Thursday, September 17, 2009

Revealing Ramadan, Take 2

The same day I posted my previous Revealing Ramadan blog post, I got an email from the good people at Speaking of Faith. I did a brief interview with them today, and read my Ramadan piece. Same for Jen. Not sure if they'll be posting the audio, but the piece is now on the website, here. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Newest Angel on the Block

Exciting news: my baby sister now has a baby of her own! Our newest little angela made her debut yesterday morning bright and early. She's a beautiful, healthy baby and her parents are already doting over her as we speak (unless she's napping; then they're gratefully trying to get some sleep as well ;))
Once again, I find myself in an enviable position to establish myself as "favourite aunt", since I'm the one living nearby (my baby sis literally lives down the street in Montreal) and I'm working hard on building that status, as I did with my two little Dubai Angels when they were still Ottawa Angels and I was still in Ottawa. (to my other two sisters, I kid of course. We can have a three-way tie for favourite aunt :))
A funny story about our newest angel: At some point during my sister's pregnancy, Montreal Angela was dubbed "Baby Banana" (this had something to do with my sister grocery shopping and coming across plantains which we called Baby Bananas, I think). Anyway, even when Baby Banana was well beyond the size of her namesake, we were still calling her that.
Well, last week, my little Dubai Angel ate a banana, looked up at his mom, and told her, Mama, I have a baby banana in my tummy.
To which his mom responded, What about Auntie? Does she still have a baby banana?
His answer: No, I'm the one who has it now.

Looks like he'll be looking out for his little cousin from the get go!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Revealing Ramadan

My dear friend Jen let me know about this fabulous website for NPR's Speaking of Faith program. They're doing a "Ramadan special" where they've asked Muslims to write in with their personal reflections on Islam and/or Ramadan. Some were chosen to air on the radio. Others were chosen to show on the site where you can read them. Jen's is here.
Mine was sent in, but doesn't seem to have made the cut. Since I liked it though, I decided I'd share it with you here.
Don't forget to check out the rest of the stories and reflections on the site. I really enjoyed seeing so many different perspectives.

When I think of Ramadan, I think of many things, but the first is almost always my mother, up before the rest of us an hour and a half before dawn to prepare the food we would sleepily consume in the last half hour before the fast began.
My mother, a doctor with a strong interest in nutrition, was always sure to get as much protein into our systems as possible: there were scrambled and boiled eggs, fava beans slow-cooked the traditional Egyptian way, tuna salad. But there was always something for our teenage taste buds: My mother would wake us up with home-cooked french fries, still sizzling on the plate. Into our bedroom she would sweep, singing “wake up, wake up, your food has come to you” in a jolly voice, and as I rolled over on the top bunk to face her, I would find a handful of hot, salty fries stuffed into my mouth before my eyes were even open. It certainly was an effective tactic.
When we were younger, we would “fast” from breakfast until lunch and then from lunch until dinner, feeling for the first time what it was to have sustained hunger, to not cure it immediately with a stop at the fridge or the cupboard. The pangs in our stomachs would knot first, then twist, and there was something so satisfying about not succumbing, about defeating that part of ourselves that cried out to be served, to be given now now NOW!
Experience is learning, is knowledge, and the value of that knot in the pit of my stomach can never be underestimated. I knew, ever so briefly, what it was to want; knew the slight pain, the slight light-headedness that came with it; but more than anything, knew the gratitude of sunset, of taking that first sip of water, that first sweet bite of a date, sweet and soft and buttery, melting on my tongue. And as I got older, I knew too the gratitude of having that water, that date, having what so few have, and especially what so many everywhere can't reach: a fridge full of food; a house with a roof; a blanket to cover my bed; a loving mother who would wake up in the middle of the night to make sure her daughters were well-fed before the fast began.
My father broke his fast with a glass of hot milk, heated to the point of scalding in the microwave, nearly foaming at the top, and three or five dates to go along. It was my father who taught us the supplication to make when breaking our fast:
“Oh God, for you I have fasted, and from your blessings I have broken my fast, and on you I depend, and in you I believe”. And then each one of us would turn inward and think of what she wanted and pray a private prayer, just between her and God, before that first bite, that first sip. It could be anything: I would pray for a good grade on an upcoming test, for a class trip somewhere fun, to get out of babysitting that Friday at the mosque, for forgiveness for my sins – a rude word, a look of ridicule, the missing of one of the five daily prayers.
After the dates and milk we would pray our sunset prayer before having a proper meal, and there we would stand, my mother, my three sisters and I behind our father, reciting the Quran, choosing, somehow, the verses that would nudge our hearts that particular day, his words poetry, a calling to God.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A post about coffee (which I've been meaning to write for weeks)

You will not believe this... Not if you've read my previous mentions of my coffee addiction, including my complete failures the last two Ramadans to not drink it before starting to fast. Are you ready? Drumroll.............

I QUIT! I, Noha Beshir, professed coffee addict of over 10 years, lover of the Second Cup Paradiso blend, the Timothy's Vanilla Soy Latte, and the regular old Large Timmy's with one milk, have not had a coffee in over three weeks. And, the coffee I consumed three weeks ago was simply due to the fact that I was a counsellor at youth camp, chasing around many lovely, high strung teenage girls on less than 2 hours of sleep for the second day in a row. Before that, I had gone two weeks without coffee as well.
I won't lie: the first 5 days of non-coffee drinking were brutal. Headaches, exhaustion, all that good stuff. But now, I'm smooth sailing. When I'm tired, I try to sleep instead of caffeinating, and I think I'm generally a (slightly) less bubbly person. But yeah: Noha, without coffee. Whoda thunk it, eh?