Friday, January 7, 2011

MAKING HIJRAH 19 "My First Eid"

Asalamu Alaykom,

Fasting and working (even if they were short work days) was tiring. 

It was even more tiring because I was going out at night after magrib as well.

While I was so happy to be experiencing my first Ramadan in Egypt, I was ready for it to be over.  I had not really gotten to live in Egypt as a normal person. I had been in a constantly weakened state.

The Khalo continued to eat sumptuous meals with his family, while my boy and I either ate alone or with the driver's family.  It felt strange now to eat with another family---almost like I was cheating.  Eating at home alone now felt sad. 

Every woman in Egypt had been busy baking the Eid cookies--- I mean, not me, of course.  I had gotten brave enough to cook on the stove but not brave enough for the oven.  Instead, I was given a plate of cookies from the landlady, from the driver's mom, and an entire heavy boxy of cookies from the Khalo's mom.  Oh, she didn't know I had that box; it was secretely redistributed our way.

I had been busy getting our apartment ready and my classroom ready.  I was very drained of creative juices.  I needed some fun to counteract that draining.  I accepted another night out.

The night in which Ramadan was declared to be OVER AND DONE was worthy of celebration.  We went out for juice.  It's funny how alcohol plays no part in daily life in Egypt.  There simply isn't any misunderstanding when someone invites you out for a drink.  You don't have to explain that you don't drink "hamara"  because nobody drinks.

We stayed out so late.  Mr. Boo had fallen asleep on the bench next to us. Everyone was out and the time flew by.  We started walking home when I asked if I could look in a shop for a new dress.  Buying new clothes for Eid is a very Egyptian custom.  All the stores were open, though it was past midnight.  We tried the shop right in front of us but it didn't have a thing I wanted. 

What I really wanted was in a local shop.  Could we go there instead?  I wondered if people would talk if we showed up together in our neighborhood.  Regardless, we went.

I had to convince the shopkeeper that NO I didn't need an XX Large.  For some reason, every single Egyptian shopkeeper guessed me to be this huge mama.  I'm not! 

I'll never forget how one shopkeeper told me, in her broken English, that she had my size, "extra fat". 

I had burst out laughing and told her that she might want to say, "extra large" instead. 

The night before Eid, I requested galabiyas in "large" and went to try them on.  In the dressing room, I thought about walking out to show my boy AND my man how I looked.  All of a sudden I grew self conscious.  Did I look good enough?

In the mirror, I looked at the 41-year-old woman who had allowed herself to get out of shape.  Who was she kidding?  Maybe I could throw on clothes and look presentable, but I had to think seriously about my looks.  Were my looks good enough to hold the interest of a man---especially a younger man?

I walked out of the dressing room (since there wasn't enough space for me, the galabiyas and all my doubts).  Mr. Boo had woken up and gave his honest appraisal of every galabiya.  I was trying on so many pretty things.  My man...Khalo...ok, my man gave some smiles for the better dresses.  It was getting late and we all agreed that the best one was muted green with red and gold flowers. 

I was ready to pay a lot and Khalo was ready to bargain.  I was too tired to jump into the conversation.  In the end, I paid 40 pounds ($8 USD) for something I would have gladly paid double.  I was grateful again for someone looking out for me.

We left, said goodbye, and I called him once I was safely inside.  This had become our routine.  We now had rituals, routines and inside jokes.  I knew that I was getting in deep with him.  I wasn't in love with him because I didn't want to be.  However, I was in serious "like".  How can any woman not like a man who agrees to help her shop for a dress at one o'clock in the morning?!

The next day was Eid.  I completely overslept through the prayer.  I thought it would be later but it was amazingly early.  I felt dissapointed in myself.  I let shopping for a new dress trump the Eid prayer. 

Mr. Boo put on the new T-shirt from Khalo.  I put on the new dress and headed over to the family's shop.  There was Khalo.  I had him take a picture of me.  I still have that picture and I look lovely in it.  I was happy.

Mr. Boo played with all the kids on the street.  He rode a horse and a donkey that day.  He ate a ton of candy and got toys and balloons.  He was living the Eid I had always wanted for him.

The neighbors next to the shop invited me to their roof so I could see their view of the pyramids.  I took one of the best pyramid shots I have yet to capture.  The nearby church dome and cross majestically rise up in front of the most ancient of monuments. 

What a feeling to take such a great picture!  Unfortunately, in this day and age, everyone back in the States thought it was photoshopped.  Oh, well! 

I returned to the little store and sat with Khalo. 

Was I thinking clearly? Feeling good next to a man I barely new wasn't really a solid endorsement for lifetime commitment. I had to be smart...or smarter. I had to get perspective and none of us women can get perspective next to a man. We had to take a break.

So, later that weekend, I told the Khalo that I needed a "higazah" or vacation from him.  One of the problems we faced, of course, was this horrible language barrier.  I couldn't explain myself nicely.  Instead, I had to pull words together which only half explained my real intentions.

My  request for time apart met with some anger. Despite his upset, I stayed firm. I would go to work, do a good job, come home and take care of my kid. I would focus on building our life and not starting a relationship.

That was my plan.

God's plan was different.

The very next day would be one of the worst in my life. I ended up needing help from anyone and everyone.

Chapter 20

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