Sunday, June 29, 2014

Ramadan 2014

Ramadan has begun; a month of fasting, prayer and blessings for all. Today we are fasting for our second day, which means that we get up early before sunrise, eat breakfast and recite our morning prayers. Then nothing to eat or drink all day, until sunset. At sunset, we break our fast, traditionally with dates or water, recite our evening prayers and enjoy dinner. Fasting all day is a constant reminder to us of those who are less fortunate. It also teaches us a lot of self discipline and restraint. We also recite the Holy Quran more than we typically would. Today, like yesterday, we will break our fast at home, but there will be some days this month, that we will go to the mosque and join our fellow local Muslims at Iftaar, to break our fast, eat dinner, and pray in a large group. It helps build a sense of community. After 29 or 30 days (based on the lunar calendar), we will celebrate Eid al Fitr, with more prayer, and lots of eating! Hopefully the good habits we have developed over one month of fasting will carry on with us throughout the year.

Where have we been?

After a hectic two and a half days in Auburn, Safa and I got back home on Friday evening. As soon as we stepped into the house, we began packing for our upcoming trip to Florida, plus Bahamas cruise. On Saturday morning Zakir took the dog to be boarded, and as soon as he was back, we packed the minivan and headed out. We had booked a hotel near Port Canaveral, so that was a little over a nine hour drive for us. Add the necessary stops on the way, it took us closer to ten hours to get to our destination. We found a cute little restaurant called David's Cafe, that serves sushi, curries, and American food also. So, it was sushi for dinner, before we checked in at the hotel. The cruise was scheduled to depart at 4pm the following afternoon, which gave us plenty of time to have a leisurely rest and breakfast, before we had to leave. It was terribly hot and humid, but the sky was a gorgeous shade of blue when we parked our car and boarded the ship.

Bilal was definitely ready, with his pillow wings! We reserved a large cabin, with a spacious balcony.

By the time we left port, the sky had turned a murky grey and it was starting to rain.

Thankfully, no rough weather, and it was much more pleasant as we got farther out to sea. We spent the first evening exploring the ship and the amenities it had to offer, and enjoyed a buffet dinner in the Seaview Bistro. Safa and I went to the spa, and attended a couple of stand up comedy shows, while Hamza spent the first evening making friends through Club O2, which is for kids age 15-17. After he made some friends we hardly saw him during the evenings; after dinner every day he was gone, either hanging out with other teenagers, or swimming in the pool until late at night. I believe he had more fun on the cruise than any of us! Zakir preferred his earlier nights, curled up with a book, so he and Bilal would head back to the cabin before the rest of us.

We traveled overnight, and were in Freeport, Grand Bahama, by the time we awoke the following morning. More on that later!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Camp War Eagle

It's been a busy day or two, and we are preparing for another buys one tomorrow. Safa and I are down in Auburn, attending Camp War Eagle, which is her college orientation/ registration session. We drove in yesterday, so that we could attend the Honors College orientation, and today the parents and students were kept busy in separate activities. Safa spent the night on one of the residence halls.

She brought a sleeping bag and pillow along, and that was about it! Tonight will be another night there for her, while I am a little comfier at the Hampton Inn, down the street. Most of the day for parents was spent in classrooms and the ballroom, listening to informational sessions, but this evening we attended a pep rally at Jordan Hare Stadium.

After the pep rally, we are back in our quarters for much needed rest. By the time we leave tomorrow afternoon, Safa will have made her course selections, and will basically have a schedule, good to start in the fall. It's been a good experience so far, I feel comfortable that she has made the right decision, choosing Auburn for her undergraduate years.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Promoted again!

This past weekend, both Hamza and Bilal tested for their next belts in karate. I wasn't able to attend the test, since I had to work out of town, but Safa was there to document the test in photos, and Zakir was able to join in a little later too.

Both were promoted; now Bilal is only two exams away from being able to test for his first degree black belt. If he is consistent, it may be as soon as 4-5 months. He needs to log a certain number of hours, and show that he is proficient in all the skills that are required of him. Hamza has been training since he was almost six years old. Almost ten years since first stepping foot in the Dojo, he is close to being able to test for his third degree black belt. Just one exam away! That is huge!

Congrats, boys! I wish I was there to cheer you both on!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Safa's Graduation Party

Friday was a big day; we hosted a party for Safa's high school graduation. The guest list included about 200 people, but the turnout was closer to 180. Still, that's a large group! The venue was the ballroom at Pine Tree Country Club, and the food we had catered was from a local Thai restaurant, Nori. No regrets on either decision, the hall was lovely and the food was delicious, down to their yummy chocolate wontons. We asked a photographer to take photos, so I'll be able to share those as soon as they are available to us. But I did take a couple of the kids, before the big party.

My young man in a suit for the first time. I think that secretly, he was rather pleased about how he looked, even though he didn't admit it!

And Bilal obliged me, with a button down shirt with khakis. For a kid who would rather live in sweatpants and a worn out T-shirt, that's a huge deal!

My three together:

A lot of preparation had gone in to the party and it was a very successful evening, with great company. Thanks to all who joined us in the celebration. Now on to the next stage, as Safa prepares for college.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A test of skill

It's been a while, but Bilal and I are back to playing one of our favorite games. Jenga, of course!

We start off with the blocks stacked three to a row, and then as we play, the tower becomes higher

and higher,
and even higher.

Then it starts to look rather precarious, as we continue to take turns, drawing and stacking more blocks.
Until, eventually the inevitable happens:

So much fun!

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