Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

It's 1.30 am now in Cairo...just got home from a missionary-filled NYE party which was excellent....and all I have to say is:

kulu sanna wentu tayebeen! (Happy New Year to all of you, or more accurately, all the year be good for all of you!)

O Little Town of Bethlehem....part I

There's a lot to say from 7 days traveling in Palestine and Israel. I'll post by days, probably a day or two each day of this week. Here's day one...

December 22 and 23

After frantic packing (knowing you’re leaving at night is probably bad because you feel like you have this whole day ahead of you to do everything but then suddenly you have only one hour left to pack…), we left for the bus station about an hour before our bus was due to leave. Unfortunately for us, it turned out to be only about a 15 minute drive away. So we waited and waited, and finally were summoned to a bus that had been standing there the whole time—even though we had been told that the bus was not yet at the station! Anyway, we got on the bus and took off right on time. Interestingly, it seems that our bus had no heat and also no working door. The front door kept flying open throughout our trip. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in the desert at night in the winter, but we were definitely chilly. Needless to say (but I’m going to say it anyway), not a lot of sleeping happened on that trip.

We arrived at Taba and the bus driver was nice enough to drop us at the actual border rather than at the bus station (about 1km away from the border crossing). We waited about an hour on the Egyptian side because it was “not open.” Finally some guy came and took a few of our passports and disappeared, then returned with them and took a few more….and finally the last few people took theirs over to the “arrivals” side to get departure stamps. After two hours we were finally all stamped and ready to go—and a couple of our group members even managed to pull off a “please don’t stamp my passport”—something that was not allowed on my last time through this border crossing. Once we arrived on the Israeli side, things were...well…different. It was a clean and modern building, with people who were actually doing work. Unfortunately, it was also a place where apparently my previous trip to Syria and Lebanon was looked on even less kindly than last time. I got through the inspections just fine, but when it came to the passport stamping time, they took my passport and wouldn’t give it back. After waiting about 45 minutes, I was called into an office where I answered questions about my previous trip to Syria and Lebanon, my previous trip to Israel, whether I knew anyone in Israel or Palestine, what I was doing in Egypt, my family, my phone number in Egypt, my Dad’s phone number (dad, did you get a phone call from Israel?) and what I was planning to do this time. Then they sent me back out to wait some more. After another hour or so, they came out and asked what all these other people were waiting for, and my group was like “uh, Teri.” When Sarah (who had no idea what was going on b/c she was busy talking to some other friends who had traveled with us) heard that, she called out “Teri, what did you do now?” When I answered “I went to Syria and Lebanon” all the other people who were waiting too groaned and said “ooooh, you’ll never get in.” Great! Just what I wanted to hear. It was pretty interesting to me, though, that Jay (who is going to Lebanon next week and told the border guards about that when they asked why he didn’t want his passport stamped) had no trouble but I (who went there 18 months ago) got stopped for two hours. Anyway, they finally brought my passport back and told us we could go. Hallelujah! The length of this narrative should give you some feeling of the length of time we sat there in limbo. Oy.

Once through the border, Lynn decided that (since we had missed the connecting bus we were trying for) we would take a service taxi/minibus to Bethlehem. It ended up costing more than double what the regular bus would have cost, but we did get there a little quicker. After a stop in Jerusalem to get our return bus tickets, we drove right into Bethlehem because our driver had Israeli ID and could go through the checkpoints with no problem. We arrived at the Casa Nova (the Franciscan-run hospice that is connected to the Church of the Nativity….as in the Roman Catholic sanctuary part of the church shares a wall and a courtyard with our hotel) and promptly went to take naps and showers. Our driver haggled over the amount of his tip (even though he had already been paid twice as much as the usual cost for a drive from Eilat to Jerusalem!) and Lynn and Dick argued with him before paying it….bringing our total cost of the van ride to $400 US. Crazy! Anyway….there’s more drama about this day, so don’t tune out now. Upon waking up from a post-shower nap, I discover that my purse (containing my passport, my camera, and my wallet with IDs, money, and credit cards) is not among my belongings. I check my roommate’s stuff, my other traveling colleagues’ rooms, and then report to Lynn that it’s missing (just when we are supposed to be going to dinner at Niveen’s house). Luckily our tour guide for the next day had come to meet Lynn, so he was able to help. I promise to make this a shorter story than it actually was:
Most of the group went on to dinner, and Dick and I stayed behind to deal with the problem. It turned out that in the hurry to get out of the van (when we were all exhausted and when the driver was arguing over the tip) my purse had gone under the seat and I had not noticed that I didn’t have it. When our tour guide (his name was Nidal) called the driver, he said he didn’t have it. Then he called back after a little while and said it was there but it was open and things were “loose.” Right… Nidal didn’t trust the man. In any case, the guy said the camera and money were gone, but the passport and credit cards were there. He said he would bring it back to Bethlehem for 650 Shekels ($141 US). We told him to bring it, and we called the police. I gave a statement to them (via Nidal, who translated for me). Then I went to dinner at Niveen’s house—which was great. Niveen is a Palestinian woman who graduated last May from ETSC (the protestant seminary where I work). To go to her family’s house for a meal was fantastic! She lives in Beit Jala, a village just over a mile outside Bethlehem. We had good food, tea and wine, chocolates, and good conversation. It was fun. We went back to the Casa Nova just after 11, and my entire group came down to wait for this driver to show up. We read the Christmas story in the lobby of the hotel while we waited. Finally he came, gave me my purse (sans money and camera, but with passport, IDs, and credit cards), and the police were called. He was taken to the station, his statement was taken, and his info was taken down and given to me. The police suggested we pay the amount that is the “usual fare” from Eilat to Bethlehem, about 150 shekels. The driver refused and offered 300 (about $70), which Dick paid. All the time we were at the police station (about 200 yards from our hotel, right at Manger Square) the police were talking only to the driver, to Dick, and to Jason—they didn’t even look at me. Very frustrating. In the end I kind of broke down and stormed out of the station because they weren’t listening to anything I asked or said. Oh, and it was after 1am and I had only slept about 2 hours in the past 36 hours. Anyway, I got my passport back, which was good. I had no camera, which was both bad and good (as I’ll explain in another post). I ordered a new camera online and had it shipped to the home of a fellow YAV whose sister is coming to visit the first week of January (so I’ll have it before the Nile Cruise). And I went to bed. Chalas (finished).

Thursday, December 22, 2005

O Little Town of Bethlehem

We are off to said little town...then to the larger town o Jerusalem...

please pray for safe travels, for peace during the biggest crowds Bethlehem sees all year, and for a wonderful Christmas for all.

see you in a week!

gingerbread house

Last night I made my first ever gingerbread house. With a little help from my friends and from, of course! It turned out well, except that after a while it became clear that it was structurally unsound. The roof was collapsing and one wall was leaning inward as we put more and more candy and frosting on. However, the acessories were fantastic--a mailbox, a dog, a snowman, a frozen pond with ice skaters doing figure 8s, and even a gecko on the roof. Some part of it had to be egyptian, after all! Some in our group are highly unimaginative and did not see twizzler bites on end as rose bushes, but rather as parking posts, or the ice skaters built from twizzlers and m&ms were seen as fire hydrants! We worked with what we had--homemade gingerbread, homemade frosting, imported m&m's and twizzler bites, and some "local" gummy lizards. It was excellent. We even "sifted" some powdered sugar over the top so it looked like snow. I haven't had so much fun in a while. More pictures are in my photo albums, the link is to the left. Christmas party is in "Cairo 5." There are also new pics in "Cairo--Cooking and Eating".

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


my cousin max's website has been updated...loads of new pictures, and good news on the oxygen front! check him out.

Monday, December 19, 2005

liturgical confusion

I miss Advent. I know that sounds strange coming from a "pastor" but I really do. I love the anticipation and the advent carols and the candles and all that. I've never been to church on Christmas or Christmas Eve--ever in my whole life--so I've always (well, the past 6 years) done all this waiting and anticipation and preparation and whatnot, and then been home with my family and opened presents and cooked yummy food as the big climax. But I really enjoy Advent. The extra services, the devotionals, the way it's not weird to be spiritual, etc.

Here in Egypt the protestant churches don't observe Advent (and Christmas isn't a huge deal either) because it's "too Orthodox." Advent is what the Coptic Orthodox do: they fast, they have extra masses, etc. But protestants are still working on solidifying their identity and so they are using the negatives to do that--they are NOT orthodox.

Our English speaking church has tried to observe Advent--we've had the wreath, the lectionary, and even some of the songs. But this week we jumped ahead, not just to Christmas but to Epiphany too! We had the lectionary readings for the fourth week of Advent, but the hymns we sang were Christmas carols and even some about the wise men. We sang probably 8 hymns including the three at the beginning of the service, and not a single one was about Advent. Here we are in the very heart of the waiting, getting really close but not quite there, and we've skipped on to the good part. There's speculation that it's because we volunteers will be gone on actual Christmas, but I hope that isn't the reason for the rush because we are just four people in a congregation of about 40 or 50. I am saddened that we lost Advent at the time of the Magnificat.

I have tried to keep the Advent spirit in my flat, with the RevGal devotional and the devotional for students that the PCUSA sent us. I've lit one or two candles each night. I've talked about Advent. But not to have it in the church is really difficult for me. I wonder what it will mean for my first churchy Christmas that I have missed out on the season of anticipation and preparation. It's strange to be changing things so much this year. Granted, I'm purposely living in another country, experiencing things another way, but still. It's very strange.

That's all. I hope the last week of your Advent is full of waiting and expectation, of holiness.

Friday, December 16, 2005

a Cairo high

no need for extreme sports, my friends. just come to cairo and see how many disgusting men you can take out, and while you're at it, dodge some cars!

on our way to church this morning sarah and i encountered a young boy, maybe 8 years old, who would NOT stop staring at us and making what we interpreted as rude hand gestures. he stared unabashedly in a really irritating way, and he did not appear to be accompanied by an adult. he rode in the women's car, as children often do. sarah and i discussed the things we would do if/when he looked again or if he came for us--children are often the culprits behind some amateur gropings. i suggesting just covering his eyes with a hand, since it's probably inappropriate to beat up a small child. sarah gave him a little push into the side of the train as it was approaching, but nothing major. he moved closer to us and we made fun of him but of course he couldn't understand. thankfully he wasn't going where we were going.

tonight on our way home from anna katrina's birthday party, we were coming out of the metro station and a guy was SO OBVIOUS in his groping attempt that I was able to very easily thwart him with a well-placed elbow to the stomach. I elbowed him so hard he may need a kidney transplant. Sarah even saw it because it was so beautiful. That's why i'm still awake now, though we've been home for an hour...because the adrenaline rush from actually getting one of these disgusting men is so great. it's better than drugs (which I've never done), better than rock climbing without a rope (which i've never done), better than extreme or ultimate ANYTHING (which i've also never done...). (in light of the parenthetical comments, I say "but"): trust me. There is nothing like knowing you're about to be groped or just having been touched and getting one in on the man--a slap on the arm, a smack with the purse or water bottle, an elbow, or if you're feeling particularly nice rather than violent, a nicely said "ayb!" (shame). Nothing. Sarah and I have become progressively more intense in our response to men on the street and their words/actions. We regularly see men masturbating as we approach, and we regularly get comments and sometimes accompanying reaches. it is in all ways disgusting. many of these men have probably never been taught that this is inappropriate, and they have probably never been stood up to. So for us to fight back is unusual, to say the least. i would like to think that they'll think twice before trying it again. Sarah and I figure we can probably fight back against all the men in cairo by the end of the year...we're guessing approximately 5 million men, bringing us 2.5 million each. no problem, since we run across at least a dozen a day. i promise we aren't beating up that many each day--probably just one a day, for me anyway.

it's hard for me to reconcile love for all god's children and the violence that is inherent in my fighting back here. the only way i have come up with so far is that if i only let me do what they want, i am neither loving myself nor the other women these men will victimize. that doesn't make violence okay, of course, because two wrongs don't make a right. But honestly, between the anger, the rush of a good elbowing, and the helplessness i feel in the situation, it's the only thing i can think to do. i only hope that a few men will be less obnoxious, even if out of fear. in the meantime, extreme men dodging/elbowing, here i come! let me at that metro! ;-)

i hope not to me!

Actual conversation had with older (maybe mid-40's to mid-50's?) Egyptian male church-goer but non-partaker of communion, during coffee hour...after my attempted brush off because my last conversation with this guy was never ending. and he stares. incessantly.

The Guy: blah blah blah listen to this about my great job...which i told you about before but i'm recapping for you now.
me: I remember, that's great.
Guy: Well, I'm looking to get married.
me: I hope not to me!
Guy: why not? You don't want to stay in Egypt?
me: no, I can't stay in Egypt. I am not allowed to stay.
Guy: but if you were married you could stay.
me: no, I'm not allowed to get married.
Guy: You could work here.
me: My church, the church that sent me here, doesn't allow me to get married or to stay in Egypt. I have to go back to the US.
Guy: well, maybe you could go back and then come back here to be with me.
me: No, I don't think so.
Guy: Why not? Just go, then come back and we can be married and you can work here for a church.
me: I don't think my fiance would be very happy about that.
Guy: Oh, you already have a fiance.
me (showing my right hand which does have a ring on it): yeah.
Guy: Oh. Well, what about Sarah? Does she have a friend too?
me: I don't know, but she isn't allowed to get married here either.
Guy: Will you talk to her for me?
me: I can't promise you what she'll say. (even though I definitely could)
Guy: you won't talk to her?
me: Oh, I'll talk to her alright. (side note: I don't think he caught my tone on this)
Guy: Do you have any other friends who are beautiful like you and live in Cairo?
me: No.
Guy: What about the girl who was with you last week?
me: She doesn't live here.
Guy: okay. Well, will you talk to Sarah?
me: We'll talk.
Guy: I'm going to get some coffee.
me: okay.
me: Sarah, we have to leave now. let's go. bye everyone!

me: Sarah, this guy asked me to marry him. I said no and he asked if you would marry him.
Sarah: I hope I get to talk to him so I can tell him that if I'm a second choice I'll never marry him!
both of us: ecstatic crazed laughter.

Oh, the ways that this is wrong. I think he has been going to this church just hoping to meet a western girl he can marry. and that creeps me out. and he's creepy. and really, what kind of proposal is that? you have to be a little more romantic. oh, and i have to have had more than one bad conversation with you. i hope this approach never works for him.

I am simultaneously sad and happy that my mother will never know about this conversation.
And, FYI: no, Jason and I are not engaged. still just dating, and okay with that for now!


Thursday, December 15, 2005


One of many things different in Egypt is the way you deal with people. It is culturally inappropriate to "tell it like it is." If you have a problem with someone, you don't go and tell that person--you lightly comment on it to someone else, who might mention it in passing to the person in question. You don't say you don't know something--you make something up rather than tell someone you don't know what they are asking (this is a real problem when one is asking for directions!). And, if you are sick, you don't say you are "sick" or "ill" or even "unwell." You say you are "tired." In fact, even when people are really quite ill--as when the person in charge downstairs had a stroke--one still does not say he or she is "sick." There's some sort of superstitious thing involved--saying someone is sick means they are very sick and will probably die, and you caused it by calling them "sick"--but also there's a general hiding of the truth from the public. One's private or family affairs are not the business of anyone else, even close friends.

This week I have been sick for several days. Every time I've had to turn down an invitation or call in to the school, the people have said "oh, are you tired?" The correct answer is "yes" even though I wasn't tired. I'd been in bed for two and a half days and was ready to leave it, if only I could stand up and not throw up. You may be wondering what you are supposed to say if you really are just tired--you went to bed too late, had to wake up early, or didn't sleep well. The answer is....I don't know. But I understand why when the teachers have asked me in the mornings "how are you?" and I say "tired" they all look horrified and say "why???" When I answer that I simply didn't get to bed until much too late, they look relieved, but don't tell me what the appropriate word is. It's a very strange situation. Perhaps another instance of Arabic not having the same depth as English? Or perhaps that's a convenient way for the culture to continue to hide from the truth? I don't know. In any case...these last few days, I have been "tired" but I think I'm pretty much well now. I guess that means I'm "awake"?

Monday, December 12, 2005

What Christmas Carol are you?

Okay, now normally I don't do Christmas Carols before Christmas Eve. During Advent you should sing Advent carols, because skipping ahead to your favorite Christmas carol involves also skipping the waiting, preparation, and anticipation that are Advent. But...well, there was a quiz. And I took it. And, for the most part, it's right on. I'm not "really" irritated by the secularization of this holiday, I'm irritated by consumerism. But not just at Christmas. I'm "really" irritated by consumerism all the time. Also, I've never actually been to church on Christmas Eve or Day or any other part of Christmas. I usually go home and my family isn't church-going. This year will be my first Christmas away from home, and my first Christmas in a church...and I'll be in Bethlehem for two Christmas Eve services, including the midnight one in Manger Square. So we'll see whether Christmas Eve turns out to be a service I look forward to all year. Normally I look forward to Tenebrae all year. Anyway...this is also probably my favorite Christmas carol, so this made me happy.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
You are 'Hark! The Herald Angels Sing'. You take
Christmas very seriously. For you, it is a
religious festival, celebrating the birth of
the Saviour, and its current secularisation
really irritates you. You enjoy the period of
Advent leading up to Christmas, and attend any
local carol services you can find, as well as
the more contemplative Advent church services
each Sunday. You may be involved in Christmas
food collections or similar charity work. The
midnight service at your church, with candles
and carols, is one you look forward to all
year, and you also look forward to the family
get together on Christmas Day.

What Christmas Carol are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Sunday, December 11, 2005

happy birthday!

since I live in the land of on-again-off-again internet access, here is my birthday greeting to many of you. (also, I'm too poor to buy a membership for ecards and the free ones are lame.) Sorry for the lateness of three of you. But Dad, I posted it ontime! You just probably won't see it until tomorrow. Anyway....

Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday dear Robert, Rachel, Adam, and Dad...
Happy Birthday to you.
And many mooooorrrrre......


Saturday, December 10, 2005


no, not the 700 club (ugh).

This is my 700th post on this blog.

I don't have anything particularly exciting to say...I just saw that the next post would be number 700 and decided to make a big to-do about it.

This is it.
The big to-do.


RevGalBlogPals Friday Five

I know it's Saturday here. I think I have a couple of hours before it's Saturday everywhere though....

There's no snow in Cairo, so this is very much historical and hypothetical for me right now.

1) Snow: love it or hate it?
I love it, unless I have to go outside. If I need to drive, wait for a bus, or walk long distances with the intent of getting somewhere in a timely manner, I hate it. But if I can curl up in a blanket and watch it snow, or read while it snows, then go out and make snow angels, then come in and drink hot chocolate, I love it.

2) First snow memory
I don't know if this is actually my first snow memory so much as probably my favorite. I was definitely a kid--like under 10--so at least it's close to my first memory of snow.
I grew up in the country in Oregon and when it snowed the pipes from the well to the house often froze. This meant that we had to go find clean snow (ie un-dog-ified) to melt for everything. We would melt snow for soup, for dishwashing, for bathing, and for hot-chocolate-making. I have this vague memory of making candy by using snow to harden the sugar substance one time: you know, making some sort of caramelized sugar syrup, then pouring it on the snow in a pan in the kitchen in all different shapes, letting it freeze briefly, then eating it. Except this might actually be a Little House on the Prairie memory, because I read those books numerous times while I was growing up in the middle of nowhere. family members, feel free to tell me I made this up and to imagine it in the next question instead.

3) Best Snow Day ever (actual or imagined)
Any day that involves me putting on huge amounts of clothes, a couple of coats, and then going out in my parent's front yard to make snowangels, have a snowball fight with my brother, and possibly build a snowman. There are pictures of a day like this happening while I was in high school. We rarely got snow days from school because we were so used to and prepared for snow, so this probably happened on a weekend, but whatever.

4) Best use of snow in a movie, song, book or poem.
What about TV show? I think the best use of snow in a TV show is on Buffy, quite early in the third season. Buffy and Angel are standing on a hill overlooking Sunnydale, and Buffy is convincing Angel not to kill himself. It's Christmas eve or something otherwise wintery. Buffy barely succeeds, and as Angel changes his mind, it starts to snow lightly. In Southern California. It's beautiful.

5) What you are planning to do today, with or without snow?
Whatever I do today will be very definitely without snow. And actually, it's nearly 5pm so there's not a lot left to be done. I read to two classes, did some research for our upcoming trip to Jerusalem, and answered some email. I will probably, make some plans with Jason about a January Nile Cruise or at the very least a trip to Luxor, and make dinner (baked potatoes with broccoli and tomatoes...except we might be having cauliflower too). I also have a ton of veggies to wash (I sent Naadia and Marsa to the suuk for me today so I have everything ready for Monday's dinner party with the ETSC graduate students). And there's always Buffy to watch. Sarah is just getting into the REALLY good part of season three. She's seen Faith kill a man, Faith not feel any remorse, Angel try to recover her, AND Willow get a vampire doppelganger. There are still, however, 6 or 7 really good episodes ahead in this season. And then...well, I can't tell you because Sarah reads my blog. :-)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

a land of contrasts

you have probably all heard me and a variety of other people say it: Egypt is a land of contrasts.

Usually people are talking about how there's a Pizza Hut next to the Sphinx, or how there are donkey carts and bicycle carts alongside very new and very old cars and buses.

This week I am thinking of a different kind of contrast--a contrast of behaviors.

Hospitality is a crucial thing across the Middle East. It's almost a way of life--you welcome people into your home or your shop with tea, food, and general doting. You can see my previous posts about hospitality to see what I mean. People will go into debt just to make sure they properly treat a guest in their home. Shopkeepers often ask you to drink tea with them. The guards at the gate of our school have passed many an evening buying us juice and tea. The friends we've made have had us into their homes for extravagant meals. Hospitality is done right here in a lot of ways.

This understanding of hospitality stands in stark contrast to the behavior you see on the streets of Cairo. Here it seems that it is everyone for him/herself--whether driving or walking, there is a complete disregard and disrespect of the "other." When walking on a sidewalk (or even in the middle of the road), people will not move to the side if they see someone coming toward them. In fact, I think one is more likely to simply get bowled over! There are many times I have been walking right up next to the buildings and had a single person, or a group of people, walk straight at me as though there weren't several feet of sidewalk available for them to walk around me. In cars, drivers literally push and shove to get ahead, though the traffic is so bad that no one is getting anywhere. Crossing the street is literally taking your life in your hands because drivers are so unwilling to stop.

Foreigners in the streets have it bad, yes--we get constantly yelled at, comments thrown our direction--often along with other things (garbage, rocks, hands). We can be treated horribly. But it isn't just foreigners. Egyptians also treat each other poorly--walking into each other, refusing to step around someone walking toward them, pushing and shoving, shouting, refusing to move if someone is behind them trying to pass by, etc. "Excuse me" isn't even a phrase in their language--they simply say "minfadlak" (if they actually say anything at all), which is the most common--and least respectful--form of "please."

It is a sad thing to be forced to observe--that a culture that places such a high value on hospitality also seems to have such a lack of hospitality outside the home. And actually, more than a lack of hospitality, but an actual disrespect of people who are "not me."

There are theories, of course....that it's about tribalism, and unless I know the people on the street are my tribe, I don't need to respect them--and maybe even shouldn't respect them....that western radical individualism has been adopted and even taken to new, destructive heights (which I'm not sure I buy because it seems that these behaviors are so deep-rooted that they can't be western in origin, but I wasn't here a generation ago to gauge if it's a change)....but frankly, my theory is simply that people here have not been taught to care about themselves--as a country, a culture, and especially as individuals--and so have no care for others either. The emphasis here is so much on the family rather than the individual, that perhaps people simply don't recognize the humanity in another individual. People as individuals are not important because importance is found only within the family structure. And so...voila! No recognition of what westerners would consider common courtesy in public places.

There is also the sheer population density here, but there's high population density in other cities that have nothing like the flat-out rudeness that can be seen every day here. It's very strange to me. I hope I don't end up rude forever simply because it's a behavior that has to be adopted in order to get around. Hmm.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

eloquence in grieving, from The King's Touch

Upon hearing the news of his father's sudden death, main character "Jemmy" (nickname for James) writes:
"The world had changed dimensions. I turned, blundering through the door, banging and hurting myself. Somehow I wanted to run, even as I knew there was nowhere to run to."

This seems to be pretty accurate, especially of the first days and weeks:

"The world had not ended. It was simply become a world lacking the sun. Only the moon left: only that light, chill and empty, to live by."

oh how well novelists can sometimes say things. This is why I read...both literature and scripture. This is why I sing psalms, because my own prayers can't come anywhere close. To take another's words to frame my experience is the only way I can begin to even think about the way this has gone, the way I feel about it (and the way I don't feel about it), to give any voice or shape at all to this experience. And, ultimately, maybe to think about hope again.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

another day in the grieving process

SO, i'm trying not to overburden you all with my grieving process, but a few interesting things have come up for me this week, reminding me that death casts a longer shadow than I would like.

1. For a while when I first got back to Egypt I was having dreams about things that were really frightening--me staring down the barrel of a gun, the muslim brotherhood burying our christian guards alive outside our gate, riots, etc. I woke up a lot during the night and slep really badly for about a week. One night I woke up at about 2 with the startling realization that "of course I'm having scary dreams...the person in whom i found my security, my courage, is gone." after I cried about that for a while, no more scary dreams. and also i'm beginning to learn to locate my security/courage somewhere else...and figured out why Psalm 46 is so commonly used with grieving people. "God is our refuge and strength."

2. Lately I've been having dreams about my mom being alive. Sometimes I know in my dream that it isn't real, and I cry in my dream and in real life. Sometimes it's more like a memory, or a hope that I had for being with her. This makes me both happy and sad.

3. Many days I only tear up a little, or have a little morning cry. But today I had a full-fledged bad day, with multiple crying fits that I couldn't identify triggers for, or figure out how to stop.

4. I have decided that somehow it's actually easier to be here, away from the house. It's easy to go on as though everything is normal, because I didn't talk to my mom every day while I've been here in Egypt (the way I used to when I lived somewhere else in the US). But when I do want to talk to her, it's that much worse with the realization that I can't.

5. It's strange what makes me sad and what doesn't....watching Oprah yesterday on our newly-repaired satellite tv (with the decorator who re-did a living room for a woman whose husband died of cancer, and he'd spent most of his time on the couch during his illness) (it was the only thing on in English) did not make me even flinch. But today I was just happily reading along in The King's Touch (a novel set in 17th century England, about the intrigues of court life and the issue (ha) of a king and a bastard (?) son and who will be next in line for the crown), and BAM i was crying. Jason walked in at just the wrong moment--for him. For me it was just the right moment. Too bad I have no idea what started it.

6. I have been trying not to inflict my grieving process on the other YAVs--if I'm crying or feeling fragile, I generally stay away from them or away from group things. I have yet to seek anyone out to say "I really miss my mom" and just cry with them--something I could probably do every day if it wouldn't creep them out. In fact, they are all acting refreshingly normal. But it's interesting because that normality is what I wanted all the time my mom was sick, but now that she's gone some part of me wants nothing to ever be normal again, just to recognize the fact that it's just not right, that there's a lot of pain. But at the same time I crave normalcy and going about everyday business. It's a strange paradox to be living in. (As though any paradox of life or faith were comfortable...)

7. Advent is a hard time to be grieving, because it's "supposed" to be all about waiting and expectancy and hope. But this year, it's not entirely clear to me what I'm waiting for--besides Jesus, I mean. It's simultaneously difficult and necessary to be hopeful.

8. When I first heard about my mother's death, there was a butterfly at the door. My devotional book, Incandescence, has butterflies sprinkled throughout the pages. Yesterday I taught a class how to make butterflies by linking their thumbs and fluttering their hands. I know that butterflies are a common symbol used at Easter time--I use them myself--as symbols of resurrection and new life and rebirth and all those things. And I love that. But I'm not sure what that means for me yet. My grandmother insists, for example, that her mother (who loved cardinals) visits her in the form of a cardinal every now and then, including on her (my great grandmother's) birthday this year while we were in Hilton Head. Actually, the only time we saw a cardinal in HH was on my great grandmother's birthday, and it was right on our back deck--with us and apparently unafraid--for several minutes. My mother never once mentioned anything about butterflies--aside from being a good camp counselor and nature lover and teaching me not to touch them--and yet here they are everywhere. Perhaps it's a reminder to me to be hopeful...a "witness to the resurrection."

9. I feel like I have to fill out ten things on this list. Silly duty-bound me. Just to spite the perfectionist in me, I'm not going to. It's ending at 8. So there. :-) I have to take my smiles where I can get them...or at least, the ones I mean rather than the ones that are a mask.

my yahoo mail kept pestering me... i made my "avatar." Some kind of virtual me, only I had a few issues...

1. i couldn't have reddish brown hair--only BROWN or RED. I mean red like a fire engine. (or, of course, yellow blonde or blue-black)
2. I couldn't change what my body looked like, which was okay because frankly my body mostly looks like this, only not quite so skinny and not quite so tall.
3. I had a heck of a time finding egypt-appropriate clothes, but I did at last succeed.
4. There is no background that has a third-world city plagued by smog and garbage. I can't imagine why...I had to settle for a "city" at night...apparently a city without light pollution, but okay...
5. No good accessories. No crosses, no brown purses (to match those cute brown sandals that just appeared with the peasant blouse). No non-dangly earrings.
6. The hair. I tried and tried, but they just didn't have my length of hair in my type of curl. But they had about 15 styles of straight hair and only three curly and one wavy. I think we curly girls are being oppressed. Again.

Anyway, after all that, here she is. I think her name shall be....Dawn. In honor of the silly test that said I was Dawn. Plus, she kinda looks like her. :-)

Friday, December 02, 2005

things i love

1. Friday--no school! church! free time!
2. chocolate
3. cooking dinner...especially when my spaghetti sauce turns out so good! and my balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing is practically award winning.
4. reading
5. grape juice. (but boo on the wine at church today...ugh)
6. good friends.
7. silly movies

I think that's enough for today. Hooray for the bright side!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

wow...this makes me sad

Today a girl was brought crying into the teacher's lounge. The Arabic teacher was bringing her to see her regular classroom teacher because, it had been discoverd, the girl had "cheated".

A paper was handed back to the girls, and Girl had received 28.5 out of 30. Her Friend received 30 out of 30. Friend dropped her paper on the floor (as 1st graders often do) and Girl picked it up and erased Friend's name and put her own name. Arabic Teacher found out (accidentally, I believe) and dragged Girl down the hall to see Class Teacher, who gave her a lecture and required an apology in both English and Arabic, to Arabic Teacher and to Class.

Now, the papers had already been graded, recorded, and handed back...and yet this girl felt the need to take home a perfect score. Why? Why was 28.5 not good enough? What kind of pressure does this girl have at home that she needs to lie to her parents? And how did this all come to happen when the girl in question is 6 years old? I am saddened by this, and hope that there will be a semblance of reason and more unconditional love in Girl's life.

Perhaps this is what happens when grades are everything?