”Never forget the umbrella,” was the first advice I got before moving to the UK which was a long time ago.
We moved in the summer, and I’ll never forget how the weather changed all of a sudden. In the beginning, it was warm and sunny, but later, at night, it started pouring and didn’t stop for two days. The umbrella broke after a few minutes, and we got a new one, or more than one. Over the first year, my husband and I always kept an umbrella in our bags, though we knew it was useless and wouldn’t stand long. A few months later we forgot about it and rarely got any.
The umbrella was just a piece of advice to make sure you get ready for changes, but it was not for any protection. Once we understood and used to the new place, we found out the route for protection.
Last year I wrote about Hajj under the title of the journey of a lifetime, I will leave the links at the end of my post so you can check them if you like.
These days Muslim Pilgrims are on their way to Makkah and this is why the memories of my Hajj journey become fresh again. In my previous posts, I explained how it was so hard for me to leave my boys who were at that time about 4 and 6 years old, even though I left them with my mother. On the day I went with my husband to Cairo International airport, I wept deeply from my heart and my friend, who was waiting for us there, hugged me tight trying to soothe me though I knew it was even harder for her because she also left her daughter who was younger than my boys and she was pregnant in the first two months. She knew about her pregnancy when we got all the documents of hajj done. I told her to postpone hajj: ‘You can apply next year. Hajj is a hard journey. You’re responsible for this pure soul growing inside you,’ I said trying to persuade her to change her mind but she said she wanted both and she would go for Hajj. And we went.
When I decided to write this post, I thought of sharing one of the very funniest moments that happened on that journey. On the day of Arafah, one of the main rituals in Hajj, we spent the day praying, making supplications and reading Quran. Food and water were available to everybody all the time. But we didn’t expect to have ice cream too. One of our friends was dead tired and was just having a nap when we discovered about that ice cream surprise. Her friend wet her lips with some yummy vanilla ice cream. She got up immediately and told everybody that she thought she was dead and was having ice cream in heaven. I couldn’t stop laughing when I heard her tale but I also thanked my Lord that I wasn’t next to her that day or else I wouldn’t be able to concentrate in any of the rituals.
There were lots of those funniest moments but I think one in enough this time.
By the way, my pregnant friend did well in Hajj and gave birth to a beautiful girl on her due date.
“The teacher and the taught together create the teaching.” An Eastern saying.
Does this refer to the good teacher and the clever student? I do not think so.
In the same class, with the same teacher, there will be students who fail and others pass. I think It’s more about the student’s effort than the gift of having a good teacher. The teacher, the student and the subject create education. They all have to be there to make the process.
In my undergraduate studies, I had to choose another language to study. My choice was Spanish. Our tutor was Espanol and his teaching method was to give us long different topics in spanish. He was the one to read and explain and we were the receivers. He was too fast to follow or understand. I remember how my friend and I spent most of the time laughing; we could not understand anything, just looking at the translation most of the time. However we had never failed and surprisingly I used to have good grades.
I’ve almost forgot all of what I learned; it’s been long time ago, but I still remember my teacher.
Have you ever understood anyone speaking not your language?
It can happen and it did happen.
Many years ago one of my neighbours was from Mexico. She moved to the UK with her husband and her little boy, about three years old. Whenever I saw her on the stairs or the road, she was talking to herself. My neighbours and I thought she might be insane but she wasn’t. One day I gave her a leaflet about the English course centre which I was attending at that time. I cannot describe how her face changed that day. She smiled and thanked me and I felt her words were coming deeply from her heart. From that day, we became friends though we didn’t understand each other that much, she used to say that she doesn’t know why she understood me more than anyone else in the city. Honestly, neither do I. I just used to repeat what others said to her. I wish I could have her details to keep in touch because once we moved I don’t know whether she was still in the UK or went back to her country.
I remembered her and remember how we can understand others with a different tongue on the day of Eid. I was sitting next to an elderly woman. Probably, she was from Pakistan. She couldn’t sit on the floor, her daughter and granddaughter brought her a chair. So I was sitting on the carpet next to her on a chair. While I was talking with a friend on my other side, she tapped on my shoulder and talked as if she knew me. I understood from her looks and the tune of her voice that she didn’t like how women are chatting and didn’t listen to the Imam’s Eid speech. This was true, I was talking too but this was because the Imam’s voice was too low, probably he didn’t notice that his speaker didn’t work well. I nodded and admitted that she was right and repeated in English what she was saying in her language. She held my hand and smiled at me which I think meant she was happy I understood her though I couldn’t speak her language.
Can this be a universal language? I think there can be a language that we can feel even though we don’t understand.
I found this photo in a post on facebook about happiness and simple life. At the beginning, I didn’t know why I liked the photo more than the post. My eyes kept scrutinising everything; the old pieces of furniture, the cracks and scratches on the wall and the floor, the little chicks picking the grains, that old broom, the clear sky, the children playing, the infant taking the first step, the mother leaning, the granny kneeling and their faces radiant with joy
Now I know why I liked it more because it reminded me of my grandfather’s house. It was a very big house in the village but it was so old too. All of us, his grandchildren, we were so many, always asked him to renew the place, just add a modern touch to that old building, we would always suggest. But he would never do; he liked his house the way it was. Honestly, though we would prefer that our grandfather would have a modern house, we really enjoyed every moment of our holiday together there.
I’ve heard that nowadays some people prefer to spend their holidays in simple country houses. This means that simplicity is recommended as a modern recreation option. I’m not sure if my children would agree? My daughter would do, I know, especially if there are those peeping little animals around. The boys definitely, absolutely, certainly would never; but if Wi-Fi is available, miracles could happen.
Inviting others for Iftar (breakfast); friends, relatives, or some acquaintances is a popular tradition in the month of Ramadan. Muslims believe that if one shares or offers a meal with/to others, he/she will be heavenly rewarded. When I started writing this post, I mainly thought of the manners that both visitors and hosts are supposed to have in order to enjoy their time together. I did not think of those sophisticated rules of etiquettes; what to take as a gift, how to sit, how to eat, what to say and so on. These are great rules but I thought of something very general, sometimes that can be very hard to apply. Can we try not to poke our noses into others’ affairs?
One day, a friend visited me after I gave birth to my daughter. It was her first time to visit me and apparently she liked both the place and the house. After giving her warm congratulations; she started a series of investigations all about how many? how much? how far? All those ”hows” made her 30 minutes visit pass like 5 hours. I pretended that I didn’t know most of the answers and changed the subject to her little son. That was why she left early; ‘ You look tired,’ she said and left.
There was a story in Arabic; I have read recently. It teaches one of the visiting manners. The story was about a Muslim scholar whose best student used regularly to invite him at his house. One day, the scholar’s cousin offered to give him a ride to his student’s. Once they had arrived, the host invited that cousin to join them. They talked and ate and then it was time to leave.
On their way back, the cousin poured all his thoughts;
‘ Your student is a real gentleman; kind and generous. His house is so big, clean and tidy. His attire looks expensive and neat. And the food, it was the best I have ever tasted. His people have high skills of cooking. I’m sure he is very wealthy.’
The scholar did not comment. He was riding his cousin’s donkey and listening while watching the sun setting.
‘But they have bad manners; they let women serve food and drinks. Have you seen that woman who was holding the water jug for us to clean our hands after dinner? I don’t like that,’ his cousin added
The scholar looked at his cousin and said; ‘ I have been regularly visiting that student for ten years. I ate their food, I drank their juice and I washed my hands in their house countless times, and yet I don’t know if I was served by men or women.’
His cousin said no more.
The lesson is; they were invited to have a meal, not to interfere in other’s life.
Today at breakfast, my daughter said; ‘I’m full, mama.’ There wasn’t much left and I asked her to try one more to finish her plate. ‘I’m full, mama,’ she repeated.
I did not force her because she ate well and sometimes you cannot add any more. I don’t know how people in food competitions could eat that much just to win or to register a high score. It’s really awful to eat more than you can afford. It is known that animals eat when they are hungry; they eat to survive although these days I doubt it. I think they’ve changed too. Have you seen how seagulls snatch, or better to say steal, people’s sandwiches, chips and crisps? When I was young I learned that seagulls fish close to the surface. They also eat earthworms, snails and slugs. But when I moved to cities by sea or rivers, I noticed how these birds have not only adapted well to live with man but also learned his greedy eating habit.
Many years ago, one of my friends went to a social gathering with people of her country at well-known Arabic restaurant. She visited me after they had finished and described the different varieties of starters, main dishes and desserts; hummus, tabula, green salad, stuffed vine leaves, kebab, baklava, rice pudding … yummy! The list made my mouth water. But she did not look well. She tried to lay down on the sofa but she couldn’t. She told me that she ate so much and her husband gave her more. Then, she couldn’t hold it anymore; she ran to the bathroom and vomited up all the food she had eaten that night.
Wasn’t it better if she said she cannot eat anymore?
How many times did we move to a new house? 🤔 don’t count, please!
This is not because of me ( sometimes not always) but our circumstances change: having children, finishing studies, my husband starting a new job in a different city, problems in old house, …
When my children watched their old photos, they would say; how many times did we move mama? That house was the best? Yes, we remembered that doll’s flat, we cannot remember that one, we were too little, … it’s fun to talk about moving but it’s really a hard time: packing, unpacking, tidying, cleaning, changing address, and endless list of chores
Our new house key lock is so hard, it takes time to open the door, sometimes it’s stuck. My son gave up, every time texted me; open the door mama, I’m very close. I would have ignored his text and let him try till he open it, but it might end up with an extra charge for door damage.
Though different but this reminds me of our first flat at university accommodation which was like a maze; every time when coming back, I tried hard to open the door, and it refused, no way it insisted, until I gave up, raising up my face, oops It wasn’t ours. When we became friends, I told my neighbour about those countless numbers when I thought hers was mine; ‘ I have never noticed that,’ she said, ‘ and ‘ this is why we become friends,’ I thought.
There are still about 5 months left for the month of Ramadan, but today one of the songs has refreshed some precious memories into my mind and heart.
My boys started practicing fasting early and gradually. The hardest time for them was when we have this once in a year beloved visitor during the summer, days become too long, the dawn so early, and the dusk so late.
One year, my middle son was doing very well though he’s always impatient, would have a hundred snacks per day, full of energy and never listen if I ask him to have a nap at noon or play indoor. One day when it was too hot, he came asking for money to buy a new mini sweetie juice that one of his friends was drinking and enjoying so much and ‘ I’ll have it after our Iftar (breakfast),’ he said. After he got the juice, he disappeared in his room and when his brother and friends came inquiring if he would join them, he shouted from upstairs ‘I’m tired, won’t play.’ This was weird, wasn’t it?
I went to his room, he was lying down in his bed, when I asked him if there was anything wrong; ‘ just tired mama tired,’ I sat at the edge of his bed, my eyes were trying to find out where was that juice. ‘ Won’t you show me this sweetie special juice?’ I asked. He quietly got up and brought it from behind the curtains. I knew that he was not tired but sad, deeply sad. His fingers and lips and the juice were blue.
‘Did you drink it?’
‘No, I didn’t,’ he said without looking at me
‘ But why your fingers and lips are blue?’
He couldn’t lie anymore, he went to the mirror and stuck his tongue out, it was all blue. He told me that he wanted to smell it, pulled the lid up with his teeth, he accidentally squeezed the bottle and the juice splashed into his mouth. ‘I didn’t want to drink it mama, just smell it,’ how he cried and how sad he looked really broke my heart.
‘It was a mistake, my son and I did dozen like this when I was in your age.’
‘ I’m still fasting,’
‘Yes, even if you do this when you’re a grown-up, you’re still fasting.’
‘Can I go and play now?’
‘But you’re tired.’
In another year, my elder son, was about 14 years old when he came back from school, telling me his news, picked up a large glass, opened the cold water tap, filled it up to the top, and drank it all in one gulp, leave not even a drop, I was looking at him, puzzled;
‘Couldn’t you fast today?’
‘Of course I’m fasting, it was too hot but I’m ok.’
‘Of-course you’re, you’ve just drank a full glass of water!’
‘Oops, I forgot!’
Was it a reward for patience? Was it a support from the Merciful? I believe it was both.
One of the best things I have started in 2017 was blogging or in other words writing.
Writing has always been my best hobby and though I didn’t keep anything of what I wrote when I was young, I remember very well that writing was not hard, boring or odd for me; simply because I love writing and I write what I love.
At university, I mainly studied English Language and literature but we also used to study Arabic literature and grammar as a main part of the BA programme. One day our Arabic literature lecturer asked us to write a free piece, anything we like, as one of our main tasks and promised that extra marks would be added to the mark we got at our Arabic exam. This wasn’t everything, he also promised that the best five or six (can’t remember the exact number) pieces would be published in his book which we would study that year (of course as appendix). So there were no worries about being marked down or getting a fail, just a page or half, but it had to be done before our next lecture; We all were so pleased and thought that was a brilliant idea, wasn’t it?
I did not care that mine would be one of those chosen pieces; honestly I believed that our lecturer would never read all of our writings; I just wondered what to write but finally I decided to write about my father.
At the beginning of that year, my father passed away, and so I wrote about death, the final fate that we cannot change or escape. I wondered if one has a choice either to die before or after his/her beloved ones, what he/she would choose. I thought of my father and believed that he would have willingly chosen that same time because he loved us.
Before the following lecture, and as promised, the book was available and five pieces were added at the end; mine was one of them. I was totally surprised, delighted and nervous, too nervous indeed; I was surprised because I didn’t make any great effort in that piece, and delighted because my writing was one of the best, and nervous because I became popular, everybody started asking about me, including our lecturer who hadn’t known any of our names before, and I wished I could hide under the desk for the rest of that day.
I have no idea how far my writing will go, but I believe it’s a wonderful gift.