Saturday, July 12, 2014

Difficult Fasting Days


Asalamu Alaykom,




                                                            Imagine a Photo



I'm writing to you on my Kindle as I continue my stay in America.  Alhumdullilah for both the ability to be here and for the chance to write to all of you.  How is your Ramadan going?

We tend to think of Ramadan as a lump-sum THING but really it's a series of events.  Some days of Ramadan are very easy (don't tell the Non-Muslims) while others are very difficult.  Recently, I had one of those difficult days and it made me reflect:  what have been my hardest days of fasting?


First day of Ramadan, 2001

The First Fast is the Deepest

Actually, one of my hardest days was one of my first.  I was a love sick single mom who missed her Muslim boyfriend (an oxymoron if there ever was one)
  to the point of distraction.  Although that man would be away from me, I decided that I could get clser to him if I fasted.  I reasoned that knowing more about his faith and performing a ritual meaningful to him would help me to understand him (and another one billion people).  I often had embraced cultural rituals and I had fasted before so I made that commitment within myself---the man I would later marry didn't know as we were incommunicado while he was back in Egypt.  I didn' tell anyone except for a Muslim co-orker.

When he corrected my misconception of the fast I was about to start, I was dumb-founded.  I had understood the no food part but...NO WATER?!  With more trepidation than ever, I began my fast for many wrong reasons and with many wrong actions but I attempted it.  Day One and Day Two went by easily as Ramadan was starting  in November and the days werew short.  I envisioned the whole month under my belt and me proudly welcoming home my honey with the news that I had fasted all of Ramadan.

Then that third day came.  I was at work, it was getting dark but I still had work to do.  I looked out the window and saw the new snow falling was starting to clog up rush hour.  I reasoned that I didn't want to get caught up in it so I stayed late.  Sure, I was hungry but I wanted to wait until I got home so I could cook that shrimp and pasta I'd been craving.  I remember walking to the vending machine at one point and dismissing every possibility as nauseatingly over-processed junk food.  If you've ever fasted then you know that your body and mind desire healthy food after a fast.

So I waited.  I waited until rush hour was done.  I drove home in the snow lstening to the radio play Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" I turned it up and began to sing along; then I began to bawl.  I was suffering from low blood sugar but didn't realize it.  I only knew that I was alone REALLY alone and nobody knew where I was and nobody cared.

Through the Grace of God, I made it home.  I began cooking dinner.  I started to not feel too well.  I could feel a headache start to creep over me.  I told myself that I would feel better once I ate.  Unfortunately, that wasn't the case and I couln't eat more than a few bites before the pounding migraine set in.

I crawled into bed.  I was scared at how badly I felt and stupid that I had done it to myself.  I hadn't realized the importance of breaking the fast on time.  I literally cried myself to sleep all the while vowing that I would not fast again until I knew what I was doing.

That was 13 Ramadans ago for me.  Needless to say, I stopped fasting to prove or improve my connection to a man.  I also learned to make the fast the most important part of my day in order to plan around it (not add it in as an after thought).  Now, I do respect that breaking of the fast on time and with a date first before eating anything else.  What's more, I've come to understand that I'm simply not strong enough to fast---without Allah.  Prayer during a fast gives so much strength.  Really?  Giving up food and water alone does not a Ramadan make.

On the plus side, I am proud of my innitiative to start the process.  It was flawed for sure but it was an attempt I made towards understanding.  I embrace that "me" who really strived alone in the Ramadan wilderness.

That glimpse into my  past took longer than expected!  The sun is already up.  I'll have to get some sleep.  I promise to come back and share more of those difficult fasting days.



First day of Ramadan, 2002

Being Alone Had Its Advantages

A day in November, 2004
      
Pregnant

A day in January, 2008

Making up Days

February 17, 2009

The Worst Day

Sixth day of Ramadan, 2009

First Day in Giza

First day of Ramadan, 2010

Family Fasting

A day in Ramadan, 2011

Shrimp Sauce

Several days in Ramadan, 2012

After the Miscarriage

A day in Ramadan, 2014

23 Hours










Thursday, June 26, 2014

More Special than Mr. Rogers



Asalamu Alaykom,


Imagine a Picture Here



Writing to you for the first time on an iPad.  I'm borrowing it.  El-Kid is definitely asleep or he'd be wrestling it away from me.  We're in Texas but tonight we'll be heading back up North.

It's been a good trip, alhumdullilah. I needed to see my father after seven years. The last time I was in the States, our scheduled visit was pulled out from under me like the proverbial rug.  That sense of sudden loss of possibilities shocked me as much as if I had learned of his death.  I wondered if I would ever have the chance to see him again.

Subhanallah, I have had the chance. I have shared three days with the man I missed so much.  I never once asked him,with his advanced Alzheimer's, if he knew who I was.  I didn't care.  I knew who he was and he is still my dad.

He's still got so much of his personality.  Although he's less likely to inniate a conversation, he
responds well; his brilliant mind might not remember where we're going, but he knows where he's been.  It's funny to me how he forgets I was with him for some of those times.  I was worried that I might tear up or break down but I've only stayed positive ---which has got to be through the grace of God.

There was a moment in the museum when I was so busy talking to my son about the exhibit on Kennedy's assassination that I didn't realize my father was there too.  I looked over and saw him fighting tears.  He was so touched by that moment and I saw him in this new light. He has always cared deeply and has always loved others.  Maybe he fought back those feelings in his life because...we all have to in order to keep going.  I comforted him and his tears never left him.

Soon, we'll be leaving him and I really couldn't tell you if I see him ever again.  It's OK.  God knows.




Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Near Miss Never Was



Asalamu Alaykom,



Getting ready to fly across three continents has had me worried but I should have been more concerned about crossing the street.  This morning we three experienced a near miss with a bus.  When I write "near" I mean the closest I've ever come to being struck by a vehicle.

Our street has been getting paved with tar.  That has left us a bit bewildered.  What's that sticky pile of goo?  What's with all the ship-ship soles in the street?  Ahhhh, there were stuck in the goo.  Why are the cars swerving?  You get the picture.  It's been a strange street.

So, when we walked across the street with no traffic early this morning, it was just another moment of weird.  We made it across to the boulevard's meridian.  My husband looked at the traffic coming on the other side and then told us to get going.  We stepped off the curb and

SIDE OF THE BUS!

That's what zoomed up in front of my eyes.  It had been going THE WRONG WAY about 40 mph.  We hadn't seen it coming.  It came this way to avoid the other side's new tar.  It had to suddenly veer to avoid hitting and killing all three of us.  I screamed one of those blood-curdling screams.

Alhumdulillah we were not hit.  Alhumdulillah I always take El-Kid's hand.  Alhumdulillah I always put him away from traffic---because "yes" I do think of getting hit by a car on the street.  I know how dangerous it is to cross streets here.

The bus driver yelled something out at my husband who was ready to choke the hell out of him.  I know that's not nice.  I'm not saying it is--and I don't mind that he's not nice at times like that.  He's not totally civilized to the point of discussing calmly the intricacies of road rules when his wife and child are in danger.

Because he's well known, neighborhood men came to his aid and tried their best to calm him down.  They held him back from killing the man.  I'm OK with a husband who has the capability of killing.  I've been married to a wimp and this guy isn't it.

Traffic was now stopped in both directions.  Morning rush hour was at a standstill with his bus in the middle of the street, my husband being held back and a crowd gathering.  The driver took the chance to leave.

When the driver crawled back in his bus, I told him through the passenger window that he needed to say he was sorry.  He scoffed at me.  He couldn't believe I asked this.  The lady on the bench told me the hated "malish" which means "no problem" like I should shut up and take whatever has happened.

"Astragferallh!  Astragferallah!  Astragferallah!"  I yelled out.

No, I told him.  He really needed to say he was sorry because Ramadan is coming and he needs to fear God.  Those were the last words I spoke to him.  While I am grateful that he swerved, he had done the wrong thing in the beginning by going the wrong way and the wrong thing at the end by not apologizing.

I was really shaken up.  I didn't cry until I was listening to Quran on our school bus.  Something about Zulzil (The Earthquake) made me feel the enormity of the moment.

My mind started playing tricks on me.  I ALMOST DIED!  MY SON ALMOST DIED!  The Quran was still playing through the headphones for our morning recitation and it helped me to find calm.  No, I didn't almost die.  That was an illusion.  We were never supposed to die this morning.  If God had wanted us to die, then it would have happened.  Since it didn't happen, it was never meant to be.  I was as safe on that street as if I were still in bed with the covers up over my head.

Yet another trick:  how can I travel around the world if I can't even cross the street safely?  Then, I had to breathe through some upset and clear my head.  I did make it across the street.  I did.  Through the Grace of God, we are fine.  God protected us through this time and has protected us through so much.  My safety isn't about where I am, or who I'm with; my safety lies with My Protector.  My faith means that I do my best and leave the rest---to Allah.

I had been feeling unsafe to travel to the States without my husband.  Today, in a way, I feel how my safety is not dependent on him.  Sure, after the fact, he cold beat the daylights out of the guy but in that perilous moment he was as helpless as I was.  He can't keep me safe if Allah has another naseeb for me.  Qadr Allah is a beautifully freeing thing.

Too many women stay home, or stay in the protection of their husbands hoping to keep safe.  It isn't about that.  You can't hide yourself away from destiny.  I was as likely to get run over by a bus today as ever AND I didn't.  Alhumdulillah.

My husband woke up a bit today.  He had been feeling down about us leaving.  This scary situation shook him and made him want to do more to help us be fine.  Alhumdulillah.

As for you, the next time you think, "I almost..."

tell yourself, "No, I didn't!"


Friday, June 13, 2014

Leaving Egypt



Asalamu Alaykom,





One of the problems of not writing very often is that, when you do want to write, you're out of practice.  Today, although I wanted to post, I wasn't sure how I was going to start.  Before I knew it, my time at the computer had totaled an hour without me beginning a thing ---I did, however, watch a compilation of the best viral videos ever.

When the loudspeakers began broadcasting Quran, I knew I had to wake my husband up.  He had gotten up with me and prayed fajr.  We had spent the morning together.  We had eaten feteera and romy cheese with El-Kid.  We watched The Middle and Face-Off.  It definitely was the kind of Friday I had needed.

Then, reminiscent of my Sundays getting ready for church with my mom, it was a rush to get out the door.  My husband was all set but El-Kid was still brushing his teeth.  I had a feeling that my husband would leave without him if that swish and spit didn't happen soon enough.

"You can't go without him!  You can go the next six weeks without him.  Just wait a minute, please!"

I got El-Kid out of the bathroom and away from his bedroom mirror, to the door and down the stairs.  I threw on a hijab and stuck my head out of the window.  I saw my husband below on the street in his galabiya walking hurriedly and then I turned my head to search for my boy.  There he was!  Alhumdulillah.  The boy caught up to the man and they walked together.  By the time they were passing the snack stand, they were hand-in-hand.



I watched them walk down our street and wanted them to turn back to wave at me.  They didn't.  They didn't have time.  Far from me now, I could see a stout, older man stop and greet them.  After that, they turned the corner and were out of my view.

That's when I choked up.  That image of Egypt will have to stay with me for many weeks while I am away.  I write "I" but of course I really mean "we".  If you've read the blog for any amount of time, then you know that my little dude is always with me.  My son and I are leaving Egypt to spend the summer in the States.  I will have to leave my husband here since naseeb worked out that way.  Alhumdulillah.



In many ways, I don't want to go.  I feel compelled as it's been three years.  The last time I went was after two years.  Last year, I really couldn't go as we I'd been out of work for two months and didn't have enough money.

Over these last three years, so much has happened back home.  My big son went away to college.  My girl went on to high school.  My mother sold her house and moved (only to have a fire at her new apartment).  She's survived a minor operation and the death of her best friend.  Her memory is slipping a little.  My father's memory, due to Alzheimer's, is gone.  I need to see all of them.


One of the hallmarks of American society, is that my mother lives in the North and my father lives in the South.  He isn't Southern.  He is a man of the North Woods so I really don't want to think of him surrounded by oil fields and rednecks; now, I'll have to see him (and his lady friend) there.  I'll also have to pay exorbitant amounts of money to visit both parents.

Making this trip hurts me financially.  I have basically worked for months to save up enough money to afford the airfare alone.  Anything we hoped to do for ourselves in Egypt (for our home or our future) has to be put on hold while I make this trip.

Just as importantly, this trip is potentially dangerous to my iman.  I didn't want to be in America during Ramadan AGAIN.  I didn't want to be living with my Non-Muslim mother while I was fasting and she was not understanding my needs.  The fasting will be long and hot and depleting of my strength.  So many co-workers said they absolutely could not travel back to the States and fast throughout July.  I know.  I know!



I have lost connections with my Muslim friends in the States.  I will not have the sisterhood I had on my last trip.  The one Muslim who I have the closest connection to is....El-Kid's dad, X2.

His wife and children will be spending their summer in the States too.  It was much nicer when she and I were changing countries at the same time.  2014 will be different.  I'm not sure if I'm ready for all the manipulative games that Egyptian wives play.  I have the funny feeling that, on the contrary, she is very ready!

I've been getting a taste of the battles being readied for me from several emails sent by X1.  Everything between my teen girlie and I had been going fine.  She said that she was worried how we would reconnect so we talked it over.  We were doing well until I emailed her father with details of the trip.  He let me know that he would support her if she decided not to see me at all during the summer.



Next, it was my teen's turn to send me a missive.  She changed her ways from loving and understanding to spiteful victim wanting revenge.  Her words really were from his head.  Astragferallah.  In his attempts to damage me, I know he hurts her more.  The thing that helps me is knowing how teens change attitudes as much as they change hairstyles.

In the end, I'm at peace with the possibility of not seeing her.  I have to be shut off from this because my life, in the end, is not totally up to me.  Craziness is from thinking you can control what you can't.  I do find solace in Prophet Noah/Nuh (AS) who had to leave those he loved.  Actually, I think all prophets (peace be upon them all) had a time of leaving the people in order to find their place.

My place has become Egypt.



This week, I signed another contract to teach another year.  It's a commitment.  Sometimes, it's hard to commit to a place that changes leaders in such strange ways and leaves me wondering who is really running the show.  It's hard to be in a place with such poor decisions on all levels.  It's been REALLY hard living in my family home with my two pregnant sisters-in-law.  Yet, I'm here.




Hey, if IKEA can make it in Egypt, so can I!




I do have a friend here now.  She's Australian.  She wears a floppy hat for sun protection and worries about her kids.  She lives on the upper echelon of income levels but sees me as an equal.  She is not Muslim but she is not knocking it either.  Our sons are good friends.  Alhumdulillah.

Both our sons were awarded on Wednesday for being on the Honor Roll this year.  It's been a good year for Boo El-Kid.  He's really grown.  He's had moments of wisdom and naughtiness, of independence and neediness.  He's gone through third grade ---or almost has (as soon as he finishes exams this week).  He's someone I am proud of.

As we sat on the bus that Wednesday, with him in his shiny medal around his neck, we were quiet and smiling; our head so close to each other that we shared the same aura.  His beautiful mashahallah face shone WALLAHI IT SHONE as he said to me in a voice so full of sweet hope, "It's good we stayed in Egypt."

He said that and I laughed and then agreed.  We hugged each other.  I can't ever tell you how much I love that guy.  I can't ever have you understand how much of my life's energy has been used to ensure his survival.  Subhanallah, that we have made it this far.  Subhanallah, we are sharing this life.



Ah, the guys just got home.  They brought ice cream cones, as they often do. It's time for me to enjoy more of this day inshahallah.

Please keep us in your du'as as we travel this week.  Not every trip is for pleasure.  This one is out of obligation.  Having said that, I hope that we will make out of it the most that we can.

I'm looking forward to rootbeer, raspberries and cheddar cheese.  I've ordered used DVDs from Amazon to arrive at my mom's place:  All Creatures Great and Small (Season 2); Little House on the Prairie (Season 1), Square Pegs (Complete Show); Wizard of Oz; and Sound of Music.  El-Kid will have clean streets and playgrounds.  I will have a chance to shop Indian stores again.  Neither of us will miss the loud neighborhood children up until 2 am.  It will be a break.

This August, inshahallah, we will return to our home in Egypt.  It will mark five years since we first came in 2009 (with $2,000 and four suitcases).  We have so much more now---and maybe we need a break from this time and place to understand just what it is that we have.

May Allah be with of all us this Ramadan, accept our prayers and fasting and forgive us when we repent.


  

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bassem Sabry



Asalamu Alaykom,














From God we come and to God we return.


Yes, it's another person dying.  People never actually stop dying.  They are ALWAYS dying; we just don't know all their different names.  I know the name of Bassem Sabry and I want you to know him too.

You can read his blog, "An Arab Citizen."

You can read his tweets here.

I knew him from Twitter.  We had a friendly on-line communication from the very first week I joined.  He was welcoming from the start.  We tended to find the same things funny or meaningful.

He would take these breaks from Twitter.  I missed him.  I missed him because I don't really have friends here.  If he was gone too long, I'd check on him.  I would always welcome him back.  He became a kind of a friend.  He called us, "post-modern friends."  I was OK with that.

It wasn't that we were in constant communication; it was that I knew he would be there.  It's been hard to live in Egypt and not to have a network of people I can connect with on any meaningful level.  Bassem Sabry helped me to feel not so alone in an increasingly strange place.

I think I helped him too.



Louisa Loveluck@leloveluck
Interested to know which blogs people visit most for #Egyptcoverage. Thoughts appreciated. - 25 Oct
More Tweets
Yosra@AfterHardship
@leloveluck Twitter is for daily jolts of news. Blogs are for synthesizing WTH is going on. I read @Sarahcarr @Zeinobia@Bassem_Sabry - 25 Oct
Bassem Sabry باسم@Bassem_Sabry
@AfterHardship thanks Yosra :) means the world to me
12:46 PM - 25 Oct 13

When I read that I wondered if he was pulling my leg.  Was he being sincere?  I wrote an email.

Fri, Oct 25, 2013 at 3:47 PM

Asalamu Alaykom,

That was an honest "meant the world" comment?  I'm not good at reading snide so I'm taking it at face value.

If so, then that's cool.

I'm being honest.  I know that Sand Monkey gets a lot of readership but he's too slanted in his views.  I like that you are still searching for answers.  I am too.  I'm not exactly sure what's going on in Egypt.  I think that the people who say they do know are either lying (at least to themselves) or are delusional.  

Keep believing that your voice matters.  It does.  

Sometimes I worry that this country's events take too much of a toll on you.  Don't let them do that.  

My Best,

Yosra 


He wrote back.

Sat, Oct 26, 2013 at 6:23 AM

I'm fully honest with this. It did mean the world. Can't stress that enough ya Yosra.

I am honestly searching for answers. But I'm also searching for questions. When learning about writing years ago, I learned about Socrates who believed that a well asked question is a sublime art form and alone represents most of the path towards an answer. And the fact is: Egypt is confusing as hell, both morally and intellectually.

Other than that: Mahmoud provides an interesting angle much of the time for sure.

Definitely this all takes a toll. For two and a half years one - as are others - has been at the heart of all of this life and death, ups and downs, democracy and autocracy, success and failure, humans soaring and others sinking. It does break our souls eventually. But sometimes all such a soul needs is the honest gentle worried inquiry by a good person like yourself, and I'm grateful for that.

Thanks for letting me know I still matter :) I needed that push in the midst of this madness. Stay strong, sane, humane, and wonderful.

B.


Yes, B., you still matter.  Even after your sad death, you matter.  Didn't you know that?

I'm not the only one who cares.

Time Magazine cares.

Al-Jazeera cares.

Mashable cares.

Huffington Post cares.

Dear Readers, I want you to care.  I want you to take a moment in prayer to ask for God to forgive Bassem Sabry his faults, to reward him for his good works and to grant him Paradise.



I hesitated to write this next part; in fact, I waited a couple of days.  Why?  It sounds a little too contrived.  If I were to write a story and think up some symbolism to add, I would probably add this.  The funny thing is, that I didn't.  I didn't have to make it up because it happened.

When I turned on Twitter this Wednesday and saw Betsy Heil's announcement about Bassem, I went into a kind of shock.  For some reason, I thought that maybe I didn't really know his name.  Maybe I needed to double-check my emails from him to know for sure that, "Sabry," was his last name.  It was a ridiculous thing to do but it was my last effort at keeping the truth at bay.

Upon seeing his name and confirming without a doubt that he had passed, I realized that the only thing I needed was prayer.  In a bit of a muddle, I got up from my desk and that's when my husband walked in the door.  He asked me what was wrong and I stammered that a man I knew on Twitter had died.

I made wudu and got myself into the darkness of the bedroom with our prayer rug in front of me.  I needed to focus on feeling connected to Allah; to accept the will of Allah.  With each movement, I did my best to submit to what had happened but the tears came.  It was when I was in sujud that I heard the crash.

Something had fallen and shattered.  My husband was in the kitchen and he had broken a glass.  I knew there was only one thing it could possibly be but I pushed it from my mind so I could re-focus.  I needed to pray.  

My mother says that there is a very real psychological shift when glass breaks.  It has happened to me before.  I have felt that moment before when the crash of glass has snapped me into a new mindset.  I felt that in my prayer.  I felt that I must be very careful with my thoughts and not let them run away from me.

I also felt how symbolic the moment had been.  For three years, my husband had used only one glass mug for his tea and he's been unerringly careful with it.  Emblazoned on the mug were the Egyptian flag and January 25, 2011.  Originally, it meant a lot to him.  Later, it made him feel let down.  Either way, both the mug and the Revolution were his.  

Bassem Sabry had done so much to push Egypt forward beyond January 25.  Many of his tributes called him, "optimistic," but I think of him as more of a realist.  Things simply had to get better... but then they didn't.

At the exact moment I was praying for the soul of one of Egypt's most devoted sons, who fell to his death, our home's only symbol of the Revolution fell and broke.  It didn't fall onto the ground, oddly enough.  My husband told me later that it fell into the garbage.  More symbolism?

It is so fitting that it happened.  Subhanallah.  Allah is the best of planners and gives signs all the time to those who believe.  Alhumdulillah for everything.  Alhumdulillah.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

You Could Be Egyptian



Asalamu Alaykom,




Take this simple test to determine if you actually are Egyptian and just didn't know it.


1.  You are a man in the middle of the street in Cairo.  What are
     you doing?

   a.  Crossing the street
   b.  Talking to your friends
   c.  Smoking a cigarette
   d.  Texting
   e.  b, c, and d

The correct answer is:  e.  b, c, and d

You are in the middle of the street talking, smoking a cigarette and texting.

However, if you are a woman in Cairo, it is entirely possible the answer is a. Crossing the street




...while balancing a package on your head.


2.  You are a woman in Egypt and your toddler falls down the marble steps.  What do you do?

   a.  Loudly blame the preschooler playing with him
   b.  Tell the child, "Malish" it's no problem
   c.  Hold the child in your arms and rub the bump
  d.  Put ice on the bump
  e.  All of the above


The correct answer is:  e.  All of the above

After your toddler falls down the marble steps, you loudly blame the preschooler playing with him, then tell the injured child, "Malish," while holding the child in your arms and rubbing the bump, and afterwards put ice on the bump.  To be thoroughly Egyptian, try doing all four within the first minute and then repeat as if on loop.


3.  The lights go out in Egypt.  What do you do?

   a.  Sit where you are motionless.
   b.  Make tea on the gas canister by the light of your mobile phone.
   c.  Use a battery-powered flashlight or lamp
   d.  Blame the former government
   e.  b and d

  The correct answer is e.  b and d

When the lights go out in Egypt, you make tea by the light of your mobile and blame the former government.


4.  You are a woman in Egypt.  Both you and your friend are going to have upcoming weddings.  How do you plan accordingly?

   a.  Discuss calendar dates together.
   b.  Let the fiances discuss calendar dates together.
   c.  Pull calendar dates out of a hat.
   d.  Let the other woman choose.
   e.  Have the wedding together and choreograph a dance routine for the guests.

  The correct answer is e.  Have the wedding together and choreograph a dance routine for the guests.



Do not attempt this in America.  While the dance moves are not difficult, the mere act of putting together two brides at the same celebration has been known to be deadly.


5.  You are a woman giving an interview on the street about Egypt's current state of affairs.  Whom do you blame? 

   a.  Nasser
   b.  Mubarak
   c.  Morsi
   d.  Sisi
   e.  Obama's mouse

The answer is  e.  Obama's mouse.




6.  You are giving a man giving an interview on the street.  How do you end 
your camera time?

   a.  Ask for donations to your favorite charity.
   b. Give a shout out to your family and friends.
   c.  Smile and wave.
   d.  Spit.
   e.  Jump on a bus.

Watch for the correct answer.



Yes, the answer was e.  To end your interview time, you jump on a bus.

This quiz has now ended.  How many letter e.  did you answer?  The more you answered with e. the more chance you have of actually being Egyptian---and just not knowing it.

Let me know if you have other question ideas.  I'm sure there are a few!


Friday, March 21, 2014

Egyptian Rug Shop



Asalamu Alaykom and Jummah Mabrook,




Come with me to the rug shop up the street.

I know that our street in the picture looks more like a beach than a section of asphalt.  It's yet another one of those "malish" moments.  "Malish" means "no problem".  Actually, if you look at the sandy street in positive light it's kind of cool to see all those tire tracks, footprints and pawprints.

This dog is mine.  His name is George.  I named him George because he looks like children's literature's Martha the Dog.  Get it?  George and Martha Washington?  Ya, well, when I am waiting for the schoolbus for 20 minutes it's a way to pass the time.

Sure, George is still a wild dog.  I don't bring him in off the streets; the streets are his home.  When I go out, I keep my eyes open for his return.  He has a slight limp, some sores show through his coat, yet he seems so happy.  Can animals really be happy living on the streets?  I think they can.

Let's keep going.



Jump in the microbus.  If you don't have the half pound, I'll pay for you.




This is one of those times I love Egypt.  No, the bus isn't loaded with a radio BUT it does have a duck puppet!



Here we are!  This is the rug shop.  The long building used to be all rugs but, since there are no tourists, a third of it is now devoted to tires.



The shop used to sell the kind of touristy rugs foreigners buy and bring home.  Now?  It mostly sells rugs that locals need to warm up their cold tile floors.

Look!  It just got a new shipment from the weavers.  The rug weavers are located in the countryside near Fayoum.  They work out there and then pile up a truck and head for the city.  There are still industrious people in Egypt and those willing to do business with them.  Those hard workers didn't give up; they just changed their strategy.

It's smart how they've added floor pillows to their stock.



I grew up walking on rag rugs.  There is something so homespun and beautiful about each line of color.



See what I mean?  Someone crafted that rug.  It is unique.  No where in the world is there another rug exactly like that and it's beautiful.

It would be nice if I were able to buy a rug like that at Target, but since we don't have Targets here, I'll buy from this shop.  Even if we did have one of the big chain stores, I'd rather buy from this shop.   The thing that charms me about a rugs here is that is a real person who lives an hour up the road from me made it and purchasing it very directly helps two families stay afloat financially.



There are other styles and colors.

I love this wall of fringe.




I want it but I worry how much of a dust collector it is.  Dust is a constant enemy in Egypt.  Ahhh...Look at those colors!  Gorgeous!

There are still some tourist rugs hoping to be bought.




I rather like that one.  Would I hang it in my home?  I don't know.




If you saw that rug in an art museum, would you believe it was valuable?  I bet you would.  Well, it hangs on a wall in a little shop in Giza without anyone to admire it.




Okay, this rug is a total tourist scene yet there's still artistry in it.



Just in case you weren't sure where you bought the rug, it's been spelled out for you.

"Did I buy that rug in Amsterdam? Hmmmmm....noooo."

"Milan?  I don't think it was Milan...."

"Wait!  Let me look at the rug!  It says EGYPT.  I must have bought it in Egypt!"




My mom would appreciate the simplicity of beige and cream lines.




For me, I love this patterned arrangement of colors.




I even love the blemishes.  I am soooo blemished and when I see it in life I feel like I've found a kindred spirit.




I really want this row of three hanging compartments.  If only I could figure of what to use it for....and then, of course, there's the dust issue again.  It's beautiful, though, isn't it?




There really is so much beauty in the world.  Going out in search of it means that you still have hope.  You still believe in a good world.  When you find it carefully crafted or artistically arranged, you are connected to someone else who cared and believed.

Let's keep on believing.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Someone like You



Asalamu Alaykom,




I bet that a few of you women can relate to this thought I had about X2.

As I was doing dishes, I wondered if I would ever take my ex back.

...if years from now, I was somehow single and he was somehow single...

No, I wasn't feeling like I could even then.

I squeezed out some more soap onto the sponge and decided to increase the stakes.

What if he was the last man on Earth?  Could I take him back if he was the last man on Earth?

I turned on the water and tried to envision that moment where it's just him and me on an unpopulated plain.

That Garden of Eden vibe only lasted a split second because I had a sudden realization.

Sure enough, I laughed to myself, if I was the last woman on Earth, he would still leave me for an alien!

Time to put the last clean plate on the drying rack.

No, I would never take him back.

Even in the warped recesses of my mind, there's no place for a man like him.

I'm not sure why Adele wants to sing of "Someone like you" because honestly if a man becomes your ex you need to find someone new.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Yousra's Other Brother


Asalamu Alaykom,




Since last September, I've been connected to an Egyptian family.  We've never met.  I simply connected to them through the internet.  I wrote about the family's martyred son Khaled Ben El-Walied.  Later, I interviewed his sister Yousra.

What you maybe don't understand is that the interviews I make are done over emails.  There are many emails going back and forth over time and often over many miles.  My wish, with whomever I interview, is to create an understanding.  In the end, if we understand each other, we forge the foundation of peace.  You simply can't have peace without understanding.

I have understood the family's plight.  They wanted to have a normal life in Egypt but the events of this past summer changed everything.  The family's young men, Khaled and his brother Ahmed, protested against what they saw as injustice in Egypt.  They were camped out at Rabaa with other anti-coup and pro-Morsi protestors.  It was during clashes that Khaled died.  

It was through Ahmed, who actually is Dr. Ahmed, that I learned about his brother's death.  I was on Twitter and saw these sad tweets from Dr. Ahmed asking now famous photographer Mosab ElShamy  for just one more picture of his brother.  Did he have just one more?  No, he did not.

That moment was gripping for me because I really felt Ahmed's hope for one more split second of his Khaled while he was alive.  I then went to Facebook and saw how alive Khaled had been.  I saw the love others had for him.  In a way, I felt love for people I didn't know and had never met.  

I do call Yousra "sister".  I do feel that she is one strong sister in Islam.  I admire her great faith, mashahallah.

What do I do with the new knowledge that Dr. Ahmed has been arrested?  I learned of this yesterday.  It hurt my heart.  It did.  It hurts to learn of new suffering for a family that has already suffered so much.




The video shows him confessing to crimes with a table of weapons in front of him.  His family says he has been tortured into confessing.  I don't know.  I wasn't there when the crime was committed.  I wasn't there when he was arrested or jailed.  

God knows all.  I put my trust in Allah.  Whether or not Dr. Ahmed has committed any crime in Egypt, I pray for him and for his family.  I feel very sad that the surviving brother has been taken from them.  No sister should have to go through this ...and no mother either.  


I realize that by continuing to support the family, I run some risk.  I'm not sure if the risk is big or small.  What I do know is that I have a connection to a family in pain and I feel for them.  I can't abandon them as if they were a casual hobby.  Once I love people, I care about them for my entire life.

Should you care?  Of course you should.  You should care that Egypt has jailed so many in such a short amount of time.  Are they all guilty?  Only Allah knows.  Allah knows who is the terrorist.

Please, on Fridays, remember Egypt and those other countries struggling through change.  Pray for positive change using peaceful means.

I want to leave you with one of the greatest forces of goodness who has shared this earth with me.  Listen to him be such a GOOD person.




There's so much bad.  We have a choice to choose the good.  We do!  I haven't been as good as I can be and neither have you (sorry, but you haven't).  So, let's re-commit ourselves to staying good, pure and true.  

Let's acknowledge that this world often has hardships.  If you are in a hardship, thank God and know that staying straight on the Path of Righteousness is the only way out of that problem.  If you are not in a hardship, thank God and know that you can help others who are.

Ya Rab!  Ya Rab.  Ya Rabee.


Friday, March 7, 2014

The Gay Word



Asalamu Alaykom,




It has been a long week of correcting Term 2 final essays.  I'm spending many hours pouring over words and deciphering what was meant and what was actually said.  Words are my life.

At the end of my day, I sat next to my third-grader son on the school bus.  I tend to be a little quiet at 3:30.  The rest of the bus, as you can imagine, is not.  There are the kids, the bus matron, and the radio all competing for the highest decibels.

"Mom," said the little voice next to me.  "What's 'gay'?"

My eight-year-old son wants to know what 'gay' is.

Sure.

That's not something I saw coming.  It's been a long day and he's a little young and---

yet, I can't mess it up because it means the difference between clarity and confusion.

I'm honest with my kids and always have been.  I learned this from my biologist father who always told scientific facts as they were.

"Where did you hear that word?"

"I just did.  I don't know where."

Deep breath as the bus starts up and I begin.  "Gay is when a woman doesn't want to be together with a man as a partner; she wants to be together with another woman.  That's not me.  I wanted to be with a man for my partner so I chose Baba.  Baba chose to be with a woman for his partner (me) and not another man.  Neither one of us is gay.

That doesn't mean that someone who is gay is bad.  Sometimes people use the word, 'gay' like it means, 'stupid.'  I don't want to think like that.  Just because someone is different from me doesn't mean I have to call them names."

My phone was in my hand, and I realized that I had a photo on it that I had loaded, in order to show it to my eighth graders.  It was a picture of my best friend in the Virgin Islands.  I had used her photo in talking about memoirs but also as a segue to our current book about the Civil War (and issues of racism).  Now, I would use it once again.

"Did you ever see this picture?  This is my friend from the islands.  She decided that she didn't want a man.  She is gay.  She was really nice to me that year so I can't be mad at her for being gay.  That would be dumb of me.  She is who she is.

I have another friend, Ben, and he's gay too.  He has been very nice to me for so many years.  Should I hate him because he's gay?  I really can't."

El-Kid has been taking it in and then says, "I don't want to get married.  It's too much work."

I laugh, "Yes, it is a lot of work but it's nice too.  Baba and I are so different.  We're like salt and pepper.  I know it would be easier if we were the same but I like how he's got things that I don't have and I have things that he doesn't have.  It's kind of like having a right arm and a left arm; we work well together.  Wouldn't it be hard to have two right arms?  You'd look weird!"

El-Kid laughs.

"Allah made men and women perfectly for getting along together.  Allah made us differently so we can marry and have families."

"I don't want to marry a woman or a man.  I want to marry the TV."

Ya, he loves the TV.

"They don't have a word for that.  Besides, you're only eight.  It's not like I'm going to marry you off at 10 or something.  You've got time."

Yes, he has time but I didn't.  I was really on the spot today about a tough subject for grown-ups, let alone for kids.  I hope to God that it was what needed to be said.

May God bless all of those struggling as Muslims parents.

May God also bless all those gays and lesbians who have shown kindness to me over the years.

Lastly, may the two groups not see each other as enemies.