Monday, July 25, 2005

The Whirling Dervish

The whirling dervish twirls around onstage with two several skirts on around his waist. Then he lifts the one skirt up over his head - (first photo) and spins for several minutes as though he's in a trance. Then he takes off the first skirt, and twirls in just the second skirt until he takes that off too and walks around the room with the skirt over his head. This has always been a personal fascination of mine even before I met Hassan. I had no idea whirling dervishes were Egyptian in origin, courtesy of Turkey and Greece. The colors are magnificent and the embroidery unimaginable (to those of us who admire embroidery). Egypt can keep the belly dancers, just give me a whirling dervish anyday!

Ups and Downs

This past week has been interesting to say the least.

Mira handled her punishment very well. When Mira goes out to play, she will need to check in with us every hour until we decide she is once again "off the hook" as she likes to say.

Hassan hardly ever goes out with just his friends. He finally had planned to go out with his friends one night and was kind of in between on whether or not to go out to begin with, but decided to go which I thought was a good idea. He left, arrived an hour later at his friend's business. About the same time he arrived to his destination, Mira called him to tell him I was stuck in the bathroom. Yes, for some reason the latch was jammed and I could not get out. I felt awful. So, of course Hassan returned home with his friend, Shabaan, and they got me out. Hassan then took Shabaan home and returned around 2:00 a.m. with dinner in hand, and dessert.

Last night we went out with one of Hassan's friend, Ehab and his wife Jihan on a Nile cruise/dinner ship. It was really nice, except Ehab and Jihan do not get along. Mira danced with the belly dancer and other tourists on the ship and I stood underneath a whirling dervish (a lifelong fascination of mine). It's truly amazing how they keep spinning for minutes on-end.

We had a really nice time and returned home. For some reason we all feel like tourists and look every bit like tourists, but that's ok. I keep thinking this is one long vacation/sabbatical from life and someday in the near future we will return.

Mira has been battling allergies and/or her asthma over the last couple of days. We are still trying to get to see the doctor but he is not in until 7:30 p.m. so we will see.

All in all it was a very exciting week, with many reasons to be happy, but for some reason I've been feeling quite down nonetheless. I can't place my finger on it -- some of it is homesickness (which includes everybody and everything), some of it is still feeling like I don't belong, and some of it is just plain old sadness.



Sunday, July 17, 2005

"Eyes Optionable"

A few days ago Mira went out to play with a little girl from the neighborhood named Aya. Mira was playing so nicely with Aya. The day passed and as the sun was setting I was wondering about Mira's whereabouts. I asked Hassan and right before he took a nap he said "I'll go look for her in a few minutes." Well, a few minutes turned out to be at least an hour later. I wasn't worried about her safety because we have outstanding security where we live and everyone pretty much knows each other and children will come to your door if something is wrong with your child. I decided to go downstairs into the garden area and find out for myself what Mira was doing.

I found Mira sitting on the curb of the parking lot (gasp) with children she's not supposed to play with (double gasp). I asked Mira where her bicycle was and she said "I don't know." She gave me this look like she never owned a bicycle before in her life. One of the children that she's not supposed to be playing with, Zacharia said "My brother Mohamed is riding her bike." I just about blew a gasket. I said "You go find your brother right now and bring him back here. He is not allowed to ride Mira's bike." Eventually I found Mohamed and I said in a loud stern voice "You get off Mira's bike right now. You are never allowed to ride Mira's bike again because you broke it too many times. If you want a bicycle, ask your parents to buy you one." He just said "OK."

I took Mira upstairs, and told her she is punished from riding her bike for one week. Then I asked her to surrender the key to her bicycle lock, which she did. I told her, for the next few days she is grounded from playing with children. She is never allowed to play with Zacharia, Mohamed and their little sisters again. Mira JUST DIDN'T GET IT!! So we went back and forth for several hours of her crying and carrying on "Nobody loves me." "You don't love me." Unfortunately, she has no idea what kind of child I was because she met her match when I became her mother. I know every trick in the book, backwards, forwards, sideways and upside down. As my Mom used to say "Don't pull that crap with me."

Mira is the only child in the neighborhood who plays with these children. They trash all the toys; call kids really bad names and throw rocks at people. We've told Mira before not to play with these kids but we got soft on them for some reason. Never again.

So Mira went to bed that night with her eyes red and swollen from crying, hyperventilating one too many times (another old trick of mine). Usually we lay in bed and say "OK 5 minutes of quiet starting now." We rarely go beyond 5 minutes. We used to say "Eyes closed." Now Mira says "Eyes optionable." Oh, how can I be angry at a child who wants to use such a big word as "optional" and instead replaces it with "optionable." We love her so much and realize that she is growing too quickly for us to hold onto, but it doesn't mean that we stop correcting her and punishing her. It's all a part of love and wanting to raise her with a sense of responsibility and accountability; something I really didn't understand until I turned 29, but there's always hope for Mira.



Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Some Days are Diamonds, Some Days are Stones

Mira has been wanting to spend the night away from home for quite some time. When we were in the US we tried to get Mira to stay at my one sister's house, but when we would really talk about it, Mira would back out. Last night was the exception; Mira finally spent her first night away from home. She kept asking me: "Was Kelsey afraid?" "Was Frances ever nervous sleeping at Baba's?" (my Mom's house) Of course I told Mira that they were nervous. Then Mira told me how much she was going to miss me -- I really felt her words and just wanted to drag her home, but I knew this was a big step for everyone.

It was all planned (at least in my mind): we would drop Mira off at Aunt Olfat's, sit for an hour, maybe two at most, and then leave Mira with Aunt Olfat. After visiting for a little while, Hassan and I would go shopping for a few kitchen items, you know spending some time alone for a change. Let me just say that things never go as planned -- at least not in my case.

We dropped Mira off at Aunt Olfat's (that part worked out). We stayed for six hours during which time, Dalia (Olfat's daughter) and her son Omar went with us (Hassan, Mira and me) to the store to shop for kitchen items. There is never a lack of opinion in Aunt Olfat's family when it comes to anything especially shopping. I know that people are trying to help us, inform us about the items we were shopping for, but one would get an entirely different impression had they actually experienced it like I had.

We finished our shopping, went back to Aunt Olfat's and sat for another hour at which time I told Mira she can stay or she can come home with us; it was her decision. Mira decided to stay.

Hassan and I went downstairs, Mira went with us along with Dalia, and we said goodnight. Mira went upstairs with Dalia. We looked in the rearview mirror to see if there was a little girl with a cat t-shirt following us up the street. We were comforted to see the street empty.

In the car, I told Hassan that I cannot believe how people eat all night long. Then I asked him if he wanted to go for shrimp sandwiches. At this point I was trying to salvage any notion of a romantic evening; as romantic as shopping for kitchen supplies can be in my mind. After 12 years of marriage, I'll take what I can get.

Hassan and I ate our shrimp sandwiches in the car on the way home. We got home, Hassan went to bed and I stayed up until I thought Mira wouldn't call. Then I went to sleep.

This morning Aunt Olfat called saying that Mira did very well. Well, Mira's growing up and stretching her wings ever so slightly. I guess there's no stopping her at this point.

As for Hassan and I, maybe we'll spend time alone some day, without people, phone calls or children. I don't know when it will be; but I keep hoping.



Saturday, July 09, 2005

Counting the days . . . or not

I realized yesterday, or was it the day before, that I have stopped marking the days off the calendar since we moved to Cairo. Perhaps life is becoming a bit more normal for me, however "normal" is described by Egyptian society, and perhaps I'm really beginning to realize that we're here for awhile, so I might as well enjoy it.

Yesterday, Hassan and I dropped off Mira at Aunt Olfat's so we could do some shopping. We went into Cairo - an accomplishment in itself -- and met his friends, Ehab and Shabaan, who took us to a downtown shopping area. Our intention was to shop in a very famous area called "Attaba" for low-priced, high quality housewares. Needless to say, we never made it to Attaba. Instead we settled (unbeknownst to me) for shopping in another nearby area close to Attaba. We ended up purchasing one adult bicycle which Hassan and I will share, along with two cotton long sleeve tops for me which cost 15 LE each (equivalent to $3.00 each). We also managed to buy one chandelier for the living room, and two light fixtures, one for each bedroom. We desperately needed these lighting fixtures as we were tired of looking at raw lightbulbs hanging out of the sockets in the ceiling.

We ate shrimp sandwiches at a small cafe (seafood is everywhere here in Egypt), and then went to an ice cream shop for dessert. I've never seen two grown men eat ice cream so quickly as Ehab and Shabaan. Luckily the restaurant was air conditioned.

It was about 7:00 p.m. and as I was people-watching, which I love to do, I noticed that more and more people surfaced on the streets and sidewalks as the sun made its descent into the horizon. Sure it's great to go shopping in the late afternoon such as we did, but it's much smarter to start shopping after sunset.



Saturday, July 02, 2005

A Hen Party in Egypt

Over the past several years, I have been a member of a few email groups dedicated to women married to Egyptians and one dedicated to women living in Egypt.

Yesterday, I finally had an opportunity to meet some of the women with whom I have been communicating over the past few years. It was quite refreshing to finally meet these women I've only known by email names and addresses. There were approximately 15 women in attendance at a baby shower for one American woman about to give birth. While many of the women were from the U.S. (ok, here Egyptians say "America" I still say "U.S."), there was a woman from Iceland, one woman from Australia (of Egyptian parents), a Slovenian/Syrian woman currently living in Slovenia, and a woman from Germany. I was very nervous about going, but was put at ease after being given a warm welcome. There were no judgements made, no gossipping about others; just a room full of women speaking English, passing along motherly advice to the mom-to-be, and eating good food.