Tag Archive - USA

Why we should thank the bus!

Many American cities are not car-free-friendly. If you don’t have a car, you’re stuck. Buses are far between, if you rely on them to get to work or school, you can waste hours trying to get to the nearest stop, on time.

But buses are great! I moved to Chicago in 2008, got a job downtown, which makes it impossible to drive to work, unless I’m willing to pay half my salary or so to enrich the parking garages.

The other day I was on my way to the bus stop when I saw the bus, too far to catch it if I keep walking, but close enough to get to it if I ran! So that’s what I did. I said to myself, me who don’t really exercise, that at least the bus forced me into a brief run! That’s something to thank Buses for. So I thought of listing all the good things about using the bus in cities where they are available and reliable.

So here is some of the reasons why we should thank the Bus:
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1. An occasional run!

As I mentioned above, the bus will force us to run every once in a while. May be this occasional run will give us a taste for running and introduce us to this type of exercise!

2. Even if you don’t run, you will definitely walk.

Compare the amount of exercise that those who rely on their cars to get around actually get to someone who uses the bus daily, or 5 days a week. You will rarely live as close to the bus stop as to your garage-kept car. If you take the bus to work or school, you might be getting somewhere around 30 minutes of walking per day, if not more, which is the recommended minimum amount of exercise we should get. Well, it’s nice to be forced to do what’s good for us! We might just need that or we will not do it, if left to our will power and ever procrastinated new habits!

3. When we have enough looking at the same streets every day, we can read a book.

The Bus can add many more pages to our reading life. If we take a book on board, we can easily add 30 or 40 minutes to our reading every day. The Bus can give us 5 or 6 books per year that otherwise we wouldn’t make time to read. And guess what, this one book, one idea might change our life forever.

4. thirty people in one big vehicle produce less pollution that thirty people in thirty small cars!

You know this one already. I think we can safely say that most cars running daily on our roads carry one person each!

But no matter how good the Bus is, it will remain unpractical for many of us until many of our American cities and small towns are re-designed to make them bus friendly!

Turkish Coffee @ Starbucks!

I am a strong coffee lover, that’s why I love Turkish coffee. I have been in USA for more than five years now, and all this time I believed that I can get it only from Middle Eastern grocery stores. It’s imported, so you can’t buy it fresh. Until I made a great coffee discovery! I didn’t make it myself though. My elder brother is visiting, a coffee lover himself, and he was looking around in a grocery store, when he found out that when you grind the coffee, the machine has an option of grinding it into Turkish coffee. So we tried it, but the results were very bad. The outcome didn’t look anything like a real Turkish coffee. I thought the machine must not be that good, and wondered if coffee shops like Starbucks would have this option when you grind your coffee there. I asked, and well, they do! But I didn’t do it at Starbucks, I did it at Gimme, our local coffee place, whose coffee I prefer over Starbucks. The result was outstanding. Real, great Turkish coffee. Next time I will try it at Starbucks, because this way I know I will always be able to buy my Turkish coffee, wherever I move within the US. Only for now you still can’t buy a cup of Turkish coffee at Starbucks. But who knows, may be in the future they will serve it there!

For those who don’t know what Turkish coffee is like, I would say the closest thing to it is espresso. So those who like espresso may very well like Turkish. However I myself don’t like espresso, Turkish coffee is as strong, but it is much tastier!

A visit to the doctor

One co-worker, who doesn’t speak English, needed to see a doctor. I went with him to be his translator. When scheduling the appointment, which was urgent, the doctor spoke to me on the phone. I told him about one symptom that my friend had, and he said it could be due to some vitamin deficiency, but that it’s rare.

When we went to see the doctor, we had some good news. My friend had some blood work done at the hospital and the results were negative, which was the main concern. However, regarding this one symptom, my friend still needed something done about it. I reminded the doctor about what he said, that it could be due to some kind of vitamin deficiency, and wondered if it could be a good idea for my friend to take a good multi-vitamin. The doctor said there was no need for that. Because my friend worked in a restaurant, the doctor “assumed” that he must be getting all his nutritional needs! So we ended up with the doctor not knowing what caused the symptoms, and not suggesting anything more than an antibiotic. Antibiotics seem to be the saviors for doctors when they don’t know what to do. Because being a doctor is about prescribing drugs, isn’t it!

To me, this is just one manifestation of how conventional medicine has gone astray. Even worse, I imagine that may be the doctor didn’t give much concern about this patient because he was a self-pay patient, with no insurance. So the doctor knew that if this patient could pay for this one visit, he wouldn’t probably afford to pay for more procedures, tests and visits.

For me, the ideal scenario should have gone something like the following. The doctor sees a symptom that he doesn’t understand and can’t find a clear cause for. The symptom is some lesions on the tongue. The doctor should ask the patient about his dietary habits. This just seems to be basic and common sense. When you have a patient complaining of something not very common or clear, even if you don’t address this particular problem, you should look at the whole well being of the patient. You should make sure that he is getting his nutritional needs, and second, you should make sure that his body is getting rid of toxins effectively. If you do just these two things, you’re sure to solve many problems, whether they be visible or invisible. Moreover, when it comes to getting rid of toxins, for example, how can a doctor see a patient without asking them how much water they drink?! Water is vital for many functions in the body, and so many people don’t really realize that. So the role of a doctor is to inform people about all the basic and little things that make a big difference.

My friend was scheduled for a one month follow up. I advised him not to go back. It would be useless, and the doctor will have nothing to say. He’d just be better off listening to some basic advice that I know will be beneficial for him, and save himself from some more antibiotics!

Blind Visa

Now is the time for those who want to gamble. Not for money though, but for changing the course of their life by changing where they live. For two months, you can test your luck. In this one, the great saying, “The harder I work, the luckier I get” cannot apply. It’s now time for… The Green Card Lottery, which is given the more sophisticated name of “Diversity Visa“.

But it’s no more than a lottery. The United States give out 50,000 Green Cards every year in a lottery. All anyone needs to apply is to be from one of the countries accepted, and to have a high school diploma, or a two-year work experience. No minimum of English knowledge is required. No particular skills or education are given priority. Now let me use my frank words: this practice is a shame. I can even say more, or worse.

Reports say that there is between 10 and 20 million illegal immigrants in the US today. Many of them don’t speak English, and yet many more are unskilled workers. The country needs them, or they wouldn’t be able to live and find jobs. If all of them leave right now, hundreds of thousands of businesses will be stuck. Ok, they fill a need, and the country already has millions of them. So what does this Diversity Visa add? It brings in thousands of legal immigrants, yet many of them “don’t speak English, and many more are unskilled workers”.

As I talk about immigration, I have to mention that I am myself an immigrant. I live with immigrants and know their weaknesses and their strengths. However, immigrants vary as much as their backgrounds. For example, I know the Arab immigrants community well enough, and don’t know too much about immigrants from other backgrounds. But all immigrants, no matter where they come from, have too many things, and conditions, in common.

I have seen how many young people come here, with very good qualifications to benefit both themselves and their new country, yet they had to struggle for many years just to have a legal status. I myself have experienced this struggle first hand. I know many who started this way, then they are now successful business owners or distinguished professors. There are many others who hope for a chance to come to this country, where they think they will have more opportunities. Very bright and highly skilled young people, but they don’t have a way to do it. Wouldn’t it be better to give out those 50,000 Green Cards to some of those qualified individuals, both inside and outside the country?

I respect the Canadian immigration system. They have points, and you qualify according to how many points you score. You get points for fluency in English and French, for age (the younger the better) for education, for work experience. Once you meet these requirements, you have a chance. You don’t need a job offer from a Canadian employer, and you don’t need to marry a Canadian citizen. Why wouldn’t the US try to adopt a similar system?

As an immigrant, I have seen some of the worse days of life. Only hope and advice of friends kept me from giving up and going back home when I so much wanted to. I probably didn’t plan it right, but no good information was made available to help me plan. When you are outside the US, you are made to believe certain things about the way it works, only to find that it’s only in movies, or a good one or two decades ago. I read books back in my country, but when I came, I found that certain things changed. I wasted too much time and energy doing nothing, just suffering and trying to figure out how to just have the very basic, a legal status and a driver’s license! It felt as if I left a prison to another prison. I hated how little freedom I had in my country when it comes to politics. I couldn’t control such things as corruption, and felt unable to help save myself and my country. I thought that I can only help from a position of freedom and power, and was seeking a place where I can rely on myself and not worry about my basic rights as a human being, so I can reach up for what we humans need to focus on. The things that really matter, because we’re all responsible for all. But the more power and freedom we have, the more responsible we are for those who have not!

American Mexican Border, Fence Or No Fence?

God created Adam and Eve, and from them descended billions upon billions of people. Equal in their humanity, due to their one origin, they came different in many other aspects: color, tongue, religion, and place of birth. Among those children, some were born in what is currently known as the USA, some others were born further north (Canada), yet some others found themselves in a place totally different from the rest of the continent, a poor country with the name of Mexico.

In our present time, Americans don’t have the smallest problem with their northern border; beyond it lays a brotherly country with a similar style of life and economic conditions. No Canadian enters the US illegally, because their birth given pieces of paper, called citizenship documents, allow them free movement. But more importantly, their conditions of life do not make them feel that fleeing their mother land is the only way out of inhuman conditions. And this is what makes the southern border a complete opposite. On the other side of this border, millions feel that they are deprived of their basic human rights and needs. Their human nature, shared with all other humans anywhere in the world, is to escape from danger, and to look for ways to survive. The closest solution to their dead-end conditions is a rich country whose media promises equal opportunity for everyone, a happy life and easy money. It is close, but not easily accessible. Millions with otherwise no hope are willing to risk all their money, and even their life, for a chance to find themselves in the northern side of the border. They are not sure what to expect once in America, all they think of at this time is to escape and to get there.

And here the problem starts and grows. Millions cross the southern border into the US. They enter and stay in the country undocumented, another word for “unknown of”. People are nowadays reduced to papers, if they are not on paper, they don’t exist. But they do exist, no matter what the papers say or don’t say. They work, rent apartments, pay bills and spend money every day. They will even have kids who will automatically be US citizens. But on paper, they remain in the shadow. Some look at this situation as a healthy and necessary one. Those poor, undocumented workers have to accept any job; they don’t have much of a choice. Businesses will prefer them because they work long hours without complaining, and they accept lower wages. They are good for the business, so they should stay and keep coming. On the other side of the debate (not the border!) stand those who see the danger of having millions living in the shadow. Their solution to the problem? Well, building a 700 mile long fence, high enough that Mexicans will not be able to climb it!

To say the least, the idea of building this fence reflects a great lack of creativity. It suggests a superficial solution to a complicated problem. Illegal immigration is not an illness, it’s a symptom of a complicated one, and we all know that treating the symptom is of no real help. Those who cross the border every year in terrible conditions risk their life, with the fence on their way, they will just figure out other ways to go for their quest of a new land. Let’s also not forget that they represent a multi-million dollar business for smugglers, and this kind of business will always find ways to keep going and making money. The fence would be a distraction as far as the real sources of the problem, which would let the problem grow bigger and bigger, until it eventually destroys the fence itself.

The kind of fence required to block the border is neither an easy nor an affordable project. All the money and efforts and time that will be spent to build it could be used for more realistic and fruitful action toward solving the problem. What if this kind of money is to be spent on US-Mexican partnership aiming to improve the conditions of life in Mexico, which would lessen the number of those willing to risk their life to escape from their country?

History teaches us lessons for our present and our future: Once upon a time, not too long ago, a big “fence” separated two countries, people on the eastern side wanted to flee to the western one, and they kept trying, until they no longer needed to, when the Wall of Berlin came down. I believe that the fence, if built, will not have a better luck.