Thursday, 24 October 2013

Egg-cellent Eid

Men gathering to drink tea and play backgammon

 So John and I had the bright idea that we would go out one night on a date during last week's eid (holiday).  We wanted to get out and see what exactly happens during the festivities.  We decided to walk so that we could enjoy the fabulously low temps (upper 80s/brrrrrrrr!) and visit with some of our friends.

The corniche (along the Nile) was teeming with people!  John had been out earlier and said that the junior high aged boys were running around.  Later as we were walking, the demographic changed. Now the older teens and young 20s took to the streets visiting with one another, enjoying felucca (sailboat) rides and sitting on park benches.

In fact the vendors were so busy with the locals that they barely even acknowledged us.  (I have to admit, that was kind of nice.)

We arrived at the end of the way and found ourselves at McDonald's so we thought we'd stop in to visit our friend, Mona, the manager.  To our surprise, the place was covered in children.  I'm not talking full, I'm talking e-ver-y-where.

We looked around to see if Mona was working and noticed that she was hosting a party over on one side of the restaurant.  Children were smiling and jumping up and down to Arabic versions of "Happy Birthday" and something that sounded like the theme from Barney.  One little girl turned around and smiled.  She had also been a participant in face-painting so that she now resembled a very adorable kitten.


Mona continued with the arm motions as the kids followed.  Hamburglar even made an appearance.  (I think he is considered politically incorrect for the US now…)  The kids were loving him though.

We knew it would be a bit before she was available so we decided to order and squeeze our way into a table.  Families had had their fill of lamb on the first two days of Eid.  They were ready for something different.  Sort of like 3 days after Thanksgiving for us (turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey kabobs…)

The kids got their money's worth because we had ordered, waited, eaten and cleaned up our table and they were still going.  I ran over to give Mona a hug and told her that we'd be back to visit.  She nodded and apologized, but I told her that she was doing a great job.  It was obvious by the sheer glee on the kids' faces that they were having a great time.

The restaurant really began to fill up as we were exiting since most folks eat dinner around 8 pm or so.  We took that as our cue to leave the mayhem. 

Once we returned to the corniche, even more people had come to town.  This time mostly families were out buying new outfits for their kids, meeting friends and enjoying a festive atmosphere.  With all that has happened in Egypt over the last few weeks, any mental respite is welcomed.

We began our walk back toward the village and were greeted by our Nubian friends perched in their regular spots.  We took time with each to greet, shake their hands and wish them a happy eid.  My village "pals" were not satisfied with a short greeting so I sent John on ahead so I could sit with them for a while.

I asked about their day and they inquired about mine.  Soon steaming hot tea with fresh mint was served in what we would define as juice glasses (no handle).  The 3 spoons of sugar had been already added.  The saying goes that if you can pick up the glass of tea with your bare fingers (no handle) then it's cooled enough to drink.  True statement.

Some of their kids ran around showing me their new cap guns and dolls (the gifts of choice this season).  We are becoming friends now so we talk about life, work, husbands and cultural differences.  This is all accompanied by many follow up questions, arms flapping and some (admittedly) nods of understanding when there really isn't (both sides).

We are learning to laugh together and understand that we can be totally different yet still have some things in common.  I'm really glad about that.  I even have an Arabic name.  The name "Pam" is hard for them to pronounce because there is no letter "p" in Arabic.  Most of the time I answer to "Bam."  I find it endearing.

So during one visit I asked them to give me an Arabic name.  One lady said, "Noor" because you are "light" to us.  I was moved by her statement and almost teared up until another lady said, "No.  Your new name is Baid. 

Baid? I responded.  Egg?  "Because I am white?" I asked.

"No," she shrugged, "you could be a brown egg, too."

I was totally confused.  I looked at my friends who were with me (visiting from Cairo) to see if they understood what she was saying.  Their quizzical looks gave me my answer.

The subject was dropped and I now am Baid or sometimes Bam Baid followed by good natured snickering.  Not exactly Gladys Aylward stuff, but hey it's a start.

As I took my leave, they presented me with a portion of their lamb, frozen and in a plastic bag.  I thanked them profusely and smiled, grateful that they insisted on sharing their Eid bounty but more importantly themselves.  Life here can be unpredictable, but it is surely never boring.

Signing off with much love for now,

Bam Baid 
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Today's BOGO Blog:  Rip PamWinkle


Typical Fruit Vendor

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