn journey reflected. When I first wrote this essay, I just wrote about the accident without putting in any emotional parts or descriptions. But by editing it a couple of times, I started plugging in these emotions, and it was great. Sometimes I would feel bored because I was rereading the same draft again and again. So Iâ€™d forget about it for days and then come back and fix it. It was a helpful method because I could find that at some point I confused the reader or there were no connections between the sentences. Finally, I always sought help in my drafts because only others can give me good feedback.
Scars of the Past When I was a kid, I would always laugh and play with children. I was restless and gregarious. In school, I used to talk while everyone was listening and laughing at my stories. I also joined swimming club because I felt that there was an energy that had to be taken out in a productive way. I was so glad to have a suitable school environment which was one of the reasons that helped me to be friendly. I played with my cousins in weekends, participated in different sport activities in Aspire, enrolled in art classes, and just hung out with friends. When I was ten years old, I used to help my sister in her homeworks, and we spent our time mostly with each other. I was living a normal life. But everything changed after 8th of March 2009. On that day, I went home with my sister after finishing school at 2:00 PM. I went up to my room and changed my school uniform. I was so excited to open the new handcrafted necklace which my mom bought for us after me nagging for more than a week. The necklace was trendy back then; most of my friends had one so I wanted it too. I didn’t even eat my lunch because of the joy. I opened the necklace box, and my sister put the beads in a thin plastic wire, and I tried several times to close it, but I failed. After thinking for a while, I went to the safety box where I had seen my father hiding the blowtorch there. I knew that heat could melt the plastic and I could join the plastic wires together. My sister was warning me about playing with fire, but being the naughty girl that I was, I didn’t listen. Instead, I sat on the floor while I was holding the plastic wire with my left hand and the blowtorch with the right hand. I turned it on, and the fire blew out. It was the first time I turned on a blowtorch. I was shocked with terror because of the heat coming out, so my immediate reaction was to lean back to protect myself. I remember that I was wearing an elegant full-length colorful dress which my mom bought for me the previous week. The plastic wire melted as a ball of fire falling on my dress. When I saw that my dress was on fire, I threw the blowtorch and screamed, and then I stood up. I was getting burned in front of my sister’s eyes. Imagine what her reaction was! She was shocked and stood like a statue. Her mouth stayed open but she couldn’t scream for help. I was feeling the heat eating my skin like hungry rats. I saw my skin falling on the floor; it was everywhere in the room where we were sitting. I screamed for help, but no one was there, only my terrified sister. I told my sister to open the toilet door and open the shower so I could put out the flame. She didn’t move, maybe because I was talking too fast, screaming in pain and that’s why she didn’t know what to do. I felt that I was about to die. I felt that my end was getting nearer and nearer. I can’t describe how painful it was because words aren’t enough. I screamed and ran from the first floor to the ground floor, because I knew that I could ask our maids downstairs for help. As I was running down the stairs, the flame spread quickly. I had a quick glance at myself by looking at the mirror on the stairs’ wall; I was like a walking fire. I tried to stop the flame with my hands, but unfortunately, my hands were getting burned more. When I reached the end of the ground floor stairs, I was already naked with peeled out skin with some 19
parts of the burnt dress sticking on it. I was like a zombie! I lost my voice for a couple of seconds. I was so terrified that I was shaking and crying for help. My mom entered the house while I was standing at the end of the stairs. Thank God that my mom had just come from work. The fire had already burnt my dress and there was nothing more to get burned. When she saw me, she shouted “What happened?” I couldn’t answer, my tears were the only answer. She began to say her prayers loudly while calling her friend from her cell phone to come back to pick us up and take us to the hospital since my mom’s friend dropped her off. She called our maids to bring the biggest dress in my closet, because the wounds might stick to the dress if I wore a tight one. The way to the hospital was hell. I remember putting the AC on my skin to feel the cold, but it wasn’t helping in reducing the heat and the pain. I shouted to the driver to drive fast to reach the hospital sooner but since it was evening, there were traffic jams in most of the roads. After a long trip from Al-Maamoura to Hamad Hospital, I reached the hospital after forty-five minutes. I walked into the emergency room, and since I arrived with a private car, I had to walk to the emergency room. Everyone was scared; I remember a woman closing her kid’s eyes to avoid his looking at me. They put me on an uncomfortable bed. Suddenly, all the doctors and my aunt who is a consultant in Hamad Hospital were surrounding me. I wanted to get out from there, so many questions came into my mind, “Why the doctors wouldn’t stop touching my wounds, why I feel hot, why my wounds started to produce fluid bubbles, why these injections don’t hurt as they usually do.” My situation was like a bad dream. I felt that I won’t make it, that I won’t live. After giving me dozens of painkillers, they took me to the burn unit by an ambulance because it was in another building. I remember that the nurses were popping the large fluid-filled bumps. I closed my eyes and prayed that the time would pass quickly. They took me to room 302 where I would spend the next two months. I had 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-degree burns on four areas of my body: my two hands, right arm, and waist. I couldn’t move because most of my body was bandaged. The doctors didn’t even let anyone visit me for the first week because I might get an infection quickly. I remember looking at my mom through the small room window wishing that she could be next to me. My daily routine involved changing the dressing, getting a salt bath, taking medicines and receiving injections. Most of the time my grandma would stay with me in these procedures because my mom couldn’t handle herself. The dressings were painful, because they had to cut the skin hanging off and it was sticking to the bandages so it was hard to pull it off. Day by day I started to cut my own peeling skin because otherwise I refused to have the dressing changed. Pulling the sticky skin from the bandage was the hardest and most painful part. I had never experienced pain such as this. The doctors used to give me a strong pain killer through both medicines and injections. One day, they gave me lots 20
of injections and pills which my body couldn’t handle, and I passed out. I was recovering slowly, and after the first week, the wounds started to itch. After my first month, I wanted to do something because it was boring just lying there. I had nothing to do except watch the same cartoons through an old television on the wall. After thinking about it, I requested a notebook from my mom so that I could write. I knew that the only way to express my feelings is through writing. So I tried to hold a pen, but I failed several times because my fingers were black. There was no blood going into my fingers, and my fingers’ skin was hard as a stone and so it was difficult to move my fingers or even feel them. After failing several times to hold the pen, I finally did it. To keep the time passing, I wrote in my diary. Sometimes I took a couple of minutes to write a single word. I mentioned my everyday struggle and even my daily nurse’s name. I felt that I was reflecting my daily routine in a piece of paper. It was helpful because I had no one to talk to. In my diary I wrote this: When I was young I hate to write but now I like it. This shows how I felt about writing and how my point of view in writing changed. The nurses joined me in writing, often correcting my spelling. I did thank all of them for their support when I was in such need of it. I remember that they didn’t allow my cousins to visit me because I would look scary to them. It was heartbreaking for me to know that, but it was true. I looked scary! In my diary, I mentioned school so much because I was missing it a lot. I missed the class noise and the crowded cafeteria. I remember squeezing in the cafeteria queue for fifteen minutes to get an omelet or cornflakes with milk. I didn’t want to fail my classes, so my mom hired a tutor to keep me on track with my lessons, and it worked. After two long hard months, I was allowed to go home. I didn’t go to school because I had to change my dressing every two days, and they were heavy. When I felt that I could handle it, I went to school. I was happy, and everyone came to me and wished me to get well. I was glad, but when I went to the primary level, I lost most of my friends. Moving to next level was hard for me especially that girls now grow up and focus more on their styles. Because of that, I was covering my scars so no one can see them, but they either noticed them or knew about it already. I would wear custom made compression garments. I don’t know why I was feeling ashamed of my scars, maybe because of my society’s point of view where they always felt sorry for me. I remember one of my mother’s cousins would call me “the burned girl” if he forgot my name. It was tough. I wanted to express my feeling and my madness, but I didn’t have a way to express it—only through crying. I cried that day and I couldn’t sleep just thinking about his words. I stayed awake for most of that night. I grabbed my diary, and I wrote in it for the first time after three years of getting burned: I feel sad when Ahmed said to my mum, “This is the girl who got burned.” I was smiling, but in my heart, there is a big hole.
I started avoiding gatherings because whenever they see me, they are going to ask about my scars and how they look now or how it’s improving. I appreciate them asking me but in a respectful way. I remember preferring to sit with kids. But even with the kids, I couldn’t stop their curiosity to know about these scars. I liked to tell them my story and warn them of the consequences of playing with fire. I always noticed that my family didn’t want me to feel less than others and never be isolated. I was forbidden by myself to play with kids; I didn’t have a normal childhood. I went to plenty of doctors around the world to have effective treatments. One of them told me that I won’t get married because of these scars. Another doctor told me in a bad way, “Burn scars don’t have treatments; you can cover them by makeup.” I traveled to more than five countries to have treatments, and none of them worked. I had treatment sessions in Turkey, traveling on the weekends to have the treatments and then returning back to my country. I’m still on treatments sessions every month here in Qatar. Each session contains four primary treatments including laser, mesotherapy, plasma injections, and vitamin injections. This is just the first stage of my treatment journey. My scars now are 70 percent smaller than they were eight years ago. I now look at my scars and I say that I love them. They became part of me. I believe that God wanted to test me, and I passed that test. But I always thank God for giving me the chance to be alive now. I don’t blame myself or others; I believe that it is something written for me. I suffered a lot from when I was a kid till now. Still, there will be more suffering waiting for me! My way of thinking changed when I entered the university. I didn’t have the strength to talk about my traumatic experience when I came to university. I used to wear long sleeved shirts under the Abaya and never let someone notice. But when I talked about my scars to a couple of new friends in the university, I was surprised that no one recognized them. So, from that moment I felt that I have to change my way of thinking towards my scars. Now I am confident in myself more; I don’t feel ashamed when my scars appear in public. Even if people noticed my burn scars, I would tell myself that there is nothing wrong with having them! This is my skin; no one has the right to call me on what my skin looks like or even tell me that it is scary.
Shurouq Bader Al Siddiqi is a second year electrical engineering student. She has been at Texas A&M at Qatar since Fall 2016. 22
AHMED EL JICHI
Dear Mother, I hope this letter finds you well. I do apologize for taking long to write this, but I just had to get it right this time. I have written this letter perhaps a thousand times in my mind. I’ve written it and rewritten it almost every day. Hell, I even thought about this a thousand times when I was in the shower. In my head it sounded so perfect and extremely easy to explain, but now that I’m about to put paper to pen, words somehow kept on finding themselves invisible while being written. In my head the words come together like music, but for some reason they don’t on paper. It’s as if I am using some magical invisible ink that has a mind of its own and simply refuses to let the words out. I basically wanted to find a very passionate and expressionable way to explain my feelings toward you. I also wanted to clarify how pure and exceptional your character truly is. When I look deep inside of me, when I really look deep, I imagine a very dark surrounding. Pitch black, really. And the feeling is unspeakable; it’s a very strong feeling that mixes loneliness and sadness. But within that deep darkness I suddenly start seeing a light. An angelic figure that holds a candle which offers me the only sense for direction in that endless cloud of blackness. The closer I get to that candle, the better I feel. At one point when I was very close to it, I felt so strong, like the shape of the world was in my hand. I couldn’t help but to tell myself that was probably how Achilles felt. Or how the king of all kings imagined his greatness in his egotistical mind. The second that I touched you, I was suddenly free of all sorts of negative emotions. Regardless how sorrowful and painful and lonely and sad and depressing my feelings were, they completely vanished. I even lost sense of time and forgot that the year was coming to an end and that a new horizon was upon us. That is probably how heaven feels. But then I wake up and I realize that it was only a mere dream and reality was far from being slightly close. I realized that you are still the very main figure of the perfect role model. Your appreciative soul, your pure persona. I realized how your egotistic, identical, idealistic, and powerful philosophies can rule the world. With a snap of your fingers, you can make the demons inside me get down on their knees. Your loving and caring ecological dynamism are perfection. No one can stand in your way, not Gandhi, not King Richard III, not Einstein, not Alexander the Great, not even Hercules. Your presence makes things possible. Achievements become a meter away, love becomes a default mode, mistakes are forgiven, and memories are engraved. I know that every single person has his own special love for his mother. But I also believe that mine is just superior. I was born as a different person, missing a lot of things except love. Then I grew up to have everything, including that same love. This love that was given to me by my mother has turned into an ambition for repayment. I am looking for something specific to give an example of what this angel has done to me, but it is always hard to find a needle in a haystack. But 25
according to my point of view about the importance of education, I would say that her contribution to my education was mostly appreciated by me. I remember when I was a young child. I used to live in a poor refugee camp where incomes were limited and food was scarce. I remember that I refused to get involved in any of the U.N. free schools, which had a bad reputation back then. My father tried very hard to convince me, but my mind was already set; I wanted to go to a private school. My father had never told me no, and didn’t start then. However, if I am to be a part of my desired school, my father wouldn’t be able to afford our food anymore because the school’s tuitions were even more than his income. On that day, my mom took a huge step in her life, and so did my dad. She was finally getting ready to start her first job as a babysitter in a nursery. My father, on the other hand, who has always been against the idea of working women, agreed. My mother started her job, and I visited her in the nursery. I remember her being very tired; I didn’t have the big heart to have it broken on that time, but I do have it right now, and these flashbacks really still hurt. She quit her job when my dad was promoted, after four years of intense working. She has done way more than that after and before. I always did my best not to make her regret any thing, and she has always been proud. She wasn’t only proud of my strengths, she was never ashamed of my weaknesses. This is why she will always be my hero. For a moment, I would really like to express to her how much she means to me, but I’ve never been able to. But for another moment, I feel like she already knows exactly how I feel as she surely does know how I think. I would like to also tell her that her little boy is grown up now; he is a student in one of the top universities in the world. And guess what? My love, my repayment that I can’t possibly afford, will start as soon as I finish my education. My whole life will be dedicated to you, because you are worth it. Yes, I really said a lot, but believe me, this letter and these words still do not even come close to justifying my feelings. If I am to explicitly and thoroughly talk about how I feel towards you, then I will never stop. My notes will run out of pages and my pen will run out of ink. I’d probably get so deep into it that I’d forget to eat and sleep and eventually collapse. I would sit alone at the beach and surround myself with nothing but the wilderness and the wind on my cheek and just never move from my seat. My point is, if I am to actually and truly explain to you my joy and how I feel toward you, then I will never finish my story. It would be endless because my love toward you is endless. I believe that when God gives the world a mother like you, it is His way of saying that the world needs lots more love, care and affection. I have been lucky to be your son, and I love you so very much.
This piece depicts a very overwhelming time in my life, a time when I had to look and trust to something outside of myself. The bluebird symbolizes a mindset that I utilized to live my life today in surrendering to this universe and allowing it to service me. With any writing, I have to feel compelled to write. If I am not centered and grounded in my emotions and mind, writing becomes very difficult to the point of non-existent. In writing â€œBlue Birdâ€? the words flowed easily for it is truly one of the many stories that I live by. It is a joy to share.
Blue Bird Life has once more abandoned me to its brutal reality. Three mouths to feed, clothe and shelter. Do I accept defeat or keep my faith in something outside of me? I have been climbing this mountain for years and moved a step forward every two. A mountain filled with slippery rocks, never ending bills, step up one and slip back down. Internal struggles from an uncollaborative parent caused continued avalanche. Three children made up the weight I carried on my shoulder as I climbed up with a small hiking stick that was eroding in front of my eyes. The hiking stick was my support, it was my work. “Work evaluation, keep track of your task and time, it is for the betterment of all and creating efficiency”—those were the words that sent shivers down every employee’s spine. Those were the words that caused restructuring, demolishing, and worst of all, pink slips all around. So the sign was there and it just got clearer: it was time for me to start looking for a new job. The search and applications were not successful as I saw my direct report succeed in her attempt. I prepared myself for the worst. My husband at the time had his own business that was and has been drowning for years, the past few months reaching the ocean floor. He still refuses to see this fact and spent money that could not be recovered. Money that we did not have on traveling to get clients, casting a fishing line and coming back empty every time. He denied my continued appeal to just stop, and it was causing us more harm as a family unit. The market had changed and evolved. As my support was crumbling, my middle child caused havoc in school. He was being moved to a disciplinary school despite my plea that his behavior was not intentional. He is a bright child and is not designed for the standard schooling and has “perfection issues.” He only misbehaved to go and learn multiplications with the assistant principal at the age of 6. However, in order to validate my case that he was unique, I had to prove it. After multiple counsel visits and assessments, the solution always led to him having to take some kind of drug. I refused this, because I know that is not what he was dealing with. Advised by a dear friend to go to a specialist in East Texas, this sent me on an adventure. A four hour drive each way was what I had chosen to embark upon in order to save my child from emotional and permanent trauma. The East Texas clinic made an assessment and provided the correction therapy needed. My son was finally moved to a school that helped in supporting his needs. Work continued to keep me on the edge, till a phone call came in. My director with a smile on her face and a heavy heart in her eyes told me, “Nancy, I am so happy for you. They called and want you to move to our Qatar Campus.” This meant I averted the pink slip somehow. Yet, I was still very concerned for my director. She had become a mentor, supporter, and member of the family. As time moved on, the offer from Qatar took longer than expected and I became 29
very worried. In addition, I struggled between moving for work and staying for my child’s therapy. But In reality it was a choice of food or no food. My son and I traveled back to East Texas to get the therapy needed and my training for him. We spent the night all the while my head was spinning and heart torn in many directions. This mountain had big obstacles to overcome and many small ones that were not as visible. On our way back home, we stopped by a local Pizza Hut. I looked at my son and started to cry. I may lose my son with this move to Qatar, the offer may not come through and we may lose our home, along with other emotional entrapments in my mind. I shifted my focus to something so deep and still inside of me. A part of me that I often lose in the struggle to climb. I asked, “God, give me a sign if I should move to Qatar.” I also asked God to show me a blue bird from this point till we arrived home. A sign of a blue bird means let go of all worries and going to Qatar is your destiny. If I do not see one, then we stay in Texas and figure it out. A voice in my mind, soft and reassuring spoke whimsically, “Nancy dear, how are you to see the bird if you are not looking outside the window?” Seeing that the voice had reason, I wiped my tears and looked out the window on my right. A blue bird flew out of the grass and onto a tree branch. Tears of joy and hope replaced those of despair. We moved to Qatar and I am still climbing my mountain. I have learned to make greater strides each year. I have cleaned out most of the slippery rocks and stopped the avalanche by building a barricade. My shoulders have become stronger, and I can climb with ease. I let go of the hiking stick, for it no longer is needed when I have a blue bird looking after me and guiding my way.
Nancy Abraham has worked as part of the Texas A&M at Qatar Human Resources team for seven years. She holds an undergraduate degree in agribusiness from Texas A&M University and a graduate degree in HR from Walden University. She loves to express herself in many forms, but even more so through writing and art. 30
This poem talks about how I see the future of the Arab world. This poem was originally performed to rap, so I tried my best to guide readers to read it properly by using dots and commas. My inspiration to write this poem came from my Strengths Quest Gallup report which made me more aware of myself and identified my strength as a Futuristic. I wrote this poem for a singing/rap competition that was organized by two student organizations in TAMUQ.
Future... Yea, yea… Get ready to jump to the future... Let’s go! -Future, I see, Future, I seek, Future, I change, Future, I paint Your future, I know... by, loo, king, through, my, crystal, ball -That’s right... I’m a futuristic. That, means, I, see, what, you, and, you, can’t, see. -But how, is that so? And how, would I know? Well future, I seek. And in future, I think. So future, I know -You say Arab future, is weak. Arab future, is bomb. Arab future, is death. Arab future, is dark I say Arab future, is strong. Arab future, is peace. Arab future, is love. Arab future, is light That’s, what I see -But how, is that so? And how, would I know? Your vision, is short. Our future is dark. My vision, is long. Our future, is bright That’s, what I see -So, trust, in, what, I, say, and, fol, low, me
Ghaith Glaied is Tunisian and came to Qatar when he was nine years old. He is now 21 years old, having lived most of his life in Qatar but visiting Tunisia during every summer break. He received his elementary and secondary education in the Tunisian school in Doha, then spent one year studying in Florida, USA, while living on his own. He returned to Qatar to pursue a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He wrote this poem during his fourth semester at Texas A&M at Qatar. 33
Photo by Maryam El-Emadi, Class of 2020
Stories that Tailor Solutions
I wrote this for a class after being inspired by one of the assigned reading pieces. I remember being unusually pumped up after hearing the professor read the poem “Why We Write”” in class. So when asked to write a timed piece, this essay just sort of bubbled up spontaneously. It is somewhat self-exploratory and helped me realize that writing holds a far more important spot in my heart than I ever thought it did.
Why I Write In life, a person of average fortunes will surely face worldly unreasonableness at some point or other, with buckets-full of ridicule and apathy tossed in from the sides. Although I personally may have had the good fortune to have been born in a loving family and with wit enough to dodge the spittle raining all over, it cannot be said that I remained dry throughout. I’ve met the cruel guys who robbed me clean on the way to school, the goody two-shoes with an overinflated sense of justice, airheads so ignorant they seem like walking “punch me” signboards, and the genii who seem to always be walking ahead of you, no matter where you try to place your feet. I was torn up, tossed around and left adrift with nothing to hold on to amidst the great menagerie that seems to be the surface of our lives for a lot of my childhood, away from the comforting recess of home. I wanted to shout out, to rage, but could not because of the social chains around me. So I wrote— to scar the paper with my rancid thoughts, to pour out the long-festering emotions like burning embers onto the pure white expanse of fresh paper, to sully and brand it. I wrote, and the paper took it all; it accepted all my feelings and held it. It made life a little brighter, a bit more bearable. I write now in tribute to writing, because I recognize the power in writing—to immortalize, to save, to hold and share. I write because I feel like it would be a waste not to. I write because Life is too big, too vague to explore in mere momentary thought. Only writing could possibly help me make sense of this vast tangle of memories, feelings and connections that form our everyday maze. Above all, I write because, even by just a little, I want to give back, and let go, and yet remember all that I have received.
MOHAMMED AL TAMIMI
Why All This? My grandmother, a hammer, the thousand golden nails and the army of knocked down chairs. For me, my grandmother is an inspiring figure. She didn’t care if something is hard to do or not humanly possible, she does what she wants to, and God help you if you’re in her way. One thing that I remember from when I was a kid is her story about how she “got” her collection of vintage chairs. She never liked to hear other’s stories, but only tell them. So, this is my grandmother’s version of what happened. One day my grandmother was walking in the Souq and saw something that caught her eyes, a set of wooden chairs engraved with golden metallic designs and the most colorful collection of pillows you have ever seen. She asked about the cost, but it wasn’t to her liking. So what did she do? She tried to make the chair set on her own, of course! For the parts, my grandmother bought the ugliest blocks of wood you can find, an assortment of pillow casings with cotton, and a substantial number of sharp golden nails. Oh, I forgot one more essential ingredient, the most massive hammer she could find. Now imagine this: for six months my elderly, yet beautiful for her age (I was forced to say this), grandmother hammered so many nails (beyond me to count) to the pile of wood and cotton and made it into a chair set. She succeeded in her mission regardless of my aunt’s and uncle’s comments to her and how they said, “Mama, let it to us; we know a guy” or “Just show us what you want and we’ll get it for you.” After she was done, she picked herself a special chair and set it aside, facing all the other chairs just like a queen’s throne, “Just for me to sit on,” she said. She wanted something, and she made it; she had a goal, and she achieved it leaving no one to stand in her way, and who would dare stand in her way? For all that time as a kid, I asked her once and once again: why, why all this? My grandmother’s response made me smile, and it is something I like to say every time I trespass on a new choice to make in my life, “Why? Why not.”
The piece of writing is a research about my struggle with writing a first draft. It includes reasons and solutions. First, I noticed that I have a struggle when writing a first draft. So, I read some articles about the same problem that provided reasons and proposed solutions. Then, I made connections with my struggle with the same problem.
Full Mind but a Blank Page Writing a first draft has never been easy for me. Even when I brainstorm for the writing by organizing the ideas and the structure of what I am writing, I end up staring at a blank Word document for hours or even more. Remembering the hard time I had when I had to finish my English class assignment as a student at the ABP (Academic Bridge Program), this made me try to find a solution for this problem. The writing assignment was about compare and contrast, my second writing assignment in the ABP after a narrative assignment. I brainstormed for the writing, I knew the structure for the writing, and everything seemed easy. However, this was not enough to make me start. This is because as soon as I started to write, nothing came out from my mind. I felt like my brain was full of ideas about what to write, but the problem was ‘how’ to state those ideas—how to make the audience understand those ideas as they are in my mind. Whenever I typed a sentence, I ended up deleting the sentence and starting from zero again and again. After one hour, I finished the introduction which was less than fifity words. At that moment, I felt terrible that I spent all of that time working on something that could have been done in less than ten minutes. Also, at that time I did not know why I had this blank feeling. Therefore, I am studying this writing aspect to understand the reasons behind having this blank feeling. By focusing on that story and reading the article, “Closing My Eyes As I speak: An Argument for Ignoring Audience” written by Peter Elbow, I came up with what I believe is one of the reasons that makes writing the first draft difficult for me. The reason is overthinking about the audience, and the main idea of Elbow’s article is about ignoring the audience. Elbow states in his article, “Even when we write, alone in a room to an absent audience, there are occasions when we are struggling to figure something out” (p. 50). I can relate what Elbow said to my story with writing the first draft for English class and the difficulty that I faced. The way of my writing changes when I know that there will be someone reading what I write. I feel that readers will start to have a first impression about me, so I worry that readers will misinterpret my ideas and my way of thinking. This makes me think a lot about what I am going to write and how I would state my ideas. I also start to read what I wrote from the point of view of the audience; therefore, the way I am perceiving the piece of writing changes. This leads to me thinking in a different way, because I start to have questions about what I wrote—questions that I am expecting the readers to ask. In addition, being in the reader’s point of view means stating one’s ideas clearly, grabbing the reader’s attention, and providing enough evidence about one’s ideas. Usually unconsciously, I start comparing my piece of writing to other articles that I have read. This makes the process of writing the first draft even more complicated. Usually in my case, my only audience is the professor. Some people might think that makes writing the first draft easier because now I am only thinking about 41
conveying my thoughts to one person only. Still, I think writing for a professor makes writing the first draft process more difficult. This is because the professor has great knowledge about everything in English, so conveying to the professor is harder than conveying to normal people. The professor would be able to find grammar mistakes, writing strategy mistakes, structure mistakes, and every single mistake in the piece of writing. Some professors can be what Elbow called an “intimidating audience.” According to Elbow, “When we write to someone we find intimidating (and of course students often perceive teachers as intimidating), we often start thinking wholly defensively” (p. 52). This means that writing for an intimidating audience could result in a limitation in the breadth of thinking. As in my story, I remember that I started typing a sentence and then deleted it. This is because I have set a lot of boundaries and restrictions that affect my way of writing. Every idea should go through a long process of how the audience would perceive it. This is how I perceive the meaning of a “defensive way of thinking.” The problem with this way of thinking is that it makes one’s arguments and ideas appear to be weak. This situation is similar to speaking to an audience while being nervous, causing people to start doubting your ideas. Elbow believes that the solution to this problem is to simply ignore the audience. Elbow said, “When we realize that an audience is somehow confusing or inhibiting us, the solution is fairly obvious. We can ignore that audience” (p. 52). Although this solution might sound really simple, for me it is not. This is because when I first tried to do it, I still kept thinking about my audience. I believe that this started to be a habit. Nevertheless, this solution would be difficult to use at first when one is used to thinking about the audience. However, I believe that this method would be very helpful in the long term. This is because when I used this method I started typing every idea in my mind without thinking a lot about the way of stating this idea. Therefore, I ended up with a first draft with all of my ideas, but the first draft that I got from using this method was an unorganized first draft. Then the process of writing will become easier because you already have a draft with all of the ideas that you have. Therefore, this first draft eventually would give you a better final draft. Another reason that makes writing the first draft process difficult is transferring. In the article “A case study in contextual adaptation and the transfer of writing ability,” Chris M. Anson shows how the process of transferring and adapting can be difficult for students. In his article, Anson talks about his experience with struggling to write a first draft for a very simple task even though he is a professional writer. Transferring from genre to genre and from one way of writing to a completely different way of writing is hard. In my story as a student at the ABP, the assignment that I had to write was about comparison and contrast. This assignment came after a narrative assignment. So, one can imagine the huge difference between these two genres in the structure, the choice of words, and the goal of writing. The difference between the genres makes it hard 42
to get accustomed to a new genre. Usually, the brain finds it hard to switch from one way of thinking to another way. This is because the brain unconsciously builds a template of how the writing should be, so changing that template to another one requires a lot of understanding and cognitive skills. The process of transferring and adapting is not only hard for writing, the process can be hard in different situations. For example, students can struggle in the beginning of every semester because they are undergoing a process of transferring and adapting. To conclude, writing a first draft can be way easier by following Elbowâ€™s method of ignoring the audience. My plan is to use this method for my next writing assignment. I will start writing a first draft without thinking about my audience, so I can be comfortable with stating all of my ideas and thoughts. After finishing the first draft, I will organize the structure and the flow of my ideas. Then I feel that thinking about the audience could come in after these two steps, because thinking about the audience would be helpful to use the appropriate vocabulary and the way of presenting my ideas. I also feel that the solution for transferring is to understand the process of transferring because understanding the process would be helpful to follow the right path. I would use this method to understand myself more in getting adapted to different situations of writing assignments. For example, I would identify what are the parts that I usually struggle with when I start with a new writing assignment. Then, I would develop a way to overcome those obstacles in every new assignment. At the end, I think that every writer can overcome any problem that he or she faces by understanding the problem and trying to find a solution. References Elbow, P. (1987). Closing My Eyes as I Speak: An Argument for Ignoring Audience. College English, 49(1), 50. doi: 10.2307/377789 Anson, C.M. (2016). The Pop Warner Chronicles: A Case Study in Contextual Adaptation and the Transfer of Writing Ability. College Composition and Communication, 67(4), 518-549.
Ali Al-Haddad is an electrical engineering student. 43
This is a response to a writing prompt given to me by my ENGL 104 instructor: “Tell me about your relationship with writing.” I am not a writer. I’ve never written a piece of this genre before, nor was I ever asked to. My high school stressed math & science, not writing & expression. So, when the instructor asked about my relationship with writing, I wrote a poem. I’m aware that it is very simple writing, but the label of it being a “poem” is what makes it rhetorical in itself. It is an expression of my struggle with expression. And with that, I am becoming a writer.
My Relationship with Writing I try my best to impress him; I’m doing everything right. All my thoughts are in order; not a red pen mark in sight. I buff and I polish, but he doesn’t budge. a 5 out of 9; He doesn’t think I’m good enough. I almost give up, almost I get out of my rut. I tell myself I’m perfect, who is he to judge? don’t budge, I tell him, do as you’d like. I start to let go; I write, write, write My work loosens up, less structure, no rules; My work is too intimate; he’ll think I’m a fool. It won’t matter anyways, he’ll never approve my work is now personal, deep and abstract he turns around, gives me a pat on the back He found the meaning; he finally understands, Or, did I just express myself, with my own two hands? Zeina Barghouti is a Palestinian, born and raised in Qatar. She is currently enrolled in the Mechanical Engineering Program. 45
I love self-depreciating humor with me as the target. It helps me not to take myself too seriously. I am not sure how successful I am at this genre, but this is my first attempt at writing about my health fads and how I am nearly cured of them (well, not completely, but for a time). After I read my draft of my first submission in the Best Writing Studio Series for Staff, I was encouraged to write up this piece. I hope I can make at least one person laugh with this epistle.
H-empathy Life has a habit of hitting me in the most unexpected of ways. There are days when I have secretly wished for something adventurous to happen. The desire to have something exciting, out of the ordinary in my life lies dormant inside me, in spite of my advancing age. I realize now I should be careful what I wish for, for sometimes wishes do come true and the outcome may not always be good. From the tenth year of my life, I have alternatively starved and eaten myself out and into gluttony. But the thirties were when I started experimenting with fad diets. One diet advocated keeping off food for days on end to lose weight while another said, “eat small meals, as often as you can to help the body metabolize food faster.“ The first I did successfully until I started speaking in “tongues” and disgraced myself (Oprah’s words, not mine). The other I couldn’t even complete, as I couldn’t eat as frequently as the diet advocated. There was a period in which I was juicing everything that came my way--any leaf, dandelion greens, cucumbers, kale, carrots, sweet potatoes, you name it, and I have juiced it. To help with juicing I invested in an Omega masticating juicer, setting myself back a good $300. Plugging it into a 220V socket at home was when things started heating up. Black smoke obscured my vision. Soon I realized juicing with an Omega juicer (110V), was not for me, and I gave up juicing altogether. Then I did the step diet, and tried to clock steps after every meal. Each diet went on for a period of two months at the most, but none was effective as can be vouched by the fact that I am still trying and experimenting. Which leads me to the point of this story. Last November, I decided to eat healthy (once again). This time my diet included millet, chia, flax seeds, and hemp, all health foods and not very cheap. Now, hemp is difficult to procure where I live. It is related to the family of marijuana, which is not legally available in many parts of the world. Hemp that is used as a health food comes from the seeds of the plant Cannabis sativa but because of its notorious cousin, it is often viewed with suspicion. I often bring hemp with me from one of the countries where it is freely available. Adding hemp to my diet made me less tired, less irritable, more active, able to concentrate, and even helped me lose a few kilos (which my body could afford). It even gave me a chiseled chin, which was what I was aiming for. Somewhere in November, my supply of hemp ran out and I needed it urgently for my smoothies and drinks. An Amazon and eBay search was warranted and it was possible to ship hemp here. Whoopee! Excitedly, I ordered ten bottles of hemp at around $13 each from Amazon and at a ridiculously high shipping cost, placed an order. Amazon assured me my order would reach my address (university address) by the end of the week. Not trusting Amazon to deliver my order in less than 5 days, as I had opted for standard shipping, I decided to wait.
At the end of the week, I received a message saying my order had arrived at the General Post office and I was to collect it as soon as possible. General Post Office? Who sent it there? I checked my Amazon account to verify what shipping address I had given on my order. Nothing there—my address was right. Then how did my order reach the General Post Office? Was it a mistake? OH! I know. Someone at customs must have opened my order at the airport and found ten bottles of hemp and sounded a red alert: “There was a drug addict or peddler in town.” And that someone must have sent my order to the Main Post Office, so they could interview me in person. My thoughts ran berserk. That night I didn’t sleep. As is want with me, a few hours of worrying over an issue activates an ostrich reaction usually. My mind didn’t disappoint me. I decided to stop worrying and pretend as though I hadn’t received any message. I didn’t tell anyone. I kept quiet. About two weeks later, I received another message, a more detailed one, with the address of the General Post Office, (GPO) its working hours and phone numbers for contact. By this time, I had hit the panic button. I decided to let my family know. My husband said he recently had a similar message from the GPO to collect an item from there, as someone had mistakenly sent his order there. This reassured me a little. Maybe I was not in trouble after all. He told me we could go there on the Saturday and collect the order. Saturday came and went, but I didn’t remind him as I was in avoidance mode. A couple of weeks passed and another message arrived. It was mid-December by then. The seasonal festivities occupied my attention, and I swept the message under the carpet. On the health front, how did I manage without hemp powder the last month? I didn’t. The whole incident cured me of healthy food fad diets. I decided to give up on foods not easily available and instead to go “local.” This was a lot easier on my pocket, and I could support local farmers too. New Year came and went and there was no new message from the GPO. Maybe they had sent my order back to Amazon as no one came to receive it. Maybe everything was okay and I was not in trouble? I started sleeping well again. One day towards the end of January, I received a phone call from an unknown number. I picked up my phone to talk to an unknown voice, who sounded irritated (to my ears). She said, “Hello! You have an order at the GPO which has been lying here since November. Please come and pick it up.” My worst fears were realized. They had traced me to my workplace. There was no place to hide. What could I do? I decided to play it safe and try to get out of the situation.
I asked the lady, “Can you send my order to my post box which is at Tayser?” The caller said, “No Tayser. Come to GPO. These are the working days and these are the timings.” There was no way I could avoid a face-to-face interaction now. God knows what was in store for me. Suddenly my survival instinct kicked in, and I decided to play the sympathy/empathy card. Perhaps being a woman, the post office lady would understand. With a prayer in my heart, I said, “Madam, can you send it to my home? I am too busy to come to the GPO.” At first she said, No, but she soon she changed her mind and said, “OK, but you need to pay 25 riyals to get it at home.” Twenty-five, fifty, whatever, I thought, at last there was light at the end of the tunnel for me. It seemed a small price to pay to get out of the hemp problem. I said, “No problem, ma’am. Please send it to my home.” She agreed and told me the driver would deliver it to my address. Whew! No probing questions. No uncomfortable interviews. I was off the hook. My sleep that night was truly easy. For two days, there was no news from the post office or any driver and no hemp. On the third day, my daughter told me someone brought a huge box from Amazon and she collected it from them on my behalf. She paid 25 QR. My hemp was home at last. Like the father who received the prodigal son and celebrated his return, my family rejoiced over the arrival of my long lost hemp order. This incident put an end to my desire for adventure; I was too old for adrenaline surges and fads. On the plus side, I learnt that things are not as bad as I imagine them to be. If I wait long enough, things do turn out right, in their good time.
Anjum Susan John works in research administration at Texas A&M at Qatar and dabbles in writing for fun. She has a lot of hobbies that keep her busy, writing, and reading being a couple of them. Her ambition is to be able to write under her own name, sometime in life. She has taken a few writing courses to hone up her skills. Writing will be a hobby for her, she thinks, and she would probably not be writing for a living. Writing helps her express herself freely and she feels empowered when she has written something from her heart. She feels her muse being obstructed when she has to re-read what she has written and change it to make it “acceptable.” 49
ELIZABETH JIJY ABRAHAM, MONYA AL-MUHANNADI, MOHAMMED HASSAN
Through our research of both Miles Kimball and technical communication, we were able to learn that this is a field that is evolving as we speak to better adapt to the needs of the present. Today, technical communication is more personal and diverse than it has ever been before. Technical communication gives you details on what action needs to be taken, but having many different individuals review the same details gives readers a huge amount of information to use. What one person may have easily missed out on can be picked up by someone else, and we therefore have a very thorough piece of technical communication. We understood this concept and were able to utilize it in our work. By each of us having a look at the same articles, we were able to understand different aspects and communicate our message much more clearly.
The Wonderful World of Miles Kimball’s Technical Communication Introduction Miles Kimball is an avid writer who has published broadly in the fields of technical communication, digital humanities, online portfolios, and pedagogical tools. Below is a brief synopsis of three of Kimball’s articles written about technical communication, revealing his perspective about the wonderful world of technical communication and rhetoric. Each synopsis will describe the respective article’s content, tone, and target audience. This will be followed by a section on themes prevalent in the three articles, which will serve as a conclusion about Kimball’s ideas. Articles Analyzed Article 1: The Golden Age of Technical Communication Miles Kimball (2017) describes the growth of both the discipline and profession of technical communication from a historical perspective in this article. He begins his analysis by stating that technical communication has grown significantly as a discipline over the past two decades but not as a profession (p. 331). He further reinforces his statement by providing numerous statistical results and predictions (pp. 332-334). The historical development of the profession and its dependence on technology are the major reasons the profession has not experienced growth nor will in the future. To comprehend this growth, Kimball (2017) describes four notable trends in the technical communication profession. Interestingly, he describes these trends as four ages that are not distinct time periods but overlap one another (pp. 334-335). Kimball’s (2017) four age classifications are:
• The Brass Age - Technical communication during this age involved explaining weapons to soldiers, particularly during World War II and the Cold War. The name comes from the brass shell casings used for the wars (p. 335). • The Beige Age - With the boom of desktop publishing in the 1980s and the opening of the Internet to the public in the 1990s, technical communication primarily involved manuals to explain these new inventions to the public. Beige is termed after the beige colored computers of the time (p. 336). • The Glass Age - In this age, technical communication was mostly done through the global network and database which were connected through the screens of smartphones, tablets, desktop computers and so on. The fiberglass networks and device screens give this era its name (p. 338). • The Golden Age - Today individuals seek help not from companies that designed a product but from fellow users, and a simple everyday conversation about technology can be considered technical communication. It is therefore the Golden Age because humans and technology have become more integrated than ever before (pp. 341344). 51
Therefore, it is clear why technical communication did not grow as a profession since most of it has been generated by the users themselves. To develop a clearer understanding about the Golden Age, there exists the tactical technical communication and strategic technical communication (Kimball, 2017, p. 342). In simple words Kimball (2017) describes tactical technical communication as that which is voluntarily generated by the product users for non-commercial purposes, while strategic technical communication is user-centered information generated by the creators of the product (pp. 342-344). Tactical technical communication is considered more authentic than strategic technical communication because even though companies invest a lot into creating these, they do so to maintain a good brand image and boost their commercial value (pp. 344-345). Kimball (2017) concludes by advocating for the need to redefine technical communication as â€œnot just a profession, but an activity that manages technological action through communication technologies, including writing itself, in a particular setting and for particular purposesâ€? (p. 346). He believes that a change is necessary to the current system of technical communication to accommodate the growth of technology and train students to adapt to this constantly evolving technological platform. He finally emphasizes the need for all educational institutions to include technical communication courses in their curriculum as it is an essential set of skills valuable for everyone to learn (Kimball, 2017, p. 330). The tone in this article can be described as being both colloquial and factual at the same time. Published in The Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, this article is meant to be used by individuals who would like to understand the growth of technical communication in simple terms without compromising any information. Article 2: Special Issue Introduction Technical Communication: How A Few Great Companies Get It Done In this research article, Miles Kimball (2015) explores the identities and relationships of technical communicators and the products and processes in technical communication from the perspective of technical communication managers today (p. 90). This article serves as an introduction to three different articles written by Craig Baehr, Jim Dubinsky and Miles A. Kimball addressing three aspects: Identities & Relationships, Products & Processes, and Education & Training, of technical communication (p. 95). Kimball (2015) claims that this is a particularly important subject to examine as it sheds light on some of the current practices and attitudes that technical communication managers have in their field. It also helps spread this understanding to a wider audience of participants in technical communication (p. 90).
The method Kimball used to gather data was a combination of a nonconventional form of the Delphi method, and the SEER method (Scenario Exploration, Exploration, Elaboration, and Review). According to Kimball (2015), one of the most distinguishable features of the Delphi method is the reiteration of survey tools, with each round being based on the previous one (p. 91). Another feature is sharing the results of each round with the participants before the following round. This aims to direct the flow of the survey. However, Kimball (2015) acknowledges that while the Delphi method’s reiterative feature is an asset, it can sometimes be a limitation (p. 91). He claims that focusing on consensus as the main goal can be time-consuming as it increases the duration of the study and increases the chances of fatigue among the participants. The SEER method, on the other hand, challenges these limitations by focusing on the differences among the participants instead of reaching a consensus (Kimball, 2015, p. 91). By taking advantage of both methods, the study was conducted in four rounds: • Round 1 - A survey consisting of both qualitative and quantitative questions to serve as a basis for the next round. E.g., What do you call your company’s technical communicators? How important are the following skills and competencies for technical communicators to learn and practice today on a scale from 1 to 5? • Round 2 - A questionnaire based on the responses for round 1. • Round 3 - Conducted as a focus group at a summit and centered on rounds 1 and 2. • Round 4 - The results of rounds 1 and 2 were provided to the participants and they were asked to write what they felt was an “unresolved question” for each of the four main research themes. Then, an online focus group conference was set up where each participant was given two minutes to respond to the aforementioned topic and then the floor was given for an open discussion (Kimball, 2015, p. 91). The findings of the research study are clearly stated in the rest of the special issue. Kimball (2015) then briefly describes the articles to which this article serves as an introduction. The first chapter dealt with professional technical communication in terms of identities and relationships (p. 95). Baehr observed that two traits that technical communication managers appreciated in technical communicators were versatility and adaptability in the workplace. Another conclusion he made was that skilled technical communicators use their technical communication skills as means for career advancement (p. 95). In the second chapter, Dubinsky reported on the content of technical communication; what companies produce and how they produce it (p. 95). In the last article, Kimball himself found that when it comes to technical communication education and training, participating managers preferred old-style educational credentials yet believed that basic writing skills are not enough to make successful technical communicators. They felt that other skills related to the practitioner’s specific
field are important and are best learned upon working, not in school (Kimball, 2015, p. 95). In terms of tone, the article uses a scholarly, objective tone. The author refrains from the use of overly-complicated terms or technical jargon. In this special issue article published in the Society of Technical Communicationâ€™s journal Technical Communication, Kimball concludes by stating that more attention needs to be paid to technical communication from the perspective of publication managers. This article can therefore be used by individuals who wish to understand what is required of technical communicators in the modern workplace, in addition to being used as a guide to the survey methodology described. Article 3: Training and Education: Technical Communication Managers Speak Out In this article, Kimball (2015) discusses the outcome of the study conducted in Article 2 on technical communication managersâ€™ opinions regarding the education and training of technical communicators (p. 136). Managers working in corporations are the ones who not only monitor the performance of the technical communicators in the field, but also take part in their hiring process. As a result, practitioners always seek to satisfy the standards the managers are looking for in the professional industry. Therefore, they have a considerable influence on the teaching and training strategies of technical communication (Kimball, 2015, p. 136). The methodology of the study was based on the Delphi study, which consisted of four rounds and depended on the use of surveys to get feedback from the managers (Kimball, 2015, p. 137). The surveys showed that managers preferred a college degree in technical or professional communication above other science and technical degrees. Managers also emphasized the importance of good writing skills in addition to communication and problem-solving skills. They also noted that broad and general skills in writing, business, and project management are better suited for their needs than technical skills (Kimball, 2015, pp. 137-139). Kimball (2015) then describes the feedback provided by the technical communication managers on how to improve the academic programs to prepare future employees better to work in the industry (p. 140). Managers suggested that the education these students receive should focus more on skills outside the traditional technical writing. Such skills include the ability to work with different types of technologies and interpersonal skills. Presentation and delivery skills were equally important. All of this placed greater emphasis on the fact that writing alone is not enough to succeed. Professional development and continuous training after hiring, though not every companyâ€™s requirement, can be a nice supplement (Kimball, 2015, p. 140). Kimball (2015) concludes that though this study provided some useful tips, 54
many topics were answered unsatisfactorily due to lack of participation or divided opinion among the participants (p. 143). The major conclusion drawn was that while academic programs provide individuals a basic understanding of technical communication, more specialized trainings are provided when required by their companies (p. 144). The biggest uncertainty this system leaves is who will provide for the professional development of technical communicators; will their employers provide them with trainings for this or will they have to acquire this themselves? (Kimball, 2015, pp. 142-144). The article comprised unsatisfactory results due to the lack of participation from those surveyed, which lead to many loopholes and unanswered questions. The main purpose of the article published along with Article 2 in the journal, Technical Communication, was to summarize the results of the experiment to determine what managers require from technical communicators today. Therefore, it targets technical communication academics, particularly those responsible for creating the curriculum, to help them understand what is required for and from their programs. Themes Throughout Kimballâ€™s Works Miles Kimball writes very enthusiastically about technical communication. Through Article 1, Kimball laid the historical basis that led to the change of technical communication over the years to what it is today. He further explains the potential for change that exists within the system concerning technical communication both as a discipline and profession. Article 2 explains elaborately the method of surveying used to understand the various aspects of technical communication. The prime focus of this survey was to understand what technical communication skills are expected by employers. In Article 3, the conclusions drawn from the survey in Article 2 and what challenges lie ahead are summarized. From the three articles analyzed, three recurring themes were identified. The most interesting fact about the three is that they can be established as consequences of one another. The three themes are: i. Technological evolution is perpetual. ii. The definition of technical communication is constantly changing and growing. iii. The technical communication curriculum requires change. With the growth of technology, the definition of technical communication changes and grows as we shift from technology to technology, which finally leads to the need for changes to be made in the academic programs to produce the best technical communicators. What managers require from technical communicators today will not be what they will require from these communicators a decade from today. Kimball understands that there are many limitations to always being on top of the technical communication game today with one such limitation being the educational system itself. In Article 1 Kimball establishes that technical communication should be a 55
skillset that every individual possesses and not just technical communicators. This was on par with the survey results in which managers preferred individuals with a basic understanding of technical communication over those with technical communication degrees. They preferred these basic skills over specialized skills since they were easily adaptable and could accommodate changes in technical communication. Though not stated directly, Miles Kimball implied throughout the articles that the current academic technical communication programs need to change as they do not meet the standards of the modern workplace. He believes that technical communication should be part of every academic program and that these programs should be customized to fit what the industry demands from employees. References Kimball, M. A. (2015). Special issue introduction technical communication: How a few great companies get it done. Technical Communication,62(2), 88-103. Kimball, M. A. (2015). Training and education: Technical communication managers speak out. Technical Communication,62(2), 135-145. Kimball, M. A. (2017). The Golden age of technical communication. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication,47(3), 330-358. doi:10.1177/0047281616641927
Elizabeth Jijy Abraham is a chemical engineering sophomore at Texas A&M at Qatar who loves writing and reading. She loves to write about travels to new places and encounters with fascinating people. Through her English 210 class, she was introduced to the world of technical communication and rhetoric. It was a world without any boundaries in which she stumbled upon technical communication scholar, Miles Kimball, whom she writes this article about. Monya Al-Muhannadi is a mechanical engineering junior who was born and raised in Doha. She is passionate about food, music and film. Monya is excited to be the first Aggie engineer in her family. Mohammed Hassan is a chemical engineering junior who loves reading and technical communication. 56
Growing up, I told myself that I would NOT become an engineer. I saw my brothers pursue careers in mechanical engineering and I never really saw the appeal, I always wanted to do something different. Choosing a career proved to be quite difficult, given my indecisive nature. This is how I ended up at an engineering college.
Future Tense Fate and Destiny clutch onto me with metallic hands, lift me up at different paces, and maneuver their robotic arms in a calculated manner before dropping me into an assigned location. Sometimes the metal fingers wrap around my waist delicately, the coolness of the metal bringing me a sense of tranquility and the grip feeling like a warm, friendly hug. I am comforted and reassured during my journey. At other times, the fingers grab onto my neck without warning, cruelly digging their claws into my flesh. The iciness of the metal sends uncomfortable chills down my spine while I feel suffocated throughout the entire ride. The ride is jerky and fast-paced and before I know it, I am thrown down on rocky land at full-force. My journey to Texas A&M University at Qatar was neither of these two extremes; in fact, it was more of an unexpected yet pleasant surprise. The kind of surprise you get when your parents spontaneously make plans for a family holiday. I had made definitive plans on not wanting to start university this fall, continuing with year 13 and not wanting to study engineering. I was certain I was going to stick to my plan; however, Fate and Destiny quietly changed my mind and gently steered me away from my original plans before placing me here, forcing me to contradict my prior plans of not going to university after year 12. The reason I was so adamant on doing year 13 was my keenness to do medicine, which is funny now, because people usually view engineering as its polar opposite. The medical university I wanted to apply to preferred applicants that had completed year 13 although they would occasionally accept students after year 12. I never even entertained the thought of engineering because of how much I despised physics during secondary school. I am of a very indecisive nature. No matter how fixated I am on a plan, I can end up changing my mind the very last second. I found myself applying to Weill Cornell Medical College at Qatar that year, and desperately hoping they would accept me. As I sat through a particularly boring biology class a couple of days after submitting my application, my teacherâ€™s words started to fade into an unimportant murmur, and I found myself having second thoughts on wanting to study medicine. Did I really want a career in medicine, or was I just convincing myself I wanted it? Was I really as passionate as I thought I was for the course? Did I really want to spend six years studying something I wasnâ€™t too sure about? These thoughts started to linger in my mind and triggered an entire week of crisis regarding my future. The more I thought about it, the more I didnâ€™t want to study medicine. Eventually I found myself clueless as to what I wanted to do in the future. After some extensive research, I discovered the wonderful field of pharmacology. I was so interested in it that I knew I wanted nothing else. There was just the major 59
inconvenience of no university in Qatar offering the major, and the fact that I was limited to studying in this country. I’m not exactly sure what gravitated me to apply to Texas A&M, but I found myself collecting the required documents, filling out an online form about a week before the deadline, and then clicking ‘submit’ on a large computer screen. A few weeks later I got an email from Texas A&M as I sat on my bed trying to finish off schoolwork. The first sentence of the email made my heart hammer rapidly against my chest. The email went along the lines of the university not having enough capacity to admit me into the major I had chosen which was chemical engineering. My erratic pulse calmed down slightly as I carried on with the email and read that they would like to admit me into petroleum engineering. I did not know what to feel, but I was relieved that it was not the blatant rejection I was expecting. Later that month, my dad received a call from the university congratulating him on my acceptance. I was busy in my room doing homework. I remember my father calling me downstairs and telling me that the university called him. “Did they reject me? They did, didn’t they?” I asked, walking into the living room. “No, they accepted you,” he replied, shaking his head in surprise at my pessimistic reaction. I was so full of self-doubt that I had prepared myself for rejection. The fact of my acceptance began to register in my brain many hours later, and the joy seeped into me. I was happy that I was worthy enough of being accepted, but other than that, my reaction was quite neutral. I did not cry out of happiness because I never really wanted engineering, but chemical engineering has some applications in pharmacology and I felt like that’s the closest I can get. If I ever get the chance to study pharmacology, I would drop engineering in a heartbeat. Sometimes I wonder if I should be here at Texas A&M at Qatar, and I do feel remorse upon remembering that I am not pursuing the career I truly want deep down; however, engineering is not something I completely dislike, as it does combine two of my passions: problem-solving and science. The least I can do now is try my best to mold my interests towards engineering as much as possible. This is where I have been dropped off by the great metallic fingers of Fate and Destiny, and this is where I am meant to be—for now.
Fatimah Khan is a chemical engineering student, Class of 2021. She is an introverted individual who finds ease in communicating her thoughts and ideas through writing. Fatimah is passionate about protecting the environment in order to combat climate change and global warming and would like to involve herself in researches pertaining to renewable energy sources. 61
A New Canvas Gather the broken pieces, throw them away. Shackles of disdain and losses, discard, donâ€™t delay! Renew your mind, enlighten your soul, soar to your goal, recoup, seek and find. Yesterday is bygone. Now this moment, the present is tearing up the blue silhouette, a promise it fulfills. Cast away the fears; seize the day, not the sneers. Like clay in the potterâ€™s hands, Learning and unlearning live together in unknown lands. A flower blooms, another withers; come what may, it never retreats, daring to exude its beauty by kissing the air, writing a new story. Wake up the child within to pour out hues of wonder and delight. With the synergy of grit and might, each day, a new canvas you begin.
Shaji Neenu is a Learning Laboratory Specialist in the Science Program at Texas A&M at Qatar. 63
Stories Fashioned from Art
Photo by Maryam El-Emadi, Class of 2020
The Writer Within Where has she gone? The writer she was once. Rummaging through her inner thoughts words she seemed to have lost. Never imagined she would forget to write emotions she used to profess her images turned into a silhouette the writer within chose to suppress. Appeased with her newfound place she thought she would no longer find the drive to create a simple verse or phrase that would add meaning to her life. Until she started writing this piece and realized something she had missed repressed feelings began to evoke the dormant writer suddenly awoke. The writer within has returned and once again she held her pen. She vows to continue on writing until her life meets its ending.
Vanessa Lina is the Administrative Coordinator for the Center for Teaching and Learning at Texas A&M at Qatar. She holds a bachelorâ€™s degree in education majoring in English. She generally enjoys reading and writing. However, itâ€™s been quite some time since she has written a poem, until this Best Writing entry. She hopes to be able to get back to writing on her journal again and record her experiences, especially her travel escapades with her family. 67
This essay happens to be a complete timeline of how I saw my intellect develop from something as basic as capturing a memory to a paper to something as complex as my attempt at studying the human mind. Throughout history words have wooed man, and I too find myself more fascinated with people who know how to convey their thoughts in an articulate manner. This essay on my transformation through reading is more of my contemplation about self-growth than an essay for everyone to read. I chose the books I read for characters I wanted to morph myself into, or to find characters that I could relate to. From finding friends in books as a shy individual, to emerging out of my comfort zone by using book characters to break the ice between people, I morphed into a more approachable and social person.
Metamorphosis: My Transformation through Reading My passion for writing started with my fascination for elephants. In June 2016, I went to India for my summer vacation to visit my grandparents. It was monsoon season in India, and the rain drops never ceased from the time I stepped foot in Bihar till the next three days. We had to huddle inside our flats, and I searched for artifacts and old belongings in the house to keep me away from boredom. Rummaging through the dusty items of my mother’s old closet, I found this notebook of mine that Nani, my grandmother, had saved. She describes this notebook as how I befriended my elders. I was a shy child, and people had to prove themselves worthy to have a conversation with me. Maybe the fact that my mother was the only artist around, my standards were quite high even as a one-year-old. Skimming through the pages of my notebooks, there was one thing that repeated quite frequently and that was elephants, drawn by every neighbor or relative I had met as a two-year-old. Drawings in the book drew me back to this very vague memory of my childhood where I would watch the processions of elephants during religious ceremonies, and being a kid, it was a sight to marvel at: elephants, trumpets, drums, people dancing and hues of magical colors. I would run to my slanting rooftop, catching my mom’s hand just to get a glimpse of those majestic beasts. In my mind, Indian Rajas were kings just because they got to ride elephants, and I would resentfully watch older kids rush to the streets along with the other kids to be part of this ceremony. I was fortunate to remember this far off memory just because I, as a little girl, had tried to trace and record the most appealing part of an event my eyes had fervently captured. Drawing elephants was one thing, but the scent of a new book and the very musical sound of a pen moving on a paper gave me a sense of thrill and excitement. My birthdays meant having the best stationary items, despite my parents’ tight budget. When it came to my first writing, my mom handed me couple of words to be rewritten multiple times, followed by a dictation test in all three languages: Hindi, Urdu and English. Soon, I was able to write letters to my grandparents, and my first sense of achievement in writing was when my grandfather wrote back. Since the community life in Doha wasn’t as engaging as the one in India, my parents made sure I was preoccupied all the time. Considering the fact that not many Indians were speaking in Urdu in Qatar, my mom assigned me an Urdu teacher to help me read and write, and a Quran teacher to teach me enough Arabic to read Quran. I went to Syscoms to learn Adobe Photoshop, various computer languages, and graphic designing during the summer holidays I didn’t go to India. My mother had subscribed to Reader’s Digest so that I could have the best reading experience as a child. Reader’s Digest shipped illustrated book collections for readers of all age groups. Go to Sleep Groundhog, Be Patient, Little Chick, Cat with Two Homes and many others were sent to me by Reader’s Digest. My favorite early book shopping experience was when Doulos ship arrived in 69
Qatar and I got to buy illustrated versions of Disney books. I felt like I was in this whole other world, books of different colors and shapes all stacked in rows on the first deck of the ship, waiting to be touched and read. Since I didn’t have the luxury of television at home and with my father off-shore every alternate week for ten years, I didn’t have as many choices as other kids for recreation. Instead, the time when my father was away, I would find myself surrounded with a world of friends in book characters. I enacted Becky from Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and sometimes Tom Sawyer himself. I abhorred and to some extent was very much intimidated by principal Trunchbull from the book Matilda by Roald Dahl who kept abusing kids in school. I wanted to drive with Nancy Drew in her sleek convertible to her very next mystery, have lunch with Jughead at Pop-Tate’s from Archie Comics, befriend Peter Pan from Peter and the Starcatcher and receive my very much awaited Hogwarts letter by an owl. Summer vacations meant reading Enid Blyton’s books, Goosebumps, and Archie Comics over and over again. Schools became a place where we quietly sneaked books into our bags to exchange with my classmates. And since there were forty of us in one classroom, there was a chain of books flowing my way. Each book helped me paint a picture of a person depending on their interest in books, and I was able to convey my likes and dislikes through my choice of books. Book characters also became a way to initiate interaction with my peers. Talking about books helped me break the ice between people in a crowd without appearing too interested and intrusive into others’ lives. I remember how my bus mates and I were all crammed into a small bus while going back home. Our bus seats, made of leather and the metal rods attached to the seats, would turn so hot due to the blaring heat of Qatar that we could barely sit or hold anything. The only thing that kept me going was to talk to people about Harry Potter, Eragon and also brag about Lord of the Rings (which I never read) to make an impression on my seniors. By the time I was a freshman in high school, fantasy and murder mysteries had become a drag, and I sought a genre of my age: it was this time I started reading the Twilight Saga. Although being the most criticized series of the time, I resonated with the character Bella. I was a quirky kid in school, and I was reprimanded by my relatives for being too quiet and never mingling with others. I remember during an Eid party when my cousins and aunt confronted me, asking why I was so distant and aloof. My aunt had automatically compared me to my other cousins who were so much full of life, vivaciously moving through the crowd and meeting everyone. I was always a quiet kid and I hated being overdone, loud and conspicuous in a crowd. And being a shy person, I would often find my tongue turning into a knot every time I did want to talk, so I was always at a loss of words. I even resonated with the movie actress Kristen Stewart who played the awkward character of Bella so well. My awkwardness would cause me to stutter and make incoherent sentences during a conversation, and Bella helped me see that I wasn’t alone. By the end of high school, my leisure 70
reading habit had subsided as a result of the pressure of Indian board exams and heavy study overload. It was in my first year of college that I sought to read something very different, something that would put my intelligence to test, and that’s when I read the classic The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. People commonly see the story of Dorian Gray as a story of a narcissistic man who envies his own painting of its endless youth and beauty while he gets to become weary and old, and wishes to have it the other way around at the expense of his soul. What people don’t know is that this story talks of another predominant character, Lord Henry, a diabolical man of words, wit, and contradictory ideology. Despite being an immoral character, he had made the most arrogant and self-obsessed person feel insecure about his own beauty. Through his wit and words, Lord Henry could alter anyone’s opinion and this was one power of persuasion I could sense throughout the book. My family mentions how this book turned me into an analytical person. I was analyzing people, society and beliefs: how people react to situations, the expectations of men and women in my society, and how religion and culture gets so mixed up that people can’t tell the difference. I even took a psychology class in Iowa State University just because this character had invoked a curiosity in me that demanded to know how people think. Books do influence how we think and how we turn out as people. I think books definitely have helped me abandon my comfort zone by putting me into the shoes of fearless characters. The course of events—from drawing elephants to reading books—has influenced the person I have become today. I have learnt the power of empathy, analysis, and persuasion only through books. Every time I read a book, I look at people, places, and myself differently. My favorite books give me two different vibes: some fill me with this profound thrill that isn’t satiated until every person close to me has read the book, and then there are these other books that feel so personal that you just want to keep them to yourself, feeling too selfish to share them with the world. Binish Hussain is from India. She was born and brought up in Qatar. She finished her diploma in chemical engineering from CNAQ in 2015, and ever since then she has been looking for every opportunity in her grasp to improve herself in the engineering field. Throughout her journey and fight for finishing her degree, Binish learned to constantly take difficult situations as a challenge. She has fought for her education for as long as she can remember, and she hasn’t let any situation hamper her hope or determination in achieving her goals. Binish loves to read heart-felt contemporary Instagram poems, nonfiction books and other translated language literatures. Engineering is a means of art that creates wonders and helps improve our community, and she take great pride in contributing a small part of something so significant and influential in this world. 71
History is probably the last thing one would associate with engineering. Forced to take this course, I was frustrated. However, my idea of history kept evolving as I took two history courses over the past two semesters. This piece describes my experience with two American History courses and how these courses have changed me as a person and as an engineer!
An Engineering Student vs. All of History 13 August 2017 I open the giant 2.5 ton bronze structure to be greeted by an elated boy in a maroon t-shirt: HOWDY! It was my orientation day when I stepped into this university with great excitement to step into the world of engineering. Then I was guided by a volunteer to the basement where I received a free maroon T-Shirt. WOHOOOO! Free stuff right from day 1! I was so delighted after meeting new people and trying the weird Aggie yells. However, my excitement came to a halt when I looked into my schedule and saw something, something that shouldn’t have been there. Classical Mechanics, Calculus 1, Engineering Foundations ... and U.S. HISTORY?! What on earth is this thing doing here? I quickly talked to my advisors only to learn that we have to clear 18 credits of liberal arts before we graduate. I was wondering how could liberal arts, especially history, be of any use to me as an engineer. Without finding an answer to this question, I consoled myself by remembering the last time I had taken history, which was back in grade 10. As far as I remember: just memorize major dates, major events, major things and keep memorizing. Easy A, right? My professor walks into the class and says, “Now let me tell you why you should consider dropping this class. History is all about using your critical thinking to analyze various historical accounts, form logical arguments, back up your arguments with appropriate evidences from reliable sources.” But all I thought was WHAT! Did he say to drop this course? I was so lost in this course. I couldn’t understand the historical documents. They had the olden style of English written on them which was difficult to comprehend. Days passed, and I just attended the class for class participation grades. Finally, it was time for the first major quiz, yet nothing made sense to me. And when things do not make sense, we rely on our favorite technique of study: CRAMMING! So the night before the quiz, I took my book and memorized the major incidents and dates. Let me give my analysis of why this method works to some extent in math and science but not history. In math, we can memorize the formula, practice the procedures to solve specific questions, and if a specific type of question comes in the exam or quiz, bingo! However, in history there isn’t any formula. For example, let’s take Abraham Lincoln. All of us know he was the one who abolished slavery. However, it wasn’t as straightforward as it seems. He didn’t abolish slavery right after he was elected. In fact, he wasn’t really looking to free 73
the black people. His main intentions were to save the union from division. He didn’t want to disappoint the white people, which otherwise would create more divisions in the union, nor did he favor slavery. So he was playing sort of a two way game that led to much criticism. However, eventually, he passed the amendment that would permanently abolish slavery. I memorized this information from the book and the primary documents. I was expecting questions like “Who was responsible for abolishing slavery?” or “Which amendment would abolish slavery?” But what question was asked in the quiz? Here it is: “Was Lincoln’s approach to resolve the issue of slavery better than a radical approach? Whatever your answer is, give appropriate arguments with logical reasoning, and reliable sources.” These sorts of questions cannot be answered effectively by only memorization. Other questions on the exam supplied a statement from the text, which I would be very familiar with, but the question asked us to find faults in this statement. Whenever I read such questions, I would think, how can I, some struggling history student, find faults in a famous author who had earned millions of dollars through this publication? I was close to dropping the course when I started to think, “Why is my critical thinking so poor?” Usually in STEM courses, we learn theories and laws which are not really questionable. Like Newton’s law: f=ma — I cannot question this law. It’s a universal law. In STEM courses, typically, there is one right answer; however, in history, there is no wrong or right answer. Whatever your answer is, you have to make it persuasive. For example, one important question we dealt with in HIST106: Did japan really deserve to be bombed? One could answer “Yes—because Japan was going out of control, and they had to be stopped to protect the citizens of the world.” But one could also answer “No—Japan didn’t deserve to be bombed; the U.S .was too extreme in its response.” You could argue for either side and present your case. There was no right or wrong answer. After all of this, I decided not to drop the course because I wanted to develop my critical thinking. (If I have to be more honest, I actually didn’t want to use my Q-drop so early). Hence, I attended history class and analyzed primary sources and interpretations from different authors. One feature of history that makes it interesting (or frustrating) is that different authors recount history differently. If I take any physics book from any part of the world, I will find that all the books will have Newton’s second law: f=ma; otherwise I will have mistaken that as a physics book. However, if I take a history book from Japan, most likely I would find an interpretation that would portray the Japanese as victims. On the other hand, if I take an American history book, it is likely that the events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will be considered a triumph. So, as students, we had to choose one side and argue why it is the best approach. At the end of this history course, I can’t say that I am an expert historian; in fact, I do not want to be one. However, I reckon that I have developed my critical 74
thinking skills from this class. I have become much more self-aware, and I grew the confidence to question any situation. I also made myself familiar with America and its history. Finally, I do not regret not dropping this course because I got an A!
Safin Bayes is a sophomore majoring in electrical engineering. He spends a lot of time sleeping, which is his secret to success. Although Safin did not choose engineering at his will, he finds it interesting. He hopes to develop this interest and make a difference in the world. 75
JAAFAR AL KHUZAEI
When we were first assigned to write our literacy narratives for our ENGL 104 class, I had a really hard time deciding what topic I should write about. While I donâ€™t consider my life uninteresting, I really wanted to write about something that shaped me and changed my life. So I began my story with the earliest memory I could remember and wrote snippets of what I could recall. I wrote about my nursery school teacher Miss Jill, my motherâ€™s attempts to make me speak, and the book that made me love reading. However, upon completing my first draft, I saw a large drift between each memory. There was no structure at all within my piece and my narrative sounded jumbled and a cluster of mismatched emotions. Then after I got my peer review I decided to go the ASC, where I worked with a writing consultant and like all other students, I was asked to read my piece out loud and discuss how I felt about what I had written. After the session ended, I had many ideas and decisions I wanted to take to change and transform my essay from the jumbled mess it started off as. But I had little time, and so my second draft, while being much more organized, lacked all of the descriptions and connections between stories that I wanted to add. Something that I learned while completing this piece is that sometimes a piece of writing just needs a little more time and care. While I still do think I could have written a more interesting piece, I really do like it and I hope you enjoy reading it too.
Reading Gave Birth to My Curiosity I did not speak a single word until I was two years old. From what I remember, my life was an epoch of colours, movements and music. Sitting in front of the television watching cartoons shifting languages and accents, flickering through the television stations, some channels monotone with black and white, others riveted with a burst of yellows, reds and cartoon characters flailing their limbs with adrenaline. As a kid, I mostly cared for what I could see and hear, so I was drawn to cartoons that spoke with their actions and emotions that spoke with colours. I reveled in observing the world around me from nature to the television screen. Stargazing and staring out at a lackluster view of Doha’s skyline, I felt as if the world spoke for itself, and so there was no need for my voice. Everyday my mother beckoned me to speak, asking questions that couldn’t be answered with nods or headshakes. Much to her disappointment, I petulantly adopted a language of gesticulation and noises to signify what I meant, surpassing every attempt she made to make me speak. Too afraid to pronounce things incorrectly and too shy to speak my mind, this went on for longer than even I had intended. On my first day of nursery school, my parents dropped me off at my specified class, said their goodbyes, embraced me, and left. Immediately, I proceeded to sit still on the same chair wishing patiently that my dad will pick me up soon. Until the classroom’s wooden door creaked open and Miss Jill, a tall blonde woman with cheerful rosy cheeks strode inside of the classroom, and I was instantly engaged. Long forgotten were my thoughts of wanting to go back home. The atmosphere of the room became lighter, the children changed from cantankerous crustaceans to a beaming and energetic crowd. Many weeks of Miss Jill dictating letters and numbers, teaching us how to pronounce words, singing along to Humpty Dumpty and the months of the year, and the meanings of words like home happily passed. Eventually, I learned how to read, and I became capable of understanding English. It was sometime around then that I jettisoned my silence. Although I learned how to read, I soon found out that there was a whole ocean of words I did not comprehend, that I was still at the shoreline. There was so much that I could not understand. After I learned to read, I was overcome with wonder and so I can confidently say, reading gave birth to my unfettered and unrelenting curiosity. I am unsure what my first words were, but I am almost certain I asked a question. I directed years of stifled thoughts and questions to my mother as soon as I realized that she was definitely smarter than me, as she was older and taught me how to write. So at two years old, seated in the backseat of my mother’s Toyota when all I can view is a sea of metal roofs and hear a discordant symphony of honks, I started asking questions like “What does this word 77
mean?”, “How can I write Al-Khuzaei?” and “Why can’t I stare directly at the sun?” Eventually my questions became too hard for my mother to answer and many of them trailed off with no real explanation. And I soon returned to vacantly staring outside of my mother’s car window, wondering about the world around me. The true issue was not that my mother didn’t know the answer; I was being impatient and wanted her to answer my questions immediately. The thought of wanting a straight and clear answer was what discouraged me from reading books during primary school. They were long and I could spend my time doing better things than taking an hour to search for a “yes” or “no” answer. When I entered sixth grade, things began to change. To start off, I stopped growing taller, and after pestering my dad about wanting an iPad for a whole summer, he finally caved and bought me one in hopes that my minor acts of rebellion would cease. Almost immediately, I began curiously scouring its functions, clicking, tapping and drumming my fingers across the gleaming screen. I pushed each and every button I could set my sight on until I accidentally opened an audiobook. I like to describe it as a lucky hit of serendipity. That day I listened to a sample of a book by Rick Riordan called Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, and I was immediately hooked. For once in my life, I felt that time slowed down and the clock stopped ticking, the hum of my family’s insistent chatter was drowned out, and what was left was this teenage boy’s voice speaking to me about his life. The book was a cluster of action, humor and fantasy, and it’s not surprising that it was the first book that mesmerized me. After the audiobook trial ended, I was heaving for a chance to continue the story, so I asked my parents to take me to the bookstore for an opportunity to find it. When I set my hands on the blue paperback cover that laid at the very end of the wooden shelf at the back of the store, I felt more content and more joyous than I had ever felt before. Sixth grade is a very special year to my heart; it was the first time I asked my parents to take me to the bookstore, and it was a beginning of a journey filled with stories, laughter and sobbing because of fictional characters. By the end of that year, I had read around a hundred books ranging from To Kill a Mockingbird to Harry Potter, and a whole dictionary of words and phrases was added to my thoughts. Something that was deeply affected by this was my writing. When I was in nursery school, I loved to write. I kept many journals in which I wrote short stories. I created fake magazines, and books, drawing illustrations around them, but I discarded a lot of them thinking that if I started with a newer idea, I would write better. Needless to say, my writing did not improve much. However, after I developed an interest in reading, my writing improved. My writing never became instantly perfect; I would often misuse words and phrases. For example, I had a hard time differentiating between the 78
words lied and laid, but eventually I got the hang of it by trial and error, and soon enough, reading and writing became second nature to me.
Figure 1, a page of an old magazine I created
Figure 2, my iPad and books I enjoyed reading
Looking back, I see how reading has completely transformed my life. I am constantly driven to cultivate my knowledge and fuel my insatiable curiosity. Reading subsists and supports everything I love: my sense of discovery and unending questions, using writing to speak for my thoughts, my ideas and my emotions. Nowadays, every weekend I pick up a book from the closest bookstore, go back home, munch on snacks and immerse myself in a story. Other days I might write about my feelings, what I hope to do in the future or just describe a feverish dream I had the night before. I have undergone many changes in my life, but the most significant were that I began to speak and I learned to love reading. Itâ€™s funny how the things I thought I did not need (or even hated) eventually became things I cannot live without. I have learned that it is best to give things a chance before dismissing them. It took me a long time to understand this, but I could not be more grateful that I ended up with many opportunities that helped me throughout the journey. Sometimes I wish I could speak to my younger self. I wish that I could tell her to read sooner and to try harder to find that book that sparks a flare in her heart, that would have caused her to enjoy it and sit reading until her legs go numb. I wish that I could tell her to start speaking sooner, as that would have improved her communication later in her life. But dwelling on what-ifs and could-haves is meaningless; it eats at a personâ€™s brain and never helps in any way. And so to those thoughts I respond: every mishap and every action I overtook in my life is what causes me to be myself, and there is no human being I would rather be than me.
Fatima Jaafar Al Khuzaei is an 18-year-old mechanical engineering freshman at Texas A&M at Qatar. She finds inspiration and passion in art, design and writing. 79
The following piece was written in preparation for the Liberal Arts International Conference. I wrote it as one of the students in the panel, reflecting on my experience as a student worker. Working in the Liberal Arts department and joining many of their initiatives made me realize how important humanities are for everyone, even for engineers. And as my favorite mug reads, â€œScience and Engineering can tell you how to clone a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Liberal Arts can tell you why this might be a bad idea.â€?
The Human Engineer When I first joined A&M, I realized that I am required to take history, political science and English. I directly objected. Back then I saw no point of having these classes which in total weight add up to eight credits. I told myself, “I didn’t come to engineering to write essays and read lengthy books.” But something made me change my mind about these subjects. One day one of my older friends said, “Aalaa, life can’t all be about science. You can’t talk about black holes over a family dinner.” That sparked something in me, something that made me later go to main campus and sign up for a course called Performance in World Theater. That enthusiasm also helped me enjoy taking history and enroll in Liberal Arts classes that are not even required for my degree. What my friend said made me realize that I can’t just be an engineer. At the end of the day I am a human being. Yes, technical knowledge is important (it is the main reason I came to this university), but looking at engineering from a different side, we design for human beings. If we don’t have soft skills, if we can’t understand other cultures, if we can’t communicate with one another, those designs will be flawed. Liberal Arts to me is the connection between what I do in the engineering classroom and the outside world. In the lab I learn how to run an experiment, but it is the technical writing class that teaches me how to put together a report. In engineering classes I come up with ideas that can be valuable, but it is then my public speaking skills that allow me to get my ideas across. One example of that was my taking part in the speaking contest Ignite last fall. I presented about a small initiative that I created. If I had not had the public speaking skills and the courage to talk in front of an audience that I acquired from my Liberal Art classes, people would not have known about my initiative. The Liberal Arts project that is closest to my heart is Best Writing, and I am not saying that because these words are published in it. But Best Writing was the thing that made me appreciate writing. Before coming to the university English class for me was the only reason my grades went down. I hated the grammar rules that I still don’t understand, as well as the five paragraph structure that limits my writing ability. In my first semester at TAMUQ I signed up for ENGL 104 , and for the first time, English became a tool that I can use to express myself. Later in that same year I submitted three pieces, and surprisingly they all got published. Seeing my name printed did not just make me feel proud, but it gave me confidence in my writing skills. My experience as a student worker with the STEAM initiative “(putting the Arts in STEM education”) opened my mind to new career paths that I can follow after graduation. Careers that otherwise I would not have thought of, like designing scientific book covers, creating an oral history from inside the tram (a popular transportation at my home in Egypt), or even opening an art gallery that is inspired from mechanics. 81
I hope to see STEAM programs in all engineering colleges, and more importantly, I encourage every Aggie to take part in STEAM projects. Whether it is attending an event, writing something for Best Writing, or giving a presentation in Ignite, believe me, once you try it, your idea of Liberal Arts will change forever.
Aalaa Abdallah is a mechanical engineering student and CTL (Center for Teaching and Learning) student worker. She recently created her own writing blog named “She Is Writing” and founded “B4B” to share her love of reading with others. A good cup of coffee along with a classical piece of music makes her happy. She considers Leonardo Davinci and Roger Federer as her role models. 82
Reading Runs in My Family How I learned to read or write goes way back, way before I can remember. But what I do remember is my path to becoming a better writer and reader. I started learning to read and write since I started going to school, 14 years ago, and from there my journey began. I began by learning the alphabet, then spelling three letters words, and all the way to writing essays. I was never fond of reading or writing; it was always the most boring time of the day and I never really gave my school essays a fair shot. To be honest, I never saw how writing and reading could benefit me. I have a cousin, Ali, who is like a brother to me, and we were in the same school and in the same classes till high school. Ever since we were kids, our mothers would buy us alphabet puzzles and we would meet up either at my house or his and try to solve them. Sometimes we would challenge each other to see who finishes first, which always motivated both of us. We did that until we reached second grade and we got too old for alphabetical puzzles, so my mum bought us a V-tech Playstation, which is primarily an educational version of the original Playstation. The games we played were in English; we had four different games and each focused on a different skill such as vocabulary or verb tenses, requiring us to put the right word in the same sentence, etc. We played with these games often, and I would say that it played a huge part in advancing my skills of reading and writing as a child. My mother and aunt were so keen on buying us those educational games, just to make sure we are succeeding in school. My mother has always been a reader. She reads the newspaper every single day and even though the newspaper is available online, she prefers reading a hard copy, because, as she claims, “Paper makes reading physically pleasurable.” One day, in the summer of 2014, I was walking in London with my mother and we saw a massive book sale. My mother went to take a look at the books and encouraged me to at least buy one. I randomly picked up a book called How I Learned to Fly that I never really intended to read . A few days passed, and I completely forgot about the book I bought at the book sale. Everything in London closes early, so we usually returned to the hotel early hence I didn’t have anything to do and had a lot of free time. Therefore, I decided to read the book and give it a try. It wasn’t a thick book although it took me about two weeks to finish it, which is quite a long time in comparison with my speed of reading today, but at that time, I did not do a lot of reading. But ever since that summer, I became a book addict. Every time I go to a bookstore, I buy at least buy four or five books to read with each book taking me about two days to finish. I have to admit that I do not have the time to finish a book that fast nowadays, or read daily, since my university studies are keeping me preoccupied, but that does not change the fact that I still buy books every time I go to a bookstore. 85
I mainly like to read novels, fiction, non-fiction and adventure; however, I do not like to read science fiction. My favorite authors are Mitch Album, Paulo Coelho and John Grisham. I admire Mitch Albumâ€™s and Paulo Coelhoâ€™s books the most, both fiction and non-fiction, because I think that their books have wise morals that I can benefit from. In addition, I like the way they express their writings in a very descriptive and creative way. Ever since I started reading, my language and writing has improved, which helped me a lot, especially considering that English is my second language. Not only did I benefit from reading, but because my siblings see me reading often, they have started reading more often. I am pleased that I am inspiring others now. They have started going with me to different bookstores to buy books and even borrowing books from me to read. Whenever my siblings and I read a book, my father would ask us to write a brief summary about it and give it to him to read. He asked us to do that so he could keep track on what we were reading, and later we would discuss the book. Most of the time my mother would read the summaries as well. I stopped writing summaries about every book when I got to twelfth grade because I did not have a lot of free time, although I still do it from time to time. Overall, it took a lot of time and hard work to learn to read and write in three languages (Arabic, English, and French). My parents played a big role in my journey to learn to read and write, and without their help and encouragement, I might have never reached the level of reading and writing I have achieved today. I now thank my parents every day for pushing me to read as this has made a huge difference in my daily life.
This is a speech that I delivered at the Liberal Arts International Conference hosted by the university. I was invited to speak on the undergraduate panel about my experience with Liberal Arts courses and STEAM initiatives at the campus like Ignite. This speech caused to me think about what I took away from my Liberal Arts courses and how Iâ€™ll be applying what I learnt in the future.
The Universal Tools of a Liberal Arts Education Liberal arts courses and initiatives like STEAM have given me exposure to things that I otherwise wouldn’t have been exposed to such as different cultures, a different kind of history and a lot of other different topics. This exposure has made me think about the differences that exist between you and I, and therefore begin to explore them. Furthermore, this exposure has lead to introspection of my own culture and behaviours. When I get exposed to something different, I naturally question the difference and begin to determine what’s right and what’s wrong. For example, there exist differences between how you and I speak, what’s considered humorous to each of us and how we communicate non-verbally with each other. Different cultures have different ways of doing that, and when I learn about such a difference, I naturally wonder which culture is actually right. After wondering at many differences like these over a long period of time, I’ve concluded that I want to mix and match different good things from various cultures and adopt that as my way. Now, what does liberal arts have to do with this? Liberal arts has played a role in this by giving me exposure to different things. They aren’t the main reason. However, they have played a big role in making me explore such topics. So, am I a completely different person now, after taking liberal arts courses? No, not really. I can’t yet claim that a liberal arts education has brought about radical and tangible results in my life. However, I’m sure that they will. That’s because they have impacted the way I think and the intentions that I hold. Talking about tangible results though, I have seen a change in the way I do certain things. For example, in the past, I used to only read news online at BBC.com, but now, I have incorporated Al-Jazeera and another website called The Intercept which reports on matters that are usually swept under the rug by other big news organisations. I can link this back to how my history professor would make us read two different historians’ accounts of the same historical event so that we could compare their viewpoints. Let me give you an example. One historian spoke about how religious and pious the European colonists were when they settled in the American continent. However, the other historian criticised that very piety by saying that they grew tobacco and brought in slaves later on which the former historian seldom mentioned in his book. Just like the fact that I started reading news at different websites, I can safely say that there’s a chain of events taking place in my life in which each liberal arts related course causes me to explore or do something that’s related next. For example, after finishing my course on the dynamics of a multicultural society here in the university, I went on to register in a course outside the university on multicultural teams and intercultural communication which was not a mandatory course at all.
This kind of chain of events is made possible by the fact that my liberal arts education gives me universal tools that I can keep using in the future. Even though I have learnt American history, politics and multiculturalism in America, I can use those same skills that I learnt in the classroom to analyse and explore the history, politics and multiculturalism of another country or culture. Having acquired these skills and tools, I feel like itâ€™s a responsibility that I carryâ€”that I must make use of them now to understand other cultures or even dig deeper into my own culture in particular. I do that already in a way because I am one of a handful number of people from the Indian subcontinent in this university. So I naturally come across differences very often and ponder over them. Therefore, for me, liberal arts courses and STEAM initiatives are very instrumental in exposing myself and exploring these differences.
Abdullah Mohammed Yousuf is a mechanical engineering sophomore. Some of his interests include robotics, intercultural studies, personal development and entrepreneurship. He likes learning new and different things, and he likes working on elaborate projects such as making robots. Abdullah also likes volunteering at events and being part of a hard-working team. 90
This piece of writing is weirdly personal to me even if other people might not feel so. It is something I hope that other people can relate to or at least learn something from. For me, it is something to look back to, to feel proud of myself if I ever let pessimism fester in me and need to will myself to accomplish more, or just to look back at this version of myself when I grow into something more.
THE LOST BOYS Change is important, right? For any notable progress or to achieve a goal, you have to change, or change your surroundings and get out of your comfort zone. I guess I always knew this, maybe from seeing it in a paraphrased and clever quote in the deep part of the web as some inspirational quote with a somber background. Or maybe I learnt it in my Indian school, as an inspirational quote from the magnanimous and beloved historical figure—Mahatma Gandhi saying ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’ But maybe I had known this fact from an even earlier time—in all those movies and entertaining stories I watched and heard as a child. Those in which the main character, in order to do great things, has to move out of their comfort zone and do something absolutely unbelievable and jaw dropping. I mean, imagine a story where Cinderella obeys her stepmother and does not go to the ball? She probably would have never found herself a prince charming, would she? And would Simba have ever saved Pride Rock if he never left Hakuna Matata? No. They had to venture out from their bubble, face the change, or more appropriately, be the catalyst. But even with all this positive reinforcement of the idea, I myself never had a deep understanding of change, or related to it in any personal way. It was just something in the category of an ‘inspirational quote’ that I would conjure up the moment I had to write an essay, but never something I truly ingested. My dad used to work at Qatar Petroleum. The most important words in that sentence are ‘used to’ as he had been relieved from his position in the company as a result of the huge layoff after the massive downfall of oil prices. My family basically lost its primary income source, and it’s hard to even narrow down the huge implications this event had on all our lives. I was born in Qatar and lived my whole life here, and while I was thankful for the country providing me such a wonderful childhood, I was also scared and a little bitter because as a consequence of the layoff, I had to leave the country, seemingly permanently. It didn’t help that I was a person who never wanted to leave my comfort zone. It made me feel insignificant, like I couldn’t make a dent anywhere and was nothing but a mere a human in the large scope of the universe. At this time, I had a strange affiliation to the one and only Peter Pan. Never mind the fact that I was an adult about to graduate from high school. I used to envy how Peter Pan and the lost boys lived not just forever, but lived as children free of the burdens that come with being an adult. They never grew up, never experienced change and lived a life full of fun and adventure. They annoyed the sleazy Captain Hook, lounged with mermaids on the lagoon, lived with faeries and howled with the Indians. I resonated with them, completely despising the change I was going through and willing it all to just stop. But then I realized that Peter Pan was a boy who didn’t grow up because he feared change. He, unlike Wendy, never really got to experience the good things that come with becoming an adult. Wendy realizes she is ready to grow up and leaves Neverland. We aren’t Peter Pan, having the choice to stay in Neverland 93
and never go through change, but we are, by default, Wendy. Like her, we have to accept adulthood and accept the inevitable changes that come with the curveballs life throws at us. Maybe we shouldn’t even wait for the curveballs to change, because without these changes, there can never be progress, and without progress you can never do great things. Change made me feel…invincible. And once my family and I had gotten up onto our feet, I was not afraid of falling anymore. I turned from being frustrated over Wendy wanting to leave Neverland to empathizing with her. I don’t want to be stuck in Hangman’s Tree with the lost boys forever; I want to do great things, whatever they are and wherever that might be. I do not want to be in the lost boys because that is what they were—lost. The lost boys—the clique that is way overrated. I’m not going to lie though, I still hate Change, but I guess I am warming up to him, maybe even thinking of inviting him over from time to time.
Aisha Hussain is from India, but she has lived in Qatar her whole life. Her dreams and hopes are to become the best possible version of herself and to contribute to the world the best way she can. 94
Photo by Mowad Alaradi, Class of 2019
Stories that Make Us Stronger
Some people say that a home is the first laboratory of life where children can learn valuable lessons about work. My home was no different from other homes where parents teach their children the value of work. I remember various occasions when I would see my mother clean houses and wash clothes all throughout the day and sometimes late at night. Looking back, I had no recollection of seeing my mother feel bad or humiliated doing those menial jobs. I know all she wanted was to provide for our basic needs. From her good example, I learned the importance of diligence and industry.
“The Laborer is Worthy of His Hire” Living in an impoverished condition was not at all easy. I was 7 years old when I understood what it meant to live a hand-to-mouth existence. I remember my mother would clean houses and wash clothes manually for other people to earn money enough for our day’s subsistence. At times, I would sit next to her while I observed her carefully launder our neighbors’ clothes. From time to time, I would pump water from a communal hand pump to help her finish her work quickly. At a young age, I knew how hardworking my mother was. I knew that she would do everything to give us a modest life, if not a luxurious one. When our money was insufficient to afford us a decent meal, my mother would ask my sister or me to buy an onion and small packs of cooking oil and soy sauce from a nearby sari-sari store. She would sauté the onion and add the soy sauce to make a mouth-watering concoction we call “steak sauce.” The fragrance of that sauce would fill our 15 ft. x 15 ft. house prompting my sister and me to hurriedly get a heap of steamed rice and pour the delectable liquid onto it. After mixing them with our hands, we would eat all of it with gusto. At some point during my childhood, this rice and sauce combo became my favorite. Being the breadwinner of our family, my mother had to work all day almost every day. Before leaving home, she would rehearse to my sister and me the roster of tasks we needed to accomplish while she’s away. Young as we were, we knew we would have to face her ire if we missed even one of them. I will not forget the Saturday I learned what facing her ire meant. “Beth, return that Tupperware to your Aunt Yollie,” my mother said with a stern voice, pointing to the rectangular plastic container sitting on our table. Just like any other obedient child, I positively responded, “Yes, Nanay.” But as soon as she left, I went out and played, planning to return the Tupperware before she came back from work. I was having so much fun playing that I didn’t notice it was already past 5 p.m. My enjoyment was cut short when I heard my mother’s voice calling for me. I was mortified. Her next round of calls terrified me even more. I started to tremble because I knew my chastisement was forthcoming. Looking at my frightened face, my mother surmised that I had forgotten her order. No amount of explanation from my mother’s uncle or me could appease her. Sure enough, I received a surge of her anger without complaint, but with whimpers. I do remember blaming myself that night for being irresponsible and oblivious. From then on, I would never play without first following her order. By the time I was 14 years old, our family’s financial condition had barely improved. My mother’s job was still the same. I had no choice but to find ways to help our family get by. A part-time job suitable for my age would be a good option, I told myself. Thus, when I heard that my mother’s aunt was looking for someone who would be willing to peddle clams and mussels on Saturdays in a nearby town, I volunteered without hesitation. My excitement spiraled knowing that my wage would be adequate for a week’s school allowance. I did not mind forgoing the things that I loved doing on Saturdays like sleeping longer and 99
hanging out with my friends. I was determined to do it because I wanted to help my mother in my little way. My first Saturday at work was full of anticipation. I woke up as early as 4 a.m. to go to our town’s wet market. The slippery, foul-smelling, and muddy floor of the old market, the strong smell of fishes, and the vendors waiting for Jeepneys all welcomed me to my new-found job. I saw my mother’s aunt sitting on a wooden bench. As soon as I arrived, she straightaway motioned to me to get the two pails full of clams and mussels which weighed eight kilos each. After loading them in the Jeepney, I traveled for thirty minutes to get to the place where I would peddle them. The minute the Jeepney stopped, I began my seven-kilometer dirt road journey carrying the pails, intermittently shouting at the top of my voice “Halaan! Tahong!” for five hours to summon prospective buyers. I had to raise my shoulders to lift those two pails, whose height was a third of my height, so they would not touch the ground while I carried them. Occasionally, I stopped walking to ease the pains in my wrists, palms, arms, legs, and feet. Oh, I felt joy when I heard some people holler back “Halaan! Tahong!” because that meant they would like to buy. After reaching the end of the road, I knew my work was half-way done. I was more relaxed walking back to the public transportation station because I just had to carry quarter-filled pails of unsold shells. By 11 a.m., I was already home, dog-tired, famished, and almost unable to move. Practically all parts of my frail body were aching. While sitting on our bench, I gazed at my calloused red palms and the 20-peso bill ($0.40) with tears in my eyes. With great pride and gratitude, I kept convincing myself, “It’s all worth it.” I felt every cent of it was just compensation for the labor I did on that day. Despite the physically overwhelming first day, I woke up at 4 a.m. just the same the following day for that 20 peso bill. The succeeding days were more bearable and more enjoyable after my two-day initiation. My body pains didn’t subside, but they were tolerable and not burdensome anymore. For almost a year, I persevered with hope in my heart that things would change for the better for my family and me. And they did change. My mother got a regular job as house help for an Indian family, which enabled her to provide more food on our table. That week she got her job, she said, “You don’t need to work on Saturdays.” She explained that her monthly salary would be enough to cover the expenses of our daily needs and my school allowance. Although I no longer carry heavy pails for a living, I have not forgotten the deep respect I developed for people who do menial jobs. I have learned that a man’s dignity is not measured by how much he earns, but by how much he labors with all honesty and diligence. Yes, I knew then as I know now that “the laborer is worthy of his hire.”
Erlinda â€œBethâ€? Caerlang is currently employed as a Writing Consultant at the ASC. She considers working with students to be an enjoyable and rewarding endeavor. Her life has been peppered with challenges, but she sees them as opportunities for growth. She believes that stories that come from the heart uplift and inspire people. 101
HAZEM HUSSEIN Dear Daddy is about a child growing up with every letter he sends to his dad. Each letter describes the current events in the childâ€™s life. Spelling and punctuation mistakes are intentional. At times of boredom, I grab a pen and paper and just let my fingers do their thing.
deer dady i had english class today the teacher walked in with a smile she said she had a magic trick to talk to people who are miles and miles away like thinking about them as if they are with us but better and dady that is when she showed the class how to write a letter i know you only dropped me off an hour ago and said goodbye but when i heard ‘person closest to you’ you were the first on my mind i love you dady and i hope you will never leave me alone no one else read this i can’t wait to show it to you back home Dear dad. There’s just so much I want to tell you, I don’t know where to start It’s only appropriate to say thanks from the bottom of my heart Remember that project you did with me then helped me improve it First place in all criteria and I’ve the medals to prove it You single handedly uncovered all that talent I’ve hidden and believed in me in moments when I couldn’t or didn’t We’re checking out in an hour, and two more for the flight A couple of hours remain, dad. Hopefully I’ll see you tonight Dear Dad, It’s been a while since I last wrote to you, I’m filled with regret A lot has been happening recently, it’s wasn’t hard to forget I met this girl in my college and now we’re seeing each other And got myself a job and landed interviews for another I never forgot about you, I promise you, father I promise you’ll never have a son that when you call doesn’t bother My only goal now is to make my father prouder than ever Don’t think I’ll skip summer with you dad. Love you forever Hi Dad… At this point I don’t know if you’ll read this or not Things took a turn for the worst, even worse than I thought The girl of my dreams, took my heart, spat on it and threw it Still feeling numb, I went to my job interview and I blew it None the wiser, I let my emotions drive with a throttle Answering my questions needed looking down in a bottle Sorry for disappearing for so long, and how you hate it, Pop Even I know I can do better. I’m not about to give up. Dad, You don’t reply to my emails. Same goes for your phone I don’t expect you to be fine, though, after leaving you alone I did what I had to do. I swear there wasn’t an option I couldn’t raise my pay so much I put it up for adoption Had to sell my life for another, hung out with some brothers 103
Who showed me how to make money one way or the other Sold ‘you-know-whats’ to ‘you-know-whos’ like butter and honey Until one day a customer pulled out his badge not his money Went from working as a doctor, contracts made for incision to community service after 20 years in a prison I’m done with this city, I’d dig back home with a spoon Expect me in a few hours, hopefully I’ll see you soon. Dear Daddy, You never gave me much of a sign I lost a race against life, now I lost one against time I promised I’d never give up but I never could tell that I’m about to miss my dad’s last breath from a cell No words inside of me will be enough to show the shame Of having someone like me left to carry his father’s name You raised a failure, dad, I broke a promise or two Not that it matters now, but I should’ve been in there instead of you.
Mohamed Hazem Hussein goes by either his middle name, Hazem, or his alias, HazelNut. He is a mechanical engineering student from the Class of 2020. He is also a gaming/rap addict who was crowned “Rap God” back in high school after beating 14 unworthy foes and again in Texas A&M after winning the Aggie Originality Contest. He lives by the words, “If it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t have to make sense.” 104
One of the big life-changing incidents I have had so far is the loss of my friend. It has made me who I am today. I initially didnâ€™t want to share this, but it may help someone else who needs it right now. The event has shaped my character and made me realize some of lifeâ€™s truths. Writing this was hard because it brought up a lot of sad memories. Each revision of the draft required me to go back and think about it. I hope I was able to express some of those feelings effectively in the narrative. Thank you for reading it.
Loss January 27th, 2015, the day after India’s Republic day. I was sixteen years old and in the tenth grade. School was out for exam holidays. It was a beautiful morning. I woke up late and looked forward to another day of fun and procrastination. My parents were out for work, so just my sister and I were at home. She was eighteen and had exams to study for as well. My mom had made tea for us before leaving and placed it on the kitchen table. She covered the top of the cup with a plate, so it was still warm. I was too lazy to make toast, so I went outside to the nearby grocery store to get one of those chocolate puffs, the “ideal” breakfast. When I came back, my sister told me my friend, Daniel, had called saying something about Luke, one of my closest friends being in the hospital. I laughed as this wasn’t the first time Daniel called up saying some random b.s. He was always the prankster. I found him funny even though most people didn’t. I went to my parents’ room to use the faster computer to watch The Simpsons while eating my puff, but I decided to check Facebook first. I logged into my account and my news feed was flooded with posts about Luke. I thought back to what Daniel said, and I got scared. I stopped eating and immediately went to the living room to use the landline and call up one of my other close friends, Steve, asking him if he knew what had happened. He told me, “Daniel is telling the truth…Luke fell off a building.” I had shivers and my throat and chest felt heavy. But I told Steve that Luke is in the hospital so we can still hope for the best. I cut the phone to go back to Facebook. We have a group-chat with Luke, Steve and six other people, so I saw a lot of messages. As I read through them, I felt my chest getting heavier. I couldn’t believe it. One of them lived close by and said Luke had already died. I could feel my heart drop. As I scrolled through my newsfeed, it was all about people praying for him and wishing him a restful peace. I scrolled further and found his picture. I broke down, crying. I had all these thoughts going through my head. How could this happen? Why him? I couldn’t believe it. I thought It was a prank; I prayed, hoping it was a prank. I hoped cameras would come out from nowhere and tell me it was just a prank, but no one was there. It wasn’t the same beautiful morning anymore. It was silent and sad. I went to the bathroom and washed my face. My sister saw me and understood what had happened from her previous conversation with Daniel. We looked at each other, but neither of us said anything. She let me have my privacy. I still couldn’t process what happened. I went back and read the chat and found I wasn’t the only one shocked. It was Josh’s birthday. He told us he was so happy after the clock turned 12 and he was celebrating. Then he got a call from his friend telling him the news. He was devastated. It was heartbreaking. I logged off quickly. I had to get my mind away from this with whatever means possible. I went to my room, shut the door and opened my Hindi book to study. I had to focus on something else. I tried my best to concentrate on the book so I would forget about Luke, but all I could think of was the great times we had in class 107
together. It wasn’t working. I went back to the computer and put on another episode of The Simpsons. I turned the volume up and gave in to the story. I was relaxed for twenty minutes, and then the episode ended. I quickly clicked on another episode so my mind wouldn’t have time to think of anything else. I calmed down enough to return to the group-chat. Apparently, he didn’t fall off a building; he was doing pull ups when the bar broke and he hit his head on the floor. There was no one at his home. His mom had gone shopping and came home later to find him on the floor. I couldn’t think straight. I remember the landline ringing from the living room. It was my mom calling from work. My sister picked up the phone, and I overheard her telling my mom that one of my friends had passed away. My sister handed me the phone saying, “Mom wants to talk to you.” I don’t really remember what I spoke with my mom at the time. From the group-chat, I found out that there was going to be a prayer ceremony later that day at his home. I had an extra math class to attend, and I distinctly remember calling my dad and telling him bluntly, “One of my friends died, so I need to go to his home.” My family decided to come, too. There were around twenty people standing outside the flat. I saw my friends among them. There were so many people, yet it was so silent. I thought back to the number of times I had come to Luke’s house. His room was on the second floor. I thought back to walking up the stairs with joy and hope for a fun day. He always kept his red slippers right outside his door. But the sound of prayer songs broke the dream. I looked at the stairway; it seemed longer now. I regrettably walked up, knowing that the moment I walked through his door, it would be real. Outside his door, I couldn’t find those red slippers. There were about ten other pair of slippers though, belonging to friends of his family. I entered the room and saw his dad standing in the middle, next to the group of people sitting down on the floor singing prayer songs. He spoke with a crack in his voice, and I could see his lower lip trembling. My chest felt heavy again. I moved to the side of the room and stood against the wall. The room was filled with family friends and people from his church. His mom was inside in their bedroom with the lights off. Luke’s brother stayed with her there. They did a lot of prayers for him. There were other friends of his inside the room as well. No one said anything, as it was about paying respect. Some of them were crying. I clenched my jaw to keep myself strong. I stayed for a little longer then left knowing that would be the last time I would ever go into that house again. After we left, we went straight to the nearby Lulu Hypermarket since there was some shopping to be done. I remember feeling weird since I just left the funeral of the closest person I had to a best friend and then minutes later I was in Lulu with my family shopping like nothing happened. Life just moves on, I guess. The next day, my friends in the group-chat found that he took his own life. During the previous day’s ceremony, one of Luke’s neighbors who was there when it happened, talked about it. I was shattered. He was the most cheerful guy I knew. He was always happy, even when he was being a jerk. I remember getting 108
into so many arguments with him over dumb stuff like who knows Batman better. We would argue for hours on Facebook, but the next day it would all be forgotten. He was always smiling and trying to make others laugh. To think someone like him had such sadness within him deeply affected me. The last time I talked to him was in school. He asked me to come with him to the football ground to chill. But, as usual he was being a bit disrespectful, so I ignored him. It still pains my heart every time I think about him, knowing that I could have done something. This incident changed not only my life but everyone who knew him. It taught me to care for and cherish the people in my life. You never know when it’s the last time you’re going to see somebody. I have learned to love everyone in my life. Life is too short to hold grudges. I learned to forgive the people I care about; had I done so and hung out with him, things could have been different. I learned the value of a life, how much of an impact one life can have on other people’s lives. His family will never be the same. It has been two years since the loss of Luke. Everything in life happens for a reason. I accept it now. Other than the occasional nights when I can’t sleep, I don’t really think about him on a daily basis anymore. Writing this piece has brought back so much I haven’t thought about recently. I hope he is doing well wherever he is.
When I recall the process of writing this piece, I canâ€™t think of anything but exploding behind the screen of my laptop. Every letter written in this essay is written by lining up the broken pieces of me on the keyboard after the explosion. I believe that the more we want, like, and understand our writing assignments, the better we are at them. This essay made me discover that writing is the cure for my aching soul. Every time I feel sad, angry, sick or any bad feeling, I write, write, and write until the swollen and damaged parts in me are finally cured.
Why Isn’t He Here Anymore? “Was it a dream? Or rather was it a nightmare?” I ask myself every day when I first open my eyes. Then, my mind starts recognizing that it is real. He left. He’s not here anymore. I wish I can say that I open my eyes waking up from sleep, but I actually open them after a very long night of tears, pain and suffering. At 9:00 pm I go to bed, I lay my body over those freezing sheets trying to be distracted by their coldness and prepare myself to sleep. At 9:30 I feel warmer. Not because of any heater around, but because of the continuous turning left and right in the bed aiming to fall asleep. At 10:30 I am sweating. Rather, my eyes are. My Lancôme mascara-filled tears make the blackest pond on my pillow. That’s how I know that my mascara is the best and darkest. At 11:00 I start feeling my aching soul collapse and get stuck in my throat. I feel I want to throw it up. At 12:00 am I check my phone; not because I heard it ringing or vibrating, but because I wish that it did and I couldn’t hear it. I cry and cry and cry until it is 2:00. Movie time! Everything shows in front of my eyes. All the memories. Back to four years until two months ago when everything started falling apart. At 3:30 I try calling him. No answer. I text. No reply. At 4:00, my thoughts are too loud. I can’t sleep. “SHUT UP!!!” I shout in my head, but stubbornness is one of my worst features. I wonder at this moment, is my heart beating or hitting itself against the wall of my chest? I swear I can hear the blood going “pusht, pusht, pusht ...” in and out of my heart, and that sound irritates me. At 5:00 I am finally asleep. If you consider closing your eyes, but feeling everything around you and breathing very hard to be sleeping. But I love this part. Why? Because I go to the world where we used to be in together. I see us together. I see him with me. Beside me. Loving me as he used to do. And finally, I wake up again to wish that his leaving was just a nightmare. Why do you want to leave? What’s wrong? Aren’t we getting back together again? Why aren’t you here? These questions seem to be harder than a chemistry test to him. He never replies to any of them. He runs away from answering them. And I still want to know why. As an engineering student, I consider his case as a trigonometric function on a unit circle. He moved from angle 0 degrees to 180 degrees. Everything is the opposite on the other side. Sine and cosine functions invert their values. He is not the person I know. He has changed a lot. Two years and a half of friendship followed by one year and a half of pure, honest and real love didn’t matter to him. I can almost believe what happens in movies is real and that his soul is exchanged with someone else’s soul into his body. We used to be each other’s best friends, family, and everything. Now I sit alone wondering who will talk to me the way he did? Who will love me the way he did ... or look at me the way he did? When he looks at me, I see myself in his eyes. I swear I see his shiny pupils full of me and only me. Who will I talk to in my breaks at the university? Who will put me to bed every day and make sure I am warm and comfortable? Who will hug me and rub my hair like he used to 111
do? Who am I going to share my feelings with now? Who will protect me from everything around me like he did? A lot of who’s and why’s come into my mind every day. One moment, I tell myself that I am strong enough to forget him and move on. Another moment, my eyes turn from a dry desert into a floating sea. I remember when we used to fight and I would tell him, “Leave me alone. Don’t talk to me anymore.” He could pull out his eyes, put them in a jewelry box and gift them to me just to get me to talk to him again. He would come to my house at night, calling me until I answered to tell me that he wants to see me. I would sneak out, enter the car, and he would offer a McDonald’s brown bag containing nine pieces of nuggets, a large fries and an apple juice without ice just to get me to smile at my usual and favorite order. I would find it on the front seat and smile without him saying any word. That smile let him know that I had forgiven him. But she sparkly little tears still cut their way on his cheeks until I would hug him and hear him sobbing while saying, “Please don’t leave me alone. I am sorry.” I would wipe his tears and tell him, “These dimples don’t deserve to hide. They deserve to be shown all the time.” Now my brain is unable to understand how we sunk to this level. When I try the same with him, when I do everything for him to come back to me, he hates it! He says that I’m irritating him and that I should leave him alone. Then why didn’t he leave me alone back then? Is he the only one who has the right to express his feelings and do everything to get me back, but I don’t? Okay, let’s say that I have no problems with everything that he has done. So he changed? Everyone changes. He needs a break? It’s okay; sometimes we need to have our own time alone. But what if he doesn’t love me anymore? I mean, what if he has no feelings for me anymore? Is that possible? Does someone just stop loving someone just like that? With no real reasons! And can they love them back again? What is the equation for that? All my life I learned that there must be a formula to apply and then get the answer. The hardest problems have a formula. How hard could this be? I don’t mind solving for more than one variable, just give it to me!!! Don’t I have the right to decide something in the relationship as well? How can he leave me without consulting me? We could’ve reached a solution that can satisfy us both. When I tell anyone about what is going on between us right now, they tell me that he must have someone else in his life and that he obviously didn’t love me from the beginning. I deny. I refuse. I disagree. If I had to swear that he doesn’t, I would. They just don’t believe me. It is like a crime scene where someone is accused because they have their fingerprints on the dead body while they were just hugging them the last time! They think they have all the obvious and clear clues that he doesn’t love me, but it is because they only see what is happening now; this is not him, I swear; they never saw anything before. And I don’t have any clues to prove the past. Unfortunately, it’s gone. 112
I think that my case can be classified as addiction. When you are used to someone, you love them to infinity, and when you talk to them every single day, your brain literally gets addicted. That’s why coping with the loss is so much similar to the cases of getting rid of addiction. You judge. Whenever I miss him, I close my eyes and imagine him and smile. I go to the places where we were together, and believe me, that’s like every inch of the country. I have a memory on almost each traffic signal with him. My university, the student center, each and every mall in Qatar, and every street a car can drive on. Whenever I get close to the area where his house is, my heart beats faster. I can hear it telling me, “Let me goooo to hiiiim!” My tears answer, “So it’s either him or death?” I hug my pillow and imagine it’s him. But my pillow hasn’t been to the gym for a while; it’s too thin; I can’t feel its thick arms and chest. My pillow is dead; I can’t feel its breath on my neck. Let God witness that I hung on to him until my hands were torn. We said we were never going to part, and now we know nothing about each other. At 11:11 pm on the last day of 2017, he said to me: “My last wish at 11:11 2017 is to continue 2018 with you.” My baby, 2018 is still not done yet in case you’re wondering. I don’t want us to be strangers again. I pray to God. “If he is good for me, please, God, bring him to me. And if he’s not, please, God, make him good and bring him to me.” But my questions remain unanswered, and I still wonder why isn’t he here anymore?
This was one of the most difficult pieces I have ever written as it was very close to my heart. It was very hard for me to express what I went through with my Uncleâ€™s death. However, I utilized this essay as an opportunity to therapize myself and as a way to convey my feelings. I would have never been able to write this piece without the help of my English instructor and her constant support by providing a safe place for me to express my emotions. I can never thank her enough for that. While this might not be the happiest story out there, I believe it gives a great insight to what I was feeling. I wrote this essay as a way to celebrate all the lives my uncle touched and positively affected. Itâ€™s a tribute to my uncle.
8th of October, 6:49pm Sometimes life just doesn’t work our way, and as much as we try to control it, some situations are out of our hands. Sometimes we are faced with incidents that can change us as people, and these changes are not always positive. Sometimes we question our existence and its worth. Yet at that point, it’s too late because life is not always rainbows and roses. It’s not a Disney fairy tale. We have these expectations in our head. Ones of purity and happiness, ones of hopes and dreams that can all be shattered in a matter of seconds, and then we are left broken, trying to keep ourselves together and make sense of the hurricane happening around us. It was a Sunday the day everything changed. The day when I lost part of myself. I had just arrived back home after a long day at university. My dad and I were sitting on the dining table in the family lounge ready to have dinner. The T.V was on and the sound of the aggressive politicians discussing the blockade was on low, playing in the background. Suddenly my dad’s phone started ringing. His face lit up upon seeing the contact name, and he started his daily call with my uncle by asking him how he is doing and if he needs anything. But this time instead of my uncle calling, it was his son. My dad didn’t think much of it and proceeded to answer the phone, saying hello. Instead of the smiles and laughs we were so accustomed to in these phone calls, a solemn look overtook my dad’s face. His eyes shone with unshed tears and for the first time, horror and sorrow filled my dad’s expression. I pinched myself hoping I would wake up from this dreadful dream, but I knew I wouldn’t. It wasn’t a dream; this was reality, my reality. I instantly knew what the news was, but my mind tried to play tricks on me, convincing me that it might be something else, maybe tears of joy. I looked for any reasoning to avoid facing the reality of what it could be, but then my father finally uttered the words. Words that sent shivers down my spine; words that sent me falling to ground, knees first, words that are still haunting me to this day, stopping me from living normally, happily. “He’s dead, “ he said. It took me a minute to register the words he just said. I didn’t react, my mind couldn’t compute the truthfulness of these two words. I tried to hold myself together, but I couldn’t. I broke down. I started wailing into the palms of my hand, shouting at the top of my lungs. Words of denial kept stumbling out of my lips. I didn’t, couldn’t believe it. He’s dead. My uncle is dead. My brain was not able to comprehend the situation, the absence of the man who was there throughout my whole childhood. That man who took me to my first farm, showed me my first goat and gave me my first bottle of disgusting fresh milk was gone, and I didn’t have the chance to say goodbye. I didn’t get to show him my love and appreciation; I didn’t get to express how thankful I am for him. All his lectures about positivity and having a constructive perspective on life were forgotten at that point. I didn’t know what to do, I felt useless and lost. I lost hope. 115
A few hours later I opened my eyes to find myself in my cozy pink bed with the blanket tucked under me, the way Mother used to do it when I was a kid. For one second, I didn’t remember the incident, didn’t know how I got to bed. I had a surprising calmness that filled me. However, a few moments later it all came crashing back. I closed my eyes and saw my dad’s tears running down his cheeks, and I broke all over again. I wanted to go up and talk to him, try to comfort him, but I was physically and emotionally exhausted. For the first time I felt like I failed my own dad because I couldn’t be there for him the way he has always been there for me. I spent the rest of the day in bed falling between consciousness and unconsciousness. Waking up startled from heartbreaking nightmares of the death of people I love. Thankfully, my mum was already there right beside me, holding my hand and reading Quran to comfort me with her soft voice and words of encouragement. Her fingers kept running over my knuckles stopping every once in a while to fix her diamond wedding ring, but then continuing the same consoling action. The next day I wanted to stay home. I didn’t want to go to university and face the outside world just yet. I didn’t want to people to know I am hurt. I didn’t need their pity. I hate it as a matter of fact. “I am not ready,” were words that kept running through my head. I hadn’t prepared for the looks of sympathy I was bound to receive. I didn’t have enough time to grieve. But I had to; I had a physics midterm that while I would love to skip, I couldn’t. To skip it, I would have had to discuss the situation with my professor, and I wasn’t up for that talk just yet. So, I woke up the next day, pulled on the first black hoodie I saw and applied some concealer to hide the circles under my eyes. My dad couldn’t drive me, so I had to order an Uber. The Uber driver called me when he got to my house, but I didn’t have the energy to answer, so I didn’t pick up the call and just walked out of the house into the car. He said “Good morning,” in a gruff voice that sounds like he has been smoking for years, but I didn’t reply; my mind was running in a hundred different directions, and I couldn’t form words properly. The Uber driver cut my train of thought and startled me back to reality we he asked, “Are you okay, ma’am?” That’s the moment I let all my agony out and the tears started building up, because the truth was that I was not okay; I was heartbroken and no one could help me. There was no way to get my uncle back. Instead of answering, my lips started quivering and I just nodded in hopes he would stop talking to me, and thankfully he did. When I arrived at university, I walked in, showed my ID and smiled at the security guard. I had to maintain this act throughout the whole day so nobody would suspect a thing.
Suddenly, while sitting in the student lounge with all my colleagues, I felt tears running down my cheeks. I ran to the bathroom in hopes that nobody saw me, but my friend did, and she came after me. I cried and cried into her white fury shirt and just blurted out everything, all my anguish and despair. Instead of feeling better, I felt way worse because it was the first time I actually uttered the words out loud and realized that there is nothing I could do to get him back. My friend looked at me with sympathy and pity which didn’t help me because I am used to being the one comforting everyone else. I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me. I don’t want to be weak. However, at that moment I was, and I needed help, but I was never going to admit it. After I was done with my mini breakdown, I headed to the library to study for my midterm. I didn’t want to, but I had promised my friend to go over the material, and I didn’t want to let him down. As we started studying, I tried to focus but I couldn’t; my mind was contemplating many different thoughts and physics was not one of my priorities and as much as I would have loved to stop, my friend needed me. Fast forward to the exam. I sat there, and for the first thirty minutes I was not able to remember the simplest equation, just staring at the paper instead. Then slowly the equations started coming back, and I was able to answer the questions. It wasn’t easy though, and I didn’t think I would pass the exam. The weird thing was I didn’t care; I didn’t care about the exam or failing the course. I just wanted the day to end so I could go back home and grieve properly. I just wanted this all-consuming pain to end. But I couldn’t mourn properly anywhere. Back home I had to keep a strong stance in front of my parents and siblings because no one was emotionally stable enough to worry about me. I had to make sure everyone is okay, so I didn’t cry at home either, and I kept telling everyone that I was doing okay and checking up on them. But honestly, I needed someone to hold me and just tell me everything is going to be okay, but there wasn’t anyone. I was alone, and I couldn’t find it in me to ask for help. I wished I could’ve run to my dad and have him cuddle me the way he always does or lie in my mother’s lap and have her play with my hair. I had to stop thinking about myself and instead of being selfish and worrying about what I need, I had to save my family from falling apart. That Monday night, after everyone went to bed, I called my best friend, but she didn’t pick up. I called over ten times, but her phone was off. I needed her at that moment, but she didn’t know that. Nevertheless, I felt let down because the one person who could help me wasn’t there, and that hurt more than anything. I kept calling and crying into the phone pathetically, hoping she would pick up. That night I didn’t sleep. I kept checking my phone every few minutes in hopes of seeing a missed call from her, but all I received were meaningless “I am sorry for your loss” messages on WhatsApp. I felt miserable. I didn’t want to depend on other people to feel okay. So, I pulled my walls up to protect myself. That 117
night I promised myself not to cry in university; I promised not to show anyone that I am hurt and vowed instead to smile at everyone. Even though I felt void on the inside, I sent fake smiles towards everyone in university, talked to them and even played cards. I assumed a mentality where no one could know what I am going through. If I could act for few hours like nothing is wrong, maybe I would feel better even if temporarily. Therefore, when my best friend called the next day and apologized for a straight thirty-five minutes for not being there for me, I didn’t tell her how hurt I was; instead, I just told her that I wanted to check up on her to see how she’s doing. I think she knew I was bluffing, but she couldn’t prove anything, so she just let it go. That weekend I did something that took every ounce of courage I had. I faced all my fears in one step: I asked everyone at home to talk. I didn’t know the best way to tell them, so I turned to social media and individually sent everyone a WhatsApp message saying, “I think it’s time to talk about this instead of each person isolating themselves in their rooms. Can we please all meet at 2 in the lounge? Love youuuuu.” This probably was not the best way to solve the issue, but at that point I was out of ideas, and it was my only feasible option. My dad was the first one to make it down, and I took the chance to discuss with him the situation and what I think should be done. He was very proud to say the least. He looked at me with a gleam in his eyes that I had been missing the whole week. He gave me the same look he gives me when he is proud of something I have done, like the time I won my first cycling race or when I received an honor in physics. His walls were finally coming down after a week of despair. It was a breath of fresh air to finally be on the road to getting my dad back. After a couple of minutes, everyone huddled around the lounge, and we all sat and talked for hours about my uncle. My dad led that talk and started by revisiting his best memories of my uncle, like their first football game or the first time he visited my dad in the states. We repeated the same cycle for my whole family. I went third. I was dreading talking about my uncle; I didn’t know what to say. Everyone expected me to talk about the farm because they all knew how much I treasured my time with my uncle there. However, I started explaining the phone call in which my uncle helped me recover from my fight with my ex-best friend. I reciting his words to everyone, “You shouldn’t cry about it, you should learn from this experience and grow from it. Don’t trust everyone as easily and don’t hold on to people until you are sure of their intentions. Not everyone is as pure-hearted as you are, and even though this all might not make sense now, when I am not there anymore you will look at this and understand that what I am saying is all for your benefit...” I couldn’t finish talking because of the hiccups and the tears running down my face. My mum was the last to go and she explained how thankful and lucky we are to have someone as great as my uncle in our lives. Finally, we prayed for him. We weren’t all instantly okay again; however, we were on the right track back to recovery.
I am not really over my uncle’s death, may he rest in peace, and I don’t think I will ever be completely. A piece of me died with him, but I don’t want to completely lose myself. I am slowly getting back to my feet, even though it’s very difficult, and some days I just feel like giving up. I hope with time the pain will subside and I will be able to get my life back on track. My uncle is in a better place now, being one of those people who were just too good for this world. I write these words as a tribute to him, celebrating the many lives he affected and even though he is not with us anymore, the values and lessons he passed on will always be inside of me, carrying me through all the difficult situations I will face.
Because of You The nights had been long and cold. My heart and mind were so fragile to understand how hard life is when you are part of something you can’t change. It is even harder to bring back all the dark pages and hopeless times. We all make mistakes, no one is perfect, but you were different! “You’re so lucky...” the words I used to hear from the people around me. It has been said that you will be the first true love of every little girl. And, I almost believed it was true. I thought you would be my forever hero, my backbone, and support until you decided to be the first man to break my heart. When I woke up that day, I recognized the fairy tale story I lived by. Then, the caring, decent, pure, sweet, humorous, and hard-working person vanished. I felt emotionally drained. You made me feel ashamed when I should have been proud. You were busy following your desires. It was appalling watching your selfishness, countless faults, accusations and hurtful words. You made me physically and mentally sick to the point that I hated when you were around. My pillow was my companion for years, and when I woke up every morning it was always wet. I felt unsecured and lonely even when the world was beside me. I lost trust in people. I had to close my eyes, my ears and mouth to protect the beloved persons I am responsible for. I had to draw a smile on my face, even though I was bleeding from inside. I was tired of analyzing things, trying to understand what is happening, and when and how this journey will end. I carried my raindrops and walked in the desert with the fear of losing the vision that will keep me alive. I did my best to hide all my skeletons in the closet, but I couldn’t, my body was ahead of me. I used to listen to other people’s stories and didn’t know that I would be one of them one day. I used to help others but didn’t expect that I would need help because of you. You broke me into pieces, and I am still managing to put myself back together. I am trying to find and collect the parts, yet there are a few missing, and you are responsible for their loss. You even stole the nice memories I had and obliterated them. You think you spread love and happiness! You think you know the meaning of sacrifice or giving! Well, I don’t think you know anything. I don’t want to blame you because blaming is your expertise. Let me thank you for not being here. Thank you for all the ache, tears and struggles that made me stronger and formed the person I am today. Thank you for the past that gave me a better future. Without this past, I might not have met the love of my life. Yes, he didn’t ride a white horse, but he scaled the hills and stood up to many challenges to rejuvenate my soul with great compassion. He is my source of love, strength, 121
inspiration, peace, and joy. I am so grateful to have him by my side. He lightens my mornings with his eyes and my nights with warm cuddles. He held my fears with tender and open arms, and lifted me up when I was down and had no energy to continue. Today, each day is a gift for me as a wife and a mom. I have learnt what unconditional love is, and that happiness is a choice. Being a mother is a blessing that changed me, giving me strength that I never thought I had, leading me do the right thing even when I am not sure what the right thing is. Words are not enough to describe the moment I heard his first cry and saw his tiny feet; it was a miracle from God. It was the new beginning of a dream of possibilities. I would give my life and anything I have to see a smile on their faces. If I had the chance to make a wish, I would ask to stop the time and further admire every single moment with both of them. People usually prefer the happy ending stories, and so do I, so I will have to create my own. With all the life-changing moments I had, I decided to accept and embrace everything. You left behind echoes of the past to use with every page I fold. You are growing older, and my wounds are healing over. You still have that place in my heart, and you are welcome to take it back!
MAHMOUD EL RAEI
Should’ve Known It Was the Last Time Ever thought about the feeling of losing the most valuable thing in your entire life—something that your whole life was dependent on? Or felt like you’re walking around knowing that there is something missing? A mobile phone, a wallet or the most valuable thing that comes up in your mind. My case was a little different. I didn’t lose anything materialistic. I lost a human being, I lost my sister. Habiba was only two years younger than me, but she was more than just my little sister. She was my good morning and my good night, she was my friend, my daughter, my everything. She was my partner in crime, and everything that used to happen between us stayed between us. She was not the type of sister who would let out all my secrets to my parents. She was the most reliable person in my life and my only trustworthy human being. But I guess nothing good lasts forever. We had different opinions about everything. We had different tastes in music. We fought about who draws better, and we only agreed on one thing which was that the zoo was our favorite place to hang out. We loved feeding the animals and taking pictures with exotic creatures for long life memories to view together as a family. We used to laugh and giggle all night long watching these pictures and videos, but it hurts me to say that “used to.” One day my parents decided to surprise me and my sister and take us to the zoo on a Friday morning. We were very excited about it to the point where my sister and I started to act like animals and imitate their noises till we fell asleep, both of us in the same room together with our toys still in our hands. The next morning, I woke up with excitement, ready to go to the zoo with a smile that was about to go through my eyes! Since my sister was sleeping in the same room, I decided to wake her up. I shook her once, twice, three times and didn’t get a single reaction. I vanished from the room to call my mom to tell her that Habiba wasn’t waking up. My mom jumped out of bed to see what was going on. My mother shook Habiba twice then put her fingers on her body to check her pulse but didn’t get anything. My sister had passed away. The moment that my mother realized that my sister had passed her last breath, she looked at me in tears and pain. She didn’t say a word, but her eyes were saying it all: “Mahmoud, you have killed your sister.” That’s what went through my ten-year-old’s mind at the time of the incident, even though now I believe for a fact that I didn’t do anything wrong. But that feeling that I had at that time will never leave me whatsoever. This incident completely changed my life as a human being as it made me appreciate my other two sisters so much and reminded me to never ever treat them in any bad way possible. I know that my remaining sisters deserve the 125
best, and I made sure I gave them the best. I felt like a third parent in that I had responsibility over my sisters, but my responsibility was to keep a smile on both their faces and make sure that they are proud that I am their older brother. Any money I have made and will make, 90% of it gets sent to them. I wait for nothing in return except a hug from them when they see me, and their hugs can make my entire day every single day. I rarely say no to them, because from experience I know what a â€œNo!â€? can do to a child, and I would never want to see a frown, a tear or even an upside down smile on my sisters because then the flashbacks start kicking in. And if you were ever in my position you would know that losing your sibling is a terrible feeling.
Stories of Caring for Communities
Photo by Aalaa Abdallah, Class of 2019
All in all, “Why am I here” seems to be an ambiguous question, and there doesn’t seem to be one right answer. The reasons I find myself here in this university are certainly because of the turn of events in my life. Recalling my past sometimes feels like revisiting an old wound, and writing down for everyone to read is like making the same wound bleed.
Opening Doors There is a widely accepted notion that university is all about planning ahead and sticking to a field we think we are passionate about. Contrary to what most people think, some of us, like myself, have to directly immerse ourselves into the field of study, and then have the courage and patience for it to reveal itself as our perfect choice. I remember taking computer science in high school. Back then, I had it all sorted in my head that I was going to study Computer Engineering in Qatar. I had even been appointed as Computer Science Secretary and developed an interactive SAT program with C++ for other high school students as a final year project. I applied to Carnegie Mellon University and Qatar University, here in Qatar, in the Computer Science program. I also applied to Texas A&M in Chemical Engineering just to make sure my future was secure in case something went wrong. As fate would have it, the seats in Carnegie Mellon University were full, my SAT scores weren’t high enough for Texas A&M University, and Qatar University informed me too late that the seats were full. At that moment, I felt like all my doors of opportunity were shut. Fearful of wasting a year, I quickly applied to College of North Atlantic-Qatar (CNA-Q) in Chemical Engineering, and this turned my life around. I joined CNA-Q hastily in the last minute, as I chose my major due to my passion for Chemistry and Math. I was quite confused and apprehensive initially during the first year only to find that taking up Chemical Engineering was the best decision I could have made. Surprisingly, by second year, I was drawing complicated Pipeline and Instrumentation Diagrams (P&ID), writing up lab reports, and making simulations of chemical plants. With the help of my professors and CNA-Q’s friendly study environment, I was even part of the honors society for scoring a GPA of 4.0 consecutively for three semesters. At this moment, I believed that this was the field I could excel in. Looking back at my time in CNA-Q, I now realize that I wouldn’t have stumbled upon this very field of Chemical Engineering if I had not been rejected. After graduating with a diploma, I was a proud and happy technologist, set out to look for a job and determined to continue my further studies. I then applied to Texas A&M in Qatar again only to find out they didn’t accept any credits from CNA-Q. Next, I applied to Iowa State University (ISU) as a transfer student for the sophomore year, where I studied for two semesters. Due to unfortunate circumstances, I had to come back to Qatar since my father lost his job and could only afford to send my brother. After six months, things turned around and my dad found a job. I, too, went on a job hunt, only to find many others like me only more qualified scraping for jobs. I applied to TAMUQ again as a transfer student, one last time, in hopes of completing my studies after being rejected so many times. 131
To my surprise, TAMUQ accepted my ISU credits, and although things weren’t ideal, my hopes to study rekindled. The path I chose was long and strenuous: from discovering Chemical Engineering as my field of study to getting a wonderful opportunity to complete my bachelor’s degree. I am now out of the woods, aiming at the clear blue sky to reach my goals once more.
Binish Hussain is from India. She was born and brought up in Qatar. She finished her diploma in chemical engineering from CNAQ in 2015, and ever since then she has been looking for every opportunity in her grasp to improve herself in the Engineering field. Throughout her journey and fight for finishing her degree, Binish learned to constantly take difficult situations as a challenge. She has fought for her education for as long as she can remember, and she hasn’t let any situation hamper her hope or determination in achieving her goals. Binish loves to read heart-felt contemporary Instagram poems, nonfiction books and other translated language literatures. Engineering is a means of art that creates wonders and helps improve our community, and she take great pride in contributing a small part of something so significant and influential in this world. 132
MAHANNA AL SULAITI
This piece was written for my ENGL 104 class. I chose this topic because it is of personal interest to me; when I see students leave scratch papers, coffee cups and other litter in common spaces such as classrooms and computer labs, I feel really stressed. I also immediately want to leave the class. Furthermore, littering disrupts the intended use of the places that are supposed to be used for studying or teaching. My research was enough for me to conclude that there is a definite littering issue in our campus and the community has many opinions on it. I studied and recorded various thoughts and opinions. My instructor also prompted me to use secondary sources for this study. While I did find some material in the TAMUQ library, it was difficult to understand. However, I wanted to use these sources so I used the help of the Academic Success Collaborative (ASC) and discussed them further. The ASC writing consultants helped me a lot and explained what I could not understand or I misunderstood. Also, I was able to revise and improve my ideas because of the feedback I received which centered on the structure of the paper and the research I had conducted.
Learning Environment: Littering and Its Effect on the TAMUQ Community Introduction The effect of littering has received considerable attention in Texas A&M University at Qatar (TAMUQ). Due to the amount of litter in TAMUQ, the Student Government Association (SGA) started the ‘Litter is lame’ campaign to combat the issue of littering on campus. Littering has become a central issue in TAMUQ because most students, faculty, and staff spend time on campus. This issue disrupts the intended use of the place for studying and teaching. Despite the posters around the campus, the problem continues to grow. In this study, I will investigate other solutions to the problem of littering. This group of people on the campus are negatively affected by littering issue as the data shows. Data presented in the research of Bateson, Callow, Holmes, Redmond Roche, & Nettle (2013) hypothesizes whether images of watching eyes on posters will reduce litter. It was found that by having these watching eyes on the poster, it is as if there is someone watching or staring at you, despite there being litter already in the place. So these posters somehow control people’s behavior and reduce litter. Another study done by Robert, Carl, & Raymond (1991) shines a spotlight on how the condition of an area changes people’s behavior. Their result clearly indicates littering behavior is affected by the state of the area, proving that an already littered area encourages littering and determines future behavior. Furthermore, another study conducted by Long, Harre, & Atkinson (2013) discussed behavior change according to other people’s opinion of your actions. Findings of this research was that social relationship influence the type of behavior. Their data shows that when we see someone pick up litter, it is a positive behavior and this motivates others to do the same. However, there is not much information about how students feel when they enter a dirty classroom or whether they feel littering is an acceptable behavior for some students. This paper will study, research and focus on how other students feel about littering in the university. A survey and interview will be conducted to collect further information. This study is structured as follows: introduction, method, results, and conclusion. The aim of this paper is to find out why students in TAMUQ do not seem to care about littering and how it affects them in order to find appropriate solutions that would help TAMUQ community. Methods I followed the procedure method of scientific description and thematic analysis for my qualitative research. I collected data through observations, surveys and interviews. First, I noticed whenever I entered a class or computer lab there is litter scattered everywhere. It bothered me because the place would be unclean. Some students in my university including me have to deal with this problem 135
on a daily basis in our university. I have been observing that a lot of people just throw litter around regularly. The pictures (see Fig. 1 and 2) are evidence of some studentsâ€™ behaviors on the campus. Secondly, the survey consisted of 12 questions. The questionnaire was designed to gather a variety of responses such as either agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree and disagree. Furthermore, in the survey, there were suggestions and observation boxes to write out answers. The survey was distributed electronically to the TAMUQ community, and I was able to gather 82 responses. I collected this data from faculty, staff, and students. The data collected was abstracted in special tables with graphical analysis represented in percentage to show responses for each question. I believe these recommendations will benefit the research, through their opinions. To get more background about opinions expressed in the survey, I conducted an interview with Mowad Abulgasem Alaradi, President of Student Government Association (SGA). In the beginning, I explained my research and asked him to provide further information about the littering issue that occurs in the university. Alaradi gladly responded to all the questions that I asked him and he provided me with valuable and relevant data (see Appendix A for interview questions). Results Figure 1 illustrates how the garbage receptacle is near but still there is litter on the chair and table. In addition, litter scattered everywhere creates a negative image for the staff and visitors who visit the university (TAMUQ). It can be seen in the pictures below especially Figure 2, Figure 3 and Figure 4 that litter disrupts the intended use of the place for studying and teaching, taking the rights of other studentsâ€™ usage of the place . Throwing litter around does not show the core values of our university and is not a responsible act. Despite the fact that we have cleaning staff, it is not their constant job to pick up the litter.
At present, the collective responses from students, faculty, and staff were 72 “no” responses and 10 “yes” responses when asked if they had littered before. The number of people who answer “yes” is slightly lower than I expected. As can be seen from Figure 5, this was a surprising finding considering that there are a lot of people who litter in TAMUQ. Most of the participants answered “no” which are represented in the findings in blue color.
Figure 5: Percentage of respondents who litter in TAMUQ
Figure 6 shows that 85% of the participants said that they were not comfortable with the fact that some students litter at the campus. This finding raises the question why there is litter around the campus if it is displeasing the participants. Only 8% said they had not noticed the problem in the first place and 6% said they do not care. These two percentages are also very low considering that there are a lot of people who litter in TAMUQ as the pictures show.
Figure 6: Percentage of respondents who are not comfortable with the fact that some student litter
As depicted in Figure 7, when asked “If you entered an unclean classroom with litter everywhere, what would you feel?” 64 survey takers responded that they would immediately think that whoever did that is not well behaved. Also, 37 participants responded that they would feel that the environment is not conducive. Two respondents claimed that they would not feel anything. Even thought this number is small, this result shows that there are people who do not see litter as issue, and it is fine with them to learn in a littered place. 137
Figure 8 demonstrates how many people noticed someone littering in front of them and if they answer yes, how did they react? In this question, half of participants replied “no” while the other half reported that they saw someone litter in front of them. Most of their written answers mainly reveal that they did not do anything, but a few of them said that they would tell the litterer to throw it in the trash if they knew the person. This is consistent with the hypothesis of the watching eye.
Figure 8: Percentage of respondents that shows their different feeling when they entered unclean room.
The second part of the survey, which is the open-ended question, asked the majority of participants to respond to the question “What do you think are the reasons that people litter?” The answers indicated that people are used to someone else cleaning for them because either they have maids in their home or the families did not teach them to take care of the place that they are in and to serve themselves. In addition, students think that littering is acceptable behavior because cleaners are paid to clean it up. For example, one written answer in the survey stated, “For me I have [more]important things to be done than throwing my trash, why [do]cleaners exist at the university and take salaries???!! This is my reason.” From the survey it is clear that littering has been justified if there are cleaners who are paid to clean up. Furthermore, approximately two-thirds of the 138
participants (64%) commented that people are too lazy to go to the trash while just a small number of the participants said “they forgot about their leftovers.” After interviewing Al-Aradi, senior president of the Student Government Association at TAMUQ, I got most of the information I wanted to know. To begin with, he said that the SGA team always received complaints regarding littering on campus whether through emails or conversations between personnel and students. He also stated that the average complaints they received were once or twice a week during the normal, quieter days, but gets quite tense during finals weeks as students tend to litter more and more. This emphasizes the amount of litter that occurs on campus on normal days, whereas during finals, students litter more. This could be because of their stress about their final exams, where they throw or leave litter behind unconsciously while studying. This is an analysis as to why they may litter more during finals, but it is not an excuse for their littering at all. Al-Aradi also mentioned that the complaints not only come from students but sometimes from professors as well. They complain about finding the conference rooms dirty for their meetings, rooms that are regularly used for study by students. All of this proves that numerous people contact SGA about littering and confirms that littering is a significant issue affecting many people on campus. It is an issue that disrupts the intended use of areas for studying and teaching. In the interview, Al-Aradi mentioned that they started a campaign at the beginning of the 2017 school year after receiving numerous complaints from the Office of Building Operations, a department at TAMUQ which serves to ensure safety and promote environmental responsibility on campus. Al-Aradi said that they’ve been trying to talk to students about the issue for two years, trying to find a solution to the problem, and yet students still litter. Conclusion In conclusion, this paper has investigated the littering issue and its effect on the TAMUQ community. My work has led me to conclude that the SGA should continue campaigning in order to reinforce a positive message on campus. When students see these messages, they will get into the habit of picking up after themselves. In addition, it is okay to have cleaning staff but it is not their constant job to pick up after students. We have arms and legs and should be able to create a clean space around ourselves. This issue is important religiously because removing harmful things from other people’s paths is an act of charity. Furthermore, a solution to consider is putting up posters of areas that have litter so students are embarrassed and will feel as if they’re being watched and therefore forced to not repeat the habit again. A poster with eyes will help aid this message as is shown in previous studies. Also, I suggest to create an app that will serve such a community reminder. The users will be able to upload pictures of areas that have litter and also comments so all the students can share feedback and enforce good habits.
References Bateson M., Callow L., Holmes J.R., Redmond Roche M.L., Nettle D., Do Images of ‘Watching Eyes’ Induce Behaviour That Is More Pro-Social or More Normative? A Field Experiment on Littering, Do Images of ‘Watching Eyes’ Induce Behaviour That Is More Pro-Social or More Normative? A Field Experiment on Littering. 8 (2013) 1–10. doi:10.1371/journal pone.0082055. Cialdini R.B., Kallgren C.A., Reno R.R., A focus theory of normative conduct: A theoretical refinement and reevaluation of the role of norms in human behavior, A focus theory of normative conduct: A theoretical refinement and reevaluation of the role of norms in human behavior. 24 (1991) 1–34. http://www.influenceatwork.com/wp content/uploads/2015/05/A-Focus-Theory-of-Normative-Conduct. pdf. Long J., Harré N., Q.D. Atkinson, Understanding Change in Recycling and Littering Behavior Across a School Social Network, Understanding Change in Recycling and Littering Behavior Across a School Social Network. (2013) 1–14. doi:10.1007/s10464-013-9613-3. Appendix A Interview Questions 1. Do you receive complaints about littering on campus? 2. How many complaints do you receive on average? 3. Who are the people who most complain about littering? 4. Have you ever seen someone litter? 5. If yes, how did you react? 6. Are you comfortable with current situation that some students litter? 7. Why did you start the “Litter is Lame” campaign? 8. What are the results that you have seen so far? 9. How did students react to the campaign? 10. How long did the campaign run? 11. Did you gather Stats/data from the campaign? Findings? 12. What do you think should be done about littering? 13. Do you have any suggestions/ideas or plans about how littering can be reduced? 14. Do you have any other information that can help my research? 15. Do you have any general comments/suggestion about this topic?
Amna Mahanna Al Sulaiti is a chemical engineering student at Texas A&M at Qatar. She is working hard to gain skills to contribute to the development and benefit of the society because Qatar deservers the best from its citizens as the Emir HH Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad has said. She believes that writing, which is the strongest tool on earth for communication, has an impact and effect on people. She relies on the power of written words because she cannot always express herself out loud, but writing makes her feel freer. 141
SULTAN AL SHEEB
My Mum’s Feeling Four years ago when I was arguing with my mother about whether to stay or leave Qatar to study abroad, I felt like she was screaming from the inside, “Do not walk away!” I was in high school back then, and I had always wanted to join Texas A&M University in Qatar to study chemical engineering. My interest in chemistry and math plus the fact that chemical engineering is essential in Qatar as most of its industries depend on oil and gas production steered me towards this major. Unfortunately, I was rejected as I did not meet the application requirements. As a result, I was thinking about my plan B: studying abroad in the UK. This option was suitable to me as the UK was not that far from Qatar. I also liked that the time to degree would be shorter (three vs. four years) and that there would be more majors to choose from that are not to be found in Qatar. I felt confident because there are many universities in the UK which increases the probability that I would be accepted in one of them. At first, my mom was really excited about the idea of studying in the UK and encouraged me to pursue it. I graduated from high school, and I got the acceptance from the university that I chose in the UK. I was extremely happy and imagined how my life would be there. I was thinking about every detail; the apartment that I will be living in, how I will choose the furniture, what I will be cooking, how I will be managing my money, and how I will manage my time to study. In the middle of all of this, I started noticing that whenever I discussed with my mother about the preparations for studying in the UK, she tried to change the subject. After that, I started to worry and wonder why my mom was acting like that. One day, I told my mom that it was time to apply for the Visa. She replied, “No I am busy today, maybe next time,” as she was leaving home. I was shocked and depressed. From that, I knew that my mom had changed her mind and did not want me to study in the UK, but she didn’t have the heart to tell me. When she came back home, I was waiting for her to discuss why was she trying to ignore me earlier. “Why do I feel like you’re not supporting me anymore? What happened mom?” I pointed out. She told me that I should not leave Qatar because it’s hard for her to accept the fact that I won’t be around her for a while. I argued with her and told her, “Why did you change your mind now, Mom? You know that this is my future!” I saw the sadness in her eyes, but I did not care about my mom’s feeling at that moment because I believe that this is normal for her to feel this way since parents always worry about their children. After a very long argument, my mom yelled, “I saw in the news that a girl from KSA was murdered in UK. DO YOU THINK IT IS THAT SIMPLE FOR ME 143
TO LET YOU GO? WHAT IF THE SAME THING HAPPENED TO YOU?” and then she started crying. I was not shocked because I already knew about the incident but had ignored it. I started to calm her down and tell her that this can happen anywhere at any time. “Bad and good things are everywhere, and I cannot lose this opportunity just because of your exaggerated fears,” I said. All I had in my mind were the pros of studying abroad. After a few days, my mom came to my room. She stood close to me and rested her hand on my head, “Rethink about your choice, sweetheart, and I will always support you.” Then, she asked if I was going to be able to live alone and take care of myself, if I was ready to face a new community with new traditions, to learn how to budget, and to live away from my family and friends. I kept thinking about what my mom said, so I began to take the cons of studying abroad into consideration. Eventually, it was time for me to decide whether I wanted to go or not. I realized that I am still a dependent person and cannot take care of myself yet. I also appreciated my mom’s advice which eventually led me to achieve my dream to join TAMUQ. One of my friends told me that I can reach my dream, but I must prepare myself and improve my skills to meet the Texas A&M requirements and that this could happen by joining the Academic Bridge Program (ABP). So, I decided to go for this option. Thankfully after a successful year in the ABP, I graduated with a high GPA and I got accepted in Texas A&M University. At that time, I was really proud of myself that even though I struggled a lot in the past, it was worth it because I finally got into Texas A&M University. Now I am an independent person, and I can do things that my mother and I thought that I could not do at that time. Staying in Qatar helped prepare me for when I eventually want to continue my studies and earn a master’s degree. From what I went through, I learned that I have the flexibility and the strength to adapt to important decisions. I am proud to say that I am currently a sophomore majoring in chemical engineering at the university that offers the strongest engineering program in Qatar: Texas A&M University.
Maha Al-Sheeb is a junior chemical engineering student, Class of 2020. She has one brother and one sister. She joined the Academic Bridge Program in 2014. She is the third girl from Al-Resalah Independent High School who joined Texas A&M. She enjoyed her English 104 course since she has gained a lot of skills that improved her writing. She believes that “difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.” 144
Over the years, the media has been increasingly involved in our lives. One could even claim that each country uses its media outlet to send specific messages targeted to specific audiences. In this case, the message broadcasted by the media became the function of the audience which was clearly identified by examining three different media outlets from three different countries. The first step was to choose an event that took place during the blockade of Qatar. Then, we were asked to examine how different newspapers covered that event (which reflects their countryâ€™s stance on the current political situation).
The Qatar Blockade: A Rhetorical Analysis of Message and Audience It is undeniable that the Middle East has been a political hot zone since the nineteenth century, but in the last few years, the Middle East has witnessed major political changes. From the Arab Spring to the war in Yemen and more recently, the ongoing Qatar-Gulf Crisis. On the 5th of June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, claiming that Qatar supports terrorist groups and is funding them. This event has shaken the foundation of the region to its core along with the fundamental political beliefs of many. With the growing political instability of the region, it is not hard to notice the conflicting news and perspectives in the media. If one focuses on the Qatar-Gulf Crisis, it is very interesting to see the different stance that each of the involved countries (Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt) take on the ongoing conflict and how they choose to portray these stances. Each country uses its media outlets as a weapon to manipulate and indoctrinate its society by sending out homogenous messages to its public. But perhaps more importantly, through the use of media each country tries to persuade the global audience that their story and thus their stance is the correct one. Over the years, mass media and other forms of communication technology have proven how powerful they are in helping shape both public opinion and underlying sentiment. That’s precisely why, as Robinson Piers, Chair in politics, society and Political Journalism at the University of Sheffield said, “governments devote significant resources in order to shape the information environment in their favour and, in doing so, win a global battle for ‘hearts and minds’” (Robinson). Thus, in order to understand how this ‘information environment’ is shaped, one must examine both the audience as well as the purpose behind the media’s message. This paper will examine a specific event related to the Qatar-Gulf Crisis by looking at different perspectives and stances of newspapers in the ongoing Qatar-Gulf crisis. The event examined is Sheikh Tamim’s UN speech on the 19th of September 2017. This analysis will be done by comparing and contrasting the editorial stance of Qatar-based newspaper with a newspaper from one of the other involved countries and then further compared with a report from an international news agency. This paper aims to inspect how the message (the news content) is tuned to cater to each of the audiences addressed by each newspaper. Sheikh Tamim’s speech at the United Nations On the 19th of September 2017, the Qatari emir, Sheikh Tamim, gave a speech in the United Nations. This speech marked his first foreign trip since the political crisis started. Sheikh Tamim brought Qatar’s current situation to light by giving his speech at the United Nations. It was also an opportunity for Sheikh 147
Tamim to broadcast his position and his country’s situation. This historic event will be examined through different perspectives by looking at three different articles, one from Gulf News (UAE English newspaper), one from Al Jazeera (Qatari broadcaster) and another one from Bloomberg (an international news agency). Qatari perspective – Al Jazeera Al Jazeera, a state-funded broadcaster in Qatar, reported the historical speech of Sheikh Tamim on September 19th, 2017. The article titled “Qatari emir condemns ‘unjust blockade’ in UNGA speech” (Jazeera) mainly focused on quoting Sheikh Tamim’s speech. The primary audience of the article are the global/international audiences. This was interpreted from the main focus of the article which was the “unjust blockade” on Qatar and how its neighboring countries are “seeking to destabilize a sovereign state.” The article’s first few lines described the crisis (from the Qatari perspective), providing a context of the situation. Furthermore, the article grabbed the global audience’s attention by quoting the Qatari leader’s take on the crisis, “I stand before you while my country and my people are subjected to an ongoing and unjust blockade imposed since June 5 by neighboring countries”( Jazeera). The article’s choice to include this quote as its first quotation is a clear attempt to direct the global audience’s attention to the current Qatar crisis and its severity. The article portrays Qatar as a victim of the aggression of its neighboring countries and urges the international audience to take action to stop this crisis. The secondary audience of this article are the Qataris. This article highlights the main allegations that the blockade countries have accused Qatar of and it further examined how Qatar has responded to these allegations. The article cited Sheikh Tamim’s perception of the situation, “the countries who imposed the blockade on the state of Qatar interfere in the internal affairs of many countries, and accuse all those who oppose them domestically and abroad with terrorism” (Jazeera). The use of this quote not only gives the audience an insight into how Sheikh Tamim reads the situation but it also invites the reader to view the situation in a similar way. Therefore, this article could be a seen as a tool to cement the point of view and the political stance that the Qatari leadership has taken throughout the crisis. When examining the “ingredients of persuasion” in terms of ethos, pathos and logos, this article mainly focused on pathos. Pathos, (which is an appeal to emotions and is a way of convincing an audience of an argument by creating an emotional response) was evident in the way rhetoric was used to express the situation. For instance, phrases such as “unjust blockade”, “destabilize a sovereign state”, “violation of human rights”, “refused to yield to dictations by pressure and siege” (Jazeera) are all used to create an emotional reaction from both the primary as well as the secondary audience of the article. On one hand, this article urges the global/international audience to take actions against the unjust situation that Qatar finds itself in (violation of human rights, etc…). On 148
the other hand, the article (for the secondary audience) aims to cement the idea that the Qatari leadership is stable and that this crisis is a calculated plan by the neighboring countries to destabilize Qatar and limit its development. United Arab Emirates Perspective – Gulf News Gulf News, an Emirati newspaper, responded to Sheikh Tamim’s UN speech with an article published on September 20th, 2017. The article was titled “Qatar Emir’s ‘hypocritical’ UN Speech slammed’ (News). Written from an Emirati perspective, this article focused greatly on the flaws in Sheikh Tamim’s speech. The article examined the views of numerous analysts who each commented and expanded on the ‘flaws’ of the speech. It is also important to note that the article included only one quote from Sheikh Tamim’s speech, only to ridicule it by referring to social media comments and reactions. The primary audience of the article could be identified as the blockade countries (UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt). This article aims to further cement the idea that Qatar (especially the leader) is hypocritical. The article started by quoting the UAE State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Anwar Gargash, as saying that the “speech offered nothing as another opportunity lost to solve the crisis” (News). Moreover, as mentioned before, the article includes numerous views of well-known individuals. For instance, Amr Adeeb, an Egyptian prominent TV talk show host with a huge viewership was featured in the article criticizing Sheikh Tamim’s speech. These different perspectives (from individuals who come from different blockade countries) stressed the view that this crisis is a result of Qatar’s actions and policies and that Qatar is the one refusing to end this crisis. The secondary audience of this article could be the Qataris. Sheikh Tamim is highly regarded by his people and has great popularity within his country. Therefore, if the blockade countries are able to highlight some of the flaws in the Sheikh’s speech, the Qataris might start wondering and questioning their leader. Furthermore, the article included quotes from a televised interview with Sky News Arabia with the Qatari opposition figure Ali Al Duhnim who said, “Sheikh Tamim was talking about terrorism as if Doha was the one suffering from it, and not the one funding and supporting it” (News), and he further expressed how the speech let down Gulf citizens – especially Qataris. The tertiary audience could be the global audience. Towards the end of the article, it was mentioned that “there have been growing calls among members of the Al Thani family to hold an internal meeting in Qatar to discuss its future” (News). Such information emphasizes the instability of Qatar and its regime and by doing so, urges the international community to question whether the allegations have some truth to them (since the rest of the royal family are concerned with how their leader is proceeding). Additionally, there are numerous countries who have vested interest in the region, not only with Qatar but also with the other GCC countries. Thus, if these investors feel threatened by 149
the instability of Qatar, they could be interested in looking for safer/more stable partners as an alternative option for Qatar. By examining the appeals of ethos, pathos and logos that appear throughout the article, one could identify what gives this article its elements of persuasion. Ethos (which is the appeal to ethics as a means of convincing someone of the character or credibility of the persuader) is evident in the use of the featured analysts (those with a powerful, leading position (Dr. Gargash), those with high popularity (TV host Amr Adeeb) and those with Qatari background/opposition (Ali Al Duhnim). The inclusion of numerous perspectives give the article more credibility, especially that the featured individuals have experience in the area/ field of politics which makes the audience assume they have great knowledge regarding the discussed issue. This strengthens the reliability of their argument to some extent. Furthermore, pathos (appeal to emotions) is evident in the way the audience is expected to feel anger and disappointment as a result of the “unsuccessful” speech of Sheikh Tamim. This feeling is built up by the opening quotes of Dr. Gargash which emphasize how this speech could have been the key to end this crisis. And last but not least, the element of logos (which is the appeal to logic as a way to persuade an audience) is also present. The article’s structure and the presentation of information are both simple and straight to the point. For every claim the article makes, there is a quotation from an analyst to support it. The quotation of the analysts are short and powerful which makes them appealing to the reader because they express their view in few words, making the “consumption of information” easy and appealing. International Perspective – Bloomberg Bloomberg, an international news agency based in New York City, also published an article about Sheikh Tamim’s UN Speech. The article titled “Qatar Emir Takes Case to the UN Amid Saudi-Led Embargo” was written by Mohammed Sergie on September 19, 2017. The article examined two aspects of the crisis. First, it mentioned Sheikh Tamim’s speech and briefly described its substance (which mainly revolved around the unjust blockade) while highlighting the fact that the speech “capped the first foreign trip [of the Sheikh] since Qatar was isolated” (Sergie). The second part of the article focused on Sheikh Tamim’s future meeting with the American President in an attempt to find a solution to this crisis. This part also included past comments made by President Trump regarding the ongoing crisis. The article also provided a brief background about the beginning of the crisis. The primary audience of this article are the most likely to be the Americans. This article arguably informs the American public about their foreign involvement in the Qatar-Gulf crisis since the American public does not have direct involvement with this crisis. This articles gives an overview on the crisis but it also highlights key decisions and actions that the American President has taken regarding this crisis. The secondary audience of this article could be the global audience because it reveals the stance of both sides of the conflict without really showing biases toward a specific side. 150
Comparison of Articles All three articles are written in response to Sheikh Tamim’s speech in the UN, yet each article had a different take on the speech. The first thing that the reader notices about each article is its headline since it is the first thing that captures the reader’s attention. The headline plays a significant role in how the message is conveyed to the audience and how the audience perceives the message. As Claude Abastado in his book Messages des medias argues, “headlines encapsulate not only the content but the orientation, the perspective that the readers should bring to their understanding of the article.” This is reflected on the word choice of each headline. Al Jazeera’s headline (“Qatari emir condemns ‘unjust blockade’ in UNGA speech”) was straightforward and to the point. It provided a glimpse of what to expect in the article by using the emotive adjective ‘unjust’ which conveys a sense of unfairness from the blockade countries. Similarly, Gulf News’ headline (“Qatar Emir’s ‘hypocritical’ UN Speech slammed”) uses emotive adjectives such as ‘hypocritical’ which is a very strong word that indicates behaving in a way that suggests one has higher standards or more noble beliefs than is the case. Furthermore, the use of the word ‘slammed’ is straightforward, indicating that the content of Sheikh Tamim’s speech was incorrect and false. Thus, one could claim that both articles use their headlines to inject their messages to the audience through the use of linguistic features in the title, especially the choice of emotive vocabulary. This is particularly different from Bloomberg’s headline (“Qatar Emir Takes Case to the UN Amid Saudi-Led Embargo”). Bloomberg’s headline is more factual, it simply states that Sheikh Tamim brought his country’s situation to the table at the UN. In this way, Bloomberg avoided revealing any bias or subjectivity in describing the event. In terms of content and details, each article had very different content. Al Jazeera included and focused far more on details regarding the actual speech of Sheikh Tamim. The article was a summarised version of Sheikh Tamim’s speech that included quotes of his most significant claims. This contrasts Gulf News’ article which greatly focused on the interpretations and the different viewpoints of key individuals as well as social media reactions regarding Sheikh Tamim’s speech. The article was very selective both in terms of its featured analysts as well as its social media content (it only featured viewpoints and social media that had a negative tone). One could claim that the article’s decision to include social media comments broadens its scope and make the reader more engaged with the article. Bloomberg’s content was significantly different from the other two articles. For instance, instead of emphasising the actual speech by providing interpretations, the article used the speech to explain the context of the crisis. The article also examined the international aspect of the crisis by referring to President Trump’s views on the matter. The ending of each article also helped reinforce the message aimed at the audience. Al Jazeera ends the article with an overview of Qatar’s role in peace negotiations by referring to different conflicts (Palestine, Myanmar, etc.). This ending urges the global audience to reconsider the blockade countries’ 151
allegations that Qatar is funding terrorist groups. In comparison, the Gulf News chose to end the article with the mention of another ascending conflict between Qatar and Bahrain. This ending attempts to prove to the article’s audience that Qatar is indeed the cause of the instability in the region and that all the claims that the blockade countries have against Qatar stand true. On the other hand, Bloomberg’s article ended on an international note where President Trump was quoted as saying, “We will have something very quickly” (Sergie), indicating that this conflict is on its way to be resolved. In terms of vocabulary and the complexity of the language used in the articles, Al Jazeera’s article was formal and included many quotes, focusing on the emotional appeals to the audience. Bloomberg’s article also used a reasonably formal register. On the other hand, Gulf News’s article was less formal due to the numerous perspectives included in the article. There is also a clear difference in the tone used in each article. For instance, Al Jazeera and Bloomberg both take a reasonably measured approach with Bloomberg leaning more towards being neutral. However, Gulf News seemed more emotive, creating an outraged tone in some sections of the article, especially from the quotes of the analysts. Conclusion It is unquestionable that each country uses its media outlet to send specific messages targeted to a specific audience. It was clear that each article reflected the stance of its country by framing the event or situation to highlight certain aspects of the crisis. This was cleverly done to align the information with their stance and make the issue relevant to a particular audience. From the headline of the article to the content and details as well as the tone of the writer, all these features are used to shape the article’s message and create a framing effect that alters/guides the reader’s opinion on the issue. In this case, the message broadcasted by the media becomes a function of its audience. Thus, it is reasonable to claim that media outlets are a powerful weapon often used to manipulate and indoctrinate the society by sending out specific, well-thought messages to specific, well identified audiences. References Abastado, C. (1980), Messages des medias, Paris: Cedic, p. 149 Develotte , C. and Rechniewski, E. “Discourse Analysis of Newspaper Headlines: a Methodological Framework for Research into National Representations.”Discourse Analysis of Newspaper Headlines: a Methodological Framework for Research into National Representations, Department of French Studies, School of European, Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Studies, University of Sydney, Australia, wjfms.ncl.ac.uk/titles.htm.
Jazeera, Al. “Qatari Emir Condemns ‘Unjust Blockade’ in UNGA Speech.” Qatar News | Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 19 Sept. 2017, www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/09/ qatari-emir-condemns-unjust-blockade-unga-speech-170919185253541.html. News, Gulf. “Qatar Emir’s ‘Hypocritical’ UN Speech Slammed.” GulfNews, Gulfnews, 20 Sept. 2017, gulfnews.com/news/gulf/qatar/qatar-crisis/qatar-emirs-hypocritical-un-speech-slammed-1.2093250. Robinson, P. “Media Empowerment vs. Strategies of Control: Theorising News Media and War in the 21 St. Zeitschrift Für Politik, vol. 61, no. 4, 2014, pp. 461–479., www.jstor.org/stable/24229237. Sergie, M. “Qatar Emir Takes Case to the UN Amid Saudi-Led Embargo.”Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, 19 Sept. 2017, www.bloomberg.com/ news/articles/2017-09-19/qatar-emir-takes-nation-s-case-to-the-un-amidsaudi-led-embargo.
Nour Zeid is majoring in communications at Texas A&M University, Texas, USA.
In my first semester I wrote this paper for my Composition & Rhetoric class. The class was assigned to write an argumentative essay. I chose a topic that I felt strongly about and it had a humane aspect. I discussed the rising phenomenon of owning big cats like tigers and cheetahs as pets in the Gulf region. I explain the reasons behind this phenomenon, its legality, its implication on the owners, the big cats, and the ecosystem.
The Detriments of Domesticating Big Cats While traditionally most people have been content with keeping domestic animals as pets, there is a new trend pushing the limits of domesticating predatory animals. Owning big cats like lions, tigers, and cheetahs has become a common trend in the Gulf in the last few years (Duboc, 2015). Their majestic beauty and rareness makes them very desirable. These exotic animals have also become a status symbol for those who can afford them. Unfortunately, there is little public awareness or concern for the consequences of domesticating these predators. This paper discusses the negative implications of this trend for people, the animals, and the ecosystem. I will further advocate for educating the public and the need for stronger enforcement of existing laws. Recently Instagram has been filled with photos of young Arab men with their exotic pets. The compelling beauty of these animals coupled with the danger of owning them makes them prized possessions. Beside being beautiful, the value and cost of exotic animals make them status symbols for their owners. If a person can buy a cheetah or a lion, he can buy anything he wants. Charlet Duboc, a reporter from Vice Media, claimed in a documentary titled Big Cats of the Gulf, that for Arab men spending is restricted by the Islamic religion, and so buying exotic animals is a creative way to burn money and show status in the Gulf. Duboc went to Kuwait and interviewed one of the most famous exotic pet collectors who has posted many photos with his animals on Instagram. He says that he loves his animals and treats them with respect. He claims that he has an emotional connection with his animals and cannot imagine living without them. He argues that the animals are better off with him, being taken care of rather than starving in the wild (Duboc, 2015). Although there are not many interviews made public because owning these animals is illegal, there are many examples of exotic pet owners with high status who proclaim those exotic animals in the Gulf as a part of their lifestyle. There is no doubt that owning these animals poses an unnecessary danger to the people around them. No matter how domesticated these carnivore animals become, they are hunters by instinct. Most of these big cats are bought at a young age, when they are very cute and cuddly. Naturally those cubs grow up to be beasts, and their adorable squeals turns into roars. They become a hazard and an unnecessary danger to the people around them. According to Gulf News, a Filipina maid in a neighboring country was attacked by her employer’s lion after its cage was left open. In the attack she lost her left arm and a part of her abdomen which caused her death a few days after the attack (Felongco, 2014, Para. 3,7,9). Meyer de Kock, manager of Al Bustan Zoological Centre in Sharjah, says, “Cheetahs, lions and tigers have very specific needs. They are very cute when they are small but when they grow up they are very dangerous” (Sinclair, 2013, Para. 5,6). While many innocent people suffer from these incidents, the animals themselves are victims too. These wild cats’ instincts are punished and the animals are 155
endangered because of some humans’ ignorance. The cubs are taken from their mothers after killing her to get to the helpless cubs in order to sell them (Sinclair, 2013, Para. 7). But removing these animals from their natural habitat causes major development issues. Taking those wild animals and putting them in a cage to be pets confuses them because their instincts tell them to run and hunt. After they grow up and their instincts become more apparent and aggressive, their owners would not want to cuddle with them anymore. Unfortunately, these animals cannot be returned to the wild because they never learned to hunt and would not be able to adapt. Dr. George Schaller, an American scientist who has done wildlife research especially regarding big cats, said that the animal’s mother is important for developing its hunting and survival skills including avoiding humans, which leads to animal attacks (Freeing hand reared, 2011, Para.5). Owning a cub cripples the animal to an extent that rehabilitation is unlikely. Many of the animals are forced to live in cages for the rest of their lives or else be euthanized. Should their instincts overcome them and compel them to hunt, they are blamed. In a report from The Humane Society, more than one hundred big cats have been killed since 1990 in the United States when they either attacked or escaped (Dangerous, 2013, Para. 5). We cannot blame a lion for hunting a prey; we should blame the owner for treating it like a pet. Although big cats cannot be sold in stores, it is not difficult to find a supplier online. A reporter from Al Arabiya News contacted a seller in the United States who agreed to send two cheetah cubs to her at the Dubai Airport for $1000 each (Fisher, 2015, Para. 4). I, too, tried my luck and sadly, with a few search words in Arabic, I found countless results advertising illegal wild cats for sale. Many claimed they would deliver it to the buyer’s home. These transactions are not done on secret web sites; they are publicly advertised for everyone as if there is no law banning those activities. These animals are smuggled from Africa where the trade in wildlife and their parts is a $20 billion a year business (Wildlife Research, 2015, Para. 5). In addition to the animal abuse, this illegal business has many negative implications for the ecosystem. According to the Wildlife Research, populations of big cats are declining (see Fig.1), and they are an integral part of the ecosystem to sustain itself. Naturally, when big predators hunt, they usually kill the slowest and the weakest, especially the ill which prevents spreading diseases. Without the predators’ existence, the prey population can increase and wipe out the vegetation. This imbalance in the ecosystem could endanger all life forms in Africa, and it is approximated that most of big cats species will be extinct by 2045 (Wildlife Research, 2015, Para. 2,7). Additionally, local communities could suffer the loss of income from wildlife tourism. There are many factors contributing to the decrease in the big cat population, and the implications are serious. So why is there no one stopping the decline or at least intervening in the ridiculous exotic pet trend?
Fig.1: Declining numbers (Wildlife 2015)
There is a law banning the owning of big cats, so why are people still driving with their big cats in the passenger seat and Instagramming it? Owning big cats is illegal in Qatar and other gulf countries that are members of the Convention on the Illegal Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) (Gani, 2016, Para 6 & Elwazer, 2012, Para. 8). Trading those animals is illegal, but it is done quite openly, and the owners do not seem to consider this law when they post pictures of their exotic pets online. Recently a video in Qatar spread on social media of a large tiger walking on the Doha Expressway, the busiest road in the country. The official response from the Ministry of Interior stated, â€œWe assure everyone that the authorities are following what has been circulating (on social media) regarding a tiger being seen in specific areas of the countryâ€? (Gani, 2016, Para. 4,5). If the pet owner ranks high in society, this could make enforcement of the law difficult for local authorities. I believe that I would have my own big cat if there were no consequences, but owning them is wrong and dangerous on so many levels. The law regarding this matter must be enforced and applied. Instead of praising those people who reflect a negative image of the people on the Gulf, society must be educated to understand the consequences of this bizarre phenomenon. It might not look so bad if one individual owns an exotic pet, but when it all adds up, it is a crisis that needs to be dealt with. 157
References Dangerous Exotic Pets: Big Cats. (2013, May 24). Retrieved April 02, 2016, from http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/exotic_pets/facts/dangerous exotic-pets-big-cats.html Duboc, C. (2015, March 25). Big Cats of the Gulf. Retrieved April 02, 2016, from http://www.vice.com/video/big-cats-of-the-gulf Elwazer, S. (2012, April 4). Lions, tigers become problem pets in the Gulf. CNN. Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://edition.cnn. com/2012/04/04/world/meast/endangered-animal-pets/ Felongco, G. (2014, December 20). Kuwaiti lion owner sued for death of maid. Gulf News. Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://gulfnews.com/news/ gulf/kuwait/kuwaiti-lion-owner-sued-for-death-of-maid-1.1429496 Fisher, A. (2015, October 19). From cheetahs to chinchillas, on the trail of exotic animals in the UAE. Al Arabiya. Retrieved April 02, 2016, from http://english.alarabiya.net/en/life-style/travel-and tourism/2015/10/19/From-cheetahs-to-chinchillas-on-the-trail-of exotic-animals-in-the-UAE.html Freeing hand reared tigers into wild risky. (2011, December 08). Retrieved April 14, 2016, from http://bigcatrescue.org/freeing-hand-reared-tigers into-wild-risky/ Gani, A. (2016, March 08). Escaped tiger spotted on busy road in Doha. The Guardian. Retrieved April 02, 2016, from http://www.theguardian. com/world/2016/mar/08/escaped-tiger-spotted-busy-road-doha motorway-qatar Khatri, S. S., & Kovessy, P. (2015, November 3). Qatar Emir: Government can no longer ‘provide for everything’. Doha News. Retrieved April 14, 2016, from http://dohanews.co/qatar-emir-government-can-no longer-provide-for-everything/ Sinclair, K. (2013, May 14). Exotic pets can be very dangerous, warn UAE experts. The National. Retrieved April 02, 2016, from http://www. thenational.ae/news/uae-news/exotic-pets-can-be-very-dangerous warn-uae-experts The State of Africa’s Big Cats: A 30-year Conservation Report Card. (2015, January 21). Retrieved April 02, 2016, from http://wildliferesearch. org/uncategorized/the-state- of-africas-big-cats-a-30-year conservation-report-card/ 158
Wildlife Research. (2015). Declining numbers of big cats from 1985 to 2015 [Table]. Retrieved from http://wildliferesearch.org/uncategorized/the state-of-africas-big- cats-a-30-year-conservation-report-card/
SYEDA MANAHIL AKHTER, ABDULLAH YOUSUF, AALAA ABDALLAH, NASSER AL-THANI
This proposal introduces a kit we called Easy Well that is intended to replace the traditional well digging process. The kit may be used in certain locations where the water is not very deep, and it can be assembled by anyone without technical knowledge. The primary market for this kit will be charity organizations who help with providing water in areas of need, e.g. Engineers Without Borders. The team started with the idea of developing and innovating a whole well drilling kit. However, after research it was decided that instead of concentrating on the whole system, we will focus on the connecting joint. This new design would allow for easier shipment. Once the specification of the design was finalized, a prototype was made on SolidWorks. The drill bit was 3D printed and the retractable pins were added on the PVC pipes. 160
Proposal for an Alternative Joint Design in a Do-It-Yourself Well-Digging Kit Abstract Tasked with finding an innovative solution for the health sector, our group wrote this report to tackle the issue of water crises around the world. There are reportedly 1.1 billion people  who are currently in danger due to a lack of clean water. Other than the immediate health risk of lacking drinking water, there is also the problem of improper sanitation which is caused by the absence of clean water. The solution this team proposes is a cheap alternative way of collecting water via groundwater wells. More specifically, we propose to create an inexpensive, modular hand-operated drill to make excavating wells cheaper and simpler than traditional methods. After researching existing solutions, the team has concluded on a final design of threaded modular stainless steel rods which connects to a drill bit to complete the drill. The method of fastening the rods that has been selected is a combination of regular screws (having standardized female threads on one and male on the other) and retractable pin to secure the connection. The final Easy Well drill kit is estimated to cost around $3,060. The societal and economic impacts of having a reliable water supply has been well documented, with 0.3% investment increase to householdâ€™s water access estimated to return an estimated 1% increase to the GDP . Introduction Even though the earthâ€™s surface is 70% water, only 3% of that is freshwater available for drinking. This makes water a scarce resource and puts 1.1 billion people  in danger, as they lack access to water. The majority of these people live in developing countries. Lacking access to water is one of the major causes of fatal diseases. Not just because the person cannot drink the amount of water needed for a healthy body, but also because they are affected by sanitary problems due to the lack of clean water [a.k.a Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene problem (WSH)] . That leads to diseases like typhoid, cholera, and fatal diarrhea.  It is important to mention that children are affected the most by WSH, and that results in about 1.5-2 million children dying every year . One of the traditional methods that has been used over the years to solve the problem of water scarcity is well digging. Well digging can sound like a simple process, but actually it requires time and many resources to be executed. Those resources most of the time are either expensive or not available to the people who need it the most. It is estimated that the current equipment used to drill a water well costs at least $3500 and reaches to as costly as $20000  and takes from 2 to 3 days to finish the process . Hence, the scope of this project is to try to come up with an alternative inexpensive and easy way to excavate wells. The target users for this kit will be people in developing countries who lack access to water, such as India, whereas the targeted distributors will include 161
charity organizations who facilitate water projects in these countries. Some of these organizations include (but not limited to) Engineers Without Borders, The Water Project, and Wells for Life. Traditional well-digging mechanisms There are three existing mechanisms that people have used for years to get water from underground. In those mechanisms, the two main components are a drilling tool and a pump (to help water rise to the surface). The difference between the three methods is the depth to which the well is dug. What is common between all three is the digging process that removes a lot of soil from the ground, allowing access to groundwater so that it can be pumped up to the surface. These three mechanisms are known as dug wells, drilled wells, and driven wells . The figure below further illustrates the type of well that should be dug depending on the depth of the water underground.
Fig 1: Different types of wells 
Similar existing solutions We began this project with the idea of innovating a water well kit, which included the pump, filtration system, and the drill pipe. After seeking professional advice, we decided to concentrate on just the drill pipe and after some research narrowed it down to the joints that secure the pipes together while drilling. We made this decision because we had a limited resource of time and innovating all the components would have been too difficult to do in the given time period. Our team felt that we would achieve better results if we focused on one part rather than targeting the whole kit. The drill pipes and their joints became our focal point from all the other components as we realised that our innovation can be used in other situations, which donâ€™t necessarily involve water wells. Upon conducting research, we discovered existing drill pipe joints 162
which are mentioned below.
Fig. 2: Illustration of the drill pipe joints
1. The commonly used method to connect two drilling pipes for water wells is to screw them together. Compared to oil wells, water wells are shallow, so the drill pipes used are not as hefty. This fit is the most straightforward and simple to use as no other components are required. In this case, one end of the pipe has been threaded on the outer surface (male thread) while the other end has threads on the inner face of the pipe (female thread). Figure 3 shows the two ends of the pipes.
Fig 3: Two ends of a hollow pipe 
To ensure a strong seal between the drill pipes, it is vital that the dimensions such as the diameter of the pipe be accurate. If the dimensions are off by even a small percentage, the fit would not be tight. This could jeopardize the strength of the connection and cause damage to the pipes. Also, loose-fitting might result in the hole being drilled at an angle and not vertically into the ground. Another 163
factor required to ensure a solid connection between two pipes is the pitch of the thread . As seen from the figure 4, the pitch is the distance between two neighboring threads. It is important that both ends of the pipe have the same pitch to ensure proper mating. The dimensions of the hole and the precision of the thread is vital, as a little error would result in a fragile joint.
Fig 4: the pitch in the threads 
Fig 5: Tool joint for cable tool drilling 
Figure 5 shows how the drilling pipes are assembled in a method called the cable tool drilling. Cable tool drilling involves dropping heavy weights in the hole to break stones and mud in the path of the pipe . The tool joint relies on threads on the pipe to secure the two components together. 2. Most home installed wells consist of drill pipes made of PVC. The joint of the PVC pipes is permanent as the pipes cannot be separated once linked. To remove the connection, the problem joint will have to be cut out and replaced. To join the PVC pipes together, it is vital that the area of the connection be cleaned thoroughly to remove any dust particles or debris. A primer is then evenly spread on the interfaces to disinfect the pipe from any chemicals or contaminants. Solvent cement is applied on top of the dried primer as seen in figure 6 . It is essential to twist the pipes as they are joined to ensure that an even layer of solvent cement is between the pipes if a strong joint is required. The two ends are pushed together and held tightly for at least half an hour . Once the cement is dried, the excess solvent cement is cleaned. Similar to the previous existing design, it is essential that the dimensions for the holes are accurate. If the measurements are off by a few centimeter then it would be impossible to form a joint between the pipes. The difference between the diameters of the two pipes must be large enough so an even layer of the solvent cement can be applied but small enough at the same time so that the pipes fit together.
Fig 6: Applying Solvent Cement 
Fig 7: Twist and join the pipes 
Our Design After researching several joints we came up with a few different ideas. To decide which joint would be the most beneficial, we listed the benefits and drawbacks of each design as shown in the table below.
Table 1: The analysis of the different designs the team came up with
After considering the pros and cons of the different joints mentioned in Table 1, the team settled on an ultimate design. The design of the drill pipe joint involves screwing pipes together to mate them and having a retractable pin to secure the ends in place as shown in Fig 8.
Fig 8: Our innovative solution for drill pipe joints
The first feature involves threads on the outside (male thread) while the other pipe would have threads on the inside (female thread). The team chose this design as its ratio of advantages to disadvantages was higher compared to the other designs. It only has one disadvantage which is that if the handle is rotated in the wrong direction it would unscrew the rods. We overcame that disadvantage with the second feature (retractable pin) in our design. 166
We will have a retractable pin on the end with the male thread to ensure a firm connection between the modular rods. The pin has an internal spring which compresses when pressed and reverts back to its original length when the force is removed (Fig. 8). It will be pressed when the pipes are about to be mated and as soon as the pipes are fully screwed the pin will pop out of the hole in the female thread of the pipe, locking the two ends in place. An example of the retractable pin is seen in suitcase handles, where a push button on top compresses the pin and allows the handle to move up and down freely (Fig 9).
Fig 9a: A retractable pin 
Fig 9b: The pinâ€™s use on a suitcase handle 
Our design ensures that there is always a backup joint that holds the pipes together. For example if the retractable pin fails, then the screw would keep the pipes together. Similarly, the pin stops the pipe from unscrewing unless it is pressed while unscrewing the pipe. The weight of the pin is relatively small compared to the rod and it will be installed by the suppliers so the customers do not have to. Our design is straightforward and uncomplicated as no expertise or technical equipment (e.g. drill or wrench) is required to screw the pipes in place. Design Constraints This section discusses the various realistic design constraints. 1. Size The most important design constraint that we kept in mind was the size of the final product. We wanted this kit to be as small and portable as it could be so that the shipping costs can be brought down. By doing that, we can make the kit available to people living in very remote parts of the world. 2. Cost The second most important design constraint was the cost. We had determined that people living in developing countries need a kit like ours the most. So, this kit must be affordable. In our case, it meant that we had to choose a design which was simple to manufacture. Our parts can be manufactured using 167
traditional machines as opposed to something like 3D printing. The components should also be easily replaceable in case they break or wear out. 3. Material Since the components must withstand heavy loads, they must be extremely strong and durable. Furthermore, the drilling pipes have to be anticorrosive as they will be exposed to mud that has moisture and bacteria in it. Corrosive materials such as steel or aluminum tend to rust when exposed to elements of nature. 4. End users Since the kit is aimed primarily at the developing world where literacy rates are relatively lower, the kit must be as intuitive to use as possible. Also, since the target audience would span diverse nations, it must be universal in its instructions as well. This problem calls for a manual that explicitly illustrates the kitâ€™s proper usage rather than having written instructions in a few specific languages. Furthermore, the manual also has to serve as the primary source of information for finding replacement parts. 5. Expertise We are combining existing joints to make a new joint specifically for modular drilling rods. These existing joints come with their own design constraints, which we cannot really overcome yet as undergraduate students with our limited expertise in this field. Cost Analysis The drilling kit consists of our threaded modular rods and an auger (drill bit). The rods will be made out of stainless steel while the auger will be made out of stainless steel. The rods will commercially cost $2,500  while the auger will commercially cost $330.  A hand pump could be bought from other manufacturers in order to complete the well. A typical hand pump (along with necessary parts) will cost $230.  Hence, the Easy Well kit alone would cost around $2830. If a third party hand pump were to be also bought, it would cost around $3060. This cost of manufacturing just one single kit has been based on estimated cost of buying required raw materials from various vendors. In the future, the cost will be much lower due to mass production of these kits with an efficient infrastructure in place to procure raw materials at even lower costs. The typical cost of drilling and setting up a well in West/East Africa and the Caribbean is $3000 to $3500 . The Easy Well kit, along with costs for labour, educating natives, transportation, etc. will also fall into the same range. However, what will set our kit apart is the modularity of the components and the manual that accompanies the kit. The table below summarizes all the costs.
Table 2: Summary of all costs
As for the prototype for this project, it will be scaled down and non-functional. It will consist of the drilling kit alone. It will be manufactured in the university machine shop out of aluminum. That will commercially cost around $10.  Benefits of Our Design • The kit will be simple to use and no professional experience will be required. • We will have a manual to go along with our modular kit. • The manual will have specifications in it in case one section of the pipe gets damaged then the customer will not have to get it shipped from the supplying country. They can just take it to a nearby workshop and ask it to be made. • The pipes are designed in such a way that they can be utilized with third-party hand pumps. The following flowchart summarizes the work flow of the Easy Well kit:
Fig. 10: Summary of the installation process of the Easy Well kit
Future Development The team believes there are further developments that can be made to enhance the idea. Due to time and budget constraints, the team did not implement these ideas yet. These developments would include • Testing the mechanical properties for the material chosen for the pipe to ensure it is suitable for the application. • Ordering an actual pump and fit it with the rod to make sure the rod matches. • Making multiple test samples for the rod from different materials and comparing them to pick the best one. • Researching on lighter non-metallic materials so that the weight of the kit can be brought down. 169
Impact The impacts of improving water sources to the economy is well documented. It is estimated that a 0.3% investment increase to a household’s access to water yields a 1% increase in GDP  . In another study, two communities in Manilla were compared. One had a regular water supply and the other had an improved water supply, and the study found that the community with the improved water supply reduced the number of households in poverty from 55.6% to 29.9% . This effect is due to the households having more time to work because the time spent gathering water was reduced. These are the intended impacts of our design. By creating a cheap and efficient method of water extraction, we wish to not only have the immediate effect of acquiring water, but also to foster a long term positive social and economic change. The less time people waste on find equipment to gather water, finding water, and finally extracting it, the more time they have to farm, trade, etc. Conclusion The team set out with the goal of innovating in the health sector. After some research the theme of water scarcity was chosen. About one seventh of the world’s population live in danger due to the lack of clean drinking water, with developing nations suffering the most. This problem is why the team decided to create a cheap and easy way to extract water. A well-digging kit was chosen as the team’s innovation, with the focus mainly on creating a modular drill design. In order to make the modular drill, a new fastening method needed to be found, one that could withstand the torsional stress involved with drilling and still be light and portable. The final design combined two existing fastening methods: screw threads and retractable pins. The combination of those two methods created something that was both secure and light. The final cost of the kit is estimated to be around $3060. By creating a cheap and modular drill, we hope to reach a vast number of customers across the world and give them better access to clean water. Gaining access to clean water prevents numerous hazardous health conditions that is caused by dehydration, improper sanitation, and bad hygiene. It is also essential for human progress, as investing in water usually yields in higher GDP for a given community. References  World Wildlife Fund, 2017, “Water Scarcity,” from www.worldwildlife. org/threats/water-scarcity  Stockholm International Water Institute, 2005, “Making Water a Part of Economic Development: The Economic Benefits of Improved Water Management and Services,” from www.siwi.org/publications/ making-water-a-part-of-economic-development-the-economic benefits-of-improved-water-management-and-services/
 “How Much Does Well Drilling Cost?” n.d., from home.costhelper. com/well-drilling.html  Innis Well Drilling, n.d., “Water Well Drilling FAQs,” from www. inniswelldrilling.com/faq.html  Prüss-Üstün, A., Kay, D., Fewtrell L., and Bartram, J., 2004, “Unsafe Water, Sanitation and Hygiene,” World Health Organization, from www.who.int/publications/cra/chapters/volume2/1321-1352.pdf?ua=1  Tarrass, F., and Benjelloun, M., 2012, “The Effects of Water Shortages on Health and Human Development,” Perspectives in Public Health, from www.questia.com/library/journal/1P3-2779939891/the-effects of-water-shortages-on-health-and-human  Black, C., 22 June 2016, “3 Crucial Steps When Digging A Well,” from www.survivopedia.com/how-to-dig-a-well-for-water  “Water Well Drilling Pipe Couplings Drill Stem Deep Rock Driller DIY Borehole Bit,” n.d., from www.ebay.com/p/Water Well-Drilling-Pipe-Couplings-Drill-Stem-Deep-Rock-Driller-DIY Borehole-Bit/596028219?iid=182761184321  National Maritime Research Institute, n.d., “Making a Screw Thread,” from http://www.nmri.go.jp/oldpages/eng/khirata/metalwork/basic/ bolt/index_e.html  National Water Well Association, 1979, Water Well Driller’s Beginning Training Manual: A Complete Guidebook for the Beginning Well Driller on Design, Construction and Maintenance of Water Wells and Pump Installation, The National Well Water Association, Columbus, OH.  “How to Glue and Join PVC Plastic Pipe,” n.d., from www. familyhandyman.com/plumbing/how-to-glue-and-join-pvc-plastic pipe/view-all/  TChristyEnterprises, 13 Aug. 2011, “Joining PVC Pipe and Fittings with Christy’s Red Hot Blue Glue,” from www.youtube.com/ watch?v=VVSYNtoWPus  AccuCut Craft, n.d., “Retractable Registration Pins,” from www. accucutcraft.com/retractable-registration-pins.html  McCrigler, B., Doster, E., Chan, W., and Gismondi, K., 31 Oct. 2016, “Replacing a Patagonia Wheeled Luggage Handle” from www.ifixit. com/Guide/Replacing+a+Patagonia+Wheeled+Luggage+Handle/ 19443  Aiga, H., and Umenai, T., 2002, “Impact of Improvement of Water Supply on Household Economy in a Squatter Area of Manila,” Social Science & Medicine, 55(4), pp. 627-641.  MetalsDepot, n.d., “Stainless Steel Pipe,” from www.metalsdepot.com/ stainless-steel-products/stainless-steel-pipe  Arts Machine Shop, n.d., “5/8’ Threaded, Stainless Steel, Reinforced Regular Augers,” from https://www.ams-samplers.com/hand-tooling/ soil-samplers/soil-augers/reinforced-regular-soil-augers/5-8-threaded stainless-steel-reinforced-regular-augers.html 171
 IndiaMart, n.d., “Afridev Deepwell Hand Pump,” from www. indiamart.com/proddetail/afriwww- deepwell-hand-pump 1819075133.html  Lifewater Canada, n.d., “How Much Does It Cost to Sponsor a Well in Africa or Haiti?” from www.lifewater.ca/?ID=95  MetalsDepot, n.d., “Aluminum Pipe,” from www.metalsdepot.com/ aluminum-products/aluminum-pipe
Photo by Saad Moazam, Class of 2019
Stories that Take Us Places
I feel like a lot of people are missing out on an amazing thing called writing. I love writing. It is one of my favorite hobbies and it helps me in many ways. I hope I was able to effectively translate some of those feelings in this short piece.
I Write Because It Gives Me Power Writing gives me complete control over what happens. Living a life where it seems like everything is out of my control, writing provides an escape. It takes me to a new world, away from all the troubles in the real world. I control everything. I control how this sentence is going to end. Nothing happens without my decision. Writing is amazing. You create something. You have this incredible tool to inspire, to amaze, to make someone feel what you are feeling, just by some letters on a page. When I write, I donâ€™t think about any format, I just write what comes to my mind. Unlike math or physics, there are no tricky concepts to learn, there is no right or wrong answer. It is raw, it is pure, it is powerful, it is free. Writing is freedom. Freeing the thoughts that have been caged in your mind, you break it open and let the thoughts run free through the vast white pages. It gives me power and freedom. This is why I write.
Rinith Reghunath is a 19-year-old Indian, born and brought up in Qatar. He is currently pursuing electrical engineering at Texas A&M at Qatar. Writing has always been a dream of his, but he never found the proper motivation. This changed in his first semester at university. All of a sudden, he had so many stories that he wanted to tell the world. He needed a proper medium to write and display his works, which is why he immediately took the chance and submitted to Best Writing. Everyone has a story to tell and this is his. 177
I have lots of stories swirling around in my head forming the foundation of the words I live by. To try and write these words for one of my stories was a challenge I attempted through Best Writing. A souvenir from a train ride in India seemed like an interesting idea, but I felt it did not have the depth to be a full story. I attended the series of Best Writing staff workshops and there I found ways of developing my idea into a more layered story, connecting similar ideas that I hope the reader will enjoy and will act as a “souvenir” for my family’s bookshelf.
Souvenirs He was just about to put some water in the small paper cup when I quickly leaped out of my chair and grabbed the cup. “No, this is not for drinking. It’s a souvenir.” “Souvenir? What’s that?” he asked like any inquisitive four-year-old. “A souvenir is something you bring home when you travel somewhere,” I answered. “Why?” he asked. I took a deep breath to ready myself for the series of “why’s” that were about to follow. “This cup is from a train ride we took in India.” “Why? Wait a minute,” he paused, “that’s not nice to take things,” he scolded. “You are right,” I said, “but the young man who gave it to me said I could keep it.” “Madam,” the young man asked with a confused look. “You would like an empty cup?” I just smiled and looked away to try and avoid an explanation. After all, who keeps a silly paper cup as a souvenir? My family has been collecting knickknacks ever since my husband challenged an old friend to see who could bring back the ugliest souvenir from wherever they each travelled. Imagine small figures of papier mâché skeletons playing various instruments in a band. A find from his friend’s trip to Mexico during All Souls Day. The skeletons had their heads topped with cotton balls which I thought was strange but added to their deathly look. Like fragile bones, sadly, their necks were cracked from all the packing and unpacking of boxes from all our moves. Over the years, the souvenirs, even the ugly ones, have become icons on our bookshelf. The cup from India said “Indian Railways” in purple lettering and was about the size of a Dixie cup, a kind of disposable cup I remember from when I was young. Small in size, about 175 ml, but there was potential to fill it with goodness and memories from hometown weddings, showers and birthdays when it was filled with hot tea or coffee or a nice splash of cold soda like my favorite lime ricky or orange crush. For the train ride in India we took a few years ago, our cups were filled with a warm, creamy, sweet and spicy tea. “Can I have more?” one of the kids asked for the first of many times over the sixhour journey in southern India. 179
“Go out into the hallway and see if the man’s there,” my husband responded. Walking up and down the hallway of our car the man shouted, “chai, chai!” He returned and opened our compartment where we were all spread out on the bunkbeds with blankets and sheets that smelled like hospital bedding, sterile and clean. I guess I could live with the smell. He served my nine-year-old son on the top bunk first by first offering a warm sweet bun, then he started to pour the chai. As expected, with the combination of small hands, a small cup, and a bun balanced between his teeth, my son inadvertently moved his cup so that the tea was pouring outside of the cup and onto his brother’s head in the bottom bunk. That’s when everything could have gone very wrong, but it didn’t, and maybe it was the gentle smile of the young man oblivious to where the tea was landing below or maybe the chai had magic powers that made us calm. On any other time, my son could have freaked out, but he didn’t. Magical chai. The late afternoon sun poured in the window as the train soared through the open fields. Still sipping chai, I asked my three surprisingly tranquil young children, “Do you think you could carry a suitcase on your head?” “Why would we?” came the response typical of kids without a worry in the world. Before we boarded the train, we hurried through the busy station in Trivandrum in the southwestern part of India. Porters scurried about jockeying for our attention to carry our luggage. Finally, after winding our way through the scores of passengers and even animals waiting to be loaded on trains, my husband motioned to a porter for help. In the blink of an eye, the porter hoisted our 20-kilo suitcase on his head and pulled along two more full-sized suitcases. A mesmerizing scene and a feat not to be replicated, at least not by my children. “Did I sit on the top or bottom bunk bed?”the small voice of my four-year-old son asked, knowing what my answer would be. “You weren’t there,” I said with a sympathetic tone as I have said many times about the trips he didn’t take with us or the family photos where he is missing. “You weren’t born yet,” I mumbled in the hope that he might not understand and not ask “why”. “I’ve never been on a train!”he exclaimed. “Of course, you have, silly. Last Christmas, remember?” The train was bursting at the seams with holiday travelers. Their bags set under the seats and above their heads. Gold, green, red and white ribbons poured out from shopping bags. Like us, everyone was going home. What was I thinking reserving the ‘Quiet Zone’ for a 5-hour journey with a three-year-old? Quiet and three-year-olds do not go together, but we found out that whispering is actually a really fun thing to do like changing seats with siblings, walking up and down the aisle, and eating M&Ms at seven in the morning.
I then thought of my own mother and the one time she bravely took our family on a train by herself. If only iPads had been invented back in the 70s, then maybe she would have travelled more. She set out with seven kids on a fifteenhour train ride from Sydney, Nova Scotia to Montreal to see the Olympics. I don’t remember a lot of details of the trip, but I remember feeling close to my mother. This was a rare opportunity to get her to stay in one spot. Sitting next to her on the train, I studied her face and soft skin and the flash of red lipstick. She was younger than I am now. I don’t remember thinking how brave she was to take seven children on such a journey or why she did it when she never, ever travelled anywhere. Maybe her sister in Montreal convinced her to go. Maybe she had to get away. Why didn’t my father go with us? If trains are special to me now, it is because of my mother. She held my hand going on the train and waited for me at the end of the big steps coming off when we returned home. She then said to me and my siblings, “This will keep you safe in all your travels.” We formed a line as if being awarded a medal, and she placed the medallion of St. Christopher, the patron saint of travel, around our necks with a gentle hug and kiss. “When can I get a souvenir?” my four-year-old son queried, bringing my focus back to him and the cup. I couldn’t think of anything we had from our train trip together in Denmark. It was Christmas time and were going home, not going on vacation. But then I thought of the photos that my son took with his iPad. First, he took some selfies, then he tried to capture the intense gaze of his teenage sister watching something on her phone. She was not impressed with her little brother. Next, he fixed his aim towards the wide window where all that could be seen was the passing blur of street lights. “Why did you take these; it was so dark outside?” I asked, not expecting this response. “See, we are both in the photo,” he pointed to our reflections in the glass. “I love you, Mommy,” he said as he sank his head into my shoulder while I carried him toward the bookshelf to return the paper cup.
Shauna hails from the east coast of Canada where passenger train transportation thrived during her formative years. From an epic journey she made with her mother and siblings on CN Rail, she discovered how to journey around the world and in life. Journeying eventually brought Shauna and her husband and their four children to Qatar where hopefully they will soon get to enjoy train travel around Doha. 181
My story reflects the toughest and most dreadful struggles I’ve passed through in my entire life. Overcoming hardships and difficulties is something I’ve been really good at; however, this lifetime event really put my patience and determination to the test. It wasn’t always easy for me to tell people my story, and writing it was even more difficult as I had to be very careful and effective in selecting my words. They had to be touching and moving as my journey was really emotional and life-changing. I tried to keep the excitement building so readers wouldn’t get bored. I concluded my story with a message that nothing is impossible and that hard work always pays off.
Shining in My Darkest Moments One night I was hanging out with my friends in the vast green areas in Haslev, Denmark. We were walking above the trees in the 45-meter-high spiral treetop walkaway, observing the tiny trees below our feet and viewing the extremely long pathway of the river. I was so high that I could sense my closeness to the sky. This spiraling observation tower was giving us the chance to experience some of the oldest parts of the forest and see the water features along the way. The view was just magnificent and fabulous. I was stargazing while having deep endless conservations with my friends. It was a very peaceful moment until I suddenly heard my phone ringing. It was very late that night, so I knew that something wrong had probably happened. I was hesitant whether or not I should pick up the phone because I was so relaxed, and enjoying the beauty of this breath taking forest with my friends at the top of the tower. I didn’t want to hear anything that would ruin the unforgettable moments I was having up there. Eventually, I decided to take the risk of hearing something shocking, so I picked up the phone, and I wish I didn’t. “Son, we are moving to Lebanon in few days, and I need to see you immediately.” Those were my father’s words that devastated me that night. I have never been shocked to that extent, as if the world had come to an end. It was a nightmare for me. A night no one ought to experience. I couldn’t get over the news that I would no longer be able to walk in the astonishing spiral tower in the forests of Denmark. I couldn’t believe that I was leaving my childhood friends. My dreams! Oh I couldn’t bear the fact that I would no longer be able to make my dreams come true. I wanted to become a doctor and cure all the diseased people around the world. I wanted to make a change in this world and improve the quality of life for the needy. I loved solving problems that impacted me, and I wanted to do the same for the world. I always thought about the idea of making a “perfect world.” I wanted to be recognized in my field of job as I always excelled in whatever work I put my efforts in. But now, my father broke my heart and broke my dreams. Who am I to stand against his decision? A 10-year-old boy who was vulnerable and had to follow the rules of the elders. I felt my destiny became unknown, and only the time itself would determine it. Lebanon, the country I was moving to, is no doubt the worst country I had ever been to. Not only is it known for its lack of electricity, water, and slowness of the Internet, but it is also widely recognized for its crimes and the illegal dangerous activities that occur. Unlike Denmark, it has no free education and healthcare. Getting educated there or being healed requires the person or the family to be wealthy. Economic and political issues are greatly spread. Wars and conflicts are prevalent, especially in areas such as the refugees’ camp, the place I was going to live in.
19 August 2010 was the day we were traveling to Lebanon, the day we had to leave our home and get out of our comfort zone. “I don’t feel like traveling with you,” I said to my father. “It just doesn’t make sense to move suddenly like this.” “Go pack your damn bags for god’s sake,” my father shouted. “I don’t want to leave; I have no future in this new life,” I cried. “Son, you might think that my decision is absolutely wrong, but one day you’ll understand why I did what I did,” My father said. “Don’t make things more complicated,” he added. “Most of the times, the hard decisions we make, turn out to be the greatest ever.” “Please, give me one good reason for making such a life-changing decision,” I asked. “Those reasons, you’ll figure them out by yourself when the time comes,” he answered. I was very miserable and eventually told my father that I will get ready for the journey. I knew I had to be mentally and physically ready for the new life I was about to experience. The next day came, and we arrived at our new home around midnight. Sweltering and humid was the weather. I was used to the cold and freezing temperatures in Denmark. However, the warm weather didn’t bother me as much as the view in the Palestinians’ refugees’ camp did. I was amazed to see what I saw: garbage all over the ground and in every corner of the camp, electric wires and water tubes dangling in the air from wall to wall, rats and mice running in the streets, and cats eating from the trash. I had the most shocking moment when I saw some teenagers fighting each other with sharp knives and other dangerous tools. Words failed me as nothing could describe what I saw. I was really petrified. It was half past twelve, and teens were knocking each other down to the ground. I kept thinking and wondering where the police were, or why no one had called them. I kept asking my curious mind why no one was there to stop them. But I couldn’t find answers to my non-stop curiosity. I do know that some places around the world have terrible infrastructure and conflicts between teens exist, but what I saw that night was an entirely whole new level of violence and ignorance. Luckily, we made it safely to our new home. A few days later, the journey that had been awaiting me for a long time started. My father registered me in a school nearby our home. I was nervous and frightened from two things: not understanding what people said when they spoke to me, and not being able to express myself and pronounce the words correctly when I talked to them. I felt like praying to God was my only hope to avoid the embarrassments that were awaiting me. Being born in Denmark 184
and living there my entire life were the reasons for my weakness in Arabic. Even though my parents used to talk to me in Arabic, I could barely grasp what they said. It was indeed a hard language to learn, probably one of the hardest languages in the world. During my first day in school, I was introduced to the class. I expected a warm welcome from my classmates and a thrill in them to approach me, not only because I was a new student, but also because I was from a different background and culture which was supposed to create an excitement and curiosity within my colleagues. However, my great expectations failed me; the students clearly appeared to be unfriendly and careless. Their reaction was the definition of disrespect. I was heartbroken and my feelings were hurt. When the bell rang, and it was time for the break, joy and amusement arose in me. I felt like I was pulled out from a well of boredom, sadness, and loneliness. I rushed to the playground hoping to find something sportive and entertaining, but I was enormously stunned and speechless to see an empty-squared playground with a few benches only. Slowly again, my heart was dragged into deep sorrow and depression. I found out that playing sports was prohibited during the break. I couldn’t believe how rigorous and strict this school was, and how ridiculous its nonsense rules were. Who in the world would prevent students from playing sports? It doesn’t make sense that we were only allowed to play sports once per week. When nobody approached me during the break, I decided to socialize with a bunch of kids at the cafeteria. Unfortunately, they mocked me and made fun of how I was talking and pronouncing the words. I couldn’t tolerate standing there embarrassed, so I hurriedly moved away, preferring to walk alone in that gloomy tedious playground. Their hideous laughter worsened the dreadful and awful condition I was already in. I had no idea how evil some people can be until I came here. In Denmark when a new kid entered a school, classmates would hang out and befriend the new guy to create a feeling of belonging and an environment like home and family. The school became a prison and a source of torture I had to endure every day. Whenever the teacher asked me a question and I couldn’t reply, the students would mock me. The feeling of being a joke was overwhelming. My greatest fears about being mocked at, embarrassed and not able to communicate properly turned into a miserable reality. Days passed and the sarcasm became nonstop, stressing me out and hurting me severely. That was only a part of my suffering. The other part was about my grades. I was failing in my exams and getting terrible and shameful grades. If I didn’t fail, I would definitely get the worst grades in my class. The language was undoubtedly the reason for my failure. I was considered one of the worst students the school ever had because my grades were completely disastrous. I was unsuccessful in both the school life and social life. Humiliation accompanied me wherever I went. Acquiring a gloss phobia, the fear of talking to people, isolated me from the community and raised the pessimism in me. Being reclusive, I wouldn’t dare to get out of my home during weekends so as to avoid hearing insults from people. The verbal 185
abuse I was encountering at school was already unbearable. The environment of this country was utterly different from the one I came from. The society was unsupportive and devastating. This place had no room for cowards; only the strong could survive. Time passed and the miserable year ceased. I could see the tears in my parents’ eyes. I could feel the disappointments they were hiding. Even though they tried to support me with the school work, I wasn’t making it at all. I could see how much regret and remorse my father felt. My fears and embarrassments were much easier to bear than to see my parents’ faith in me fade. I knew something ought to be done. I couldn’t fail my parents. I couldn’t let my parents’ trust and hope in me vanish. I was willing to do whatever it takes to erase their sorrows and grief. I had to brighten my darkest moments, and I had to make my parents proud of me. I remember I promised myself the day we were traveling that I was going to be ready for the journey, and I had to prove it. One day, I tried to think of something that would get me out of the negativity and help me find relief. The idea of writing whatever I was passing through popped into my mind. I thought of writing as a way to identify my problems and visualize them rather than a way to escape from them. So I started writing very often about my story and all the obstacles I was facing. I would write down my greatest fears and weaknesses. Now that I had all my difficulties and burdens of life written down, it was time to visualize them, study them, and thus find a way to overcome them. So, the next thing I wrote was how I would overcome these obstacles in my life. I wrote how I wanted to achieve success and start determining my unknown destiny. A unique connection between writing and me was being created and strengthened with time. It was a deep relationship I had with writing like a strong bond between two people. The more I spent my time on writing, the deeper the bond between us grew. Writing became my friend in life, relieving me during my hard times. I would simply translate all my emotions and feelings into words which would comfort me. I reached a point where I had almost written all the new dreams I had when I moved to the new country. For instance, I wanted to become more social than ever, make friends and get to know my relatives better, excel in school and make my parents proud. I wanted to be the best version of myself and a hard worker who doesn’t give up easily. I wanted to carry on one of the dreams I had in Denmark which was to become a problem solver in this world. I felt it was time to turn these dreams into goals. I strongly believe that a dream written down with a date becomes a goal. Thus, I started getting some dates written down for everything I wanted to accomplish. It was time for a new beginning full of victory. No more room for failure, humiliation, and embarrassment in my life. Success became a goal I had to 186
reach. I wanted to accomplish something in my life. I wanted to be known as the guy who achieved the impossible; adapting to the cultural difference and this harsh environment. As the New Year started, I was motivated to put an end to all the suffering I had last year. I was ready for a new start, so I wore some of my good-looking clothes and headed to school with great excitement. As I entered the class, one of the jerks that used to mock me last year yelled, “Hey, what’s up dumb weirdo foreigner?” I smiled at him and stared deeply into his dark black eyes and said, “One more insult, and I am going to break every single bone in your body.” Of course, I didn’t mean it, but I was just threatening and scaring him because this environment required the person to be strong and tough; there was no room for weakness. That’s how people here respected you. After that, I shouted at everyone in the class with a very serious tone: “This year is a different one, anyone who thinks I am a joke or makes fun of me, will regret it his whole life.” Everyone was stunned by my reaction. They were speechless and couldn’t believe what they heard. What happened next was unexpected. The boys approached me and everyone wanted to chat with me. They told me I was quite impressive. I was glad that the whole class eventually understood that I wasn’t a joke. My days began to shine brighter and stronger every day. My life started to change. I was making plenty of friends and becoming more social than ever. My acquaintances hugely expanded. I began reading Arabic books to learn the language perfectly. No matter how hard it felt, I was dedicated to master the language because I knew this would change many things in my life, and everything would become more comfortable. As I was improving in the language, I realized that I was getting rid of most of my fears. School became my second home. I would come very early to school to chill and spend time with my friends. Now that my social life had improved enormously, it was time for me to focus on my studies and exams. I began to study for countless hours every day. I would text my friends at night asking them to explain to me the difficult lessons I couldn’t understand in class. I know I was getting very exhausted, but I had to do this. I was so determined to succeed. It was not a choice. It took me quite a long time before I could get along and used to the harsh way of studying. I started to excel in my exams, and my grades were improving significantly. I began to score the highest grades in my class. It was quite remarkable to be honored several times for being among the top outstanding students in my class. Years passed, and every year my success would grow wider. I was honored plenty of times. I was shining as I promised myself. I was reaching my goals, and my 187
dreams were coming true. My success was a miracle, and amazed everyone who heard about it. I became a source of inspiration to many students who were failing. They were learning from my experience never to give up and always to keep fighting. I made my parents extremely proud of me. Eventually, I could draw a smile on their faces. I could finally turn their sorrows and disappointments into unique joy and indescribable happiness. I would like to take a moment to share how blessed I am to have lived beside my family and relatives. I think having a great family is priceless and cannot be valued enough. In Denmark, I was deprived of this gift, and always used to tell my parents how much I wanted to have a big family. But living in Lebanon allowed me to sit often with my grandfather and battle with him in Arabic poems as he was so passionate about poetry. He would also spend hours telling me ancient stories that blew my mind away. After my grandfather passed away, I still remember all the good times I had with him and how blessed I am to have had the opportunity to know him. As for my grandmother, she keeps cooking me the food that I like the most. This is something that has meant a lot to me. The list of my family goes on, and if I were to talk about all my family members, I would write another whole essay. But in short, this gifted family I had helped me adapt to the tough environment I lived in. Knowing that there is someone who loves you and cares for you makes the burdens of life a lot easier to bear. Of course I can’t forget the support I received from my parents who kept motivating me to never give up at all, or my friends who were there for me whenever I needed them. They used to take me to every football game they arranged, and playing sports made my life happier than ever, even helping me adapt to this new country. I don’t remember having such good friends in Denmark who would be there for me during my tough times. A great philosopher once said that every struggle in our lives shape us into the person we are today. Hence, defying impossibility is our way of digging our names in history, and reaching our goals to accomplish success. It was extremely challenging for me to adapt to the cultural difference between living in Denmark and living in Lebanon. However, this experience has changed my life in a way I could never imagine. Not only did it strengthen my determination to succeed, but it also empowered me to conquer every obstacle I faced no matter how tough it was. I owe my father huge thanks for everything he did, and I would like to tell him, “Dad, now I understand the reasons for your decision.” And what a life changing decision it was!
Saleh Hussein is a Palestinian guy who lived all of his life outside his home country. He is currently studying mechanical engineering in Texas A&M at Qatar. He has deep passion towards physics and math which encouraged him to choose his major. Being intrigued by how things work, he believes that in the field of mechanical engineering, the brain is capable of going beyond the limits and boundaries to invent and create the unimaginable. Applying the knowledge of science and technology to design devices and systems that will improve the world is one of the goals he wants to accomplish. 189
Going from one stage of like to another is challenging for many reasons, and changing schools several times is even more challenging, especially for a child.
The Small Yellow Classroom Change is difficult--getting out of your comfort zone, experiencing new feelings and facing new challenges. When you are used to something being a certain way, it is hard to accept the sudden change, especially if you were just a kid! But in the end, you just need some time to cope with this change. I started my school years in Almuntaza Elementary School, an Arabic school where everything there was taught in Arabic except of course the English class. Other than English, a lot of Arabic was involved since both the teachers and the students were native Arabic speakers. I was a good student, and, as my first kindergarten teacher said, a smart child, which at that time probably meant that I had learned my Arabic alphabets really fast and could read short words. To be honest, I was always trying to be the best amongst my classmates. I completed kindergarten and first grade in Almuntaza. But for a reason that I didn’t know back then, my parents took me to an English school—The Cambridge School of Doha. I was placed in the first grade again even though I was supposed to be in the second grade because I was younger than all second graders. At first, I didn’t realize how huge the change was since to me it was just another school which I had to go to everyday. But when I took my first steps in that small, yellow painted classroom, I knew that everything was different than what I was used to. My teacher was not Arab and only spoke English. She came forward and said something to me, but I didn’t know what she was saying, and all students looked at me waiting for me to reply. I looked at my father waiting for him to explain what is going on. He said something to my teacher and then told me that she was asking me what is my name. He told me that I’ll be fine and went out of the classroom. I sat down and my teacher began speaking to the class. But I wasn’t in the classroom with my teacher and my classmates, I was somewhere else, a place where I was sailing a boat, flying a plane, or maybe riding a horse to nowhere. I was anywhere except that yellow classroom; I didn’t feel at all that I belonged there. All I was hearing was nothing but meaningless sounds coming from people around me. Surprisingly I wasn’t scared at all, but really confused. I was trying to act normal and do what my classmates are doing, but again I didn’t know how to write in English, so I just sat down waiting for the class to end. When the bell rang, I was sitting on my chair waiting for the next class to begin when I heard two of my classmates speaking to each other, and guess what? They were talking in Arabic! I felt as if I had been deaf for the past hour and suddenly could hear again! I went to speak to them, even though I wasn’t a social child, but when I finally could understand what other people were saying, this made me feel as if I knew them from long ago. After completing second grade at The Cambridge School, once again my parents took me to Moza Bint Mohammed School, which of course was an Arabic school. Changing schools is not easy as it requires leaving behind your friends, 191
teachers, and everything that you are used to in order to start all over again. You are forced to adapt with the new situation of being in another school, with everybody speaking another language. Except this time, it was much easier to adapt since everybody was speaking Arabic which is my first language. Six months ago, I took my first steps into an English-speaking school since first grade, after ten years of studying in an Arabic school. I walked into Texas A&M University, said hi to the guards at the door, asked for directions to the lecture hall, and went ahead. I thought about the time when I walked into that yellow classroom, how it was extremely different this time, how I am now able to understand what other people around me are saying, how I didnâ€™t get the feeling of being deaf while listening to others. This time I didnâ€™t need my father to translate what the teacher is saying; I was the one who is explaining everything to my father. I could feel how proud he is of me being in this school, managing my way on my own. And for the second time, I walked in, not into a small yellow classroom but into a huge lecture hall. I sat down in the middle of the lecture hall with my father. Two seats to the left there was what seemed to me to be a professor with one of the new students speaking about one of the courses in TAMUQ. One row behind was a group of students, complaining about having to come to the University early in the morning. I drew a smile on my face when I thought about my first day in the first grade, how Iâ€™m now able to not only hear but to actually understand what other people around me are saying. Being in these situations has definitely refined my personality, I am more independent now than before. I can manage myself and easily adapt to any new situation that I find myself in, and I am no longer afraid of change. I believe that all the changes that have happened in my life have made me stronger. Being left at the classroom alone made me realize that I could have cried that day and gotten my father to take me home, or I could try and manage my way through first grade, and that decision that day was the first factor that shaped my personality today. That first day is what made me continue learning English even after leaving the English school. That first day was the spark that lit my passion for learning other languages. Over the years, I have tried to learn Spanish, French, Turkish and even sign language. I took a pledge to myself to never let language be an obstacle between myself and the world.
Aisha Al-Margozi is an electrical engineering sophomore. She truly enjoys reading, traveling and learning new languages. She is amazed by how the language we speak changes our personality and our way of reacting toward events throughout our life. She is startled at how very different languages could have similar words in meaning and pronunciation; this always reminds her that eventually we are all one huge nation. 192
The piece is a personal story I wrote for my English course at TAMUQ. I had turned in a few drafts before this essay got into a decent shape. I am still looking forward to improving it.
My Purpose of Existence I believe there is a purpose of existence for every person. For some, it’s obvious. For others, it’s hidden, and they have to discover it. And there are some people who spend their lives without realising that they came to this world for a reason. I belong to a beautiful family of eight—four sisters and two brothers—from rural Pakistan. My parents are from two different families (Bajwa and Warraich). When my parents got married, a new relationship was formed between the two families. Soon after marriage, my mom came to Qatar with my dad. In some countries (Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, etc.), there is an immense pressure on the newlywed wife to have a baby boy. I have heard stories of families splitting up due to this reason. That’s mainly because we as a nation haven’t fully absorbed our new religion (Islam) and ignorant practices of our ancestors are still alive in rural areas. For the first baby, my mom went back to her home in Pakistan and my sister was born. My father was a modest guy from the beginning, and he was happy to have a baby girl. He loved her dearly and he took her with him even if he was going to a meeting. He never discriminated between a boy and a girl. After four years my second sister was born. She was a silent little child. Now we were a family of four. My aunt was worried, and she was hoping that the next one will be a boy. Two years later, my third sister was born. Hearing the news of my newly born sister, my aunt fainted while talking to my mom on the phone. My mom felt bad; the gender of the baby was not something that she could select. Everyone in my mom’s family was silently talking about how bad it is to have a third daughter in a row. Everyone was now sympathetic towards my mom. No one dared to speak of my father having three daughters in a row, as they knew that they would be lighting a very short fuse. Some people silently prayed for the next child to be a boy, but my father was not one of them. My eldest sister cried every time her friend told her that she had two sisters and one brother. She used to ask mom when she is going to have a brother, so she can tell the entire world about that. She was going to have her final exam on March 16th in which she had to write an essay on her family. On March 15th , just a day before her final exam, I was born. My uncle, being a landlord, called a pâtissier at his home to make sweets for the whole village. Laborers and other workers employed by my uncle were given the task of distributing sweets to the whole village. All our family members and friends were happy that a baby boy was finally here. I had fulfilled my sister’s desire to have a brother and my mom’s desire to have a son. I had fulfilled my initial purpose for existence without even knowing it. Haseeb Sharif Bajwa joined the Texas community in 2017. He has spent most of his life in Qatar. He is not a regular writer, but before writing this piece, he wrote a travel diary when he toured Pakistan. 195
This piece describes what happened during a family vacation in Turkey. It tells the story of what was supposed to be a fun and relaxing day that turned into a worrisome night.
The Longest Night of My Life In July 2016, my family and I were on a vacation in Turkey. On Friday at 10pm on the 15th of July, we just came back to Sapanca from a trip to Bursa. I went to my room to change my clothes and get ready for bed. Suddenly, I heard my father rushing down the stairs as if something wrong was happening. I followed him and asked him about what was going on. He silently took the remote control and switched to Al-Jazeera. The first thing that my eyes caught was “BREAKING NEWS: THE BOGAZICI AND FATIH SULTAN MEHMET BRIDGES IN ISTANBUL ARE BLOCKED BY SOLDIERS.” I stood there shocked as if someone just hit my pause button. We all gathered around the TV waiting for further news. I tried to look up Al-Jazeera’s Twitter account for further information, but I couldn’t because that night Twitter was being blocked. I really didn’t know what I was feeling then, but certainly I was afraid of the unknown. I was afraid of what was going to happen next and worried about how our situation would turn out. Mainly I wondered about my family’s safety; what if something wrong happened to one of us? Will we be able to go to the hospital? Is there anyone in the hospitals? What about the airport? Could we travel back to Doha in the next few days or will we be stuck in Turkey not knowing when can return? Around 11 pm an announcement was made on Al-Jazeera that a group within the army was “making a coup attempt.” This definitely did not calm me down, but at least I knew what was going on! Still, I was terrified that there is no more one President in charge, but rather a large group of people wanting to take charge of the nation. If so, a lot of wrong decisions can be made. By 12 am President Erdogan addressed the nation in a live video over a cell phone. Erdogan called for people to “take to the streets.” People all around Turkey started flooding down the streets. We all heard the Mosques reciting the funeral prayer Salah, calling citizens to oppose the coup. As a Muslim, I felt somewhat relieved by hearing the prayers all around me. It was as if time wasn’t passing that night; no one slept and we all stayed awake until morning. Later on, when they announced that the uprising had failed, we all felt extremely thankful and relieved. That night was definitely the longest night of my whole life. Aisha Al-Margozi is an electrical engineering sophomore. She truly enjoys reading, traveling and learning new languages. She is amazed by how the language we speak changes our personality and our way of reacting toward events throughout our life. She is startled at how very different languages could have similar words in meaning and pronunciation; this always reminds her that eventually we are all one huge nation. 197
In this narrative essay, I share my experience during my trip to Andalusia-Spain. I have traveled and visited many countries, but this place made a great impact on me. This topic is special to me since in this place I saw the history of our Arab ancestors, and at the same time, I wanted to pour out the frustration and pain I feel about my civilization retreating in this region. In this essay I tried to convey the pride I feel in my Arab identity when I walked between the alleys of Andalusia, but also my sorrow and anger towards those languid rulers who lost the Andalusia. I also focused on the pleasant experience I had inside the Alhambra castle. Please keep in mind that I wrote this essay with my feelings more than my logic, and the writer is not eighteen-year-old Ghassan, but Ghassan who is a young kid influenced by his motherâ€™s nighttime stories about the great and proud history of his ancestors. The kid inside me is the one who is blaming his ancestors for cutting short his nice dreams, but his imagination is still filled with pride in Arab history.
Once We Were the Best Let me begin where the great Arabic history ends, and from the last strongholds of Al-Andalus. I have some complicated feelings about my trip to Spain, and I want to share my experience visiting Granada, the jewel of the cities. Despite these complicated emotions, I lived one of the most magical days of my life in the alleys of Granada: in the gardens of the corporal, in the Albayzín district, in the area of the olive trees, in the Genil river, and in the house of freedom. From all these places, stories fail to express the deepness and the instability of Arabs’ feelings toward Granada, and these stories were a dream for me until I saw it for myself. Moreover, this beautiful dream turned into a painful reality and turned the feelings of pride to a heartbreak about the glory, which we lost by our own hands. In the third of April 2016, my friends and I arrived in Granada for a touring trip. I was eagerly looking for anything that connected me to this city. I looked at the faces to find a drop of Arab blood, and I looked at the names to read some of our history that was lost. Since I was afraid to miss any valuable thing, I asked my companions to help me in the search, “Mansour, look at the right side; Rashed, focus on the left side,” and I continued to watch all the magic that was surrounding me. Those moments were like emergencies where all the senses are heightened. The place was filled with happiness, and I lived one of my most relaxed periods in this land of light, under the warm sun, bathing in the blue of the Mediterranean. I enjoyed every moment of its wonderful history, breathing the fragrant perfumes of the gardens of the Alhambra palaces, and through this I learned the art of living, sharing, and enjoyment. We were afraid because the sun was about to go down and we wanted to do everything before dark, and we wished that we had more time to continue our journey around Granada. Alhambra Palace, the first thing we saw, made me feel that it belongs to me. I felt that it looked at me as if it knows that I am the descendant of its true owners. Moreover, it was lofty and high, but also broken and under submission. The palace seemed elevated at the top of the plateau, and it appeared to me as an impregnable fortress. Then we headed to our residence opposite to the gate of the Alhambra palace, a mere few steps away from it. The next morning, we drove among the trees around the palace on a steep road until we got to Bab al-Ramla Square where thousands of Islamic books from the libraries of Granada were gathered and burned and the fire remained burning for three days after the end of the Islamic authority in 1492 A.D., as the ancient Arabian and Spanish narrators and novels said. Later that day we had a barbecue with the smell of fire in one of the restaurants at that square. We then rode the tour bus heading to the Albayzín district for a one-hour tour, which helped us to recognize the old and new neighborhoods of Granada. During this tour, I watched the city carefully and listened to the sound recordings, noticing some Arabic words and Arabic shop names. This made me conclude that the people of 199
Granada still owe the Muslims for what they gave to them of civilization in their “occupation” period, as the Spanish people claim. The next morning, we were scheduled to go to Alhambra. We toured the palace of Alhambra, or as the Spaniards call it, “The Hambra,” and in all aspects of the palace, we found the emblem of the Banu’l-Ahmar tribe (“Only God is Victorious”) engraved in every corner. We saw some of what remained of our monuments in Andalusia, and what the palace was fond of: courtyards, fountains, statues and gardens. But the most beautiful and most important feature in the Alhambra palace was the Black Pavilion, containing the famous “Black Hall,” a large lobby with a pond surrounded by twelve lions. In the old days, the water would come out of the mouth of every lion, depending on the change of day and night. But, when the Europeans tried to figure out how the mechanism of the lions worked, they destroyed it and no one could repair it until today. After the “Black Hall,” the Royal Hall met us, an artistic creation consisting of Islamic decoration and color mixing that filled the Dome of the Royal Hall, where the red blended with green, gold and blue. When the sun entered its carefully engineered openings, it astonished and enchanted the beholder. We saw many tourists from all around the world who walked around the Alhambra taking pictures and exchanging kisses. I wondered if they knew that this place and this city were the legacies of my ancestors. After these observations and memories, I left Granada loaded with different feelings of honor, satisfaction, calmness, and heartbreak regarding our inactive present status compared to other civilizations. In a way, I wish that I had not visited that city, skipping it because it gave me pain and made me sorrowful about our painful history and brought me back to our bitter reality in the Arab world these days. This trip changed my perspective towards our history, which I recognized that even though we had great Caliphs such as “Omar Bin Al Khattab, Abou Baker, Omar Bin Abd El Aziz…”, there were some languid Arabian and Islamic rulers. Unfortunately, the last Andalusia rulers were preoccupied with what they enjoyed in the moment, and thus Andalusia was lost.
Ghassan Marwan Saad is an HBKU student studying computer engineering, Class of 2021. He is a Palestinian refugee who was born in Lebanon. He left Lebanon after high school because he got a chance to come to Qatar for a better future. He is known by his family and friends (and even his new friends in Qatar who have known him for barely seven months) as a person who plans simple steps in his life, never depending on luck. He works hard in life not only to succeed but also to feel that he deserves what he accomplishes. 200
Stories that Weather Storms
Photo by Kenana Dalle, Class of 2020
Sanctuary Do not indoctrinate your children. Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you. —Richard Dawkins It is imperative that we give our utmost respect to our elders. However, age does not confer wisdom. A society run entirely on pure democracy cannot sustain itself. One can argue that there is no empirical link towards religion and morality, but no one can deny that religious beliefs greatly influenced the values of Western civilisation. These are but a few of the arguments I have asserted in the past. Arguments that had me branded as an ungrateful cur, an advocate of tyranny, a mindless fanatic that dismisses genuine altruism; and the list goes on. During my early years, I was surrounded by people with whom I share most of my beliefs. With an overwhelming majority of the population being Spaniardesque Roman Catholics, most individuals were instilled with a deep sense of honour and familial authority. To question someone significantly older than you meant showing disrespect, and disciplinary measures were taken accordingly. As a result of this, most of the people I grew up with in the Philippines felt like they didn’t have a say in anything; suppression of free thought discouraged intellectual discourse. It was only when my family relocated to Qatar that I gained an external perspective of the stubbornness of outmoded Filipino households. My father, having an inquisitive mind himself, encouraged us to engage in healthy discussion—even with subjects deemed to be controversial back home. It was then that I realised the value of uninhibited intellectual growth. Years passed, and I have developed informed opinions on more topics now. I may have changed my views on a handful of matters for discussion. What is interesting to note is that my dad and I now have differing views on an issue that we had total agreement on a couple of years ago. What might be even more interesting is that we still respect each other’s opinions—no matter how contradictory it is to one’s case, as long as the opinion was thought out rationally. My mother has a different way of going about things. She favors compromise as long as the solution is compelling enough. We oppose each other on a whole lot of socio-political concerns, mainly because she emphasizes compassion and a strong sense of community while I hold individual liberty in higher regard. The dynamics of our relationship as a family nurtures critical thought while working 205
together to strive toward a common goal. Here is an example of the roles we play and the views we hold: Me: I propose healthcare to be treated as a commodity in a capitalistic society to improve its quality… Mum: I prefer socialised healthcare due to its accessibility and affordability… Common goal: To provide better healthcare for everyone We often find exceptional insight in the quirkiest of places. I’m an avid fan of stand-up comedy. In the past few months, I have been following a comedian named Owen Benjamin and found him to be as profound as he is funny. One of the best bits he has is about making an informed opinion. The paradigm is simple: Think of anything that interests you. Choose where you side on that issue and read up on it. Do you have a solid opinion now? Good, now, try arguing the other side. If you cannot come up with a decent line of reasoning for the opposition, you don’t know enough to have an “informed” opinion. This is one of the best pieces of intellectual advice I have ever received. By now I know that I will never be as well-versed as John Locke or Friedrich Nietzsche in my lifetime. However, I do appreciate the current environment in which my parents have raised me. If I’m going to have a family of my own in the future, I will strive to make my home a sanctuary for free thought.
A nagging voice inside my head makes me fear failure. It makes me feel like whatever I do will never be good enough and that I will never be able to excel at anything. Another voice suppresses this negativity and forces me to achieve what I want to achieve. In this piece, I personify these voices and capture their presence when I write.
My Head is a Battlefield There is a war raging inside my head. Confidence and Doubt both reside in there, making living conditions uncomfortable for each other. Doubt is an unwanted tenant; I don’t remember signing a contract allowing her to live in my head. I don’t know how she came about, but making her leave is a challenge. She leaves my mind in absolute shambles; the dishes haven’t been washed in over a week and there is still dirty laundry on the floor. I’m not sure what Doubt looks like but I can always feel her aura. Why is she allowed residence if she doesn’t even pay rent? Confidence is warm-hearted and kind. She makes the house feel welcoming and the aroma of freshly baked cookies wafts up my nostrils every time I visit her, making me smile in delight. Confidence is always wanted. Whenever I find her missing, the dreaded feeling of hollowness overcomes me because I know I will be forced to communicate with her horrible roommate Doubt. Confidence almost always goes missing when I want to write. I never know where she disappears at times of need. Before my pen touches my paper, Doubt forcefully becomes my accomplice. I say a forced hello and offer her nothing but a tight smile because I know what is to come next. Her voice quivers at first and then raises an octave higher. And then she screams a series of deafening remarks. She tells me that I have made a terrible mistake by picking up a pen because I cannot write a single sentence worth reading. She once yelled at me for intending to write a piece entitled “Why I’m Here,” telling me I have no purpose in life, so attempting to write an entire essay, let alone a sentence, would be completely futile. Doubt violently pushes me into an ocean of negativity, and I have no choice but to drown. Just as the negativity starts to fill my lungs up and seeps into my skin, I hear the door bell ring and I immediately know that Confidence is back home. I kick my arms and legs, spluttering until I feel a pair of strong hands grab onto my shoulders and in one fluid motion, pull me out. My aching lungs start to feel at ease. I hear Confidence bellow at Doubt for mistreating me and an argument breaks loose. Doubt frantically tries to justify her actions but Confidence does not listen. She does not hurt Doubt with her fists but her words feel like a punch in the gut and Doubt leaves. Humiliated and defeated, she locks herself away in her room. Confidence smiles at me. I know it is a genuine smile. She nurtures me until my lungs no longer feel pain and my previously weak hands are strong enough to lift a pen again. She encourages me to place my pen back on paper and soon the ink begins to flow. My hand finds it difficult to stop. But I need an incentive to stop, otherwise my piece will become too long and might even start to lose meaning. As Confidence slowly begins to retreat to her own room, leaving the door open in case I need her, my hand maps out the letters needed for me to conclude 209
my piece. Sometimes I can hear Doubt screaming from behind a locked door, claiming my end isnâ€™t cohesive with the rest of my writing, and sometimes I reread my ending and Doubt does have a point. I rewrite my ending until she falls asleep. I am usually accompanied by Doubt during the creation of my first draft; however, by the second draft, Confidence returns. She shouts at Doubt for tampering with my creative process while Doubt yells back at her, asking her where she was all this time. Confidence has no answer but she kicks Doubt out of the room and assists me in perfecting my piece. Every piece I have ever written was created while a war between Confidence and Doubt raged inside my head. Although she wasnâ€™t always there when needed, I would like to thank Confidence for the times she showed up. I hope she starts taking shorter trips away from home, and I invite her to become a permanent resident inside my head.
Fatimah Khan is a chemical engineering student, Class of 2021. She is an introverted individual who finds ease in communicating her thoughts and ideas through writing. Fatimah is passionate about protecting the environment in order to combat climate change and global warming and would like to involve herself in researches pertaining to renewable energy sources. 210
Most of us spend our lives seeking the answer to one question â€˜What is the purpose of my life?â€™ While finding the answer (if we ever find it), we face numerous challenges, not knowing if we are whom we want to be, not knowing if we are doing the right thing. That creates a battle within that everyone thinks he/she is the only one facing. In this piece I reflect on my own battle. May it touch you and make you feel that you are not the only one in that battle.
The Eternal Internal Battle Part of me wants to go wild. Get a tattoo. Destroy myself. Declare my secularity. Run away to a stranger’s land. Where no one knows me. Where I will feel free. Start over. Change my name. Change who I am...forever. Part of me wants to pray all day and night for God’s forgiveness. Wants to remember the verses that were once engraved in my heart. Wants to be just like everyone else, not having to worry about my differences, not having to spend effort blending in. That is the battle I am living, day and night. The battle that I can’t declare, because no one else feels it. It is internal, between me and me. Or between who I am and who I want to be. I am looking for that path, to take me from who I am to whom I want to be. I want to find the right path...if there is one. But what is right, and what is wrong? Some say there is no such thing as right or wrong. We are the ones who defined them, so we can change the definition. But how can you still feel guilty every time you do something that was predefined as ‘wrong’? The battle is emptying me… Shredding me into parts… But maybe that battle is what will save me at the end. At the end when we will be judged. Ya, I believe in that, otherwise what is the need for such a battle if I can do whatever I want without being punished? That would have been nice, but that is only valid in the land of ‘Happy Ever After.’ We are not in there yet, we are still ‘here’, trying to get ‘there.’ No one goes directly to heaven just because they were good. That is not enough because that is easy. The harder part comes in overcoming the devil. Fighting… Fighting… Doing ‘right’ because you are convinced it is the right thing to do, not because you are afraid. But the battle is too long, I want it to be over so I can be in peace. It seems it won’t be over unless I die. No, no, maybe even after I die there will still be a battle. 213
The hardest battle will come at the end of life, when it is no longer internal When I will truly have to defend my actions on my own. When I will have to prove that my “right” is right and my “wrong” is wrong. So I don’t see this battle ever ending. It is forever eternal ...
Aalaa Abdallah is a mechanical engineering student and Center for Teaching & Learning student worker. She recently created her own writing blog named “She Is Writing” and founded “B4B” to share her love of reading with others. A good cup of coffee and a classical piece of music makes her happy. She considers Leonardo Da Vinci and Roger Federer as her role models. 214
Side Kicks Shakespeare once said that all the world’s a stage. If that’s true, then I guess I play tree number two, or townsperson number one, or dead body number seven. I am the spectacularly amazingly ordinary side character. In the real world, I can take many forms. I am the person no one makes way for. I am the person that always walks on the side in a group of friends. I am the person that my friends don’t wait for. I am the person that people rely on for an answer in recitation since they were too busy chitchatting about how their boyfriend/girlfriend hasn’t texted back. I am the person that often needs to get an extra chair since there’s no more space left at the table. I am the person that my friends ask advice from but never follow. I am the person that re-inflates my friend’s pride after it’s been stepped on. I am the person whom my friends expect to drop everything in an instant so that we can talk about their problems. I am the person who is “so lucky” not to have problems like theirs. I am Switzerland when two friends are in war. I am peacemaker, referee, and punching bag. I am the one who stops those two friends from nuking each other in public or in social media. I am also the one that gets forgotten after the fight is over. I am the person who only gets a birthday greeting after a phone notification. Geez, thanks. I am the person who is such a good listener. I am the person who “never” gets angry. What for? Why do I stay? Well, it’s fun to be where the action is without the consequences part. I learned things I never knew before. Like I know how makeup routines usually go: skin care, primer, concealer, foundation, eyeliner, brows, eyeshadow, contour, bronzer, lipstick, and then, setting powder/spray. I also learned things like how the male ego needs to be constantly fanned to prevent it from becoming obsolete. I learned the constant scares girls have about their period blood seeping through their clothes. I learned that guys want to express their feelings, as long as it doesn’t undermine their masculinity. I learned things like the difference between how guys approach girl problems and how girls approach guy problems. Guys usually have no clue, despite the multiple hints given. Girls overthink the meaning of what a guy explicitly says. Girls take breakups hard at first and get over it, while guys don’t realize what they let go of until later. It’s fun being the inbetweener. I always know the full story from secondhand sources but am not constantly bothered because no one knows that I know. Most importantly, I learned what kind of mask each character wears onstage. Because I am never under the spotlight but at the same time close enough to see, I see where their cracks are. Yes, I know I’m undervalued and ignored. That I can use what I know to take center stage, but I’m in the special position to do something about those cracks. I am in the position to make them feel like they can take off their masks and be okay. Every mask is different, but everybody has one. Everyone has underlying issues, whether it’s an identity crisis, parent 217
problems, abandonment issues, commitment issues, anger issues, and the list goes on. (Isn’t it funny that humans are the pinnacle of evolution and yet we have problems like these. Talk about apex predator probs, am I right?) Take anger issues, for example. The emotion “anger” is a dependent one. In other words, it cannot exist without another emotion. There always must be a reason under it that’s causing the “anger wall” to go up. What people tend to do is point the finger at others, when really, they should be pointing it to themselves. As a good friend, I try to maneuver that finger back into a circle, for them to see that the actions they’ve done is of their own and not the doing of others. This is a problem I mostly attribute to guys since most guys are emotionally repressed, thus not trained in emotional navigation. Another common issue is parent problems. Most kids usually resent their parents’ judgmental reprimanding, but their concerns usually end up being well-founded. True, most parents are hypocrites, but being an apple not so far from the tree, we also have that hypocritical tendency. Whether it’s genetic or acquired, we’ll never know. Since we are usually wrapped around our own self-pity, it is sometimes hard to take a few steps back and see the bigger picture. And it’s even harder to swallow our own pride. Called out for waking up late? Well, calculate how late at night that phone stayed glued on your face. Called out for being lazy? Look under your blanket and see the unfolded clothes. Called out for being a big spender? Check how much you spend on coffee alone. Mad at your parents for saying no to you? Think of the times you’ve said yes to the things they asked you to do (which is probably like 5% of the time and only because they promised something in return). Thinking of answering back to your parents? Well, think of all the times you’ve sacrificed in your life. Hmm… never. Not to mention, don’t ruin your face by being chased with a flying slipper, or worse, an unwanted high-five to the back. And worst of all is the identity crisis, the home of self-pity and self-loathing. The hardest wall to break because it keeps growing back, like an annoying pimple on the nose. As stupid as it may sound, people usually like to identify themselves with labels. The cool one with the pink hair. The smart one with the straight A’s. The quiet one who lives life vicariously through the characters of a show. Just like brands, they don’t tell anything unique. Even potato chips have more substance than that. We are all quick to judge others, but when it comes to ourselves, it’s so hard. Why is that? It’s because we don’t really see. I guess it makes sense since every morning when we look at the mirror, we spend our time fixing our hair, choosing what clothes to wear, and matching our shoes with the outfit. There’s never really any time given to getting to know ourselves. We walk the earth as a bunch of empty, colorful Easter egg shells, only finding out we’re empty when we’re cracked. Finding out that the notions you hold are not true. Finding out that you’ve been walking a trail somebody else made for you. Finding out that there’s no you, but just a collection of comments you gathered that people say about you. Finding out that your life is only following the basic 218
routine: childhood, high school, college, work, find someone, have kids, retire. Who are you? Well, I don’t know, you tell me. If you’re asking me, well, I’m someone who catches myself trying to check if I’ve gained telekinesis while pooping. I’m someone who stares for a few seconds on my phone after it’s gone dark. I’m someone who is more comfortable in the dark than when the lights are on. I’m someone who gets constant déjà vu moments, and again, checks for telekinesis (not while pooping this time). There is no solution to identity crisis other than constant, unbiased reflection. Just look yourself in the eyes in the mirror and see if you recognize that person completely. If you do, then congratulations. Moving back to the actual topic, friendships are like symbiosis in nature. It can be mutualism, commensalism, or parasitism. Basically, it’s give or take, or if you’re a cynic, a mutual, unknowingly consented use of each another for emotional and social comfort. How much they take depends on you. As a sidekick, it is only natural for our friends to take more than they give. It’s okay because their growth and happiness make us feel like a bunch of happy mama birds, no longer having to regurgitate advices they won’t follow because they’ve finally flown the nest. Just like in shows or movies, it was our job to get their plot moving. And also just like in shows or movies, it also gives us some character development. But seriously, isn’t it awesome to be part of the reason our friend is a better person. To have helped unlock their potential. To have seen them emerge from their chrysalis. To have seen them remove their mask for everyone to see their truest self. Cliché, I know, but if it takes only one person to change the world, then wouldn’t it have been worth it to know that you’ve sent someone to the right path (or at least in the general vicinity of the correct direction)? “Sidekicks kicked aside, always there to pick you up.” Trademarked by me. If you’re reading this, you know who this piece refers to in your life. Give them a hug and thank them (or if you’re emotionally shy, give them a side kick, pun intended, just kidding). Learn to be part of their story, because if everyone were sidekicks, the world would be a much better place. Trust me (or not?).
HAZEM HUSSEIN This poem is about the bleak future of our planet if we stick to our ways and means of living, causing the Earthâ€™s decline.
Sticks & Stones The Crow took off at dawn leaping—his wings withdrawn, watching over the population and the lines they’ve drawn but he moves on and on. He can’t force himself to care cuz cluelessness is a bliss—and he’s blissfully unaware. The humans right below his beak would stand and stare and envy the freedom the crow had soaring through the air. They reminisce their flare, their freedom just as lavish but hubris blinded their vision camouflaging the damage. They forced their eyes shut, rendered their children heartless, and then the youth would follow their parents’ footsteps regardless. Look at where they are now— scavenging through the waste, reaping the rough result of ignorance’s bitter taste. It went from better to bitter, from the calm warmth to winter, eyes prying as the night sky’s cold begins to shiver. They crouch, cry, and weep, trying to rebuild ash and cinder. Centre of trouble— all the homes reduced to blocks and rubble— Rocks that topple over— chems that burst the atmospheric bubble The cold wars’ so-called scars left us ash and rust And the bright future we wanted havoc ran and shook the dust— Looks were just bad enough to crash on top the rudely just. And the ones mad enough to battle took the unruly bust The future’s bad as bad could possibly pretend to be Cuz nukes bombs wars and global warming merrily— Presented their supe—riority over humanity— The problems left unsolved solely haunted us dramatically 221
Things took a turn to the worst. We all know we know Some of us already wish they could be the crow We ruined Earth with our ignorance violence and theft Sticks and Stones may hurt our bones but right now they’re all that’s left
Mohamed Hussein goes either by his middle name, Hazem, or by his alias HazelNut. He is a mechanical engineering student from the Class of 2020. He considers himself a gaming/rap addict. He was crowned “Rap God” back in high school after beating 14 unworthy foes and again in Texas A&M after winning the Aggie Originality Contest. He lives by the words, “If it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t have to make sense.” 222
My path crossed with someone who encouraged me to read the Bible for the first time. This practice made me realize the many similarities that exist between religions--that all books are seeking the path of God. Sometimes we forget about that goal and focus only on the teachings, without even asking ourselves why we follow them. For the past year I have been perplexed trying to find the reason why I am a Muslim, or why I even have a religion. Do I need to have a religion to believe in God? These questions and more are addressed in the following piece.
Labels Let’s have an open discussion about one of the biggest taboos, the topic that your parents taught you never to ask people about. It is religion. Can you think of the first time you realised that there is something that exists called religion? Was it when you had a crush on your neighbour (who has a different religion than yours) and your mom told you you can’t like that guy but without explaining why? Or was it when you saw a small cross tattooed on your best friend’s hand, and you asked your parents if you can have a similar one because it looks ‘cool’ and you want to look like your friend? I never thought of these details until someone asked me about my label. I mean my religion. You have so many labels that you can pick from: Sufi, Sunni, Shi’a, Wahabi, Catholic, Orthodox, Coptic, Durzi, Marouni, and the list goes on. For some, this label is their identity, but for me it is just a tag. A tag that I don’t want to be defined by. Perhaps that is the main reason I choose not to wear Hijab. I don’t want to be seen and the first thing that comes to the person’s mind is a label with all the preconceived ideas that are associated with that label. I want them to know me as a human being. I usually don’t answer people who ask me about my religion, but for the sake of this topic I will declare it. I was born into Islam (like the majority of people around me who didn’t get to choose their religion). That was totally fine for me; I never thought about other options or even questioned my own faith until last year when I met someone who invited me to read the Bible. We arranged weekly sessions where we would read about a prophet from both books (the Quran and the Bible) and compare the similarities and differences of each story. I don’t know what made me agree to that, maybe curiosity, maybe seeking knowledge, but we did it. I was surprised about the stories. I didn’t expect so many similarities between the two books. Even though in theory I know that all religious books are based on the same values (e.g. stealing is bad, etc.), I never really thought about it in practice. I felt that we focus so much on the religion’s teachings themselves that we forget why we follow them. We forget that God knows what is in our heart. We forget the beauty that God feels us all day every day. That I don’t need to be in the Masjid or in the Church to hear from God. We focus on the symbols and forget their meaning. We care to display the rosary hanging in our car or the cross around our neck to show our faith, but we forget that faith is in the heart, and we don’t need to show it. I do believe in God, regardless that I can’t always obey Him or that I don’t cover my hair.
Maybe I am just still looking for answers that satisfy me, that will make me more convinced. But I think as long as we are looking for answers, it means that we have faith, that we want to get one step closer to God. We refuse to accept religious teachings just the way they are without asking for a reason, not because we doubt God, but because we want to appreciate His wisdom and reasoning. We are seeking the truth in Godâ€™s path, regardless of the way that we get there. Maybe the route is the specific religion that you follow, but at the end we are all seeking the same destination: Godâ€™s Kingdom.
Losing Faith I was a devout believer in God Almighty when I was young. during my dark days, I realized that no God comes to help. In fact, religion exacerbated my situation further. It made me feel like a degenerate and promised me hellfire, not knowing or acknowledging the nuances in mental health and the realities of life. I also realised that prayers were, at best, a form of meditation, if not completely futile. So, I left religion and began on a journey towards reason, research, and testing of ideas. This made me flexible and open-minded towards other people and their circumstances. An open mind and the willingness to challenge the validity or usefulness of ANY idea or belief is essential for growth. Doubt and investigation move humanity forward, so we should be brave enough to give dissent a chance. That said, the feeling that someone is out there ready to support me is often missed. I miss my friend, with whom I used to speak with and have conversations in my head. That feeling of comfort and consolation, knowing that someone is watching over me and that I would always receive justice in the end, was very calming. Itâ€™s truly beautiful to have a custodian who has your back no matter what and is infinitely powerful. Life without him is sometimes confusing, pointless, and hopeless. I guess I shall return someday, I never know, and make a fractured mind whole!
Why Am I Here? You might be wondering why I’m lying in my bed four in the morning typing this while everyone is sound asleep, drifting through their dreams. Well, a question has drained the sleep from my eyes and kept me thinking all night. It’s leaving me questioning my existence and purpose. I’ll start to jot down my thoughts hopefully to get an answer as I go. All I know is that I am meant to be right here, right now. We all are. I’m certain of it because I’ve had so many near death experiences in my life that you’d be wondering how in the world I’m still alive today typing this. If God didn’t take my life then, that means I still have a purpose to accomplish later in life. I believe everything is meant to happen for a reason we don’t know of. I believe we all are capable of making a change in this world, but it is we who make the choice to. I also believe you and I are connected to the 7.5 billion other lives in this universe somehow, and so are they to us. We are all part of a larger picture. An extraordinary canvas, where every stroke is an achievement, a goal accomplished, and a new door opened for our opportunities. Bad things somehow find a route into our lives and upon them we might lose ourselves. People might have visualized me as a brittle vase that simply shatters once mishandled like any other. Yes, I might have been broken several times, but that isn’t what I see. I see a vase that stands rigid holding high flourishing flowers that beautify its glued cracks, my scars. I’m not ashamed of wearing my scars and cracks on my sleeves for the whole world to see, because I see them as a constant reminder of the battles I have encountered and conquered; I see them as evidence of how strong of a person I have become and ought to be. I am here to show off my scars to the world and show them how it’s okay to stand up again. Sometimes we must tolerate the bitter taste of pain to truly enjoy the taste of victory later on. I want to help the ones who have lost themselves on the winding roads of life, collect their shattered pieces, and glue them back together firmly. I want to help them stand tall once again and reclaim the beauty and success they have lost. I want to be the one who would hold their pieces in place as they adjust and dry. I want to be the air, sun and water that their flowers need to nourish and grow. I want to be the one that would plant a new flower whenever one wilted, and to keep the vase far from the edge. I believe I can be that supporter, and that’s why I am here. I want to make others believe that they are capable of doing the impossible even if it takes them a lifetime, because I believe everyone can contribute in making a change in this world, a change for the better. I take a sip from the bottled orange juice lying by my side for nearly an hour now, to quench my thirst. I haven’t had orange juice for so long. The acidic flavour, mild now, barely tingling my tongue has brought up unforgiving memories. Two years ago, when the days stretched longer than the nights, the sun high up in the sky, I woke up to a throbbing pain in my upper abdomen. I 231
crouched to tame the pain that only seemed to worsen by the minute. A hollow feeling then developed in my stomach. My throat began to tighten. I could barely speak to call for help nor move a muscle. My body lifeless on my creaking bed, arms helpless at my side, I lay there quietly, as the pain slowly traveled through my veins poisoning every part of me. I kept patient until the sun went down and slept away the pain. With every sip I take now, the memories become much clearer. I remember I was taken to the hospital that night and was served a fresh cup of orange juice to help raise my low blood pressure, only to find me vomiting after the first sip. Multiple injections were given to me, leaving my body all patched up. I was fine. That’s what mattered. I woke up the next day to the same pain but with continuous vomiting. Unfortunately, this became my daily routine. I gradually lost my appetite, with it my mass, as the days stretched to weeks. I watched my limbs get weaker and slimmer with every sunrise and dawn. My hair thinning, my eyesight weakening, and my skin becoming pale and dry, as the days went by. By the first three weeks I had lost around 30% of my body mass. I was no longer the pretty fit girl I used to be. My schedule was filled with continuous dietician appointments instead of my usual daily workouts. For such a sudden weight loss, my scrawny figure seemed to make people all around me think they had the right to comment on my body. They treated me as if I needed their mental support when their lectures about beauty standards and having to stand their disturbing mentalities made me feel even worse. A day wouldn’t pass without me hearing a single joke about my skeletal figure. I was called ugly, a stick figure, a “boy” and so many more, that would tear my heart apart. They supposed I was anorexic or bulimic, and lost my weight intentionally, when all I was going through was the toughest time of my life. They’d say “just simply eat” as if it was the easiest thing to do. They didn’t know how hard it was for me to eat a meal without forcing myself not to vomit, despite the pain I would go through. They weren’t aware of my daily breakdowns every night in front of the mirror when everyone slept in peace. As time passed I realised my inner beauty and learnt to ignore the comments I got as I walked down the streets and even from my loved ones. I ignored my useless appointments with my dietician and made my own routine to follow, successfully gaining a few pounds this time. The pain started to wear off as I fought it. I would lose and gain weight continuously but with every time I grew stronger, and the pain became weaker. I now acknowledge the strength I’ve gained, and I appreciate it and will continue to be proud of myself for what I have gone through and for what I’m still fighting for. Maybe that’s why I’m here, to stand by the ones who feel weak and help them acknowledge that what they think makes them weak actually is what strengthens them. I’m here to stand by them, because that’s exactly what I would have wanted: someone to stand by me. I want to be a role model and inspire others to never give up on their dreams and do the right thing even if they’re on their own, because I believe every small 232
act can make a huge difference in the long-term. An example is the beautiful story of Jadev Payeng, a man who planted a single tree every day in a barren landscape for thirty-seven years since 1979. Now the once barren land is a flourishing forest, a home to elephants, rhinos, tigers and deer, a ‘true tropical paradise.’ You might live to witness the change you made like Payeng or maybe you never do, but no matter what, you will always be remembered for your good deeds. You will be an inspiration to others! That is who I want to be and that is why I am here. References “Clifton Strengths Finder Theme: Connectedness.” Clifton Strengths, news. gallup.com/businessjournal/649/connectedness.aspx. Accessed August 2017 PsychologyDoc. “Man plants a tree in the same place every day — 37 years later, the world is amazed by the result” Twitter, 17 August. 2017, 11:4 5 p.m., twitter.com/psychologydoc/status/898284681799520256
JAAFAR AL KHUZAEI
This piece was my cover letter for my midterm portfolio in my ENGL 104 class. I decided that I wanted to describe my thoughts in the best way I could. More often than not, we forget that we actually think and we, as humans, often find ourselves doing, working and learning but not noticing how we do it.
The Stream of My Consciousness My reading voice is a shape shifter; I constantly hear different voices in my head changing tones and frequencies, some loud and boisterous, while others are timid and low as whispers. When I read a story I hear the narration with what I expect the character to sound like; sometimes it’s a raspy cowboy’s voice, and other times it sounds like a high-pitched kid’s vocals. The punctuation and how words are written dictates how I read. If I see a fully capitalized word, I hear a penetrating shriek or a loud booming voice. It is odd that the voices I hear inside my head are never truly mine; it makes me wonder whose voice is that. Are the voices trapped inside my head ones I heard before and are contained in my memory only to be constantly replayed as fictional character voices? Or are they sounds I made up from expectations I have of characters? What is even stranger is my writing voice. Unlike my reading voice, I hear only two people constantly bickering: one providing content while the other critiques the first in everything from grammar to logistics. Although I may have two voices battling for dominance while I write, my writing voice is more passive and unemotional than my reading voice. Regardless of which voice is stronger and louder in my head, I couldn’t live or imagine a world without these characters, these voices and critics inside of my head. It is the stream of my consciousness. Sometimes it’s faint and it ebbs away and comes back without me noticing it, while other days I can hear it loud and clear like when I am in an argument or solving a difficult exam question and overworking my brain. But it’s also an important factor that causes me to be who I am. My writing voices inside of my head help me make choices, decisions and affect everything I write, including this very sentence. Every person alive has different faces and personalities that they show only to specific people, but these changing thoughts we have are also different personalities that only we know about. There is no voice that I trust more than the voice I hear inside my head.
Fatima Jaafar Al Khuzaei is an 18-year-old mechanical engineering freshman at Texas A&M at Qatar. She finds inspiration and passion in art, design, and writing. 235
Bonsai “I see now that the circumstances of one’s birth are irrelevant. It is what you do with the gift of life that determines who you are.” I lived by this quote ever since I was three years old. I heard it someway somehow, the origins unknown, yet it stuck by till today. No one is born with a purpose; some feel like it’s a given that automatically there’s a place for them in the world. Little do they know, it needs to be found but more importantly earned. I always felt like the odd one out, the Taurus born into a family of Leos. A family where pride is everything, based on self-image and perfection. It was kind of hard to fit in when you didn’t meet your own household’s standards. I’ve always been very experimental with everything—from things I consumed to things I wore--even things as dumb as earrings, hair dye, etc. Which got me labeled fidgety, and as it progressed, rebellious. Just so this doesn’t become the story of only my life (as I hate writing about myself), let me throw in some famous examples: The Ugly Duckling, Quasimodo, Cinderella. All those classic clichés should give an idea of my situation. I viewed myself as a bonsai tree that only grew as far as the pot allowed. Give the seed a bigger pot, and all of a sudden you have a cherry blossom. That’s my situation. Except in this case, I’m obviously not a tree, and the pot is my dad’s grip around me. My dad suffers from OCD and due to his pride, he does not see it. “You can’t fix something you don’t believe you have,” is my dad’s philosophy, through my eyes at least. And that throws the whole balance into turmoil. What I’m trying to say is that because of his blindness towards his mental conditions, he expects everyone to change for him while he does not change for anyone else. My dad hasn’t changed for the past twenty years, according to my mom. “Don’t try and win a war you already lost, or better yet don’t start a war that someone else has already lost,” is what she told me. With no room to grow and find my purpose, I’ve been stunted my whole life. That’s just scratching the surface ‘cause with my dad’s shell on the outside comes my own pot on the inside, as I am still his son. And according to the fact of inheritance, I’ve been cursed with my own OCD inside me. Does that mean I’ll end up the same way? I don’t know as my purpose is yet to be found, and until I can grow outside my boundaries, I guess I’ll never learn.
Photo by Fatima Al-Janahi, Class of 2020
Stories that Stir the Imagination
I wrote this piece for my Literature and the Other Arts project in my first semester at TAMUQ. As a “bad” writer, writing a narrative for a final project is probably one of the worst ideas, yet I chose to do it. Writing is one of my weaknesses and is the most difficult thing for me to do. I am currently facing difficulty typing this and I’m deleting and adding words as I go through this for the fifth time now. I challenged myself to write such a piece to prove to myself and my high school English teacher (who constantly thought I deserved Cs) wrong. I gave so much time for this project and learnt a lot through its process. It took me about two weeks to write this piece. The final narrative might not be perfect yet, but I am honestly proud of how it turned out. This is my first time to write a “proper” narrative and share it with others. I might not be a good writer yet, but today I feel more confident with my writing and believe that with more practice and drafts, I will eventually become one.
Finding Utopia Peeking through her wooden bedroom’s door slit with watery blue eyes, Khayal looked beyond the dark hall into the only lit room of the house where her parents were arguing. Her mother had her arms crossed and stood in front of the television blocking her father’s view as he continued changing the channels to avoid the quarrel. Fed up with his wife’s attacks, he slammed the table in front of him so hard that he broke the remote in his hand. Khayal felt her heart stop for a moment. Her steel blue eyes fixed on the broken remote and a quick shiver went through her petite body. A wrinkly hand caressed Khayal’s shoulder. It was her grandfather who had been living with them ever since he was diagnosed with cancer. He closed the door of her bedroom and pulled out a small storybook from behind his back. He wiped her tears, sat by her bed, and began reading her a story like he always did whenever he visited. Her grandfather’s hair was winter white, as soft as snow. At least that’s what she thought snow was like, since it barely even rained in her town. She inherited her love of books and adventure from him. She loved to listen to his adventurous stories when he was young, her favorite story being when he encountered a talking dodo bird in a forbidden forest. No one believed his stories except for Khayal since she always believed in the presence of magic. Her only friends in this small town of hers were her grandfather and the old and heavy television in the living room. They were her only eyes to the mysterious wonders of the world around her. She had never left her small town, so small that they only had one school, one supermarket, and a small hospital. Walking was the main transportation since cars were not only expensive but mostly used to get essentials from other nearby towns. At school, they taught her how to differentiate between letters when she already knew how to write full sentences since she was five. Her grandfather had taught her. In a fragile tone, he began to read the first sentences of the storybook, his voice too weak to overcome the loud shouts coming from the living room. Khayal joined her grandfather’s reading until she fell asleep. Nights passed and Khayal’s grandfather’s voice weakened as her parents’ shouts grew larger and larger. Not even both her and her grandfather’s voices combined could distract from the yells of her parents. Soon her grandfather became too weak and was hospitalized. The next few nights were the hardest on Khayal since she didn’t have her grandfather by her side to help her forget the pain that began to grow its roots within her. When Khayal visited her grandfather, she begged her parents to spend the night in the hospital by him. Unfortunately, they refused since her grandfather was too sick. Her grandfather knew her better than anyone else, so before she left, he got a rusted book from behind his pillow and gave it to her. In his fragile but calming voice, he whispered, “Read it whenever you’re sad.” She smiled, held the book close to her and left with her parents. 241
At home, her parents fought once again. Khayal felt a burning sensation in her chest, so intense that it felt like it could burn her floral pajama. She remembered her grandfather’s words, “Read it whenever you’re sad,” so she picked up the worn-out book and blew off the dust. The pages inside the book were nothing like its moth-eaten cover. They looked newly painted; they were golden. As she read, a cold breeze blew through each of her long dark braids. She turned her head towards the window, at least where it was supposed to be, and suddenly found herself sitting on top of a white blanket of snow, no sign of her usual home. The sun’s rays danced on the crystal sheets before her to the tune of the breeze brushing through the white-coated trees. The trees seemed to have grown from beneath the place where her shelves once stood. A tingly feeling rushed through her fingertips as she touched the ice for the first time. It was soft, she thought. She sat quietly observing her surrounding despite the freezing weather. Crack! A sound came from behind the trees, followed by a yell. Khayal got up to seek the source of the sound. Her bare feet sank into the cold snow with every step she took. Another yell was heard. As she got closer, the voices became clearer, but there was no sign of anyone. She wandered through the naked trees with her arms around herself, comforting her along the way. She heard the yells once again, and this time she walked at a faster pace to get at least a glimpse. Near a bush, she caught movement. She stopped, took a deep breath, then continued her way towards it. She lifted a branch and took a peek through the bushes near where the voices seemed to have come from. She froze. Her eyes shifted from right to left, as the two fought in front of her. It was no human, but a fox and an opossum. She couldn’t take her eyes off their mouths. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Could animals talk? How so? She took a step back, breaking a twig and grabbing their attention. They slowly got closer to the bush and Khayal’s heart was racing. “Hi, I’m the fox,” said the little fox. “How can you speak?” Khayal muttered. The fox simply looked at the book in Khayal’s hand, answering her question. “That book is magical” added the opossum. “I can’t believe my eyes,” she replied. “Let’s take you on a tour, and explain everything to you,” said the fox, jumping from side to side. Khayal had no other choice and followed the two. Everything seemed to be real about the place, except the animals. She never saw such talking creatures on the animal channel. The trip went on for an hour until Khayal felt like she had learned every detail about the place. She visited the great tree first, the only tree that blossomed all year round, its leaves unaffected by the cold weather. She felt warm near it, so she hugged its huge trunk to warm her core. 242
“Sorry, I forgot that humans don’t have fur; eat this,” said the opossum handing her a leaf from the mounting tree. Despite its plain taste, she no longer felt the winter’s curse on her. The great tree was the animals’ gathering point to resolve any problems they faced and to keep the world in a better state. Then they visited the abandoned well where all the pain sank to its bottom. There she asked why the two animals fought earlier. “We always fight, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love each other,” said the fox smiling to her friend, the opossum. Her words calmed Khayal’s heart. The tour ended at the frozen lake. There Khayal met Mr. Beaver, a gigantic creature who wore a tiny hat. Mr. Beaver was devastated for his dam had broken down, so Khayal offered to help him repair it, and the fox and the opossum joined. When they were done with his dam, they played chess and other board games. The sky started to get darker and Khayal began to yawn. It was time for her to leave. “Just turn to the first page; it’s always the way back,” said Mr. Beaver. She began to read the first sentences and suddenly she was on her bed again. The shelves were there, and so was the window. She couldn’t believe what just happened, but she would have to wait until the next day to tell her parents since it was already midnight. For the first time in weeks, Khayal slept without feeling the need to cry. Khayal woke up at noon the next day, late for her first time. She had overslept after all the energy she deployed the day before. She was home alone since her parents were at work. Khayal was fine with being home alone since that’s how her weekends were usually spent in the daytime. She made herself a bowl of cereal and forced herself to watch the news since the remote was broken. She then skipped around the house and drew various drawings of her first adventure, so she could show her parents once they would come back at evening. At exactly six, Khayal’s mother walked in, an hour later than usual. Her mother would only be late if she went to get their favorite ground beef from the neighboring town, but Khayal didn’t see any plastic bags only messy folders stacked with papers. Khayal ran up to her mother to tell her all about her adventure in this new world she had visited, and how she met talking animals. Unfortunately, her mother wasn’t interested; she was too busy talking over the phone. She wasn’t talking to a friend or relative, but looked like she was talking about a serious matter as she circled around the living room with a still face, unlike her usual laughs. Once her mother noticed her presence, she ordered, “Just get my car keys,” and cut off the call. Little Khayal obeyed and went up to her mother’s room instantly. Searching through her mother’s drawer, looking for the car keys, she accidentally pulled out a paper with them. It read in dark bold letters: D- I- V- O- R- C- E. “Divorce?” she mumbled to herself the new word she had just encountered. She had never read it in her books nor heard it from the television. Khayal put the papers back and went back to her mother. As she handed her mother the car keys before she could even move her lips to ask her about the new word she had encountered, her mother rushed outside, slamming the door behind her. The door then opened again, with Khayal’s mother’s head at the side. “By the way 243
honey, it’s time for bed,” she said before slamming the door one more time. She had forgotten to kiss little Khayal’s forehead like every night. Khayal went up the stairs to her room and felt a weird sensation within her. Her heart felt torn apart. All the pain came back to her but in a different form. Everything had changed about her life. If only she could bring everything back together like it once was. If only she had the powers of the great tree. She sat on her bed and flipped through the golden pages of the magical book. Maybe going on an adventure would help her against the growing pain. She started reading another chapter. This time with every word she read she looked around her to see how it transported her. She felt the same tingly feeling in her fingertips and her closet doors suddenly opened a path for a river to stream through her room. Tall trees grew from beneath her, lifting her up towards the calm blue sky. Her room completely vanished. Mesmerized by the beautiful landscape ahead of her, she looked for any living creatures to guide her through the history of this new world. She climbed down the tree and wandered through the grassy hills. After walking for miles, she sat by a tree as she started to lose hope. “What makes you cry?” said a hoarse voice from up the tree. “It’s nothing.” “I’m the wise owl, I know everything! And I am sure you aren’t crying for fun.” “How do you know everything? How is that even possible?” “How is anything possible? You’re talking to an owl.” The owl flew down to where she sat. “Tell me, I might be able to help.” “Mr. Wise Owl, do you really know everything?” “Not necessarily everything.” “What does the word divorce mean?” “Well, divorce means when two people don’t love each other anymore, I suppose.” Khayal didn’t know how to react. “Thank you!” she replied. “Anytime Khayal…”
The throbbing pain in her heart made her excuse herself and turn to the first page of the book. She was back in her room. Khayal closed her book and went to the kitchen where her mother was preparing dinner. With her eyes on the floor, she asked “Mama?” “Yes, Khayal?” “Do you and Papa still love each other?” “Of course, we do. Why do you ask?” “I found a divorce paper in your purse the other day, and the wise owl told me that it means you don’t love each other anymore,” she said with a lump in her throat, “You and Papa,” she swallowed. “Listen honey, don’t you worry. It’s complicated. You’re too young to understand.” Khayal could see in her mother’s dull grey eyes that she was lying to her, but she chose not to mutter another word and left the kitchen quietly. She headed straight to her room and shut the door behind her softly. She wasn’t mad at her mother for lying nor was she sad about her parents’ trembling relationship; instead, she felt hollow. Her heart felt empty like the abandoned well, cold as the icicles that hung from the naked trees. It was the first time she ever felt like she had no feelings, yet she felt unreasonable pain. Like she was feeling nothing but everything at the same moment. The emptiness that ate through Khayal’s chest was so real it seemed almost palpable. The open wound in her chest seemed to grow bigger and bigger as she tried to hold the pain in. Too weak, it came out like an uproar from her throat in the form of a silent scream. Her dark lashes brimmed heavy with tears and left traces on her soft rosy cheeks like rain on a dusty window. She shut her eyes and pressed her ancient book as hard as she could against her chest to tame the muffled sobs trying to break free. The room seemed to lose its colors and melt into monotone grey. Her stuffed animals and dolls stared at poor Khayal who was lying by the door, immobilized by grief. She clenched her book with extra force in the thought that surrendering will take her life away. Slowly she was able to tame the pain within her and flipped through the pages of the now drenched book. At the end of the book, she found a page that was blank except for the tiny italicized note at the top left corner that made her eyes dilate in order to read it: “Create your own world.” The open wound in her chest seemed to heal. She ran to her little desk to grab something to write with. She wrote and wrote. She sat on her bed and began reading her piece of writing in the hopes her plan would work. As the words came out of her pouting lips, no trees grew from under the shelves nor did a river stream out of her closet, but the room filled in with color once again. 245
She heard a knock at the door. It was her grandfather holding a new book, and beyond him, her parents in each otherâ€™s arms once again.
Dana AlYafei is majoring in mechanical engineering. She is done with her freshman year at Texas A&M at Qatar. She enjoys trying new things and taking risks. 246
This piece is an homage to the American playwright Milton Geiger. The piece is a condensed version, shortened from the original work.
The Twilight Shore This is a story about a woman in a hospital having a baby in a world that frightens her and makes her fear for the future of her child. In the maternity room, the anesthetic becomes a rushing torrent in the woman’s senses, and there goes a conversation between the Woman, and Erda, the nurse. The Woman: I dream … the rushing in my mind changes … becomes the roar of an ocean surf. Erda: Welcome, woman The Woman: I do not know this place, or you! Erda: Call me what you will, call me life. The Woman: I hear a surf, and a bell at sea, so strange! Erda: These sands are strange indeed to you. Yet every woman born of woman walks these sands … alone. Come with me, woman … Come … The Woman: (Dazed) I am alone and lost. I must come … (The roar of the sea grows louder, and the tolling of the bell; slowly the whistle of the wind grows into a shrill, high blast) Erda: Stop, woman, and look where I point. The Woman: I see … a little boy, and a little girl. The boy is hurt, his knee is torn and bleeding -- but he does not cry Erda: Remember that The Woman: The girl bends over him … tears glisten in her eyes. Erda: Remember that (Her voice fades away; the wind rises to an even fiercer pitch; but then the Woman’s voice rises above it.) The Woman: Why? Erda: Come with me The Woman: I see a young man and a young woman … building something among the forbidden rocks. What are they building? Erda: It only matters that they do build. The Woman: See how they fight against the wind Erda: But they are greater than the wind The Woman: No … look! The framework bends … it cracks … it is going to fall! (Above the howling of the storm we hear the sound of timbers crunching and splintering. And now there is a terrific grinding and crashing; a final loud crash, and then a few feeble crepitations as the ruins settle.) The Woman: All their labor gone for dust and ruin! Erda: And yet I tell you they are greater than the wind … see how she comforts the man. 249
The Woman: Tears glisten in her eyes. Erda: Remember that they did The Woman: (Suddenly) it’s the same little girl, grown up … Erda: The same little boy, grown older … The Woman: But this is pitiless and cruel! Erda: It is life. See how he takes his hammer, and shakes it at the wind … Look again woman! (Now comes the sound of loud, boisterous, rough laughter--brutal and a bit imbecilic.) The Woman: I see a cave, a black and yellow cloud curls out of it … poisonous … and deathly. I see some brute in a bloodied armor … coming from the cave … a man … monstrous … a thing … No! Erda: Stay, woman. The Woman: Why does he shake his chains at me … why does he crack and whistle his whip at me? Erda: Not at you, woman – but at your child The Woman: I’m afraid of him Erda: He is fear The Woman: I hate him Erda: He is hate. The Woman: He wreaks, I will not stand him Erda: He is prejudice, he is life with shame and death with dishonor, he is slavery and tyranny, he is war. The Woman: He is all … evil Erda: But all is not evil The Woman: He … is the world … he … is the desolation … and the death. Erda: Then where is he resurrection and the life? The Woman: (Firmly) There will be no child. Erda: Come with me … (Gradually the woman’s sobs cease; then, once more, the surf pounds endlessly on the shore, the bell-buoy tolls, far out.) The Woman: This is the sea again … now there are sails upon the water. Why are they so still? The wind is fresh and blows upon us from the sea … why are they still? Erda: Forever silent and becalmed upon a windy sea, those ships. The Woman: I see one ship that moves, all sails spread Erda: A shrouded figure in her bows The Woman: Holding something in her arm Erda: As if … for you to take? The Woman: (Struggling with herself, but firm) No. Erda: Your child! The Woman: (In sudden determination) I will not have him 250
Erda: Life could be sweet for him The Woman: Life is bitter and cruel Erda: Life is divine The Woman: Meaningless … a grim and savage trick. I saw torment and pain for my son. I saw futility and horror and disaster. Erda: And you saw tears that wept for him. The Woman: I saw the world as aimless for my son to destroy him to the soul, and I will not have him. Erda: The ship is beached, woman. Choose, or that ship returns to join that fleet upon the sorry waters, the fleet of small souls drifting unwanted down eternity. The Woman: Oh, where is the sun? Erda: The wind is rising and the sea begins to moan. The sun is sunk and scudding clouds close in final judgment. Choose, woman … before the ocean and the night take your child. The Woman: Hail Mary full of grace. Erda: For the last time woman … will you take your sun … will you take your sun? (Her voice is deep with finality. The baby begins to cry in muffled, choked tones, gaspingly. The wind rises mournfully. The tolling of the distant bell grows louder and louder. Then it fades, leaving only the gasping, crowing crying of the infant, alone in the silence. A door opens and closes--and a nurse speaks, genially.) Erda: Well … are you awake? The Woman: Yes nurse … I am awake Erda: You have a wonderful baby boy. The Woman: A baby boy! Erda: Would you like to see him now … will you take your son? (There is a kind of triumph and exaltation in her voice as she holds her arms out toward the nurse) The Woman: Oh … oh yes … give me my son!
Saeed Ali Binnoora is an electrical engineering senior. 251
M.A.D. - Mutually Assured Destruction Heaven, that is who you are. The answer to my lifeâ€™s prayer, my death and beginning, us. Passion, a searing wildfire to every particle of my being; a drop of water to quench a lifetimeâ€™s unfulfilled thirst. Glass half empty finally filled. Glass half full, emptied at last. A single word, my be all or end all. A touch, an explosion of color to the blind. A whisper, the music of clarity in insanity. A peek, and for once, I know my life is real and a dream. For to live without is to simply exist. No win or lose, risk or reward, love or Pain, only a never-ending wait. Misunderstood, our reasons to be three words enough what a fool believes.
Oh, so many names I have had. Fate’s Fool; Choice’s Slave; Destiny’s Devotee; Chance’s Charlatan; and Change’s Only Constant. Hell is where I was. Paradise, what we’ll be. An opportunity is all I ask; to let go; to feel complete; to madly fall, I beg of you. For to refuse is to ensure… our Mutually Assured Destruction.
AHMED AL EMADI
I wrote this story because many people think that they canâ€™t achieve their dreams. I know it might seem ridiculous, but I was one of them. Then I understood that anyone can do anything they want in life, all they need is just to believe in themselves. The purpose of writing this piece is to share this understanding with everyone, and to help them believe in themselves. I hope this message reaches many people, because I believe itâ€™s the most important lesson I have learned in my life.
True Side It is the middle of a rainy dark night. “Dana, there is a black cloud in your life; you have to clear it,” the voice said in the darkness. “What? what do you mean?” Dana said looking around. “You have to go to this location,” a tall guy appearing in front of her handed her a note with a location in a rural place. “What is this?” “Just go.” In a sudden move, with the sound of thunder Craaaaashh!!, she sat up from her bed as fast as the breath she just took. She breathed heavily feeling the sweat on her forehead. She sat confused as to what the dream meant. She guessed it was a sign for something bad in her life. She felt herself walking to the door of her bedroom as if someone was forcing her. She stole the key of her father’s car from his pocket, running quickly before anyone could see her. She turned on the car and heard the sound of the engine start. She drove all the way to the location the tall guy gave her in the dream. Why should I trust a guy in a dream? She wondered. But she did. Dana looked around in a bit of horror at the abandoned house as she hadn’t expected this! There’s no way I’m going in there. “You’re sure you want to do that?” a familiar voice said from behind her. She turned around to be met with the tall man from the darkness. “Wait, how did you do that?” she asked. “Do what?” “Appear in my dreams and be real?” “I’m here to help you see who you truly are,” the guy said stepping forward. “And how is that?” she asked, taking a step backward. “All you have to do is walk through that door,” he said pointing at the door to the abandoned house, “and you’ll figure it all by yourself.” Without saying another word, she walked to the huge broken door wondering if she should risk her life or not. She turned around to check on the tall guy, but he wasn’t there. She turned back to the door, turning the rusted metal knob, 257
slowly pushing the door. She opened the heavy door and noticed a long hall. She started walking till she reached the end of the hall and saw another door but this time it was a bit new. It was locked! Dana turned around and she saw that the hall disappeared. She laid down on the floor and wanted to scream and cry. Why do I want to know the truth about me? I’m happy like this. Then something shiny beside the carpet caught her eyes. She stopped crying and crawled towards it. When Dana got closer, she suspected it was the key for the door. She got up and ran quickly to the door, trying to open it while her hands were shaking. Again. Nothing except darkness! Dana walked further . She shouted back as she heard a loud bang and then realized the door wasn’t there! It was replaced with a mirror. She looked next to that mirror and saw another mirror. Mirrors surrounded her, covering the whole room. Her eyes were caught by someone standing beside her in the mirror. She turned to her side finding no one beside her, then she freaked out and turned to the mirrors to see the same person standing beside her. “Hello there,” someone said. “What’s happening? Who are you?” Dana said. “I’m you from the other side” “What other side?” “The underworld. We save people from their futures by telling who they really are and who they will grow to be,” Dana-from-the-other-side explained, walking around inside the mirrors, making Dana’s eyes follow her. “How can you tell their futures?” Dana asked. “It’s what we do, it’s our superpower.” Oh ya!! That’s really awesome, Dana was about to laugh at herself for wasting her time doing useless things. “So, what are your goals for the future?” “To finish studying and get a job,” Dana answered. “That’s all?” “Yeah...” “Don’t you think it’s better to think beyond?” “Like what?” 258
“Like to do something for your country, your family’s name or your name at least?” “There’s a lot of other people smarter than me who can do that,” Dana said. “This sentence will ruin your future! Why are you depending on the other people, when you can do it yourself?” “Because I know myself; I’m not smart enough and I’m not responsible enough.” “Why? Don’t you believe in yourself? You’re not confident? You’re not independent?” Dana couldn’t answer. “See that’s the problem here, you don’t have the confidence in yourself, so you think that you won’t do anything that anyone would appreciate. You think that you will work hard on something and then it will go to waste. And that way of thinking is wrong; everything you do in your life, you will gain experience, either bad or good, and you need to learn to believe in yourself, because that will lead you to do something big for you or your country.” “So, you’re saying being confident could lead me to a bright future?” Dana asked. “Exactly! Plus it will make you do the things that you love.” “Like serving my country. How do I become confident?” “This part is on you now, Dana. You will have to count on yourself,” the other Dana said, disappearing into darkness and leaving Dana astonished by what she heard. Every mirror around Dana holds a story. She walks by them, seeing herself in the future. Her friends will change, her life will change. She could grow up without improving her skills or changing her thinking of how smart and valuable she is. In this mirror, Dana can see herself compared to her friends and how successful they are, while she is not working on herself. But then she remembers the lesson from the dream: No one will help me improve myself in this life except me. Nobody will stay the same, everybody will change some day. That is the truth! After this day, Dana started working on raising herself up to become something really successful. She also decided to make a plan to help her country too. Dana began working hard to achieve her life goals.
She changed her entire lifestyle. Now she wakes ups every morning at 7am, goes for a morning run, and comes back for breakfast. She spends her entire morning working and learning new things. Now she can’t put her head on the pillow unless she has done something productive in her day. One year later... In a very dark room, a light appears underneath a door which makes Dana curious to find out where this light is coming from. She walks slowly with confidence toward the door. The door opens by itself, making her freeze on the steps when she sees herself in front of her standing inside the room calling, “Dana.” She enters the room surprised to see other versions of her. Dana looks at them closely, realizing that she is seeing herself in stages of development as she has moved toward success this past year. As she turns, observing yet another phase of her development, she sees him again… the Tall Man. He shows her how impressed he is with the changes she has made by saying, “I don’t think you need me anymore, Dana! I am sure you have found yourself.” “Yes, she replies, “I have come to realize that the only one I need to make myself a better person is me.” Dana woke up happier than ever. And this is how Dana became a successful person in regards to her education, lifestyle, and choosing the right path in her life.
Njoud Al-Emadi studies mechanical engineering at Texas A&M at Qatar. Unlike many others published in this volume, Njoud claims to totally hate writing. In fact, she compares having a test in writing to “carrying a mountain on her shoulders.” However, in the past year she realized that the writing she had hated was “fake” as it required following certain steps to reach the same point at the end. What she learned is that the best she could ever write is writing about something she loves. She believes that in the past three months, she wrote more than what she had written in her entire educational career. Her college composition course made her understand many things about good writing such as using it to discover herself and to express and describe her feelings and emotions. She believes that taking English 104 was the spark that started a great fire in her that will last forever.
A videotape was left in a cold-dark room, for a depressed human who lived his life as a dead person and finally found his freedom in his grave. The grave he always wished to go to escaping from all miseries he faced. The grave was wider than peopleâ€™s hearts when it welcomed him.
التابوت )(The Grave ٌ ُ َ معلقة بها! فسالسل شوقي تذهب! بذاكرتك ال عندما تنتهي مِ ن رؤيةِ شريط حيايت ْ يا الداخل غرفتي الَ تمسحْ زواياها... َ ْ ياما َخ ْ دموع... جوة الغبار تلت هونت مصائب الدنيا وعتمة خفاياها... ْ الشوق... أحجي بلسان يرجف من بحضن املايض حناياها... لصفحات نامت ِ ْ ْ بانتظارك! بانتظارك! فأنا هنا الرحيل وإذا كانَ قطار ِ ال تطلعْ وتسد عليّة الضوة... أنا دونك عليل بال دوه... أسحب من ذكراي سحبة نفس غرقانْ ... ّ ْ بأنفاسك أشتم الهوى... وخليني ْ عدت سفانْ ... أنا ثقلن مجاديفي وبالبحر ما وال لقيت إنسان يغرس للخري النوة... وريته ما نوى الوقت يعاند والناس توجعني... ليش الدمع عاهد خدودي يمشون للموت سوى... وليش راحت أيامي بنفخة تراب... وإنداس عىل العشرة وظهري نلوى... أحس بردان ،بس ما برد جرحي... الليل شرب دم صبحي ويقيل ما أرتوى! كرهت الليل وطعم دمي... ومخديت وچرچفي مشبعة بهمي... أصبح بوجه القهر وألقاه بالليل يمي... 263
ْ ُ ُ يجمع بهِ أشالءَ جروحي تابوت دافئْ ! أمسيت ال أطلب أكرث من املتبعرثة! ٍ ْ ْ املوت... وشقد حلمت ببدلةِ وأيد بأيد لفراش اللحد يزفوين... ْ هوسة وهلهولة حزن وفراق... وبضحكة مبللة بالدموع يهنوين... عىل شدتهم إيل بيها شديت حزام... وعىل كل أفراحهم إيل بيها نسوين... عىل بيع سنني عمري بالتقسيط... وعىل أصغر املواقف إيل بيها رخصوين... إيل بخريي بنو جسر خاطر يعربون... مِ ن وصلوا طبقوا ماي وجههم وهدموين... أنا إيل مليت عمرهم شموع... وأنا إيل بالظلمة شمروين... أنا الظهرة أنكس ْر بطابوق القصور... وأنا لتاليها عىل الباب أنتظر خلوين... أنا األعمى الكان حلمه بس يشوف... ومن فتحت بسواد قلوبهم عموين... ّ قضيت العمر اسمعْ سوالفك يا بر ْد... وأنت بني عظامي مشقق هدومي... أنداس... تعب! ماين بجسر خاطر يا دنيا بسچ ْ ْ ترجموين... شيطان وال أنا يا ناس ْ ٍ كل هذا بس ألين حبيت عيشة الطري؟ خلوين عىل الشجر موب الزم تسجنوين... 264
...جفيتوا جفوين من كانت مفتحات الجفون ...بجفاكم أرتاحت عيني من ثقل جفوين ّ يا قلب ...خلني مللملك جنطة الدقات ...وأخذ دموع الوداع وأرحل بدوين ...صح ما صار وقت املوت ...بس الناس قبل يومي موتوين
Ahmed Al-Nowfal Al-Tamimi is a mechanical engineering student who is originally from Iraq. He has lived in many countries. Syria was the last country he lived in before he came to Qatar. Ahmed is currently a student at Texas A&M at Qatar, Class of 2019. He is a street fighter, a goalkeeper, a designer, and a poet. Ahmed is very passionate about politics. 265
Stories that Link Us to Each Other
Photo by Husnain Manzoor, Class of 2018
MOHAMED AL BALUSHI
The Hardest Battle Sometimes is the One Within The year was 2012. I remember what it was like being depressed at the age of 17. I had just begun my university studies when I felt lost, angry, confused. Angry at the world, angry with everyone and everything, but most importantly angry with myself. For something like this was new to me, all of it. Fast-forward two years later, I was no better than I was when I stepped in to Texas A&M for the very first time, in fact, worse. I still recall the distant unrelated laughter and joy of those around me while I sat there, contemplating the situation I was in. I remember what it was like when I dropped almost every course I was enrolled in because my depression affected every single aspect of my life. I also remember what it was like waking up this one morning in 2015, when all I could do was stare at the ceiling, unable to move my 132-kilogram body. I remember it perfectly. After what seemed like hours on end, I finally got up. I opened my email and there it was – a letter saying that my ticket into a course I’d worked so hard to earn the right to waiver into, was no longer within reach. As if that wasn’t enough, I later learned that the individual who made that call didn’t do it because there were no grounds to my request, but rather because I was “a liability to the image of the program I was a part of.” The next few weeks would determine what the future would hold for me, as the prospect of running away from such troubles loomed larger than ever before. My parents, whom I convinced myself at the time that their disapproval of what had unfolded wasn’t affecting me when it was all I could think of, needed no invitation to entertain the thought of me heading back to Muscat - possibly to resume studies at Sultan Qaboos University or GU Tech. I couldn’t blame them for attempting to put those options on the table, however, for they knew exactly how I felt about Oman. It was the one place on God’s green earth that oozed a charming simplicity like no other. Studies would come easy, life would be simple, and everything would make sense again. I found myself having to face the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my short lifetime. Either throw in the towel and pack it all in, or live to fight another day. The only reason I’m able to share my story with you all now is because I chose the latter. While I am always cautious about claiming that I can relate to everyone when each of us has his or her unique story, I will say this: I’ve had times where I finished a semester with a mere two credits. I’ve also had times where I walked up that glittering podium and shook the Dean’s hand as he congratulated me for earning a 4.0. This is the story of a man who chose persistence over surrender, commitment over deficiency. For being an Aggie to me is more than just adhering to the core values that bind us. It’s about having that strength of character and courage to 269
reach out, leave a long-lasting impact on those around you, and not be afraid turn your life around when no one else believes in your ability to do so, not least yourself. Throughout my time at A&M I’ve experienced the highs and lows. At the end of it all though, I was able to shed over half my weight, served as president of one of this university’s biggest organizations, went from being the student no one wanted to teach to a research assistant, peer tutor and course grader. And now, three years after that cold winter morning, not only am I no longer a liability, I am a lead ambassador of the very program I was once deemed not good enough to be a part of. How did I do it? I realized that the only comparison you should be making is comparing yourself to the person who you were before. For that and everything I’ve managed to achieve, I will always be grateful, and as I prepare to graduate in a month’s time, I will never forget the adversities I had to face in my quest to find who I truly was. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what I believe to be the embodiment of a truly great Aggie story.
This is a letter to my Physics professor Dr. Othmane Bouhali, as a farewell since I am graduating this May. I chose to publish this letter so other people can read it and for him to get the appreciation. Also I want him to see it when I am no longer in the university. I wrote it in one sitting while thinking about all of the great things that I am thankful for.
Dear Dr. Bouhali, You have taught me Physics 218 in my freshman year, Physics 222 in my junior year, and Physics 491 in my final semester. In the past three years, you have been continuously proving to me how much of an amazing teacher you are. You really care about your students and their learning process. So I wanted to show my gratitude with this letter. During Physics 218, I was struggling with understanding the material, and I was not getting the grades that I was hoping for. I felt discouraged at the beginning, but upon going to your office with my concerns, you told me that I was a good student and that the grades I got did not define me. You probably never knew how much your words helped me believe in myself. I ended up succeeding in your course as well as other courses that I was taking at the time. You always made time for students even if the time was outside of your office hours. When I had an excuse that forced me to miss two of your Physics 222 lectures. I needed help in catching up with the other students, but I couldnâ€™t go to your office hours due to having a conflict with other courses. But, you made time for me to teach me everything I missed, and it allowed me to catch up with the others as if I never missed a single lecture. Your lectures were so interesting that I became sad when I had no choice but to skip. In addition, your teaching was so good that I sometimes forgot that Physics 222 was an 8am class. After finishing that course, I was determined to take a Physics minor and push for higher education in Physics. I have so much gratitude for you because you recommended that I apply for the summer internship program at CERN, since I would not have known about the program in the first place. Now that I have gone there, I have gained so much experience from that program and learned a lot. It made me more interested in research and opened a lot of opportunities for me. I am really grateful for your constant support and your care towards students. I will truly miss taking your classes and doing research with you when I graduate. You have been the best teacher that has taught me. I wish I can become like you one day. Thank you, Shaikha Saad Al-Qahtani
Dear Class of 2018 Our journey as undergraduate students has ended, but it only means a new beginning. It all started four years ago for me. I was recognized as Muneera’s or Hasnaa’s sister and sometimes even Abdulaziz’s sister. I didn’t consider it to be a negative aspect, because I love my siblings. But it made me feel pressured, as I had to meet expectations for how well they had done. There was even a time a professor asked me, “Are you as good as your sisters?” I took that as a challenge, so I replied, “I’m better,” which made him laugh, telling me that I can’t be better. And so I decided to prove him wrong. I wanted to set a name for myself and raise the bar even higher for my younger siblings, but it was easier said than done. Freshman year, I failed a quiz. This shocked me at the time because I had never failed before in my life, and I didn’t see it coming. But now that I look back, I’m glad I failed that quiz, because it was a wake-up call. Sometime, we need something to pull us back a little so we can be flung forward with much greater force. I realized that university is not like high school! And so, I took extra care, and I studied really hard for what came my way. However, that didn’t work, until one day, my math professor Miss Raelene told me, “Work smart, and don’t work hard.” I did not understand what she had meant, until I started applying it in my studies and somehow, I got the hang of it. Regardless, the obstacles that come our way never end, it’s what makes us stronger. For me, freshman year in general was the biggest obstacle. It’s because starting new things means you’ll deal with the “unknown” which is exactly what we seniors are facing right now. With time passing, workload increased and so did the sleepless nights. But now that I am standing here, I can finally say, it was all worth it. Good people make long journeys short. My classmates and all of the electrical faculty and staff have been great. Especially engineers Wesam and Adel who stayed late in the lab outside of their working hours just so seniors could work on their senior design projects. I cannot thank them enough since we had a sudden change in the senior design demo day. It was pushed ahead by one week, so seniors needed every second in the lab to finalize their projects. Despite the sudden change, the ECEN students did not disappoint; in fact everyone killed it during the demo day. To all of my ECEN classmates, I am proud of every one of you. I will miss all of you especially the background noises you make during classes. All in all, I learned and gained so much in this four-year-long journey. And so, I would like to thank Abdulaziz, my brother, for waiting for me so we can graduate together and have extra tickets to graduation. Really, you have been the best driver. You make the one hour drive every day from Al-Khor enjoyable. You have been my best friend in this journey, and I’ll miss taking classes and studying with you. Finally, I want to say congratulations to all of the graduates of 2018—we finally made it!!! 274
Shaikha Saad Al-Qahtani has minors in math and physics. She decided to join Texas A&M at Qatar when she saw her sisters graduate. As she approached her graduation date, she realized that she does not want to leave. So she decided to submit a piece to Best Writing in order to leave something from her in the university. 275
Dear Student, When you get admission, you are greeted with a congratulations letter and all sorts of A&M merchandise. However, I feel that a cautionary letter is missing from this portfolio to round your experience at college, so I am here to fulfill that role. I hope you are excited and happy about your journey into the demanding world of engineering. I hope you have brought good habits from your previous activities and endeavors because let me tell you---wasted youth and talent are perhaps the biggest disappointment I have seen. And yet it is not uncommon. I also hope you are more mature, wise and humble than I was when I joined TAMUQ and will tackle your coursework more nimbly. If you are, then congratulations and have fun. However, every once in a while, a student perhaps lost or unsure comes along who is trusted with the burden of engineering and floats randomly in this ocean with nay but a clue of what life holds for him or her. I don’t know if anyone will make as many mistakes as I did as an undergrad, but just in case, listen up. Below are a few misconceptions I held as an undergraduate, and I urge you to try to avoid these pitfalls so that you are not as sad on graduation and remorseful afterwards as I was. 1. My GPA doesn’t matter. It is just a number. A LOT of people will tell you this. Some of them to boost your morale, others to make you complacent, and still others to mask their gigantic inner nerd, but make no mistake: as a student, THIS IS YOUR BREAD AND BUTTER. No matter WHAT you want to do later on (whether or not it is engineering), a low GPA will cut you off at the kneecaps and life from there will be uphill, unless by a twist of fate, you win the lottery or get cast in the next Netflix hit. So, make sure you fight for it with your life and defend it at all costs. 2. I’m too talented for this place. Yes you are. However, remember point 1. If you can maintain a good academic record, feel free to tell yourself this all-day long. Yourself being the key word there. Professors, peers and staff may not like this. You do not want to cross them for you never know what favor might be required of them. And really, do you want to be remembered as the guy/gal who had their nose firmly in the air? So, act humble and you will make a lot of great friends and good memories, especially if you are the talented and cool person you think you are. 3. Professors are mere mortals. Actually, professors are Gods who hold your future in their hands, so show them the respect they deserve. They are understanding if you approach them with your problems in a timely manner and plead in a tactful, reasonable way. You 277
will eventually need references from them, so try to make the best impression. And obviously, seek academic help from them. They have a Ph.D. and are willing to help. 4. I’ll go home and study. No you won’t. If you can’t do it in the library or with your group, there is no way you are doing it from the comfort of your home or dorm room. Stay on campus from before your first class to well after your last and complete work in the middle. This is KEY. Do not procrastinate and seek a way out of there. Ask yourself, why am I not comfortable here? Am I shy? Is there a person I’m trying to avoid? Whatever the case may be, get it sorted out before the first month and you should be in good hands. “A wise person does at once, what a fool does at last. Both do the same thing; only at different times.”- Lord Acton 5. I can miss class and study from the text book. No, Dexter, you can’t! College is a different art form compared to high school. There are many texts to choose from and your professors can make up problems in class, which they will share with the students who attend. Often professors spell out what they will be giving in the exam because they think it is critical for you to learn. If you were not present, your long, tiresome, and lonely hours will be rewarded with a cold truth as you see your grades fleeting away on a problem you didn’t find anywhere in the text books. 6. I have health issues, but I will soldier on. If your health issues don’t disappear in two weeks or you find yourself incapacitated, seek help immediately and address your health issues before proceeding with studies. Your health is paramount. Do not sacrifice it for anything, not even academics. If you are in one piece, you can do well elsewhere. Value yourself and your life over everything else. Sleep well, eat well and exercise regularly. 7. If I go to the Professor or TA for help, they’ll think I’m a loser. Well, if you don’t, then you will receive horrible grades and they will think you’re a loser. Professors actually appreciate students who ask for help. It is very important to the future of engineering that you get out of this place with all the information you can get your hands on. 8. I can slack in freshman, sophomore years and pick up my GPA afterwards. Your GPA is always on a knife’s edge. Do not let things get bad before you try to pick it up. Try to build a solid foundation for your GPA in freshman, sophomore and junior years as senior year is for projects and teamwork. Examinations are usually out of your hands at this point, and you will need a good team to secure good grades.
9. I need to sacrifice my social/sports life so I can get better grades. Grades are just one component of your portfolio. I would HIGHLY encourage you to try and develop a level of participation in leadership, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities that is healthy and isnâ€™t too demanding. This will also provide a good break from your academics and keep your mind sharp. Remember the old saying: â€œA busy person has time for everything, but a lazy person has time for nothing.â€? So, become very fast in completing assignments and home works. Also, the probability of failure is directly proportional to the excuses accepted for it. And if you need references, professors look at your involvement in co-curricular activities. This pretty much sums up my mistakes in undergrad, so try not to go down any of those lanes. Apart from that, university is a great place to make friends, get to know professors and express yourself. If you interact with students from other campuses, you get an even broader exposure and will feel like you are in a university. Sincerely, A Wistful Student
First Week at TAMUQ Day 1: I entered Texas A&M Qatar for the first time to take a Math Placement exam. It was 9 in the morning, and I was still not fully awake. If you’re wondering, I hated how things began. I went back to my parent’s hotel that night, not really happy or sad. Day 2: My father helped me unpack into what they call “dorms” here when in fact they are no less than Five-Star hotel rooms. I started adjusting to the mixed education system. Back home, even though my family’s socio-economic background is not very conservative, my high school was boys only. I am a very open-minded Muslim who does not believe that studying with girls is “devilish.” I must admit however, that the change was a bit of a plunge. We were divided into groups for orientation games, and it took a day or two before I could ask a girl for a pencil or express openly my idea about how to make our group’s water-pumped rocket. When I came to Qatar for the first time the differences in countries wasn’t that big of an issue for me because I had twice been to Saudi Arabia (more conservative yes, but similar still). I found that the people here were really happy compared to those in Pakistan where I almost missed my flight due to political clashes and rioting. I didn’t miss my parents much because they were here for a week to “settle me in.” Day 3: I had no CLUE about credits nor add or drop Courses. I sat looking at Dr.Noack talk endlessly about classes and schedules and what not. In the end I just called an orientation leader and asked him to select any courses for me. Day 3 was by far the worst; I was panicking. Classes were full. My schedule was stupid, to be less rude. I waited for hours outside Ma’am Jowaher’s Office for her to make this fix or that. Orientation games continued but with the Add/Drop part of life, they weren’t as much fun. Day 4: I started meeting some really good people in the dorms; we laughed a little and ate a lot. Oh, and there was one thing about my first week: I loved getting the free food! It was everywhere; from the Subway sandwiches in the blue area to the buffet at the HBKU orientation. Day 5: I realized my Room (Karam 046) needed some serious cleaning so I pulled my sleeves up and threw away as many shopping bags as I could from my unpacking. Then I thought of getting some eatables into my fridge (that’s how basic instinct works right? shelter, food…?)
Day 6: I started missing daal chaawal (wet lentils and rice), a feeling I never thought I’d have because I detested daal. Day 7: I had my first gym workout at the Student Centre. Started feeling more acclimatized to Education City in general. This was when I began getting excited and motivated for classes. My first ever college Class was English 104. I am glad it was an antithesis of what sophomores had told me about it. I never imagined that as an Engineering Student, I would enjoy “finding my voice.” I looked at my English Teacher, then at the white board behind her and breathed some air into myself taking in the class “feel. “ As I breathed out , awfully drowsy at 8 AM, I thought to myself: “And so begins a marvelous chapter in life, irreplaceable and forever to remember.”
Getting Away My university experience started in one place, but it took me many places. The transformation to university wasn’t easy for me. I felt I had to make extra effort compared to other students. I never solved physics problems in my previous schools, and at university, I didn’t realize that things are un-clear. I struggled in my first years to achieve a balanced lifestyle. What I expected didn’t happen and what I imagined sometimes went worse. It was painful when I failed the chemistry test, when I hated my major for a while, when I wrote to discover myself, and when I worked hard but didn’t get what I deserved. Also, when I had to say goodbye to people leaving us in the middle of the journey or when it was almost ending; they left to tell us that nothing lasts and everything has an end. When I reached senior year, I thought things would go more smoothly. At the beginning of my senior year, I felt what I was trying to do wasn’t working, and I was starting to lose. Then a voice came out of me with some anger and fear, screaming to tell my teacher, “I give up” and the teacher trying to calm it down. It was a true feeling. I didn’t give up because my grade wasn’t good but because everything was going in a different direction and not as it should, and continued that way. Every way we pass through has it is own challenges that we have to face and endure; we have to create our own way and rhythm to achieve a harmony. University life took me through different stages; it took me away from some people and closer to others, it affected my health, it changed me, and it seemed like taking an adventure. Like speaking in front of an audience, traveling abroad in a different environment, sharing my writing with others, and doing research and internship while I still didn’t take enough major courses. I met people who changed and affected me, who were more than teachers. They believed in me and told me where to go when I felt lost. Engineering is a real challenge, and it requires determination to succeed. Engineering gives you the tools, as once my professor told me, it is a way of thinking. The challenge is to know how to use those tools for you to reach what you really want. We are the product of all the experiences we have undergone, and we emerge victorious or defeated or perhaps disappointed. All the rejections, which happened to the things that we wanted to occur, led us to reach what we are and led us from the beautiful to the more beautiful. All the obstacles, which made us fall and left a pain in us, told us about the ferocity of situations and life. We are the product of all the people we met, who moved our passion, saved us sometimes from our distress, and made us look at life differently. They made it clear to us what was difficult for us to see. We are the result of the disappointments, crises, difficulties, and challenges; all of this made us who we are and informed us of our weakness, needs, and strengths, and about who we truly are and what we can be. 285
The moment of graduation was one of the best moments I had in my life. I felt happiness, the joy of accomplishment, and the fruits of waiting. I had a desire to fly high to another world with other opportunities and open a new chapter in life. I felt ready to leave, to receive the diploma, to say goodbye, to take pictures, and to say thank you. The graduation moments are things I can’t forget nor those who shared them with me with a word, presence, encouragement, or a wish. I’m grateful for my experience at Texas A&M at Qatar, and for all the people that I have met—students, teachers, and workers. I’m grateful for my family for believing in me and supporting me through my university journey.
Photo by Saad Moazam, Class of 2019
Celebrating the Class of 2018
Texas A&M Engineering Building, Education City PO Box 23874, Doha, Qatar Tel: +974.4423.0010 Fax: +974.4423.0011 www.qatar.tamu.edu