Thursday, August 18, 2011

Back to Square One

Today, I'm flying back to Bowdoin, where my journey started. My Mom is upset that I'm leaving early and was only home for four days. She wants me to stay and celebrate Eid with the family. I feel a bit guilty.

I'm arriving to campus early to lead a community immersion pre-Orientation. It's the same one I did as a freshman. This pre-O exposes incoming students to Bowdoin and the greater Brunswick community through service. It's a great immersion and introduction to the common good, a pillar of Bowdoin College. I'm excited to welcome the new kids to our wonderful community! This is the kind of stuff I LOVE to do. So yes, while I felt guilty for seeing my Mom briefly, I also felt good for...well, doing good.

Take care, everyone! Thanks for following my blog this summer. It's been an unforgettable adventure.

Ride on!

On Tuesday, my little brother planned a Kings Dominion trip for me. It was really adorable and so thoughtful of him. All my siblings and I spent an entire day -- from the time the doors opened at 10:30 a.m. to the time the gates closed at 8 p.m. -- having a blast! We rode almost every roller coaster there, though my brother sat out on the "scary" ones.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I'm back in USA! I safely arrived at Dulles airport around 3 p.m. on Sunday, August 14th - Pakistan's Independence Day! The trip was exhausting. I was in travel mode for nearly 48 hours.

It took us 3 hours from Pakistan to Bahrain; we stayed in a hotel in Bahrain for 15 hours; flew from Bahrain to London in 8 hours; had a 5-hour stay in London; then flew another 7 hours from London to D.C. Whew!

Feels great to be back in the USA. Although I just read up on the debt ceiling and....ouch!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Coming home

The song "Home" by Chris Daughtry just came up my iTunes....

"I'm staring out into the night,
Trying to hide the pain."

As I continue packing, listening to music, reflecting on my summer - the research I did at Hazara and in Lahore, my internship at Al-Imtiaz Acadmey, my students and their memories, the Imtiazian (and the hours I spent on its layout!), the up's and down's with my family members, the funeral I attended, the smiling faces of my nephews and nieces, the hospitality of Dr. Luke at the Bach Christian Hospital, the witty jokes my cousins made, the heat and sweat during power outages, the long nights Skyping with my mother, and the boring days I spent texting - I am saddened. I am sad to be leaving this place; my students, my house, my home, my family, my country.

"I'm going to the place where love
And feeling good don't ever cost a thing.
And the pain you feel's a different kind of pain"

Before embarking on this summer's journey, I knew what I would be losing if I committed to teaching journalism at AIA. I could have done an internship with some U.S. government department. I could have been a counselor at SJP's 10th anniversary. I could have spent time with my friends in NoVa and enjoyed Java Chip Frapaccino every afternoon. I could have spent time with my only brother and taken him to the theater to see Harry Potter's newest release. I could have served my mother and perhaps even learned some cooking from her. How wonderful it would have been if I could reunite with my old teachers and catch up on their lives. I could have bugged my sisters and started mischievous fights with them. But after this summer's experience ... I am glad I made the right decision to come back to Pakistan.

"I don't regret this life I chose for me."

I learned a lot this summer. More than I could have ever imagined. I grew in ways I did not expect. My summer experiences have made me better, stronger and more confident. I've learned to be patient and flexible; to not let little things get to me; and to always be open-minded and forgiving no matter the circumstance. I've learned to ignore (painful) comments even if they were made by my loved ones. My summer taught me to always have the bigger picture in mind. I've strengthened my abilities of coping with stress, loss and the truth. My students showed me that one can always live in the moment, but without memories, it's as if the moment never happened. I was reminded by summer how good it feels to be selfless.

It's been a long summer and I am grateful for every minute of it. I will forever cherish these memories. But I think it's time to come home now.

"Well I'm going home,
Back to the place where I belong."

Student Work

Check out my students' blog - let them tell you what they've been doing this summer.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Celebrating hard work

Tonight was the students awards ceremony. It was a wonderful occasion! I got to make a speech about my program, why journalism is important and how proud I am of my students. It reminded me of Richard Just's speech. Richard Just is one of the directors of the Princeton University Summer Journalism Program (SJP) I did during the summer of 2008. (That program just concluded its 10th anniversary, by the way! Whoo!)

The newspaper, The Imtiazian, looks great! Everyone's hard work has paid off. I am really impressed and proud of all my students. During the program, everyone -- the school principals, Ms. Ayesha, Madam Imtiaz Nawaz (founder of the school), and my students -- thanked me over and over again for coming to Al-Imtiaz Academy and starting their newspaper. I was so humbled for such great honors and good wishes. My father sat in the front row and I could tell by the look in his eyes he was so proud of me. My father is usually shy in expressing his feelings, but today, managed to say a few words after the program was over. "Mariya, you did a great job. I am really proud of you." Hearing this from him meant a lot to me.

After the hour-long program, we served all the guests an Iftaar meal catered from a famous five-star restaurant, Usmania. I got to meet a lot of parents which was wonderful. Saying goodbye to my students was the hardest part. I bid them farewell, not knowing when I would see them again.

Monday, August 8, 2011

I did it!

Great news, everyone! After four all-nighters, I completed all the editing and 16 pages of layout of the first issue of the Imtiazian. It was sent to printers at 7:04 a.m. on Saturday, August 6th. The paper has officially been laid to bed. Though stressful, the beast is over!

Tomorrow is my last day at school. Saying goodbye to my students is going to be hard. I've learned so much about them and have enjoyed their company that it's sad leaving them. Through this internship, I've also learned a lot about myself and what teaching is like. This was a great experience, and I am grateful to Ms. Kathryn Davis for making this opportunity possible for me.

On Wednesday, August 10th, I have planned an awards assembly for my students and their parents. It's an opportunity to recognize their hard work and share their accomplishment with their family and friends. I'm looking forward to the event! August 10th is also the publication date. Once it is distributed, I'll be sure to post a copy on here so you all can get a sneak peak! :)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Where is the hope?

All my body muscles have cramped. Blood has probably clotted in my every vein. How am I still functioning after not sleeping for 48 hours straight??! When will this newspaper finish? So close yet so far. I think I'm losing hope.

Friday, August 5, 2011


Just when you thought you could escape the college all-nighters, you can't. Or at least I can't. I've been up for the past three days working on The Al-Imtiazian, my students' newspaper. They've done their part by writing the articles. It is my job to edit and perfect them.

Given the time constraints, unfortunately I could not teach my students how to use Microsoft Publisher to create newspaper layout. The reason for my decision to do the entire layout was because the school computers do not have Microsoft Publisher (even though I told the school I would need the program since the very beginning). And since we have limited laptops, each section editor would not have a machine to work. Not to mention touchpad mice are tricky and hard to use, especially for my new-bee kids.

I have to put out a paper in the next 12 hours! AHHHH! So much editing, so much layout, I'm going crazy! I used to complain about the 5 pages I had to layout for the Orient; now I have to layout 16. I think I'm being punished.

I haven't gone to school all this week because I have been working on the newspaper from home. My students email and text me saying they miss me. I miss them also. I will go to school on Monday or Tuesday as a final wrap-up day. It's gonna be hard to say goodbye. I've come to know my students so well and I can't believe the program is over.

On Wednesday, August 10 I have planned an awards ceremony for the students. They will be recognized for their hard work before their parents, teachers, and friends. They deserve it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Ramadan Mubarak!

The chand, or moon, was sighted Monday night and Ramadan, the month of fasting for Muslims, officially began on Tuesday, August 2nd for us. Saudi Arabia, Dubai, and the USA are a day ahead of us so their Ramadan began on the 1st. Ramadan is a month of purity; a special time of worship where Muslims around the world take a break from worldly pleasures and focus their energy on thanking Allah for His blessings. The purpose of Ramadan is to experience what the poor of our society endure every day, hunger and thirst. Even then, Ramadan does not do justice because the poor go days without eating or drinking clean water. During Ramadan, Muslims get only a glimpse of what life without food and water is like.

We eat a hearty breakfast called Sehri before the crack of dawn. After the morning prayer, Fajr, some read the Holy Quran while others go back to bed. During the next 15 or so hours, Muslims are not allowed to eat or drink anything. They may distract their minds from food by reciting the Quran, listening to naats, or praying. The point is to have good thoughts and be positive. This helps keep the shatan, evil, out of the house and away from you. As soon as the sun goes down, the azan, call to prayer, for the Maghrib prayer (fourth of the five daily required prayers) is the official marker of opening the fast. This is called Iftar.

Muslims open their fast with a date, just as Prophet Muhammad used to. It is also traditional to drink Roo Afza, coolaid-like red and sweet drink. Iftaari also includes pakoras with chutney. After a quick iftaari, devout Muslims complete the Maghrib prayer (approximately at 7:20 p.m.) before eating the full course dinner meal.

I joke with my father that I've been fasting for the past two months since I don't have much of an appetite anyway when I come to Pakistan mainly due to the heat. People die to lose weight, but me, I wish I were healthier. Fasting isn't helping--but then again, that's the point of Ramadan, isn't it?

As we speak, I am editing my students' articles. I am so stressed out! This is worse than the Orient Thursday nights. For the past two days, I've been working from home. I have been waking up at 9 a.m. every day and working until iftar, then again from 8 p.m. until sehri. Tomorrow all day is LAYOUT day. Wish me luck!!