Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Life in Rural Egypt

This is a fascinating, unvarnished account of life in rural Egypt written a few days ago by a young Christian American woman who married a Christian Egyptian man this summer. I know her mother. Names have been changed or removed. Don't miss my additional comments at the end. -- DB

No worries! I am still alive. The past few weeks the entire village has had no Internet (they all "share" the same wireless address, I put "share" in quotations because we would probably view it as stealing but in the Egyptians eyes they are sharing. For example I finally figured out why the electricity goes out frequently. There is no electricians or building codes here so if you want electricity you go to the nearest poll or wire and connect your wire to them. The same with water, they just attach their pipes to existing main pipes nearby. This leads to a frequency of shortages, but no one complains because it's free! Kind of a weird crafty form of self-imposed socialism)

I can't believe I have almost been here for over two months. I saw my reflection in a mirror the other day and I could scarcely recognize myself. I have lost 20 pounds (thanks to walking or riding donkeys everywhere and 1 harrowing week of "king Tut's revenge" or what I affectionately call "twin shooters" IE: vomiting and diarrhea) I have more freckles and my skin is darker, courtesy of the sun. There is a permanent grime under my fingernails from working in the yard, flaying fish and plucking chicken, and I smell like garlic and burnt wood all the time no matter how much soap I use.

The plague of flies have finally left only to be replaced by a more terrifying and perpetually annoying insect; the lamooze.

We would call them mosquito's, but they behave differently here than in America. It's almost like they don't want to inconvenience the host which they feed on, they are small, quiet, quick and painless. They do not cause the intense itching when they bite. So you rarely know that you being bit until the blood suckers have had their fill. It seems that they prefer my sweet American blood, for I am now covered in their little red marks, from face to toe. I seriously look like I have the chicken pox or some mid evil plague.

I wouldn't call myself a vain person (I know I am not the most gorgeous person and that I am too quirky to be seen as pretty) but I was always proud of my clear skin. That no matter how bad I felt or if I was having a bad hair day, I could always look at my skin and feel good about it. So this has been one of my biggest mental/emotional challenges. One day when I was particularly gloomy and throwing myself a large pity party over the loss of beautiful skin especially on my feet (where the lamooze have taken a special liking) God was good to remind me of a of a verse in Romans 10:15 "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news" Which made me smirk and thing of Job's

reply to God "And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God" 19:28

Please don't think I am trying to complain or that I am trying to paint the picture of being a martyr, I just wanted to show a clear view of what everyday life is like here. I have been on lots of short term mission trips, and they tend to paint everything in a adventurous and productive/fruitful light. I knew that longer term missions would be difficult but I wasn't expecting it to be so mundane and ordinary. I mean where are the revivals, and clinics and organized tours to exotic locations? Fleshing out Jesus is a lot harder in a foreign hostile land. How do you show Jesus to someone that has the legal right to kill you for doing so? It is only by God's grace, and I have come to realize that we as people have nothing to do with it, and the holy spirit has everything to do with it.

I am adjusting well, however there are still some things that are hard for me to still grasp logically..

1.Having people salvage through my trash.. Call it an ancient from of recycling, the result of extreme poverty or just being resourceful, At least once a week while a person comes over to visit they will begin to look through my trash. Which always leads to some interesting conversations with them holding an American product and saying to me "Eh da?" (what's this?) It isn't too bad sometimes like dasani water bottles or chipped and broken cups but it has lead to some awkward conversations (like how do you explain disposable razors or tampons?!) Eventually everything will get reused, food not eaten given to the chickens, empty bottles filled back up with Egyptian water boxes used for kids to play with, bags to carry an assortment of things and to my great nursing-sterile-technique horror needles being used more than once.

2. The use of the great outdoors. Sometimes while walking among my trees I will accidental see someone using my yard as a bathroom. I don't know why they don't wait for the restroom inside to be vacated or just go next door and use that one but the freedom to defecate and urinate in public is openly practiced here. This includes the streets and back alleyways. The nurse in me wants to sometimes scream and hold a public health meeting about the importance of separating waste from food and water and living quarters, but right now I guess I should be content that at least they recognize the importance of hand washing.

3. While I am sweeping my house and I have a sister-in-law come over they will take the broom away from me and begin to do it themselves and force me to sit down and they repeat over and over boo see (look at) At first I thought they were trying to show me how to do it, that I wasn't sweeping correctly (or washing dishes correctly, or mopping correctly or cooking correctly) then I thought they were saying boosee to me so that I would praise them for such good work and give them compliments. But my husband finally explained to me that in the villages eyes I am of a higher educated class, and so I shouldn't have to do the lowlier jobs, my sisters are trying to honor me and show me love by doing these things for me. I am still humbled by many of the acts of service the Egyptian women in my village display to me

4. One thing that completely shocks me is the legal right a man has to hit his wife. The law even encourages it saying that if a woman acts out of hand the man has a right to hit her. Now let me please clarify MY HUSBAND HAS NOT HIT ME, NOR WILL HE EVER. In fact the only "fist fight" we ever had was this extreme form of tag we were playing, he ended up with three stitches on his finger and I have a broken big toe (courtesy of him blocking a kick) But we are both in agreement that something must be done in a culture that protects women honor harshly but doesn't value or cherish them. One of the first experiences I had with this was in Cairo. I was watching the street from our balcony when I heard a commotion a little ways off. There was a man aggressively kicking and hitting a woman who was screaming. The most insane thing about it was that a cop was on the corner watching the same scene unfold.

Now I was on the 10th floor but I was so flaming mad that I made a dash for the stairwell in hopes to somehow stop this atrocity. Ali stopped me before I left the door and calmly explained that me getting involved would only make things worse, because I know no Arabic and I am a woman (all the while I am think in my head, "Yeah that may be true but I've got my two arm "guns" Liberty, and Justice and I am not afraid to at least try and shield the woman, because who in their right mind would want to hit an American?) So I went back to the window and finally the cops intervened but only after SHE started hitting HIM. It seems like the legal system has laws that protect a man
getting hit from a woman.

5. I part my hair to the side. A trivial note, but here in the village none of the woman wear their hair like this. So EVERY time I go somewhere and walk with an Egyptian woman she will eventually begin to touch my hair and then proceed to give me a slick hair part down the middle. This is an okay look if I wanted to look like Alfalfa from the little rascals but it really isn't my style. I still don't know how to respond to such roving hands. usually I just say thanks and leave it till I get back to my home to let my hair fall back to it's side part.

6. Taking the law into your own hands. It is kind of like living in the old west. The recent buzz in the village right now is that a man was stabbed and then shot in the arm for saying some vulgar things about another man's sister. A man was beat up after he grabbed a girls chest. And currently there is a big family feud (complete with guns)between two families because one man insulted another man's son. There is no punishment for "restoring the honor" by way of killing or revenge killing as I see it. Sometimes the person that causes the offense can offer a monetary compensation but most of the time it is paid in blood.

Things that I am currently missing: Sonic, Teflon pans, American Radio, Shorts, comfortable beds, sanity and sanitation!

But please know, I am in good spirits. Though the challenges are many I welcome them as opportunity to grow. My English classes have just started. I help teach 9 year olds in Sunday school and I am learning Arabic songs on the guitar to play in the church.

Please pray for me to demonstrate to the people in village what Grace looks like. Because in this harsh world there is little grace or even an idea what that is.

Comments from Daniel: The sacrifices this young woman has made in leaving America for rural Egypt are remarkable. Who in her right mind would want to live in a place like she's described? And yet, her sacrifice is tiny compared with the sacrifice of the incarnation, when Jesus laid aside His rights as God, took on the body of a man, was born in poverty, lived in conditions even worse than what this woman has described, was rejected, beaten, and killed by those He came to rescue. It is His enormous sacrifice which has fueled this woman's sacrifices. We love, because He first loved us.

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