Thursday, January 08, 2009

Let's Play 5 Questions!

So, the latest Blog "meme" comes via XUP, and is called 5 questions. She did such a great job explaining how it works on her blog, so I'm just going to go ahead and steal the instructions:

It’s kind of a fun interview exercise because fellow bloggers can email you asking to join in and then you have to email them back 5 interview questions - things you’d like to know specifically about them. Then they answer the questions on their blog and invite other bloggers to join in which means they have to come up with 5 questions for those bloggers. Get it? (Complete instructions are at the end of this post).

On with the show. Here are the questions XUP posed to me, as well as my answers (as usual, extremely run-on-sentency).

  1. As a Muslim and a woman in Canada, do you face any additional challenges in the workplace and/or socially?
    I really think that if you want to look at them as "challenges", you could, but that in essence, we live is such a pluralistic society that it's hard to say there's a "standard" any more, so I probably face as many challenges as anyone else, except mine can be categorized under one lump sum of "this is because she's Muslim"... For example, I don't drink, nor do I attend social events where alcohol will be served. What this means is that if I'm going out to dinner with some friends, no one at the table can order a drink... At work, I'll skip the group lunches if I know that some of my colleagues are going to be drinking, but we end up doing a lot of "in office potlucks" instead, and the formal lunches are only 1 or 2 times a year. A few of my good friends from high school and university have gotten married recently, and for their weddings, I attended the ceremonies, but not the receptions, because of the alcohol thing. I explained it to them and they didn't mind. The important thing was to see them on their special day in some way or another.
    Honestly, I don't mind. I probably face more challenges dealing with other things that make me unique or different, like my food sensitivities (try avoiding wheat, dairy, and sugar in an office that ADORES all of the above. I have no will power. I break down. I eat it. I get sick. I chide myself and promise I'll never do it again... And then someone buys a box of Laura Secord Chocolates and puts them next to the photocopier that afternoon, and it's breakdown of will power all over. You get the drift).
    Other adjustments? I pray 5 times a day, but I'm pretty flexible about the specifics. If the nurse's room is in use, or we've got a lot of back to back meetings, I'll just use my office.
    I've had the very very rare situation pop up where someone is down right discriminatory, but then who hasn't? If I wasn't Muslim (and Arab: double-whammy!) I'm sure it would be something else, like sexism, or some other form of discrimination. Honestly, I've been a minority for so long that it's what I'm most comfortable with. I don't think any of it is insurmountable. You just have to explain to people why you're doing "thing x" some other way...
  2. You commute regularly between Ottawa and Montreal. If you both could have the same or better jobs in the same city, which one would you choose to live in?
    Hmmm... I have to say that right now, even though commuting is hard, I get the best of both worlds. I live in downtown Montreal and get to work at home 2 days of the week, and I live in the 'burbs in Ottawa and work in downtown the other 3 weekdays. I love the vibe of Montreal. I love the vibrant spirit that's just there. I love the "bigness" of it. But I love the quiet of Ottawa, and the kind of unobtrusive beauty, and until last February, Ottawa was my whole life. The overwhelming majority of important memories in my life took place in Ottawa. My sisters and I tobogganing in our back yard in our old house in the winters when we were little; biking with my dad in the summers along the Ottawa river bike paths; going to the Public Library as a teen and coming home with more novels than I could carry; babysitting at the mosque on Fridays; going to Canterbury High School and finding out there that, no matter what I did with my "working hours" in my life, I would always really be a writer; there are too many... Ottawa will always be home. If my husband could work there, I would probably choose to live there. That said, I'm sure my parents missed Egypt like crazy when they moved to Canada for my dad to finish his PhD. and that was over 35 years ago.
  3. What is the hardest decision you've ever had to make all on your own?
    This is the hardest question. I put off answering this meme while I tried to think of an answer for this, and the bottom line is that I couldn't come up with anything profound at all because any hard decision I have to make, I don't make on my own. I'm very fortunate that some of the people closest to me are actually exceptional people that others look up to and seek out for advice constantly, and that are only ever, at worst, a phone call away. Case in point: my parents. My mother has been part of every big decision I've ever made. She's a details person, and she will sit through every last point and review things until I'm no longer lost. My father is a great sounding board, and when he's done listening to me rant about something, he can usually, in one or two sentences, give me a "grand scheme of things" reminder that helps clarify my position and re-orients me. My sisters are all incredibly supportive and know me insanely well. My husband is super-patient, non-pushy, and brings to my decisions a different perspective since, unlike everyone else I've listed, he hasn't lived in my immediate family unit for the last 25 years. I know this sounds like I'm gushing about these people ridiculously, but it's the truth. And while they'll all tell you I'm a bit stubborn and hard-headed when I want something (albeit using nicer words), it's usually when I want something small, like a chocolate bar, or to watch movie X instead of movie Y.
    So, the hardest decision I ever made on my own? Pretty anti-climactic, but it was probably to go to Arts Canterbury High School for the Literary Arts program, even though it would mean an extra 2 hours on the bus each day, and an extra hour at school, for 4 years. And even that, I asked what my family thought about it. If you want something COMPLETELY independent, it would be something ridiculously minuscule, like buying a bike. Not a hard decision.
  4. What is there about you that you think makes you just a little bit different from anyone else you know?
    I have a ridiculous memory for completely useless trivia facts and words/lyrics. Anything from the fact that retired hockey player Dave Andreychuk and my uncle have the same birthday (September 29th) to lyrics of "Over my head" by the Fray, to the lyrics of a spoof version of Bohemian Rhapsody that Flogo posted on their website during the 2004 Presidential election, to whole sections of dialogue from Lord of the Rings. I'll correct my sister if she's singing a song and changes some obscure line by one word in the bridge... Also, I have yet to meet another Muslim woman who loves hockey as much as I do.
  5. You are granted 10 minutes to go back in time, meet up with one person and tell them something. Who would it be and what would you tell them?
    I thought about going back to some famous historical figure and telling them something that could have changed the outcome of the world, but I wrote this off because it strikes me as hubris, and I just don't' think that little old me, given ten minutes, could really accomplish some huge, global thing. So, I'll go for something more personal.
    I'd go back in time to when my maternal grandmother was alive and tell her thank you and how much I love and appreciate her. She lived in Egypt for almost all of her life, but came to stay with my mom when my mom was pregnant with my sisters and I, and we formed a very very tight bond. When I was a baby, she called me her little Cinderella and wouldn't let me sleep in the crib (which caused all sorts of "adjustments" when she had to go back to Egypt and I was used to cooing in the bed with a grown up. She'd make sure my older sister didn't jump on the bed if I was napping. When she came back for the birth of my younger sister, I was already so used to her that she mostly took care of me to free up my mom for my younger sister.
    She came back and stayed with us again for about a year when I was around 10, but I don't think I truly realized just how much she did for us. I loved her, but I loved to go out and play more, and by then, she wasn't as mobile. The next couple of times I saw her on visits to Egypt, she was getting older and starting to forget things. But she had a beautiful, warm heart, and it wasn't until after she died by a few years that I really, truly thought about her more deeply as her own person and not as simply my grandmother. I'd tell her that I included her in my prayers every day, and I'd give her a hug.


Here are the rules if you want to participate in 5 Questions.

  1. Send me an email saying: ”Interview Me” to
  2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
  3. You can then answer the questions on your blog.
  4. You should also post these rules along with an offer to interview anyone else who emails you wanting to be interviewed.
  5. Anyone who asks to be interviewed should be sent 5 questions to answer on their blog. I would be nice if the questions were individualized for each blogger.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful, wonderful, thoughtful and very interesting answers Noha. Thank you so much for participating. I am always in awe of your close bond with your family and how hugely they factor in your day to day life. And for your last answer, I was already 99% sure you would choose a family member who's passed on rather than an historical figure! (PS: Canterbury is the best, isn't it? My daughter goes there)

Anonymous said...

I really loved your thougtful answers to the questions.

noha said...

XUP, my pleasure. This was actually a lot of fun! In terms of my family, yeah, every day I'm grateful for having them in my life... and Canterbury? Best school ever! Is your daughter in an Arts program? Which one.
COTW, glad you found the answers thoughtful. I was worried that more than anything else, I was just rambling :)

Anonymous said...

Yes, she's in visual

noha said...

That's fantastic. I had a lot of friends in visual. We would rail together about being less loved since we weren't "performing arts". I loved the murals. It's part of what gave the school such a unique feel.
I can't draw for my life. Complete disaster when it comes to visual, but I love to look...