Archive for the 'Washington DC' Category

31
Dec
13

2013 in Review

This year flew by and as usual it was jam packed with travel, events, risks and rewards! I started the year off by interning with a grass roots level non-profit “Move to Amend” for six months. This internship allowed me to write on hot button issues in US politics such as the XL pipeline and the power of lobbying groups while also gaining experience as a co-producer of their weekly online radio show. We also prepared to make the big move to the east coast from the west coast, I applied for jobs in DC and we rented out our house so that we’d have the ability to move across the US quickly if required. Since I wasn’t having any luck applying online we decided to take a trip to the capital so I could meet people face to face instead of relying on a computer to pick up the key words in my resume. While catching up with friends and sightseeing in DC was great but as I already wrote in a post below, it was made clear to me during my meetings at different think tanks that interest in South Asia is dying down since the war in Afghanistan is coming to an end. Meanwhile, interests have shifted to the Middle East and Africa etc.

img_1850I’m glad for the DC experience but after returning and completing the internship with Mimg_1848ove to Amend, I accepted a position with the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) in California. I thoroughly enjoy working for this organization and have already been part of some incredible events. During CAIR’s annual banquet in November 2013, Glenn Greenwald joined us via video since he faced possible arrest if he flew into the US. Mehdi Hassan and Wajahat Ali also spoke at the event.

I’m happy to have found an excellent job in California. Living in the golden state was always our first preference and we’re also excited to be moving back into our home. Looking forward to finally completing a couple of projects we wanted to doDSC_0719 around the house.

Amidst all the hustle we did find time to watch Rodrigo y Gabriela perform live in San Francisco, their music is mesmerizing and it’s my favorite station on Pandora when I’m writing or reading and sippinIMG_1237g my coffee. 

My goals for next year include writing a novel and making time to read more books. I also plan on updating my blog more regularly along with keeping up with my articles for the Express Tribune biweekly on Mondays. Hopefully, I can stay true to my goals and this post will serve as a reminder. 

I’m looking forward to keeping up with my work for CAIR, reading more, writing, traveling and conquering new video games. A trip to Seattle is already in the works for early next year. Happy New Year!

img_1472My reading List:

Empire of the Moghul Series: Alex Rutherford

The God Delusion: Richard Dawkins

I am Malala

Game of Thrones series: George R.R. Martin

The Hunger Games: Suzanne Collins

29
Jul
13

The DC Experience

In May of this year, my husband and I took a trip to DC in order to meet people and check out job prospects. It was great to catch up with so many friends and class fellows from the Monterey Institute who shifted east after graduation and hear their internships and employment stories.

The minute we landed in DC I received an email from Huffington Post Live about appearing on their show the next day HuffPo to talk about women voter influence in Pakistan’s elections. Despite an already busy schedule that morning, I accepted the invitation. The interview ended at 10:30 leaving me just enough time to hop in a cab and make it to my other meeting with about 2 minutes to spare.

I met with various researchers and fellows from an array of think tanks in DC but most of them made it pretty clear that interest in South Asia is dying down, particularly as the withdrawal from Afghanistan approaches next year. Think tanks mostly follow the money and funds for research in South Asia have dried up. Instead, interest has shifted to Africa and the Middle East. Another observation I made was that the South Asian specialists in DC are rarely of Pakistani origins. Perhaps, the US strategy towards Pakistan would have been more successful if they had better firsthand knowledge rather than relying on opinions from outside experts. I’m sure some of this sentiment comes from my own feeling of being undervalued, but I am equally certain that there is no substitute for direct experience.

Interns seem to be the lifeblood of Washington, from young pages dashing around the Capitol to Graduates spending long hours just trying to get their foot in the door with NGO’s. Many of these internships are unpaid and are filled by people who already face 6-figure college loan debt. In order to pay their rent these interns often end up working a second job in the evening, e.g., waiting tables. Since the economic crash in 2008, unpaid internships have proliferated and have replaced paid jobs. Take the recent case of the “Black Swan” movie which earned over936full-black-swan-poster $300 million, yet did not pay its interns a dime. Eric Glatt one of the unpaid interns for Black Swan sued Fox Searchlight Pictures in 2011. Federal District Court Judge William H. Pauley ruled that Fox Searchlight should have paid the interns, because they were essentially regular employees. The US federal law states that unpaid internships must benefit the worker, not the employer, and should be a part of a formal training program, without replacing a paid employee’s job. The Black Swan “internship” — much like a lot of unpaid intern situations — violated all of those tenets, ruled Judge Pauley.

1. Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid and IbOne of my friends from the Monterey Institute works for the Senate majority leader, and thanks to him we were able to meet Senator Harry Reid during an event he held for visiting constituents. The long-time Senator inquired about how “his friend, Imran Khan” was doing following his fall at an election rally in Lahore.

In between meetings, I did manage to squeeze in some sightseeing and checked out many – but not nearly all – of DC’s monuments and museums. During our tour of the Capitol we saw Senator John McCain on the senate floor recording his statement and urging the US to attack Syria. On the floor of Congress, Paul Ryan was standing around with fellow Representatives while they were voting on a bill. I couldn’t help but think of all the lies he told regarding his workouts, marathon (26.2 miles/42km) time and even the fake photo op in a soup kitchen during the election campaign in 2012. He claimed to have run a marathon in 2 hours 50 min where as his actual time was 4 hours 1 minute! No one forgets their 1st and only marathon time; my husband finished The Big Sur marathon in just under 4 hours and he says he’ll always remember it.

11. Indus river photo Smithsonian MuseumAnother thing that I couldn’t pass up was the chance to see a photograph of mine which was selected for permanent display at the Smithsonian for their spotted pond turtle exhibit! It took awhile to spot the smallish 4”x6” shot but I was happy to see it was still in place. After a quick photo in front of the exhibit, we jumped on the Metro rail and caught the Washington Nationals baseball game. They have a beautiful park that is just a short walk from the nearest train stop. The locals and most fellow tourists left the game in a cheerful mood after an easy win for The Nationals.

DC is a vibrant city exploding with different cultures, restaurants and policy institutes. My husband and I enjoyed our stay there, even though it was packed with meetings and “informational” interviews. Thank you for the experience, DC and my MIISers. Since interest in South Asia is dying down, I’ve decided to dedicate my efforts to make the best of my life in California, which has always been our long term intention anyway. However, if the right opportunity presents itself, I still reserve the right to consider the cross-country shift once again. Till then I’ll continue to focus on my writing and may even have a beginnings of a novel.




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