Thursday, December 22, 2011

Things We Lost in the Hijrah

This picture is not any place I've ever lived---that I know of.  Actually, there have been so many houses, apartments, townhouses, and even a few homes.  I can maybe be excused if I've forgotten.

This last move was going on hijrah; a faith-based move to a Muslim country.   It was a doozy!  As I've written, we had four suitcases stuffed with stuff.  I wish that I had brought a few cartons too (since I later found out that they cost $150 for 50 pounds). 

However, I knew in my heart that going on hijrah means leaving a lot of baggage behind---both figuratively and literally.  I was going to land in Egypt with a lightened load.  No, I couldn't take it all with me and I didn't want to.

Now, it's well over two years into my hijrah and, as I look around, I have to admit that somethings never got over here from The States.  I've had the chance to buy some new things and have not.  Somethings are missed and some aren't.  It's not the same life I once had (which doesn't mean this life is bad but it is different).  I'm adjusting to a new existence.

Here is a list of
Things We Lost in the Hijrah
 in alphabetical order 

Nope.  I don't plan on getting a car either.  People assume that to be successful means having a car.  Not so!  I feel very successful taking taxis, thank you very much.  We have the freedom to walk, take a bus or a taxi.  I don't have to worry about driving or about parking.  There is no upkeep.  It's better for me.  Except for bumper cars, I have not driven in over two years. 

Even if I got access to a car here, it would most likely have a stick shift instead of an automatic.  I didn't start driving until I was 23 and can really only handle an automatic. 

I am wondering about getting a Vespa.  A girl can dream!

CD Player
No stereo system here!  I can play CDs on the DVD player and in my computer so it doesn't really matter.  I only wish that the radio station we turn on (to hear Quran) was better.  Inshahallah, we'll get something else.

None of our dishes are fancy breakables.  I brought only Melamie and have bought only stainless steel here.

Clothes Dryer
I'm not sure who has a clothes dryer in sunny Egypt.  It sure isn't me!  Usually this works fine---but less so in the cold winter months (November through February).  Clothes on the line might take all day and into the next morning (if they're heavy). 

This cushion on the floor is my seat.  I have a couch, loveseat and comfy chair all picked out at a upscale store.  I am waiting to make sure the money set aside is fine before proceeding with the purchase.  This is what I've done with every big ticket item (like our bedroom sets, our refrigerator and washing machine).

Yes, I'm writing to you from an end table.  My papers are crammed onto Mr. Boo's top shelf.  I wish very much for a desk.  This will come, inshahallah, when the time is right. 

I saw some beautiful desks at a furniture store right off Tahrir Square.  They were French reproductions and I just oozed bourgeious longing all over them.  Once I got home, I realized how impractical those tiny desks with tiny drawers were.  I really need something more modern, professional and utilitarian.

Hair Dryer
Living in the cold climate of the Midwest, I really relied on my hair dryer.  Of course, I washed my hair all the time.  I don't do that now.  In the Egyptian winter, I do miss having a hair dryer.  I've learned to wash my hair at night, put down a towel on my pillow and let it dry overnight. 

If you would have told me that I would have to do without a microwave oven for two years, I would have told you, "NO WAY!" I used to heat up all our food in one of these.  Now?  I heat up our food on the gas stove.  Doesn't really take that much longer.  I no longer worry about radioactivity. 

I have no idea what I weigh.  I know only how my clothes fit (or don't). 

Sewing Machine
Where I live here in Giza there's everything you could ever want, including a blacksmith, a cobbler and a tailor.  The candlestick maker is at school.  Our local tailor is right down the street and does all the work I need done.  Sure, I have given up some control over my clothes but it's worth it because the quality is so much better than anything I've ever tried.

Shower Curtain
It isn't really something important to my husband (who has never known black mold).  So the water goes all over the tile floor, we squeegy it into the floor drain and end of story.

We don't really use the same sliced bread as in The States.  We use aish balady; pita bread, so it doesn't really matter I suppose.  In my house, I heat up the bread in a pan on the stove.  Downstairs, my mother-in-law heats up right on the propane gas tank (which gives it a "special" flavor).

What else...
I can't remember them right now.  They must not be that important in my day-to-day existance. 

There are things which have to be left behind in order to move ahead.  Some things I still wish for and obviously some I've forgotten.  Things can be replaced. 

Being Muslim---even a Muslim on hijrah----doesn't mean you have to live in austerity. You can have what you need but you need to determine what it is that you actually need...instead of what you assumed you couldn't live without.
This list is not meant to stop anyone from making hijrah.  It's meant to show how I've left things behind and found a way to cope.  I've coped without carrying everything forward from my past.  In the end, things aren't really as important as experiences.


MarieHarmony said...

Beautiful. I am sure it's not easy to cope without these things at the beginning but with time you understand there are things far more important.
Have a blessed day Yosra.

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom Marie,

Love your new pic!

Thanks for commenting. What would I do without you?

It's're right that the assumption is that it's harder in the beginning to cope. I think it was easy in the very beginning because I was very "gung-ho" about the whole experience. I thought that the time would come for these extras. I saw my money come in and thought that I'd get enough to buy EVERYTHING.

Maybe after the first year, it got harder to feel like I was doing without. It felt like I SHOULD have my life together after one year.

Now, after two years, I feel like...actually, I do have my life together but not in terms of materialistic possessions. Hijrah doesn't really about stocking up the stuff. So, at this point, I'm okay.

I would have really liked to get the living room set before winter but we are playing it smart here. The last time I blew the wad (sure that I'd be getting more soon) was right before the Revolution. I'll never get my bank balance so low again. I need to be prudent with purchases inshahallah.

Marie, have blessed me just by stopping by and understanding what I've written. JAK and I wish you Allah's blessings and peace.

Anonymous said...

Assalamu Alaikum Yosra, I've enjojed reading your post on Hijrah. I would really like some advice on making hijrah from the Uk to Egypt at the moment considering the changes taking place. I would like to know what life is really like there and not what the media portray it to be. Has life changed much for the average person? I really hope you can answer as I don't know anyone with real first hand experience as a foreigner liveing in Egypt. Jakakillahu khayr, Fosia.

Yosra said...

Wa Alaykom Asalamu Fosia,

Nice to hear from you. I appreciate your comment and question :)

It's a really good question!

When I made hijrah it was before the Revolution. It was dicey being a lone woman in Egypt back then. Some of the issues I've mentioned, but just to recap:

Inability to negotiate effectively with shopkeepers, landladies, government workers, etc., (and everything is a negotiation here).

Danger around every corner---from crossing the street (I've seen three children get hit by vans), to burning in the streets (just normal everyday things on fire), to wild dogs, and creepy men.

Infact, even the nice men are a danger to your well being because you are constantly seen as marriage material. As 'nice" as that sounds, it is wears down your soul to be the prey at every Egyptian encounter.

One additional problem, as I see it is that as friendly as happy-go-lucky Egyptians are...they are very insular. No wonder cousins marry here! Getting to know people outside of your family isn't as common here. Sure, you say 'salams' with smiles to everyone but you don't really hang-out and chill with besties like back in the States.

I also spent time in the UK and I know that though British are more reserved than Egyptians, people are want to become friends. Egyptians are busy with family every weekend and if you're not family then you are out. Maybe you'll be invited by but not really invited 'in'.

Alhumdulillah that I was in a family by the time of the Revolution. Frankly, no one was able to help anyone outside of their family during this time. NO one even thought of others for a couple of days. Of course, someone can differ with me on their own experience. I have this opinion from what I felt and witnessed.

What is REALLY frightening is that employers were just as freaked out as employees. My boss absolutely was incommunicado with me for days. Alhumdulillah I was in a family but what if I had been alone? I would have freaked and possibly left----at least for the coast.

Is any of this helping? Kind of a ramble...

Mr. Boo had me watch a magic trick on TV.

So...where was I?

Ummm...okay...I really do think that hijrah is something we should do if we feel called to it. That doesn't mean that we need to leave immediately. Honestly? My advice is to really get ready for your hijrah.

Know enough Arabic to get by on your own: numbers, colors, food, animals, household items, letters, basic questions and answers.

Have enough money: For me, I could only bring about $2K and that was very little. I would recommend another one or $3-$4K if that's possible.

Have a job lined up: there are jobs here for English speakers in the schools. You do need 3 years classroom experience and a degree. Look on-line.

Be really commmitted to making hijrah and not for any other reason. God will protect you if you are 100% real on this. If you are going to find a hub, you'll find only that and maybe not God's protection.

Do not go to Saudi. It sounds good but from everything I've seen it is not a good place for a woman to work.

Malaysia might be a good bet. Check that out. I just don't know if Egypt is a good bet now or in the near future.

So, bottom line advice: get ready for hijrah. Make yourself the right person for the move and then God will show you the place to go inshahallah.

If I didn't answer a particular aspect to your question, please write any and help me focus better.

Yosra said...

It's me again, Fousia!

Okay, I thought harder (which is often difficult in an unheated apartment) and I decided to ramble once more in attempts to answer you.

Security: maybe you are most concerned by this.

Really? Anything can happen any day. We all feel this. It's like...we're fine...until we're not. When Egypt isn't fine then all hell is breaking loose.

We don't have the police in the streets like we used to. I don't feel the security in the Pyramids area like I used to. There have been robberies where before there haven't been. I had a taxi driver hit my arm where as before he never would have laid a finger on me. The bad people aren't scared like they were before. So the GOOD people are scared like they weren't before.

I used to go walking at night without fear. I don't do that now. It's more like the U.S. than it was before---in that the streets are not safe for women alone.

It's still a better place for me to raise my son than America. I feel that still (don't get me wrong).

I'll tell you some of our different decisions of late:

We were going to take a trip every Winter Vacation from school. This year? We don't feel safe doing so. The elections were volatile. We feel as if something awful could happen while we're away from home and we'd be stuck dealing with a horrible civil war situation.

Of course we fear only Allah. That doesn't mean, however, that we blunder in blindly without a care in the world. We do take care.

We also don't go into Cairo like we used to. I wouldn't recommend Cairo. If there is some trouble, the traffic is worse than awful and you could literally be stuck for 5 hours in a trip that usually takes 30 minutes.

There is also something to consider as time goes on without tourists: money is running out for a large number of families. Eventually, desperate people might be wondering what they're going to do to feed their families. I'm OK where I am but I'm not sure how it's going to pan out for others. And their inability to live could create havoc in Egypt.

Maybe that addendum was helpfu. I really want to help! Inshahallah you'll find the good answer you need somewhere in the wreckage of my blah blah blah :)

Again, let me know if there is something else you need to know about. Maybe the answer would prove helpful to you AND someone else. :)

Love and Light!

Anonymous said...

Assalamu alaikum Yosra,
MashaAllah you have given me a lot to think about. We have young children and that is the main driving force for us to make Hijrah. To raise them in an Islamic environment is something we really want.
You are right, security is a main worry. Not having any family in Egypt I guess I would be worried if problems escalated we would be on our own.
Jazakillahu khayr for taking the time to reply. I really appreciate your open honest opinion of how things really are. InshaAllah we will come to the right decision as long as our intention is the right one. In the meantime we need to prepare mentally and financially for hijrah wherever that may be.

I pray that life continues to be great for you and your family and that you have security in the land you have chosen to live in.

Once again may Allah reward you for your sincere reply.

Your sister in Islam, Fosia :)

Anonymous said...

Doesn't your husband work, he should provide you with the very basic things you listed.
I have lived in Egypt and didn't have to go without a toaster or microwave, living room set is a very basic thing and not more expensive than the states.

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom Fosia,

And thanks for getting back to me after reading what I wrote. Somehow I pictured you as single and alone. Don't know why!

If it's you and kids...then I want to add a few other thoughts if that's alright.

The schools in Egypt are not great. While you can find a low-cost school, not every school will actually be religious and help children say prayers at school. That AMAZED me! I had a verbal fight with an admissions lady at Orman (a well-known chain of schools) because she laughed off my want for Mr. Boo to say Dhur at school. She told me that there was no need----he could say it at home later. I corrected her that sometimes asr will come too quickly and he'll miss dhur. She wanted to debate that he's only a child. I countered, "Yes, but he'll soon be seven and held accountable for his actions". I give you this full encounter so you understand that the better schools might accomodate for a student who wants to pray, but they won't be doing it en masse. These are not immersion English. The cost is around 6,000 EP

The schools which aren't as good in their accomodations might have prayer times for children but then it seems that academics suffer--especially in classrooms of 45 kids. The cost is around 3,000 EP.

The International Schools, which include my school, are the best academically. They are immersion English. However, you'll see teachers in VERY inappropriate dress, and mixing of boys and girls beyond what is Islamic. You'll see crazy things like celebrating Halloween and Christmas while almost forgetting Ramadan, Hajj and Eid. But the English is truly English and the learning is better for 20 or less children per class. The method of learning isn't just rote memorization either, like in Egyptian schools. The cost can be staggering: 20,000 EP for one child (not including school uniform and supplies). The way to get around this is working at the school and getting a discount.

Keep in mind that there is a HUGE difference in the way the rich bring up their children than the poor. The rich are better educated and more able to understand your ways of raising your child (logical reasoning vs. overpowering or manipulating, time outs vs. hitting, healthy eating vs. indulging)The rich are apt to ape the West blindly---as if being European or American is somehow smarter. The moms are less likely to wear hijab.

The poor families tend to be more religious. Yet, you don't really want to totally immerse yourself in the culture of the poor. There are a lot of backwards ways of thinking mixed with the wisdoms of Islam. Best to find a middle-class neighborhood but even that is expensive---about 2500 EP a month.

So, when thinking to move here with children, remember that Islam is perfect but Muslims are imperfect. You will find a lot of new aunties and uncles ready to help you raise your child. You will be able to find Quran teachers easily. They'll hear the azan 5x a day. They'll feel the Islam rather than just be told about it.

Again, best wishes and feel free to ask again if you think of something else.

OTHER READERS: Share with Fosia if you have information you think would be helpful :)

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom Anon,

Thanks for taking time to read and comment. I'd love it if every person who is Anonymous choses a super-special name to use when commenting. That way I'll know you the next time you comment.

You wondered...

Maybe a good name for you would be

Wonder Woman ;)

Okay, so you wondered if my hub works.

No, he doesn't.

He did but his store closed.

I used to feel some shame about that. Then I spoke with two of my most successful friends. No one would question whether or not they were living a good life---from all outside indicators they are. They are both working while their husbands are not. Now, I no longer feel shame. Alhumdulillah. The truth is the truth and when we face reality with a smile we no longer feel shame when someone holds it up to us.

Together, my husband and I make choices about our money. If I really wanted a toaster or a microwave, I could get one. My point was not that I needed one and didn't get it due to poverty. In our plan, we just haven't decided that it's important any more. I was at the store Taweed Al-Nour two days ago with a ton of toasters and microwaves AND money. I didn't get either.

We've bought really nice bedroom sets, end tables, a kitchen table and a shoe cabinet. We've bought high-quality appliances. We have a nice TV and DVD player and satellite dish. It's not like we haven't bought anything but it's a process. I don't like buying junk so we are scoping things out. Mr. Boo got a desk before I did! When I find the perfect desk inshahallah I'll get it too.

LOL about the sofa set. We were going to buy it over the Winter Vacation but when we went back to the store on a Friday, we found it was closed until 5pm. Things like this happen all the time in Egypt. So, it's been delayed. No problem. I'm not in the same mind as I used to be with NOW! BUY! MUST BUY NOW! GIMMEE!! GIMEE!

Alhumdulillah, I'm happy there's been a shift in my life. I guess if you come away with anything from the post I wrote...let it not be that I'm doing without but rather that I'm finding that I'm okay within.

Love and Light! :)

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Anonymous said...

Taweed Al-Nour ...

You should give a tutorial on how this store works, as I was BEYOND baffled my first time there. So much so that I left empty handed. Same goes for buying produce / meat and other bulk items at Carrefour and the like!