Movie Review: “Arranged”


This is a 2007 indie film I came across at Blockbuster 2 wks ago.   The movie was shot in NY and NJ with unknown/little known actors.  This film is based partly on the experiences of one of its producers- an Orthodox Jewish woman.  It’s a refreshing picture about how modernity AND tradtion can coexist in America. 



The film follows  two smart/articulate/pretty young women recently out of college, Rochel (an Orthodox American Jew) and Nasira (a Syrian American Muslim).  Both ladies come from caring traditional families, work at a public school in Brooklyn, and are in the process of getting arranged marriages.




Rochel (Zoe Lister Jones) and Nasira (Francis Benhamou) have more in common than meets the eye, and they eventually become good friends.  Their friendship causes many raised eyebrows, but the girls grow to rely on each other.  The dialogue is very realistic and the main characters are enjoyable to watch.  I learned a few things while watching this movie, too. You should check it out, if it’s available in your area!



Arranged at Internet Movie Database:


The Making of Arranged:

Fun “Brown Bag” Lunch Ideas

Hey readers!

Have you noticed that many restaurants are empty these days?  (I’ve seen this in NYC, DC, and Old Town Alexandria, VA.)  People are bringing food from home (even those who live in big cities and have MANY food options).  Yes, we all need to save, but how can we feel less deprived?  Just be creative w/ your food!  Or, if you hate to cook, just eat simply.


But part of the fun of going out for lunch is leaving the workplace.  You can eat in the communal dining area (if you have one).  You can go for a short walk after eating, or eat in the park.  My mom does yoga 3 days/wk before lunch, so it breaks her regular routine.        


Even though I’m currently sans job, I look out for fun food ideas!  Below are some I heard on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show.

Happy eating,



  1. Leftovers from last night’s dinner: Yes, we desis do this a LOT!
  2. Canned salmon (for salad/sandwich): Can buy at Trader Joe’s
  3. Beef stew: This tastes better the second day; it lasts for several days.
  4. Cubed cheeses, cubed turkey, sliced peppers, mushrooms, etc. w/ olive oil: These won’t get mushy!
  5. Soups: Can buy in sml/med cartons at stores like Whole Foods or make at home (my mom does!)
  6. Egg salad: One of my faves; you just need hard-boiled eggs, mayo, salt, and pepper!  (You can add other stuff like I do- tomatoes, red onion, green onion, etc. and put in a sandwich.)
  7. Almond butter and jelly (instead of PB&J) for sandwich
  8. Soba noodles: These are meant to be eaten cold.
  9. Hummus: can eat w/ baby carrots, celery sticks, or pita bread (for when you’re NOT too hungry)


*Other tips:

– Take coffee from home!

– Buy bulk snacks and keep at place of work. 

– Buy cute lunch containers to make lunch less routine.

My trip to NYC (or back to reality)

Hello readers,

I’m back from NYC; I went this past FRI am and came back SUN pm.  I stayed w/ my aunt’s fam in Elmhurst, Queens.  (Thanks Khuku Auntie!)  My two girl cousins, Aliza and Adiba (10 and 12 y.o.), are getting taller each time I see them.  They got a cool new laptop, printer, and web cam recently.  They had mid-winter break, so were relaxed and in a good mood.  We talked about the typical stuff: school, TV shows, books, and hopes for the future.  (They’re QUITE bright and talkative!)  I got their email address so we can stay in touch more.  


Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see my other Queens cousins, Akif and Mahee(ages 13 and 7).  I’m proud of my oldest NYC cousin; Akif recently got into Stuyvesant High School, a specialized HS in the city.  He studied for almost 2 yrs to prep for the SHSAT test (on his own and at tutoring centers)!  But it paid off, and my Ratan Uncle and Hapi Auntie are VERY happy (and relieved)! 


I also learned that 5 kids who came to the SAYA! center for tutoring (w/ me last summer/fall) got high scores on their SHSAT tests.  One of those boys (a Math whiz) will go to Bronx Science; he notified via Facebook.  I’m VERY happy to hear about these good results.  I feel proud, too!


Now on to the NOT so happy news…  I went to a ED career fair on SAT at the Downtown Brooklyn Marriott.  It was a BIG downer for me- hardly anyone (charter/district/city) was looking for an English teacher for grades 7-12!!!  There were several people repping VA, MD, and NYC (of course).  I even met a rep from TUSD (Tuscon Unified School District).   Did you know that Arizona is the fastest growing state now?  It passed Nevada in newcomers.   


The TUSD rep, a jolly and energetic middle-aged man, told me some surprising news: next school year all public high schools will have to have a 4 hour block for their ELLs!  (This includes refugees- he said Tucson has many, recent immigrants- not ALL Hispanic these days , and others who lack basic English skills needed for HS.)  Wow, I don’t know how the kids will take that!  (4 hrs is a LONG time for any age group.)  Things have changed since I graduated HS in 1996…


There were a FEW good moments…  I spoke with two older ladies who work in a small new public HS in Chicago.  They were very nice, and said they will definitely need English teachers.  I felt good talking with them!  I heard about a fed org I didn’t know about; it is looking for teachers to work in different military bases around the world.  A group of charters in NYC, is looking for grades 6, 9, and 10 for next yr.  Their reps were quite young and easy to talk to.  (I heard about them 2 yrs ago from a friend of mine.)  But many, many candidates stood in line to talk with them.  I wonder if I’ll have a chance…


This job fair was a “reality check” for me.  It reminded me how TOUGH it is to be a teacher (or teacher candidate) in NYC area!  There were not TOO many candidates this year; last year had many more people.  (This was a MINORITY career fair, and we know how diverse NYC is!)  When I told the reps (HR, principals, etc.) that I was “looking for opportunities in English 7-12” their faces dropped.  Several gave me that too-bad-for-you look, and said that “it’s tough for subjects like English and Social Studies”  OR “we have a lot of English teachers already in our system.”  I knew in the back of my mind, BUT I was still felt disappointed.  Sigh…


I was at this job fair from 10:30AM-1:30PM.  By 1:30, I was a bit upset.  It’s not like we candidates are trying to be ballerinas, models, or actors.  We just want to teach!  We want to share our knowledge w/ urban youth who are falling behind the rest of the world.  If you don’t think that, then go and be a substitute in the public schools!  How will these kids compete in the near future?  Their parents (many 1st gen Americans or immigrants) dream of bigger and better things for them, of course.  And all of this isn’t just theoretical for me b/c I know some of these kids!  I tutored them, lived on their block, and saw them nearly EVERY day for 4 yrs.  It is SO frustrating…


After the job fair, I had to deal w/ the weird weekend subway delays/re-routing issues.  At 3PM, I went to a little event (for International Mother Language Day) where I was esp glad to see Shima (who started the non-profit org, Adhunka) and Rumana (a former neighbor of mine).  They are two of the nicest ladies I met in NYC!  They are pleasant, easy-going, and make people feel comfortable around them.  I met a few new people, too, who grew up all over the world.  (Not all people have Bangla as their best language!)  Later, some of us went to Shima’s apt to hang out.  She showed us a video of the young women (in Dhaka, Bangladesh) who go to the computer center funded by Adhunika.  They said they don’t have PCs in their dorms, so they greatly appreciate the low-cost classes.  It’s cool to see ladies who are trying to improve themselves!


Thanks for reading (even when I’m complaining),


P.S.  An actor and his gf were excitedly discussing his latest audition (for a comedy show) at Starbuck’s only 1 block from where the Washington Deluxe bus was going to pick me up.  He said the director liked him a lot.  LOL…  Hope you get the job!  (It’s tough for MANY jobseekers these days.)

Movie Review: “Golden Door”


Golden Door, or Nuovomondo (which means “New World” in Italian), is an Italian film written and directed by Emanuel Crialese.  The film is introduced by famed American director Martin Scorcese, the child of immigrants from Sicily.  Many of the characters in this picture speak in the Sicilian dialect; it reminded Scorsese of his childhood.  Though this film didn’t get wide release in the US, it’s a must-see!


Salvatore Mancuso (Vincenzo Amato) is an early 20th century Sicilian peasant who dreams of a better life in America.  (His twin brother left many years ago for the new world.)  Salvatore hopes to take his two teen sons (Angelo and Pietro) and his elderly mother (Fortunata) w/ him on the journey.

In the above pic, Salvatore and Angelo take rocks from below up to a high mountain to consult with God (note the simple twig cross in the background).


There are magical elements in this film, as it is told through the eyes of the hopeful immigrants.


Salvatore must convince his mother (a strong-willed, outspoken woman) to go along.


The Mancuso family set off with two young women from their village (promised to “rich Americans” as brides).


Upon arrival at the port city, local priests and doctors look them over.  Then they get their pictures taken.  A red-headed stranger puts herself in the picture.  Later, she tells an official that she’s travelling with their group!  The lady is Lucy (Charlotte Gainsbourg; she was the title character in Jane Eyre); she speaks some Italian and looks rather melancholy.


Salvatore and his boys keep a watchful eye on the stranger though Fortunata says it’s none of their business.  Lucy (or Luce, meaning light, as the Italians call her) raises many eyebrows and questions.


It was unusual for women to travel alone.  And why is an Englishwoman going along with Italians?  What was her past life like?  Salvatore is protective of Lucy when anyone says an unkind word about her below deck.  Outside on deck, he follows her movements closely, admiring her from afar but saying little.


The voyage to America is arduous!  We follow the “Third Class” passengers who have to lie in cramped bunks nearly end-to-end.  When seas are rough, they are tossed about like rag dolls.  But somehow they’re able to keep their spirits up through songs and rituals from the “old world.”

A well-dressed businessman (Vincent Schiavelli) introduces Lucy to several older, wealthy, single men on the ship.  He also gives her photos of American men who are “willing to help you out of this situation.”


Just before dropping anchor at Ellis Island, Lucy proposes marriage to Salvatore.  (She had been observing him and his family very closely, and saw something she liked!)  He is surprised, but quickly agrees.

There is much more to come-  the new arrivals must go through many trials and tribulations before entering the “golden door” of America!


Crialese (above w/ Amato) creates a simple, yet moving, story about immigration.  The images he creates will stay with you long after the film has ended.  The music flows very well with the images.  The scenery and costumes look very authentic.  Golden Door was filmed in Argentina with extras who are descended from Italian immigrants (Crialese explains in the making of).

The main protagonist (Salvatore) is a “paisan” (peasant).  How unusual is that for today’s cinema!?  He is a simple, straight-forward, illiterate man.  He represents the old world- the one left behind.  Salvatore has a kind of quiet dignity that sets him apart from the crowd, though.


Salvatore’s unlikely love interest (Lucy/Luce) represents the new world/light/the future.  She is well-spoken, independent, and determined.  (Crialese said he made her hair red to set Lucy apart from the other women.)

Though Lucy is not Italian, she is treated just as they are at Ellis Island.  The inspectors don’t make it easy for the immigrants.  There are various tests to see who is “fit” to enter the new world.  You’ll learn something new from this film, I’m sure!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Hey (especially female) readers,

No bf/hubby/significant other this Valentine’s Day?  Not to fear, these FANTASTIC storybook heroes are ALWAYS there for you!  




Austen Heroes:


Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth) – Pride & Prejudice: Better than “tolerable” looking, tall, proud, shy around strangers, and a gentleman w/ LOTS of money and huge estate w/ beautiful, extensive grounds. 



Captain Wentworth (Ciaran Hinds) – Persuasion: Constant, hard-working (joined the navy and worked his way up), and a GREAT writer of lovely, heartfelt letters. 





Mr. Knightley (Mark Strong / Jeremy Northam) – Emma: Experienced, wise, country gent who WILL tell it like it is (even if you DON’T want to hear it!) 



Mr. Tilney ( J.J. Feild) – Northanger Abbey: Young, sweet, and kind gent who plans to become a pastor.




Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman / David Morrissey) – Sense & Sensibility: He’s a former military man who’s rich (w/ a kind heart); he knows a LOT about music, too. 


Other Literary Heroes:



Mr. Rochester  (Toby Stephens) – Jane Eyre: A great conversationalist who is “changeable,” well-traveled, and VERY mysterious.



Mr. Thornton (Richard Armitage) – North & South: He’s described as tall, strong, w/ a “perfect set of teeth”; he’s a “master” and “magistrate” who’s close to his mother; unlike MANY literary men (of his time) he’s a self-made man wasn’t born rich and powerful.