Thursday, June 30, 2011

MAKING HIJRAH 35 "Banging Your Head"

Asalamu Alaykom,

We got into routines.

One of the funnier moments is how we learned to establish a routine when we left the house.  Ahmed almost figured out how to organize an exit when he shut the door and then asked, "Andek moftah?" 

Do you have the key?, I didn't.

Did he? didn't either.

We just locked ourselves out.

There was a brief yelling and blaming session.  Then, we realized that our small boy could fit through the small window.  We pushed the screen out and pushed him in.  All he had to do was unlock the door.

After about 10 minutes of instructions, sigh....yes, 10 minutes of trying to talk very nicely to a little boy who can't seem to just turn the handle...the door opened.  We were laughing by then. 

From that point on, Ahmed remembered to ask about the keys BEFORE he locked up.

We would go over to the  family house to eat dinner.  There are actually very few dinners I've eaten alone with my husband.  I might eat alone or with just me and Mr. Boo.  A romantic tete-a-tete has not really been something we have enjoyed.  Funny the things which used to be so important and then suddenly aren't.

On one of my many Saturdays at the family house, I was typing away to get my lesson plans done on time.  Mr. Boo was playing with his older cousin.   They were rough-housing the way boys do here.  I was glad that he was occupied.  Then---

someone got hurt.

Astragerallah, but when you're the mom you hope it's the other child. 

It wasn't.

It was my guy.

He was in the bathroom covered in blood and his auntie was trying to wash him off.  It was insane.  You don't wash a gushing head wound!  What if I hadn't been there...

but I was there.  I jumped into action. I hate the sight of blood, however I take charge with a kind of superhero intensity during any gory crisis (and collapse afterward).  We got a towel compressing the wound on his head.  Ahmed picked him up and off we went.

There is a hospital a short walk from here so Ahmed's long legs transported my boy as I tried to keep up; my hand holding the blood soaked cloth on his head.

As we went through the streets, everyone parted as if it were the Red Sea.  It was, perhaps, one of the most touching moments in the last 22 months.  Everyone stopped.  Everyone prayed.  I could hear them in waves of whispered sound as we went through.  I tear up now to recount it all.  This was God.  This was a community of God-fearing people.  We were invoking prayer with every step.  No one was mindless or thoughtless of our crisis.  I felt the spirit.

Alhumdulillah for feeling the power of God at work in a moment of hardship.

I will honestly never forget the feeling.

Sometimes, I hate all things Egyptian and all Egyptians from the past, present and future.  It's a horrible feeling and I go there---not for very long but I enter into a pity party about being misunderstood.  Yet, remembering the day my son broke open his head will bring me back to center.

He got his stitches.  He took the medicine.  He got all the attention and love.  All the neices and nephews brought him juice and cake and candy. 

Yet, because my son is a stubborn guy, a month later, he fought with the wall again.  Can you stand it???  That was only a small cut.  More stitches.  More medicine.  And a moratorium on playing in the entry way.

Two scars on his forehead remain.  Scar tissue is the strongest on our bodies.  Alhumdulillah, his head is stronger for his time with Egyptian walls. 

Alhumdulillah, my faith is stronger too.

Chapter 36

Sunday, June 26, 2011

MAKING HIJRAH 34 "Techno Wudu"

Asalamu Alaykom,

Little by little I was breaking away from everything and everyone I had back in the States.

I hadn't wanted to!  I had wanted to keep that umbilicial cord connected.  I even wrote to my then best friend that social media outlets made it easier for me to stay here.  I could be in the loop with everyone and not feel like I was 100% here.  I could remain an American in Egypt.





                                                                                       all the connections were lost.

First it was the hard drive being erased when my computer virus was treated.  I lost so many reminders of my life before.  I was no longer able to see faces and places I loved. 

Then, due to my new location in the honeymoon cottage, I lost my DSL.  I could still get internet access at school during the week.  I could still steal some internet wi-fi at the family house (if I was feeling dangerous).  I'd be moving there eventually (whenever the workers were finished putting it together) so I tried to stay patient.  However, it was wearing on me that I no longer had this amazing fast flow of information; it became a drip.

The Magic Jack I had brought over no longer worked on such a slow line.  I was really frustrated with the situation because I could no longer call my mom or my older kids.  Each call to them cost my cell phone 4 LE a minute.  I know some people use other ways of calling from overseas.  None of them worked for me in my situation.

And then the Magic Jack USB broke.  It broke.  I was devestated.  Really, I couldn't believe how I was waiting to be relocated in the family house and then I'd get DSL again so I could call---except that now I couldn't.  It was hopeless.

That moment when you see all the connections fail, you have to think it's God's plan.  I thought that.  I felt that.  God wanted me to stop being so connected to over there and start living fully over here.  I could not live my hijrah by doing play-by-play for the folks back home.  I had to be alone.

Chapter 35

Thursday, June 23, 2011

You Can't Go Back Home

I understand what Thomas Wolfe is talking about:

I understand what Thomas Wolfe is talking about:
"You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, back home to romantic love, back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame, back home to exile, to escape to Europe and some foreign land, back home to lyricism, to singing just for singing's sake, back home to aestheticism, to one's youthful idea of 'the artist' and the all-sufficiency of 'art' and 'beauty' and 'love,' back home to the ivory tower, back home to places in the country, to the cottage in Bermude, away from all the strife and conflict in the world, back home to the father you have lsot and have been looking for, back home to someone who can hlep you, save you, ease the burden for you, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time---back home to the escape of Time and Memory"

Yet, I will go to America soon. I know that experience of coming full circle will bring about some clarity.

What will the trip do for me? How will my heart, mind and body adjust? What will I realize?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Beautiful Girl

It's music.

The words don't all make sense; the way that feelings don't all make sense.

The video is only half-visible with lots of unanswered questions. Yet, I see the charm bracelet and I see the bare feet running out and I see me. At different times with different people, I've been this woman.


In many ways, I don't know who I am.

It's not the crazy searching for identity I had at age 30-something. Now, at 40-something, I am calmly entering into a new phase of fine-tuning me. I am that instrument which is almost playing correctly, yet I know that something isn't quite right. I need the trip ahead of me to go back and see who I wanted to be.

Where did I fail?

Where have I succeeded.

Subhanallah, who have I loved?

I knew my mother would greet me at her door. My children would come and visit me. What I just learned is that my father would be sent from his home in the south to my hometown in the north.

I have not seen my father in five years. I have divorced, married, divorced and married since the last time I saw him. I had a baby in my arms that Spring and now this summer I have this little soccer player strumming a guitar. Before, I was able to connect with the man I've always known and this time, with his Alzheimers, I'm not sure how much of that man remains.

What remains in anyone or anything for me?

This music isn't perfect. There is, however, something halting and haunting in it. I listen to it and hope that I'm moving from a place of half to a place of full.

May Allah protect us in all our journeys.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Little Brother

Asalamu Alaykom,

These very sweet children (mashahallah) are not the actual kids in this post.

Today is a bright, breezy day in Egypt.  I've eaten birthday cake for breakfast.  I've laughed and played and enjoyed a relaxing start to my Friday.  Alhumdulillah.

While I know I have to start packing for my trip to America, I'm going to be sharing a story with you first.

This was my last week with a group of really wonderful people; my kindergarten class.  Together we hugged out problems and learned how to communicate fears, anger and joy.  I love them more than any other people in Egypt.  Yet, I loved them as a teacher loves her class----somewhat from a distance, as if on a hill which she is encouraging them to climb.

For those who don't know Egyptians, I want to point out that some of those loveys were Muslim and some were Christian.  We played in the sand and worked together at the tables regardless of religion.  Parents trusted me with their child and more than that---those parents really loved me for how much I loved their child. 

Allhumdulillah, I believe those children and those families are better for my efforts.  Inshahallah, I did the most I could.  May Allah forgive me for any time I could have done better.

May Allah protect them all.

I do love teaching. 

On Wednesday morning, I was feeling absolutely void of energy.   We'd spent the entire day before rehearsing our show in the theatre.  It was therefore, that much more welcomed when I received two very nice notes of thanks from parents (which is always the best gift teachers can get).  One note mentioned that a little brother was on the list to come to me next year.

No name was written down for the little brother.

So, I had to ask his big brother in my class.  During role call, I asked my student, "Mom wrote to me that your brother wants to be in my KG class next year.  What's your brother's name?"


I started to smile, but submerged it as I rephrased and used some hand gestures.  "No, that's the big man in your house," I said putting my hand up high.  "Who is the little boy at your house?" and I moved my hand down.


I started to laugh and the other children started to titter along.

I decided that I had to switch to Arabic, which I do on occasion for brief moments of clarification.

"Ahuick samahu eh?"  What's your brother's name.

"Marafs."  He didn't know.

He didn't know.  I must not have asked him right, so I asked my Egyptian assistant to step in and say it all right.  She asked him and he still didn't know his brother's name.  It was hysterically funny!

The class was all laughing.  I covered up my face with the attendance book because I was really cracking up.

"You don't know your brother's name?"

He shook his head, "no."

I tried a different tack.

"OK, when your mom has food ready on the table and she wants him to come eat, she yells, 'TA-ALLAH, YA..."


I laughed.  "Then 'Ahmed' is your brother's name."


What a funny time. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mr. Boo's Dictionary-UPDATED

Mr. Boo's Arabic has zoomed and soared into the stratusphere. 

However, his English has mutated into half rememberances.  He keeps calling things by the wrong name.  It's kind of cute and endearing.  Here's what he's been changing inside his multi-lingual head:

          Freckles            into                    Diamonds

          Doorbell           into                    Ringbell

          Army                into                    Angels

          Almonds           into                    Demons 

          Skeleton           into                    Scales

          Hamburger       into                    Hotburger

          Radio               into                    Rodeo

          Barber Shop     into                    Barbie Shop


This can lead to some funny situations.

Yesterday, I was working on my laptop in the bed (which is, of course the perfect place to work on a laptop) when Mr. Boo ran in.


So, that meant some quick thinking on my part.

"Jump onto the bed with me!" I ordered him and then I rang my husband downstairs.  I knew that it would mean certain death for the little rodent but I can't live with mice. 

Ants?  Maybe. 

The occassional gecko?  OK. 

Not mice.

So I hear my husband coming up the stairs as Mr. Boo starts to re-think.

"Maybe it was a bee."

Huh?  I don't understand so I ask him, "How can you confuse a mouse with a bee?"

By now my husband has made it up the three flights of stairs and breathlessly asks what I need.  He has to wait a minute while I figure it out.


Mr. Boo thinks, "It was flying so maybe it was a bee."


"Ya, moth."

Then I have to explain that whole thing in Arabic but that's really hard when you're laughing.

Time to add one more:

                  Moth                  into              Mouse

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Haiku 610

Egypt's flightless kite

hopeful to reach Pyramids

better than flying

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

MAKING HIJRAH 33 "Heigh-Ho, Trigger!"

Asalamu Alaykom,

When we risk everything in our lives for something better, it hurts more when it falls from our heightened expectations.  I had married.  I had a new home.  I had a new life. 

Yet, I had the ghosts of my former life all around me.

God had made it easier on me in one regard; some of my ghosts had been released into the netherworld.  Right before marriage, I had contracted a virus on my computer.  I did my best to rid myself of it and couldn't.  It attacked my system something fierce.  Taking it to the recommended fix-it shop got rid of the problem and all of my files.  Every single one of my files dissappeared in one click.

I stood there that night incredulously.  I no longer had any document I'd brought with me to Egypt; no pictures, videos, music, documents.  I was in shock.

Yet, the store employee had gotten rid of the computer virus, so I actually paid the man for losing my life.  In the U.S., I would have reemed him out to no end.  Here?  "Shukran.  Masalama"  Thank you and Goodbye.  There really was no use complaining anyway.  Those who think complaints in Egypt get you anywhere are mistaken.  Huge rants only end up in high blood pressure.  People just don't worry about customer service here. 

When I reached home, I immediately started piecing together my life from my gmail account.  What had I sent?  I started to see pictures from long ago, music I had sent and documents I had shared.

An amazing realization dawned on me:  I only had what I had given away.  It seemed analogous to life, love and happiness.  Yes, you only have what you share.

The Beatles were right:  "The love you have is equal to the love you give."

I entered into marriage, therefore lighter.  I no longer had so much of my past.  I actually thanked God for making my computer participate in the techno-equivalent of wudu.  My hard drive was cleansed.  I started life afresh.

Yet, as we all know, there are triggers which revert us back to a time and place which hurt.

For me, I am immensely injured still from the lies which went on in my second marriage.  I pretend that it doesn't matter but I know the truth.  I felt, at the time, that I could listen to X2 tell me any difficult information as long as I knew he was telling the truth.  I thought he could lie to everyone else in the world but someone deluded myself into thinking that he would always tell me the truth.  Except...he didn't. 

So, in this new marriage, I was very chosey.  I chose a man who feared Allah.  He did all his prayers on time.  He fasted.  He wore galabiya, for crying out loud!  I chose a very upright guy.

And he lied.

OH MY GOD!  I couldn't believe my ears.  It was maybe a month and a half into our marriage.  I cornered him on something and he couldn't just admit it.  When I talked to his sister, she defended him and told me I was wrong.  The whole family heard his side of the story and sided with him.  That night, I actually threw my purse at him and stormed out.

His lie triggered my worst fears.  This marriage would be like the last.  I picked another man I can't count on.  I am stupid with men to the point of actually being my worst enemy.  How can people be liars with someone they profess to love?  He must not love me. Why did he marry me?  I should never have married him.  I'll have to consider divorce.  How can I get another divorce?

On and on my head raced.

Looking back on it, I should have considered the Egyptian method of saving face.  People here freely tell little white lies.  For us Americans, a lie is a horrible thing.  We oust presidents because of it!  We can't handle the idea that a person is good if they fib.

It was days of not talking.  Honestly, I recommend the "Three Days of No Talking" as a solution to very large problems.  Sometimes you don't need to talk as much as you need to be silent.  I needed that quiet in our home, in our relationship and in my head.

He knew that I was on the brink of ending our marriage.  I was not fooling around.  I hadn't come to Egypt in order to marry a liar.

His sisters knew how serious I was and paid visits to our home to talk with me.

He admitted his lie to me and to his family.  It was something he said to avoid looking bad to others.  I told him that it almost broke us apart for ever.

He didn't want that.

I didn't want that.

We were still building our home together two levels above his mother's ground apartment.  The floor and tiles were done and the walls were needing paint.

We went to the paint store together.  I was apprehensive.  We weren't really getting along.  How were we going to pick out a future when our every day life was so shaky?

Somehow we made it work.  Amazingly, we could make our minds meet in the middle and come to agreements very easily.  I don't know how but we always have been able to find a common vision. 

So, we prayed together.  He led.  I followed.  We made up.  I gave up the need to have a perfect man in order to be happy in a marriage.  I had married someone imperfect...but then so had he.  We were two imperfect people who really needed each other in order to succeed in the world.  I couldn't do it without him and he couldn't do it without me.

We kept it going.  All along in this marriage I have reminded myself to keep it going.  There have been other bumps, road blocks and potholes since our marriage began.  Some endurance tests have been really severe----last week even!  But yet, there is a unity between the three of us which is holy in a way.  It's a blessing that we found each other.


May Allah keep us all to the straight path and strengthen the bond of couples who are yoked together as they journey towards Jennah.

Chapter 34

Monday, June 6, 2011

New Reader Drive


My self-imposed arbitrary deadline for my New Reader Drive is no longer needed.

Months ago, I set this Friday as the date when I wanted... needed... wished for 43 members smiling back at me from my sidebar.


Thank you for playing along.  It actually does make me very happy to have set a goal and have readers who helped me to reach it. 

It was kind of like when I used to be live on-air for the PBS Pledge Drives on my local TV station.  I felt like I was asking for you to stand up and be counted.  This time, no money came in and no "thank you" gift went out.  Still, easier to deal with because I could just type away in my jammies.

Why did I pick the number 43? 

I turn 43 this week inshahallah. 

I'll leave you with this slice of my life:

My lovely kindergarten class figured out a joke.

One little honey will say, "I love you, Miss Yosra."

Another will pipe up, "I love you too!"

And then a whole class of sweet children will start yelling out numbers.

"I love you five!"

"I love you thirty!"

"I love you twenty-three!"

And because I love each one of them, I love each one of their numbers. I exclaim in happiness and radiate with joy with every numeral they give me.

Dear Readers, I love you 43.

Friday, June 3, 2011

One Bad Apple

Hard night...

                      a better day.

After hardship...
                      there is ease.

As I made some food to calm my stomach, I picked the last apple out of the bag.  It wasn't really that beautiful.  It was questionable.  I washed it and examined it as I rubbed my wet hands over it.  If I wanted to eat an apple this morning then this would have to suffice.

I cut.

It was rotten.

The breadsticks and feta lay on the plate waiting for some apple.  It was my plan.  I don't let go of my plans easily.  It's the Scot in me. 

So I continued cutting and found a chunk of apple which was free from the brown blemish of the pieces I'd discarded before.  I double-checked.  I could eat that. 

I cut more away and found two more chunks to salvage.

My plate was full. 

My stomach got full.

I was grateful.  Alhumdulillah.

It's easy to discard that which displeases us---whether it's people, places, careers, religion or even life itself.  It's harder to keep with the initial plan and remain steadfast when you feel pulled.

In that moment, when you want to throw everything away, remember to find the good, the fresh, clean, juicy and nourishing.  It's there amidst the bad.  It needs you to be mindful, careful and patient as you go about finding it.

Peace to you.

Peace to all the bad apples.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Sick Since Sunday

UPDATE:  Alhumdulillah I was good enough to go to work today.  Didn't soil myself so life is good.  I've got the weekend to recoup whatever I couldn't as I was running after small children. I'll blog something smart again soon inshahallah.

Asalamu Alaykom,

Being sick sucks.


I'm home in my pink poka-dot pajamas while Mr. Boo is off at school.  This is a first.  He was pretty excited to go to wave goodbye to me and go off to school with Baba.

Me?  I just couldn't do it.  I was able to hang tough for two days and then yesterday I gave in to my body's needs for rest.  I slept most of yesterday and tried to let the Antinal kick it.  I feel better today, alhumdulillah.  However, I've been without a real meal for three days so I felt fine while laying down but dizzy when I got up.  YIKES!

So, I've eaten.  I've rested.  I've yelled at my husband (sorry, dude). 

And now I'm watching this  it is one of the best doses of laughter I can find.  If you are uber-Islamic then it's not for you.  For me?  It's very cultural and makes me feel at home---even though "home" is here.

Hope all is good with you.