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.