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Does a Master’s Degree make the cut?

15 Nov

This is what a Seattle’s resident, Hussam Almatrood, continues to wonder after months of rejection while applying for jobs. Juggling between changing diapers and sending resumes, Almatrood continues to believe that someone will give him a call. He often wonders about the reasons preventing him from landing a job. Almatrood is a needle in the pile of unemployed Americans who are also searching for one thing, a career.

Almatrood graduated from Seattle University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing & Management, after which, he was able to gain some work experience in the field. Yet, through all these years of experience he didn’t feel that he found his dream job. He wanted to be part of a company in which his skills and determination were valued and appreciated.

Hence, Hussam thought that if he pursued a Master’s Degree he would have a better chance of finding that dream job. Investing the time and  the money, he thought, will pay off. He still thinks that it will.

(Hussam Almatrood)

While he was completing his Master’s Degree, Almatrood’s son was born. He balanced both his father duties with his student assignments and he was able to graduate in 2010 with a Master’s Degree in Public Administration. At the same time his wife received the rare opportunity to complete her Ph.D. in Computer Science. And she took it.

“An opportunity she couldn’t miss out on,” he said.

Husband and father of two, a son and a daughter, Almatrood became the primary caregiver for their children. Pursuing his career was something very important to him, but not more important than the happiness of his family.

“This wasn’t a sacrifice, but the biggest joy of my life,” he said. Continue reading

Some Stay, Others Go

29 Oct

(Photograph by Simona Trakiyska by Daoming Li)

Daoming Li said that since the first time he step-a-foot on the ground of United States he felt welcomed. But don’t be mistaken, that did not mean that he jumped over the barriers of cultural difficulties. As an outsider, such as many immigrants and international students he faced different challenges while getting used to, to the language, to the style of communication and to the cuisine. Often “the outsiders” have to leave their families behind.

Yes, this is the cost when one tries to pursue better life, carrier or education.

Being accepted at the University of Washington is the stepping-stone for Li. His decision to pursue double major in Communications and Political Science was for one particular reason, to go back to China and promote objective news reporting. Major difference between the education in China and America, Li says, is the way that the Social Sciences subjects are thought. Students in the U.S. are constantly encouraged to think independently and to develop their own voice, whereas in China this is not the case. Continue reading

“Bearing Witness from Another Place”

23 Oct

The audience was trilled to see the brilliant work of Sedat Pakay, a photographer, who presented rare shots of the author James Baldwin and representing his life in Turkey, Istanbul. The University of Washington and the Northwest African American Museum, NAAM, invited Pakay to share his work in Seattle in relation to the upcoming exhibition “Bearing Witness from Another Place” opening in Seattle October 24.

(Photograph by Sedat Pakay of James Baldwin in Turkey)

The event was held in the new HUB building, at the UW Seattle campus. Despite the pouring rain and the presidential debate airing at the same time, people showed up, eager to see Pakay’s art and to learn more about Baldwin’s life. Reşat Kasaba, the Director of the Jackson School of International Studies, welcomed the audience by providing a short bio about the guest speaker. Pakay then began his presentation with a short documentary film reflecting on Baldwin’s life in Turkey.

From the film and from Pakay’s explanation, the audience understood that Baldwin was a person who faced many challenges throughout his life. He was a black homosexual man forced to leave his American identity behind, because of racial segregation, escaping to Turkey, while searching self-realization as a writer. Pakay revealed how significant Turkey has been in his life, it was a place where he could work peacefully and concentrate on his writing. But Baldwin never chose Turkey but he was rather forced to leave America escaping the pressures of racial and sexual prejudices.

During the break, attendees for to talk to each other while having refreshments and snacks including: cheeses, crackers, fruits, juices and sweets.

Pakay’s photographs instantly grabbed the audiences’ attention, precisely reflecting on Baldwin’s life: his emotions, his expressions and his fears. He portrayed the author’s image, the intellectual with all of his complexities, on a professional and personal level. Instead of letting the slide show roll by, Pakay narrated the images, highlighting on the importance of each one. Some of the photographs were provocative  – challenging many misconceptions one might have about race.

During the presentation, Pakay expressed how important it was for him to photograph Baldwin on a background very different from his personal one. He also expressed how happy he was to be able to document the truths surrounding this African-American homosexual friend.

Pakay also recalled a conversation in which Baldwin has expressed himself stating that: “The American men are just too paranoid on the subject of homosexuality.”

The audience asked many additional questions and the meeting continued the full two hours.

(Sedat Pakay left, Reşat Kasaba right. Photograph by Simona Trakiyska)

(Sedat Pakay left, Resat Kasaba right. Photograph by Simona Trakiyska)

On a personal note, I found the photographs to be very meaningful, reflecting the truth of Baldwin’s life. America in the 1960s was a place of prejudice and discrimination, against homosexuals, particularly against those of African American descent and his escape seemed necessary in order to protect himself. I think it is important to see that Turkey was the place where he pursued his life happily, beyond the constant racial challenges he was faced with in America.

This meeting was very beneficial because the audience asked personal questions, which only Pakay would have known the answers to, since Baldwin was a very close friend of his. Sedat Pakay was able to introduce us with the new understanding of escape, the re-establishment of yourself in a different cultural space, where society is more receptive to your sexual and professional preferences.

“The lecture/slide-show was in conjunction with the NAAM exhibition “Bearing Witness from Another Place: James Baldwin in Turkey,” which will be held in Seattle, Oct. 20, 2012-Sept. 29, 2013.”

SimonaS. Trakiyska is a journalist, freelance writer and a world traveler with a global mindset. She is based in the Pacific Northwest and her focus is on international affairs, political issues and human rights. She is passionate about ethnic equality and global respect.
You can contact her on Twitter @Simonatrak.