Thursday, June 02, 2005

Maryam, A Kuwaiti Woman Heading For The Stars

MARYAM ET SERGEI




She Wants To Be A Pioneer In Space. That is Maryam from Kuwait and the Excellent So I Want To
Be An Astronaut Blog
which details her Hopes,
Dreams, Studies, and Desires of becoming the First Arab Female Astronaut or Cosmonaut, as well as
her Admiration for another Space Pioneer, Famed Russian Cosmonaut Sergei Krikalov.

It's The In T View: Maryam, A Kuwaiti Woman
Heading For The Stars


The In T View and Artwork by Mister Ghost


MG: Hello Maryam, How are you?

Maryam: Pretty good, Thanks for asking!


MG: Maryam, if you could paint the Space Shuttle, any color your little heart desires,
what color would it be? Rose? Magenta?
Blue? I might go for big, big blue and green
polka dots. You know splurge and have fun.
Do you have a favorite color?

Maryam: I like to paint the space shuttle with metallic blue since blue is my favorite color; it's the color of the endless sea and the deep blue sky.


MG: As James Hinton once asked, "Do you
think the sun gets dazzled by its own light?"

Maryam: Hmm no, I don't think so. The
source cannot get dazzled by itself.


MG: You have a case of the Big Time Hots for Russian Cosmonaut Sergei Krikalov, who's about to break the record, as you say in your Blog, "for the most accumulated time in space with about 800 days in Orbit." What is it about Sergei that inspires you to such flights of fancy, such love on your
part?

Maryam: I never met Sergei but I believe he is such a modest, patient, considerate, ambitious and hardworking person with a sweet heart. I enjoy reading his interviews and get to know his personality and what kind of a person he is. He
said once that he doesn't read in space but it's enough for him to look out the window and look at Earth (you can see how thoughtful he is). I admire his strength and mental ability that made him able to make it during his 10 months stuck in space; returning as the last Soviet Union. Moreover he has many interesting hobbies such as aerobatic flying, amateur radio and swimming. He earned many medals either from his career or sports.
He represents the perfect idol for astronaut/ cosmonauts wanna be. Besides, he is a good-looking man *wink, wink*.


MG: Sergei seems to have female admirers --
"Sergei's Girly Fans" -- from across many lands. What makes you stand out as the Number One Sergei Fan?

Maryam: Beside to my "Fetish blog", Sergei inspired me to follow his steps to be an astronaut or a cosmonaut, learn the Russian language, earned Amateur radio license, and I chose Russia as a place where to start off my dream. On the other hand, I think Suzy McHale is also a Number One Sergei Fan. You should check out her website which is dedicated only for Sergei Krikalev.


MG: If you had the opportunity to spend 800 days in Space with Sergei or be on the First Manned Space Flight to Mars, what would you choose?

Maryam: Uh, you are putting me in a big dilemma now! … Can I
drag Sergei with me to Mars, please? Is it possible that I might be mentioned in history books as first and only person who would blow up a chance to be on first manned flight to Mars because I want to spend 800 days with Sergei in space? ;)


MG: And what's a nice Kuwaiti girl like you doing, wanting to be an Astronaut?

Maryam: Currently, I am working a temporary job as a receptionist until this fall I will move
to Russia for the next 4 years at least.
I want to complete my studies, get a Bachelor and Master's degree (maybe a PhD too). Then, I want to work for a space program either in Russia or
Europe.


MG: When did your dreams start of becoming
an Astronaut?

Maryam: I always have such passion for space since I was little kid but I don't remember that I ever wished to be an astronaut. However, I remember the exact moment when it pops out to mind. I was
on campus, online chatting with my friend who was
in Kuwait. I was talking about my future plans and what I want to do. I was telling her my wishes
about being a pilot, sky diver, volunteer,
political activist, minister and one of them is
to be an astronaut. Of course, she laughed out
and she told me I was being unrealistic. At that
moment, I was checking out NASA Astronauts requirements. While I was reading it, I was like "hey, I think I can do this".

In late of 2003, I attended one of NASA
Awareness Day which motivated me and looked at
the opportunities. It was really fun, chatted
with NASA representatives, attended workshops…
I felt so close to my dreams and it is possible
that I can achieve them.

But last year I came back home depressed, screwed
up all the opportunities I could have. However, after watching "Space Station" movie at IMAX Theater, it took my breath away and that's when I
determined to be an astronaut. How odd a movie can change whole person's decisions…?


MG: And what did your parents say when
you first told them of your desire to be an Astronaut? Were they like, "get out, you
are crazy, you're going to get yourself killed!?"

Maryam: Lol! Yes, they were like that. My
mom told me "You're out of your mind, you want to kill yourself?!?" My parents know that
I always want to do crazy stuff such as bungee jumping, sky diving and so on (yeah, I know I
wanna do all the stuff) So they aren't surprised
to know that I want to be an astronaut.


MG: Could you describe what the Space
Program in Kuwait is like?

Maryam: Unfortunately, there is no space program in Kuwait. However its new step for Kuwait to hold the First International Remote Sensing Conference & Exhibit in September 2005 and Dr.
Farouk El-Baz, who participated in the Apollo program as Supervisor of Lunar Science Planning, will attend the conference.

As for Arab space future program is to establish an "Arab Space Research Agency"; headquarter will
be in Egypt. Kuwait discussed about the possibilities of being a member and participating
in space program. I hope it doesn't turn out to be fiction because I cannot find enough information about it.


MG: Is there a Heavy Burden placed upon you, trying to be the First Arab Middle Eastern Woman in Space, a pioneer in her field?

Maryam: Hmm it depends on what kind of
"Heavy Burden" you mean. If you mean from culture and religion aspects, I don't think there will be any difficulties for me to be an astronaut from
that side hmmm maybe some sexism. On the other
hand, I worry that Kuwait or any Arab country
don't think about sending more Arab astronauts
on mission into thespace beside the two payloads which they were sent during the 80's.


MG: You want to be an Astronaut, but you studied Civil Engineering at an American College - Is there a missed connection
there?

Maryam: Yes, I think there is a missed connection. When I graduated from high school
with math major, I wanted to study either
astronomy or mathematics. But the Ministry
of Higher Education was not offering scholarship
for mathematics majors and with astronomy degree cannot do much with it in Kuwait as a pursuing career. So I decided to do engineering as the
rest which my country mostly demands.


MG: Why did you decide to come to the
United States?

Maryam: I wanted to learn new things, new culture, and to have different experience. I
studied abroad in the age of 17 which made me stronger, independent person; grew my self-confidence and I became more capable of handling
my life. From meeting new different people, I
gained a broader outlook on life. Even though I didn't finish my studies but the experience I had was priceless.



MG: What thing really surprised you about
the United States? And what was your biggest disappointment?

Maryam: Oh, Food! Everything is served
with really large meals. I notice that Americans eats big portions of food. Also, I was surprised that cowboys just not exist in the movies but in
real life too ;)

The biggest disappointment was only one thing
that is ignorance. Most Americans I met have poor knowledge about other countries, culture, and traditions. I remember an American lady asked me which country I was from. I answered "Kuwait".
She hesitatingly asked "Is Kuwait a country?"
or some other American thinks Kuwaitis native language is Spanish, wear turbans and women are
not allowed to eat chocolate. Sadly, after the
sad events of 9/11, I suffered from some
discrimination I get as Muslim and Arab.


MG: Maryam, do you think that Stars are alive? See, I tend to believe they are, that they possess a consciousness so vast, it's beyond we
poor mortals ability to understand. What are your thoughts on the subject?

Maryam: Yes, I think that too. When I gaze through the dark sky with my telescope, I tend to think that stars are alive; having conversations between each other, sometimes they even talk about me … Hehe I better stop talking now otherwise I
will sound silly.


MG: If a Black Hole and a White Hole get together, would they make little grey holes?

Maryam: No, I think they will form a big explosion and disappear from the existence.


MG: Were you or your family in Kuwait,
when the Iraqi invasion occurred in 1990? What
was like for a Kuwaiti family living in a War
Zone?

Maryam: I was only 9 years old when the invasion occurred. I and my family lived in the
most intense war zone in Kuwait because
of the big numbered resistance groups against the Iraqi troops. We used to hear almost constant fire machines. One time, a tank bombed neighbor's house which it was only 2 houses away from ours I didn't witness any violent actions or seen disturbing scenes because my parents were so protective.

Later my family had to flee to Saudi Arabia
without my father. We traveled to Baghdad by
a bus and we stayed there for a week. Then, we
traveled from Baghdad, to Jordon and flew off
to Saudi Arabia. Where we stayed, the place was always targeted by the Iraqi scud missiles. Couple of times I saw these scud missiles in the sky. As
a kid I got used to it, learned the chemical protection procedures, putting mask on my little brother since my mom is paralyzed to do anything. Thank God that Kuwait is back and the war didn't last for a long time.


MG: And are you happy that Saddam was overthrown and the Iraqi people have a chance
for a new start in Democracy?

Maryam: Yes, I am happy that Saddam was overthrown but I wished that happened in a peaceful way. And I think that Iraqi people can start a new step in democracy and rebuild their country.





MG: So, what's your favorite Space-Related Movie and why?

Maryam: I haven't watched many of Space-Related movies. I prefer watching space documentary movies such as IMAX "Space Station" movie which is my favorite movie because Sergei appears in it ;). I
like "Apollo 13" too.


MG: Are you a Star Trek fan, as it seems
like a lot of the NASA people grew up being Star Trek fans?

Maryam: Sorry, Star Trek fans. I have to
say that I hate this TV series. I don't know
whether because of the tight outfit or the weird creatures. The space technology is awesome but I
dislike the whole space-universe culture thing.
I hope that NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Terry Virts enjoy their appearance of the season finale
of Star Trek.


MG: Maryam, there seems to be a great difference in the freedoms accorded and afforded Women in Western Society, as opposed to most of
the Middle East. Is that a factor of Culture, Government, or Religion?

Maryam: I believe that culture plays major part influencing the government and the society on their perspective towards women and what their gender roles should be in the society.


MG: Is Islam a Women friendly religion?

Maryam: Yes, I believe that Islam a women friendly religion. Women have equal rights as men, unfortunatly; people cannot separate culture from religion on making decisions which forms confusions.


MG: Can you explain the Super String theory to me in less than thirty words?

Maryam: Oh it's too complicated! I myself
I don't understand it well. But as long you are asking for less than 30 words, here it
is then:

A wiggling tiny string closed or open loop; can
be Bosons only (particles transmit force) or equal matching with Fermions (make up matter) which we call a superstring theory.

29 words!!


MG: Maryam, how did you become interested
in blogging and how did your Blog, So I Want
To Be An Astronaut come about?


Maryam: I become a regular reader of Mobbloging from Kuwait. I really like the idea blogging photos from cell phone and write
about them. So I started my own photo blog. Then through Mobbloging, I get directed to Kuwait Unplugged which I become a fan of his blog
too. Few weeks later, I felt the need to have
my own blog and write about my dreams and share
it with people in the world.


MG: Your Blog has garnered quite a lot of attention, received some awards and notice, has
that helped you in your quest to become an
Astronaut?

My blog helps me to be more focus on my goals and it's a good way to meet people who have the same interests as mine. So far, my blog haven't helped
me to achieve my dream as an astronaut. I don't expect my blog in a direct way to help achieve
my dreams. So far, I got a T.V. interview request that will be in the end of this year. I hope
this will be a new start for me.


MG: Besides your own Blog, are there other blogs you like to read or would recommend?

Maryam: My favorite blog is www.Miskan.com, which is a 365 day photo blog project by a Lebanese photographer lives in Kuwait Also I recommend reading "Kuwait Unplugged" which is a bilingual
blog that discusses political, social issues, and express opinions and ideas concerning Kuwait.


MG: I understand that you recently finished studying to be a Ham Radio Operator and received your Amateur Radio License. How did you get interested in the field and what does it means to you?

Maryam: First of all, I am proud to earn the Amateur radio license and consider being one of the minority female operators in Kuwait, and having the license means that I am legally able to talk to Sergei via radio while he is in Space.

My interest in Amateur or Ham radio initially started because of Sergei (see, he inspired me again). I took a 10 week Russian Language course
to know the basics and grammar. With a bit
of luck, I hope I get the chance to talk to Sergei over the radio. Hopefully, I won't sound funny in Russian. ;)


MG: Thanks Very Much, Maryam, for a Nice Interview, and Final Question: Have you ever
seen a Ghost?

Maryam: A Ghost or Ghost? In both cases,
the answer will be no. because I haven't seen you yet. Anyway thanks for the interview and giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts in your blog.

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