Saturday, October 27, 2007

Mine and Yours

The other day, I was walking home from a day out with Drew, my Canadian friend who is working for the UN's Youth Employment Strategy, when I passed a Boulangerie and thougt I'd treat myself to a cream-filled donut! (they're delicious). I bought it, walked out of the store, and was about to bite into it, when I saw a begging Talibe boy on the street. Embarassed, I put it back in the bag, and kept walking.

The fact that I didn't feel comfortable eating the donut in front of him made me think long and hard about why I was eating the donut in the first place. How can I refuse to give him 50 cents while I eat a completely unnecessary donut?

(the pic is unrelated, well sort of - it's a bunch of kids who swarmed me the night of Korite asking for money: it's tradition to give children money at Eid)

My friend Kalz, who lives at the house, joked with me once that I should buy him a boubou for Korité (Eid) because he had nothing nice to wear and had no money to buy anything. I laughed and didn’t take him seriously. But then went ahead and bought myself a new boubou, on top of the two I already had. Why should I buy myself new clothes when I’m surrounded by people who can’t have that for themselves?

I guess what I’m saying is that being here really makes you re-evaluate possessions. If you feel bad for having/eating certain things, they why have them/eat them? And if you have extra, why not spend it on others so that they can enjoy the same happiness you do. Enjoying the happiness by yourself (when you have to hide to eat the donut or you're the only one in a nice boubou) isn’t all that fun.

I mean, look at this picture. This is one of my best friends' house.

I don’t want you guys to think I’ve gone all communist (although I've never really been against communism), but we should be asking ourselves serious questions about the way we live.

We’ve gotten so used to completely satisfying ourselves in all aspects of our lives, but that’s not necessarily healthy. In Canada my mentality has always been – I’m in the mood for a chocolate bar, and I can afford it, so why not? But here, instead of thinking why not, I ask, why should I?

Which brings me to another point. Ramadan. I think Ramadan was so much harder than usual for me this year, because I actually noticed a change in my consumption. (Hence the weight loss you've all commented on. My arms are not actually that skinny - it's the camera playing tricks). Normally in Canada, we consume so much at night during Ramadan, that it really doesn’t feel like you're learning anything. You fast during the day only to gorge yourself at night. Here, our meals were so limited at nighttime, that I really felt the difference. I was tired, felt weak sometimes. But I got through it just fine. And that’s the point. We don’t need all that we consume in Canada. And I don’t want to be the preaching girl who went to Africa, but this time around, Ramadan actually made me question my habits. Normally, as soon as the month is over, you go back to everything you did before. So what’s the point? The goal of Ramadan is to make us think about what we have and appreciate it. I also think it should teach us to limit ourselves to what we need. Now, every time I eat till I’m full, I ask myself why? And when I eat chocolate or pop… why? If you can survive on so much less, and everyone around you has so much less, why are you gorging yourself? And what's so bad about feeling hungry anyway? Life here teaches you how much less you need. I rarely eat candy or chocolate. If I get cucumbers at dinner, I’m lucky. But does it make any difference to my life? No. I'm perfectly happy. Ok, my rant is over!


Still.Searching said...

herhighnessHeba..that was not a rant.. that was your blog giving our conscience a voice.. i won't comment, you must be able to predict what i want to say (other than i so love you.. and yes i am her mother guys, I can say that in public :-)).

I loved your pictures with the boys. Very few "westeners" would be smiling so hard when swarmed by a bunch of strangers, let alone kids that are poor and so very different from themselves.

I am not surprised at anything you are doing, that is exactly what I knew you to be .. however, i must say I am amazed at the ease with which you feel at home in your friend's place.. you are not there "to change his/her world" , to feel noble by being good to them, you are actually there simply as a friend .. subtle but fundamental difference that not many would spot but I (because i am so special :-)) can see .. You make it all seem so natural and easy.. I truly mean it when I say you make me question myself.

We have a saying in Arabic that a mother bug sees her little bugs on the wall and thinks its a string of pearl.. I know I am biased but I am truly proud of my little bug.. i miss you, i miss our discussions and arguments about politics and Islam. As I told you, i am convinced that we are a junction in the path of history in Canada when it comes to the role Muslim canadians can play in the future of both islam and Canada.. I need my reproter with me to help me get the message across.. If you come promise to come back and settle here, I will desperately look for a millionaire to open up a newspaper for you and me dedicated to social justice, human rights and social harmony that does not exclude religion rather defines secularism as equal respect for all religions not opposition to all religions.

You were right when you talked about me thriving off of some discussions. you just did not realize it is our discussions that I routinely thrive over.

Some of you may know about an incredible personal documentary gift that Heba gave me before she left.. This was a very private one that no one but her and I haerd in its entirety. heba, this is my small payback to you.. no where near as eloquent or exhaustive, brilliant or effective but it is a public statement of the pride of a mother in her daughter. I love you! (If you are crying now, GOOD.. You made me cry for hours with your gift!)

Heba Aly said...

please excuse my mother. I think me being gone so long has plunged her into emotional instability and it's all coming out! I love you too Mom!

Still.Searching said...

Only one person in this world can call me emotionally unstable and get away with it.. If what I said makes me unstable, what does your documentary make you?
Yes, I actually do miss you and want you back.. if that makes me unstable, so be it.. i stopped caring a long time ago!

Now, if my comment really upset you, figure out the technology of how to remove it :-)

Ghadeer said...

Salam Heba!

I used to feel the same whenever the borders are closed in Gaza and the supermarkets run out of milk. I used to feel guilty if I bought the milk that I can't live without (at least this is what I used to think) while other kids may need it more than an adult like me. It's true we have more than we need in this life and we feel it only when we miss a lot or see others surviving with half of what we have and even less.

In Gaza, the food wasn't the biggest fear. For me and most of the people we were missing safety and peace. Believe it or not, my daily worries were to reach home safely or to make sure that my brothers did not get hurt. I used to go to work not feeling sure if I can go back home in the same day or not.

I just wanted to say .. yes we have all what we need, Allah's blessings are everywhere.. and we need to do more than appreciating it ... may be as you said by controlling and adjusting our needs and contribute and share others what we have...and for who have nothing to share or give .. they can smile to others as the prophet Mohamed PUH has said “Smiling in the face of your brother is charity … and pouring out from your bucket into your brother’s bucket is charity.” (Authenticated by Al-Albani)

Here is a song for you... it's called "Give A little"

Thanks for sharing your feelings, and stories.. and I only ask God to help us to make this world such a peaceful place for every body.

Take care hun,
Love ya