Ramadan Preparations, 2018

Ramadan is right around the corner and that means preparation for the holy month has started. There is a significant difference and momentum celebrating Ramadan in a Muslim country. The same goes to say for Christmas in a majority Christian country, the feeling is so contagious that even Muslim fall in love with everything about the season. The same goes for Ramadan in a Muslim country, there is an indescribable magnetic force that makes everyone excited for the holy month.

There a couple of traditions that I have noticed and began to adapt in my life, that happens in Egypt right before Ramadan starts. About a month prior to the holy month you began seeing grocery stores filled with Ramadan decorations and selling Ramadan’s popular foods, such as dates, dry fruits, juices, sugar, all types of flours and nuts and much more. People usually rush to the big supermarkets to fill their pantries with a month worth of supplies.

Women go out to shop with their children in search of that perfect outfit to wear for Eid day (the ceremony that commemorates the end of Ramadan). This allows the kids to get extra excited for Ramadan where most kids are given gifts, money and get to show off their new clothing.

Most people start uncluttering their homes before Ramadan, kind of what we do during spring cleaning in the states. This is a great opportunity to get rid of old unwanted items around the house and get everything tidy for Ramadan.

Lights and decor fill up the streets given an unique magical atmosphere to the chaotic country of Egypt. Lanterns, table cloths, pillows and much more with Ramadan patterns fabrics are sold everywhere in the streets.

Image result for Ramadan decorations in egypt

Photo taken by Mai Shasheen

Ramadan is not only expressed outwardly, many people start preparing spiritually as well. Many fast prior to Ramadan in order to gain a spiritual momentum before the beginning of the holy month. Others set daily goals and practices such as praying on time, reading the Quran everyday and doing charitable acts.

As a mother of three little kids and breastfeeding, fasting can be quite a challenge. As the kids don’t understand the strain that fasting has on the body, they still need to be fed, entertained and catered to while running on a very low energy. There are however, some hacks and tricks that you can have under your sleeve that will help you facilitate the process of fasting and provide more time towards your Ramadan goals and strengthen the connection between you and the Creator.

The best advice I got from a friend for Ramadan is to meal prep.  Having your veggies and meats already prepared in advance saves tremendous amount of time and hardship when you are fasting but have to feed your little kids. The kids still need to eat through out the day and one might need to spend more time in the kitchen during Ramadan than one may think. If we can make life easier especially while fasting than why not do it!

Get to organize what and where you will give to charity before hand. That might entail making a list of things you need to buy or give away and to whom or what charities you need to give to.

Fasting before Ramadan starts will help your body and mind adjust to not eating and drinking for the whole day before the holy month begins.Breastfeeding brings a whole new level of difficulties while fasting so seeing if I can fast before Ramadan is definitely a must for me.

Another challenge during Ramadan is your little kids inability to comprehend the aspects of fasting. However, there are a couple things you can do that can help your children understand that Ramadan is a special month. Decorations can be fun for you and your kids. Having the house filled with lanterns, lights, patterns and much more will definitely ignite excitement among the children. I bought a children’s book about Ramadan and I read it for bed time, no joke, everyday, so far no complains.

If you are living in the Middle East/ North Africa (I don’t know how Egyptian classify themselves geographically but that’s another topic of it’s own),than you know that Ramadan will be in the summer (summer heat starts in May and last until late August) and going out during day time can be difficult while fasting. However, the kids still need to be entertained, so what should one do? Minnie pools are always fun! They can play for a couple of hours in the pool and you can just relax next to them and catch up on the Quran readings. Some time throughout the day, you might find that you want to take a nap especially in very extreme hot places, a busy box is a way to go. There are a tones of busy box ideas on the net, just browse busy box ideas and you will find endless results.

This is probably the only time you want your kids to start going to bed later at night. You don’t want your children to wake up bright and early in the morning when you are running on 3 hours of sleep and have to fast throughout the day. That would be just, for lack of better words, hell!

These are some ideas I am sharing with you with the experience I have with my little kids. I would love to hear some tricks that you might have to prepare for Ramadan. Major advice before hand will be much appreciate it!

Happy Ramadan to all!

 

 

 

 

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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 .

Language Barrier

Learning a whole new language can be pretty intimidating and challenging. For some people learning a new language is not a choice, some times it can be a means for survival. Moving to a whole new country is frightining having to adapt to a new lifestyle and culture not to mention the feeling of being lost and not being able to understand basic information.

My first encounter with a new language was when I moved to the USA at 13 years of age. Although I had my rough and shaky moments with the language, it didn’t take long for me to learn it. However, as I grew older, I took for granted my new founded language and dismissed the challenges that many in the USA have with it, especially with older people. There were many people who had spent decades living in the USA and still were not able to speak English and I could grasp my mind around that.

Until now, living in Egypt for almost 2 years and my Arabic is, I will put into words of one of my students, ” You don’t speak Arabic, you speak broken”. It’s common to think that learning a new language is the only challenge that one might have. But we are totally wrong, here are some of the challenges I’ve faced from having to learn a new language.

  • You are not yourself anymore! You are not able to make a joke, have deep intellectual conversation and express your feelings.
  • You might take certain facial expression, intonation or even some misunderstood meaning offensive. Often times when people asked me to repeat what I have said, I take it personally, as i they are mocking my Arabic, don’t ask me why that is but it happens all the time.
  • It can impact yourself esteem. When, I first started learning Arabic, I was so enthusiastic and proud of myself but as time went by there was an incident, where one person was being aggressive towards me and I was not able to defend myself, leaving me to feel useless in that situation.
  • Not everyone is nice to you during your learning journey. Many people don’t understand that you are not a local and can unintentionally contribute towards your insecurity with the language.
  • You feel isolated and incarcerated. What I mean by isolation is that you might have people around you but you are not able to make a deep connection because you can’t talk about your values, mission and build a common bond.
  • Incarcerated by your thoughts not being able to be express the right way. Sometimes you want to engage in political or philosophical topics but you can’t because your vocabulary in the new language does not allow you to.
  • Some times you just feel plain stupid. Yes, you might carry even a PhD degree but in a new language you might talk like a 3-year-old.
  • If you are in a room and everyone is talking in a foreign language at some point, you will think they are talking about you making you feel uncomfortable all the time
  • It is possible to spent years in a county and not speak the language. I used to think of this as something strange but now it’s happening to me. I try as much as possible to go places where I know someone will speak English or try to avoid situations where I would have to come out of my comfortable zone.

However, these struggles don’t even compare with the enormous amount of blessings and experiences that you will have by moving to whole different country and learning a language completely out of your comfortable zone. If I could give you advice if you are in the same situation as I am, would be to open your mind and try to be as unbiased as possible with a new culture. Don’t compare your culture with another one, just take the new culture for what it is. Try to use as much as you know from the new language in your daily life to build fluency and confidence. You will gain an enormous amount of knowledge that no books or school can provide you with.

I am not writing this post to discourage you from learning a new language or even moving to a new country. The purpose of this post is to first letting you know that if you are struggling with moving to a new country or learning a new languages and do experience some of these feelings then you are not alone. Also, another reason for this post is letting you know how some people might be feeling learning a new language that we might take for granted and how they are coping with having to move to a new country. I certainly didn’t pay much attention to this phenomenon until I myself walked in these shoes.

Let me know if you are leaving in a new country completely different from your norm. If so, do you have some struggles and what are some of them? Are you learning a new language and what is it? Comment bellow if you  have some tips for learning a new language or coping with a new culture.

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