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 www.Islamicity.com.



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,