Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Home is where the heart is

While I was talking to my mom a few days ago, she laughed when I called my room here "home" - but it's true! I'm definitely beginning to consider DC my home & am really liking it here. I love my work, working with people that care about the same issues I do, the urban lifestyle. the diversity...so yesterday I decided to make my dingy room look more homey. I bought a rug to cover up the grimy-looking floor, moved my furniture around - I figured I'm going to be here for many months, so I might as well settle in. Although I really enjoy my work & am learning a lot, it's hard not to get depressed - I work on issues relating to Darfur, the Congo & the UN and after a while, I just have to detach my feelings from my work, so that I'm not as affected for example when I read about mass killings or rape. Or sometimes, I'll just get away from my desk & go for a brief walk - I have to say that I miss Minnesota's fresh air! Also, having Bush as a president & Republicans in power doesn't make our work easier!

I live in an all-women's dorm that is also a Christian home - the reason I like where I live is because no guys are allowed beyond the lobby point, and alcohol & smoking are prohibited on the premises which makes the residence a pretty safe place. However, there are many conservative girls who live here - most of them tend to be Republican although quite a few of them are not. I have found my group of girls & we tend to eat at the same table which interestingly has been labeled the "Crazy Liberal Table!" It is cool though that many girls recite their "grace" before eating which reminds me to say my Bismillah! I was amazed to find that a Latino girl I became friends with a few weeks earlier is a Republican because she was really sweet & very broad minded about issues, so it was interesting to hear her opinions. There are several black girls here who are Republican too, which serves as a reminder that I can't consider the African American community as a monolithic community.

I've also made a black friend & we talk about religion, ethics, life in great depth & I'm so glad to finally have a black friend! She is from Virginia & cracks me up because she calls DC "Chocolate City" due to the high black population in the city. I always talk about how fun DC is but the truth is that the poverty & homeless rates are pretty high too & it's quite evident walking down the street - I guess the capital represents what America is all about: an interesting juxtaposition of wealth, power & poverty.

DC is also a very transient city - very few people are really from here & very few stay for very long. My colleague who works on the Law & Justice program is going to Cambodia in a few months! Since many people come here on brief internships or fellowships, there is a high rate of employee turnover - for instance, many of the girls who have become my friends are leaving in a few weeks & I'm sure the summer bunch of interns will come flowing in. One thing everybody is looking forward to is the Cherry Blossom Festival which is supposed to be gorgeous - the weather has definitely been beautiful the past couple of days.

I've also had a chance to meet several Muslims here. On Sat nite, a friend of mine had a gathering at her place, so it was cool to meet some of the Muslims in the DC area - we are an interresting blend of students, employees, married, single...usually, I'm the only girl who is wearing Hijab which was not the case this time. Many of u know Zuleqa who used to live in MN & now lives in Virginia & works in DC so it's nice to have a familiar face around. One thing about growing up in a Khoja community is the comfort zone I have established over the years. Just like I did in Jordan, all of a sudden, I feel out of place & am getting to meet very diverse Muslims from all backgrounds which gives me a view of the whole spectrum of Islam that exists in the country - traveling always reminds me how little I know of my religion & how much I have to learn. Traveling also is a humbling experience because you visit amazing places & meet cool people that make u feel so small! Ah well...I've just learned through my experiences that religion is a journey & u just grow as the years pass by.