Apples for Eating, Apples for Cooking

When leaves turn yellow, red and orange, and the temperature dips, I look forward to buying apples from one of the area orchards. I love eating apples, but only if they are crisp, sweet and juicy; my favorites are organic Fujis.

Whenever I bite into an apple, I remember my Egyptian mother-in-law, whose ideas about eating apples are different from mine.

She came to stay with us in Riyadh for awhile. I was happy, because she did not speak English, and I’d finally get my chance to learn Arabic.

The first few days, neither one of us said much. She took control of the kitchen, and there we found some common ground to focus on, linguistically, other than  my husband. I would begin by asking her, “Eh da?” and she’d tell me the Egyptian words for the various foods and utensils in the kitchen. I’d repeat the words, and eventually, she taught me enough so that we could converse about anything having to do with the kitchen, but not much else.

One day, my husband brought home a huge box of apples. We couldn’t possibly eat them all, so my mother-in-law and I decided that we’d separate the apples into to piles– one for cooking, and the other for eating. Each of us would pick up an apple, squeeze it gently, and put it either in the cooking pile or the eating pile.

After we’d made some progress, I noticed that each of the apple piles included both hard-fleshed apples and soft ones. I assumed I’d misunderstood, so I said to her, in Arabic, “Eating apples here, and cooking apples there?” and I indicated with my hand the directions we had agreed upon.

“Aiwah” she said, and we continued sorting. Still, the hard-fleshed apples ended up with the soft-fleshed apples, and I repeated, “Apples for eating HERE, and apples for cooking THERE?” Again, she said, “Aiwah.”

This time, however, she picked up an apple, squeezed it and said, “Shoofi, nashfa,” and tossed it into the cooking pile. Then I realized that she thought the “dry” apples, that is, the hard-fleshed apples, were for cooking, and the soft ones were for eating!

I was designating the hard-fleshed apples for eating, and the soft ones for cooking.

I realized this was probably another one of the ways in which Easterners did everything opposite of Westerners. We laughed a bit, and l pulled out some choice specimens I hoarded for my own eating pleasure, and by that time, we reached the end of the box.

I don’t remember what we made with the pile of “cooking” apples, but I avoided the “eating” apples. She fed them to the kids. I managed to show the kids that hard-fleshed apples tasted very good, indeed (preferable, actually). I don’t remember their reactions, but I am satisfied that I opened their tastes a bit, even with respect to the simple apple. I hoped the lesson would be applied to the larger choices in life, and, in fact, it did.

Might Makes Right

Why have women’s rights been such an issue? Why has Feminism been a movement year after year? Why have women not simply been able to take the rights they do have, and establish the ones they want? Why, fourteen centuries ago, did Islam give women rights they hadn’t enjoyed previously? Has this business of women’s rights been churning souls even before that?

I think so, and I know why. It’s simple.

Men are bigger and stronger than women. In the animal kingdom, the strong lord it over the weak. Human kids do it all the time, before parents and civil authorities convince them to use more refined methods of getting what they want. People do have an animal nature. Men are able to control women simply by threat of physical force, and how many women, even today, or maybe especially today, find themselves under the thumbs of abusers simply because as women, they do not have the physiology to defend themselves?

I believe the physical superiority of men over women lay at the crux of all issues regarding women’s rights. When you strip off the overlay of culture, religion and civil order, and combine that with women’s vulnerable physical status while pregnant and nursing, you are left with a physically stronger male who is able to exert his will simply because the physically vulnerable woman cannot surpass him.

If my theory holds water, women’s rights will continue to challenge societies until women develop the musculature of men, and also until men learn how to carry babies. In other words, not in my lifetime.

More to the Kingdom and to Me

Monday, September 13, 2010
There is More to the Kingdom, and More to Me

Judging from many comments made on English language blogs about Saudi Arabia, one might conclude that the Kingdom is nothing but a hell-hole– a prison for women, a women’s prison in a cage that confines men, too, men who beat the women but do not beat the keepers of the cage. A prison in a cage, surrounded by the nourishing waters of freedom, but never cranking open sealed doors…

I’m not going to deny the social problems relating to women, the political danger to those who speak against the established regime, or the academic weakness of the educational curriculum. Real as they are, these issues coexist with other qualities. There is more to the Kingdom than female oppression, etc.

I am also not going to make lists of everything good and desirable in the Kingdom; I am not an apologist.

However, I do wonder of those who live there, or have lived there, is there anything right about this place? Have the Saudis any decent thing to offer each other or the rest of the world? If not, what are you doing there, or what are you doing spouting off on the blogs about the lack of freedom and Western-style choice in a country that doesn’t claim to offer it?

Emotional diatribes do not enrich my understanding of Saudi Arabia, Islam, the world, or my enthusiasm for participation, therefore I need to rein in my energies.  I started this blog mainly to collect my Riyadh memories, and to explore my relationship with Saudi Arabia and Islam as the years have passed.

I’m satisfied with my efforts so far, but I feel the urge to expand my purpose. I’ll be revising my blogroll on a continuous basis. Certain blogs have been informative, entertaining, and enriching, but the abundance of bitching and bashing in the comments sections have blunted my interest in those blogs. I’ll be adding blogs to the list, blogs that I read and that reflect my interest in diverse subjects— Italian language, Depth Psychology, Digital Imaging, Journal and Memoir Writing. If I lose readers, I’ll attract others.  I don’t have many I haven’t already lost, anyway. Though I write this blog primarily for myself, I do want readers; they inspire me and connect me in a way that writing cannot. Writing is completed by reading.

This blog is different from the essays I write  for publication elsewhere. It’s not more personal, but more spontaneous, of the moment, perhaps.

Future posts will bring more of the rest of my life into my blog.  I look forward to sharing aspects of my life that blossomed before I ever boarded my first flight to Riyadh, or my last flight out.




The Anniversary

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Yesterday, The Anniversary

It’s been nine years.I find myself thinking and writing about it more than I ever did when it actually happened on 9/11/2001. On that day, I went about my daily activities in a fog, knowing that I’d never again want to talk about Saudi Arabia, Islam, or anything personal from that period of my life, except as a matter of fact and history. I knew I’d have to censor myself even more carefully than I’d already censored myself after having returned to the United States in 1998. As an American, I could move through society as if I’d never known any other, and no one would be the wiser. No one would see the holes in my heart, drilled out by the images I watched repeatedly on television that warm, September day, sunny, like today.

The events of that day amputated a cherished aspect of my life, and yet I am an invisible molecule compared to the thousands of people and families whose lives were obliterated in the most horrible manner imaginable on that day. I am a short blade of grass in these magnificent pastures of America. I am growing along the periphery, where shards of muck and the innards of America created a breeze that barely grazed past me as the buildings symbolizing America’s best accomplishments yielded to the suction of black holes of horror.

That breeze, however, scrambled my spirit, knocked me out of religion altogether. Islam became a cherished memory, and I’ve been walking parallel to it ever since. I’ve kept it next to me, safe, inaccessible to the rest of the world. I’ve wrapped the arms of my heart around it, not wanting to expose what was left of it to remnant forces of destruction. I’ve turned away from it at times, fearful even of my own anger, and my weakness, my moral cowardice.

I’ve spent the last nine years trying to cultivate the spiritual courage to attempt a reconciliation between the parts of myself I used to cherish. It’s not just religion that has suffered an estrangement. I’ve gotten divorced, I’ve gone back to work; those stories are already well-developed. The spirit is swelling, like an inflammation on the skin after an insect bite. It doesn’t feel good. It’s part of healing, however. That’s what these recent posts are about— healing. I’m ready to take the cure, endure the therapy, accept the scar. I will recover. America will recover, too, but not soon.