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Category Archives: blast from the past

I have no title in mind so I’ll just type this: Vote!

I have a confession to make. I am kind of scared… of winter. It’s coming you know. I know that because all our maple trees and the other trees I cannot name stand tall and bare, we also wake up to a white dusting of frost covering our grass, oh that and the daylight saving hours–sundown is at 4:44 pm– Pretty solid affirmations of the season to come. Also November kindda gives it away don’t you think?

The good news is I am excited about spending longer hours in the kitchen again, I have high hopes. I borrowed this book from the library to get excited about kitchen affairs again. I’ve been burned out for sometime. Homemade granola, bread, and pies remember me? Homemade crackers, sauerkraut, and pasta here I come (didn’t I mention my high hopes?) Also, here’s one more reason to get excited about kitchen affairs (listen up family, and lurking readers wherever you may be) my dear Egyptian friend Yasmine just started her own food blog (awesome blog name right? ‘mumkin’ translates to ‘maybe’). Just to give you a back story about my friend, she hails from the same neighborhood in Cairo as your humble slave, she is the one who suggested that I meet her husband’s roommate– who happens to currently be my dah-ling husband. So yeah, we’re pretty tight despite the distance. She currently resides in the west coast with her wonderful family.

Yasmine was once known to use tomato paste for american recipes calling for salsa (the word salsa means tomato paste in Arabic, you get the confusion right?)She’s come a long way since, one thing you should know about Yasmine before you commit to her blog. She’s a perfectionist, if she gets into something she’ll research it until her eyes pop out. She’s recently (well not so recently, has it been almost a year now?) joined the cross fit band and adopted their healthy eating habits (a trick for flour devouring ol’ moi) the Paleo diet. What gives me hope is she has a sweet tooth and three males in her life who are known to devour anything edible that comes their way. The girl manages to make paleo friendly cakes, cupcakes, granola, and desserts, how about that? If you’re still not impressed then you’ve probably wasted precious time over here, hop over there and see for yourself.

***

In other news I have my oral exam tomorrow, so all prayers, thoughts, energy (whatever you have I’ll take it) are much appreciated!

I announced on FB (because that’s what people do on Facebook) that the current challenge facing me in my new job is meeting all these people I am interpreting for. I mentioned that it’s a challenge because I’m an introvert, which was received by shocked responses from some of my closest friends. I guess I do a good job hiding it. Also, I’m not sure some of my friends understand introversion very well. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy people, I really do, and I like crowded places, and sometimes I’ll go to the farmer’s market just to get shoved by people, I mean I did grow up in Egypt. But it’s a lot of work for me, it consumes all of me to do so, and I need to just be alone for some time to recharge and then I’m good to go. You’ll know what I’m talking about if you’re one of us. Watch this, it might help. Also introverts are awesome!

***

We carved our pumpkins the day after halloween, and guess what? they’re just as fun and they didn’t protest at all. We possibly have the friendliest jack o lanterns in the neighborhood. I think it gives away the presence of little girls in our household.

One of our night time routines are bargaining about the number of books to be read for bedtime. Tonight Grabby pushed this pile all the way from her bedroom, we settled on three: This, this and this. It’s very hard to say no to books, but someone’s gotta do it, or we’ll be up all night. If Mei is not super tired, she’ll linger in her bunk with a flashlight and a book.

And with that I wish you a good night filled with good reads.

Peace.

1,2,3,4

Once the weather warmed up, everyone stripped down. We live in a university town and it’s full of students. Any green space with a bit of sunshine is currently covered with baking bodies. A feast for the eyes only… it’s not.

I was en route to pick up the girls from school. A couple of teenage girls were walking back from the beach in their triangular bikinis and messenger bags. One of them had her bodily proportions and bikini size in conflict. Yet there she was walking confidently down a main street in rush hour with cars, pedestrians and bicycles flooding the street. I kept an eye on the car drivers, the passersby and the cyclists. Not one lingered or took a second glance and if they did, it was very discreetly. I thought to myself, now here’s Islam in practice. An odd notion some may think, but it’s the first thing that came to my mind. This young woman was safe. Safe from looks, safe from harassment and safe to walk down the street almost virtually naked. ‘A Muslim minds his/her own business’ one of the teachings of our prophet. America (0r at least downtown Madison WI)–with the opposition of many including Americans–is still a great country.

Flash back many years back when I wore a face veil (I experimented the dreaded by many Niqab for a couple of months back in the day, and I did so without the knowledge of my parents, in fear of opposition and lecturing) I too was walking down a main street full of cars, pedestrians, cyclists and donkey carts. A car stopped and opened the door for me (confusing me for a prostitute?) I took off my shoes and threw it at the parked car while cursing. The car drove away.

One.

I was walking down the street again with my face veil, I received several cat calls and whistles from possibly all the men in the street.

Two.

I was twelve years old– hadn’t hit puberty yet– skinny with bulging knee caps and chicken legs– wearing long shorts. A grown man complemented me on my legs and tried to touch them. I ran away.

Three.

I can write pages on the amount of  harassment I received through out my bodily changes and garment changes from “too exposed” by Egyptian standards, to “too extreme, backwards, covered” also by Egyptian standards. This is the story of all girls in Egypt. Fat, skinny, young, old, “covered” , “exposed”. It doesn’t matter.

The funny thing is I once got cat called by school girls confusing me for a teenage boy. I was wearing an over sized sweater and pants and had my hair slicked backwards. From a far I must’ve looked like a boy. As the metro-train approached, the whistling girls yelled in shock “Eww, it’s a girl!”

This incident confused me for many years to come. “Girls do it too!” I thought.

Four!

Peace.

the many shades of a headscarf

I’ve been growing my hair for the past four years– from a crop boy cut to close to my waist. The color through the years changes of course. I can not stay in one hair color over three months– I get bored easily. “You ‘ave five couleurs in yer ‘air mademoiselle, ’tis ridiculous” My sister’s uppity french hairstylist was appalled as he tossed my hair between his figures.  You see my hair was a constant DIY project. The very first time I wanted a drastic color change I’d head over to the hair salon, once the desired color was achieved, the do-it-yourself experimentation starts. It’s true at one point I did have five colors in my hair– I loved it!

“You know what’s the funny thing about this headscarf you’re wearing Nermine?”

“What?” I answered impatiently, already tired of the overwhelming attention I’m receiving over a piece of fabric–was I really that radical?

“It’s not that it’s a tie-dye headscarf, it’s the fact that I know there’s a-boy-cut-purple-haired-girl underneath”

“Just don’t be too sure” I winked at my friend and walked away.

The two weeks before I finally made my decision to cover my hair, I had gone from blondish brown locks almost down my waist, to a razor cut along my neck and ear line and a slightly longer hair the color of an orange peel on the top of my head. The day before my big day–meaning wrapping this whole nonsense in a tie-dye scarf that proved more challenging to stay put on my  head with what little hair I now possessed– I poured purple hair dye over my head and turned heads in the streets and my school a like. My forehead stayed purple for another week, making my headscarf look more peculiar.

It doesn’t matter I told myself. Hair is not important– long, short, purple, orange, or wrapped in a piece of fabric. What’s important is something incomprehensible. Am I going mad? Might as well… and then I cried. This was not how I saw myself going about life. I hated the headscarf with a passion, heck, I convinced my best friend to take hers off.

Ten years in, I still have doubts. But I push through and leave it all to Him.

Peace.

A Good Omen

As I type this our neighbor is sitting by his front porch, loudly strumming his guitar and singing off tune in a manner that would suggest that he believes he’s doing a good job. I salute his perseverance, he’s been at it since we moved in almost a year ago. No progress from his part yet! We are cheering for him though, for both our sakes.

We got invited to our (other) neighbors front yard tonight for a home-brewed-root-beer floats party. You don’t understand how this is a big deal for us. We are definitely not the social butterflies type (excluding Mei, the girl will talk to the street ants if there’s no one left to dump her brain to) and moving often doesn’t help. So to be invited to a social event for the neighborhood parents is huge for us. We are in people. Huzzah for kids! (Did I sound too desperate there? If your answer is yes, then pretend I never said anything, we’re awfully cool just so you know)

Today felt more like Spring since this freak weather started. There has been no gradual change in the temperatures, one day it was below freezing, with a respectable amount of snow on the ground, the next day BAM eighty degrees and sunny, and it continued doing so for the past week. So when it rained today and the temperature receded to the mid sixties, we did not pout. In fact let it rain some more, rain is a good omen where I come from.

mud soup anyone?

***

I’m in a 90’s rut these days, has it been this long? I can’t get into a nineties rut without Pearl Jam.

Good stuff right there.

Peace.

Spring Forward

We have been given an extra hour of light with the already growing day. Most people feel that they have lost an hour when the clock changes for Spring– on the contrary people, we have gained another hour of day! I know that because dusk prayer is now at 7 pm instead of 6 pm, and Dawn prayer has been pushed down to 5:30 am instead of 4:30 am. An extra hour of sleep! By mid summer the day will stretch to have us wake up by 3 am for Dawn prayer and the night prayer we’ll be around 11 pm. If there’s anyone reminded by the seasons it’s people who pray five times a day in accordance to the progression of the sun. So yeah for now I’m enjoying the extra hour of daytime and the extra hour of sleep as opposed to the complaints of many. (I do go back to sleep right after dawn prayer, nothing can interrupt my precious sleep!)

With the extra hour of sun, we have also been blessed with complimentary weather this week. Seventy degrees today and tomorrow it should go up to the late seventies. Also I know I talk about weather a lot on this space, but seriously, this is very strange weather for March in Wisconsin. We usually continue to get snow by now, sometimes we see snow as late as April.So please forgive my excitement.

I can’t seem to bring myself to stay indoors much these days. Although I did stay long enough to bake breakfast scones. So I guess something still got done in this kitchen of ours. I was also supposed to try a second batch of Kombucha tea, after the failure of my first batch– I blame our house– you see, we are currently renting the second house built in our neighborhood, it’s one hundred and thirty years old. So naturally our floors are uneven. There is not one single item in our furniture that doesn’t slightly shake. It doesn’t bother me at all, in fact, I never even noticed it until I set up to make my own brew of Kombucha tea. In the instructions of making a successful mushroom, one needs to find a warm, still surface and place the kombucha tea there undisturbed until the mushroom forms. Trust me when I tell you I have searched our place high and low for a stable surface. This has proven to be more than challenging. After two months of failed trials. I have finally given up on anything ever growing in this house of ours. So I will wait until we acquire our Spring chickens to have another living thing growing within the premises of our home (along with my lone house plant). The store bought stuff should do for now.

***

I started watching a documentary about Charles and Ray Eames last night (It’s currently streaming on Netflix). I did not know anything about Eames furniture until I came to the U.S. In Egypt most of the furniture I grew up around was french inspired. When I was old enough to think about my own style I leaned towards the simple Arabian style furniture– floor seating, geometric designed rugs, Islamic stained glass lanterns– and warm colored Indian style fabrics. The first time I saw an Eames chair was at my father-in-law’s. Most of his furniture was inspired by modern, simple styles. I am not going to even mention his raw looking loft– I was fascinated.

I did not fall in love with mid-century style furniture immediately, it somehow gradually grew on me until It eventually found a cozy spot into my heart and settled nicely. If you visit a room in my brain, you would be welcomed on one of those icon Eames upholstered reclining chairs, and as you stretch your arms behind your neck and tilt your head upward your eyes will squint at a french-copper-chandelier that used to hang on the ceiling of my family’s summer home in Alexandria. The red mirrored Indian style tapestry would cover the back wall behind your head.

The history of a chair or a piece of furniture tells a lot about the people from that time. The choice we make about what we put into our homes is a window into who we are or who we would like to present ourselves to be, just likes clothes. My mother’s french chandelier, my husband’s American style smart design furniture, along with my warm pieces of fabric are all stories of where I’ve come from to whom I’ve come to be. A mishmash…

Yet, aren’t we all?

Peace.

Friday

You may have noticed the disappearance of the previous post– I took it down along with the other post that brought the unwanted guest. I figured avoid negative search words and stay safe, this is supposed to be my happy place after all.

***

The sun always shines on a Friday, I used to tell my brother growing up. I was convinced that you can not have bad weather on a Friday until I arrived to America’s Midwest. Suddenly my theory flew away with the gusty northern winds. It rained on a Friday. Winds blew and leaves rustled on an overcast Friday morning. Snow, hail and even tornado sirens wailed on a Friday. The sun shone this morning– a Friday– and I was thirteen again in our Masr El Gedida’s sixth floor apartment. On the balcony listening to Quran recitations blasted through our neighborhood mosque in preparation of the Friday sermon, my brother was next to me and he thought about my comment and agreed. “You are right. As far as I remember the sun always shone on a Friday”.

He was eleven.

In other news, my youngest got a hair cut. She loves it. Apparently her baby sister whose sometimes six, sometimes seven and sometimes nine years old got one too. Then how old are you Grabby if your baby sister is nine? “Fwee” (three). Does your baby sister like her new hair cut? “YES!” (Yes, Grabby has an imaginary baby sister that she speaks of from time to time. Mei had an imaginary fox friend around that same age too. Imaginary friends and sisters are all welcome at our neck of the woods *smile*)

It took me a good twenty minutes if not more to complete the purchase of this piece of cloth. I found it at an international festival’s bazaar and the seller was slightly confused about finishing off the transaction. I waited gladly. No regrets from this buyer.

These two made it to my little wall nook between the windows in front of my desk. The house is drawn colored and cut by Mei and the post card was from a Picasso exhibit at the U.A.E

Happy Friday (we still have an hour left).

Peace.

Red White Blue

I don’t know why I remembered this but here it is:

At some point after we tied the knot, my husband and I flew to America to visit my new family. We spent about a week in the Midwest visiting with family, then flew to California to attend a friend’s wedding. From there, we rented a car and drove across California, Oregon, and Washington state to meet the other side of the family. It was my first time ever in America. My first impression was… big. America compared to Egypt is grand. The roads were wide, the cars were huge, and so were the people, although Egyptians don’t fall on the light side either. But I was in the Midwest… ya knaw. We stayed in Madison WI, strolled through it’s cute downtown and dined at it’s fanciest restaurant. My husband’s family are very generous people.

Contrary to our stay in Madison, after we flew to California we were invited to stay in a suburban hotel by the grooms family. I was terrified from the FIVE! lane highways, the speeding cars, and I know I mentioned this a few times here, but the sky was huge and seemed closer than it should’ve been.

Arriving at the hotel I spotted two black kids. “Look!”My husband swiftly grabbed my pointing fingers and place my hand along side my body. The boys were what I have envisioned black kids in America look like from all my American movie watching, they wore gangsta style low riding baggy pants exposing most of their boxer shorts, and moved their hands and heads while talking. I was infatuated.

“It’s very rude to point at people here dear, and one more thing, please get out of people’s way when you see them coming your way.”

“Can’t they just go around me?”

“It’s considered very intimidating here”

“Why?”

A man crossed the street and walked right up to my husband and I, and immediately started complaining about America, and how he’s ashamed on behalf of his country, then he apologized for the Iraqi war. I smiled and thanked him while my husband slowly pulled me away from the man, moved in my place then started walking without saying his greetings or waiting for the man to finish his speech. I thought my husband was being uncharacteristically rude. When we were away from the stranger’s earshot, I asked him about his behavior (in my culture you don’t give your back and start walking away from someone still speaking unless he was harassing you, but the man’s words were so kind…) My husband then explained that the man was acting strange, his body language and raised voice were not stable. Seeing the worried look on my eyes, my husband assured me that the man was not a threat, but it was just best to stay away.

The things you don’t learn upon acquiring a second language.

We drove past giant woods and a top tiny windy mountain roads that induced car sickness and a breathtaking view. We picnicked by empty cold beaches with crashing giant waves that are the dream of every surfer in the universe and slept in nameless motels along the highway. It was my debut to America and I was taking it all in. We stopped at confusing tourist attractions, one of which offered a drive through a giant tree with a hollowed rectangular tunnel. “But why? we get that it’s a big tree even without the drive through tunnel”.

Because it’s America, I told myself they don’t have pyramids…

We stopped at this wonderful town which I wanted to move to as soon as I set eyes on it. A university town, surrounded by massive woods, clear running rivers, and looming mountain peaks covered in snow in the middle of July.  The residents were young students grazing in the towns parks with flowy dreamlike garments and strumming string instruments while smiling in the sunlight. Even the tap water ran clear and sweet. I was in love. I declared to my husband that this is where heaven has been secretly placed on earth and we should seriously consider settling in. I was without a doubt wholeheartedly decided that I have found home. Comes nightfall, the place slowly started creeping with and uneasy feeling. The wonderful people have all been replaced with (in my mind I thought) hideous monsters. Every single person we laid eyes on was on a serious kind of drug, screaming, running down the streets, wailing, hysterically laughing or laying on the sidewalk unconscious, some of them came to talk to us. “Let’s get out of here fast!” is what me and my husband both agreed on, but it was late, so we decided to spend the night in our already checked in motel, and leave with the crack of dawn.

There is no heaven on earth, I consoled my disappointed self.

Our next stop was the complete opposite to the one I just described. It was a logging town. It looked like a ghost town. Empty streets, closed windows, dull looking houses. “But the streets are lined with parked cars, who parked all these cars?” so we stopped at a pizza place, and as soon as we opened their front doors, all eyes were upon us. I’m assuming the only time they laid eyes on a Muslim looking girl were on Fox news. A massive lump gathered in my throat and the trip from that front door of the pizza place to the ordering counter felt like a slow scene from a cowboy movie, where an unfortunate traveler unknowingly walks into the wrong kind of bar, the sound of his heavy footsteps on the floor, while slowly all cowboy hats turn in his direction with unfriendly expressions. When asked my husband and I almost with the same breath opted for the “to go” option. We felt the eyes pierce through our backs until the door closed behind us.

We did not spend the night.

“And  how would you like your eggs ma’am?” It seemed like the waitress stood there for an hour. I made one last desperate eye plea to my unwilling to help husband and replied with fake confidence “I would like them well done please!” The confused waitress raised an eyebrow “um… like crunchy?” Again with my fake confident tone “yes, that’s exactly how I like them!” The confused waitress turned to my husband and asked the same question.”over easy please” came my husband’s effortless and swift reply.

When the waitress was gone, I stared at my husband and confessed that this was in fact how I wanted my eggs, but since he was unwilling to help, or order for me (In Egypt if there’s a couple dinning, it is polite to ask the man for what his partner wishes to order, then the woman tells her partner who then informs the waiter what he has already heard from the woman, but politely pretends to have heard it for the first time from the man) I was forced to sound ridiculous, “and don’t get me started on how many bread choices you guys have. What’s rye bread btw?”

This was my first and thankfully last breakfast (either that or I have blissfully forgotten) ordering dilemma in one of our many stops.

America does not have the Pyramids of Giza. But it has a tree that survived hundreds of years and time before that. You can touch the circles on the massive trunk where important historic events were marked. And so I found the circle that marked the birth of Prophet Jesus, and then the circle that marked the birth of Prophet Mohammad (peace and blessings be unto them) traced them with my hands, and told the tree in my head (I was young and talked to trees in my head then) ” you lived through the time of great men, and stand here still alive in this foreign (to me) land, and I thank you for being here all these years, bearing witness”

…and in that moment I knew that *all together now*

Chorus:
This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me

As I was walking a ribbon of highway
I saw above me an endless skyway
I saw below me a golden valley
This land was made for you and me

Chorus

I've roamed and rambled and I've followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
And all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me

Chorus

The sun comes shining as I was strolling
The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
The fog was lifting a voice come chanting
This land was made for you and me

Chorus

As I was walkin'  -  I saw a sign there
And that sign said - no tress passin'
But on the other side  .... it didn't say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!

Chorus

In the squares of the city - In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office - I see my people
And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin'
If this land's still made for you and me.

I couldn't help myself. *Whispering* Also I still talk to trees sometimes.

Peace.