Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Dear Dad

Dear Dad,

Another year has come and gone. And once again, it was a busy exciting year. Here's what you missed.

Ethan joined the Little Theatre's Pantomime production again this year. He had many smaller parts, but his big piece was playing a rat. His costume was unbelievably hot. Am sure he lost a few kilos with the costume and being under the hot lights.

December also means Christmas. This year, we decided to go home. It's been 5 years since we had Christmas in Canada. It was also the coldest Christmas in almost 10 years. Not sure why it picked this year to be so cold. We spent time in Ottawa with Rasool and the family, and we made great use of your condo. New Year's Eve, Karim and family, and Karima and family came over. We all went for dinner, then came home to hang out. All the boys had sleeping bags in the living room. It was great to wake up New Year's day surrounded by family. You and mum always said the way you start your year, is how you'll end your year. So we began the New Year surrounded by love. Good to know love is what we'll have all year. 


Afraaz came to visit Dar and taught a couple classes at school. He then performed a concert over the lunch break. 


Exciting news. Remember how I went back to Harvard in the summer. Well, I spoke to the dean of Project Zero about their online courses, and this month I have begun working for them! I am an online coach for their Visible Thinking course!


You missed a milestone this month. Scott turned 50! Can you believe it? 

Ethan decided he wanted to try skiing, so off to Switzerland, he went, on his own, well with some schoolmates. He had a great time and didn't break any bones!

This month, one of your nieces became an author! Faiza wrote and self-published a book. It's fantastic. Tell all your friends to get one. They can order theirs here


April was a little sadder. Scott and Rehanna's house caught on fire. They have been living with Shelina since then. Could you pull a few strings there and ensure their home is finished in time for Khaled's birthday? Thanks

April was also Kids Rock time. This year I wrote the script for Peter Pan. I also directed it. Ethan was my Captain Hook, and as usual, he was fantastic!


This month, Scott and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary and Hailey turned 5. You were missed on both occasions. 

This month also brought some changes. Scott accepted a new position, so we learnt we were leaving Dar and heading back to Lusaka, Zambia. 

May also meant that your other granddaughter graduated high school. Imaan is off to BC come fall. You were greatly missed by her and everyone else at her graduation.


June meant packing up our house in Dar, and then Ethan and I headed to Canada. Mum was already there, and Rasool and fam came to visit. We all had breakfast at Rashida Aunty's. Can't remember when we were all together. 


Ethan turned 12 this month. Can you believe I will be the mother of a teenager next year? We spent the day at the beach with the cousins, followed by dinner with the Maneks. It was a perfect day.

July was also didar in Portugal. Mum went with Massi. They then went to Spain. It was good she got a bit of a holiday. But, once again, you were missed. 

July also means Theatre Camp for Ethan. This year they put on Aladdin. When Ethan was in the fifth grade, they put on a production of Aladdin. Ethan wanted to play Jafar, but as you may recall, he got the part of Aladdin. Well, this time his dream came true. And what an amazing Jafar he was! Once again, he was thrilled the Manek's were able to attend. 


This month brought new adventures. We moved to Zambia and Ethan started school here and Rasool went on a family vacation. They keep promising to come to visit us, but they opted to head to the East Coast this year. 


Our family grew this month as Amin-Mohammed became a dad. Welcome, Kin Jamani. We're thrilled to have the Jamani name continue!

September wasn't good weather in Ottawa. They had a tornado and the power went off. Some people didn't have power for nearly a week. Now, while I'm aware that those of us used to Dar life are used to this, Rasool and the rest of the city were not. So please, could you keep an eye on them, and make sure they don't have to deal with this again? Thanks.


Zambia is ok. It's taken some time for Ethan and me to settle here. I'm not teaching at the school, but I found an amazing NGO, Chance4All. They help get sponsorship for the kids of Bauleni so they can attend school. Every Wednesday we meet with the children and help with tutoring, homework, exam studying or reading. I'm working as their Reading Specialist. I love it. Wednesday's is my favourite day of the week. 


Ethan took part in the school play. The theatre teacher was putting on a production of Fame Jr. The high schoolers were given the leads, but Ethan's teacher was quite impressed with him that she wrote a part for him. He stole the show. You'd be proud. 

So I had grandiose plans to post this yesterday, on the anniversary of you leaving us, but I had a very busy day and planned to post it in the evening. However, the power went off, but that just means I can share with you how my day yesterday went. 

Remember how I told you I started working for an NGO. Well, every Wednesday we meet at the Bauleni Special Needs School. Some of our students go here. But we use their conference room to work with the kids. Yesterday we had a Giving Back Campaign. We fed 700 children and arranged for small Christmas presents for each child. You were definitely there, watching over us.

I miss you, dad. Not a day goes by I don't think of you. 

With love

Monday, June 25, 2018

Father's Day Interview

We're a little late posting this. But better late than never. Ethan's much older now than when we first began this. The first time we tried this was in 2010 and Ethan was 4 years old. You can see his responses here. Ethan's about to turn 12, so his responses are a little more thoughtful and mature.

1. What is something Daddy always says to you?
      "Do your homework!"

2. What makes Daddy happy?
      "Ummm people not stealing his stuff! I'm just joking. People who do their jobs right."

3. What makes him sad?
      "When I don't do what he asks. Or when either Mommy or I get hurt. That makes him sad."

4.  How does he make you laugh?
      "He tells me Dad jokes. They're not funny. But it makes him laugh."

5. What was Daddy like as a child?
       "All I know about him as a child was that he was really skinny. Oh and that he was born in
          Canada. And I don't think he wore glasses. He had a brother named Greg. And two caring 
          parents. Boom! That's all I know."   

6. How old is Daddy?
     "50! Ha, I know that!"

7.  How tall is he?
     "I don't know...how about 6 foot? 5 foot 8?"

8. What is his favourite thing to do?
      "Watch TV and play the racing game on his iPad. And swimming. And telling people what to do.          He likes that!"

9. What does Daddy do when you're not around?
      "I don't know what he does, I'm not around. He swims, plays on his iPad, tells people what to do.
        I don't know."

10.  If he becomes famous, what would it be for?
         "For telling people what to do. And for his swimming. He's a fast swimmer, like that butterfly               guy. What's his name? I don't know. Oh ya, Michael Phelps. He's the next Michael Phelps."

11.  What is Daddy really good at?
          "Didn't I answer this already? He's good at running a trucking company. He's good at telling                 people what to do. He's good at swimming. He's good at driving. He's good at looking young.             Yeah, I'm done."

12. What is he not very good at?
          "Ummm....baseball. Hahaha, he's going to hate me for saying that, but it's all I can think of."

13. What does he do for his job?
        "He runs a trucking company. Isn't he like a COO or something? He basically runs the place in              Zambia."

14. What is his favourite food?
         thinking for a very long time...."I don't know. I was going to say pizza but I don't think so.                  Maybe anything maa makes. He likes her cooking. And meat. Anything with meat. Like bacon.            Yes, bacon. That's my final answer. Boom, got it right!"

15. What makes you proud of Daddy?
       "How hard he works."

16.  If he were a cartoon character, who would he be?
         "Donald Duck!"

17. What do you and Daddy do together?
        "We play board games, we talk, we watch football, we argue, we swim, we play football. We do           stuff!"

18. How are you and Daddy the same?
       "We're both smart."

19. How are you guys different?
       "He's older than me, more mature, faster swimmer. He's smarter than me, even though I said we            were both smart."

20. How do you know he loves you?
       "Because he tells me every day. He's a nice person, he hangs out with me, he does what I like to            do. He follows my passions."

21.  Where's his favourite place to go?
      "Work! Ha, no home. He likes to go home a lot."

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Dear Dad

Dear Dad,

Another year has passed. So much has happened. Our family has grown. There's a lot of excitement and changes. But the one thing that's the same, is you're not here. You're missing out on these things. And that still bothers me. I was never given the chance to say good bye. That still bothers me. I still get upset by that. I still think you should be here for us. And, this year, I am still on my mission to recap the year, and tell you everything you've missed!

January was the beginning of the baby year. We learnt that Faiza and Earvin were having another boy. (Thanks for that, by the way. Am pretty sure I asked you to pull some strings and give this family a cute little girl.) Haseena threw Rehanna and Scott a baby shower. They asked for books to start a library for the little one. You were on my mind an awful lot this month, so I bought the baby a book from you. I remember how much you loved to read to me, and talk about books and stories. I recall you especially like those true-touches-your-heart kind of books too. So this is the book I got them, from you. Hope it's ok.

So, in January, Donald Trump was sworn in as president of the United States. While I won't go into details about this, I thought I'd share with you, how much your stories, the stories of your family have influenced and shaped our lives. One of the first things that happened during Trump's first week, as a ban on Muslims from certain countries to enter the US. Because of this, many people were stranded in Canada. Karim opened his home to anyone who was stranded and needed a place to stay. If you click on his image, you'll see the article.

Back in September, Ethan auditioned for the primary school play. This is the first time since we've been back in Dar that the primary campus has put on a show. Ethan got the lead as Aladdin. There were three performances. He was great. Wish you were here to see it. Your grandson can sing! Not sure who he inherited that from. Mum came to watch the final show. We are all so proud.

On Friday February 24, baby Malik Abel Venzant made his grand entrance into the world. He was eager to meet everyone, and decided to come early (27 weeks).  

March 6th saw your niece become a grandmother. Your great niece become a mother. Rehanna gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Meet Khaled.

Shaheen came to visit mum this month as well. Mum took her for kebabs and they went to Zanzibar. One evening they saw an incredibly large star. They both say they felt you with them. Thank you for joining them in Zanzibar.

Did I mention how incredibly positive your niece Faiza is? She's amazing. Even Scott admires her positive outlook. In March, a month after Malik was born, someone asked Faiza how he was doing. Her response is beautiful;

"Malik is taking baby steps everyday and growing and learning to breathe on his own. He's got pouty lips and long limbs and I think after this start at life, he may be a future marathon runner. He works hard and paces himself and is in it for the long haul."

For the last 6 weeks, Ethan and 3 other classmates have been working hard at school. It's final X time. The students join into groups based on their passions, they come up with a central idea, lines of inquiry, they interview experts and research their topic. Ethan and his group looked into the performing arts. The final element of the PYPX is action. Ethan and his mates decided to put on a show at the Children's Cancer Ward at Muhimbili Hospital. Oh dad, you would have loved it. I hope you saw it. It made my heart melt. 

For the last few years, Ethan has been a part of the Little Theatre's Kids Rock production. He really enjoys it. This year was no exception. Once again, I helped out. This year I wrote the script and directed. But Ethan's the star. He's been taking voice lessons too. You can really see the improvement in this video.

May was also a great month for Faiza and Earvin. Thank you for watching over Malik. He came home this month. 

June brought the end of the school year. And this year, the end of the school year meant the end of an era. Ethan graduated from the PYP. Which means, come August, I will officially be the mother of a Middle Schooler! Yikes

Ethan turned 11 this month. Rasool and the family came for the weekend, and Rehanna and fam, and Nabeel and Emily joined us for his birthday breakfast. We called mum in the afternoon. You were greatly missed. 

July also meant Ethan returned to theatre camp. This year's production was Hairspray and Ethan played the role of Seaweed. 

While Ethan attended camp, I got some time on my own. 
One night, I dreamt of you. We went to the Cheesecake Factory, ate cheesecake and chatted. It was a weird dream, as we never went out for dessert. Not just the two of us. And there's no Cheesecake Factory in Toronto. (At least not yet). 
Then one day, I decided to stay in the Square One area, while Ethan was at camp. There's this dessert place across the street, and I've never been in. I decided to give it a try.
Well, I walk in and am greeted by the owner/manager. He reminded me of you. 
Then, as I look over the scrumptious menu, I noticed that some cheesecakes had a little asterisk. Looking down, I see that these cheesecakes are Cheesecake Factory cheesecakes. 
Well, needless to say, I have found my perfect spot. Thank you. 
I also made a point of leaving one bite behind, so you could have your piece.

If you remember, two years ago I applied to attend a summer program at Harvard. I applied again this past winter and got accepted. So July was an exciting month, ending with me returning to Boston. Registration took place in the Law School, and my study group was also there, so I'd like to say "I went to Harvard Law School"! This time around, I got to talk to a lot of faculty members, so it was incredibly exciting. 

And since it was the year of babies, we got to spend some time with some!

August means back to school. Ethan has moved to the secondary campus. Can you believe it? He's in middle school!

September was a month of Ethan being a risk-taker. First, he set off for a 3-day camping trip to South Beach. He had a great time. You can read about his adventure here. Later, he auditioned for a solo singing part in a music concert to be held next month. Unfortunately he didn't get it, and was utterly gutted, but if he hopes to pursue theatre, he's got to get use to rejection and take it as a learning moment. Hopefully he'll not let this disappointment steer him away from his passion.

September also marked Bahadur Papa's 80th birthday. While we missed the party, I thought you'd like a picture. 

October was steady. Ethan was enjoying school. I got some more hours, and am still enjoying it. We started Wednesday dinners with mum, but then I got involved in a play at the Little Theatre and had rehearsals, so we switched it to Sunday breakfast. 

As you may know, Minaz is our family environmentalist. I like to think we do a decent job with recycling and thinking about our planet, but she puts us to shame. In fact, she won Environmentalist of the Year! woohoo! You can see it all here

Ethan's had a few firsts this month. Who would've thought an 11-year old would experience firsts! But yes, he had his first Middle School dance (and got all dressed up) and his first G6 field trip. This year they headed to Zanzibar for a week. Five days. No phone allowed. Because of rehearsals, my evenings were busy, so it wasn't too bad, but am glad to have him back home. 

Ethan and Jaiden, heading to the dance.

Me, in one of the plays.

Ethan and Avery, back from Zanzibar

The month has just started, but already we know it will be an exciting one. Ethan has once again joined the Little Theatre's Pantomine production. Scott and I will go watch later this week. I'm really excited as I'm not a part of it this year, and have no idea what to expect. Except pure talent from Ethan.
Ethan in one costume. He apparently also plays a rat. 

Yesterday there was carol singing, to get us in the Christmas spirit. Ethan was asked to read a poem. That meant for 30 seconds, Ethan was in the spotlight. Of course he loved that. 

There's still so much more happening this month. The Nisbet clan is heading home this Christmas. First Canadian Christmas in 5 years. And then there's a whole new year ahead of us. But you won't be here. For any of that. 

I wish you were here.

But I know, even though you may not be here with us in physical form, you're with us in spirit. Please keep watching over us. It's good to know we have our own personal angel.

Love always,

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Max the Mighty - Rodman Philbrick

I absolutely loved Freak the Mighty. So much so, that when I saw our library had Max the Mighty, I knew I needed to get it.

Max seems lonely, once again. He's still being teased for being tall and looking like his dad (the felon that killed his mother) and once again, he's not feeling smart.

One day, Max is just walking, minding his own business, when he hears a girl scream. This is when he meets Rachel, also known as Worm (named this for being a bookworm).

Later, Max meets Worm and her mother, and learns the "Undertaker" is her step-father. The Undertaker is a large, mean man, who drives a hearse and "threatens" people using the bible as his defence. Feeling uneasy about it all, Max finds his way to Worm's house where he sees her mom, crouched down, beaten, and he hears the screaming. Max bursts in, grabs Worms, and runs off.

Max believes he can take Worm home, and his grandparents will help, but when he gets there, he finds the Undertaker has called the police and have accused Max of hitting his wife and kidnapping his step-daughter.

Thus begins the adventures of Max the Mighty and Worm. Worm believes her father can help, and not wanting to leave her alone, Max accompanies her on their adventure, hitchhiking, riding a train, and meeting people, good and bad, along the way.

This is another one of those awesome, feel good, easy reads.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Freak the Mighty - Rodman Philbrick

I recently joined a book club. I'm terribly excited, as it's been years since I've been part of one. We shall meet the last Wednesday of every month, and the hostess gets to choose the book.

September's book is Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick. It's a YA book, so I got a copy from our school library, but hadn't gotten a chance to read it. On Friday, I covered a G7 class, and students had 30 minutes of reading their assigned books. I figured, if the students were reading, so should I. And wouldn't you know it, there was a copy of the book in the classroom.

So I started reading. And then I was upset that the 30 minutes had gone by so quickly, as I was really enjoying it, so of course, I had to come home and finish it.

Freak the Mighty, is the story of best friends, Kevin and Max. Kevin walks with leg braces but is super intelligent. He reminded me a little of Sheldon from Big Bang Theory. Max is on learning support, and a very large boy. He looks like his father, who is currently in jail for killing his mother. He's being raised by his grandparents, who seem to be a little afraid of him. These two boys are as opposite as they come. And yet, they become the best of friends. Max often carried Kevin on his shoulders, and together they are Freak the Mighty. Together they go on quests and fight dragons. As a team, they are unstoppable.

This is a book for every Middle Schooler. Just make sure you have tissue handy.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

How to Eat a Cupcake

So how do you eat a cupcake?

Are you the kind that peels off the wrapper, and takes a huge bite? If you are, I hate to break it to you, but you're wrong!

Maybe you are a neat cupcake eater. You have a plate and cut it half and eat it with a fork or spoon. Yeah...I'd hate to say it, but that's really wrong!

You might be the kind who does not think they can eat a whole cupcake, so you portion it out, and then eat one piece. And then another. And then another. Well, despite the fact that you misleading yourself into believing you won't eat the whole cupcake, you're still eating it wrong!

You may be the kind that loves creamy frosting, so you choose to eat the bottom first, make your way up, and devour the frosting bit. Well, asides from sounding a little crazy, it's also not the right way to eat a cupcake.

So now you're probably wondering how does one eat a cupcake correctly? Well let me tell you. You sandwich it! Yup that's right. You twist off the bottom part, place it on top and smush it together!

Confused, well Ethan and my cousin are here to help;

Saturday, July 29, 2017

milk and honey - rupi kaur

During my first day at Project Zero, our study group looked at a poem for a text rendering protocol. Here's the poem we read;

For the protocol, the poem is read silently. Then, 3-4 people are asked to read it out loud. We are then split into 3 groups. One group creates a musical interpretation, one group a dramatic interpretation and one group a visual artistic interpretation. At the end of the study group, our fellow mentioned she chose this poem because most of her 8th graders carry around a copy of the book.

Needless to say, I had to look this girl up.

milk and honey is a collection of poems split into 4 sections/chapters;  the hurting, the loving, the breaking, the healing. Each poem deals with some aspect of love, femininity, abuse and violence. Some poems are sweet. Some are harsh. But they all connect in some way to what a lot of teenagers are going through.

Our fellow mentioned all her eighth graders loved this book. While I did too, I'm not sure all those poems are appropriate for 13 year olds. But then again, am I trying to shelter them?