Friday, June 29, 2012

Sweet Freedom

Asalamu Alaykom and Jummah Mabrook,

It is a quiet Friday morning in Egypt.   

I've watched a khotba on TV from Zakir Naik

I'm still full from our dinner out last night during which we feasted on fish, shrimp and calamari.  We went out to celebrate the end of an era for me.  I am done with my school; not only for the year but forever. 

I hesitate to write this part of yesterday because it caused tears and I don't have time for them today.  One the tasks I had to do on my last day was to collect my co-op share of 5,000 LE from the school.  During my son's first kindergarten year, when money ran out too quickly every month, I had to come up with this huge amount of money.  Somehow, I did.  With no one helping me, I paid 5,000 LE and it hurt.  It hurt because it meant getting my salary from one window at the accounting office and taking out gobs of bills in order to pay the co-op share at the other window.  I got my receipt that day and stashed it away with some feeling of accomplishment.

Yesterday, when I presented my receipt, it was discovered that my name was not listed.  I hadn't known that only my son's name was listed because it was all in Arabic.  By default, the cheque would be made out to his father (that would be the same man who hadn't paid one piastre of the amount).  However, the man in accounting was thinking of what's normal in Egypt:   dads pay the money and dads get the money. 

You single moms out there will feel that pain as I did.  You women who have to deal with the patriarchy of the Middle East will get that moment of brick wall immovability.  No amount of talking from me, a trusted employee of the school for three years would change this man's mind.  I was not going to get the money I paid.  I left the building fighting back the sting of zolm; injustice.  It took my supervisor coming down with me to convince him that I should get the money;  my money.

Before long, I needed to say my goodbyes.  The only time I really felt the pain of parting was with the dadas: the nannies.  These observant ladies are closer to me in Islam than anyone else at the school.  They pray and fast.  They remember Allah in everything.  They are the salt of the earth.  They wished me the best at the Islamic school we will be going to in the fall, inshahallah.  May Allah protect them. 

I walked out for the last time and saw the scene as if from a distance:  the people, the place, the memories.  It's done.  I'm done.  I'm done with the place which called me from America to Egypt back in the Spring of 2009.  I'm done with the people who have been my community (for good or bad).  I've ended an important time in my life.  Alhumdulillah. 

On the busy street, outside the enterance to the school, I eyed the donkey carts lining the road, loaded with fresh produce.  From a man in galabiya, I bought a bag of green and red grapes for 5 LE.  A little ways on, I bought a bag of oranges for 5 LE. 
It was my moment of freedom and I wanted it to taste sweet.  As I started to go, the older man told his son to give me two more oranges and I opened my plastic bag to receive the gift.  "Shukran, ya Hagg." I told the man, "Thank you, Sir."  for his goodness.

At 97 degrees, it was too hot to keep walking.  I hailed a taxi.  The first one said "no" to the short trip.  The second man who pulled up agreed and I jumped in.

What I love about Egypt is how I can get into the taxi with a little old man and hear the last bars of  Axel Rose belting out, "SWEEEEEEEEEET CHIIII---iiiiiiii----IIIIIIII----iiiiiiii-----IIIIIII LD of MIIII---iiiine."  It makes absolutely no sense.  Normally, I don't hear any American music on my taxi rides and certainly not with an old man.  It was totally random and I loved it.  He cranked up the radio one more notch when a reggae song came on.  This elderly driver still had life in him as he drummed his steering wheel through the streets to my home.  He got another 5 LE and an orange.  I gave him an orange because I wanted his life to be sweet too.

After getting out of the taxi, I started my short walk home.  Though, I lack Target and IKEA, I do have the luxury of a neighborhood juice store.  I bought a tall glass of sugarcane juice

and savored each drop.  It has become an afterschool ritual of sorts and it seemed befitting to have a drink to end the year.  I used to wish there was Gatorade in Egypt but now I'm thankful for acer asabClick here to read more about the health benefits of this drink and to see how they make it.  For those of you tallying up my tab, it was 1.50 LE.

I stopped at the new hole-in-the-wall shop.  A local lady had opened it a month ago.  I had spied an all-cotton galabiya in a dusty rose color (though of course everything is dusty in Egypt) with gold and black accents.  I had been wanting it for a month.  I'd actually been stalking it.  It used to hang on the right, just inside the doorway.  Yesterday, I had the money with me and the need to spend on something new.  40 LE later, I was the proud owner of a modest dress to wear around the house.

Today, I tried on the dress once more.  I ate some of the grapes.  I smiled at the bike we finally bought Mr. Boo at Tawaheed Al Nour (300 LE).  I relaxed in a way I haven't been able to for a long time.  I thanked God.

This is what freedom tastes like.  It is sweet.

Alhumdulillah for the innate desire for freedom, for ability to free oneself, and for the blessings from Allah which enable us to enjoy freedom fully.


Jaime Brown said...

Asalamo alaikum wa rahmatoolah wa barakatu,

Awww, what a sweet post. :)

I feel like you've closed the chapter of this school and the next page is patiently waiting to be turned by you--on your time, on Allah's time.

Inshallah you will find a different kind of happiness that the faculty at your former school couldn't provide for you. There are some changes ahead but it sounds like you're going full speed the pace of a donkey cart. That's exactly the way it needs to be: slow, steady, and sweet--filled with feel-good moments along the way.

I suppose the only thing that could have made your transition sweeter is if you got in that taxi and heard, "Pour some shugga on meyyyyyyyyyyyy..." Hee hee!


Thankful Slave said...

Assalam aleikum,

All the best for your future plans..I did not really get the co-op part, was that you or your husband paying for it?

Yosra said...

Wa Alaykom Asalam Wa Rahtmatullahi Wa Barakatu Miss J-AIM-e,

Thanks for reading and liking this post. You cracked me up with, "Pour some sugar on me!"

The funny thing is that, until I was re-reading the post, I hadn't actually realized that the song from the taxi radio was "SWEET child of mine". I don't know how I can write a whole post on sweetness without realizing such a thing but there ya go!

Ya Rab that I have some new levels of eman to explore at the new school. I'm already dealing with a big WOW over there. I had to go in for a uniform fitting. Not for Mr. Boo. FOR ME! Teachers will be wearing uniforms! That's a bit of a surprise...but maybe healthy as many, many, many Egyptian ladies here are completely missing the Modesty Train.

Love to you and yours, Jaime!

Asalamu Alaykom TS,

Thank you for your well wishes. Inshahallah it will be a good step forward. At least I'm doing it for the pleasure of Allah so even if I've made the wrong move, I've made it for the right reasons.

The co-op part was confusing, I agree. I tried to re-word it. Maybe it makes more sense. Basically, I paid 5,000 LE and my boy's father (not my current husband) did not pay one bit of it. Yet, the accounting dept was going to write the cheque to him not me (since I'm a mom and moms don't pay). Sigh....alhumdulillah in the end it worked out.

Thanks for letting me know!

Light and Love to you and yours :)

MarieHarmony said...

This for sure feels sweet! And the song makes it even better...One chapter of your life is now over and a new one will start full of opportunitues and sweetness too I am sure.
Wishing you all the best Yosra. Stay well dear