Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Day 5 Ramadan 2017

Ramadan Kareem,

This is a street decorated for Ramadan.  It's quite spectacular to see in the wind---especially in treeless urban areas.  The wind rustles through the streamers like leaves.  They also create a kind of shade.  The jury is still out on the red streamers because they cast an eerie red glow.  These never get taken down, by the way, the strings eventually break, hang on the sides of buildings and the streamers simply wither away.

That's a metaphor waiting to happen!


2:30 AM

Thankfully, my hub got up...or never slept...and made suhour.  It was foul medamnes again.  Ramadan gets a little tedious around this time----always.  It just does.  The fun of something different and new has gotten old.  It's not that interesting to wake up early AGAIN and eat and drink quickly AGAIN.


3: 11 AM

I couldn't sleep after fajr.  It's not that I didn't want to---I had papers to correct.  For me, I'm not fully in Ramadan with being so into school.  All those late papers (okay, there were six) took me time to correct and time is of the essence in Ramadan.  Time always is so important, but you feel it more in Ramadan.

7:00 AM

El Kid stayed home for a second day.  There isn't much happening in revision that he needs.  Actually, I only had nine students in my sixth grade when two decided to skip.  One doesn't count as really being there because he slept for two hours.  I didn't wake him.  I don't wake kids up in class.  I hate to wake up anybody; it just feels bad.

1:00 PM

I prayed duhr at school.  I've been praying it there every day, but not not mentioning it.  Today, I went into the staff kitchenette because there's a small area next to it used unofficially for prayer.  One of the male cleaners was there.  This man is such a hard worker and so kind.  I feel that with every effort to hold open the door, or to assist.  God bless him.  I found an empty classroom and prayed there instead.  There is a small prayer space at the other end of the school, but it's in a hot hallway near the loud third graders.  My quiet, air-conditioned space worked perfectly alhumdulillah.

2:30 PM

I got home, talked with El Kid and read some Quran.  I'm STILL not out of Baqqarah!  I got too tired and slept.  I think listening to the audio of Quran actually makes me more tired than just reading it out of a book.  My hub was already asleep.

5:30 PM

I was awoken with the news that magrib was about an hour and a half away.  I prayed asr and then woke up my hub, which, as I told you, I don't like to do.

"What time is it?"  he asked.

"Five-thirty," I answered.

"Four-thirty?" he tried hopefully.

"No, five-thirty."

He jumped out of bed.  He was supposed to have been cooking dinner and hadn't!  This was a bit of a kerfuffle.  Ahmed told me that we might eat late.


Eating late is not a big issue normally, Ramadan?!

Lose patience?  No.  I did have visions of a peanut butter sandwich dancing around in my mind.  I put faith in my ability to handle it (because what else could I do).



I went to the kitchen, the placed where I'd been barred during his mad dinner dash, and got out our three dates.  That is when I heard the good news that dinner was ready.  The azan sounded, we broke our fast, prayed and ATE!  We ate the camel meat, rice, molokhia, and okra on time.  Alhumdulillah.


He just got back from taraweah prayers with ICE CREAM BARS!  Yaay!

Nestle Mega with blackberry has been heavily advertised on TV these days.  I love blackberry.  El Kid got one too.  They were the last two blackberry bars at the store.  He bought vanilla for himself.  That's love!

Now, time for isha and sleep.

Another day is coming inshahallah.

Day 4 Ramadan 2017

Ramadan Kareem

This commercial is one of the better uplifting odes to Ramadan in Egypt.  It features comedic actor Mohammed Hennedy, who is looking much older than I would like to admit.  One thing about TV in Ramadan is that the stars come out and remind you that time is moving on quicker than you realize.

There are all these HAPPY HAPPY commercials and then super sad ones for hospitals and cancer wards.  El Kid noticed the pattern and commented on it.  "I'm having mood swings from watching this!"

Here's how the day started:


I made omelets, but they took forever and we ended up with only fifteen minutes to eat.  OOPS!


After praying, I went back to bed and read Quran before catching more sleep.


I am still in Baqarah, which is always depressing---not the words themselves, but the fact that it takes me so long to get through it.  I wonder how many people give up when they are stuck in the second surah.  There's got to be something to that.  Why put the longest surah immediately?

The Quran Reading app has taken some getting used to.  It shuts off unless you are touching the screen, so it's like a deadman's switch.  That gets a little annoying.  I've been utilizing the bookmark ability, which I paid extra to get with the full options.  The bookmark is what I touch when I really like a particular ayah or section, and I touch it before I close the app to find my spot again.


Up again at 6:00 and out the door.  At work, we are in one of the busiest times of revision and final corrections before finals.  I spend all my time at school getting it all done---and can't since it's only six hours.  Thank God for that shortened schedule, so I can come home and sleep a couple of hours.  

The kids at school are complaining A LOT.  They are hot, they are tired, and they are thirsty.  It's like a running gag.  By day four, I really don't want to hear it any more.  These kids are in air-conditioning whereas most of Egyptians don't have that luxury.  They are having shortened days, and in America, for instance, the schools don't make ANY provisions for fasting students.  They might have to do without water for a short time---a temporary problem---however, there are many, many children all around the world who don't have drinkable water ever.

"When we feel like complaining," I told them, "we need to remember those who aren't just doing without for a short time, but who really suffer their whole lives.  Then, we say, 'alhumdulillah' for our lives, and make du'a for those in need.  Maybe we even give some charity to them to help them improve their situation."


When I came home today, my husband, who likes to think of himself as a chef, was taking his nap and dinner was left to me.  It really is a survival moment.  I don't want to cook after work.  I just don't.  I wanted to sleep, yet if I slept, while he slept, there might not be any decent food on the table.  A lot of Ramadan is being in survival mode.  The papers I brought home to correct would have to wait.  Can't complain; don't have time for the pain.

We had three kofta left over from my meal and it worked for each of us to have one.  With an Egyptian husband, it's hard to get him to back down from so much meat at Ramadan.  The increase in prices helps us cut back.  It's sunnah, by the way, not to eat so much meat so that, as the saying of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) tells us, "We should not make our stomachs a graveyard for the animals."

I made a curried rice by cutting up an onion and frying it up with butter, curry powder, and salt.  I then added the washed rice and let it cook before adding boiling water.



Everyone liked the rice and no one complained about the small amount of kamel kofta.  No one except me liked the green beans with mushroom soup on the side---reminded me of Midwestern casseroles.  We also had salad, so I'd done what I could.

After iftar, I ate a Twinkie, which I never do, but my husband had bought some.  I really got tired immediately, and fell into a sudden sleep.  It was a good reminder for me not to eat sweets.

Monday, May 29, 2017

DAY 3 Ramadan 2017

Ramadan Kareem,



Foul medamnes, second day of mashed potatoes, bread, and cheese.


Off to school for the second day and it was easier, alhumdulillah.  All of the first times in Ramadan are hard because we're fighting the momentum.  We want to be complacent and stay in comfort zones.  It feels better to stay home during the fast in many ways, yet the fast goes so slowly that way.  It zooms past at work.  Subhanallah, that I only have a six hour day!  

The kids are still complaining, although fewer are breaking their fast mid-day.  I had to scoot a group of girls out from the changing room as they thought that P.E. wasn't possible if they were fasting.  It was playing in an air-conditioned gym for a half-an-hour, so that seemed totally possible to me.

What's was hardest for me today was remembering to watch my mouth.  Our mouths are only limiting food and drink; we have to watch what we're saying.  That's difficult at the end of a school year.  I heard about people leaving, others getting promoted, someone getting a reprimand, someone else ...all the staff room gossip.  It's tricky to stay connected to people, but not to talk about them.

When I get home, I read Quran and then took a two-hour nap.  I woke up at 4:00 refreshed.


My husband made kamel kofta (I know that camel should be spelled with a "c" but it's hipper this way).  We also had salad and the leftover stuffed grape leaves.---well, El Kid and I did, but my hub still wouldn't touch them.  This time, they were served cold, and they are like a whole other menu item that way!  

The juice you see is dom.  I didn't  really know anything about it, so I look up some information.

After dinner, my husband headed to the mosque, and El Kid and I tried the other Egyptian prank show one more time.  It's a comedian trying to be Ramez and not being as successful in his attempt.  Yesterday, we watched it, and the celebrity singer passed out, which if you are wondering is a troubling time on TV.  It doesn't feel good to have a prank cause that much upset in a person.  Again, tonight, the celebrity, this time a TV host, passed out.  Why has this been allowed to air?  Watching celebrities getting scared from a man in a komodo dragon suit is funny, but a car accident is not.  If I find a youtube video of this show, I'll post it.

What else isn't funny is racism.

Did you see the woman that couldn't POSSIBLY be a love connection?  Sure!  She's the larger, dark-skinned woman.  See?  She makes the Egyptian man scared and want to leave.  Isn't that funny?

Please, dear Egyptians, don't ever try to tell me that there's no racism in this country.  There's not suppose to be, but there is.  You're getting Egypt confused with Islam.  In Islam, there is no racism, but Muslims (especially non-practicing or marginally practicing ones) make stupid mistakes that have nothing to do with Islam.

I spent the rest of the evening clearing out allllll the school books I must return before I leave at the end of the year.  I have given my notice, as I have signed a contract with a school in Alexandria.  Inshahallah, we are moving in August.  Alhumdullah.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

DAY 2 Ramadan 2017

Ramadan Kareem,



2:20 AM

I had an extra ten minutes of sleep coming to me, but my hub woke me up before my alarm went off and told me to get ready.

Thanks, Honey.

Alhumdulillah.  We are blessed in Egypt with foul medamnes because fava beans are a perfect suhour.  I had made very watery mashed potatoes (think potato soup) the night before for us to eat in the morning.  We had Domty cheese and aish baladi or pita bread.


I couldn't keep my eyes open, and didn't read any Quran this morning.  So far, as of writing this, I haven't read any at all today.  It doesn't feel good.


3:12 AM

6:00 AM

After praying fajr, I was able to go back to sleep until 6:00, when I had to wake for work.  This was what I'd been dreading for a year.  How was I going to be able to teach while fasting to children who may or may not be fasting?

I only had a half an hour to get ready---if I would EVER be ready to teach middle school while fasting.  On the bright side, not having to get breakfast or lunch boxes ready was a blessing.  We were able to get out the door on time.  We also didn't have to stop at the store to pick up chips or juices---which was good because every snack shop was shuttered.

7:30 AM

In front of the doctor's office, on the way to line up, I encounter the first student trying to get out of fasting.  I had him line up.  Immediately after line up, he was back at the doctor's office.  He broke his fast.

My son has two good friends at school---one is Muslim and one is Christian.  The Muslim boy broke his fast at duhr.  The answer to instilling good values in your kid isn't necessarily surrounding him or her with Muslim friends.  Goodness comes in many forms and the faith from someone outside of Islam might very well be stronger than someone in Islam.  I'd rather my son also experiences Christian goodness than only having a Muslim friend who is so non-committal.  This has become more important in Egypt, where sectarian violence against Copts has become frequent and deadly.

A group of Muslim boys in 6th grade broke their fast and began taunting the others with the idea of drinking water like them.  When an older boy began laying into them, I told him to stop.

"It's between them and God.  Fasting is a benefit for them, but if they don't want it, you can't make them.  Leave them alone."

I myself reminded students that if you say that you'll stop playing your game on your tablet during class, and I find you playing it again, your fast might not be valid.  They were shocked.  It really, really, really isn't all about the food.

At 1:45, the school day ended two hours early, alhumdulillah.  I have been a teacher during a full 8-hour school day in the States, and I'll tell you that this schedule beats it for sure.  When I got home, I was still mobile.


I had bought veggies from my favorite seller:  lettuce, green beans and GRAPE LEAVES!  I made a pot of them before I prayed asr and took a much needed two hour nap.

This is the actual photo of the aforementioned stuffed grape leaves.  They are easier than you'd imagine to make; they're  just time consuming.

Yosra's Stuffed Grape Leaves

If using fresh leaves (probably not in the States where jarred leaves are more prevalent), then put a little water in the pot and boil, moving them around once or twice.  They should lose their bright color, but not their form.

While those are cooking, wash a pan of rice, and add to it three diced tomatoes, a bunch of chopped parsley, and a diced onion.  Add salt, even if it's bad for you, it tastes good.  Add mint if that's your thing.  Stir it up.

Have a large bowl soup or bullion ready and add the juice of a small lemon, OR if you're in the West where fruits are radiation-level scary, use the juice from a fourth of a lemon.

Take the leaves out and cool them on a plate.  Have the stem close to you.  No need to remove them.  Have a spoonful of the mixture to the center of a leaf.  Fold the bottoms of the leaf up, then right side over, top down and left side over.  It doesn't really matter if it's not super tight because the cooking of the rice will tighten it up.  The important thing is to arrange the leafy bundles into a pot in a circular fashion, layer after layer.  Cover with the soup at the end.

Important:  place a metal plate inside the pot to hold the stuffed grape leaves down during cooking.  Let them cook on medium-high heat for twenty minutes, then reduce to lowest for another ten or fifteen.  Resist checking on them time and again since you'll lose moisture.  These can be served cold or hot.

I served mine with a yogurt dip made from the contents of two yogurt containers, two diced cucumbers and two minced cloves of garlic.  This was chilled before serving.

By the way, my husband refused to eat any.  It's a good thing I like him, but I did give him a hard time the rest of the night.

El Kid, on the other hand, enjoyed them thoroughly with me.


During iftar we watched a very boyish TV show, but since I'm in a home with two male, I get out voted.  It's not exactly love, peace, and happiness.  It is, however, good TV.  Fifi Abou, God bless her, went first.  It was two soccer players tonight.  I can't wait to see Shah Rukh Khan!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

DAY 1 Ramadan 2017

Ramada Kareem,

Each day during the Holy Month of Ramadan, I will be writing a little about my experiences.


2: 30 AM

Last night, my husband bought plain yogurt from the dairy and I stirred some uncooked oatmeal into it.  The oatmeal soaks up the moisture, so you don't need to cook it.  Oatmeal is one of those foods which fills you up.  This morning, I added sliced peaches a little more yogurt on top of that and then a sprinkling of muesli.  It's too expensive to add more than that.  I did not add sugar.  It's best to keep sugar to a minimum throughout the month as it only makes you thirsty.  Having said that, I did down half a glass of a pistachio drink.  I also had one pita, or aish baladi, with a little butter and (in a mad dash to grab more protein) a little peanut butter.  Of course we all drank water.  My husband drank tea because he's addicted, and without it, a headache would set in.


3:00 AM

I am doing something different this year.  Instead of reading from a physical book, I am reading Quran off my tablet through a Quran app from Quran Reading.  This way, I will be hearing it as I am reading it in English.  When there is time, I check out the transliteration of the Arabic words.  Maybe I'll learn more Arabic inshahallah.  I just made it into Baqarah, but alhumdulillah for starting an inroad.  ANY advance into the Holy Quran this year is for good, and I want to focus on what I did read each day instead of what didn't read or have yet to read.

Here are other good apps for Ramadan that I have tried and can recommend:

Quran Stories in a series that also includes the life of the Sahabi, companions of the Prophet (pbuh)

Masjid Now for prayer time reminders

Hijri Calendar very fun for converting important events into hijri dates.  Found out that, on the hijri calendar, my birthday is one day after the birthday of the Prophet (pbuh) and that my son was born four years to the day when I met his father.

Muslim Pro kind of a one-stop shop for various Islamic needs

99 Names of Allah Memorizer  I can't find the exact link.  Basically, this app is a low tech match the cards game.  One card is the name in Arabic with how it is written in English and the other card is the attribute explained.  I have gotten into the habit of playing that first before any other game on my tablet.  It is fun for me, and I am reducing my high scores from over 100 tries to under 100 tries---don't judge.  I have been trying for years to force myself to somehow learn the 99 Names of Allah, but this is the first time I feel like I am actually learning them.

Sites in VR to download AMAZING virtual reality images of mosques from many countries.  It feels like you are inside the mosque and can look around and see all the beautiful details.  No need to have any other devices than your tablet.  It might work with a phone, but I haven't tried that.

While I was grabbing links, I saw this ad.

My son is a big Clash Royale addict (not too strong of a word).  I actually told him that his addiction to a fighting game that has elements of gambling is NOT compatible with fasting.  He can't play it during the day, but I will let him play it after dinner inshahallah.



When the azan sounded, I thought of my husband's cousin who died yesterday.  It seems like I'm always writing of someone dying, but with a lot of people in Egypt, come a lot of deaths.  This man was a muezzin, a man who calls Muslims to prayer.  Not to speak ill of the dead, but he did not have the golden voice you'd expect of someone holding this job.  As he grew sicker, his voice sounded worse.  In the beginning, years ago, I had tensed up listening to his voice, and I resented his inadequacies.  Later, I realized how even with his lack, he still had such commitment to get up and go to the mosque many times a day.  Would I?  I mean, I can't be a muezzin (it can only be a man), but that's dedication.  I began to send prayerful energy out to this man hoping that he was OK.  During the Revolution, it was his voice which told me that somehow we were still safe because God was with us.  He passed away before the start of Ramadan because not everyone has the chance.

I also thought of how unusually quiet this year's start is.  This is due to the horrible shooting deaths of Copts Christians en route to a monastery south of here.  Yes, we're Muslim and, yes, those terrorists called themselves Muslim.  Obviously, there's not a lot of Islam going on in their heads or hearts.  As much as we need to pray for the Copts to be protected from predators like that, we also need to pray for the wayward Muslims to find their way back again.

I looked down onto the street as I listened to the azan, and there was this little bruiser stuffed into his clothes and holding onto a big stick.  Three other primary school boys came around the corner and they started a fight with sticks as the azan kept going on.  I spoke from up above down to the street below.

"Oozabellahi min a Shaytin regime."  I said it three times and they looked up.

"Eh, Hajja?"  The little boy addressed me the way you're supposed to talk to old ladies.

"Salahi!"  I told him to go pray.  They stopped their fight and walked away.  I will never know if they prayed or not, but at least they didn't fight on my street.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

One Ringy Dingy

Asalamu Alaykom,

This personal narrative comes to you courtesy of Ms. Yosra, English teacher, because I felt my students needed a better example than the ones given in their writing book.  The voice I use for it is a bit different than the one I normally use on the blog.  Also, there were some elements I had to use:  dialogue, personification, simile, and metaphor.  Find those for extra credit.

During my Spring break travel plans for Luxor, I had pictured many amazing moments.  My husband, my son, and I would sail serenely down the famous Nile.

Next, we would bravely explore the ancient tombs in Valley of the Kings.

If we were still having enough energy, I was hoping to go north to the mystical temple of Hathor in the small city of Qena.

I imagined all that from my desk chair, but what I couldn't possibly have guessed is that the most memorable moment of our trip was playing hide-and-go-seek with my wedding ring.

It seems crazy to think that I would lose my silver band anywhere because I'm never without it.  yet, if I explain the situation, maybe it will make more sense.  The long trip down had been on the overnight train.  It always seems like a clever idea since for sure we can simply sleep the night away.  However, we never really do rest, and we arrive tired and eager to stretch our tired muscles.  Once the horse-drawn carriage dropped us off at the hotel, it made total sense to go for a quick swim.  That was when everything went wrong.

"Aren't you coming with us?"  I asked my husband who looked like he was ready for a snooze not a swim.

"Where are you going?"  he mumbled with his head on the pillow and his eyes closed.

"The pool!  I told you that we're going for a swim.  It'll feel good, " I tried to convince him.  He replied with some kind of garbled speech, so my son and I headed out just the two of us to the cool of the pool.

Everything was going swimmingly, as they say, until we were done with the swim and back in the hotel room.  While getting ready to go out sightseeing, I suddenly realized that my wedding ring was missing.  I tried to remain calm because my husband would not be very understanding if I couldn't find his gift of unending love.  What would I do if I had actually lost that ring?  The issue wasn't how much money it had cost; we had money to buy another.  It was the sentimental feelings attached to it.  I felt awful.

My attempts at searching  quietly had failed because my husband was waking up.  He knew that something was wrong.  Now, I was really worried.  This was a our first day of the whole trip.  Not just that---it was the first hour!  Had I ruined the whole trip by some stupid forgetfulness?  I was as scared as if I'd lost my own child instead of my ring.  Even though the ring was not there, my husband was, and I had to confess what had happened.  What would he do?

The funny thing is that my hot-blooded Egyptian was understanding.  He reminded me that he himself had lost his wedding ring inside the Movenpick pool in Aswan.  He only chastised me a little for forgetting to take it off before the swim and reasoned that it must be in the pool.  He had been able to get his ring back, so he hoped I would be able to also.

I could have sworn that I had taken it off before swimming, but it wasn't in any of the compartments inside my jewelry bag.  There were the hijab pins, but not ring.  My husband went out to ask the pool maintenance man to look for it.  Our trip was going to be OK, even if the ring was still lost.

After many prayers to  Al-Wajid, The Finder, that I would be reunited with the ring, there it was in my hand again!  A whole day had passed without knowing where it was, when I removed a couple of pins that I had stuck into my jewelry bag.  Subhanallah!

It had been wedged tightly between the two pins and undetectable.  My wedding ring had been there all the time; it had never gone into the pool.  I really had remembered to take it off, which pleased my husband since now he knew I had cared.  All of us were relieved for a happy ending to that story and the chance for us to enjoy an additional three days of a worry-free trip to Luxor.

How's Your Ear?

Asalamu Alaykom,

Since I can't show you a picture of my own ear, I'm letting Hathor be my ear stand-in.  Her right ear, normally the shape of a cow's, is missing, which I find oddly appropriate.  My own right ear had been out of commission since February.

However, I do feel that significant improvement has been made since yesterday.  Alhumdulillah.  I always felt that during the spoken prayers there was a reaction deep in my ear canal, as if the sound waves were activating my Eustachian tube.  I talk A LOT as a teacher, but this tonality of prayer had a different resonance in my head.  For months, I have felt that if a change were going to occur, it would happen during prayer.   Yesterday, it did.  

I won't say that I am 100% and back to the way I was, but there is a clearing out of the blockage and inshahallah this will continue.  Taking allergy medicine has helped and staying free from colds has been instrumental.  Colds!  They seem like a minor inconvenience until you suffer through the after effects like this.  

Thank you for all who have been hoping that I would feel better.  Alhumdulillah, I do and inshahallah I will keep improving.

What has this taught me?  

  • My body is more fragile than I'd like to admit.  
  • I am needing to take care of the small problems so they don't grow into larger problems.
  • All of us with hearing are blessed beyond belief.
  • Those without hearing have some serious patience to live in a world without one of their senses.