Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sometimes it's ok to be sick

I think being sick is a sign of weakness. I haven't been sick in four years and all of a sudden, bam! I returned to work 1 1 2/ months ago and here I have been sick for two days with the flu. I hate this; why me, why now? I'm not particularly stressed more than usual. Although I have to admit I have many things on my mind - but who doesn't.

Mira is doing extremely well at school this year, El 7amdolelah (thank God). I went back to work after being home for one year. And while I really enjoy working - I am having second thoughts for different reasons I cannot elaborate on right now. It remains to be seen if I make it through the entire school year; and after telling a friend of mine in an email not to be hasty in decision making it turns out that perhaps I have been hasty myself.

I have friends who are going through their own challenges and while I want to help all of them it seems as though I am limited in what I can do - except listen and support them. While I support them by listening to them, I am honest with them, because in the end I would appreciate any friend of mine being honest with me.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the US and I am homesick as hell this year. I can't figure out why this year in particular. If there is one holiday I love the most it's American Thanksgiving. The food, the frangrances of the house, the fire, the families getting together. All of it. The good and the challenging.

So yes I have my own stressors that mostly likely contributed to making me sick; some good and some bad. I have to realize that there is only so much I can do about everything. I have to let go of the rest and realize it's out of my hands. I thought by now I would understand - but I like to hold onto everything and control every outcome in my life.



Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Universality of Music

I have been feeling very blue lately.

I don't believe in coincidence. I have always believed that everything happens for a reason, fate, destiny, whatever you wish to call it. I also believe that life travels in a full circle.

As I opened the laptop today I saw an article on Yahoo's homepage: NPR's weekend edition and The Gospel According to Bruce Springsteen. I have been a long, long-time Bruce Springsteen fan. In the mid to late 1980's one of my sister's and I slept in line - yes, a line of people waiting for Bruce Springsteen tickets to go on sale. I can't remember what number I was in line, but I remember I was in the first five in line. And of course being the person I am, I kept the line organized by taking names and assigning numbers for people so everyone would be treated fairly. This was long before the internet. As it turned out the wait was worth it and my sister and I were on the floor of his concert within the 1st couple of was one of the best experiences of my life.

The world has changed a lot since 1988 and I have changed a lot as well. I am no longer that irresponsible 20-something year-old who thought I was immortal and nothing bad could ever happen to me.

Somehow Bruce Springsteen's music has this ability to show the listener that no one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes, and there is always a chance to become a better person.

I have my complete collection of Bruce Springsteen CD's at home in Cairo, just waiting for me to pop in my car stereo and drive through Cairo singing my heart out, remembering the days when I thought I was immortal, and knowing now how mortal I am and how important it is to enjoy everyday. Bruce Springsteen's lyrics don't change but the meaning can change - metaphors can change, and hearts can change too.

Please visit the following link to listen to NPR



Thursday, August 07, 2008

Islamaphobia is alive and well in the United States

I am posting an article I just received from CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), a non-profit organization in the United States that promotes Islam in a positive light. Unfortunately, thanks to the right-wing Republicans in this country, they are making endless attempts to emphasize Barack Obama's Islamic heritage in a negative light. I am really trying to keep my composure here, but honestly I think its about time a lot of Americans get their heads out of their asses. There is an undercurrent and sometimes a strong overt in your face current when people hear my name and see me - Arabic, Muslim, hijab . . . the strange looks, the whispers. What hurts most is that sometimes these comments and looks come from people I know very well. I will be honest and say that I have had my moments this summer where I seriously thought about moving back to the U.S., and then I realize how ignorant people can be when it comes to Islam, Arabs, and the spreading of democracy in the Middle East. Moreover I have dear friends in Egypt that I just cannot live without.



CAIR: Muslim’s Resignation Part of Marginalization Campaign
Posted 8/6/2008 4:49:00 PM

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 8/6/2008) – A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group said today that the resignation of a recently-appointed Muslim community liaison for Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign is symptomatic of a nationwide effort by Islamophobes who seek to deny Muslims access to the political process.

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said it is “ironic” that Chicago attorney Mazen Asbahi resigned following Internet attacks on his ties to the mainstream Muslim community, an attribute that would seem to be a requirement for his position.
SEE: Obama Muslim Coordinator Resigns (Washington Post)
“Muslim-bashers play a ‘six degrees of separation’ game of guilt by association with any Muslim who dares to engage in positive social or political activism,” said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of CAIR’s Chicago chapter. “As Americans, we should not allow intolerant and agenda-driven extremists to succeed in their tactics of exclusion based on smears and mischaracterizations of leaders or institutions at the forefront of civic engagement.”
He said CAIR chapters nationwide promote Muslim voter registration drives and get-out-the-vote campaigns. Rehab added that CAIR maintains a website devoted entirely to encourage American Muslim political participation.
The CAIR election site offers the latest news and opinions relating to Muslims and elections nationwide. It also outlines positions of the presidential candidates, provides examples of anti-Muslim rhetoric from candidates for all levels of public office and links to the websites of Muslims running for public office.
SEE: CAIR 2008 Elections Website
Rehab also noted Muslims’ concern over recent congressional hearings at which Islamophobic speakers, including the controversial self-described “terrorism expert” Steven Emerson, urged government officials to avoid dealing with mainstream American Muslim groups, but failed to name any credible alternatives.
For background on Emerson’s history of anti-Muslim bias, see: “Steven Emerson's Crusade” (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting)He suggested that the rise in rhetorical attacks on Islamic leaders and institutions may be the result of increasing Muslim political activism and involvement.
CAIR, America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
- END -
CONTACT: CAIR Legislative Director Corey Saylor, 202-384-8857; CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab, 202-870-0166; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail:; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, E-Mail:

Tying up loose ends - finally!!

We went to Bush Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia last week. Mira is in her rollercoaster phase - and not the rollercoasters I grew up with but the nauseating corkscrew coasters. The rollercoasters are really a lot of fun especially when they race through the track turning upside down with your feet dangling below you, but going through the corkscrew turns are something else. Oh, and as Mira told me they're not rollercoasters they're "hyper-coasters." Ok, I thought, whatever that means. Well I found out as I rode my first one. They are much smoother, much faster and much more nauseating than what I was used to riding when I was oh so much younger. But the one that scared the hell out of me was Apollo's Chariot. If you get a chance you can check out the ride at I only rode it once and remembered why I was riding it -- with a special someone in mind. On the ride all I could think about was getting through the ride alive. I didn't scream, didn't yell, didn't say anything. That's how I knew the ride was too much for me. Yes, I was speechless.

Prior to Busch Gardens, Mira and I spent one week in western Pennsylvania with my youngest sister and her family. We had a wonderful time. It was so nice we hope to return in the next few days. It was great spending time with my sister. We managed to have a Polish Christmas dinner in July -- I walked her through the steps of making holupki (stuffed cabbage). Hopefully on this visit we will make pierogi ... mmm. My brother-in-law Jeff is the winner because he gets to eat our cooking. I really miss the essence of the Polish food. It was very bittersweet to show my sister how to make the holupki. When my mother was sick already, and after she died, Lainie and I would split the Christmas Eve meal, we would take turns making the soup, and we would usually make the pierogi together. But the Christmas day centerpiece was all mine. I guess I remember my Grandma Bezilla making the holupki and how it would smell when I would walk in her house, and in later years how our mouths would water when we would smell the holupki -- somehow Mom always had volunteers to test the food. In my family, the women didn't use measuring cups too much in cooking, but they went more by the fragrance of the food. Aside from the food, and shopping, we went to the Pittsburgh Childrens Museum which is a completely hands-on museum. I think Lainie and I had more fun than Mira and Maggie.

Mira on "Trolley" at the Pittsburgh Childrens Museum's
exhibit of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. We had a blast.

Mira and her cousin Maggie.

I am a planner by nature and even have a book I used for my trip, what to bring, what to buy, what to do, etc. to prepare for the trip and things to do when I'm here. So today Mira and I spent the day going over our lists and getting our suitcases together to return to Egypt; figuring out what we still want to buy and how to go about finishing our shopping -- the essentials -- jeans, sunglasses, books and quiltig fabric. I thought shopping this summer would be very expensive, but honestly, overall the prices have been quite low and I have been able to find amazing bargains. Of course living next to Marshall's and Burlington Coat Factory helps, not to mention Gabriel Brothers in Pennsylvania. Gabe's has the absolute best bargains I have ever found and terrific quality - not to mention limitless amounts of my favorite - 1928 Earrings. We even managed to get our Pittsburgh Steelers t-shirts.

It has been an interesting summer in the US. It was great to see Mira have so much fun. At the same time, Mira and I miss our dear friends too much and cannot wait to return home just in time for Ramadan.

Hassan and Mira in Hassan's office.

Yes it's me in Hassan's office pretending to be a rocket scientist.
Actually I'll leave that work to the engineers. I was probably on
Facebook or chatting with my friends in Egypt, but don't I
look smart with all those computers around me?

Mira was putting on a fashion show with her new clothes.
Notice the cowboy hat. My current "thing" is for Egyptian men
in cowboy hats. Go figure.

Alhamdulillah for everything, especially my dear friends in Egypt who are in my heart.



Monday, July 14, 2008

"Sick as a dog but havin' the time of my life"

Hassan and I took Mira to Six Flags last week. While I was praying for the daily afternoon thunderstorms to start at 10 am that morning, I knew early in the morning I would have to take one for the team.

I stepped inside an amusement park and actually went on a rollercoaster for the first time in 17 years. It's amazing what was running through my head as I rode the easy rollercoaster last week at Six Flags - maybe something like "I'm doing this for Mira" repeatedly going over my head. Nope, no time for prayers or my life flashing before my eyes - only Mira.

I would like to say that "we" went on a lot of rides, but in reality "we" only went on the big water rides and one rollercoaster together. Hassan and Mira went on the thrilling rollercoaster rides while I sat and watched from below queasy and dizzy from just watching them.

Don't get me wrong, I love rollercoasters, but unfortunately due to my migraines and the vertigo that comes along with it, my days of rollercoasters and rides are greatly diminished. I have to say though the rollercoaster was nothing compared to the one raft ride that went down a huge slide as we sat in a big innertube and spun around like ice cream in a blender.

I knew it was going to be a great day when Mira looked at me after the first couple rides and said "Mom, this is the best day of my life."

The day ended with Mira riding a rollercoaster several times by herself. She was very hesitant at first, but after Hassan went on it two times with her and had enough, she rode it an additional three times by herself.

I told Mira now that she's been on all these rollercoasters she can ride anything. I knew she was adventurous but I didn't realize how adventurous.

I always thought God was going to get me back. I better get ready.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Reality

I cannot believe the reverse culture shock I am experiencing right now. It is overwhelming to think how we used to live our lives -- how isolated we were from the rest of the world; thinking a certain way; acting a certain way. I want to run right back to Cairo where I feel more at home and at ease even though I am the foreigner. Right now I feel as though I am a foreigner in my own country - I never thought I would feel this way.

We are staying in Hassan's apartment which is a 1 bedroom flat in a decent urban area of Maryland less than 1 mile outside Washington, DC. It is rather small, and while I thought I had a difficult time adjusting to life in Egypt moving from a house to an apartment, staying in Hassan's apartment has given me a new appreciation for my apartment in Cairo.

The weather here has not been cooperating with my wishes - in fact the weather is behaving exactly the opposite of weather in Cairo. It has been cloudy everyday with rain off and on. While I haven't seen many thunderstorms, I wish it would storm to break the humidity. All of this is wishful thinking of course because if we do get a thunderstorm the heat and humidity will just build up again to produce another storm. Ah the great weather cycle of the mid-Atlantic States of July.



Sunday, June 29, 2008

Is there anybody out there who reads my blog anymore?

Wow, I am sooooooooo embarassed to say that I have not posted for ages, and even more embarassed to say that I forgot my password to access my blog for no reason other than I am still addicted to Facebook and have been preoccupied with other activities lately......

Mira and I are in the US for the next two months. Since it is my first summer in the US in three years, I thought being here would be a great opportunity to give my blog new life by writing about my reverse culture shock (Egypt to US instead of US to Egypt). I think moving to Egypt was an easier culture shock to overcome, with the major issue being language. Right now it seems as though the only thing I have in common with people here is the language.



Monday, April 21, 2008

Catching Up on Life

Because it's been quite awhile since my last post I thought I would spend this post just writing about a little bit of everything.

1. The Democratic Nominee in the US Presidential Campaign has not yet been decided. I keep asking myself when it will all be over.... well tomorrow, the Pennsylvania primary will take place so one way or another it will all be come to a close. I just want the democrats to know that as they fight with each other John McCain is gaining ground against both of them.

2. My friend Layla moved to the US two years ago now (?) to give birth to her beautiful son. I am happy that life is getting better for Layla. No more to be said.

3. Hassan was here for 2 1/2 weeks and brought me a laptop. I didn't ask for it and honestly didn't know if I wanted one, but now that I have it I absolutely love it. So if I hit the wrong key just know I'm still getting used to the new keypad. I get frustrated because it is very sensitive but there is no way I will ever return it.

4. Layla recently wrote in her blog that she is addicted to myspace. I will not even venture into myspace because I am completely addicted to facebook. It's terrible. I play games, chat, send all sorts of things to friends and all that good stuff. But the best part of being on facebook now is that I am getting to know the many women with whom I became friends when I was in the planning stages of moving to Egypt. They are absolutely wonderful.

5. I finally got bafta (fiber) for quilting so I have no more excuses in terms of not finishing the quilts I started 1 1/2 years ago. The downside of the bafta (fiber or batting) is that it is sold by the roll and not the meter. So I have 8 meters of it sitting in my flat.

6. Lisa has been very patient while Hassan was here. Thanks Lisa.

7. If you are in the US reading this, please look beyond the US media to get your news. So much is going on around the world that the US media does not report. It is important to form your own opinions -- don't let the US media feed you what THEY want U to know. Finding a variety of news sources on the internet from all different perspectives is a good thing.



Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Now here's a REAL American politician

Thanks to Eva at, I just couldn't help myself. Eva and I wrote about Barack Obama without knowing about the other's blog entry.
As we say in Arabic, "SobhanAllah". (Only something God can explain.)
Enough about Barack Obama, I will get off my high horse, I mean, my high camel.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Being Muslim

I don't think being Muslim is a bad thing. On the contrary Islam teaches compassion and understanding, tolerance and recognizing peoples differences. Islam does not discriminate on the color of skin or one's ethnic background. In Islam, people are all the same.

According to the latest American presidential election, however, being Muslim is a very bad thing. Barack Obama is trying to distance himself far from Islam even though his father was Muslim and he still has family in Africa that is Muslim.

So what is wrong with the recent photos of Barack Obama being shown wearing Arab-style garb or Hilary Clinton in a hijb-style scarf? Nothing at all. I see it as being used against Muslims rather than showing tolerance, understanding and respect.

This has really been bothering me lately, especially with Hilary Clinton being on the talk-show circuit on the American news channels saying that Barack Obama is in fact a Christian. So what? Does it matter if one is a Christian, Muslim or Jew? I guess it does matter if the candidate is trying to win the votes of the American majority to gain the Democratic party's nominee.

I can't help but think how many Muslim Americans are looking for the best candidate that shares their values and wants their children to grow up in a country and world that understands and respects their religion -- Islam.

It doesn't matter whether one is Republican or Democrat because I think that Islam covers both areas. Muslims are socially democratic at the base, but at the same time have a lot of Republican qualities, which leaves them somewhere in the middle.

In a world that is shrinking by the hour in terms of communicating with people from all over the world, it would do the candidates a world and universe of good to cater to ALL people; not just singling out one's Muslim family and trying to band-aid it.



The Benefits of Not Smoking

The following is an article from the American Lung Association. It is almost impossible not to smoke in Egypt. The majority of Egyptian men smoke either cigarettes or sheesha, and a lot of women smoke in private (in their homes, salons, etc.).

When smokers quit, within twenty minutes of smoking that last cigarette the body begins a series of changes.

At 20 minutes after quitting:

blood pressure decreases
pulse rate drops
body temperature of hands and feet increases

At 8 hours:

carbon monoxide level in blood drops to normal
oxygen level in blood increases to normal

At 24 hours:

chance of a heart attack decreases

At 48 hours:

nerve endings start regrowing
ability to smell and taste is enhanced

The first year after quitting:

At 2 weeks to 3 months:

circulation improves
walking becomes easier
lung function increases

1 to 9 months:

coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue, shortness of breath decreases

1 year:

excess risk of coronary heart disease is decreased to half that of a smoker

Long-term Benefits of Quitting

At 5 years:

from 5 to 15 years after quitting, stroke risk is reduced to that of people who have never smoked.

For more information please visit



Wednesday, February 13, 2008

February 11, 1963

Yep, you guessed it. It was my birthday. While I look forward to my birthday, I was dreading this day in particular. I didn't dread it when I turned 30, 35, or even 40; but 45 -- this one was difficult for me to face probably because of the number -- nothing else.

I really didn't want to celebrate it.

Let's face it - in the US February is the coldest month of the year which falls in line that I was born during a snowstorm in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Even though the hospital wasn't far at all from my parents' home, it doesn't matter -- the "hills" are really mountains - and sometimes even going a mile could take forever.

OK so I lived with that great story most of my life. I found it exciting and exhilerating - although I know my parents didn't see it that way. That story probably lead to my adventurous personality -- let me stop here on this topic.

Being the third of five children, I loved celebrating birthdays in my family. It was always "your" day. What do you want for your birthday? What do you want for your birthday dinner? What do you want for your birthday cake? My answer was always for dinner I usually wanted pierogi or chicken or beef soup w/ pollina (dumpings); and for dessert the almight yellow cake with white icing and coconut. Yum! Mom always made each child's birthday so special - with five children it had to be.

It wasn't until February 10, 1990 that my birthday took a turn. It was early in the morning, when my parents got a call from the nursing home where my maternal grandmother was living that she had passed away. But after all the crying and sobbing and packing to go to Johnstown, Mom had it in her to celebrate my birthday with not a cake cause maybe that would have taken too long, she made cupcake instead - cupcakes!? What determination my mother had to make it still seem special. Oh it was special alright. Something I could never forget. My parents, brothers and sisters were there gathered around the kitchen table, with me on the end as the official birthday seat with the cupcakes lit in front of me. Everyone started singing "Happy Birthday" which quickly turned into a teary, crying rendition of the song that I will never forget. For as sad as it was - it was so special and so loving forever remaining in my heart.

This year, I woke up on my birthday and one of my sisters had sent me a beautiful birthday sms. She even stayed up to send me the message. We were together last year and the cake was fantastic from a small bakery in her western PA town. I'll tell you birthday cakes are a gift in themselves especially since I do not go out of my way to eat sweets of any kind.

I told my dear friend Lisa about the history of my birthday. One thing too is that since Hassan and I have been married, he has always made my birthday special and since we're not together this birthday it seemed even more of a bummer. She said "You are coming to my house for dinner if I have to drag you." OK, I know Lisa. She will do it. She's tougher than I am - after all she was raised in Philadelphia and went to the Jersey Shore for vacations every summer. I know what this woman is made of. So I grudgingly agreed. In the meantime, Mira had a surprise of her own up her sleeves. Her friend Gretelin, and Gretelin's mother and father wanted to plan a surprise of their own for me. They brought me a the strawberry topped birthday cake layered with REAL whipped cream. Unfortunately they couldn't join us because Gretelin's mom, Maris, was very sick with a cold.

So we went to Lisa's house for dinner. Lisa's husband is visiting from the US for a few weeks so he joined us. Lisa's 3 kids (15, 13 and 10) were so quiet and subdued. After he excused himself to go out and take care of some things around Cairo, the party began. We laughed, danced, and had a blast.

Needless to say I still have half a cake in my fridge.

Alhamdulillah for everything.



Monday, January 28, 2008

Hayam's Om A3li

Om A3li (translating to mother of Ali) is an Egyptian dessert that is made of bread, whole fat milk, lots of ghee, sugar, and anything you like such as raisins, coconut, nuts, etc. that is baked in an Egyptian clay pot in the oven until it turns golden brown and bubbles over. The best way to describe it is to liken it to bread pudding. It is the epitomy of Egyptian comfort food.

The best Om A3li I've had in Egypt comes from Hayam's kitchen. Hayam is Shaban's wife and she makes the best Om A3li. I watched Hayam make Om A3li from scratch only once, and it stuck with me ever since. From frying the phyllo dough to adding the milk and nuts and raisins. It is delicious.

My mother always made desserts from scratch and never used anything out of a box. So if I'm going to learn how to make something I want to know how real the real cooks do it, not the box cooks. My experience with cooking in Egypt does not use much in terms of measuring cups or spoons, rather the eyeball method.

If I want to cook something badly enough, I will do it no matter what no matter how it turns out. I think it turned out well considering a foreigner made Om A3li from scratch from memory. It must have turned out well because Mira ate it for breakfast and it was gone.

CAUTION: It is extremely fattening.



Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Winter Weather is Relative

You might wonder if it ever gets cold in Cairo? It was August 2005 and I was on a "field trip" with teachers to go shopping for school supplies. It was hot as Hell outside so of course I could never imagine winter in Cairo. I thought "Wow, winters here must be beautiful, warm, sunny, no rain." I asked one of the teachers who is Egyptian/Armenian/American if it ever gets cold. She answered "No, it gets freezing. Especially out here in the desert where the hallways in the school are exposed to the weather elements." I didn't believe her, although I should have just taken her at her word.

My first winter felt really warm. To Egyptians it wasn't warm at all, but to me a new transplant from the good ol' US it was warm, well relatively warm. Egyptians looked at me as though I was crazy perhaps "the crazy American."

My second winter was a little bit colder. I was dressing warmer, of course I was wearing hijab so I thought I would be warmer automatically because my head was covered. Not!!

And now to my third winter - it's cold, cold, cold, here. I can never get warm. I wear my union johns - well Hassan's union johns that just happen to be red, as my first layer of clothing followed by 2 additional layers of clothing, two pairs of socks and slippers.

As for outerwear, I wear a pink polarfleece jacket my one sister gave me last year. I just love it and it is my signature piece for the winter.

OK so you wonder how can it get so cold?

For starters the building walls are about 6 inches thick made purely of concrete. There is absolutely no insulation. The floors are ceramic with area rugs scattered throughout the flat. Our flat faces north and south. We live on the 4th floor - the top floor in our building and the large windows in our flat face north -- needless to say they are not insulated either. Our smaller windows face south, so I heat myself by sitting on my south-facing balcony for about 30 minutes everyday - trying to absorb as much heat as possible before I go back into what reminds me of my grandmother's fruit cellar.

The AC/Heaters that we have do not work efficiently when it gets this cold. This cold? How cold you might be thinking -- ok - it was 7 C the other night. A friend of mine told me that last week it was -5 C in Rehab in the middle of the night. No wonder I can't get warm.

Then I start thinking -- how can I stay warm? Hmm, maybe I ought to break open the liquor cabinet and heat myself from the inside. No, it doesn't work well because I would be warm but drunk and still have to deal with Mira.

I decided to move the two space heaters we have from room to room. We had three space heaters but one caught fire it was about 20 years old I think - or at least it looked like it. Now that I think about it I could have improvised and made it a fireplace!



Saturday, January 19, 2008

I Love My Computer

I can't imagine not being able to communicate with friends and family without the internet and my mobile phone through SMS. I have met some really wonderful friends on the internet (you know who you are).

I am so grateful for having DSL here in Cairo. It keeps me in touch with so many people, and yet it amazes me how "invisible" people can be when it comes to chatting online. I leave my messenger open sometimes 24 hours at a time, and while I know this is not ideal -- many times it happens by mistake because I fall asleep. I am so surprised though how I can send 'offline messages' and get no response in return.

As for downloads, the music is awesome. I don't know how I lived here without listening to the music I miss so much. Anyone who knows me knows the important part music plays in my life - it always has. I have my Dad to thank for that because we always used to sing together. He introduced me to so many different types of music; although I must admit his easy listening phase was quite a challenge for me when I would ride with him in the car -- it would always give me a headache. Imagine that.

I have been downloading an obscene amount of music lately. Mira and I drive through the streets of Cairo listening to Heart's "Crazy on You" which she absolutely loves to play air guitar to, the Dixie Chicks "I'm Not Ready to Make Nice", and of course the immortal Janis Joplin's "Me and Bobbie McGee." Sometimes we talk about the music we're listening to: how Heart's song is just a great song to sing along to and play rock and roll star, the real meaning of "I'm Not Ready to Make Nice" and how I remember "Me and Bobbie McGee" as the first song Valerie learned on her guitar so many years ago when she started taking guitar lessons.

And then there's the Egyptian Arabic music. I like to listen to Tamer Hosny and Moustafa Amr among others. Even though I can't pronounce the words I fake it as best I can - to the point of making the kids in the car laugh at my lack of Arabic. Oh well, at least we're having fun.

There are so many memories with music. It picks me up when I'm down, and gets me through the low times too. When I'm down I think of the movie "Adventures in Babysitting" where someone says "No one leaves here without singing the blues." I understand that -- at that point I put on Bonnie Raitt.



Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Personal Accomplishments

Living in Egypt does not allow me to be shy or inhibited. For so long I relied on Hassan to do the shopping, get things fixed around the house and take care of just about everything. Since being on my own now for one year I had to become more outgoing and less shy as I deal with Egyptians on a daily basis. And the fact that I'm not working full-time makes me want to re-coil and live in my own little bubble, but it isn't always possible.

Lately I've been seroiusly contemplating moving back to the US and just re-starting life over there, but the thought of it is too daunting of a task after having moved here almost three years ago.

This leads me to my latest small victories. Here in Egypt it is a necessity that your car be cleaned everyday because of the sand and dust. It's not your ordinary dust or sand, it is a fine small sand that many times cannot just be wiped off. In Rehab they have a staff of men who wake up at 6 am and start cleaning cars in the parking lot, if you sign up at the Rehab offices. When we first moved here Hassan took care of it, and then let it expire so we went without getting the car cleaned for a long time - two years now. Since Hassan left one year ago I have been watching the same men clean the same cars every morning and I'd say to myself "I'm going to sign up to get my car cleaned today." Right. Well, yesterday I finally did it.

My cleaning lady was here and her pass to get into Rehab expired so she asked me to get her a new pass. OK, I thought this will be easy. So I went to the office and I knew the procedure because I went 6 months ago with a friend to get a pass for her cleaning lady. So while I was in the offices I mentioned the car cleaning in my best Arabic/English. The people in Rehab just loved it because if you meet them halfway they will meet you halfway. They are shy to speak English but believe me their English is much much better than my Arabic. I went and took care of the car and of the entrance pass. I was so proud of myself; not for signing up but for having the courage to go into offices full of men speaking broken Arabic.

Questions they asked about the car cleaning (in Arabic of course): What kind of car? What is your tag number? What is your address? What time do you want your car cleaned by everyday? I answered them in my best Arabic - numbers aren't a problem but connecting the words to form a complete sentence are still impossible. Questions asked about the pass were: Do you own? Who is the owner? (OK this was tough because they just like everything in the man's name here) What is your address? Easy peasy.

It wasn't difficult communicating, however, it was difficult actually going there and having my inner voice discourage me from taking care of business. When I finished doing what I had to do, I felt as though I had climbed a mountain and was standing at the top looking over the valley.

I can't imagine how I let Hassan handle things here for me for so long. I think this living arrangement was meant to be in order to get me to stand on my own two feet in a world where language is not the only barrier, but also where most business is taken care of by men. I mean come on, Egypt needs to change -- it's not a man's world anymore.