I recently returned from a fall graduation ceremony. I was there to cheer on for two of my friends graduating. The atmosphere was one of peace and joyous sounds. As the ceremony went underway, I couldn’t help but think about the tragedy of Mogadisho three weeks ago. The same feelings and sounds I felt today were also there in Hotel Shamo in that fateful December morning. Proud parents, graduates, friends of graduates, like me, faculty members and all kinds of family relatives. It couldn’t have been more normal; like the usual glitches with the microphones conspicuously present.

The joy and exuberant expressions on my friends’ faces were beautiful. The hope in their eyes were priceless. I can’t imagine what the relatives and friends of the graduates murdered in Hotel Shamo bombing felt but it is indescribable no doubt.

Then afterward, my friend’s father (who I just met for the first time) asked me where I was from, and when I told him Somalia, he immediately pointed out the mess that’s happening in Somalia. It only occurred to me later that the strange thing is that I’m here in a university graduation ceremony talking about the graduation ceremony bombing of three weeks ago in ‘Disho. Who knows if my fate hadn’t turn out the way it has, perhaps this conversation would never have occurred. The mystery of life, I reckon.

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Picture Montage From My Study Abroad

It took me a while but I have finally finished putting together a video picture montage of my trip to East Africa this past summer where I was studying (near Arusha, Tanzania). I hope you’ll like it; the pictures are mostly in chronological order with my journey. Please enjoy!

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Am Still Around!

Seems like I haven’t looked at this blog in a long time, and I admit, I haven’t. But I have a perfect reason for that: school. As I write this, I’m also working on my senior seminar paper. It is not easy. Now I understand why many people just quit college; the pain of going through this process is immense, but I’m not in the mood to quit or even contemplate the idea of quitting. It just ain’t an option, folks! The most painful aspect of this process, most of all, is the isolation factor. I mean, I spend most of my day cooped up in my room or the library (as I am right now), staring at my laptop’s screen with bunch of books and articles all around me as I try to make sense of what I want to say in my paper. That’s my current situation; not exactly a gossip material, I have to say.

But the good news is I’m very much looking forward to my trip to East Africa this summer, insha’allah! I’ve been accepted to my Tanzania summer program couple of weeks ago – I know it took me a while to share it but that’s not an excuse! Beside Tanzania, my itinerary includes Kenya and possibly the Island of Zanzibar. I really hope we get to go to Zanzibar.

That’s it, folks. I have to get back to my laboring (as my professor aptly calls this paper).

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Back to the Usual

School started again this week. Waking up early, attending classes, etc. etc. I’m not sure if this symptom is only common to me, but I find myself very exhausted the first couple of weeks of school, with severe body aches in the morning. Perhaps it’s the re-learning process of walking miles and miles around campus that the body forgets during the break. Or maybe it’s just unique to me.

Anyway, I managed to start a good habit of sleeping early, like 10:30-11pm at night…I’m not sure if I’ll be able to keep up that when the ugly face of thesis writing knocks my door. Completely stayed away from the news, except Gaza. What an atrocity. I sometimes think the state of Israel is the most powerful entity in the world because it seems to have no limit of what it can do. Kind of reminds me of the apartheid regimes of South Africa and Zimbabwe. But the good news is that every oppression and injustice has an end, but I just hope by then there are Palestinians left. 

Speaking of Zimbabwe, I just read a “story” on the British Bollocks Corporation’s website that claims Zimbabwean soldiers are eating elephants to survive, according to an “unnamed” sources from an opposition-run website. Do these people have any shame left as far as journalism is concerned? I mean, I get the fact that they want to overthrow Bobby Mugabe, but “reporting” this? How far do they have to go? Lose every credibility, if they have any left, over this useless propaganda? What a sad thing to see. I’m sure you’re tired of me keep bringing up this Zimbabwe issue, but I do this because I’m writing my thesis on this issue. But as most of you have figured it out already, I’ll be writing my thesis from the ZANU-PF/Mugabe/Nationalist perspective with focus on the policies of the Mugabe government because who self-respecting African would want to parrot the West’s talking-points and propaganda?

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Unlucky Students

Kenya’s Ministry of Education announced yesterday that 16 primary schools in North Eastern province have been found to have “cheated” in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam.  According to the Ministry, students ‘received’ materials related to the exam before taking the exam – in many cases, the ministry claims, from teachers, as well as ‘students shouting the answers to each other out loud’ during the exam. The North Eastern province is home to ethnic Somalis and Somali refugees. Of the 16 schools involved in this so-called ‘cheating’ (I’m not convinced that every student in the entire region managed to have cheated), 5 of them are U.N.-run schools for refugee students in camps like Dabaab, Central, etc. No doubt cheating goes on everywhere in Kenya, but to single out the Somali-kenya province is a bit fishy, if not outright disenfranchisement. More importantly, it’s unfair to punish all the students in the five refugee camps by cancelling all of the results.

Living in a refugee camp is difficult enough, but studying for once-a-year exam that determines these student’s future, if there is any, is quite a punishment in itself. I’m not making excuses for those students who cheated, but I find it very hard to swallow every student in those five refugee camps cheated. My sympathy lies with the innocent students who are collectively being punished by Kenya’s Ministry of Education.

Categories: Africa Related, East Africa, Education, School/Students | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

News and Notes

As readers of this blog know, my plan for the upcoming Spring school semester was to study in Hyderabad, India. Unfortunately, life’s full of surprises and disappointments. But I’m not complaining. Actually, I see it as an opportunity to explore other options. So it is official. Due to bureaucratic reasons, I was informed that my student visa won’t be approved for at least 3 months at the latest, which essentially put in a position of no-go. Sorry to disappoint, friends. You won’t be reading stories about explosive diarrhea or complaints about unsanitary conditions.

Instead, I will continue my education at my current school and hopefully participate study abroad in summer ’09. Stay tuned for that.

Categories: School/Students, Travel | Tags: , | 7 Comments

Still Alive!

Oh the neglect, the abandonment of this blog. You shouldn’t blame me for I’m in the midst of crushing school assignments. My planned trip to Hyderabad seems to be in trouble right now (visa issues). I’ll keep ya’ll posted on the development. For now, I’ll get back to starring on my laptop’s screen, hoping something brilliant will pop into my head to write for all the papers I have due within the coming weeks.

Categories: School/Students, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

I’m Not Out Yet

It’s that time of the year when every professor thinks your only taking his/her class and overload you with millions of assignments. I thought things would get a bit slow during October because usually November is the sink-or-swim month. Apparently as one gets close to graduation, the workload doubles. No one told me that. But that’s fine. Anyway, I have couple of good news I’d like to share with ya’ll regarding the study abroad situation.

I have been ‘accepted’ to the University of Hyderabad for spring semester ’09 and I have also been approved for my travel document (some of you are thinking what is a travel document but I’m sure most of you know what a refugee travel document IS). These were two big hurdles, especially the latter since those wonderful, hard-working US Immigration and Naturalization Services people take their sweet time often (my friend applied his in July and is hoping for a February approval at the latest). I’m now working on coughing up $6,300 to pay for the tuition, housing, and meals. It does not include air fair, the health insurance I’m required to buy ($60 a month) or the miscellaneous pocket money I need  on hand. Overall, alhamdullilah, it has been quite smooth.

After I manage to get these done, then I only have to worry about few things like entrance visa, travel shots, mandatory orientation, and packing. Speaking of packing stuff, has anyone ever tried those plastic spacebag travel bags shown on late night  infomercials? As someone who mistrusts anything shown on commercials, I have a hard time believing these bags will work but if you have any tips for me, please share! I’m looking at you Aya

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The Bus Ride

I only had one class today, from 11:45-1pm, but on my way to class, I saw an interesting thing: a college student carrying floppy disk! Unbelievable! Images of 9th grade rushed in my head like a bursting dam. I think the last time I saw a floppy disk was Andy Rooney telling America that he still uses this relic technology. I get it if it’s Andy Rooney, but a college student? I don’t even think any computer on campus has a floppy drive. I wonder how this young man uses it since all the PCs made in the last 5-7 years do not come with a floppy drive?

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Choices, choices

I finally met with my study abroad advisor yesterday, what turned out to be the worst heat wave I’ve ever lived through – no exaggeration, I was sweating like Shaquille O’Neal in the NBA finals in the fourth quarter against Detroit. Although I couldn’t find a program in the Middle East as I hoped, I was offered to choose either Bangkok, Thailand or Hyderabad, India. Granted, none of these places are my first or second choices but I don’t have the capital backing of Wall Street daddy so whatever I’m offered is what I have to take. 

As far as I can see, these two destinations are pretty much similar – both in South Asia, more or less similar economic, climate, and cost of living. Of course, India and Thailand are a completely different countries in every aspect. But what I care about is the cost of the whole experience minus “personal” expenditure. In this category, Hyderabad comes on top. The dollar is worth more in India than in Thailand, so even after the initial expense, I’d still spend far less in India than in Thailand. 

During my research I learned that it’s $3,000 more expensive to study in Ghana than in Malta, a country that has one of the highest living standards in the Mediterranean. When I was sitting in my advisor’s office while he went out to get the application print out, I thought of using coin toss to decide which destination I should sign up. I didn’t go that route because I want to get the most consultation I can get before my decision is final.

Besides, I still have to get two academic reference letters plus the application itself, which then they will send it to a regional office (in my State), who then will send it to the International Student Exchange Program’s office, which in turn will send it to the host institution. The host institution will make my acceptance or rejection (yeah, even if you’re paying extortionist amount) within a short period.

Then I’ll just have to move on to the next bullshit – immigration, visas, travel shots…

So here’s my question: which one is the best choice for me?

Categories: Education, School/Students, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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