Time wasters

Okay, I’m procrastinating big time right now. I have this paper deadline and I really hate it. I’m going to get started on it, for reals. But a new curse has entered our household. It is called basic cable. So, I’ve read all this stuff on slavery in Africa, the Sokoto Caliphate, and trading diasporas. I have 15 pages to write and about 25 hours to do it. I think I’m going to miss this deadline. I was really busy. We had this Barbecue on Saturday, house guests all week. And then, like I said, tv channels.

But that is not the kind of time wasters I’m talking about. I mean the real time wasters. Time wasters are those dead end relationships. People who are up in your face because they want to hear themselves talk. People who need constant attention in meaningless interactions. Looking back at the past two years, I think about some of time wasters who have monopolized my time. I’m really jealous of my time too. I sometimes wonder why some men want to be all in my face wasting my time. Maybe its because I’m pretty laid back and pretty open. Do I look and talk like I’m some fun-loving, adveturish air-head?Maybe I should act a little bit more diva-ish or something. I dunno, but I’d like for the time wasters to keep moving on. I’m making it my next mid-week resolution to swear off time wasters. I have proposals and exams to prepare for. Plus I need a side job tutoring rich brats. I can be far more productive if I avoid this breed of human beings. You know the time wasters I’m talking about. The people who message you and ask: “How are you doing this evening?” Or they ask for my IM address so they can chat up my precious spare time.

What about the men who want to fly in like they are on some kind of vacation and have me show them around? Look man, do I look like a tour guide? Dude, this is not your fantasy vacation. Creepy out of towners who write me that they want to meet me. Meet me for what? Because long distance poonanny has less strings attached than local poonanny? Anyways, what do I get out of it? I could have male attention to affirm my feminity, a meaningless interaction, or maybe some temporary physical gratification where I’m left wondering if the feelings were mutual or was I just being used.

I find local dating hard enough. It is often a cat-and-mouse game. Sort of like how long can I maintain his interest and avoid getting boned or left for someone else who will get down with him. I personally find dating obnoxious for all its games. And because I don’t like the game nor do I play by its rules, I really am unfamiliar with all the protocols of dating.

Anyways, there are tons of admonitions against Muslims dating. The whole halal-style meeting leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Plus I don’t have that good old reliable ethnic network where you can find out if a brotha is shady from word of mouth. And brothas are real quick to secure a marriage before all the dirty secrets come out. There goes the more natural, un-artificial way of getting to know someone before jumping into a relationship. Anyways, I’m not really interested in dating in the conventional sense. But at the same time, I’m not interested in hook-ups. That doesn’t mean that I’m not interested in getting to know people. It is all about bringing It with the right intentions.

Since few men are really approaching me with a realness and depth that I think I deserve I’ll substitute it for some other needs in my life. For instance, I could use a really great free translator. As far as the interactions I could really use, would be someone who is well read and a sharp intellectual. I would love to run into another academic who can help me in those intellectual quagmires I find myself in. Do they understand what the hell the subaltern school people are saying? Do they understand the shortcomings of World Systems Theory? Can they give me a break down of Heidegger? Can they help me through the murkiness of post-modern theory. More than anything I need a reliable editor who has a good turn around time. Often, I am let down by people who offer even the most simple feedback. Their follow through has left something to be desired. I resolved myself to not to turn my writing it its most vulnerable stages unless I am sure that my reader will help nurture my ideas and thoughts. So, I substitute real interaction and even real writing for this blog stuff. Now that I have wasted 50 minutes writing this blog…I supposed I can get back to writing these crappy papers.

Each One Teach One

Today, I had my debut as an aspiring professor. I gave my first lecture on African History to a class of super sharp and highly motivated Stanford Students. Standing there in front of some of the brightest minds, even with my podium and powerpoint, was so intimidating. I gave the lecture at 10 this morning with less than 2 hours of sleep. I started out extremely nervous but as I began talking I became a bit more comfortable. As with any first time, it was clumsy and I was self conscious. It was by no means the best lecture given on campus, but I got through a difficult topic: “Structural Adjustments, Oil Shocks and Persistent Poverty in Africa.” My professor/advisor said I did a good job and my students were encouraging. To me that was enough. Afterwards, I had a series of meetings with my students. One of my favorite parts of teaching is discussing their ideas and helping students develop their writing. I had no time to eat, there was seminar where my peers presented their most recent research. We discussed the works in depth, and I was surprised that I wasn’t just about to keel over. Creativity excites me, ideas excite me. I think thats what drove my day.

I stumbled across this path of the educator and intellectual. It sounds really strange to imagine myself as an intellectual. But it is really exciting to think that my whole career is built upon the development of ideas and knowledge creation. I stepped onto DeAnza community college fairly clueless. At the time of my high school graduation, university dreams were over. But they were once again rekindled as I discovered my first true love. I discovered my love during the summer before my first year of college. I was a little timid at first, afraid to make a commitment. But I fell in love with this whole world Islam as a way of life, a civilization, a history, a world view. I began to read voraciously, devouring every book in the library to understand my relationship with the ideas, the texts, and community. I then made my commitment and for years I embarked on a path of self-education and activism.

My mom told me the other day that I better go find the family who I stayed with after I graduated high school. My friends mom told me that in order to live there, I had to go to school.

I didnt know it then, but thinking back now that is when I first began enjoying teaching. I believed in sharing knowledge. I would just build with people all day long about African history and Islamic legacies. There were plenty of causes to fight for, plus we were all hopeful. The intifada was just ending, resulting in Peace talks between Palestine and Israel. The year before, the Algerian government annulled elections. Bosnian Muslims experienced ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. I remember horrified as news stations showed footage of the Rwandan genocide. I remember how angry I was about the lack of concern for black lives. Black bodies were on display like road kill. I remember the numbers rose exponentially. 100,000, 200,000 500,000 800,000,…nearly a million. There were plenty of protests, talks, lectures, rallies. I discovered my love of activism and teaching during this unsure and exciting time. And I was fully engaged in that academic world. But even then, I didnt know I would become a teacher. I had no idea where my life would take me or the ups and downs.

For years, I thought I didnt have the patience to teach. How could I coach somebody through the learning process? What would be my reaction if they didnt get it? After teaching an elderly couple the complex Muslim prayers, I began to consider my gift for packaging information in a way that was understandable. I came back to California knowing I wanted to teach. I re-enrolled in community college and began the long circuitous journey to get my bachelors. Initially I thought I would teach highschool. But I wanted to teach students with a strong desire to learn. I always had a desire to work on text books and education reform. But tens of thousands of dollars in student debt made me reconsider that.

I took some time off from school, well it was more forced because of financial and personal circumstances. I couldnt attend a university or college for three years, when I finally paid off my debt to SCU. I finally received a financial aid package that allowed me to fulfill my dream of getting a university education. For reals, there were many times when it was just a dream. It was fall 2001 and the first day of classes was September 17. A week before, three airplanes crashed into those buildings. Years before, I put away my student activist coat and kept my religious and spiritual life very personal. I was pretty much disengaged from community life. But as discussion opened up in my classes, I was often the only person with knowledge about Islamic world views, the middle East, and Muslim countries. My professor took me aside one day and asked what did I want to do when I graduate. I told him, I wanted to be a writer. He said he considered me an intellectual and suggested that I consider a career in academia.

After a lot of meditation and contemplation, I began to see that as an academic I could make the greatest impact. I loved teaching, I loved writing, I loved activism and community work, I loved watching people learn, I loved the world of ideas and discourse. Getting into graduate school became my singular focus.

Teaching today reminded me that I have been making progress. All the hard work, sleepless nights, and lack of social life are paying off. It seems like I am one step closer to my goal. I have to finish this quarter strongly and write this last paper to become a true Doctoral Candidate. I am beginning to plan my next year. I have worked on designing my own course on Race and Slavery in the Muslim world. I have grant proposals, dissertation proposals, I have to prepare for my oral exam which will test my grasp of my field. It is scary and it goes by at a demanding pace. I pray that I can continue to develop and meet those important milestones. I hit some stumbling blocks, but Im gaining that momentum.
There are so many people who I have leaned on for their support, both materially and in their prayers and kind thoughts. I hope that I can step up to the task. I keep them in mind as I continue this work.

Spring Break Like Whoa

I was a non-traditional student. I spent years in community college which meant that I didn’t move out from mom’s house to stay iin dorms, join a sorority, do the whole spring break thing, and come home for the summer and intern. It began twelve years ago…and now I can’t believe I’m buying this ticket.

I worked my way through school, sometimes too broke to even afford books or a bus pass to get to school. I was a student activist, down for the struggle, but not that many people understood my struggle. Even in community college there were a few quarters I couldn’t pay tuition. During those times I’d spend my time studying in Santa Clara University’s library. I was lucky to meet some Muslim sistas at a MSA event, they gave me a ride and we’ve been tight since. One of the sistas lived by me and she’d pick me up and take me to campus just to hang out. There were two amazing Iraqi sisters at SCU, one began teaching me how to read and write Arabic. I wanted to travel so I could learn to speak and read Arabic and understand what I read and recited from the Quran. Likewise, a bachelor’s degree was a dream but I was just happy to be able to learn and be in that environment.

But there were people who believed in me even when I was ready to walk away from the whole academic thing. Spring Break was the farthest thing on my mind. I was just trying to break in. Life circumstances positioned me in a place where I finally got my foot in the door. I went back to community college and was accepted into SCU. But that door shut closed on my foot and all a few quarters later. No Spring break, just a three year break paying off tuition bills and learning how valuable education was through my bull %*& jobs. I did visit my family in Jacksonville Florida, which coincided with Black College Reunion, so maybe that counts. During that Spring break I didn’t know a single student at BCR.

Three years later, I wasn’t thinking about Spring Break. Debt paid off, I finally received a decent financial aid package and went back to school to finish this time for reals. Finally I did the damn thing, graduating with honors. I had my Kente cloth and my three sets of honors ropes, and even a phat medallion from an honors society. So I applied to graduate school, I loved this stuff. They would pay ME to study? What? I would get to travel to cool places? I could write my books and teach? Two things I loved to do. But Spring break was not on my mind. Break? Give me a break, I was riding on some high achievement high.

I got into grad schools, 5 fully funded and two in the Bay Area. Who would have thunk? In the bidding war, Stanford offered more funds. I loved Cal, spent a summer there attending Arabic classes. I always loved the East Bay more than any other place in the Bay, and Cal offered me a really nice financial aid package. But Stanford offered to send me to the Middle East to study Arabic for the Summer. I felt like I was walking on clouds. 12 years before, I used to ride the bus from the East Side of San Jose to Cupertino, just hoping to make get out of junior college. So, getting into these programs was kind of wild. A former college drop out, who used to get picked up by TABS for skipping class and get kicked out of of Mt. Pleasant for scrapping now becoming a scholar?

Fast forward to my first year in the program. Grad school kicks everybody’s butt. Especially if a program commits 5 years to funding you. Spring Break last year? Man, I was just finishing up incompletes, praying that I’d pass. In my department, B is failing, B+ means you’re wack. A- means you’re scraping by, and an A means you are okay (maybe). I’ve been working my &^%$#@ off since I got here in Summer of 2004. This last summer, I went to Vermont for nine weeks and Morocco for a Month, both times to study.

Spring Break? I wish….academics don’t break. A few weeks ago, my advisor gave out the command that I needed to hit up some archives. “What are your plans for Spring Break?” I wanted to say, “Sleep without guilt” but of course I had nothing to say. Great! So then he said I should find some Arabic sources in Chicago or at the University of Durham in the UK. I’ve never been to either place. I had to look into it and see if it was worth my while. I also had to find friends and family who would front me until I was reimbursed by my department.

Today, I just bought my ticket from New York to London, leaving on March 25 and returning on April 1. My job is great right? It is amazing, I should be super happy. And a huge part of me is. I just purchased my ticket and I’m like “Whoa! London for Spring Break” (Well actually Durham which is a few hundred miles away) Nobody in my family has been to Europe nor North Africa. I am about to see the London Bridges yall! But I’m too tired for all that excitement. Maybe it will hit me as I cross the Atlantic. I’ll sleep on that flight, maybe even on that train. Until then no sleep for Aziza. But on the real tip, this is better than Spring Break. I hope I come back with some good stuff from those archives, inshallaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!