Wednesday, July 27, 2011

If the Shoe Fits



                                            Not me.  I can't wear pointy-toed fancy schmancy shoes like this.


Shoes in Egypt are cheap.

This is the good kind of cheap, as in "getting a bargain".

This is also the bad kind of cheap, as in "not the highest quality".

However, I've come to enjoy wearing out my shoes and not worrying about keeping them pristine for years.  Things wear out quicker in Egypt.  Nothing wears out quite so quickly as shoes.  It's the extreme dirty streets you must walk.  It's the uneven sidewalks and streets.  Your shoes take a beating.

Actually, the converse (beating with a shoe) is one of the most common ways an Egyptian parent threatens their children.  They take off their shoe and wave it in the air and tell their naughty offspring that they are, "just like shoes".  To beat someone with a shoe is an extreme insult here.

Remember The Iraqi Shoe Thrower?

Remember the Egyptians who waved their shoes in Tahrir after Hosni Mubarak's first "I will survive" speech?

I'll be back in the States looking at shoes and trying to decide if I should spend so much money on one pair which lasts and lasts or if I should continue buying cheap shoes here. 

Here's a helpful shoe size conversion chart if you are thinking of buying shoes in Egypt.

Monday, July 25, 2011

MAKING HIJRAH 37 "Madness: Our House"

Asalamu Alaykom,


                                                                   


                                                          Our house it has a crowd

                                                          There's always something happening

                                                           And it's usually quite loud.



The last remodeling project was done; the walls in our apartment were finished!  We were moving into the family house. It was three months into our marriage and it was time to be welcomed into the fold. I was going to be inundated with more people than I'd ever lived with before (excluding summer camp at Interlochen).

Intially, when I would go to visit the family house, it was coming from a quiet life of me and Mr. Boo bumping around our apartment. The big house full of people was therefore a refreshing change. The monotony of aloneness was counterbalanced with lots of togetherness. And I could leave when I was satiated; I would usually leave around 9:00 or 10:00 at the latest to put Mr. Boo in bed.

For me, my life and my scheduled remained in tact.  The visits to the house didn't change who I was or what I was doing with the rest of my time.  I never altered my scheduled.  I never lost sleep.

I had no idea that the visiting grandchildren didn't go home until close to midnight. I didn't know that the grown-ups would stay up drinking tea after tea after tea; chatting loudly about nothing as if their life depended on it.

Once I moved, I learned how different my life and priorities were from the people I had chosen to belong to. I was really suprised how much I hated living in the house.

I had been worried about the grandchildren children running loose all over the building. I had been reassured by my husband that they would respect our place and our privacy. You should have heard me when I discovered dirty foot prints on the walls I had yet to enjoy. Or when three of them decided to barge into our home as I was changing my clothes. I was livid. I hated having my quiet apartment ruined by thoughtlessness.

For months, there were fights, misunderstandings, upsets, harsh words and (in the end) agreements to get along. It was horrible. I don't know how I lasted.

Plus, I came to realize that my husband was going to be distant from me every time we were in the public eye downstairs. He was not the same person I had been enjoying in the honeymoon cottage. He was their son and brother and his primary role was with them. I had to take a backseat to their wishes. That hurt.

Yet, at the same time, I started to revel in the moments of togetherness which we did share.  Our marriage has not worn thin from over exposure.  We have a lot of time apart to be who we are and when we are together it is as if we are still discovering our bond.

From the get-go we had problems.  He actually invited his sister to come help him clean the apartment for the first time.  I was in total utter disbelief.  He had seen it as a kindness to me and I had taken it as a slight.  He had no concept in his head that a husband and a WIFE should work together to clean up their home.  I threw a fit that time and many times after that.  I'm not saying it was right of me!  It's just the way I (over) reacted.  I have really had to work on not living my life as one big reaction.

Yes, I had my meals cooked for me by my sisters-in-law.  I was envied by many teachers at the school who had to do it all themselves (or pay a maid to do it). Yet, I'm not a woman who likes to have someone else nourish my family. I want to play my maternal part too. At the family house, I couldn't. I couldn't even add a side item. No one wanted to eat my food---not even my son.  Soon, the constant re-play of last week's menu wore on me.  I had to take breaks from eating with them (and with my husband) so I wouldn't go insane eating one more mashy.

On the bright side, I no longer had a kitchen of comfort foods and my weight dropped steadily until I reached a point of liking my body again.  I really ate a lot but didn't have the interest to binge on food (which was only going to take money away from other plans).  Food was no longer a big expense or interest.  Once a month we would make an effort to go out and enjoy a restaurant.  Sometimes, it has gone on for two or three months before I remember to suggest eating out.

I got to re-experience my mothering instincts all over again through my rent-a-baby. She was the other child in the house and my buddy. I couldn't talk to any of the adults who were deep in Arabic converstation around tea so I talked to her. She loved my interactions and came alive in ways no one else could reach. I saw that. I also saw some mistakes in her care and demanded my rent-a-baby be taken care of.

More friction.  More times of me leaving in a huff over something I had no control over.

Honestly, I think that my lack of control in my new country has made it harder to have the same thing happening at home.  I thought of all the immigrants to America I had met over the years.  They had all seemed hyper-possessive of their kids and super-sensitive of keeping their culture intact.  I understood them better.  I didn't just have sympathy; I had gained empathy.

In lots of ways, I am still processing how to survive the family house.  I do see the positives and I try to remind myself of the good that comes out of living here.

Mr. Boo has ready-made playmates coming over regularly.

My husband has lots of halal social outlets.  He has never had to leave the house like other men to find bonding over tea and sheesha.  He's actually never smoked sheesha.  He can even have other women (his sisters) to interact with.  Now, I often wonder if American Muslim men turn to polgyny because they miss all this socializing and hate the solitary life with only one other adult at home.

I have a network of people who can help me watch my kid, find a galabiya on sale, introduce me to the lady down the block, or commiserate (again in a halal way) about how difficult my hub can be.  The visiting sisters have backed me up more than once when popular opinion seemed stacked against me.  I do have a love for them.

The brothers who live here have given Mr. Boo a wonderful blend of personalities to bounce off of.  There is the oldest uncle who is quiet, funny and so kind.  The middle brother who is boisterous and loud.  Both are so giving and willing to accept my son as their nephew.  They tell off my husband when he's been too harsh with my boy. 

They all fear Allah.

The family here have a love for my husband.  They really want the best for him.  As long as he says that I'm the best for him then we are welcome at the house.

I'm not going to lie:  there was a time when I dreamed of buying a different house and moving away from all this.  It didn't last.  I don't think we're going to do it---especially since The Revolution when being alone meant the same as being vulnerable.  This is a lesson to be learned.  How do you get along with a family?  I've never had to dig my heels in and stay---until now.

May Allah grant me patience, grace, and a sense of humor as I remain a resident of "Our House".  May I be good to the people and remember all the ways they are good to me.


Chapter 38

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mido and the Rabbit




1.

Everyday Mido walked the same streets in Luxor. Luxor used to be the place for the kings and queens of Egypt. Now it was the place for Mido and his family.

He saw the same people. When they saw him, the people would wave and say, “Asalamu Alaykom, ya Mido”.

Mido was a quiet boy and wouldn’t always answer back with his voice. He would give a shy little smile instead.

He didn’t like going to pick up chickens. Those chickens always made a lot of noise. He had to pick up three chickens for the Friday dinner.



2.

There was a big crowd waiting for the butcher to help them.

Mido would have to wait too. He zipped his jacket. It was cold.

As he waited, he watched the rabbits on top of the crate.

One rabbit seemed to like him. Mido reached out and petted the white fur. The rabbit fur was so soft.



3.

The longer Mido waited, the more he grew to like his new friend.

It almost seemed like the rabbit understood him.

Rabbits were different from chickens.

In Luxor, people could eat rabbit meat if they wanted. It was halal.

Mido’s family didn’t eat rabbit. Mido tried to think if he’d ever eaten rabbit. He couldn’t remember.



4.
Mido reached his hand into his pocket and felt the pound coins.
He had enough to buy three chickens. He didn’t have enough to buy a rabbit too.
When it was his turn to talk to the butcher, he found himself asking, “How much is the rabbit?”




5.
When Mido walked away from the butcher, he was carrying two dead chickens and one live rabbit.
At first, it felt good to have the rabbit.
Then, he realized that having the rabbit meant having big trouble at home.
What would his mother say?


6.
Mido’s mother was busy in the kitchen.
She usually was busy in the kitchen because Egyptians love to eat.

Today she was making mashy by stuffing cabbage leaves with rice.
Mido loved mashy. It tasted so good when it was cold outside.
“Good, you’re here!” his mother called. Do you have the chickens?”



7.
“I have the chickens,” he said, but then that felt like a lie. “Well, I don’t have all the chickens.”

His mother looked surprised. “What happened?”

Mido knew he had to tell the truth, “I bought two chickens and one rabbit.”

He then unzipped his jacket and showed the rabbit hiding there.



8.

Mido lay on the dirt floor with his rabbit.

It was his rabbit now.

His mother agreed that he could keep the rabbit for a while. She saw Mido’s big smile and couldn’t say no.



9.
His father was less understanding.

“You dog! You have to listen to your mother! You think that I drive tourists around all day to buy rabbits? What is a rabbit going to do for us? Does a rabbit lay eggs?”

“I’m sorry, Dad.”

“Sorry doesn’t feed the rabbit.”
“I’ll give the rabbit some of my food,” Mido offered.


10.

“Do you understand that the rabbit is meat?”

“I don’t want to eat Habiba.”

“Who is Habiba?”

“The rabbit.”

Mido’s father started to laugh, “You named the rabbit Habiba?”

Mido’s father didn’t stop laughing for a long time. Egyptians like to laugh.



11.

“Alright. You can keep the rabbit and feed it what we throw away.”

Mido started to hug his father.

“When the rabbit is big enough, we’ll eat it.”

Mido pulled away, “I won’t eat it. Mom doesn’t even know how to cook rabbit.”

His father tried not to smile at his son’s smartness. “She can learn and I’ll eat anything she cooks.”



12.

For weeks, Mido tried to teach the rabbit how to behave in the house.

He thought that if the rabbit acted more like a cat, his family would agree to keep Habiba longer.


13.

Cats sit still and sleep.

Rabbits hop around.



14.

Cats keep clean.

Rabbits make a lot of mess.



15.

Cats work catch mice.

Rabbit make you work for them.



16.

Habiba made a lot of work for Mido.

She kept scratching the dirt floor.

Mido didn’t want his mother or father to see the mess so he had to hurry and clean it up quickly.

Just as quickly, Habiba would scratch more dirt away from the floor.

She was digging a hole.



17.

Mido knew that a hole-digging rabbit was not good.

He had picked a bad rabbit.

He had gone against what his mother had told him.

He had made his father mad.

He slowly pet the soft fur.



18.

Mido stared at the hole in the floor and wondered if he should let his mother cook his rabbit.

He was tired of cleaning up the mess.

Having the rabbit wasn’t as fun as he thought it would be. It was a lot of work.



19.

Mido put down Habiba and started to push the dirt back into hole.

If his father saw the mess, he would be even madder.

Mido was tired of making his father mad.

Maybe it was time to be done with owning a rabbit.



20.

Mido’s mind was as busy as his hands.

What should he do?

Quietly, he patted the dirt down.

He didn’t want his mother to hear.



21.

It was turning dark.

Mido couldn’t see what he was doing very well.

His hand touched something hard in the dirt.

Had the rabbit buried something? Did rabbit bury things?


22.

Was his rabbit a thief?

Mido started to dislike his rabbit even more.

As he dug out what the rabbit had buried, he wondered what the rabbit had stolen.

Was it one of his marbles?

He was missing one.



23.

Mido dug and pulled.

It wasn’t a marble.

It was a ring.

The rabbit had stolen a ring from his mother and buried it.

Mido knew he had to tell his mother.


24.

Mido’s mom was in the kitchen.

She was making the tomato sauce to pour over the fattah she had made with rice and bread.

Mido greeted her, “Asalamu Alaykom.”

His mother laughed, “Wa alaykom asalam. Listen to my little man greeting his mother with such good manners. You must have done something wrong.”

Mido lowered his head.


25.

“It wasn’t me. It was my rabbit. She took your ring and tried to bury it in the floor.”
Mido’s mother stopped working and tried to understand what her son was saying.

“What ring?”

Mido held up the dirty ring between his fingers for his mom to examine.

Mido’s mom came closer. There was a puzzled look on her face. She took the ring in her hand and turned it over again and again.



26.

“Mido, where did you get this?”

“From my rabbit.”

“Where?” his mother’s voice was strange. She normally had lots of patience but she needed a quick answer right now.

“Over there.” Mido pointed to the dark corner of the room.

His mother ran to the spot, got down on her knees and rubbed her fingers around in the dirt.

She stopped for a moment and thought.



27.

Suddenly, she took hold of Mido’s arms and pulled him closer.

“Mido, go lock the door.”

This time, Mido did as he was told. He didn’t know what she was thinking but he wanted to be good.

As he was walking back to her, she ran past to the kitchen.

She opened up a drawer and searched until she found a big metal spoon.


28.

Mido watched in surprise as his mother began digging deeper in the dirt.

There was something there and she was going to get it out.
He wanted to talk to her but instead he stayed quiet and waited.

As she dug, she began to say Quran.

Whatever was happening was something serious.



29.

The call to prayer began across the city.

Mido wondered if he should help his mother or do his prayers.

He then remembered that praying could actually help his mother. He could pray for help.

Mido washed and got the rug.


30.

When Mido was done so was his mother.

He turned around to find his mother softly crying with the spoon in one hand and an earring in the other.
The earring was huge. Mido had never seen his mother wearing it.

“I’m sorry. Did the rabbit take that too?”



31.

His mother laughed.

“No, Mido. Thank God for your rabbit. This isn’t something I lost. This is something the rabbit found.”

Mido’s eyes stared at the earring. It was old. It was very old.

“Is this from the Pharoah?”

“I don’t think it’s from the Pharoah but I don’t know. I think it’s all gold.”


32.

Mido and his mother were still digging when his father got home.

They had found the other earring and a necklace.

No matter how much they dug, they never found any more.



33.

They never ate the rabbit.











Friday, July 15, 2011

The Mother's Wish


Note:  I am now traveling until the middle of Ramadan.  This has been automatically scheduled to post.  All comments will be reviewed once I have access to a computer again.  That might not be until I return to Egypt.  Please don't let that stop you from commenting!  I'll be happy to read them when I'm able and thank you for your patience.  ~Yosra




A story from 1996


Rocking back and forth, the tired mother would feel her son's restless movements soon go limp. Her gentle voice in a lullaby would soothe her boy and he'd begin to breathe in and out as rhythmically.  Together, their heartbeats would slow. In her arms he would lay fast asleep and she would gaze at him as if in a dream herself.
“Ahh,” she sighed one day, “I wish life would always be exactly like this.”
It was a wish made with feeling, but without thinking
This is a story about a mother who loved her son very much. Every day after the noon meal, she would close the door to his room, close the shutter to his window and sing him to sleep. This was when she loved, for who among us would really want to remain frozen in time and unchanging?

No sooner had the mother’s wish been made than it came true. The rocking of the chair stopped instantly. She could only live within the moment she had been in, when she made the wish. Paul, a child of nearly two, asleep on her lap, remained asleep and motionless. Mother and child became living, breathing human statues unable to break free.
There is a truth seldom said: all of us; every man, woman and child, every beast of land and sea and air, is granted one wish every twelve moons. Astronomers of old had calculated the exact equation, but through the years their tablets had been lost or destroyed. Only one tribe in Malawi is knowledgeable enough to have calculated the day when your wish can come true. The secret is so closely guarded that no one outside the tribe can be told.
Paul’s mother had no way of knowing that, on that particular afternoon, her wish could become reality. She is truly not to blame for what took place. Wishes are powerful things and not trifles to be bandied about. No one had ever told her, as I am telling you now.
There they sat in the rocking chair; mother and son happy in the moment. That is how Paul’s father found them when he returned home from work. No one had greeted him at the door. No one had attempted to wrestle the briefcase out of his hand. No one had kissed him.
Right away he knew that something was wrong. Something had to be done. Someone had to be called. Though the two looked happy and healthy sitting there together, they could not move and could not speak. And when he cried, they could not feel the sadness he felt. They were stuck in a moment of happiness.
The operator summoned the police, the firefighters, and the paramedics. They could do nothing and left. The minister came with words of wisdom, and was of some help to Paul’s father. “The Lord works in mysterious ways. God’s ways are not our ways, “ she said. And the minister left.
Day after day, the scene remained the same. Paul’s father took time off from work to try to find a cure for the condition. He sifted through great scholarly books in hopes to have his family back to the way it was.
Paul’s father sat in the room with his wife and his child as much as he could. Often, it was more than his heart could bear. He would have to leave the room so he could collect his thoughts and gather his wits about him. He had felt bewildered at first, and then determined, and then angry, and then sad, and finally; defeated.
“I wish everything was back to normal!” he shouted one night in despair. He stood there motionless in the hallway. He could not weep, as his tears had all been spent.
It didn’t matter that he could not cry, as tears were not needed any more. There was a sound which startled him from his respose. The house had been so quiet for nearly a month. He jumped to his feet. What was that? It sounded so familiar to him. He turned his head towards the direction of the noise, and that’s when he saw it. The rocking chair was empty.
He ran into the room just in time to see his lovely wife carefully placing their only child in his crib. “Alexandra!” He exclaimed.

She turned quickly and with a finger to her lips whispered, “Shh...you’ll wake the baby.”
Paul’s father walked cautiously to the crib, and there under the covers, he saw his son sucking his thumb. It was a glorious sight. Everything had returned back to normal, and it didn’t take police, firefighters or paramedics. It wasn’t cured by a minister or by an author of a book. It was all done by a wish.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

My Declaration of Self-Esteem

Note:  I am now traveling until the middle of Ramadan.  This has been automatically scheduled to post.  All comments will be reviewed once I have access to a computer again.  That might not be until I return to Egypt.  Please don't let that stop you from commenting!  I'll be happy to read them when I'm able and thank you for your patience.  ~Yosra


from Hazelden's Each Day a New Beginning


                                                                                                   Designed by Mr. Boo


I am me. In all the world there is no one else exactly like me. There are persons who have some parts like me, but no one adds up exactly like me. Therefore, everything that comes out of me is authentically mine because I alone chose it.
~Virginia Satir

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

MAKING HIJRAH 36 "6 Months"

Asalamu Alaykom,




I wrote this on February 19, 2010:


Today marks---miraculously so---six months since we left the United States to start a new life in Egypt.


Many, many times I’ve been asked, “Are you happy?”

Honestly, the question always smacks me upside the head. Am I happy? Well, I’m on hijrah. I’ve left my home and everything I know for the unknown people, places and things. That would make it seem as if I am unhappy but I’m not. My journey here truly was for the sake of Allah. I really did make a conscious decision over and over again to live a better life in a Muslim country and to raise up my son learning Arabic and Islam among Muslims.

I am happy with many moments I’ve had over the last six months.

I've been so busy " being" that I haven't had much time to write about how I've been busy.

That's good.

For years LITERALLY for years I wrote and wrote about where I was and what I was doing. Half my life was spent living and the other half was spent dwelling on how I was living.

Now, I want to live the way you have to live here in Egypt---live in the moment and then let it go.
Yet, after an accumulation of six YES, SIX months, I want to stop and reflect.

I am more appreciative...of life; the fragility of it. I see here everyday how there is death all around. Animals are being slaughtered. The loudspeaker plays through the neighborhood announcing the latest death. The baker next door dies at work and leaves his wife and three young daughters.

And the link between me and the ones I love back "home" must now been unseen. I cannot hold children who once grew inside me. I have to trust that, as they grow, they are happy and healthy; still feeing the positive influences I tried to impart on them. I pray that any negativity from my leaving be minimal.

I see how drinkable water is more essential than you imagine back in the U.S. I feel it here and felt it very directly when I slowly lost energy during my first three weeks here. I was dehydrating from all the tummy troubles. Mr. Boo was starting to fade. It was sad. Many, many people all over the world experience this without ever recovering. We got the right medicine and figured out the right precautions to take with our water suppply.

I feel how necessary it is to get the right people in your life. Maybe being the "lone wolf" works in the U.S., but it sure doesn't work here. I am dependent and I am enjoying this dependence. The Egyptians are fine with someone relying on them and needing them. They enjoy helping; giving and caring.

I do feel loved. I do see Mr. Boo getting more love. Love is where it's at. Love is not all about the heady romance. It's about the small gesture which means a lot; the present which you wanted but never mentioned. Love based first and foremost with Allah; a halal foundation is really what I've wanted and inshahallah this is what I have now.

I love my job. I am well-rewarded for it. I can pay my bills AND then some. I can build a life again and see a career and a future.

I’m happy in my classroom. My sixteen students started the year with little to no English and they now sing songs and chant rhymes at full voice. They can ask, “Excuse me, could you please open this?” They tell each other “Don’t touch!” and “Please stop!” in addition to “Please,” “Thank you,” and “You’re welcome”. I hear them naming animals, colors, shapes, letters, and numbers and I know that’s me and my teaching and me making a positive difference in the world.

I have endured months teaching two very scared orphan boys. I made them love school. Before they left our school for another on campus, I had them relaxed, smiling, happy and learning. That was quite a difference from the kids who had to be literally dragged kicking and screaming into my room. Their success is something I am proud of.

I’m proud of the young blind girl in my class whose parents were refused admittance from ten schools. She was accepted at our integrated school. Of course, I was apprehensive and I still wonder how I could serve her better. However, her special teacher at the center for the blind has told me that her vocabulary grew by 50 words in the first months of school. What’s more, her special teacher let me know that it was a deep understanding of the words. Nothing could please me more. When I teach, this is what I am aiming for: for the learner to truly embrace the words and the concepts as their own.

I’ve agreed to come back next year and I’m excited to have more experience with this curriculum next year to enrich the lesson planning that much more. I’m happy to think of putting down roots in a school system where I can really become part of the continued success of the children and watch them grow.

I’m so pleased with Mr. Boo. Really, he is a trooper! He came here with little Arabic and is now conversational with his second language. Sure, during class he doesn’t have to use it, but the kids use it on the playground and we use it with our Egyptian family. He is having fun with it.

He is having lots of fun in Egypt. He is smiling more. There was a time in the U.S. when I realized how very little he was smiling. That scared me. I knew that life had to change. I couldn’t continue to worry so much about being alone with him and not having a safety net. Now, he is surrounded by those who love him.

Yes, we do have a family here. Sometimes, it seems like TOO MUCH family (at least to a woman who grew up as an only child to a single mom) but more often than not it feels warm and welcoming. I do have sisters. I can count on my brothers. I know that we will be housed, fed, clothed, and, if necessary, nursed back to health.

We have been sick and/or injured many times here. It’s getting used to the Egyptian germs here. It’s being careful about the water and boiling it. It’s avoiding those cement corners! But with every illness or problem, I have been surprised how easy it is to see a doctor and get medicine or get treated. I have paid for health care here but nothing at all like the Dracula-like draining of my resources in America. Mr. Boo’s stitches each time cost 75 LE, or $15 USD.

And, yes, one of the most touching moments of the last six months was the first time my boy required stitches. Ahmed was carrying him limp and bleeding through the narrow street on a Friday afternoon. Everyone was out and the people all stopped as we passed by and said a prayer. That will stay with me forever.

As will these memories:

searching for Mr. Boo after he ran away from daycare,

having everyone salute Mr. Boo with greetings as we walk through the streets of Giza,

watching Mr. Boo rise high above the ground on the back of a camel,

stopping the donkey cart and getting my gas changed in my kitchen,

starting and (wisely) ending my (profitable but tedious) tutoring business,

time and again denying the use of halawa on my face and arms to get rid of the blond downy hairs which Egyptians seem to despise as being unfeminine,

buying my first galabiya here for Eid Al-Fitra at 1:00 in the morning,

seeing the sheep being slaughtered on Eid al-Adha,

watching the ladies make coq al Eid by the light of the moon in what would become my new home.

We are really collaberating on buidling that permanent home. Meanwhile, our temporary residence is a lot nicer than my first temporary residence. Yes, the journey to that new home is still on going. This is the first time I have built from (basically) scratch a new existence. In some ways, I can see why Egyptians favor setting up house in a big bold way. All that effort to create togetherness does feel good.

Week by week, I see the progress being made in the apartment. Never before have I employed so many workers! No one does DIY here so hiring out is the only way. It’s a lot of fun for me but a headache for Ahmed.

Ahmed. Yes…I have to mention him here, don’t I?! Ya, so I married him. Alhumdulillah. He needed what I had and I needed what he had. It was a marriage of halves and now we are a whole. Again, people are wont to ask, “Are you happy?

Maybe before, in my former incarnations, I worked very hard at attaining that happiness. Maybe I wanted to be ready to scream out joyfully, “YES! YES, I AM HAPPPPPY!” in answer to that question which seemed to loom over me. So I forced happiness and forced fun. Now? I kind of don’t care if I’m happy.

I am in this marriage for higher reasons than satisfying my nafs; my lower self. I’m building a halal life for me and for Mr. Boo. I hope to even do good for my older kids, my mother and father (if Allah allows). Ahmed helps me achieve this.

Does every moment with him mean bliss? No. I am not always happy but my moments of being down are not for very long. I no longer have to broadcast my foul moods to the entire world to feel justified. Age, energy, and prioritizing have made me move through those times faster and with less emphasis. This too shall pass.

And ya, he helps me cross the street. He takes my hand like my life depends on it (because it does) and guides me.

He barters the price for everything I want on the street. He walks away when the amount is too high (making my mouth hang open) and comes back when the vendor drops the price.

When we’re out, he carries Mr. Boo when he falls asleep

Those are moments I can share with you of my life with him but most of the moments I will not. This is VERY unlike me. I used to share too much and needed to say it all to someone in order to think it through.

Now? Allah has made it impossible for me to call anyone up. I have to deal with the good, the bad and the ugly on my own. I am dealing with it all better than I would have thought possible.

Ahmed is currently at Friday prayer with Mr. Boo. This is the only man who ever took my son to prayers. That is special. Ahmed is the only man with whom my son has learned Quran (we’re working on An-Nas). Ahmed is the only man my son has ever spoken fluent Arabic. He holds a high place in our hearts.

Mr. Boo said before we married, "I looked for a father but I didn't find him so I came to Giza and found him."

We both cried and held him.

We are a family. We are. That’s a huge change in six months. It’s positive. It was necessary too. I don’t think living in Egypt is possible when you live alone. It is a culture of togetherness.

I have not really missed the U.S. Sure, there are times I would love to hear from family or friends but I’m not dying or crying about it. Well, I’ve cried maybe three times about missing people. That’s pretty good! My lack of reliable internet right now is hard. I would love to be back on line and inshahallah that will happen.

I do miss some of my things. I miss our books. I miss our warm clothes, which I foolishly thought I wouldn’t need in toasty Egypt (only to find that it is flippin’ freezin’ here in the winter). I miss my photographs and music (since my computer crashed).

I actually see more top-notch American films here than I did in the States. Every afternoon, I get back from school in time to see a film while I chill: Bamboozled, Solaris, Sideways, Just Married and a lot more. They are censored so that no extra-marital activity is taken too far. No drinking alcohol is shown. Oh, at 5 PM, if the story isn’t done, it doesn’t matter; the news WILL be coming on.

Every program is interrupted to show it's prayer time.

I do pray fajr more often. Funny though, you don’t actually pray all the prayers on time here either. I thought that, if you arrived in a Muslim country, you would simply DO YOUR PRAYERS but you oversleep or get busy same as in the U.S. The difference is that you feel more that you’ve missed something important. You feel the collective here.

I am enjoying the food. It is so fresh and plentiful. It’s all locally grown and eaten in season only.

It’s fun to have the fruit which is growing right now and eat it like there’s no tomorrow. When I first arrived, in August, it was grape and mango season. Then, it was guava and pomegranate season. Now, it’s tangerine and strawberry season.

I do feel healthier here; feel stronger. Am I? Not sure. But that’s what I’d like to believe. I am caring more about my looks, while at the same time, not getting too hung up on them.

I am dressing pretty much the same as in the U.S. I maybe care a little more about dressing to impress. When I came, I thought that you could buy an outfit with a hejab. Now, I realize that you buy the outfit and then look around to find a hejab which matches. It is a search.

It is a search in many ways.

Am I happy in the search?

Alhumdulillah. I guess that's the answer to the question---not "no" and not "yes". It's, "Alhumdulillah."

I hope you are happy as well. But more than that, I hope you are fulfilling your true destiny as a wonderfully unique being in this big, big world. You might not be constantly happy while going through that endeavor, but TRUST ME, you will feel a deep satisfaction.


Chapter 37