A lot of time has gone by since my last entry, more than I’d realised. A lot has happened during that time, which is why I stayed away for so long. My husband and I are not spontaneous people, but we did something rather spontaneous. It was a big move, and due to the lack of time and planning I was extremely nervous about making it. Not for myself, but when you have three kids aged between six and one, last minute decisions like this can be very nerve racking. In fact it was so nerve racking that I was very tempted to just dismiss the idea, to play it safe and just continue as we were. I remember laying in bed thinking about the countless things that could go wrong. But then I would think about the huge potential for great benefit, and remind myself that very little is acheived through playing it easy. In order to acheive things in life you have to work hard, you have to get out of your comfort zone, and you have to take risks. Not that what I am hoping to acheive is something remarkable, on the contrary, I consider it a bare essential, and am quite ashamed of the fact that I never took any concrete moves to remedy the situation. So in the end I turned to Allah, I prayed istikhara, and put myself in His ‘hands’.
So now I’m sitting here typing this from Egypt. Due to our circumstances we realised that we had an opportunity to spend a decent amount of time here, an opportunity that may never come again, or at least for a long time – so we took it. We have hired Arabic tutors and are focusing our time on improving our Arabic. Alhumdulilah there has been a big improvement, but there is so much more to be done. The kids have met their relatives that they didn’t know, and their arabic which varied from avoidance to non-existance is getting so much better alhumdulilah.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing though, I’m getting quite home sick. I’m feeling quite trapped here and feel like I have lost my independence. Not because of the culture or society here, but because of my lack of experience within it. I dont know my way around, I dont know how to buy things, what they’re called, how to describe them, or if they infact exist here. I wouldn’t even think about attempting to go out on my own with the kids, even though in Australia this is not normally an issue. My relatives have been great, always ringing up and checking up on us, constantly asking me if I want anything. The problem is that I’m used to doing everything by myself, I’m used to going out, looking around, deciding what I want, and doing it MYSELF. Its not easy asking for help when you are accustomed to doing everything yourself. I never really thought of myself as somebody who was overly independent, but I guess sometimes when you are in a different environment you reliase things about yourself that you never knew. I am happy to hang in there until we are due to leave, after all I still have a lot of work to do, and its not that much longer. However it certainly has been a learning experience for me, its made me realise how much people sacrifice who make hijrah, and its made me realise that its not as easy as I may have initially thought. Alhumdulilah I am so glad we chose to do it though. My Arabic has improved immensely (not to mention that of my husband), my kids have experienced a different culture, got to meet their extended family, strengthened their arabic, and I have had the opportunity to spend time with my family who mean so much to me.
The place we are staying at is my parents flat. Its not a horrible place or anything, but its certainly not what I’m accustomed to. The beds are terribly hard and uncomfortable. The water pressure is quite appalling, showers seem to involve drops of water falling upon you. Ok…so there are lots of drops, but its a world away from the showers we have back in Australia. Then there was the running out of gas while in the shower, the timing was of course perfect, I was sick, frozen, and had shampoo in my hair. Alhumdulilah we had an spare gas cylinder.
Gas is quite the drama here. Something that I don’t think twice about in Australia, and here its such an issue, or at least it was yesterday. Its not like Egypt is in the dark ages, half of Alexandria do have gas coming into through houses through pipes. But being in Egypt, things dont really run as smoothly as they should. I dont know if its politics or lack of organisation, probably a bit of both, but for some reason the other half of Alexandria are still to get their gas. Its been years, not sure how long…five, maybe ten years.
Yesterday we completely ran out of gas. It was quite scarey….no hot water, no cooking, but then again that part wasnt that bad. It made me reflect on what our brothers and sisters go through in Gaza. Not just now but permanently. Even when they’re not being slaughtered by the hundreds, they often suffer from a shortage of vital resources. They live lives of constant fear, frustration and uncertainty. And here I am, some spoilt girl from the west, panicking because I had to put up with no gas for a few hours. I realised two things from this, firstly, that I’m not as grateful to Allah as I should be about the blessings He has given us, and secondly, that I’m not doing enough to help our brothers and sisters who are not as fortunately as us, both in Gaza and in other parts of the world.
It wasn’t easy for us to get more gas. We’d been keeping an ear out for the gas men for a good couple of weeks but had gotten nowhere. Yesterday, due to my panicked state, I decided I would be in and out of the balcony all day till the gas guys came. Alhumdulilah the first time I went out there, their ute pulled up within about 30 seconds. Not wanting to scream out from the balcony I ran in to get my husband do the job. My husband immediately leaves whatever it was that he was doing and runs out to the balcony with me where he yells out “ANBUBA” (I know I should, but I can’t remember the exact translation for this, but its the word for the gas cylinder, or the cylinder itself). Based on the looks we got from everybody clearly he didn’t say what he was meant to say. To get their attention he was meant to say “ya bata3 al anabeeb” roughly translated as “gas cylinder man!!”. So the gas guy looks at us with this perplexed look on his face when my husband clarifies his order. My cousin who lives in the flat below us, realising our lack of abilities with these things offers to do it for us, but it was ok, we’d already ordered, it was all happening. I was so excited, we were getting gas!!
Now I don’t know if people realise how heavy these things are, but they weigh a tonne! Well maybe not literally a tonne, but they’re very heavy. But these gas guys fling them around like they’re toothpicks. The man coming up with our order put one on his back, grabbed another one with his free hand, swung it around to gain some momentum before flinging it ontop of the original cylinder on his back, balancing them both there while walking up the three flights of stairs.
Due to an apparent shortage of gas cylinders the poor guys at the ute were now being harassed. There were about 5 people around them asking for gas, followed by another 5-10 people calling out from various directions from their balconies, some were getting quite frustrated, after all, if you’re out of gas like we were things get quite desperate! Local men who were hanging out in the street were helping others out by relaying their orders onto the gas men and pointing them out. It was quite the spectacle. I’m sure it was just annoying and mundane to the locals, but to us foreigners it was quite entertaining. One thing for sure is that I’ll never look at gas in the same way again.
Thats one of the important things I really hope to gain from my time here. How often do you hurt something you normally think of as so insignificant – a pinky finger perhaps – only to help put things into perspective and to help you realise the countless blessings that Allah has bestowed upon you? I think my time here will help me acheive that. Last time I was here after hajj, I went back to Australia and felt like I was going back to a five star luxury home. Now my home is nothing special, alhumdulilah I am happy with it, but its not luxurious by Australian standards. However, after growing accustomed to ‘harsher’ conditions you learn to really appreciate what you have. What scares me is that we tend to only really appreciate our blessings once we have them removed. Then when things are back to normal we take things for granted again. Insha’allah my experience will insite a life long change in me, a greater appreciation for everything that Allah has blessed me with, and a greater determination to try to make a difference to those who are less fortunate.