Saturday, December 30, 2006

Conversations with Egyptians

Mira and I went to a birthday party for one of Mira's friends on Thursday. I was hesitant to go because for whatever reason I think I don't get along very well with Egyptian women, but I went anyway. (It is my own insecurities coming out.) Mira's friend's mother, Ola, is just as delightful as can be, and of course she is Egyptian, and she sews, which is something we have in common. She is very welcoming.

One of her cousins, Nahla, was there. I looked at her and thought "Oh my goodness, what am I going to talk about with this woman." Actually, we really hit it off. She is Lebanese/Egyptian, her husband is Lebanese, they have a place in Rehab being built, and they are currently living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. She made me feel so comfortable, told me about life in Riyadh and how women gather everyday - every morning to have coffee, talk about their lives, problems, successes, etc. She explained that women in Saudia cannot drive - something everyone knows about, so the best thing they do is shop. Whenever they go out, they must be in full niquab, which she doesn't like because she cannot see through the veil, and stumbles everytime.

We were talking about music and the newest Arabic songs. Since I cannot understand many of the songs, I usually like a song by its melody. They asked me my husband's name, and I said "Hassan." They said, "Well, there are a lot of love songs out right now about Hassan. You ought to learn them and have a little romance." I blushed.

Arabic/Muslim women are very conservative on the outside, but get them in a room or a party with only women and all the stereotypes disappear. It was very refreshing and I felt relieved.

I keep explaining to Egyptians that Americans talk about anything and everything, we are not shy when it comes to conversation. There are no "taboos" in American society. Well, if there are any I'm not aware of it.

On another note, Debbie and I went shopping recently and when we were shopping a man asked me where I was from. I said America, and then I told him that my husband is Egyptian. He turned to his friend smiling and said "She's looking for an Egyptian husband." His friend said "No, she said her husband is Egyptian." They both looked at me and smiled. Of course I didn't know what they said (Debbie translated). Debbie said everytime we go out an Egyptian man talks to me, as though he's interested in me. She told me I need to wear niquab or at least an abaya (a long coat). I cannot dress anymore frumpy when I go shopping, believe me.

A few days later I was with a dear friend of mine, and they told me that I don't need to worry; because I am in hijab it is my protection. No one will ever say anything disrespectful to me. I forget I am even wearing hijab; I don't even feel it anymore - it has finally become a part of who I am - a part of my personality. Alhamdulillah.

I am finally comfortable living here - every opportunity and experience brings me to a new level of contentment.



Thursday, December 28, 2006

We are headed to the US for vacation

Wow, what a surprise, huh? It's definitely a surprise for us too. Mira and I are going to the US January 26 flying Egyptair. I never flew Egyptair before so it will be one long flight to New York (JFK) - 10 or 12 hours from Cairo. From JFK we will fly into Dulles. We tried to get a flight to Pittsburgh to visit one of my sisters, but the layover in JFK would be 5 hours. Too long to ask Mira to sit in the US without moving. Our flight leaves Cairo 10 am on January 26 and we will return February 24th. We will miss two weeks of school because we have a mid-winter break in there until February 11th. I don't know who will take us to the airport. I am nervous to fly in the winter, especially January and February. Ok, I'll admit it - I'm afraid to fly in January and February. I think of the icing on the plane and I lose it from there. I watched too many shows on National Geographic. Chalk it up to my wild imagination.

When Hassan left for the US I never expected to visit him in the time he was gone, but it seems as good a time as any to go. He said we can go now or go in June - hmm. I had to think about this and decided to go now because I honestly don't know how long he'll be gone at this point (yes things may change and he may be staying longer, much longer than originally planned) and I want us to spend the summer in Alexandria. I am finding more and more people who spend their summers in Alexandria and it would be great to see them there instead of missing them from Cairo.

While in the US I have a long shopping list of things to buy and bring back to Cairo. Mostly basics such as Theraflu, Tylenol (Panadol is used here in Egypt), Benadryl, thick winter leotards, etc. I want a polarfleece top because mine are way too big and I don't know what size I am right now in the US. Mira has her long list of toys. Obviously, we will not be able to buy everything on her list, but it will be a good chance to pick up some movies she has wanted for awhile. She's really into musicals right now. The first thing Mira needs is a nice winter jacket. We lost two of her jackets last year - we think they were stolen at school.

Yesterday we went to CityStars and had lunch with a friend of mine. I am going to embroider two bathrobes for her to give as gifts. I am really excited because it is "our" first customer. Yes, there is hope for a larger business in terms of embroidery but this will take time of course (meaning, money). Insha'Allah it will work out.

Egypt is a great place to start an embroidery business because everything here is embroidered. Also, I still want to start a quilting business but need to find out where to get the fabric and actually get there to buy the fabric. I bought flannel for quilting thanks to a dear friend of mine, and now I want to move on to get other things - quilting cottons. I see them on TV as there is a quilting show on Nile TV here but it's all in Arabic. It is nice to see, though because the woman uses quality cottons. Her technique is a little outdated, but it works. (I know the shortcuts she doesn't use.)



Sunday, December 24, 2006

There's something going on around here . . .

Hassan has been away three weeks and already wants us to be with him. He suggested that Mira and I travel to the US for our mid-winter break (end of Jan-beginning of Feb). While I want to go to the US and see Hassan and my family, I am afraid to fly in the winter for obvious reasons. So, he is looking into airline tickets to the US around January 25 to February 23. We will see how it goes. Insha'Allah it will all work out.

We got a cat. Yes, you know we love them to death - literally. Poor little Persian or Shirazi as they call them here in Egypt. She likes to talk a lot for a Persian, almost like a Siamese. She's great - especially with Olivia, excuse me, I mean Mira handling her all the time.

Debbie had a "Christmas" party this evening at her place. There was no religious tone to the party, just a get together of women and their children. It was really nice. Since it is her first
"Christmas" with her two children outside of America, she thought it would be a good idea to transition them out of the holiday season. It was a good evening - no men were there so women could take off their hijab. I, of course left it on because I'm always cold.

I managed to figure out how to hook up my digital camera as a webcam and used it with Maggie's Mom the other night. If I can hook up a digital camera as a webcam, anyone can. Maggie's Mom had me laughing hysterically.

Three photos: our new kitten-cat, Mira and Jasmine dancing a ballerina dance they created themselves, and Mira and me.



Tuesday, December 19, 2006

School vacation is coming

Here in Egypt our Eid vacation starts on Friday, December 22 for two weeks. Alhamdulillah. We will return to school on January 8th, and then be at school for three weeks - two weeks of review (or 'revision' as Egyptians call it) and one week of exams. After the exam week we will have our winter vacation break for two weeks, I believe. This ought to take us into the first week in February. At least this is how I understand it as of today.

Mira has been fighting some type of virus so I was out of school Sunday and Monday. I returned today and found my desk exactly as I left it - a complete mess. If you were to see my home it is spotless. But work is a different story. Too much work and not enough time -- oh yes, and only one of me.

While I was home taking care of Mira I was re-thinking my resignation from school. I thought how wonderful it would be to be home all day, not to worry about what to wear (although I like dressing nicely - it makes me feel good), what to complete at school, etc. I also thought about quilting, sewing, and even crocheting at this point. But then I thought about my lack of contact with adults. I can count a few friends I can trust completely, I mean completely at school, and I would miss them dearly. So I returned today ready to pick up where I left off a few days ago, trudging ahead with my hip boots strapped high, trying to avoid all the "road apples" that fall in my path.

I have been able to avoid my problem from last year. He comes around in the morning, and while I see him in the hallways, I always try to avoid him by looking in another direction or by ducking in a safe classroom. I've even been able to learn how to hide from him.



Saturday, December 16, 2006

Out here on my own

We went to Olfat's after school on Thursday. She was very happy to see us and started crying. She asked about Hassan and I said he was fine. Everytime she talked about him she started crying so I would not mention his name too much.

She had her bone scan on Thursday but the results haven't been made known yet since the report hasn't been written. I hope for the best, but expect a decline. It's just the realist in me from past experience.

For dinner at Olfat's we had basilla (yes, peas) and gazar (carrots) with lahme (meat) and rice. Mira had spinach and beef. She loves it. Going there without Hassan reminded me of how I never appreciated my Mom's food until I moved out of the house, got married, and was repsonsible for my own meals. Everytime I went back "home" no matter what Mom made it tasted great. I felt the same way at Aunt Olfat's.

Hassan's cousin Walid and his wife and daughters went to Olfat's and Mira played with the kids for awhile. We stayed for about three hours and eventually made our way home after stopping at the souk (market) for a few things.

Yesterday I made fuul and adddddddttttttttttts (lentil soup). Yummm. I cannot have enough whole grains in Egypt. I know it's not meat, but who cares. I never really cared for red meat anyways, unless it's a nice thick juicy steak from Nick's.

I went to the souk last night again with Mira and Jasmine and met one of Debbie's friends who recognized Jasmine. She is a full niquab and asked me 'Are you Muslim?' WHAT?! Does it matter? I thought I could have done a "Joe" on her, but instead for Debbie's sake I was polite. Sometimes it is better not to say anything at all -- just smile.



Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Catching up . . . .

I called Hassan today. He called me last night and I was sleeping. I sleep so hard at night I don't even hear the phone ring with it right next to my bed.

Hassan seems to be getting settled -- he's moving to his new apartment today and will be right across the street from his office. I worry about his safety - it takes on an entirely different meaning in the US than it does here in Egypt. I never worry about him here in Cairo - just in the US. I also worry about his health for reasons I don't want to explain right now.

When Mira talked to Hassan she spent half the time crying saying she misses him. I know how she feels. She told me that I don't miss him because I don't cry. Well, I don't cry, but I miss him. I told her if I cried and she cried then we would never stop. Kind of like Lainie and I crying and then ending up laughing.

I have one more week of school and then we're off for a week or two - I can't remember right now. It's the Hajj so we have vacation - only now they're beginning to call it "Christmas" vacation. OK, I'll go with it.

The owner of the school is still in the office and will probably be there for another week. It is good to have her there for many reasons, only it is very stressful in a passive kind of sense. I will be glad when the weekend comes.

We are going to Aunt Olfat's tomorrow after school to see how she's feeling. She had a bone scan today so I want to know the results. Also, I am concerned about her taking her medicine on a regular basis because no one will help her remember. If only I could help her . . . memories come rushing back too quickly to re-live Mom's last year - especially this time of year.



Saturday, December 09, 2006

Sobhan'Allah - The Pope's Recent Trip to Turkey

I was thrilled to see the Pope pray inside the mosque in Turkey. When the Pope took off his shoes and stepped inside the mosque to pray, I was so satisifed that he went so far beyond what was expected in order to mend the divide between Muslims and Christians. I found this article on Yahoo this morning and found another positive outcome to the Pope's recent visit to Turkey. Something in Arabic can only be explained by saying "Sobhan'Allah" (something that cannot be explained, except by God).



ISTANBUL, Turkey -
Pope Benedict XVI' name=c1> SEARCHNews News Photos Images Web' name=c3> Pope Benedict XVI's successful visit to Turkey was the answer to Turkish tourism operators' prayers. In the tension-filled days before the pontiff's arrival, tour operators confessed Friday, they prayed he wouldn't say anything that could be taken as an offense to Islam, that he wouldn't pray at the Haghia Sophia and that the anti-
Vatican' name=c1> SEARCHNews News Photos Images Web' name=c3> Vatican demonstrations wouldn't be too large or violent.
Most of all, they wished for him to return home safely. "It was a blessing for Turkish tourism that it went so well," said Nurdan Ustman of United Travel Services, a 45-year tourism veteran. "I'm sure in the coming year we will see positive repercussions in the image of the country, and image is everything in tourism."
The trip was a success in part because there was so much that could have gone wrong, said Mert Dagoglu of Istanbul-based International Travel Services. "It was such a successful visit because we were all so afraid of the negative effects," he said by cell phone from a cruise ship near the resort town of Kusadasi. "In Turkey, a Muslim country, the demonstrations could have affected the whole atmosphere. But fortunately nothing but positive things happened, and we're so happy."

Friday, December 08, 2006

Ahhh, the weekend . . .

Last night Debbie and I took the kids to Carrefour to do some grocery shopping. Debbie wanted to get an mp3 player for her son Karim. We couldn't find an mp3 player for less than 400 LE - we got one for Mira for 285 but it was a holiday special - we found out last night. So Debbie didn't buy one and the kids were really upset.

I found coffee - Carrefour French coffee - 12LE a block - so I got two. Excellent coffee - better than American coffee (oops, did I say French coffee is better than American coffee) and much cheaper than the 40 LE Maxwell House. I got Peter Pan peanut butter for 14 LE a jar - I got two. Usually it costs 34 LE a normal size jar.

I didn't buy anything I didn't need - although I looked for clothes but didn't find anything I liked.

This morning we went to the club here in Rehab - Jasmine had piano lessons and Debbie and I sat and talked with a Moroccan woman who is married to an Egyptian - very nice woman. I have always been fascinated with Moroccans probably because their Arabic is mixed with French (twisted into their own language). Mira played on the trampoline.

After the Friday prayer we went to the mall to look for an mp3 player for Karim - none there. The hijab store I like was closed, so we came home.

Mira played with Jasmine all day and I slept off and on. I wasn't feeling very well. Debbie came over and had some coffee then took the kids back to her place for the evening. I was able to take some medicine and rest, and sweat out whatever it was bothering me. I don't know, but Alhamdulillah I feel better right now.

Jasmine's spending the night and the girls are set up in the TV room watching Harry Potter.

Tomorrow's Saturday and I don't know what we'll be doing. I want to buy a crochet hook and some yarn so a teacher at school can show me how to crochet. I think it's time to go to Kolle Shay (the closest thing to a craft store for me).



Thursday, December 07, 2006

Little by Little - Shwayya Shwayya

I spoke with Aunt Olfat yesterday and it seems as though she is very sick. She went to the hospital for blood analysis and glucose testing. She said that she was very sick this week and I think her glucose levels are really worrying her. It was long overdue, but I'm glad she went to get her blood tested. She had been so focused on her chemo that she neglected the glucose levels. Insha'Allah she will be feeling better soon. I think from this point on the goal is to make her as stable as possible and as comfortable as possible.

I went shopping with Debbie on Tuesday. I bought some boots, wore them yesterday, forgetting to break them in and my feet were screaming "Ouch! Let me out!" all day. But I looked good! I need to break them in at home before wearing them out again. They were really reasonable 100LE for real leather. The leather here in Egypt is incredible and the prices are great. I also bought two plain sweaters - no sequins, no lace, no designs. Debbie said it was too "plain Jane" but I like that considering it is next to impossible to find a hijab without sequins or any type of design on it.

Students in G10-12 didn't have school yesterday to prepare for exams today. It was a nice day without the high school students. I will be proctoring an exam today -- fine with me. I like being in a classroom for exams.

Mira has her play today. She's the narrator and has 12 lines. She has anxiety attacks over anything really big at school. So the teacher said she can write the lines on index cards. Good, problem solved there.

I made spaghetti and kobeba (Syrian style meatballs) for dinner last night. The spaghetti was really good but the kobeba is always too salty. I fell asleep shortly after that and slept until 5 this morning. Alhamdulillah I slept well. Mira has been sleeping better too. I can't figure it out. Maybe because I'm trying to keep her occupied.

I got a message from Hassan that was sent on Dec 3 but received at 2 a.m. this morning. He is not happy in the US - I think it's because of the all the game playing and back-biting people do. At least we know that nothing has changed at his company, but what a way to find out.

It has rained - I mean poured here in the desert for the past two evenings and nights in a row. It hasn't rained like this since we moved here. Maybe this is an omen -- God is telling us something.



Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Life keeps moving forward

I went to school yesterday and tried my best to avoid the person I was working with last year. He still has my mobile number (no big surprise there) but of course I deleted his. He asked me why and I told him that I needed to clean out my phone listings and since we were not working together anymore there was no need for me to keep it. He said "Marian but you're my sister." Sister. Right. No way. When a man in Egypt says to a woman "you're my sister" it means I like you in a friendship sort of way. But in his case it's not that way and I know it. He stays away from me if I am in my office so that's where I stay most of the time.

Mira needed art supplies for art class today so last night we went out to 4 or 5 different stores in Rehab to look for bottled white of white glue for paper mache. We didn't find it but found other glues she needed for art. I told her not to expect 3 months of this - I will get her what she needs but not what she wants.

I heard from Hassan this morning via email and it seems as though he is trying to pick up where he left off at work. He is also trying to find a place to stay for 3 months, however, the prices run approximately $2,000/month. Ouch! He is however on a waiting list for a lower priced apartment.

I told him that I'm learning how to use his mobile phone that he left in Egypt - it's a Motorola Razor. I love it, but it's a flip phone and I don't care for that part of it. It is great. Messaging is easy - using bluetooth is easy - everything about it is easy - except for the French owner's manual. No English. Oh well, I'm relying on Mira's teacher to show me because she has the same phone.

I am off today; took my day off, and Mira is at school. Debbie and I are going to run around Cairo today and try to get some things done. It should be fun and traffic shouldn't be too bad. At least it won't be completely and totally jammed like it is every night of the week. When do Egyptians sleep? It will take me forever to figure out the answer to this question.

I still haven't found any American coffee - it's been at least a week - for now it's instant Nescafe for me. I hope to find some today - Folgers, Maxwell House, aya hagga (anything) with an American label on it. Even the cheap Egyptian made "American" coffee will do at this point. Either the stores aren't stocking enough for demand or they aren't carrying the coffees anymore. I hope it's the first one. I know that instant coffee is lower in caffeine so I don't have the same type of buzz I'm used to having so early in the morning. Oh well. . .



Sunday, December 03, 2006

What in blazes is going on?!

First the good news -- Hassan called me at 6:30 a.m. this morning (Cairo time) to tell me he got a mobile phone (ok cell phone) and he is in Maryland/DC. He starts work tonight with Stoney and will stay with Stoney for the first couple of days. Alhamdulillah.

Now for the rest of the story:

I don't know what is going on - maybe it's the alignment of the stars or something, but it has been absolutely hectic here and crazy for the past couple of weeks.

My friend, the princpal of the school where I work, was out grocery shopping one night and had her purse stolen at the grocery store. It had everything in it -- keys to her home, office, flash memory, money, credit cards, kolla hagga (everything) in it.

There are problems at school amongst students of the various grades and racial/ethnic backgrounds. (I really don't want to elaborate on this right now.)

Then Hassan left. A whirlwind all on its own.

Today I went to school, found out that someone who I thought was gone from the school has returned, and I have done my best to keep away from him. The principal was not in a good mood today and interrupted a friend's class, making him feel uncomfortable. I told him that she was distributing her frustrations equally today and not to take it personally.

Now, after the day is over, with Mira sleeping since 6:30 p.m., I get a call from Debbie. She took Karim and Jasmine down to Dokki Street (downtown Cairo) from Rehab, to get Jasmine's braces adjusted. While Debbie was en route to her home, her purse got stolen. The thief only got a 150 LE, but her passport, keys, credits, yes, once again, kolla hagga (everything) was in there. She called me from the police station and I tried to get her landlord on the phone to tell him to bring the extra key to Debbie's apartment, but the person that I spoke with didn't understand any English and my Arabic is really bad.

The great part about today is it's almost over. The not-so-great part is I get to do it all over again tomorrow.



Saturday, December 02, 2006

So Far So Good

I got an email from Hassan today saying he was in Newark, NJ overnight because of bad weather. Better safe than sorry - really sorry. The airline put him up in a hotel and he even enjoyed a good ol' US steak - a real steak - I think I remember it. He is supposed to fly from Newark to Washington, DC sometime today and begin working Sunday night EST - Monday morning Cairo time.

Mira and I were up early this morning. We were at school at 7 a.m. for the SAT exam (earlier than a regular work day of 7:30). It was the first time our school administered the SAT and I was called in as a back-up. Not knowing I would be utilized, I didn't really study the manual. However, as the walk-ins approached, I had a classroom of 15 students - half of them are some of the most mischievious bunch of students in our school. They are not bad students, just antsy - more antsy than your average 16 or 17 year-old.

The test started about 8:15 and was over at 2:30. I had to keep track of every minute, take mobile phones, account for every exam and answer sheet. I noticed that the majority of students faired better on the math than the English. I cannot imagine taking the SAT in a second language. It is difficult enough.

The goal today was to make our school a difficult testing site -- one I hope to have achieved. Some of the students said I was too tough - good according to the Deputy Principal.

We got home about 3:30 and the afternoon flew from then on.

I spoke with my friend Debbie on the phone and we talked about Islam. She recently converted to Islam from being a Christian and is doing her best to follow the prayers. I told her that if there is anything I can do to help to let me know. I gave her some materials which she said she appreciated -- translated suras from Arabic to English transliteration.

I plan on taking Tuesday off this week as my regular day off. I am hope to get to having Sundays off, but I was off Thursday so I thought to go in tomorrow. Debbie works on Mondays, so I will take Tuesday off so we can spend the day together. I don't know what we'll do or where we'll go, but it ought to be fun.

I'm trying to keep busy with Hassan gone and I don't see any problem with that right now.



Friday, December 01, 2006

"I will kiss your tears away" - Dire Straits

I knew last night was not going to be easy. I knew that it would be emotional for all of us, especially Mira. Whenever she cries I think of the Dire Straits song "I Will Kiss Your Tears Away."

Hassan left last night and is on his way to Washington, DC. I can't believe it. He can't believe it. Most of all, Mira can't believe it.

Shabaan, Gamal and Ehab came over last night about 10:00 to drive Hassan to the airport. They sat for a little bit, had tea, and then it was time to go. Luckily Mira was sleeping since 8 so it was a little easier for Hassan to spend time with his friends.

When it was time to go, Hassan and I went to wake up Mira. I could see that Hassan was really sad. He doesn't cry, at least I've never seen him cry, but he got really close when we went to wake up Mira. She cried and cried. "Oh my little girl loves her Daddy" I thought. All the love in the world is wrapped up in this 8 year-old who doesn't want to let him go.

Hassan was getting ready to leave and Mira was on the back balcony waiting to see Hassan when Hassan and I said our good-bye. After all this, all this big talk, this great idea about him going for a couple of months came down to these last few minutes.

No it's not a long time, it's only a couple of months, but honestly we've never been apart for more than 3 weeks at a time and that was when Hassan would visit Cairo (I know I'm repeating myself). We've never been apart especially with Mira. Alhamdulillah Hassan and I have a great marriage. We don't argue much, we agree on most things, agree to disagree on others, live independent lives but always come home to each other. One does not overpower the other, nor does one manipulate the other. We are an equal balance, a partnership. Most of all we trust each other to the end.

Mira and I were on the back balcony when Hassan left with his friends. She cried and cried, and all I could think of was the Dire Straits song. It was sad but beautiful that this little girl who is trying to be so grown up so early in life loves her Daddy so much. "Daddy, don't go!" she cried, "Daddy, why are you leaving me!" She eventually settled down and fell asleep.

I don't know when she gets all the "drama queen" theatrics from - oh, I forgot - I'm her mother - maybe she gets it from me (smile).



Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The clock is ticking and I want it to stop

I am really nervous about Hassan leaving for the US. I told him that I cannot imagine living here without him - for obvious reasons, but mostly because I love him and will miss him terribly. He and I have never been apart for this amount of time - maybe 2-3 weeks when he would travel to Cairo on vacation, but not longer. And definitely not apart when it comes to parenting. We believe in the tag-team approach to parenting. I don't know how Mira will take this. She is not saying much right now, but come tomorrow and Thursday she will be devastated that he is leaving.

All I care about is Hassan's safety. I have to worry about him again in the States where crime is much higher than it is here. In Egypt, everyone is safe anytime of the day or night - together in groups or alone - woman or man. There is absolutely no tolerance for crime in this country. I don't know if that's good or bad. An American teacher in my school last year was carjacked on her way to school. She went to the police station and they immediately pummeled the man who carjacked her. Interesting. I'm not saying it's right, but it's sort of a relief that there is a zero tolerance policy.

Sure Hassan will be able to shop in the US for a few things I want - Bath and Body Works moisturizer, Yankee candles, whatever it is that Mira wants - within reason of course, some embroidery machine supplies, and the old standard of "3 buck Chuck." Hassan said that he will drive to Waldorf at some point and get some really good steaks.

I need to look on the bright side of this and make the best of it - it's only for 3 or 4 months and when he returns it will almost be spring here - sandstorm season but who cares as long as my habibi (sweetheart) is back safely in Cairo.



Friday, November 24, 2006

And the countdown begins . . .

Hassan will leave at 4:00 a.m. on Friday morning, December 1. Fortunately I will not have to work so I can take him to the airport which is only 15 minutes away from my home. I will sleep the rest of Friday - as much as I can because I usually don't do well until he lands wherever he is headed.

I need to check out the TSA website for "allowed" and "not allowed" travel items as well as the whole carry-on baggage issue which has drastically changed since we traveled a year and a half ago.

Mira is very upset Hassan is leaving. She cries a lot and says "Daddy's not coming back." I try to comfort her as much as possible. Then I tell her that he's leaving to bring her back a lot of things that she wants (kind of, because everything is available here in Egypt). Mira's list includes PlayStation 3 (no way!) and Skecher tennis shoes (why? I don't know but I don't think she's getting them).

I've been having a lot of deja vous lately - I think I'm a little overwhelmed with everything going on here. Some people say that deja vous are a kind of hiccup in the brain, but I don't know for sure.



Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Meme

I am really stressed out right now -- between Hassan getting ready to leave and many events taking place at school I am an emtional mess. So I found this list on Layla's blog and thought it would be fun to do for a change.



20 years ago, I:

1- was 23 years old.
2- had a two brothers who were 25 & 26 years old and two sisters who were 19 & 17 at the time. (ok so I'm the middle child)
3- wanted to fun and was very selfish and judgmental.

10 years ago, I:

1- was 33, married to my habibi and in my dream job not knowing life was about to change forever.
2- watched my mother quickly decline after a battle with cancer and spent just about all my free time with her.
3- bought our first house.

5 years ago, I:

1- was 38, married and in our dream house with unfortunately the nightmare yardwork that came along with it.
2- thought I was happy where I was but felt there was still something missing -- something more.
3- knew that life for us would never be the same after 9/11.

3 years ago, I:

1- was 41 and working part-time in a job I really didn't like very much.
2- realized that materialism isn't everything.
3- knew life would change and we would be moving on, which was not easy for me to come to grips with.

1 year ago, I:

1- was getting to move to our new flat.
2- was 42 and saw Mira change from a little girl into a young lady who is into rainbows, mermaids and unicorns.
3- was beginning to realize that I have to make the best of my life here in Cairo.

So far this year, I:

1- bought a really great sewing machine.
2- started wearing hijab.
3- lost an additional 10 kilos to bring the total to 30 kilos (approx. 60 pounds).

Yesterday I:

1- woke up at 5:00 a.m. getting ready for the school day.
2- told Hassan that I love him.
3- tickled Mira.

Today I:

1- got up at 3:30 a.m. (slept too early last night)
2- made a pot of coffee which I will consume before I leave for school at 7 a.m.
3- sat outside on my balcony and listed to the Adhan for Fajr prayer in the dark looking at the stars (my favorite time of day).

Tomorrow, I will:

1- go out with friends.
2- update Hassan's lists before he leaves.
3- remember to be grateful for everything I have been given.

In the next year, I will Insha'Allah:

1- continue to lose weight.
2- have three quilts finished.
3- see my family in the U.S.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hassan's Travel Plans

So it is confirmed -- Hassan needs to be in Washington, DC by December 3 - that's the day he will start work. The contract is for three months. He wll return sometime in early March -- ahh, the sandstorm season in Cairo.

He is searching for a flight to DC without having to travel through JFK. He's not worried about packing -- just my shopping list (thank you Habibi!).

I cannot believe he will be leaving for three months. This is a surreal experience for me because we have never been apart from each other for more than a few weeks at a time. After almost 14 years of marriage, another first. How many more "firsts" am I going to experience in my lifetime? I do not know. I am always up for an adventure and a good time -- ask anyone who knows me, but the worry over him flying always stresses me to a breaking point.

Depending on his flight time, I may or may not be taking him to the airport here in Cairo. Actually we live 15 minutes from the airport, so it is not a big deal to drive him, but it is very emotional for Mira. It might be better for all of us if Shabaan drops him off.

Get out the winter coat, gloves and hat. It's going to be a cold transition from Cairo to DC.



Thursday, November 16, 2006

Al Jazeera in English

After much anticipation, Al Jazeera has begun broadcasting their English speaking channel. It is very interesting. It seems as though they have a lot of British reporters on staff. I have not seen many American reporters yet, but I am sure they are out there somewhere. I have only been able to catch the hourly news so far. Al Jazeera is well known for its documentaries.

The channel has already interviewed American troops in Iraq, covered up to the minute bombings of Palestine, in addition to the awful situation in Sudan, explaining how one refugee camp is split in two: one side for the peace agreement, one side against. The weather report even covers Cairo. The Arabic Al Jazeera channel never covers Cairo -- apparently they do this on purpose (maybe they like Egyptians or maybe the sun always shines).

I do not know if it will be available in the US, but here in Egypt it is broadcast on Nilesat. Of course, it's free to air. No subscription is needed. Check their website



Saturday, November 11, 2006

Change is in the air -- In more ways than one

On Election night, November 7, my youngest sister in the US sent me the following message on my mobile: “I just voted and change is in the air.” I thought this would be the perfect title to a blog entry concerning the elections.

Thursday morning, Hassan phoned me at school and said that he heard from his boss in the US and they want him for a contracted period of 90 days, beginning as soon as possible. Now that's "change in the air."

When we moved here a year and a half ago I was told by women in my email groups that I needed to wait a year or two -- you will see your husband go back to the US and you will want to stay in Egypt. I thought no way -- Hassan is so happy here he would never go back to the US for a good job. I will be the first to leave and take Mira with me and he can stay here in Cairo. I got close to leaving a couple of time but never followed through on any urges. In all honesty, the move from the US to Cairo just about drained every emotion out of my heart.

Well, those words are ringing true and I cannot stop and think about how right the women are in my situation when it comes to an American being married to an Egyptian.

Since yesterday we have been making lists of things to take, things to buy, things to do before leaving Cairo, things to do in the US, and things to bring back.

In the meantime we are making sure "all our ducks are in a row."

Insha’Allah it will all work out.



Thursday, November 02, 2006

Fun Day and Photos

We had a "fun day" at school today for the elementary and middle schools. It was nice because I was able to take my camera to work and snap a few photos of students. I just had to get a photo of my dear friend Reham and me. I call her "Spicy" because her sense of humor and personality is quite sharp. She calls me "Mimi" because she wants to.
Also is a picture of Mira who won an award for best costume in her class. She was really excited.

One of the Kindergarten teachers gave me a carved pumpkin - a jack'o lantern from the Kindergarten party. It really made me homesick - so a friend of mine
lit the pumpkin for me so I could see it light up. It was lovely. Thank you my friend.



Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Sometimes You Just Gotta Laugh

I returned to work this past Sunday after a week's vacation. I was supposed to have my first official day off, as I am going to work four days a week, but thought I ought to go in because it was such a long holiday and I didn't want the work to hit me hard on Monday when I returned to work. So I worked on Sunday, was going to take off Monday, then Tuesday, well, and now the rest of the week. I guess I'll start my new schedule next Sunday.

It has been absolutely crazy since the school re-opened after Eid. I knew it would be but not to such a drastic extent. First of all, there is a colleague of mine that is on "strike" meaning she is not working to make a point of getting paid what she deserves. OK, I understand her reasons for doing this, but it directly affects me because I share an office with her. Also, it is affecting the teachers because they have to cover her classes. She was literally sitting at her desk and just doing absolutely nothing. It was awful to see her there doing nothing, and I'm sure she didn't enjoy it either.

End of term exams have been taking place at school this week for the middle school and high school grades. The students are crazy, which makes some of us staff crazy. You know what happens to me when I get crazy? I get angry first, then frustrated, and by the end of the day, I just had myself a really good laugh with a friend of mine. It was the best way to end a school day, especially after a couple of days that have been unbelievably hectic.

First we started laughing about a project we're working on together, then we just started laughing about anything and everything else. I eventually forgot that it was time to go and check out the teachers for the day, so when I returned to my office, the teachers had made a list of names of people who left. I didn't care though, because I had a good laugh with a friend.

Sometimes you just gotta laugh.



Thursday, October 26, 2006

How I Spent My Eid

Well it started simply enough: grilled fish at Aunt Olfat's. We spend a lot of time there because her health is deteriorating and although the chemo seems to be working, I know from personal experience the cancer can take a turn at any moment.

I'm not a big fan of grilled fish. I like fish, but when the whole fish is served on my plate (including the head), I lose my appetite. I have learned to just pull off the head and put it aside. Recently when we were at Aunt Fawzayya's eating fish (they love fish in Hassan's family and maybe that's why they live so long), Mira translated the following Arabic sentence to me: "Aunt Fawzayya just asked if anyone didn't want their heads." I stopped eating at that point. Mira has a way of picking and choosing what to translate.

Back to Eid. The second day we had Aunt Olfat and her entire family, including cousins over to our place. Guess what we had for dinner: yes, you're right, fish again. Only this time it was extra smoked fish. How was it? Not too bad - reminds me of the kippers I used to eat with my Dad on Saturdays. But too much smoked fish is just too much salt. I'm not a big fan of salt either. Somehow Aunt Olfat made it up the five flights of stairs to our apartment. Amazing what determination can do for someone.

Enough fish for me. It is the equivalent of my lamb Ramadan last year.

After eating, Hassan's cousin the high ranking police officer, brought out his bag of fireworks. I'm not talking just any bag. A really good sized bag of all kinds of fireworks. They started lighting them off the balcony (we're on the top floor), in the hallway outside our apartment, then decided to take it outside for some serious fireworks. It was too loud and definitely too much fire for me.

I don't understand the irony in fireworks. In Egypt people have a difficult time owning guns (actually I don't know anyone except police officers), and in the US anyone can own a gun, but not shoot off fireworks - they're illegal. Go figure.

I explained it to my Egyptian relatives this way: In the US they don't want you to lose a finger or leg or arm, just die by the bullet. I had to make a joke out of it because it actually doesn't make any sense. I'm not a gun advocate although Hassan owned one in the US, but I can see people hunting with them -- take my brother-in-law in Pennsylvania as a perfect example.

So after the police officer cousin finished his bag, in walks his older brother, the officer in the Army with his bag of fireworks. It was a never-ending spectacle of fireworks.

Yesterday we went to the Military Club in Nasr City to have dinner. I don't usually have a hard time getting into the club, just keep my mouth shut as I pass the police and don't look them in the eyes. Of course it's easier in hijab. My nearly deaf uncle took Mira and me in the club and he was ahead of me. When the policeman stopped me to ask me a question, my nearly deaf uncle somehow heard what was said and mumbled something in return. I walked right through.

Now it's the end of Eid and I'm sitting at home alone. Hassan took Mira out for the day and went to Shabaan's.

As I was on the internet, I found a great website for lyrics to songs - just about any song one can imagine. You can guess what I did next - yes, I sure did -- played rock and roll star.



Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Eid Mubarak

I wish everyone who reads this blog a happy Eid al Fitr - the Feast that follows the end of Ramadan.

This Eid or "holiday" is spent with family. Schools are closed for the week and businesses are closed for approximately two days to give families time to celebrate the end of Ramadan (except restaurants, of course).



Monday, October 23, 2006

As Ramadan comes to an end . . .

I am asking myself if I am a better person as a result of this past Ramadan. This Ramadan was definitely better than last year's Ramadan maybe because last year was my first year in Cairo, and I heard a lot of hype about Ramadan in Egypt, but found it was somewhat of a letdown. Maybe I feel better about this year's Ramadan because I actually tried to be a better person (although sometimes it was difficult to notice) making an extra effort in the different aspects of my life.

It is not recommended when people fast during Ramadan to walk around complaining about hunger or thirst. Actually fasting in Islam is very similar to fasting in Christianity where one is supposed to put on their best face, smile, and be more kind to those around you. I think this is an overlooked commonality between the two religions (among others to be quite honest). This Ramadan helped me realize that no one is perfect (especially me) but we all do our best to get through the days together, knowing that we are all striving to please God. Knowing that others were fasting encouraged me to keep going whenever I was ready to take a sip of water. It wasn't the hunger that bothered me, but rather the thirst for water.

For me, the goal of fasting during Ramadan made me rely on God even more, realizing and appreciating everything in life.



Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Johnstown, Pennsylvania USA Inclined Plane

Mira woke up this morning well-rested with a lot of fresh questions on her mind. One of her questions was regarding the Inclined Plane in Johnstown, PA USA. Who knows where she gets these questions from, but if I'm well-rested I'm ready for whatever she asks, and luckily this morning it was a topic that is near and dear to my heart.

The Inclined Plane sits on the side of a mountain, what Western Pennsylvanians call "hills" and slowly moves up and down, carrying people along with one or two cars at a time. It was originally built to move passengers and carriages up Yoder Hill in Johnstown.

Statistics for the Inclined Plane:
Elevation: 1693.5 ft.
Length: 896.5 ft.
Lift: 502.2 ft.
Grade: 70.9%

The thought of the inclined plane still makes me queasy. One doesn't realize how steep the grade is until 1) you're riding on it, or 2) you're married to an engineer who is fascinated by the structure that was built many years ago.

Even though I'm living in Egypt -- pass by the Pyramids on a regular basis, have been to the Cairo Museum, have lived near Washington, DC and visited the monuments and Smithsonian museums on many occasions, and went boating in the Tidal Basin (ok so it was a paddle boat) at the peak of Cherry Blossom season, the Johnstown Inclined Plane is still one of my favorite all-time sightseeing attractions.



Thursday, October 19, 2006

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Today is my Dad's birthday. I don't know if I will be successful in calling him so I want to write a special birthday greeting to my Dad.

Dear Dad,

Thanks for all you've done throughout your life. I think of you daily and want you to know how much I appreciate all you did for us kids, and Mom.

You worked tirelessly for many years providing a home and warm environment which enriched us all and make us who we are today.

Mira asks about you often and I tell her how you used to sing to me songs from many years ago, you know, "When you wore a tulip . . ." "Toot toot tootsie goodbye . . ." the list is endless, isn't it?

Mira asks questions about "PapPap" and what he was like when I was growing up. I say that you and I used to go out Friday nights shopping, how I was the youngest child for four years until my younger sister was born, and how you used to take my brothers and I out for hot dogs and Pepsi on Saturday mornings, in addition to many other memories.

We may not be together right now, but I hold all the great memories that we made as a family dearly in my heart. I remember the holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, summer holidays and vacations -- making the best of it and having a great time with a wife and five children. We were our own sports team if you look at it a certain way.

I tell Mira about your parents and how wonderful they were -- how they loved us very much and how they wanted the best for us -- always there for us; especially Granpap. She asks about how often we would visit Granpap, and I tell her that he would come and stay with us and help Baba with the house and the kids. He would cut the grass in the yard, and then when you would get home from work, he would yell at you "What the hell did you plant that tree there for, Joe?" I'm sure you remember; it is with such fondness and love. Funny how things at the time are not endearing, it's only as time passes that we long to return to the days of when we were growing up.

Thank you for making me the responsible person that I am today. I don't know how you and Mom did it, but you stood by me no matter what. Your unconditional love and support helped me survive my 20's, enjoy marriage in my 30's, and parenting in my 40's.


Love Always,


Ramadan and the Night of Power

The following is an excerpt from an article found on



Ramadan and the Night of Power

We have indeed revealed this (Message) in the Night of Power: And what will explain to you what the night of power is? The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. Therein come down the angels and the Spirit by Allah's permission, on every errand: Peace!...This until the rise of morn! (97:1-5)The Night of Power in His infinite wisdom is encouraged to be searched during the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan. Since over fourteen centuries Muslims are striving diligently to benefit greatly from it. A rare trade indeed - pure profit and thousand times more!

Interestingly we have embraced the night for its mathematical magic but seemingly misplaced the very essence of the night. In fact, it was just another dark night. But it became the Night of Power because of what was revealed in the darkness. It is now known to us, a night better than a thousand months. The dark night is illuminating the world and the Quran is guiding the humanity ever since.

The Night of Power is celebrated powerfully. Masajid and communities celebrate the night by staying up all night, listening to lectures, reading Quran, etc. What seems to be missing though is to reflect on the Divine Words and to act upon it. Unless that is done, the real power will not be received from the Night of Power.

Ramadan visits us every year and offers us a reason to reflect on all aspect of our lives. The objects of our wants and fears far surpass the limits of human genius, energy, and mortal life. The sum of all that we need and desire .. spiritual or material, essential or superfluous .. simply exceeds our ability to attain it. What, then, is one to do? The believer turns to his or her Creator in prayer. The response is natural. Whether moved by need or hope, or faced with misfortune or danger, people instinctively call upon God. Prayer is at the center of our very being and the marrow of the Muslim way of life. For many in the English speaking world, however, this face of Islam is virtually unknown.

Dua - Supplication - Prayer is Muslim's hope for everything at all times. Let us submit ourselves and plead and plead and plead ... as He alone can relieve us of our anxieties and sufferings.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Insha'Allah it will all work out

Well, after thinking of leaving school and staying and leaving once again, I think it's all going to work out, Insha'Allah.

I spoke with the principal of the school and we agreed that we would try having me work 4 days a week instead of 5. I was asked if I would be interested in working 3 days a week. Honestly, I'm not a 3 day a week person. Either full-time or not at all. So I consider 4 days a week to be full-time, giving me an extra day off. My day off will be Sunday -- I left which day off up to the principal. She said that work builds up in the school day by day during the week that by Thursday it's really busy. I agreed.

I'm satisifed with this decision.

Regarding my week of pay from June -- it's not the money it's the principle of the matter, apparently my week of pay has been approved so many times I've gotten dizzy. Finally at the end of today I was told that the actual pay slip is on the desk of the owner to sign so I can get my money. Otherwise, I was going to request a week of in lieu of the week's pay. I could always use the extra time off.

The principal is looking to hire a secretary for the office to assist me in the daily responsibilities, but somehow, after interviewing 3 women, showing them around the school, and asking them if they're interested, they all answer "you have a lot of work to do. Your job is very demanding." No kidding. They all leave without ever contacting the principal again. Oh well, we will keep searching.

In Egypt schools usually pay in cash. However, this month the school decided to go with an ATM card to pay its employees. Payday was on the 15th, and hopefully the cards are working now. They haven't been working for two days already. Doesn't the school know that people have to take care of their families?

Since it is the last week of Ramadan and next week is Eid, the school will be closed next week giving the staff a well-deserved break. I hope that everything is straightened out before we begin our Eid vacation.



Sunday, October 15, 2006

I couldn't sleep at all last night

I was up early today - 3:30 a.m. to be exact for suhoor (last meal before fasting). This gave me a lot of time to think about what I will do with a lot of time on my hands. I mean realistically how long will I be happy at home without any social interaction - a week, two weeks tops? I was off for winter break in January and I went nuts after two weeks - we had almost a full four week vacation - imagine that!!

Maybe I've been looking at this whole issue more negatively than I should have. I stopped thinking about all the positive aspects of work, and just focused on the few negative aspects. Why is it that negativity tends to overpower the positivity in our brains? A question to be answered another day.

I am a positive person. Just ask Hassan. I drive him nuts with my positive attitude.

In any event, I will just see how everything plays out today -- it maybe my last day and it may not be my last day. I don't even know.



Saturday, October 14, 2006

Ramadan and the Quran

I found the following article in an email.



The Holy Quran


The sacred scripture of Islam and the true word of God as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be Upon Him - PBUH.)

Revelation of Holy Quran

The Holy Quran was first set on a preserved tablet, as Allah Almighty says in the Holy Book: "It is a Glorious Quran, on a well-preserved tablet" (Quran 85:22). Then it was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by the angel Gabriel (PBUH) part by part through a period of 23 years. Each revelation of the Holy Quran was written down by the Prophet's scribes under his instruction and supervision. The current order and organization of the entire revelation of Holy Quran, divided into 114 chapters (surahs), was made by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) himself. Besides, the entire Quran was committed to memory by the Prophet and his companions (sahabah). The practice of memorizing the whole Quran continued throughout centuries till date. Nowadays, there are thousands of Muslims who know the whole Quran by heart. They are called "Huffaz."
The reasons for revealing the Quran piecemeal

To stabilize the heart of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
To ease the process of the revelation of the Quran to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
To graduate the process of legitimising the divine rules.
To ease the process of memorising and understanding the Quran.
Some parts of the Quran were revealed after some events.
To make easy the process of getting rid of past bad habits for those newly converted to Islam.

Number of Quranic Chapters and Verses

Quran Chapters

Holy Quran is divided into thirty equal chapters, which are called (juz') in Arabic.

There are 114 Surahs of varying length. The longest Surah is Al-Baqarah consisting of 286 verses and the shortest Surah is Al Kawthar consisting of only three verses. The whole Quran has 6236 verses containing 77,250 words.

The first five verses of Surat Al-Alaq , were the first verses ever revealed in the Quran. It reads: "Iqra bismi rabbikalla dhi khalaq. Khalaqal insana min alaq. Iqra wa rabtukal alrram. Alladhi 'allama bil qalam. 'Allamal insana malam ya?lam " which means, "Read in the name of your Lord who created, created man from a clot. Read, for your Lord is most Generous, Who teaches by means of the pen, teaches man what he does not know." (96: 1-5)

The last verse revealed was number (281) from Surat Al-Baqara which means " Guard yourselves against a day in which you will be brought back to Allah. Then every soul will be paid in full that which it has earned, and they will not be wronged" (2:281).

Friday, October 13, 2006

Iftar with Hassan's friends

Here are some photos from an iftar (breaking of the fast) that we went to with Hassan's friends and their families at the Cairo University Rowing Club last weekend. It has turned into an annual event -- this is the second year we've met for iftar so I consider it to be "annual."
Notice there aren't any pictures of me. I don't like having my picture taken. It took a lot of courage for me to post my photo in my blog profile -- I hope to change it to something much better at some point, but again, there are few pictures of me -- I'm too shy. Ana maksufa.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Should I stay or should I go now???

Now since I wrote that I will be staying home some interesting events have taken place.

I have been thinking about how I will really miss the people I work with. The greatest asset to any school is its staff. This school is no different, especially as a foreigner living in Egypt.

I talked to the principal of the school today several different times about how I could stay -- weighing the pros and cons of staying at work and staying at home. I think that there are many more pros than cons overall, but since the principal suggested I write them down over the weekend, I told her I would do this and get back to her with my list on Sunday (the day we return to school - by the way I'm still in the Monday-Friday mode, so I need a calendar everyday to remind me what day it really is).

Also, she informed me that there is a group of teachers who want to petition the owner of the school to keep me; not let me leave. I was given warning about this from a co-worker, but didn't realize that it reached the principal's office. I am very touched that I am so well liked.

I'm not ruling out the possibility of leaving, but at the same time trying to think of ways I can stay at work and still be happy.

I'm worried that if I stay home all the time I will get bored too quickly and miss my friends at work. It's not that I'm very close with people at work, but just the social aspect of the place really makes my day. We all need contact with each other, and I am no exception. I have found that Egyptians are the friendlist people in the world. Of course they are, would I think anything different?

I know I am no different than any other woman who wants it all. But there needs to be a balance between my work life and my personal life.

Egyptians are very social. They will sit and talk for hours about everything and anything. They love to laugh and they love to help other people. With my inability to speak Arabic, I am now trying to speak as much Arabic as I know, which isn't much, and the Egyptians who cannot speak English try to speak as much English as they know.

We meet in the middle which is a good place to be.



Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Life is changing yet again . . .

As you can see, I have changed my photo. Gone is the photo without hijab. I have been wearing hijab since July 3 2006. Why do I remember this? Because we were going to the North Coast and I told Hassan I was just going to try it to see if I felt comfortable wearing it.

Knowing Hassan didn't want me to wear hijab, even though we talked about it for a long time, practically since we moved here, I tried to wear it anyway. Once I put it on, that was it. I haven't thought once about taking it off. Hassan has even started complimenting me once again on how nice I look - SobhanAllah!

The second big change is that I am leaving my job at Mira's school. My feelings are mixed but I am at peace about it. My last day will be on Sunday, October 15, when I hope to receive my final pay, Insha'Allah. I will dearly miss my co-workers, and hope to keep in touch by visiting every so often, as Mira will still be going to the school. I will continue to take Mira to school, but it won't be as early as 7 a.m. She won't need to be there until 7:45.

Ah yes, the third big change. I will be staying at home enjoying my new sewing machine. I bought a Pfaff sewing machine about a month ago and it runs like a dream. Once again, thanks to Shabaan who took Hassan and me to Attaba to find the perfect sewing machine.

Next I will be venturing to the fabric district here in Cairo to begin my quilting fabric stash Egyptian-style. OK, Omar the Tent Maker get ready, Marian's on her way!

On another note, we had a wicked sand storm today. Usually I don't mind them, but because it was about 93 degrees F and the wind was gusting, it sounded as though snow was hitting the window at school. When I looked outside I was disappointed to see that it was the desert sand in hot weather. Oh well, January isn't far away. That's when the geraniums bloom. Go figure.

Ramadan Kareem and Ma'salaam,


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI's Comments

I don't know if Chrisitans are aware of this, but Muslims listen to what the Pope has to say. He is a world moral leader, speaking for Christians, as Muslims make no distinction between Catholic or Protestant.

Pope Benedict's recent comments on Islam is causing quite a stir.

I encourage you to learn more about Islam and what it says about violence.

If you want to learn more, please read. If not, why not?



The following is from the website where you can subscribe to daily news releases concerning Islam and America.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful


U.S. MUSLIMS CALL FOR DIALOGUE OVER POPE'S COMMENTS ON ISLAM CAIR seeks meeting with Vatican representative in Washington, D.C.
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 9/15/2006) -

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called for increased dialogue between Muslims and Catholics over the controversy sparked by remarks perceived as insulting to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad made by Pope Benedict XVI. CAIR is also seeking a meeting with the Vatican's representative in Washington, D.C., to discuss the remarks.

In an address on Tuesday, the Pope quoted a 14th century Byzantine Christian Emperor as saying: "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

SEE: Muslim Leaders Blast Pope's Comments (Washington Post)

In a statement issued today, the Washington-based Islamic civil rights and advocacy group said:"The proper response to the Pope's inaccurate and divisive remarks is for Muslims and Catholics worldwide to increase dialogue and outreach efforts aimed at building better relations between Christianity and Islam. This unfortunate episode also offers an opportunity for Christians to learn more about Islam, the Prophet Muhammad and the Islamic concept of jihad."Jihad is a central and broad Islamic concept that includes struggle against evil inclinations within oneself, struggle to improve the quality of life in society, struggle in the battlefield for self-defense (e.g., - having a standing army for national defense), or fighting against tyranny or oppression. 'Jihad' should not be translated as 'holy war.'"

The Quran, Islam's revealed text, condemns forced acceptance of any faith when it states: 'Let there be no compulsion in religion.' (2:256)

Islam calls for peace once oppression ends: 'Fight in the cause of God with those who fight against you, but do not exceed the limits...If they desist, let there be no hostility except against the oppressors." (2:190-193)

"Muslims are also asked to maintain good relations with people of other faiths, and to engage in constructive dialogue. 'And dispute not with the People of the Book (Christians and Jews) except with means better (than mere disputation). . .but say, 'We believe in the Revelation that has come down to us and in that which came down to you.'" (29:46)

"The Quran also states: '(Rest assured that) those who believe (in the Quran), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians, and the Sabians - whoever believes in God and the last day and performs good deeds - will be rewarded by their Lord. They will have nothing to fear or to regret.' (2:62)

"In Islam, there is no contradiction between faith and reason. The first verses revealed to the Prophet Muhammad included: 'Read! In the name of your Lord. . .Read! Your Lord is the Most Gracious, Who taught by the (use of the) pen, taught man what he knew not.'

Historically, whenever Islam flourished, so did knowledge and discovery."Let us all continue the interfaith efforts promoted by the late Pope John Paul II, who made great strides in bringing Muslims and Catholics together for the common good."

Along with a request for a meeting with a Vatican representative in the United States, CAIR is urging Americans of all faiths to learn more about Islam and about the life and legacy of the Prophet Muhammad by requesting a free Quran or a book or DVD about Muhammad at and CAIR has 32 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

- END -

CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail: on American-Islamic Relations453 New Jersey Avenue, S.E.Washington, D.C. 20003

Tel: 202-488-8787, 202-744-7726Fax: 202-488-0833
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Monday, August 07, 2006

Ain Sukna

We went to Ain Sukna for a few days with Shabaan, his daughter, Maryam, Ehab and his wife, Gehan. We had a good time - the company was great, but there was absolutely nothing to do there, and it was too hot to go out during the day. Mira and Maryam spent the entire time swimming, and as a result, each got some sort of stomach virus.

On the way to Ain Sukna, Ehab's car (Gehan's car really), broke down 4 times on the desert road. So Shabaan, the great electrical engineer, came up with an innovative idea. He got a stone and hit the engine, which turned out to work quite well. There wasn't a problem after that. Leave it to an Egyptian electrical engineer with a broken down car in the desert. Shukran Shabaan!

I cross-stitched almost the entire time there, and the other adults played chess. I want to learn how to play, however, they lost me when they were speaking Arabic. It's alright thought, I understand most of it now.



Thursday, July 27, 2006

Lebanon, Palestine, Israel and Don't Forget Iraq

I haven't posted in awhile because I've been too upset about what's going on with Lebanon and Israel.

Beirut has always been called the "Paris of the Middle East."

I know someone who traveled to Lebanon over this past winter and she returned to Cairo saying that Beirut was an absolutely beautiful city with the best nightlife in the Middle East.

Now parts of Beirut and greater Lebanon are being blown to bits. Why? Because Hezbollah kidnapped Israeli soldiers, and Israel in return is bombing the hell out of Lebanon. Everyday there are reports that Israel has bombed another city, with civilian casualties, and the Israeli Army responds (paraphrasing) . . . "it is never our (Israeli) intention to hurt civilians." OK, so is that why they are using heat guided missiles to take out apartment buildings? Is that why there are severe phosphorus burns on childrens' bodies?

Hezbollah should not have taken Israeli soldiers as prisoners. I don't think Israel knows how else to respond other than with military power.

I realize I am being one-sided.

I believe Israel has a right to exist. I also believe Palestine has a right to exist as its own nation without being caged like prisoners in the concentration camps during WWII.

I believe Lebanon should be left alone without being invaded by Israeli soldiers.
There is a reason Syrias soldiers were in Southern Lebanon for so long -- to keep Israel out of Lebanon. Now that Syrian troops have left, Israel seized an opportunity to re-enter Lebanon with no clearcut exit strategy. I don't think they have any intention of leaving Lebanon.

Hezbollah is not innocent by any means either. They are just as guilty as the Israelis in bombing Israel, in the taking of prisoners and the killing of innocent civilians.

I found out that Hezbollah takes care of the poor in Lebanon. They provide shelter, health care, education. And now with Lebanon at war, the refugees in Syria are being aided by Hezbollah. They are doing this because no one else is taking care of the refugees fleeing Lebanon.

While the Middle East war continues, innocent Iraqis are being bombed by "insurgents."

In Iraq it is Sunni vs. Shia. Nowhere else in the world are Sunnis and Shias against each other. Here in Egypt one is "Muslim" regardless if one is Sunni or Shia.

The Quran says that if one takes the life of an innocent human being it is as if they have killed the whole world.

Pray for Peace in the world.



Friday, July 21, 2006

Went Back to the North Coast

We just returned from an 11 day stay on the North Coast again. We took Aunt Olfat, who is very ill with breast cancer, to see Fawzeyya's apartment at the beach. Olfat was thrilled that we were taking her, seeing as her children are not able to take her on a vacation for whatever reason (no comment here).

Hassan and I spent most of our time making sure Olfat was comfortable and had everything she needed, including making sure her medicine was taken at the appropriate time and her dermagesic patch for pain was changed every three days.

Mira met a girl at the beach, Noura, who was staying two apartments away and played with her almost all the time. When Mira wasn't playing with Noura she was playing with her cousin Munno (Mohamed) who is 4 years old and the new cousins we just met.

We had a chance to meet cousins from Mansoura who arrived during our vacation time. Mahmoud and his wife Hoda have three sons; I mean three young men (I thought they were much younger before I met them): Ahmed (20), Mohamed (17), and Osama (14) -- very well rounded, bright guys. They were very friendly and quite tolerant with Mira's behavior, even though Hassan and I were embarassed at times. Mira's into her "I hate boys" stage.

So with Aunt Fawzeyya, Aunt Olfat, the cousins from Mansoura, Uncle Yehia, Aunt Fatma, and their daughter Maya (her husband Osama was there for a few days) and son Munno, we always had something to do, and more than enough to eat. We even were able to see Hassan's other uncle, Hillel, and his family at times during our stay.

Whew! That's enough, don't you think?

I came to the conclusion that all families are the same, with the same dynamics and personalities. Yes, the same holds true here in Egypt -- avoid religion and politics when you get together with family. It is probably a blessing I didn't understand what they were talking about - seeing as my understanding of Arabic is still very lacking.

We are back at home for a week or so before we head over to Ain Sokhna for a few days.



Wednesday, July 05, 2006

World Cup Fever

First it was the Africa Cup of Nations, now it's the World Cup. I know I miss American football, but nothing beats the World Cup. I remember watching it for the first time many years ago with Maggie's Mom and another person (who shall remain nameless), at a restaurant in Chincoteague, VA where my family used to vacation. We were in the middle of nowhere and we found ourselves at a restaurant/bar just to watch the World Cup. None of the local yahoos seemed too interested except for the three of us. I went because I didn't have anything else to do that day and in the end I was a soccer, or should I say, football, fanatic.

Hassan and I have been watching as many games as we can, but since it is more of a pay per view event here, we've missed out on many of the games. We were unable to watch the US game, ok, we caught a bit of it at a cafe, but had to leave. We were sorry the US lost, but continued on watching other games anyway.

The momentum of each game brought with it its own fan base. Many of the Egyptians here cheered for Ghana, Tunisia and France. I watched last night's game at home with Mira - we found the game after much searching on the satellite where it was broadcasted for all to see. Hassan was with his boys watching the game in Faisal.

I bought Mira a small needlepoint kit last night and she and I stitched our own projects for the entire soccer match. I was impressed with Mira's endurance in stitching during the entire game, even though she sang an Egyptian song for 2 hours (boosie wa wa) -- it's about a boo boo. The girl is very sexy and dresses quite revealing by anyone's standards, but Mira likes the little baby in the video. Yeah, the men probably like the baby too -- not.

Tonight we hope to go to Lilly Park, which is a large cafe/restaurant/small amusement park for kids, to watch France and Portugal. We will need to get there very early to get a table. I can't remember what game it was two weeks ago, where people were sitting in the grass watching the game. At least I know they'll have fresh hot cappuccino in the cool 82 F degree evening.



Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Egypt's North Coast

We went to the North Coast of Egypt to get away from Cairo and spend some time with Aunt Fawzeyya, Uncle Yehia and Aunt Fatma. We returned late last night, or should I say early this morning.

The North Coast begins about one half hour west of Alexandria and continues to the Egyptian/Libyan border. It is beautiful there. The air is clean, and it is always breezy and cool. The Mediterranean water is various shades of clear blue, and the sand is colored an off white a little larger than a grain of sugar.

Uncle Yehia/Aunt Fatma have a chalet (apartment) overlooking the sea. We have been looking for one for a short time, and in the time we've been looking to buy, Aunt Fawzeyya (Yehia's sister) bought one about three weeks ago also in the same development.

We arrived at the Coast on Wednesday afternoon. It was hot and humid, not much of a breeze. Hassan called the cleaning people and had them come and completely clean out Aunt Fawzeyya's chalet before her arrival. She is 80 years old (Mash'Allah) and although she is very independent and sharper than a tack so to speak, she still appreciates the help.

Yehia, Fawzeyya and Fatma arrived on Thursday so we had one whole day to ourselves. It was really relaxing.

Fawzeyya is very proud to have her chalet. As she should be. She has always talked about buying a place, but never parted with the money. No one thought she would; but she did this time.

One of the reasons Fawzeyya loves it there is because it's always quiet. In Cairo she lives in Ramses Square. It is always loud, hot, and polluted. Her apartment in Cairo is quite large (can't even describe how large it is) and the building is about 100 years old. There is an old elevator with the iron/steel gates. Her ceilings are about 13 feet high. There are even gargoyles adorning the exterior of her apartment, which can be seen and felt.

I guess I always loved old buildings, old furniture and lots of trinkets that people collect over their lifetimes. It says so much about them and what they were like when they were younger and more active.

Back to the North Coast.

There is a large souk (marketplace) on the one end of the development in which we were staying. (It remids me of the boardwalks and amusement parks that used to be in Sea Isle and the Jersey Shore along the US years ago.) Mira had a blast at the souk. She went on rides, stayed up late, and ate the favorite sweet of the sea - fateer.

Fateer is a pastry made up of many thin layers and stuffed with whatever you want. You can get fateer in pizza form, cheese form, or sweet form. Mira fell in love with the sweet form on this trip. She also got Uno cards, and a baseball cap -- never knew she wanted one, but we figured out quickly that each time we went to the souk she found something else she has been "looking" for (not really, but nice try Mira).

I finally found my pure gardenia perfume. There is a small store there that will mix pure fragrances into perfumes. The bottle I got cost 10 LE which is about $2.25 USD. I also found a "proper" bathing suit by Islamic/Egyptian standards - it was 63 LE or about $12 USD. I don't wear the hijab part of the bathing suit yet, but the rest felt quite comfortable on the beach, not worrying about anyone looking at me -- and by the way it's not psychological. It is a fact. I wanted to buy some hijabs I found there, but decided to wait until we return the next time, or I will buy them around here -- I like the cotton gauze kind for summer.

Before we left late last night, 11 p.m., all of us went to a shish kebob place along the side of the road. It didn't look like much, but once you walked in it was beautiful. Trust Uncle Yehia to find the best food around. We all ate shish kebob enough meat for at least a week, along with the usual snacks of tabboulah, tahina, baba ganoush, all kinds of vegetables stuffed with rice (grape leaves, green pepers, zucchini, etc.) and something called Turkish potatoes, which come to find out is a terrific vinegar/oil potato salad; good for me because I don't like mayonnaise.

There was a terrific playground for Mira to play, and she even ate all her macaroni bechamel that we ordered for her. She made some friends for the short time we were there.

Safety is never an issue in Egypt.

Yes, life is tough living in the "war zone."



Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Enjoying Time with Hassan's Family

On Saturday, we went to HyperOne a really large superstore in 6th of October City - on the other side of Cairo from where we live. We had a great time. I found more candles that I used to buy at Kohl's and they were only 12 LE a piece. It makes me feel a little better when I find in Egypt what I used to enjoy in the US - namely, candles.

After HyperOne, we took some fresh samak (fish) and went to Uncle Yehia's and Aunt Fatma's to eat. Maya was there with her husband and son, Mohamed, who is adorable. Also, Maya's brother, Ashraf was there, visiting from Sharm where he works, along with his Russian wife, Tanya, and their son Taimor (a type of mango in Egypt). We ate fish and enjoyed our time with them.

I love Aunt Fatma and Uncle Yehia. They are very welcoming and although sometimes there's a communications gap between the Arabic and English, we always manage to understand each other -- personalities communicate more than language sometime.

Ashraf's wife, Tanya, on the other hand, was very quiet. Hardly spoke at all. Tanya met Ashraf in Sharm, and I guess the only way they communicate is through English. Their son, Taimor, is two, and hardly speaks at all. I know he's processing the languages.

Hassan tried to talk to Tanya, saying, "What language to do you speak to Taimor, English? Tanya said "No, Russian of course, why should I teach him English. He has no need for it. He can learn it in school. Besides it's an easy language to speak." Whoaa! I didn't say anything, and caught myself in one of my "Martha" (one of my sisters-in-law) moments, and just ignored the statement. Other than that, Tanya didn't speak; not even to Aunt Fatma.

How could anyone not speak to Aunt Fatma (and Yehia for that matter). This woman welcomes everyone into her home, and even though she is very ill, she still insists on cooking for everyone, waiting on everyone, and shooing me out of the kitchen when I want to wash the dishes. If I were to wash the dishes she would say "I am very angry at you." And then smile at me.

After we ate and we were sitting in the living room, Aunt Fatma sat next to me on the sofa and leaned up against me so she could put her feet up. I hugged her and just relished the moment that we shared. Tanya was just staring at me.

I always got along with Aunt Fatma. I will never forget how she welcomed us when I first met her three years ago on vacation. She said to me, "Hassan is my son, and you are my daughter." How can anyone not love a woman whose heart is as big as the sky?

I enjoy the times we spend together and hold them dear in my heart.



Saturday, June 24, 2006

Fajr Prayer (Dawn Prayer/1st Prayer of the Day)

Mira spent the night at Jasmine's. This was quite an accomplishment for her because last time she was supposed to spend the night she ended up calling me at 11:30 p.m. crying saying she missed me and wanted to come home. We don't live far from Jasmine. We are literally at opposite ends of the sidewalk. So, Alhamdulillah she finally spent the night without us. While she was there, apparently, she woke up at 4 a.m. to do the Fajr prayer. SobhanAllah!

Mira asked me the afternoon before if we are supposed to get up for the Fajr prayer. I said, "Well, you can wait until you wake up." Actually, I was wrong. We are supposed to get up for the prayer then go back to sleep. I need to tell Mira the truth and not put my own spin on things.

Hassan was very pleased to hear Mira got up for the Fajr prayer. Actually, what I think happened was Jasmine and Mira stayed up all night and when Fajr rolled around, she heard the Adhan and wanted to pray. Anyone who is awake for Fajr prayer would want to pray.

There is peace whenever the Adhan is heard, but for some reason, especially at dawn.

The Adhan for Fajr is a voice crying out in the desert reminding us that God is ever present; and it is our duty to remember Him.



Thursday, June 22, 2006

Summer Vacation

I finished work today around 2:30 and as I was walking out of the school, I asked the vice-principal, "I don't know what I'm going to do during my summer vacation. I'm used to schedules and timetables and now I have free time to do anything." He said, "Do you have a balcony?" I said, "Yes." He said, "Good, sit on your balcony." Then he said "Now go home!"

No alarms. No bells. No getting clothes ready for school. No asking Mira if her homework is finished; and if it is in her backpack. It sounds awfully boring, but quite relieving, to be honest.

From now on it's a pot of hot coffee on the balcony in the morning with Hassan, asking him how his "boys" are doing and what he did the night before. Mira rolling out of bed with her hair all curly and tangled, and listening to her never-ending mantra of "What are we going to do today?" Ahhh, I'm sure by the time August rolls around, I'll be parked outside the school ready to start working all over again.

I never had a job where I had summers off. Sure, when I was a child and we had summers off from school, I thought all parents had summers off too. It wasn't until I was in sixth grade that I realized my Dad worked everyday of the year -- day in and day out -- year after year to provide for his family. What a tremendous accomplishment. Thanks, Dad.

I am very fortunate to work in a school environment where I have time to spend with Hassan and Mira (well, I'm with Mira every day at school). Insha'Allah we will be in Alexandria for a couple of weeks. Actually, if we make it a week we'll be happy.

Our schedules will be changing too. We will be going out at night because it is too hot in the day, and we will be sleeping into the late morning. Since I am a time-oriented person (never was when I was a child), I have to get adjusted to putting my time management skills aside and just go where the wind takes me.



Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Raising Children Muslim

Debbie is a Christian and Hani is a Muslim (Egyptian). They were raising their children Jasmine (8) and Karim (7) as Christians. This was the agreement they came to when they were in the US. Because Hani was not a practicing Muslim at the time, he agreed to let Debbie raise the kids Christian and take them to church with her. Hani even went on a few occasions.

The family moved to Cairo in January of this year and Hani found himself living apart from Debbie for work reasons. Though he was still in Egypt, he did not see his family that often.

Hassan and I never posed the question on what religion the kids were because let's face it -- it's none of our business. Debbie had told me early on that the kids were being raised Christian and I thought that was really strange, because if a Christian woman marries an Egyptian man the children must be raised Muslim -- no two ways about it.

Debbie is a real independent woman. She decided to start taking the kids to a community style church in Maadi where there are a lot of non-Egyptians. Debbie felt an instant bond and even commented on how uplifting it made her feel. I was pleased she felt a sense of belonging in her new church and with her new friends she had made.

Not too long ago, maybe a few weeks, Hani started listening to and corresponding with a sheikh or professor of some kind in Islamic Studies. Hani started talking to Debbie on the phone non-stop about how the children were to be raised Muslim now that they are in Egypt and how Debbie must be convinced to convert to Islam. Debbie had a really difficult time with Hani's behavior. She felt as though she was being beat down by something -- a battle between good and evil of sorts.

She asked me for advice. I told her that after all these years, and no matter what I thought in the past as free-thinking as I may have been, it is very important to raise the children in the same religion as the parents. To have parents of two different faiths confuses children who end up not believing in anything.

After Hani's persistence, Debbie agreed to let the children convert. And she felt she really didn't have a choice in the matter. I believe she did have a choice in the matter, but it is easier to be Muslim in Egypt than Muslim in the US.

Debbie asked for my copy of the Quran. How could I refuse? Someone long ago had been generous to give me their copy. It was now my turn to pass it on to someone else who searching.

Debbie doesn't know if she will ever convert to Islam, I just tell her, "take it slow. Be careful. Study." I told Debbie that Islam teaches tolerance, respecting "people of the book" (Jews and Christians). There is no compulsion in Islam, everything in moderation. As I try to find answers for Debbie, I am finding answers to many of my own questions about Islam.

I told Debbie that Hani's just trying to right a wrong he made in letting the kids be raised Christian in the US. He wants to make things right, and what better time than now? Hani's intention is right -- but perhaps he came on a little too strong for Debbie.

Maybe that's what it's all about. Sharing what one knows with another, and learning and growing along the way.



Tuesday, June 20, 2006

"Alfa Shukran" (thank you, Egyptian Style)

Alfa Shukran! to Mody a friend of Gamal's who was able to get into my html and fix my blog by deleting the Links. I will have to slowly add one link at a time and figure out where the mistake was made. I know the mistake was made when I got too confident in playing with my blog. Some things are best left alone -- you know, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

I have never met Mody, but Gamal is one of Hassan's best friends and these guys would do anything in the world for anyone; and let us not forget Shabaan and Ehab as well. I count Mody as my new friend who helped me without knowing me, generously taking out of his own time to fix my ever so little and humble blog.

Thank you, Alfa Shukran Mody and Gamal!



Sunday, June 18, 2006


I'm reading a book entitled "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini. This book is what one would call a fictional biography.

The story begins in Afghanistan in the 1970's and follows through the Soviet invasion of the country, followed by the Taliban and the factions that were fighting up to June 2001 -- where I currently am in the book.

The story is about a boy whose name is Amir. He talks about his relationship with his father, how he lost his mother in childbirth and how he cannot live up to his father's expectations. Woven throughout the story Amir is reminded of a deep dark secret he holds inside his entire life, and how he wants to make everything right again by confessing his secret.

I borrowed the book from my friend, Debbie, since she just finished it and said that I have to read it -- Yeah, sure I thought. Well, let me tell you it is heart-wrenching.

I never thought this story would fascinate me in the least, nor did I think that I would identify with this story; not so much my relationsihp with my father, but more the secrets we all hold inside each and every one of us -- feeling bad about our past and hoping for redemption -- trying to make things right again with each other and with Allah.

Amir's father is not religious at all -- but raises his son on the right path to follow Allah.

The novel speaks of the horrendous conditions refugees endure on a daily basis and how they put all their hopes and dreams into escaping their countries they have called home their entire lives. Refugees do not become refugees by choice, but rather by force escaping their political, social and religious surroundings.

Pray for the refugees of this world.



Saturday, June 17, 2006

"School's Out for Summer!" (Well for most people)

School finally ended on Thursday, June 15 for staff. Well, most staff. I was asked to work one additional week with the hours of 9-2 instead of the usual 7:30 to 3:45. OK, now how could I pass up this opportunity you ask? I don't like to leave my work unfinished in any way, so of course I agreed. Besides it eases me into summer vacation as well. You might think that it would be difficult to ease into summer vacation, but when I worked all year giving more than 100% of myself to the school, it is difficult to just take the summer off. I enjoy working with the principal, so we hope to get some additional projects completed without the usual interruptions from students saying "Miss, the bus left me." Or how about, "Miss, I want my mobile back."

I have been in somewhat of a retrospective mood over the past week. I have been thinking about those things I accomplished both professionally and personally this year. I enjoyed working full time although it took all my energy. I enjoyed being with Mira at school, and I enjoyed meeting people.

Getting to know my colleagues, both Egyptian and non-Egyptian, broke some stereotypes and made me more comfortable to say "Insha'Allah" instead of "hopefully", "Alhamdulillah" instead of "thank goodness" and "malish" instead of "it's ok." Alright so my Egyptian Arabic has a lot to be desired, I am still making progress. I understand why Egyptians speaking English leave some of the grammar out of their translations into English; they literally translate their Arabic into English; and I know now that I literally translate my English into Arabic, leaving out a lot of Arabic. (I hope this makes sense.)

I have learned how work with a translator, asking questions and patiently waiting for the answer to be translated. I have learned how to simplify my English to someone who speaks Arabic as their first language, using vocabulary that they would understand.

I have also learned how to stand up for myself, creating my own boundaries, admitting when I made mistakes, taking responsibilities, and dealing with parents who seem to think they own me because they pay for their child to be in the school.

With one year down already, I hope to build on the accomplishments I have achieved, and learn from the mistakes I have made.

As for Mira, she's home now and has all the time in the world to do whatever it is she wants -- including sleeping, watching tv and going to the club to swim. But most of all she wants to play with her friend Jasmine all the time.

Hassan's glad to have us home. We look forward to spending some much needed time together. All we need to do now is find a babysitter.