Thursday, June 26, 2014

More Special than Mr. Rogers

Asalamu Alaykom,

Mr. Rogers' Tennis Shoes

Writing to you for the first time on an iPad.  I'm borrowing it.  El-Kid is definitely asleep or he'd be wrestling it away from me.  We're in Texas but tonight we'll be heading back up North.

It's been a good trip, alhumdullilah. I needed to see my father after seven years. The last time I was in the States, our scheduled visit was pulled out from under me like the proverbial rug.  That sense of sudden loss of possibilities shocked me as much as if I had learned of his death.  I wondered if I would ever have the chance to see him again.

Subhanallah, I have had the chance. I have shared three days with the man I missed so much.  I never once asked him,with his advanced Alzheimer's, if he knew who I was.  I didn't care.  I knew who he was and he is still my dad.

He's still got so much of his personality.  Although he's less likely to inniate a conversation, he
responds well; his brilliant mind might not remember where we're going, but he knows where he's been.  It's funny to me how he forgets I was with him for some of those times.  I was worried that I might tear up or break down but I've only stayed positive ---which has got to be through the grace of God.

There was a moment in the museum when I was so busy talking to my son about the exhibit on Kennedy's assassination that I didn't realize my father was there too.  I looked over and saw him fighting tears.  He was so touched by that moment and I saw him in this new light. He has always cared deeply and has always loved others.  Maybe he fought back those feelings in his life because...we all have to in order to keep going.  I comforted him and his tears never left him.

Soon, we'll be leaving him and I really couldn't tell you if I see him ever again.  It's OK.  God knows.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Near Miss Never Was

Asalamu Alaykom,

Getting ready to fly across three continents has had me worried but I should have been more concerned about crossing the street.  This morning we three experienced a near miss with a bus.  When I write "near" I mean the closest I've ever come to being struck by a vehicle.

Our street has been getting paved with tar.  That has left us a bit bewildered.  What's that sticky pile of goo?  What's with all the ship-ship soles in the street?  Ahhhh, there were stuck in the goo.  Why are the cars swerving?  You get the picture.  It's been a strange street.

So, when we walked across the street with no traffic early this morning, it was just another moment of weird.  We made it across to the boulevard's meridian.  My husband looked at the traffic coming on the other side and then told us to get going.  We stepped off the curb and


That's what zoomed up in front of my eyes.  It had been going THE WRONG WAY about 40 mph.  We hadn't seen it coming.  It came this way to avoid the other side's new tar.  It had to suddenly veer to avoid hitting and killing all three of us.  I screamed one of those blood-curdling screams.

Alhumdulillah we were not hit.  Alhumdulillah I always take El-Kid's hand.  Alhumdulillah I always put him away from traffic---because "yes" I do think of getting hit by a car on the street.  I know how dangerous it is to cross streets here.

The bus driver yelled something out at my husband who was ready to choke the hell out of him.  I know that's not nice.  I'm not saying it is--and I don't mind that he's not nice at times like that.  He's not totally civilized to the point of discussing calmly the intricacies of road rules when his wife and child are in danger.

Because he's well known, neighborhood men came to his aid and tried their best to calm him down.  They held him back from killing the man.  I'm OK with a husband who has the capability of killing.  I've been married to a wimp and this guy isn't it.

Traffic was now stopped in both directions.  Morning rush hour was at a standstill with his bus in the middle of the street, my husband being held back and a crowd gathering.  The driver took the chance to leave.

When the driver crawled back in his bus, I told him through the passenger window that he needed to say he was sorry.  He scoffed at me.  He couldn't believe I asked this.  The lady on the bench told me the hated "malish" which means "no problem" like I should shut up and take whatever has happened.

"Astragferallh!  Astragferallah!  Astragferallah!"  I yelled out.

No, I told him.  He really needed to say he was sorry because Ramadan is coming and he needs to fear God.  Those were the last words I spoke to him.  While I am grateful that he swerved, he had done the wrong thing in the beginning by going the wrong way and the wrong thing at the end by not apologizing.

I was really shaken up.  I didn't cry until I was listening to Quran on our school bus.  Something about Zulzil (The Earthquake) made me feel the enormity of the moment.

My mind started playing tricks on me.  I ALMOST DIED!  MY SON ALMOST DIED!  The Quran was still playing through the headphones for our morning recitation and it helped me to find calm.  No, I didn't almost die.  That was an illusion.  We were never supposed to die this morning.  If God had wanted us to die, then it would have happened.  Since it didn't happen, it was never meant to be.  I was as safe on that street as if I were still in bed with the covers up over my head.

Yet another trick:  how can I travel around the world if I can't even cross the street safely?  Then, I had to breathe through some upset and clear my head.  I did make it across the street.  I did.  Through the Grace of God, we are fine.  God protected us through this time and has protected us through so much.  My safety isn't about where I am, or who I'm with; my safety lies with My Protector.  My faith means that I do my best and leave the rest---to Allah.

I had been feeling unsafe to travel to the States without my husband.  Today, in a way, I feel how my safety is not dependent on him.  Sure, after the fact, he cold beat the daylights out of the guy but in that perilous moment he was as helpless as I was.  He can't keep me safe if Allah has another naseeb for me.  Qadr Allah is a beautifully freeing thing.

Too many women stay home, or stay in the protection of their husbands hoping to keep safe.  It isn't about that.  You can't hide yourself away from destiny.  I was as likely to get run over by a bus today as ever AND I didn't.  Alhumdulillah.

My husband woke up a bit today.  He had been feeling down about us leaving.  This scary situation shook him and made him want to do more to help us be fine.  Alhumdulillah.

As for you, the next time you think, "I almost..."

tell yourself, "No, I didn't!"

Friday, June 13, 2014

Leaving Egypt

Asalamu Alaykom,

One of the problems of not writing very often is that, when you do want to write, you're out of practice.  Today, although I wanted to post, I wasn't sure how I was going to start.  Before I knew it, my time at the computer had totaled an hour without me beginning a thing ---I did, however, watch a compilation of the best viral videos ever.

When the loudspeakers began broadcasting Quran, I knew I had to wake my husband up.  He had gotten up with me and prayed fajr.  We had spent the morning together.  We had eaten feteera and romy cheese with El-Kid.  We watched The Middle and Face-Off.  It definitely was the kind of Friday I had needed.

Then, reminiscent of my Sundays getting ready for church with my mom, it was a rush to get out the door.  My husband was all set but El-Kid was still brushing his teeth.  I had a feeling that my husband would leave without him if that swish and spit didn't happen soon enough.

"You can't go without him!  You can go the next six weeks without him.  Just wait a minute, please!"

I got El-Kid out of the bathroom and away from his bedroom mirror, to the door and down the stairs.  I threw on a hijab and stuck my head out of the window.  I saw my husband below on the street in his galabiya walking hurriedly and then I turned my head to search for my boy.  There he was!  Alhumdulillah.  The boy caught up to the man and they walked together.  By the time they were passing the snack stand, they were hand-in-hand.

I watched them walk down our street and wanted them to turn back to wave at me.  They didn't.  They didn't have time.  Far from me now, I could see a stout, older man stop and greet them.  After that, they turned the corner and were out of my view.

That's when I choked up.  That image of Egypt will have to stay with me for many weeks while I am away.  I write "I" but of course I really mean "we".  If you've read the blog for any amount of time, then you know that my little dude is always with me.  My son and I are leaving Egypt to spend the summer in the States.  I will have to leave my husband here since naseeb worked out that way.  Alhumdulillah.

In many ways, I don't want to go.  I feel compelled as it's been three years.  The last time I went was after two years.  Last year, I really couldn't go as we I'd been out of work for two months and didn't have enough money.

Over these last three years, so much has happened back home.  My big son went away to college.  My girl went on to high school.  My mother sold her house and moved (only to have a fire at her new apartment).  She's survived a minor operation and the death of her best friend.  Her memory is slipping a little.  My father's memory, due to Alzheimer's, is gone.  I need to see all of them.

One of the hallmarks of American society, is that my mother lives in the North and my father lives in the South.  He isn't Southern.  He is a man of the North Woods so I really don't want to think of him surrounded by oil fields and rednecks; now, I'll have to see him (and his lady friend) there.  I'll also have to pay exorbitant amounts of money to visit both parents.

Making this trip hurts me financially.  I have basically worked for months to save up enough money to afford the airfare alone.  Anything we hoped to do for ourselves in Egypt (for our home or our future) has to be put on hold while I make this trip.

Just as importantly, this trip is potentially dangerous to my iman.  I didn't want to be in America during Ramadan AGAIN.  I didn't want to be living with my Non-Muslim mother while I was fasting and she was not understanding my needs.  The fasting will be long and hot and depleting of my strength.  So many co-workers said they absolutely could not travel back to the States and fast throughout July.  I know.  I know!

I have lost connections with my Muslim friends in the States.  I will not have the sisterhood I had on my last trip.  The one Muslim who I have the closest connection to is....El-Kid's dad, X2.

His wife and children will be spending their summer in the States too.  It was much nicer when she and I were changing countries at the same time.  2014 will be different.  I'm not sure if I'm ready for all the manipulative games that Egyptian wives play.  I have the funny feeling that, on the contrary, she is very ready!

I've been getting a taste of the battles being readied for me from several emails sent by X1.  Everything between my teen girlie and I had been going fine.  She said that she was worried how we would reconnect so we talked it over.  We were doing well until I emailed her father with details of the trip.  He let me know that he would support her if she decided not to see me at all during the summer.

Next, it was my teen's turn to send me a missive.  She changed her ways from loving and understanding to spiteful victim wanting revenge.  Her words really were from his head.  Astragferallah.  In his attempts to damage me, I know he hurts her more.  The thing that helps me is knowing how teens change attitudes as much as they change hairstyles.

In the end, I'm at peace with the possibility of not seeing her.  I have to be shut off from this because my life, in the end, is not totally up to me.  Craziness is from thinking you can control what you can't.  I do find solace in Prophet Noah/Nuh (AS) who had to leave those he loved.  Actually, I think all prophets (peace be upon them all) had a time of leaving the people in order to find their place.

My place has become Egypt.

This week, I signed another contract to teach another year.  It's a commitment.  Sometimes, it's hard to commit to a place that changes leaders in such strange ways and leaves me wondering who is really running the show.  It's hard to be in a place with such poor decisions on all levels.  It's been REALLY hard living in my family home with my two pregnant sisters-in-law.  Yet, I'm here.

Hey, if IKEA can make it in Egypt, so can I!

I do have a friend here now.  She's Australian.  She wears a floppy hat for sun protection and worries about her kids.  She lives on the upper echelon of income levels but sees me as an equal.  She is not Muslim but she is not knocking it either.  Our sons are good friends.  Alhumdulillah.

Both our sons were awarded on Wednesday for being on the Honor Roll this year.  It's been a good year for Boo El-Kid.  He's really grown.  He's had moments of wisdom and naughtiness, of independence and neediness.  He's gone through third grade ---or almost has (as soon as he finishes exams this week).  He's someone I am proud of.

As we sat on the bus that Wednesday, with him in his shiny medal around his neck, we were quiet and smiling; our head so close to each other that we shared the same aura.  His beautiful mashahallah face shone WALLAHI IT SHONE as he said to me in a voice so full of sweet hope, "It's good we stayed in Egypt."

He said that and I laughed and then agreed.  We hugged each other.  I can't ever tell you how much I love that guy.  I can't ever have you understand how much of my life's energy has been used to ensure his survival.  Subhanallah, that we have made it this far.  Subhanallah, we are sharing this life.

Ah, the guys just got home.  They brought ice cream cones, as they often do. It's time for me to enjoy more of this day inshahallah.

Please keep us in your du'as as we travel this week.  Not every trip is for pleasure.  This one is out of obligation.  Having said that, I hope that we will make out of it the most that we can.

I'm looking forward to rootbeer, raspberries and cheddar cheese.  I've ordered used DVDs from Amazon to arrive at my mom's place:  All Creatures Great and Small (Season 2); Little House on the Prairie (Season 1), Square Pegs (Complete Show); Wizard of Oz; and Sound of Music.  El-Kid will have clean streets and playgrounds.  I will have a chance to shop Indian stores again.  Neither of us will miss the loud neighborhood children up until 2 am.  It will be a break.

This August, inshahallah, we will return to our home in Egypt.  It will mark five years since we first came in 2009 (with $2,000 and four suitcases).  We have so much more now---and maybe we need a break from this time and place to understand just what it is that we have.

May Allah be with of all us this Ramadan, accept our prayers and fasting and forgive us when we repent.