I wake up after maghrib. I don’t like this because it means missing prayers on time earlier in the day. I spend the next few hours reading, waiting for my daughter to wake up also.
Then we eat something. My mother-in-law is an extraordinary cook, and the food is relatively healthy by nature. The meal tonight was ‘eish balady with homemade tahini sauce and fried herb fish. ‘Eish balady is a type of unique Egyptian flatbread, round, that is whole wheat and high in fiber. It tastes a bit like sourdough, and I hated that I could not get it in America. I used to buy packs of it to take back and leave in my freezer before moving here (it’s insanely cheap).
The fried herb fish is always a whole fish- with head, tail, bones and scales. I never used to eat fish like this- only filets. But since coming here I’ve adapted, and now I can pick apart a whole cooked fish expertly.
To drink with dinner is always filtered water. We save any bottles that are a liter or two in size, and fill them up with the water from the filter at the kitchen sink, then store them in the fridge. Everyone drinks from all the bottles, and I don’t think they are sanitized frequently. I am not bothered by it.
My daughter loves the ‘eish wa tahini. She won’t touch the fish. She helps me with the refilling of the water bottles after I finish drinking all of one (I am apparently a heavy water drinker in comparison to the rest of the household).
After meals I sometimes sit on the balcony for a while, reflecting on my life situation and asking Allah for his help. It’s not unusual to see kids still playing out after 9 pm, or the workers still working. We are on the third level. The second level, directly underneath us, is an apartment of a family that has been lifelong friends with my in-laws here. On the ground level is a car repair shop. I am not sure if they do engine work; I’ve only ever seen (or as the case is often during the day, heard) them banging the bent bodies of wrecked cars back into shape.
The kids (always boys) often play football (soccer) in the street below, but tonight they were playing in the two large sand piles left by the construction workers. This morning, before falling asleep, I watched those same construction workers uncoiling huge bands of some sort of metal to use in their work. They had to stretch them literally all the way down to the end of the street, which is fairly narrow. Suffice it to say that cars have to take a detour when they need the street like that.
My life on the balcony is the only regular escape from my life in the room. I don’t go into other parts of the house unless I need to. Part of that is because I am too lazy to “hijab up” just to sit out there idly, and partly because any other room is just as isolated as the one I stay in, so it’s really not much different.
My daughter and I will spend the rest of the night playing toys and games, reading, and sometimes cleaning. I always take a space to go wash the dishes each night. My mother-in-law is 75, and as far as Egyptian mother-in-laws go, she’s a gem. She is not at all bossy or critical, but rather very sacrificing and sweet and unobtrusive. She has severe problems with rheumatoid arthritis that impacts her mobility significantly, so doing the dishes for the household is the least I can do.
Right now the roosters are crowing. The fajr adhan has already been called. My daughter is making videos of herself on the iPad with her baby doll, and I am debating which day I might want to force us to stay up to get back on a regular schedule.
I want to feel something inside, but right now I can’t. It’s as though all my emotions are secrets and feeling them would be as though they were told. In a way I don’t mind, because the alternative may make it harder to get through each day. So I just keep those feelings inside my heart like seeds in packed ground, waiting for the season when its time for them to sprout through.