Sunless in Seattle

2013Apr10 040I’ve always wanted to go to Seattle. I’ve been saying it a lot too. My reason for wanting to go there so much? To tell you the truth, I don’t really know. Well, first, it’s because when we first arrived in the US as undergraduate students, my husband spent 6 months in Seattle while I was in Iowa, and it was one of the hardest times for us. I would receive postcards from hubs when he was in Seattle and ever since then, I’ve always wanted to visit Seattle.

We very seldom traveled when we were students, unlike most of our friends. I’ve always been curious about Seattle because it is said to be a beautiful place. Never mind the high suicide rate and gloomy weather. I still wanted to go. Then, *cough* I used to love watching Frasier too.

After so many years, my yearning was realized subhanallah. Hubs had a conference in Portland, and the moment he emailed me his conference confirmation with the dates and itinerary, I replied,

“Can we come too?”

He doesn’t usually say no. And he knew how much I wanted to visit Seattle. There was also another reason I wanted to visit Seattle; to meet an online friend face to face for the first time. He knew this too.

So there you have it! Because of my request, instead of flying to Portland by himself, he now has to drive from New Mexico, through Arizona, California all the way to Portland, and of course, since it’s only about 3 hours away, drive up north to Seattle for a day trip.

I knew the whole thing about rain and no sun in Seattle, but somehow it was of little concern to me, even though my friend said she hopes it doesn’t rain on the day that we visit. After driving that distance, even if it did rain, I would have been happy. However, it didn’t rain, so alhamdulillah either way.

Since we arrived in Portland at 2 am the night before, after trudging(as much as a van can trudge that is) through valleys and mountains of northern California, we didn’t really see what Oregon looked like during the day. So, the morning that we drove to Seattle was our first daylight acquaintance with both Oregon and Washington. We were greeted with what I would just say as GREEN. Subhanallah….I love the different shades of green there was.

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After living in the Southwest desert for about 4 years and still sorely missing the midwest, the shades of green I usually see are dull, yellowish green or really dark green of the desert shrubs. In the spring and summer we would see bright shades of green on the trees in town, but we don’t really see a spectrum of green that you generally see in the northern states. It was refreshing to say the least! It reminded me of my set of Luna colored pencils I used to proudly bring to school when I was in elementary school. I remember drooling over all the different colored pencils, especially the different shades of the same color. I don’t know, but there are some colors that appeal to my taste buds. For example, there is a certain shade of pink that looks good enough to eat! And similarly, there are just some shades of green that make me feel…deliriously at peace.There just must be something about the color green, because Allah mentions it a lot in the Quran with regards to Jannah.

I did notice that Oregon seemed to  have a lot of bridges. It wasn’t until we came back from the trip that I learned about Astoria Bridge, which would have been cool to cross, but alas, we didn’t go there when we were there. I also noticed that when we passed the border of Oregon and Washington, there was no big welcome sign of “Welcome to Washington” like we saw  when we went on a road trip through the Midwestern states. It was weird, but maybe they didn’t need a big welcome sign. Nature alone would have been enough of a welcome, I would guess!

There was one thing on my mind though that morning. I have daily recitations on the weekdays at a fixed time, and I didn’t want to miss it during this trip. The thing is, I have to be logged on to Skype in order to participate in that call, and since we were on the road, it was a little complicated. On the way to California on the first day, we tested to see if we could log in on Skype while we were on the road on hubs’ phone. I  had asked H about this weeks before that, because I was anticipating this problem and wanted to figure out a solution so that I wouldn’t miss the recitation days during the trip. H said that hubs’ phone didn’t have enough data to do that. Hubs told him to try it anyway. So H tried logging me in and it worked. Alhamdulillah.

2013Apr10 025So, that day, at around the time of the recitation schedule, we were passing by Tacoma. All I remember of Tacoma was this pentagonical dome. After that, I was consumed with making sure I was logged in Skype with my mushaf open on my lap, on the page where I was supposed to be. Hubs didn’t realize that my recitation time was approaching and he started looking for rest stops where they would have WIFI access. I was logged in to Skype however, and we were still on the interstate. He even told me,

“You could have told me earlier and we could have planned it better and found a Starbucks to stop at at your recitation time.”

“That’s ok.” I said. I didn’t want to trouble the whole family on account of this, so if the connection didn’t work, I figured that that was it, qadr Allah maa shaa fa’3al. Alhamdulillah, the connection did work! When I received the call I picked it up and in the middle of reciting, hubs decided to take the exit to see if he could find a WIFI place so that my connection won’t be broken. Ironically though, when he did take the exit, my connection broke. I told him,

“You should have stayed on the interstate.”

So he went back on the interstate while I tried to get back into the call. I reconnected alhamdulillah, but the connection was disrupted several more times as we entered Seattle. In fact I didn’t realize we were in Seattle because I was still reciting, and by the time I was done, we were almost at Olympic Express, the Cham restaurant hubs used to go to when he was living in Seattle.

olympic expressSubhanallah, I didn’t realize 20 minutes of recitation was that short. I completely missed the whole ‘entering Seattle’ experience, but alhamdulillah, Sr. R was very nice to put up with the disruptions in connection from my side that after we got disconnected at the end, she later called me back and let me finish reciting the page. As for me, I was just glad I got to recite and not miss that day. I had been worried about missing my recitation days during the road trip. So, alhamdulillah!

It’s also interesting to note that somehow, on this trip, I felt a certain kind of eman boost. I have to admit that my plan to keep up with my hifdh during the trip didn’t really pan out as well as I hoped it would. I was falling behind in my hifdh because as I was reciting and reviewing in the van while hubs was driving, the scenery that passed us by kept distracting me. I spent a longer time with review because I wasn’t able to focus, subhanallah. The only review that I was satisfied with during the trip was the one I did in the hotel after fajr on day, but not every morning was like that.

The weather in Seattle, when we arrived, was really pleasant. We had gone out of our hotel room with winter jackets, but we chucked them and left them in the van when we got out at Olympic Express. When we were driving towards Olympic Express, we saw a lot of electric buses, and a lot of Somali! Hubs remarked with surprise,

“Wow, they have really developed this area! When I was here, this place was so ghetto!”

I had the honor of finally meeting my friend Nr, with whom I’ve been communicating online for years. It’s funny how I’ve been saying this to her,

“I wish I can go to Seattle. InshaaAllah, when I come, I’d love to see you!”

And I knew that the only realistic thing that would take me to Seattle was hubby’s conferences. Subhanallah, and it finally happened! Nr brought her two lovely girls whom i’ve seen only online thus far. Nr is such a lovely person too mashaaAllah! She actually paid for our lunch. We had actually ordered our lunch while waiting for her to get there (I was late in calling her to tell here I had taken the exit because I was still reciting on Skype and didn’t realize we had arrived in Seattle). Hubs wanted to go to the Cham masjid, that he also used to go to when he was a student in Seattle. So, we finished up our lunch and got ready to leave. Hubs gave cash to our girls to pay for the lunch and the man told us that our lunch had already been paid for my Nr without us even realizing it! Subhanallah! May Allah bless her family! Ameen!

chammasjid

She took us to the Cham masjid. MashaaAllah, it was my first time there, and my first time at a Cham masjid. It was a house turned to a masjid and next door was Nr’s aunt’s house. The Cham people are closer in culture and ethnicity to us, and this is further reflected in the prayer garment that they had in the women’s section. Subhanallah…it was amazing! Hubs said that he would go to this masjid when he was a student, even though it was far from his apartment, and he would stay there till isha. An elderly uncle who could speak Malay actually chatted with him in Malay. That was his memory of this masjid. It had been about almost 16 years since he’s been in Seattle, so a lot had apparently changed. We parted ways with Nr at her aunt’s house because hubs felt bad having her drive us around town with her two young girls. He didn’t want to trouble her, while she was saying that it was no trouble. I know hubs would feel really bad if she did though, so I reluctantly told her that we could go on our own. It was short but nice meeting that I had with her. She is such a lovely person mashaaAllah! So is her aunt, who actually spoke in Malay with me, and I think her Malay is much better than mine! She even offered for us to stay at her house the next time we come to Seattle, rather than staying at a hotel room. MashaaAllah may Allah bless her family and give her good in this dunya and akhirah! Ameen! That’s the Southeast Asian hospitality for you. MashaaAllah!

One of the places we wanted to go see in Seattle was hubs old apartment where he stayed for 6 months while being a student. As he drove through the campus area, which was quite hilly, I remarked,

“I don’t see an obese person here in Seattle yet so far! It must be because of the terrain. People have to either walk or bike up these hills and down!”

We drove through his old alma matter (for 6 months) and he told us that he would usually walk from his apartment to class. It was a short walk. While looking for his old apartment building though, he looked for it quite a bit and exclaimed,

“Oh…did they tear it down? It used to be here. Wow, they must have torn it down. It was here before.”

He kept on driving. I kept quiet because it was all new to me anyway, but he kept looking for it. A yellow building came into view and that was what he was looking for! 2013Apr10 066

“There it is. My apartment is the one on the top, the attic.”

I clicked and pressed as much as I could to get a good picture of it as we drove by it. Hubs turned and we drove past it the other way. The kids remarked,

“It looks dirty!”

Well, who knows which other single strapped-for-money undergrad student is staying there right now.

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Seattle downtown was…interesting, as any downtown can be. It had the same feel as Portland’s downtown, but with a more classy, sleek, sophisticated feel to it. It looks high class (as any American city downtown usually is) but what really makes it unique I think is the Pike’s Place Market. We love the hilly and sometime steep roller-coaster ride sections of the streets. There was this one steep downhill terrain that took us all the way to this view of the waterfront, marked specifically by the Ferris wheel. 2013Apr10 076We were close to the Pike’s Place market but as hubs looked for a place to park, we enjoyed more view of the downtown.

2013Apr10 083For some reason, the word Seattle, conjures up for me the image of this classy city that has come up in movies again and again. Having seen its more realistic community life part gives it a wholesome feel in my mind in terms of my thoughts and attitude towards it. If I was living in Seattle, I probably wouldn’t be looking at the downtown in the light at which I was looking at it as a first time visitor.

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When I was researching Pike’s Place, the one unique thing that was said about it was the fish-throwing. I had told the kids this, but when we went there, we didn’t see any fish-throwing. We saw fish, but they weren’t thrown. Bummer!

2013Apr10 118However, we did see other things, among them, a man playing guitar and singing while twirling a hoop around his belly, and a group of ‘Boyz 2 Men’ who were singing in front of the original Starbucks, which by the way had a queue that extended outside of the the premises!

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I was surprised by this beautiful array of fresh tulips, subhanallah!

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We had planned to go on the ferry to BainBridge Island, but by the time we got to the Water front, it was about 3 -4 pm.

2013Apr10 141 Alhamdulillah, hubs asked one of the officers and he told us to try catch the next one coming because after that, traffic will be bad as people would be coming back from work. So we practically rushed back through the Pike’s Place market, got in our minivan and headed towards the ferry. This was the first time ever that the kids rode a ferry while being in a vehicle, so they were pretty awed by the whole experience.

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It was ‘rush-hour’ on the sound. We saw a lot people on bicycles. Apparently they live on Bainbridge Island and work in Seattle, so they bike, go by ferry, and go home that way. We noticed a lot of cars with only one occupant too. We were probably the only ‘tourists’ since almost everyone on the ferry was sitting and napping or reading. It appears that this was a normal daily routine for them, and so we were the only ones on the deck taking photos and ooh and aahing at the view. It was gloomy, but at least it wasn’t raining. You could see the SpaceNeedle in the distance as we left Seattle. If you look closely, you can also see Mount St. Helens. I think that was Mount St. Helens anyway. We saw more mountains in the direction of Bainbridge Island but I’m not sure what mountain range those were.

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It was chilly up on the deck, and very windy! So after a while, we went back down to the vehicle area as we were about to arrive at Bainbridge Island anyway. On this trip, hubs made a lot of out-of-character decisions and on this particular day trip, he made another one. We’re usually the planner types. We execute our plans and don’t really deviate from them. Hubs is all about efficiency, and I am a control freak. So, we work pretty well as a team, alhamdulillah. When we reached Bainbridge Island, hubs suddenly decided to not listen to the GPS which was telling us to go towards Tacoma. When I asked him where we were going, he said,

“Just to see what’s on this island.”

I said, “Not much. I looked it up on the internet.”

Then Z wanted to go to the restroom. Really bad. Hubs wasn’t too happy about it, especially because he had offered Z several times to go to the restroom while we were on the ferry. We ended up stopping at a gas station, and then went on our way to hub’s unplanned wandering. When we went to Olympic Express, the Halal Cham restaurant, I had ordered Tilapia and I didn’t finish it, and had it packed up. While hubs was doing his unplanned exploring, I decided to open up my leftover tilapia and eat it.

2013Apr10 032That was probably the best memory I have of Bainbridge Island because we ended up being stuck in a one-lane traffic. So much for seeing what’s on the island. However, since he was the one doing the driving, I wasn’t too concerned, because if it was me doing the unplanned excursion, and we were stuck in traffic, it would have been somewhat unpleasant. Anyway, he turned back and we listened to the GPS once again and drove on to Tacoma and back to Portland.

2013Apr10 217For dinner, we went to a Somali restaurant. This was another ‘adventure’.

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First of all, the place was pretty ‘dingy’. When hubs entered the door, the Somali sister there immediately spoke Somali to him. I don’t find that surprising since some Somalis do look quite Asian. Hubs can pass as a Bengali, fake Arab, Chinese (usually Arabs would think this, unsurprisingly), Filipino, Indonesian, and Malaysian (BINGO!). We were the only customers, and after we made our order, the sister went and cooked our dinner. It took quite a while. What caught our attention was that the presentation and service of this establishment was really …not that impressive. We’ve been to other Somali restaurants and we LOVE their food! Hubs even said,

“I know of friends who would step into this place and go back out.”

I didn’t mind though. Sure, we were expecting a more ..umm…presentable restaurant, but the sister looked nice and I missed Somali food, so we spent the waiting time making silly movies on H’s Ipod. In the meantime, Z ate his food, as usual, with one elbow on the table and palm on one side of his face. This is the only manifestation of how he feels about his allergies. He doesn’t have tantrums, he doesn’t demand things he can’t eat insistently, and he really is very patient about it. But you can still see how he feels from subtle gestures and posture he takes when we are eating food he knows he can’t eat. In the van, he would turn his body towards his window and look out, avoiding look at us eating. In restaurants, he would obediently eat his food that I usually have to prepare and bring, with his head resting on one palm. Subhanallah…I don’t know what to say other than May Allah make this test one that will bring out utmost patience and the best character out of him. Ameen! Allah in His wisdom decrees this for a reason, and I have faith that the reason is a good one. Alhamdulillah.

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Bizz Baaz!!

Bizz Baaz!!

Samboosa

Samboosa

Our dinner was…delicious! I think it was full of barakah too, because we had so much leftover that it sufficed as our lunch the next day! Ahh….Somali food, Baris and Sukaar, and Basta, and Bizz Baazz! What a day we had’ Cambodian food and Somali food, and an amazing day trip to Seattle. My craving was fulfilled in blessed ways subhanallah; from getting to meet Nr to visiting Seattle on a day when it didn’r rain. Alhamdulillah!

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