Amreekia Min Bab Al Sharayah

That was the name of my old blog. Translated, it means an American woman from the old, poor and rundown district of Bab Al Sharayah in Cairo. I was given this nickname because although I was born in the USA, my mentality is more ghetto Egyptian. I'm a curious mixture of east meets west, and dont care if you call me balady!

I'm going to slowly bring some of the old posts from Amreekia over here (see archives), basically to give new readers some background. I hope you'll enjoy the old and the new and join me on this fascinating expat journey!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

It's EID in Egypt and I'm still not there!

Can you hear me sobbing?

Yes, I should have been gone by now, I know. In fact I started this "Egyptian" blog over 5 months ago-- even though I have a few others that detail my life here in USA--thinking I would be leaving soon and would have much to tell. But that hasn't happened. But other stuff*t happens so they say, and it's particularly true in my case. I've been through the wringer since I first planned on moving back to Egypt and it hasn't been fun, believe me. Whoever said "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" really knew what they were talking about. Yes, I've become incredibly strong in the face of so many difficulties these past few months. But that doesn't ease the pain of spending one more Eid here in USA, and missing one more in Egypt. Oh it's so painful I can't stand it. I pray I live long enough to see the next Eid in Misr! Ameen.

I guess the good news is I got screwed by the first "estate seller" I found, and then in a strange twist of fate, while combing the yellow pages for something unrelated, found four other estate sellers whom for the life of me I couldn't find previously! I finally settled on one I think could sell ice to the Eskimos, so that means more traveling money for me, insha Allah. Of course this is all part of Allah's plan. Other things came up which necessitated my being here in America for longer than I'd anticipated. Some serious health issues, the marriage of my son in October and the impending reception in early January, a stay in the hospital for my mother--who had a simple infection that was actually affecting her brain, and a few other things I could discuss if I wanted to put you all to sleep. Since I don't, I wont. But suffice it to say I can see Allah's wisdom in the delays. I pray I can always accept Allah's will for me...Ameen.

But still, it hurts to be here. Especially on Eid. I became Muslim over 25 years ago in the city in which I am living now. I only stayed a few years here after that, and moved with my Egyptian husband and children to New Jersey. Funny but I think most Egyptian immigrants manage to pass through NJ at least once during their lives here. It's like a mandatory thing--Egyptians must live for a few years in NJ. That's the rule. We spent many years there. Then he passed away in an accident and it was up to me to carry on and raise my 3 children without him. That meant moving to wherever I could find a better job, as I was a teacher in Islamic schools. Even though the salaries were low, we made it by the grace of Allah. And just when I thought we were finally settled in a place we loved, and I had secured a job in an Islamic school which (finally) paid well and offered benefits too, my Mom became very ill and I had to come back home to care for her. Had I known she would have recovered to the extent she did, I would have taken her back to where I was settled, but I didn't. Alhamdulilah she recovered well, and somehow I just stayed here in the city of my birth. I never liked it here, even when I was a child. I always wanted out. All those years away let me forget how much I disliked it. It's a fairly big northeastern city with a redneck small town populace. And it's gotten even worse since 911, as has just about everything for Muslims in this country. And also having been gone for so long, I found so many folks I new had long since moved away. In fact I only have two Muslim friends here, and see them rarely. The masjid, like so many in USA, is a bureaucratic nightmare filled with too many wannabe chiefs and not enough Indians. Again, like so many masajid in USA. So no, I'm not a happy camper here, especially during the Eids. In fact I no longer participate in any Islamic activities here. I find my peace of mind more intact when I stay away. Nuf said.

What it comes down to is here is just sooooooo very different than life in Egypt. Egypt today reminds me of America 50 years ago. When faith and family where the focus of one's life. When things didn't move so fast. When a good time was packing up the family and a picnic lunch and heading off to the park or beach for a day of fun and relaxation. When you could actually afford to buy gas to go on vacation and your tankful cost less than your motel room! When it was safe to walk the streets after dark. Where you could discipline your neighbors kid without fear of a lawsuit. Where morals and manners counted for a lot. Where if you got a spanking at school--yes they really did allow that at one time--you got a worse one at home. Ah...the good old days.

I know Egypt isn't Paradise. I know that satellite dishes and the internet are rapidly taking their inherent problems into a country that now tries to imitate too much of the west. It's not perfect. But there's still a lot of respect for family--and traditions.

If I was in Egypt today celebrating Eid al Adha, I'd be surrounded by family and friends. We would have cooked liver and other organs for breakfast from the sheep we slaughtered, and "fatah" for dinner. The kids would be all dressed up in their new clothes, having gone to sleep the night before in their new pajamas. They'd all be running around, getting their Eidayahs (a small gift of money) from the relatives and neighbors. There would have been the obligatory visit to the amusement park, zoo or public garden. Some would have gone to graves to pray for their dead. Customs would be strictly followed and the day would have been over too soon. And yet, 3 more days of celebration would follow until everyone was finally able to say "enough". Oh how I miss it.

Especially since I spent it cleaning the house. And no, we didn't eat the traditional lamb and rice dish. We couldn't afford to slaughter an animal here, and somehow it's just not the same when you have to run to the grocery store to buy a non-halal leg of lamb. We opted for chicken instead. And made du'ah that this is our last Eid outside of Egypt...Ameen.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Balcony view in Port Fouad

This is the view I woke up to every morning on my visit to Egypt last year. My dear friend lives in Port Fouad right near the beach. Port Fouad lies just across the Suez Canal on the tip of the Sinai peninsula. She is soon to be moving to a villa closer to the canal. It's more convenient, but I sure will miss this view!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Delays, delays

I should have been gone by now according to my first post. Or at least ready to go shortly. But, stuff happens. First, I got sick. Then, my "adult" kids didnt remove their own junk from my house in a timely fashion. And the estate sale got delayed because the coordinators are so very busy. Which makes me think, if they're so busy with other people who want to sell their own crap, what chance do I have of selling mine? Who buys this stuff anyway???

In the meantime, I took a trip to NJ to visit my daughter, and a son who lives nearby in Pennsylvania. Stayed there until another son rolled in from California. Then all 3 kids and I traveled back home together supposedly for them to get their things out of here once and for all. Did I mention that didnt happen? Well, they have one more shot before the end of October when the estate sale will finally be held. Good luck kids--otherwise it's off to Goodwill.

I did have the carpets cleaned 2 months ago. But they need cleaned again before the sale. Damn this dog! She was left behind when my son broke up with his fiancee. It was the fiancee's dog. And fiancee wasnt allowed to have it in her apartment. So Mom got stuck with a dog who has "accidents". Damn, damn and triple damn. Now son and fiancee are an item again, and will be getting married later this month, before son (who is in the Coast Guard) goes out on another Pacific tour. Which is another reason my trip will be delayed. Because the wedding reception will take place the beginning of January. And I do want to be here for that. But no later than January 31, 2008, I will God willing be on the plane, winging my way to Cairo, then on to Port Said where I will live. My mother will be joining me. Finally!

There's a reason for everything. I am not fretting the delay as much as I am still fretting getting everything done. It's a massive task. I am a nervous wreck. I wish I had help but I don't. I'm trying to take it small steps at a time. Hopefully this time I'll stay on schedule.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What's it like to make an international move???

First, have on hand plenty of boxes, preferably the ones your tranquilizers were shipped in, because your going to need loads of them too. In fact I don't recommend any kind of move unless you are on mind-altering drugs. It lessens the pain a lot--trust me. I'm a veteran. I have moved over 20 times in my life, and this is the third international move as I said before. It doesn't get any easier with experience, nor with age. In fact the older you are the worse it gets. You just don't have that get up and go anymore. It's gone, probably left behind at the last house you lived in. Anyway...

Moving is high-anxiety drama. Especially for a pack rat like me. I save everything. Heh, you never know when you might need those half million twist ties that are used to close bread bags, or all those spaghetti sauce jars--they come in handy for storing more crap. I definitely inherited this trait from my grandfather who used to save burnt-out light bulbs! Yes, folks it is true. I think he thought some day someone would find a way to recharge them or something. When I had to move my Mom from her ancestral home, I threw away tons of burnt out light bulbs, not to mention those empty cardboard toilet paper and paper towels rolls. I think Granddad was considering crafting in his old age. He never did make anything with those though.

That move was such a terror, you'd think I would have learned something. But in 3 years in my rental home I have still managed to stuff this place with crap. Especially the kitchen, pantry and basement. I have this idea that this crap might be worth something to somebody and I could make a killing with a garage sale. Yeah right! Tried that once too. I nearly ended up paying the buyers to take my junk! Oh God.

I haven't yet gotten into the meat and bones of the work yet, because there are a few prerequisites before I tackle the household wares. First I had my house cleaned. I have a wonderful cleaning lady, which if I could afford, would be here daily, trust me. As it is, it was a few months since I brought her. There was so much going on in my life, I was very busy with outside activities, and my cleaning consisted of a lick and a promise. So I brought Martha to give this place a good going over. Now I can work in cleanliness, if not peace. Second step is to have the rugs cleaned, which will be done on Thursday. I have pets. Need I say more? Accidents happen. So the rugs need to be cleaned and then I can start filling the floors with boxes.

Here's the general rule: You need three boxes and a HUGE garbage bag in each room. Into the boxes go: what you want to keep, what you want to sell, and what you want to give away. Into the garbage bag is everything else. Sounds simple right. Not! Because sometimes it's hard to decide what to sell or give away--let alone make the decision to actually part with something. A general rule of thumb...make sure your sell and give-away piles are higher than your keep pile. Otherwise you really aren't going anywhere.

I did make plans though--for the first time--an estate seller to come in here and sell all my stuff once it's all arranged. They take about 1/3 commission on your sales, but they also set everything up and do most of the work, the worst of which is haggle with customers. The stress of not having a "garage sale" type of situation is worth paying the commission, believe me. Cuz I've been there and done that and I think I came out the loser.

So in these days before I get to the heart of the packing and selling, I am busy arranging for passports, tickets, international health certificates for my pets ( yes my babies are going with me), and a million other things and all that in itself is a full time job. Am I stressed? You bet! It's hard to drag myself out of bed most mornings. And sometimes I just sit and veg in front of the TV. But what keeps me going? At the end of it all, lies this...Egypt. The closest place to heaven I have found on this earth!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Welcome to my world

Join me as I venture into my third--yes third--"permanent" move to Egypt. Between vacations and actually living there I've bounced around more times than I care to count. But this move will be the last. Planned for October 2007. For those of you who have never moved, let alone internationally, you might not appreciate my trials and tribulations. For those who have, you'll breathe a deep sigh of relief as you read this and say "Thank God it's not ME this time!" In any case, I hope you enjoy yourself here. Welcome to my world!

The title of my blog, Amreekia min Bab Al Sharayah, needs some explaining. It means American (female) from the Bab Al Sharayah area of Cairo. This area is supposedly a lower class area filled with common folk who might best be termed the "working poor". You most likely wouldn't find any 5 star restaurants there, just fava bean and falafal shops and dreary old "ahwas"--coffeehouses for men only! I've never been to the Bab, but because I watch so many Egyptian movies on the Arabic Dish, I've managed to pick up a lot of slang. Low class slang, apparently--haha!

So one Egyptian officially dubbed me, after hearing me speak Arabic, an American from Bab Al Sharayah. I cherish the title. I like being "balady"--and I don't even know how to explain that one! I guess it means countrified in a way. I don't want to belong to the hoity-toity, so-called Egyptian "high" class. I prefer to be one of the common folk. Because high class in Egypt doesn't mean the same thing that it means in the USA.

High class there means you have MONEY--even if you have no manners! You can be a rich drug dealer or cop on the take and spend a 1000LE on a meal, wipe your mouth on your sleeve and belch loudly when you've finished and be considered high class. On the flip side, you can be a hard working, family oriented man or woman whose word is gold and is always ready to share their last piece of pita with a neighbor and be considered "low" class. That's for the birds! It's a mixed up society. But I love the commoners, and am proud to be considered one of them.

Call me what you want. Just don't call me late for falafal!