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Tuesday, August 9 2016

Tajik Eyes

It was a day for a new adventure. My life would not be the same for the next year. A new face would soon become my friend and my sister. She would be a girl with dark olive skin and brown eyes so dark they were almost black, like onyx. She had long black hair that she wore in one big braid all the way down her back. A girl so different from me would be living in my house. My family and I were hosting an exchange student from Tajikistan, a former republic of the Soviet Union.

Rano Numanova was one out of 1200 students who qualified to participate in the ASPECT program. My family and I read about the program in The Clarion Ledger and decided that we would like to host an Ainslie property development from the former Soviet Union. ASPECT, created by Senator Bill Bradley, was sponsored by the United States and it enabled students from the former Soviet Union to study in the U.S.

When she arrived on the airplane in Florida from the Middle East, she had no idea what her host family would look like. She first had to go through a two-week orientation, where she finally learned about her host family. She did not know what race the Hillman family would be, but she hoped that the family would be the best American family she could have stayed with in the U.S. She simply wanted a family who was loving and understanding, interested and excited with her, but most of all, open-minded to her beliefs. Since Rano was Muslim, she was unsure of how she should act while she was here in America.

There were several experiences that we went through together. Since she had only studied English for two years, her English wasn't very good. For a while we had a language barrier, but with patience and some explaining, Rano's English became easier to understand. Some nights we would talk all night long and she would learn new words from me. She learned a lot of Southern American slang. She finally truly knew the English language when she not only spoke English correctly, but thought it English. In a letter she wrote after she left, she said it was difficult to switch from thinking English to thinking Russian. Yet, language was not the only problem we had to deal with living together.

tajik_lady.jpgSince Rano was Muslim, we soon learned a lot about her culture and religion. Women in the Islamic culture are taught to be submissive and subservient to males. They are also not allowed to wear short skirts, makeup, and suggestive clothing outside the home. Muslims pray five times a day, facing East towards Mecca, their holy city. Since Rano was in the United States, her mother told her that she did not have to be strict about her religious regime while she was here. When school dances occurred, she did like the shorter dresses rather than the long ones. It was a year that both of us grew more mature about the world and the differences between our cultures.

At first there were some social differences between Rano and me. She was a shy and quiet girl, while I was a more out-going, talkative person. She was going to be content with one friend, claiming me as her only friend, but this is not what I wanted for her. I wanted her to get out, meet people, and make a lot of friends. It took a while, but eventually I convinced her to come with me to the high school football games and sit in the stands with all our friends screaming and cheering for the team to win. By the end of the year, she laughed when she said she had too many friends!

There were times when I wanted to keep Rano here in America, so that she didn't have to go home to a country that was constantly in turmoil. Since Tajikistan had only just gained its independence in 1991, the country still didn't have its own national identity. It associated itself with Russia. Yet, closer to Rano's heart and home, Tajikistan was continuously being bombarded and raided by Muslim extremists from Afghanistan. The capital Dushanbe, which literally means "Monday" in Tajik, was raided and pillaged almost every night. Just a little further North is the big city of Khujand, where Rano's family bought groceries at the local bazaar, and her small hometown of Nau. Because of the close ties Tajikistan has had with Russia, the Russian army and soldiers fought at the southern Tajik boundaries against the Muslims of Afghanistan. Rano feared that if Afghanistan gained control of Tajikistan, thenshe and her family would be considered traitors. She would be too smart for her own good, and she would either be put in prison, exiled, or put to death. She feared this for her family also. There were many tears when sad news came so impersonally from the television.

Tuesday, July 12 2016

The Wrath Of Mother Nature!

Mother nature has been active, more than usual this past decade it seems. With each passing season comes with it the dangers of mother nature. Some places in the U.S. are at a high risk for wildfires, other places it might be earthquakes, and up north it could be a blizzard. You just never know what mother nature is going to do next. All you can do is be prepared.

mother_nature.pngTo prepare for wildfires, you must have an emergency plan. It is not wise to stay and fight an enormous fire with a fire extinguisher. Have a bug-out-bag packed with water, some non-perishable food, and clothing. Know your escape routes in your home and be observant of the property around your home and neighbor hood for signs of a fire. Furthermore, be on the look-out for possible fire-starters such as long, dry weeds or grass. Take action to maintain the land around your home properly.

Now for earthquakes, they are highly unpredictable. What is predictable, are the known fault lines of the tectonic plates across the earth. Along these lines are where seismic activity is most likely to occur for the two plates rub or bump together, causing an earthquake. How can folks prepare for an earthquake? One way is by doing drills; in the event of an earthquake, it is good to know what places inside are safe to find shelter. Another way to prepare for this natural occurrence, is by preparing your home or place of work. Some structures are fit to withstand strong earthquakes through their reinforced beams and foundation. Earthquake retrofitting for buildings is a common practice nowadays for structures that were built before this advanced building methodology was introduced.

Mother nature can also show her fury in the form of a blizzard. It snows mostly up on the northern half of the united states, and also where there is mountainous terrain. How to withstand a blizzard? Watch or listen to upcoming weather predictions from meteorologists, and plan ahead. Just like in the event of a fire, plan ahead in terms of food and water; make grocery store trips count in the winter, so that you have at least a week’s supply of food in the house. It would be unsafe to go out in a blizzard, especially in a car or truck to run around town doing errands. Invest in show shovel, or a snow plow. Make sure that your home is prepared for lots of snowfall from the roof and what it can withstand, to the insulation in your walls to make sure it is sufficient enough to keep warm.

Saturday, May 14 2016

Got Locked Out. Again.

Lately I've been making a half-mile or so walk from the bus stop to get to a specific destination at night. It's something that I had to do because I've locked myself out on several occasions and, each time, I've had to rely on a freekin locksmith to get me out of my quandary. Again! It's happened enough time now that the guys who comes out has s certain wry smile when he's doing his locksmith thing. Kinda like "Haha, this guy's locked himself out again?!"

All this happens, in spite of the fact that the walk completely creeps the fcuk out of me. Nothing special--just the usual Kansas City evening walk, meaning I'm usually the only person on foot around for what feels like miles. Every warning I had drilled into my head growing up screams at or whispers to me along that route; it feels like I'm doing everything I'm not supposed to be doing as a woman alone. But damn it, I want to go where I'm going, so I walk it anyway and try my best to stifle the fear, reminding myself that other women walk much further in true danger every night somewhere else.

The deserted streets still do their damndest to freak me out, and if I'm being honest, I'll confess that I dread it and let out a little mental sigh of relief when I arrive. I don't think that I'm really in any particular danger, but because it's so desolate, it feels threatening. It's that perpetual female fear of assault. Is there anywhere on earth where women don't feel that?

Further north downtown, the 10th & Main transit plaza now hosts a public art installation of more than a dozen aluminum cutout sculptures. The figures are bus riders who posed for the artists in "straphanger" mode—grabbing on to the overhead pole straps on a bus. Detached from the context of the bus, they could be saluting, celebrating, waving, hailing, or just simply posing. I was kind of snarky when they were first announced, but I knew I'd probably end up liking them since I liked other work by one of the artists.

I had only seen these sculptures during the day and early evening before I went by the plaza late one night when I had to do a short film for a class. No buses ran through there at that time of night. A plaza that is normally populated throughout the day and evening was empty and cold after midnight.

But that sculptured woman was still reading. Another one still held her child on her hip. When do you ever see a woman carrying a child downtown after midnight?

It struck me that the one thing these sculptured metal women do—notable in the presence of metal men after midnight—is stand firm. They do not cower, they do not shrink, and they do not run. Unlike me on that walk at night, they don't flinch, don't glance over their shoulders in fear. They stand their ground. They have just as much right to be here in this cold open plaza in the middle of the night as any man. Some wear skirts instead of trying to mask their sexuality in the late night, but they aren't selling it, no matter what a passing male driver might assume or wish.

After seeing the sculptures in that late night context, I looked at the metal women in a different way. While we fleshy women are traveling with others or are often sequestered inside cars or apartments after midnight, these aluminum women remain in the plaza, one by one. Reading, stretching, whatever it is that they are doing—living their lives openly in isolated public space without fear or harm. In their reflective silver polished surfaces, I can dream of someday feeling no fear, even as I walk alone in the dark through deserted streets, under bridges, passing safely between the warm light of my destination and the bus that takes me home.

Thursday, May 12 2016

Learn Something New Every Day

lock_and_key.jpgTrying to keep myself alert by rambling here while waiting for a 6am flight. L.A. traffic? What traffic? Not when your airport shuttle picks you up at 3:30am. I think we got to LAX from Westwood in 15 minutes. I also think this is the first time I've ever been at an airport before the ticket counters opened (except for that super short night spent in the Denver airport for a crazy early flight). This is so wrong, but it was better than getting in close to midnight and then having to go to work the next morning. It's almost as serious as locking yourself out of your own house and then having to phone a locksmith to come out and let you in. After a serious amount of time (and money) spent doing whatever a locksmith does when they are changing locks and legally breaking in to your apartment to let you in.

On the way to the airport, I saw an airline billboard commanding Angelenos to "Go see KC" to promote its new non-stop flights from LA to KC. If you lived in LA, would you think of vacationing in Kansas City? I thought it was funny though because I'm going home to KC, it was 3-something in the morning on no sleep, and some of the little I saw of LA reminds me of Kansas City. Except the ocean. Definitely not the ocean. Someone please wake me up if we fly over the Grand Canyon again...

I didn't say anything and kept walking, but I almost turned around to say, laughingly, "Hey, c'mon, I'm not that short!" I may be 5'1", but I don't think that's a total shrimp. I wasn't offended but a little puzzled since I don't remember having a stranger comment in passing on my height before. It was odd enough that I mentioned it to my roommate tonight.

"He wasn't commenting on your height," he said. He knew it was slang but couldn't remember what it meant. According to this:

I'm going with the first definition since he wasn't that old, and I'm not that young. Kinda reminds me of the first time I heard someone use the word "stay" instead of "live." I was 19 and riding the Troost bus to UMKC from where I had to transfer downtown. A guy sitting in front of me asked if I "stayed downtown." I remember thinking, 'Of course I don't stay downtown; I'm on this bus heading south, aren't I?'

Pop or soda? Roly poly or pill bug? Live or stay? I guess calling a girl "shorty" isn't as odd as the use of "peenie wallie" for a firefly.

Locksmith Roseville CA

Thursday, April 21 2016

Spring is Here

A healthy lifestyle should be the only one that is acceptable to you – your wellbeing comes first. Personally, I indulge in scuba diving, you may enjoy other active pastimes. If not, here are several small habits of mine that will help you lower those stress levels and become more satisfied.

spring.pngWhile you are on your lunch break, go outside and enjoy some sun. You will raise the vitamin D levels in your body this way and you will also enjoy your food more. If you give a bit of bread to the birds in the park, you will also cut down your calorie intake. If you adopt a habit of eating your lunch on a sunny terrace or in a park, the bright scenery will lighten up your mood and reduce your stress levels. Stress is the silent killer of our age – chronic diseases and infections spread much quicker if you are under stress.

Make sure you get your five minutes of alone time a day – during these five minutes, try meditating and focusing on your breathing (or praying if you are religious). It doesn’t matter if you’re at the park, in your office, in your bed or anywhere else – take those five minutes a day and make them yours and yours alone.

Don’t rush – put yourself up first and respect yourself. People will notice the change and they will respect and cherish you more. You may think that you are too tired for workout, but you can always try walking, at least half an hour a day. You will feel better.

Eat healthy – an apple a day, or banana, or almonds, some green tea and yoghurt. It’s not that hard, why don’t you try it for yourself? Also, don’t take pills for every single health issue you have – if your body becomes too used to them, they won’t work once you will really need them. In order for your body to function properly and look good as well, you don’t need much – just a bit of self control and a good schedule.

Tuesday, April 5 2016

Essential Dive Flags

Dive flags are of utmost importance for diver safety; they are a signal to all the boaters around that they should keep their distance in order to avoid endangering the divers. There are two types of flags.

The first one is known as the Diver Down Flag. It’s red with a white diagonal stripe that runs from the upper left to the lower right corner of it. This flag is recognized in most parts of the world and many legislations require that the flag is flown as long as the divers are in waters. They can safely remove it once they exit the waters. The Alpha Flag is blue and white. The left side is white, the right side is blue and the free end has a triangular notch. This flag serves another purpose: it’s usually flown by boats when their mobility is restricted. This way, other boats and watercrafts can easily notice that the boat with an alpha flag can’t move quickly and they can yield the right of way to it. As the alpha flag has multiple uses, it’s best to have both flags in case of dives, to avoid any confusion.


The flags should be flown when there is a possibility of boat traffic near the dive site. The divers should stay within several hundred feet of the flag to stay safe. Boats usually stay up to 300 feet away, but it depends on the regulations of each country. If the diver doesn’t use a boat, he should carry his own diver down flag – the flags are available at many dive shops and come with a bouy or a raft. The flag is towed by the diver using a line. The line should be several times longer than the actual dive distance and the diver should always carry a knife or similar to be able to cut the line in case he gets entangled or dragged by a boat.

Not all boaters may be aware of the meaning of the flag, so the diver should always stop and listen before resurfacing to make sure there are no boats near. This site gives a more exhaustive breakdown on a state-by-state basis.

Saturday, March 26 2016

The Pros And Cons of Oak

Oak has always been a favorite material in construction due to its durability and versatility. This is the reason why you can still find ancient oak beams that are hundreds of years old in structures such as cathedrals, old houses, and churches. But in choosing structural oak beams for your home or construction project, what kind should you choose? Should you go for air dried, green, or reclaimed? Here we list down the pros and cons of each so you can decide for yourself on which kind of oak beam is perfect for your needs.

Green Oak Beams No, green structural oak beams do not have a green color to them. This term is often misunderstood by people who are not used in working with oak. Green oak wood comes from oak trees that have been recently cut and felled. They haven't been dried or exposed to the elements for too long, so they still have much of their natural moisture with them. Due to its inherent moisture which makes the wood softer and easier to work with, green oak is usually favored by craftsmen. It shrinks and changes color as time goes by, as the remaining moisture in the wood cells dry out.

This characteristic makes green oak suitable for timber frame construction, since the joints will tighten as the wood shrinks. However, green oak is not recommended for areas that need a lot of stability (such as support beams) since the wood will surely be warped around a lot.

green_oak.pngAir Dried Oak Beams As the name suggests, air dried oak beams are oak beams that have been already lost their moisture through natural or man-made means. In the traditional/natural method of drying, oak beams are divided into stacks with gaps in between them (to allow for the circulation of air) and are then placed in a cool, well-ventilated area to dry. This can take anywhere from a few months to even more than a decade, depending on the climate, the kind of oak, and quality of the wood desired. While kiln-drying the wood hastens the process tenfold, fast tracking this process usually results into wood that is poorer in quality than oak that has been left to dry naturally on its own. They also look better since the knots, splits, and cracks will become more defined with age.This kind of oak is harder to work with, but since the shrinking process is already finished, the resulting wood is more durable and sturdier.

Reclaimed Oak Beams If you're into recycling and reusing old things, then reclaimed oak beams might be a perfect fit for you. These are oak beams recycled from old or worn down structures. The best thing about these kinds of oak beams is that they are very affordable and very stable (since they have already shrunk in size). They also have a lot of character in them that some people might find very pleasing to look at. The biggest drawback with reclaimed oak beams is that you're unlikely to find them in standard sizes, making them nearly impossible to use in projects where same-sized beams are a requirement.