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Skipping Stones

Table of Contents
Volume 15, #1
(January -- February, 2003)

Strength in Diversity

Respecting all life

Cultural Explorations

  • Delicate Temples of Sand
  • Une Expe'rience Multiculturelle
  • Painters and Best Friends
  • My Mexican Blood
  • Sobu's Sister
  • Dolls or Valentine?
  • Your Own Girls' Day Celebration
  • The Road to Adventure in Bolivia
  • Homonym
  • The War: A Girl's Escape from Kosovo
  • Welcome to Sarajevo

Youth and Spirituality

Regular Departments

(c) 2002 by Skipping Stones. Opinions expressed in these pages reflect views of the contributors, and not necessarily those of Skipping Stones, Inc. In the spirit of ecological sensitivity, we choose to print with soy ink on recycled & recyclable paper.

FROM THE EDITOR

Happy New Year! Thanks to your support, we are begining the 15th year of Skipping Stones.

As a child I remember making New Year's resoultions. Sometimes it was to cultivate a desirable quality or to take early morning walks each day. Other times it was to quit an annoying habit, do something to be a better person or set a goal for myself. Do you make New Year's resolutions? What are your resolutions for 2003?

At Skipping Stones, we are resolving to redouble our efforts to make this world a better home for everyone-not just for ourselves and our subscribers, but for all. We started by sending about 30 large boxes of books and magazines to schools and libraries in low-income communities throughout the world.

But that is not enough. We are taking on a much bigger challenge [resolution than ever before] that may take years to attain. Our resolution is to make September 11th a National (and International) Day for Intercultural and Interfaith Dialogue and Community Service. How will we do that? Of course, with your help! But why? How? We hope to promote better understanding between people and communities. Fear, prejudice, racism, oppression and war have roots in lack of understanding and trust. When we know someone's story, s/he is no longer a stranger. We can overcome our terror with fearlessness, turn prejudice into understanding.

Here in Eugene, Oregon, we have had ongoing events where people of many faiths and cultures get together and learn from each other. We share our opinions, experiences, customs and traditions. Some events are formal; others are very informal gatherings where we simply share a meal and get to know others a little better.

The Eugene Middle East Peace Group organized a joint Channukah and Eid-el-Fitr festival on December 7th. It brought together Jewish people, Muslims, Christians, Palestinians, Arabs and Israelis. Proceeds from the event benefitted Windows-Channels for Communication, an organization that publishes a Palestinian/Israeli youth magazine and hosts Jewish/Arab dialogue groups.

I have observed that when my seven-year-old son meets someone for the first time, he is shy. Do you feel awkward or fearful with people you don't know? In early November, I was in the nation's capital for a conference of the National Association for Multicultural Education. On public buses and trains and at the conference site, I met hundreds of "strangers." In most cases we shared conversations and smiles. Not all of us became good friends, but we were no longer strangers.

You, too, could take on the challenge to meet a "stranger." This could be a New Year's resolution. Arrange small gatherings to get to know others at a deeper level-more than what music or clothes they like. Try to understand where they are coming from, what they believe in and why.

Then tell the readers of Skipping Stones about your experiences making friends, getting to know someone from a different culture, religion, nationality, language or ethnicity. Has getting to know them enriched your life? What did you learn? Tell us about your visits to another country or your encounters with someone in a wheel-chair. Attend meetings of different spiritual groups and share your thought on the experience.

We will feature dozens of these enlightening encounters in our Sept.-Oct. issue. We hope that come September, thousands of communites will gather together and celebrate our unity in diversity. We will reflect on how different people can help make each of us and our world more peaceful, complete and fulfilled.

--Arun Toke'
Editor

No Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge!

Alternative Energy Sources
There has been a dispute in Congress lately about drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Oil is a limited resource, yet it is readily available and inexpensive for the average American. There are other energy sources that are less harmful to the environment and still beneficial to the economy. Drilling in ANWR is a shortsighted plan to meet the nation's energy requirements.

Electric batteries are one alternative energy source. They can be recycled and only need a small amount of petroleum to be charged. Similarly, solar power could be used. The sun shines all year round in southern California, the major consumer of oil. Hydroelectric and wind power could also be used. These methods could be profitable. Companies could specialize in selling batteries or solar panels. The U.S. should pursue these less costly and more environmentally friendly alternatives.

The U.S. will eventually run out of oil anyway, so we should start finding other ways to get energy now. Convince your congressmen to take action. Send an e-mail today telling your representative what you think about destroying the beautiful Alaskan wilderness.

--Emma Schneiderman, 12,
South Pasadena, Calif.

Looking Out for Wildlife
Many types of animals live in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, including caribou, polar bears, brown bears, moose, grey wolves, musk oxen and dall sheep. Drilling in Alaska would force many of these animals to relocate, which would be very dangerous to the species' survival. The Gwich'in tribe that lives around ANWR believes that drilling would force the caribou to stop breeding and leave. They have hunted these animals throughout the ages and still do today. They fear that the ecosystem would change drastically if drilling occurred.

To drill in Alaska, Congress would have to cancel an existing law that preserves all national parks. By doing this no national park would be safe. The government would be able to drill or log wherever it wished. Should we obediently open the gates of national parks to logging trucks and drilling machines?

Cutting our energy use will help stop the immense need for oil. Will we doom this home for wildlife and this pinnacle of beauty because of our need to drive cars everywhere and keep our computers running all day? I hope not, but only together can we stop this horrific event from taking place.

-- Annabel Beichman, 12,
South Pasadena, Calif.

Remembering Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. King's "Beyond Vietnam" speech reads as though it were presented last week on national television. "Even when pressed by the demands of inner-truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war." Measures that President Bush failed in passing earlier flew through Congress almost unanimously after September 11th. Once the hurdle of patriotism and the looming possibility of war presented themselves, members found it hard to turn down the president's requests. War has rearranged our country's priorities. "...At least 20 casualties from American firepower for one Vietcong-inflicted injury." A fact not widely broadcast via the media is that the death toll on September 11th has been surpassed by the total number of civilian deaths taken by American bombs in Afghanistan. "History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursue this self-defeating path of war." Similarly, the future looks bleak if we, as a global community, continue to take this path. Add in the increasing threat of nuclear weapons if war erupts, and the risk shoots up. We've already seen the danger of chemical weapons in the Anthrax scare, which hardly involved advanced methods and was by no means pursued as thoroughly as it could have been.

"America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can lead the way in this revolution." America has not to any degree lost its hegemony over the rest of the world since the Vietnam era. Anything America wants to do and proceeds to pursue will be followed by the rest of the world to some degree. What if the United States had responded to terrorism differently? Let's call a cease-fire on the world. As Dr. King said, "These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly."

-- Katy Bogart, 10th grade,
Springfield, Oregon.

The War: A Girl's Escape from Kosovo

Yugoslavia is divided into several regions. Slobodan Milosovic, who ruled the region of Serbia, also wanted to rule Kosovo, the region where my family lived. I was only seven when the war began. The Serbians were killing people and destroying houses. All the businesses were closed because of what was happening. My dad was a teacher, but the schools were closed.

One day we were sleeping when we heard a truck coming. There were some men hidden outside to protect us. If someone was coming to kill us, the men would wake everyone and start walking us away from our homes. My father was one of the men protecting us. He told my family to get out of the house. My mom called me, but I went back to sleep. People were checking to see if everyone was there. They were looking for me, but I was still in bed. Then my brother and sister found me in the room, sleeping. The truck turned out to just be our friend.

On another occasion, we heard a bombing, so we left again. We stopped in the woods where you could see our house. We saw houses burning, but they did not burn ours. They picked tall houses. They burned my friend's house. One day my mom and brother thought the Serbians were all gone, so they went down to our house to bake bread. While Mom was baking, my brother was outside watching for Serbians. My brother told my mom to run because there were Serbians coming. My father did not let my mom wear pants, but she could not run in her skirt. She fell down and cut her hand on the fence. My brother was ahead of her up the hill. He came back and helped her. If my brother hadn't helped my mom, she would be dead, but because of him, she was safe. My two sisters, my father and I were up in the woods. We were crying because we thought my mom and brother were dead. Then they reached us, and we were all together.

We were playing outside one day, and a man said, "I know a way to get out of here. If you would like to get out of here, you have to get ready by tomorrow night." My family said yes because my mom and dad wanted a better place for us. So the next day, we started walking. It was snowing, and we had to walk for two days to get to the camp in Macedonia. Sometimes my parents carried my little sister because she was only four years old. Once I thought we were going to get killed because a baby was crying, and I thought the Serbians were going to hear her.

When we finally reached the camp we stayed in tents with two or three families. Everyone was friendly, and I had lots of fun. I had food and clothes. The camp directors brought us food to could cook. We would walk around saying "peace." There was also a playground and sometimes concerts. It was fun, except for the war.

We were in the camp for a couple weeks. It was safer than our house in Kosovo. There was a poster that listed every family's last name. If you wanted to go to America, you would go to a certain place for information. If your father's name came up on the list, you could choose to go to America or stay. We were all so happy when my father's name was on the list. Soon, buses came and took us to the airplane. We flew to New York and then to New Hampshire to meet our sponsor, Cindy. None of us spoke any English. Cindy used a dictionary to talk with us. First she got us clothes, and then she took us to get an apartment.

My mom and dad both got jobs after a couple months. In September we started school. We were in an English as a Second Language program. My brother was 12. My older sister was 11. I was nine, and my little sister was four. It was hard at first, but the teacher played games with us to teach us English and a little math. When she talked, I picked up some words from her. She helped me write in English. After two years, I entered a regular fifth grade class. I was kind of lost in the beginning, but the kids and the teacher helped. It's not hard anymore.

My father and brother would like to go back to Kosovo, but everyone else wants to stay here. We're sad because my grandpa is dying, but my father's sister went back to visit him. There's still a little fighting, but it's not as bad as it was. I'd like to go back to visit but not to stay.

-- Sahadete Limani, 12,
Manchester, NH.

My Mexican Blood

My ancestral background on my father's side is Aztec Mexican. On my mother's side I am European and Cherokee Indian. As a child with a mixed background, I have always followed my Mexican blood. What I mean is that I have followed the Mexican culture.

My favorite Mexican holiday is the day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I love this holiday because she stands for the Mexican people. At church that day there are processions, mariachis and people dressed as Aztecs dancing for Our Lady of Guadalupe. Another special Mexican celebration is Los Reyes Magos. This day is based on the three kings that gave their gifts to Jesus in Bethlehem. On this day all children receive gifts. My last, but not least favorite Mexican holiday is El Día De Los Muertos. To Mexicans this is a very serious holiday. It's the Day of the Dead. The purpose is to commemorate the people that we loved that have passed away. It is not supposed to be a sad day; it is supposed to be happy.

I love to go to Mexico. When I go to Mexico I feel like I belong there, but I also miss my home in the United States. In Mexico I have several family members that I enjoy visiting because they can't visit me in the U.S. One of my favorite things to do in Mexico is to go by horse down to the river for a swim with my cousins. We usually go for a ride around noon and stay there all afternoon. I also like to go to the plazas. Not only is food sold in the plazas, but jewelry and hair accessories as well. Another thing I like to do in the summer is sit on the balcony and watch the colorful lightning flash in the sky. At night I sit on the roof and look at the stars.

Growing up as a Mexican American, I am fortunate to live in the Chicago area. There are many Mexicans in Chicago, which allows me to learn more about my heritage. There are Mexican restaurants, stores and bakeries. Most churches have bilingual masses and offer religious education in Spanish. I am proud to be a Mexican American, and I cherish my history and my supportive community.

-- -Alicia Ochoa, 13,
Lincolnwood, Illinois.

The Ocean

I am known as the ocean
I have a lot in common
I am calm and peaceful at times
And other times I am fast and furious
I provide people with something to cherish
Cannot hold but can see
You might as well have named me
The Ocean.

-- Jenine Sabot, 10,
Airmont, NY.

Finding Patience

Mulla Nasruddin was a Sufi teacher and saint believed to have born in 1208 in Turkey. Mulla did not advise his followers. He realized that his teaching would reach more people if he gave it away with jokes, fun and wit. Anecdotes with Mulla touch many topics like common sense, thrift and courage. He also spread his religious teachings and ridiculed the government through his funny stories. Here is a thought-provoking and funny story from Mulla.

A young man came to Mulla Nasruddin for advice. "I am going to work for the king. I want to know how to do my job well," said the young man.

"You need only one thing to work for the royals," said Mulla.

"And what is that?" asked the young man.

Mulla got up from his chair and said, "Patience."

The young man nodded and waited for Mulla to continue.

"You need patience," said Mulla.

"Yes, sir. I will be patient," said the young man with a smile.

"You need to be patient," said Mulla again pacing the room.

"Of course, great man. I will develop patience," said the young man. He frowned and looked at Mulla.

"And you definitely need patience," said Mulla as he sat down again.

"You have told me that a thousand times. What else?" asked the young man shouting at Mulla.

"You have not even joined the palace. You have lost your patience already," said Mulla smiling.

The young man understood the purpose of the little experiment and the advice from Mulla. Mulla Nasruddin knew that the young man would never forget the importance of being patient.

-- Chitra Soundar,
West Midlands, United Kingdom.

On My Way to Nowhere

I come upon a riverbed
dried by the summer's heat.
Rocks jutting from the ground
make me a path to nowhere.

And I follow eagerly
only to find my rocks, not rocks at all,
rather toads; heads dug into the mud
bathing their sultry skin in the heat.

And I walk nonetheless,
feet bare and mind intent.
The feel of their skin
echoes in my mind.

They turn their heads
to gaze at me.
Pulled in, farther and farther
into the deepness of those dark spheres.

I see a girl, cradled by the moonlight
sleeping on a star.
Slipping through translucent bonds
I enter her dream world.

She watches from a tree
a man in a riverbed
dancing on the backs of toads
lost in a trance, leading him everywhere
and yet nowhere.

-- Gabe Roth, 15,
Fayetteville, NY.

All Wrapped Up

Neenah kneels and prays toward the dawn's early light as it peeps over the horizon. In observance of Ramadan, she skips eating her favorite cereal and, instead, stretches and exercises.

As she packs her denim duffel bag for school, she sees her friend Bell bouncing up the steps. Neenah swings the door open while tightening the knot on her black hijab. "As-Salaam Alaikum," she says.

"Alaikum As-Salaam. You could have told me," a hyper Bell says, circling her best friend.

"And be front-page news again, Miss Journalist?"

"At least they can't call the hijab a potential gang marker."

"Yeah, can you believe they let us sell bandannas as a fund raiser, but we can't wear them to school?" Neenah says heading out the door. Neenah and Bell arrive at school and scurry into their classroom. The chattering students' sudden quietness alarms Ms. Gibbs. Looking over her gold-rimmed glasses, she says, "Neenah, I will have to ask you to remove the scarf."

"It's a hijab, and I'm wearing it in observance of Ramadan," Neenah replies.

"You were warned last week. Gather your belongings and report to the principal's office," Ms. Gibbs says reaching for the intercom button.

"Stay strong," Bell whispers.

Neenah's fast stride slows to a stroll as she enters the administrative office. Mr. Petersen, waving her in says, "Have a seat, Miss Hakeem."

Neenah flops into the hard leather chair. He continues, "Although you're a model student athlete, I can't give you special privileges."

"Mr. Petersen, I wear the hijab to the mosque," Neenah says fidgeting.

"According to the school's dress policy, your scarf is inappropriate," Mr. Petersen states, flipping through a book. He points to pictures of Muslim women from Pakistan and Russia wearing hijabs that cover the forehead, shoulders and chest. Neenah's hijab covers only her hair.

"If you don't remove the scarf you will be suspended and will not be able to run in the track meet."

"No, I won't take it off," Neenah says pulling on the hijab.

"Then I expect a parent conference when you return to school on Monday." Neenah storms out of the office and bumps into Bell snooping around.

"What did he say?" Bell calmly asks.

"That I'm suspended until Monday."

"And miss the track meet! On what grounds?"

"Because I don't wear the hijab according to some book," Neenah says walking out the door.

The principal's office notified Neenah's parents of her suspension.

"Welcome to the real world," her dad says, sliding her mail across the table.

Neenah rips open the envelope from Tennessee State University's track program. Speed-reading the letter twice, a confused Neenah yells, "They'll be at the meet on Saturday and want to offer me a full scholarship!"

Stuffing the letter into her mother's hands, she asks, "What am I going to do?"

Her mother, scanning the letter replies, "You're stuck between a rock and a hard place."

Later that evening, Bell races up the stairs to Neenah's room. "What took you so long?" asks Neenah.

"Before I forget," Bell says catching her breath and handing Neenah a business card, "Here's the lawyer's number my mom sent, and I wrote about your suspension in the e-news letter."

"Bell, no marches or sit-ins, promise me."

"Neenah, you're all wrapped up. Not too many people would miss the opportunity to run for the same school where Wilma Rudolph broke records.

"Sleep tight," Bell says, bolting for the stairs.

The phone's loud ring snaps Neenah out of daydreaming the next day. "Quick, turn to channel five," Bell screams into her ear. Neenah hits the remote control and sees hundreds of students wearing purple and white bandannas chanting, "Celebrate diversity!"

A reporter interviews Abdul Muhammad, a lawyer from the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "I represent the Hakeem family," he states, glaring into the camera. "Neenah's hijab style wouldn't be out of place at any mosque that serves a primarily African American congregation. There are differences of opinion in all faiths."

"It would take Bell to help unwrap me," a teary-eyed Neenah mumbles. The phone rings, and Neenah, snatching the receiver up before the second ring yells, "Bell!"

"Neenah Hakeem, this is Mrs. Woo from the administrative office. Mr. Petersen has lifted your suspension."

"Al Hamdullilah," Neenah screams joyfully.

The next day Mr. Peterson, apologizing to Neenah and her parents says, "I hope this doesn't distract you from your studies or from running your best on Saturday."

"No, Mr. Petersen, it won't because I have faith," Neenah, smiling, says confidently.

-- Stefanie Royal,
Los Angeles, Calif.

 

 

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