Simple Things, Mostly


Right now in Egypt they say “winter” is starting. What that means is, temperatures during the day are only in the 90’s, and at night in the low 70’s. I had been living without air conditioning all summer, depending on fans and air flow (managed by strategically opening and closing all the windows  in the house during certain times of the day) to stay cool. I never thought that sitting in 90 degree weather could feel comfortable before I came here. But after living through an Egyptian summer in the raw, it’s amazing how tolerant of the weather I’ve become. Right now, at nearly 4 am, it’s pleasantly cool in the room. But both the ceiling and the upright fan are still on full speed, with the balcony doors wide open.

Currently, my daughter and I are on a nocturnal schedule. The home is peaceful and cozy at night. It’s a tiny apartment, around 800 square feet or so. But that 800 square feet comprises 4 bedrooms, a small living room, an even smaller kitchen (standing room for two people only), and a bathroom that literally is big enough to only fit two toilets. Of course there is only one in there; the space next to it is where you stand for a shower.

It’s my mother-in-law’s place. My brother-in-law is staying here too, temporarily. Sometimes his four kids are here. Because of that,  I can’t leave the room except in full hijab, unless it’s during his work hours. Definitely a different living situation than I had ever tasted before, but I have come to accept it for what it is. It must change eventually. I just don’t know what it will change to.

What I like about this sort of life is the way my mother-in-law is always playing Quran. It’s a comfort, and there is never anywhere in the house you can be that you won’t hear it when it’s on. I like that my daughter, now almost 5, has been learning Arabic quickly just by exposure. She knows how to say some things even I don’t, and seems to understand pretty much whatever is said to her. She has been with me since the beginning of April, and will return to America in about a month or so. Before leaving, she is getting to experience life in a real muslim family authentically, and for me that’s priceless.

But it’s not costless. My oldest son is in state prison, and I have no direct communication with him. I worry about his safety but I can’t allow myself to think about it. My 16 year old left Egypt in July on his own, after spending 6 months here. I couldn’t provide his education, and he was right to want to make that a priority. But when he left, he left to a very messy situation, and I feel responsible to do something. Plus I miss him badly. His months here were some of the most fun times I ever had with him.

Then there is my newly turned teenager, my third son, now 13. He too spent 6 months with me here, last fall. He even attended school here (that was back when I still had money, haha). But because of his mental health, things became disastrous, and he had to return to America. After that, I wasn’t sure even visits to here could be safe for him.

When I came here, there was one vision of how my connection with them would be maintained. That vision has been erased by significant changes in all of their circumstances  (and mine) since my arrival. I am not sure how it will be resolved, but I am praying for something to be made clear soon.

I purchased 5 novels about a week ago. I’m reading the 4th. I’m sure I will have finished the 5th by the end of the weekend. Reading is how I spend much of my time these days. Some other routines keep the days passing, and I keep passing with them, waiting for whatever is next. I just pray it’s something that brings me happiness and fulfilment, in shaa Allah.




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