The Ugly American?

We took a walk the other day to a new park, one recommended by a sister who lives close-by.  It was just fives minutes away, and we were the only people there, at first.  On our way home, a man watching from the adjoining apartment complex, first stared, then asked, “What, are you guys in a gang or something?”  The question was so ridiculous to me, that I just ignored him.  There was a change in his demeanor at once.  “Well you look damn stupid.  Don’t bring your a** around here again, or I’ll kick your a**.”  Of course I ignored him and concentrated on getting my kids out of there, all the while they are asking questions.  Such as, “Mom, why is that man saying that?”  I tried to explain the best I could, while they insulted the man and said what their dad would do to him if he were there. 

I thought about it later and considered it odd the man never once insulted Islam or muslims directly.  For all I know he had no idea we were muslims.  It could be his question was serious and he really wanted to know why we were dressed as we were.  Perhaps his anger came from feeling foolish that I ignored him.  Allahu alim, maybe I missed a teaching opportunity.   I’ll have to be more careful in the future about dismissing questions I think are stupid.  Dh put the burden on me and said I never should have been walking in this area (slightly rednecky).

I seem to generate more comments than previous years.  While in a restroom in Walmart an older woman came and stood in front of me, just looking.  I thought maybe she wanted something behind me, but then she started speaking; “You know, a person can’t tell if you are a man or a woman under all that.”  Me, looking at her blankly.  She went on, “You could have a bomb or a gun under those clothes.”  At this point, I interjected that anyone could carry a gun, even she.  She might have one in her handbag.  “I don’t have a gun, “she protested.  But you could have one, I argued.  She advised me to think about her comments.  I have, but not in the way she probably meant.

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Did we make the right choice?

I will be honest.  I felt a sort of relief to be coming home.  Living in Egypt (or anywhere overseas, imho) can be stressful.  I missed home a lot.  On the other hand, in Egypt, I did feel a sense of ease that my kids were growing around muslims, and in a more Islamic environment than we could give them in America.  Everytime I would think about leaving Egypt, I would think about the challenges the kids would face here. 

The kids were initially upset with out move.  My daughter cried for one hour after saying goodbye to her Quran teacher.  My son told me he prefers Ramadan in Egypt, and asked if we could return to Egypt then.  Eventually the ease of living in America won them over.  The town we live in is very green and parks are very accessible.  I find it much easier to take them out to different places, like the library.  But the drawbacks are there.  I cringe at some of the stuff they see in outside and in stores.  And we have never been verbally assaulted in Egypt for how we dressed and unfortunately it happened fairly recently here.  I’ve noticed a change in the kids, even in this short time. 

Dh is thinking of how we might find a way to spend part of each year in Egypt.  I don’t know how I feel about that.  I really want to settle in one place.  And I don’t like the kids living without their dad for months at a time (most likely he would be working here).  I’ve been thinking of using my time here to try and finish my degree, maybe we can go somewhere besides Egypt and teach.