Friday, January 31, 2014

Giving You Crap

Asalamu Alaykom and Jummah Mabrook,

You ever feel like people are giving you crap?  Of course you do!

Sorry to put it so plainly but there aren't too many polite ways say it nicely.  When you are getting dumped on, it feels awful.  I've been talking lately to a like-minded sister and we've been trying to figure out how to navigate the messes other people leave for us.

At first, I told her that there must be something wrong with us.  Obviously, we are simply viewing the situation incorrectly.  If there is enough positive thinking, I reasoned, then we would see goodness eventually.

Then, as if on cue, I had three people abso-freaking-lutely crappity-crap on me very publicly.  Everything happens in threes, doesn't it?  Noooo mistaking those moments.  Their actions were uncalled for behavior.  I thought back on my previous assumption of the problems only being my perceptions.

Back to square one.  So, the truth is that something people are giving you crap.  I thought about what my role is after that happens.  After all, I'm not here in this life to simply take other people's crap.  Yet, I don't want to throw it back at them for then the whole world becomes a crappy place to live.

While I was turning over these interpersonal relationships over in my head, I kept living my life.  I stayed open to the answer.  It literally knocked on my door.

When I opened the door, it was my husband and two friends.  He was laughing.  He had Al-Kabeer and Al-Shwier;  "The Big" and "The Little".  These are the two goats from the roof.  They had come down the steps for a visit.  El-Kid was delighted.  Though he's asked me for a dog like his Christian friends, I've reasoned that he has goats (and we get to eat them later).

I was enjoying the moment until I realized that, in their excitement, the steps were littered with droppings.  Yep, I'd been getting shit all week at work and now I was getting it at home too.  My first reaction was, "Oh, shit,"  which you can understand.  I thought how messy our marble steps were going to be after a parade of feet came through.  No, I would have to clean up after the goats.  Obviously, I was not happy to drop what I was doing to deal with someone else's problem.  I was angry.

When I thought of what I needed to find as a pooper scooper, I started to remember something.  I had actually wanted some goat poop.  Why had I forgotten that?  Ya, I had researched it as fertilizer.  It was recommended for its high nutrients and lack of smell.  At the time I found that info, I had tried to envision myself on the roof, walking amid straw, trying to gather it up.  I couldn't imagine it so I had put off that idea.

Now, here I was getting a virtual delivery of the stuff.  I laughed.  It was a fertilizer delivery service that I had scoffed at.  Why hadn't I seen that?

I grabbed a plastic cup still in the garbage along with a discarded chip bag.  I went up and down, cleaning those two flights of stairs and filled the cup half way.  My husband appreciated the cleaning although I'm not sure if he grasped the reason for the stuff entering into our apartment.

I went into the salon and took my fledgling tree.  This is the only plant left.  I then turned the pot upside down.  Those roots sure were crowded!  I decided to re-pot it into the big pottery bowl.  A layer of dirt I had (from one of my previous plant victims) went in first.  Then I put in the free fertilizer.  Next, went in the plant and another layer of dirt.  I packed it down and watered it.

That was a week ago.  It might be my imagination, but I think that the leaves look greener now.  Could that really have been what the plant needed?

God gives us analogies all the time.  If we can't learn the lesson the first time, then we are given many, many, oh-so-many retries at getting it right.  I think I get this one now.

People will give you shit.  It is what it is.  Don't candy-coat shit.  Don't blame yourself.  Their inability to keep their crap inside is a part of their nature---like an animal who can't control their sphincter.  Spending time figuring out why they did it is a time suck.  Trying to get them to see how they erred is as sensible as me talking to the goats.  Flinging back their upset to them with harmful words or actions would make as much sense as giving the goat droppings back to Al-Kabeer.

Keep yourself clean.  Getting angry or getting even doesn't help.  Go about your life and see how you can use what you've been given.  It's all from God.

 If you are connected with The Creator, and you acknowledge that everything emanates from Him, then you can still benefit from whatever is given to you.  Sure, the person might not have a good connection to God, or a good connection to you, but that doesn't stop YOUR connection to God.  Having God as your most important relationship means that you trust what the world is giving you.  Trust God; don't place your trust in the people around you as you never know when animal instincts will come out.

This is true for all of us.  We all have an impulsive side to us which is not healthy.  To be a believer means that we submit to a way of life which is clean and pure.  When we let our lower selves rule, we risk dumping on someone.  Do not dump onto others as you would wish them not to dump on you.

The world is messy.  Relationships are messy.  Staying clean is optimum.  When you are given shit, use it to grow.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Three Years into this Revolution

Asalamu Alaykom,

This is the scene from my desk today, January 25, 2014.

The Arabic was on our calendar today. It remind us of the Egyptian Revolution---as if we could forget.

The little note in English is a profound quote which I copied down as I was correcting 8th grade memoirs.

"When people lose their rationality violence dominates."

In the background, the TV is the news showing the crowds which once filled Tahrir with hope for Egypt's future.

This is what I see.

What do you see?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo Bombed

Asalamu Alaykom,

I've been sick this week while still going to work.  I woke for Fajr prayer but then fell back to sleep.  As I woke for a second time today, my husband let me know that the Islamic Museum had been bombed.

"Who would want to bomb the museum?" I croaked from my sore throat.

Of course, it wasn't the museum that was the target; it was the police headquarters across the street.  A huge crater now stands where a car bomb went off this morning.  The blast devastated both buildings and within that there is such irony.  If someone claiming to be a Muslim wants to attack those in charge of Egypt, they also ruin Egypt for themselves---not just for their lifetimes but for the future.  It's not only the loss people and of priceless treasures; it's also the tourist-reliant economy which will suffer.

The Museum of Islamic Art was my destination the day before Ramadan in 2010.  It wasn't simply a casual request to my husband that we go.  No, I was his headstrong Muslim-American wife who insisted that we go before we started our first fast together.  I think he had put it off until there was only the last day of Shaban.

I had read in my second-hand Lonely Planet guide book that the museum was due to re-open in 2006 after extensive renovations.  I was excited to connect with this vast collection and to feel the centuries of Islamic history enter in through my eager eyes.  The three of us, including a wily El-Kid, not yet 5 years old, left the house early.

We took a long bus ride into Cairo.  The streets sure were busy!  I hadn't figured on just how busy it was going to be with everyone shopping feverishly for Ramadan.  After getting out and searching around a few blocks, my husband couldn't find where the museum was.  We got into a taxi.  Actually, I think we had a fight before we got into the taxi.  Both of us were at the end of our ropes.  We might have even had a fight in the taxi.

After a convoluted ride around Cairo, we ended up in front of the museum.  I was so happy!  I had reached the end of my quest.  I was a good Muslim who honored my past and wanted to share it with my son.  I was...DISAPPOINTED!

The guard informed my husband that the museum wasn't ready yet.  Four years after its slated opening date, it was a little behind.  I couldn't believe it!  I actually (and very foolishly) threw my bag on the ground.  These days, I could be shot for such an action but back then my husband just needed to explain to the man why I was acting so weirdly.  I was very sad.  We went for a sugarcane juice and then home.

The grand opening of the museum started to be announced in the fall of 2010.

Here is the (then) Director of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, speaking about it.

There were commercials and banners hung from light posts.  I was excited!  No one was going to stop me now!

At school, I worked with an American woman and her Canadian husband and we had befriended them.  They'd brought their little toddler over to our house for dinner.  It seemed like a nice idea to arrange a museum tour with them and maybe some lunch after that.  Our day out together was set for next Saturday.

They lived in Maadi, which was closer to the museum, and though we tried our best to be on time,  they got there first.  They called us while we were still on the bus.  Yes!  The museum really was open.  I told them that we'd be there soon.  However, after twenty minutes, we ended up arriving just as they were leaving.

"Ya, we've seen everything," Jason said.

They were ready for lunch and I stood there at the doors of my treasure house realizing that I had to walk away without seeing a thing.  We turned around and set off for nearby koshary at AbuTarek's.


It was a great lunch.  After getting the family into a taxi back to Maadi, we could return to the museum.  This would be the third time of arriving at the entrance.  Would I actually get to enter in?

After depositing our bags, we were allowed in.  I walked slowly and carefully through the 25 rooms.  I realized very soon that it was alhumdulillah for the best that we no longer were with our friends.  This was our experience and not theirs.  We savored each artifact in a different way than they would ever be able.

I've always loved reconstructed rooms in museums.  I love walking in and feeling like I've been transported.  I can't find a picture of the room I really loved.  I'll keep looking for it.

They actually had a reconstructed courtyard which was an amazing place to walk out into.

Somebody should really have been serving juice out there.  It was a wonderful location for relaxing in the sun.

I really longed for all the woodwork which was on display.  It was so well designed!


Another thing I remember was seeing the ancient carpet designs and really trying to grasp just how old those textiles were.

There were so many fragile items we saw that day.

How can anything so breakable last through a lifetime, let alone many lifetimes?  Yet, there it was in front of us.  Subhanallah.

The scientific section was really a source of pride.  Yes, the Muslim has contributed greatly to the advancement of human knowledge.  You can't walk through the displays and feel anything but mashahallah.

The keys to the Kabaa were also astounding.  Egypt used to prepare the cloth to cover the Kabaa and keys to the most important worship site in Islam were given for this reason.  Seeing them was so connecting to the Islamic world.  I was small by comparison to the scope of places, history and importance.

The colors, the designs, and the feel of the place washed over us in a really overwhelming way.  We had spent almost two hours taking it all in.

I was almost done when I noticed a man walking around with two Western women.  He was a guide or something.  Why were the women allowed to carry big heavy bags with them?  I watched them.  It upset me.  There had been a double-standard.  We were made to check our bags (which is understandable) while they were allowed to walk through with theirs (which was not fair).

I talked to a security guard and made my point.  The man who had been escorting the ladies turned out to be the Head of the Museum.  He tried to calm me by stating that they were special guests.  I countered that so was I.  I was offended that there were different rules for visitors and alarmed that he didn't see the security breach.  My husband was trying to placate but I was not having it.  No, you do not put priceless artifacts in danger.  I made my final point and left.

That was the last time we went.  Three months later, the Egyptian Revolution had me praying for the safety of all the people, places and treasures of this country.  Jason and his family left Egypt suddenly.  I realize, today, that we didn't take any pictures of that day (so every image you see has been my experience but not taken by me).  Now, it seems as if that one trip to the museum will not be repeated any time soon...if ever.

Tomorrow marks three years since the beginning of the Revolution.

Please say a pray for the recovery of this country.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Half Egyptian

Asalamu Alaykom,

My son, El-Kid, is half Egyptian and half American.

I've never used his real name on this blog.  Instead I've used the pseudonym "Mr. Boo."  I've stopped using that.  He is now eight (and a half) and he needs an older sounding name to match his perpetually pushed-up sleeves and gelled-down hair.  Part of my decision to change his blog name to "El-Kid" is to equally honor the Arabic and English halves within him.

I like to think of him getting the best of both worlds.  I say that his ancestors both designed the pyramids and survived the potato famine; he's tenacious with a capital "T".

It got me to wondering who else is half Egyptian.

Hussein Fahmy

Born June 15, 1935 to an Egyptian dad and a German mother

You can see an interview with him on Al Jazeera.

His brother Mustafa Fahmy is also an actor.

He actually looks much better now that he's older.

Both are known for their blue eyes which is a rarity among Arab movie stars.

From 1974-1986, Hussein was married to Mervat Amin who is also half Egyptian.

I bet that their similar ancestry was a bond for them.

Jehane Noujaim

Born May 17, 1974, to an Egyptian father and an American mother

She is gaining world wide acclaim for her documentary film, "The Square," which you really need to see.  Here is the trailer.

Mervat Amin     صور ميرفت امين

Born November 24, 1946 to an Egyptian dad and a Scottish mom

Her first movie was Abi Foq El Chagara "My Father is Up the Tree," with the late-great Abdel Halim Hafez.  She was a star in the 70s and 80s.


Born in the 90s to an Egyptian dad and a English mom

Maha's bio on the her blog, "Little Farasha,"  says that she's the mum of three and the wife of an Emirate film director.  Living in Dubai, she started creating hand-crafted accessories for mothers and children when she couldn't find them for her kids.

Nadia Idle

Born to an Egyptian father and an Irish mother

I love this picture of her!  It's a real throw-back to the 1920's.  

She is the co-editor of "Tweets from Tahrir,"

which you can read more about  here and  here (you'll have to scroll down for the second link).

Paul Toutonghi

Born in 1976 to an Egyptian father and a Latvian mother

He is the author of Evil Knievel Days.  You can read more about him here

Toutonghi traveled to Cairo for the first time in March, 2011 with his father.  His account, "The Father of Heliopolis," really captures a lot of what it means to land here. 

Stephen Adly Guirgis

Born to an Egyptian father and an Irish-American mother

Guirgis is a playwright and screenwriter.  "Meet Joe Black" is one of his works.  You can read an article about him here.

Suzanne Mubarak

Born in February 28, 1941 to an Egyptian doctor and a Welsh nurse

The former First Lady of Egypt was always known for being beautiful and stylish.  She championed children's education.  Her husband was known for other things.

Wendie Malick

Born December 13, 1950 to an Egyptian father and a New York model

She is known for her comedic role in the TV show, "Just Shoot Me."

My unscientific search is pulling up lots of very verbal people!  The thing is that you only show up on the internet if you've made a name for yourself.  Obviously, there are many couch potato half Egyptians who have never done anything in their life but switch channels.  Those people don't get googled.

Although, I've just placed that disclaimer, I do see a common thread with this group.  They truly weren't complacent.  They were a little off from center AND they embraced that place they occupied.  

Do you want to add someone else to this mix?  Let me know in the comments section.

Light and Love!