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.



Saturday, January 06, 2007

Tamer Hosny

I am just beginning to enjoy Arabic music, so I am listening to much more these days because Mira just loves it. So in listening the music channels over and over again while at home, I found a song by Tamer Hosny called "Ba3'yesh" (Baa'yeesh). It took me about a week to find out the name of this song because mostly everything on TV is written in Arabic so seeing the name of the song in Arabic does not do me any good.

I recorded the video through my mobile video camera and listened to the song many times; picking out the few words I understand.

Thanks to an MSN group of Tamer Hosny fans I downloaded the song. Although it's not the acoustic version currently on TV (it's a little jazzier) I enjoy it anyway.

Now if I can only figure out what he's singing about.



Friday, January 05, 2007

Missing in Action and Other Things

I have been missing in action (MIA) . I have been battling bronchitis, sinus, ears, you name it and I have it. I haven't been sick like this for three years, and it has to get me now. It's not exactly the way I wanted to spend my Eid vacation, but that's how it goes.

I have been watching a lot I mean a lot of TV. There is too much to think about and write about: for example, the execution of Saddam Hussein (of which I will have no comment), the election of Nancy Pelosi as the first woman speaker of the House of Representatives (a milestone for women not just in the US but all over the world), the swearing in of Congressman Keith Ellison as the first Muslim Congressman (another milestone), the comment made by Congressman Goode of Virginia about how Muslims need to stop coming into "our country" (speaking about Ellison, who by the way is a convert from Catholicism to Islam and was born in the US you idiot!). Ignorance isn't bliss, it's just stupid.

Preparing for the trip to the US, since I have been sick I am remembering all the cold medicines I want to get while in the US; for example, Theraflu, Sudafed Sinus, Tylenol Sinus, whatever sinus medicine I can get my hands on that will work safely (i.e. not raise my blood pressure). I have also been thinking about how I'm going to bring some of my things back to Cairo - taking empty suitcases and bringing back full suitcases.

I've been chatting with Maggie's Mom (MM) online and having a wonderful time doing it. We are laughing, almost crying, and looking forward to seeing each other when Mira and I arrive at the end of January. It is also fun to see her daughter, Maggie, ask questions about Mira and me. I can't wait to see her because it's been almost two years since we left the US. I told her I want flannel sheets for Cairo, which we cannot find here - they export the fabric but don't sell the sheets here - go figure. She asked me what color, I said I don't care as long as there isn't any pattern on it - I'm so patterned out from the sheets my mom used to have in the 70's, stripes, big flowers, etc. Also, I'm patterened out from living in Egypt. So MM went to Kohl's and found
solid color sheets - she said guess what color? I said what, she said "camel". No joke. I love the color.