Sunday, December 26, 2010

Food For The Heart, From The Heart!

Sometimes, the best fun you could have is unplanned. The plan yesterday was to go with the Kanoun's to a dine-in theater, but the kids could not agree on the movie. And Christmas day is usually so boring here with everything, I mean everything, is closed, except for the movies and gas stations. So out of the blue came the idea of let's get  together in our place and do Emgatta' (homemade Libyan noodles).

It was interesting how it turned out and what coordinated teamwork it took to pull it together.

- Dough recipe consultation with Fairouz live on Skype from Cairo
- Making the dough by Sol
- Cutting the noodles by Tala
- Dry Gideed sent to us by mail from Sara and Adel in Cleveland
- Gideed oil leftover from some gideed I made a while back
- Fenugreek that my mother-in-law brought with her from Libya in 2000
- Cooking the whole thing together by Suhir
- The yeast for the bread came from the middle eastern store that was open but only had bulk yeast. The owner gave Sol enough to use for free

Since stores were closed we had to find a solution for the bread. It was not my problem, so I went for a nap and left Sol to start making the dough. I woke up just about when the Kanouns were expected to arrive. I found Tala helping Sol with the noodles; bread dough is done and set aside to rise... I felt really good. Everything got taken care of without me lol

The Kanouns arrived and Suhir was assigned the task of cooking the emgatta'. I relaxed on the sofa in the family room watching the busy bees in the kitchen and chatting away. It was fun not to have to do anything! After dinner, we had herbal tea with delicious magrood and ghrayba made by Sara, our niece, in Cleveland.

The emgatta' was out of this world... all gone!

All in all, it was indeed a Merry Christmas :)

The blessing of having family and friends... Priceless, for everything else, there's the plastic!

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Comings and Goings of Years!

Monday was the annual Christmas caroling party at the Rigney's. It has become a family tradition of ours for 12 years now. We started Sol and I alone, then Moody joined followed by Tala 2 years later. This year, again, it coincided with the boy scouts super game. So Tala and I went to the Rigney's, while Moody and Sol went to the super games. I did not feel up to going, but did it for Tala who really wanted to dress up in her fancy dress and go. Later on, Ahmed and Sol surprised us by showing up at the party. Ahmed wanted to come so he split hi time between the 2 events. He even participated in the acting of Twelve Days to Christmas song.

I was not feeling well, so I decided to go home and they continue the party. Sol wanted to us all to leave, but I insisted. I arrived home and few minutes later they walk in behind me. Ahmed would not stay while "Mom is not here and might need our help!" Tender, caring Ahmed.

At the super games, he had to make a poster showing examples of a good citizen example is. He made one with four examples of being a good citizen: Toy Drive, Recycling, Being Fair, and Registering to Vote. They were all his ideas and activities he actually participated in, except for registering to vote, but he did go to me when I voted and I explained to him the registration and voting process and let hi push the voting buttons for me.

On Wednesday, Adel, Sol's Nephew, who is a grad student in Cleveland came to visit with his wife and four kids, Owayss, Mariam, Omar, and Aisha (cute Aisha). We wanted them to spend the night, but they were hesitant. It was the first time they visit and we meet, so we let them be. The kids had a lot of fun, playing and exchanging gifts. We had makaroona mbawkha that I made and magrood and ghrayba that they brought us. Mariam was crying and did not want to leave, and Tala wanted her to have a sleepover. Next time, we promised!

Afterward, I lied on the sofa to get some rest. Ahmed and Tala came and sat with me playing their DSi's to "keep me company" and "get me what I need". So sweet!

Yesterday, I got up at 6 am, had breakfast, then took a nice nap. Later the kids and I went out, put gas and air in the car--freezing my hands with thermal gloves, my feet, my nose and ears-- and went into the car wash. Off to the movies, we indulged in lunch and watched Tron in 3D... It was OK, but not great. The kids picked it and I didnot mind, just wanted to do it for them. I did not have a good day. I was so emotional, crying most of the time for no reason, looking around me and wondering how much longer is this going to last... I will miss my life when I go even though I'm not sure how could I "miss it" when I'm no longer there?! It is hard for others to understand what I'm going through, and it is hard for me to make them understand... It seems Tala and Ahmed are the closest to that--I take it as a blessing.

The gifts for friends and teachers are done finally and gone their way. The family New Year's gifts are boxed but still need to be wrapped and put under the tree. Maybe today. I think we are supposed to visit friends tonight, but my chemo brain is confusing me! I'll have to call Fatma.

The last 2 weeks I have reconnected with very old friends of more than 25 years ago through Face Book. It's been very nice to catch up with them and pick up from where we left. I hope we keep the connection as they were part of my life as a child, tween, teen and beyond.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Years of Milk and Degla

Friday, December 10th, was the twelfth anniversary of our wedding party، which actually took place on a Thursday back in 1998. Hana's family drove from Benghazi and Derna, mine from Tripoli and Misrata. I left Columbus on the 8th, and we all met in Djerba, a Tunisian island near the border with Libya. Many details had to be arranged, and most were done in advance, thanks to the internet, the phone and credit cards! It turned out to be a nice party. It was unconventional in some ways, which means the guests focused most of their attention on us, not on each other. So there were no fights! In fact, everyone seemed to be having a good time. A lot of the people had not met one another before, that might have provided a little cover of anonymity... and a little inhibition went out the door. lol lol OK, this was a party that had my father-in-law on stage with the dance band, in the presence of my mother. That could never happen in the conventional setting. It is fun to reflect on our anniversary and look all the way back from the perspective of the present.

What about milk and Degla? Milk is clear enough. Degla is a date grown in North Africa and usually harvested in late fall. It has a delicate taste and texture and it appears translucent. Let me tell you a little background story that happened to me, also in Tunisia but on a different occasion. I was returning to my hotel one pre-noon, and I ran into a bus load of African tourists crowding the lobby. They appeared to be francophone tourists from sub-Saharan Africa, or as some Tunisians say, from "Afriqia el-Kahla"--black Africa. The receptionist, call him Hamza, was very busy trying to serve many people at once. As I wiggled my way through to the elevator, I greeted him with my usual (in Arabic) "Your day is milk, Hamza!" He glanced my way and swiftly replied, "No, today, it's Degla!"

How do you take Hamza's statement? Some might think it is a sort of racist statement. The metaphor could be variously interpreted, depending on the eye of the observer. But think of how it might be interpreted if I said (in English) "Your day is ivory," and he replied, "No, today it's ebony" There is no implied superiority or hierarchy of value, and that's how I now think of Hamza's statement now.

Life is not either black or white. It deals out light days and dark days, but even the dark ones can carry moments to be savored, moments when some light comes through. Those are the days of Degla. The others are the days of milk. The two complement one another very well! That's how I like to look at my years with Hannu, especially now as she fights cancer. Some days are bright like milk, some are dark, but like Degla they let some light through. Life is easier to swallow, if it can be viewed not as black and white, but as gratitude and hope, milk and degla.

Hana and I stayed at the Hasdrubal Hotel in Djerba. They put a nice basket of seasonal fruits for us to enjoy. What sticks in my memory the most is what we had for our very first breakfast: milk and degla.

The following is a little poem that I transcribed from an old tape I've had for many years. I don't know the name of the poet, I just know his voice! It hits on very traditional themes, and I hope it brings a smile to you, Hannu. May your darkest days be as sweet as degla.

نشبح طفلة بشناشنها، دبالج ومحابيب
جت تدرج بشناشنها، دبالج ومحابيب
نفسي مرضت بمحاينها، تلقوليش طبيب؟

عينك عين اجدي الفالي يقطّف في النوار
يتريّع في البر الخالي وما يطيقش لحفار
وغثيثك مهدود أحمالي فوق الصدر أسطار
هيف قدامك وإلتالي كيد اللي ظفار
والشفة كيف الفيلالي تحمار وتصفار
ونياب مراصيف مجالي كاينهم جمار
حبك في المكنون لجالي وقص الكبد اشطار
مرضني وبهدل باحوالي وزاد عليا جار
وحبك مايطيقوه رجالي غير أني صبار
نشبح في الزين العلّالي اللي عمره ما صار
ماتلبسش اللي عوالي ولا ناقص لسعار
تلبس في اللي سومه غالي، شكشاك وماجار
حوليها ماهوش جبالي، فضة من البازار
وبلغتها من طبع العالي، فجرة بالمسمار
لوكان تاخد واحد زوالي يستغنى في نهار
تقول لوزة في عقاب ليالي حفلت بالنوار
وتداعى تقول بنت الوالي في سوق العطار
حاجة طابت في لظلالي لا صهدتها نار
ولا صهدوها رياح قبالي وما ظهرت من دار
وياما صور فيك العالي، شفة تقول زبيب
طعمة ولذة للوكالي: دقلة إعداها حليب