The title of this entry popped into my head about a month ago, but I have not made the time, until now, to write.
To be sure, our Nile Cruise took up some time…wonderful time that cannot be fully captured by words or photographs. Still, at some point, I will attempt to offer a sense of the magnificence of this trip. Without having to make any crazy sacrifices (like uprooting your kids, taking them out of their really good home school, and, mid-way through the school year, plunking them into one that sees them crying every morning before school that they don’t want to go), if you have the opportunity to take this journey down the ancient river, do.
There are times when our actual shopping time can take fewer minutes than crossing the road to get to the market stall or store with the required provisions.
Crossing the road can be an overwhelming and terrifying experience here. Coming from our follow-the-lines-on-the-road-and-stop-for-pedestrians Canadian backgrounds, it has been something else to teach my kids to judge when will be the safest moment to launch ourselves off the sidewalk (when one is available), scuttle across the road, all the while praying that someone on a motorcycle doesn’t appear out of nowhere, to the relative safety of the island or opposing curb. I say island, because typically the roads we practice our gymnastic-like crossings are wide enough that they have a meridian in between (Al Hamdulilah–Praise God…I cannot imagine trying to navigate two allowable directions of traffic at the same time! One must always be watchful, still, as it is not out of the realm of possibility to see someone backing up or driving in the wrong direction, on the wrong side of the road, pulling over to park, picking up speed when spying a pedestrian–especially a pale-skinned woman, or performing any other unexpected tricks).
Driving is so different here from what we see at home. On the same highway, it is possible to see cars, trucks with cargo–fruit, vegetables, marble, workers, armed and masked police officers escorting a truckload of prisoners, you name it–donkeys pulling carts, motorcycles with helmet-free drivers and/or a full family going from point A to B, or taxis with luggage strapped to the roof rack, vans crammed with people, or buses–often belonging to one international school or another, or pedestrians walking with, against, or through the traffic. And where in Canada there would be three clearly designated lanes, the maze of vehicles all (or almost all) heading in one direction on the highway here do so with one primary goal, to get there regardless of who is next to, in front of, or behind them. There is no neat and tidy order.
Somehow, as much as this jangles my Canadian sensibilities–taking my children’s and my lives in my hands to cross the road or go downtown–there is something exhilarating about making it to our destination–near or far from home. I love that my kids now tell me what car to wait for before we hurtle across the road. As the car whizzes past, passers-by will hear one of us yell out, “Now!”
One time, we walked down to a mall on a Friday morning. Unfortunately, we left our departure to too late. Friday mornings are the quietest time around here, as people stay home and then go to the Mosque for prayers at noon. (Seeing people drop everything and flow toward the mosque is a special sight for me.) On that Friday, we were in the mall doing our shopping and likely stopped at Starbucks for a treat. (The coffee does not taste the same, even if the beans are given the same name…but the logo makes us feel like we’re in a familiar place. That was important when we first arrived.) By the time we were ready to leave the mall, prayers had been out for a while and traffic was extremely busy. (Possible Canadian equivalent…that would actually never happen–Imagine something like a 75% OFF MidNight Madness Sale at Walmart on December 23.) I’m not kidding. It took us between 15 and 20 minutes to get across both sides of the main road. It was terrifying!!!!
But…WE DID IT!.
When we first arrived and the realization of what we were facing sunk in, the six-month future we faced was more overwhelming, terrifying, frightening, and disheartening than making our way to the safety of the other side of that road.
We have made it well past the half-way point. We still miss home, that which is familiar, what we know as normal, and the safety that comes with these. Despite the disappointments, stressors, and fears, though, we are crossing. We are getting to the other side. And now, we know we will make it to the safety of our home. When we get there, we will be armed. Not with automatic weapons. We will be armed with knowledge and experience. I hope, for all of us, that these translate into broader awareness, understanding, compassion, and respect for what we find frightening, what we don’t know, and that which is different from our norm.
Teaching my kids to jaywalk.
It may be the best thing I ever do as a parent.