Sunday, December 30, 2007

Reasons for Not Posting & Updates

There is a reason why I haven't been posting. Partly because Hassan was here for a few weeks, and partly because Aunt Olfat was very ill and I just couldn't find anything else to post about and thought my postings might have been too depressing at the time. There is a third reason, which I will not talk about, but those of you know emailed me privately or asked about me and I thank you.

Hassan's visit was very nice but much too quick. It seemed as though as soon as he came, he had to leave. Oh well, such I life I guess.

Aunt Olfat passed away two weeks ago. I can't believe it -- even though I expected her to pass after her battle, it was still such a shock when I heard the news. May Allah have mercy on her and grant her into Paradise. I am a firm believer that whoever suffers and fights like she and my mother did, is purged of their sins. I don't know if this is true or not, or just hope on my part for forgiveness. I guess this can be saved for another blog entry.

Mira's been off of school for one week and returns today. Alhamdulillah. She has been delightful this past week and at the same time I look forward to getting back to my quilting -- I'm in the process of attempting half square triangles.

Insha'Allah I will start teaching English lessons very soon. I am very happy to get back to work, and although it's only part-time it gets my foot back in the door. I don't know what else to do -- work is all I know or at least that's what I like to do. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy being at home, but all of my plans have had trouble getting off the ground. I'm still hoping someone will take me to Attaba to go shopping one day soon. I have had offers without any results. Oh well.

I don't know when Hassan will be coming back. That is all up in the air and we are always kicking around ideas of us moving back to the US. Actually, our house is back on the market. It is tempting, yes, but the answer is no because we've become so accustomed to life here and life back in the country would seem too isolating for us.



Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I Believe in Signs

In April 2005 we moved to Cairo. Right after our move we had the most amazing several days of thunderstorms Cairo had not experienced in a long time - or so we were told. To me it meant change. Hassan's Aunt Fatma said we brought this weather with us. And I said oh yes, the Amins have moved to Cairo, definitely. To me it meant change.

Yesterday afternoon around 4:00 p.m. the thunder and lightning started again. We had the most amazing thunderstorms last night all night long. Of course I'm not soothed by saying "At least we're not in Maryland." Our property was struck by lightning when we first moved to our new house in Maryland in 2000. Not many areas of the country can surpass the area of Southern Maryland where we lived and experienced ferocious thunderstorms, tornadoes, and even a hurricane. No, we're not in Maryland but we are in the middle of the desert on the top floor with many electrical wires just above us on the roof.

When I woke up this morning, the thunderstorms were still rolling through, but the smell of clean air and the lush green garden down below made everything ok. I don't know how Mira has managed to sleep through the entire night; I mean even with the windows open she didn't wake up once.

Well there is change in the air. I don't know what kind of change; it is the change of seasons as one can only hope for cooler weather and a few clouds in the sky to block the sun once in awhile.

There is another change in the air. I think that the next few weeks will bring some answers to questions that we've had on our minds for awhile. There may be a few good-byes along the way; and the time will be bittersweet.

While I am anxious about the upcoming weeks, I know in my heart that Allah is the Best Planner and All Knowing.



Monday, September 17, 2007

Ramadan in Egypt - I still don't get it

Before I get started let me say that everyone I know who has been to Egypt during Ramadan describes it as a magical time of year. I am experiencing my third Ramadan in Egypt and I can still honestly say -- I just don't get it.

Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohamed (saws). During the month of Ramadan Muslims are required to fast from everything (and I mean everything you can imagine) from just before sunrise to sunset. At sunset, when the Adhan is recited, Muslims break their fast with a meal.

Now, for me personally, I cannot eat a big meal after fasting all day. OK I'll be honest here, I have never actually fasted an entire day without eating or drinking anything. It is just too much for my body to handle; and it has nothing to do with food and eating. I can go without food no problem, but to go without water, I just don't understand how this can be healthy, especially in a desert country where I'm parched all day and can never drink enough water.

Besides fasting during Ramadan, Muslims are supposed to read the entire Quran during the month, give to charity, be kinder to people, pray five times a day especially if they don't pray at other times of the year, and if possible, go to the masjid in the evening for special Ramadan prayers (sorry but I don't remember what this is called).

I have a few points of contention here:

1. Those who fast all day during the month of Ramadan are told that their past sins are forgiven. I think this is wonderful, but I have observed a lot of people fasting who then turn around and sin in some of the most egregious ways.

2. Some who fast do it in such a way that it shouldn't be accepted - they stay up all night and sleep all day - waking up just in time for iftar (breaking of the fast).

3. Those who pray during the night, when prayers are more accepted by God, end up going to work the next day and are lazy in their work responsibilities, making excuses for not being able to work, maybe even calling in sick because they were praying all night.

4. There are legitimate excuses for not fasting: illness, travel, women during their period, etc. While these are legitimate reasons for not fasting, Egyptian society looks at me strangely if I'm drinking a soda or snacking on something. It is not for anyone to judge but God while someone is not fasting, but some people are very judgmental and will be the first to ask "Why aren't you fasting?" Excuse me, but my reasons for not fasting are no one's business but my own. And if you want me to embarass you, I will.

Please don't think I'm a bad person for saying these things. One of the beauties of Islam is that God knows what is in your heart, blessings are based on intention, regardless of the outcome.

If you live in Egypt, please show a little compassion for those who are not fasting because some people don't like to advertise their personal struggles.



Saturday, September 08, 2007

Change can be good even when it's sudden

Growing up I loved change. Actually I couldn't sit still for more than one minute. As I grew up I found out how to be content with complacency. Well, I thought it was time for a change.

I always had some sort of job for as long as I can remember; except when Mira was 2 and I stayed home full-time for one year. I was very content staying at home. After that one year at home I worked part-time until we moved to Egypt. When we arrived in Egypt I started working at Mira's school as the secretary. I really enjoyed the work, the people, and being with Mira, because she was in 2nd grade at the time and living in Egypt was new to both of us. I made a lot of real friends who I somehow manage to keep in touch with -- you know me, I get lazy at emails after awhile.

I quit abrubptly almost two weeks ago now. While I am relieved I am no longer working, I miss the people that I got to know over the past two years. I went in on Thursday afternoon to pick up Mira and I saw my dear, dear friend Reham. She is quite a woman. I swear if I were Egyptian I would want to be her. She has it all - the language, the attitude and the best sense of humor.

I recently watched an episode of Oprah where women debated the stay at home mom vs. the working mom -- ok working outside the home because every mom works in the home. Oprah asked the question: "Can women have it all?" My answer immediately popped into my head: It depends on what 'having it all' means to each woman.

Even though my 20's were quite tumultuous, I have been extremely blessed in my life. I met Hassan when I was 28 and got married 2 weeks before my 30th birthday. We have always attained the goals we set together; as one. No matter what our financial situation was Hassan would always say "If you want to work, then work. If you want to stay home then stay home." It was never and I stress ever an all or nothing deal. None of this Egyptian-minded husband talk of "I permit my wife to work." What the hell kind of thinking is this?

I don't know where I'm going with this post.

Anyways, I'm at home now. I drop Mira off at school at 7:45 and pick her up at 2:20. I come home to an empty flat, nothing special. I catch the US news off of the great satellite system we have now. I get to watch Chris Matthews, ABC, NBC and CBS, along with BBC Prine without being interrupted with "Mommy! Where are you?" I always answer "Where can I be--our flat is only so big?"

But somehow no matter what I do when Mira's in school, I feel so alone, so left out of the real world. For example, Cairo moved their clocks back two nights ago and I didn't find out until last night. You would think I would know this because the Adthan was at a different time already; of course I didn't notice it because all my clocks were set one hour ahead.

I have a lot of time to think. I think about Hassan: how much I love hime and how much I REALLY miss him -- how I took him for granted when he was here and did all the cooking when I would come home from school in a bad mood and talk about all the things happening with the school. I think about how I was always too tired to go visit Aunt Olfat or not having the energy to do anything with him. I think about how Mira has grown up so quickly, how she is into fashion now -- Hannah Montanna and High School Musical 2 being her favorites. I think about my parents, my brothers and sisters, and my friends in the US.

And after all this I can honestly say Alhamdulillah for everything.



Monday, August 27, 2007

How much stress can you handle?

Last Tuesday I went to school - it's orientation time. Mira has been going with me. Tuesday we came home from school and I was starving.

During the summer it's too hot to eat anything heavy so most people just eat one meal a day and drink large amounts of water. It is a habit I fell into naturally -- fruits, cheese, bread, and water. Sometimes fuul. That's it for one day.

Tuesday I came home starving. So I ordered a grilled chicken - ferakh meshwayya from El Haty, a well known grill restaurant in Cairo. I love their chicken - especially when Hassan's here and we eat it together. I was eating the bread with tahina and I heard a crack in my mouth. Well, it finally happened - I broke another tooth.

This tooth was next to the one I broke some time ago. No more playing around -- it was time to go to the dentist.

I was so worried about school - I went on Wednesday, which was a field trip to the Pyramids and Sphinx in 100+ degrees. Mira and Jasmine came along and had a great time. Actually I went for them because they really wanted to go.

There I am, hot as hell, walking up the hill, with a broken, throbbing tooth, in 100+ heat, dehydrated, dreading the afternoon trip to the dentist.

I have bad experiences with dentists - you know, childhood memories of novacaine and the drill hitting the nerve from a cavity.

I had no choice anymore. This had to be taken care of. I went to the dentist and he pulled the tooth saying "You can come tomorrow (Thursday) morning or September 2 to get your teeth fixed." I thought about it for approximately 1/2 a second and answered "Tomorrow." I know me - if I wait I will never go back.

So I went to the dentist the next day and he started the procedure for two implants. Well, it would have taken only 15 minutes but there was a problem with the bone. At one point he even got out a little hammer to pound at the bone in my mouth - the worst part of it was that he kept showing me the progress. Ugh. I can go without the details.

Alhamdulillah I have 4 stitches, two temporary crowns and virtually no pain whatsoever.

In addition, I am reconsidering my job this year. It just isn't working out - I snapped at work yesterday and I'm sick and tired of fighting the Egyptian way of doing business. Just because other people have to deal with it doesn't mean that I have to also. I work because I love to work and I'm dedicated to what I do - but I need to decide when it's time to stop being a pushover and doormat and get some brass balls to say "no." I should have listened to Hassan in February when he told me not to return to work. He was right.

So I called in sick today - my mouth is swollen and throbbing and in pain from the stress of school and we're still a week away from students arriving. Oh well.



Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What kind of friend do you want?

Everyone wants to be liked. Everyone wants to have friends, but at what cost?

Whenever a situation arises when I question a friendship I've made I think of the following:

1. Do I want a friend who tells me the truth?

I absolutely want a friend who will tell me the truth. No question about it. Someone who is thought provoking and even challenging at times is a friend worth keeping.

2. Do I want a friend who tells me what I want to hear?

No. If you tell me that I've lost weight when in fact I know I've gained weight, or that my knee socks and clogs look nice, get going.

3. Do I want my friend to lie to me?

Never, especially if my daughter is involved.

Someone who I consider a real friend lied to me instead of telling me the truth. Maybe they lied to me to spare my feelings, or my daughter's feelings, but nonetheless it was a lie.

Single-parenting even on a temporary basis is not easy, especially in a foreign country. These past months have taught me a lot about who I consider my real friends.

My definition of a friend is:

1. Someone who will help out without wanting anything in return.
2. Someone who calls just to say hello.
3. Someone who offers constructive criticism.
4. Someone who shows compassion.
5. Someone who tells the truth.
6. Someone who accepts me as I am.



Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Rome wasn't built in a day and neither were my kitchen cabinets

I consider myself to be a very patient person, but even a patient person can get pretty frustrated living in Egypt trying to get kitchen cabinets installed. We've been in this flat for 1 1/2 years and we've been living with the bare essentials: one small countertop w/ matching top and bottom cabinets, very outdated and worn, but useful, a large table used as a countertop, a small table which holds my beloved $9.99 Kmart Sunbeam coffee maker, a stove, a sink, and refrigerator.

When Hassan was here the one thing I demanded (yes, I can be demanding) was to have a kitchen installed -- ok, well, not installed but hopefully installed before he left on July 4th to return to the States. Well, the kitchen was designed, submitted, and money paid down for our new kitchen; however, it was not installed by July 4th.

Before Hassan left he had an understanding with the builder that the builder would take and dispose of, however he wished, of the old cabinets, sink, table, and matching 6 chairs which were sitting on my balconies for the past 1 1/2 years. Last Thursday the kitchen cabinets arrived -- did I mention only the bottom half was being installed? Ok, no problem, I'll take half a kitchen and countertop.

In any event, Shaban, thanks again, was overseeing the entire project, including the installation of the cabinets. Mira and I were excited as we saw the truck pull in with the cabinets on board for all our neighbors to envy (yes, envy) because I always envy any of my neighbors getting cabinets and countertop installed hoping one day it would happen to me too.

So the cabinets were unloaded and left downstairs. Shabaan arrived in the apartment, 4 or 5 floors up w/o steps, depending on what country you're from, and I was very happy to see him. I told him that I cleaned out the kitchen stuff (ok, crap) and had it packed away in various areas of my flat. I then reminded him that the builder was going to dispose of the dining room set (oh, I forgot to mention the large buffet Mira's using in her bedroom as her "catch all"), cabinets, sink, and anything else I could dispose of while I had use of the truck. Shaban told me, "Oh, the truck already left."

Ok, I was frustrated but pleased to see the cabinets. I told Shabaan that old stuff can be stored on the front balcony until the builder installs the top half of the cabinets.

So, the day was long and exhausting, but I was left with what I think is a beautiful kitchen in the making. I asked Shabaan if the builder needs anymore money. Shabaan, being the ever-so-wise Egyptian man says "Don't give him anymore money. I am going to talk him down." My kind of man!

I asked him what the timetable is for the rest of the kitchen. I told him I know Egyptian time schedules and realistically I'd need it installed before the beginning of Ramadan (because nobody works for a month except my school). He said that he already told the builder he has one week to install the remainder of the kitchen.

So here I sit with my Fred Sanford balconies waiting and dreaming for the rest of my kitchen cabinets to be installed, but more importantly to have the old stuff removed. Oh yes, and to start cooking, which I've already done and is such a joy, but don't expect me to gain any weight because I'm not turning back to my old habits, no matter how tempting the food. I love to cook and I love to eat, but not to that extent.

Oh, and I can't wait to start splurging, and the first thing I'll buy is some great Egyptian bakeware.



Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Oh no! I'm one of "Them!"

There are many adjustments one has to make when living in a foreign country. The biggest personal adjustment I had to make was sleeping in the summer months.

No matter how hard I tried I just couldn't get myself to stay up all night and sleep in the morning, you know, around 3 or 4 a.m. I understand why Egyptians go out at night, it's just too damn hot, but to sleep during the morning, I mean until 11:30 or 12:00 just seemed impossible and unnatural to me, and something I just refused to change about myself.

Well, it's taken me two years, but I finally did it. Of course I do this now when Hassan isn't here, and my friends aren't around. OK, where is everybody? Mira and I stay up late, yes, 3 a.m., which means we wake up at 12:00 or 1:00 p.m. (unbelievable I know), and then get going around 9:00 p.m. We go to the souk, shopping, or do whatever it is we want to do at night along with everyone else. It isn't the going out that night that bothered me, it was being unable to change my sleep pattern, and Mira's sleep pattern to stay up late.

Hassan's cousin, Dalia, tells me that she stays up late every night, and I ask her, why, how, etc. It's unfair for me to judge her anymore, because I'm just like her.

Of course, last night, or should I say this morning, at 4 a.m. Mira said "Mommy, let's just stay up all night." Right, I'm thinking. I told her if she went out on the balcony she would hear the Adhan for Fajr (Dawn) prayer. I just love hearing the Adhan, but for Fajr it's very special. An awakening of sorts. Well, she never made it to the balcony. Right after she said she wanted to stay up all night, she fell asleep watching Andy Griffith that we have on DVDs. So there I was by myself watching Andy Griffith, again, by myself, until 6 a.m. when I finally made it to bed. I thought that I would set my alarm and try to get up "early" you know, around 11:00 a.m. but it didn't work. I turned off the alarm and rolled over until 1:00 p.m.

Going out late at night here in Rehab during the summer is like trying to fight downtown Cairo traffic. There is no place to park at the souk (marketplace), and if you are lucky enough to find a place to park, I mean a legal spot, which are few, someone will double or triple park you in and you're stuck there in your car honking your horn until someone meanders their way out to their car to move it; on average about 5 minutes later. So, after getting frustrated with being double and tripled blocked in, I decided to park the car outside the souk and walk around.

I think to myself, what are all these people doing out at 1:00 a.m.? I look around and most are just enjoying the nighttime, smoking sheesha, eating, eating, eating, shopping, running around, getting their cars washed, doing whatever it is they don't do during the day.

I don't know how I will readjust my body to getting up early for school, but it will take some doing. I have read that to change your sleep patterns, you need to go to bed early by 1/2 hour every night. Hmm, it may take a month to get back into my "normal" sleep pattern by then. But then again, when have I ever been considered "normal?"



Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Mira's in Swimming Training

In Egypt, if a child or teenager wants to compete in swimming competitions they need to pass a certain number of tests or "stars" as they're called. Mira is in her first training period to earn her first star in September.

While Mira knows that she's not the best in the class, yet, not the worse, when she doesn't do well she just answers "I don't care. I just want to swim."

OK, well, for someone just wanting to swim, she goes to the club 3 times a week for an hour and a half each training session to swim just for fun. Not only does she go, but she goes religiously.

Mira's freestyle is not the best; ok it's really bad. I think it's because she wasn't given enough instruction on how to turn her head and breathe while she raises her arms. But recently after finishing a grueling two weeks on freestyle, the coaches moved the swimmers to the backstroke.
Finally, something Mira understands. Now I don't think the backstroke is that easy, but for some reason this is Mira's strength.

Not only did she do well, she came in 1st place out of the entire team of 18-20 swimmers in the 100 meters. I'm so proud of her. What's even better, she didn't make a big deal out of it, so I have to.

I'm so proud of her!!



Saturday, July 14, 2007

Torn Between Two Countries

I am making my best effort to keep in touch with my friends who are traveling abroad this summer. Between exchanging emails and IM as best I can because my pc is not working properly, I have come to the conclusion that those of us who consider more than one country as our home, experience the same feelings.

For whatever reason we moved to Egypt - and for the most part we enjoy it here - taking into consideration all of the frustrations -- believe me there are many. But foreigners all agree, the best part of Egypt is its people Egyptians and ex-pats (ok, good and bad, but overall if you find friends here, you are very lucky).

Secondly, we feel as though we want to be in the US (or whatever country one would consider home) for its conveniences (too many to mention), family and friends we have there. But after being in the US for a short while, ok, let's say 3 weeks, we come to find out that the same problems exist only on a different level.

I really don't want to get into specifics here but overall, we are torn between living in Egypt and the US.

Yes life is simpler in Egypt -- ok too simple sometimes -- you know, like finding a place to tie your camel or having your donkey pull your groceries for you without them falling off the bed of the wagon, but once those simple issues are resolved, you can enjoy time with your friends. Just make sure your animals are well fed.



Monday, July 09, 2007

Hassan returned to the US once again. I don't know how long he'll be gone - he doesn't know yet either. It seems as though we can't seem to decide on what to do long term.

In the meantime, I'm trying to keep Mira busy so I enrolled her in swimming classes 3 nights a week for 1 1/2 hours each so she can compete in swimming competitions in the future. She loves swimming, and it's taken some convincing to get her back in the program. When Hassan was here she had no interest in swimming, just spending time with Hassan.

Mira's swimming training begins at 8 pm three nights a week. It's a wonderful time to swim because the sun has set, and I get to enjoy some quiet time alone. But it seems as though my quiet time alone has just gotten to be too much for me.

Maybe it's adjusting to Hassan being gone, or not working over the summer, but it seems as though my friends have all but disappeared. I have two friends that I can count on over the summer, but even they are busy with their own families and work.

My friends from school are traveling, and we get to stay in touch through emails and blog postings.

I have always had a difficult time making friends with Egyptian women. I don't know why, but I just don't get along with them or they don't get along with me. It's not that I don't want to be friends with Egyptian women, but our points of view are too different to ever find common ground, at least that's my opinion.

I won't give up on making friends, though. You never know what an individual is like until you get to know them.



Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Photos from our trip to Alexandria

Driving to Alexandria

It was so hot even this truck had to wear a sombrero to keep the sun off its body.

A different kind of camel ride. . .

along with a different kind of horseback ride.

Mira at the sea getting her feet wet.

Mira is ready to take the plunge!

The view from Aunt Fawzayya's chalet.

The a view of the Mediterranean in Alexandria.

The ultimate view of the Mediterranean overlooking the Corniche. Yes, for only 400,000 LE this brand new flat -- it's huge, can be all yours. (We think the view is worth it alone.)

Hassan and me.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Our Trip to Alexandria and the North Coast

We recently got back from a week in Alexandria and the North Coast of Egypt. To say that this part of Egypt is beautiful is an understatement. I love this part of Egypt, partly because of the air which is fresh, but mostly because of the Mediterranean. I have never seen such beautiful colors of blue in all my life -- the Mediterranean takes my breath away each and everytime I visit Alexandria. It is very tempting to live there but I keep telling Hassan how much he would miss his friends in Cairo. He agrees.

We stayed with Hassan's Aunt Fawzayya who is elderly and who owns a chalet on the beach. It is lovely and yes I keep kicking myself that we didn't buy that chalet because I PASSED IT UP. It's my fault but I believe there is something better out there for us (I have to believe this because my butt is red from kicking it).

Although we were only at the beach one day, we were in the sun all the time and made several trips to Alexandria; driving along the Corniche or visiting with Hassan's mother's side of the family, who by the way are very down to earth and fun to be with -- Mira just loves them to death.

Our food contained a lot of salt and I cannot remember being this bloated except for Mira's birth where I was walking around on balloon feet; yes, we were bloated in Alexandria and it got to a point where we had to leave because we were feeling too uncomfortable. We had the best fish several times, lots of batik (watermelon) and fruit that tasted sweeter than candy. You would swear the tomatoes we ate were picked out of our own garden and at 50 piasters a kilo we ate a lot of them.

The teen (figs) were just coming into season so we didn't buy any; so we will wait and perhaps I will make a special trip back to Alex just to pick up the fresh teen which I can eat til I get sick and then eat them again.

In visiting Hassan's aunt (his mother's sister) Mira had a chance to play with her cousins, Mostafa and Keemo (they are paternal twins) who are 13. They took special care of Mira and all children, as do most Egyptians. I didn't know that Mira remembered any Arabic because she hasn't been speaking it without Hassan being here, but she certainly knows when to whip it out and use it. Alhamdulillah.



Friday, June 15, 2007

Mira's small success

What seems like a small success usually isn't one at all. Mira would not sleep over at Jasmine's for whatever reason, no matter how hard I tried. Even Sara - for some reason she wouldn't sleep over. I didn't push it, just made her feel comfortable knowing that if she wanted to come home at any time, she was to call me and I'd be there to pick her up - no matter what time of the night.

Mira has a friend at school named Gretelin. Gretelin is from Estonia and is a wonderful, smart, bright, girl in Mira's class. Gretelin invited Mira over to her house after school yesterday. Mira went and said "Mom, I might spend the night." She said it with such energy, it was as though she was just charged.

I said fine because I know Gretelin's mother, she was a teacher in our school. Mira calls last night and said "I want to sleep over. OK?" I told her that she could but needed to be sure to let me know if she wanted to come home.

Well -- IT HAPPENED!! Mira actually spent the night away without me for the first time in her life. I'm so happy for her and quite relieved.

In the meantime Hassan drove to Alexandria last night with Aunt Fawzayya and is waiting for us to arrive today. What I was hoping for was some quiet time with Hassan, but what I got instead was some quiet time alone. That's ok - I'll take it - the small successes are often the most gratifying.



Saturday, June 09, 2007

Hassan & Mira are in Alexandria

Hassan took Mira to Alexandria to visit his sister and her family. He's not close with her, but she and her husband have a daughter, Passant, who is about 1 1/2 years older than Mira. They left Thursday and are expected home today.

Because Hassan's parents divorced when he was very young, his mother raised his sister, and his father raised him. This is where the relationship ended. Over the years Hassan was not close with his mother or his sister, and you can tell if you were to see them together.

Hassan had everything -- a very good education, which launched him (no pun intended) into his successful career as a satellite engineer. His sister on the other hand did not get a good education and has not had the life Hassan has had. It is very sad, but quite obvious. It is now time for Hassan to give back to his sister what she did not receive growing up; if not for her, for her daughter who will repeat her parents' steps unless someone -- that being Hassan, steps in to show her life's possibilities are endless.

Insha'Allah Hassan will return with Passant and Mira and she will stay with us for about a week. I don't know what the future holds for her because her parents are both chronically ill and cannot afford to give her what Hassan and I can give Mira, but we are here for them to give them what money cannot give -- a loving family and an environment which every child deserves.



Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Hassan's Home and Kazza Kazza Kazza

So Hassan arrived back in Cairo this past Monday, the 28th. Shabaan called me in the morning and asked me if I was going to the airport to get him. I said yes. He said are you sure? I said yes. He said do you want to follow us? I said no, I can get there by myself. He said are you sure? I said yes, I'm sure. Thanks.

OK, so we made it there just fine. We only live 15 minutes from the airport, and since I've been driving all over Cairo for the past six months on my own, a quick trip to the airport was nothing.

We arrived at the airport and found Shabaan, Gamal, and Ehab waiting for Hassan. It was really wonderful of them to take time to welcome Hassan home.

Hassan arrived. Mira was excited. Yes, we stopped at the duty free shop. Ahem. . .

We made it out to the parking lot and I drove us to Olfat's. Hassan was not used to my driving and said that I'm driving a little crazy. Crazy?! There was no one on the road. . . just not like America.

We went to Olfat's ate all kinds of maashi, yum! and chicken, and molokayia (which I don't really care for). We stayed there for a little while and came home.

We fell asleep and got up at 3:00 am the next morning and talked until it was time for me to go to school.

Now we are looking for a new car for Hassan to buy before he returns to America. If he finds one, fine, if not, it can wait. We went out today with Dalia and Abazim to look at cars, and it drove the three of us absolutely nuts. They all talk at once and about different subjects, and Hassan doesn't need me asking "What?" "What?" So I just quietly walk away.

I'm still finishing up the school year and I'm physically and psychologically drained. I am completely burned out and have nothing else to contribute to the school at this point, other than just sitting at my desk and watching the teachers punch in and punch out everyday. I don't know if I'm returning next year or not. I'm thinking of tutoring English in my home after school, beginning in September. I am talking to other teachers about setting up a network of English/Math/Science tutors.



Monday, May 21, 2007

Has it really been that long since my last post?!

Here's what's happening:

Hassan comes home in 6 days - but he's only staying for 4 weeks, then returns to the US for 3-6 more months.

We're finishing the school year which is my busy time of closing down the office, but I love routine! Who would have ever thought? I was such an anti-routined person growing up, but now appreciate the routine of everyday life. Also, I look forward to re-negotiating a contract that I never received this past year, so I can continue at the school, Insha'Allah.

I have plenty to do over the summer -- between Mira swimming 3 days a week and quilts on order, I'll be busy.

It's been too stinking hot to do anything, so I'm getting in the summer mode of taking my afternoon "siesta." (ok so it's not Arabic, it's Spanish) A teacher at my school recorded 48 C outside this past Saturday.

I've been embroidering like crazy on my machine. (Thanks Shabaan!)

I have a new back balcony door. (Thanks again, Shabaan!)

I have a new closet (dulab) on order for my bathroom. (yes, thanks again Shabaan!)

I have to make a correction to a previous post, it doesn't take a village to raise a child, it takes an entire world. I have had so many friends from various cultural backgrounds, help me out with Mira over the past six months, I cannot possibly thank everyone. While this past year at school has been frustrating at times, today I realized how many real friends I have made at school because they truly care about Mira's well being and happiness.

Also, my brother Tom is on the mend from surgery. He's doing well, from what I hear. I hope you get better soon, Tom.

I have been speaking more Arabic around school and the teachers are impressed. Even Mira commented how well my Arabic is coming along. Alhamdulillah. Anything more than shwaya, shwaya (little by little) is good enough for me, which by the way I don't say anymore because Egyptians laugh at foreigners who use that phrase. Even I joke with Egyptians about it now. (Ok, I'll admit batting my blue eyes help too.)

To everyone who listened to me bitch and moan over the past six months in regards to kollahagga (everything), thank so much. I could not have done it without everyone. Now, here's to the next six months!! It's really not that bad, it starts at school time. So I have all summer to relax and get ready for the next round. Ding! Ding! Round 2!



Thursday, May 10, 2007

Thursday Sing Along Songs

The principal and friend of my school, Amy, used to have Thursday afternoon staff meeting for all teachers where we would discuss the successes of the week. Well today Amy said "I've given up on the Thursday meetings." I'm sure it's not because of the successes, because there are many especially at the end of the year, but because of the weariness of all the teachers.

So today, being Thursday, I remembered a happy song "Dixie Chicken" by Little Feat:

"If you'll be my dixie chicken, I'll be your Tennessee lamb.
And we can walk together down in dixie land."

And if you know me, I was singing it in the hallways sometimes silently and sometimes not. I also explained the song to any American asking what the song was about. It's one of the all-time greats.

OK, so living in Egypt I find myself singing most songs by myself, but when I sang it and asked Amy if she knew it she joined in, and yes, we even did the Thursday dance. Wow, what a relief. Someone who identifies with me. Someone who is close to my age and who understands my mentality on Thursdays at the end of the year.

This song reminds me of a party that my brother Tom's friend, Bob, had at his house and the song was sung and everyone was dancing in a field. It brings back great memories.

When I got home today I listened to endless hours of Bruce Springsteen remembering my own "Glory Days".

Life is different now, but it doesn't have to be so different that I don't listen to what I like and dance around my living room pretending to be the rock and roll star that I always wanted to be.

I'm sure there's karaoke somewhere in Cairo!



Monday, May 07, 2007

There are those you just can't do without

To follow up on a previous post, I thought about Hassan's friends who have been so helpful to us, not only by being there when we need them but always willing to help no matter what, no matter when. These past six months have helped me prove to myself that I can make it here on my own, but not really on my own as you all know from previous posts.

I am an independent, stubbourn woman, yes it is the Polish in me, and I just can't help it. But to Egyptians, they get upset if you don't ask for help.

There were a some times during the past months when I wanted to call Shabaan, Gamal, or Ehab for help, but tried to figure things out on my own and see if I could succeed. It's the small milestones in life that mean the greatest.

I really want to thank so much from the bottom of my heart Shabaan, Gamal, and Ehab for their words of support and help no matter how big or how small. Just knowing that they are there ready to help me at anytime has meant so much that I will never forget their generous hearts.

When Hassan used to describe them to me before I met them, I thought that it would be impossible to have friends like that anywhere. But I was wrong. It is possible, and it is a gift from God to have friends you can rely especially living in a country that is my second home, surrounded by people who seem to stare are me as though their eyes are burning through my skin.

Even though I have tried to "blend in" as much as possible, I still walk around as the fair-haired, blue-eyed, woman in hijab that gets the "not-quite-sure-what-country-she's-from" foreigner look. If I speak the very little Arabic I know, sometimes I find that Egyptians try to speak English in return, returning the courtesy, or they spout off into Arabic and I can only "fahma" or understand a few words, guessing what they are asking me about. Experiencing this enough times helps me learn the conversational Arabic to put petrol in the car, or buy something at the souk or even get directions to drive somewhere. But if it's anymore than yemeen, shimell, or lifff (right, left or turn around) I'm lost. I guess that's why Egyptians talk with their hands to describe almost everything.

Alhamdulillah, at last we have something in common.



Saturday, April 28, 2007

Brigitte Gabriel's Hate Speech Interview

I found this on the website. Brigitte Garbriel, a Lebanese Christian, is a frequent guest on Fox News Channel. I believe it is because of her constant hate speech towards Muslims. Actually, she has it backwards in this interview; and her comments are at the very least myopic. I am disgusted by her comments, but I think it is important to re-print excerpts from the yahoo interview.

It doesn't matter if one is Christian, Muslim, or Jew. It is important to realize that all human beings are the same. The discrimination against people based on religion needs to end.



Because They Hate, Part IILarry Elder, Yahoo News, 4/26/07
Brigitte Gabriel, a Lebanese Christian who lived through jihad as a child, wrote "Because They Hate: A Survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America." This is an edited version of our interview.

Elder: Are there moderate Muslims who condemn the radicals, who don't feel threatened by democracy?

Gabriel: Yes. . . . I call it a practicing Muslim and a non-practicing Muslim. I think it is a better description than "moderate" and "radical." A practicing Muslim goes to mosque, prays five times a day, doesn't drink, believes God gave him women to be his property - to beat, to stone to death. . . . He believes Christians and Jews are apes and pigs because they are cursed by Allah. He believes it is his duty to declare war on the infidels because they are Allah's enemies. That is a practicing Muslim. A non-practicing Muslim no longer goes to mosque or prays five times a day, has an occasional glass of wine and believes that a woman is equal to a man. . . . He believes he cannot murder his wife just because he wants to. He does not believe in taking four wives just for sexual pleasure. . . . He no longer believes that, as a Muslim, it is his duty to kill the apes and pigs that have been cursed by Allah. A non-practicing Muslim is educated, an intellectual who believes the Koran - written in the 7th century - doesn't apply to today's standards, and Islam needs to be reformed. Those Muslims do exist and live in the West. However, they are such a minority - we estimate about 2 percent - they are irrelevant because it is the majority that is causing the problem now. (MORE)

Friday, April 27, 2007

Hassan is coming back to Egypt -- at least for a little while

Yes, well it's official. Hassan is making his way back to Egypt on May 28, Insha'Allah. It has been six months since he's been gone and though I miss him terribly I am grateful I had the opportunity to see how I could manage on my own.

But it wasn't all on my own. I have my real friends to thank for helping me along the way. I realized who my true friends are in school and outside of school. I even managed to make a few new friends along the way.

I gained my independence back, though it has taken me two years to do so. For the first time since I moved here, I am finally comfortable venturing out on my own, or with a friend or two. Friends who don't use me, friends who listen to me when I cry and complain, and friends who motivate me to keep on keepin' on.

I am still frustrated at not being able to communicate in Arabic, but I have found out that if I just use a few of the words I know, I am treated as though I belong here. Some experiences have been better than others, but overall it has been a very positive experience.

In terms of parenting on my own, I didn't do it all by myself. I have dear friends who have helped me carry the load and empathize with my situation -- Princess N for sure. Paul, Barbara and their children have been an absolute blessing in giving me some time off from parenting, as well as Amy, and Lisa. There are those who gave me words of encouragement and support throughout this time and I am grateful. Thank you all for your help and I cherish you in my heart.

I don't know how long Hassan will be back because he's not sure himself. I just hope that the time we spend together will make up for the time we spent apart.



Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The School's Annual Show

The students have been practicing for such a long time to perform at the annual show which was held last night at the Cairo stadium. Watching the students for the past week practice for hours, I wondered how they would ever pull it together to perform at the show. It seems as though as soon as the students put on their costumes they got their act together and performed as one.

The annual show had all the students from all of the different campuses perform: National, English, French, German, and American. It

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Racism and prejudice are everywhere

Recently in the US a famous caucasian radio show host was fired for comments he made about a university's women's basketball team.

I was in the guidance counselor's office one afternoon and I heard a Somalian student say to his friend "Go to class n****r." I will not write the word because it's one of the words that should never be said to anyone. The student was unaware that what he said was bad, and that I heard him say it. Needless to say I verbally tore the student apart. I told him that if I said that to him, he would be on me in a second. The student agreed with me. When the guidance counslor, an African-American, heard what the student said, he also gave the student a piece of his mind. The guidance counselor and I are from the same area of the US and we told the student of our intolerance to use language like that.

The student was later in the library where I asked him to repeat to his friends what he said. When he did, a girl, also Somalian student in hijab turned to me and said "But it's ok if we say it to eachother." I said "No it's not okay for anyone to say it even to each other. How are people ever going to treat you with respect and dignity if this kind of talk is repeated. We need to set good examples not bad ones."

These students are mainly from Canada and Great Britain now living in Egypt.

Islam teaches us that all human beings are the same, regardless of the color of our skin.

These students seem to forget the basics of Islam.



Saturday, April 14, 2007

My weekend was a bust . . .

I had one of those weekends where I had planned to do something everyday -- something exciting, unusual, and fun. As it turns out, I ended up doing absolutely nothing that I planned. Although I have been in a blue funk this weekend, no thanks to a cold and a migraine, I managed to think quite a bit about living in Egypt -- not to mention smoke too much.

A lot of people believe that when you're in a funk the best thing to do is buy yourself something to feel better. I don't believe this; rather I believe in reaching out to friends who are in need.

It puts my life in perspective and helps me to remember to say Alhamdulillah for everything.



Sunday, April 08, 2007

Stained Glass

Hassan and I love stained glass accessories for the home. We have been searching out stained glass pieces to put in our home. We have two huge standing lamps made in the Mission style that have been sitting in our living room for at least 8 months now waiting to find the perfect stained glass lampshades.

Last week Hassan got an email from his cousin, Sherif, who lives in London. Little did we know that Sherif is a stained glass artist. Talk about a small world. Please check out his website to see some of his work.



Friday, April 06, 2007

Pick-up Egyptian style

I was at the pool last week with my one friend "D". We were sitting on the chaise lounges, and I was not feeling particularly pretty. I was wearing my new jeans which are now very baggy and a jean jacket. D was sitting next to me. She doesn't wear hijab, but she is a Muslim. She has blonde hair and blue eyes and I think men are automatically attracted to her.

A man comes up next to me and asks me in Arabic if anyone is using the chaise. I said no. He sits down and gets himself ready to swim. I wasn't looking believe me. He gets up and goes swimming. D and I continued to talk to eachother. Later on the man comes out of the pool and sits down in the chaise next to me. The seat wasn't close to me, but it was the next one over from mine.

This is where it gets interesting.

Man: Are you visiting or do you live here?

Me: I live here.

Man: Do you rent or do you own?

Me: I own.

Man: Are you married?

Me: Yes. (I guess my wedding ring didn't give him a clue)

Man: Your husband, is Egyptian?

Me: Yes.

Man: Is he here?

Me: No, he is currently working in the US. BUT HE'LL BE BACK SOON. (don't really know, but went for it because I knew where this was heading)

Man: Is he a doctor or engineer?

Me: Engineer.

Man: Are you going to be married forever?

Me: Insha'Allah. (what else could be said at this point)

Man: I'm Professor (whatever) a professor at Ain Shams.

Me: Nice to meet you.

Man: Good bye.

Me: Good bye.

He gets up and walks away. Thank God. D asked if I was interested in a professor. I said "If I was, it wouldn't be that one." He was short, maybe my height, rather round and bald.

Then D grabs my hand and says "Ooh, rub whatever you have off on me. I want it. Men are very attracted to you." I said "You can have it." I told D that I think she is so much prettier than me and I don't understand why men talk to me like they do. D says it's my non-Egyptian look while wearing hijab. I told her I put on hijab to be anonymous, not to be more noticed. It backfired.



An update on S and her family

S is home again. She walking with Z on the streets of Cairo, taken by her father and put in the backseat of her father's car. Now she is "visiting" with him and his family in the country. Some of us at school think she is being married off. The taming of the shrew lives.

When D returned to school the following workday a teacher said "So is S dead yet?" D responded "No, of course not. You know, A is a good father and a good husband. He's a good man." Right, what has she been telling everyone since the school started 3 years ago - he was abusive to the entire family when he comes to Cairo from the US.

D has been going around school trying to repair the lies she says S has been spreading about her father. Again, right. How can you believe someone who has told you stories time and time again about how her husband abuses the family.

Now D is a "religious" Muslim. She prays, fasts, and lets you know it too. (Something that is very contrary to what Islam proclaims -- modesty and humility). OK enough of my personal opinions here, but I can't stop now.

She has been called the "modesty police" by some of us at school. You know the type - the kind of person who wraps themselves so tightly in their abaya and hijab but then tells other women that their skirts are too tight, their cleavage is showing, their nipples are showing through their sweater, and more. Don't talk to a man, don't shake a man's hand, don't have a conversation with a man - my God if you do they'll think you want to have sex with them.

Most of the comments D has made concerning women's dress has been aimed at me, except the cleavage comment. That comment was directed at the School Coordinator; she picked the wrong woman to say it to. When comments like that are aimed at me, I want to do more to throw her off.

Last year she complained to the principal that the 3rd grade teacher and 5th grade teacher were holding hands and it gives the wrong impression to the students. (Again, practically having sex.) So to get back at her, there were some teachers who would make eyes at each other and blow kisses at each other in the morning staff meetings just to piss her off. Well, the two teachers were reprimanded and asked not to hold hands in public anymore.

How are teenagers supposed to act when their parents repress everything and keep their children from going out and exploring the world. "If you pull too tightly, you'll lose control."

I think if I were D's daughter I would have run away too.



Saturday, March 31, 2007

Story of an American Runaway in Cairo

I have an interesting story to tell -- sad, but true.

There is a girl at our school let's call her "S." S has a best friend "Z" -- they are both seniors in high school. Z is quite the troublemaker. Anytime Z would get into trouble, S would get into trouble with her.

S's mother "N" works at my school. She swears that Z is the problem and her daughter S just gets into trouble because of Z. Well, personally, I don't know about that.

I will start with the troubles S and Z got into this year -- I'm not going to elaborate on last year because there are just too many situations to mention.

This year S and Z were seniors. Z was wearing hijab before this year, but decided for whatever reason to take it off. Hmm, I'm not saying it's right or wrong, but I believe that if you put on hijab you keep it on.

The problem started a few months ago when the principal's phone was missing from my office. I don't know what happened to it or where it ended up. All I know is that it was missing. Needless to say, we never found it. I don't know who would want the phone for anything, it was just a basic Nokia, but maybe whoever took it wanted it for the phone numbers stored inside. Go figure.

A month later the deputy principal's phone was missing from his office. Now this was not your basic Nokia phone. It was a Nokia phone that has the internet, and all kinds of gadgets to it. It was the top of the line Nokia. It was the personal property of the deputy principal.

About a month or so after it went missing a boy, "W" came to the principal and said that he knew what happened to the d.p.'s phone saying he knew who took it. He pointed the finger at Z and S. Of course they both denied it. He also said that he knew how to get it back.

S was being eaten up inside by the guilt (a good thing, yes) and came clean saying that Z stole it. Z denied it ever happened and it wasn't her.

Z was expelled from the school - a horrible thing to happen anywhere but especially in Egypt to an Egyptian senior. The other two, W and S were suspended from school for a week for their participation in knowing about the theft, and that they didn't bring it to the administration's attention earlier.

Now S's father "A" is Egyptian and American, his wife "N" is American and Egyptian (she got her Egyptian citizenship, why, I'll never know). A travels back and forth between the US and Egypt quite often, working in the US and visiting his family here in Cairo.

On his recent return to Cairo in February, A found out what S had done. S came to school one day with a black eye, obviously from being hit. I asked her "S, what happened to your eye?" She said "Miss Marian, I ran into a door." She was quite meek and shy the way she told me what happened. Of course I knew better. I could see where a fist hit her underneath her eye, and the cuts on the side of her face were not from running into a door.

Last week, the 12th grade went on a field trip to see a movie that they were supposed to write about in English class. S was not allowed to go of course, because her parents could not trust her. I wouldn't trust her either, quite honestly. You know the saying "You can't bullshit a bullshitter" comes to mind.

That afternoon, N went running around the school looking for S. "Where's S? Has anyone seen S?" I told N that I wanted to tell the principal that her daughter was missing. N said don't tell her, I'll tell her. When it was time to board the teachers bus to go home, S didn't show. As I was walking out of the school, I passed by N and the princpal talking by the school gate and N was crying.

Come to find out that S ran away to the American Embassy seeking protection from her abusive father. She claims that her father beats her and wants to marry her off. Ah, "Taming of the shrew." Yes, I can see it coming. S was seeking asylum back to the US. State Department officials said that an investigation had to take place in order to determine whether or not she would be returned to live with relatives or be placed in a foster home.

N was missing for at least 24 hours before they (the parents) found out that S was at the American Embassy. This past Sunday N, A, and the principal went to the Embassy for interviews by the State Department staff about what went on. The princpal was quite honest, and didn't hide anything. I don't know what N and A said in their interviews. The Embassy staff said that S is in a safe place and will stay there until the investigation is completed.

Well, it sounded as though S was safe. Apparently not that safe -- she did something really stupid. She just couldn't stay away from Z.

Z's parents have a second apartment somewhere in Cairo. A found the phone number to the flat and through his own investigating, obtained the address. S and Z were out one night last week walking along the street where A spotted her, grabbed her and put her in his car.

Now S is back at home and no one has heard from the family, nor can anyone get in contact with them.

I don't know how this story will end up. I hope it ends up ok -- that's probably the best anyone can hope for at this point.



Monday, March 26, 2007

A quick post before school

Being back at school makes me extremely busy so I thought I would update y'all on some things going on around here.

Hassan has a bad cough and I am worried. He cut down on his cigarettes, bought Nicoderm and seems to be doing a little better. Insha'Allah he will continue to get better. He's debating whether or not to return at the end of May and stay in Cairo or go back to the US. We keep kicking around ideas and we need to stay open to the options.

Mira is doing well at school, Alhamdullilah. She is in swimming class here at the club and absolutely loves it. She is a real team player and is proud of her participation in swimming. The coaches are respectful and extremely kind to children. Actually all Egyptians are extremely kind to children.

Mira has also rekindle a friendship with Sara. Mira met Sara when we first moved here to Rehab but the friendship cooled for awhile. I am thankful. Her mother Lisa is American and the more I talk with Lisa the more I like her. She is level-headed, well thought out and full of support. I hope to return the friendship.

I am chugging along at school -- I am glad I'm back and see the rest of the year as just three more months. Not the dreaded January -- "Oh my God I still have half a year left" feeling.

We had a staff day at school last Friday and I didn't want to participate but in the end I was really glad. It was nice to release some stress in a positive way by singing and laughing my *ss off with other teachers. At least now I know who on staff likes to sing. And now they know how much I like to sing.

I always knew I had a lot of trust in Reham, a great friend of mine from school, but everyday I realize how much more I appreciate her friendship and honesty. She has tremendous insight and is extremely honest. Something I treasure in a friendship. Alhamdullilah.

There is more but I will save it for the next post.



Tuesday, March 20, 2007

"Amsheer"- "The Windy Season"

Yes, it's that wonderful time of year of Amsheer "the windy duststorm/sandstorm" season. I don't really mind it - it's different, any change of weather is good as long as it's not freezing cold and snowing, but this year it is making me feel ill.

I was out of work yesterday because I just wasn't feeling well over the weekend. I just couldn't seem to "wake up." I went to work on Sunday and felt awful; then yesterday morning I woke up and felt worse; head, stomach, aches and pains, you name it; I messaged in that I would be out. I didn't feel right about doing this but thought it would be better to stay at home for a day and try to get better. I was even too ill to drive Mira to school so she stayed with me. Note to self: next time, make myself drive Mira to school. Alhamdulillah she was good, and let me rest, but still she's an 8 year old.

I don't know what it's like in other parts of the Middle East but here in Egypt when it's Amsheer all the dust and germs are blow around by the wind. My cleaning lady comes once a week and every week there is a thick film of some sort of dust for her to clean. I just don't understand it. I don't know how the dust gets in the house.

Maybe Amsheer's effects on me this year is compounded by the fact that we have 4 kittens and mommy which are still nursing. I know this may be aggrivating my allergies, but they are just too small to let go at this point; I think they are about 5 weeks old.

I remember 3 years ago when we came to Egypt for vacation during this time we were walking around in short sleeves and saying how beautiful this month was; now as a native living here I dress like all other Egyptians, in sweaters carrying my tissues.



Monday, March 12, 2007

So what's in your food?

Ever wonder how the rest of the world lives when it comes to food cleanliness, especially in Egypt? Let me give you a hint: it's not as pasteurized as America. The food here may not be pasteurized but it is also not processed in any way; meaning no preservatives whatsoever.

If you want the really good milk you buy it fresh from the dairy store where it comes in a bag; probably 1 litre. It's not pasteurized; you take it home and boil it, let it sit and cool, then scrape off the top thick full cream called "ishta." I never liked ishta until I had it in my cappuccino -- yum!!

When you make lentil soup "adts" or cook rice, you rinse your lentils and rice thoroughly, picking out any little pebbles that might have gotten stuck in the bag. The same holds true for corn or "dora" that has been roasted and picked off the cob, salted and served in a small bag similar to dry roasted peanuts or "sudani." I found a pebble in my "dora" the other day.

Egyptians like to drink loose tea - not the big tea leaves but rather the fine, powdery tea, originating in Ethiopia and Kenya. However, be careful, you will find a small wooden shavings in your tea. I don't care, it makes the tea that much more delicious.

OK, this one tops all. I went to my favorite bakery tonight in the market "souk" here in Rehab and bought some small cheese-filled bread rolls "gibna" -- what did I find when I bit in to it? Yes, that's right, a built-in toothpick; not really but a splinter.

You may think that finding items in your food is dangerous; at first I did, but then got used to it. Germs here in Egypt don't spread like America; maybe it's attributed to the sun and the climate; I'm not sure. I never noticed the people here get as sick as Americans get -- I think it's all the fresh air (at least here in the desert), not the souvenirs found in food.



Saturday, March 10, 2007

More Photos from America

My nieces and nephews with Mira from left to right: Kelsey, Frances, Peter on Frances' lap, Mira, Andrew, Maggie on Andrew's lap. Kelsey, Frances and Andrew are very talented teenagers -- Kelsey is into sports, especially basketball, Frances is a swimminer and Andrew is a musician.

Hassan took this photo of Mira and me outside of Dunkin Donuts. It was absolutely freezing but we managed to make our way to Aspen Hill. Can you believe we only ate there once while in the US?! I attribute my ongoing weight loss to the inability to access Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks -- just too much fat! I refuse to eat fast food in Egypt and I refuse to buy Starbucks Frappuccinos - one Frappuccino everyday for one week resulted in 5 lb. weight gain while living in the US. How long did it take me to realize this? By the time I realized it, I was addicted. And by the way, "light" Frappuccinos don't count - they're still chalked full of fat.

Mira, Hassan, and our friend Stoney in the ROC. Stoney has been a constant source of support to us while Hassan is in the US. He is planning on retiring sometime this spring -- don't put it off too long Stoney.
My stepmom Bonnie, Maggie, and my Dad. Just an adorable picture.

Maggie's and Mira's Dance Party in PA.

The week we spent at Elaine's house: Elaine, her daughter Maggie ( 3 y/o), me (Mira took the photo -- Great job Mirabell!)

Pictured above from left to right are my brothers, sisters, and father: Elaine (#5), Laura (#4), Jim (#1 and don't let it go to your head, Jim :) ), Dad, Me (#3-yes, middle child), Tom (#2)

Somehow I didn't get a picture of Missy -- where are you?! If someone can send me a photo of Missy - Tom's wife, I will post it -- I promise!



Thursday, March 08, 2007

The First Amendment of the US Constitution - The Freedom of Speech

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

One of the greatest things about America is the Constitution of the United States that was written over two hundred years ago. Ask any naturalized citizen and they say that the ability to speak freely is a right that other Americans take for granted. Take the case of Kareem Amer, an Egyptian blogger who is now in jail for speaking his opposition to the Egyptian president.

I think all humans have the right to speak their mind. However, I forget that as an American I am free to speak my mind and when someone who is not American is put in jail for voicing their opposition to a government official of their own country, I remember just how fortunate I am.

The First Amendment of the US Constitution is the Freedom of Speech -- Americans can speak their minds - protest for or against a subject; criticize the government, the President, or any other topic they wish to communicate.

I know in a post 9-11 world some may say that the First Amendment has been somewhat diminished. I think to a certain extent this is true; however, where else in the world can you express your views but in America. This is what makes the country great.

Even illegal immigrants speak their minds -- take the protests held around the country to protect illegal immigrants in the US.

As Americans we take for granted the rights we have. It is still the land where people want to emigrate to achieve their own American dream.



Monday, March 05, 2007

The kittens are here

Our cat had kittens while we were in the US. I thought we had a kitten, but apparently she was old enough to have kittens. Surprise, surprise! We have 4 white kittens and 1 black kitten -- all Persians. They are adorable to watch.



Sunday, March 04, 2007

The vacation is over but what a vacation it was!

I am going to post photos and summaries over the next couple of days from our trip to the States or "America" as Egyptians call it. I thought I would start with the photo of my friend Karen who drove down to meet us for lunch during our last week in the States.

Karen and I first became friends when Hassan and I bought our house in Southern Maryland. We lived in a quiet country community surrounded by farms. Karen was expecting at the time. Karen taught me how to quilt. I watched her quilt for two years before I got enough courage to make my first quilt -- for Mira of course. Karen made two beautiful quilts for us: one for me and one for Hassan. Quilts we brought with us and use all the time here in Cairo. American quilts are perfect for Egyptian weather; warm enough without the bulkiness to store.

When Karen and I went out it was as though we spoke everyday and saw eachother often. I love having her as a friend; she has been with me through it all.

Karen gave me a limitless supply of scrapbooking things to keep me busy. Now I have no excuse. Also, Karen gave me some beautiful quilt fabric -- in blue and white of course (my favorite color is blue). She also gave me her unending friendship, something I will always treasure.

Thank you Karen! I love you.



Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Some Recent Photos

A photo of Hassan, Mira and me at Hassan's office.

A photo of Mira next to the Worldspace rocket that launched a satellite.

A photo of my sister's backyard in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

A photo of a dinosaur skeleton displayed at the Discovery Channel building in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland.


Monday, February 19, 2007

The Family Get Together

Yes, the weather is going to change, but guess when?! When we leave on Friday, February 23rd. Of course it is. In fact, I predict right here and now that Cairo will have unusually cold weather followed by snow and sandstorms. OK, maybe not snow, but we will be returning to Cairo for sandstorm season. I don't care at this point, as long as it doesn't make my shoes wet and my jeans snowy.

I have said from the very beginning of living in Cairo, that I love the weather in Egypt. I don't miss the thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, and especially snow/ice storms in the US. I don't know who would miss them. But this year, and I have heard it from every member of my family here in the US that "strange you're here now, because we've had the coldest weather in at least 10 years." This runs from New Jersey to Western Pennsylvania, including of course Washington, DC.

Even today Mira and I were visiting with my sisters when it started snowing. Mira was really scared that I couldn't drive in the snow. When I proved to her that I can drive in the snow, she decided that I'm an excellent driver. Thanks, Mira for your overwhelming vote of confidence.

We went to my brother Tom's house yesterday for a family get together. Just about all were there, except for my one sister-in-law. We had a great time laughing and catching up on what everyone's doing. I think the personalities in my family are very strong, especially when it comes to laughing. As my Dad says "The nuts don't fall too far from the tree." Ah, how true, Dad. Our family motto.

Photos were taken, but I will not be able to post them until I return to Cairo. Only God knows when we will be able to gather together again like this; but I can tell you one thing: I am grateful for the time we are spending together.

I am at peace.




Tuesday, February 13, 2007

"Jesus is Here"

Mira and I were riding back with Maggie's Mom from Western PA on Sunday when we drove by a church that read on a large marquis "Jesus is Here!" I couldn't believe it. I just started laughing. It is not out of disrespect or anything, but it seems as though having "Jesus is Here" in large red marquis letters flashing off and on is a bit much for me -- or anyone for that matter.

I know I am not used to seeing these types of signs in the US at all but especially in SW PA it seemed really out of place to me.

It seemed to me that Jesus was some kind of stand-up comic performing through the weekend.

For myself, to be reminded of God does not mean a large sign in flashing red marquis letters, or a church in the shape of a lighthouse just a few miles away from the red marquis church, but instead means hearing the beautiful adhan 5 times a day, at dawn, at noon, at mid-afternoon, at sunset, then at night. The beauty of Islam is not what I see with my eyes but what I feel in my own heart.

Perhaps seeing that sign along the highway reminded even more me how much I miss hearing the adhan and how much I miss Cairo.



Saturday, February 10, 2007

Our week in Pennsylvania is winding down . . .

Today is our last day here in Pennsylvania visiting my sister and her family. It has been a wonderful visit. Mira doesn't want to talk about leaving early tomorrow morning. Maggie even had a bad dream last night telling Mira not to leave - don't go.

It breaks my heart to have Maggie and Mira separate - but it has been a wonderful bonding experience for both of them; something I know Mira will never forget and something I hope Maggie will remember, even though she's only 3.

I have thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Maggie's Mom (my youngest sister) and her husband, Jeff. He is one of the kindest and funniest people I've ever met in my life. My sister and brother-in-law have a beautiful home and of course family, meaning Maggie.

I had a chance to meet some of my sister's friends, and I feel comforted knowing that she has a solid network of women to rely upon and talk to when she feels frazzled. You know, someone to share your accomplishments with as well as someone to listen to when things aren't going so well.

We have shopped, eaten, and frozen our way through the past week. It has been absolutely bitterly cold, but enjoyable nonetheless. Mira loved the snow. At first she wanted to play in it, but later realized that it was just too cold and instead just walked around in the snow watching it sparkle in the sunlight.

I told Maggie that where we live we don't have snow, so Mira loves to look at it. It's always warm, sunny (Alhamdulillah), and sandy where we live. I wish I could tell you the way Maggie describes where we live, but just imagine a 3 year-old with her developing language pronounce "Egypt." It is adorable to listen to her talk.

We will leave early tomorrow morning, Sunday, for Washington, DC to see Hassan. There may be some relief on the horizon for Hassan in terms of work relief - but we will have to wait and see.

Tomorrow is also my birthday -- no mention of age here -- as I've stopped counting.

Alhamdullilah for everything.



Monday, February 05, 2007

The Weather Report

I will never, ever complain about the cold weather in Cairo for the rest of my life. Wallahi (I swear)-- it is -20 C outside at the very least. Apparently the weather here in Western PA (Pittsburgh) is the coldest in 10 years. Of course it is, because Marian is in the US for the first time in two years! I long to feel the warm Egyptian winter sun kissing my face. (If you are like me, you would miss it too.)

We did some more shopping today. I know what you're thinking - why go out when it's icy, snowy and absolutely freezing outside?! Because my sister has snow tires and she lets nothing stop her from doing what she wants to do - just like Mom used to do. When there's a will there's a way. We were raised with the determination to do what we want when we want, regardless of what the weather is like outside.

We made our way through Target today -- a bit overwhelming - actually all the stores here are still overwhelming me and I need to stop and gather my senses before I just take one of everything in the store. I did manage to cross a few more items off my shopping list so I feel quite satisfied in that regard.

Mira got another pair of jeans - ok she's done with pants for now. I think she has enough to last her until at least the hot weather hits in Cairo. Me? Well, I managed to get some mints I've been dying for -- nothing spectacular but good old Lifesaver Peppermints. Plain old candy - it's hard to find a good mint in Cairo, along with some sugar free candies to give to family in Egypt.

I found some more moisturizer my face is in desperate need of - the Egyptian sun just sucks all the moisture out of my skin - especially my face. So now I'm into finding the "advanced age defying night cremes" to make my skin look younger. Ugh. Hair color - to color or not to color I'm still debating this one. If I color my hair, then I'm stuck doing it for the rest of my life. If I don't then I can do it whenever I wish. Luckily for me I didn't find anything I really liked unless I wanted to color my hair from reddish brown to bright red -- not.

I still haven't been able to find clothing prices better than Burlington Coat Factory in Silver Spring. The quality is great and the prices are knocked down. The sales lady said to come back after February 14th, when the prices will really be slashed. Gotta love winter clothes in the US; they're perfect for Egyptian winters too.

So I only have a few more stores to hit in the next 3 weeks: Kohl's (candles & maybe pants), Michaels/JoAnn's (crafts and quilting supplies), and Best Buy (video camera). Everything I am buying is very inexpensive, so my money goes further.



Saturday, February 03, 2007

Week #1 in the US - A Summary

We arrived safely, Alhamdulillah. The next day or two were spent trying to recover from the flight. To help us recover, we went shopping! Of course the first thing I bought was a pair of jeans.

On the first Sunday, we visited my one brother, Tom and his family and had a nice visit. I saw my Dad and stepmom there for a short visit. It was a wonderful day spent with Tom and his family; catching up on the past two years is quite challenging.

Back to shopping. We are hitting the sales in the US at the perfect time of year. The winter clothes in the US are all on clearance right now so we're getting great quality clothes for a steal. Of course I don't feel guilty about it at all. While trying on clothes I found that I dropped at least 4 sizes, maybe more. This thrills me beyond belief because I have many more choices when it comes to clothes.

I'm just about finished with clothes, although I'll still keep my eyes out for great prices.

My list of things to take back to Cairo is getting smaller.

Mira got a lot of clothes so far and wants to spend too much money. I keep reminding her that these are US dollars we're spending and not Egyptian pounds. I think we're breaking Hassan's bank account.

Because of the changing situation in Hassan's office, it appears that he will be staying until June, at the very least. He has already proposed that we return for the summer if he stays longer. Hmm, I will have to wait and see. The Mediterranean is calling me for July . . . .

I haven't had a chance to get online too much. This is only my second chance in 5 days.

Beginning tomorrow, Mira and I are going to western PA to stay with Maggie's Mom for a week.

Thank you all for your well wishes and prayers for our safe trip.

I am still adjusting to the being here, away from the warm Egyptian winter sun. It is just too cold here to do anything.



Monday, January 29, 2007

Built Ford Tough

Hassan has a sweatshirt he bought here that says "Built Ford Tough." It's my favorite color - BLUE. He gave it to me and told me why he bought it.

Hassan lives in a really nice neighborhood in Silver Spring, Maryland - just outside of DC. Because he lives in a really nice area, there are many different types of people who live in the area - specifically gay men.

Hassan was telling me that the "men" in the building have been very friendly towards him - overly friendly to the point that it made him feel uncomfortable, especially the one receptionist.

So he went out and bought a nice steel blue sweatshirt with the "Built Ford Tough" on it. He wore it to let the "men" in the building know that he is straight. Only it is too small on him so it works against him.



Saturday, January 27, 2007

Our trip was a success

We left Cairo on the 26th and checked in with EgyptAir. It seems as though Egypt is much more organized than New York.

The flight from Cairo to JFK was very long, but very smooth. Mira behaved very well, much better than expected. Mira watched many movies and I tried to sleep. I fell asleep listening to the Quran on the radio. One of the benefits of flying EgyptAir is that they play Quran on one of the radio channels. It was quite a comfort to me, because I was very nervous and anxious to fly.

I was really proud of Mira because she spoke Arabic with the stewardesses and Mira seemed to feel more comfortable on the flight than other flights before.

We arrived in NY and had to wait for an additional 3 hour delay because there was a back up on the runway. We slept the entire flight from NY to Washington, and didn't wake up until we were landing. What a relief. At least we were able to sleep a little bit.

The gibna romy and basterma made it through the flight for Hassan. Nothing was taken but a pair of scissors Mira accidentally packed in her carry-on after I told her no. Egyptian police caught it and I apologized "Asif, asif." He said "Mish Mishkilla." (Sorry, and no problem)

When we got home after checking out our luggage, we came back to the flat and Mira immediately fell asleep. I couldn't sleep and thought of my friends waking up going to the SAT at school. I will not change my phone clock because I miss my friends terribly already (you know who you are).

It is cold today, and we are on our way to do some shopping.

I will be looking for a video camera for my friend, and jeans for Mira and me.

I am still in hijab and will continue to wear it. I do not plan to take it off no matter what.

Alhamdulillah for my friends who helped us get ready for the trip. To Shabaan and Ehab for driving us to the airport and getting Hassan's medicine. And to Sameh, many thanks to you for taking the cat and for your friendship.



Friday, January 19, 2007

Parenting Experience

I just about had a breakdown the other day - OK, I did have a breakdown the other day. All vacation I asked Mira "Do you have any homework. Do you have math homework?" I cannot tell you how many times I asked her this question. Her answer was always evasive: "I don't think so. I don't have homework. I have Egyptian social studies." OK, so I trusted her without looking in her books. WRONG!!!

When I returned to school her teacher told me that Mira was in serious trouble with math because: 1) she hasn't been doing her homework and 2) she doesn't understand subtraction and borrowing from 3 and 4-digit numbers. I freaked out.

It was decided that if she didn't catch up with her homework and understand subtraction she would not go the US with me. She would stay with Aunt Olfat and I would go alone.

So Mira stayed after school several days with her teacher to have the math explained to her. She was miserable. She cried and threw a fit. You would think she was 3 years old all over again. As I always did, I ignored her. When Mira throws a fit, I ignore her. When she was 2 and threw a fit and was on the floor, I'd step over her saying "Let me know when you're finished." I have always dealt with fits very well, however, she couldn't really talk back. Now it's quite different. She came into the car and said "I'm not going to school tomorrow. I refuse to go to school tomorrow. Ms. Nora is not the boss of me." Well, at that point I let her have it.

We spent 6-7 hours on math homework the other night. We have been working on it quite diligently to make sure she understands the subtraction. Because I actually sat down with her and wrote out every problem, and she actually solved every problem, she understood it. She just didn't want to do it alone. I think she looks at the pages of homework and finds it quite overwhelming. I told her if she did her homework every night like she was supposed to she would not have the overwhelming feeling that she has now.

So I spoke with Mira's teacher yesterday and told her what we did. By the end of the day I asked her teacher how Mira did with math. Mira's teacher said she was actually impressed that Mira understood the math. She said I was the only parent that sits with my child to do their homework. I told her it's my responsibility as a parent to make sure my child understands her schoolwork, not just because I work at the school.

I don't know where she gets this behavior from. I was the perfect student - yeah, right. Now I see it from the other side. Ah, parenting. . . it keeps changing. If I have the cahunas to deal with this effectively, the next stage won't be as challening; or will it . . .



Saturday, January 13, 2007

Men and Women

OK, so Hassan's best friend, Shabaan, has helped us with absolutely everything we have in our home. This man is better than gold. I don't know what's better than gold, but he's it.

Last week he spoke with Hassan and said he would help me get my international driver's license so I can drive in the US. Yes, I have an Egyptian driver's license (can you believe I drive in this place?!) but I need a license to drive in the US too -- my Maryland license expired a year ago.

So yesterday, Shabaan called and said he was coming over to pick up my documents to take them to the place where he'll try to get me the license. I asked him if he needed me to come along, he said no, if he needs me, he'll call me. Everything in Egypt is done by connections, connections. Shabaan knows people in all places; and believe me that's a lot of people.

One day we were shopping for chandeliers in Attaba (a really crowded shopping area of Cairo). We just happened to pull into a parking space along the street - we were quite lucky, and all of a sudden Shabaan shakes the hand of someone he knew. It's a big city, but a small town. It's amazing.

Anyways, when Shabaan came to the apartment last night I gave him the documents and invited him in. He didn't want to come in and sit. It is customary in Egypt for men not to be in the homes of married women without their husbands. It goes against Islam, although it doesn't bother me and I don't think anything of it. I mean come on, I'm American, I'm used to mixing with men and women equally. Maybe this is why I have such a different outlook living here. It doesn't matter if I am in hijab or not. I have always felt more comfortable talking with men than a lot women -- no matter where I am in the world. Some of us are just "that way."

In Islam, the strict Muslims - well, what I consider strict, husbands do not allow their wives to go out of the home without a "mahram" meaning a male escort -- a male escort who is a family member. OK, if this were the case with me, I'd never go anywhere. I am not of that frame of mind, although I could see the need, being fair skinned and blue-eyed (ok, my brownish, red hair) and even in hijab I'm still gawked at by men, but I think it's more of a fascination and curiosity than anything else. (Layla can corroborate my story). I am finding out that this is why a lot of American women wear niquab (the full veil) over their entire bodies. However, once their voices are heard by Egyptian men, they start talking anyways. It is even more fascinating to them because they see the full veil but the American voice. Now, I'm not stereotyping here, please don't misunderstand me, but this has been my experience in most situations.

Insha'Allah Shabaan will be able to get my license without me needing to be with him. Otherwise it's an all day event running around; I don't mind, it's something I need to get done.



Friday, January 12, 2007

Dealing with Stress

In preparing to leave for the US, my stomach has been in nervous knots. I deal well under stress and great under pressure, however, with getting ready for the trip, I am finding that I am unable to complete one task at a time, much less multi-task.

I go to school and try to concentrate on what I need to get done before I leave, and then I get home and I try to figure out what I need to do next to get ready to travel. I am more challenged at home than at school. At home, I think about packing, and then realize that I'm not packing much, I'm not a clothes horse. Mira's been packed for one week now. I have some things to buy and I suppose I ought to start with that part of it. Maybe that will get me moving to pack other things to take.

Again, as I have said before, I never imagined to be traveling to the US to visit Hassan. I guess I'm still in a state of shock and this is how I'm dealing with it; by trying not to deal with it.

Even blogging has become difficult for me because my brain is shooting in a million different directions.

Throughout this whole process I have one thing to say: Alhamdulillah.