Monday, October 16, 2006

Making a Difference

I was so thrilled on October 13th to turn on my computer and see among the the top 5 headlines: Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank of Bangladesh win Nobel Peace Prize.

I wanted to jump up and down with joy - in fact I did a little!

What a great achievement! Sure, a nobel peace prize is given out every year, but this one was different for me ... obviously the first connection is that he's Bangladeshi. The second thing is that what Yunus has achieved really shows that change is possible ... that you can make a difference, even if it's a small one. We all have this power in our hands.

Yunus started a micro-banking system about 30 years ago. He gave small loans (e.g. $9) to poor village women (note: he started giving the loan to men first, but then found that they could not handle the money, so then he started lending only to women). With this money they were told to do something - anything - start a trade, buy some material, hire someone to do something if they didn't have the skill. They were to pay back the money whenever they could - no interest, no penalities, nothing ... and what happened? These women who were in desperate situations started their own small businesses. They didn't have to take to the streets and beg. They could work and earn money and take care of the family.

They had responsibilities and they carried out their work with pride.

My favorite quote from him is:
"You cannot go on having absurd amounts of wealth when other people have problems of survival," he said. "If you can bring an end to poverty, at least from an economic point of view, you can have a more livable situation between very rich people and very poor people, very rich countries and very poor countries. That's our basic ingredient for peace."

I think, if people properly gave their annual 2.5% zakaat (charity money in Islam) then so much could be done. I'm not saying eliminate poverty or anything like that ... I'm talking about taking little steps - but all leading to the right direction. Even if you eliminate the religious aspect of it, you can't say that giving for charity is not good. How can we, who have so much, not open our hands a little to make a difference?

The Bangladesh government is in such a pitiful state ... but what I have seen year after year is that individuals are using their own money to better their neighborhood, their streets etc. etc. It's so great when you see people willing to spend a little of their own money to help other people -- and not just other people, but these steps help the country as well.

So Yunus has shown that if you try and if you want to ... you can make a difference.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Going Postal

Does anybody know where the phrase 'going postal' came from?

I'm sure it has something to do with someone going insane at a post office ... like I almost went today.

I don't understand people that work in some of these government offices. Why are they so sullen, bitter, moody, and angry? They've got one of the easiest jobs in the world and yet they act as if asking for a stamp means that they have to move heaven and earth for you.

Take today, for example. I went to the post office and got a package slip. So I went to the counter where I'm supposed to claim my package. When I went the counter and placed the slip in the tiny window, the guy who was just sitting there staring off into space, gave me the look of death. I swear, his look clearly said - could you not see that I was busy doing nothing? Did you have to make me actually do some work today? I was so angry.

This is their job. If they hate it, why can't they find something more motivating, challenging, or exciting? And it's not like it takes great skill or energy to do what they're doing.

He grabbed the paper out of my hand and said 'shenoo hatha'? Thank god there was that glass barrier between us because I swear I wanted to reach out and slap him. I just ignored his comment and finally he snapped 'bataka' - I calmly handed him my id card - silently thinking to myself -- if he had simply done his job without an attitude, then both his day and mine would have gone so smoothly. Finally my white package slipped transformed into a pink one which he shoved in my direction as he barked 'rooh Keifan.'

I knew this was going to happen as all personal packages go to Keifan, so I quickly rushed there.

I was pretty excited as I knew this was my birthday package from D and I really wanted to get it so that I could open it tomorrow. It was already 12:25 and I knew that the post office was closing at 1 so I just hoped I'd make it there on time.

Thank goodness, I did. I went to the express package counter and they got my package in a minute ... now came the time when they were going to go through my stuff.

I was really hoping that they wouldn't ... I mean, it's my birthday present. It's wrapped. I wanted to open it ... and of course, above all, I didn't want to see what was in it, I wanted to wait.

So, I took a chance and told the guy - I know you have to open it, but I don't want to see what's inside. He was a little suprised at my statement. So I explained, tomorrow's my birthday and I want it to be a surprise. He just said ok, have a seat.

I heard him open the box and cut through some paper and then move things around. I didn't want to look - I didn't have the heart to see all the wrapping paper all over the place.

Finally I heard him say he was finished. I went to get my box and saw that he hadn't ripped any of the paper. He had just slit the top to look inside. I was so relieved. So he handed back the box and said Happy Birthday ... then paused and had a slight smile on his face and said (with his hand still on the box) do you want to know what's inside? And we both just laughed as a exclaimed 'No!'

See -- is it so difficult to have a bit of a sense of humor and be nice? I mean, he was polite so I was polite to him. He worked quickly and efficiently, and I appreciated it.

Why can't it always be like that?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Tick-Tock - The Clock won't Stop

I can't keep up. I mean seriously, where does the time go? It's not like I spend hours lazing around or anything. In fact, it's the opposite.

So I start my day with a list of 100 things to do. As I strike off 20+ things, I add on 30+ things ... It's never ending!

I enjoy staying busy for sure, but now I've created a new meaning for the word busy. It's getting really frustrating.

A big part of it is Ramadan timing. I can't get anything done during the day. When I do have time in the afternoon, all the shops are closed. And if I set out to do anything in the evening, I spend most of the time stuck in traffic. It's making it really hard to get things done ... and now the pressure is mounting. Registration of my car, grading papers, working out, getting things for my new apartment, wedding plans, Phd work ... and that's just the beginning - and you can forget about time for family and friends. I don't know how many times I've said no to outings etc. but I just can't do it. When I do have a spare moment I just need to be by myself to recuperate and get ready for the next list of things to do.

They say we should enjoy life and stop and smell the roses ... at this point in time, things are moving so fast, I can't even see the bloody roses!