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.

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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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Expat vs Immigrants

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I once had someone ask my thoughts on the difference between expats and immigrants. When I was searching in the internet for blogs of people who had moved to Egypt so that I could get a glimpse of their experiences to prepare me my move, I came across the word “expat” a lot. Once in a blue moon no matter how many years you have lived in an English spoken country, you will learn common words that you have no idea how you have missed it before. Expat was one of those words that I have never heard or learned throughout the 16 years of living in the US.

Growing up in USA I was always revered to as an immigrant or a green card holder. Every time I would hear that word “immigrant” or “green card holder”, I would grouch my teeth, as it always made me feel inferior or marginalized. I faced a lot of discrimination and verbal bullying for simply being an immigrant. So when she asked me what my thoughts on expat vs immigrants were, I immediately went back to that bad feeling I had with the word “immigrant”.

She had told me something interesting which got me thinking. “Expats are always revered to white people and immigrant are for the people of color”. Although to some extend she is right, she had never lived in America and didn’t know that even white people that are not born there are revered to as immigrants. Off course, class status, country and your purpose to moving to the United States can have an affect on how people precede towards your migration. A Saudi Arabian, Angolan, Chinese, German student who is privileged enough to study in the United States is revered to as international student. This student is not here to stay and take away the jobs of hard working Americans, in fact, these students are very good for the American economy because they come here, their government or rich parents pay for the schools and they often spend a lot of money.

Now a white Romanian who has migrated to the United States in the hopes of catching the “American dream” will face a lot of obstacles and discrimination as  a Latino would, holding the same purpose for migration.

However, when moving to Egypt, I faced something very different. Expats are those who have a special passport from either “USA, Canada, UK, German, European Union and some others”. Are also the diplomats, international lawyers, petroleum employees and international companies that hold employees from overseas.

Every other immigrant are either refugees from Middle East, East Asia, Sub-Saharian Africans and what we like to consider as “others” for the very minority groups.

With this I felt very uncomfortable as well, when all the sudden I was given privileges and priorities for simply being an American passport holder. Throughout my life in United States, I had to fight harder, had to over come many obstacles because I didn’t have the same privileges as someone who simply was born in the US. You can imagine how strange it is to all the sudden have the roles switched on me.

I like to tell people that I am a Cape Verdean American Muslim revert, living in Egypt who’s lives very much like an Egyptian woman. In other words, I am a little bit of both, not quite American and not entirely Egyptian. You can expect this to be very difficult for me, as I don’t hold the same privileges that any other Americans or expats would, living in fancy places and putting their children in expensive international schools nor do I share some of the same values or perspective in life as many Egyptian woman do.

So, there you have it, these are some of my thoughts on “expats vs. immigrants”. What are your thoughts on this subject? Do you feel the same or different? What are your experiences and feelings with theses two words? I would love to hear your thoughts.

How to Cope With Homesickness

home-is-where-the-heart-is-e1379124220521Moving to a whole new country, sounds very exciting and adventurous but it has real challenges that have physical and mental effects. Homesickness is most definitely an inevitable phase of moving to a new country, it is a step for adapting to a new culture and environment.

I remember while working in an international school having a friend who had just moved to Egypt and she was very sad and had a difficult time coping with it all. I would always try to reassure her that it was just a phase and it will get better. My first advise to someone who is at this pivotal moment of feeling sad and alone I would say;

  • Loneliness is very normal when moving to a whole new country, it is not a way towards depression even though the feeling is very real. It will get better with time and hopefully my next advises will help you get out of this phase faster.
  • Fell proud of yourself, know that you are a strong person for getting out of your convert and moving to a whole new world. Not anyone can do it and you did!
  • Try to keep in touch with your family back home. One thing I did that triggered the loneliness is that I cut communication with my whole family because I didn’t want them to know how sad I was, so that they would not worry about me. However, not having communication with the people that I loved made me feel even more alone and sad.
  • Make a new routine. Somehow and I am pretty sure there are a lot of scientific research out there that states that routine is part of a health state of mind. Having something you do everyday will ensure familiarity and security in your life. Weather it’s going out for walks or finding a hobby. do something that makes you feel good everyday.
  • Be familiar with your surroundings. Moving to a new country will make you feel like a little ant in a massive land but knowing where to buy your groceries, where to take public transport and shop, etc, will make feel less small in an unknown country.
  • Try to learn the language. Part of the loneliness is caused by not being able to communicate with people. If you know some of the language than you are at least able to express to some extent your feelings. Just take a toddler for example and their tantrums, it’s all do the fact that they don’t know yet how to communicate their feelings.
  • Make friends! Having a friend is so important in life. It doesn’t matter if that person doesn’t speak your language fluently having someone that shares the same perspective in life will help a lot through your journey.

This is all that my fried pregnant brain can come up with but I really hope that this will help someone, somehow.

If you are someone who has moved to a new country, please, please, please share where you have moved to and what were some things you did to cope with loneliness.

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