Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Month: May, 2013

A Better Way to Celebrate Memorial Day

Memorial Day

Memorial Day was first established in 1868 in order to honor the soldiers who had fallen during the Civil War. Cities all around the United States hold their own ceremonies on the last Monday in May, but unfortunately, many tend to forget what Memorial Day truly means.

In 2000, a National Moment of Remembrance was passed, asking all Americans to take a moment of silence to honor and respect the dead soldiers, regardless of what they may be doing, and simply observe a moment of silence, or say a prayer.

Personally, I feel that is too little an effort to show respect to the soldiers who have died in wars or in the service of their country. What if instead, we had veterans in every park, book store, mall, school, even in restaurants and family barbecues and picnics, to share with us their stories of war, thus keeping alive the spirits of the dead soldiers whose stories are buried with them?

Let us not only remember the dead soldiers through our veterans, but to also learn a thing or two in the process. Who knows? Maybe in learning something, we could prevent having more dead soldiers in the future.

Wax On, Wax Off

When two of my nieces were only nine years old, I began taking them to work, a family owned video store. Their job was to fill the buckets with soap and water, and walk between the aisles, putting the movies down one shelf, washing the shelves, drying them with a towel and then putting the movies back up. There was a very specific system to it, and whenever they would complain, I reminded them to “Wax on, wax off” – for those of you who remember Karate Kid – and that one day they would thank me for it. Their reward was a free lunch which consisted of a sandwich, drink and a snack, and as they got older, they received an additional five dollars.

This was some twenty years ago. Needless to say, they turned out to be a smart and successful bunch. One became a lawyer, the other a chiropractic.

These days my cousin, a manicurist, and I use the same techniques on our daughters that the women in our family have used for centuries – working hard and loving every bit of it. It never hurts to have children get a taste of responsibility very early on!


27 Years Ago


Twenty seven years ago today my father passed away. He was a very pleasant man, full of life and laughter. I didn’t get to know him too well, as I was a young teenager when he died (I knew he loved “Sandford and Son” and “The Jeffersons” and will never forget the way in which he laughed wholeheartedly as he watched each episode). He’d spent the majority of his days in Iraq working hard to support his eleven children. Then we immigrated to the United States, where he fell ill shortly afterwards as our family experienced a big struggle.

But I do know this – I got my love for books from his side. I remember him often walking around with an Arabic/English dictionary in his hand. He was a translator for the train station in Iraq. I also got my passion for education and my independence from him and his sisters, one of whom left the village of Telkaif to go study at the University of Baghdad. This was in the 1950s! Another aunt, who was a single mother because her husband went missing in some war, studied to be a nurse and became the midwife of Fallujah.

Well, I did not get to spend enough time with my father on this earth. But I am often visited by his energy, which especially during adversaries gives me strength to push ahead.

Mother’s Day in Puerto Rico

The video cut off before he finished his sentence which is “She takes me to Burger King.”

No, I am not in Puerto Rico right now, but two years ago on Mother’s Day I was. I remember my family and I tried to plan where to go and what to do when one of the hotel employees said, “Everything is closed today.”

“Why?” we asked.

“It’s mother’s day. This is considered a holiday here – like Christmas and Easter.”

Well, in Puerto Rico as in other Latin areas, almost every other week has a three day weekend!

Jan. 1 (2) – New Year’s Day / Closed
Jan. 6 (2) – Three Kings’ Day / Closed
Jan. 12 Eugenio María de Hostos’ Birthday (second Monday in January) / Closed
Jan. 19 – Martin Luther King’s Birthday (third Monday in January) / Closed
Feb. 16 – Presidents’ Day (third Monday in February) / Closed
March 22 – Emancipation Day / Closed
April 9 (2) – Good Friday / Closed
April 11 (2) – Easter Day / Closed
April 19 – José de Diego’s Birthday (third Monday in April) / Closed
May 9 – Mother’s Day (second Sunday in May) / Closed
May 31 – Memorial Day (last Monday in May) / Closed
June 20 (2) – Father’s Day (third Sunday in June) / Closed
July 5 – Independence Day (United States) (July 4) / Closed
July 19 – Luis Muñoz Rivera’s Birthday (third Monday in July) / Closed
July 26 – Constitution Day (Puerto Rico) (July 25) / Closed
July 27 – José Celso Barbosa’s Birthday / Closed
Sept. 6 – Labor Day (first Monday in September) / Closed
Oct. 12 – Columbus Day / Closed
Nov. 2 (2) Election Day / Closed
Nov. 11 – Veteran’s Day / Closed
Nov. 19 – Discovery of Puerto Rico Day / Closed
Nov. 25 (2) Thanksgiving Day (fourth Thursday in November) / Closed
Dec. 25 (2) Christmas Day / Closed

Happy Mother’s Day to ALL MOMS!!


No-Touch Torture

I attended a presentation today pertaining to a landmark lawsuit case against CACI, a private U.S. contractor which systematically tortured Iraqis in Abu Ghraib. The lawsuit was filed by four Iraqis who say they suffered abusive and degrading treatment at the Abu Ghraib prison. The men were all released – one after four years – without ever being charged. These men were professionals, like a math teacher, a live stock trader, a construction worker and a journalist.

The military was largely protected from the suit, but not so with CACI. Earlier in the year, a $5-million settlement involving 71 detainees were reported. In March, Arlington-based CACI wanted a federal judge to toss out the case because they said CACI employees never even came in contact with the plaintiffs, much less abused them. The judge didn’t buy that, so someone – no one knows who – came up with a brilliant idea. Stop the Iraqi men suing CACI from coming to the United States.

Three of the four men (one is already in the United States) had their boarding passes on hand when they were pulled out of the line boarding the plane. Their passports were taken away from them and they have not been able to travel to the U.S. since. Whether or not they will be able to attend the trial determined to be in June is still to be seen. CACI has argued against a video deposition and request that their cases be dismissed because of their inability to come.

There are over 3,000 additional photos of the Abu Ghraib torture which Congress will not release because they are so graphic and for fear of what will happen to US soldiers overseas. Some of these photos include a father and son lying naked on top of each other and various rapes of detainees, including young boys.

The point is this – the selfish, careless and heartless decisions of our leaders will continue to haunt us for decades to come, whether we like it or not. It’s not as evident in American television. Just subscribe to Al Jazeera and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Cleaning the Rug – Telkepe Style

I remodeled my home last year, threw out the carpet and brought in wooden floor. I placed a beige rug in the living room. Whoever saw it said, “It’ll get dirty in no time.”

I knew that was true, but I figured, (a) I liked the rug and (b) I got it at a real good price. Actually, the B came before the A. But anyway – recently the looks of this beige rug made me not want to have anyone come over – especially not the Chaldeans who tend to ignore your entire beautiful home to find a little stain on the rug and for the remainder of the visit talk to you about how you shouldn’t have bought a light colored rug to begin with, that you shouldn’t let the kids eat anywhere near the family room, that you should have the rug professionally cleaned, etc.

Since it’s not easy to haul the thing somewhere to be professionally cleaned, I considered renting a carpet steamer. I waited for my husband to make time so he could pick it up or watch the kids as I picked it up, but no cigar. I also would have wanted him to help me with the cleaning so I wouldn’t mess up the machine, as I’m known to do with any new technology. I looked up online how rugs are cleaned and got complex details. It was as if I was trying to clean a castle.

So I asked the old wise ones. They said, lay it outside, bring a bucket of soap and water and have a hose nearby. They were going to show me how it’s done “Telkepe style”. Telkepe, otherwise known as Telkaif, is the village in northern Iraq (once all Christian) where they and their ancestors are from. I did all that and brought along a brush.

“What’s this for?” my uncle’s wife asked. “Go get me a flat piece of wood.”

“What?!” I asked.

“A piece of wood!” she said. “What? You want to teach me how a rug is cleaned!”

Luckily, because of extra wood we had for the fireplace, I found her the perfect flat piece wood and it did miracles. Today my rug looks as good as new and my guest-inviting days are once again in business.


Rock Climbing –Get me out of Here!

My mom went into the hospital exactly one week ago today. The doctors didn’t find anything wrong with her and she was released three days later. However, the drama associated with her hospitalization lasted a few days longer. What kind of drama? Well, picture one of the Real Housewives episodes. No wonder I love those shows. I can so relate.

I guess the situation was so stressful that everyone began to play the blame game. We pointed fingers, with each sibling accusing the other of doing more/less than her/himself (it was unanimous, in my opinion, that the girls did a hundred times more than the boys). At one point, the conversation got so heated – right there in the hospital room – I thought the Beaumont staff was going to politely kick us out. They didn’t. Probably they’re used to Chaldean Americans yelling when trying to have a diplomatic conversation.

Well, the action did my mom some good. She’s always happy to have her children gather all around, worry and fret over her. Once she’s done with us, she clobbers us with guilt and more guilt. And she’s not even Jewish! Well, technically she is Jewish since her ancestors are from the land of the Chaldeas, the birthplace and home of Prophet Abraham.

Yes, to please my mom is like trying to climb a mountain and never getting to the top. Some days you end up feeling as my daughter did in the video, when she couldn’t get to the top! You feel like screaming, “Get me out of here!”