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Nothing that is worth while comes without pain, sweat and tears.

As the title states, I’ve decided to embark on a truly challenging journey for me. For every habit, one needs to apply consistency. I am hoping that the struggles of this challenge will lead to the ability to write on my blog more often.

Therefore, do not become excessively anxious when you think of pain, and do not fear suffering. It might be that through pain and suffering you will become stronger. And furthermore, for you to live with a burning and passionate heart that has been stung in purer and nobler than to live the dispassionate existence of a person who has a cold heart and a shortsighted outlook.

Aaidh ibn Abdullah al-Qarni

This quote reminds me of the obstacles and challenges I had faced as an immigrant in United States, only to become triumphed when I became a naturalized citizen. I never thought that a single certificate that proofs my citizenship to a country would turn out to be so symbolic. I remember the day I got that piece of paper was a turning point in my life. For the past decade I had felt like a true alien of the country, lowering my gaze to anyone that would challenge my status. That day, when I received the piece a paper, I held my head high and finally all my struggles had dissipated. All the struggles, obstacles, calamities had paid off, I had paved my feet firmly to the ground.

Moving to a foreign country in my later years and as a mother had proven to be even more difficult than my previous experiences. There was a lot of resentment, anger and ambiguity in experiencing a different culture. Most foreigners in Egypt were exposed to the privileges that being an expat has to offer, I felt like an outsider as an “expat” and with the Egyptians. For couple of years, I was swimming against the wave, disputing any traditions that I disliked. It wasn’t until I went with the flow, turning my pain into energy that my experience began to change. Instead of focusing on the ugly, I looked at the beauty of the country, finding similarities instead of differences and accepting assimilation instead of firmness.

The words of a passionate sermon can reach the innermost depths of the heart and penetrate the deepest regions of the soul, usually because the one who gives such sermons has himself experienced pain and suffering.

Al-Qarni

A doctor does not become what he is by not compromising entertainment and even his youth with long straining hours dedicated to his studies. Nothing that is worth while comes without pain, sweat and tears. In fact, the things that we hold most dear to had been acquired through pain and suffering.

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The Housekeeper

She was no ordinary housekeeper, as much as she tried not to get involved with the new household family, inevitably her core purpose was to always heal the wounded. Her happiness lied on helping others, ironically her gift had come from all the agony and suffering she had gone through all her life. All the calamities were supposed to have destroyed her but instead, she had survived, broken yet whole, just the way she suppose to be. Contrary to what one might think, she had her luck on her side. Even though she was a college dropout, she had kept her brain sharp with reading books, she was well spoken and an eloquent poet.

She had a natural beauty, everyone that would look at her couldn’t specify exactly what made her beautiful. Her eyes were round, her lips copious, her long stature made her look thinner than what she actually was. Perhaps what made her appealing to others, was her way of expressing, her divergent way of thinking, embracing others for what they are and not for what they had.

It wasn’t long enough when the new family considered her as a confidant taken away from her duties of a housekeeper. She was the balance in the broken family, who had money to pay for everything, but had no one to trust until she had arrived. Often advising the CEO of the family, on certain dubious characters and the phony friendships. She was there to celebrate the spectacular moments and the most devastating experience of that family. She was always there but most of the time in the background, like a glue holding something that is on the verge of falling apart but as long as it’s there, everything seemed to fall into place.

No one would have imagined that an elegant lady, possessing the latest gadgets and expensive vehicles would be a housekeeper. At her community parties, she would often be the best dressed, she would be seen mistakenly as the organizer of that event and not the attendee. For this reason, she would attract many envious eyes, those who wished her harm yet were too infatuated by her entrancing personality. Her flaw was of being overly caring, trustful, and honest. Often her friends and companions would try to take the little that she had, while behind her back, would always seize the opportunity to damage her reputation and spill out all her dark secrets. Undoubtedly she was strong, she was able to cope, after all, she become an expert of coping through disappointments as she had had years of painful experiences. She was very clever yet easily swept away from those who only had ill intentions of her and their only hope was to vacuum the little that she had.

She preached love but often pushed others who unconditionally loved her the most. This family didn’t love her, they liked the idea of her, she was the closest authentic person they had in the midst of greedy people who were trying to take some share of the pie. Order and daily routines centered her, that’s why she was happy as a housekeeper. In fact, she was too good at her work which often she had to pick extra duties or make sure the other workers in the house were not just lodging around but were actually working. In fact, the family trusted her so much that before firing the laundry lady, they had asked her for her opinion first. She was content going home that day knowing that she had been honest with the family, letting them know that the laundry lady would sit around talking on the phone barely doing any work in their absence.

Her house was always immaculate, in fact she would spend her weekends cleaning what was already clean. The home was a temple where she would leave her shoes by the door so as not to mess her impeccable clean house and she would just distress. Although, she was a sociable person and would join her friends for dinner, the times that she enjoyed the most was when she was on her own. If she felt energetic and social, she would answer the calls of her children and try to console their problems, although hearing their problems would tare her soul. Her worst fears were having her children go through what she had gone through or worst lead her path.

As soon as she had arrived in that morning day, her heart was supposed to feel at ease, yet it was pounding so much that she thought others were able to hear it. Usually, the mornings were quiet, everyone in the family would have gone to work or school and she would find peace performing her daily routines of cleaning the house. She was not a pet-friendly person but she liked the family’s dog, he would jump in her leg of enthusiasm upon hearing her. That day was out her control, she would not be able to perform her tasks. The policeman looked at her briefly without greeting her. As she entered the house, the family was there with many people around, talking in a way that seemed foreign to her. She knew something was very wrong, of the years she had been working with the family she had never seen anything like this, that day looked as though it was a scene straight out of the movies.

Later that day she discovered that someone very close to the family had stolen a lot of money from them. They didn’t ask her but she felt compelled to stay in the extended compound that was built only for workers of the family. She woke up the next morning and made her way thought the main part of the house quietly as not to wake up the family. She started performing duties that were not part of her job description, like answering the phone, taking messages, or stopped intruders for wanting to know more of what had happened to the family. Her presence was quite natural to the family, they neither acknowledged nor ignored her efforts. She genuinely loved the family but she always felt deep inside that they assumed that she ought to loved them because of their financial status. She didn’t like this type of pressure, possessive, and corrupted love, she wanted something simple, natural without any conditions and prerequisites.

As time when on the possession of her love became more prominent, they expected her of doing things without acknowledging her opinion of feelings. It hurt knowing that she truly loved them but their love for her had conditions. So when she had mentioned she would be living her job, it came to a shock to the family. They truly didn’t think she would leave them, they thought she depended on their money. They neglected the fact that she was not looking for possessive love but a truly authentic love. They were not able to fathom how she would survive without their money. She never let worldly manners stress her from living her authentic life, so when the family realized how determined she was, they fell into an awkward surprise. They knew they were not able to find someone like her but there was nothing that they could do. Life had to go on both matters. She also realized that her efforts were being exhorted towards the wrong family and she had decided to focus on her family instead.

She was a woman of many dreams, she would determine that this year would be the year to fulfill some of her dreams that she had put aside of all her life. Undoubtedly, she could do anything that she ought to do but her fears and insecurities would eventually catch up to her. Perhaps she could finish school or write the book that she so lodged for. Soon enough her finances got scared and she had to look for another job, another family, where she would give her unconditional love to. The cycle would go on, her dreams put aside for another year.

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This my mother and my twin brother and sister. This story is a little glimpse of what my mother went through. I hope one day to write her story.

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The Island’s Red Shoes

Maria was only 9 years old when her father bough her the most beautiful red shoes in the  whole island. She would wear the shinny red shoes to church where she would notice glares and giggles from the little kids but she would always have her head high with pride. Maria came from a wealthy but humble family in the island where most could not afford to wear shoes not to mention fancy, shinny shoes that came all the way from Europe.

Maria’s father was a business man with vast amounts of acres of land filled with prosperous resources. He was very much involved in politics and spent most time either working on land or engaged with political aspirations that were shacking up the island’s quiet atmosphere. The whole island knew Maria’s father as the man who had helped build the first public transportation from distinct rural areas to the main city and port. Although, she would notice the kids often whispering regards about her, they would not dare to approach her with any comments. There was once a boy at Maria’s school who used to make fun of her florescent backpack and left Maria with an obnoxious cry. The teachers came rushing towards her to find what had happened and Maria would have only pointed her fingers at the boy, that was sufficient to whisk him away. Since that incident, the boy never dared to look at Maria and she would never acknowledge his presence of being important.

Maria’s mother came from a very wealthy and educated family on the contrary to her father, who never saw the importance of school, he believed that one can achieve success through the hard work of his bare hands. Her father also blamed education for corrupting the mind of young man who wanted to rebel against the treatment of the colonial power.He was not a man that would waste his time talking about ideologies as his wife’s brothers would do but he believe firmly in the act of doing. He was a visionary, whatever he would put his mind and hands to it he would surely achieve at great success.

Maria was very much spoiled by her father, she had a maid all to her self who was infatuated with dressing Maria like a doll. Joana, the young maid was the daughter of Paula, the main maid of the house whom had lived with Maria’s family for a very long time. Although Maria’s father was barely at home expect for lunch time, he insisted that her daughter would be beautifully dressed and presentable. This was very hard job for Joana as she was always finding that Maria was often dirty from her mysterious and imaginary plays. Secretly, Joana loved finding Maria unkempt, being a perfect excuse to play dress up with the most beautiful closet she had ever seen, filled with dresses and shoes bought from abroad.

Maria had 4 brothers who were not spoiled like her, they were free to do and play as they like and were not expected to be tidy at all times. Maria’s brother knew that she had great expectations laid by their parents so they would use this to their advantage. Often times, you would see the brothers teasing, fighting and confiscating Maria’s journal and running around while reading some of her poems. This would irritate Maria very much, she would cry and beg hysterically for them to stop. By the time Maria’s mother would notice the incident, she would find Maria laying on the floor with her brothers fighting like a professional wrestler. The brothers, who would always start the fights, would never get in trouble, however Maria would get sent to her room where she was not allowed to leave unless told so. The punishment would not brother her, as she could spend ours in the widow sill of her room writing poems  and plays made up with her imaginary friends.

Mafalda, was a very curious imaginary friend, she always wanted to know what Maria would write on her journal.

“What are you writing about this time Maria?”.

” My feelings towards people on this island.”

“What are your thoughts about the people?”

“I don’t know, I can’t understand why I have all these nice things and the kids in my school do not”.

“So, you want the Portuguese to be overthrown, you are in favor of independence?” Mafalda was a clever little imaginary friend, she was informed about everything.

“I don’t know, Papa tells me that the Portuguese are our friends and the rebels will sink our country towards misery, I heard him say that on the phone.”

“Do you think that’s true?”asked Mafalda.

“I am not sure, I just wish that all the kids could afford to wear shoes so they could leave mine alone.” Maria laid her head on the window sill with bewilderment over her feelings and continue saying to Mafalda. “I wish, I didn’t have all of these things so that all the kids in my school would treat me normal.”

There was a knock on Maria’s door and Mafalda quickly evaporated into thin area.

“Maria, you didn’t change into your knew dress, we are running late to the school’s play.” Joana said it with an almost whispering tune so not to let anyone hear the reason for their tardiness. “No, wear those shiny red shoes, your father bought you from Portugal.”

Maria hated those red shoes. Every time she would wear it all she could see were people whispering to each other ears with comments that she knew where about her. But Maria didn’t have time to think, she was late and she was the main act of her school Christmas play. She loved to sing and be on the stage, it was her world of wonderland. When she was on stage she would dose off where she would imagine floating in the clouds way up high and the people on stage would shortly seem like ants down bellow.

Everyone had clapped and stood up by her performance which seemed to be one of her best, marked in people’s memory. As she rushed from the stage towards her father that was sitting with the audience, Maria’s shoes got stuck on a crack of the stare case where she bumped her head so violently that she lost consciousness for a little moment. Maria had woken up from a dark dream and with confusion saw everyone gathered around her, making sure she was fine. Maria, immediately looked down towards her shoes with great hatred. Since, that bare moment she never laid her eye on those red shoes where she had hid it in the darkest corner of her closet. From that day, it was said that Maria had lost her ability to sing. Since then, something had changed in her, her imaginary friend had moved on to another innocent child. Maria would pass most her times writing about  her emotions and finding out what to make of them .

Sustainable Housing

Growing up when my parents would drive around Portugal, I would stare at houses from the car. I would notice the curtains, lighting features, balcony garden and outdoor creativity. I still have this habit and it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen a house, I still stare at it while walking or driving.

Houses has always fascinated me, I don’t have a particular inclination for a style of home but I’ve always been intrigued by old, rustic and abandon homes. Luckily Maadi being an old city of Cairo has many abandon and neglected villas. My imagination runs wild, thinking of who used to live there, how the house looks like inside and most importantly what is the story behind the abandonment of the house.

Lately, in the social media world, I came across a YouTube video talking about mud houses. I’ve known of mud houses before but took it lightly. After searching for many YouTube videos I discovered how sustainable these houses are. Not only are mud houses sustainable, affordable and easy to make but they are also good quality living. Mud houses breath, they keep you cool and warm and the houses are resilient. The oldest mud house has been recorded to be 1000 years old.Not to mention the satisfaction of building your own house while playing with mud..

I wanted to build a mud house so I quickly jumped on pinterest for some potential styles. Although I liked all the creative styles, if I were to build a mud house I would have a mixture of culture and modern lines. That is why you will see an array of mud house architecture in the following photos.

Mud houses have been around for centuries in many different cultures and countries. Some places in Africa the women are the ones that build the houses in their community. There is defiantly a sense of community building a mud house. Everyone partakes in the making these living spaces.

Today we call it Earth housing that’s the fancy name for century old traditions. It has become more and more clear that ancient societies have a real understanding of their environment. These traditions and knowledge that was pass on, have more value that one might think.