May Musings - 16

On growing up, authority and permission.

How I feel about being an adult.

How I feel about being an adult.

How does one decide what is ‘good’, or right? Are they even the same thing all the time? When we’re kids, often it’s simple: what are parents tell us, what our teachers tell us, what those in positions of authority around us decide. Who is in positions of authority? Often, when we’re young, that’s also simple too: those who are older than us. Ah, for the simplicity of childhood…

I think the moment I realised I was growing up was the moment I realised I may be different to my parents in some ways. Not from a knee-jerk teenage perspective either, but from a ‘I think we have different viewpoints, habits or lifestyle, and I don’t think I’m changing significantly any time soon’. I don’t think I can recall for certain when that moment was, but I remember it being a slight shock. The idea that my life might look different to the life of my parents, and that maybe it was okay for that to happen, felt downright scandalous, and in some ways a betrayal. I’m almost certain that they wouldn’t say it was anything of the sort, but the idea that my life looks very different to that of my folks has sometime felt morally reprehensible, despite it simply being different. Why does it feel so uncomfortable?

I think it all fits into this idea of trying to do what is ‘good’ and ‘right’, and that direction and permission often coming from my folks, and the community they symbolised for me. I’ve been a kid who often tried to do what I was supposed to (and often failed, lol). But striving to be like my parents, and what my parents approved of, felt like the ideal to strive for. It felt almost like a religious obligation! However now, with a life that looks and feels so different to theirs in many ways (where I live, what I eat, the places I go…), who becomes the weathervane? Who is the authority? Who gives permission?

Scary to think it’s perhaps, just me. And of course, my faith, so Allah - and of course, the people who I love and are around me… but ultimately, growing up is about deciding what is right for yourself. And then having the moral conviction to stick by it. That’s a lot of responsibility, if you ask me. Yet, here we are…

How do you feel? Is this something you have found yourself grappling with, or has growing up been all gravy?


Remember how I mentioned I was lucky enough to be contributing to this month's edition of the Griffith Review? Well it is out today! (I am pretty sure...not sure if you can get it in bookshops yet), but here is a sneak preview of my piece, I hope you like it!

Pick up the Griffith Review at good bookstores near you :) In fact, you can buy it (print or digital) on the Griffith Review Website tomorrow!! 


ACCEPTING THAT YOUR twenty-one-year-old-Muslim-daughter is going to work on remote oil and gas rigs is not easy. I am fortunate to have parents who understand (although perhaps not always share) my interest in adventure and not being ordinary. Their view is simple: as long the rules of Islam are followed and there is a coherent and beneficial reason for me doing the things I chose, they will support me.

My parents say they weren’t sure what to expect when they immigrated to Australia almost twenty years ago, fleeing the oppressive political regime in Sudan. They may not have had a concrete idea of where it would lead, but I certainly inherited from them the gene that makes us willing to seize opportunity and embark on adventures. That may explain how they found themselves with a daughter who boxes, designs racing cars, and while visiting family in Sudan last year, got wrapped up in the attempt to overthrow the same oppressive government that forced them to leave.

They came to Australia looking for a new beginning, now they are parents of a female, Muslim rig hand.

As part of my faith, I wear the hijab (headscarf), and have been doing so since I was ten, as a personal choice. It is truly something that has become a part of my identity, and I like to be quite flamboyant and creative with colours and styles. My head covering on the rig is a little less obvious and obtrusive though, mostly because it is convenient to combine with the hardhat and a little cooler. In true Australian fashion however, religion is one topic that is fastidiously avoided, and people don’t always realise the significance of the head covering. It does make for some interesting conversations.

‘So when's that tea cosy come off?’

I turned around to my colleague and chuckled to myself.

‘Nah, it doesn't come off, I was born with it aye!’

His jaw dropped slightly and he looked at me in confusion. ‘Wha-a-?’

I laughed out loud. ’Nah mate! It's a religious thing. We call it a hijab, I guess this is the

abbreviated hard-hat friendly version...’

‘Oh yeah righto’...

He nodded uncertainly, shrugged and went back to his meal.

When I retold that story to my family at home, my father couldn't get enough of it.

‘Let's call you tea cosy now!’

Feedback wanted!

feedback (1) Merry Christmas to all who celebrate!

Now for another issue, as you may see, I am trialing a new blog format!

I would love your feedback on this...can you see everything, is it clear, should I perhaps think about a landing page of some sort?!

Oh, the dilemmas one has with web design...

Leave your comments, send me an email or tweet - I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Lee tips his hat to the Tradies…


Did you know National Tradies Day is on the 21st of September? Well, now you do!

Lee Holdsworth of Irwin Racing is highlighting this auspicious occasion with new livery to honour the role of Tradies (Tradesmen) as part of the national celebration to honour the “Hands that Build Australia”.

Check out the original post on Richard’s F1 here!

“Like everyone else, I’ve seen some of the great work tradies do every day, in fact most of my closest mates are tradesmen,” says Holdsworth.

“Plus in the motor racing industry we like to surround ourselves with skilled tradespeople to ensure the best results.”

Tradesmiths are an often underappreciated group, and it is great to see their role being highlighted by the driver and team.  Without our tradies, nothing would ever get made! Irwin Tools car National Tradesmen 3 344x241 FIRST PICS: Holdsworths new look IRWIN Falcon

The team even redesigned their emblem, highlighting the ‘real’ working hands.

“IRWIN is committed to making National Tradesmen Day a major event and it’s great we can use the V8 Supercar as a “vehicle” to help publicise it,” said Laura Turnbull, Marketing Director – IRWIN Tools Asia Pacific.

“Everyone is looking forward to National Tradesmen Day and we will continue to drive the message both on and off the race track.”

You will be able to see the awesome new livery on the IRWIN Tools Stone Brothers Falcon at Sydney Motorsport Park on 25-26 August and at the Dick Smith Sandown 500 on 14-16 September.

Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Web Happenings: 9th August 2012

As you know, there is a lot on the net.  Every week, I’ll bring you a round up of the interesting things I have come across on this insane, invaluable web.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world.”

Fred Rogers

  • Coke does great marketing… and asks you to see the world a little differently?


  • It frightens me sometimes how much we depend on media conglomerates for our knowledge of the world. This article on Foreign Policy caught my eye, claiming the two big arab news stations, Al Jazeera and Al Arabia’s bias towards the Syrian rebels was damaging their credibility. Now I am not inclined to believe it completely as FP seems to be a more conservative leaning institution with perhaps, something to gain from discrediting alternative views. It does raise the age old question though, of who do you trust with news…and how, in situations like Syria, do you make sure your information is accurate and correct when journalists aren’t able to access all the information on the ground? Do the usual journo rules apply?


Or take affirmations, those cheery slogans intended to lift the user’s mood by repeating them: “I am a lovable person!” “My life is filled with joy!” Psychologists at the University of Waterloo concluded that such statements make people with low self-esteem feel worse — not least because telling yourself you’re lovable is liable to provoke the grouchy internal counterargument that, really, you’re not.


The woman has won eight Olympic medals. Eight. She’s a champion of epic proportions and has just qualified for her fourth Games. And yet everyone is sitting around saying she doesn’t ‘look’ like a champion swimmer? Surely the point should be that she swims like a champion swimmer. 


“The Chinese team came to the Olympics like a professional gambler arriving for a casual weekend of mah-jong, then trying to go home with everyone’s money.”

Four years after China whipped itself into a lather to host the most boffo Olympics imaginable, China seems, these days, a bit startled to discover that anyone is bothering to try hosting the Games again. Even so, the opening ceremony won its share of Chinese fans who, unsurprisingly, watched the affair with one eye on themselves.


  • Long read: Living with Voices…an intriguing read that reminds us how little we know about the amazing organ we depend on so much: the brain.

Hans used to be overwhelmed by the voices. He heard them for hours, yelling at him, cursing him, telling him he should be dragged off into the forest and tortured and left to die. The most difficult things to grasp about the voices people with psychotic illness hear are how loud and insistent they are, and how hard it is to function in a world where no one else can hear them. It’s not like wearing an iPod. It’s like being surrounded by a gang of bullies. You feel horrible, crazy, because the voices are real to no one else, yet also strangely special, and they wrap you like a cocoon. Hans found it impossible to concentrate on everyday things. He sat in his room and hid. But then the voices went away for good.


  • Easily one of my favourite videos. Humbling…the view from the International Space Station at night.  Puts our insignificance into perspective…




  • This is Now project is a visual composition which uses real-time updates from the ever popular Instagram application based on users geo-tag locations. The tool streams photos instantly as soon as they are uploaded on Instagram and captures a cities movement, in a fluid story.

The Word on the Street

It seems all my recent posts are published at 4am, with very little proofreading and more of an emotional outpouring in response to the situations I find myself in. Maybe I should invest in a diary instead... ***

So, you might find my tone in this post a little different. I have decided to jump feet first into the fray, helping out where I can and doing what I think is right. Taking the moral road, if you will.

You know what I've learnt? It is actually scary as hell.

I don't know if I am supposed to say that. I really don't. Perhaps I should be strong and courageous in the face of adversity and not be admit apprehension...but experiencing things first hand is different indeed to hearing stories.  It makes you truly appreciate what *ahem* actual freedom fighters go through.  It makes you ask the question, is it really worth it?

I think it is. I really do. The sad thing is though, I am not sure everyone else shares that opinion, and that is what truly scares me. For if your everyday Sudanese doesn't care for their country... why will anything change?


I like to make a habit of talking to the raksha (tuk-tuk) drivers and the shop keepers and what not to get a feeling for what the average citizen is feeling.

Let me tell you this: the average citizen is weary.

Khalas, they tell me: enough.

'Life is hard, tough, ridiculous... how can we keep living? Where is this country going??' They ask me.

I don't have an answer, because I wonder the same thing.

'Why don't you try to change things?' I ask them.

"Why should we?" 


Why should we?

This is the question that makes Sudan different from the case of say, Egypt.

People are not overwhelmingly proud to be Sudanese!  They don't want to do things for their country.

Oh, they will be proud of their tribe, that is for sure. They will tell you yes! I am Shaygi, Ma7as, Ja3fari... and they will defend their tribal name to the death! But defend their country? No...

I was given the example once that if you walked into a restaurant and started loudly bad mouthing Sudan, you wouldn't elicit a response. If you walked in and slandered a tribe though, oh, lord forbid! You would have to be brought out in a stretcher.

To be honest, as someone brought up in Australia I had never considered the tribal aspect of being Sudanese until I returned and Sudanese people would ask me: "So, where are you from?"


"No, who are your people??"

"...uh...My people?..."

*cue awkward conversation endings that included answers like: uh..engineers? ..lovers of rnb?*

Odd, I thought. (They all thought I was odd too, trust me).

Why is it, that people have such strong tribal affiliations but no connection to their national identity?

Perhaps it is because, as my cousin so aptly put it, Sudan has given them nothing.

Sudan, as a nation, doesn't support its citizens.

There is poor education,

A health system that kills more than it cures,

An economy that is strangling its people,

...and even if you make it through all that, there is no opportunity for progress.

Everywhere you turn, people tell me, things are made difficult for you. My own experience backs this up completely: to register at a university or even change a tire takes an entire day, because you have to chase every.single.thing.up.yourself.

I have been told by numerous Sudanese people not to bother trying to change anything. Just get out! 


Because apparently, Sudan isn't worth the hassle.

It isn't worth getting caught or arrested for, it isn't worth being afraid or losing opportunity for... Sudan, they tell me, is getting worse and there is no uphill from here.


I disagree.


I don't think it is going to be easy.

I don't think it is one person's fight -- or even just one generation's fight.

I don't think it will happen quickly, or painlessly.

But you know what? I think it has to happen.

I think the people have to believe that Sudan is worth fighting for. Because it is!

It is the land of the Nile, a land of culture, family, food, hospitality and tradition. 

A land with promise!

A land that needs its people to believe in it. 

Oh yes, the idealism of the youth, my older, more jaded family members tell me.

You will learn that this system strangles the hope from you they say.

Well, let it try.


I have learnt a lot over the past few days...

Learnt how difficult it is to control something like a "movement"; sometimes you just have to go with the flow,

How to speak as a "we" rather than an "I",

What people will give up for the cause,

What lengths people will go to in protection of the status quo...

To think, I only came to the country to learn Arabic!

South Sudan: Thoughts on the Secession

On the 9th of July 2011, a new country joined the ranks of statehood: South Sudan. On the 9th of July 2011, Sudan, the largest nation in Africa, was split asunder...

On the 9th of July 2011, a people had to begin to redefine their identity, a difficult process indeed.



For more information on the history of South Sudan and the war that led to the secession, check out these wiki links (don't hate on authenticity, I find wiki quite informative =D)

History of South Sudan - Second Sudanese Civil War (Longest civil war in Africa, started in 1983 and was essentially resolved by the secession)

I will pre-empt this article by saying that these are mostly personal lamentings and feelings on the secession rather than a political analysis and reflection of the view of the general populace's.

To be honest, when it happened I was in Australia in the midst of exams, organising a camp and generally being busy, so the enormity of the event didn't quite register. However, being in (North) Sudan has given me ample time to realise the extent of the consequences, so I thought I would try to organise my thoughts about the situation.


First of all, one doesn't realise until after the fact: the feeling of losing an entire chunk of your country is unlike anything I can acutely describe. Perhaps something akin to waking up one day and realising half your extended family has changed their last name.  I can't even draw a rough map of Sudan anymore as I am not sure what the border looks like.

It is reported that over 98% of voters (as it was a referendum) voted yes for the secession. However, what is often omitted is that only Southerners voted.  This is interesting in itself; the first questions I asked upon my arrival were what Northerners thought of the situation, and how the secession had effected life in the Sudan.  

Interesting, overwhelmingly, people were upset.

Upset that they hadn't been asked,

upset that their country had split into pieces,

upset that the nation no longer had petrol , upset that because Sudan no longer had petrol, the dollar had more than doubled,

upset that the crazy increase in the dollar has caused inflation to balloon out of control,

upset now that life is just so difficult to lead...

Overwhelmingly, most people that I talked to from the North didn't think the secession was a good thing for the nation.

Some expressed frustration at the administration, asking what kind of leader lets part of his country mutiny?  What leader watches over his country being split apart?

Interesting, I thought.

I could understand why. Although I haven't really lived in my country of origin for long, it had been strange to know people, one minute as your fellow country man, the next as merely your neighbour...

I considered this information, but then decided to ask another host of questions (as one does in times of curiosity and investigation...)

I asked Northerners how many South Sudanese people did they consider friends?

How many South Sudanese people did they invite to their homes?

How many South Sudanese people do they know personally??

Would they let their child marry a South Sudanese person?

Are our cultures and traditions similar?

The answers to those questions are why I think the secession was possibly for the best.

I was told the following:

Oh, I don't know any Southerners personally...

Oh, we've never had any in our house (apart from maybe a maid)...

I would never let my son or daughter marry a Southerner!


Well, their culture is so different! They have different traditions! They have different languages! As a relative duly informed me, they are very violent people so who knows what kind of spouse they could be and the things they would do...

I was shocked.

Truly, I was.

Firstly, because I couldn't believe the level of deeply entrenched racism that existed in the community towards Southerners (but that is a whole other post).  Secondly, I could see very similar parallels between the situation in Australia with the Indigenous population and Anglo Australia, where two peoples inhabit the same land but with extremely different cultures and drastically different levels of achievement.

I don't think  it is fair on Northern Sudanese to expect Southerners to live under the same administration for the sake of history or nostalgia.

What are the origins of the borderlines anyway? They are relics of colonial times, when the British (among others) came and split the continent up into countries, drawing straight lines through tribal lines and united groups that had nothing in common.  Apart from the economic benefit (for the Northerners!), what benefit is there to staying a single country?

Yes it is awful.

Yes, it hurts your heart.

At the end of the day though, don't the Southerners deserve a chance at making their own history?

It is a unique opportunity indeed, and I can see why every political powerhouse (read USA, China and Israel among others) wants to make their mark on the nation felt early.

Putting aside issues of religious differences and politics and how it effects the self esteem or agenda of (North) Sudan, I think the secession of South Sudan is perhaps a first step for the continent in rediscovering or recreating its own, post colonial identity.  There are still many battles to be fought (the border isn't even fully determined) but it is an opportunity that I hope isn't squandered.

I know that as a Northerner, my opinion, presence or aid in the area won't be welcomed.  Nonetheless, I do hope and pray with all my heart that we Horn-of-Africans can put aside the rampant personal-greed-disguised-as-nationalistic-fervour and give South Sudan the opportunity to develop as a nation.

This is history in the making. Let's not make this nation building experiment a case study in the chapter named "Never-to-be-repeated..."


What do you think? Do you have any thoughts on the secession or experience in the situation?

South Sudanese Blogs for some light reading:



Ruya: This seems quite interesting, haven't read much but will definitely follow the work of this organisation...

JohnAkec: A South Sudanese academic

SouthSudanNation: A bulletin board of sorts


Luscious Links: 17 June 2012

Damn Good Advice -- An interesting title for a book that seems pretty interesting (advice for creatives, and generally people who are interested in doing things).  This link summarises the main points...

I love psychology experiments and had heard about this elevator trick...Here are some US College kids re-enacting it...


Dr Livingstone, I presume?

Hi! Unfortunately, not Dr Livingstone.  But perhaps a short introduction is in order.

The name is Yassmin, and although I was toying with the idea of a clever nom de plume, I couldn’t think of anything else that quite covers who I am other than my actual name!  So lets stick with that.

A description in a nutshell perhaps? Ah, time to break out the elevator pitch: I am a young, female, Muslim engineer who was born in Sudan and grew up in Australia.  I founded the organisation Youth Without Borders when I was 16.  I box, cycle, listen to music, love people and love challenging the norm.

Now thats done!  What am I really like? Lucky you should ask…

My interests vary – F1 racing to football to gender issues, politics and human rights – that…and pretty much everything in between.  I like discussion, I like analysis and I like thinking about things from as many angles as possible.

So instead of rabbiting on about who I am from my perspectiveperhaps you can infer some idea from what I post, things I flag/like/comment on etc.  This is the age of the online community, after all =).

So I hope you enjoy my little contribution to this part of the internet and look forward to ‘seeing’ you around!