Mixed Emotions

As the title suggests, my departure from Tallahassee is drawing near. The semester has ended, grades are out, and it is time to go see my family! I haven’t seen them for 5 months and counting which beats my previous record of not seeing them for a little less than 4 months. It was my niece’s birthday 2 days ago, yet another event that I missed. Soon though, I will be catching up with all that I’ve missed once I meet them and I cannot wait!

                Since I’m leaving soon, I’ve been trying to do a lot of things these days while I still have the chance. Of these things is the flamethrower challenge at Stevie B’s Pizza. To be honest, knowing how it would play out, I wouldn’t have done it. :p It was not worth it at all! I’m not a big fan of spicy food in the first place, but that sauce that they put on the pizza was way too spicy! The challenge started and the mood was so tense. They sit you in the “Flame room” which is a small isolated area, wall painted red, a poster of a man blowing fire out of his mouth right there on the wall next to you and a bucket on your side in case you needed it if you know what I mean. The timer started and I had 20 minutes to finish it. After 2 bites, the spiciness got to me and at that very moment I just stopped and said to myself “wow, this is overwhelmingly spicy, I can’t do it”. I kept drinking water while my friend was trying to convince me to keep going, but he was just delaying the inevitable. After 10 minutes of just drinking water and listening to the empty support of my friend, I quit. My advice? Don’t do it!

                Recently I have discovered a soccer field that is official sized and has perfectly clean-cut grass. It was the discovery of a lifetime! I hadn’t played in a field like that in soooo long. Another one of those things I wish I knew about earlier.

                Also, another thing I plan on doing before I leave is finally visiting Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando! As soon as I finish writing this post I will officially be completely free to do whatever I want until I leave to see my family! Whenever that happens, it will be with a heavy heart. It has been such a wonderful year in Tallahassee and I enjoyed every bit of it. I learned an awful lot from living here far away from any family and such. I believe I am even more responsible and mature now. It has been an exhilarating experience in which I have met so many different interesting people from all over the world. I met people from so many different countries with such different cultures. It is truly a diverse campus with endless opportunities to participate in organizational events, activity events, social events, etc. and meeting all sorts of people.

I wish I could write more perhaps about the visit to Orlando if it happens but unfortunately this is my last post before I leave. It has certainly been great to be able to share my experiences and information and I wish it was helpful to its respective audience. I am so grateful to have come to such an amazing university and would encourage anyone and everyone to study here. It does not disappoint! Form the students to the staff and faculty to the professors and instructors to all the events and opportunities to the campus itself I rate my first year of university a whopping 10/10!

Last roll of the dice

This is going to be my last blog for FSU. The semester ended last week and everyone is packed and gone for either the entirety of the summer break or for the weeks break between the spring and summer semester. I will be leaving Tallahassee tomorrow to finally head home after almost a whole year. Time flew by so quickly and it is hard to believe that two semesters have gone by. Two full semesters full of fun, experiences, new friendships and new food…oh and studying of course ;P

Food! Now that I think about it from Monday onwards I will be feasting on amazing desi richness. To think that when I was in Pakistan all I ate was burgers and fries and fast food and now that I am here I realized how much I value the traditional delights. I have already envisioned my arrival at the airport. I’ll land in the morning and from there I plan on bee lining my way straight to the nihari place( for those who don’t know  what nihari is I’m including pictures!!!) . Jet lag can be taken care of later on. Maybe I can wash all that rich food down with my mom’s amazing daal……

The good news is that my roommate and I got the amazing house that we had been eyeing forever. Persistence and patience pays off! It is lovely and the few night I spent there, before handing it to my friend who is going to sublease from me over the summer so that I don’t have to pay bills, were great.

   Though I must say that a house comes with immense responsibility and there are a lot of things that one needs to think about before jumping  right into it. The first being security. A house in comparison to a dorm means that you are now responsible for your own security. That means locking the doors and fastening accessible from the outside windows before going to sleep.

Also now that I have to pay bills I have become more eco-friendly. I close all extra lights, trying not to leave the lights on when I am sleeping or any switches of appliances plugged in when they are not in use, keep the windows open and the thermostats off during the day time. I had never realized how big my personal carbon footprint was when my dad used to pay for me. He still is but, now that I have more control over my spending I am more aware. Sorry dad! (I know you’re reading this) I’ll be more energy efficient when I get back 🙂 so now you have more things like a lower electricity bill to look forward to too instead of just me coming back.

Apart from the basics a house comes with other small responsibilities like changing the light bulbs or getting appliances to work and just taking care of utilities and facilities like getting an internet connection…If only the whole world could be wifi 😦

On the other hand my ego got a major boost as I feel more important now, just because I am living independently and cooking for myself and all that…

All over, my first year in Florida State treated me very well. I have been to places and seen things and learnt things. I am deeply grateful for all the wonderful experiences I had here and all the great friends I got to make. Personally, I really like living in America especially in Florida, given the amazing weather. The people are super nice and friendly and extremely welcoming and generally there is a happy vibe all over. As a person I have learnt a lot and look forward to broadening my outlook further in my successive terms to come at this university. Even though I am excited about going back home I will miss being here too!!!

Sayōnara!                                                                               

Amidst Confusion

Summer finally kicked in and the weather is getting so hot. It is reminding me of the summers in Kuwait. Speaking of which, I don’t even know when I’ll be going back to Kuwait this summer. I might take summer classes here, but the weather makes me think otherwise. Also, I may have to meet up with my family when they go to France, which might be really soon. I am so excited to go and use all the French I’ve learned this year. I really can’t wait to go there. I also want to go back to Kuwait to see all my friends and relatives though, but that will most likely have to wait till after I go to France.

Amidst all this confusion, there is so much work that I have to do for my classes. Some of the work includes final projects and assignments, studying for final exams, and procrastination. Instead of working, the temptation to go and play tennis or racquetball is too strong for me to resist. Racquetball is another sport I took up. I’ve never heard of it till I came here. It is very similar to squash and tires you out real fast, which makes it a great workout.  It is about just as enjoyable as tennis but not too fun when you hit yourself in the head with the racquet.  Back to the point, I have been procrastinating which forces me to work till late at night. Then, I have to wake up for my 8AM class and I have no time to take naps in the afternoon, so I am exhausted. In fact, I missed two of those early classes this week. I wake up, and like everyone else when they’re tired, turn the alarm off and go back to sleep. The funny thing about it is that I do it subconsciously; when I wake up later I don’t even remember turning the alarm off.

Yesterday was an important day in the world of soccer. There was a match between the best two Spanish clubs, Barcelona and Real Madrid. The only place you can go to watch the match is a Colombian restaurant called Super Perros. It was the first time for me watching a soccer match in Tallahassee and being able to feel the tension in the air created by the passionate supporters of the two teams. There was even extra tension because it was the Final of the Spanish Cup. It was beautiful. The place got rowdy and people were screaming and you don’t see that in Tallahassee. The place has really good food too. It’s too bad I just heard about this place yesterday.  It’s never too late though, I’ll probably go again for the Champions League games.

Two Things

Cultural differences are inevitable. America is a huge country that is pretty self-dependent and many American students do not know much about the outside world other than what they learn in history class. That means many of them do not know anything at all about the Middle East. Being from Kuwait, I get all sorts of questions that can get pretty interesting.  A few days ago, I was having lunch with a group of 3 friends and two of them were telling me how they convinced the other friend that I am with Al- Qaeda. I laughed SO hard. You can’t take those things seriously and get upset about them or feel offended. You have to always remember that many students are clueless about the Middle East and have very, very vague and incorrect ideas about it. I haven’t heard anyone talk to me about camels yet which I am glad about because I wouldn’t be able to say much about that other than the fact that I have never seen a camel in Kuwait except on the logo of our national bank.  Instead of getting all worked up about things like that, just explain to them what it’s really like and inform them about life back home wherever home is for you. They are almost always surprised and interested in hearing about such matters. Cultural difference may or may not be a bit of a problem depending on how you react to it. In my case, I enjoy discussing things with students and letting them know what my culture is like, so it really isn’t much of a challenge.

                What could be a challenge for you whether you are an American at FSU or an international student, is that being alone without your parents to take care of financial matters, there is a lot you need to make sure you do not forget to take care of. It is a long list and some of those things on the list are only for international students, others are for everyone. Among those things are your monthly payments. If you live off campus, you need to remember to pay your rent and utilities. You also would have a phone bill you need to pay for every month. You also need to make sure your health insurance information is updated at the Thagard Health Center at the beginning of every semester which is a great Health Center. A few weeks ago when I was sick and had Pink eye, I went there around noon and got an appointment right away to see a doctor and they took care of me and gave me a prescription. It all took about an hour. Registration for classes also must be taken care of as soon as possible in order to guarantee that you get enrolled in all the classes you need to take, when you want to take them. On top of all that, you have all the class work that can be overwhelming at times. My suggestion is to make a list of those things and organize them in a chart so you can keep track of what you need to do every month. As long as you organize everything and remember to take care of those things at the right times, you’ll be fine. If you are slightly unorganized like me, you could face some problems with late fees whether for your phone bill, rent, utilities, or you might be forced to take a class at a time that you don’t really like because you were late in registering for classes. Because I registered for classes a little late, I am forced to wake up early every morning to get to my 8 AM math class.

What I want you to get from this are two things:

1)      Do not get offended by silly questions you might have thrown your way. Instead, deal with it in a calm, humorous, and pleasant manner. It will make things easier for you.

2)      Make sure you organize yourself to remember to pay all your bills, register for classes, and all the little things that you need to do on a monthly/per semester basis.

“Wish I Was There” Disease

When you’re studying in the US and home is somewhere else, you’re bound to miss so many things that happen in your home country. Sometimes all you can think about is how much you wish you were there when they happened. It can be a dangerous way to lose motivation to work. You must deal with it carefully and try to get your mind off of it, which is harder than you might think. So much has happened in Kuwait since I left and every time something new happens I think to myself “I wish I was there”. I had to somehow deal with this weak mental state in order to focus on school. The best way that I have found to deal with it which seems to work quite well, is this. First of all, you must communicate with your family, more than just on Facebook or MSN. It has to be a video call or at the very least, phone calls. You need to hear from someone briefly about what happened and get all the details that allow you to envision yourself being there. This envisage gives you the comfort of mind and you feel the joy of the event. It’s the closest thing to actually being there. Pictures of the event also help greatly.

                Some of the things that happened that I wish I was there for are: my cousin’s wedding and my sister-in-law’s delivery of her second son.  Then there are other things that normally, you would be happy to have missed. Someone like me however, would much rather be there and experience. In saying this I am referring to the sandstorm that hit Kuwait a few days ago. It was the biggest sand storm to ever hit Kuwait and it was actually very interesting as it looked like nothing I have ever seen before. It started as an enormous cloud of sand hovering above of the ground coming from a distance. It got closer and closer and eventually, you would be inside that cloud. While there, you can barely see the anything! You’re range of vision goes down to about 2 yards in darker areas where there is little light, and about 15 yards in brighter areas. It would have been interesting to be an eye witness of that phenomenon.

                I mentioned one way to try to deal with this “wish I was there” problem. Another way is to keep busy. Classes themselves do a pretty good job at that, but there are always some weeks that just aren’t as busy as usual. So to keep busy, you must start a new habit, hopefully a good one. I for instance, took up a new sport, tennis. It is so much fun, it takes your mind off of those things that happened back home, and its good exercise. You kill not only 2, but 3 birds in one stone.

Cricket mania

I have never been a really big cricket fan…but a match between Pakistan & India requires even the non-followers to convert into die hard supporters. I don’t promote any rifts, most of my friends are Indians but when I saw myself screaming for Pakistan when the bowled Yuvraj for zero runs and my Indian friends shouted taunts back a weird rivalry rose, I’m sorry but some occasions require this. None of my American friends understood this obsession but cricket for us is like the super bowl or the orange bowl, or probably like the UF and FSU football match…. I don’t know how to describe this.

However such occasions also happen to be the part where you end up missing home the most. Especially when your friends message you with repeated updates of everything you are missing…and you have to instead stream and watch the match on a small screen…yeah not so fun. Despite the inconveniences the desi crowd is living up to its name and religiously gathered at 5am in the morning to watch the match…

As the rain pours on Tallahassee today and as the thunder rolls I am keeping my fingers crossed…

I hate changing the topic, well I hate taking my eyes off the screen to write this entry for today too but anyway the Center for Global Engagement organized an International Bazaar. I mentioned the bazaar in my last post but the significance of the event other than the fact that it was the first event this semester that I attended which was organized by the CGE was that it’s an excellent way for international students to come together and show their culture and talents to everyone. The highlight was that I got to eat a samosa and vegetable rolls with tamarind sauce for only a dollar and after almost a year. A lot of student organizations had set up their booths as had a lot of countries. The best booth according to me was by the Buddhist Students association. They gave free samples of ‘unconscious drawings’ i.e. drawings done when the person is in a state of meditation. The cool thing about is that whatever angle you view them from a different image is perceived.  I think that it was cool+ they had yummy chocolate cupcakes which were free.

                We have Shirin Ebadi a Nobel laureate giving a public talk this Friday. Shirin Ebadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her efforts for democracy, peace, and women’s rights in the Middle East. There will also be a book signing for her book “Iran Awakening” and the most recent one so I am super excited about it…

Spring Break!

I mentioned in my last post that I will be going down to Miami for spring break and to Key West, and then back up north to Panama City, all over the course of 5 days. Well, it didn’t go exactly as planned but it was definitely a spring break to remember! Here’s what happened…

We drove down to Miami as planned Friday night; or should I say Saturday morning since it was past midnight when we left Tallahassee, around 3am. I don’t know if that was such a great idea but it was the earliest we could go based on my friends’ and my schedules. We were headed to Miami Airport first to drop a friend off there. I must say it was not the safest of rides as my friend who was driving was a little drowsy. Half way down to Miami we stopped at a resting area and got something to eat/drink. The driver took a quick 20 minute nap to restore some energy, but that did not really help. Only one other person was eligible to drive so she took the helm. Our new driver was not as drowsy but she was only going to get us to Miami airport because she was the one we were dropping off there. The original driver took a long nap till we got close to the airport so he was good to drive after that. However, the anticipated 8 hour drive turned into a 11ish hour drive as the closer we got to the airport, the worse the traffic was. After being stuck in traffic for about an hour and barely moving, we decided to take another, longer route. We eventually got there and were finally headed towards a friend from FILC’s house. Who would have thought we would be close enough to the people we met at FILC that we ended up spending spring break with them. We met many of them down in Miami and we had such a great time! Miami Beach is such a beautiful beach and the road that runs along it, Ocean’s Drive is filled with great restaurants and hotels. The beach is always packed and there are many beach volleyball courts and other casual sports going on everywhere. Just being there has this positive, happy feeling in the air. That is basically what happened in Miami, a few great days spent on the beach, swimming, tanning, etc. I however, was bitten by some sort of creature in the shallow water; or probably a little crab pinched me. It wasn’t too bad though, just a little shocking at the moment. One restaurant in particular I must mention is called Shake Shack. The single best burger I have ever had. Sadly, Shake Shack is only located in Miami and New York City. That was the end of our Miami trip and we ended up not going to Key West just because we decided the beach was just as fun and we were tired of long drives; Key West was about 3 hours away from Miami.

 So we went back to Tallahassee, and again, the drive was exhausting. Instead of going to Panama City the next day, we

Panama City Beach. As you can see, very few people are in the freezing water.

stayed in Tally for 2 quiet days to rest up and then went to Panama City Friday morning and got back that same day at night. Panama City turned out to be such a beautiful city. The beach there was extremely tempting so despite the freezing water and windy weather, we could not resist the temptation of the water. It was begging us to jump in. We did, but did not stay in the water for long, as it was just way too cold. The beach was more crammed than in Miami, and more action packed, with sponsored events going on throughout the day. We spent the day on the beach, just like we did in Miami but it was a whole different experience, equally fun. That was pretty much the end of spring break as Saturday and Sunday were transition days where you try to set your mind set back to school mode. What better way is there to spend your spring break than chilling on the beach all break long? None! But now it’s time to focus on school as there is just a little more than a month before summer!!

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