A Day at the Pumpkin Patch - A Travelogue and Photo Essay

A Day at the Pumpkin Patch - A Travelogue and Photo Essay

Threads Spooky Sunday Edition:

A Day at the Pumpkin Patch - A Travelogue and Photo Essay

words | firdausi sudarmadji

threads 1.jpg

‘Tis the new season!

Every season brings a different version of myself. With the chillier weather and cozy vibe, Fall season definitely brings a beautiful kind of atmosphere. One of the essentials of getting into the autumnal spirit is paying a visit to the mecca for cute toddler and millennial pictures: the pumpkin patch!

After researching the best pumpkin patches in the San Francisco Bay Area, my dear friend and I decided on exploring Clancy’s Pumpkin Patch in San Francisco. Packed in the streets, Clancy’s was chock-full of pumpkins, crawl mazes for kids (I admit, I did go through), and even a hay ride!

Read on to taste a flavor of my trip to the pumpkin patch to get further into the fall mood.

2 (1).jpg

After stepping out of our Uber, we were engulfed in the chilly San Francisco weather. We could see the fog slowly creeping in. As we walked through the gates of Clancy’s, the “Rules of the Pumpkin Patch” and an eyeful of bright orange pumpkins greeted our sight.

Petrifying scarecrows and delightful cornhusks decorated the surrounding poles, which acted as great photo ops for millennials! One could also grab a wheelbarrow to carry all the different-sized pumpkins, or pose with them for Instagram.

The variety of pumpkins onsite was astonishing; anyone could easily find what they were looking for. From large pumpkins for carving purposes, to cute, tiny ones for decorating tables and window sills, it was easy to find the perfect pumpkin that suited your needs!

The spooky decorations, especially the tombstones for the hayride - which reminded me of the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland - made us giggle. Such fun!

Other charming/worthwhile attractions included turkeys that the children at the patch were overwhelmingly ecstatic about. Hopefully they won’t end up as someone’s Thanksgiving meal….

As we headed out, the lights switched on, which prompted Aishah to return to the patch; she simply had to take photos of the lights against the incoming fog. The results were, in one word, beautiful.

I hope my day at the pumpkin patch put you in the fall atmosphere! Although the patch was quite small in size and we spent a solid thirty minutes checking out the gorgeous pumpkins and attractions, the trip was most certainly worth it. Indeed, it put us both in the festive spirit and breeded a sense of acceptance for the end of the old season.

So take a trip to Clancy’s Pumpkin Patch, grab a delicious holiday drink at Peet’s Coffee, listen to “Autumn Vibes” playlists on Spotify, or simply watch and appreciate the trees in front of your dorm change into vibrant shades of orange, yellow, and brown. Marvel at the gorgeous Halloween holiday season unfolding ahead of you.


photos | aishah mahmud and sania elahi


Islam as a Social Order in the West

Islam as a Social Order in the West

Islam as a Social Order in the West


words | kauser adenwala


The following piece forms a personal reflection on how the writer views Islamic principles, virtues, and values existing in a secular world, in the Western hemisphere today. In this riveting article, the author asks questions that she ponders about daily and endeavors to offer a reason behind why our Islamic society is not where we want it to be in any form –– whether that be politically, socially, economically, or culturally.


I’ve often pondered on the attention that Islamic revivalism receives because of Islam’s ability to provide a code of social and individual behavior and development in a myriad of fields. I’ve thought about how Islam, in all its glory, could have prevented colonialism and imperialism from flourishing; how the race superiority complex, capitalism, communism, and fascism would never have been born had Islamic society continued to play the humanitarian role it did in the early centuries; how Islam in its purest form is the best countermeasure for the aforementioned debacles. Alluding to the history of colonialism and imperialism, the West has a habit of usurping credit for whatever good practices exist in the world.


How does Western liberalism, existentialism and religion interlace? Why does it seem as if there is no definitive answer? Why is religion often to blame for historically ingrained wars and how does that affect the way religion is viewed today in Western society?


I draw parallels between the West today and the Byzantine empire in the early 7th century –– for instance, how Muslims rejoiced at the defeat of the Romans and how today, Muslims are viewed as opponents of Western ideologies and norms. It’s fascinating to connect the two powerful empires, head-to-head in a war that had holy cities at stake, to the secular world that exists today. This domain of unabridged roads, linking monumental phenomena in history keeps me awake at night. How do we go about explaining the history of colonialism and imperialism, without the West relapsing back to its habit of expropriating credit for achievements and practices that evidently do not belong to them?


I don’t think I can easily find definitive answers to my questions, but what I do know is that Islam developed a new civilization, a new culture, a new philosophy of life. The Ottoman empire’s conquest of Islam throughout the terrains of the Mediterranean brought about reforms in Western culture embedded in modern years, even if the fifteenth-century medievalism was regarded as a barrier. The balanced forces of Islam produced trends of assimilation with territories conquered and emphasized that spiritual nationality knows no geographical boundaries. Islam as a social order has endured a moral philosophy with special concentration to the absolute truth as well as the relative truths –– a philosophy of dynamic spiritualism and materialism. Regarding materialism, the modern materialistic civilization will, of course, try to restore the lost foundations of purpose and spirituality through an Islamic lens, but yet somehow, materialism is still the one aspect Islam seems to fall back on to restore the foundational principles in today’s society. This underlying segregation of religion from progress has made us forget that our limited powers are derived from Allah (SWT). The pursuit of power, possession, and material acquisition throughout history and today, especially in the West, has put us at a crossroad with cohabitation. However, cohabitation isn’t the only issue; there is also the case of our nafs (soul) and our willingness to turn towards our own hearts, asking for true answers from Allah. Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali, one of the most prominent Islamic theologians who lived in the eleventh century, once said, “Never have I dealt with anything more difficult than my own soul, which sometimes helps me and sometimes opposes me.”


I think of Islamic society in the West like the moon. The first phase of the moon starts off as a crescent, which can be compared to how Islamic principles tended to vary in the early stages. Once the crescent starts to become brighter and more luminous on its journey to the glistening full moon stage, gleaming streaks of light of a new order in Islamic society gradually unfold. These phases carry on in an incessant cycle of differing levels of luster, the current crescent showing us that we have work to do –– our nafs to overcome –– in order to attain the full moon.


photos | wardah seedat

end.jpeg

"They will question thee concerning the new moons. Say, "They are appointed times for the people, and the Pilgrimage." - Quran, 2:189

Can You Be a Part-Time Hijabi?

Can You Be a Part-Time Hijabi?

Can You Be a Part-Time Hijabi?

words | hana qwfan



With the rise of Muslim influencers in the media - from Instagram to Vogue to CNN - comes the term “part-time hijabi”. “Part-Time Hijabi” is the new label that Muslims on the Internet use to refer to Muslim women who wear the hijab one day and take it off the next, or who completely cover their hair in one instance but switch to a sheer look with bangs in another. Is this term demeaning? Does it act as a backhanded reference, or as a way to distinguish a Muslim woman’s degree of modesty? Could the hijab itself function as a binary symbol, or is there gray matter to interpret regarding the “part-timers” that many Muslim women are referred to as today? Ultimately, what does this part-time status entail, and is it significantly different for those who adorn the normal ‘extremes’ of the hijab,’ of either always wearing it or never wearing it at all?

        At first, I planned to enter this discussion with the simple answer of “yes!” However, as I ruminated on the topic more, I realized that the real answer is no: one cannot be a part-time hijabi.

        The hijab, the Muslim headscarf, is an undoubtedly important - and the majority will regard as an essential - act of worship. The Holy Quran mentions the importance of a woman’s modesty, in Surat Al-Nur, with the verse:

“... and not display their beauty except what is apparent, and they should place their veils over their bosoms...” (24.31)


        Without translation, the term “khumur” can be used to describe some sort of veil or covering. While the word is debated frequently among scholars on if this pertains to the veil around the head (the headscarf), there are clear directions given for women to dress modestly. But with the act of modesty, there is the requirement of intention, compassion, and sacrifice. There have been days, for example, when I have worn the hijab out of routine instead of deliberate intention. I questioned my act of worship. At the same time, I remember my commitment the very first day I began wearing the hijab. I woke my sister up as I was getting ready for school, and told her to help me put it on. I ended up taking it off half-way through the day, but, nevertheless, it was my decision and intention that made it an act of worship.

        We have all heard of the term “part-time hijabi” to signify a woman who wears a headscarf for only a partial amount of time, whether that be whenever she is in public, or within the private sphere of her own home. However, the actual worship behind the wardrobe cannot be something one partially invests in. The hijab is defined as a barrier or shield, referred to in the Holy Quran a total of seven times, which can be taken in the context of not only physical but also metaphorical barriers. It is a guard that every Muslim is required to adorn themselves with in order to keep their duties to Allah (SWT). The obligations of the hijab encompass much more than a mere dress code: they include respect in every glance and gaze as well as grace in every mannerism one adopts and behaves with, for the purpose of testing one’s character to its purest limits. In other words, the hijab represents a manifestation of one’s hayaa (modesty), as it is important for us Muslims to embrace this life with both love and humility.

If an individual is wearing the hijab with the right intentions, he or she is performing a faithful act of committed worship. If that same individual abides by all of the tenets that the hijab comprehends but has external factors that motivate the action, then, in the end, the hijab is not an incarnation of worship. The most common external factor most Muslims know of is the cultural peer pressure that stems from the family and local Muslim community. And although cultural, communal, and familial bonds are important, the reality is that they have no place in swaying one’s religion.

        The hijab is a ritual: it is an ongoing action, an incredibly rewarding journey. For those whose parents immigrated from an Islamic country, most of them would most likely recall seeing photos or hearing stories of their parents in their early years in America (or any other country with a Westernized culture) with sheer fabric, tight clothing from the 70s, or stylish bangs undulating out of their head caps and sequined hijabs. My parents, for example, told me that everything that they have worked so hard for in the U.S. was for the benefit of their own parents, and the reason why they did so was ultimately for the purpose of serving God. No one ridiculed them for their assimilation to the US - not even their families back home - because everyone was aware that my parents were becoming part of a brand new - and uncomfortably foreign - world. In the 70s, not many average Americans had an opinion on Muslims, let alone know the doctrine of Islam.

        Yet today, everyone has an opinion on Muslims - and one that is dogmatically so. In a post 9/11 world, it’s no secret that hijabi women are easily targeted for the increasing rise in Islamophobic hate crimes. To many of us, this is not only a brand new world: it is our only world. Nonetheless, we all somehow form opinions on a particular sister’s clothing, her absence/presence of a hijab on certain days of the week, or her choice to leave her hair exposed for the world to see. Does this make her a “part-time hijabi”?

The term itself reduces the complexity of each particular case and antagonizes Muslims (specifically Muslim women) against each other. A woman may not wear a hijab due to the high anxiety levels it creates, such as from memories of a terrorist attack in the media.  She may also abstain from it due to the entire family’s coercion for her to temporarily ‘put it on pause’ for safety measures. Or perhaps the sister simply wishes for a clear heart and pure intention to be present when she does decide to start wearing one, so that she can rest assured, knowing that she’s fulfilling its true purpose: to satisfy an act of worship to Allah (SWT).

        The hijab is required for all Muslims. However, it’s worthwhile to recognize that all Muslims are still on the journey of bettering their way to worship Allah (SWT). When our fundamental belief and trust in God - when our imaan (our faith) - is constantly being challenged, it remains critical to reflect on our genuine intentions. And, in hard times such as the current political climate we all live in, shaped by the Trump Muslim Ban and increasing Islamophobia, both globally and nationally, it is also crucial to keep in mind that we must all be there for each other. Hence, if I have communicated any message that seems wrong or appears disingenuous, then please sincerely excuse my ignorance. I still have a lot to learn through this journey in this precarious and transient dunya (world).

photos | sania elahi




Cookery

Cookery

Poetry at Threads: Cookery

 

words | aamna haq

 

Learning to cook is part of growing up. The way it is taught is a crucial way for a family to connect; it fosters a better relationship. Although the conscious act of cooking has no clear connotation, the setting and demeanor in which it is done elucidates quite a lot about gender roles and so-called familial duties.


 

I scrape at my mother’s fingers

flakes of flour drift in the air

She’s been cooking

 

Her fingers are powerful

As she kneads her frustrations

into the dough of the roti

 

That she makes with

meticulous proportions

of oil, salt and water

 

She rolls her dough

into perfect circles

With glorious rounded edges

 

That I still cannot emulate

Even after all my years

Under her tutelage

 

At twelve years old

She ripped me from the pages

Of my Harry Potter story

 

And dragged me to the kitchen

Just woken up

and still in my pajamas

 

She taught me how to make a roti

It was dry, crisp, boxy, and burnt;

I failed

 

Again, she said and I did it again

Swallowing her criticisms

And suppressing my anger

 

At having to do the menial work.

It did not occur to me that my mother

Would also feel this irritation

 

Of having to cook

For a home

Of ungrateful fools

 

While nursing her knees and her back

And dirtying her hands

So that we would not go hungry

 

Her efforts are easily disregarded

As she places the food on the table

And it is gone within a few moments

 

A stark contrast to the time

She spent hunched over,

Begging her body to give her strength

 

I take it all for granted

Her labor and her effort

And her sacrifices

 

---

 

My mother’s back

And her knees

And her resolve

 

Took a hit one day

She lay on the floor

Immobile

My brothers and I

Waiting in the car

Key in the ignition

 

For the next few days

She spent her time

In a white gown

 

While my father

Attempted to feed us

He tried.

 

His roti was worse than mine

Charred at the edges

Brittle and too thin

 

I remember joking with him

And he laughed it off

After all, this wasn’t his job

 

---

 

Over time

I was able to perfect

The art

 

My father has

Improved - slightly.

Not really

 

My mother

Subdues her pain

And carries on


 

food-pizza-kitchen-recipe.jpg

Catharsis

Catharsis

Catharsis

words | anonymous

Why does one only realize what one has until it is gone? One should continuously notice the little things in life and reflect on the impact that they have on our wellbeing. They are what provide comfort and relief in our otherwise hectic lives. To stop and appreciate them is a form of necessary self-assurance.


“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”
- Robert Brault

I’m crouched on my chair and there’s some music pounding in my left ear. My fingers are gingerly grasping a pencil poised above some calculus problems, and my laptop screen is brightly lit. It’s 2 AM, my eyes are drooping, my gum is stale, and I’m not paying attention. My mind is elsewhere. My thoughts are flying around and they’re not pretty. They accumulate to the extent that I can’t think of anything else.

 

There’s so, so much wrong with you. How are you going to fix anything? Your future...

 

This feeling of being overwhelmed comes from something that throws you completely off balance. It probably stems from just one insignificant thing but it opens an entire ocean of pessimism. It makes you feel like everything has changed and you felt it creep up on you but you didn’t truly realize it’s impact until you started to hyper-analyze everything. You can't stop thinking about how it'll get worse and there’s absolutely nothing you can do to fix it. Everything bad about your life accumulates in your thoughts and smacks you in the face, and you feel like you’re a moldy, rotten shell of what you used to be. It’s overwhelming.

 

In cases like this, it’s easy to think that I’m the only person in the world; after all, I can only be trapped in my own mind - no one else’s. My mind is a thrilling and dangerous place; it can take me on wonderful adventures or it can damage my self-esteem until I don’t know how to fix it.

 

I’m not exactly the nicest person to myself. More often than not, my head is loaded with wistful and nostalgic musings; I wish for things I cannot have. My thoughts get tangled in insecurities and I find myself swimming, drowning, in negative contemplations. It’s blinding; a thick veil is placed over my head, and I can’t easily find my way out.

 

DSC_7613.jpg

However, I have tools that can lift me out of my despair. Granted, pessimism always finds a way to slip back in, but at least these privileges make me understand that in the grand scheme of life, whatever adversity I am going through is not permanent. Furthermore, it’s my choice to allow such thoughts to dominate my life in the first place or to look for the silver lining. I remind myself to notice the little things because the little things are my ultimate saviors.

 

My healing begins with observing small kindnesses - small kindnesses are what keep my sanity intact. They can come from the most unimportant of actions, such as arbitrary small talk or even smiles from strangers. Recently, I was running late to class and boarded an overcrowded bus. An elderly woman with wispy silver hair and a wrinkly face smiled at me and gestured to the seat next to her. It was a simple action and she probably didn’t think too much of it, but it made my whole day.

 

If that fails, I look to humor for distraction - something to make me forget. As long as I have something to laugh at, my entire demeanor changes. At this point, I’ve already forgotten why I wasn’t feeling well in the first place. Ultimately, laughter is the best medicine.

IMG_0998.jpg

 

Lastly, a method for me to confront the pessimism in my head is to attain tranquility. Sometimes I need to be alone in order to try to filter out bad thoughts. I reach this tranquility when I pray Fajr (the early morning prayer for Muslims) in total darkness while all my roommates are fast asleep. It happens when I watch the colors of sunset fade from a vivid gold to a hazy orange and a waning red to a midnight blue. It happens when I lean my head out of the window and gaze at the bright stars against the beautiful backdrop of the sky. It happens when I listen to the rain pour relentlessly onto the ground. It happens when I simply have the ability to feel undeniably alive. It’s these things that I need to appreciate more. They make me feel calm and put my soul at peace.

 

To preserve these feelings of peace, all I truly need to do is to understand the real reason why I’m here. I need to understand that I must not let any irrelevant feelings weaken my resolve. I should live my life without regrets; I should learn and love and think and breathe, but I must not forget my purpose.

 

Finally, I should know that I will always have one person to always want the best for me - my mother. Altogether, these resources should help lead to my own self-acceptance.

 

With that, I can do anything.

 

photos | sania elahi

DSC_9476.jpg

Threads Political Perspectives: Community Activism

Threads Political Perspectives: Community Activism

Threads Political Perspectives:
Community Activism
Muslims Don’t Take Enough Action

words | kauser adenwala

 

The following piece is a personal reflection meant to facilitate discussion on critical issues that most Muslim communities across the West often do not ponder upon. The intention in mind is to prompt Muslim dialogue on social activism in order for us to view it as a necessary and imperative Islamic and civic obligation.


Philando Castile. Charleena Lyles. Sandra Bland. Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Stephon Clark. Alton Sterling.
 

Each name represents black individuals who were killed by racist institutions that solely aim to disparage and slander black people. When our black brothers and sisters fall victim to this heinous injustice, Black Lives Matter activists are the ones that speak up. Yet most Muslims who are also marginalized in the West often do not choose to become activists in this movement ─ or any other that does not affect them, for that matter.
 

Image uploaded from iOS.jpg

The passiveness of Muslims is not only evident in fighting for our black brothers and sisters, but in politics as well. Only recently have Muslims started to speak up, realizing that our community is under attack. This is because our community is not unified ─ it’s divided by agencies of colorism, which is palpable in mosques that cater to specific ethnicities. In South Asian and Middle Eastern cultures, fair skin is traditionally deemed as “beautiful” and this trickles down to erroneously marginalizing and ostracizing black people in mosques through racism and colorism -- two ideologies Islam despises. The Holy Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Verily, Allah does not look at your figures, nor at your attire, but He looks at your hearts.” [Muslim]
 

Racism and colorism undoubtedly stem from obscenity present in society and emanate from ruthless leaders and colonization, not from Islam. We have witnessed this firsthand with the Travel Ban imposed by Trump in 2017 against Muslim-majority countries (six, to be precise), where a new-found sense of advocacy and activism was aroused; similarly, 9/11 brought about Muslims who proudly wore the hijab (the Muslim veil or headscarf; the Arabic word “hijab” means “to cover”) and represented Islam. While these forms and practices of activism are absolutely necessary and critical in a strained climate, they only pertain to one group: Muslims. Activism in Islam entails fighting for all of our brothers and sisters ─ regardless of their ethnicity or faith. Islam entails fighting for labor unions and those who clean our bathrooms on a paycheck that cannot allow them to afford insurance or basic health coverage. Islam entails fighting for the Dreamers who fear deportation every single day. Islam entails fighting for the Palestinians who are fighting for their land and their lives.

tumblr_n99eguDJwd1rlb3wgo1_1280.jpg

 

There should not be any “apolitical” Muslims. Recently, apoliticalism arose when most Muslims spoke out for justice for Stephon Clark, but only after finding out he was a Muslim. Muslim activists did not become revolutionary by remaining passive or uninvolved ─ they spoke out against the injustice of all minorities and represented Islam in the best, most comprehensive nature they could in the most utilitarian manner possible. Hence, if we, as students of higher educational institutions in the West, can unite to collectively take action and continue to fight for causes that most give up on from the get-go, perhaps one day, our community can help prevent the maltreatment and injustice of all marginalized communities.

 

In Sha Allah - if Allah wills.

 

photos | sania elahi


 

Coffee Fortnight at Threads: The Monk of Mokha

Coffee Fortnight at Threads: The Monk of Mokha

The Monk of Mokha: The Origin of Coffee

 

words | hana qwfan

 

As promised, here is the second and final installment in Threads Magazine’s “Coffee Fortnight” web publication theme centered around coffee consumption. This week, one of our talented team of writers discussed the importance of coffee’s cultural heritage in Yemen, reviewed the story of coffee’s genesis through the lens of a java innovator’s lens, reinforced the beauty of deliberate, lifelong adventure, and much more. Keep reading to find out about the Yemeni radix of coffee and how java beans fueled one gentleman’s entire life story until it became responsible for inspiring the lives of millions of demoralized Yemeni Americans during an ongoing, persistent civil war.


 

Despite the art of coffee originating in Yemen, the country has only gained attention through the media by its fall into poverty and violence as the civil war within the country continues. David Eggers’ new nonfiction title, “The Monk of Mokha”, reintroduces Yemen through its agricultural prosperity and its resilient people through the story of Mokhtar Alkhanshali’s rediscovery of the origin of coffee.

 

Have you ever wondered where coffee came from? To be honest, I always assumed that it came from somewhere in Africa or Latin America. While I started consuming coffee as early as the age of thirteen, my first assumption was that coffee was something that busy, innovative people consumed. Because I wanted to be a busy, innovative person, I found my addiction to coffee growing beyond my enjoyment of the taste. By the time I entered college, I consumed it regularly. It became a staple to my morning routine, a ritual for late nights in the holy month of Ramadan (the Islamic month of fasting, starting May 15 this year), and a way to catch up with old friends. This is anything but surprising; a large majority of the world use coffee as a means for a variety of aspects. With American franchises such as Starbucks and Coffee Bean, I only paid attention to the westernized culture of coffee. What I didn’t realize, as a Yemeni American, was the historical importance of coffee in Yemeni culture.

51G23JbGU+L._SX354_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

I discovered that coffee originated from Yemen through my sister, who also informed me about a book that detailed the rediscovery of Yemeni coffee: The Monk of Mokha. The Monk of Mokha is a work of nonfiction written by Dave Eggers on the story of Mokhtar Alkhanshali, a Yemeni American historian, coffee innovator, and founder of the Port of Mokha coffee. The story goes over Mokhtar’s endeavor to bring the art of Yemeni coffee into the game of coffee trade, despite the outbreak of Yemen’s civil war that broke out in 2015. While the story focuses on Mokhtar’s journey in Yemen, it also highlights his past faults, ambitions, and outlooks on new opportunities.

The book of travel literature also extended beyond Mokhtar, towards Yemeni culture, history, and politics. As a writer, I was happy to have the opportunity to read about so much of the culture that I grew up with. Sources that discuss the good in Yemen are highly limited, and for the longest time, I felt as though my culture was nonexistent to those who only heard of Yemen through biased political news channels. Living in the Central Valley, I’ve grown up surrounded by fields and agriculture. Learning about Yemen’s history of harvesting coffee made me recognize the connection between the large influx of Yemeni immigrants to the Central Valley during the 60s and 70s and their ancestral history in the agricultural industry.

The history of Yemen’s coffee is particularly fascinating, as it starts with the birth of the coffee fruit in Ethiopia, a berry with the pit of the fruit often referred to as the “coffee bean”. The actual roasting of coffee bean, however, originated in Yemen. Eggers then talks about the manner in which others from across the globe, such as the Indians and Dutch, stole the seedlings from Yemen to grow and harvest coffee within their own countries. As India and the Netherlands continue to supply a large amount of the world’s demand for coffee, Yemen has gone under the radar with no substantial supply for the market. This jumpstarted Mokhtar’s mission to reintroduce Yemeni coffee beans into the market.

Mokhtar’s story is elevating because of the various situations he was able to overcome, such as being trapped in Yemen during the outbreak of the civil war and having to find his own way to flee to safety. It is a story worth sharing, especially with Muslims who carry similar dreams to achieve something without knowing exactly what purpose they need to fulfill. His journey teaches one to have faith, to continue our childhood habit of cultivating curiosity, and to push forward. When I first heard of coffee originating in Yemen, I only heard it through word of mouth. Yet through this story, I was able to learn the parts of my culture that I never knew about - up-close and personal.

Within recent months, many Yemeni Americans have lost hope with the continuing beat of the civil war. Our parents and grandparents, sojourner immigrants, might have also lost hope in the idea of returning to Yemen to invest back into their home and local villages. However, while things may have become worse with time, it is important to realize what we can still carry with us. If Mokhtar Alkhanshali was successful in restoring some hope in Yemeni coffee farmers, as well as in Yemeni immigrants in America, then there might be some work for the rest of us Yemeni Americans to strive toward. Egger’s awe-inspiring publication reminded me that although this earth is a small world, there is still a lot to uncover and find. Whether we cherish our findings, share our newly discovered knowledge, or find inner peace through our own journeys, it is important to keep searching until we get there. As curious beings, it’s worthwhile to - at the very least - continue trying these explorations.   


 

coffee-beans-1650788_1280.jpg

Coffee Fortnight at Threads: Jettisoning the Java

Coffee Fortnight at Threads: Jettisoning the Java

Coffee Fortnight at Threads: Week 1
Jettisoning the Java

 

words | salmana shah

 

This week marks the first week where we kick off a fortnight-long publication theme centered around coffee consumption at Threads Magazine. Our caffeine-theme only seems apt, given the current climate of quarter students prepping for midterm season or semester students grinding on during the last weeks of the academic year. Keep reading to find out more about how dark cups of joe define one UC Berkeley student’s life - and how the coffee kick has become an itch too hard to ditch.

 

The following article chronicles a week-long attempt to stay away from coffee.

 

Acclimating

 

There is a sudden and acute ache in my head. This and a gradually emerging drowsiness are almost debilitating, but I push aside the pain and focus on the lecture being delivered. I consider getting boba after class - after all, tapioca balls-infused tea isn’t as caffeine-intensive as my usual morning coffee with creamer or my late afternoon latte. But it’s still caffeine, and before I can enjoy a milk tea with boba or a tall vanilla latte ever again, I have to eliminate all dependency on caffeine.

 

Coffee was always a social thing; acquainting different coffee shops, meeting with friends over coffee, and studying with coffee was all part of a distinct culture that I enjoyed and loved.

 

But then I realized there was no way I could combat the stresses of a high-intensity extremely rigorous academic environment without coffee. And then it became a habit: a cup of coffee every morning to wake me up and then one in the afternoon to keep me awake. At some point, I grew intolerant of even the slightest of sleepiness. I turned to coffee instead of fighting the fatigue or getting a decent amount of sleep at night.

 

These withdrawal symptoms are a sign that my brain is acclimating to this abrupt change. At least that’s what I’m hoping it is.

 

Diversions

 

Old habits die hard. Anyone trying to break a terrible habit has to struggle with visceral sensations of desire and complicated internal dialogues.

 

Since my freshman year of college, I have struggled to feel productive or fulfilled without a cup of coffee.

 

I push the thought away, diverting my attention to more important things; today is the most beautiful day and I try to immerse myself in it. I am momentarily distracted from my coffee craving until it flares up again. These sensations of want, orchestrated by my mind, make it hard for me to do much else.

 

But I continue to push it away, reminding myself that there was a time before coffee and there will be a time after coffee.

 

This thought is somewhat successful as I manage to divert my attention - albeit temporarily - from that unnerving craving for caffeine.

 

Peril

 

Sometimes, the coffee-induced high I’d so desperately pursue would morph into coffee-induced peril. One cup of coffee would set me into an anxious spiral; I’d feel as though I could run fifteen miles but I’d also feel like collapsing.

 

The jitters I sometimes feel when I drink coffee are all too common in people who drink coffee. Sometimes, even the tiniest bit of caffeine is too much, leading to an adverse reaction.

 

That was never enough to stop me from drinking coffee the next day. Those anxious spells were rare enough in frequency that I would justify them by considering what would happen if I didn’t drink coffee. I was afraid I’d feel too exhausted to continue on with my day, that I’d succumb to the drowsiness I just couldn’t afford to feel.

 

Has coffee become so embedded in my routine that I fear I’d lose all stability if I gave it up? Am I incapable of functioning without a caffeine boost? These rhetorical questions confused me to no end.

 

Acclimating to change and, more particularly, letting go of something is terribly difficult. Perhaps at fault for my dependency was a deep-seated fear of letting go and an uncertainty of what my life would be like when that happened. I invariably forget that there was a time I lived and functioned well without coffee. I think about how my life requires so much more energy now. There is no way I can get through it on my own.

 

But it’s the third day and I’m still functioning. I remind myself of the peril I experience when I drink caffeine and make it through the day, successfully without coffee.

 

Relapse After Triumph

 

I gave in and bought a cup of coffee today. It was a semi-conscious decision: it was an early morning and I was tired. Anticipating a long day of classes and interning, I caved and bought a cup of plain, dark coffee. After submerging it in milk and sugar, I continued on with my day.

 

I felt immediately alert - as if I had experienced an instant jolt of energy. This sensation was followed by a deep sadness.

 

Four days without coffee: four days of piercing headaches, extreme tiredness, and occasional lethargy. But over the last four days, the symptoms had been decreasing. I felt more productive each day and the headaches became less severe. But today, on the fifth day, I relapsed. As a result, I lost all the progress I had made. Therefore, the dark dip in mood was inevitable.

 

MVIMG_20180409_191225.jpg

Today, coffee became a temporary fix for a deep-seated issue: the activities and events in my life were exhausting me - physically, emotionally, and mentally. Even a good night’s sleep couldn’t give me the energy I needed to face the day. This is how it is for so many students around me who also face the stress of a high-pressure and demanding environment where everyone is ultra-productive and if you’re not, you’ll never be successful, fulfilled, or happy.

 

I realized I needed to face life head-on and find balance instead of relying on quick-fixes, like coffee, to make me ultra-productive. Perhaps it’s okay if I’m not ultra-productive. It’s most important that I take care of myself in order to at least maintain my existing productivity.

 

Bagel Meets Coffee

 

Today, I decide that I can and will function without coffee.  

 

I force myself to stay awake when I feel sleepy, which is hardest to do in my early morning class. I pull myself out of my productivity slumps, which so often transpire while I’m writing papers for class or studying for midterms. Coerced attentiveness takes a tremendous amount of willpower but is far more fulfilling than a cup of coffee could ever be because the source of obtaining it is natural rather than artificial.

 

By making an active, conscious effort to employ my own internal strength, I find it possible to evade lethargy and to fully experience the day. This, however, is made difficult with a conflicting desire to give in.

 

I thwart the burgeoning desire to relapse; to buy that $5 cup of coffee, to indulge in the unnecessary expenditure. I would be far more alert, I tell myself.

 

Instead, I buy a bagel.

 

photos | sania elahi

 

P.S. Be on the lookout for next week’s caffeine-themed piece coming soon!

Enlightening Perspectives: Sexual Violence within the Muslim Community

Enlightening Perspectives: Sexual Violence within the Muslim Community

interviewer | hana qwfan

 

Sexual violence has been an issue that is rarely ever addressed within our Muslim communities. Often times, when it is addressed, it is often misunderstood and mistreated. It has become a stigma in many localities, and because of the taboo surrounding it, it often hurts our victims instead of providing them with support. I had the amazing opportunity to interview the wonderful Mahreen Alam, a representative of HEART (Health Education, Advocacy, Research and Training) Women and Girls, back in November of 2017. HEART is an organization that aims to bring aid and support to victims of sexual violence within our Muslim community. Along with these objectives, the organization also aims to promote sexual health through education, research, and training. They perform a fantastic job of breaking the stigma, validating our victims, and bringing overall awareness to the issues that Muslim communities are too afraid to discuss. The nonprofit organization of female empowerment is based in Chicago, but you will find many resources across the US and Canada. I myself have learned so much from this organization, and I’m confident that you all can learn something too.

 

A special thank you to Mahreen, who I first briefly met at MSA West’s Servant Leader Summit this past August when she delivered  a presentation on HEART organization. She has been incredibly kind and captivating during this exchange. Without further ado, here is the interview:  

 

Q: What would be the most important things to do when a loved one approaches you about their sexual harassment/abuse experience for the first time?

 

Believe them when they come forward.                                

It takes an incredible amount of courage for a victim to report sexual violence. A majority of sexual assaults, approximately 68%, are never reported to law enforcement. Research suggests that this number is even higher in communities of color - anywhere from 85%-90% of survivors do not disclose.  We need to support survivors, and make them feel safe to seek resources, as this is crucial for their healing and gives others the strength and hope to come forward in the future.

Positive Language.                     

What you say to a survivor can have a profound effect on a their ability to heal. Validating a survivor’s experience and feelings by telling them things like “I’m sorry this happened,” “it’s ok to feel angry,” and “you’re safe here” may seem insignificant, but can have a tremendous impact on a survivor.

Empower your loved one.                    

Sexual assault and other sexual violence crimes take away the individual’s power. Encourage your loved one to trust his/her instincts, but do not pressure him/her to do anything he/she is not yet ready to. do. It may take time for survivors to seek help, as they feel as though they have lost control over their life. Meet them where they are [already] rather than tell them what they need to be doing. Giving them back that control is crucial so encourage them to make decisions that help them move forward.

Understand barriers to disclosing. Survivors find it difficult to disclose. They may feel guilt or shame, or fear their perpetrator. They may be worried they won’t be believed, or that they’ll be blamed for the abuse. Understanding barriers to disclosure can help make you a better supporter. Upon disclosing, often victims face many barriers including media scrutiny, retaliation against themselves and their families, and re-traumatization.

Create a safe space.

One of the first aspects of a survivor’s life to be compromised after the occurrence of sexual violence is his/her emotional and physical safety. Talk to your loved one about what makes him/her feel safe in their surroundings, interactions, and relationships, and then work together to create that space of refuge in your home. Make sure you enlist a team of trusted individuals who can commit to spending some time with them.

Be mindful of the unique challenges that Muslims face.

Because of Islam’s emphasis on modesty, privacy, and purity, many Muslim survivors may feel an unusual amount of shame, guilt, and self-blame. They may also be preoccupied with anxieties regarding the future, such as their ability to get married and live normal lives. The community may also engage in certain forms of victim-blaming using the above as motivations. Try your best to minimize these emotions and explain to your loved one that there are a number of strong Islamic principles that are supportive of survivors, and that emphasis on purity and privacy never supersedes the safety of another individual.     

Plan self-care.                                               

Ensure that both you and the individual you are supporting have a plan for self-care. When an individual is dealing with a crisis as emotionally draining as sexual assault, it is easy to forget or neglect one’s own self-care. Emotional self-care is also crucial and can mean different things for different people, such as seeing a licensed counselor, journaling, or partaking in meditation or other relaxation exercises. Ensure that your loved one is engaging in emotional self-care on a consistent basis.

Engage in your own self-care. Supporting a loved one through this process involves vicarious trauma. It is easy to get wrapped up in supporting your loved one. It is crucial to make time for yourself as well. If you do not take care of yourself, you will be unable to sustain taking care of others.

            

Q: What are some things that we can do in order to clear misconceptions about sexual harassment within the Muslim community (especially since it's considered taboo)?

The Muslim community is not immune to the struggles that any other community faces. There is a serious lack of access to culturally-sensitive information and resources, and additional  apprehension of seeking out those tools due to the shame associated with discussing sex and sexual violence. That is the basis of why HEART Women & Girls was founded - in order to break this silence. HEART seeks to provide a safe space to come together—both virtually and physically—to learn about our  bodies, exchange health information, and become resources of health information for each other and our communities.

Education is key; for far too long there has been a lack of culturally-sensitive and accurate sexual health education. Make a commitment today to educating yourself and your families on sexual violence. HEART provides in-person sexual health workshops at your local mosque, college Muslim Student Association (MSA), or even community center, as well as an online virtual resource center catered to all ages from adolescents to adults. This is a great way to provide culturally-sensitive sexual health information and even open up individuals to resources they didn’t even know that had access to!

Change in our families and our homes will come as soon as we begin to have open conversations about abuse and sex, and as soon as we empower our children to protect themselves and speak up if they are victimized. Have safe, open conversations about sexual violence in your homes, mosques, and communities at large, including reaching out to social workers, law enforcement authorities, media, and public institutions as necessary.

Commit to bringing resources and tools to build and empower your community. Typically the leadership and staff at faith institutions are often the first responders to incidents of sexual violence. Hence, it is absolutely crucial for them to have the know-how on the policies, procedures, tools and expertise to be able to respond to survivors and allegations in a victim-centric manner that is free from stigma. There are many organizations who provide these trainings such as HEART and Peaceful Families Project. Change at the community level can only happen with an attitude and commitment to challenge stigmas and behaviors that enable violence and do not hold perpetrators accountable. As a collective community, we must replace blame, shame and stigma with openness, support and healing.

Work to create empowered, inclusive, and safe spaces. Build the kind of space in your community in which individuals will know that their privacy will be honored and survivors feel supported, empowered, and safe. Understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and the challenges they face in such circumstance are very complex. It’s important to have built pillars of support and safety so that survivors are able to care of themselves and their families well before the professional, legal and social services enter the equation.

Do not silence survivors. Validate and affirm, do not question the validity of their story. Don’t dismiss their feelings. Give them permission to feel the emotions they are feeling – whether it’s anger, sadness, frustration.

 

Q: Can you give me any resources that I can provide in the article in case someone is experiencing this? Such as contact information to the organization, office locations, etc. ?

 

Yes! There is a wealth of information that is accessible online the HEART virtual resource center at heartwomenandgirls.org. First of all, you should know and utilize the resources in your community.    There are a number of resources in the community that are extremely useful as you help support your loved one, such as:                    

Rape crisis centers                        

Local and national hotline                        

Sexual assault therapists & counselors on campus.

UC Berkeley CARE Advocates’ Office: can be reached at the Main Office: (510) 642-1988 and the 24/7 Care Line: (510) 643-2005                

 

Q: Is there anything else that you would like to inform us about in regards to HEART?

        

The opportunity to be involved with an organization that  sticks so strongly to its values and works so strictly for the community has been one of the most growing and impactful experiences for me. Especially now, it has become apparent that we as individuals need to be more committed as ever to being agents of change within our communities.

 

HEART is looking for college interns! If you are interested, be sure to contact either me at mahreenalam@gmail.com or Sahar Pirzada sahar@heartwomenandgirls.org. HEART also offers other ways to get involved! If you feel as though you would like to work as a trainer and give in person workshops, work in research or advocacy, email Sahar Pirzada at sahar@heartwomenandgirls.org. Be sure to subscribe to their newsletter to keep up to speed with this inspiring team of determined women.

 

This interview was written as a companion to the writer’s print article, “Sexual Harassment and the Muslim Community,” published in the Fall 2017 Print Issue of Threads Magazine, available here. Flip to Page 28 to read her intriguing piece.

 

headshot courtesy | mahreen alam

 

A Summer in China: A Travel Memoir

A Summer in China: A Travel Memoir

words | salmana shah

 

Last summer, I had the opportunity to travel abroad alone. I look back at my experience with fondness and a wistful sense of longing. This travel memoir explores my adventures in Southeastern China and the feelings provoked by the intrepid experience.

 

At the height of my sophomore slump last year, I decided I would visit my Aunt in China. She was researching at a university in Southeast China and I was emerging out of a turbulent school year with a complex sense of isolation which I felt could only be mediated by time away from my world back home.

 

IMG_4133.JPG

When I landed in Fuzhou, Fujian for my short two-week trip, I felt slightly homesick and completely disoriented. The fact that no one knew English only reminded me that I definitely should have learned some Mandarin prior to my trip. However, I would later learn that language is less important in guiding us than we presume it to be.

 

As I scrambled to find my luggage in the midst of the type of uproarious chaos that characterizes typical airports, I felt an eerie sense of excitement that comes with plunging into the unknown. In this case, the unknown was a seemingly random place I had very little knowledge about, beyond what a number of Wikipedia articles about the region had taught me. Embarking on this journey  would eventually convey to me a sort of reality I would never have found in articles, online, or anywhere else in the world.

 

I can only vaguely recall my first night in Fuzhou. My aunt’s apartment was small, as most units are in the beige-yellow high-rises that dominate much of the skyscape in China’s urban areas. I fell asleep fast that night and the next morning woke up to a view unlike any I had seen before.

 

The colossal residential towers were monotonous in style, often fluctuating between a light beige and a deep yellow. Below were well-kempt streets which diverged into dirt backroads. It was the type of landscape you read about in twentieth century novels predicting future cityscapes with all the galore of Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier’s dream of high rises actualized in an east-Asian setting. Perhaps this stood out to me most because of my major in Urban Planning; I spent a great deal of time considering the resulting dynamics of this unique and overwhelming arrangement.

 

The fact that everything was clustered nearby also meant that there were abundant activities and sites to see. Most days my aunt would show me around, but when she had to work, I would venture out alone and meet her later in the city. Journeying alone was quite tricky. Because so few people knew English or had never learned it, the only place I could communicate with anyone was at Starbucks, which meant that ordering food comprised of a series of gestures; pointing to pictures and motioning to confirm there was no pork in the food. However, the majority of people whom I had interacted with were considerately polite about my inability to speak Mandarin, a refreshing change from interactions I’ve witnessed in the English world where the English language reigns supreme and marginalizes those who can’t conform.

IMG_3732.JPG

 

The communication barrier did, however, make me feel further isolated since I spent much time mulling over my wish of knowing what was happening around me. It seemed that all the scenes I witnessed fused into one private scene that existed in my mind but that I would never have access to. While that general feeling of detachment was bemusing, it offered an opportunity to appreciate the linguistic barrier which reminded me that I was both a visitor in this country as well as in this universe.


 

Among my favorite sights in Fujian were the numerous parks and Buddhist temples, which offered a sense of solitude against the city’s dynamically urban landscape. They were my favorite retreat because they permitted me to be somewhat alone to enjoy the subtropical humidity and the various fauna and flora present amongst the urban chaos. My reclusive moments allowed me to revel in a sense of peace I wasn’t previously familiar with. By finding serenity in my self-inflicted desolation, I came to terms with the ubiquitous feeling of isolation that I carried here and at home.

 

In the grand scheme of things, I was nothing but a small person passing by. Away from the stresses of life back home and in a new place where no one knew or understood me, I was able to merely exist. I offered Fuzhou nothing and in exchange I was able to experience a beautiful and dynamic city characteristic of a country so unique, that its presence, and mine within it, still remains comparable to nothing.

 

photos | salmana shah



 

 As If I Was Broken: A Personal Memoir

As If I Was Broken: A Personal Memoir

words | rabiah shere

 

At the age of fifteen, I told my father that I was depressed, but I set my feelings aside after he told me that kids my age don’t acquire depression. At the age of sixteen, I told my doctor that I was in a consistent state of unhappiness, but he told me that it could be “seasonal.” At the age of eighteen, I was led to believe it was ‘just me’.

 

At the age of twenty, everything became worse.

 

I’ve forgotten what happiness tastes like ever since I've lost myself through the months.

 

And when I say that “I’ve lost myself,” I mean that every bit of me that I once knew has shattered into bits and pieces. It's not only that I don't know where things are, but rather, everything seems to be all over the place - my emotions, my thoughts, my strength, my confidence, my hope, my faith, and my interests. I can’t seem to gain the energy to pick up everything that I’ve lost and put my old self back into what it once was.

 

I don’t know where these things - everything that defines my identity, that make me who I am - are; everything that built me, and everything I once held onto, so tightly, is now something I’ve suddenly lost all control of. I don’t know where they are, but I know they aren't with me. Everything I once had control of, or at least the slightest bit of control of, are no longer in my hands. Things I cannot or do not have control of, I wish I did. And things I currently have control of are what I currently convince myself to believe are fragile enough to ruin without any effort.

 

This is what living with depression and anxiety is like.

 

In a room full of people, you feel entirely alone.
Yet being alone suffocates you from the inside out.

 

You wish that you’d find comfort in one of the two ends by either staying at home and isolating yourself completely or going to that party and surrounding yourself with people to help you forget the mess that’s occurring inside your head.
 

But in reality, you know that neither of those two can truly help you.

 

In reality, you’d rather be at home with just one friend, but you also know that doing so means isolating that person from the party where everyone is at.

 

In reality, you know that what you need would be asking for a lot, burdening others, and trapping someone else to deal with your emotions.

 

In other words, the solution isn’t simple. With depression and anxiety, it never is.

 

Depression is living in the past. It’s remembering what things used to be. It’s being sad about everything, anything, and nothing.

 

It’s curling up into a ball, not wanting to move, but also not being able to move. It’s staying in bed all day, not because you’re lazy but because you just can’t get up. It’s crippling. It’s sighing about thirty times a day because you feel like you can’t breathe. It’s having your heart in a consistent state of heaviness because all you want to do is cry.

 

Anxiety is living in the future, always thinking about what’s to come. You’re always thinking about what you have to do and what’s next. With anxiety, there’s no break. Life feels like it’s going too fast and won’t pause for you. What’s defeating is that, with anxiety, you expect life to stop for you, even though rationally, you know it won’t. You constantly believe you’re going to mess up - that your mistakes will yield a catastrophic result as if the world will end by your own ruinous hands.

 

Anxiety is fearing change and avoiding new experiences because you fear the unexpected more than the average person would. Anxiety is connecting everything together - if one thing doesn’t go right, then everything else consequently fails. Anxiety is thinking about everything you have to accomplish in the near and far future and feeling extremely overwhelmed as a result. Anxiety is becoming hopelessly engulfed - lost - within your own thoughts.

 

It’s when your broodings consume you, your heart races, your breathing deepens - so much so that you can’t breathe.

 

You feel weak, your stomach turns, you become dizzy, you feel like crying, and somehow all of these reactions make your body numb, making you wish for someone to hold you and stabilize you because, in that moment, reality loses all sense permanently. Nothing feels real anymore. In that moment, you feel physically impaired, as if you have no control over your own body.

 

Anxiety and depression mean that you are always blaming yourself, always feeling like you need to be in control - not because you like it your way, but because a change of plans makes you anxious and because not knowing the unknown vexes you.
 

Trying to accomplish your goals becomes exhausting when every setback that may or may not be your fault results in beating yourself up.

 

Imagine extending your entire arm is the only act required to attain what you want, yet the one thing that cuts you short from achieving it is the finger that cannot reach far enough. How do I control that? It’s not my fault that my finger falls short.

 

Was it?

To be frank, it sucks to be so close to - practically at - your destination - and yet fail to accomplish your goal because of the inability to properly measure the distance. Was it even possible to measure the distance? Perhaps, it’s all about chance. But I can’t help but think - I could have done more.


That being said, with anxiety and depression, you always feel that you could have done more - should have done more.

 

You never really know what this sentiment feels like until you’ve experienced it.  

 

However, I’m opening the door because I am tired of being misunderstood.

 

I’m tired of being told that I am too emotional, that I “freak out” too much, that I’m ungrateful, that I am overly dramatic, hypersensitive, and always have to have it my way. I’m exhausted from being told that I'm too irritated, sad, angry - that I need to control my emotions...when I simply can’t.

 

For eight years prior to my clinical diagnosis of depression, I was constantly told to "fix" myself, as if I was broken in the first place. I was told this type of vulnerability was a flaw in my personality, and that I was weak and incapable of handling stress properly. I was told that my faith in Islam was diminishing, that I was being punished due to a lack of faith, that I didn’t pray enough, or recite Qur’an (the Holy Book of Islam) enough, and that I didn’t devote enough of my time to God.

 

I was made to believe that I was the issue. I was forced to believe that everything I felt was the result of being a bad Muslim, despite the fact that I did pray five times a day and regularly read the Qur’an.

 

For eight strenuous years, I was forced to believe that everything was my fault. However, ever since my diagnosis, I've known that that is a lie; my condition is not something I have brought upon myself. It is simply something I am endeavoring to control, through the help of therapy and medication.

 

I wish other people understood that I’m trying, that I’ve become exhausted in the process and that if they are tired of hearing about my mental illness, then they cannot fathom the courage to imagine what it’s like living with it.  

 

Just because I’m smiling, laughing, and having a good time does not mean I am cured.

 

Depression is not simply being sad 24/7; it’s internal. And on days when it does become external, I seclude myself and avoid any form of human interaction. I don’t like to project my emotions on my face and I’d rather not talk about it. I don’t want anyone to notice my mood and ask if I’m “okay” because the answer is almost always in the negative, which triggers me to cry. It’s not that I can’t trust people with my life affairs; it’s that I have a hard time leaning on others. I feel that talking about my problems burdens others. Both my anxiety and depression already put the blame on me, and I don’t wish to feel such negativity anymore than necessary.
 

I wish others understood that it’s not my intention to lose them as friends; I just need them to work with me. It’s taxing to work on myself and another relationship - self-care can be selfish, but it’s crucial to understand that in order to care for others, I must first care for myself.

 

I need to be healthy.

 

I just wish others understood - that I’ve forgotten what happiness tastes like and I am trying to find what I’ve lost throughout the months.

 

photos | rabiah shere and christine nguyen

 

End of Article Photo.jpeg

Little Letters - December Edition

Little Letters - December Edition

By: Aishah Mahmud

 

Love letters to little things in life.

 

Dear Rain,

        I seriously underestimated you. I assumed my twenty-minute walk to class under a light drizzle would be fine with just an umbrella and my Keds® sneakers. Never have I been more wrong. I’m thankful for only having one class on Thursday and being able to walk in my sloshing socks back to my room, where I could enjoy your beauty from my warm bed for the rest of the day.

 

Dear Coco,

        I apologize for both of my parents falling asleep when I took them to watch you, but you were truly the most moving cinematic masterpiece I've seen in a very long time.

 

Dear Discover Weekly playlist on Spotify,

        Thank you for having my back with fresh new music every week, and for curing me of my inability to not just play the same song on repeat because I can’t bring myself to find new songs when I’m studying.

 

Dear Peppermint Mocha from Peet’s Coffee,

        Has a better drink ever been created? You are the perfect mix of mint and chocolate, an emblem of holiday joy and warmth.

 

Dear Trader Joe’s stores,

        You are truly magnificent, with your rows of colorful snacks and unbeatable microwaved foods. You are my happy place.

 

Dear sweatpants,

        Why did I ever try to replace you with jeans? I should have realized that you were and always will be the one for me.

 

IMG_4801-2.jpg

Dear Buzzfeed Unsolved,

        How are you so addicting? So creepy, yet so funny? So educational?

 

Dear Ici Ice Cream,

        I probably shouldn’t have had you in 40 degree weather, but your Earl Grey flavor was worth it.

 

Dear skin,

        I get that I don’t moisturize you and take care of you like I should, but please stop hurting me like this.

     

Dear daylight,

        I appreciate you whenever you’re here, but I miss when you were around past 5 PM.

 

Dear Finals Week,

        (deep breathes) Let’s do this.

 

Photos By: Zahra Ansari

IMG_9296-3.jpg

Moffitt and Travail

Moffitt and Travail

Written By: Salmana Shah

Photos By: Sania Elahi

As finals week approaches, students everywhere are scrambling to find an empty study space. Scores of students at UC Berkeley will find themselves at Moffitt Undergraduate Library, scouting out a vacant seat or even a desolate corner to set up camp. This piece was inspired by the indefinite amount of hours I will spend cooped up in Moffitt in the coming weeks.

 

My computer’s bright light seethes through my tired eyes and I divert my attention away from the screen. I revel in my surroundings; everyone around me is either in a deep trance or rushedly whispering to a friend. I’m on the fifth floor of Moffitt Library. It’s almost 11 PM, and it feels as though I’ve been here forever.

 

24778280468_1eb638ac47_z.jpg

In the next hour, I’ll find myself at the Free Speech Movement cafe with a white chocolate mocha, chatting with an acquaintance I always run into when I’m here during the odd hours of the night. Later, I’ll explore the other floors of Moffitt to see if anyone else I know is trapped here too.

 

Moffitt is my go-to study space. It’s not as depressing as the engineering library and its open hours correlate with my preferred study hours, making it the obvious choice, but I also gravitate towards Moffitt due to its versatility. It supersedes its role as a study area; it functions as a social space.

 

Located in the heart of campus, Moffitt is the busiest library on campus and sees hundreds of students walk through its doors each day. It features a variety of distinct spaces and, while it often lacks enough tables and chairs to accommodate the campus’s increasing population, Moffitt still remains popular amongst students because of its central location, its 24/7 hours, and its innovative and pleasant aesthetics.

 

My favorite aspect is its social stratosphere or “Moffitt culture”. This includes running into  friends in the library and getting nothing done that night, meeting new people at three in the morning and forging a strong bond built upon mutual distress and propensity for memes, or even stumbling upon someone from a dark part of your past and relentlessly avoiding them by hiding behind a whiteboard until they leave the building. Other elements of this distinct culture include studying until deliberation, endless hunting for an empty seat, and being shushed countless times on the quiet floor during finals week.

 

In so many ways, Moffitt is emblematic of Berkeley culture.

 

In one corner, you have a study group scrabbling away on a large whiteboard and in the other, you have friends sharing gossip. And, in between are the frantic and overworked students characterizing Berkeley’s highly competitive, high-functioning atmosphere. All around, people are engaging in the constant exchange of knowledge and ideas. Nothing is more fundamentally indicative of Berkeley’s truest nature than a space that produces ideas and theories which will, one day, inevitably change the world.

 

Perhaps, it’s a stretch to say that Moffitt is a great emblem of Berkeley society and an engineer of progress, but, ultimately, it is a fairly cool place. Between groans of “I’m tired of Moffitt” and “not Moffitt again,” I somehow always end up at Moffitt with a coffee in hand, vehemently seeking out an empty seat while the bright lights of the ceiling above me delude my brain into thinking it’s far earlier in the day than it actually is.

 

Each school has a study space with idiosyncrasies of its own. For many UC Berkeley students, this space belongs to Moffitt, which exists as the paragon of travail. Its multiformity is what manages to establish it as a campus hot spot time and time again. Amidst my complex and manifold emotions towards Moffitt, the truth is that it is and always will be my go-to study space - as long as I can find a seat and someone to share my sorrows with.

24778279278_11da32ec7a_z.jpg

Keeping Mum

Keeping Mum

Written By: Aishah Mahmud

 

I like to talk a lot.

 

I can talk your ear off about my day, my opinions, my questions, anything and everything. I can talk for days – provided you’re a good listener and I’m comfortable with you.

 

However, that’s not always been seen as such a great thing.

       

During one of these long conversations, I was telling my sister exactly what I thought of the person who parked their car in the red zone and forced my bus driver to stop in the middle of her turn because she refused to be responsible for damaging some, and I quote, “incredibly expensive” car. In the middle of my rant, my sister interrupted me to say, “You know, you talk a lot.”

  

To which I responded by promptly shutting up.

       

There is little else in this world as discouraging and disheartening than being told by a loved one that you talk too much.         

 

This wasn’t the first time I’d heard such a comment. I’m often reminded that I am “highly opinionated,” that I become increasingly louder the more excited I get, that I’m a great storyteller - all different ways of pointing out I like to talk. But, like many others, I take criticism personally, and the implication here was that I talk too much.

photo-1494303047151-869adc8cceb4.jpeg

 

        And so, I quickly ended the conversation, sprinted through goodbyes and stewed over the following questions:

 

Do I talk too much?

 

Does everyone else think I talk too much?

 

Should I stop talking?

       

        My immediate reaction upon coming back to my room was that I should ask my best friend what she thought. But despite my confidence in our relationship, I hesitated before texting her. I was scared that in the process of asking, I’d ramble through an explanation, and even more so, that she would say yes.

 

        Talking to others is my method of processing my emotions, of maintaining my long-distance relationships, of keeping myself happy and sane. But in the span of a few seconds, because of a six-word statement, suddenly I couldn’t talk.

 

When I did muster up the courage to reach out, my friend replied with a strong no and advised me to ignore criticism unless it was constructive.

 

        Of course, I knew my sister had no intention of silencing me. She didn’t mean to send me spiraling into a state of insecurity and confusion. But unintentionally, she pushed me to realize why it is important for me to talk.

       

As a woman of color, I spend a great deal of my life feeling the pressure of silence.

I am reminded time and time again that it’s “unbecoming” to be so passionate, to draw so much attention to myself. I've been silenced by people who think they hold more power and more control over my stories, my thoughts, my emotions – despite the fact that none of these belong to anyone but myself.

       

Speaking is healthy. By talking, whether it’s a little, just enough, or too much, I learn how to take control of my thoughts and communicate my story and feelings to other people. But, as someone who has had my story told over and over again without my permission ­– by mainstream media, Donald Trump, and Islamophobes for example – it’s about time I learn to take pride in talking, whether it’s on a small scale with people I love, or to a much greater audience.

photo-1494263057413-c770364ce110.jpeg

Beating the Mid-Semester Slump

Beating the Mid-Semester Slump

Written By: Firdausi Sudarmadji

 

The mid-semester of an academic calendar hits every student in different ways, some more than others. It causes us to skip classes, cram to keep up with the alternate day midterms, binge-watch Netflix and Hulu shows to compete against our Amazon Prime subscriptions (if they haven’t been used already) instead of completing endless assigned readings, constantly refresh Facebook news feeds (as if waiting for a miracle wave of novel gossip!) or procrastinate in some other manner (perhaps by scrolling through last summer vacation’s photos yet again). But fret not, because Threads is here to help! By considering the following five tips, you’ll easily learn to beat the mid-semester slump for good and get back to your best groove!

 

  1. Shake It Up

 

With the change of just one preposition in the aforementioned topic subtitle, you may be reminded of Taylor Swift, but the intention here is quite different than getting “Ready For It [mid-semester blues].”

 

By mid-semester, you’re in a set routine of lecture/discussion/seminar, study session, gym workout or recreational exercise, part-time job duties/lab research attendance, club meeting, sorority/fraternity social, etc. The plethora of activities and “things to do” is endless. The monotony of this standard pattern - which, unfortunately for most, is unlikely to change even on the weekends - could make day-to-day life seem mundane and utterly colorless. Hence, it’s important to spice things up a bit to keep life exciting!  

 

Sit somewhere different in class and make some small talk with your new neighbor. Share notes together to learn new perspectives, and maybe be a little bold and make them your study buddy! As clichéd as it sounds, moving out of your comfort zone can be quite beneficial, and won’t seem so daunting once you actually do!

photo-1501504905252-473c47e087f8.jpeg

 

So, go ahead and join that new Ilm (pronounced as “ill-m”; it’s Arabic for “knowledge”) class at the mosque or go to your professor’s office hours, even when you have nothing to ask. Perhaps you’ll begin to ace the Cornell note-taking method, or maybe, at the end of it all, you’ll come out a more confident person… or the person you just befriended may tell you a funny story that will make your day and then you’ll never see them again! Even more so, you could also get some new school supplies, change your usual study spot, or make a new homework & study playlist.

 

2. Dig Deeper

Can’t stay motivated enough to do your work? Questioning why you made the decision to take the class at all? First of all, realize that such seemingly rhetorical questions are perfectly normal to have. Next, take a breather, and go over your notes and articles and find one thing that interests you. Google the topic and dig so deep you find the family tree of the guy who created that theory/book/concept. The key here is to find what interests you. Let that curiosity and passion of inquiry consume you. Delve deep into what floats your boat, and you’ll find that sinking into the dark waters suddenly becomes a lot harder. This will hopefully make studying a little more compelling - and enjoyable!

 

3. Drop It Like It’s Hot

Too many commitments, and not enough time? Drop those dinner plans to study, and push your study date so you can take a catnap. It may sound counter-intuitive, but forcing your drooping eyes to obey your academic needs and compelling your brain to absorb in information that it’s currently not ready to process, is a sheer waste of time.

 

Trust Leonardo da Vinci, if you don’t believe my words:

 

“Study without desire spoils the memory, and it retains nothing that it takes in.”

 

Take time off work if you need to. It’s not the end of the world if you say no - no matter how much your brain tells you otherwise. Recharge your neurons, and you’ll find that learning that new theory in discrete mathematics was, in fact, easier than you thought. Your relaxation and sleep is important for keeping your mental well-being in-check, and doing so will keep you energized through all your commitments for the week. Health is wealth - especially as a college student.

 

4. Live for the Weekend

There’s nothing like remembering the day trip to San Francisco you’re taking with your friends this weekend to motivate you to close your Facebook tab and start on your essay (beyond the introductory paragraph). Taking baby steps to productivity will get you through the entire semester, so succeed today, until you get to tomorrow, and then repeat this formula.

 

For instance, I’ve always been confused on how fraternities pass their classes, but then, I realized a crazy weekend is their incentive to keep their books open during the week. Even low-key plans, such as a take-out dinner or a delectable dessert, can do the trick to keep you sane enough to make it to the weekend.

 

5. Share Your Pain

Talk to your mom, call up your friends from home, post a tweet. But not for too long! (Keep checking the elapsed time on Facetime, Houseparty - which is the best app of all time since it lets you video call multiple people, or Skype to keep your time in check) They’ll give you tips and tricks to get out of the slump that may actually work for you, and since they know you well, the tips will likely stick for you in the long term. Or maybe they’re stuck in the rut like you, and now you have to keep each other accountable for the assignments you have to complete. Don’t fret, or think; simply dive right into them. Again, think about the joy you’ll feel once you jump back up, out of the slump and prosper once more.

 

Lastly, believe in yourself and ask others - particularly loved ones - to keep you in their prayers. But still, try not to worry too much.

 

You’ll be out of this slump before you know it!

 

photo-1427504494785-3a9ca7044f45.jpeg

those who forget history

those who forget history

History is not a story of ancient wild creatures or strange celestial beings - it is the story of us.

through them

through them

Take some time to get to know the people in each picture.

stargazing

stargazing

words | adnan perwez

photos | sania elahi

 

It was a bitterly cold summer night the first time I went stargazing. The biting wind that twisted its way through the city blocks had pushed aside both the stray leaves on the sidewalk and the clouds overhead, leaving both street and sky palely glowing and utterly clear.

My friends and I had spent the better part of the past hour on those empty streets just getting out of town; our old, worn-out car slowly rumbling past sleepy shops and the seemingly never-ending expanse of the campus. The change, when it came, was striking; dimly lit apartment complexes suddenly gave way to barren, open fields as we finally reached the outskirts of Davis.

The car came to a crawl, before pulling off the narrow road to stop on one of the fields. We got out, shivering—the wind was so frigid that it almost sucked the air out of my lungs. I stepped forward onto the damp earth, my breath coming out in visible puffs as I walked away from the car—and looked up.

Perhaps the feeling that comes closest is that of swimming in a freezing river. If you slowly sink yourself in, inch by inch, you can brace your body and prepare for the inevitable cold. Throw yourself in, however, and the coldness will instead feel like a tangible, physical force, grabbing and pummeling your senses.

If we extend that tired parallel, stargazing would be comparable to hurling yourself into the depths of the Arctic. Suddenly, a thousand points of light from a thousand different directions flare out at you; the entire sky is filled with shapeless, ethereal fire. The great, familiar dull purple-black blanket that has always covered the city’s sky is suddenly ripped away, like a furious magician tearing away the curtain to deliver his final, heart-stopping showstopper—the twinkling, endless forms almost vindictive in their full, merciless glory as your head turns round and round, your eyes futilely trying to find a beginning or a middle or an end to stop, to rest, to focus on. But the stars are too many, and they twinkle and they dance, as the heart, the mind, the eyes, the breath - all are frozen in the frigid air.

What does it feel like to look out into infinity? Countless armies of philosophers and writers have tried to give a definitive, all-encompassing answer. Some state that the entire experience is one of Divine awe and can surely inspire nothing but humility. Others state the opposite—that the grand view does nothing but spur man to greater heights, providing an empty canvas to map his endless ambition onto. Those with a darker, bleaker worldview claim that they find the entire thing unsettling; that the stars remind them of nothing but their own insignificance, and so become an inescapable symbol of meaninglessness and nihilism.

Faced with these wildly different interpretations, it seems impossible to find a common thread that could somehow unify and connect all the clashing views—in fact, the single similar thing is that the views were expressed in the first place. The act of gazing upon the stars seems to evoke some primal, ancient instinct—the need for humans to somehow capture an indescribable experience; to boil it down and distill it into a substance that can be more easily understood and shared. Much like witnessing death or falling hopelessly in love, stargazing is a uniquely universal human experience that appears throughout nearly every major writer and poet’s work, across time and cultures.

Perhaps gazing at the stars reveals nothing more than that which is found when we gaze within ourselves. Perhaps we reflect and project our desires whatever is inside our heart out into the endless skies, and so find the same thing staring down at ourselves when we look up. Perhaps not - perhaps there truly is some type of inherent meaning among the stars, one that silently and even unknowingly affects all human hearts the same, universal way when one first truly looks upon them.
One thing I’ve come to know for certain is that stargazing warps one’s perspective of time. One moment you’re staring upwards; the next you find yourself losing your balance, feet scrambling to catch purchase on the damp earth as you barely stop yourself from falling in time. When you glance upwards again, you’re shocked to see countless of the stars fading, as light starts to bleed in.

And so you turn, hands deeply in your pockets as you walk back towards the car. It’s already packed with yawning friends; you step inside the warm, sleepy interior and close the door. There’s a brief pause; then the silence is broken once and for all as the car rumbles into action, tires scratching against the fields, headlights bare against the thin veil of darkness.

Slowly, the familiar buildings and town start to come back into view, as the gentle babble of conversation starts up once again. But though you’re nodding and laughing along, your face is pressed against the cool glass of the window, heart still reflecting on the memory, eyes still gazing upwards.

Far, far above, the purple-black blanket stretches itself tightly, firmly reclaiming the sky and cloaking any glowing shapes underneath. Farther still, tendrils of pure pink light start to unravel themselves across the horizon, as dawn begins to settle in.

A Tale of Oneness

A Tale of Oneness

By Selem Helil

 

The summer after my senior year in high school, my parents decided to finally have a long overdue trip to Ethiopia. We hadn't been in ten years. I had only been there for a month when I was seven years old, and the only memory I had was the incessant throwing up from the terrible food poisoning I got. Now that I was older and would be more aware of my surroundings and experiences, I was excited and nervous. Needless to say, it was definitely an interesting trip.

I should preface this by saying that despite having hardly been in Ethiopia, I have always tried to be aware of the culture I come from. I knew the language fairly well because of the time I spent around family, ate Ethiopian food frequently, and kept up with the news there. The moment I stepped out of the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, I knew there was no way I could have anticipated the differences in life. Non-travelers weren't allowed in the airport, so hordes of people stood outside awaiting friends and family on the side of the parking lot side adjacent to the airport exit. Finding our family in the crowd proved to be more of a challenge than anticipated, but seeing my grandma, uncles, aunts and cousins that I have grown up hearing so much about (despite very limited memories) and being able to see the tears in everyone’s eyes was a surreal moment. I thought I understood itthe immensity of seeing the most important people in your life after years of uncertainty that you ever would. In retrospect, though, I'm not sure I fully understood that moment because my strongest emotions were exhaustion and relief to be off a 20-hour flight.

When we first arrived, strict guidelines were placed on us about leaving the house by ourselves. My parents were staying at my grandma's house, and my sister and I switched between crashing at our grandma's house and our aunt's house. Our nights were filled with laughter, conversation, and games with my cousins, aunts, and uncles, when we exchanged stories about the different lives we lived and discussed politics. After a few days of wandering between the houses, though, my sister and I were eager to see the city beyond our houses. We started by frequenting the gift shop in the neighborhood that my aunt and uncle owned, the coffee house, and the internet cafe across the street. Getting access to Internet would mean buying an Ethiopian SIM card for my phone and paying to fill it daily. Going to an Internet Cafe and sitting at a desktop gave me a reality check as to how modern the technological era we live in is. Eventually, we made our way to Bolethe downtown-esque, modernized district of the city where the best restaurants, hotels, malls and coffeehouses were.

Transportation in the city was a whole other set of customs with many failed attempts before I could finally get anywhere. The Ethiopian roads had hundreds of cars and people maneuvering in the streets with hardly any consideration of lanes, lane changes, signaling, traffic lights, and at times cars were just barely swerving to miss hitting pedestrians. What was even more astonishing was how good the drivers were at it. My parents rented a car, but even they were too scared to drive in Ethiopia after decades of adapting to the calm streets in America. They convinced my uncle to drive them around, and while some days we would all go out to visit distant family friends or get food, most days my dad and uncle would go out with the car from morning until around dinnertime. On those days, my mom would go out with her sisters in something they called a "contract taxi." The idea is similar to how taxis work here, but they would hire the driver for the day and pay him a lot at the end of the day. My sister and I quickly opted out of visiting people with our parents after about a week, and we spent our days hanging out with family, and exploring the city with whoever would show us around. We took the regular "taxis", a system similar to our bus system.

While there was a lot of contrast to life in Ethiopia, the biggest surprise by far was culture. I thought I knew what to expect because I knew the language, but I had no idea how unfamiliar the culture was. I found a community that was much more respectful and family-oriented than I expected, but most of all, it was religiously centered. My family was in Kara Kore, a region that is generally traditional, despite being located in the more westernized capital. It is a predominately Muslim community, but there is a strong Christian population as well. I could hear the adhan from multiple masjids in the yard of our house. On Sundays, I could hear the locals church's Sunday sermons overlap with the adhan at times. Almost all the women, Muslim or Christian, dressed conservatively, covering up their hair, or at least casually throwing on headscarves, and wearing long skirts and sleeves. Because we were in Ethiopia for Eid, I got to be one of the hundreds of people praying on the streets because we couldn't make it to the stadium prayer. I witnessed the amazing sight of thousands leaving the stadium after Eid prayer. Religion is a major part of life in Ethiopia and for me, the highlight was seeing the unity among people with different faiths and practices living as neighbors, despite the world conflicts with religion going on today.

Our trip in Ethiopia lasted a month, but it has continued to stay with me ever since. Long after we had left, the emotion I didn't understand in my families eyes became fears and tears we all shared. It changed my perspective on family, culture, and, more than anything, travel. I used to think a trip to Hawaii or Paris would be the most amazing thing in the world. Of course, the thought of seeing one of the world's remarkable tourist attractions still excites me, but now I see the value of going somewhere, even if it may seem unglamorous. It's about seeing a new culture, new customs, and a totally new world. I had been excited for the reunion with my family, but I forgot just how incredible where I was going would be. We have too long misunderstood the purpose of travel. It may not be about upping your life standards, or enjoying yourself, but rather learning something and humbling yourself with the grandiosity and diversity of the world, and surprising yourself the oneness of humanity.