Tuesday, May 24, 2011

MAKING HIJRAH 32 "Home Sweet Home"

Asalamu Alaykom,

This picture is going to look very ugly to you.

To me,  I saw beautiful progress when I looked at this cement wall. 

Before our marriage, this was bare brick and almost impossible to envision as a home.  Maybe it was the chickens running around.  Somehow, we needed to put our heads (as well as our hearts) together and make a comfortable (and affordable) place to live.

First, we cleared out the poultry.

Good call, right?

Then, my husband got out his little black book and started lining up workers.  It helped immensely that his married older brother had used contractors to fix up his flat.  All of these people were well known now to my husband.  

The funny thing is that my hub insisted on having the bachelor brother do all the hard-line negotiating with the workers.  My hub could be the good guy who brought them the tea and even the dinner (if they stayed late).  His bachelor brother could come up, inspect the work and demand they re-do this or that. 

Me?  I was out of the loop.  That was very hard for a control-freak  DIY afficianada.  I could not be talking to the workers.  They could not know that Ahmed's wife was American.  If they did, the price would go up.  I was kept out of their sight every day until they were done with their work.  Then, I would walk over for dinner (from our temporary home at the honeymoon cottage) and have a peek at how things were coming along.

I had to let my husband be the boss of this deal.  Okay, I didn't have to but if I wanted to have a smooth transition into married bliss, then it was a good idea.  One reason I married my husband was that our visions were oddly simmilar.  We both can agree on what is important or extraneous; beautiful or ugly; priced right or worth less.  He had my trust and I felt like now would be a good time to put that feeling into action.

As time went on, I started to see our dream life become a reality.  It was a wonderful experience.  All the engaged couples in Egypt do this building a home together.  I used to joke about it but now I could see how much it cements you together...like umm... cement.

               as if a trowel of love were spreading a cementing
               commitment over us making each layer joined
               together forever.  

Okay, smarmy sentiment aside, it was a positive in our lives that I'm glad I got to share with my husband.  It was truly affirming to see that basically a chicken coop could transform to be our palace of hudu  or calm.  Everything we picked out together had to help add to our formulation of  understated quality and simplicity. 

I didn't always understand why he was doing exactly what he was doing.  Our trip to the tile store section of town was one of those times.  Remember, the stores in Egypt are not scattered about.  Each specialty store is clustered with more of the same.  From store to store we went.  I found some gorgeous tile but it was not the brand he wanted.  Ahmed insisted on quality from a brand he trusted.  So back to the first store.

We had talked quite a bit initially in that first store.  We had talked a lot while looking at the other stores.  Now, we were narrowing things down.  Less talk.  More decisions. 

I wanted the tile with the butterflies for the bathroom.  He agreed until he saw the price.  He said no way.  I said I must have them regardless of price.  He bended so the two of us didn't break. 

I wanted the fruit border for the kitchen.  He didn't agree.  He had seen the price and said no way.  I knew that I couldn't be adamant about every choice.  I asked if he could help me find something cheaper that was as nice.  We looked through a large selection and found coffee cups which captured the warm, welcoming feel we wanted. 

I was surprised how long he sat with the manager of the store.  There was drinking tea together and chit-chat.  I was not really involved too much with this.  I wondered if my husband had lost his mind.  Weren't we here to buy tile?  Was he trying to make a new friend?  Turns out that this was typical Egyptian business.  In order to negotiate, the two men had to spend substantial time together.  When the dealing got going, I saw how my hub used his new-found knowledge of the manager to twist the prices our way.  It worked remarkably well.  We left in a pick-up truck with a pile of tile, a sink, a toilet and a bathtub.

We also had the floor tile I wanted.  I had wanted a lighter shade than he wanted.  When it came time to lie the tile, my husband used some of the remanent tile from his brother's apartment.  It was a little darker.  Ahmed designed a pattern using both shades for the salon.  I loved it!  And the amazing part, for me anyway, was that I wasn't consulted and I didn't care.  I knew that my husband cared and had taken both our feelings into account.

Little by little, we had walls, floors, and eventually ceilings (with lovely molding alhumdulillah), then windows and doors.  I took pictures every step of the way.  Ahmed had no idea why I would photograph something incomplete.  For me, really the process was lovely.  It was a dream coming into fruition.  It was a kind of miracle taking shape.

Somehow, I had come to Egypt with $2,000 and managed to find a job, a husband and now a home; not a rental property.  I was building something permanent with a person who wanted to share his blessings with me.  Alhumdulillah.


Umm Aaminah said...

Salaam sis. Alhamdulillah for your home! I can identify with enjoying the process; it's beautiful to build something from nothing. :-)

Hajar said...

Salam sis. Love the tiles. I hope you will have a superb time decorating!