Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Freedom Tower Age

The design for the new building that will be built in place of the World Trade Centers was revealed in the media today…the building is expected to be completed by the year 2010. It is being named “The Freedom Tower” and will be the tallest building in the world upon its completion…next to the building a memorial will be built commemorating all those who lost their lives to the terror attacks of 9/11. Click here for more details and here is a picture of the future building:

Now, when I read this piece of news an image flickered in my mind about what the world would be like in the summer of 2010 (or at least how I wish it would be like)…here is what I saw:

It is July 2010, the year the Freedom Tower has opened to the public, and among the many tourists traveling to New York City to marvel at the new building are many Iraqis who decided to escape Iraq’s summer heat and visit the Big Apple, the city that everyone talks about. At the same time, on the other side of the world, Iraq is seeing a large number of crowds like never before in the country’s history as many American tourists decided to take a vacation to the much talked about cultural and historical sites in Iraq that have only recently been restored and opened for tourism again.

Thus, simultaneously, as the Iraqi tourists are being amazed by the sight of the Freedom Tower and other skyscrapers that define NYC, American tourists are being fascinated by the gates of Babylon, the statue of the Winged Bull, and the many cultural centers and museums that once, not long ago, used to serve as palaces for the thugs who ruled the country.

This rush in tourism between the two countries is proving to the few skeptical people left around in the world that the war initiated 7 years ago has been won, and the experiment of Democracy in Iraq has proved to be successful. Iraqis have truly demonstrated to the world that they are a people of courage; their strong will and determination along with the help of their best ally, the U.S., have granted them their long-sought dream of a free country where peace roams around without being disturbed by terror and fear!

Sure there is still a lot more work to be done around the country in all aspects of life, but steady progress is being made daily. People have jobs. Profits are flowing into the country from the two main sources: oil and tourism. Above all, security has been established and there no longer exists fear of the kind people were experiencing several years ago. There is no longer fear of explosions from cars in public places; no longer fear of leaving ones home and not being able to make it back in one piece, no longer fear of having a random bullet strike the wrong person who happened to be standing at the wrong place in the wrong time. Iraqis have fought terror for a long time, and they were now reaping and enjoying the fruits of their long battle; and oh boy how good it tastes!

Now back to the present, 2005: some might criticize my vision above as being childish or unrealistic; they might say that I am just dreaming and it will never be like that. I am here to tell those people that without dreaming a person cannot achieve anything; dreams create ambitions, ambitions lead to motivation and hard work, which in turn lead to results. Furthermore, dreams give people hope, and the one very important thing that Iraqis need right now and should not give up on is HOPE…so, keep holding on to your hope and your dreams, and one day they WILL become reality-your reality!

Friday, June 24, 2005

New York Trip

First, Happy Late Father’s Day to all the fathers around the world especially my wonderful daddy!!! I just love it how they have a day in the U.S. to honor fathers just like they have a day for mothers…they need to adapt this day in Iraq…I mean, I know mothers are considered very special but fathers are too don’t you think? So why not celebrate them too?

Now about my trip…New York City was great! I had a really good time and I just loved it there…surrounded by the crazily tall buildings everywhere; the crowds walking all over and trying to cross the streets without getting hit by cars that get so close to pedestrians you would think they were crossing the street too. I haven’t seen this kind of bad driving or heard so much horn honking since I’ve left Iraq…driving in New York is just outrageous…every time I sat in a vehicle I thought I was not going to make it back alive.

I visited almost all the attractions…actually, after a few days we found out that 10 days was way too long since we could have seen everything in like 5 days, but we took some days off in the middle of the week to rest. I saw the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island, Empire State Building, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Little Italy, Chinatown, Rockefeller Center, World Trade Center site (ground zero), Wall Street and New York Stock Exchange, The United Nations Headquarters, Bryant Park (my absolute favorite place to chill out and drink a Starbucks frappaccino), and became extremely familiar with the Times Square area from 42nd-47th street on 7th and 6th avenues because that’s where our hotel shuttle would drop us off and pick us up everyday. We also visited every single Starbucks around this area since every time we would get tired or hot we would sit at a Starbucks. I wanted to see a Broadway show but they were just too expensive, so we just passed by the theaters and enjoyed them from the outside.

Some other updates aside from my trip for those who want to know…I got my MCAT scores back, annnnnnnnnnnnd,I did not do so well so I will be retaking it again in August, agh!!! I hate this, but I have to do it if I want to get to medical school. Anyways, so you know what this means…it means that as of July 4th, which is when I will start my summer courses and reviewing for MCAT again I will probably not be able to blog a lot if at all…these few months ahead of me are very critical in determining my academic future and I really need to concentrate on that more than anything else.

Enough about me…click here to enjoy some pictures of the ever so beautiful New York City…oh and by the way, if you were wondering (like I always did before I went there) it is EXACTLY like they show on movies and shows…the crowds, the bad driving and the traffic, people’s diversity, the little pretty shops, the flashing signs and lights everywhere all add together to create the unique beauty of the Big Apple!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

going on vacation....AGAIN!!!

Any of you watch the show “Dayside” w/ Linda Vester on fox news? Well, even if you don’t, you must watch it on Wednesday June 15th…
Because I will be among the audience, and if I get the courage and somehow suppress my shyness (and that is a big IF) I just might raise my hand and ask a question (if they bring up the issue of Iraq), so maybe you will get to see me on TV.
The show airs live from 1:00-2:00pm Eastern Time, remember to tune in on June 15th!!!

You are probably asking that I must be present in New York City if I am going to be on “Dayside” right? RIGHT!!! It is true; I am going on vacation to the Big Apple tomorrow!!! I cannot control my excitement. I have always wanted to visit NYC but I never thought it would be this soon. It happened all of a sudden without prior planning.

I am calling this summer “the summer of wonderful trips and vacations” for me…am I always traveling like this? nooooo, not at all. It is just that everything is happening this summer, which I am not complaining about.

So, don’t expect any posts from me until I get back on June 22….and I will hopefully have some really cool pictures of New York City to post.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

some news and issues

**diplomatic relationships will soon resume between Iraq and our neighboring country Kuwait… reported that Hamid Al-Bayatee, a representative of Iraq’s foreign ministry said at the end of his visit to Kuwait that there is nothing holding up the process such as safety issues and such, except that there are some protocols that need to be taken care of. Al-Bayatee also commented on Syria saying that they need to take stricter actions to prevent Saddam’s people from crossing the border and seeking refuge in Syria…when confronted with this, the Syrian government claimed that it is hard for it to control the border…ha! Yeah right! they are Ba’athists for God’s sake and they are only being loyal by supporting their Ba’athist brothers don’t you think? Hehe, no that is not it…the thing is that they are probably becoming millionaires, if not billionaires, from the money these crooks (like Izzat Al-Douri possibly???) are paying them. Anyways, it is better this way…I would really be disappointed if we develop diplomatic relationships with Syria…the Ba’ath party is in power over there and from our experiences in Iraq with this corrupt party I think we wouldn’t want anything to do with it ever again. So, until Syria is clean and cured from this disease called “Ba’ath”, it would be wiser and safer for Iraq to stay far from it.

**Mohammad from Iraq the Model wrote a post about the rights of Iraqis with disabilities. I feel that this is a very important issue to be discussed, which is why I linked to ITM. The first step, I believe, is to ensure that individuals with disabilities have the same rights as other Iraqi citizens by implementing laws that require equality and prohibit discrimination. In addition, there has to be programs that work towards improving schools, places of work, roads etc. so that they offer services to people with special needs (a good start is making buildings accessible for ALL people).

But the bigger issue once the laws are instigated is to change people’s attitudes through awareness programs and such…the biggest thing that Iraqis need (and Middle Eastern countries in general, but we’re only talking about Iraq here) in regards to the disability issue is education and awareness. People must be made aware that just because someone is physically or mentally challenged does not mean that the person has no future, no rights and should be ignored or just merely treated with pity (which in my view diminishes from a person’s respect)…people of all capabilities must be given a chance to live and work on the areas that they can benefit society in…all human beings can offer some kind of benefit to society if they choose and are given the opportunity to do so. For example, disabled people should not be dismissed from getting into the college that they deserve or getting a job that they are qualified for just because they look different…how in the world do you know that that person is not going to perform the job better than you without giving him/her a chance? Some of the world’s greatest thinkers/artists/musicians etc. had some form of disability…Beethoven was deaf, yet he created the most amazing melodies ever!

Finally, reading over a draft of the Iraq constitution (in Arabic) I saw this statement:
المادة45-منع التمييز والأمتيازات
لا يجوز التمييز ضد أي فرد أو منحه أمتيازا على أساس الجنس أو الأصل أو العنصر أو اللغة أو الولادة أو العقيدة أو الأيمان أو العائلة
which states that there cannot be discrimination towards any individual on the basis of: gender, origin, ethnicity, language, birth, religion, or family.

I believe that “disability” needs to be added to the list; otherwise this is not really including ALL of the individuals. There are a lot of important issues in Iraq these day, and the rights of disabled individuals is one of them. It is a topic that should not be ignored nor postponed because there is just a lot of work to be done in this area.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Trip Diary

I am back from Arizona…I arrived to Atlanta last night, and took the day off to rest from the trip. The trip overall was a lot of fun…it took us 2 ½ days to get to Arizona. We spent one night in Texas, and another in New Mexico. The drive through Texas seemed endless; it took us 14 hours just to pass through it!!! On the way back we took a different route so we could pass through some different states. So we also got a glimpse of Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee.

We had heard that from Texas and on we will be driving through desert…but apparently in the U.S. there is no real desert like that found in Iraq with sand, sand, and more sand. Sure the scenery changed as we drove from Atlanta to Arizona, but even New Mexico and Arizona had grass (although it was dry and yellowish) and some miniature trees along with their many types of cactuses. As for Texas, well I was misinformed because it is not even close to a desert…it does not have a lot of trees but that does NOT make it a desert…it is full of miles and miles of grassland and my mom just fell in love with its scenery and kept saying that we should move there. Actually, my mom loved every state we passed through and wanted to move to almost all of them, hehe:)

Anyways, we did not really explore the states we passed through since we did not have time to do that, except in Tennessee near the Georgia border we saw signs for “Ruby Falls and Lookout Mountain” and we decided to check them out. We ended up riding a train that goes up to an observation deck on Lookout Mountain, which is said to be the steepest mile in America! The view from the top was amazing but the train ride was a little too slow that I took a snooze on the way down:D

As for Arizona, then believe me Grand Canyon alone is worth the whole trip there…it was just gorgeous, beautiful, stunning, magnificent...I can go on and on forever, because I was just amazed from what I saw…oh how beautiful nature can be…look at the pictures of Grand Canyon below and tell me if you are not amazed…although, I must say that seeing the pictures is not at all the same as seeing it in real life, but it gives you an idea of how great this place is! We spent 3 days in Phoenix, and then decided to visit Grand Canyon since we were only 3 hours away…we only spent ½ a day there because we were running out of time. We also wanted to visit Las Vegas for a day, but unfortunately we did not have enough time to do so.

The scenery changed between the states, and so did the accents since we passed through some small towns and rural areas where people still have their own distinct accents. At some gas stations I heard really deep southern accents while at others I heard what I guessed was western accent (or just Texas accent???). Despite these differences, I could easily identify that I was still in the U.S. every time I saw a Wal-Mart or a Home Depot :D Seriously, it was all the same big-chain restaurants and supermarkets from here to Arizona. I thought when I studied high school economics that oligopoly was supposed to be a bad thing, but I see it working just fine here in the U.S. hmmm, maybe I should review my economics class notes and see if I misunderstood the concept, but then again why give myself a headache studying a topic that I have no interest in whatsoever.

This is all that I can say about my trip, but I have plenty of pictures that I will try to post here in categories as soon as I figure out how to post them in folders rather than one picture at a time which would take me forever (i.e. post all of Arizona pictures under its category)...and if anyone already knows then I would greatly appreciate your help, just email me the instructions...thanks!

My trip in pictures:

Arizona pix

Grand Canyon pix

Desert scenery

mountain scenery

Ruby Falls and Lookout Mountain