Diversions on the Path to Paradise Diversions on the Path to Paradise Diversions on the Path to Paradise Diversions on the Path to Paradise Diversions on the Path to Paradise

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Muriel

Another Trip to Beni Sueth

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I made another trip to a different village in Beni Sueth to continue the roof and water tap project. This village is the home to a family that has pretty much adopted me as a grandmother figure to their children. The father is the “boab” (the Egyptian version of a maintenance man) to a villa a few doors up from where I live with my daughter and her family. Most of the “boabs” hail from the “ballad” or countryside in Egypt, travelling to live in the urban or suburban areas in Egypt in order to make a living. Wages are meager and living conditions are are not the best; they typically live in the basement of the building they care for and in addition to maintaining the building and grounds, they are expected to wash tenants’ cars as well as perform other tasks and chores required by the people who live in the building. And this could mean ANYTHING!

I met this family in 2011 and again in 2014 when I was just here in Egypt visiting. They are the nicest people and are always looking out for me and having me come drink “chai” with them. Our communication has improved since I started studying Arabic however, I am studying “classical” Arabic and they speak Amiya or the Egyptian version of Arabic. I always promised I would visit their village one day and I finally took the opportunity to travel there a few weeks ago.

After my visit to the first village where the initial roof and water tap project took place, I came back so excited, sharing the pictures and videos with them of the project. I noticed a sort of indifference from them that was not disrespectful but more puzzling than anything else. When I asked them what was wrong, the wife shared that they neither had water or a roof at THEIR house in THEIR village! I was mortified! Here I was showing off the pictures of a neighboring village that I supported through this project and they too were without these “amenities”. So I made a promise that I would go with them to their “ballad” and see what could happen for them.

So I went to the village of Kaffra Hakeem where they live and the above videos I recorded are a glimpse of the life there. If anyone is interested in contributing to these efforts, please leave me a comment and your email so that we can communicate.

 

Trip to Bushra, a Village in Beni Sueth Governate, Egypt

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A couple of weeks ago, I took a trip to a small village where we are helping the residents get water taps in their homes. There are approximately 21 more homes that need them. We pay to get the initial tap installed, then the head of the household must be responsible for running the tap to the kitchen and bathroom.

Additionally, we are helping to get a roof on on innumerable houses that either don’t have one or they have a thatched roof of leaves and branches, or wood, that is little protection from the severe elements they have to brave. This is but one small village of many more that exist where the residents live in abject poverty.

We believe in Islam that any cause we contribute to in this life will continue to bless us in the grave until the day of resurrection and judgement. Giving access to water and the protection of a “roof over their heads” will live on long after I have passed from this earth.

So, I have taken this on as one of my projects while living here. Being of limited means, I have considered starting a gofundme or crowdrise page to assist with this effort. A water tap costs around $250 and a roof is around $1500. I need your feedback as to what direction I should take in getting people to contribute. See videos below. Give me your honest feedback.

This above video is of a house that was featured as one in dire need of water and a roof due to the father experiencing the loss of sight in one of his eyes.

There is a system for prioritizing.

The people who live here are mostly farmers, subsisting off of the land and selling what they can to survive. Some are government workers who keep common areas (such as roads) clean, but the salary is only equivalent to about $50 per month. They are some of the most loving and caring people – when some one gets married or dies, the whole community comes together to support the family in any way they can.

I will continue to do what I can. It would be great if others could help, even in some small way.


New and Improved Site! …and More on My Other Pursuits

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I am sooo excited about my new blog design!

Khudos to Clarke at hospdesign.com. He is the bomb! If you are ever in need of help in designing a blog, website etc., look him up and let him know I sent you. He’s not cheap but he’s worth the cost. He even makes instructional videos to walk you through everything and you will have them as a resource and reference in the future.

I have totally immersed myself in learning the Arabic language. I attend class 5 days a week from 8:30-11:00 am, an online class twice a week for 90 minutes per class and my daughter teaches a beginner’s tajweed (proper pronunciation of the language) class once a week at home. So I have been swamped and sort of overwhelmed but it’s all good! This has got to be ONE of the most difficult (if not THE most) languages to learn, or maybe this is just a function of the age I have become! Sixty-four in just 2 more weeks!



Additionally, I have started my garden for the year. Bought some compost and plants to get it going. I’m trying to have a more robust yield than I had last year, even though it wasn’t THAT bad for my first attempt at a garden in the desert! Cabbage, cauliflower and strawberry plants are in the ground. After preparing some more of the soil, I will plant seeds for corn, okra, red onions, string beans, carrots, and cucumbers. I ran out of cherry tomato seeds last year and haven’ found any here yet. there’s still time. I heard an ACE Hardware opened recently so I’ll get adventurous and find it soon.



Finally, I am still on the journey to uncover and expose my “roots”. I actually got started back in the late 80s when both my mother and aunt were alive. However, we hit so many brick walls that we gave up trying. It was not until I saw how my son-laws’ uncle traced there heritage all the way back to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon him) that I thought about picking up the torch and going the distance to really find out who I am. I would love nothing more than to have those of you who are interested, to travel this journey with me. Be sure to sign up to follow my blog and gain unlimited access to research findings I uncover as a result of my DNA that, over time, will evolve into the most provocative testament of how far we have come as a people, in general and the story of who I am with respect to MY ancestry, in particular. I have already made a few of the most mind boggling discoveries that I would have never imagined in my wildest dreams!


My Hiatus

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01/01/2017

I want to apologize to my avid readers for the lengthy hiatus away from my blog. The first “wrench in the works” occurred when the super, duper, Lenovo Yoga laptop I purchased, just 2 weeks before moving to Egypt, ended up being a lemon! An emergency trip back to the US to get my house rented gave me the opportunity to ship it back to the manufacturer for a FULL refund. YAY!!!! My trip lasted longer that I anticipated but in the interim, I went and bought a good ole Hewlett/Packard with a DVD/CD drive that is working like a charm! read more

This Last Week of Ramadan

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I have faced some severe health challenges…

this past week that caused me to put aside fasting for a few days, per the doctor’s orders. In addition to being severely dehydrated, I have 2 infections and a level of inflammation raging in my body  that is through the roof! I am on medication to address the infections and feel 100% better than I did a few days ago. I am pretty in-tuned to my body and can tell early on when things are not right.  Alhamdulillah (All Praise is due too God), I am afforded the opportunity to still reap the reward of fasting.

“and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number [of days which one did not observe Sawm (fasts) must be made up] from other days” [Surah (or chapter)– al-Baqarah 2:185]

So far, I have 4 days I will have to make up provided I can get through these last 7 with no problem. The doctor even advised that I wait to make them up during the winter months when the days are shorter, InshaAllah (If God Wills).

The children and my son-in-law’s sister stayed up last night and decorated the house for the upcoming Eid celebration.



Eid-ul-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan

and celebrates the conclusion of the 29 or 30 days of dawn-to-sunset fasting.  There is a particular obligatory Salat (prayer) that must be performed in congregation.  After the prayers, Muslims visit their relatives, friends and acquaintances or hold large communal celebrations in homes,mosques or rented halls. Eid gifts, known as Eidi, are frequently given at Eid to children and immediate relatives.

We are planning to travel AGAIN to celebrate the end of Ramadan. My son-in-law’s sister and his brothers’ family will be here as well. Not sure exactly where we are going but rest assured, I will chronicle it with updates and pictures!

 

The Community Park

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There is a lovely community park

located in the back of the villa where we reside. It was intended for the residents of the community to enjoy sitting, playing, and frolicking in at their  leisure. No one was prepared for the pack of wild dogs that has taken up living, breeding and pretty much “barring” any humans from so much as walking through it! So needless to say, it is not taken care of due to the absolute takeover by the dogs.



We (the grand-kids and I ) have decided to enlist the help and support of the neighbors and other community members in taking back this park from the dogs. We will print flyers and have a massive clean-up day once Ramadan is over.  We  even plan go to the local municipal office to get their support. The park could use a couple of additional dumpsters to place at each end for trash collection.



 

I will give you updates as the plans progress. Pray for the success of this project!

The Middle of Ramadan, the Summer Solstice, and the Full Moon!

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June 21st was most significant in a number of ways.

As a Muslim, it marked the completion of half of the month of Ramadan 2016. Since the beginning of Ramadan is indicated by the sighting of the new moon, the midway point would be indicted by a full moon.  As this date  also happened to fall on the day of the Summer Solstice, we were blessed with a rare sighting of the “Strawberry Moon”. According to astrologers, this has not occurred in over 70 years!

I missed it the first night. My grandson said it was spectacular! It was full and so big, you could almost reach out and touch it, according to him.  the next night, I was dead set on getting a view of what remained of the moon from the previous night. At sunset, I went up and down the block with my phone in hand to look for the moon. It was nowhere in my sight of the night sky! read more

It’s Been 60 Days Since My Arrival in Egypt!

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Time sure does fly when you’re having fun!

I have just crossed the 2 month mile-marker of the next iteration of my life. Thanks for joining this adventure with me! Another major milestone reached today is we are halfway through Ramadan! Day 15 has come and gone; by now most Muslims will have read half (15 juz) of the Quran as  well.

In Islam, we have 5 Pillars we are obligated/required  to practice/follow as Muslims (the Arabic word for Believers). The first is our proclamation/declaration of faith/belief that there is no God but Allah (God[SWA]) and Muhammad (SAWS) was His last Messenger and Prophet.  Second, we must pray (Salah) 5 times a day, at the prescribed times, in the prescribed manner. Third, we must fast (Saum) the month of Ramadan.  Fourth, we must make the pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca at least once in our lifetime, if we can afford it. And last, we must give in charity (Zakat) out of what we earn.

Ramadan is a time when many Muslims  feel inclined to give in charity.  The  deprivation we feel when fasting has a way of invoking feelings of empathy and compassion for those less fortunate. One of my goals was to find a way in which I could give out of my income and have it make a real impact on someone’s life. I believe I have found my calling.  Watch this short video; I will explain after.

This was filmed in a village in the Beni Suef region of Egypt.  The people here live in abject poverty, except they don’t know it. They are a proud people who farm for a living. They do not beg. The young man speaking is 1 of 3 brothers who live with their old, infirm mother in the 2 rooms pictured in this block of “residences”.  Their father is deceased so the boys are considered orphans, even though the mother is still alive. Fathers are the sole breadwinners so when they die, the children are orphaned. The mother receives the equivalent of $32.50 from the government. the youngest boy (in the background) is 12 years old. The older bother is not pictured and is out working the farm.

As you can see, one room has no roof so is pretty much uninhabitable. There is electricity, but no running water. It will cost $250 to run a water tap in their house and $1500 to put a roof on.  There are a  group of sisters (including me) who are working to make this happen for 10 houses at a time. Then we will continue, moving from one village to the next and so on, until we have done as much  and as many as we can.

In this world, where we take so much for granted, there are people without running water or a roof over their heads.  I have lived to see it with my own eyes; now God is blessing me to help with my own hands and from my meager resources. Al Hamdulillah ar Rabbil Al Amin (All Praise is due to God, Lord of the Worlds)!

 

Baking, Gardening, and Life Reflections

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When I was invited to a sister’s house the other day,

I asked if I could bring something to go with iftar, the meal for breaking the daily fast during Ramadan. When she replied “maybe something sweet”, I decided to use a recipe my granddaughter tried a few weeks ago.  She made these little shortbread kind of cookies with a spot of jam in the middle of each one.  I tripled the recipe so we could have some here at the house and am I ever glad that I did!

These cookies are the bomb!

You know the kind that just kind of melt in your mouth and you can’t just eat one?  The sister I visited and her daughters are still raving about them. And the grand-kids, too! This will be one that goes down in the books along with my recipes for chocolate chip w/walnuts, Mexican wedding cakes, lemon melt-aways, and sugar cookies I make every  year!

The garden has been growing in leaps and bounds. What has been most interesting  and thought-provoking though is WEEDING the garden. I have been pulling some little weeds that have been sprouting up around the corn and okra, but they have come back with a vengeance. So this morning, I got my chair and a gardening hand tool and spent almost 2 hours thoroughly weeding these 2 small beds of vegetables.


 


What I realized was this.

A garden is much like our lives. As we begin to grow, there are many things that can happen external to us to stunt and even destroy our growth.  I noticed that the weeds start off very small and some even begin to take on attractive forms to make you question if they really are weeds.  They look so plush and green and if left unchecked, grow as healthy  and strong as the plant! But their roots are running deep and seek to choke out the roots of the plants that are growing. To just pinch their leaves off is to no avail; out of sight, the roots continue to dig deeper until when they bloom again, they are well below the surface!

Green Beans

Green Beans

I found myself out there talking to the weeds! As I took the hand tool and turned the soil, I  could actually see how deep those roots had traveled.  Some of them were up to 2 inches long, needling their way toward the roots of the corn, okra, and green beans!

 

SubhanAllah (Glory to God). This is how the evil of this world works upon our bodies, minds, and souls. We believe that all that looks good is good for us. We allow people, places, and things to get us all tangled up into a web of “weeds” that before we know it, our light has been slowly choked out! The garden is a stark reminder to me that the work is never done. Even after the 2 hours spent out there today, I must be vigilant and consistent in keeping the garden not only nourished with water, but as weed free as possible.


 


It has been interesting to see what would survive and what didn’t make it in the garden. Much like life, not all will last. some will fall prey to the weeds, and some will be destroyed in the process of killing the weeds. Or they’ll be in the wrong place at the wrong time. For right now, I will continue to try and get to the root of the problem, getting the weeds out by any means necessary in order to allow the plants to grow strong til the end.



The spinach and lettuce did not survive; maybe this is not the best environment suited for them to grow.  And so it is with life. If you find yourself surrounded by a lot of negativity (weeds), trying to squeeze the life out of you, get up and remove the weeds or transplant yourself to an environment in which you can thrive.

Just don’t sit still and be devoured!

Cleopatra’s Bath… more from the Vacation

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So I didn’t realize my son-in-law had taken pictures at the little private beach we found.

He had an even closer picture of me floating aimlessly in the sea; another of me and my daughter sitting on the beach, and one of me  playing with the grand-kids in the water. Have you ever seen any water so clear and blue in your life???????


 


On the final day of the trip, we visited Cleopatra’s Bath. It is a rock in the sea about 50 yards from the shore and can be reached by motor boats, sail boats and  by wading out on foot.  Its clear waters surrounded by rocks give the impression of a vast, square pool in which, according to the legend, Cleopatra came to bathe  with Mark Anthony. Ruins of one of her palaces were uncovered on the hillside opposite the pool and it seems that a subterranean passage lead from the “villa” to the beach.


 


After this brief visit to Cleopatra’s Beach, we were back on the road for the 6-hour ride back home. It was an absolutely wonderful experience.

Next road trip is at the end of Ramadan – stay tuned!